Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Composition, Framing and my Exilim

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When one compares this picture with the picture above, you can see a huge difference what framing and composition can do to your picture. Having the sun in the picture overexposed it somewhat. Perhaps as Lollies suggested it would be better if one uses a polarizer. But because mine is a point and shoot camera, a polarizer is out of the question and I have to resort to just changing my framing.

Hubby dearest, subscribes to the 2/3 rule in all if not most of his picture composition. Ie the object in focus should not be composed to be right smack in the middle of the photograph but has to be either in 1/3 proportion in the picture.

Adding foreground is also important to add perspective to your photo to give it some depth.

My Exilim is a credit card size camera. I fell in love with it at an IT fair in Singapore a few years ago. I don't normally like to buy big ticket items on a whim, but the minute I saw the Exilim, I was in love.

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But the DC-S2, being the first generation has many limitations. The buttons are a bit small, more suited for the dainty Japanese fingers. The newer generation one has addressed this with a bigger screen and bigger buttons. I would so love to own one but I am hoping that the technology will advance a bit more before spending more money on another one.

Unfortunately, my Exilim has been a source of problem for me when I go through metal detector inspections at airports. Either because the security people were fascinated with my camera, or that it was so small that it made them very suspicious! At heathrow, they had this special cloth that would change its colour if any of your electronics items had come in contact with explosives. That was handy because they could immediately ascertain if my camera would post a security threat on the plane or otherwise.

I had the biggest problem at Frankfurt airport on my way home to London. For some reason the security guy thought that my exilim camera was most suspicious and wanted me to hold me and the camera back, so that he could do "further investigation." HUH? Its just a camera for goodness sake! Luckily there were some nice ladies there. I said, please please don't make me miss my flight! I promise and was willing to cooperate as long as I don't miss my BA flight. (It was one of just cheap discounted tickets, if I miss the flight I'd have to buy a new ticket home.)

The lady was plucky enough to ask the crew if they could hold the plane back for awhile, for her supervisor to return. The crew told her that they would soon leave, with or without me. I think she saw that I was almost crying. Plus they would have to spend more time taking out my checked-in luggage from the bowels of the plane.

The two security ladies looked at each other and told me to go. I could almost hugged them there and then! Thank you soooo much I cried. And quickly ran to the airplane. Who knew such a small handy camera can bring me so much trouble! (Actually perhaps it was my muslim name. I do have a suspicious mind!)

As for my next digital camera, I am still undecided between a newer generation of the Exilim or the Sony Cypershot with the unique rotating Carl Zeis lense.

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Yes MobileMum, I do like my gadgets :)

MobileMum will be flying off to Sydney for her operation. I would like to kindly request all my kind readers to please say a little prayer for her. Hopefully she will go through the operation with success and come back as good as new. May Allah protect you, Insyallah.


Lollies, I don't know if cameras are OK in Qatar, sorry. But here its a no-no. They are so adversed to people taking pictures in public. If you take a picture of a building, they might misunderstand you and acuse you of planning a terrorist attack on the building. If you take pictures of a person, even if it was a woman covered in black from top to bottom, they might even smash you and your camera up! As a result, I haven't done much photography since moving here :(

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Every picture has a story

We were driving somewhere in Scotland in November, 2003. On our way back to London. I was tired and wanted to take a nap while he drove. He was teasing me about it. I was supposed to stay awake to keep him company, to make sure that he didn’t fall asleep at the wheel. But I could not keep my eyes open. It was too bright I reasoned.

We drove past a reservoir, a water conservation area. We thought it would be an interesting place to stop. He could take some pictures of the reservoir and I can take a short nap in the car.

He chose a spot where he could park the car and didn’t have to walk very long to take photographs. He takes ages to take just one photograph. He is a perfectionist. He will make sure that the framing is right. The contents in place. The light, the exposure. Everything.

That’s where we differ. I don’t care too much for the technical aspect of photography. I was more interested in the aesthetics of it. Capturing the vision which my eye has seen, and transferring it to film (pixels now that we use digital cameras.)

I tried to take my nap but could only close my eyes for 10 mins. It was different with the car not moving. And him not at my side. My eyes somehow refused to fall asleep. Perhaps I was missing him already.

I got out of the car, and looked around for him. I locked the car and walked towards him. Towards the reservoir. Found that he had set up his Minolta on a tripod. Taking pictures. He had chosen a very interesting vantage point. As usual, has composed his picture well. We kissed.

“Up already? I thought you wanted a nap?”

“I did, but I think I missed you not being there.”

He smiled.

He showed me the pictures he has taken. Thank god for digital photography. Gone were the days where we’d have to wait for the film to be developed before reassessing the pictures we’ve taken.

And I whipped out my Exilim. I love my Exilim. Its very limiting, but very handy. I had lost my interest in carrying heavy photographic equipment. My Exilim, although could be lacking was good enough for me.

Snap. Snap.

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It was a romantic picture. Captured the moment well. Captured our moment well. Because we knew that we would be separated for awhile. I would have to stay behind while my visa is being processed. While he goes on ahead, to his new job in a new country.

It will be difficult. We spent two weeks together, 24 hours in a day. And suddenly, we won’t be able to see each other for awhile.

If anything, its our fondness for road trips, long drives, photography and travel are the things that brought us together. I hope we will continue to make new memories together, all the time, while holding hands, even in our old age.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Japanese Toilet Humour

Seen at the Hotel we were staying at Kurashiki:

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In case you forgot which gender you are, or too drunk or short sighted to read the small signs indicating which toilet to use, the illustration on the door will enlighten you.

The Inn keeper was an older gentleman who proudly showed us the illustrations on the door, upon our arrival at the Inn.

Only in Japan :)

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Memories of Ueno

Just a few days ago, I had the privelege of meeting Cik Kieli in Pok Ku's chatroom. And reading her blog suddenly made me miss Japan very much. Not that I lived in Japan. I have only been there on two visits but somehow the experience of being in Japan was unforgettable for me and I thirst for more.

In one entry, cik Kieli wrote about her trip to Ameyoko Market in Ueno. I have never been to Ameyoko market but I remembered having my first meal in Japan in Ueno.

After a long flight, I arrived in Narita excited. I remembered the customs officer asking me what was my plan while I was in Tokyo and I said I wanted to shop. Hehehhe. Shop for what he asked. I said well Baby-G watches and lots of electronics. And I want to eat as much Japanese food as I can. Yes I love my Japanese food.

From Narita we took the fast train to Ueno. But we decided to break our journey in Ueno before continuing our journey to Tokyo because we were afraid that no restaurant would be open by the time we arrived in the vicinity of our hotel. It was so obvious that we were new to Tokyo, the city that never sleeps. Even if they were no restaurants open, there would be many 24 hour convenience stores that sells fairly good bento sets.

