Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Penny Wise Pound Foolish

I didn't plan on going anywhere this school holiday as I will be busy packing and moving to our new house.  But my husband felt guilty for not taking the kids anywhere, so he suggested on going to Legoland because it's just a 5-hour drive from KL.

While the kids had lots of fun at Legoland, my husband enjoyed his shopping at the Johor Premium Factory Outlet tremendously.  For those of you who don't really know me, let me tell you a bit about my view on shopping.  My idea of shopping is grocery and houseware shopping.  I can spend hours in groceries or any shops selling plates, glasses and other cooking gadgets but I can't stand more than 30 minutes in stores that sell clothes, shoes, fabrics or handbags.

I buy clothes, handbags or shoes based on necessity not based on the latest fashion or because I don't have one to match my new hair colour.  Besides, my hair has only 2 colours : super dark brown or light brown (after perming or spending too much time under the sun).  So basically I don't need much..

My husband is the opposite.  He LOVES shopping... especially shoes, suits and anything related to golf.  Since I try to be a "good wife" everytime he asks me to accompany him for shopping, I always oblige.  But this time I was in for a real trouble... The Premium Outlet that we visited has more than 40 stores selling discounted branded shoes, handbags, sport items, suits and NOTHING on household items..!

He was sooooo happy.  He went in to almost every shops..! I tagged along for the first 1 hour but after that I just couldn't stand it anymore.  So... I headed to the foodcourt to do my real "shopping". 

This is where my shopping was done... :)
Luckily the foodcourt has variety of stalls.  While waiting for him, I tried the Chinese stall selling steamed dishes.  I was so happy to find my old-time favourite dish turned halal.  I used to love this Minced Pork Steamed with Salted Fish and Preserved Kale.  It's been 15 years since the last time I had that.. So when I saw the shop selling the same stuff with chicken substitute, I was estatic..!!  This stall really sells halal traditional Chinese food...! Next one I tried was : Stewed Pickled Duck.  Yuuuummmmyyyy...!! 

We spent about 6 hours at the FO so it just didn't make sense if I only spend 1 hour of "shopping".  I hopped to a Korean stall for Dolsat Bim Bim Bab and Kimchi.  Nice and spicy... The shopping went on and on until I tried at least 6 different dishes, not including the stop at the cozy Dragon Cafe for some Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese, Deep Fried Mushroom and Coffee..!

Very yummy crunchy Fried Oyster Mushroom

Sitting down at the foodcourt and cafes while waiting for my husband, I couldn't help looking around observing people.  I was fascinated to see how long the line was at the Coach outlet.  I think the discount must be good because people were willing to wait in line under the hot sun.  As for me, I would prefer the comfy of my air-cond foodcourt anytime.

One very interesting (if not annoying) thing that I noticed was the parking lot.  The open-air parking lot was occupied by less than 20%.  I wondered how those people came to the FO because there was no public transport in the area.  The FO is smacked in the middle of nowhere. 

When I left the FO, I saw cars parked by the road side... That's why the parking lot was empty...!!! Those people refused to pay RM3 for parking and parked their cars outside.  OMG... these people were in PREMIUM Factory Outlet that sell nothing less than branded stuffs and they refused to spend RM3..???? I even saw a few BMW and Mercedes Benz there...!

This thing reminded me of an acquaintance of mine.  He drove a posh BMW M3 series, wore branded stuff from head to toe but when we ate out with a bunch of friends, he just ordered "warm water" and nothing else.  He said he could have his meal at home, no need to "waste" money on over-priced restaurant food.  I remember one day we went to an American restaurant and we all ordered the famous hamburgers.  The burgers were huge so ladies couldn't finish the french fries that served along the burgers. After we finished our meals, he ask for a plastic container from the waiter.  He collected all the french fries from everyone's plates, put them inside the container and proudly told us that it's gonna be his supper. That guy remains my acquaintance... I can't even upgrade him to "my friend" because I really can't understand him.

I also know one rich lady who always takes sachets of chilli sauce, tomato sauce and sugar whenever she dines out.  She would take as many sachets as possible for her personal usage at home.  If she can afford to have a few mansions and houses overseas, how on earth can't she afford to buy a bottle of tomato ketchup and a gallon of chilli sauce? 

I call these kind of people as Rich People with Poor Heart.  As much as they irritate and embarrass me, actually I pity them because most of them don't realize that what they do are not normal. They don't feel they are rich.  They are afraid that their money will not be enough for their future.  And worse, they don't know that people are talking about their peculiar habits behind their backs.

My husband has other theory though : "They become rich because they are stingy.. People like us who always spend and give will never get rich."

I totally disagree with him.  I feel very rich although my bank account is nothing close to theirs and my house is the same size with their bathrooms.  Sometimes when I went out with them, I offered to pay for their meals (which of course they never refused).  When I paid for them, I trully felt that I was richer than them.... I could really feel all the blessings I have.... It made me feel like a billionaire... (..... the song Billionaire by Bruno Mars is ringing in my ears now)

OK... Now... End of the Factory Outlet story:
  • My husband came back with bags of suits, trousers and belts. 
  • I came back with an extra 2 kg of fat and an idea for my blog...!!
How is that for a shopping day?

Friday, 2 November 2012

Smooth Operator

When I used to work full time, I relied heavily on delivery services. Any working mother would understand how difficult it is to take care of 2 toddlers while working full time crunching numbers behind computers. I am guilty of taking an easy way of feeding my kids for fast food lunches.

Hotline delivery numbers of Mc Donald’s, Ayamas, Domino’s Pizza and Roast Kitchen were stored as important numbers in my handphone. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t feed them fast food everyday. My maid usually cooked for them but there were days when she didn’t have anything in the fridge and I didn’t have time to do grocery shopping because I had to work until late at night.

I just love delivery service.  It saves my time and makes my kids happy.  I love those automated call centers that can detect my phone numbers right away so I don't need to tell them my phone numbers and full address anymore.

As much as I love those delivery services, sometimes calling a call center can be a real pain especially when the operator (or they call it consultant nowadays) can't really speak proper English or Bahasa, mumbles thru the whole conversation and has bad hearing problems.

I recall my experience last week that made me fuming mad.

I called Mc Donald's delivery service of 1-300-131-300 at 10.30 am to order breakfast for my kids and I. Usually it took me a brief 5 minutes to order the regular Sausage Mc Muffins. Last week it took me more than 20 minutes...!! I could have just driven to the nearest Mc Donald's and come back. Unfortunately my car was in service thus leaving me stranded at home.

When I called that hot line, instead of the regular familiar human voice, it was replaced with answering machine. Then the normal "phone banking tone" followed :

Press 1 for Bahasa Malaysia and press 2 for English. I pressed 2.

After I pressed no 2, I prepared myself to speak to a human. To my surprise, I heard another recorded voice saying :
For delivery status press 1, to place an order press 2.

I pressed 2 again.

Then this machine 'talked' to me : Please call 03.3029402 (i can't remember the numbers) to place an order.

I rushed like a mad woman trying to get a pen to write down the number. Just when I finally found a pen, the machine said : You have entered invalid number. Thank you for calling Mc Donald's. Good Bye. AAAraaarrrgghhh.. (.....take a deep breath, calm your mind, imagine the good times and smile..... the voice from my Yoga instructor ringing in my ears)

So.... with a pen and a piece of paper, I repeated the whole process, calling 1-300-131-300 again..... not to order, but just to get the numbers.

Finally I got the numbers written down. Then I called the new phone number.

I was greeted by the machine "Welcome to Mc Donald's" with the jinggle.. and listening to the whole promotion of bla bla bla... I waited for a good 3 minutes until a lady picked up the line and talked to me.

After all the wishy wooshy good morning, welcome greeting, etc. finally I told her that I wanted to place an order. To my horror... she said," I am sorry mam, if you want to place an order, please call 1-300-131-300."

