Saturday, April 30, 2005

Its Saturday and I am having Monday blues

I was woken up with his, "Oh I have to go to work today. Its Saturday and I'm so depressed."

Yes we have things somewhat different here. The weekend is on Thursday and Friday. And the Saturday is akin to Mondays for the rest of the world.

We had a splendid weekend. We finally swapped offices. He gets my office with the huge TV and I get his office, with the huge space. One good thing about having his office in the TV room is that we can now watch the stuff he has downloaded for me on the TV.

It was a Desperate Housewives weekend. We could not download the first 9 of the series but managed the last seven anyways. And yes Desperate Housewives is rather good! And I can't wait for the next episode!

We also watched Joey, which I thought was OK but not great. A little too one dimensional and cliche.

And we finally got the AFN channels back and so I got to watch The Apprentice and Survivor as well. I am so glad that Alex was fired and not Tana. I think the final battle will be between Tana and Kendra. A woman might really have a chance to be The Apprentice this time round. I hope so anyways. Actually I am glad that the ladies that are left are the nicer and professional ones. I was happy to see Erin go. Why is it that women have to be overly aggressive to be successful? Perhaps its just a gender stereotype that men are agressive and ambitious, while women are gentle and passive? And apparently women have to be aggressive as well when they are ambitious. Is that really necessary?

Well Tana is an example of how you can be nice but successful as well. She is not too vain or too self involved either, characteristics of hers which I like. So its down to 1 booksmart and 2 street smarts. Who will win? We'll find out in two weeks.

Alex, well he is the handsome and polished one. But he faltered in the battle ground. He lost his own confidence. He knew that he was going to be fired and he choked. Perhaps all the pressure of losing five times in a row got to him.

As for Survivor, Stephanie, they finally got rid of her. Good for them! There is something unauthentic about her. Its not her desire to win or her competitive nature that I dislike. But how artificial she is, how she pokes fun at Janu, and yet in front of Janu she flashes a fake smile, pretending to care. At least with the others, they leave Janu alone, but Stephanie, she's just a two headed snake. Perhaps its just that, I don't like two headed people. I never liked people who just pretend to be nice in front of you and then immediately once your back is turned they just slag the heck out of you. I normally can smell those people out. And Stephanie. you're one of them.

Ok I am rambling too much. Too much TV over the weekend. Now for some proper housework and paperwork.

Friday, April 29, 2005

More invites

Friends who I normally chat online with, I would have to apologize because I am hardly online all this week. Been too busy with all sorts of invites.

First was that farewell do for a good friend and neighbour, M. And then there was another one for another lady, N. And then M reciprocated by inviting me for lunch. And then H invited me for lunch. And then N reciprocated by inviting us for tea.

And today I have a birthday party to go to. A party for a 4 year old. Argh! I don't really feel like going. I didn't know what to buy because apparently the girls have everything already. So in the end I got her a pink feather boa. Another friend got her a pink purse. Another lady got her a pink mini handbag cum make up set. I don't know what sort of a message we were conveying to the girl, that little girls should dress up like a cabaret dancer? But hahaha we were running out of ideas. Too bad.

We were just strolling around Toys R Us the other day and its amazing how things have changed where toys for children are concerned! For girls there were rows and rows and rows of vanity sets, make up sets, tatoo sets, manicure sets, hair braiding and stuff-to-do-your-hair sets. Gosh! When I was a little girl all I got was lots of colouring books, a masak-masak set and one huge Igloo doll which was wearing a blue snowsuit. I don't even have a comb to play with! Let alone manicure/tattoo set. Actually I was contemplating getting one of those for the birthday girl, but I don't know how thrilled her parents would be if she gets an encouragement to start grooming at the age of 4.

Maybe that's why I grow up looking like a plain Jane. If you want a well groomed daughter ala Paris Hilton, a make up set at age 4 is an appropriate present I guess.

Of course while getting our presents for the four year old, we ladies got to talk about what would be appropriate gifts, what gifts you so want to give the child as a punishment to the parents for inviting you and what gifts you actually want for yourself because you didn't have it when you were young but didn't get it.

Appropriate presents are normally boring. Like books, videos etc etc.

Now presents you want to punish the parents is the best! My beloved actually specializes in this! Ideally it will be something that the child will love and play with for a long long long long time, hopefully non-stop but will drive the parents crazy. For example, a drum set. B was telling me how her next door neighbour's son got a drumset for his birthday and he could not stop playing it. The drumset drove the mother crazy but she couldn't get rid of the drumset because it was given by her mother in law. Her mother in law obviously hates her hahahah imagine the drums being beaten all day non stop by hyperactive children, driving the mother crazy and contributing to her headache!

