Thursday, June 7, 2012

Max the Golden Retriever

30th May 2012 marked the arrival of Max to his new home. I am now the proud father to the latest addition to the family (I am not the person pictured on the right with him by the way, that is Yang). Fostered all the way from my cousin sister’s house in Bukit Mertajam, it was an extra long ride to his new home (I took a wrong turn and had to go an additional 12km before being able to u-turn back to Penang). It was a difficult journey for him as he was not used to travelling in wheels.

Having gotten used to riding at the back of my car within a week’s time, Max has been visiting dog friendly places – Coffee Bean at Gurney Hotel, China House, outside Botanical Garden, Burger King, Harvest Inn and Yang’s condominium as well as its pool side to name a few. He loves to eat, but doesn’t seem to favor gnawing on hide chewies. He adores bread, and that’s how I got him to take his pills and vitamins.

Although huge in size, his friendly character made him a hit everywhere he went. Keep smiling and we shall keep walking, with me at your side…

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bersih 3.0 - For the people, for the country

In the fight for a fair and just electoral system, Bersih 3.0 was set to take place on the 28th April 2012 at the Dataran Merdeka - a significant landmark which symbolized the independence of Malaysia decades ago.

Me and friends checked out from our hotel early and headed towards the Dataran around 10am, but a police blockade denied us the journey just before Sogo. We walked in silence along with steady streams of rally goers coming from all directions, swept past alleys, up and down the sidewalks, avoiding numerous blockades set to deter the supporters. Most of the people were without words, wearing straight faces which donned the morning with an utter sense of seriousness. Liveliness filled the air as we inched closer to Dataran. Businesses were getting ready for a booming Saturday, hungry  Bersih supporters as well as policemen chatted heartily over breakfast. Some rally goers were being denied passages to the Dataran, but we slipped past quietly since our yellow tees were still in our backpacks.

We sat quietly observing the human traffic after changing into color-of-the-day upon reaching the Bar Council building. There were people from all walks of life, of different religions, age, skin colors and even nationality. Nobody was hostile to anyone, everyone were there to get a share of history. Cheerful yet with a purpose, that is how I would describe the crowd. They arrived in groups, in wacky outfits, colorful shoes and attires, with their phones and cameras, one even brought along a yellow Angry Bird balloon. The place was roaring with chanting of “hidup rakyat”, “duduk duduk” and “duduk bantah”. A Malay guy who sat next to me asked to have his picture taken with me, a picture which I will never see.

We moved closer to the center entrance of Dataran approaching 1pm. By that time our phones were all out of service, so staring at the watch was the best time-passing activity we could think of. The crowd sang a Sudirman song couple of times (I am ashamed that I only knew the melody!). followed by the national anthem. Spirits soared higher by the minute as more police officers arrived, and to a new height when the opposition leaders arrived one by one and started giving speeches. It was minutes to 2pm when we decided to answer the call of nature, out of the protective shade of LRT tracks above and off we strode to the washroom at Old Town White Coffee just blocks away. Hungry tummies called for a quick bite at Subway next door, we practically swallowed the sandwich since we did not want to miss out anything. Many of the yellows were doing the same thing as we headed towards the Dataran once more, and then it happened. Just ahead I saw water canon in action followed by clouds of smoke, people started running in our direction. Faces red from chemical burns, teary eyes, violent coughing and involuntary vomiting. The peaceful sit-in had gone terribly wrong. We covered our faces with towels but the acrid smell of tear gas had already filled the air. A friend immediately showed familiar symptoms I have seen just seconds before, surprisingly I only felt a slight burning sensation on my cheeks and nothing else. People were angry with the attacks, “polis kejam” echoed through the concrete forest. 

