Saturday, May 31, 2008

Shoe Mania

any sex and the city fan will remember the scene when carrie bradshaw sees a manolo blahnik on display and greets it lovingly "hello, lover".
Manolo Blahnik d'Orsay.... arent they darlings?
that exactly comes to my mind when i went shoe shopping with my niece just now. i love wearing mules, i have 20 pairs of them (not up to imelda marcos' or carrie bradshaw's standards). most of them are around 2 1/2 inch heels, which i wear to school, and that also means i stand in them when i'm teaching the students (or invigilating them during exam, since they tend to cheat, and by standing i can prevent any mischief).

before my spiritual journey, my friend Dr As gave me a massage during our gathering and pressed at a spot at my feet which caused me to yell. everybody's first question was, "do you wear high heels?". my frens told me to stop wearing heels and to start wearing decent low-heeled shoes. and i promised them i'll change after the trip.

and so i went shoe shopping today. and i sighed. and sighed. and sighed. because there were rows and rows of pretty mules (most of them are 2 1/2 inch heels) and instantaneously i was reminded of carrie's greetings. ah those days were over! now i've to find scholls, clarks or hush puppies. i did buy sensible mules from scholls, but not before buying pretty green polka dot wedges.

old habits die hard.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Spiritual Journey: A Journal on Umrah Trip

taken from my Travel Journal

19th May

Sazi and i are on board Saudi Arabian Airlines airbus now. we've been travelling for 1 hour. i forgot how cold it is to be in an internationally bound flight. there are a lot of clouds, so it's quite a bumpy ride.

21st May

there's so much to write but i was tired! we reached Madinah at 11pm Malaysian time which was 6 pm local time. i was cheated SR15 after the porter delivered the bags to the bus. we reached Dalah Taibah Hotel and we were told we could pray at a nearby mosque. the enxt day we prayed subuh there. little did i know the mosque is none other than the famous Nabawi Mosque or the Prophet's wonder it was sooo crowded.

we were taken for a guided tour inside the mosque in the morning at 7 and waited to enter the Raudhah section, which is a piece of Eden on earth. it was also where the Prophet was buried. it 's a crowded place as people all pushed to be able to pray there. i managed to pray there, but in dire circumstances. we were told to exit as soon as we finished sunat prayer.
Prophet's Mosque/Nabawi Mosque

after the prayer, we shopped at Madinah's various shops. true to wha my fried As told me, most shopkeepers speak Malay and were eager to have us enter their shops. they like to call us "ya siti rahmah" i bought scarves, robes, souvenirs.... some sold their wares on the streets, and apart from buying the stuff, we also sampled some local fares. my students told me to try their kebab and ice cream, which we did. i can see why ice cream is so popular, because it's hot there! anyway, it's not always about "melontar" as our ustazah calls shopping, we alsop prayed at the mosque 5 times daily.

on 21ist, we were taken on a guided tour to Quba' Mosque, where we prayed sunat then we went to a dates farm. Quba' Mosque
this was, i think, least resembled what dignified and repentant pilgrims should be like, as we "attacked" the dates shop like there was a Sogo sale. everyone rushed to buy dates and chocolates. then we were served with hot mint and date tea. after the purchase, we made our way to Jabal Uhud, where Uhud Battle took place.
this is where Sayyidina Hamzah was buried with 2 other martyrs. we also visited Qiblatain Mosque but we didnt go inside.

23rd May

We went to pray in Raudhah and we said goodbye to the Prophet. at 10am we left Madinah for Mekah and i think i miss Madinah. of course, there are little quirks here and there especially when some big Arab woman was angry with me or the scene when i was turned away because i had shopped goods with me (shopped goods and cameras are not allowed in the mosque) but there was an informal air there. i also miss the ever authoritative young mak guards who would cry out "baji, baji...lesta, lesta" and some other arabic words.

the journey to Mekah took 5 and a half hours. it was a very hot day for us. even "hot" is an understatement. the air was so dry that you have to drink so often. my lips are chapped too, so the lip balm and a bottle of water became my companions - must haves in the bag. anyway, the air was arid and dry, and with it you could feel the hot air. i guess this is what Salman Rushdie calls the desert wind. along the way we only saw barren hills and land and rocks, plenty of them. it's normal to see abandoned shophouses and gas stations, i think it is mostly because of the haat and though they could reap profits from the R&Rers, it could backfire too. we stopped at 1 stop - where there's a restaurant and a mosque. the briyani rice was expensive but dry and salty. still, we continued our journey. oh i forgot to tell you that we miqat at Bir Ali, to mark the beginning of our ihram state. our muttawif led the doa and talbiyah and i cried the 1st time i recited it

Labbaika Allahumma Labbaik. Labbaik La Sharika Laka Labbaik. Innal-Hamdah, Wan-Ni'matah, Laka wal Mulk, La Sharika Lak.