I was fuming mad... I told her that I did call that number but the machine "TOLD" me that I had to call this number. (Isn't it crazy that now a machine "tells" a human what to do instead of a human commands a machine? And I am even a crazier woman to obey that machine). She insisted that she couldn't take my order and I had to call the number again. I told her all the ordeals I had to go thru previously. She said," Yes, I understand but you should ignore the message when it says calling this number. You should press no 2 again instead."

How on earth should I know that..??? I wanted to scream at her but I knew that it's not her fault. She didn't implement the system and I was sure I was not the only one who got irritated. I told her to tell the manager that the call center system is really bad now. She acknowledged that. She told me that they changed the management and the new management changed the whole call center system.

I almost gave up but I tried my best to keep my cool... The words from my motivational speaker talked to me : "When you give up, actually you are very very close to success." At that time success meant having the Sausages Mc Muffins infront of me..!!

So I followed the instructions given. Called the 1-300-131-300 again.... press 2 again, then 2 again, then 2 again. Finally it worked...!!

I ordered the breakfast sets. Yipeeeee....

When the operator asked me if there was anything else she could help me, I told her to tell the manager how bad the new system was. I told her my 20 minutes experience of calling the hotline. She apologized and again said that they just had a change in management who changed the whole system of call center. I told her to tell the manager to try placing an order thru 1-300-131-300 himself to feel how the customers feel.

I pity the operators. I am sure not everyone is as "cool" as me ... ;). From their calm tones, I am sure they get screamed and scolded at very often because of this. It seemed like they had expected me to scream at them...!

This is the classic case of the front-line employees got the slaps because of the upper management's decision.

I hope the management gets my message and revert to the old user-friendly system. Sometimes I still believe in the saying : If it ain't broken, don't fix it.

That morning, somehow the Sausage McMuffin didn't taste as nice... The whole experience made me lost the appetite for it. At that time suddenly I craved for some Steamy Hot Nasi Kukus Ilham with tongue-numbing Sambal Belacan and spicy Kuah Kari.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Nyarios Sunda

My husband's family hailed from Kelantan, one of the 9 states in Malaysia bordering with Thailand.  The Kelantanese culture, food and language are very different from other parts of Malaysia because they are heavily influenced by Thai.

All my in-laws have been living in Kuala Lumpur for more than 20 years but the connection with Kelantan is still very thick. Although fluent in both English and Bahasa Malaysia, my mother-in-law still talks in Kelantanese dialect, cooks and eats Kelantanese food (at least once a week) and uses the old traditional Kelantanese remedies when any of us gets sick (minyak mestika has always been in our cabinet).

When I first got married, everytime I met our Kelantanese relatives I would smile and smile and smile without uttering a single word.  I couldn't understand a single word they said.  They must be thinking that I was a very nice polite friendly "menantu" who loved to smile and didn't talk back even when they said bad things... (.... eeerrr... or maybe a stupid mute indon girl who only knew how to smile)

Over the years I learned more about the language.  I can understand it  much better than most people who live in Kuala Lumpur.  Although I can't really converse properly, I can understand 95% of Kelantanese conversation.  I grew to like their food and I learned to eat everything using my hands (without cutleries).  I could even eat the laksa using my bare fingers. Seriously...!!

My family was born and grew up in Bandung, the capital of West Java. Like Kelantanese, the people live in West Java have their own culture, food and tradition that are very different from other parts of Indonesia. All of us grew up speaking Sundanese, eating staple Sundanese food of nasi timbel, pepes tahu, ayam bakar, jambal roti and sambel terasi.  When we get sick, like all Sundanese, we always blame it on "masuk angin" (too much wind trapped in our bodies) or "panas dalam" (too much heat trapped in our bodies).  My husband once told me that it must be very easy to be a doctor in Bandung because there are only 2 major illnesses there.

Both my husband and I keep our mother tongues and traditions alive.  Until now I still speak in Bahasa Sunda with some of my friends and relatives.  Sometimes when I speak Bahasa Indonesia, it is heavily spiked with the Sundanese accent.  My friends used to make fun of me.  One of them even asked if I really went to US and lived there because I spoke like I just came back from Garut (a small town in West Java where everything is still very traditional).

I feel sad when the younger generations refuse to speak Bahasa Sunda.  They want to appear "Modern" by talking only in Bahasa Indonesia and English.  They think Bahasa Sunda is "kampung" and "not cool".  They think it is a useless language because it's only spoken in West Java.  They don't know that according to Wikipedia, Bahasa Sunda is spoken by 27 million people...!! More than Swedish (spoken by 10  million people).

I firmly believe that dialects have to be preserved.  The language, food and tradition of every culture should be kept alive.  It makes the world more interesting.  Imagine if everyone in the world speaks only English or Mandarin or Bahasa Indonesia or Spanish. It's really boring. isn't it? 

Every language is unique.  Not everything can be translated to English.  There are so many things in Bahasa Sunda that can't be translated to other language.  Until now I still can't find the right Bahasa Indonesia or English to translate or even describe the words "cileupeung" and "pikasebeleun". Sundanese use those words all the time and there is no word that can perfectly describe what they mean in other language.  Sundanese language is so rich and complex.  It is such a shame if urban kids in Bandung refuse to use it. 

Last year I went to this Indonesian restaurant in Kuala Lumpur for some Bakso (beef ball soup).  While I was waiting for my Bakso, I asked the waiter where he came from.  He said he came from Sukabumi.  Sukabumi is a small town 3 hours drive from my hometown.

Then I told him, "Mun ti Sukabumi mah tiasa atuh nyarios Sunda" (Since you are from Sukabumi, we can talk in Sundanese)

His reply, "Maaf, saya sudah lama kat sini, dah lupa Bahasa Sunda." (Sorry, I have been living here for a long time, I have forgotten Bahasa Sunda)

I asked him, "Memangnya sudah berapa lama tinggal di Malaysia?" (How long have you been living in Malaysia?)

His reply, "Sudah lama, sekitar 2 tahun." (Long time, 2 years already)

Aaaarggghhhh.... I feel like doing this to him....

Ciaaaatttttt...... (KICK his head)

Dzziiiiiiiiiiiiiiggggghhhhhh........ (and then SMACK his head)

He really annoyed me....!!

My only explanation why he has forgotten his mother language is because his brain is the size of a pea pod so he has to delete some memories to accomodate incoming new data. 

That's why I need to kick his head to make his brain swell into a normal size and then smack it to bring his conscious back..... Yes??

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sleeping Together...

Some of you will roll your eyes and tell me to get a room when you read this.  A few of you are probably in the same shoes with me.

Both my daughters have been sleeping in the same room with my husband and I.  We have been sleeping together since the day they were born.

Some of my friends think that I am being ridiculous.  They think that this arrangement is not good.  They  believe that I am not promoting independence towards my daughters. They also question the quality of my relationship with my husband. They also can't stand the ambiance of my bedroom with pink bedsheet and flowery pillows.

Before I made the decision on this sleeping arrangement, I had lengthy discussions with my husband and my mother.

My 4 siblings and I used to sleep together in the same room with my mom for at least 8 years.  I remember how she "combined" beds in the bedroom to prevent her kids from falling. She did what she did out of necessity and for practical reason.  She never thought about how sleeping arrangement could have emotional impact on the children. 

When I tried to analyze the impact of what she did, I can say that all of us grew up to be independent kids. I cooked my own meal during my primary school years albeit just fried eggs and fried rice. When I was just about 10 years old, I used to walk with my sister for swimming classes 2 km away from our house without any adult supervision.  When we were in high school, we went back from school taking public transportation. My bothers and sisters never had our parents pick us up from school. When I asked my mother how sleeping together with the children had affected her relationship with my father, she smiled and said, "We are still together, aren't we? And I think with 5 children, I can say that we were quite "productive".

When I discussed this with my husband, he said that we would only have the kids for 12 years at most.  After that we would be lucky if they don't ask to have some privacies.  He really believes in enjoying our time together as long as we can.

Fast forward to now... I am glad I decided to sleep together with our kids.  My mother has been right.  I love the 15 minutes we have together before the children sleep.  When they were younger, my husband and I used to take turns telling them bedtime stories.  Now we talk about anything and nothing.  Sometime we watch crazy stupid commercials on YouTube and have good laughs on the bed.  I love their smells when they sleep.  I love the feeling of hugging them at night. One night my daughter woke up in the middle of the night and recorded her daddy's snore using the ipad..!! 

