Angels Among Us, Angels Within Us

Friday, October 06, 2006


Ammar ran to me and was half panting when he said 'Mama, mama.. Hanna has new dolls.' I was like 'New dolls? From where?' Slightly confused. I haven't bought her any dolls for a while. Last time was before we moved back to Malaysia. I bought her a few Barbie dolls thinking that she would enjoy them when she's older. Sure enough, my rugrats found the boxes and the Barbie dolls entered my household prematurely.

See, the thing is I see kids who are soo very gentle with their belongings, like my nephew Emery. He takes really good care of his stuff, be it pens, colors, books. And at the opposite spectrum there are kids like my rugrats, who would simply campak their stuff wherever convenient. They know I don't approve of that, but its like something embedded within their genes. They are quite 'ganas' with their stuff.

Since Ammar insisted on me going to check on Hanna, I walked up and took few steps and saw Hanna with 2 topless Barbie dolls. 'Oh, that dolls'. Those are the two dolls that I put away sometime back. Hanna kept undressing her dolls, and you know those Barbies are quite curvy inside. It bothered me that a) she played with undressed dolls b) Ammar is around those undressed dolls. Many times I would put the top back but Hanna kept taking the cloth off again. And one day, the cloth just dissapeared; its probably somewhere and probably showed up in a few months unexpectedly, So at the end I just hide it in the downstair's armoire. So I guess she found them now.

I asked again 'Hanna, mana baju doll' ..(where's the doll's clothes?)
She said 'ta' de. (don't have)
'why did u take the cloth off before. don't play lah with that doll'
to which she conveniently answered 'Mama, my doll nak mandi'

Hmmm. I guess she has a point. Never mind, I'll hide the dolls again. Later.

By the way, I just learned today that Rumah Amal Limpahan Kasih in Puchong has its own website. I did browse the website and its very informative. Do visit if you have minutes to spare

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Remember RTAR

What is RTAR? It's an acronym for Rumah Titian Ashraful Rohaniah, located in Teluk Intan. It's the first thing that I wrote about in my blog (if you scroll all the way down, you'll see it). Infact, the caretaker of the house, a couple, is the inspiration for my blog name.

It's a place that really touched my heart. I am so very guilty for haven't been there for this long, because I remember saying to myself that I would try to visit that place regularly.

Several of my internet friends have been there since my writing. Members of the Ummiku Sayang group has poured their energy, money and other resources to help out.

This time I just would like to let people know that another friend is planning to visit the house soon. On Oct 14 weekend, to be specific.

I'm trying to spread the words out. Just in case anyone is interested to donate money to the residents there..

Here are the specifics:

Per my friend, the donation is limited to money only. It's because the entire family is going so having to carry other things like rice and flour may take up space in their car. But, worry not, the money will be converted to food items, which I believe they plan to buy once they're in Teluk Intan.

Collection centre :
1. Yeanti - Cheras/Menara Telekom area 013-343 9544,
2. Sherene - Kota Damasara/Menara Telekom 013-333 3669
3. Myself - for Seremban vicinity. contact me at

RTAR address is as the following:

Rumah Titian Ashraful Rohaniah
C/O Tamjis Hj Rakim and Rohana Saidin
53-B Kg Selabak Luar Batu 3
Jalan Changkat Jong
36000 Teluk Intan, Perak, Malaysia

The last time I was there, they didn't have a bank account yet. But I'm told that they do now, and here is the info

Act bank Bank Bumiputra Commerce cawangan Teluk Intan 08021252940051 atas nama Rumah Titian Ashraful Rohaniah.

Date line for your donation is 14 Oct 2006 (if you want to give the money to the volunteers instead of banking it in)

Here's the picture of Farah, the only child in the house.


If you have a child or children of your own, I'm sure you probably feel that sadness, for her, yet gratitude for the fact that your children do not have to endure such hardship growing up.

Monday, September 25, 2006

My Grateful Tag

I had an eye surgery on both eyes a few days ago. Today, as I was driving to pick up Ammar from school, it felt so liberating to be able to see without my glasses or deal with irritation from contact lenses. I have been using glasses since 13 so that's a little over half my life I've been dependent on it. I feel so grateful for the gift of seeing, that I came home and decided to create a grateful tag

So, today, with the garden's kesidang flower as the backdrop, my grateful tag says this:

I am so grateful to be able to see the world around me, and the faces of my loved ones.

Thank you God, for this amazing gift.

Friday, September 22, 2006

My typical chaotic morning

I got up in the middle of the night last night because I heard someone's alarm went off. I'm not sure which neighbor's alarm was it. It went off for a quite a while. Started to get worry.. What's going on? Somehow or rather, I managed to fall back asleep

I just had my eye surgery yesterday and I was down the whole evening. The anaesthetic must have kept me dizzy and tired the whole night. This morning, when I woke up, quickly removed my eye shield and I remembered my son's homework is not done yet. Shoot! I was away yesterday and slept the whole night, and I'm 200% sure he didn't do it (without me ushering and waiting in front of him)

He was already up watching cartoon. so I asked 'Did you do your homework? yet?' and his response was 'Mamaa.. it's cloudy today.. I think we don't have to go school'.

Err.. okay, I refused to respond to that. It's too early ..

"Come on Mar", I said. "We have to do your homework. Quick quick quick. Chop chop chop"

Downstairs, I opened the page and got him a pencil and eraser..

"Ok, hurry hurry. You can do this.." He didn't seem to care but complied, nonetheless.

"Ok mama, but I'm still suhleeepy"

"Come on, we have to give your homework book today to your teacher"..

And I went to my computer and left him. Thank God it's Math homework. He's pretty quick at that.

For the next few minutes it went like this..

"Mama, is 7 correct"



"What plus what"

"3 + 4"

"Okay, 3 + 4 equal what"

"7, correct?"

"Ok you got it. Correct"

The same conversation continued, except you can just substitute different number to it.

"Is 6 correct"

My 5 year old darling must think I have some telephatic ability to ask me that kind of question.. aiy yay yay. Again, I'll go "What plus what?" ...basically the exact conversation again, and again.

"My eyes hurt mama" he shouted..

"Ammar, you can do it.."

"And my fingers.. they are tired too." he continued. Oh, that's his favorite line. He uses that on me, on his teachers....
Less than 10 minutes later, he emerged from his desk and showed the book to me. Well done.

Now we have 10 minutes before the kindy started. Got to go get ready.

"Ok Mar, go mandi"..

"But the water is too cold..."

Aarrhh. I just had the homework battle. Now is the 'getting ready to school' battle.

My typical chaotic morning.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

All the blooms

Mm..what is Bunga Kesidang?

I'd say it's a must have at your home, even if you have a yard as big as a small carpet. The flower has such wonderful scent, it feels like walking into bilik pengantin. The flower smells like bunga rampai. Here it is, along with a close up of the flower.

Another one of my favorite is Petunia. Hm, reminds me of the Petunia character in Harry Potter. Harry's evil aunt .. Contrary to that Aunt Petunia, it is actually a really pretty flower. I am sure you have seen it hang on the street pillars. In Putrajaya especially...

I have a few colors in my house. People asked me how I keep it long, bushy and flowery. Most people claim it'll die not long after they bring it home. Hmm. I am not immune either. The longest it has last me is 4 - 5 months, which I guess, far exceeded 'a few weeks' yang other people experience.

It's usually sold in stores just with the regular plastic pot / hanger thingy. I changed mine - I bought the metal hanger with 'sabut kelapa' pot and replant it there. Look much better ma!

Since it's quite pricey, I started to sow petunia seed. Urg, felt like forever (to me who is used to just going to nursery and wulla, get my bloom) .. having to wait weeks and months for the seed to grow. But I have my first self-grown petunia just blooming yesterday. Its weird, I actually felt proud! I realize it's all about waiting patiently.

Be patient..In time, things will bloom.

Pre Ramadhan

3 days before Ramadhan

I called up my mom and asked her if she would want to come with me to MidValley today. I have an eye surgery scheduled and I thought during the surgery she could go and check out the stores. To which she replied 'Tak nak lah. Busy la hari ni. Mak nak siang daging, salai daging. Banyak kojo" Kojo=kerja to those unfamiliar with loghat Nogori (Negeri Sembilan).

Oh that's right. She's making prep for bulan puasa. I'm sure by Saturday, she'll have her daging salai ready along with rendang and a few other lauk.