‘Here I am O Allaah, (in response to Your call), here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am. Verily all praise, grace and sovereignty belong to You. You have no partner.’
Masjidil Haram in the afternoon, 40 degrees celsius

Masjidil Haram, near to King Aziz's gate
after isya' 32 degrees celsius

We reached our hotel just after Asar, and after dinner, we walked to Masjidil Haram. as we came late, we could only pray outside at the courtyard of the mosque. after isyak we performed our umrah. the first sight of Kaabah was very emotional, and like my niece Inas said, was a surreal experience. there it was, the house of God, Baitullah, in black and gold, in its glory, and i saw worshippers tawafing. we were lucky as we stayed in our group with our Muttawif leading the recitation. we passed Maqam Ibrahim, and then after 7 rounds we prayed sunat tawaf facing the Multazam. nobody told me this, but instinctively i knew that i was supposed to doa. only later did i find out that it is mustajab to doa in front of multazam. after the tawaf, we drank zamzam and headed off for saie at safa and marwah. i never knew how 4.5km felt like until last night. of course, we were sweating in our ihram. then we did tahallul and our umrah was complete.

today we visited Jabal Rahmah where Adam re-met Eve on earth, Jabal An Nur where the Prophet received his first revelation, Jabal Thur, where he escaped from the quraisy tribe, passed Mina, and had our miqat at Ja'rannah to do our 2nd umrah. at Jabal Rahmad, we saw camels for ride. if it wasnt so smelly and we werent going to perform umrah on that day, i'd have gone for a ride. after the visit, we returned to Mekah to perform umrah for the 2nd time. it was very emotional as i felt it deeply this time and read all the required doa and saie without fail.

26th May

Yesterday we visited a camel farm.

need i say it again that they're smelly animals? however they're gentle. i tasted some of the camel's milk and it tasted like cow's milk although 1 aunty claimed it tasted a bit salty. we then went to Hudaibiyyah mosque to miqat and stopped by at a museum on Masjidil Haram and Nabawi Mosque. we then returned to Mekah and performed umrah for the 3rd time.

27th may

yesterday we did umrah for the fourth time and after that we were free. had a briefing for balik kampung after lunch. our muttawif reminded us to not exceed the baggage weight of 30kgs alloted by Saudi Air. MAS only allows we did our last shopping. surprisingly the sellers here dont call us Siti Rahmah like in Madinah.

28th may

we did our Tawaf Wida' and prayed that we'd return to Mekah. it was very emotional looking at Kaabah for the last time. i'll never forget the miracles there - the air outside was hot and dry, but the wind that blew near us at Kaabah was cool and refreshing. i ll miss reading quran there, or looking at the intricate carving inside Masjidil Haram or its typical Arabic lamps, and i'll miss praying there, listening to the imam's melodious and eloquent recitation of surah. and i'll miss making new international friends there - i met ladies from indonesia, turkey, egypt, india and pakistan and though there is a language barrier, we share the same religion and that makes us sisters.

at 3.30pm we departed for Jeddah. along the way we stopped at a floating mosque (not terengganu's version) to pray asar. it's next to Red Sea.

our flight was scheduled at 9.45pm. anne smsed me along the way and i told her i couldnt find baklava for her. arriving at the airport was a problem - as we had to find trolleys and it's hard to find them as jeddah airport is that time we missed the convenience of facilities at KLIA so much, as the size of the bags had increased dramatically due to incessant shopping for souvenirs and also the 10litres of zamzam given free by the govt of Saudi Arabia.

29th may

finally, we reached KLIA at 1.30pm. i was overjoyed to see lush green hills and land.

the spiritual journey is an eye opener. at the holy land, everybody is equal whether you're a datuk or a tengku or a tun or a king or a cleaner or a labourer, which is why men wear white ihram, and which is why regardless of ranks, we tawaf and do saie, as in the eyes of Allah, we're equal. i learnt that humility is the best, any inch of pride or malice or greed in us and we will receive retribution - swiftly.

