Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kepulangan kali ini

Selamat hari raya aidilfitri, maaf zahir batin
Selamat hari lebaran, minal aidil wal faizin
Eid mubarak, eid said, kul am wanti bi khir
(Meskipun terlewat)
Pun begitu, keterasingan semakin terasa setelah 8 bulan berada di Oman, juga belum ketemu cara ringkas untuk berhubung dengan saudara-mara dan sahabat handai (tiada pusat celcom yang dibuka untuk dapatkan reload), ditambah pula hampa yang teramat sangat kali ini ...
Lantas ku pandu terus ke utara
Melewati jalan kampung dan desa
Berlatar kehijauan banjaran titiwangsa
Begitu jauh berbeda dari gurun sahara
Kuubati luka dengan senyuman anak-anak tak berdosa
Bagai sirih pulang ke gagang
Atau sekadar lawatan singkat sebelum ke perantauan?
Apakah esok lusa penentu fitrah
Atau segalanya lantaran tindakan kita jua?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Selamat Jalan, Sayang

Dear I,
I'm taking a day off today, in memory of Sayang, N's teen cat who was put to sleep at about 1:20am after the xrays showed that she was paralysed due to a spinal cord injury.
I had a pleasant day yesterday and day before - ferry cruise to Liberty and Ellis islands, caught up with Mak P at Macy's on 34th St, slept over her place, then shopped for grocery and cooked dinner for N since she was fasting.
After dessert, she decided to show me Sayang, who spent most of her time in N's bedroom; naturally, she was afraid of me and hid under the dining table, jumped on the other two window ledges before she jumped on the ledge of the opened window, out into the airwell and three storeys down to the landing in the basement.
We went down and found her dragging her hind legs and unable to stand, took her to the emergency vet at downtown Brooklyn and cried our eyes out while waiting for the xray results and told of the options - a surgery that would cost USD5-6k but will not guarantee recovery or put her down and end her misery.
I know this is the umpteenth time I witnessed a kitty pass away - from Brownie to Elsa to Whitey to Patch but this is the first time I saw a cat being 'put down' and finally understood the meaning.
One minute she was responding to N's touch - narrowing her eyes, turning her cheeks and raising her chin - and the next minute her head was down, her soul had flown, her body stiff, wrapped in her favourite red blanket and taken away by the nurse to be cremated and buried.
N found her as a stray when she was about two months old in June 2008 - an exotic French breed with velvety dark grey coat and yellow eyes.
She hardly mewed or whimpered, even after the tragic fall, throughout the bumpy 15 minutes taxi ride downtown and the heartbreaking final moments - such a loyal and stoic character, such a short and cloistered life.
Salam, Sayang, hope you are happier now than you were before!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Whole Foods & More!

Dear I,
Yesterday, Y and I started our day at mid-day, so we didn't get to cover much of NYC's attractions.
Plus, I'm trying to apply for a job here so I spent some time surfing for vacancies.
I'm getting used to the subway rides and crowds - both the underbelly of the boroughs as well as the well-heeled Madison and Park Avs people.
We walked along Madison, Fifth and Park Avs to the Trump Tower, the Apple Center and Columbus Circle in the evening. Trump Tower was strangely deserted, unlike the Apple Center where you can see people of every age group and skin colour congregate. The focal points at Columbus Circle are the fountain and Whole Foods - you know how crazy I am about advocating organic food and stuff! Finally, I got to taste the no-bacon clam chowder and the in-season cherries are really yummy and succulent. You will surely fall in love with the store too, I bet.
InsyaAllah, later today I'll take advantage of the free entrance at MOMA from 4-8PM and catch a free concert at Central Park.
Sorry about the pixs - will post latest this weekend, salam.
Update: Joined the Friday eve crowd at the Target-sponsored free entry into MOMA and scrutinised Ensor's work, then off to Times Sq with Y, S, M & A to have dinner at a Tex-Mex restaurant and watched Kathrine Heigel in The Ugly Truth.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Bite of Big Apple

Dear I,
Today I followed Y to her office in midtown Manhattan - E 56th St on Lex Av to be precise. The subway ride from Brooklyn to the city was worse than the LRT or komuter in the Klang Valley - most Malaysians would have complained about the dirt and stench long ago. In any case, I was able to appreciate and absorb the sights and sounds far better this time around than the last time when I had to either push you in your stroller or hug Y close to my heart in her carry-on.