We are moving to our new house soon.  My daughters will have to sleep in a different room.  I believe it's time for me to let them have their own spaces.  Part of me is relieved because I will soon be able to roll my back freely on the bed. I can have my white cotton-satin bedsheet back. I won't be kicked in the middle of the night anymore...

But part of me is also sad... Although it's just a room away, I feel like they are going away from me.. I know it's crazy but this thing has been bugging me for weeks now.  I am so tempted to move their beds into my room..!

But then I am reminded again by Sting : If your love someone, set them free.

And by Khalil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Honeymoon is over baby....

My husband and I planned our honeymoon months before we got married.  We planned to explore South of Spain, backpacking around Granada, Seville and Alhambra.  We bought street maps for those cities (those days we had no google earth) and enrolled in Spanish class.  We were so excited and looking forward to sampling authentic tapas, strolling the pebble-stone streets while enjoying the unique architectures and immersing ourselves in the foreign culture.  Since I couldn't dance as well as my husband, he enrolled me in Latin dance classes so that we could dance in every club we planned to visit.

It's been 14 years since we planned that trip and it NEVER happened...!! After all the Spanish classes and Latin dance classes, we couldn't go to Spain because my husband couldn't leave his on-going office project for too long and when he finished his project, I had unsolved problems with immigration.  Then I got my first job, preventing me from taking long leave.  After that I got pregnant and had my kids... Those who have kids know very well that we can forget travelling for years... So the honeymoon had to wait and wait and wait...

To compensate for the "lost honeymoon", we went for a lot of short weekend trips, travelling to Penang, Pulau Pangkor, Melaka, Singapore, Bangkok, Bali, Kuantan, Cameron Highlands, Fraser Hills and many other places in the region.  We managed to travel at least once a month, stretching our waists wider everytime we came back to KL. 

During those trips we behaved like two carefree teenagers, trying out small cute hotels that turned out to be horrible places to sleep, discovering new wonderful warongs in small towns, dressing up for fine dining in hotels, devouring countless buffets and singing off tune while driving on the freeway.

It was one of the best time of my life....

Now when I think about those trips, I feel that those trips worth more than our planned Spain honeymoon.  We had a long 3 years honeymoon instead of just 3 weeks in Spain. 

After those 3 years, I got pregnant and started our "real life" : changing diapers, sleepless nights, chasing kids, birthday parties full of screaming and crying kids, monthly visits to paeditricians, etc... I did all that while working full time.  I don't know how I did it but I did.  I couldn't wait until my daughters grow up.  I wanted them to grow up as fast as possible so I could eat peacefully, I could go shopping without interruptions, I could go to movies, I could travel with my girlfriends, etc.

Fast forward to now... My eldest is 9 and my youngest is 6, I feel time flew so fast.  Both my daughters don't really need my attention 24 hours a day anymore. Sometimes they refused to go with me, preferring to stay home watching TV or play with Ipad instead.  My eldest even stopped kissing me.  I am the one who have to kiss her now. How I miss her kissing me more than 10 times a day when she was younger.  How I miss her telling me : You are the best mommy in the whole wide world.  How I miss her glued to my feet everywhere I went.  I am glad I have my youngest daughter to compensate for the lost affections. I am enjoying her kissing me all day with her oil-stained lips and hugging me tightly whenever she sits next to me.  I am savouring every moment, clinging to the very last drop of it.

I am now taking my life slowly... very very slowly.... Now I understand why the older we get, the slower we become... Life is to short to live in the fast lane..

Life is short.. (specially if you are not a catwalk model)
Be kind.. (not to the thieves though)
Forgive quickly... (this one you really should)
Kiss slowly.(don't forget to gargle, bad breath is a no no)
Love trully.. (only to those who deserve it)
Laugh uncontrollably.. (make sure no spinach on your teeth)
Dance as if no one is looking.. (to the tune of course..)
Never regret anything that makes you smile.. (no matter how silly it is)

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Fighting my own demon...

I've been struggling to make peace with the word of "discipline". I have always been a procastinator, pending things to the last minute. I had made myself look crazy and stupid because of that bad habit of mine. During my college years, I used to postpone studying for exams til the last day. I remember studying until 4am for my 8am test just because I wasted one month doing nothing. I was lucky that I could ace the tests but a week after that usually I forgot everything I learned.

When I started working, I didn't really have any issue with being a procastinator because due to the heavy workload, I didn't have time to postpone anything. Everything had to be done ASAP. Now I learn that I perform better if I have very limited time but slack when I have plenty of time. If I am given a week to do a day's worth of job, I would wait until the end of the week to start doing it.

With fasting month is around the corner, I am racing to make up for the lost fasting days last year. I could have fasted within the past 10 months and yet I just started last week... I still have 2 more days to fast and this durian season has been a big temptation. Eating durian warms our body temperature which make us feel thirstier. How can I fast when I want to eat my durian? It sounds really ridiculous but I seriously cancelled my fast few times because of the durian.

My husband tempted me... He bought 2 huge Musang King durian. Musang King Durian is very sweet, creamy, rich with very thick pungent flesh and tiny seeds. It is really the King of the King of Fruit... When the King visits you, how can you refuse him?  There I was, giving in to temptation... welcoming the ugly-thorny-looking-pungent-smelly king with wide open hands...... I felt bad... but again, come on.. it's THE KING...!!!! Besides, I have one more week to redeem it...

I am going back to school.  I started a 9-month course in Internet Commerce last month.  I was inspired by a few brave strong mommies who had gone back to school to pursue their passions of learning.  Some of them had to work full time, cook for their families, clean the house, do laundry and take care of the kids while doing assignments from school.  All of them told me it was tough... but all of them completed their courses.  I admired them... A LOT...!! I was embarassed to complain about my housework.. I have a maid to help me and I only work part-time, so I have no reason not to do it.  Besides, my husband was super supportive when I told him I wanted to go back to school.  He actually envied me.. He has always wanted to go back to school and learn more about Islamic Finance but he prefers to wait until retirement... I told him that we'll take turns..

Now that I am a student again, I am reminded of my bad habit : procastinate.  I am kicking it as hard as I can.  I started my assignment three weeks before the due date and I force myself to do a little work everyday.  It is hard but I am glad I am kicking that procastination away... I have a very weird sleeping pattern now... I start doing my assignment at 11pm (after everyone sleeps and no more interesting program on TV) and usually finish around 1.30am.  I wake up at 6am to prepare the kids and send them to school.  Then breakfast with my husband.  Once he leaves, I go back to bed... doze off until 10am before I resume my day. 

I thank God for being able to afford that kind of lifestyle.... Sleeping late is really the only luxury I have now...

But my maid, Inem, is getting annoyed... She doesn't understand that I actually "work" infront of my computer at home.  She told me that I have been "playing too much" on the computer.  I told her that I am back in school and studying but she just doesn't understand.  For her, school is for children.

When she noticed that I went back to sleep after my husband went to work, she asked me if I were pregnant...!! Whoooohaaa... No way...

My Inem has been giving me this look for a month now... I am trying to read her mind and her mind said that she should be alert, her employer is having a mid-life crisis, lying about going back to school... just to find excuses to be lazy and sleeping late...

Watch it Inem... 9 months from now, I will get my Diploma and stick it on the wall so you know I am not lying and I am not having a mid-life crisis.. (unless I told her that I plan to take diving course and art classes that will require me to go on vacation more often)

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Beauty IS at the eyes of the beholder..

In rural Africa, the fatter a woman is the more beautiful she is.  Before a girl is married out, she will be force fed until she becomes very fat... very beautiful... (how I wish people who live around me think like them.. :)

Hundreds of years ago, the prettiest woman in China was a woman whose feet were perfectly bound at  the size of 7 cm.  Men got excited and aroused when they saw those tiny feet...