As for me, I have already ordered rendang daging from a neighbor. She owns a restaurant nearby and offered me a little while ago.. "Eh nanti jgn lupa beli rendang acik, sekilo RM25 kalau daging kotak. Lembu kampung sekilo RM35"

Kotak or kampung - I am a little oblivious to either so I went with the cheaper option. My justification is, kat pasar pun, I always buy the boxed one what..

That would be nice during sahur when ada sedikit rasa malas utk masak. Although lately I've been cooking a lot in the middle of night (like 2 ish a.m) when I volunteer to sponsor refreshment to the guys patrolling the neighborhood. Mula2 goreng kuih aje and made some tea / coffee. Then I heard that these guys do get hungry at night so I started serving heavier dish.. Last one I made was nasi lemak, and kopi O... at They usually come at 3.30 for half hour break.

Me - don't mind the cooking at all. After all, I don't have to be at an office by 8 the next morning. It's the cleaning afterthat that I mind. I have been known to make extravagant mess when I cook. Luckily I have my maid around (aaaa... maid baru ada 3 bulan. Before that kemas sendiri tau... ) :)

Friday, September 15, 2006

School Concert and Boxes of Memories

Today I was at Ammar's school the whole morning, to help them out with concert rehearsal. The concert is tomorrow.

It'll be his third concert.. The first one we attended was at Thousand Oaks, California. Thanksgiving concert, which was quite fun. Then last year it was at Royal Adelphi, Seremban.. that was some production! I have no idea how the teachers pulled it off with 3,4,5,6 years old. Kudos for the teachers. So we'll yet to see how tomorrow goes although this one looks like its going to be a much smaller scale production.

I found Ammar's picture when he was about a year something. I miss the baby fat. He's (on the left) with his pal, Hakim .. although now they're not 'pal'friendly anymore.. hardly see Hakim these days although his family has also moved back to Malaysia.

I have this big ambition to create scrapbook/memory book for my boy and girl. I have kept a lot of things (pictures, cards, artwork, footprints) since their birth, all in boxes. Yup, I am one of those crazy mums who would keep everything.

I just never had the chance to sit down and put the pieces together. It's been on my to do list since 2001. ay ay ay.

Oh when I came home this morning, I saw a few pots of plants that I bought like a week ago, have arrived. I've been on the phone with this apek for days now, asking him 'where are my plants'. His answer was 'saya tak sinang aaa..nanti bila sinang saya anta la'. Urgh!

But I got a great bargain though. The nursery is closing down cuz they're expanding the road so I guess the nursery land was bought out. So things were selling at markdown. A bunga kesidang sold for 20 bucks each, when the normal price that I buy (lepas tawar) is usually 50 , or 45.
I wish I had gone to the place sooner, cuz by the time I was there, the nursery was almost empty. Somebody must have striked out I guess, with lot of garden bargains. I guess this evening I have my hands full with figuring out where to put the plants, and actually plant them.

Reminds me of a saying I heard 'men buy stuff they need, even though its not on sale'. 'women buy stuff they don't need when its on sale'.. or something like that.

Well, u know what. There's no such waste with plants... hihi.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

You Crack Me Up!

Anyone of us parents would go through moments when our kids will say the funniest thing and just plain crack us up. Sometimes big time.

It occured to me - maybe I should start jotting it down, so when they grow up, I can show to them how silly they were when they were kids

Like with Hanna -

I was in the car when suddenly what smelled like a toxic fume suddenly overpowering the airfreshener. Hmm It's gotta be one of my two rugrats. Okay, who's the culprit ..

"Ammar, did you pass gas?" I asked while quickly lowering the car window for some fresh air
"No I didn't. Maybe Hanna" Ammar answered

Ok. Fine

"Hanna, did you pass gas?"
"Nope" .. the nope came even before I managed to finish my sentence.

I certainly didn't. But I swear the smell didn't come from outside. It had that distinct almost poop smell.

So I tried again

"Hanna, did you kentut?"

Oh girllllll. You crack me up. I forgot with Hanna, atuk and wan (granpa/granmas) always use the Malay word so she'd no idea what passing gas meant

Iyyyieww! said Ammar

He immediately came to the small middle space in between the driver and front passanger seat to say something to me

Mama.. Hanna's 'kon-toot' is the busukest!!

My poor boy. Still with heavy American accent even after 18 months in Malaysia now

I silently agree. Hanna Hanna. That was some grenade!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Earth Laughs in Flowers - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I read somewhere :

"With a few flowers in my garden, half a dozen pictures and some books, I live without envy" ..

How simplified, but true.

I'm real lucky to have found my garden. Many hours of life worries and stress have been redirected to the making and keeping of my tiny little flower pots and it treats me like a glass of cold water in a hot, sunny day.

Let me share this beautiful creepers that are blooming in my backyard garden. You could see the blooms, but I only wish you could smell its wonderful fragrance too

Friday, August 25, 2006

How Much I Love You

When I was anak dara, I remember one of my all time favorite was to hang out at bookstores (I still do, except thesedays susah sikit, dah ramai body guard). Usually I'll stick with mostly fictions like Grisham,Chrichton and those kind of authors. One day, for no reason I was drawn to skim through this one children's story book, and I actually ended up reading the whole thing (which took less than 4 minutes anyway)

The story got stuck in my mind for a long time. It was the sweetest story I've ever read, and I imagined reading that lines to my precious little ones, one day, when I have children of my own.

Sure enough, when I first learned I was pregnant, and I went and bought the book, and read it to my tummy religiously. Just reading it alone, expands my heart.

You've probably heard of the story too. You may even have the book in your collection.. But just in case you haven't, here's Guess How Much I Love You.. (p/s I hope I wont get into trouble putting it here - in any case, it's a sweet little story by Sam McBratney, there's nothing like holding the book and reading it to your kids so if you can, go out and get it..)

It's a story of 2 hares (or bunny..a big one, and a tiny one)

The story goes ...

"Little Nutbrown Hare who was going to bed, held on tight to Big Nutbrown Hare's very long ears.."

"He wanted to be sure that Big Nutbrown Hare was listening" "Guess how much I love you", he said

"Oh, I don't think I could guess that", said Big Nutbrown Hare.

"This much," said Little Nutbrown Hare, stretching out his arms as wide as they could go.

Big Nutbrown Hare had even longer arms. But I love you this much" he said.

Hmm, that is a lot, thought little Nutbrown Hare.

"I love you as high as I can reach", said little Nutbrown Hare. (picture of the little hare stretching his arms upward)

"I love you as high as I can reach" said Big Nutbrown Hare (picture the big hare stretching his arms upward too.of course with his longer arms, it looks like the Big Nutbrown Hare loves more)

That is very high, thought Little Nutbrown Hare. I wish I had arms like that.

"I love you as high as I can hop!", laughed little Nutbrown Hare, bouncing up and down.

"But I love you as high as I can hop," smiled Big Nutbrown Hare - and he hopped so high that his ears touched the branches above.

That's good hopping, thought Little Nutbrown Hare. I wish I could hop like that.

"I love you all the way down the lane as far as the river," cried little Nutbrown Hare.

"I love you across the river and over the hills," said Big Nutbrown Hare.

That's very far; thought Little Nutbrown Hare. He was almost too sleepy to think anymore.

Then he looked beyond the thornbushes, out into the big dark night. Nothing could be farther than the sky.

"I love you right up to the moon" he said, and closed his eyes.

"Oh, that's far," said Big Nutbrown Hare. "That is very far."

Big Nutbrown Hare settled Little Nutbrown Hare into his bed of leaves. He leaned over and kissed him good night.

Then he lay down close by and whispered with a smile...

" I love you right up to the moon -

..... and back."

I left some paragraphs from the's much more fun reading it and seeing the pictures..

Ammar, Hanna and I had and still do have many tender moments when we read this story, or when we play the game "How much I love you" together. Sometimes we would laugh histerically trying to outwin each other .. We would go silly.. like making up numbers that don't exist..

"I love you one hundred times.." Said Ammar..then Hanna would parrot it, "Hundred times.. The I'll say "I love you one thousand times".. and we would go on and on till Ammar starts making up his own number like "I love you one billion million gillion shillion kerillion dillion eeellion times".

But nothing is sweeter then when we all lie down in the dark room, ready to sleep when one of them would suddenly get up..and crawl up to me and say 'Mama, I love you so much. Good nite'. It makes me feel very lucky to be a mom.

Thank you Sam McBratney for a sweet story such as this ..

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Quotes (Corny but True)

I found this compilation of quotes from the internet. As corny as they are, I have to give it kudos because I can relate to many of them. And, a very good friend of mine is having some hardship in life and love right now, and I hope these quotes can bring a smile to her face.