In fact, I managed to get acquainted with most of the main buildings, shops and cafes from 56th to 59th St along Lex Ave within several hours, inspite of the intermittent summer showers and thunder storms. Citibank around the corner, Chrysler Building in the distance, Bloomingdale's like a siren luring compulsive shoppers via it window displays straight to its revolving doors; Gap, Banana Republic, Victoria's Secret, Oxford Cafe, Fusia - you'll find yourself drowned in a sea of consumer bliss.
In the evening, we went to Webster's Hall to watch V, or her glam stage name Zee Avi, perform the opening act with numbers from her new CD. I must admit that I felt very proud that this diminutive Sarawakian gal could wow the giant New Yorkers with her sensous guitar moves and lilting voice.
I hope to go to Bryant or Central Park tomorrow if it doesn't rain. There's something about being here NYC that made me blog again. Sure, I had planned on doing so many things - like learning indigo dying and other traditional crafts - when I arrived in Nizwa late January but only managed to get to know the locals in my neighborhood and the places that I visited such as Sohar and Sur.
Will post pixs soon, til then u take care!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Are you going to San Francisco? (Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair)

M, Y
Assalamualaikum...I miss you guys so much. At the same time M, Y...I'm glad you're over there, far away from the craziness I go thru here. Y, had no idea Central Park was so big...
Anyways, I really hope to go there soonest, needless to say. It's been a pretty strange week here. All the good people are leaving...I'm quite distraught. Yasmin Ahmad passed away on Saturday night. I really really need to see you soon. I played an MTV concert thing and an hour later, she passed at Damansara Specialist. She passed because of stroke after she fainted on Thursday and was hospitalised. Allah Maha menyayangi and life moves so fast...
You don't know how happy I am to know that your days are long in NYC and you're with each other and God knows more people around you there who are different from the ones here. Believe me it's the one reason among very few others that give me hope, the fact that you guys are there together now and probably happy as can be...
The other day, I saw an auntie get robbed by rempits in broad daylight, right behind me...at the traffic light right in front of our house! I reached for my steering lock, but I hesitated for three seconds and that was enough for them to get away. Poor lady...she was fine though. Everything seems to remind me of my family, and just how short life is. I find myself caring about good people more...so much I can't take it...and hating bad people even more.
I immediately called R too, just to make sure she was ok and to check on her and tell her to be extra careful. And I talked to the dobi ladies...they've kena too. This is ridiculous...everyone here walks around in paranoia and hatred. It seems too much...and we can see it in MJ and Yasmin, good people are just being allowed to leave...
Don't worry though guys, my job isn't a problem at all. Everything material is secure. I'm just in awe of how screwed up the world can be.
The day after the car mugging, I saw a couple trying to commit suicide, holding hands on the roof of a five-story building near Jaya One. In their work clothes...crazy.... There was a crowd...I had a friend working there who was watching and called me. This was after work on my way back home as well. The bomba sprayed water and they fell backwards, and the police caught them from behind. They got sued for that. It was because work was too much or something. Laillahailallah we thought...man...
I'm really sorry to bum you guys out but this is just what has been happening around here in this country...it really doesn't even feel like mine anymore, and as each day goes by I'm being called somewhere else.
The cats are getting naughtier, but they keep me grounded. The band is really busy and it's the perfect distraction and weapon against all the madness so that is nice as well. Most everything is paid for and in check. The house is clean. My health is getting better, I'm losing my belly rolls =) and my eczema is under control with a few treatments at Assunta (kesian all those sick people) and um, I've had to pull my milk tooth out. Friends are friends...love life is a non-priority but that only makes sense cos of all the madness that goes on.
So I'm just so happy and thank God and my lucky stars that my family is far away, somewhere, anywhere, away from here on behalf of me. Like my dreams are being lived through you guys...really! M please make the best of your time there and please have the time of your life! I will eventually go...where I belong. Eventually... =>
Take care guys and update your Facebooks please...email me back and write me often.
Love, salam
Dear I,
Wish u were here.
I'm still getting over from the jet lag and Y and I are recovering from the ravages of San Francisco. The weather there was COLD and MISTY after about 4pm. Different parts of the city have their own personality - Union Square, Buena Park, Golden Gate Park, Fisherman's Wharf - and the valleys beyond the Golden Gate Bridge are all sunshine and vineyards. It's nice to be rich but awful to be poor, homeless and cracked-up here in the USA. The Union brims over with homeless and cracked-up characters - broke and broken by the system and society. Buena Park is an enclave of sanity and hope with a watery shrine for Martin Luther King Jr. Golden Gate Park is a cool and verdant sanctuary for arts and culture and scientific discoveries - the upper crust celebrates Ethiopian native healers and King Tut's exhibits at de Young museum and the environmentalists dedicate themselves to the projects at the Academy of Sciences. You can also find conservationists at the Acquarium by the Bay among the throngs of tourists gawking at the sea lions hanging out at Pier 39. Wanted to sample SF clam chowder but it was served with bacon. Had chilli instead but didn't taste half as good as at Wendy's in Jaya One and the nachos were thick, hard and soggy!