Anyways, we had no real way of picking a Japanese restaurant. One thing I noticed that was different in Japan (compared to Japanese restaurants abroad) they are very specialized. The sushi restaurant would only sell sushi. The soba place would only serve soba. The teriyaki place would only serve teriyaki. Not quite the same all-in-one restaurants that I have been outside Japan.

My main staple of Japanese food has been mainly sushi so I thought why not try a soba place for a change. As usual, we try to gauge how good a restaurant is by how busy they are. If the store is empty, its probably bad. Now if the restaurant has a steady stream of customers, then they're probably allright.

Another problem was language. We didn't speak any Japanese. I had wanted soba with the vegetable fritters on top. But we had no way of conveying our order. So in the end we just said, "Soba." Soba came with some seaweed topping and some fried dough bits (more like kerak in Malay.)

I don't know if it was the long flight. Or the air in Ueno but that soba was sooo good! (The only other soba I found to be better was in Hakone!)

And to complete the experience, once we paid our bill and made our way towards the exit. Everyone or it felt like all of the staff anyways, popped their head out to wish us "Arigato gozaimas." Even the staff at the back popped their head out to wish us thank you. I was so flabbergasted. These people were so polite!

Or perhaps they were curious to see 2 gaijins eating at their restaurants ;) But whatever the case, I was so impressed.

Ueno was a bustling town but alas we had to make our way back to Tokyo. It was my first night in Japan, and I was already in love.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

“Excuse me, are you Japanese?”

For some reason, that question has been directed to me a few times in my life. My first reaction to that was to laugh. Is there any part of me that looks Japanese? I am not petite, neither am I neat, well dressed, or fair skinned. Qualities in my opinion, most Japanese women have. Perhaps the only possibility is my slanted eyes. That I got from my Chinese mother. But that’s another story.

But perhaps, the people who often mistook me from being Japanese are those who have not been in contact with many Japanese themselves. Or to them all Asians are the same anyways.

I remember once on our trip to Mumbai, my husband dearest in his quest to look “local” decided to keep a moustache to blend in. Imagine his disappointment when a little child came up to him after a dandiya (a dance) and asked him, “Excuse me are you Chinese?” We really laughed quite hard then, because no Chinese person would ever mistake him for being Chinese. But perhaps the child meant to ask me but directed the question to him, but whatever it was, his attempt to look “local” was totally a failure.

But anyways, about being mistook for being Japanese, I must say that I was flattered non the less. Because I am a Japanophile. I have this obsession for Japan and things Japanese. Of course my religion forbids the concept of previous life, but if it was possible, I think I was a Japanese woman in my previous life.

I am very much fascinated by the culture, the handicrafts, the food and the philosophy of life. Japan was the country where I first saw rows and rows of bicycles left at the side of train station unchained. The people are full of honesty and integrity that no one fears that someone else will steal their bicycle at the train station. They also have an umbrella stand at the station for rainy days. People just use these umbrellas to walk home and return those umbrellas the very next day when they take the train to work. I simply find that so amazing! Imagine if this umbrella stand was put in KL or Singapore or London or Hong Kong, there wouldn’t be any more umbrellas on rainy days. The umbrellas would simply disappear!

We even had the pleasure of experiencing some Japanese honesty. We were on our way to visit a friend who lives in the outskirt of Tokyo. We had brought a long a box of chocolates as a gift to the host. While purchasing the train tickets we had inadvertently left the box of chocolates on the floor, and walked off onto the platform without picking it up again. I noticed that the box of chocolates was missing only after we found the train platform. By that time I was convinced that the box of chocolates would be gone by now. They were very good chocolates at that! But my husband dearest said we should ask the station master anyways and true enough he handed the box of chocolates to us! Someone had found it and turned it in to the station master. What honesty!

And contrast that to my experience in 1utama. My sister in law, had bought a new birthday gift for her friend. While withdrawing her money at the ATM machine in the basement, she left it at the side while withdrawing her money. She only realised that she had left it there when we got up to the next floor. The gift couldn’t have been left there for more than 5 minutes before we returned, only to find the item already missing. What a shame!

On another instance at the Coffee Bean at Scotts Shopping Centre. I had inadvertently left my shopping there, a cosmetic item. Upon realizing I had left it there, I asked the manager if the staff had found the item there. No luck. It strikes me that we Malaysians and Singaporeans take to heart the meaning of “Finders keepers.”

What is it about the Japanese and their culture that they have a strong sense of integrity and honesty? Or is it their religion?

On my backpacking trip to Japan last year, I had the opportunity to learn more about the Japanese religion. On our trip to Nara, we found a Japanese lady who volunteered to become our tourist guide for the day.

She explained to us that the Japanese believe in both Buddhism and Shintoism. They believed in Shintoism for this life and Buddhism for the next life. How they managed to combine both branch of faiths together to form their own faith was something else.

And then there are the Japanese handicraft. Somehow their craft shows how much they pay attention to detail. As a people, they are inclined to do things “the right way” and not just the “tidak apa” or “boleh la tu” or “malfi musykila” (no problem) attitude that some other cultures have. Its almost like they strive for perfection in everything they do, from their craft to their food. Everything, to my eyes, was a work of art, with incredible attention to detail.

One of my greatest wish is to be able to live in Japan, if not, to be able to visit it, often. One day Japan, I will return.

{Argghhhh this entry is written, as I really miss having good Japanese food and the lack of Japanese groceries being sold here. Sigh!}

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Dreaming of blue fishes

I had another odd dream yesterday. I dreamt I was fishing. (I never went fishing in my life ever.) And I caught myself a small blue colured fish. It was wriggling at my hook and unfortunately I could not remove the fish from the hook myself.

So I sought help from a fellow fisherman. There was another man there, although I could not determine if he was someone I know or a stranger. I told him my problem, and he said he would help me if I promised to watch his rod. His was a much bigger rod compared to mine. I said, I have no problems reeling the fish in if he caught one, I just can't unhook it myself.

And sure enough a big deep blue fish bit his bait and I tried my hardest to reel the fish in. I think I just left it flapping about on the deck.

Then I realised that the boat was moving, and the man who was helping me was no where to be found. And then I realised it was a huge ship, not just a boat.

Any ideas what my dream meant?

Shoes – my insane indulgence

[Caution, a fetish post will follow. If you have shoe envy or adversion to nonsensical female obessesion with them please look away.]

My earliest memories of shoes was when I was about 5 I think. I had a pair of red Mary Janes my parents had bought from me from Bata (the shoe store of choice.) I didn’t really wear that pair very often, and soon they got tight for me. I think my mum might have kept that pair for a very long time before finally giving it to a cousin because that shoe was hardly used at all.

The following year I got another pair of white Mary Janes. My parents obviously loved the Mary Janes. Perhaps they thought that the Mary Janes are very sensible shoes and can last a very long time. However they might have overseen the fact that my feet are growing and I would outgrow those pair pretty quickly.

