Sunday, 7 September 2014

Perfect Love

I listen to Mix FM every morning when I drive my daughters to school. For the past one week the topic was about finding the perfect wife or husband. Whether it exists and if it does, where to find this extinct species?

A woman wants to have a perfect husband who can provide her with a big house (or houses) that shelters many luxurious cars that her friends will envy. The perfect husband should also tell her how beautiful she is and how much he loves her everyday. Not to forget the occasional "surprise gifts" during her birthdays and anniversaries to show how romantic her husband is. She also wants to have perfect children who are beautiful, multi-talented, well behaved and treat her in a godly manner.  A recital with philharmonic orchestra will be an added bonus to her life.

A man wants to have a perfect wife who never ages a day over 25 years old.  His wife should have a miss-universe body with angelic face who cleans the house, feeds the children, sweats and cooks in the kitchen for hours yet still maintain the whole beautiful look and smiles when the husband arrives from work.  She should also be as good as Monica Lewensky behind the closed door to make him satisfied. She is also expected to be a dutiful daughter-in-law to his mother and siblings while taking care of his cats.

Is there such a perfect woman or man?

When I was young, I did have a list of criteria on what kind of husband I wanted.  Believe me, the list was longer than my grocery bills.  I searched high and low to find the perfect man who could fit the list.  Most of the men I met could not even pass the first 5 criteria on the list. My mother told me that I would never find a husband with that list so I should settle for less.

Did I settle for less? Almost... But NO.

I persevered and finally found the guy... I married him after meeting him for only 15 times. Yes, I know it was crazy but I was very certain that he was the one.

Is he perfect? No

But he is perfect for me.  He passed beyond the first 10 in my list.  He fits more than 90% of my list.

Is he a rich, super romantic and sophisticated guy?  Definitely no by most people's standard.

When I met him, he didn't drive sophisticated European car.  He didn't even have a house and still stayed with his parents.  He didn't send me flowers or chocolates or romantic cards.  He didn't take me to fancy restaurants on our dates.  Instead, he took me to a warong with rusty zinc roof near Batu Cave to have Thai-style steamed fish (siakap, to  be exact) on our fist date in Malaysia. It was a really hot day, eating really hot spicy food by the road side.  We had teary eyes, runny nose and sweaty body.

Definitely not rich.  Not romantic. Not sophisticated.

But he is perfect for me.

(My friends used to ask me : What do you see in him?)

He makes me laughs.
He creates thousands of butterflies in my stomach every time he touches me.
He makes me shiver.
He respects my privacy.
He gives me freedom.
He understands me.
He drives me nuts with his cool.
He awes me with his intelligent.
He amuses me with his knowledge.
He doesn't bore me.
He loves my family.
He loves his family.
He loves food.
He nurtures me.
He shares the same passions with me.
He listens when I talk (and he tells me when I talk too much..:)
He is (brutally) honest.
He is a law-abiding citizen.
He is a hard-working man.
He is humble.
He is a man of principle.
He is respectful towards my friends.
He is clean.
He doesn't wear flowery shirts with more than 10 colours.
He doesn't chew loudly when he eats.
He doesn't swear.
He doesn't gossip.
He doesn't shout when he talks (on the phone too).
He doesn't hurt people.
He doesn't judge.
He doesn't flirt with women.
He doesn't show off.
He doesn't pretend.
He doesn't have stinky breath.
He is not possessive.
He is not a fanatic of anything.
He is not demanding.
He is not complicated.
He is not amused by beauty without brain.
He is not afraid of cockroaches (It is very important because I am terrified of cockroaches. He can make my life less scary when there is a cockroach nearby).

Most importantly :  He is a man of religion. He is afraid of Allah. He lives following guides from Allah and he guides me to be a better person.

In a way... He completes me (stealing the line from Jerry Maguire)

I am writing this out of my guilt for forgetting our anniversary this year (again... for the countless time).  Last April, I only realized it was our anniversary when I was filling up a membership form for my friend. When I dated the form, I wrote 09/04/2014.  The date made me thinking... hmmmm... I think there was something that I needed to do on the 9th of April.  After a few minutes, it hit me.  It was the 14th anniversary of my marriage to the man who has shared countless nasi lemak, nasi kandar, kari kepala ikan, nasi daun pisang, laksam, soto, assam laksa, steamed fish, botok-botok, nasi timbel, bakso, baso tahu, harkau, siomay, durian, pulasan, pie tee, char kuey teow, hummus, mandy, nachos, enchiladas, chimichangas, palak paneer, roganjosh, appam, pho, tomyam, somtam, miang kham, briyani, thosai, chapati and many many delicious things in life with me.

Although it's been months since I forgot about that date, the guilt feeling lingers as I had promised myself to never forget the important dates of our lives.

Fortunately, I never forget his birthday... (coz we have the same birthday... so one less date to remember)

For my readers who are still searching for the right guy or the right girl, don't give up and don't settle for less because you only have one life to live.  The perfect man or woman does not exist BUT the perfect person for you does exist.

Thank you for reading and have a great week ahead.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Orang Gila

When I was in high school, I remember there were a lot of orang gila or mentally ill people roaming around my house.  Most of them talked to themselves, laughing, crying or screaming, oblivious to their surrounding.  All of the them walked barefoot with torn and dirty clothes.  They slept under bridges or pedestrian street and ate food from garbage bins. Kids and tukang becak used to make fun of them... some even bullied them by asking them to dance or open their clothes, revealing their private parts.

I used to be afraid being near them as some can be quite violent when they were upset.  One of my friends was chased by this orang gila when she was walking to my house.  She was traumatized badly. I still remember the name of that particular orang gila.. Her name was Kenoh.  Actually nobody really knew her name but we called her Kenoh.

At that time I didn't know about mental illness or schizophrenia.

When I was in college, I watched A Beautiful Mind, a movie based on the life of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics who suffered schizophrenia.  Quoting from wikipedia, schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal social behaviour and failure to recognize what is real. Symptoms include false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking and auditory hallucinations.

The movie talked to me and opened my mind about orang gila. I started to think differently about them. I started to understand how they feel. I started to have a special place in my heart for them.  I felt guilty when I thought about how I used to feel about them.  I felt angry remembering how people made fun of them.  I was angry at the family members who neglected them and let them roam the streets.

Thirteen years ago, I had an unforgettable experience with a schizophrenic man.  He was my staff who worked for me in a supermarket that I ran with my husband.  He was a hard working and honest store supervisor who I could rely on.  I had no idea of his illness when I hired him and he didn't show any strange behaviour for the 2 years he worked with me.  His name is Z.

One fine morning, Z came to me and asked if he could talk to me in private inside my office.  Initially I thought he would like to talk about his work or staffs.  But he told me everything was fine with the store.  He said he wanted to confess about something. I had a mixed feeling when he said that. Did he steal something? Was he not happy working with me?

"I was instructed to kill you," he said.

I was speechless.  It took me a good 2 minutes trying to digest what he just told me.  Thank to Allah, I was calm.  Instead of panicking, I asked him who asked him to kill me and why.