The first night we went on the cable car ride with Putri was a pleasant encounter with Salvador Dali's work at the galleries at Pier One. The next day, we went to MOMA and learned to distinguish between the Modernists, Expressionists and the Fauvists. Y, S and Putri risked Tut's wrath while I had an organic meal at De Young's cafe. Castro and Haight-Ashbury are overrated - we witnessed a middle-aged 'orang gumbira' at Castro desperate on hitting, figuratively and literally, on younger targets that he knocked into their car bumper and got taken away in a police van by not one or two but SIX police officers from the SFPD - kesian. Haight-Ashbury seems more like a graveyard for countercultural revolution with new age stores and psychedelic murals miserably trying to relive the hippier days of the 1960s. The presence of Morrocan eateries and Chinese salons didn't help at all.
Anyways, cheer up and hope I have lifted your spirits somewhat.
Take care n love u loads!
(NYC - 22.7.2009 to 20.8.2009)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Hire Malaysians First!

Here's a note to kickstart the week from a good friend who calls herself "the official complainer".
I managed to catch up with her at KLCC recently and we both shared our grievances about the state of the service industry in Malaysia.
Here's her view which was published in theSun:
Value all honest work
THE government must consider steps to rectify excessive disparity of wages and educate all workers on the necessity, respectability and value of each job and position.
This is becoming particularly important as the economic crisis shows no signs of relenting and an increasing number of workers are laid off. The government will not be able to go on paying benefits and subsidies, and so the best solution is to find new employment for retrenched workers as soon as possible. When all honest jobs are valued, respected, and appropriately rewarded, it becomes almost impossible for anyone to be out of work.
On a recent visit to KLCC, I could not help noticing that many workers in restaurants, shops, and outlets are foreigners. These workers do not look Malaysian, do not speak the local language, are untidy and lack grooming.
I wonder how shop owners at the premier shopping centre expect to see their business booming when they employ staff who are unqualified, untrained, and unwelcoming to potential customers.
Why aren’t locals doing this kind of work? What is wrong with being a waiter, a sales assistant, a cashier, or even a toilet cleaner? All these jobs need to be done and they make our life better, cleaner, healthier and more enjoyable. Why then look down upon them and pay them so little?
If KLCC and other leading shopping centres in Kuala Lumpur are meant for tourists, then wouldn’t tourists appreciate a window to the local people, the local language, the local culture, and the local service? How is Malaysia to preserve her identity if foreign workers are employed in positions that have the most direct contact with the public?
The government must adopt policies that make all kinds of honest work attractive, appreciated and properly rewarded. No type of honest work should be deemed as too lowly. After all, every worker who does his or her job in a way that meets the highest possible standard is a professional.
Marisa Demori

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Salam 1430, Hello 2009

Nothing like a new year, that literally arrived with a 'bang', to jolt me into write a new post and to make a timely 'make-over'.
To welcome 1430H and to mark the continuing bombardment of Gaza, I took the liberty of lifting a piece of art by Gaza artists that "reflect on 60 years of human rights" from www.menassat.com to replace the image of "the wall" for 2008.
Any one of us with a shred of conscience and who cherish our inalienable rights as citizens of a sovereign nation would be able to empathize with the plight of the Palestinians who are denied of "human rights in living, personal safety, work, health, education, decision making, not to mention freedom of speech, of opinion, of travel, the right to dignity, citizenship, nationality and control over one's own fate."
I pray that these continued attacks on innocent civilians will cease and that this humanitarian catastrophe will finally rally the Arab and Muslim nations to fight for the Palestinians' rights to sovereignty, dignity, stability and self-sufficiency, if not prosperity yet.
On the home front, high on my new year's wish list is to see less foreign workers who can't even communicate in English, let alone the national language, to serve as security guards, cashiers at gas stations and servers at other "altars" of American cultural, economic and political imperialism such as McDonald's, Bubba Gump, and what-have-you.