I remember I was living with my grandparents then, and I would go home to live with my parents only during weekends. One Friday, my mum had called me at my grandparents place. It must have been pretty close to Eid, because we were discussing about getting new clothes for Eid. I remember my mum telling me that they were not going to buy me a new pair of shoes that year, but they will be taking my white Mary Janes out from the closet and they will be repolishing it. Perhaps my mum was merely teasing me, but I remember being very, very sad then, when I heard that I was not getting a near pair that year. My parents were very thrifty and there wasn’t much to spread around especially with a new house and a younger brother, and I understood all that.

I think I was almost crying when I put the phone down and my auntie asked me what was wrong. I told her that my mum had just told me that I won’t be getting a new pair of shoes that year. And bless my auntie, she comforted me and told me that even if my parents were not going to buy me a new pair of shoes that year, she would buy me one.

And so the next day, off we went to the neighbourhood Bata, and my auntie let me choose whichever shoe I wanted, and I remember picking this pair of strappy white sandals. I was so happy to have gotten a pair, but my parents were not too happy when they saw those shoes!

Throughout my teenage years, shoes continues to plague me. Being a teenager and wanting so much to fit in, shoes was one of the things that continued to bother me. I went to a girls school that had a strict dress code of white only shoes. And my parents gave me a strict budget for my school shoes, which basically meant its was Bata canvas shoes, the type that I would have to wash every weekend, and then lather then with white stuff to make them white.

But around me in school, the girls were wearing Reebok shoes. Reebok was so popular then and was expensive as well, and I so wanted one of those white tennis shoes, but with the limited budget my parents gave me, I could only afford Bata.

Until I made some friends in Secondary Three, who showed me where I could buy discounted Puma white shoes. I was so thrilled to own a pair of school shoes which was not Bata.

Now its not that my parents didn’t appreciate the value of good shoes, but they themselves could not afford such luxuries. My mum wore this simple sandals (Schol imitation ones) until they were really worn out before she throws them away. And my dad too hung on to his broken pair. One of his students once remarked to him, “Cikgu, kasut cikgu ade mulut.” The student saw that the sole and the top part of the shoe had came apart and needed to be mended, but my dad hadn’t had the chance to buy himself a new pair.

Shoes continued to be a mini obsession for me, but comfort then became a key factor as I grew older. I am a size 9 after all, and size 9 are not easy for an Asian woman to fond in Asia. And most shops only stocked shoes up to size 8.

It was only in my late 20s that I really get a taste of good shoes. I still remember and cherish the time when I got my first Ferragamo. It was a pair of black, flat leather ballet pumps. I had just recovered from a 10 day scare in a hospital. The doctors didn’t quite know what was wrong with me except that I was very very sick and hubby dearest was just so glad when I got better. It made us realize that life is short after all and we might as well set out to do the things that we wanted to do in life, taste the things that we wanted to taste and try whatever it is we wanted to try, before its too late.

And for me, amongst other dreams was to own a pair of Ferragamo shoes. I was walking at Takashimaya when I saw the “Sale” sign on the door. And the shoes were at 50% off. Wow! I looked and looked at the different designs, and I didn’t dare to ask the sales girl for a try. I don’t even know if I could afford any of them, well even if I did, I wasn’t sure if I could justify my purchase. And then came the sweet voice of the sales girl, “Ma’am would you like to try a pair?”

And I caved in. I pointed to the black leather ballet pumps and asked her if she had it in a size 9. Secretly in my heart I was hoping that she’d tell me that it was not available in my size, so I can still walk out of the shop with my head high, (they didn’t have my size, not that I cannot afford those shoes.) But surprisingly she had my size! 9C! It was a perfect fit. My heart was beating my fast, my palms was sweating and I can fell my face going red. And how much were they? $325 after the discount. Gulp! My normal budget for a pair of shoes was $100. At $325 I could get 3 pairs of shoes and 3 coffees!

Thank God for mobile phones so I gave him a call. I told him where I was and that I was trying a pair of the most comfortable shoes in my life. And I asked him if I could buy it. And our conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi! Do you remember that I said I’d forgo the F1 tickets for a pair of shoes?
Him: Yess, why?
Me: Well I am in Ferragamo right now and I think I found the pair of shoes that I will trade for the F1 ticket.
Him: How much is it?
Me: Well its 50% off and it used to be $700 plus and now its $325.
Him: Do you really like the pair?
Me: Yes very much so! They are so me, they are screaming my name.
Him: Do you love me?
Me: Yes very much so! And even more if I get this pair.
Him: Well go ahead and get them then.

And so that was how I purchased my first pair of Ferragamo shoes. Although afterwards I did find out that even Ferragamos do give me blisters. And guess what, the ballet pumps didn’t look and feel all too different from the Mary Jane pumps that my parents bought me as a child, the shoes that I hated so much as a child became a model of the type of shoes I selected later in my adult life.

Since then my shoe collection has expanded beyond the one pair of black leather pumps. Thanks to the factory outlet store at Bicester, and a trip to Foxtown in Menderiso my collection of Ferragamo shoes have expanded.

I still don’t believe in paying retail price for my shoes. I would normally wait for the “Sale” sign to appear outside the shops before I would go in to check the shoes out.

And just an hour ago, I was reminded of my insane obsession of shoes. A lady called me because I was a customer of her shoes. On one of my whims purchase I bought a pair of RM200 slippers. They were pink and pretty with beads, made in Lebanon. Overpriced actually but they were so pretty I bought a pair, which I have to admit I haven’t worn out. They are too pretty to be worn out!

And now the lady called to to tell me that she was having a special clearance sale at her house and to introduce her customers to her new collection. Yikess! Did I have a “Obsessed shoe shopper” stamped on my face? Could she tell my obsession for shoes?

But funnily enough, despite the stacks of shoes I have in my closet, I tend to wear my no frills Nine West pumps and my Schol open toes sandals. They are oh, so comfortable, albeit a bit stinky ;)

Shoes, I can never have enough of them ;) Whats your favourite shoe?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The interview that never was

Perhaps I am over sensitive. But I had always known that I have a strong sense of intuition. I am one of those women who follow my heart more than my head. Not a good way to deal with things sometimes, but its my heart that I often trust.

Last Thursday, we went out for grocery shopping in the afternoon but had to rush home quickly. Because my husband was expecting a phone interview. Phone interviews has been quite common for him. He is a contractor, we live on contracts. Perhaps that is why we have been moving so much for the past seven years. Its always about the contract. I’ll pack my bag and our belongings to where the contract determines where we would be.

This possible contract was back to the UK. I was somewhat looking forward to moving back to the UK. Back to having some personal freedom to roam around as I please as a woman. To take walks in the park and feed the ducks. To buy the potato salad from Marks and Spencer. Eat tau foo fa at Chinatown. Visit my favourite fruit farm. Walk around Tate Modern, napping at the comfortable couch on the 2nd floor. Catch a show at the West End, after queuing at TKTS. Shopping at Bicester. Driving round the Lake district in Autumn. Eating fresh crayfish in Scotland. Have a BBQ under my apple tree. Prune my roses in my garden. Weeding on my knees.