Hours which followed were fast moving, with lots of possible scenarios to evaluate in a nick of time. In order to not limit our escapes, we had to watch the routes we took and the possibilities of getting trapped in confined spaces incase of being attacked with tear gas. We shared water supply with strangers, took pinches of salt, and had short exchange of words with people who were disappointed with the police and FRU. Lucky enough there was a water hose for gardening purposes in front of a bank, those suffering from tear gas irritation managed to do some quick wash offs, we wet our towels to better counter the chemicals lingering in the air. Every time the police stopped launching out canisters of tear gases, which is normally less than a few minutes, the crowd clapped and regained their positions. The cat and mouse game went on, with the number of launches increasing. Sometimes the wind helped, others it sent people running away, but surprisingly many were calm enough to walk instead, while reminding those who panicked to slow down.

As the enforcers marched further up the road, we moved to the next and that was where the car crash took place. The first police car raced down the street with protestors throwing water bottles at it, the windows were smashed while the windscreen was still intact. The second was not that fortunate as the windscreen cracked and I saw the driver slouched forward with both hands on the steering trying to get out alive. Barely few feet away from where I stood, it went onto the pavement and crashed. We did not stay too long as we were pretty sure the troop will be arriving shortly. Why the hell would 2 cars speed down a crowded street where they might hit a civilian accidentally? Did they do something to piss of those further up, which resulted in the attacks? With our feet shuffling non-stop and a high level of alertness, we managed to stay out of trouble or get injured.

So why did I join Bersih 3.0 you may ask. The answer is simple. It is the right thing to do for the people, and the country in the name of justice and human rights. We walked with a sense of pride, we had a purpose.

For those who blamed us for causing the lockdown of Kuala Lumpur and disrupting your peaceful Saturday outings in town, I hereby convey my apologies. However please do remember that we are fighting for you, your family, your children and theirs, while you sat comfortably at home occupied with the blame game. Many before us have sacrificed themselves for the freedom you enjoy today, or whatever that is left of it. You have the right to be ignorant and selfish, but please let us who care do our part as Malaysians, as humans, do not condemn us.

Even silence has an end.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

What I am reading - Even Silence Has an End

Born in Bogota and raised in France, at the age of thirty-two Ingrid Betancourt gave up a life of comfort and returned to Colombia, a country devastated by violence and corruption, to become a political leader. In 2002, while campaigning as a presidential candidate, she was abducted by the FARC, a brutal terrorist guerrilla organization. She spent sex years imprisoned in the jungle – often chained, sometimes by the neck – dreaming of escape and trying to move beyond the pain of the moment and find a place of serenity.

’For all is horror and injustice, the experience of the political prisoner held in inhuman condition has often been transformed into compelling literature: think of Solzhenitsyn of Dumas and Arthur Koestler. Now Ingrid Betancourt joins that distinguished company’ – New York Times

’An astonishing story. Betancourt was beaten, underfed, forced on epic marches and threatened with a bullet in the head at all times. Far from undermining her faith in human nature, it confirmed her belief in man’s “endless thirst for happiness”’ – Guardian

The last installment - Dragonseed

The dragon empire finally succumbed to the relentless up rises. Humans are once more free from the tyranny of powerful creatures, their fate being left in their own hands.

Finished the last of the three books finally, truly an exhilarating journey of the imagination.

As dragons and arrows met with underspace and science, a fantasy beyond my expectations unfolded with vivid details. Unexpected twists in the storyline kept me on the edge of my seat, eyes affixed to the magical words, and fingers glued to the pages.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

What I am reading - Dragonforge

The second installment of The Dragon Age trilogy by James Maxey.

Powerful dragons have ruled the land for an eternity. Following the events of Bitterwood, their supremacy now hangs in the balance. Although the oppressive King Albekizan is dead his attempted genocide cannot be forgotten. The humans seek vengeance and they will stop at nothing to achieve retribution, Radical prophet Ragnar leads a rebellion that seeks to overthrow the dragon leaders and reclaim the kingdom.