I heard over BERNAMA Radio 93.9FM that the Ministry of Human Resource was 'considering' to reduce the work permits given to foreign workers, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think now is not the time for 'considering' any more but for enforcing a national policy of 'Hire Malaysians First' in light of growing unemployment and global economic recession, among other calamities.
Lastly, here's an article by Deena Guzder, retrieved from http://www.muzzlewatch.com/2008/12/31/gaza-and-the-us-corporate-media/, that repudiates the myth of American Jewish support as monolithic.
Published on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 by CommonDreams.org
Lights Out in Gaza, News Blackout in US
by Deena Guzder
Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have decried Israel’s continued aerial bombing campaign as unlawful and denounced the killing of more than 300 Palestinians since 27 December, including scores of unarmed civilians not taking part in the hostilities. Israel’s attacks on the densely populated Gaza Strip also elicited condemnation from numerous world politicians and sparked protests in global cities.
Despite international outcry over escalating violence, the U.S. mainstream media continues to privilege a prepackaged narrative in which Israel’s actions are never disproportionate, never counterproductive and certainly never gratuitous. According to the mainstream media, the U.S. must continue uncompromisingly supporting Israel because the allegedly beleaguered democracy is held hostage by monomaniacal Islamofascists who are inherently evil. Promoting a paradigm in which Israel is always David up against Goliath, the U.S. media presents suffering Palestinians as expendable for the greater cause of Israel winning its epic struggle. To justify U.S.’s carte blanche to Israel, the mainstream media restricts American readers to an echo chamber in which the following claims are repeated ad nausem until they are mistaken for fact:
1. Israel has a legal and moral right to bomb Gaza out of defense Security concerns are not and never have been a tolerable justification for pre-emptive attacks. Israel’s decision to bomb Gaza represents a major assault on the international rule of law. The law of occupation is one of the oldest and most developed branches of international humanitarian law. An occupying power is obliged to follow the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which protects the civilian population. The United Nations Security Council held in 1979 that the Fourth Convention did apply in the territories seized by Israel in 1967. Article 48 of the additional protocol is clear that Israel, as an occupying power, has obligations: “The Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objective.” The latest Israeli attacks come on top of a brutal siege of the Gaza Strip which has created a humanitarian catastrophe of dire proportions for Gaza’s beleaguered Palestinian residents by restricting the provision of food, fuel, medicine, electricity, and other necessities of life. “International law is not observed with respect to Israeli policies towards the Gaza Strip, Israel continues to reinforce an occupation whose every element violates international humanitarian law, and particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention,” notes Jeff Halper, an Israeli-American Anthropologist, author, lecturer, political activist, and co-founder and Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
2. Israeli citizens live in constant fear of Hamas rockets Since 2005 Hamas has fired some 6,300 rockets from Gaza at Israel, killing 10 people.[1] In just the last four days, Israel has reduced the Gaza Strip to rubble and killed over 300 Palestinians. During the ongoing four-decade-long brutal occupation of historic Palestine and the recent grotesquely inhumane blockade of Gaza, Palestinian deaths have far outnumbered Israeli deaths. Since September 29, 2000, approximately 123 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians whereas 1,050 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis. Since September 29, 2000, a total of 1,062 Israelis and no fewer than 4,876 Palestinians were killed in the conflict.[2]
3. Hamas refuses to recognize the right of Israel to exist and has never made any concessions As Seth Ackerman of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) notes, there is no need to euphemize Hamas’ history of brutal tactics or its bellicose ideology, but Hamas has signaled its potential willingness to accept a two-state settlement and make other concessions to broker peace.[3] Hamas has also made tentative offers of a long-term “hudna,” or truce, albeit with less gusto than Israel demands.
