Monday, December 29, 2008

flying home

I am flying home to Kuala Lumpur last night (Monday 28/12/2008) after 15 days at Kuching, Sarawak. As I want to have another half day in Kuching, I took an evening flight. The only option is one budget airlines which is scheduled to take off at 8.50pm. I arrived at Kuching International Airport around 7.50pm exactly one hour before take off. However, after I checked in, I noticed that the boarding time had changed to 8.50pm and the flight will be around 9.21pm. I took this opportunity to have a drink at the airport McDonalds. Late half an hour... I can live with that.

As the clock shows 50 minutes past 8, I went to the gate no 1 as stated in the boarding pass. Wait another 30 minutes then it was announced that the flight will be delayed to 10.50pm. I heard a loud sigh from the rest of the passengers. I guess this is the price that I need to pay for flying with budget airline. Some passengers scatter around. Some take the opportunity to chat; children took out their PSP and forget about the real world. I just sit on the floor, took out my laptop went online and checked out the latest result of the BPL. With my backpack, laptop and a box of salted fish, it is very hard to move around. The waiting seems to take ages.

It would be helpful if the ground staff of the airline can give an update to the passengers from time to time. The confusion was aggravated when the information screen shows that the gate is now meant for another flight to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Should we wait at another gate or what???A few passengers queried the staff about the update but the respond was ‘I do not know’. A few minutes later the screen then shows the flight to Kuala Lumpur.

The much ‘awaited’ plane finally arrived at 10.50pm to the relief of the passengers. The flight is quite smooth until we reached the peninsular airspace when it became bit ‘bumpy’ due to bad weather. However, the plane managed to touch down to Kuala Lumpur LCCT airport before midnight.
My experience in Kuching, Sarawak had been both exciting and ‘educational’. I have learned about others as much as I learned about myself. As the plane leaving Kuching International Airport, I had a mixed feeling inside. I feel a bit sad to leave as I already missed this wonderful place and had to ‘endure’ the same routine life again. At the same time I feel happy as I am now coming home. Perhaps the best part of traveling is when it is time to go home.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

time for reflection

Here I am sitting looking towards the sea at Damai (peace) Beach Resort at 6.07am. This morning the ‘salty’ air smells so fresh. The air is a bit cold out here as the monsoon wind is quite strong; lending its force to the waves that hit the beach. The cool air perhaps due to the geographical fact that Gunung (mountain) Santubong is just next to the resort. The clouds that envelopes the top of the mountain shows how cool the temperature are right now.

A few take an opportunity to walk at the beach. For me, I just laid back at the beach to wait for the sun to come out. I have not heard the sound of the wave for quite some time. Perhaps I have forgotten how it sounds like. But as I sitting here, it reminds me of how peaceful the sound can be. I hope that I just can freeze the moment for a while and cherish it a few seconds longer. However, we know that it is not possible. Waves come and go. The birds that chirping on a tree beside where I am sitting right now will fly away to find foods to survive. The sun will rise up and so the rest of the living entities. A few hours later, lives will pick up its pace and moves on.

At this peaceful moment, it is very hard to imagine that the world is in state of chaos. There is hunger at one corner, pollutions which hurt the mother natures, war at certain countries, corruptions and greed at all part of the world. The so called new age of mankind saw the advancement in technology that able to produce better and higher yield of agricultural products. Yet, the inequality distribution of wealth causes hungers and malnutrition to certain continents. We keep on ‘asking’ for more natural resources from this planet and we repay that ‘kindness’ by polluting it. When lives are lost due to Typhoon, floods or landslides, we say it is an act of God. How convenient! We always can find someone to blame even if it means blaming the God. We never realize that perhaps we caused our own destruction.