He started to cry.  He told me that for the past few years, he had a friend who followed him everywhere he went.  This friend looked exactly like him and told him to do a lot of things. This friend made him smart.  This friend helped him doing things that he thought he would not be able to do.  This friend was invisible to others. He loves his friend so much because he made him stronger. But the friend was very possessive. He got angry very easily.  When he was angry, he could be very violent.

"Lately my friend asked me to burn your supermarket and kill you because I spent too much time here," he said. "I told him that I can't do that and he was very angry. He pushed me and knocked my head to the wall. He has done that several times. When that happened, my wife locked me in the room alone."

"He always came at night when I felt sleepy. Now I am scared of him.  I have not slept for the past three days because I was afraid he would come and drag me to kill you."

"You have been very good to me.  I care for you and I don't want bad things to happen to you.  That's why today I come to tender my resignation.  To save your life."

I had a long talk with him.  I told him about this movie A Beautiful Mind.  I asked him to watch it.  I also asked him to go to a psychiatrist.

To cut the long story short, I accepted his resignation and I didn't see him any more.  One year later, he came to the shop to see me.  He looked healthy without the blood-shed eye.  He told me that he went to a  psychiatrist at a government hospital.  They managed to shoo away his friend in a friendly goodbye.  He  lived a peaceful life selling fruits in a small village.  His wife and children were very happy because he never hits them any more.

Tears streaming down from my eyes... I was so happy to see him living a normal life.  I thanked Allah for saving me..... and for the beautiful experience with a schizophrenic man.

This experience has enriched my life in a very special way.  I see orang gila with a different light now. I wish their families understand and treat them.  I hope people will stop harassing and making fun of them.  They suffer enough battling with their inner voices.  They don't need more suffering from other people.

I think everybody has a bit of schizo in their mind. Sometimes we do have false beliefs and get confused. Sometimes we hear voices in our mind.

I am glad to know that someone set up an FB page on Komunitas Peduli Skizophrenia Indonesia. I joined the page today hoping I can help them in one way or another.

I dedicate this blog to all the schizophrenic out there.  You are not alone.  You can live a normal live too. Don't give up.

PS : Last year, my lady masseur told me that her 24-yr old son had an imaginary friend.  He started hurting himself by slashing his hand with a knife. I told her to seek a psychiatrist treatment but sadly, her husband and her believed that he was possessed by jinn (supernatural creatures) and brought him to a dukun/bomoh/ustadz (shaman, a traditional healer believed to have spiritual power) instead. He is not healed until now, getting even more violent.  She confines his son in a room to avoid hurting his siblings. They still refuse to go to a doctor as they believe doctors can't communicate with jinn. It breaks my heart but I can't force them to do things they don't belief.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Islam vs Christianity?

When I told my mother that I wanted to marry B and converted to be a Muslim, my mother was stunned. She didn't say a word. For a good 5 minutes, she struggled to find the right words to say no but the only thing that came out from her mouth was, "Are you going to be one of the terrorists?".

Growing up in Bandung as a minority Chinese, I witnessed and experienced a lot of hostilities, discrimination and threats from the Muslims.  Walking home from school to my house I had to ignore men shouting "Cina, Amoy, kafir" almost everyday.  Some of them tried to touch parts of my body that I had to run very fast.  My parents told me to never fight back or I would ignite a riot.  My mother's friend had her shop burnt down by the Muslims just because she caught a person stole from her shop and scolded him. The thief went out from the shop, shouted to the public that the lady insulted Islam.  The mob came so fast and burned down the shop.  The fire raged to the nearby shops.  At the end of the day, 6 shops were burnt down. Police didn't do anything and the event was not reported in the media. Everyone, except the victims, ignored the fact that it was against the law to destroy someone's properties.

I can remember vividly when my mother's shop had to close for a week.  Muslims threw stones to shops that belonged to the Chinese. We used to live behind our shop so we could see from the peephole how the people vandalized the shops. It was a scary sight. They chanted "Allahuakbar" every time they threw huge stones to the shop. Again, only those living in our area knew about this as no media reported the event.

Going to church on Christmas Eve was very risky.  There had been a few occasions where Muslims threw molotov bombs to the church compounds. Church care takers would extinguish the fires themselves as they could not rely on the authorities to take actions.

Since my mother is a Buddhist, I often had to follow her to a temple the night before Chinese New Year.  We often heard explosions from molotov bombs and Muslims shouting racist remarks.  Before they threw the bombs, we could hear "Allahuakbar".

Growing up in those situations, I could understand my mother's reservation.  She always wants her children to be good people.  She told us millions "Don't do this" and "You have to do this" so we could grow up to be the kind, polite and good people who won't embarrass them. My mother told me that if I did something bad, it would reflect bad on her as a mother. Although she has a lot of good Muslim friends, she lived to witness that there are more bad Muslims than good Muslims.  We used to have very bad impressions when people say "Allahuakbar".  We grew up believing that the God of the Muslims was an evil who instruct His followers to hurt people.

Before I converted to be a Muslim, I read a lot of books about Islam and I had countless discussions with my Muslim friends about the religion.  I also learned about the history of religion and how the teaching evolved from Judaism to Christianity to Islam. I read the English and Indonesian translation of the Quran twice to understand why Muslims behaved in such violent ways and why Muslim women were (presumed) oppressed. It surprised me to find how easy it was to read and understand the Quran compared to reading a Bible. After I read the Quran twice, I couldn't find any verse in the Quran that asked its followers to destroy churches and hurt people.

In fact, I found a lot of similarities between the Quran and the Old Testament of the Bible. Both acknowledge the same God.  Both require their followers to worship only the God (Allah) who created the world, the God who was worshiped by Abraham, Moses (Musa), Daniel, Noah (Nuh), Joseph (Yusuf), David (Daud), Jesus (Isa) and the other prophets.  The first instruction Allah gave to Moses in 10 Commandments (of Bible) : I am the Lord, thy God  (Akulah Tuhan Allahmu). The second instruction : Thou shalt have no other gods before Me (Jangan ada Allah lain di hadapanKu).

Both books teach about the importance of kindness, charities and being respectful to parents. Both books require their followers to obey the teachings of the prophets so that they can live peacefully in this world and hopefully, in the afterlife.

After countless discussions and a lot of readings, I found it easy to convert to Islam.  I thought that the teachings were simple.  Most of the rules and regulations specified in the Quran make sense. They are necessary to bring orders and to prevent chaos in this world. If everyone follows the teachings, we would be living in peace.

But when I started to live as a Muslim, I found it extremely difficult to be a Muslim.  My life turned upside down. It was not as easy as I thought.

I was told that I could not enter a church anymore.  My sister got married in a church.  How could I not join my family to witness the most important moment of my sister's life?

I was also told that I could only pray to Allah in Arabic, a language that I couldn't understand and master.  When I was a Christian, I used to "talk" to Allah several times a day, in a mixed language of Sunda, Bahasa Indonesia and English. Now, I had to learn Arabic first before I could pray and talk to Him. It would take me years to do that.

