Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Whole New World

It was a night filled with tears and weeping as 23 TESL students boarded the direct flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Heathrow in London. I have never been so far away from home all alone for so long... and for the first time in YEARS... I gave my mom and dad a hug each... and I think I held on for a looooooong time... because I know I won't be touching them for the next who-knows-how long...

Waiting patiently (but in reality, rather anxiously and nervously to board the plane... with my good friend Cik Husna...

The trip was looooooong... and tiring. I cannot sit for 12 hours just like that. Not to mention all the movie selections that day was bad... Thank God I had my good pal Puvana seated next to me. We talked about all sorts of stuff... movies, TV shows, music, gossips, GLEE!!!

Before we landed, we were given immigration forms to fill in. Since it was soooooooo uncomfortable on the plane, we thought we might just as well fill it in once we had landed. 

So we landed in London...

The first person to greet us was this woman from the Malaysian Student Department, which is under the Malaysian  Hight Commission. Maybe she was having a bad day, or she is naturally cold-heated, but she was insensitive enough to scold us for not filling in the forms on the plane. Thank God she was NOT the officer to greet us... she was supposed to greet the MARA students who were traveling on the same plane as us...

God have mercy on those poor MARA kids...

The REAL officers who greeted us were all men... and they were naturally relaxed and super duper sweet! Not being sexist... but we guys are always laid back... and MOST DEFINITELY more sensitive towards the feelings of a group of nervous and anxious teenagers who have just left their homes and families to travel hundreds of thousands of miles to a foreign land to start a new life here...

The really nice officers from the Malaysian Student Department... along with some (mafia) seniors... ahaha...

God have mercy on those poor MARA kids...

After taking our luggage, and checking in with the customs, we met at the lobby of Heathrow and were introduced to the officers from the Malaysian Students Department who are in charge of our welfare. I remember immediately getting a text message from Maxis, promoting a local service called Orange. Kak Ain, my favourite senior had told me once that she uses Orange. 

Then we met Michelle Charlick, an officer from University College Plymouth of St Mark and St John, the university where we were going to pursue our studies at! She was super nice. Once on the bus, she gave us our house and room keys, along with free bus tickets to be used in Plymouth! 

First meal on English soil... a piece of ASDA bread...

We hardly saw London. God! We hardly saw Heathrow! And the journey to Plymouth took almost five long hours! We passed by beautiful lush green fields, meadows and farms. They all looked as if they belonged in a postcard! We then stopped at an R&R. I dined with three of my good friends from the Kota Bharu college... so I had a cheese sandwich since that was the only Halal sandwich. We each had a cup of (completely tasteless) hot chocolate to go with it. 

You can tell by the face that the food was a complete turn-off...

When we finally reached our campus, we were directed to our respective homes. My house mate Zizi was a senior and he welcomed Safwan, Afif, Faiz and me. How sweet of him... and he was not feeling well that day.. still he was so nice to welcome us...

First time at Marjon's Student Village... 'thanks' Shanky for capturing my top-model-pose...

The very beautiful, very peaceful, very homely MARJON student village...

Faiz got the biggest room in the house... my room was moderately large... but it was comfortable and nice... I cannot live in a small room.. the thought that others had a much larger room than me would kill me slowly...

My bed... but this is with the new duvet set I bought while shopping with Farah...

Unpacking just as hard as packing mind you...

Wireless didnt work until a few days later... sob sob...

The view from my room... just a pathway leading to two other ones... symbolizing the constant two though choices that life offers me

Mimi, Nad, Hana, Ayen, Aisha and I decided to hang around the Student Village for a while... the houses were like typical English cottages... the entire village seemed like a little English hamlet... it was beautiful... and peaceful...

First embarrassment on English soil... worth documenting it? Mimi had no time to debate that obviously....

There was a little barbecue to welcome the freshers. There were also some fun ice-breaking activities... my favourite was especially the parachute game... it was real fun!  


Parachute game....

That evening, a few seniors took us to ASDA... As we waited for the bus, someone really pissed me off but I'm trying really hard to forgive and forget... so I'm gonna pretend that never happend... although ironically it's gonna be documented here for the rest of my life! And well.... it was my first day in England... I didnt wanna go temperamental about this and spoil my day!

With Syima... waiting at the bus stop... Eunice and Faiz at the background....

At ASDA, the things there were darn cheap!!! Thank God! I thought I would have a difficult time surviving in this place due to the high living cost... but thank God for ASDA... Poor Aisha had not exchanged her Ringgits into Pounds yet... so I borrowed her some cash. After all... what are friends for right??