Ah… the sun had come out. I just want to look towards the sea and enjoy this beautiful moment. The ‘audio’ and the ‘visual’ are perfect. I may not know when I can have the same peaceful moment again in the future. So let me savor the fraction of this heavenly moment for a while. I will pick up the pace of this life for my own survival later.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

fishing experience

One of Sarawak resources is the natural resources like agricultural products. Kampung (village) Buntal near Damai Beach and ‘My Village Barok’ restaurant near the waterfront’ are two of the ‘hidden’ treasures for ‘food hunters’ in Kuching.

However, fresh water fish like the Keli and Talapia as known by the local can be easily found here in Kuching. Hence, I went to Kampung Sundoh (hope that my spelling is correct) at the outskirt of Kuching for a fishing experience.

The fresh water pond is beside paddy fields at the foot of a hill. We have to park our car at the main road and have to trek on foot another 10 minutes. The pond gets its continuous water resources from a river which flows from the hill. There surrounding area of the paddy fields and the fish pond is full of fruit trees like the Durian and the Rambutan. I have got the time to check out the fruit trees and the paddy field but I got an invitation to come during the harvest time. It is something that I am looking forward to. The scenery is breathtaking and the air is so fresh even at 3pm.

I caught four ‘medium size’ tilapia fish. Not bad for a beginner huh! You need to be patient and hope that the fish will take the bait. The photo on the left shows Jass showing off one of his catch of the day. The photo on top is me waiting patiently for my first catch. It is interesting to see others make it look so easy. At 5pm it is time to pack up and call it a day. The task of the getting all the fish to the car is equally hard. However, I enjoy the experience and hope to return during the harvest month.

Monday, December 22, 2008

say a prayer

It is still raining in Kuching. There are a few brief sunny moments but it usually followed by heavy downpour. I did my own laundry but it takes at least two days for the clothes to dry up. Luckily I brought enough spare shirts and pants to be recycled and perfumes can be quite handy at this time around J

Apart from the expected rains at this part of the year, the multi ethnic lives in Sarawak makes this place a very unique place. There are Iban, Bidayuh, Malanau, orang Ulu just to name a few, each with their own cultures and language makes it confusing but attractive at the same time. Some words are quite similar to Malay language (this is not a surprise as it was argued that malay ethnic in peninsular Malaysia and the ethnic in Sabah and Sarawak came from the same root). Some terminology can be found in the old Malay language.

And of course the foods, I find it very exotic and the variety seems to be bottomless. I can try something new every day, something that rarely served in Kuala Lumpur.

I found that the local ethnic who had embraced Christianity are very devoted followers. They practice the religion not only in religious occasion but in every part of their life. They will say the prayer before every meal in their own language. I guess in this way they will know exactly is being said and requested from God.

This is practice similar to Muslims but usually Muslims say their prayer in Arabic. Some learn the prayer by heart and take the effort to learn about the meaning of the each verses of the prayer. The followers may know the meaning or perhaps just becoming a ‘follower’. Do not get me wrong, I am not against Arabic language and would encourage people to learn the language used in the holy Quran. I am saying that some may not be so privileged to learn and understand the Arabic language. The imam (the one who lead a prayer) will recite the prayer in Arabic and the makmum (the follower of the Imam in a prayer) will say Amen to the prayer without even know what is being recited by the imam and expect their prayer to be answered by God.

Perhaps Malays is trying to be more Arabic in order to be more ‘muslim’. We can see that trend from every aspect of practice from religious occasions to banking system. For example, there are comments that Islamic banking practice in Malaysia is not Islamic enough and we should follow the Islamic banking as practiced in the Middle East. I am quite perplexed as we are not short of Islamic scholar ourselves but even some Muslims in this country share the same sentiments. There is no certainty as to the cause of this phenomenon. Perhaps it is due to one interpretation of Islamic banking, ignorance, inferiority complex, herd mentality or combination of all or none of the above. And I thought that values of Islam are universal as it goes beyond borders, cultures and ethnicity. But again it is just my opinion.