I was also told that as a married Muslim woman, I was not allowed to have male friends.  I should keep a distance with male friends.  I grew up with a lot of male friends. In fact, when I was in college, I was constantly surrounded by 10 boys everywhere I went. Since I was the only girl in the group, they were like my "body guards".  They were my best buddies.  Now all of us are married and lead separate lives, but they are still my good friends.  One of best friends is a male friend whom I met when I was in high school.  Until now we still text each other, exchanging stupid jokes or updating where to get the best sup kepala ikan or sambel terasi frequently. He is one of the very few friends who still call me "Nong" (which means forehead).  Every time he calls me Nong, I am reminded again of my younger days when friends used to tease me for having shiny broad forehead. It was a bitter sweet memory from my high school. Thanks to that Nong nickname, I learned how to conceal my broad forehead by having a hairstyle that has a fringe.  Nobody really notices my broad forehead anymore now. So, I can't imagine ditching him as my close friend.

Someone also told me that I should never go to clubs or hotel lounge to dance and enjoy music anymore.  I should only listen to religious songs (nasyid) instead. I grew up with Indonesian, Chinese and English music. I remember my parents playing music from The Beatles, ABBA, Theresia Teng's and Chicha Koeswoyo when I was young.  I enjoy the beats and the happy lyrics of those music. In my teenage days, I started to love Bon Jovi, The Police, Air Supply, Chrisye, Titi DJ and Madonna. I was glued to MTV when I was in college. I was never exposed to nasyid music. Because of that I can't enjoy nasyid music at all.  I can't appreciate Middle Eastern music either because I can't understand a single thing from it. I believe every one has his/her own taste of music.  A taste is not something that can be forced. I love durian tremendously but I can't force my Iranian friend to eat it. She could throw up just by smelling it. I believe taste is very personal, be it in music, food or fashion.

Although my husband, B, always reassures me that I am doing OK as a Muslim convert, I still think that I can't never be a good Muslim.  He told me so many times to ignore what people say and just concentrate on the teaching of the Quran.  A lot of things that the Muslims do are not based on the Quran but based on the cultures, traditions and habits of the people which are misinterpreted as Islamic practices.

Last year on my birthday, a dear friend gave me this book:

(click the picture to see the preview)

When I read the book, I felt my burden was lifted.  I was not alone.  Imran was born as a Muslim in Pakistan but grew up in England. Even as a born Muslim, he had the same confusion about Islam too.  We share the same doubts and questions about the practices done by the Muslims. Both of us struggle to be the "real" and good Muslims.  Both of us believe that we should enjoy our lives instead of despising simple pleasures and treat them as the worldly sins. Both of us like Simon Templer from The Saints. Both of us were born in the month of September (as well as B) which make us introverts who prefer to "talk" with our writings instead of our voices.

In his book, Imran reminded me the importance of seeking knowledge and the dangers of having blind faith. By seeking knowledge, we can understand and appreciate our religion better.  AlQuran clearly mentions the  obligation of every Muslim to read and seek knowledge (in verses 96:1-5, 17:36 and many more verses).

The Muslims who burned my mother's friend's shop should be ashamed to call themselves Muslims.  The Muslims who chanted "Allahuakbar" before hurting people are ignorant human beings who don't practice the teaching of Islam.  Those who said that I could only pray to Allah in Arabic forget that Allah is the Great and the Mighty who can understand all languages. He even hears and understands the unspoken whisper in our hearts. Abraham, Noah, David and Jesus didn't converse in Arabic and yet, they are the messengers of Allah.

Those who said that I could not enter a church forgot that in the early days, a praying hall is used by people from all religions.  Muslims, Jewish and Christians used to share the same place to pray.

Many Muslims make an effort to recite the Holy Quran during Ramadhan every day, with the goal to finish the whole Quran just before Hari Raya. While it is a commendable act, I know a lot of them recite it without knowing or understanding the meaning. If only they understand the meaning, they would know that the religion never asks its followers to destroy or hurt people.

This posting is a bit heavy compared to my previous postings.  It took me a long time to write this post as it is rather sensitive. I apologize if any of you find this post as offensive.  I never intend to hurt or insult anyone or to appear like holier than thou. It is just another ranting of mine.

Thank you for reading my blog.  Have a great week ahead, my friends....

PS : please share this blog if you know anyone recently converted to be a Muslim. I hope this blog can help her/him ease the transition.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

My First Fasting

One Week Before Ramadhan

Fourteen years ago :

I was super nervous
It was my first time spending Ramadhan in Malaysia as a Muslim..
Would I be able to fast?
What if I couldn't make it?
Would I feel very tired?
What should I do during the day?
What should I wear?
What if I passed out when walking in a mall? ( I have very low blood pressure)

Now 2014 :

I am super excited
I am looking forward to detoxifying my body and soul

During Ramadhan

Fourteen years ago :

I was confused....
I felt awkward.....
I felt scared...
I fought hard to wake up for sahur....
I traded sahur for 3 more hours of sleep
I looked at the clock every 5 minutes and wonder if the clock was broken
I broke my fast like a greedy elephant and felt sleepy afterwards
I tried so many restaurants offering Ramadhan Break Fast Buffet in KL

Now 2014 :

I am super excited because my daughters are joining us in fasting
I am looking forward to have real sahur with everyone in the house
I am looking forward to checking out Bazaar Ramadhan near my house
I always run out of time in preparing the food for breaking fast. I think the clock moves too fast.
I control my food intake when breaking fast
I feel energized

After Ramadhan

Fourteen years ago:

I lost 3-4 kgs
I felt very healthy and energized
I could wear my old jeans and kebayas

One year ago:

I lost 0.5 kg..
I felt hmmmmm....
I had to buy new kebayas and baju kurung (couldn't fit into any of my old ones)

2014 :  LET'S SEE....

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Men in My Life

I never really write or talk much about my father. Although he is very close to my heart, I still feel our relationship is separated by a wall, albeit a thin one. He used to be very fierce. My sisters and I were scared of him. I remember he released his doberman and locked the main gate when I came home at 11.10 pm, just 10 minutes late from the 11 pm curfew. I also remember hiding in the maid's room eating bakso with my sister because he despised junk food. He would lecture us for hours about the dangerous preservatives (formalin : used to preserve dead bodies) used by several suppliers in making beef balls and noodles.

Other than for being fierce and discipline, I remember my father as a very adventurous young man whose hobbies include archery, hunting, deep sea fishing, diving, cooking, reading, playing ping pong, hashing and listening to music. When I was in high school, I learned how to shoot using rifles from him.  He taught me how to look into the small lens and aim for the target.  We used to practice shooting coca cola cans behind our house. As a young girl, I didn't know or care if it was legal for me to use rifle. I enjoyed every minute I spent with him shooting those coca cola cans.

My father is an animal lover.  We used to have a few bats, snakes, chickens, dogs, birds, monitor lizard, tortoises, fish and wild cats as pets.  Before he went to work, he would spent his mornings greeting, petting and feeding his pets. He loved watching animal program on TV and recorded them using VCR.  My siblings and I were so bored whenever we had to watch TV together with him as he could watch the same program over and over again.

My girlfriends knew him as a very funny guy. He used to crack jokes or pranks when my girlfriends were in our house. But most of my boy friends think that he was the fiercest father on earth. He was very protective of his daughters.  Whenever our friends called us on the phone, he would sit beside us and listen to all of our conversations.  If we talked more than 10 minutes he would pretend that he needed to use the phone for something important.