* Love starts with a smile, grows with a kiss, and ends with a tear

Me: Tear is not necessarily represents sad ending. It's just a form of emotions we feel when we love. Think about your precious little ones. Its because of love that we often cry for them..when they're sick, when we're away from them

* Don't cry over anyone who won't cry over you.

* Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave, and impossible to forget.

* You can only go as far as you push.

Me: Just yesterday, a person close to me gave me a similar quote "Limit is something that you set yourself". It really makes me ponder. It's huge..

* Actions speak louder than words.

Me: This is so simple, we hear it all the time. But we easily miss it. Perhaps its easier to be a Talker than a Do'er. Note to self : Never Talker, always Do'er.

* The hardest thing to do is watch the one you love, love somebody else.

* Don't let the past hold you back; you're missing the good stuff.

* Life's short. If you don't look around once in a while, you might miss it.

* A best friend is like a four leaf clover: hard to find and lucky to have.

* If you think that the world means nothing, think again. You might mean the world to someone else.

* When it hurts to look back, and you're scared to look ahead, you can look beside you and your best friend will be there

* Good friends are like stars....You don't always see them, but you know they are always there.

* Don't frown. You never know who is falling in love with your smile.

* What do you do when the only person who can make you stop crying is the person who made you cry?

* Everything is okay in the end. If it's not okay, then it's not the end.

Me: This is a great one...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What is it with women and babies?

When you see babies, especially little babies, are you one of those people who goes 'ala cutenya' or 'eiy baby', maybe not outloud, but at least to yourself or enough so anyone close to you can hear it.

When someone you know gives birth, do you feel that kick inside you to wish to have a baby too, just because.... Even though in reality that idea may not really be a good one at the moment because you just had a baby some 18 months ago ke, or you're just too busy with work, or your kids are just at the age where you can actually relax a bit so you want to enjoy that a little. Nevertheless, the longing would still be there. .

I was one of the unlucky ones who had to endure a really painful childbirth, where I was not given enough drug during a c-section. Yes, you got it, and no, I am not kidding. I felt the knife cutting each layer, and even felt the surgeon hands probing inside. It might have been a little under 2 minute ordeal because when they finally paid attention to my scream *wasn't a loud one, because I was weak, and had oxygen mask on me*, they immediately went into this 'fix-the-problem' mode and got me addtl dose of anaesthetic till I couldn't feel a thing. But that 2 minute felt like eternity, I literally felt butchered.

In the post-partum room, I had my friends already waiting for me. About 12 of them, and more people in the next 5 days of my hospital stay, heard the story, and heard me saying 'there's no way I'm doing that again. Uh - uh. I'm done'

Right! (sarcastically :) Two years later, I found myself on another operating table. This time begging the anaesthetist to knock me out well, while telling him again and again about my first experience and how I don't want that to happen again. I was still awake because it's only a local anaesthetic, but to my delight, I felt nothing. Thank goodness.

So, I'm one of those women who will do that when I see babies, at the mall, at kenduri, at restaurants.. I like to peek strollers to see the little thing inside. Darn, I have that kick again now. Longing for a baby. But longing is all, for now..

They're just too precious, right.. Look at my Sophie. my Hanna. My Mira. (She's got many nicknames). This is her right after she's taken out of my tummy

And a few hours after that...

and a few months after that..

Then, about a year and many months after that, suddenly she turned into a little lady. . The baby fat, the baby face is gone..

And this is her now, at 2 year 9 months. Would you blame me if I keep wondering 'Where did my baby go?'

Lucky I have tons of her baby pictures. That seem to satisfy the craving for now..

Again, how precious. How precious to see something so tiny grows right in front of your very eyes

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Can a ring make me happy?

I went for an outing with my sister in law, who's also my window shopping partner, and this trip we invited ourselves to many jewelerry stores. No reason in particular. It's just that we both felt like looking at beautiful diamond rings. Not that we were planning to buy one.

It was a short trip, cuz she had to do her locum at one of the clinics nearby. We were running late, but somehow we managed to talk ourselves into looking at a bunch of gem stones in this one Crystal shop. After quick eye-balling rows of stones (rings, bracelets), I was particularly smitten by this one beautiful ring. Silver ring, white gold plated. It is topped by a brillian banana-leave green stone called phrenit (I've personally never heard of it). It has uneven color tones, and at the bottom it has small dark green needles (mcm lines, which makes the stone looks really unique). I wish I had a picture of it.

In any case, the sales lady quickly brought it out, and asked to me try it on. Sure enough, I did try and wullla, it fits.

'Cincin ini ada ong dengan you la'.. said the sales lady

"Kita ada satu ni saja in stock, sebab you muat, mesti cincin ini pun suka dgn you."

"You ada jodoh dgn cincin ini" (to which I almost chuckled. Kelakarnya bunyi)

"Bukan semua orang ada jodoh dengan cincin, kadang kadang you suka tapi kita tak de size"

Ok, now this lady was going on and on and on and on....

But I tried to ignore the noise coming from her cuz I was concentrating on how beautiful the ring looked.

"Berapa harga".. I asked

"Kita ada promotion sekarang, sekarang tinggal (then she got her calculator, did her thing.. ) 220 saje.

Ok. I don't have that much in my purse. So forget it..

But the lady continued her sales pitch.. She said ...

"Batu ini boleh buat you happy tau. Ini batu amat rare sekali dan bila pakai boleh buat orang itu happy selalu"

I thought to myself. "Can a gem stone, a ring, make me happy?"

"We should get going".. I told my sis. Meanwhile, I doubt that my happiness lies in a ring, but nevertheless, it is really nice ring. I told myself, in my next trip, if its still there, then memang betul ada jodoh. I'll get it, an early birthday present to myself. From me. To me.

Monday, August 21, 2006

My Boyfriend

I have a boyfriend, who is extremely sweet. He will draw me pictures of dinasours, and more dinasours. Sometime I'll be standing hand in hand with him next to these group of dinasours, but we're together regardless. He plucks flowers from our garden and gives them to me, so I can tuck them near my ear. He kisses me long and lots, on my cheek and every inches of my face. Lately he has been asking me to marry him. I am still considering the proposal. But its hard to turn down when he loves me 1 billion million times.

When we go shopping, he'll want to buy me toys, but he says because I love him, I'll have to give the toys back to him so he can play with them. Sometimes, when I go shopping, he'll call me 5 times every hour just to check where I am and ask when I'm coming home.

When I go to sleep at night, he holds my hand and says he'll protect me, but he is scared of the dark. He thinks I make the best pancake, and sandwich, and spaghetti. When I make him potato wedges, he curiously look at me and say 'how do you know how to make this. Only KFC knows how to do this'. When I teach him prayers to recite before eating, he asks 'do you go to my school too? How do you know'.

He has this intense brown eyes that I love to look at, and we share the same mole right above our lips.

He's a little silly. But that makes me laugh.

I like to think that he'll love me forever.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Sun and The Lemon

I feel lucky to have witnessed the most beautiful sunrise I've ever seen in my life, and that was in Maui, one of the islands in Hawaii. It was so picturesque I felt I was in a renaissance painting.
I remember waking up so early that day because it was going to be my last day in Maui, and I had missed the sunrise the entire week. I walked by the beach in darkness, and then picked a spot and sat and waited.
It was so amazing that within just a few minutes the darkness turned into this intense brightness, I felt like a miracle was at work.

I continued to sit there, and most of the time 'melayan jiwa' :) How could you not. The scene was too fantastic, fit for berangan.

I was really glad to see the sun smiled.

Ok. Back to the real world. Present world. Today I came across a piece of information about Lemon Diet, also known as the Maple Syrup Diet. Supposedly Beyonce Knowles did it for 10 days for her role in a moview, and lost 20 pounds. That's nice. It took me half my age to lose that much !

I came across that trivial piece of info while surfing Google news, then I got interested so I researched more about this Lemon Diet. It's a method of liquid fasting. If you want to read more about it, you can go to

but the gist is, you use RO/Distilled Water, and mix it with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Add organic maple syrup or tree syrup and a pinch of Cayenne Pepper. Allright, personally I'll drop the Pepper. Why would I want any kind of chilli in my drink? The actual recipe (with measurement) is as the following:

"Make up 1-2 litres of lemon drink. For a 1-litre bottle, use 70ml Madal Bal tree syrup, 70ml fresh lemon juice (juice of about 2 lemons), topped up with spring water. This is the day’s supply to be taken ad lib, warm or cool, with a dash of cayenne. During the day, drink at least 1.5 litres of water and herb tea in addition. Mint tea complements the lemon drink well."
(Taken from the link above)

Madal Bal tree syrup can be replaced with Maple syrup Grade B or C (darker is better). Grade A Maple syrup is too refined.