It is interesting and arcane at the same time when learn more about myself when I started to learn about others.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Helearn and Mary both are teachers met as a total stranger and later fate had united them as husband and wife. It is a match made in heaven. I guess He ‘learn’ “something about Mary” that makes him emotionally attached to her. The wedding was at the St. Joseph church in Kuching Sarawak on the 20th December 2008. The sacred ceremony was so beautiful and the angelic looks of the couple add up to the occasion. It is almost a fairy tale wedding.

Although I knew the couple for a short time, but they are very kind to me and invited me for the wedding and dinner reception making me feel like coming home. Helearn is an exemplary teacher having a bright future before him. Mary is very sweet and caring.

For the couple; Helearn and Mary, congratulation to you and like all fairy tales, to live happily ever after.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sarawak River

I had the chance of having a conversation with Osman, a boat operator at Sarawak River when I took a boat ride at the riverside, Kuching, Sarawak. He is a middle age man (I assume). If he is younger, his job really aged him severely. He took passengers from Pengkalan Batu (literally means rock base) to the other side where you can visit Fort Margharita. He is quite chatty despite had to work under the hot sun and the dialect that I am not familiar with.For 0.40 sen, you can take a boat ride to the other side of the river. For RM40, he can take you for 30 minutes tour of the river.

I guess that he lives a very hard life. He is from Kota Samarahan, another district in Sarawak which is 5 hours journey from Kuching. Osman will work for a week at the boat before going back to his hometown for a three days break. The cycle will resume on and on. In that one week, he will eat and sleep in his boat.

According to Osman, the number of passengers he ferries every day is around 50 people. His overhead is RM20 that is to buy the diesel to power his boat. Based on the fare he charges for one customer, he will earn RM20 that is the same of his overhead. What if the boat needs to buy spare parts? I discounted the fact that some people will pay for short tour like I did as it may not be frequent.

Just imagine that he needs to eat, provide for his family and perhaps save some for rainy days. Just imagine what will the effect if the diesel price goes up. How can he support his family and even to survive for the day.

My short tour deprives me of knowing him a little bit better. The boat may not belong to him and he only earns salary for his work. But based on the cash flow projection of one boat, I am sure he receives a speck of the total profit (or loss).

I can see that under the hot sun, he tried to work an honest life ferrying passengers for a consideration of 0.40 sen. He cracked a few jokes along the journey but every line of his wrinkle is an evidence of hardship that he need to endure all his life. Yet he work hard and leave the rest to God. How many of us give a second look at 0.40 sen, or we just throw it away? Perhaps, as we sprint to achieve the status of developed country, we should take a while and think about the future of people like Osman.

For those who never take a boat ride in Kuching, I strongly recommend that you give it a try. The scenic view along the river of traditional malay village and the historical fort would take your breath away. The pavement of the waterfront is well managed and some useful historical information is placed along the pavement. If you are hungry and thirsty, you can find cafes and food kiosk selling foods and drinks.

Across the road, you can find a stretch of shop houses selling art craft, T-Shirts and souvenirs. If you do not know what to do next, you can go to the information center at the old court house just in front of the water front. The officer is always helpful and greets you with a smile.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

it's raining in Kuching

It is raining right now in Kuching. I have nothing to do this afternoon other than spending time with my laptop.

I went to Sunday mass at a church this morning. Before you make any conclusion or have any funny ideas, I just went there as an ‘observer’ and not as a follower. Btw, I am a tourist. Unless there is an edict to say Muslim must stay outside the 100 km radius from a church then I should be fine. Tomorrow there may be an edict that say otherwise, who knows!. To dispel any doubts that you may have right now, I can confirmed that I went out of the church with my faith as a Muslim fully intact and stronger than before.

No, I am not going to talk about faith. The whole afternoon I have been thinking about how to be a Malaysian.

What is the meaning of being a Malaysian? Apart from decorating our cars and house with Malaysian flag during the Independence Day, do we earn the right to call ourselves as Malaysian? Is it a birthright that by virtue of being born in Malaysia and we carry the Malaysian identity card make us a Malaysian? Unfortunately (or fortunately based on which perspective you look at it) the answer is yes to all the above.