Just enjoying the view from the Student Village....

I was really shocked when I saw that the girls had bought soooooooooo.... many stuff! All I bought was bread, jam, biscuits and some other light snacks! Ahahahaha.... When we arrived at home, there was dinner prepared by sweet!!! 

Thus ended my first day on foreign soil... it was simple and sweet. But I'm sure you guys can guess what I dreamed about that night, right? Yes you got it!

Home Sweet Home..........

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Favourite Raya classics!

So, what is synonym to Aidilfitri or Raya? In my opinion:

1. Wooden kampung houses with a large sandy compound with beautiful greenery all around
2. The food (!) - rendang, ketupat...
3. Colourful Baju Melayu, Baju Kurung and Baju Kebaya
4. TV dramas about keinsafan
5. My favourite - all the Raya songs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So here is a list of my favourite Raya songs that immedietly evoke the sense of celebration the moment my friends and I listen to them...
Menjelang Hari Raya by Datuk DJ Dave

Menjelang hari raya
Berakhirnya puasa
Bergema takbir senja
Menyambut syawal tiba

Suasana riang ria
Terlihat sini sana
Menyeri malam raya
Terhias indah rupa

( korus )
Oh... cantik berseri-seri
Tua dan muda berpakaian serba baru
Oh... sungguh meriahnya
Miskin kaya pun turut bergembira

Selamat hari raya
Aidil fitri mulia
Semoga berbahagia
Hidup aman sentosa

( ulang dari mula )

This song is like completely synonym with Raya. Most suitable played on the morning of the first day of Raya. It's so cool... when I listen to this song on the TV the moment I wake up on Raya morning, getting ready to watch some great Raya show or to visit an open house, it sort of instantly gets into my head - it's that time of the year again!!!!!!!
Sesuci Lebaran by Datuk Siti Nurhaliza

Sesuci... di hening subuh sunyi
Sesuci... terdengar nurani
Sesuci... salam untuk Ilahi
Bagaikan memanggil insafi pada diri

Lebaran... terasa kesayuan
Lebaran... takbir bersahutan
Lebaran... memuji keagungan
Bergema suara syukuri nikmat Tuhan

( korus )
Hiasi diri indah
Riangkan hati gundah
Bersihkan jiwa... sesuci lebaran
Agar sempurna amalan
Berdoalah insan
Di pagi raya
Moga-moga terampun dosa

Pohonlah ampun maaf
Kepada ibu bapa
Sahabat dan sanak saudara
Sama sama kita gembira

Bermesra tua muda
Bantulah miskin hina
Menyambut hari mulia
Sama sama kita gembira

This song is yet to be considered a classic. But since it is sung by Malaysia number one singer, and my favourite local singer too - Datuk Siti, it should become an evergreen number in a few years time. Just like the previous song, this one is also a very cheerful one, and it reminds everyone of the good things of Raya - like spending time with your family and relatives back home!
Balik Kampungby Sudirman

Perjalanan jauh tak ku rasa
Kerna hati ku melonjak sama
Ingin berjumpa sanak saudara
Yang selalu bermain di mata

Nun menghijau gunung ladang dan rimba
Langit nan tinggi bertambah birunya
Deru angin turut sama berlagu
Semuanya bagaikan turut gembira

Balik kampung oh oh...( 3X )
Hati girang
Ho ho... Balik kampung (3X)
Hati girang

Terbayang wajah-wajah yang ku sayang
Satu-satu tersemat di kalbu
Pasti terubat rindu di hati
Menyambut kepulangan ku nanti

( ulang dari mula )

If Datuk Siti's Sesuci Lebaran is not yet a classic Raya number, this one definitely is! My mom use to tell me about her college days back in Ipoh. She would take the bus back to Taiping, and they would play this song. It really evokes the happiness of going home for the festive season. Since the word 'Raya' or 'Aidilfitri' is not found in the song's lyrics, and all Malaysians would say they're going 'balik kampung' each time they're going back to their hometowns, this makes this song suitable for all Malaysian festive seasons - including Deepavali!
Selamat Hari Raya by Saloma

( 1 )
Selamat aidil fitri
Kepada saudara serta saudari
Setahun hanya sekali
Merayakan hari yang mulia ini

( 2 )
Di masa bulan Ramdan
Kita berpuasa hingga sebulan
Pabila Syawal menjelma
Hari raya disambut dengan gembira

( korus )
Miskin kaya memakai baju baru warna-warni
Mengunjungi sanak-saudara kaum famili
Sungguh hebat pemandangan di hari raya ini
Tua muda wajah berseri-seri