The idea is to rest and cleanse the digestive tracts but the website noted improvements to other areas too: Help with sinusis, Skin conditions, circulatory disorders, weakness and joint pain, virul illnesses (due to immune system boost).

The benefit is all true and more - and that's why we have bulan puasa kan.. All great scientific researches have proven that fasting is really good except that this morning, I came across an article (but didn't keep the link) about how if we indulge luxuriously with food when we break our fast, it'll actually do more harm than good. It negates the benefit of fasting. It hurts your digestive system because its resting, and then suddenly it is awaken by cornucopia of food, it causes nausea, stomach ache etc etc (all of which I had experienced when terover buka puasa) . Food koma.

I am reminded of Bazaar Ramadhan and the tons of things I got so excited of buying while I'm there. That's a waste of 30 days fasting, if I'm loosing all the benefit and not only that, damaging it some more..
I guess this year, I can do a little experiment and see if I could be a minimalist during buka puasa.. Betul ke ni Suriyati?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Bloom where you are planted

Lets talk about something light. .

Perhaps hobby?

Most of my hobbies have kept me indoor. Lets face it, I'm not that good in sports although at one point in my secondary education I did aspire to be a good volleyball player. Didn't go far though.

Growing up I never understand my mom's fascination with gardening, especially her orchid collection. Go there - buy orchild. Go here - buy orchid. Some of them even look very much alike. And most of the time they don't flower, just bunches of green leaves in her orchid house. Kalau lalu tepi jalan pun she can pinpoint a wild orchid by the hill, that seriously cannot be seen by mata kasar average people like us. She has that orchid radar detector.

Ha, lo and behold - she passes some of that to me. Not orchid in particular, but interest in flowers, plants and gardening. It started when I was in California, with the weather suitable for planting, unlike Boston where most of the plants cannot endure the brutal winter.

So, now in Malaysia, I've spent countless hours working on my garden. Haven't been too successful with roses but everything else seems to be going well. I spoiled my plants rotten. Feeding them with fertilizer like a book. Baja merah, baja organic, baja calcium (my son - "mama, plants have bone too?") , baja hitam. All these apek at the nursery need to do is to show me some, and for sure I'll take it. But hey, no pain no gain.

I do have helpers that I swear I didn't hire. They just like to work for free. Gardening is supposed to be a therapy, but sometimes these helpers can turn it otherwise. Nevertheless, their presence fill my garden with more colors.

This hobby has brought me outdoor a lot (at the expense of my skincolor :) It has tanned so much!

But how can I not enjoy the pretty blooms? Kulit hitam pun hitamlah

The backyard garden, which I dubbed 'My Secret Garden'.

If I could paint, this is how the garden would look like

"Bloom where you are planted" is actually written on one of the artwork I hanged in the garden. I'm one of those people who don't like to move, and will take a really long time to adapt to a new place. Those words - they keep me going.

All images on this blog are owned by Suriyati (2006) . Please inform me if you wish to use the images and credit for image use.

Monday, August 07, 2006

I never knew he's funny

During the neighborhood meeting, my close neighbor (2 houses over) whom I called Uncle (his name his Dato Aris, I believe) stood up to say a few words.

He's a nice guy, but I don't really know him well. We bumped into each other during jogging. I saw him often at his backyard garden, attending to his veggies and plants. Or when he is at his front yard, while taking care of his flowers and shrubs and grass.

We say hi everytime we meet, sometimes followed by a sentence or two. 'Dah habis jogging' or 'lambat keluar hari ni', or 'uncle tanam apa tu?'.

So, that day, during the meeting, he spoke. Managed to get in few jokes..

'Kalau jiran tanam kacang botol kat gate, kita janganlah marah. Ni, kita pulak kasi dia botol atas kepala, macamana nak berjiran'.

'Kalau jiran saya ada empat bini, empat empat bini saya nak kenal. Nak tahu muka. Kalau bini nombor 4 bawa parang depan rumah, saya tahu ..oo, tu bini dia tu. Tak payah la saya telefon polis'

He did warm up the spirit a bit, especially when everyone was downright scared after listening to the details of the robbery. He sent some laugh in the midst of the fear.

Never thought this uncle is funny. Wah, cayalah.

Terrorized At Home

I haven't slept well for 3 nights now. Right about this time in the morning - 10ish 11ish in the morning, is when I felt the sleepiest. Last night, at 2 till close to 5am, instead of the usual bedtime, I was walking up and about mostly within the bedroom compound, peeking from one window to another, holding my cell phone on one hand, and my car alarm on the other hand, with my thumb right on the Panic button. Outside I saw cars passing by every few minutes, and behind my backyard, in the common jogging path area, I saw a bunch of guys walking with their flashlight on.

They are my neighborhood patrols. Just recently formed - about 2 days old. It was just me and 2 small kids upstairs, and my maid, downstairs, so it was pretty nervewrecking. I never thought I would feel very imprisoned in my own home.

Everything started with a doorbell last Friday morning. A neighbor came to let us know that 2 houses were broken into on my street alone. The threat felt imminent that everyone called for a neighborhood meeting Saturday morning at one of the neighbor's house (one that I always refer to as 'rumah bekas polis'). It was unprecendented, the whole streets were littered with cars, so many people came to the meeting. I mean, these people (myself included) hardly talk to each other. Everyone was pretty content with the idea of 'buat hal masing masing'.

During the meeting, we learned the details about robbery. 5 men, armed with Samurai sword and Rambo knives came to my neighbor's house and rob them, not only money and materials but their sense of peace too. It was so violent, I couldn't believe it's happening right here on this street. The men, only wearing sarong, slashed the husband's head and shoulders while demanded money and any precious items. My neighbor is in army, a well trained commando, and according to his chilling description, his first gut was to fight, but he was made weak when the robbers put the rambo knive on his son's neck. After taking money and other things, my neighbor thought his ordeal was over but lo and behold, the robber started to roll him in his comforter, and ready to stab him, I guess, to death. That's when the wife wailed and pleaded, pls don't kill my husband. Take everything that you want, but pls don't kill my husband.

Ajal belum sampai. That's what happened. The robber retreated and left, and this commando, mustered his strength to wake his neighbors, drove to the police station, and then to hospital to get treatment where he received 17 stitches and apparently lost 2 pint of blood.

A car of policemen came the next day, informing that the group (suspect : foreigners) is in their peak period right now. They will rob aggrasively till right before Hari Raya, where they will return to their home and come back the same time next year. These are really violent groups, and they have killed ppl. When they're angered, they don't hesitate to hurt and rape the women.

Kata polis, if you tell them you don't have money, they'll get annoyed and very angry, so they'll take the women. Maybe they want to feel like they must get something for all that effort to break into the house.

Their modus operandi is - break into the house between 2-5 AM, almost everytime when it's raining. They take pillows around the house, cover the door knob with them, and jam a gas tank over the door (over the pillow) to break open a door. The pillow will reduce the banging noise. They roll people in comforters prior to killing/stabbing to minimize spurting. They use cords from phone adapters inside the bedroom to tie their victims.

The frustrating thing is police can't come in time to save us. The neighborhood guard (it's a gated, secure community) didn't come immediately when notified (pukul 8.30 pagi baru dtg). So during the meeting, we decided its on our hands. Neighborhood Watch was formed immediately, and everyone had their lights on front and backyard. We are advised to keep the car key closeby, so if anything, the car alarm can be triggered. When an alarm goes off, the next door neighbor must trigger their alarm just to amplify the noise so the entire street can be woken up. A neighbor volunteered to be the central notification system - dial his number during emergency, he will distribute the info to the entire neighborhood.

I don't wear jewelleries so I don't own them. I don't keep cash at home. It keeps me up at night to think of what could happen if God forbid, my house is broken into. I have nothing to give, and I guess, there's every reason for them to get angry. A neighbor suggested, just keep 500RM in the drawer, for that purpose. Gosh. I have to stack money so I can surrender it to thieves? It's mindboggling.

It's awful to feel terrorized in your own home. Today, I am going to replace some of the outside lights with spotlights just to better illuminate the house. Going to buy engsel and put on the bedroom door so its much harder to be opened. I am going to volunteer to make coffee and tea for the brave patrols.