Definition of beauty differs in each culture... Perception of beauty differs for every single human being.  I once argued with my husband about this beautiful model.  With fair creamy flawless skin, big eyes, slim body and long black hair, I thought she was very beautiful.  When I mentioned it to my husband, he said she looks like Michael Jackson...!! I was shocked... He didn't notice all the qualities I saw in her but he did notice that she had artificial-look slim nose like Michael Jackson's.

From the wikipedia, I read that beauty is a characteristic of a person, animal, place, object, or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction.

So whatever brings an experience of pleasure and satisfaction is beautiful. We get pleasure and satisfaction not only from what we see, but also from what we taste, what we touch, what we hear and most importantly from what we feel... 

I do believe that everyone CAN be beautiful regardless whether he/she is born fat, skinny, fair, dark, short, tall, handicapped or perfect as long as he/she brings pleasurable experience to the people around him/her.

I also believe that a person needs to take care of himself/herself to be beautiful.  I met one lady who kept complaining that she was ugly that's why she is never approached by men.  If I just look at her, I can see that she is beautiful... She is definitely slimmer and taller than me with perfect skin and big eyes.  But when I met her, a lot of times I couldn't stand being with her for more than 15 minutes.  She talked non-stop, bitching about everyone in her life who has been making her life miserable.. She has very strong body odour.. She doesn't care about the way she dresses because I could see stains and loose thread on her dress, all the time... She always put her hair up in a clip, never bother to comb it properly.. She talks with her mouth full of food, splatting food and saliva in the air.  After awhile, I couldn't see her beauty anymore... I finally believe her when she said she was ugly... She IS ugly.. but not because how she looks but because the way she behaves...

I really want to tell her that... but she is not a close friend of mine and I am afraid that she will take it differently, so I let her be ugly instead...

On another hand, I have a plump friend with small eyes and freckles on her face.  By most people's standard, she is nowhere close to being pretty.. But her husband is crazy about her.. She has tons of friends who would go to the end of the world to make her smile.. She loves life.. She is full of live.. Being with her makes me feel good.. She brings so much joy and laughters to the people around her.  She jokes about her extra 30 kg above BMI.  She never talks bad about other people, she always smells like she just gets out of a shower, she dresses like a lady who has millions of dollars although she bought the dress at a bargain shop and she never let her hair get messy or oily or (God forbid) smelly when she meets anybody...  She has such a profound dignity and respect for herself.  She makes herself beautiful.  She feels beautiful... I really think she is one gorgeous lady...

@Ladies...: Let's be beautiful..

@Men...: Please learn how to think like a rural African tribe..

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Happy Father's Day

A father is expected to be the captain who bring the ship to sail
A father is expected to bring food, comforts and wealths to the family
A father is expected to make the RIGHT decisions for the family all the time
A father is expected to know everything the family members ask
A father is expected to be composed all the time
A father is expected to be the plumber, electrician, porter, banker, driver, and technician of the family

A father is expected to be the pillar of strengths when things go wrong
A father is expected to be the protector of the family
A father is expected to be perfect...

It is very tiring to be a father...

Being a father is as difficult as being a mother...

Sometimes we forget that they are just normal human beings who struggle to learn about fatherhood, who make mistakes, who need to be told and advised, who need to be understood, who long to be pampered, who want to be care-free, who want to be goofy and crazy...

This Sunday, my daughters and I will let the father in our family to snore until the walls shatter, to play piano as long as he wants and as loud as he can, to play golf until he can't walk anymore, to eat his nasi daun pisang until he can't get up, and to watch football uninterrupted until his eyes sore.... 

Happy Father's Day everyone....

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Everywhere same same lah... :)

When I met my Indonesian friends back home, I was frequently asked on whether I prefer to live in Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta/Bandung? My answer has always been the same.. No preferrence.  Most of them didn't believe me, of course, thinking that living overseas must be better.

I believe each country has its own charms and curses.

I love KL because it's where my family is.  It's a vibrant city filled with people from all over the world that contribute to the varied international eateries.  I love the fact that I can have affordable authentic Indian food for breakfast, Lebanese food for lunch, French pastries for tea break, Korean BBQ for dinner and Chinese food for supper. And the next day, I can have nasi lemak for breakfast, pasta for lunch, shawarma for tea break, tom yum for dinner and burger for supper.  I don't need to go to fancy restaurants or hotels to sample those food... I can find them almost anywhere in KL.  

In Jakarta and Bandung, eateries are mostly Indonesian food.  Most of western and "exotic" eateries charge exorbitant prices, nestled in fancy malls or 5-star hotels.  Those that charge decent prices serve food that have lose its authenticity or taste nothing like how it should be. 

I also love KL for its parks. While KL people complain for the lack of public parks, I feel that the parks in KL are very nice.  I love taking my kids to Lembah Kiara Park near my house where they can play in the playground, feed the tortoises and fish in the lake, walk into the small forrest behind it and do some exercises on the monkey bars.  I also enjoy Royal Lake Club for the serene lake, lush tropical gardens with lots of beautiful flowers and the huge playground where my kids can jump and run and climb freely.  All of them doesn't cost me a single sen. I don't need to beat traffic jam, search for parking space or find a special day to be in a park.

Jakarta and Bandung don't have free public park. If there is a small plot of land, traders will occupy it to sell bakso, pisang goreng, soto or anything that sells.  Free playground doesn't exist and people throw rubbish everywhere in open air, waiting for cleaners to sweep it for them. 

But one thing I don't like about KL is the feeling that I am not safe even when I am in my own house.  Most houses in KL are fully grilled.  I used to feel like I lived in a jail but I have no choice but to accept that without all those grilles, anybody can rob my house easily. 

I long to have a house like those in Indonesia where we can have courtyards and open garden in the middle of the house, without any grille. 

When I walk in a crowded place in Indonesia, I feel safe because if someone steals from me or does something bad to me, all I need to do is just scream and everyone will help.  In KL, everybody minds their own business. You can scream all you want, people would just stare at you.  The best thing that might happen is they might call the police using their mobile. By the time the police comes, the robbers will fled miles away.

I recall my experience 11 years ago.  I just finished a diner meeting with a friend and my husband at Pizza Hut near my house and walked into the car park when a group of 6 men in 3 motorcycles attacked my friend and tried to snatch her handbag. My first response was to scream so people would help (there were about 10 people nearby).  I expected my friend to let go her bag, scream and run.  Everything happened so fast.. I ran trying to get into the Pizza Hut asking the people to help. Instead of helping, the manager locked the door...!! We were there, stunned and nobody helped us until the thieves left us.  The manager only opened the door after he saw the thieves sped away.  None of the people there asked if we needed help.... all just stared...

If this thing happened in Indonesia, everyone in the vicinity would chase those 6 men, the diners would leave their pizza to join the crowd to beat, tie and send the robbers to the police station.  The kitchen crew would probably bring their butcher knives and join the fun too... Civilized people say that it's inhuman to take law into our own hands.  I would say it's street justice.  Because of that, no one dares to snatch or steal in crowded places in Indonesia. Over there life is simple, don't rob or steal if you don't want to be caught and beaten. It's not that there is no crime in Indonesia.  There are lots of them but as long as we are in crowded place, I can say we are pretty safe.  Here in KL, I feel  unsafe regardless where it is.

I love Indonesia for its friendly shop keepers, waiters, bank tellers and cashiers. They smile and serve customers pleasantly because they understand that their salaries depend on their employers' businesses.  If they are rude, they receive no business, the shops closed down and they will be out of job.  Again.. over there life is simple, give good service or you are out of business/job.

And of course the hair salons in Jakarta and Bandung are the best.... Most of them operate from houses, offering comforts, relaxing and less intimidating ambiance.  Not to mention all the food we can actually savour when we do our hair.  I used to go to my salon at 9am only to finish around 3pm, doing my body scrub, body massage, milk bath, steam bath, cream bath, menicure, pedicure and hair styling.  It all comes at a very reasonable price.

I have met few friends who long to live overseas and complain on every single thing about Malaysia. But when they live overseas, they envy me for having a maid to clean my house, do the dishes and be able to eat out several times a week without poking large holes in my wallet.