Although he was very protective, he was not as conservative as most of my friends' parents.  My father is the person who first introduced me to Jack Daniel, Hennessy X.O and Galliano. He poured the JD into a shot glass and asked me to smell and taste it.  I remember how awful it smelt and how horrible it tasted.  He then told me everything I needed to know about alcohol. He told me that alcohol could make me drunk and behave irrationally.  He also told me that if a guy gave me a drink, I should smell it first before drinking it.  I should decline the drink if it smells like that.

A few days later, together with my mother and his friends, he took me and my sister to a discotheque.  He showed me how a disco looked like and how people behaved there.  I still remember the name of the discotheque, Studio East.  We listened to music and danced together.  In between our dance, he showed me how men lured women by giving them alcoholic drinks.  He also showed me that men could spike a drink to make women drunk or faint.  He then told me that whenever I wanted to go to a disco, he would give me money to buy my own drink.  He told me to never allow anybody to buy me drinks at a disco and to never leave my drinks unattended. I remember his words until now.  It is one of his best advice.

Now my father is not as robust and lively as he used to be. While he still enjoys animal channel, he doesn't own pet anymore. He prefers to stay home and meditate compared to going to thick jungle of Batu Gajah to hunt for wild boars.  He is more interested in reading and watching Chinese history than spending hours on the boat to catch some tunas or barracudas. He transforms into a totally different person.

It took awhile for my siblings and I to get used to this but we welcome the changes with open arms. We definitely welcome his less fierce attitude.  He doesn't sit next to us when we are on the phone anymore (he increased the TV volume instead).

When I remember the 40+ years I know him, I can't help but admire him.  He really knows how to enjoy life to the fullest.  He lives a very balance life, sharing time between work, family, friends and his personal enjoyment. He works hard and plays hard too.  He always has time for everything.  I wish I have enough time for everything too...

I never ask him how he manages his time but after years of observation, I know why he always has time to do what he wants to do. He is very discipline and he knows how to say NO.  When he works, nobody can disturb him. My mother never calls him unless there is an emergency. When it's time for him to eat, he would say no to anything else. He would eat without being disturbed.  When we were on vacation, he totally shut down from the rest of the world.  He didn't call the shops to ask about his business, he didn't call our house to ask if everything was OK.  His mind was in a total vacation mood.  When he takes afternoon nap or meditates, nobody can disturb him unless someone is dying. When he said that we would leave the house at 7 pm, we should be ready at 6.50 pm. If we were late, he would leave without us.

My experiences with my father have prepared me to live a peaceful life with my husband, B.  He is very similar to my father in terms of discipline and knowing how to say no.  B can't tolerate being late.  He is also very strict on the house rules. My daughters sometimes complain about this.  I kept telling them that it is for their own good.

Read what they wrote on the Father's Day card :

Both my father and B are the most important men in my life.  Both taught me so many things about life.  Both have helped me live a richer life, full of interesting experiences. Both have made me eat healthier food and avoid junk food (although I still sneak out and eat some bakso and gorengan when they are not around). Both cringed when I kill a fly or mosquito. They prefer to "shoo away" the insects instead of killing them.

Both also have made me run in high heels to avoid being late.

Let's celebrate all the great men in our lives.  Happy Father's Day..!!

Friday, 9 May 2014

My Tiger Mom Who Sent Me Away..

I used to think my mom is a dominant female who likes to force things to her children.  I used to hate her when she forced me to wear yellow dress and perm my hair.  I hated her when she forced me to learn Mandarin.  I hated her when she forced me to do anything.  The more she forced me, the more rebellious I became.

One of the highlights in my life is when my mother "forced" me to take a 3-month summer course in Paris when I was in my early 20s.  I was mad... I was not a kid anymore and she had to force me to "have a vacation".

I was very reluctant to go as I didn't speak a single French and I didn't feel the need to take those courses in Paris.  I could take the same courses in San Diego (where I studied last time) and spend fun-packed summer with my friends. 

I didn't understand why my mother insisted that I had to go to Paris.  After a lot of arguments, finally I relented... (as I usually did). I registered with University of St Paul to take International Business Marketing and Comparative Business Law in Paris.

I was lucky that one of my classmates from Thailand interested to take the same courses with me so I could share an apartment with her. I also had an Indonesian friend who enrolled in the same program but chose to be in London instead of Paris.

The three of us left San Diego two weeks before the program to indulge in our shared passion of travelling.  With Eurail pass and a few Lonely Planet books in our hands, we travelled to Innsbruck, Salzburg, Vienna, Zurich, Nice and Cannes by train.

I had never been to Europe before and I was BAD in history and geography thus I didn't know what to expect.  At that time we had no internet, so we totally relied on our trusted Lonely Planet books to arrange the hostels and restaurants.

I was exposed to a lot of crazy experiences during my 3 months there. 

As we traveled on a tight budget, we stayed in various youth hostels.  It was the first time I had to share a bedroom with 10 strangers on bunk beds.  It was also my first time sleeping at 10 pm during vacation because all light was switched off at 10 pm.  It was my first time experiencing "common shower".  I don't really remember where it was but I was shocked when the hostel operator showed us the shower area. It's just an open area consisting of 20 shower heads... no partition, no door. 

It was the first time I saw 20 women walking around naked... Live..!!

I just couldn't do it... I just couldn't display my fat to anyone in an open space... I felt too self-conscious... The next morning I forced myself to wake up at 5 am when everyone else was still snoring just so I could take shower alone and spare my audience from a heart attack. 

(This experience has saved me from an embarrassing moment when I went to a locker room of a gym in Jakarta a few years later.  I acted cool when a westerner walked naked from the shower in the changing room.  Had I not experienced it before, I would probably grab a towel and try to cover that woman for fear of catching a cold..)

One morning in Zurich I woke up with a heavy head and lots of red dots in my face.  Muay and Inne, my travel companions, were surprised and brought me to a clinic inside a local university.  The nurses ran some tests on me and brought me into a small room. I was left alone for a good 20 minutes until Muay came sneaking into the room and told me to run away.  I was shocked and scared.. She told me that I had chicken pox and the nurses said that they didn't have any chicken pox case in Switzerland anymore. 

Based on the regulation, they would need to deport me back to my country.

I quickly ran away from the hospital.  We were running like fugitives.  I had never ran like that in my life... My friends checked me into a hotel at Geroldswill, a suburb of Zurich.  Chicken pox is a normal illness in Asia that usually goes away untreated within a week. We didn't know that it was a rare thing in Switzerland. 

Inne and Muay continued the trip without me and my father came to stay with me.  (Coincidently he was attending a seminar in Lucern, a few hours away from Geroldswill).  My father took care of me throughout that 1 week.

At that time..... I became his little girl again. 

He put lotion on the chicken pox marks all over my body, he bought us food and we watched TV together without understanding a single German word. After my marks almost disappeared, we took a TGV train to Paris together.

It was one of the best times in my life... Had I not had the chicken pox, I wouldn't experience those beautiful moments. Now at my 40's, I notice that it was the one and only time I had a private time with my father, just the two of us.

During my summer course in Paris, Muay and I decided to spend our weekends travelling to the nearby towns. 