Yesterday evening I went for a jog and stopped a few times to chit chat with some of the neighbors on the street. Not something I have done in my one-year of living here. Everybody is sticking to each other now, for common fear. One auntie said to me, 'Jgn jogging sorang sorang. Hari siang pun bahaya'. It did feel nice to hear that reminder from once a complete stranger. A sense of community is just borned. That house I used to call 'rumah bekas polis', now I know it's Uncle Z house. I guess, there's a blessing in disguise for everything that's happened.

Moon and night time is not my favorite thing anymore.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Mental escape

Logged on to the computer this morning. The MSN Messenger thingy did its automatica login and Walla! Look who is there! It's Saad. So I quickly IM'd him..

Suriyati says:
Hi Saad
Saad says:
well hello
Saad says:
\how are you?
Suriyati says:
i am fine. How are you
Saad says:
I am fine as well
Suriyati says:
I've been thinking about you and your family since this whole war ordeal started
Suriyati says:
How is your family back home?
Saad says:
oh yeah - thank you. it was not easy
Saad says:
they were there in lebanon when it started
Saad says:
it took us for ever to get them out
Suriyati says:
is your area affected?
Saad says:
the rest are fine
Saad says:
they can hear it
Saad says:
but nothing were they are
Suriyati says:
so where are they now?
Saad says:
wife and kids are back
Saad says:
the rest moved north
Suriyati says:
I see...
Saad says:
how about you and your family
Suriyati says:
Wow you must be real worried, I didn't even know your wife and kids were there
Saad says:
Saad says:
it was not fun
Saad says:
at all
Suriyati says:
Everyone is fine here. No invasion. No bombs. Gotta appreciate that right?
Saad says:
the dept of state heard it from me
Saad says:
Saad says:
the kids?
Saad says:
what are you doing these days?
Suriyati says:
they're doing good.
Suriyati says:
Nothing much. Classes to finish the Master. trying to build internet business..
Suriyati says:
So how's work? I don't even know ur work address anymore
Saad says:
Saad says:
that is the suri yati we all know
Saad says:
we really miss you
Suriyati says:
Hey I miss you and the gang too.
Saad says:
email is
Suriyati says:
But you are the SSS PM now.. are you going to hire me?
Saad says:
Tracey had a disc surgery
Saad says:
I sure will
Suriyati says:
Oh gosh, is she ok? I remember she always complain abt her back
Suriyati says:
Poor thing. She's afraid of needle
Saad says:
she is fine - onleave until end of August
Saad says:
Saad says:
she went under
Saad says:
totally under
Saad says:
but she is doing better
Suriyati says:
anyway I am so glad to hear your family is ok. . I wont keep u long.. do write sometimes
Saad says:
you too. Please it is really nice to hear form you
Saad says:
say hi to all
Suriyati says:
Suriyati says:
Saad says:
and kiss the kids
Saad says:
and send photos
Saad says:
ok. talk to you later
Suriyati says:
ok bye

This morning I read about Qana, a town that was bombed. Ay. Ay.. Sometimes I just want to skip the news and not really read it. Is that wrong? It is just that it's depressing, but then I feel bad.

Yesterday I was at my aunt's house, and all my makciks were reading newspaper, reading about Siti's wedding details, the Datuk K and Datuk J of the world. Then came the page abt Lebanon, one of my aunt said.. 'Iey, malas betul nak baca ni. Buat susah hati aje . . Yahudi ni memang jahat betul'

Like I said, it is depressing. I guess it's much easier to escape with the entertainment news. Nothing heavy to think about. Otak pun tak penat.

Anyway, glad to hear that Saad is okay.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My friend Saad

Saad was a colleague of mine when I worked in Boston, he was really the only other Muslim in the office (at least a practicing Muslim). During Ramadhan, we would walk together to Dunkin Donuts to get something to break our fast with. He's been in the US for a long time, but just recently got his greencard, meaning he's now a permanent resident there. For the last few days I've been thinking about him because his family is in Lebanon (as with his wife's family). I wonder if they're ok.

Today I tried to track him through another friend, so hopefully in the next few hours I'll hear about his family's condition.

Imagine if Malaysia is under assault like Lebanon. I tried to imagine, but I couldn't. I just couldn't. I hope I never have to witness anything like this in person.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Western media guilty of not telling real story in Lebanon

In a lengthy and detailed article, Marc J. Sirois, managing editor of the Beirut-based newspaper, The Daily Star, today delivered a full-frontal assault on the western media for its supposed failings in covering the current conflict.

The vast majority of western media reports do not accurately portray the fact that the vast majority of the dead are civilians, most of them women and children. A

Reuters dispatch this week described Israel's choice of targets as "puzzling," but for the most part western TV viewers, newspaper readers and web surfers are reading highly sanitised versions of the news, spun in such a way as to dilute the brutality of the Israeli onslaught and especially to ensure that blame is placed squarely on Lebanon in general and Hizbullah in particular.

Of course there are brave and honourable western journalists working here, and many of them are determined to tell the truth about what is happening.

One has to assume, therefore, that what the decent ones report is being heavily edited somewhere along the line before it gets to the consumer. This is presumably intended as a prophylactic against the inevitable charges of "anti-Semitism" and resultant drops in advertising revenues that will follow unvarnished coverage of Israeli brutality. The product of this regime of fear has been a generation of biased reporting that portrays the Jewish state as weak when it is very strong, moderate when it is frequently extremist, democratic when it is often theocratic, liberal when it is commonly draconian - in short, "western" when it is anything but.

The two most commonly watched English-language news channels available in Lebanon are CNN and the BBC.

With few exceptions, their reports are filed by reporters standing in the relatively safe and comfortable confines of downtown Beirut, the picturesque showcase of Lebanon's now-aborted recovery from its 1975-90 civil war. There has been no damage in this part of the city thus far (although there are concerns that that step in the escalation process is rapidly approaching), so the very background is highly misleading about what is happening. Just a few kilometres away in Beirut's southern suburbs, Israeli air strikes and naval gunfire have reduced entire neighborhoods to rubble. No one knows how many people are buried in these piles of shattered concrete and twisted steel. A similar situation exists in the southern third of the country.

Why has the Israeli military singled out these two areas for punishment? Because they are populated primarily by the impoverished and largely disenfranchised Shiites who make up Hizbullah's constituency.

Multiple ironies are at work here. For one thing, the population consists largely of Shiites from the South Lebanon who have fled successive waves of Israeli "retribution". For another, when Israel first invaded Lebanon in 1978 (not 1982, as typically reported in the western media), many Shiites greeted them with rose petals. Life under the de facto rule of unruly Palestinian militias had not been easy, so despite the damage and casualties inflicted by Israeli ripostes, it was commonly believed that Israeli occupation might not be so bad. Then came 1982, when the Israelis rolled all the way to Beirut after promising Washington that they meant only to establish a 25-kilometre "buffer zone." The carnage in the South was horrific. The Shiites revolted, and Hizbullah was born.

Subsequent spasms of violence - usually caused by tit-for-tat exchanges between Hizbullah and the Israeli military - displaced more and more Shiites, filling Beirut's southern suburbs with an understandably resentful generation of young men determined to run no more.

All of this goes unmentioned on CNN. Its idea of "balance" is to make sure that each report about a new massacre of innocents in Lebanon is aired alongside one about civilian injuries or deaths from Hizbullah rocket strikes, even if the incident is 36 hours old. Only rarely do the reports in question mention that while the southern suburbs are a giant refugee camp, northern Israel and the nearby settlements in occupied Palestine are prosperous areas with a substantial contingent of immigrants from places like the United States and Canada, many of whom voluntarily live illegally on occupied Palestinian land.

Hizbullah's decision to snatch two Israeli soldiers evinced poor judgment and even worse timing, but the Israeli response has been out of all proportion to the original incident.

The numbers speak for themselves. As of Wednesday evening, Israeli attacks had killed at least 292 civilians in Lebanon, while Hizbullah rockets had killed 13 noncombatants in the Jewish state. Lebanon has approximately 3.5m people. On a per-capita basis, that means that as of Wednesday, the rough equivalent of 9/11 has happened every day here for eight days.

Conspiracy in Mid East

It's been a while since I rested my pen (more accurate:keyboard). Health didn't permit for the last few weeks. Now, in the wake of what's happening thousand miles away from the serene and peaceful place we live in, there are fighter jets roaming the sky, and houses being bombed and children's screaming. What does a mom do, to protect her children from missiles that do not care for its target. So, I am called to write and add stories about Lebanese and Palestinians. Many people know about their struggle, but probably not enough. I'll start with this interview with AbuKhalil. Hopefully our understanding will improve on why peace is a 'far away' word, as long as Israel continues its dirty and manipulative tactics.