Masjidil Haram is calling again, and i will heed it's call insyaallah.

Monday, May 19, 2008

another new chapter

i spent the weekend with my family and true friends.

on saturday nite i lepaked again with inas and farah at Section 14 until the wee hours. had a few hours of sleep then in the morning i met my childhood friend dina at ikea's restaurant. it's so good to see her again after 2 years. and we talked and talked, until i told her i had to make a move for the next agenda - the reunion with my seri puteri classmates.

the girls had been talking abt al -rawshar restaurant for weeks, even anne and ella who work in Johore. i, of course, was clueless abt what they're talking about until yesterday. the restaurant is located at jalan damai, and you have to turn into the lane next to Sucasa apartments and bypass SMK Seri Ampang (where i did my practical some eons ago). and there we were, the 5Ilmu girls - shidah, zana, as (the national education philosophy stresses on moulding a well-rounded person, and as is the living embodiment of it) june with her daughter, anne, ella and her son and me of course. when we reached the place, i felt like i was in an arab country, since i saw only arab men. it felt uncomfortable with the men outside, so we requested a private room, and we got a whole room decorated in customary arab red with arab styled cushions to ourselves. and while we enjoyed the delicious arab fare (i discovered that i love lamb), we talked about our lives, about why as decided to quit her job as a medical specialist in selayang hospital, about their upcoming business venture...about all sorts of things. we're more like sisters now, since we've been communicating about everything via yahoogroup and sharing problems together. the group is strong in terms of giving moral support and i appreciate them for this. because they do not judge me, (like some people do in another group i belonged to) they accept me, but they give me advice no matter how blunt they have to be. and the best thing is that we've known each other for 22 years. what i admire the most about them is that they're all ladies with high integrity and are high flyers in their companies (businesswomen, doctors, pharmacist, engineers, chemist) but they're still well-grounded and value life, being humble and faithful muslimahs. and they helped me to become a better person. last night, As called me, asking about my final preparation and i asked her should i ask for forgiveness from a friend who has hurt me with her words. and being a good muslimah, she said "nora, you should ask for forgiveness from her. i did so when i went for my umrah" that didnt sit well with me for awhile.... "you mean i've to be humble?" "yes, nora, even if it means lowering yourself. because when you're in mekah, you cannot have a trace of anger or pride". and so i took her advice.

so i take this opportunity to ask for forgiveness to those i've hurt through words, actions even for those who've hurt me in the past. i'm about to embark on a spiritual journey to cleanse my past sins, sorrows and hurt and to commune with God. hopefully i'll return and start a new chapter in life with a new hope.

peace be upon you.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

coming home 2 KL

on thursday, my last day at school b4 i embark on my spiritual journey, the teachers came to salam and to slip some "gift" and asking me to pray for them. my friend sazi was surprised to hear this, but i told her it's the culture here in terengganu (to slip the gift). when they came i was busy marking the exam papers, as instructed by the principal. i've only 1 class left, which i've to hand over to another teacher. as i submitted the marks to the Sec of Exam Unit, she asked me if i'm taking flight. i said no.... i'm driving. and she was shocked. for someone who knows the roads in KL and is used to moving about, i'd feel handicapped without my car if i'm in KL for more than 2 days. and probably because i learnt to depend on myself rather on other people, because i have to.

yesterday i drove in a sunny disposition in my trusted Honda City, listening to my mp3s and eating big delicious pau (given by one of the teachers especially for the journey). as i was driving i received numerous smses from students and ex-students, wishing me happy teachers' day. and as i was nearing KL i realised that i wanted to reach KL asap, because i miss my family and friends. and i realised that although technically my hometown is KT, it felt like i was returning home when i reached the last mtd prime toll in gombak. as usual, KL infamous traffic jam greeted me, and because i was heading towards PJ, the traffic was quite smooth but slow.

i reached kelana jaya with a migraine despite the quite glum weather. mother was sitting on her throne as usual, and little adam was around to entertain - he's the 3rd generation of our malay-chinese bloodline.

and last nite i had a girl's nite out with my niece inas and we lepaked until midnight (would have gone further than that but experience told me to go back b4 calls were made).