However, how do we live up as Malaysian? The polarization of race though we fail and/or hesitant to admit it, the issue is still exists. We can sweep it under the carpet but in future the carpet may not be big enough and those that been swept under it need to be put up somewhere. I wonder where the 'somewhere' going to be.

There are constitutional provisions, the alleged ‘social contract’ and other conventions or understanding supposed to be adopted by our forefathers. It was said that these elements have been embedded in the rubric of our society and some even says that it has achieved a divine status and cannot be changed.

The constitution is the supreme law of the land and it must not be contradicted. But we forget that constitution is made by men. The constitution gave broad guidelines of how men should conduct itself and do not serves to regulate the minute details compared to Codes. Furthermore, it is men who should give the soul to the constitution and not vice versa. More often than not, we use the constitution to divide rather than to unite (for example in the case of education in vernacular school and the amalgamation of the syariah and civil courts). ‘Social contract’ and ‘conventions’ on the other hand should reflect the society of the day rather than the past. How it is possible for the current society became a party to a contract for an ‘agreement’ or ‘understanding’ made by the previous society.

The slogan of Bangsa Malaysia had been left to a mere rhetoric without any serious effort to achieve it. It is perhaps due to our inability to be crystal clear on what is the definition is. I would gladly hear any attempt to define ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ as I am surely unable give one. The definition I supposed will be influenced by one political believes philosophy, ethnicity, and even upbringing.

Are we satisfy that we live as Malaysian Malay, Malaysian Chinese, and Malaysian Indian (and the list goes on). The ‘pluralistic’ of our society is our 'commodity' in the international arena; a good example of how we can live harmoniously with each other. How far is this true is perhaps debatable.

I guess nobody can talk about race nowadays without risking from being labeled as racist, ultra or extremist and host of other labels that people can think off. The bright side of this perhaps that after 51 years of independence, the vocabulary of Malaysian had improved so much that we can think of plethora of labels that we can tagged on to others. It is amazing to discover the power of education can do to a society. We are profiled based on our thoughts, action and even of our inaction.

It brings us back to the question of how do we live up as Malaysian. I supposed that to be a Malaysian (by no means have I intended this to be exhaustive), we need to think and act like a Malaysian; not as a Malaysian Malay, Malaysian Indian etc but as a Malaysian. We need to embrace the idea of Malaysia first and ethnic second or forever we will live under the fa├žade of ‘unity’ in diversity. The fulcrum of our action should lead towards the betterment of our nation and not towards certain quarters (or individuals for that matter).

This is not ‘I have a dream’ wish. It is just a hope for a change in paradigm and to implore for a revisit to the ‘conventional wisdom’ of our society.

Friday, December 12, 2008

flying with the hornbill

The journey to Kuching will take around 1 hour and 30 minutes. Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is impressive as ever. It is still early in the morning before my flight to Kuching at 8.15am. I went to the book shop to look out for something to read like newspaper or something. Then I remember that MAS did provide free newspaper.

I began to regret for not buying the newspaper as the free newspaper were ‘sold out’. I thought there is enough copies for everyone. Then I saw some passengers holding two or more copies of newspapers with them. Perhaps they need twice the amount of information so the level of their wisdom will increase twofold. Yeah, give them a benefit of the doubt.

Anyway, I end up reading MAS internal magazine and the first thing I look up is the advertisement of CIMB. I guess I have to let go the work and switch to vacation mode huh!

As I look through the windows, I can see rivers crisscrossing the land; it is definitely beyond doubt... Kuching. The plane touched down at Kuching International Airport as scheduled. The landing was smooth and the checking out of the airport is without any delay and as I looked up the billboard it says “welcome to the land of the hornbill”. Yep, for the next couple of days, I will fly with the hornbills.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Aidiladha 2008

Today, Muslims all over the world celebrated Aidiladha which marks the end of the haj pilgrimage period. Every year, millions of Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia to perform the haj, one of the five basic tenets of Islam.