When I read the Lonely Planet guide on travelling to South of France, the book mentioned that the best way to enjoy the trip was to use a bicycle.  Muay rented two bicycles for us to go from Loire Valley to Mont Pres Chambord to see some castles.  I had rode bicycles a million times before but I had never saw or touch any bicycle with gear.  Just a few pedals and I tripped... I tried again and I tripped again... After several attempts I managed to cycle slowly. Not too long after that I fell down again, this time almost ran over by a car.  It was one of the scariest time of my life.

Just when I almost cried and pulled my hairs crazy, a small red car pulled over.  A girl came out from the car and asked us in English if everything was OK.  I told her the problem with my bike and our plan to go to Chateau de Chambord. 

Chateau de Chambord

She laughed saying that even if I could ride that bike, it would take us 2 hours to ride there as the place was quite far.  She offered us a ride in her car.  She folded our bikes, put them in the trunk and asked us to go inside her car.  She said that it was better for us to go to the chateau tomorrow as the day was getting dark.  In the meantime, she offered us to stay in her house.

So, we spent our evening with Sabienne and her sister, Nadine.  Both of them were very nice.  They were beautiful French belles in their 20s who spoke fluent English with cute accents (I always looooove the accent).... They took us to the garden behind their house to pick vegetables for our dinner.

Over dinner we got to know each other better... Nadine told us that she travelled to US a few years back and was lost in a highway. A kind couple helped and sheltered her until she could contact her friends.  Because of that experience Sabienne and Nadine had always tried to help "lost travelers" like us.  This experience is one of the most unforgettable experiences in my life.  I felt blessed to have met Sabienne and Nadine who helped travelers in need without prejudice.  After that time we became penpals for a few years.  I always remember their generosity and kindness... This experience has touched me so much that I named my second daughter Nadine. 

At the end of my 3-month program, I left Paris with two certificates and countless valuable experiences.  The certificates are useless now but the experiences that I got from those 3 months are priceless. 

I met so many interesting people, increased my knowledge in geography (and bicycle), learned that it was impossible for my tongue to pronounce French words correctly (even after drinking Perrier everyday), found out that I could really run very fast when I needed to (being a fugitive), bonded with my father, and at the same time I found out the domino effect of kindness from Sabienne and Nadine. 

I thank my mother for forcing me to go and explore the world...

Being a mother, I learn the importance of "Tough Love" from my mother.  She didn't mind if her children hate her when she instills tough love. She only concerns for her children's well being and their futures. Whenever I have to discipline my kids, I can feel the pain... I hate to see their faces when I discipline them... It breaks my heart when I see them cry.. But I am reminded by my mother.  Has she not disciplined us before, we would definitely grow up differently...

I won't be able to travel like that anymore now.  With 2 growing kids attached, traveling means theme parks and kid-friendly places.  I can't travel carrying a backpack anymore. I have to check in at least 2 heavy luggage full of children stuffs, medicine and snacks.

Although I still need to run like a fugitive to catch a plane, the chance of seeing 20 naked women walking around is pretty slim now....

Siiiggghhhh.... the good old days are gone......

Happy Mother's Day everyone..!!

 Guide to European hostels

Monday, 21 April 2014

Acid Attack

As I am writing this post, I have been ill for three days.  I am in bed with pounding headache and nausea.  While the pain in my stomach is really irritating, the one I can't stand the most of is the feel of boredom.  I can't stand staying in bed doing nothing but my head and stomach ache every time I try to do something that require some movements. I tried to do my work but my brain just refused to cooperate.  So I am trying out my luck with writing. Let me share with you what I did over the weekend.

My sister and her family visited us last week and we decided to go to Johor for the weekend.  After driving for three solid hours, we finally reached our first destination : Johor Premium Outlet. Everyone decided to forgo lunch and do some shopping instead. While I don't really enjoy shopping, I did enjoy the look at my daughters when they find something they liked.  I liked to see the excitement of my nephews going from one shop to another looking for the best bargain. I love the happy and satisfied look of my husband when he came out from a shop with shopping bags.  Not to mention the smiles from my sister's face when she described the value-for-money treasures she bought on the 2nd floor.

While everyone enjoyed their shopping, instead of visiting some boutiques, I spent my day visiting toilets, purging like I were 3-month pregnant. I didn't know why but I purged everything I ate.  I felt terrible... My stomach was on fire, my head was spinning and my body was shivering... I felt worse than when I was carrying a baby.

The next day, instead of enjoying the rides at Legoland, I tried to survive a taxi ride to a nearby clinic.  After some Q & A, pressing and knocking some points on my body, the doctor asked me, "Do you eat a lot of spicy and oily food?" I can only confess yes.

He told me that my stomach lining is thinning due to years of acid erosion.  I am a carnivore who love fried and spicy foods. When my father told me to eat less chilies, I ignored him. When my husband told me to eat more steamed food instead of fried food, I shrugged it off. When my husband asked me to prepare salad for dinner, I sneaked out some chicken or seafood inside the salad.  Not a day in my life that I didn't eat meat.  Meat, oil and chilies are very acidic and I was addicted to them. I am paying for my addiction now.

The doctor advised me to "clean" my body from excess acid for at least a week, followed by strict alkaline diet.  I searched the net about acidic and alkaline foods and it gave me more headache.

Below is a simple list on acidic food that I have to limit or even eliminate in my diet:

Artificial Sweeteners
Black Tea
Carbonated drinks
Fried food
Preserved food

Now... I know why I get the headache.. It's the list..!! It has almost everything I love... How I am supposed to enjoy life when I can't eat anything nice?  Only fruits and vegetables are alkaline..!

I had an avocado for breakfast this morning (thanks to my sister for bringing the creamiest, fattest and tastiest avocados from Bandung).  I can't think of any appetizing alkaline food for my lunch and dinner yet. Just thinking about the fate of my beef and chicken in the fridge increased the pounding in my head.

How am I going to survive this...??

Monday, 24 March 2014

Four Letter Words

My heart sank when I heard the Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed that MH370 ended in South Indian Ocean.  Although the SAR team has not found any physical evidence such as debris or raft, we are told to assume that there is no survivor. The harsh weather and its remote location suggested that it is nearly impossible for anyone to survive.

I am no expert in aviation, geography or technical matters but deep inside my heart, I refused to believe that it is the end.  I have no friend or relative on board of MH370 but like a lot of people, I share the same anguish, sadness and bitterness with the friends and relatives of MH370 crews and passengers.

I am still in a denial mode.
I am still hoping that the image sighted by the satelite do not belong to MH370.
I am still hoping that even it they are the debris of MH370, maybe the flight didn't crash but land on sea.
I am still hoping maybe there are survivors floating on rafts waiting to be rescued.
I am still hoping some of the passengers were washed away into a deserted island like the TV series "Lost".

HOPE is the four-letter word that I live by for the past few weeks. I still want to hold on to it.

As a Muslim, I believe that our time on earth is pre-determined by Allah.  No one gets out from this world alive.  Everyone will die. When, where and how we die is not up to us.  It is the sole prerogative right of Allah, as our creator, to determine the details of our deaths.  As human beings we can't understand why bad things happen.  With limited wisdom and knowledge, it is hard for us to understand Allah's plans.