Taken from Aljazeera

'Lebanon crisis an international conspiracy'
By Firas Al-Atraqchi

The Israeli-Hezbollah conflict threatens to drag Syria, Iran and the US into a regional war. As'ad AbuKhalil, author of Bin Laden, Islam, and America's New 'War on Terrorism' as well as The Battle for Saudi Arabia: Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power, believes the recent violence is a symptom of an international conspiracy under way to enforce UN resolution 1559, which calls for the disarmament of militia groups in Lebanon - a reference to Hezbollah. A professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus, and visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley, AbuKhalil just returned from Lebanon. He also maintains the Angry Arab blogsite ( ). Israel says its assault on Lebanon is in self-defence against Hezbollah's Katyusha rocket attacks and the capture of two of its soldiers. Hezbollah says southern Lebanon has long been an area of conflict with Israel occupying Lebanese land and that it wants indirect negotiations to secure the release of its prisoners in Israeli jails. How did the situation deteriorate so rapidly and so violently?

As'ad AbuKhalil: This particular conflict, and Israel's act of aggression on Lebanon, did not take place in a vacuum, and Israel did not act in some spontaneous fashion. Hezbollah did not surprise Israel with the capture of the two Israeli occupation soldiers. Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah has repeatedly warned that if Israel does not release its Lebanese prisoners, he will be compelled to take Israeli soldiers as bargaining chips. And Israel has not been sitting idly by since its partial withdrawal from South Lebanon in 2000. It has not only continued to occupy parts of South Lebanon, but also has been violating Lebanese sovereignty, by air, sea, and land. Israel has also been kidnapping innocent Lebanese citizens: fishermen and shepherds. And one fisherman from Tyre - my hometown - is still missing, and at least one shepherd was killed last year. Furthermore, Israel has adamantly refused to give to Lebanon a map of the more than 400,000 land mines that it left behind in South Lebanon, and which continue to kill Lebanese children in the region. The recent crisis, as the article in the Washington Post by Robin Wright pointed out yesterday, is an international/regional conspiracy to implement United Nations Security Council resolution 1559. The groundwork for this aggression began with the work of Rafiq al-Hariri [the slain former Lebanese prime minister] in 2004, when he worked with the US and France to pass that resolution in the Security Council. The plan has the full support of Israel and client Arab regimes of the US: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. But it will not work, and Hezbollah will not lay down its arms. If the Lebanese government, led by the Hariri camp, thinks that it can now convince Hezbollah to lay down its arms and to trust the Lebanese Army - which has been sitting idly over the last week - to take care of Lebanon's defence, it is wildly mistaken.

What are Israel's goals? What are Hezbollah's goals?

I think that Israel often acts in revenge. The Zionist movement is a vengeful movement; it always has been. It wants not only to implement UNSC 1559 to disarm Hezbollah, but it also wants, as it did in 1982, to pave the way for the installation of American puppets as rulers of Lebanon. These plans never work: All grand plans for Lebanon strike the rocks of deep sectarian divisions in the country. I think that Hezbollah started by wanting to achieve a prisoner exchange with Israel, and probably to ease the pressures on Palestine.But now, they mostly and primarily want to retain possession of their weapons, and they have in that at least the overwhelming support of the Shia in Lebanon, the single largest sect in the country.

Dozens of civilians have been killed on both sides but there has been little movement in the international community. Is there a feeling that mediation or efforts to bring about a ceasefire will be fruitless?

The silence of the so-called international community, which has been under the control and in the service of the US government since the end of the Cold War, has been most painful for those in Lebanon who have been told in the last two years that the international community cares about Lebanon and its people. Now people know better. I do believe that the same racist impulse that considers Israeli lives worth more than Arab lives is at play here. I have no doubt that the lives of Arabs never meant much for the descendants of colonial powers in the region. And it is important that we don't allow Israeli propaganda to present an image of symmetry between the two sides: There is no symmetry between the two sides in this conflict. Not only in terms of Israeli military superiority, but also in terms of massive killings by Israel of largely innocent civilians.

Do the Lebanese blame Hezbollah or Israel for this crisis?

I think that all Lebanese blame Israel for the killing and for the aggression. But the Saudi clients in Lebanon are trying to exploit the events to build up resentment against Hezbollah. In Lebanon, there never are unified opinions on anything, and certainly the sectarian divisions do not amount to a unified stance behind Hezbollah. There are many Lebanese who don't support the ideology of Hezbollah but who also believe that the party is now single-handedly defending Lebanon against savage Israeli aggression.

John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, implicated Iran and Syria as being at least partially to blame for supporting Hezbollah...

It is ironic to speak of John Bolton - the same person who was honoured a few months ago by the Hariri ruling coalition in Lebanon. Yes, Hezbollah receives the support of Iran and Syria, just as the Hariri coalition receives the support of US, France, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, and possibly Israel indirectly.

Will Israel attack Syria or Iran next? Could this become an all-out regional war? Could this draw the US into the conflict?

It seems that Israel will avoid attacking Iran and Syria at this stage. With the Israeli war on Palestine still proceeding unabated, the Israelis may not find a need. The US/EU/UN will deal with both countries, on behalf of Israel, through pressures and punitive measures. But, if Syria and Iran come under attack, then all bets are off in the region, and US plans in Iraq will face more challenges and more subversion. Iran has indirectly facilitated the US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and Syria has recently been co-operating with the US occupation in Iraq. If attacked, both countries can easily make things worse for the US, and that explains the reluctance of the US in endorsing attacks on Iran or Syria.

With Iraq on the verge of civil war, how will the Lebanon crisis affect the region?

It depends on what happens. If Israel is permitted to continue in the aggression, Syria and Iran may feel threatened, and that may unleash their forces in Iraq against the US. Under such circumstances, American troubles in the region will only increase. But no matter what happens, this carnage will have affects thoughout the Middle East. Let us remember that the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon unleashed seismic changes and movements in the region, including the rise of Hamas and Hezbollah. Those who think that when the dust settles, all will go back to normal, are people who have not read the contemporary history of the Middle East. In the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, this Israeli aggression will go down as a watershed; it will have an impact on the course of the conflict and also on the stability of the very regimes that the US spends money and weapons to prop up.

As the main power-broker in the Middle East, what role can the US play to end the violence?

You have to be either ignorant or foolish or both to consider the US interested in ending the current conflict. The US has clearly endorsed an unconditional Israeli aggression on Lebanon and Palestine. The US will leave it to Israel to decide not only the manner of killing of Arabs, but even to determine the number of Arabs that Israel wishes to kill.

Some Arab countries have criticised Hezbollah and its backers for the recent crisis but Iran and some fighters in Iraq have firmly stood by Hezbollah. Could we see a more extensive Shia-Sunni conflict on the sidelines of an Arab-Israeli war?

Yes, the Saudis have now officially endorsed a Shia-Sunni conflict in the Middle East. And this plan has the support of the US and Israel. This can easily, however, affect stability of several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia. So trying to manipulate the Sunni-Shia divide is like playing with fire.

We saw the fruits of American sectarian manipulation in Iraq. How likely is the Lebanese government to survive the crisis?

The Hariri element of the ruling coalition will come out weaker as a result of this crisis. That seems certain. They will either be seen as incompetent, or as secret partners of the American/Israeli/Saudi plan for Lebanon. But even at the humanitarian level, the Lebanese government has failed miserably in meeting the basic demands of the refugees.

In recent months, there was a general feeling that Lebanon had bounced back with major economic drive and a tourism boost. How do Lebanese look at their long-term prospects now that much of what they rebuilt has been destroyed?