An hour before the scheduled interview, his recruitment company called him to ensure that he was home. They told him that they emailed the job description to him, and to wish him good luck for the interview. A contract for him ensures income for them. We had always used this recruiter. He got us the previous contract in London. And he knows the market and his customers well.

The call came. Thirty minutes early. It was from a reputable company, the main vendor in the UK for the industry my husband works for. And suddenly the guy on the other line said that my husband was not someone they were looking for. He was over qualified. They are just looking for a help desk person. The phone call ended pleasant enough.

But my heart told me it was something else. The recruitment company cannot be so wrong. They have been fairly professional. And why would they waste their time making sure that the interview goes on all right?

Somehow deep in my heart, I knew that perhaps it had something to do with our names and where we are at the moment. Reading KakTeh’s blog somehow I think confirms it for me. That Islamophobia is on the rise in the UK. And no one is about to hire someone with a Muslim name out of a Muslim country.

But I accept that perhaps it is just not meant to be. Perhaps we are just being idealistic, following our hearts too much, wanting to return to England at this time. After all it’s a good contract that we have here. No electricity bills to pay, no rent, cheap petrol and most importantly no tax. (Just a shitty exchange rate!)

Unlike Kakteh who has been in UK for 25 years, I only lived in London for 3. But somehow if anyone asked us where is home for us, our answer would be London. Odd perhaps, but we have been moving from city to city since we got married. 8 months in Hong Kong, 9 months in Jakarta, 2 months in Bombay. Singapore and KL sandwiched in between. We were practically living out of our suitcases. Until we moved to London to set up our first home together. And like Kakteh said, everytime after a trip elsewhere, somehow arriving either in Heathrow or Waterloo, I felt so glad that I was back in Britain.

However, I feel that something has changed in the heart of England. Something is now different. And as much as I do look forward to returning “home,” I know things are no longer the same before I left. And it does make me sad.

Even before the interview took place I thought how it would be. If we return to UK, it would be my first time wearing a hijab there. I only started wearing it here. I did wonder if I would have the courage like Kakteh and the rest of the brave women there to wear the hijab there. I wonder if my old neighbours and acquaintances would look at me differently, because they have never seen me wearing it. I wonder if they would think, “Oh they have just came back from XXXXX XXXXx, perhaps now they have converted to become extremists.”

And we would have to set up a new home up north. I had guessed that it would be much harder. That people would look at me with suspicion in their eyes.

Whatever the case maybe, whether we stay here or we go else where, I will leave it up to Allah. Perhaps some of you think its blind faith, but I will leave it up to him to decide what is best for us. If we stay here longer, I hope we get a better contract, and we stay safe. (There are so many road blocks lately and I’ve heard some helicopters circling above, I wonder if something is brewing again.) If we get to move on to the next location, I hope we will be happy and comfortable there too.

No matter where we live in this world, it has become the same. Safe is now a relative concept.

I guess at the end of the day, what’s most important for us, is that we get rezeki that is Halal and we’re happy and comfortable.

No matter where we live.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Neighbours issuing death threats

Dana came to my door in the pretext of borrowing some sugar. She looked somewhat tearful, I didn’t notice at first and busied myself getting the sugar ready.

And then she told me. Did you know that my husband received a death threat recently? Huh? What? Death threat? What happened?

So she told me the story over tea. A few afternoons ago, her husband, Sam, was home alone because she was here having tea with me. Sam was about to settle down with a book by the poolside and noticed that two of the neighbours’ boys were somewhat rowdy and noisy at the pool. So he just blurted out telling them to tone it down a little.

Little did he know that his quest for some peace by the pool would change his relations with a neighbour forever.

The boys’ mother who sat chatting with a friend by the pool was very upset that Sam had told her sons to tone down and started a barrage of expletives. She promptly told him that if he had any problems about her children, that he could be telling HER about it and not to her children directly. She felt that it was an insult to her that her children were told off for being noisy.

Sam told her that the rules of using the pool was stated quite clearly on the sign board nearby and for her to ensure that her children obey them. Realising that the mother is not listening to any reason, he called up the compound security, explaining to them what happened, that the children were making too much noise by the pool.

So the security guys came, warned the mother and Sam thought that it was the end of the matter.

Later that evening, Dana received a call asking for her husband.

“Is your husband home? I would like to speak to your husband,” the caller said.

“Who is this speaking?” asked Dana.

“Well its none of your business I want to speak to your husband.”

“Well I will not give you any information about my husband unless you identify yourself who you are,” said Dana firmly.

He finally introduced himself grudgingly, and she told him that her husband is not at home and will be back in an hour or so.

Meanwhile, the compound manager also called, asking Sam to come by for a meeting at his office with regard to the incident earlier in the afternoon. Before Sam managed to go for the meeting, someone else had come knocking on their door, bearing a brick.

As Sam opened the door, he was greeted with words that shocked both him and Dana.

“Do you know that we are now in XXXXX XXXXX, and if I were to kill you with this brick, no one will blame me for killing you?”

On hearing that, Dana got very upset and suddenly started a barrage of verbal attacks on her door step visitor.

“Who are you to come to my door threatening to kill my husband?” she cried.

“Go away woman, I’m not talking to you. I am talking to your husband.”

“What do you mean go away woman? Yes you will talk to me “woman.” I will not scuttle away upstairs while you stand here on my doorstep killing my husband. This is my house and you have come here uninvited!” she cried.

Sam acted very calmly (little did the neighbour know that Sam is actually ex army fella who used to work for the UN, so he is quite used to some rough action. He just looks petite kinda like the cute Swiss army guards at the Vatican.)

Dana said that he neighbour was rather shocked that she stood her ground defending her husband. The visitor began to issue more threats to Sam saying that he knew Sam works for the XXXXXXX embassy and was going to write a letter to his ambassador, saying what a disreputable man Sam was. He somehow thought Sam had verbally abused his children, whom he said is now traumatized (both Sam and Dana said the children continued playing at the pool with lots of noise as if nothing that happened immediately after the incident.) He accused Sam of touching his wife, which Sam said, didn’t happen at all because he was no where near where she sat. He said Sam accused his wife of being naked at the pool and set the compound security on them, statements which they verified with the compound security people who said that no such allegations were made.

Dana said she got very upset and could not stand it any longer and started launching another attack on the unwelcomed visitor at her doorstep.

“Who do you think you are coming to our house, bringing this brick, threatening to kill my husband with it. And now you are making my front yard dirty and ruining my garden.”

She took the broom and promptly started sweeping on her front yard, sweeping as much dirt and broken brick pieces towards the neighbour, who finally left in a huff.

Dana and Sam tried to calm down a little bit and the phone rang, the neighbour was in the Manager’s office and the manager himself is asking Sam to come to his office so that he could hear both sides of the story before deciding on the line of action.