I am writing this blog with mixed emotions.  My eldest daughter, Amber, flew to Beijing last Sunday for Student Exchange Program with her school.  There are 10 students and 16 teachers from Sekolah Kebangsaan TTDI 1 in that program.  It was with a heavy heart when I told Amber that everything would be OK. Although I told her it's gonna be alright, deep inside, I was worried.  It is her first time going abroad without me.  It's her first "sleepover" in a foreign land.

I saw her nervous during the last briefing at school. She asked me, "What if the flight disappears like MH370?" I told her that there are more road accidents than flight accident. "Everyday there are thousands of people killed in road accidents.  This MH370 case is unprecedented and it's very rare." I also told her, "When you are scared and nervous, just pray and talk to Allah.  He will be with you everywhere you go.  You also have 2 angels who follow you all the time, one on your right shoulder and another one is on your left."

She nodded.  I could see that she was calmer.

After the bus left from school to LCCT, my mind raced.  Her question "What if the flight disappears like MH370?" lingered.  Yes, what if it happened to her?  What would I do?

Last night after I watched the press conference by the Prime Minister, the question popped back.  What if...??

I couldn't sleep thinking about it.

I am aware that Amber and Nadine are not entirely mine.  They are "loaned" by Allah and will be taken back one day.  When I thought about the "what if", my mind didn't think about the time they are taken back by Allah.  I had images of Amber screaming, being scared and panicked..... and I was not there.  If I were in the flight with her, I would hold her hands, hug her and prepare us "to go" and meet our creator together. But she is alone... Who will comfort her? Who will calm her?  Who will take care of her during emergency landing? Will she be able to put on oxygen mask herself?  Will she be able to put on the life jacket and inflate it? Will she get cold when the plane land on sea? What if she washed away to a deserted island? Who will take care of her? Will she be found? If she were found 10 years from now, will she remember me? Will she suffer?

I know it sounds crazy.... But I couldn't help the images from rushing into my head. I am not sure if other mothers ever experience what I had experienced as a mother. There were nights when I couldn't sleep thinking about hundreds of what ifs. It began when I was pregnant with Amber.  I had hundreds of negative "what ifs" that kept me worried all the time.  In reality, all the what ifs never happen but I still entertain the thoughts.  There were nights when I cried myself to sleep thinking about those crazy thoughts. I know I shouldn't think like that, so I tried to push the thoughts away from my mind.  Over the years it gets better, I seldom cried myself to sleep anymore...... until I heard the disappearance of MH370. All the what ifs came back happily, occupying and terrorizing one side of my brain.

Last night as I was putting Nadine to sleep, I was reminded of the words I told Amber before she went on board the bus.  She is constantly accompanied by two angels and Allah will always be with her.  I have to trust Allah completely. As hard as it is to accept that there is someone else who loves Amber more than I do, I have to acknowledge that as her creator, Allah loves and knows her much more than I do.  This thought calmed me.

At 2 am, the teachers sent messages in the group whatsapp that they were in Beijing.  They sent pictures of the children walking in the airport. At 7.30 am they sent pictures of our children, all dressed up and ready for kompang performance at Chui Yang Liu Primary School.  Later in the evening, Amber sent me messages about her first experience making dumplings at school canteen.  She also sent messages when she arrived at her host family's apartment.

I slept with a smile knowing that she is well taken care of.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Living on The Prayers

Like most Malaysians and the friends & families of MH370 passengers, I am glued to TV everyday at 1.30pm and 5.30pm for live Press Conference on the  investigation updates of MH370.  I have stopped reading FB threads, whatsapp, blackberry messengers and internet "findings" on the MH370 for a week now. If I can get daily updates from credible sources who directly involved in the investigation and who truly care about this issue, why bother reading others?

I am saddened by the mysterious disappearance of MH370 but I am very irritated, angry and MAD by irresponsible individuals who created unfounded news and circulated them on the internet, whatsapp and blackberry messengers.  Some even made fun of it by saying it was an alien abduction with images from Alien movies.  There was also circulated news that links the event to religious matters, citing it as God's punishment.  I read one of the circulated news from blackberry that said "This event was predicted by Pastor this and that". Some even said "It's the sign that the end of the world is coming, God's promise is being fulfilled'.

While I am MAD with the irresponsible people who created those articles, I am equally furious with those who circulated them.  Don't they think whether or not the articles bear truth?  Don't they investigate first? Are they that naive (or STUPID)? Don't they even think for a second about the feelings of friends and relatives of the passengers in MH370 before circulating them?  Are they really that blind and ignorant? Are they really that heartless?

Not a day that I don't pray for the safety of those on board MH370.  Not a day that I don't ask Allah to give strengths to their families and friends.  Not a day that I don't ask Allah to give guidance to the Search and Rescue team to find the MH370.  And to know that there are still people out there who make jokes, spread Photoshop-ed images of MH370 findings and circulate unfounded news really makes me sick.

Fortunately I am comforted by the genuine supports given by 25 countries to find the aircraft.  My heart warmed when Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, the Malaysia Defense Minister, said that he was willing to share sensitive military data that might compromise the country's security, as long as we can find the aircraft.  He trusts the 25 countries for not misusing the shared sensitive data in the future.  Other countries also share their military radar data to locate the aircraft.  Those 25 countries has been helping each other, giving whatever resources they have (manpower, money, information, tools, etc) to locate the aircraft.

I am also overwhelmed by the prayers and supports given from people all over the world regardless of race, skin color, religion, social status and nationality. It shows that there are a lot of people who care about the total strangers who were on board of MH370. After all we are one big family occupying the same mother earth.

Please keep on praying for the safe return of MH370.

Monday, 24 February 2014

I am going to Hell (?)

An old acquaintance contacted me a few years ago... Facebook and Blackberry Messenger (bbm) had brought back my long lost friends and acquaintances again. The last time I met this friend when I was in my teens, when I was addicted to hair gel and hair spray that could make me look like I was just electrocuted by lightning.  I remember the hard work to get my hair "stood up" like porcupine.  He remembered me as a "cool girl" who loved to dance.

Growing up in the 80's, being cool means wearing Madonna's style fishnet pantyhose, sporting huge spiky Cindy Lauper hair and falling in love with Simon Le Bon.  Going to a disco means having a very good exercise, dancing non-stop to the beats from Cameo, Culture Club and INXS while trying to keep the spiky hair stood up. It was purely dancing... no drugs and alcohol involved. My parents allowed me to go to disco almost every weekend as long as I would be back home by 11pm. I must say I really enjoyed those days when disco was just dancing..... nothing else. But of course, when I look at my teen pictures I couldn't help but wonder if I had misplaced my brain.

Since we had not any contact for the past 20 years, we updated each other's lives.  He told me that he got married and moved to another city.  I also told him that I got married and moved to Kuala Lumpur.  When he asked me which church I went to in KL, I told him that I was no longer a Christian.  I told him that I married a Malay guy and converted to Islam.  He was very surprised.  After a long pause, he diverted the conversations into general things. I could feel that he was not comfortable.