Marilah bergembira
Bersama menikmati hari raya
Mintak mak kuih sepotong
Saya mahu makan kerna perut kosong

( ulang 1 & 2 )

Maafkanlah jika ada terlanjur perkataan
Diharap supaya jangan disimpan
Kuberdoa selamat panjang umur murah rezeki
Semoga Tuhan akan memberkati

Selamat hari raya
Hari untuk kita bersuka ria
Selamat kami ucapkan
Untuk kita hingga sampai tahun depan

Selamat hari raya!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This song is a classic! Suitable to be played on the morning of Raya too!
Suasana Di Hari Raya 
by Anuar Zain & Ellina

Berlalulah sudah ramadan sebulan berpuasa
Tiba syawal kita rayakan dengan rasa gembira
Anak muda di rantauan semuanya pulang ke desa
Ibu dan ayah keriangan bersyukur tak terkira

Bertukar senyuman dan salam ziarah-menziarahi
Tutur dan kata yang sopan saling memaafi
Suasana hari raya walau di mana pun jua
Memberikan ketenangan dan mententeramkan jiwa

( korus 1 )
Kuih dan muih beranika macam
Makanlah jangan hanya di pandang
Ketupat rendang sila nikmati kawan
Penat memasak malam ke pagi

( korus 2 )
Wajik dan dodol jangan lupakan
Peninggalan nenek zaman berzaman
Asyik bersembang pakcik dan makcik
Hai duit raya lupa nak di beri

A & E:
Berlalulah sudah ramadan sebulan berpuasa
Tiba syawal kita rayakan dengan rasa gembira
Anak muda di rantauan semuanya pulang ke desa
Ibu dan ayah keriangan bersyukur tak terkira

( ulang korus 1 & 2 )

Another Raya classic! Boy, Anuar Zain sure showed some real talent even as a little kid didn't he?
Kepulangan Yang Dinanti by Aman Shah

Bergema suara takbir di angkasa
Selembut bayu meresap ke dalam jiwa
Betapa hatimu terharu
Menyambut anakmu kembali

Terbayang senyuman di wajah nan sepi
Pulangnya anakmu di pagi yang murni
Kasihmu seharum kasturi
Melambai anakmu kembali

( korus )
Dalam dakapan keheningan maya
Pertemuan yang menyentuh di jiwa
Sekian lamanya terpisah
Harapan kini menjadi nyata

Kiranya perpisahan terjadi lagi
Anakmu pergi mencurahkan bakti
Doamu teriring selalu
Semoga bertemu kembali

( ulang dari mula )

Pulanglah di hari raya
Begitulah harapan ayahanda
Oh dear... what other song would make a person who does not have the chance to celebrate Raya with his loved ones back at home cry? So far, this is the only song I know that a 'anak dagang' would totally relate to while away from home! Consider the lyrics of the final stanza - oh gosh! I'm going to play this song on the morning of Deepavali when I'm in UK and weep all day long! Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dendang Perantau by Tan Sri P. Ramlee

Di hari raya
Terkenang daku kepada si dia
Kampungku indah nun jauh di sana
Ayah serta bondaku

Di tepian mandi
Danauku hijau yang aman damai selalu
Nun di sanalah tempat aku bertemu
Aku dan dia

( korus )
Apakan daya
Masa tak akan kembali
Hancur musnahlah semuanya

Impian yang murni
Tinggal menjadi kenang-kenanganku
Hanya rangkaian kata dan lagu
Dendang perantau

( ulang korus hingga akhir )
This is not a personal favourite of mine. But still, it is very popular and worth included in this list.
Satu Hari Di Hari Rayaby M. Nasir

Satu hari di Hari Raya
Ku lihat cahaya bersinar indah
Langit cemerlang tak terkira
Tanda kuasa yang Maha Esa
Memberi nikmat pada manusia

Satu hari di Hari Raya
Ku dengar irama yang sungguh indah
Ku coba mendekati padanya
Kira irama itu adalah
Suara pujian pada yang Esa

Satu hari di Hari Raya
Aku menangis tanda gembira
Aku menangis tanda ku cinta kepadaNya

Satu hari di Hari Raya
Ku lihat wajah suci ibuku
Ku lihat wajah kasih ayahku
Ku gembira
Mungkin inilah dia kebahagiaan

Another popular Raya song. I don't know why, but it is best listened to while driving back to whatever place you work or study at from your hometown after Raya. Maybe because it says - 'Satu hari di Hari Raya', which loosely translated to Once Upon A Raya... meaning the celebration has already passed.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Malaysian Indian Gangstarz

Today I watched an interesting Tamil documentary on TV3. The weekly show focuses on the many social problems the Indian community in Malaysia faces. Today's show was particularly interesting because it discussed the issue of gangsterisme among our local Indian community, which has been a problem for decades.