Well.... no country in this world is perfect. It all depends on what is important in our lives, whether we want safety, parks, public transports, comforts, affordability, entertainment, lights n glitz, climates, culture or even a simple culinary adventure.  No country has it all and we can't have it all...

Thursday, 10 May 2012

A Tribute to my late grandmother....

I was reminded of my late grandmother this mother's day.

Ema, that was how we called her, was a Peranakan, an Indonesian Chinese whose ancestors had lived in Indonesia for hundreds of years, absorbing Indonesian cultures more than Chinese cultures.  She wore Kebaya instead of Cheong Sam, she spoke Bahasa Indonesia, Betawi and Sundanese instead of Mandarin, and she cooked Chicken Curry and Lontong during Chinese New Year instead of Shark's Fin Soup.  Her parents died when she was young so she lived with her aunt in Udik, a small village just 50 km away from Jakarta.

She was married at young age to my late grandfather, Ihkoong, who came from China.  I don't know how they comunicated because Ema didn't speak Mandarin or Hok Chiu while my Ihkoong didn't speak Bahasa Indonesia.  I think they communicated in Sundanese, the dialect spoken at my hometown.  From what I recall, on the rare occasion that I actually spoke with him, I only spoke in Sundanese with my Ahkoong.

Few years after the marriage, Ihkoong took 3 more women to be his wives and numerous women to be his girlfriends, causing a lot of pains and heartaches to Ema. Being just a housewife with 5 children, she couldn't do anything but accepted her fate.  I once asked her why she didn't run away and divorce him.  She said if she left, she wouldn't be able to feed her children because she had no money and no place to live. Besides, although Ahkoong was a lousy husband, he was a very good father.... His children adored him...
She lived in the same house with the third wife and her 4 step-children.  She told me that it was hell, living under the same roof with someone who stole her husband.  They used to fight, argue, and compete to win Ahkoong's attentions. She lived like that for more than 20 years.

During that time, she ignored her feeling towards her husband and concentrated on raising her children. She loved children so much that she treated all the children from the other wives with affections.  She told me that those children were innocent, only the father who was a B%#T?RD.

After her children were all grown up and married, she moved to Lembang, a small village by the mountain, about 30 km away from Bandung.  She lived there with a maid. I remember my parents visited her almost every Sunday.  Sometimes Ihkoong was there but most of the time he was somewhere else.  When I saw him there, I usually said hello to him and left. He never talked or hugged or did anything like a normal grandfather does to his grandchildren. He didn't even remember my name.  But I understand, it must be difficult for him to remember the names of 14 children, 35 grandchildren and countless girlfriends...

Ema lived in "exile' until Ihkoong died.  During the "exile" period, she didn't go to Bandung at all.  She only met her children and grandchildren when they visited her. She calmed herself by gardening, farming, sewing, praying, reading and cooking for neighbours.  She was an avid reader.... Her room was full of books and newspapers.  I perfected my Sundanese language by reading her Mangle magazine, the only Sundanese magazine available at that time.

When Ihkoong died, Ema moved in with my parents.  While the other wives inherited hectares of land, factories, houses and cash, Ema was left only with her children...... no cash, no land, no house....  But among all of them, she was the one who lived peacefully... no fighthing of inheritance amongst her children.  Others fought fiercely on their portions creating enemies among siblings.
The 10 years she lived with my parents was the time when I became closer to her..... Listening to her life story, I learned a lot about love, about being patient, about sacrifice, about the importance of being financially independent, about forgiveness..... but most of all, about unconditional love of a mother.  She lived a very painful life but she still managed to spread love for her children.  She sacrified her life for her children's wellbeing.  I am sure she got angry a lot of times but she never took it on her children. 

Sometimes I wondered if I ever had to experience her life (knock knock knock on wood 100x), I think I might be a very bitter, unpleasant, angry and grumpy woman.  I don't think I would be able to be nice to anybody, more so to the innocent step children.  I would probably swallow Zanac or Valium everyday, living like a zombie.  But Ema survived without being bitter.  I never saw her angry.  Yes, sometimes she seemed like she didn't care about us, her grandchildren.. But how could she care when she had so many things that upset her life?  Until now my aunties, my step-uncles, my step-aunties, my father, my mother, and even my maid (she used to care for Ema before she died) only have good things to talk about her.

During the last few years of her life, she forgot a lot of things. She forgot who I was, she forgot that my father was married, she tought my mother was a girl who flirted with her son, she forgot that Japanese war was over, and she forgot the value of money. But there was one thing that she always remembered to do everyday around 6pm : she waited at the front door waiting for Ahkoong to come back.  After waiting for about an hour, usually she would go inside the house with a sad face and told me that her husband was not coming back tonight.  She would then go to her room and stare at the ceiling quietly...

I cried when I saw her like that and I hated my Ihkoong even more.  Even after he died, he still hurt her feeling.

Months before she passed away at the age of 85, she told us that she wanted to be cremated and her ashes should be released in the ocean or river. She refused to be buried next to her husband.  She prepared a bundle of things she wanted to "bring" when she died.  Inside, my mother found her Kitab Wedha, the Buddhist Holy Book, her favourite kebayas and batiks, some photographs and few hairpins.  We did as she wanted us to do and scattered the ashes at Ciliwung River, near Jakarta.

This blog is for her... I wish she were still alive and I could write this in Bahasa Sunda so she could read this.

To everyone who reads this blog, please be kind to your mother as we don't know what kind of pains and sorrows that she had been holding inside her to give us a good life.  A mother's love is unconditional... While we can't match our mother's love, at least we can love, care, understand and be patient with her as much as we can...

Happy Mother's Day....!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Long time no see...

I have been living outside my hometown, Bandung, since I was 18 years old.  The distance has been making it difficult for me to meet my relatives and childhood friends on regular basis.  When I worked in Jakarta, I went back to Bandung almost every weekend but most of the time I spent it with my parents and siblings. 

But sometimes when I went for wedding invitations and funerals, I did get to meet a lot of people.  At that time I was still single and didn't have any clue who my husband would be so I usually went to those occasions with my parents.

When I met those relatives and friends, everybody would ask me the same question,"Do you have any boyfriend?"  "When would we get wedding invitation from you?"

When I answered that I had no boyfriend and they would need to wait longer, MOST of them said, "You shouldn't be so picky, you are getting old.  Remember that you are over 25 already." 

At first I got irritated but then after awhile I got used to it and just ignored them.

After I got married and moved to Malaysia, I went home usually only during Chinese New Year.  At that time there was no direct flight to Bandung and no direct freeway from Jakarta to Bandung.  Going home meant 9 hours of very tiring travelling time but I needed to do that to meet my relatives n friends at least once a year.

This time when I met them, they changed the question : "When are you going to have babies? You know, it is dangerous to give birth if you are too old."

I was irritated.... but again I got used to it.

Now that I have 2 daughters, when I get home, the question changed to: "Don't you want to try for a baby boy?"

Aaarrrrrggghhhhh..... I just couldn't believe that I still had to put up with all those questions.

I usually smiled and said that I am happy with my daughters and I don't think a son is necessary for my husband and I.  We believe daughters and sons are equally precious.

While I still can stand all those questions, there is one remark that I really can't stand.  I always get it everytime I go back home.... from 20 years ago UNTIL NOW....

 "Hi... long time no see... By the way, you look fatter..."

Aaaaaarrrrggghhhhh Dzzziiiggggggggg....!!

It's totally unbelievable....!! If I have not seen someone for a long time, I usually ask," How are you?" then we will update each other's lives.

Those people who gave me the remarks apparently don't know that I do have a scale at home.  I use it everyday hoping that one day a miracle happens and the numbers make me smile.  I don't need to be reminded that I am heavier by day.  I also happen to have a big mirror that accentuates every curves, ripples and stitches I have. 