My beloved wanted me to buy them a air-step-music-dance thingy. (If you don't know what it is just assume that it will give the children non stop loud noise *ahem* music. ) It was marked down from RM100 to RM50. A good value for a present I thought, its huge, so it will have a good impact and presentation value and no one can miss it. But, her mother might not talk to me anymore after that! And I bet it's reduced to half price because no self respecting, sanity preserving parent, would buy the item for their child because they know for the next week or so, or for as long the batteries last, they would have no peace and quiet round the house. Perhaps it is the sort of items only deaf grandparents buy for their grandchildren, or neighbours who have no kids themselves, to buy as a present.

And then there were gifts you would have wanted for yourself. Like a huge RM200 stuffed bear which was so big, you can put it beside you on the bed and you won't know if your husband didn't come home at night. Or sensible board games which you always wanted one when you were a child, but your parents won't buy it for you because it was expensive, and now you can afford to buy it for yourself, to put in the cupboard because now you don't have time to play. And my beloved would have bought this Rm200 magnet set, where you can try and build things by putting the different shaped magnet things together. Hon, I don't think a 4 year old girl would be interested really.

Which comes to the next point I have. When parents over indulge their children by buying all sorts of lavish presents, sometimes filling up the whole rooms, are the parents really buying it for the child or was for themselves? I remember going to a child's birthday party where the mother was a lot more excited opening the presents than the child was. The child was only interested in chewing on the box while the mother was Ooohh and aaaahhing on the present. I understand that play is important for a child's development. But all these toys and vanity sets?

I guess I look back in my childhood and for most part I just had imaginary friends to play with. My imagination was my toys. What I didn't have, I had to make or imagine with what little I had to play with.

So off I go to sing Happy Birthday this afternoon. And have more cake. And more junk food. No wonder its so easy to gain weight here!

Have a good weekend everyone! I need to find some wrapping paper and a card! Do I need to wrap it? Its a shame to spend money on something that was going to be torn apart and threw away! Oh well!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Lost - a 6x24 quilt ruler

Lost: Quilt ruler Posted by Hello

It does appear to be a trivial item but I am seriously depressed that I lost my quilt ruler. I had cajoled my dear beloved to drive 4 hrs all the way to a craft store in Khobar to buy it. I nearly cried because we had a hard time trying to look for the shop. And my beloved had a huge headache there, and we had to endure a 4 hour drive home in the dark, all because I wanted to buy this ruler.

And now I have apparently lost it. I think I accidentally left it in the sewing class yesterday, when I wanted to do my homework earlier today, I realised my ruler is missing. Arggghhhhh.

And to get a replacement, its an 8 hours drive return!

I wish it was much easier than this! Anyone who found it, please please please return it to the owner.

Of Living in gated communities IV: The not-so-secret moral police

Maya called me yesterday afternoon, asking me if I wanted to go for a walk with her. Having slept all afternoon, partly due to the unberable heat and my PMS, I thought it would be a good idea indeed to walk around the compound with Maya.

One of the priveleges of living in a private gated area is that we have the freedom to walk within the walls without the need to wear abayas. And without the silly cat calls of the local men or their stares either.

One of the best parts about walking round with Maya is that I hear stories from her about some of the odd residents. She has lived here for a while and she is very friendly with everyone. She is the live wire of the compound.

So I asked her the updated story of Jane and Ray . Ray is the hunky and muscular gym instructor. I used to have personal training sessions with Ray myself. And he is good (and yummy too just not my type). He told me that he used to be a boxer, so you can imagine the sort of muscles he has. Jane is a resident who also works on the compound doing some admin work. After the fight, Ray was suspended for awhile, and was banned from being seen round the public areas of the compound. Jane basically hid herself as much as she could, as she felt that people all round were talking about her.

Maya told me that Ray is now back on the job. He conducts swimming lessons for the children.

"So its all bridge under the water for them then?" I asked Maya.

"Not really. You know that Jane sometimes organizes aerobics lessons by the pool on Saturdays? Well as it happens we had a class last Saturday and Ray was helping her move some of the floor mats from the Gym to the pool. So while waiting for the class to start they sat round the pool, talking. And someone called the manager to report to him that those two were sitting together by the pool."

So whats wrong with them sitting together by the pool now? The manager has the power to prevent two people who are not related to each other to sit near each other now? I thought it was childish for the person to report it to the manager.

"Do you know who complained to the manager?"

"Well he didn't say but I can guess who. Anita probably."

"Ahhhhh Anita."

Anita has appointed herself as the not-so-secret police who lurks round the compound, compiling gossips, putting her nose into everyone else's business and then reporting them to the Manager. I generally stayed out of her way and didn't have much to do with her until lately.