After three days, I received a text message from him.  He asked me if I was not afraid of the God's wrath for converting to be a Muslim.  He said that "as a good friend" he would pray for me to return to the right path. He believed that I would definitely go to hell for joining the religion of the terrorists. I told him that I believed I had chosen the right path and hopefully I won't be condemned to hell. I asked him politely not to talk about religion because not only it was a sensitive issue but everyone has the right to choose his/her religion.

Apparently he was adamant about his mission of "saving me from hell".  He would text me verses from Bibles almost everyday.  He also sent links to testimonials of Muslims who converted to be Christians.  He emailed me articles about terrorists who blew themselves for jihad, oppressed Muslim women in Saudi, sighting of miraculous clouds that looked like Jesus (I forgot to tell him about the miraculous Adobe Photoshop) and so many other articles that he thought might help me come back to the (supposedly) right path. He mentioned that he sent all those things because I was his good friend.

In the beginning I tried to be polite by just ignoring his messages and emails.  But after it continued for a month, I couldn't stand it anymore.  I blocked and deleted him in my FB and BBM. I did feel bad about this because I didn't want to be rude.  But a girl got to do what a girl got to do. Besides, I'd never felt that he was my friend.  He never really knew me even when we were teenagers.  We just said hello to each other when we met. After 20 years he suddenly appeared in my life, lecturing me about how bad my religion was and acting as if he was a very good friend who tried to save me from the burning hell.

If he were to lecture me during my disco days, I would probably think about it.  But now, when I have tremendously reduced my contributions to the holes in ozone, shrunk my hair and thrown away the fishnet pantyhose, I can't possibly believe him.  His lecture was just untimely.

And to say he did that because I was his good friend..... was such an overstatement.  I refuse to say that he is my friend because like what William Shakespeare said :

On another note, I have a close friend who changed her religion from Islam to Christianity.  She was born as a Muslim but as she grew older she learned more about Christianity.  She said she found solace and peace when she converted to be a Christian.  She never felt those beautiful feelings when she was a Muslim.  As a friend, I respect her decision.  Who am I to judge her?  She is a beautiful, kind, helpful and hardworking person. For the 30 years I know her, I've never seen or heard her doing bad things to people or even animals.  And yet, she also has experiences where her Muslim friends tell her to repent as she is a murtad and will definitely go to hell.  Her "friends" also try to save her from the burning hell.  They lecture her, send her articles about how wrong her Bible is, tell her stories about Christians who converted to Islam and how her children will suffer because of her deviation from the right path. Some even refused to befriend her again as she is now a kafir.

I believe one should educate itself about the freedom of choosing one's religion.  It is a total disrespect to think that people from other religions will go to hell. I believe it's the prerogative right of Allah to choose which of His creations should go to hell or heaven.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Making Love

Going back to Bandung for Chinese New Year has always excited me.  It's like an annual pilgrimage...
I have to prepare my mind and body weeks before the departure date.  Months before the departure date I have to control the stress level in brain, cool my emotion and the most important thing : lose some weight before I arrive in Bandung..!!

Those who read my previous blog would remember how I always get a greeting of : "You look fatter" during CNY reunions. While I am immune to this question now, I still need to lose some weights before I arrive in Bandung because I tend to gain a few kilos during my one-week-stay there.  So if I don't lose a few kilos before I leave KL, I would definitely come back to KL like a balloon.

(just so you know.... I DID get that "you look so fat now" friendly remarks almost every day during my stay there)

This Chinese New Year holiday was super special because my sister came from Japan with her daughter. My parents were happy because the complete gang of children and grandchildren were there to enliven the house with non-stop noise from talkative daughters and screaming children, continuous mess of toys and shopping bags, and perpetual clutters of junk foods on the dining table.

The Chinese New Year day started rather quietly.  My parents went to open their shops as usual and my children woke up a bit late than usual.  My sister and I gathered at the dining table for our ritual coffee morning. By noon everyone was busy. We took out portable chairs, plates, bowls and glasses, arranged tables, put money inside angpao packets, fried the lumpiahs, cut the cakes, ironed the red dresses and prayed that it wouldn't rain that night.

6 pm... Everything was ready... The satays were grilled, the chaffing dishes were set up, my make-up was on and the fan was blowing.  Everyone was ready to embrace the night.

I don't remember what time the first visitors arrived... But by 8 o'clock we had more than 100 people gathering in our house.  My parents' siblings, relatives and friends came to the house to wish "Kiong Hee".
Married couple gave angpaos to the singles.  Adults chatted, ate, munched, poked fun, and laughed while the children ran around, dropped objects, fought, screamed and cried. The boys shouted every time a round of poker game was finished.  The children screamed, ran outside and wave bye-bye every time an airplane flew above our house and ladies took pictures and posted on Facebook.... (wink..wink.. you know who you are)

The noise level was unbelievable. The whole thing looked chaotic.... It was a night when everybody talked about everything but remembered nothing....

The whole thing ended just slightly after midnight.

We were almost sad to see everyone gone.
We need to wait for one year to meet again...
I need to wait until the next Chinese New Year to hear "You look fatter" again...

Between now and CNY 2015, a lot of things can happen....
Some of our relatives are old...
Some of them are not well.....
Some of us live very far away....
We may not be able to laugh and poke fun at each other again next year...

When I remember those moments, I feel really blessed. Those are the real loves.  Chinese New Year should be the Valentine's day for the Chinese...!! It is the day to celebrate the real love.

I truly believe that love is not about saying I Love You or I Miss You....
It's more about being comfortable with each other
It's about knowing that we can rely on each other
It's about being happy even when my husband told me that I am fat like I was 7-month pregnant

Today is St Valentine's Day... Let's celebrate love in its purest meaning.... Let's love each other without boundaries... Let's make (literally) love...

Happy Valentine's Day my friends......

PS: I am addicted to this song "Counting Stars" by One Republic.  The words stuck on my head for weeks.
I love the music... I love the lyrics.... (and the video sent chills to my spine as I experienced something similar to that long long time ago)

Old, but I'm not that old 
Young, but I'm not that bold
(this is me... not so old.... yet too old to be called young)

And I don't think the world is sold
I'm just doing what we're told

I feel something so right
By doing the wrong thing 
(I know it's wrong to eat Cheese Martabak at night but it felt so goooooood)

And I feel something so wrong
By doing the right thing
(It is the right thing to eat salads everyday but my palate says it's soooo wrong)

I couldn't lie, couldn't lie, couldn't lie
Everything that kills me makes me feel alive
(my dearest junk foods (cireng, combro, martabak, batagor, tahu gejrot and their families) do make me feel alive...!!)

In case you haven't heard or seen the video, click the picture below:

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Delete and Block

I just had a very interesting weekend.

Last Thursday I felt very tired and my brain just refused to be filled with anything.  That kind of moment has happened a few times lately.  Whenever my brain sent me that strike signal, usually I would do something to relax and rejuvenate it by either going to supermarket or... peeking into my Facebook account.

When I signed into my FB, I saw there were messages in the "Others" folders.  Most of the time I ignore the "Others" folder because those are messages sent by some crazy conmen that are not in my friends list.

Most of the messages will be from foreigners and sound like these :

Hello dear, I just couldn't help myself to be captivated by your profile picture.  You look beautiful. (this is when I put Katy, my cat, in my profile picture..!!!)