Apparently the wife had already wrote a letter to the manager detailing to him her side of the story, stating that she found it utterly unacceptable and was an insult to her that Sam told her children off in public at the pool.

The husband told Sam not to ever look at his children or wife again.

How does one not look at people who share the same facilities as you do? Dana told me about the long conversation she had with Sam about this. The reason we all chose to live in a “Western” compound is such that we are able to interact freely as one would do normally in the Western world. Ie no high walls between neighbours, the ability to wear any clothes we choose to wear and not restricted by the abaya, and of course to share all the facilities freely, no restriction of women only or men only.

But now you have a neighbour who insist that you musn’t look at his children and wife. Why are they living here then? Why don’t they just live in a private villa outside where they can get their own privacy, unseen by anybody behind the high walls, and where the children can make as much noise as they want to without bothering anyone else?

(Jiran depa ni orang sama sekaum dengan mereka yang baru-baru ni mengerjakan letupan di Europah tu. Kalau ikut passport, passport orang putih, tapi kalau ikut perangai dan cara hidup dan cara berfikir, dari benua lain.)

So now Sam wants to look for a different compound to live in. Perhaps in an all western compound. FYI, there are some compounds and clubs here which will admit “Western passport holders” only. Basically white people only. Because Dana said, Sam said if the neighbours had the same Western values as they do, there would be no misunderstanding.

Sam said, while growing up in Europe, if he did something wrong and a neighbour told him off in front of his dad, his dad would in fact called him, gave him a slap himself, and will send him back to the neighbour to apologize for his action. Sam felt that most European parents would not have reacted the same way his neighbours did and attributed it to a difference in culture and lifestyle. [Don’t look at my wife! Whats that all about?]

But Dana pointed out, those neighbours actually did have Western passport, and may have been allowed to stay in those “Western passport holder only” places.

Another friend, told us that there was a time when prospective residents who wanted to live in a Western compound was accepted by face-to-face interviews only. Ie not by their passports but rather based on the manager’s assessment (tengok kulit la tu.) But things have since change for the better, allowing basically any non locals in.

Somehow the whole incident has made me rather disappointed and disillusioned. Have we come to this? Is racial segregation back in fashion? Are we all no longer capable of being tolerant to one another?

What about you parents out there? Are you the type who thinks your children are pure angels, not capable of doing anything wrong at all, that your children are untouchables? And no one should ever tell them to shut up or tone down? And anybody who dares to do so should just be killed?

Or are you people without children? Who have very low tolerance level to noises made by children?

To me, the whole incident shows the great divide not just between people and their cultures, but also to their lifestyle choices. I know of some building in North America which forbid children and pets.

Now that the world is getting smaller and that we are able to learn more about each other, do we in the end just decide to stick to our own kind? Either of the same culture or the same economic status or same family units?

Prejudice makes us compartmentalize everything, including ourselves.

Kampung tul la! The sad part for me was, the family who threatened to kill Sam are Muslims. Thus reinforcing Islamophobia. Luckily, Dana said, she does have 2 good Muslim friends who assured her that not all Muslims are intent on killing others. I really find this part very sad, because there are so many Muslims out there behaving in very un Muslim ways and giving the rest of the Muslims a bad name.

Isn't being a Muslim about respecting your neighbours? About settling your differences amicably? Whatever happened to all that?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

On the Genius sperm bank, eugenics and assisted conception

2 documentaries that I have been watching for the past two days, have been eye opening, yet somewhat confusing for me. It first started off with a conversation I had with a single friend a few days ago. For reasons known only to herself, she has concluded that she is damned to be single for the rest of her life and all she wants is to have a child of her own, but not a husband.

I must say, I don’t really understand her reasoning, but apparently her thoughts are echoed by many women, especially in the US. I say especially in the US, because information from that part of the world is more widely available to me from the various media. Perhaps more and more Asian women hold the same ideology. If you’re one such person, please enlighten me.

Apparently the genius sperm bank (I am unable to access the official website from where I am due to the censorship board), is where one can go to obtain sperm donation by men whose intelligence is above average. In 1980, Robert Graham founded his establishment because he was “troubled by his ever-so-slightly dubious notion that poor "retrograde humans" were gradually diluting America’s gene pool.”

“Early in my life it dawned on me that bright, desirable citizens weren't reproducing themselves,” Graham said during a rare interview in 1983. “The local doctor had only one child, the banker had one child, and the richest and most famous man in town was childless.”

His theory is not new. In fact it was inspired by Hermann Muller, a 1946 Nobel prize winning American geneticist. But the idea of Eugenics, the science of improving human evolution through breeding, has been traced back as far as the late 19th century, popularised by Francis Galton.

Is nature more superior than nurture? Is it more important to have good genes rather than a good, productive environment? And what drives single, unmarried women to seek donors from the genius sperm bank to produce their children? In the documentary, apparently initially it was childless couples who went to the bank to seek sperm donations. But in two of the cases, the women ended up raising the child or children themselves.

I cringe to think that there is a generation of children growing without a firm father figure role in their lives. We already have a steady stream of children raised by single mums either because of divorce or sex outside marriage, but now we have children raised by mothers who are determined to rear children on their own, without the relationship of a man, by choice. Its not that I think that women are not capable, I just feel that in life a balance is necessary, that we need a counter-balance to even things out. And in the case of women seeking sperm donors, its us human playing God isn’t it? Or is it no different from women marrying a man for his sperm and then divorcing her and then keeping her children?

One of the men in the same documentary claims that he is a genius and have 19 offsprings. He is not married, because he does not believe in committing himself to just one woman. He has father 10 children by sperm donations and 9 children with his various ex girlfriends. And all his children live with their mothers.

Perhaps I am old fashioned but I seriously find this trend disturbing. How does Islam view this issue? 9 children born out of wedlock, perhaps that is clear cut, but what about the other 10? And in terms of his responsibility as a father, its convenient isn’t it? To have lots of offsprings and not needing to be responsible for them? And what if any of his 19 children end up marrying each other? Wouldn’t that be inbreeding?

On another documentary I saw on BBC was Sperm Wars, there were cases where 2 mothers lost their sons. In both cases, the family has requested that sperm was extracted from the dead bodies, to be used later, to produce another generation of children. I personally find that very eerie, its almost like defying fate. In the first case, bruce Vernoff died at the age of 35, and left behind a widow. The widow was impregnated with the dead man’s sperm (which was extracted from him 30 hrs after his death) and it eventually produced a daughter.

In the second case, the mother, Pamela, was still gripping with the pain that she lost her son Jeremy Reno who died at age 19. She asked his ex girlfriend if she was willing to donate her eggs, and will use a surrogate mother to be a carrier of her dead son’s sperm and the donor egg. She has yet to get approval from the Ethics board before she could start the procedure.
One case raised by the Ethics board member was that of a mother, so over wrought by the pain of losing her son, that she requested for his sperm to be extracted, and she impregnated by his sperm. Such that he could be replaced.

