Monday, 8 June 2009

In the Queue

For many years now i have tried to avoid traveling on the roads during school holidays and festive seasons...even managed to keep out of the way on long weekends. But my niece Lina and her brother Epo were getting married, one after another, a week apart...been too busy to actually be of much help with the preparation so wanted to really be there for the off we went on friday morning, early for Mona's munchkins, ten forty seven to be exact.

The trip up was not bad at all...may be because we started very late by morning travelers' standards and much too early to be joined by the afternoon travelers. But it was a good drive, the munchkins were in high spirits, sitting with me in the back, snacking and looking at trucks and buses. After a few times of "Are we there yet?" they resigned themselves to singing with Yusuf Islam until nap time.. Took a break at Temerloh. There was a small queue at the Ladies' but it was OK, not a long wait. Even the makan was OK. It was a relaxing stop except for the gulai telur incident where i had my rice swimming in a 'bucketful' of kuah with half an egg... It was too hot and too soon after lunch to stop at our family favourite...Aziz Satar. There were too many people with too few seats, despite the we tapau some satar and otak-otak and told Encik Aziz we'd be back for more on the way back to KL...

Before long it was Teluk Bidara and Rantau Abang...and then we arrived at my kampung halaman .... queing only twice, at the traffic lights in Batu Buruk and Mengadang Akar...the ever busy places in KT.

Our kampung house had been transformed for the driveway, coat of paint on the walls inside and out, new curtains, the pelamin and the bilik pengantin! i had not been back in the house since Toktok passed away...just as well that everything was so different...cheerful greetings from the long queue of nieces, nephews, grand nieces and grand nephews soothed away the sudden pang of longing for Toktok's smile.

D-day began with a mini havoc of what time everything was to take place... Epo's menyambut menantu, Lina's akad nikah and the big kenduri...who will go to the masjid terapung...who will stay at home to welcome early guests...?

At the mosque, there was a long queue of couples to be married and their entourages but we were well ahead. As soon as the Kursus Haji ended, Lina was escorted in and Ayah Jak started the whole process. Everything went so smoothly and then it was time to go home for the kenduri and meet the guests...Lina and E'i in green while Epo and Ani in pink.

It was an extremely hot and sunny day. Most guests did not linger because each had as many as ten invitations for the same time. Later in the day, guests came and went without partaking the nasi minyak because ours was their sixth house, or seventh. Someone said the queue on the Jambattang was really long, it took 2 whole hours to get from Gong Badak to Bukit Besar....

Sunday! and it was time to go back to KL. The munchkins weren't happy as too little time had been spent at the beach; but their Mama must work on monday. Goodbyes all around and a promise of raya in KT, then off we went; much later than planned, as expected!

Traffic was heavy even as we set out. Long queues at the keropok stalls; but knowing too many folks are eagerly awaiting fresh keropok from KT, we braced ourselves and waited our turn. The bonnet begged for mercy when at last we stowed our purchase; just a tiny space left for the other compulsory items, otak-otak and satar.
We got to Warung Aziz Satar just after 2pm, too many people and too long a queue. Persuaded that our order would be filled in half an hour, we waited and ate some laksam and sotong gct (goreng celup tepung) ehem, fried calamari. An hour later, a disappointment. Simply not enough satar for everybody! so we took whatever was available and went on our way again. Alas, our man at the wheel took a wrong turn and we joined the highway after having made it pretty close to Sungai Lembing!

By the time we got to Lanchang a jam had formed; the 2-lane highway reduced to a one-lane track; stone-faced people were making 3 lanes out of 2, a guy in a Merc giving them the finger but why bother, Malaysia Boleh!

The munchkins were getting restless and showing some attitude despite being bribed with lollipops and inundated with coke!
No more stops for us; at every one of them there were too many people in the q's, just have to hold the p's!