Just the other day we had an all ladies evening out. As we were waiting for the rest to show up, Anita came. Anita, noticing that we ladies were all dressed up, asked where we were going. And you know by the questions she asked, she was upset that she didn't know that the ladies were going out prior to the day, she wanted to know how often we went, she was very surprised that we were going not with our husbands and the biggest sin of all, she was not invited.

Maya told me how she found Anita hiding behind the bushes spying on some residents. Maya was talking a walk when she noticed some movement behind some bushes and saw the oultline of Anita. When she asked Anita what she was doing behind the bushes, she said,

"Shhhh look! That 60 year old woman with kissing with that 60 year old man!"

How sad is that? Spying on your elderly neighbours kissing?

Anita walks round the compound, often as if she was the manager herself. I used to really hate it if she gets on the shopping bus with us. She tends to have a "special sense of time." She has no qualms about being late and is not apologetic about being late either. Sometimes we had to wait for as long as 30 minutes before she comes back to the bus, and not apologizing either. The bus driver didn't dare leave her behind because he knows how close she is to the Manager. And she would create Hell for him if he drives off without her. Until Anita received a warning letter from the management. And after that she was seldom seen on the bus again.

Anita came from a country that used to have a secret police that reported things to the authorities. Could it be that although she no longer lives there, she is accustomed to having a secret police, even when living in a place where there was none, she had to appoint herself as one?

Why then would she choose to live in a Western compound only to insist that her form of moral values are upheld by her neighbours?

I wonder why some people just cannot resist from poking their noses into other people's business? Boredom? Do nosy people have a "nosy" gene? Don't they have anything else better to do with their time than just going round spying on their neighbours?

In the end it becomes a vicious circle. People find out what she is like and they stay away from her. She in turn gets hurt as she didn't get invited into their circles, into their conversations and their parties. And then she perseveres harder to find out what they are up to.

Dr Phil, Is there a cure for such behaviour?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Whats in my handbag?

[ I can now put an attribute to Atizah. I got the idea for this entry from Atizah.]

Actually I got this idea from one of the bloggers whose blog I visited. But I have since forgotten whose blog it was, if the owner of the blog is reading this post, please tell me who you are and I will put up an acknowledgement. If you know the site of the blog, please forward them to me.

They say the contents of a woman's handbag is a reflection of her, perhaps the contents reveal that I am a bag lady. Its confirmed, I carry too much with me.

I found these in my handbag:
1. 3 stirrers from Startbucks. To be precise they were from Starbucks Jeddah. We bought 8 coffees to drink by the sea and I had grabbed a handful of stirrers and put them in my handbag.
2. A packet of sugar. You never know when you'll need them.
3. A box of Strepsils. Got this habit after my bad bout of sorethroat in January. Also useful remedy for bad breath.
4. A handful of receipts. I always keep my receipts in my handbag in case I need to return something.
5. My passport. In case I need to board a flight in a hurry.
6. My, now beat up, brown wallet.
7. Toothpicks. Very useful after dinner.
8. Takeaway menu from one of our favourite Chinese Restaurant.
9. Room key card from a hotel in Makkah. The key to some good memories.
10. 3 packs of tissues. 1 is never enough :)
11. A notebook. Been carrying this around for a while. Contains notations of what I spent on some previous trips.
12.A pen.
13.3 hairbands.
14.2 hair crunchies.
15.Lip balm
16.Keys with a magnalite and measuring tape attached. The Magnalite came useful when we had a tyre puncture on the road in the dessert. The measuring tape, well you never know what you need to measure.
17.Panadol compact.
18.A lipstick holder with 2 lipsticks and a mirror.
19.A small bottle of perfume. Elizabeth Arden Green Tea. I don't like BO.
20. My sunglasses. Very important to have here.
21.Dettol antibacterial wipes.
22.A business card holder. Not mine, his business cards.
23.Elastic headband to hold my hair back.
And of course, my trusty mobile phone. Will try not to leave home without it.
A bottle of water. Its very dry here, carrying water is important.
And sometimes I throw in a book as well.

I can never be one of those women who carrying around a small cute pursebag. What do ladies who carry clutchbags have in their handbags? 2 pieces of tissue?

So what do you have in your handbag?

Of Living in gated community III: Coffee mornings

When I first heard about these “coffee mornings” the thought of having to dress up and meet other women and sit around while having coffee while pretending to be interested in other people’s conversations didn’t quite appeal to me. Until I met some of my neighbours.

“Where did you buy this?”

“At a coffee morning.”

Oh? So its not just a bunch of women sitting around having coffee then?