Hi.. my name is General Geoffrey Norman and I would be happy if you add me as you friend.
Hello beautiful...
You look very angelic and nice.  I am dying and I need to give money to someone who will use it to help people. I trust you and I want to transfer my U$21,500,000 to you.
etc etc etc...

Last Thursday, I actually saw a  message from an Indonesian guy. From the name, I remembered him as my ex-staff when I used to work in Jakarta.  So I opened the message.  He said Hi and asked if I used Blackberry. If yes, he would like to have my PIN.  So I sent him my PIN.

When I tried to see his FB account, his picture was blurred so I couldn't him see clearly. Since he was not in my friends list, I couldn't see his photos and postings.

From what I remembered, he used to work with me for 2 years and resigned because he moved to another town to take care of his dying mother.  He was a very serious and hard working accountant who would stay with me in the office until 11pm whenever we had to meet our deadlines. This was 20 years ago.  So I was actually happy when he "found" me in FB.

We exchanged "Hello" and updated each other on our lives.  Since I had a 3-day workshops on the weekend, I couldn't chat with him too long.  I needed to prepare myself for the workshops.

On Friday morning when I was concentrating and trying to understand every word that my teacher said about iOS and Android App, this guy sent me a message in my blackberry.  He wished me good morning and asked what I was doing.  I wished him good morning and told him I was in a class so I couldn't chat.

Later that day, he sent me another message telling me that he thought I was beautiful.

I was like...???????

I thought that this guy must be out of his mind. I used to be his fierce boss for 2 years and now he texted me that..??

I didn't know what to react other than telling him,"Thank you but I am still in the class"

The following day, I woke up to a message from him (in my blackberry) : Good morning my pretty lady...

Again... I was like...????

I told my husband that I had a very bad feeling about this guy. There was no way he sent me those messages if he was normal. As always, my hubby dearest just shrugged it off.  He told me that I attracted "weird people" in my life.

Last night, this guy texted me again.... He asked what I was doing.  He also told me how much he missed me.

Helloooooo...??? Will you tell your fierce ex-boss that you miss her/him?

I didn't know what to answer....... But after several minutes I told him that sometimes I do miss our ex-colleagues too and I keep in touch with them via FB.  At this moment, I tried to remember who his closest colleagues were.  I needed to contact them to inquire if he was OK.  Unfortunately I lost contacts with most of them.  I only keep in touch with those who have FB account.

After exchanging more text messages, I felt weirder and weirder.

This morning he texted me again. He told me that he really really missed me. He told me that I looked like an angel (bidadari).

Aiyoooooo.... Cannot tahan laaaa... I had to whack his head...!!!  I was sure that he was not well. I needed to help him.. Poor guy, maybe he was having marital problem, maybe accounting made him crazy or maybe he swallowed some wrong pills.... I had to help him.

So I probed him with questions about his lives.

After ding dong ding dong here and there.... Finally he confessed...

We never met...!!!!! He never knew me before last weekend...

He is  not my ex-staff.  He saw my picture profile and contacted me.  He happened to use the same name with my ex-staff.  He also didn't know that I have a friend with the same name. He told me that he was "captivated' (AGAIN) by my picture in FB.  The last time I checked, my picture was a blurred black and white old photo.  How can someone be "captivated" by that picture...??


Wasting my time.  Definitely a conman.


Sunday, 5 January 2014

Girls' Trip

I went to Hongkong a few months ago to meet my girlfriends.  It was the first time for the 5 of us to have girls trip together after we get married. I departed from Kuala Lumpur while some of my friends departed from Jakarta and Bali.  We managed to take flights that arrived in Hongkong around the same time.

I met my girlfriends 18 years ago in Jakarta.  All of us were single at that time and we were all looking for the loves of our lives.  We were young, energetic, career-driven and full of lives.  We spent a lot of diners after work and weekend lunches until each of us got married and lived in different countries.

The past 15 years of our lives were filled with travelling with spouses, changing diapers, looking for the perfect kindergartens, sending kids to schools, going to pediatricians, going to school concerts and everything around kids.

We didn't really have time for ourselves. We didn't have a chance to meet each other.  We kept in touch occasionally using emails, sending pictures of our newborns, children birthdays and Christmas greetings. Then Facebook saved us... We updated each other using posts and pictures in Facebook until one day some of us decided to make their Facebook account idle.

During those years each of us changed... both physically (I am wider and heavier) and spiritually.  I converted to Islam when I got married to a "foreigner", a Malay guy from Malaysia. It changed my lifestyle dramatically.  I omitted pork and alcohol from my diet (replacing them with lamb and coffee instead).  I don't drink margaritas or tequilas when I go to clubs anymore, opting for a simple Coke or OJ instead.
While I am still enjoying Christmas lights, songs and atmosphere, I no longer put up Christmas tree in the house. I absorbed different culture and tradition in my new life as a Muslim in Malaysia.

All the changes in the past 15 years have changed the way I think, the way I live and the way I behave.  It has shaped me to be who I am today.  I feel that I am a different person from the person my friends used to know 15 years ago.

When all of us met in Hongkong, we spent hours of talking and giggling.  We slept around 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning.  We only managed to have 4 hours sleep everyday.  We talked about anything and nothing.  If you ask me what we talked about, honestly I don't remember.  All I remember is that we talked non-stop..!!

Four days passed and it was time for us to go home, to go back to our families and resume our responsibilities as mothers, wives, daughters and daughter-in-laws. It was a sad moment, thinking that we wouldn't be seeing each other again for a long time.  We made a pact to meet at least once a year now, travelling together again, leaving behind our roles at home and just be "girls" again.

After the travel, I realize that no matter how much each of us changed, real friends understand and adapt to each other. Real friends don't feel awkward after being devoid of personal conversation for 15 years.  Real friends can still find a million things to talk about as if our world is still the same as before.  Real friends don't judge.  Real friends don't pretend. Real friends see us for who we are. For them, I didn't change that much and for me, they don't change either.  We are still the same crazy loud girls who think that George Clooney is the hottest doctor in the world..!! We still think that mie ayam (chicken noodle) is the best remedy for stress and nothing can beat ice-cold Teh Botol during a hot sunny day.

This holiday is totally different from the normal holiday I take with my families. Although I had only 4 hours of sleep a day, I felt very refreshed after the holiday. When I have family holidays, usually I need a separate holiday after that, just to be alone and relax.  Although it is called holiday, family holidays mean I am still on duty to make sure my kids are well fed and taken care of.  I have to pack and unpack their clothes.  I have to entertain the kids (and their father) and follow schedules that involve theme parks, malls and kid-friendly restaurants. Those holidays are all about the kids.

This "girls trip" holiday is all about me. I felt free like a bird.  I felt young again. I felt like I was transported back to the past where I had no worry and no responsibility (and no cellulite..).

I believe all mothers need this break.  A break from duties. A break from being mommies. A break from being someone's wive.  A break from changing diapers.  A break from baby talk.

I am really looking forward to our next trip.

In the meantime I need to behave nicely and score A+ as a wife and a mother... I need to earn my next "exit permit" from the three creatures at home who work me non-stop, make me sweat in the kitchen, drive me nuts and spoil me with hugs and kisses.

Have a Happy New Year 2014...!!!