The Lebanese have been through a lot - the people of south Lebanon have been through scores of savage Israeli invasions and campaigns of aggression. Not only are the people known for resilience, but their ability to reconstruct and resume normal life - as much as possible - has become well known. But the funds needed for reconstruction will come at a high price: It will be like Hariri's accruement of foreign debt which further eroded the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Creative ways to raise money

I found this list on the web, thought I can learn a thing or two here


1. BAKE SALE - Everyone's favorite! Include baked foods from around the world.-
(Suriyati: Darn. I don't know how to operate my oven yet. The thing is, this really work in the States but I am not sure how it works in Malaysia. Can it work? I guess kids like cookies, but do adults like them too? Are there equivalent things that can be used instead of cookies that are more appealing to the mass consumer? Kerepek? Kuih raya type thing? )

2. NEIGHBORHOOD FLEA-MARKET - Kids and their families can get their books, used clothes, or hand-made crafts together to sell. Donate part or all of the profits to a particular cause.
(Suriyati: This is a great idea. It does take a lot of coordination with the people in the neighborhood. This is one of my weaknesses. 13 years in the States spoiled me in some ways, one of them is, I am perfectly happy without neighbors. Translation: I don't take much effort to get to know them. Bad, I know. Not proud of it, but something I surely can't change overnight. I mean, I do have close neighbors, 2 of them. Kak Liza, the family that lives to the left of my house and my aunt, who lives 7 houses away. To the right is an empty lot. Where would I start to begin such effort. )

3. COSTUME BALL - Hold this event around Halloween. Give it an international theme. Charge admission.
(Suriyati: In Malaysia, I guess this can be centered around traditional costumes. People do not celebrate Halloween here, so it would be such foreign idea. But conceptually, it probably could work. Just have kids dress up in themes; cowboy, insects, princess, superheroes etc etc )

4. HAVE A READ-, DANCE-, OR WALK-A-THON - Collect pledges from family, friends, and neighbors for each hour or mile you walk or dance, or for each book read.
(Suriyati: Can't people donate without me walking? I could walk a mile or two but I don't think anything more would be plausible, and within the capacity of my unfit body)

To be continued. List courtesy of

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Diapers on the way to RTAR Teluk Intan

I just saw in the mail yesterday that Ummiku-Sayang Charity team has purchased 2600 adult diapers for RTAR Teluk Intan. Yay!! Kudos to Ummiku-Sayang members (

Take 30 diapers a day, hopefully that supply can last them about 80+ days (over 2 months).

I remember bits shared by Abg Ajis, that women are on adult diapers too during their periods. That's because the diapers are safer and more secure compared to the regular sanitary napkins. He said, some of them, if not carefully supervised, will eat their own discharge. ..

It's a serious business taking care of people with special needs. They need supervision, I hope to check back with Abg Ajis in my next visit if they're planning to hire some help.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

My Angels

I was asked, why did I pick the name "Angels Among Us, Angels Within Us" as the blog title. Frankly, I am not that creative with names. Back during my workdays, I could brainstorm fine, about anything, anything, BUT names. Product name? Solutions name? Team name? Seminar names? Ay yay yay.

In any case, the meeting with Abg Ajis really hit me that there are absolutely angels around us (metaphorically, right?). I guess I've read about these kind of people. I heard about them. But I've never met one in person. So, it strikes me that it is only appropriate if I dig down a little deeper and find some attributes (if not similar, close to what I saw).. Hence, angels within us. I bet there are angels in everyone.

For whatever reason, I am reminded by the lines from Must Love Dogs. Jake i.e. John Cusack said something about after you heart goes through painful experience, the heart grows back bigger.

Okay, let me get the exact quote "......And the universe lets your heart expand that way, cause thats the function of all this pain and heartache that you go through and you gotta go through that to come out to a better place"

... I am aware this is a completely different situation than Must Love Dogs the movie, but... I do wonder if this is what the couple (Abg Ajis and Kak Ana) go through, and if it is the reason they persevere. I mean, perhaps their hearts do expand much more when they're surrounded by the people they care for.

Photo of the pair up on the topleft corner, yes, they are my angels.

Don't know what I'll do without them.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Rumah Titian Ashraful Rohaniah Teluk Intan: To Live, To Learn, To Love, To Leave A Legacy PART III

Albert Einstein once said, "Remember your humanity and forget the rest."

Good for Einstein.

Not sure if it's that simple though.

The truth is, we're deeply integrated with the rest that it's impossible to forget them. What I hope for is humanity can be weaved into 'the rest' so as I walk through mylife journey, I won't forget to take a moment, reflect and remember what I can do to help.

On a second thought, I think that was what he meant. Einstein, that is.

So, meet Abg Ajis. I wish I have the photo of his wife, Kak Ana, as she equally deserves the praise for her selflessness.

For the friends with opportunity to read this, if it is too overwhelming, think an atom at a time. How can we, together, help make this house a bit more comfortable, a bit more secure, and most importantly, to let them know that they're a lot more loved.

1. Donation - The bottom line is, they need money to operate. Abg Ajis mentioned roughly 10K per month. Yes, I was actually a bit taken aback by the amount. 'Isn't that a little excessive', my naive mind wondered. So I tried to break it down.

30 residents. With the simplest meal three times a day, say each person takes RM6, that is RM180/day, RM5400/month. Then comes the diaper. Most of them are on diaper at night, some all day. If you take 25 people with 1 diaper a day, that is RM750/month. Misc expense such as toothpaste, soap, detergent, household product, women sanitary napkins etc .. let's set aside RM600 a month (a mere amount, knowing that I spend about the same amount on a household of only 6 people). Then come the bungalow rental at RM1000/month. Bills may be amount to RM150. That's a grand total of (RM5400+RM750+RM600+RM1000+RM150) = RM7900. God forbid if one or more fall sick, then there's medicine, doctor's bill to foot for. What about Farah's schooling needs when she reaches a school-ready age? I forgot to ask if she goes to any kindy now. Perhaps not.

Currently, less than 25% of the residents are paying for their stay (their families are paying about RM250 a month) but that's hardly enough.

2. Item donations

Abg Ajis said time and time again, basically anything. He even pointed out that the beds they're using are donated. Look at Opah's bed on the right. It's without a sheet.

So, diapers, clothing, sheets, food.. anything

3. Most importantly, AWARENESS.

We as an individual drop may not be able to give that much. An ocean of us can definitely make a difference. Tell our friends, families, colleagues, community .. about this. From a smallest effort to as big as getting this publisicized on TV. Abg Ajis and Kak Ana are probably too consumed in day-to-day management of the house, that they are probably drained, so if there are good ideas, lets work on some. Lets take them to the couple.

Now, we have lived an hour of their life. We have learned about their needs. We even grow to love their uniqueness. Lets leave a legacy together. A legacy that can even outlasts us.

Thank you Ummiku Sayang members, for your donation. I was honored to pass RM1000 from the group to Abg Ajis, and I am relieved to know that more are coming.

Rumah Titian Ashraful Rohaniah
C/O Tamjis Hj Rakim and Rohana Saidin
53-B Kg Selabak Luar Batu 3
Jalan Changkat Jong
36000 Teluk Intan, Perak, Malaysia

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Rumah Titian Ashraful Rohaniah Teluk Intan: To Live, To Learn, To Love, To Leave A Legacy PART II

I have been meaning to finish writing about my visit to Rumah Titian Ashraful Rohaniah in Teluk Intan; I started writing about a week ago and managed to jot down probably half of the story. I either purposely distracted myself or half unwilling to do it, because the memory was pretty heartbreaking. My bad. I wish I am more cut out for this kind of thing.
It's the last part of the trip that has been on my mind, a lot. 2 vivid images from that house. A girl and a grandmother. This is their story on that day.
Farah is the only child under Abg Ajis and Kak Ana's care. She's an active, vibrant 5 year old, with round eyes. She was really busy running around while I was there, basically inspecting one place to another, talking to the other residents.. sometime she just downright gave orders to people.. I heard 'Bangun, bangun, makan' and other things like that. I learned that she was given to the couple by her dad. When she was a few months old, her mother left the family, and her father, for whatever reason, decided he could not care for her and gave the baby to this couple. She has been there since 4 years and some months ago. I knew she was stealing glances to look at me, but everytime I turned my head around, she would run away or turned her face. I tried to get close, asking her questions but something in her eyes told me that she was scared. Perhaps she's not accustomed to strangers. She's like a lot of children in that regard.
At the end of my conversation with Abg Ajis, I asked for his permission to show me the quarters upstairs on the second floor. That's where the women reside. He gladly brought me there, and as I was going up the stairs, some of the ladies were already on their way down for lunch. Some did smile, some even showed hands for salam.. some simply looked at me with curious faces. When I finally reached upstairs, there were two women left. An elderly, who sat down in front of the bathroom and another lady close to her.
My jaw almost dropped when I saw this grandma. Kasihannya. She was blind and could not walk. She just finished taking a bath and she was without her cloth, till the other lady quickly help her covered her body. She mainly used her hand to manuever herself from the bathroom to her bed, with some verbal guidance from the people around her. 'Terus.. Terus'.. (Straight up) ..'Kiri sikit' (Slight left).. till she reached her bed.
It was really sad.. I almost froze the entire time, only able to watch she moved. Opah, as she is known among the members, is the eldest woman in the group, and she has no family to claim her. I am not sure where she was from, my guess is she's from the hospital or similar places.
Up came Farah, with a plate of lunch. Plain rice with meehoon (thin noodles). That's what the entire house is having for lunch that Sunday. Farah, as I learned, has taken the responsibility to feed Opah everyday. It was very touching, sad, tender and sweet all bundled in one emotion. I am glad I managed to capture this image, because the picture can really describe this thousand times better than my story.
Farah was probably nervous being watched, she couldn't concentrate on her task, sometimes spooning too much food to the Opah that Opah ended up with food up her nose and cheek. Abg Ajis reminded her 'Suap Opah baik baik' .. while Opah simply chuckled.
What a world. A child and a grandmother, stranger in blood, but connected in a house. Exchanging and sharing to each other, when their own families do not have the capacity to love and embrace them. This is a strange universe. In some hearts, love is cheap and burdensome, but in others, love is very fluid. It pours, spills, beyond age, histories..
Downstairs, the members of the house are busy having lunch. When I first looked at the pan, I saw huge pile of meehoon, and I also immediately noticed that it was a really plain one. Not the kind we're used to eating .. No veggies, no poultry. Very plain. As Abg Ajis and his helper served the food into plates, I noticed that the portion was really generous. Maybe that's because they don't snacks like us. They need to eat food that's filling, something that could last them till the next meal is served.
Abg Ajis said that whenever possible, they always train the members of the house to help each other. It was amazing and touching to see a few among them put on the 'helper' hat and help feed other members, the ones unable to do it for themselves. In a world where family is a distant world away, or sometimes nonexistent, a lending hand from strangers probably the pulse they need to be able to survive.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Rumah Titian Ashraful Rohaniah Teluk Intan: To Live, To Learn, To Love, To Leave A Legacy PART I