I understand that they don't really care if I am fat or thin, they just want to make conversations.  But I guess this is where teaching manner is important.  As a parent I try to educate my kids not to make negative remarks unnecessarily, to be polite, to be honest, to be kind, to be courteous, etc etc.  Cambridge and Harvard do not teach this thing. It all comes back to the family unbringing.

Despite of everything I told my daughters not to say or do, my eldest once said that I am fat.  When I told her that she shouldn't say that, she said, "Mommy, you told me to tell the truth and I am telling you the truth, I swear..... If you don't believe me, I can show you your fat...."

Aaaaaaaaarrrrrgghhhhhhh Dzzziiiigiigigggggg....!!!!!!!!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Am I really a banana?

When I was younger, I despised anything called "traditional".  I was obsessed with everything "modern".  I loved to see modern houses and modern furniture and I only liked to wear "modern" clothes.  At that time my perception of modern was everything with western feel and western looks which I got mostly from Hollywood movies.

I was even more "modernized" after I came back from studying in US.  I shamefully admitted that my husband was right when he bluntly told me that I was a "banana".  At that time I didn't know what he meant as we didn't have that expression in Indonesia.  He explained that banana is the term used for Asians who have yellow skins but their hearts and souls are very much "white", like the westerners.  I brushed it off and didn't really take it seriously. 

When I had my first baby, I refused to do the post-natal traditional treatments.  My mother-in-law and my mother told me that I would regret it. Being a stubborn mule, I only believed in western medicine.  I told them that the "mat-sallehs" or "bule" or westerners didn't have massages and berpantang (avoid several types of food) but they can go to supermarket within a week after delivery.  They are all fine...

When we met our relatives, I told my daughters to just address them with aunties and uncles so they wouldn't be confused. I spared them the difficulties of remembering who to call "ayah su" (youngest uncle in malay) or "icong" (younger uncle from mother's side - in hakka) or "kumah" (grand auntie - in hok chiu).

For the past few years, I have grown spiritually (and physically... unfortunately sideways..) by reading various books, meeting different people, and experiencing things that opened my heart and made me view life from different angles. I have grown to appreciate the beauty of traditions and understand how important it is to preserve them.

Having read the Chinese cultural revolution and see how different the Chinese cultures in China now, I feel obligated to avoid being like them. Long time ago, the Chinese had so many titles to address their relatives.  In English, a brother is a brother.  But in Chinese, there is no such thing as a brother. It has to be specific, whether he is the eldest brother (Ta Ke), older brother (Ke Ke), or younger brother (Ti Ti). Each has a different title. The same goes with uncles, aunts, sisters, and grandparents.  With the one-child policy in place, all those titles are gone.  The new generation do not have siblings, thus they won't experience calling someone Ti Ti or Mei Mei (younger sister) or Ta Cie (eldest sister) or Ayi (auntie). Imagine if the word uncle or aunt dissappear from English vocabulary.  I think it is very sad...

So when I gave birth to my second daughter, I decided to follow both Chinese and Malay Post-Natal Care.  OMG... I felt soooo stupid. I should have done it since my first delivery... It felt so nice to have makcik urut massage me twice a week.  The hot herbal stone treatment (bertungku) totally relaxed my muscles.  I loved the fact that I was not allowed to do housework at all during the 30-day confinement period. I think the westerners would be super jealous if they know how pampered we are after we give birth...!!

I found that I have such an interesting and beautiful traditions to preserve.  Being children from a mixed-race marriage, my children should have a richer tradition and experience in their lives.  I believe it is my duty to make them interested and keep our family traditions. 

But my karma is coming back to me... my daughters are all too westernized now.  They prefer reading Geronimo Stilton compared to Bawang Putih Bawang Merah.  They frawn everytime I ask them to wear cheongsam or baju kurung or kebaya.  But I will persevere.... like my parents... I hope eventually they will grow out their "westernization" and appreciate their unique cultures.

Now I can tell my husband that his banana wife has changed... Still a banana (coz I still prefer English songs to Keroncong music) but not the regular American Dole Banana... I am the Pisang Kepok, the type of Indonesian banana which has yellow skin and even yellower flesh. Ooohhhh I love this kind of banana... very rich and flavourful, especially when it's baked into a pastry like Pisang Molen.

the regular banana

Pisang kepok, the flesh and skin are equally yellow

even the raw banana has yellow flesh

my fave banana pastry (pisang molen) from Bandung

Monday, 9 April 2012

My New Love Affair....

It is such a weird feeling.... I never thought I would feel like this towards him.
He came at a very unexpected time of my life... at a time when I don’t want to be bothered with anything that put me in emotional roller coaster.
But he made me addicted...
Every morning I smile when I hear his voice
Every night before I sleep, I sneak out from my bedroom to hear his voice
The voice alone could make me feel happy and blushed... making botox unnecessary
The way he looks at me really makes my heart melt
When he touches me, it is always gentle
And when I touch him, the sensation is so wonderful and calming
Everyday I have to hear his voice and I have to see him
I never thought I could ever feel like this towards Perry...
He came to my house one night and refused to leave.  At first I was irritated and shooed him away.  I even splashed him with water and he didn"t budge.
He dropped by in our house every day and night without fail, making our garden as his sanctuary.
After awhile we relented, let him stay and even gave him a name...
My youngest daughter named her Catty Perry coz she is a big fan of Katty Perry and she thought Catty is a perfect name for a cat. Coincidently, my next-door neighbour had been calling him Catty since the first time he came into our neighbourhood.  And to confirm that he likes his new name, he responds when someone calls him Catty.

I had never been a pet lover before.  Don’t get me wrong...... I love animals but I don’t have the passion and patient to take care of animals.  I can’t commit myself to bath, feed and clean animals.  I had my share in changing diapers for years and I don’t miss the stinky smell at all.
My families in Bandung have always had dogs in their houses but never have a cat.  I grew up surrounded by dogs and fish as pets.  I know that I could fall in love with dogs easier than with cats.  Dogs take care of their owners while cats need to be taken care of.  Cats are divas while dogs are servant... (and of course, I need a servant, NOT a diva in my life...).  I never know any cat who defends her owner when he/she is attacked by a robber or any cat who brings shoes and newspaper for the owner.
In fact, I used to hate cats.  Sorry, but I have bad experiences with cats... I had stray cats doing picnics, meetings, and all sort of things in my garden, leaving behind stinky poops, urines and vomits.  My maid and I tried everything to stop those cats from coming to our garden, spending lots of money and efforts.  Finally last year my maid came up with brilliant idea of sprinkling ground chillies on the ground.  We were "cat free" for a good one year... What a nice feeling to be able to open my windows without greeted by the stench from cat litters...  
I am also allergic to cat fur.  I get itchy and rashes when cat furs touch my skin.  And I really hate cat’s lice.  My skin is very sensitive to the lice.  When I get bitten, the itch will not go away for more than a week.  The itchiness is so intense that once I dropped a hot candle wax on it to kill the itch.
Now I already have a few bite marks from the lice on my feet, forcing me to embarrassingly scratch myself like a mad woman... I have to clean his sandbox... I have to share my pocket money to buy her expensive food and shampoo (his shampoo is more expensive than mine..!!).  I have to send her regularly to the Vet for vaccination and lice treatment.  It’s like having a new baby in the house... My commitment increased and my pocket money decreased... 
How did I get to be like this?  I tolerate all of those things... with a smile...!! Despite the itchiness, the rashes and the extra work I have to do to take care of him, I still love him..  I never thought I would do something like this. 
I never thought I would fall in love again....
But again, as I said before....  we can’t really plan on who and when we will fall in love with.....  
As of now, my whole family is in love with Catty Perry.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

40 is the new 20... Definitely NOT...!!

My 40th birthday went uneventful last year, spending it together with Hari Raya holiday in Bangkok with my in-laws. Nothing special happened and I didn't feel any difference between celebrating my 31st, 35th or 40th birthday. At that time, turning 40 was just a number.

Last week, suddenly I could really feel "The 40 Effect". I was just resting when all these feelings came unannounced. There was this voice knocking on my head and said,"Hey you, you have spent half of your life already." The voice woke me up like an electric shock. Although I had always realized that my youth has long abandoned me, since a 20-year-old college student called me auntie..;(, only last week I felt that I am actually "not-so-young-anymore"..! Seriously...