For me, all these people doing this is too freaky. Have we, as human race, decided that with the technological advances of science we can now play God and mess with the natural order of things?

Have we come to a point where we can no longer accept the natural order of things without interfering and changing it to suit our own cause? And unfortunately, most of these is happening in America, where the free economy rules. If you have the money to fund it, chances are you can find somebody to do it for you.

Of course we could always reason all this as advancement in technology and science, and what better than to use all available resources to reach our own personal goal?

As Tenah said, “Honestly I ni sian la kat omputih2 ni, entah apa yg depa cari in life.”

But perhaps, there are some non omputihs who think the same way?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Srebrenica Remembered

Serb forces kill 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men.

Its been ten years since it happened.
Massacre on Muslim men.
No rememberance in the media every year to mark the date.
Men and boys gunned down.
Perpetrators not brought to justice.
Its a shame they say.

Shame indeed!

Progress or fuel to fire?

I was reading Tenah's blog and there was a thread about the first Saudi female pilot in the comment. OK I thought. I read about her passing a few months ago but have not read anything about it recently in the local papers. So I scoured in the internet for the "latest" debate about her and found two articles. Both of which I found somewhat disturbing in some areas.

First Saudi Female Pilot Graduates
Abdul Jalil Mustafa, Arab News

AMMAN, 16 June 2005 — The Kingdom’s first woman pilot, Hanadi Zakaria Al-Hindi, graduated yesterday from the Middle East Academy for Commercial Aviation in Jordan.

“It is a source of pride for us,” said Muhammad Audeh, chairman of the academy’s board of directors, at a graduation ceremony where she received her civil aviation license.

For her part, Al-Hindi expressed joy at graduating and said she would return to Saudi Arabia to work on a private plane owned by Prince Al-Waleed ibn Talal who paid the costs of her studies in Jordan.

Sultan Al-Owaideh, the cultural attache at the Saudi Embassy in Amman, expressed pride about the graduation of the first Saudi woman pilot.

“Capt. Hanadi has set an example for the Saudi woman,” he said.

The article was fair enough except for the picture. Now I am not one to judge, and I believe that to each his/her own, but I am pretty sure, judging from the conservative nature of most of the locals here, this picture will fuel some anger because she is shown, not only with her face uncovered but also her hair showing as well.

As it is progress for women is going at a very slow rate, women can now get some jobs, but they are highly competitive, and oppurtunities are limited. Limited in terms of the number of places they can get, as well as in terms of paternal and spousal permission.

I had encountered a little bit of this myself. At first I found it incredulous, almost unbelievable, but later I found out that it is actually the way of life here. Upon enrolling in an Arabic class in the local University, I was told by the teacher that I have to bring a letter of permission from my husband, allowing me to attend the class. HUH? The last time I had any sort of consent form was way back in school. Surely by now I am a grown woman who is capable for making decisions for myself.

But I soon found out that its just the way things work here. For example, a woman, if she wants to travel outside the country, has to produce a letter of permission from her male Muhrim stating that she is allowed to travel abroad. That letter is as important as her passport, without it, she would not be allowed to leave the country.

Which in turn brings me to the second article I found:


Riyadh, 29 June (AKI) - A Saudi cleric has issued a fatwa making it unlawful for any woman to work as a pilot. Sheikh Yousuf al-Ahmad issued the statement in response to a full-page advert Saudi billionaire Prince Waleed recently took out in several local papers, congratulating Captain Hanadi Zakaria on becoming the first Saudi woman to get a commercial pilot's licence. Waleed has employed Captain Zakaria to work for his company's fleet of private jets.

However, the adverts have angered religious and conservative figures in the country, the Emirates-based newspaper Gulf News reports. In his fatwa, Al-Ahmad, an associate professor of Sharia law at Imam Mohammad bin Saud University in Riyadh, said the job would require Zakaria to travel without a male guardian, and would therefore lead to women mixing with men, which he branded unacceptable.

His statement went on to say that the contract employing Zakaria is unlawful and women should never be allowed to work as either pilots or air hostesses. He also declared the adverts unlawful. Several internet sites run by conservative and extremist Islamic groups have criticised plans to let women pilot aircraft, and these statements have also prompted the cleric to issue his fatwa.

Women are not allowed to drive vehicles in Saudi Arabia, but 24-year-old Zakaria, who is said to be from a conservative family from the holy city of Mecca, obtained her pilot's commercial licence earlier this year, leading to a ten-year contract with the Kingdom Holding Company. She was due to start her job around now.

Prince Waleed - a nephew of the king - is a businessmen and political activist who has called for a range of reforms in the Kingdom, including greater rights for women and democratic elections.

Meanwhile, the debate over the ban on women driving, introduced in 1990, shows no sign of abating. Even though the Shuria consultative council has refused to hold a debate on the ban, 100 Saudi citizens, including 60 women, have signed a petition and submitted it to the National Human Rights Commission, calling for women to be allowed to drive. The Commission's vice-chairman says the petition has been referred to the commission's legal consultancy department, which will decide whether or not to take up the issue.


29-Jun-05 13:43

Funnily enough, the latter article was not from the local news. Perhaps just not in the English language ones anyways. But whether Captain Hanadi's achievement will have a real impact on the general masses, it remains to be seen, although I am hopeful that it will. Afterall, her studies was financed by the new employer, not many local women will have that oppurtunity.

But, more recently I have met some women in this society which to me signifies hope in the future. Women who are very well educated and who have good jobs. From talking to a few of them, I had some sense that they wanted to see some progress in terms of women's rights in this country, although they realize that the change would have to be gradual and from within.

The section of the society is changing, and it is only through education that we all can get progress. Bring brings me to Anasalwa's blog entry on July 7, out of 100 people on earth, only 1 would have a college education.

Will education be the only factor that will straddle the great divide between the elite and the masses?

Sadly enough, the results of the recent study was telling:

The research, conducted in 2003, surveyed an equal number of (1,092) Saudi men and women throughout the Kingdom. The age for men was between 21 and 85 and for women between 15 and 63, with most of the sample, 59 percent, in the 31 to 45 age bracket.

Although the education levels of the men and women were almost equal in elementary, intermediate and high school, 18.6 percent of the women surveyed were illiterate compared to five percent of the men, and 31.9 percent of the men had university degrees as opposed to only 15.8 percent of the women.

Can anyone point to me where I can find similar statistics for Malaysia?

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Day we hoped never to have come ...

Although it has been a year since we moved out of London, this time exactly last year, I was in London. So when I heard about the 4 blasts yesterday, 3 on the tube and 1 on the bus, I was greatly shocked. Our first instinct was to contact our friends and neighbours over in London. Luckily two of my friends were online, they were in zone 5, thus unaffected. Kakteh, well I managed to chat with Awang Goneng who assured me that she was fine although stranded in Bayswater somewhere. We texted our friends and ex-collagues, who replied saying that they are OK, either they were not working in Zone 1 or, are in London, having to find their way by foot to their various destination. We were relieved.