Coffee mornings are basically organized Bazaars, organized normally by a compound, sometimes by an expat organization. The primary aim is to allow various expat women to meet each other while doing what else – shopping.

It is also a way for the expat women for sell some of their wares. Either items they have bought at a fraction of the price from back home and sold for a handsome profit, or handicrafts which they have made with the extra time they now have not working and all sorts of other local items sold by the local sellers at a much higher price than the souqs (or markets) to the unknown expats. Not everyone like going to the souqs so having the vendors come and sell the carpets, table clothes etc at their doorstep could be rather convenient.

But most of the time, the women were buying things off each other. I bought a table cloth, a handmade box, a greenish blanket, chocolate Easter eggs, all things that I didn’t really need, but bought as a goodwill gesture to a fellow neighbour.

Are coffee mornings basically a way for women here to buy friendships?

Are friendships easily bought by small bribes?

After a while I stopped going to the coffee mornings. I always end up spending too much, often on items I don’t really need, and the company after awhile dithers a little. The circle is getting smaller and smaller because they are less and less women in the kingdom. I was told that the coffee morning economy used to be fuelled by just the sheer number of American women in the country. But most women don’t come here anymore. Just their husbands alone, flying back once every two to three months for conjugal visits. I was told one compound had no women in them, just men, whose wives are all back home.

With the summer just coming round the corner, we would have the last wave of the coffee mornings for the next month or so. Before everyone goes away for the summer to escape the heat.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

He treats me like a princess except when he is thumping away on his computer

[Caution: Mushy lovey dovey post. Please do not read if you are easily upset by such posts.]

Being the modern couple that we are, we often communicate via email throughout the day. Well its mainly for the benefit of his employer, so they'd think he's busy doing his work at the pc rather than talking to me on the phone. Mondays are often the hardest because we normally spend a lot of time together over the weekend and I miss him a lot on Monday mornings.

So today I had this email come in:


Can you email me the numbers for Mr X. I need to talk to him about the extension of the visa.


And so I replied:

The number is XXX-XXX.

And then he updated me:

Dia kata senang aje. Just reply and appeal etc etc. No isue. and then dia kata kalau nak CC ler dia.

Can you draft a letter for me please and send it to me here so I can print it ?


And so I replied: (Alamak sibuk la boss ni kasi assigment :( )

I thought so. Love you.

Ni I buat esok OK. Today I want to sew my own bag hahahahaha.

Love you.

To which he replied:

Sew your own bag?????

Good for you! Tak payah I belikan you beg LV :)

And of course I had to retaliate!

OK lah! Tak jadi I nak sew my own bag! Nanti tak dapat bag LV!

Love you more.

Ahhh he just knows how to press the right buttons! He knew that I just told him that I have resolved to try and curb my shopping because I want us to pay off our mortagage as soon as possible! He just loves to tease me to no end.

And then this just comes in:

Too late. I spent you Beg LV funds on Lunch. BTW I passed by Villeroy and they are having a sale. 30% cerita ajeeeeeeee... bukan suruh beliiiiii.... :)

See what I have to put up with!

And just for revenge I replied with this:

I had not one, but TWO plates of pasta for lunch. Three twills of Tagliatelle and a generous scoop of Fusilli with lovely M&S Chargrilled Eggplant pesto.

Are you salivating yet? Do you still love me?

You see, he is on Atkins and he can't have any carbohydrate. He had such a carbo craving that he thought I smelled like warm crossaints! I told him that he was hallucinating and I was undecided if it was good or bad that my spouse thought I smelled like warm pastry.

And his reply came quite swiftly as well:

Hah! I went to Kenny Rogers chicken!

Do YOU still love me?

Ahhhh once again he got me!

Well honey, no matter how wonderful Kenny Roger’s Chicken was, I am sure its not as nice as my Veal Roll.

I wonder how our grandparents did it?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Of living in gated communities II: Elastic Queen Charlotte

I first met Charlotte at a coffee morning at Annabella's house. Annabella has kindly invited us over to her villa and was going to show us how to make gnocchi. This was a good way for the residents to meet each other, and hopefully make new friends and suss out the neighbours. There Charlotte was sitting prettily at the breakfast table. Sensing that she was new, I thought, why not introduce myself.

And then it was her turn to introduce herself. Within the next 15 minutes, it appeared that she was telling me her life history.

"You know I met the Portugese Ambassador here. He is not the uppity upperclass type. I think he is more middle class rather than upperclass. You know in Portugal there are people who are in the upper class and the middle class and the lower class. I am in the middle class but I am very elastic. I can interact with both the upperclass and the middle class very well."

OK. I get it. She is a very class conscious person. Was it necessary to tell me this on the very first day I met her?