4. Israel is only targeting Hamas headquarters Gaza, one of the most densely populated tracts of land in the world, is home to about 1.3m Palestinians, about 33% of whom live in United Nations-funded refugee camps.[4] Avoiding civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip during aerial raids is comparable to trying to avoid such casualties in Washington DC, New York City or Los Angeles. “Because Gaza is so densely populated, there is no such thing as precision strike - you have glass, brick, shrapnel flying into people’s homes,” notes Ewa Jasiewicz, a volunteer with the Free Gaza Movement.[5]
5. Attacking Hamas will help Israel achieve security There is no doubt that the recent attacks will only embolden and multiply Israel’s detractors. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious decree to Muslims around the world on Sunday, ordering them to defend Palestinians against Israel’s attacks on Gaza. For a second day in Jordan, several thousand protesters gathered in Amman and burned Israeli and American flags.[6] There were similar rallies in Egypt, Syria, Libya and Iraq with many calling for a firm response from their leaders. Hamas’ military is barely dented by the Israeli attacks and, according to a poll by Israel’s Channel 10 television station, only 6% of Israelis believe its governments aerial bombings will end Hamas’ rocket attacks. [7]
6. The Bush administration has the implicit support of the international community in blaming Hamas “thugs” and applauding Israel’s show of defense With the exception of the U.S. and her staunchest allies, the international community has largely condemned Israel’s attacks. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on Israel to “urgently halt” its military campaign. Japan’s Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said, “Japan calls on Israel to exercise its utmost self-restraint.” China’s Vice-Premier Li Kequiang joined the voices urging a halt to violence and said, “The Chinese side is shocked and seriously concerned over the current military operations in Gaza that have caused a large number of death and injuries.”[8] Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi similarly stated, “Malaysia deplores the disproportionate use of military power by Israel against the people of Gaza.” French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the European Union presidency, told the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas of his serious concerns about the escalating violence. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon added his voice to the 15-member Security Council’s call for an immediate end to hostilities and urged Israel to allow humanitarian aid into the poverty-stricken territory.[9] Humanitarian organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reiterate their call for an end to reckless and unlawful Israeli attacks against densely populated residential areas.
7. The attacks on Gaza are supported by the entire Jewish community Jewish Voice for Peace joins millions around the world, including the 1,000 Israelis who protested in the streets of Tel Aviv this weekend, in condemning ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza. The organization calls for an immediate end to attacks on all civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli. In the face of mounting deaths, several Israeli and American Jewish peace groups are protesting the recent air raids by demonstrating in the streets, petitioning their elected officials and directly reaching out to Palestinian civilians. Groups that are encouraging peace between Palestinians and Israelis include Rabbis for Human Rights, B’Tselem, Bat Shalom, Ta’ayush, Yesh-Gvul, Peace Gush Shalom Tikkun, and many others. While there is no consensus in the Jewish community on the recent Gaza air raids, the underreported efforts of the Jewish “left” is far from negligible; Jewish Voices of Peace claims more than 10,000 members and has been instrumental in drawing attention to the lopsided media coverage through their “Lights out in Gaza, News Blackout in U.S.” campaign. Many of these Jewish peace activists are deeply religious and draw on the Torah to support their stand against Israel’s attack on Gaza. The media has extensively covered the Israeli settlers who cheer on Israel’s more hawkish actions, but little has been written on dissident Israeli Jews and their American Jewish sympathizers who are advocating a more peaceful, non-violent course.
The mainstream media is culpable for American’s ongoing ignorance and knee-jerk loyalty to Israel. Instead of elucidating motives and contextualizing actions, reporters’ biased diction obscures facts and editors’ cursory commentary muddles logic. By de-historicizing the conflict, the media reduces Palestinians to stock-characters who reject generous olive branches offered by Israel in favor of advocating for the dissolution of the Jewish state. A column by Israeli Gideon Levy in Haaretz, entitled “The neighborhood bully strikes again,” could never appear in a paper in the U.S nor could a single paragraph be uttered by any American politician, in either party, of any national prominence without damning consequences.[10]
While visiting Israel in July, President-elect Barack Obama said, “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing.” The question remains, what would Obama do if his daughters were deprived of food, electricity, medical care, and human dignity? What would Obama do if his daughters were humiliated when they traveled, maimed when they walked away from bomb shelters and robbed of their childhoods? If Obama fails to answer these questions with humanity, we can expect 4 to 8 more years of President Bush’s failed Middle East strategy.
[1] Wall Street Journal (Asia Edition), Editorial, December 30, 2008 (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123051140769338457.html)
[2] If Americans Only Knew http://www.ifamericansonlyknew.org/
[3] Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2974
[4] BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/v3_israel_palestinians/maps/html/population_settlements.stm
[5] Evening Standard (London) http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23608798-details/Defiant+Palestinians+fire+rockets+deep+into+Israel/article.do
[6] BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7803569.stm
[7] TIME Magazine http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1868929,00.html
[8] AFP News, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iWdYoZ5ATqNC6YY2jiHKiBQ0D5FA
[9] AFP News, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iWdYoZ5ATqNC6YY2jiHKiBQ0D5FA
[10] Salon.com http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/12/28/peretz/
Guzder works for TIME Asia magazine in Hong Kong and is a dual-degree graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism and School of International and Public Affairs. Please feel free to email her at dg2190@columbia.edu