And all day, our eyes were glued on BBC, waiting to see the news, the pictures, the number of casualties. London has been a city so close to our heart, and seeing it under sieged as it was, was definitely heart wrenching.

Worst still we fear what repercussions and implications this attack will have on us in the future. This attack "bearing all the hallmarks of the Al-Qaeda network" with a "Muslim group" claiming responsibility, does this mean that racism will be on the rise? Does that mean that UK will adopt the US's policy of making it almost impossible for a Muslim person to visit the country? So far the politicians, the British broadcasters have been very careful when pointing their fingers. Perhaps its their training but I must say kudos to them for trying.

I guess the main aim of these attacks is to bring terror to the normal masses. But I cringe to think what sort of twisted mindset that actually planned and carried out the attacks. Afterall the victims are normal working class folk, the ordinary people, you and I, who commute to work daily. Not the rich who could afford to drive themselves or be driven to work. But ordinary folk on the streets trying to make a living for themselves.

Even before these attacks I was always nervous when riding the tube. Whenever the trains stopped in the tunnel for more than 5 minutes, I did get fidgety, because unfortunately the London Underground has had a history of many mishaps. Derailments, trains colliding, and power loss amongst other things. But these bombings, they are done out of real evil purpose, for murdering countless number of people, is something else altogether. It is the work of a sick human mind(s).

Let us hope that these bombings in London is the first and the last. I pray that those responsibile for the act is quickly apprehended and brought to justice. But I fear that a section of the community might just be victimized and face the backlash of the evil act of the demented few.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London - 6 blasts counted so far

Just after lunch and I tuned in BBC only to find out that London has been sieged with several blasts on the Underground and the Bus.

Just one of the few days I am glad that I am not in London. Although I have to admit, it isn't that safe here either.

I hope all my friends in London are OK.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

On sharing, buying presents and gift registries

Ijun's comment yesterday made me think a little bit more "sharing" and "buying gifts." For me this tradition has started way back in Secondary school. We girls were on limited budgets and sometimes wanted to get something for someone's birthday, then someone becomes the ring leader, collects the money from the rest, buy the present and present it to the birthday girl.

And then it continued on with some friends we hung out with, and more recently, with the ladies in the compound. I had two of such experiences, which made me decide, not anymore. Well it started like this, J was leaving and W was very close to her. W decided that she will gather a bunch of people in a list, ask them if they want to share a present for J. Kudos to W, she managed to do it, but apparently not without some problems. One lady E, decided that the Rm50 we were collecting was too much. She basically said that she didn't know J well enough to contribute the Rm50 but will contribute Rm30 instead. Fair enough, surely its up to each individual however much they want to contribute or choose not to contribute but somehow it made the situation a little bit awkward. And considering these ladies are mainly Europeans the difference of Rm20 is barely Eur4, which will only buy you a sandwhich on the go, or 4 Cokes.

And then it was time to buy the gift. We went to the local souk to scour to the gift that hopefully will remind J of us and the country we lived in. At first we wanted to buy a camel wool afgan cushion cover, but the cost was way too much. It was Rm200 above the budget of RM700. So finally after much going in and out of different shops we settled on a camel wool cushion cover as well, but the less finer quality.

Now, one thing W forgot was that J's husband also works with M's husband and both were leaving at the same time. She already asked M to share in J's present, but forgot that perhaps we ought to be sharing for M's farewell present too? I mean their husbands worked together, they are leaving at the same time, and M knows that we are sharing to buy J a gift and we cannot possibly not give M a farewell gift without offending her.

So I hinted to W that perhaps we ought to buy M the same thing as J and she said, well if someone else do the money collecting, she doesn't mind sharing. Silly-over- sensitive me decided that I would undertake that role and boy what a mistake it was. I am terrible at collecting money. I just hate asking people for money and in the end I ended up paying a bigger share of the gift out of my own pocket rather than from the shared kitty.

Now this apparently started a snowball effect because by this time a few other people are leaving as well and other people are rallying for the rest to buy them farewell gifts. But I cleverly shirked any responsibility from buying the gift because I thought the last gift I bought ended up to be an expensive venture for me.

Don't get me wrong, I consider myself as a thrifty, rather than a miserly person. But more and more I am beginning to find this sharing of gift buying event somewhat uncomfortable. On one instance, I found myself contributing much more than I thought I would. On another instance, I found myself buying something which I don't quite agree with, but complied anyways because I don't like conflict.

I find that I am a terrible gift giver anyways. I never know what to buy the person and most times I tend to just give them money, so they can choose whatever they would like to do with it. I remember on one ocassion, the ladies were lamenting what to buy for N as her farewell gift as they knew that she has an exacting taste. She either likes something or hate it and would not hesitate to get rid of the item if she dislike it. Kinda like Rachel from Friends. So I told the other ladies, why don't we just ask her what she wants? If the item she wants is way above our budget, then perhaps we can ask her if she wants to top up or she can choose something within our budget. But apparently my idea wasn't well received because apparently the gift ought to be a reflection of the giver. But what about the receiver, I thought.

And without sounding too bitter about it, sometimes it feels like I am forever sharing for gifts for other people and never quite get to be on the receiving end. There is a trend here where people will hold a birthday party, where other people are invited, bearing gifts of course. I suppose you can say that perhaps if I hold a birthday party or anniversary party or whatever party, people would come bearing gifts for me as well. But I am not the party sort of person anyways. I am not the sort who makes everyone knows when my birthday is by reminding them one month in advance to buy me a gift etc. And I am probably a difficult person to buy gifts for anyways.

Having said that, however, I do realize that by being generous, the universe has other ways of sending the "repayment" back to you. I like to pay it forward and I believe that what goes around comes around. I may not be getting birthday/farewell/anniversary/etc gifts in return, but we have had good luck in general. Hubby won two phones in a lucky draw (not the same draw, and not the latest top of the line models) and I won some semi precious stones. All in all, our rezeki has been Alhamdullilah.

Just that sometimes, I am tired of going out and buying gifts. I really think whoever thought of a gift registry was a genius! What better than for someone to buy you gifts that you really want rather than gifts you don't quite know what to do with. I remember receiving some glass sets, a few electric kettles and a bunch of other stuff as my wedding present, most of which we ended up giving away anyways because we are constantly on the move.

SO what about you? Are you one of those people who love to buy people presents? Do you know what to buy for them? Are you one of those people with leadership skills who can rally people together to share a gift with you? Do you like to give the presents as surprises? Or are you, like me, just prefer to give money or ask the person, what they want?

Hmmm I am thinking of setting up a "Any event gift registry" for people to choose any item they wish to "give" to me. Would anyone care to share to buy me a private jet? Amboiiii melampau nyer! But it doesn't hurt to dream right? Hehehehe.