What have I done in the first half of my life? What would I do on the next half?

I can tell you I did so many stupid, silly, crazy, embarassing, dangerous, nasty and ridiculous things during that first half. Along the way, I did hurt several people with my words and actions. How I wish I could tell those people how sorry I am, how stupid and inconsiderate I was. I told myself not to be as stupid, compulsive, erratic, and selfish in the second half of my life.

While most westerners celebrate youths and despise growing old, I find myself enjoying my wisdom age. A lot of people told me how nice it was to be young again... To be 17 again.. OMG, I don't think I want to be 17 again..! I can't imagine wearing huge shoulder pads with big Janet Jackson hair and Madonna net stocking..! (I still have my horrid pictures that make my husband laughing and teasing me nonstop).

I don't want to be broken heart and crying over lost love again (I m still stuck with huge eyebags). I don't want to study until 3am and have to go for exams anymore. I still have nightmares about being unprepared for pop quizz and forgetting homeworks. I don't want to endanger people with my zig zag driving anymore. I don't want to do embarassing things anymore (too many to count).

Turning 40 makes me feel more relax. I don't care about what strangers think about me. I am done trying to impress people. I know what's important in my life. I can finally differentiate between love, lust, in love and like. I can now live with the fact that different is good and arguments are not always bad. I can think using my brain instead of relying purely on my feeling.  I can see inner beauty behind imperfections. I can see evil behind sweet pretty faces.

The only downside of turning 40 is I can't eat 8 greasy meals a day without worrying about my cholesterol and my waist anymore.  While I gained weight easily, I could also lose it fast.  My weight in a week could be as volatile as the stock market.  Now... once it goes up..... It really stays there for weeks no matter how many times I hit the gym or do my Janet Jackson moves.

Other than that, 40 is fabulous.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

No more wild party and flirting, brother....

My youngest brother ended his single life last week. He had a very romantic and intimate beach-front wedding on sunset surrounded by close relatives and friends. When I said close, I really mean super tightly close that made my mom roll her eyes and wanted to scream.

He wanted to get married in this beautiful private villa in Bali that can only accomodate a maximum of 80 people. While it may be normal in the West to have a small intimate wedding, it's nearly impossible to have it in Asia. The allocation for groom's family was only 30 pax, with the rest was divided among bride's family and their friends. My mother had a very difficult time trying to figure out how to tell our relatives that she couldn't invite them for the wedding. She tried to make my brother change his mind but he had his own idea of his dream wedding and we had to respect that. In the end, my parents decided to invite ONLY their siblings, without the children (my cousins) and none of their friends. They were embarrassed and feeling so bad for not being able to invite everybody....

I could see how happy my brother was on his wedding day. He really had his dream wedding. Despite the initial rejection of having a small wedding, my parents had a great time... Spending really intimate, quality time with their brothers and sisters, with their in-laws, with my grandmother, with my brothers and sister, with their grand children and the bride's family. It was really a celebration of love. Everything was so beautiful that I got emotional. I couldn't hold my tears when both of them said their wedding vows. The tears loosened the glue on my right false lashes. It peeled off and stuck on my tissue...!! Heck, I peeled off the other lashes out... It was not my wedding anyway, the false lashes may go..

When I talked to my friends about this small wedding, their first question was, "How could your mom approve it?" From my siblings' and my weddings, I learned from my parents about being unselfish, about giving the best wedding presents to their children (by trying to make it a stress-free wedding) and about giving freedom to their children (people say freedom is the best thing in life).

My younger sister had to shake hands with 2,000 guests on her wedding day.  It consisted mainly of my parents's business associates, friends and relatives. She was sent to Emergency Room at 2am after the party due to exhaustion. But she was very happy because she had her dream wedding... She loved and had always wanted a big wedding.

Everybody has a different idea of his/her dream wedding. I am so thankful to have parents who let their children have their own dream weddings although sometimes they had to hold the embarrassment when their friends asked them why they were not invited.

I had a small wedding too... I only had 330 close friends and relatives. I only invited relatives and friends who still communicated with me regularly, who were in my life constantly. I didn't invite distant relatives whom I saw once in 4 years (or more) and acquaintances who didn't even know my last name. I wanted to celebrate the happiest day of my life with people who really knew me, who cared and loved me... Not people who just wanted to see how my husband looked like, whether I look ugly in my dress, what kind of food was served or even worse, those who wanted to get some ingredients to make juicy gossips. I met this lady who told me, "I really want to see how your husband looks like because I was not invited to your wedding.". I was surprised that after 12 years, this fella still remembered that she was not invited to my wedding. From the way she said it, it clearly showed that she really wanted to tell me that she was not happy being excluded. However I was so glad I didn't have her on my wedding because she falls into the third group: people who come to weddings to get materials for juicy gossips. I knew it because right after that she gave me this interview of my husband and his family background. I just ignored her.... It's simply none of her business and I didn't want to waste my time for her noisy stuff.

While my wedding was done exactly like I wanted, actually I had always known that the wedding itself was not really that important. The Marriage is. A lot of people concentrate too much on the weddings but after that forgotten about the seriousness of marriages.  Marriage is a long journey that makes couples smile, smittened, daydreaming, laugh, and experience the most intense feelings of love.  But it also makes couples cry, fight, angry, sad, frown and experience the most intense feeling of hatred, of wanting to drop everything and leave (or even kill someone).  It is more complex than arranging flowers, selecting menus, getting the perfect dress, having 5-tiered cake or even flying guests accross the ocean.

Right after Akad Nikah, when I was officially become a Mrs., my husband told me that from that moment on, we should not care whether or not my make up melted, whether the food was enough, whether the sound system was bad or even if it rained (we had an open-air wedding at the valley). The most important thing was that we were (are and inshaallah will always be...) husband and wife. I like that...

To my brother who may read this blog...  Wishing you a happy and beautiful Marriage Life, as beautiful as your wedding was. May God always guide and bless you...

And to my new sister-in-law.. Welcome to our big loud family and hope you will get used to his snoring... :-)

Friday, 24 February 2012

Old T-shirt and Rollers : my perfect working attires

The current high cost of living makes a lot of families need to have dual income to support their school-going children. More women go to universities, graduate and join the workforce to fulfill their needs to be independent and to ease the financial burdens of their families. A lot of women participate in developing this country by becoming ministers.

However, a lot of these women have to put their careers on hold once they give births. These highly qualified women with degrees have to switch jobs from accountants, engineers, or bankers to be ONLY housewives. While I know a lot of women go back to work after having kids, I also know how dead tired they are.

It's easy to say that these women can balance their family lives with works. Having experienced being a working mother myself, I wonder how to balance those two lives together... Mine just didn't balance out. One thing has to be sacrificed. Should I continue working, I would have to sacrifice my time with my kids. I would spend 9 hours (sometimes more) at work and only 1 hour with the kids everyday. Is it balance?

Some people think that I shouldn't spend too much time with my children but I seriously think 1 hour a day with my children is not enough. That's why I stopped working full time. Few of my friends now think that I am wasting my Master degree by working part time. But I really do enjoy my life now, doing things I really love and learning things I didn't have time to learn, like learning to play piano. That's the reason why I finished my Master degree in the first place : To be able to afford a life that I can trully enjoy. Isn't it the main purpose most people work? To have enough money so they can enjoy their lives?

Malaysian government is encouraging corporations to allow mothers work part time. I think employers should really consider this option. Based on my current experience doing part time accounting work, it's really a win-win situation for both my employer and me. Why?

Benefits for the employers:

1. No need to have big office space because the part timers can work from home. Since they work from home, no need to buy office chairs, computers, desks, stationeries and pantry items (coffee, snacks, etc.)
2. Smaller office space also means less rental and electricity bills.
3. No need to deal with sick leaves, emergency leaves and annual leaves.
4. Employers really pay based on performance of the part timers. They don't need to pay the employees who use company's time and computers playing farmville on Facebook.
5. Employers don't need to pay health insurance for the part timers.
6. Save money on labour costs but still get the same performance.

