Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Missing Him

It is 9 pm. The house is just so quiet tonight. Usually there will still be the 4 Aces at home at this time. Ayna is at work, Alina is at tuition whilst Ali is far far away in Melaka. Sigh… Ali left to pursue his studies in a boarding school in Selandar Melaka today. It is hard to accept that my first son, who has never been away from us for more than two nights, is living on his own with his new friends. His room is empty, clean and well-kept, a bit unusual when Ali is around; the room would always be in the state of a bujang-mess. Suddenly I realized that I am suffering withdrawals ; gradually missing him, something I didn’t feel just now when we bade farewell. I guess I was then more worried as to whether he can cope with hostel life.

I miss nagging him for sitting infront of the computer for too long, or for watching the Starsports during solat maghrib time, or leaving the house as soon as his friends asked him out knowing it was already almost bedtime. Naturally one doesn’t really appreciate what you have until you are deprived of their presence.

I am delighted that Ali is studying in one of the best schools in Malaysia. By far and large, the prospect of pursuing his studies to the universities after the SPM, local or abroad, is far more promising when he is in the boarding school. Insha Allah …

Inadvertently, his acceptance to SBPI Selandar has made me learnt about the process of application, beloved husband’s attitude and the inner me. Actually I regret that I didn’t really pay much consideration for Ali to be accepted in the boarding school as compared to during Aliah’s and Ayna’s time. Aliah and Ayna knew what they wanted and where they want to study. However for Ali, he was unsure. He wanted to be near us yet he wanted a familiar place. Initially when he did the application online, he wanted to study at Sek Men Sains Muar where Aliah used to study but felt that it was too far. I suggested him going to MCK*, beloved husband’s alma mater, but I don’t think it was something he wanted to consider deeply, to beloved husband’s dismay. In the end he chose Alam Shah Putrajaya.

When the refusal to go to beloved hubby's alma mater was realised and discovered, the grandfather gave Ali his piece of mind after knowing that Ali’s perception that studying in any boarding schools are pretty much the same anywhere. His father wanted to continue his legacy whilst the grandfather seconded it. Despite the controversy, not much push or persuasion was done and in the end when the offer came out, he got SBPI Selandar, a school which was neither in his list nor ours.

So when Ali got SBPI Selandar, we appealed to KPel to transfer to another school nearer to home, reason being (seems much too silly) that the father will be away and it is only the mother who will have to take care of things. It was rejected not because of the silly reason but because there is this directive no transfer after placement. If it is done before placement, that can be considered (as if everyone knows about it lah kan..) If we knew about it from the beginning, we should have “panjat” KPel much earlier. By now it is already water under the bridge.

Taking it with open mind and with the rationale that everything happens for a reason, we let Ali go to Selandar today. Last night I had a pep talk with him and he seemed alright, receptive to take new challenges. Owh.. my son has grown up, and I like that feeling !

Selandar is a 2 hour drive from KL. When we reached there we did the usual stuff. We are good at it already since the process of registration is similar to the previous two occasions; Aliah and Ayna.

We were told that there would be 100 new students for Form 4 but at noon only 54 pupils turned up. After checking around, we realized that most new students are from Melaka area. This is the time when Ali put a looongg face. He felt that it is unfair for him to be in Selandar when his choice of the boarding school is different.

It breaks my heart to see him sad. I wish I had the extra powers and do a bit more for him originally, which at this instant, I am not sure what.

One consolation,there is tae-kwon-do in SBPI and hopefully he can sharpen his black belt skills, something which he loves.

Here I am thinking about Ali and what is he doing tonite; whether he is pondering about the beloved ones at home, or wondering about being in a different school or reflecting regrets for not listening to the father or grandfather. Is he able to get along with new acquaintances and new environment? Is he able to sleep on his new double decker bed in Dorm 11? Is he able to withstand the orientation week pressure? Will he be homesick for being away from us and will he miss us ?

I recited a long doa specially for Ali during isya prayers just now, praying that he will like it there and he will find passion in whatever things he newly encounter. Above all that he will be happy…..