Though there are those that fight for justice, peace and a land where humans and dragons can live in harmony, they are fast becoming outnumbered and their ideals forgotten. When all out war erupts, legendary dragon hunter, Bitterwood, must face his own personal demons and decide where his loyalty truly lies.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Leading a simple life

To enjoy life, it is alright to indulge ourselves in little pleasures.

I have no objection in wasting an evening listening to live music in a small bar, or browsing through galleries. I have always imagined myself staying in a bohemian-styled apartment (a colonial one will be good too) in some small European town, hopping from one flea market to another, far far away from where I am now. A cottage located in the outskirts or perched high on a mountain sounds equally dreamy. Should I be staying in the city, a walk on the streets against the chilling breeze can be as delightful.

I need not the extras, I just want to experience true living.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Day trip to Ipoh

Made a trip to Ipoh last Sunday for some good weekend excitement with 4 other friends. Started the journey to mainland minutes past 8 a.m. after a simple breakfast of coffee and toasts. Traffic was light and the morning air crisp. Adele and a game of Taboo kept everyone awake in their seats.

Made it to our first pit stop - Foh San, the well-known dim sum place after asking for directions. The double tiered eatery was swamped with customers. With the intend to keep some room for more food, we wet our morning appetite with some nice tea and servings of dim sum.

Next on the agenda was a cave, the Kek Lok Tong (carrying the meaning of the cave of ultimate happiness in Chinese). I have been to the Perak Cave ages ago but this was somewhat different. Instead of narrow staircases laced with smoke and the smell of incense, open space and fresh air welcomed us. It was truly rewarding for urbanites like myself, especially after a hearty meal. Miniature table-top landscapes lined the staircases leading to a huge cave entrance, a very interesting entrée for visitors.

Upon completing my mission of exploring nooks and corners of the cave (which included gawking in mental awe at the statues and natural rock formations), I found Yang and Peter resting their tired feet, basking themselves in sunlight at the other end of the cave. This opening overlooked a small garden, with a pond as its centerpiece. I rested myself a bit as well, while waiting for the rest to finish their adventure (Jim was busy leaving his mark in the washroom). Glorious sunlight and cooling breezes do make a difference after all. I should get myself outdoors more often.

Raindrops fell as we were wrapping up the visit. Off we went in the car, in search of more food. Ipoh is famous for beansprouts, chicken and “hor fun” (a type of flat noodles). We stopped at Lou Wong’s for these 3 items. Lunch consisted of hor fun in clear soup, eaten with beansprouts and chicken seasoned in similar manner (soya sauce, sesame oil, white pepper as I can tell). A mouthful of smooth hor fun with crunchy spouts and nicely done chicken is how one  defines good food. I was once told that the water here contributed significantly to the quality of sprouts (shorter and thicker than what we normally have). I have no doubts that I can live solely on beansprouts here if given the chance. Despite of the pour outside, it remained hot and humid. We took in and burned calories at the same time.

Into the rain and the car again, caffeine addiction (for some in the group) determined our next hunt – the search for coffee. With the car parked for an all-natural carwash, we went in search of Nam Heong coffee shop (supposed to be serving the best and most original white coffee in Ipoh) on foot. Pacing up and down the same street looking for this particular shop brought us pass a couple of really nice stalls selling curry noodle and egg custard (accordingly to Yang). With the help of GPS (oh god!) and upon seeking help from a local, we managed to reach Nam Heong in one piece (and alive, having dashed across a busy road). Coffee was all we ordered, as there were not much space left in our stomachs.

With nothing much left to do, we left Ipoh with stomachs filled to the brim (and brains intoxicated with caffeine). The homeward bound journey was wet and quiet (most of the noise came from music). Yang drove heroically despite of being tired (a million thanks sweetie!), Peter didn’t do much to keep him awake (piak piak!). Someone fell asleep and got his picture snapped by me (photo shared and removed on Facebook before he realized the crime).

An undeniably fun Sunday I must admit. Time spent in the company of nice friends are always great!