it's good to be back home

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Thank U

this song is a powerful song, written by the feminist Alanis Morrissette, and after going through some difficult time, i would like to dedicate this song to my true friends who've been with me through the thick and thin. you know who you are. thank u.

how 'bout getting off of these antibiotics
how 'bout stopping eating when i'm full up
how 'bout them transparent dangling carrots
how 'bout that ever elusive kudo

thank u india
thank u terror
thank u disillusionment
thank u frailty
thank u thank u silence

how 'bout me not blaming you for everything
how 'bout me enjoying the moment for once
how 'bout how good it feels to finally forgive u
how' bout grieving it all at a time

thank u india
thank u terror
thank u disillusionment
thank u frailty
thank u thank u silence

how 'bout no longer being masochistic
how 'bout remembering your divinity
how 'bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out
how 'bout not equating death with stopping

thank u india
thank u providence
thank u disillusionment
thank u nothingness
thank u clarity
thank u thank u silence.

Monday, May 12, 2008

coffee bean, starbucks, kopitiam

more than a decade ago, the coffee culture took Malaysia by storm. Cafes mushroomed everywhere in KL's trendiest spots, and big names such as Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Starbucks made their presence felt. with these cafes, KLites often lepaked way into the wee hours, and now it has become a part of our pop culture. Even in the UK i found that the Brits take coffee more than tea now, so you see cafes here and there, and coffee vending machines in every R&R.

i was (still am) hooked on coffee, and my favourite was Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf cafe, where i would order the ultimate ice blended - which is what malaysians would call it as "kaw" or the most bitter. if i go to Starbucks, it'll be because of this simply sinful but divine (an oxymoron, i must say) white chocolate cheesecake.

i was so hooked on coffee that i bought the beans and ground them myself at home so i could have my gourmet coffee anytime i wanted to. it was during this time that i discovered that much as i love my coffee, i cant take it regularly as i become jittery. just ask my niece Gina, of the incident when my head went haywire in Melbourne when i had coffee for breakfast for 2 days in a row.

with the discovery, i stopped taking the cuppa joe, and switched to cocoa instead. okay, it's harmless, but it doesnt have that tantalising and seductive aroma of coffee. trips to coffee bean and tea leaf meant non-caffeinated drinks, which was kind of boring for me.

we often glorified the western cafes, but Malaysia also contributed some to the history of cafes, because we have our own kedai kopi and kopitiam. my first encounter with kopitiam would be the urban Little Penang Cafe, where they use classic Chinese furniture found in any typical kopitiam. of course, when i go there, i dont drink coffee, i go for their char kuey teow (using chopsticks, of course) thanks to my Chinese roots. and years after Little Penang Cafe, updated and urban kopitiams slowly begin to appear, competing with the Western chain cafes.

so why am i writing about coffee, cafes and kopitiam today? because i just had my tea at kopitiam. i prefer kopitiam because it has the local touch to it, you see Chinese stools and tables and Chinese paintings, you also see everyday people enjoying meals. they serve Chinese dishes (halal of course), of which Malaysians are familiar of, and snacks such as roti bakar with butter and kaya, which can be found in any kopitiam.

yes, i still do frequent Coffee Bean and Starbucks, ordering non-caffeinated drinks and a piece of cake, sitting on the plush (well may be not so plush) chocolate sofa. may be this time around i'll try the ultimate blend again. i'm equally happy at the local kopitiam with our local setting. why? because we're of hybrid culture, the marriage of the local and international culture. so, whether it's Starbucks or kopitiam, it doesnt matter... it's the company that counts. and the food.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Tribute to My Mother

My mother is an extraordinary woman. a woman of strength and character. she has lived through the British rule, Japanese Occupation and seen our country gain independence.

my mother was born a Chinese but was adopted by a wealthy Malay songket merchant. she's used to luxury (imagine walking to town in gold embroidered sandals) until she was married off during the Japanese Occupation to my father, who was 17 at that time. she was 14 (god, i didnt know anything at 14). being married to my father meant a change of lifestyle, as she had to be a housewife, during troubled times. she used to tell us stories of escaping to Setiu to find shelter when there were air raids, and to make ends meet when economy wasnt prospering.