She then proceeded to tell me what she worked as before she came. And how she met her husband an English man. How they got married. And how he came to fetch her. Yada yada she was only interested in her own voice. Not at any time did she ask me anything about me at all.

I was glad when Annabella starting showing us how to make the gnocchi dough. I noticed she didn't come anywhere near the stove but sat just right there at the breakfast table.

Of course, being in a gated community with nothing much else to do, one of the favourite past time here is talk.

"Have you met Charlotte? She is new?" I asked Josephine.

"Ahhh I have been warned about her. Dina was invited to her apartment and she practically forced Dina to see her wedding album. Not only that, she had to explain who every person was in the album and she did that for every page. Dina had a humongous headache afterwards. Dina practically avoids her now."

I smiled. I guess I wasn't the only one who thought that she was a bit full of herself then.

Charlotte is determined that even though we are stuck in a country where there isn't many oppurtunities to work, she would find something for herself. Admirably she did find a job and was looking for an assistant to help her. You can't be bossy if you work all by yourself or you are at the lowest chain of the ladder right?

So Marcie went to see her to ask about the job.

"Did you know how she introduced herself to me?" said Marcie as she recounted the encounter.

"She said, 'Hello, I am Charlotte. I am the best dressed person in the compound." Marcie told us with a smile.

And we roared into laughter. She practially took on the title by herself! The best dressed person in the compound indeed! Whatever next!

And Charlotte does not mince her words when she slags at other women. Apparently she has gone round to accusing Ella of wanting to take her husband away from her.

I don't know if Ella is really prowling for a man, but she's a very nice bubbly and sociable person. I quite like her. I'll take the company anyday over Elastic Queen Charlotte.

But I really have to take my hats off to Charlotte. To hold one's ground and crown oneself as the best dressed person is something else.

Could this be another character for Desperate Housewives?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Of living in a gated community I : Gossips

Gated communities can be defined as walled and gated residential developments that restrict public access.

Source Roland Atkinson and John Flint The fortress UK? Gated communities, the Spatial revolt of the Elites and Time-space trajectories of Segregation

“Did you hear about the fight over the weekend?”

“What fight? There was a fight?”

“Between Ray and Fred. It was horrible! There was blood everywhere.”

“What were they fighting about?”

“I can’t tell you really. Its too scandalous. I’m not really suppose to talk about it even.”

“Must have been about a woman right?”

One of the perils of living in a gated community, gossip often spread like wildfire and incidentials are reported with great details.

A theme party was organized last weekend in honour of Charles’ and Camilla’s wedding. Nobody actually cared about the Royal wedding but it was a good excuse to have a theme party anyways. Gave the residents who were interested an excuse to dress up, pay big money to eat Fish and Chips (cooked by a chef who never tried a Chippy in England), eat and gossip with your neighbours and basically have fun. Not that there was much else to do in terms of entertainment here. No cinemas to go for. No Opera or theatres. So dinner parties and dances become one of the great sources of entertainment.

Another aspect of living in a gated environment, even if you don’t get all the details at once, someone else will supply you with different excerpts of the incidents.

“Did you hear that Ray beat up Fred?”
“Really? What happened?”
“Ray saw Jane dancing with Fred and he was jealous.”
“But errr why?”
“Ah they are saying that Ray has a relationship with Jane.”
"Isn't Jane married to Martin?"

We chose to live in a gated community because of the convenience of facilities, promise of security and proximity to people who are possibly leading similar lives to us. I said possibility, because all of the residents in the gated community are expatriates like us. People who are here mainly due to work contracts. Thus living in a gated community would give us the opportunity to make fast friends in this artificial expatriate environment when people come and go all the time. One year here, six months there. There isn’t much time to form deep friendships. Some do eventually stay on for a long time, others move on as soon as they managed to make friends.

Life within the walls can be somewhat artificial and unreal, compared to life outside the walls, that is. In a country where women have to wear black shapeless robes to cover themselves, within the walls they are allowed to wear anything they like. Except those black flowing robes that is. In fact, almost all forms of local outer clothing, namely the guthra and abaya is not allowed. In some gated communities, women wearing headscarf, even the brightly candy coloured ones are frowned upon and treated like an outcast. Some of the residents do not want to be reminded that they are in a country were there is a strict social dress code for women.

Perhaps our lives in here are so sad, that even the smallest gossip would generate such widespread interest.

“Did you know, that girl she is working as prostitute as sideline here.”
“Acckk really?”
“Yes she has been servicing some of the men here.”

Living in a close knit community is a new experience for me. AndI have since found that the kampung-mentality is actually a universal quality, rather than just a Malay concept. No matter where, there are some nosy people about, some sort of scandal going on, some affairs and hanky-panky. One self appointed penghulu, a mother hen who keeps tabs on people, the nosy parker who reports goings on and of course, the E! journalist wannabe.