But frankly, what I actually really want, is a lifetime of happiness, good health, peace of mind, patience and rezeki yang murah. And a comfortable afterlife in the Jannah. Amin.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Which one should we buy?

Four people who haven't had children of their own went out to buy a gift for their friend who was about to deliver her baby. And then they realised that there are so many in the market. With a variable price range.

So how does one go about deciding which one to buy?

Pushchairs galore! Posted by Picasa

One of the first criteria was the budget. We had to make sure that we will be purchasing within the budget. Next, was the different types available in the market with a wide variety of features, which feature would be considered important and which feature was not?

I, of course, used the internet as my main research tool. I scoured around various websites with reviews on the various brands of pushchairs available as there are so many in the market. And the price range from a modest RM150 all the way to RM1,700 and even more! Whoah! SOme with suspension and others with lightweight chasis. It was mind boggling!

From watching the other ladies with children in the compound, I thought that the one push button to assemble the pushchair was important. Especially when the mother is all alone with the baby and is trying to handle both her baby and her pushchair.

So two days ago, all four of us converged at a local Mall to pick up the stroller because the mother to be has already been admitted in the hospital, with 2 cm dilation. We had to make the decision somehow. The other couple had done some research themselves and found a shop that sold strollers with the one push button feature. We on the other hand, was more inclined on buying items from Mothercare. About now you're probably thinking that we are such brand conscious snobs. But as my dearest put it, at least he knows that the products sold in Mothercare or any of the better known brand items had gone through some sort of consumer testing and had to comply to UK consumer standards. The unknown brands however, well we don't know if they had to go through the safety testing procedures or not. Even though we were buying it as a gift, we still wanted to buy the best we can afford within our budget, as if it was for our own child.

So in the end we compromised. We bought the MamaLove pushchair and a Mothercare baby carrier. We have never heard of Mamalove before and judging from our internet search its sold in South Africa. It looks plesant enough and the frame looks sturdy. We opted not to buy the matching baby carrier because we thought it looked hard, not erganomic, the fabric rough and somewhat heavy compared to its Mothercare counterpart which had an easy removable washable cover and was much lighter.

A quick search on the net, there are some snob values to the brand names of some of the push chairs. Mamas&Papas, Jane, Bebe, Maclaren, Britax, Aprica, Graco, Chicco and lots lots more. As one reviewer puts it "Advantage: strong and sturdy, the best money can buy. Disadvantage: Jealous looks from other parents." Oh la la. This reminded me a conversation I once had with a friend. She mentioned, "Before we had a child, we looked to see what brand of clothes other people were wearing. But after we had our baby, we looked at the brand of their pushchairs."

Oh la la indeed! So it does look like the pushchair is not only a baby travel accessory but goes on to be symbols of money and prestige.

In the end, we decided on a pushchair over a travel system (this due to budget partly.) I had one reservation though, I felt that the weight of the pushchair is a turn off. As I struggled with the contraption and I sure wouldn't want to be lifting the pushchair at all. But the other couple seemed to like the pushchair enough. We didn't consider buying an umbrella stroller because we felt that we wanted something that the parents could use as soon as the baby was born.

So you parents out there, tell me what you think. What was your criteria, for purchasing the stroller for your child? What features were most important for you, what did you find useless after using the pushchairs for awhile? And what do you look for in a pushchair for your subsequent child (if you bought another one.)

Or did you, let other people who have no prior experiences like us, make the choice for you? ;)

Friday, July 01, 2005

Adjusting to weather changes

After being here for over a year, I would have thought that by now my body has adjusted to the weather here. But apparently not. One of the topics that we discussed at dinner the other day, is the difficulty of the new comer when it comes to adjusting to the local weather.

First that we have to grapple with is the heat. From my personal previous experience, summer is when we dig out our shorts and flirty skirts, when we sit on the grass out in the open and enjoy our ice tea. I remember looking forward to a summer of BBQ and just sitting under the apple tree reading my book enjoying the sun and the breeze.

But not here. The start of the day could be as high as 43oC and it gets warmer throughout the day. Apparently it could be even higher than 50oC but the thermometers here only measure up to 50oC because if it climbs any higher than that, the authorities with the powers that be will have to declare the day as a public holiday, something that I think they don't really want to do. The heat just embraces you, and you feel it seeping in your blood and your bones, even when you're using an umbrella. I don't go out in the sun very much if I can help it.

Secondly, is the dryness. Almost immediately upon moving here, we bought a humidifier for the bedroom. Without the humidifier, I found it almost difficult to breathe. I could feel a tension on my sinus and sometimes even find blood. Perhaps my body is built for a more humid weather that it is unable to cope with the dry air here.

Thirdly is the dust. Now I am not one of those people with sensitive bodies, who gets sick when the weather changes, until I moved here that is. Back in the UK I never had any problems with pollen allergies. But here, my nose will tell me whenever there is a sandstorm or strong winds blowing more sand into the air. My nose will get blocked. Quick check with my dinner mates the other day, they too tell me that they often experience the same problems. Could it be that the Malaysian body is not trained to cope with excessive dust in the environment?

I woke up one morning with a blocked nose. I checked the humidifier to make sure that it was still functioning throughout the night. But a quick look at my window sill confirms that there had been a sand storm over night. Over here, you would know whenever there was a sandstorm because everything outside and even sometimes inside, will be covered with dust and sand.

And people who never had asthma in their lives ever may find that they begin to develop asthma or asthama like symptoms here. My beloved, suddenly found that he needed an inhaler to help him breathe at night before he sleeps. Perhaps our respiratory systems is unable to cope with the high content of dust in the air here.

Perhaps we should all take the cue from the local themselves. They either go away all summer or sleep in the day all summer. A little difficult if one has to function and go to work in the morning.

But apparently thats now the local ladies here cope. A local girl told me that her typical day starts at 3 pm. I seriously find that hard to understand but perhaps it makes sense for them here because it means that they would be able to escape the hotter portions of the day, and function only in the afternoon and the lengthy portion of the night. She tells me she sleeps at 3 am. Ouch! I am already so drained at 9 pm, I don't think I can last till the early hours of the morning.

I guess now the mystery of how the locals function is unveiled to me. When I first arrived here, I thought going for grocery shopping at 11 pm would be ideal because I thought the shops would be less busy then. (This is gathered from my previous experience of shopping at Tescos at Elmer's End.) But of course my assumption was all wrong here! As the night gets later, the shops got more jammed packed with all sorts of shoppers and children! Now I am one of those people who believed that children should be tucked in bed at 7 pm. Seeing infants and children running around at midnight at the supermarket was a new sight for me. Almost incomprehensible! But I have since found out that the day is like the night over here, and the night like the day.

So just after being here for a year I found that there are many things I didn't know about the locals and their customs and being in this country, the term cultural shock brings a new meaning for me. Because both my Eastern and Western sensibilities have to be thrown out of the window, to be replaced by a Middle-Eastern one.