Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pass It On

i was watching oprah show a few days ago, and as everyone knows, oprah is a great humanitarian. most of the time when i watch her shows about giving to someone in need, i'll start crying. she has such a big heart.

her recent project was based on juan mann, an australian who wanted to cheer people by advertising "free hugs". she presented US1k to every one of her audience, and their assignment was to make someone happy with the money. the money, however, couldnt be spent on themselves or their family members. they were given sony dvd videocam (on loan) to record their good deeds. and so, last night i watched some featured videos of the audience. one woman chose a family with a father who has brain tumour. she not only gave them US1k, she successfully raised US72k (donation from the people in the area) and started a college fund for the kids. that got me crying. and what was more, the givers felt that fuzzy feeling of doing something good for the others.

such kind acts remind us that despite the war, politics and prejudice, there are still goodness and hope in this world. goodness should be done, and should be reiterated by the receivers.

pass the goodness on.

Friday, June 22, 2007

a holiday to recover from a holiday

the crazy antics during the F1 upih race
the participants of LCDS Summer Camp 2007
the camp committee

barely a week after returning from my trip, i was off to perhentian island with my LCDS children. i hadnt recovered from my jetlag, so that was an added "bonus" to what i got myself into. more of that later. on that morning when my children were dressed in the black LCDS tshirt, the board of school admin wasnt too happy and wore that grave look. you know, that you-'ve-committed-a-sin-and-you-ve-upsetted-us kind of look that was supposed to silent even the most degil boy. if you saw what the children wore from their waist to above, it was okay. but what they wore from the waist till below was what caused the frowns. they wore knee high boxers/pants/shorts. and worst, they waited for the bus in front of the principal's porch. at that time i wish there was a hole for me to crawl into.

nevertheless, the bus arrived, and we quickly started our journey. we arrived at kuala besut jetty, and there were 2 boats waiting for us. it wasnt a smooth ride like we had last year when we went to redang, the waves crashed against the speeding boat, so you can imagine the times when we literally felt like being in a car without any absorbers. when i was about to disembark from the boat, the guide said "kita tak takut sangat pasal cikgu lain, cuma takut pasal cikgu nora nak turun ni je". eh? were they afraid that i might drown?

the committee already said they wanted comfort this year, okay, thank god for the chalets...but the children were !@#% when they saw the dilapidated chalets. but, the food was gooood.... really good. there were hammocks everywhere, and the boys were soon swinging from the hammocks. i was very much afraid of the trees actually. one hammock
did come undone, but it was quickly re-tied. the beach wasnt the same as the marine park at redang, there were no corals, so that meant one had to go far ahead to see corals. the children had fun, playing the activities that my committee had planned. i suggested that they play the upih, hence F1 upih race was born. not to forget the ickiest stuff they had to eat in order to finish the race, or the ickiest burnt bread that they made out of flour, sugar, water with their sandy hands (and yours truly had to taste the bread to determine the winner...ugh!).

on the 2nd day, i woke up with an upset tummy. yep, it's official. i had food poisoning and made frequent trips to the throne room. missed the snorkelling activity (gladly, since last year i nearly drowned) but as my president requested, we made some sandwiches for the children going snorkelling, knowing well how hungry they'd be after the vigorous activity. tried to remedy my upset tummy by drinking pure coconut drink, not realising that it has a lot of
angin, so instead of getting better, i had gastritis and had to miss the children's performance. they're a talented and creative bunch, so i was really upset to miss it. on the last day, we made our way back to the mainland... and i still had the upset tummy. but despite all that, i went to work and suffered. and this weekend is the perfect time for me to recover.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Tales of the Wanderlust:The england and paris trips

roses, roses everywhere at hampton court manor, the home to King Henry the 8th
shakespeare's birthplace at stratford-upon-avon
big ben and the parliament house
the tower bridge
the tower of london
chateau de versailles, the extravagant Baroque styled palace of the Sun King, King Louis XIV
arc de triomphe
stonehenge - the mysterious megaliths that intrigue all
le tour eiffel at noir. very romantic. and damn cold.

ah london! paris! yes, a dream came true. but a journey which is an eye-opener. i've been longing to go to england since i was small. (dont we all? being colonised by the brits and all...) i wanted to see the big ben, shakespeare's birthplace and all the magnificent castles. and so, during the school hols, i found myself on a 24 hr flight bound to london. we arrived at heathrow at 6.25am on a cold, cold blustery drizzling morning. it was very cold, and i was wondering how i was going to survive there. anyway, that night i had a dinner of biryani rice, at an indian restaurant at earl's court. no dalca was given. hmmph....felt weird. a bit dry without dalca, but biryani rice was a comfort to me that night. the aromatic spice blend was perfect.