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Good Morning Vietnam

When our feet stepped onto the land where it used to be the battlefield between the Vietcongs and the Americans GIs, we instantly knew why Vietnam has become one of the largest importers of motorcycles in Asia. There are 4 million motorcycles in Saigon alone. I considered myself lucky for being part of the motorcyclists population in Saigon; Zaidah, the baju kurung retailer made her husband fetched us on his motorcycle to her home in Kampung Champa on our 2nd last day in Saigon. The breeze that ran through my tudung displayed a sense of utmost enjoyment of my visit in Saigon.

Aliah, Ayna and I went to Ho Chi Minh city last Friday. It was meant to be a sight seeing + (little) shopping vacation. I wanted to see for myself the land which is famous of the Vietnam war, those that I read in the books as well as that I saw in movies like Deer Hunter or Good Morning Vietnam. The visit to the War Remnants Museum really described it all. Gory, brutal and inhumane.

We stayed in Au Lac Hotel 2, a 3 star hotel, which is a reasonable walking distance to Ben Thanh the famous market in Saigon, and Halal@Saigon, the Moslem restaurant where most Malaysians eat when in Saigon. The area surrounding Au Lac seemed dodgy but once you are in the hotel, everything is transformed. The room is spacious, clean, the receptionists and bell boys are friendly and most importantly the TV aired Star Movie, Star World, HBO and AXN other than CNN.

We only shopped on the arrival day and first half of the second day. Ben Thanh was definitely a good area to shop. However we did find it difficult to bargain because even after we have managed to get the price which we wanted, in satisfaction, there was always the tinge of regret that “..aaah.. should have asked for lower!!”. Fortunately for us there is not much to shop because other than the bed spread or table cloth, I did not fancy them much. I find that the cotton material in Bandung or Jakarta is far better. We didn’t shop for other clothes because we thought we could find the same in Petaling street. We bought Ali’s teeshirt and slacks because he will be going to boarding school soon and I don’t really have time to shop later later.

The highlights of the vacation were our visit to the War Remnants Museum where it showcased weapons used during the war and pictures of the horror Vietnam war story, and Chu Chi tunnel, an approximtely 200 miles of multi level tunnels which was the hideout of the guerrillas which passes below the American base connecting one village to another.

The War Remnants Museum

Chu Chi Tunnel

It would not be complete if we didn’t go sightseeing around Saigon and cruise along the Saigon river.

It was my ignorance; I didn’t know the Vietnamese celebrated the lunar year. The shops were already closed by 3 pm on the last day of the Rat year to usher the new year of the Dragon. Not knowing what other productive thing to do, we joined the Saigon people hanging out around Dong Khoi and Nguyen Hue, the two famous main streets in Saigon.

Alhamdulillah, our rezki ... that although the baju kurung retailers like Hong Ann and Minh were closed since the Saturday, we met a couple from Malaysia who knew Zaidah who sells beaded baju kurungs. We were not sure of her place, she sells them from her home. What we knew that the land mark was the Buddhist temple on the way to the airport. So when we arrived at the temple, Zaidah's hubby came to fetch all 5 of us on a motorbike. He transported us one by one to their home in Kg Champa and that was when I got to breathe that air of excitement on the kapchai. Luckily the house is just about 1 km away from the drop point. The baju kurungs sold were beautiful. One would cost about RM60. I didn't buy that many, just reasonable pairs reserved for raya. Zaidah also opens a restaurant and do catering. I like the soup she made, pedas manis!

Saigon has become a popular tourists attraction. I am certain that one day, it will be developed like Bangkok or KL. Hong Leong Bank and Maybank have set their brand there. And so has Petronas :) Hopefully the government will take heed of the potential development especially how the locals treat the tourists. For tourists, my advice is be careful of those who like to take the opportunity to earn fast bucks in particular the cab drivers or the cyclo (trishaw) riders. Guess that is part of the costs of developing a country and opening it up to the foreigners.