A social activist was interviewed in the show. He told the audience the history of gangsterisme among our community. Most Indians in Malaysia come from rubber estate settlements. But after the global drop in the price of rubber, many estates all across the country were closed down. With no other choice, many of these estate dwellers had to migrate to urban areas, thus becoming urban settlers.

Since these urban settlers do not have a stable income once left jobless after the rubbers estates are shut down, they set up their homes in slums in big towns and cities. Those with a little more money would settle down in low-cost flats, housing areas and places like that.

In rubber estates, the community was part of a well-organized and systematic social structure. There were Tamil schools, polyclinics, temples run by locals, community centers and much more. But in large towns and cities, it is difficult to these similar facilities that cater to a Tamil-speaking, clannish people.

For instance, these children will now be enrolled into national schools where they will be forced to integrate with students from different races, which is difficult considering the fact these kids grew up in an environment where they only knew Tamil-speaking Indians. Even urban Indian children do not speak their own mother tongue, but prefer to converse in English most of the time, even within their own households.

Not to mention the stereotypical view that urban Indians have towards estate Indians. Estate Indians are often victims of certain stereotypes like being unintelligent, always using vulgar language, fanatic over Tamil masala films, being drunkards and much more.

Now I understood how difficult life must be for these former estate dwellers to integrate into mainstream urban society because of their rural background. As our country progressed, the Indian community generally remained the same since most of us from the estates. In a certain desperation for attention and power, many Indian youth turn to gangsterisme.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Come to Malaysia lah....

So we all know Bollywood and Tamil movie makers are obsessed with foreign locations for song sequence picturizations. Sometimes they stop by at Malaysia, Singapore or Thailand to shoot a song sequence. But there is no doubt Indian film makers simply prefer western shooting locations over those within their own country, or even within this region itself.

Instead of wasting money going all the way to America, Europe or Australia to capture the glamour of western architecture, film producers might want to consider some shooting locations here in Malaysia that offer European-styled architecture to add more spice and flavour into their song sequences. Here are some...

1) Fraser's Hill

The small town on Fraser's Hill is somewhat like a Scottish hamlet. All the buildings share the same grey, moss-infected buildings. The hill station is after all named after Louise James Fraser, a Scotsman, who started a tin-ore trading post towards the end of the 19th century.

Even the post office is build like a Scottish bungalow...

Another bungalow with the same structure on the hill station...

Check out that mist!

The iconic clock tower at the town's square...

The Smokehouse Hotel...

A little western styled cottage like one you can see in the English country side...

2) Comar Tropicale

In Berjaya Hills Resort on Bukit Tinggi, there is a French-themed hotel called Colmar Tropicale, which was modeled after the original Colmar Village in Alsace, France. Walking into the hotel's grounds, one will get the feeling as if he or she is in a classical French village!

The elegant entrance...


You cannot get more French in the tropics than this!!!

Imagine if they shot Hosanna... here!

Awwwww... so nice...

3) Taiping

I just have to promote my own hometown don't I? Hahaha... but seriously. Apart from Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Malacca, Taiping is one of the Malaysian towns with the most colonial buildings. Sure they are not as well preserved compared to the other three big cities mentioned, but still we do have a sizable number of colonial buildings. After all, we house most of the country's firsts, like the first train station, the first golf club and much more.

Beautiful or not???

Postcard perfection...

Taiping's skyline as seen from Maxwell Hill

Ulu Sepetang Ayanar Temple

Maxwell Hill Murugan Temple

The iconic Taiping clock tower

A close-up of the red London telephone booth - so London-ish, right?

Kama Lodge - it simply looks nice!

One of the few well-maintained colonial buildings - now a military office I think...

Taiping District Office...

One of the few well-preserved World War II shop houses...

The Perak Museum - the first museum in Malaysia built by the old masters...

King Edward VII School: A major shooting location for the hit Bollywood Bachan-starer Paa because of its striking colonial features...

4) Cameron Highlands

Another hill station. This time it was founded by a William Cameron who was a British surveyor. It houses many tea plantations, orchards, vegetable farms and flower gardens. Due to the cool climate, it is a retreat from the hot tropical weather of the lowlands for both the Europeans during the colonial era and the local and foreign tourists today.