the next day, we took the national express coach to paris. when i saw the dover beach, i quickly snapped a pic of the white cliffs. and i kept reciting matthew arnold's poem, an attribute to the beach "the sea is calm tonight..". the immigration check at dover was horrible but it's something that travellers must go through *sigh*. along the way, we passed through many wheatfields, and saw farmhouses, chapels and scarecrows. i also noticed the slight differences of the french country house structure to that in england.

we arrived in paris in the evening at 7pm, and with our luggage, we took the metro and asked around for directions to our hotel. unfortunately though, one of our groupmates was pickpocketed and lost 500 pounds and had to freeze his credit cards. we arrived at gare du nord, and with the help of a very talkative frenchman (whom we had to pay) we found our hotel, which was five minutes walk fr the gare du nord station. hotel londres et anver is a charming budget hotel, the staff was friendly although at times there was a communication breakdown. i like our room, which was done in blue, with white plaster ceiling, and the long window was modestly decorated with dark blue draperies and very chic and so parisian looking sheer curtains. the bathroom was spacious.

anyway, on the 1st day of paris, we went window shopping at galerie lafayette. i said window shopping because this shopping complex features all the designer brands like bvlgari, celine, hermes bla bla bla and although we were salivating at the sight of those wonderful bags, we couldnt afford any of them. we had lunch of crepe with chocolate and it was nice on a cold afternoon. but it wasnt so nice when we wanted to go back. the french are generally very arrogant and rude, especially to muslims, so you can imagine our frustrations when the bus driver refused to cooperate and explain to us (i'm sure he's not that stupid and knew the hotel we're staying), only saying "je ne sais pas" which solved his problem. then, we found a cab. the cabbie was a vietnamese, and we thought that at least being asian he'd be more warm towards us. unfortunately though, some asians think they're better eventhough they're not exactly the authentic mat salleh french. so despite a light traffic jam, he dropped us 5 minutes away from our hotel, explaining there was a jam. we walked back and found there was no traffic jam there. i was, to be frank, very pissed that day.

anyway, although the people was a disappointment, the architecture was magnificent. we drove through moulin rouge at night (our guide, the morrocan jamal, told us that moulin rouge is not good for us the muslims). then we saw place de concorde, we saw arc de triomphe and eiffel tower at night, which were more magnificent and grand because they're bathed in yellow light. we drove through the famous champs elysees, and later saw the presidential palace.
the next day, we went to basilique du sacre coeur, and then we walked to montmartre, where i purchased a small painting from an artist. we then went to the louvre but didn t go in.finally, in the late afternoon, we went on a guided tour to chateau de versailles, the place i've read so much and heard from my sister, who inspired me to travel to see it. chateau de versailles is a big palace comprising of sprawling lawns and gardens. we were taken to the grande apartments and i was amazed by its sheer oppulence and magnificence. and i walked on the same floor as louis xiv and marie antoinette had hundreds of years earlier.

the next day we returned to london. it was like coming home, because the british are friendlier and nicer than the french. we saw the big ben, parliament house, westminster abbey, buckingham palace, had a guided tour by a yeoman at tower of london, went on the thames river cruise, saw tower bridge and the original london bridge. we also went to harrods where the rich shop. then, we extended our tour and went to places which i wanted to see for so long - we went to oxford university. i wanted to see the dining hall at christchurch which they used for harry potter movies, but it was closed at that time. we then went to cotswold, but i was a bit disappointed because when we went to the cotswold, the houses didnt have thatched roof. we later went to stratford upon avon, and i entered shakespeare's house. the next day, we went to stonehenge and i was awed when i saw the gigantic megaliths. it was a windy day, and at the same time the sun was shining brightly. after stonehenge, we went to bath and took pics of the roman bath. what touched me the most was that an old lady with a cane, who was crossing the street, saw us wandering around trying to find the baths and asked kindly, "are you looking for the roman baths, luv?" sweet, sweet old lady.

on the last day, we went to hampton court manor, and the rose garden was simply divine! later we went to windsor castle and along the way, we passed eton school for boys. i realised it as soon as i saw the black suits with long tails that they're required to wear.

the trip taught us a lot, and i feel contented because i went to the places i wanted to go. we met a lot of people, and learned to expect the unexpected.