By the way I think Saigon has bigger LV, Gucci and Chanel outlets relative to KL, thus if that is the yardstick of "a developed country", there you go!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Humble Recognition

When the alarm rang that morning of 14th Jan 2012, I woke up in panic and remembered that I fell asleep without realizing. Came back from Kuantan the night before feeling feverish. It could have been the rain the day before. Kuantan was raining the whole day and although in most times I hate walking in the rain albeit with an umbrella, I could not resist it this time. Datin S enticed me with the gulai ikan patin and sambal tempoyak at Akob’s. Other than these 2 yummeh food, there were also gulai tempoyak daun kayu and goreng tempe and ikan bilis served there. Catching up with Datin S was something that was much awaited. What a pity I had to leave for office especially when I was already tugged into lots of coziness at Datin S’s bungalow.

After the panic, I realized that the camera battery had only one bar. Worse, I forgot to switch on the charger of my blackberry and the bb’s battery was draining out. Today is the big day and with my state of unreadiness, I foresee that there would only be a few shots to be taken at the palace later.

I was clad in blue kebaya labuh and sedondon with beloved husband’s blue baju melayu complete with destar, bengkung and sampin. He looked very handsome and reminded me of him 20 years ago when we got married. Even our temporary helper was pleasantly shocked to see him that morning and asked Alina “Bapak nak kahwin lagi?”

The drive to Seri Menanti lasted about a little more than an hour. Seri Menanti is the royal town for the Negeri royalties. My paternal grandfather hailed from Tanjung Ipoh which is the kampong next to Seri Menanti. I suspected that my ancestors may have lived here too long time ago.

The royals are mostly from suku Biduanda. As some of you may know, there are 12 sukus in Negeri. In adat pepatih, one follow his/her mother’s suku which makes me a Tanah Datar. (Note to self * I swear that I will not delete the names of the Penghulu, Lembaga and Buapak of Ulu Muar Tanah Datar from my Notes for fear of being quizzed again like during the rehearsal).

I feel very proud the fact that I am bequeathed the pingat Ahli Setia Negeri Sembilan by the Yam Tuan Besar Negeri Sembilan, Tunku Muhriz on his 64th birthday at Istana Besar Seri Menanti. It is the recognition which my birth state had granted on me and the feeling is almost beyond honourable. The fact that I am a company secretary and a senior lawyer in one of the reputable companies in the country must have some elements for the palace to consider. I feel thankful. As a matter of fact, the last three years I instructed the payroll to deduct a hefty part from my pay and channel it to PPZ NS would probably indicated that Allah is rewarding me in return. We never know cos’ He works wonders!

I don’t know that many recipients. There was my ex officemate who got the Dato’ship, there was my Srikandi friend’s father who was the Dato Pengiring, Edi my classmate who was there as invitee and Tunku A, SIL's uncle whom Datin S nicely referred him as Lord Chamberlain. It was such a moderate affair. The Yam Tuan and the Tunku Ampuan are two charming faces which make you feel at ease. I think the Undang yang Empat and the Tunku Besar Tampin look more fierce. I shook hands with the MB who is another friendly face. He came to where I was seated twice and I just didn’t feel good if I didn’t shake hands with him. He probably has some say to me receiving the pingat one way or the other.

When I went up to receive the pingat from Yam Tuan, I carefully counted my steps whilst ensuring the right time to mengangkat sembah. The sembah should not be too low or too high. Someone corrected my sembah during the rehearsal and I was determined not to repeat the same mistake. There were sounds of sigh from the audience when they noticed any of the recipients made mistakes. Blunders like immediately turn the back when Yam Tuan has given the kurniaan or forgetting to angkat sembah were pretty common. The Yam Tuan is indeed a forgiving king and I think he must have tried to hide his giggles when such silly blunders occured. Anyway he was like one of us before he was throned and he surely does not look like one who harp on trivial matters.

When the ceremony was over we proceeded to lunch. The lunch was fun. Guests was entertained by the singer Aishah, who is also a Nogori born. The king cut the 5 storey birthday cake with a sword (wow! I thought only Samurais do that) and everyone got their share.

All in all it was such a sweet affair; particularly sweeter because it happened 3 days after my birthday. What a good start for the year, Alhamdulillah. Of course it is not like I receive a grand bintang carrying the title Dato’ship, nonetheless it is a humble but huge recognition for me. The funny part is, resulting from this honour, my close colleagues at office are now calling me Datin!