20 minutes to Teluk Intan. I made a call to Kak Rohana letting her know that I was on my way. Slightly embarassed to have gotten her name wrong; I called her Kak Ani instead. The rule of thumb is, you should always get a person's name right, to make a good first impression. It was a brief conversation, I got my direction and was pretty sure I could find the place with relative ease. From Teluk Intan - take a right on the first light after Teluk Intan Hospital and the white bungalow will be on my left, right behind some fruit stalls. I was right, finding the place was a breeze. As I stepped out of the car, peering inside from the main gate, it quickly dawned on me that although I have been looking forward to visiting the place, I absolutely had forgotten to prepare my emotional strength for this experience. For few seconds, as this lady came and opened the gate, I just stood and stare at the bungalow, specifically the front door. I saw a glimpse of the living room. I saw some people. I actually felt nervous.
Thursday afternoon - saw some posts regarding Rumah Amal Hashimiah Teluk Intan in the Ummiku Sayang newsgroup. Read through them. What a coincidence. I was going to be there during the weekend. Volunteered to stop by. I even got excited about it. This is an opportunity to get my hands dirty. I want to do this kinda thing, up close and personal. It would be amazing to be able to help. * It went on and on and on in my head, the entire weekend * Got my camera ready, got the donation money ready. Even got a notebook to gather data.. Printed a list of questions to ask. The whole 9 yards. So three days later, there I was.

This is the living room of Rumah Titian Ashraful Rohaniah, previously known (to me) as Rumah Amal Hashimiah Teluk Intan. The vast but empty living room greets the visitors, it is the first thing that a person sees as she walks into the house.
My presence was greeted by several gentlemen, all of them were sitting on the floor, some staring at me, some were simply too busy with their own thoughts, consumed in their world. Some were smiling, some had some blank stares on. Then I saw a smile from this one man; I learned that his name is Tamjis, better known as Abg Ajis.
Abang Ajis promptly greeted and invited me to sit down in the dining room area as that's the only place with chairs, and as he was pulling the chairs out, I quickly scanned the dining/kitchen and saw more people, including a really thin guy, perhaps in his 20s sitting on the floor, chanting inaudibly. One thing that strikes me was the smell, it quite reminded me like the hospital. Specifically, government hospitals. And specifically, the 3rd class ward where it seemed that there are always 20 patients for every single nurse. As I sat myself on the chair, I noticed a door that's locked, but not quite bolted as I could see about an inch opening .. and I saw shadows of people in the room. I wondered how many people where in there, but from the noises I could make out there must be at least a few people in the room. Perhaps for safety reason.

Settled down, I sat across from Abg Ajis and introduced myself and the purpose of my visit. Personally, I wasn't quite sure how to approach the facts gathering, but quickly decided that I should ask as many pertinent questions with the goal of passing those information to people who can then help.

I remembered asking many questions, but the one thing that sticking out on my mind was .. Why? I guess I could come up with some reasons why Abg Ajis and his wife would dedicate their lives to caring for strangers, but it felt really important for me to understand and hear his reasons in his own words. I know a lot of people, myself included, who would be more than ready to help, but I could not come near to what he is currently doing. I was quickly engulfed with admiration and respect for the couple.

Here are the facts that I learned, during my conversation with him:

1) They used to care for 200 people at the previous location (in Selangor), where they had helpers. They were operating at a property that resides on a 'wakaf' land. Then came a man who claimed to have rights on the land (he was apparently the grandchild of the owner) and the man gave them a month notice, which to me, under a normal circumstances would have been a standard thing to do, but in this case, it came across as extremely heartless. Worse, now that they have moved out, the place is still vacant and unused.

They didn't have much choice except to relocate; hence the new location in Teluk Intan. The sad part was having to return over 80% percents of the residents back to their families simply because they don't have the capacity to care for the same number of people. The 30 that I saw that day were the ones without families, or anyone to take them.

2) The organization is now called Rumah Titian Ashraful Rohaniah; the name change was necessary because I was told they could not carry over the previous name due to the restrictions (from moving an operation from one state to another). In other words, they had to start from scratch, and until the new organization is registered properly, they couldn't have a dedicated bank account, and weren't able to be aggrasive in collecting donations.

3) There are 5 categories of people that they care for: In his words: a) Warga Tua (Senior Citizen) b) Warga Terbiar (Neglected) c) Yatim (Orphans) d) Warga Istimewa (Special/Mentally Challenged) e) Warga Kurang Upaya (People with Disabilities)

4) They do not have any funding from official agencies such as the government (Shouldn't we be able to do something about this?) but he did say that there were many instances where they received residents from Jabatan Kebajikan or Hospitals. "Hospital tolak orang kat kami, bila hospital dah penuh". I was really troubled by the fact that they don't have financial support but had patients transferred to them from those places. (But I want to be optimistic. With the right strategies, I hope this could change)

So, there I was, putting a 'reporter' hat on, trying to suppress a lot of emotions inside so I didn't break down .. trying to understand and listen and gather as much as I could, but the 'Why' question kept popping up, and I wasn't sure how to put it so that it didn't came across in any negative way because I sincerely want to understand what motivated both of them to do this. Abg Ajis started with statistics, how he learned that in Selangor there is a really high number of people who are mentally challenged, and sadly majorities of them are Malays. Most of the families don't know how to handle the illness and instead of helping, the families will isolate them either by putting them in an isolated pondok, or putting them on chains, and in many cases simply house-arresting them so they become very alone, and immobile.

Then came a really tragic story, where the couple had started by adopting 5 siblings without parents. Originally they were 6 siblings but one died of hunger. They lived in a tiny house with no bathroom, bedroom or kitchen, and were relying on a neighbor's place for water supply.

Tears started to well up because I couldn't imagine anybody facing death because of hunger. Not now. Now in this country, when there's wealth of food to be eaten everywhere. When every morning I'm throwing bunch of leftover food from last night in the trash can; when I would simply feel full and left portions of my food on the plate untouched when I go to eat out. I couldn't help but be stricken with guilt. But that's how they started. 5 siblings. It went to 200, then now 30.

And then his answer, on the Why. Perikemanusiaan. It's humanity. Humanity is divine. Abg Ajis left his job as a contractor (and I am sure.. it's not only the job). I am sure the couple left their previous lifestyle, their routines, their comfort, and embraced this instead.

As I was listening to his stories, I noticed how he never failed to smile. It was really sincere, and he really seemed to be at peace with it, and I grew to understand the person he is, because it takes special people to be able to live and run a place like that. Yes, I was sad, touched, verge of tears but at the same time, honestly, it did feel a little depressing as well. I am even embarassed to admit it, but it's true. Imagine living in a house without much furniture, or things that we're used to, to make our abode comfortable.. carpets, sofa .. decor. . It's a completely different lifestyle.. it's a practical place for the residents. I mean, carpet would be comfortable, but who's going to clean it, right? Sofa would be nice, but how many would be enough for 30 people? I'm sorry I don't have his willpower and selfless dedication, but I thank God to have granted us, in this world, in our community, a person like him.