But at the same time, there are also genuine people. People who are struggling to make an honest living. Trying to make a better life, if not for themselves but for their families. People who try their best to get along with their neighbours and friends.

The coin has two faces after all.

And tomorrow we will be saying good bye to another friend here. C'est la vie.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Repel not the beggar

Did He not find thee an orphan and protect (thee) ?
Did He not find thee wandering and direct (thee) ?
Did He not find thee destitute and enrich (thee) ?
Therefor the orphan oppress not,
Therefor the beggar drive not away,
Therefor of the bounty of thy Lord be thy discourse.

93 Surah ad-Duha (The early hours)

One experience that almost everyone will encounter in Makkah, are beggars. They are there almost round the clock round the year. Some are the residents of the city, others are visitors who had come to perform their umrah or haj and had overstayed or had run out of funds to return home.

A Survey reveals alarming facts of life in Makkah as reported by Arab News.

According to the study conducted by Makkah Development Authority, the average monthly spending of a family in Makkah is SR3,000 and for an individual the average is SR700. Only 9.5 percent of the families spend an average SR6,000 a month, while 55 percent spend less than SR3,000 and 35.2 percent between SR3,000 and SR6,000.

These are very negative results. If the average monthly spending of a family is SR3,000, it indicates that the income level of most people in Makkah is very low which affects their saving ability, their purchasing power and their demand for services which means they will not benefit from any economic resurgence,” said Dr. Yaseen Al-Jifri, dean of Prince Sultan College for Tourism and Administration.

But when faced with the beggar, does one just give and give and give?

One group of people who are obvious beggars are black women. I am not certain where they are from but they operate in groups. And they often work as a whole family. There could be some women carrying children on their back or front, crying Fisabillilah. Give one of them and suddenly you will find yourself up against five other women carrying their babies as well. And if their children were old enough to walk and beg, they too would be begging from you. One for every child.

I used to give to them, until I found out that these women and children are part of a syndicate. Rumour has it, the syndicate is run by a rich man who would drop off and pick up these women and children every morning and evening. And they would have to give a portion of their day’s earning to their “master.”

The same goes for a group of handicapped black men and women. Some have stumps for hands. Others have stumps for legs. They normally line themselves neatly in two neat rows, asking for money in a sing-song voice. They normally operate before or after prayer times. Thing is you must make sure if you give, that you have enough change for the whole row of them because you cannot just give to a few, because the rest would ask for more.

So I had to ask, if they are unable to walk or hold things, how did they get there as a group? Who sent them there? Who clothe them? Who bathe them?

One of the local students told me that they are run again as part of a syndicate. They are “owned” by a powerful and rich leader who takes a cut out of the money they managed to collect. Some of them were purposely maimed when they children, to be sent out to beg money from pilgrims.

Cruel? Of course, it is. To give or not to give? That is the question.

Is the professional beggar any different from a real beggar? And how can you tell a beggar is real or not? By his clothes? Loss of limbs? Handicap? His face? The way he asked money from you? So what if the main portion of your sedekah goes to a rich syndicate? A portion still goes to the beggars. Doesn't that count?

I have also been told of stories of how a man was crowded by a group of beggars. He took some money out to give them, only to find out after they were gone that he was robbed. His wallet or money pouched was cleverly taken away while he was busy giving alms to the beggars.

I also found that what you wear also determines whether or not the beggar will approach you. When my husband was wearing a thobe (jubah) and I, the abaya, not many people came to us to ask for alms. But when he wears his trousers and shirt, many more did. Could it be that the beggars know that we Asians are generous when it comes to give alms? One weird experience we had was after Haj. One man was shopping, asking for the price of Taqiyah (songkok Haji) and sajadah. My husband came and asked the price of something, and suddenly the same man who was previously shopping turned round and asked him for some money, Fisabillilah he said. But he was shopping!

It was difficult for us to tell if they guy was merely trying to take advantage of us or if he was really short of money. If he was short of money, why was he shopping? A hungry man would not be looking for buy souvenirs, would he?

We try our best not to repel the beggars, but sometimes it is really hard to judge if the person asking us for money is really asking for the sake of asking or if they are hungry and needed to eat. What is the definition of a beggar anyways? What if the person could find gainful work but just finds begging much easier? What if they are merely con artists? Preying on pilgrims intent on doing good deeds, only to find that they are tricked cleverly into parting with their hard earned money?