Aidiladha is also commonly known as Hari Raya Korban or Hari Raya Haji in Malaysia. ‘Korban’ literally means ‘sacrifice’ which commemorates the sacrifices made by the Prophet Abraham (hence the word 'korban,' which means sacrifice in Arabic), who demonstrated immense faith when he was put to the test by God. Prophet Abraham was commanded to offer his son Ismail up for sacrifice, and though it grieved him greatly, he obliged to perform the task. However, before he can perform his duty, God stopped him and revealed that it was a test of his faith. Ismail's life was spared, and a ram was sacrificed in his place.

Following the example set by Abraham, the sacrifice of four-legged animals such as lambs, goats, cows, bulls and camels is performed. The sacrifice is done after the congregational prayer in the morning of Aidiladha.

The animals are sacrificed in accordance with the proper religious rites and the meat is then distributed especially to poor people. One third of the meat is given to the individual who made the sacrifice, while the rest is given to the poor and deserving people in the community. Offering the sacrifice is not a compulsory in Islam, but an obligation for those who are able to afford it.

In conjunction with the Aidiladha, the community at the Sungai Buloh Country Resort, Selangor, Malaysia had performed the ‘korban’ at their community area. Four cows have been sacrificed. The rain from the night before continues during the ceremony did not make it easy for the fifty odd. However, persistence and perseverance of the community members rules the day as they completed the task in two hours. By noon, all available cows’ meat was ready to be distributed.

The ‘korban’ goes beyond distribution of cows’ meat to needy people. It is indicia of co-operation among community members. We are always busy with our job and unable to make time to know their neighbors. Occasion like this serves as an opportunity to have a chat with our neighbors. Perhaps, the ‘korban’ is more than a religious rites; it nurtures the ‘soul’ of a community.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Act of God? maybe not.

On Thursday December 4, 2008 around 5.10PM, I was in my office at Amanah Raya Building cleaning up my in-box. The rain which started after lunch hour had finally stopped. In a corner of my mind, I foresee a lighter traffic so I can sign off early that day. Coupled with the school holiday, my prediction may come true.

Suddenly I felt like the earth beneath my office moves. For split second my mind was ‘empty’. They say that the moment before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes. Well, it is not quite the experience that I have. It just ‘blank’! Then a loud ‘bang’!

Everybody rushing to the windows to see what is going on. All of us cannot believe what we saw before us; the wall just besides our office building had collapsed, smashing few cars parked beneath the wall. The wall is just next our building and the latter shares the same slope. If the wall can collapse, our building may be next. We were hit by landslides!

In a state of confusion, the logical instinct is to leave the building. With or without announcement, we grab all things within our reach; laptop, handbags, curry puff (at the time before the incident it is near to end of office hour and some in the midst of letting their hair down) etc and hit the stairs. Once outside, I saw that many had already evacuated the building. Everybody was engrossed with the person next to them giving their version of what just happened.

I took a position away from the landslides. I saw one of staff actually standing at the edge of the slope and took some photo using her mobile. So bold, perhaps she will share the photo with me later. We have been informed later that apart from those ‘unfortunate’ cars, there are no other casualties.

We have been told that we cannot enter the building as it has been sealed off for safety measures. Part of the road in front of the building was closed to make way for the fire engine. I can see that this incident caused a massive traffic jam in front of our office; some due to the road closure and most of it due to people slowing down ‘enjoying’ the ‘breathtaking’ sight. So much of signing off early...sigh...

I looked at the landslide and took a deep breath. We disturbed the order of Mother Nature and blame it as an ‘act of god’!

erga omnes

Erga omnes or "in relation to everyone"; a space for everyone to share the events of ourlives and local community. In such a diverse culture, we should not let the geographical boundaries limit our minds.

hope that by sharing, we can better understand each other and this space shall act as cornucopia of knowledge, tolerant and understanding; free from the shackles of hate, race and religion.