Benefits for the society:
  1.  Since the part timers work from home, driving to work is minimized, thus less traffic jam and CO2 emision.
  2. Less office buildings means less trees cut for urban development.
  3. No wasted talents. The knowledge and experiences of these women can still be utilized.
Benefits for the part timers:
  1. Flexible time, allowing them to send and pick up the kids from school or tuition centers.
  2. Being able shop at the popular malls during weekdays, saving them from insanity of having to find parking spots in malls during weekends.
  3. Really balance their work and family lives.
  4. Their knowledge is not wasted.
  5. Save time because they can go straight to work without taking shower, putting on make ups, and finding matching outfits.
  6. Save money from transportations, parkings, and buying work clothes.
  7. Have healthier and more fulfilling lives because they will have time to go to gym, cook nutricious food yet still have extra money to go for lunches with girlfriends.
  8. Don't need to feel guilty for having to take an emergency leave to go back home because the maid accidently being locked out from the house and you have to rescue her by opening the door.
But of course, not all job positions can be filled by part-timers but I think it's something a company should think about.  I know my ex-neighbours who worked for IBM did most of their works at home and went to office about once a week.  Apparently IBM is one of the smarter companies to allow full-time but flexible working hours.  As long as the employees get the jobs done, they don;t care where they do the jobs, in office or at the comfort of their homes.

As for me, I am just happy crunching numbers on my laptop while texting my stock broker over a cup of coffee in a short and old worn-off T-shirt with hair full of rollers.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Greasy lips on Valentine's Day

This morning I read an article about Valentine's day written by a hunk columnist.  He is a Malaysian celebrity, with a very handsome face, a "six-packs" ab and bright dazzling smile.  I learned from him that Valentine is one of the most stressful annual events for men, even from a hunk like him...

I never thought that Valentine is stressful for anyone... But of course, being a girl, now a woman, I had always been on the "receiving side".

According to him, Valentine is stressful because guys always have to find "the right" things to amuse their girlfriends on Valentine's day.  Wrong choice of amusements will cause in long wet crying moments labelling them as jerks.  And we all know, some girls/women are hard to please.... For some, heart-shaped chocolates and flowers are boring, opting more for some bling blings.  For guys, going to a bling bling shop is totally nerve-wrecking because they will have to do a lot of spontaneous mathematical calculations in their brains, risking their credit card limits for the next six months.

And of course, they can't give the gifts while eating roti canai at the mamak shops.  They need to give the gifts in some fancy restaurants which charge exorbitant prices for some "valentine-themed" meals carrying funny names on the menus.  To make it worse, the girlfriends would just "touch" the meals, sending more than half of their plates back to kitchens for afraid being labelled "not-feminine" if they eat the whole things on the plates.

For macho guys, finding something romantic but not cheesy is really a challenge.  There is just a thin line separating romantic and cheesy. Having candle-lit diner with Whitney Houston"s I Will Always Love You is probably romantic but singing that song off-tuned to your girlfriend is totally cheesy, if not disgusting.

So ladies... why don't we give our guys some peaceful, easy and pleasant Valentine's Day instead?

Smile and accept any gifts we receive with a twinkle in our eyes, (act pleasantly surprise if you can....) eat all the chocolates we get and empty all the painstakingly-prepared-valentine-themed-dish on the plates we are served...

As for me, I would just be contented with hugs and kisses from my love ones.  No chocolate or fancy diners can compete with my daughters' hand-made Valentine's cards plus the hugs and kisses we give to each other for the whole day.  My husband, the non-believer of Valentine's Day, will probably be the happiest man on earth.  Free from the stressful moments... No need to think about flowers, chocolates, fancy diners or bling blings. The only thing he needs to be concerned about is my lipstick marks and my daughters's greasy lips on his face.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone.....

In the end, the Love You Take is equal to the Love You Make - by Paul McCartney

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

End of holiday season...

As I am writing this, I have tons of unfinished work waiting for me.  But instead of grabbing my invoices, numeric keypad and cheque book, I darted to this page.  My mind just couldn't start.  The black coffee I had this morning didn't give me the desired effect. The short yoga I did also didn't energize me at all.  I guess my whole body and mind are just not ready to accept the fact that today is really the end the holiday season in Malaysia.

Living in Malaysia means enjoying more holidays than any other countries.  Our multi-cultural society celebrates religious holidays for Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.  We also celebrate Chinese New Year, International New Year, and Islamic New Year in addition to Independence Day, Malaysia Day, Federal Territory Day, Labor Day and King's Birthday.  All in all we have about 17 days of public holidays in a year.  Average annual leaves for employees is 14 days/year.  Maternity days had been increased from 30 to 60 days.

So if I were a pregnant woman delivering my baby this year, I would get 102 off-days on weekends, plus 17 days of public holidays, 60 days of maternity leaves and 14 days annual leaves = 193 off days per year. A normal person would get about 133 days of holidays a year.

While lot of business owners complain that we have way too many public holidays thus reducing productivity of the country, I am not complaining at all. 

I totally believe in having a balance life of work and leisure.  Life is too short to be spent on work and work and work. The 133 days of holidays means 1/3 of our life was spent on leisure while 2/3 or our life was for working.  I guess it's a fair deal.

Few years ago my uncle introduced me to his clients, two Korean guys, one in his late fifties and the other one was in his early thirties. Being a nice person, my uncle "entertained" his guests by taking them for a lavish Chinese dinner.  We went to my favorite seafood restaurant that had live crustaceans, lobsters, fish, clams and varieties of prawns in their aquariums. Being generous, my uncle and auntie ordered 8 dishes for the 6 of us.  While we were eating, I noticed his Korean guests looked restless, looking at their watches a few times.  I asked them if they had more plans after the dinner.  They said no. 

With those many dishes plus difficult-to-eat Chilli Crab, we spent a little bit more than one hour in that restaurant before we paid our bills and sent our guests to their hotels.  While my uncle's intention was to entertain his clients, it seemed like his clients were not entertained at all.... They were a bit agitated and quiet.  So my uncle asked them if everything was fine, if they liked the food and if there were other things they would like to have.  They said the food was very delicious and everything was fine.

When we got into the car, the older guy asked us if we always had our meals like that.  We said no because if we ate like that too often we would end up popping cholesterol reducing pills everyday.  He said, he didn't mean the dishes. What he meant was... we ate for 1 hour and 20 minutes.  He actually timed our dinner..!

He told us that we had been wasting our time by eating too long.  He said that if we had our meals more than 15 minutes per meal, we would easily waste 2 hours a day. Multiply that with one year, we wasted our productive time by 730 hours which was equal to 30 days per year, all for the sake of eating...!!

I was shocked...!  I never thought that eating is a waste of time.  It's a way to enjoy life.

I got so irritated that I couldn't help myself from asking him if he had been enjoying life at all.  He said it's not the time for him to enjoy life.  He would enjoy his life after he retired.  I asked him when would he retire.  He said when his son took over the business, he would retire and enjoy his life.  As of now, he should not enjoy his life.  I further asked him what would happen if he got sick when he retired and couldn't enjoy all the money he had. I felt bad but I really had to ask him this question : "Do you believe that all of us can die anytime?"  "What happens if you die before your retirement?"  "Then you won't have the chance to enjoy your life at all."

The guy looked at me as if I was a crazy stupid woman.  He said it's so strange that I could think like that.  If everyone thought like me, nothing would move and this world would be a very non-productive place.  My uncle was so embarrassed and changed the topic of the conversation...

Well... if only I told him how many public holidays a pregnant Malaysian woman had in a year, I guess he would not want to talk to any of us anymore and my uncle would lose his clients.

So now, after wasting my time hitting the keyboard ranting about the end of holiday season, I believe I should start working...

But first, let me check my calendar for the next public holiday.

The Accidental Prisoners

I have been neglecting this blog for more than 2 years.  The last post I wrote was in 2016. I thought I would never write again.  The craz...