How we deal with this? We normally use our gut feeling. If we felt like giving, we will give some. If we don’t feel like doing so, we will refuse. Normally we set aside a some of money in small change in an accessible purse or pocket. And when that runs out, we will show them that we didn’t have anymore. And they would leave us alone.

What does it take to be compassionate and generous? Even while trying my best, we are still tested in our keikhlasan or sincerity in giving alms.

Friday, April 15, 2005

How old before you stop having sex?

As I was reading Atizah's Hopelessly In love, I remembered a scene I saw at the local Marks and Spencer.

I took the escalator up to the second floor where the lingerie section was. It was during a Marks and Spencer sale and thus a lot of the lingerie was marked down. As I approached the lingerie section, I saw a very matured lady looking at some G strings and suspenders. At first I thought, "Wow sexynyer makcik ni dah kerepot pun pakai lacy underwear." (Wow what a racy old lady, even in her age she wears lacy underwear.)

Until I saw her pick up a lacy red suspenders. For those of you who don't know what suspenders are, there are those things one wears above one's underwear, to hold one's stokings up.

She held the suspenders in front of her nether region and tried to measure them agains her body. "George, what do you think of these? Do they fit me you think?" she said to her husband.

Young equally kerepot George came up to her and was actually accessing how the suspenders would look on her.

And there I was going to myself, "My eyes! Oh my eyes! Help! My eyes!" I nudged at Him, wandering if He too witnessed the scene that I was witnessing and He gave me a knowing smile.

And we walked away from them, before we burst out laughing too hard.

Perhaps I was harsh to think that ladies in their golden years no longer wear such racy sexy lacy underwears. But perhaps it is the culture that we have been brought up in.

Can you ever imagine nenek wearing a sexy lacy red underwear from Marks and Spencer? I am pretty sure if she did, someone would have commented something along the lines of, "Dah buang tebiat ke?"

But it was truly amazing to have witness that scene. Even in their age, the husband takes interest in the wife's sexy lacy red underwear. Are they still having sex? Erk! I don't really want to know!

Thanks Atizah for the posting. Brought the memories of the old couple looking at suspenders come flooding back.

Sexy suspenders Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


(Thank you to all who have helped prepare this meal.)

Dinner was zaru soba, tofu miso and stir fry beef. Posted by Hello

We stepped into the shop, not knowing what to order. I spoke no Japanese and neither does he. We waited in line and watched what everyone else before us ordered.

It was one of those soba fast food shops. There were no seats or stools. Just side tables where customers could put their bowl of cold or hot soup soba and quickly slurp their noodles down loudly before heading off to their next errand.

"Zarusoba?" I asked timidly, signalling two with my fingers. The Japanese noodle seller understood and nodded. But I saw the seller frying some shredded vegetables in a tempura batter and wanted some of those as well. How do I order? I whispered to him.

"I want that one. That looks good. Can you order it for me?"

Gallantly he walked up to the counter, attracted the noodle seller's attention and pointed to the fried round vegetable fritter and pointed to the noodle.

The seller nodded. He smiled. He understood we wanted one of those with our zarusoba. He said something in Japanese. We didn't understand. We just smiled back and nodded.

It was time to pay. We held up some Yen, the cashier took some and returned some change. We took our zarusobas and found a corner to stand.

The Japanese fella in a suit beside me slurped his noodle down in record time, three minutes. I was trying to savour mine.

We have since nicknamed the shop "Tempat makan berdiri" (Place where you eat standing.) The shop probably had a nice poetic name. But neither of us could read Japanese. So we made up our own names for the places we ate. Another favourite place was the fried-mussels-with-rice place we nicknamed Kedai makan Makcik Salmah (Aunt Salma's eating place). Its a fast food place, with a counter and cashier, not unlike Macdonalds or Burger King. On the menu was different types of battered seafood with rice, with or without miso.

I don't think my grandmother would approve of me eating while standing up. And my mum wouldn't be impressed to hear me slurping my noodles loudly.

But hey, in Japan, we do what the Japanese do.

Honey, when can we go eat at Tempat makan berdiri?


Farah, important elements of good tempura batter are:
1. Ice cold water (Mariko literally put ice in the water before measuring it out.)
2.Whisking (Use those round metal whisk to incorporate air into your batter.)

Also make sure that your oil is really hot. Good luck

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Mariko's Kitchen

Perhaps its because Julie has recently been relocated to Japan. Or perhaps its because I went to Japan at around this time last year. Suddenly in the last few days I felt that I missed Japan very much. I have never really had the oppurtunity to live in Japan. I visited Tokyo sometime ago and backpacked to Tokyo-Kyoto-Nara-Kurashiki last year. But somehow deep inside me, I feel this great fascination and connection for Japan and things Japanese. And I yearn to go back. To learn how to speak Japanese, learn to cook their dishes, sew their handicrafts, buy and wear the Japanese fabric and learn more about their culture.