as she recollected her memories of the past, i could detect sadness, like when one of my brothers died during infancy. or laugh at her retelling of how she ended up eating only bananas on the way back from Singapore after a diamond shopping spree.

mother's love knows no bound, and she'll go at all length to make the children happy. when i was in Seri Puteri i expressed my desire to have a certain dish (sambal goreng) brought back to school. before i knew it, she was making it. i told her she didnt have to go at such length to do it. i got a stern reprimand from her. she said "this is mother's love for you. a mother never forgets the children's wishes".

i was close to my late father, so when my father passed away, my mother's attention was solely on me. that meant every action was scrutinised. i couldnt understand this at first, but my siblings told me this is because i'm the only one she has left (that she can bully). she was calm and composed when my father died. but six months later, she suffered a stroke, which left her half-paralysed.

when i graduated, my mother insisted that i return to terengganu to teach. being away for so long, and having friends in KL, i rebelled. i was offered the post of journalist with the NST, and dreamed of a writing career, my dream since i was in Seri Puteri. but i had to turn it down. it was a difficult time for both of us. being the youngest, i matured late; and only these past few years did i realise my wrongdoings.

my mother, despite her constant nagging, is a loving mother. she has so much steel and brain in her that we used to joke she'd make either a good Mafia leader or a businesswoman. thus, when she was diagnosed with cancer stage 3 last year, we were devastated. i was very upset when i saw her one day, so aged, wanting to give up on life. she just didnt care about life anymore. it was the hardest time for us, to see our strong mother thus.

now she is among her loving children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. our grand matriarch rules the roost again, but from her bed. our wish is to make her feel comfortable and happy, because she has made us the people we are. i love u, mother.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Unanswered Questions: a poem

Why do men always break our heart?
They woo you with words so sweet
That you cant help but melt
They treat you good that you feel
You're the luckiest gal on earth
But once they detect a flaw (or they fancy some other better creatures)
They slip away quietly
And you're left puzzled.
Do they think you are such a heartless creature
That they can just leave you
And that you wont feel the hurt?
To toss around when we're unwanted?

We've been through this cycle since primordial time
They come, they conquer, they leave.
such patriarchal beliefs should stop.
We are persons of our own right
We have equal claims to education and career.
Why cant we have the same for relationships?
Why must they have the last say?
Why must we comply at the expense of our broken hearts?

I'm tired of this stupid charade
Of men chasing 36-24-36
Or ogling at a C or D cup
You have to play their game in order to be "happy"
You have to be tiny or bountiful in the upper department
But they can be pot-bellied and vulgar.
What gives?
If they are so visual, they should take a look at themselves.
They are not Brad Pitt, so why should they ask for Angelina Jolie?
But this is the oppression that will never stop.
What happens to good decent women like me?
Are they scared of intelligence?
Scared that they cant answer the questions
That require honest-to-goodness answers.
Why do they break our hearts?

Friday, May 02, 2008

nostalgia at its best

Seri Puteri thoroughbred, Form 1 Ilmu

my seri puteri friends were talking about our old school pics in our yahoogroup email. june (or known as june o'hara) has scanned this pic, and when i viewed it this afternoon, a drop of tear fell. yes, call me a sucker for anything nostalgic, because i was transported back to the year of 1986, when this pic was taken. in fact, i know i had this pic before, but somehow i lost it. the funny thing is everybody looks so innocent and naive haha. i remember we took this pic with one senior (a prefect) who was in charge of our class for assemblies (and checking nails to see whether they're short or not....that's what you get when you're studying in a top girls boarding school). some of the girls are in the yahoogroup - like Ella from batu pahat, now a successful entrepreneur, Ina, an MPM officer now on leave to follow hubby to Sudan, Syeeqah, working for Kedah State Govt, Fezzy, a doctor specialising in pathology and now lecturing in HUKM, Anne, working as an engineer with Kimberley & Clark, As, a doctor specialising in hepatology attached to Selayang Hospital, June attached to Maybank as legal officer and Normi in Zyratex. only shidah and zana are not in the pic as they joined us later in 89. there are a lot of other girls in the pic whom we've lost contact with...but are with us in our memory, as we've been classmates for 5 years. well well, we've come a long way, girls.... i miss those days.

note: i'm not wearing any tudung here (as most of the girls), and although i had started wearing glasses then, i wasnt wearing any glasses in this pic.