A tea plantation on Cameron Highlands....

The Smokehouse - a Tudor-styled local inn

The Lake House - another Tudor styled local inn...

A beautiful hotel on the highlands - Tudor style!

A red-brick convent school on the highlands.... so English!!!!!!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

St. Anne's Feast... With A Vow This Year...

It has been two years since I last attended the last St. Anne's Feast or Sandanamma Tiruvela. Since I left Peninsular Malaysia for Kota Kinabalu to do my foundation programme, it is impossible to come back every end of July to attend the feast. Going on pilgrimage there every year has been a tradition in my family. The celebration is held at the famous Roman Catholic St. Anne's Church in Bukit Mertajam, which is located on mainland Penang.

When I mean my family, I mean my WHOLE family. This includes my dad, brother, sister, two uncles, three aunties and three cousins! Sadly, mom could not make the pilgrimage because she went to Ipoh that morning on official business and came home exhausted. Another aunt cannot walk for long hours as she gets tired easily. Another cousin also could not make it as she had mild fever. Grandma too did not come for she is too old to walk for hours. Three cars made the journey from Taiping to Bukit Mertajam.

The actual date of St. Anne's Feast falls on the 26th of July. But the celebration is so grand that it attracts pilgrims from all over Malaysia and some neighbouring countries like Thailand and Singapore, that it usually extends up to ten days.

We reached Jalan Kulim, which is the street where the church is located at around five in the afternoon, very much earlier than we usually do. We found ourselves nice parking loads. There was a huge number of pilgrims... and we tried to be clever by coming early to avoid the huge crowd. Hahaha...
Huge crowd.... Pilgrims from many different faiths come together to get Sandanamma's blessings on her feast day...

Since many pilgrims are Hindus, there are stalls outside the church which sell idols and pictures of Hindu deities alongside that of Christian saints and crucifixes.

Sorry for the low quality pictures... had to use my camera phone since my camera was out of battery. Maybe a sign from God that I should concentrate more on praying than photographing....

The wordings on the walls of the new church greets pilgrims...

Some of the unique features of the Sanctuary include the striking maroon-cloured Minagngkabau roots, rich mosaic murals, Gothic arches and beautiful idols.

Some of these idols of Jesus and the Virgin Mary depicting his last few hours before being crucified. They are called Statues of the Passion and were newly built in 2006.

St. Anne's Feast - Supposedly one of the 20 top Catholic gatherings in the world... and with a crowd like this, one can see why.

The famous candlelight procession which is the highlight of the celebration... and thousands of pilgrims were already in line!

The new church can be seen clearly on the way up the stairs to the old church...

Many devotees and church committee members line the streets heading towards the old church to collect alms that will be then donated to the poor...

Super crowded on the stairway...

The huge crowd viewed from above the old church...

One can hardly move once inside the old church... but the candlelight procession continues...

The altar filled with flower bouquets given as offerings by pilgrims and devotees.

The idol of St. Anne with the child Virgin Mary, beautifully decorated with flower garlands brought by pilgrims...

The other idol of Sandanamma

Another idol in the old church.

The Ten Commandments chalked on a huge rock right outside the old church, at the foot of
St. Anne's Hill.

The view of the old church from St. Anne's Hill

The newly built altar with the idols of St. Anne and the Virgin Mary on top of St. Anne's Hill.

A close-up of the idols.

This year, free food was provided for pilgrims. My family and I had some delicious vegetarian food provided by a group of Indian devotees - it was like going to a Hindu temple, where free vegetarian Indian food is served at the end an important prayer festival!

These Chinese devotees were serving Char Koey Teow! Knowing that we Hindus don't eat beef and pork, they explained to us that they don't and coaxed us to have some noodles! How nice of them!!

Hundreds of thousands of Catholic pilgrims flood into Dataran St. Anne to join in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by the bishop. If you look closely, you will see the huge LCD screen...

I came with a vow this year - to be safe and happy in a foreign land. I am confident that the good Mother had heard my prayer. Hopefully I'll be back again next year since it will be summer break in England, and this time with my whole family, just so the journey will be more fulfilling. We came home to Taiping way pass midnight. Apart from feeling tired, there was a certain satisfaction in my hear... one that I had not felt for the pass two years.

To feel close to Sandanamma and pouring out all your sorrows to Her as you approach Her idol with your candlelight, I had almost forgotten how good it felt....


P/s: The Diocese of Penang, for which St. Anne's Church is a part of, is organizing a campaign to raise fund to help the poor. Here is the link for those who would like to lend a helping hand...