Or perhaps in my previous life, I was Japanese.

I love the Bento box. I yearn for good Japanese food which is very much unavailable here.

While I was in Kyoto, I took up the oppurtunity to learn how to cook up a simple Japanese dinner at Mariko's place.

Mariko's Kitchen Posted by Hello

How did I know that Mariko teaches how to cook Japanese food?

As I was surfing for interesting things to do in Kyoto, I found an advert for Mariko's cooking class. For 3,000yen (US$28 approx) per person, I was invited into Mariko's kitchen to experience a basic Japanese cooking lesson. I emailed her and arrange for a suitable time and we met outside Macdonalds at Gojo Stn.

First, Mariko taught us how to make Dashi, the heart of many Japanese dishes. Dashi is a fish based stock which consist mainly of kombu (dried thick seaweed) and Katsuo bushi (dried fish flakes from bonito/tuna fish.)

For starters, we made egg roll and boiled spinach.

Starters Posted by Hello

Then we made a maki consisting of tuna, egg and cucumber.

Tuna Roll Posted by Hello

And finally, the tempura.

Tempura Posted by Hello

And now I am salivating from writing this blog entry, I have to find something in my larder to cook.

Monday, April 11, 2005

What happened to Nefertiti?

Not the Egyption queen but the adventurous blogger who spins wonderful tales of her experiences in Egypt.

There I was clicking on my thumbnails, trying to catch up with the blogs which I haven't been able to read for ages. And what I found was "Page not found." Has she stopped blogging? Or does she have a new blog address? Not a good bye? Or a page forwarder?

Nef, I want to read your blog! Where is it?

Atizah is contemplating on abandoning her blog. Grrrr. And Atenah is also away, possibly having her exams. CN plaks balik kampung. Luckily Kakteh still writes. And Leen, ahh my staple for comedy. And everyone else whose blog I read.

Please fellow bloggers, if you're planning to take down your blogs, please at least say goodbye! Huwaaaaaaa.

PS: If anyone can point me to Nefertiti's blog, I'll owe you one coffee.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Life back to normal?

I cannot explain how joyous I am that I am getting my own space back. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind company, but I am essentially a hermit crab. I like the abundance of space and silence. And freedom to decide what I want to do with my time, without having to constantly accommodate my need to please my guests.

Sure you rasa rumah you sunyi sekarang pasal takde orang nak ajak you bual,” (I am sure that you’ll feel lonely without company to make conversation with.) was a remark made to me by an acquaintance.

I was actually surprise that she said that. What makes her think that I think that? I was actually looking forward to have some time to finally surf and read some blogs. Or books which I bought and haven’t even started reading. I could finish my sewing, my box, my numerous projects which I haven’t had the time to touch lately. And how about my filing and all the other paperwork which I haven’t had time to touch? And the gym! I haven’t been to the gym for months! I could list so many more things I could do, without having to pine for company.

And I actually like to do things without having to talk while doing them. Talk merely distracts me from concentrating on my chores.

What also amazes me was that the other person thinks that he/she knows me enough to try and predict my mind. Am I that different from other people? Am I one of the few people who is happy with my own company (with internet connection and cable TV of course)?

But I have to constantly remind myself that most people use themselves as a yardstick against other people. The statement was made to me was a judgement of the speaker rather than the audience.

What is considered as normal for some people, could be considered as dysfunctional for others.

And she had the cheek to say that its just a waste that I wasn’t using my degree to teach. Did she ask me if that was what I wanted to do? Did she think that I was unhappy and needed to distract myself with a career? What if I don’t really want a career? I am pursuing my own ambition, doing the things I love and want to do. Exploring and learning new things, activities which I would otherwise be unable to explore if I had the commitment of a full time job.

Who does she think she is by insinuation that my life is a waste? That she knows me better than I do?

I wanted to explain but decided against it. Because she wouldn't understand. She thinks she knows best. And I don’t feel compelled to correct others. I let them think whatever they want to think, as long as they would stop bothering me. Biarkanlah, asalkan dia bahagia.

Once again I have to remind myself, what she said is a reflection of her and her thoughts. She may be talking to me about me but perhaps she is thinking of that for herself.

Or perhaps it is I, who is abnormal.

The abnormal hermit who prefers to spends too much time in cyberspace than the real world?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Have been on a roadtrip

Just got back and I am dead tired. Will spend the next few days recuperating and doing the dirty laundry.

Have a good weekend everyone! I actually missed the April Fool! *sigh* Will start reading everybody else's blog as soon as I get some time on my pc. *rindu nak baca*