A whole hour or so later the road was fairly clear, but not for long. As soon as we came out of the Genting Sempah tunnel it was a crawl again. There was a festive mood somehow, at every rest stop and all along the road both ways. We joined the crowd, snaking our way downhill, all the way to the DUKE highway and home....a long, long journey of ten hours!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Another Saturday in Geneva

Les Samedis aux Geneve can be very boring and lonely. So if like me, you are alone on a weekend in between meetings, be prepared to be creative or settle for less. This time of the year though, being alone in this fair city by the lake is quite bearable even if your friends and countrymen have heavily hinted of being tres occupe and bade a firm a lundi just before lunchtime on friday.

So there I was, really at a loose end, after having checked out of one hotel and checked into another and being disappointed for not getting a room with a clear view of Mont Blanc and Vieille Ville. Really not in the mood to complete the report or unpack or let such a beautiful day go to waste! So down to the lake i went, to take advantage of the free pass for hotel guests courtesy of the public transport authority. Made ambitious plans to take the bus, the tram and the boat and wander around till the sun goes hiding...well, we'll see.

Took the bus and stopped at Secheron to trek down the park as far as the Perle du Lac
restaurant and walked back again all the way to Quai du Mont Blanc, then onto the yellow and red boat to Geneve Plage and walked around the teeny weeny bit of sandy area wherefrom this part of the lake got its name. Too far to walk to Jardin Anglais, so au bateau back to Port des Muettes. What a lot of people, what a sunny, breezy day! Well, one can only ride the mini train to Jardin Botanique or Vieille Ville, or stare at the Jet d'eau and read all the names of famous watch makers on the skyline, so many times...Omega, Piaget, Hans Leutenegger, Tissot, Franck Muller... i remember checking out the prices of Franck Muller watches on my first visit and read with amusement, prix a partir de CHF35,000/=...The chill came quickly to a tropical being compared to these locals and temperate tourists, and it was not solely because of the sudden gust of spring breeze on the lake.

There was still a few hours of sunlight left, and to get warm, retail therapy would be the best option. Walked to Stand (that's pronounced exactly the way my kampung folks in Teganung say Sungai Tong in a hurry) and found myself on the tram to Moillesulaz to stop at Bel-air. Yes, that is the name of Geneva's own Oxford Street/Newbury Street/5th Avenue/Rodeo Drive/Orchard Road/Jalan TAR (some time back) /Bukit Bintang/The Curve; you got the idea! Well the glitter of Globus and Bongenie was not for me, a Prada or Longchamp would look somewhat suspect or at most, a clever first copy on me! So cuci mata at affordable Swatch and ambil bau at L'Occitane, then just let these mocs take me to their happy place, the cafe in fnac, for some iced tea and live music. Oh, this is
a French/Suisse equivalent of Borders, my favourite shop in all of Geneve after les chocolatiers.

The bartender
who also held the key to the WC pretended to dutifully escort all ladies in need to answer nature's call. Some light-hearted banter in broken French finally got me the iced tea and vegan quiche, then back to listening to a heavily accented Mary Jane and some pseudo Jason Mraises by the 3-piece band, till the tea and quiche became history. So off i went down to the rez (de chaussez) where they had moved the CD section. First the recommended songs, some jandb's, then the new world/African and Latin, no, no rap, some violin concertos and back to Jazz. One by Melody Gardot kind of set the mood for the evening...nostalgic words but not sad, of being alone but not lonely and mostly of missing the ones that make the heart smile.

I wandered out of fnac at closing time, the sun still smiling and i was in dire need of a seat so boarded a passing tram to nowhere. Well, it turned out to be the one for Moillesulaz again so i rode all the way to the terminus near Caran d'Ache hq, then back all the way
out to Avanchet on the other side of the lake, arriving outside my hotel at Gare Cornavin, just in time for maghrib. Some salmon pizza from Manor to smooth the report writing, a little unpacking and a half-hearted attempt at uploading the photos...then it was bed-time, dreaming of a Sunday in the sun.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Kampung Tanpa Halaman

Wish I were with Zara. I am a bad, bad grandmother. Zara is going to be 2 weeks old and I have yet to see her. Well, the truth is, I am not a very assertive person. I just don't know how to broach the subject with my boss or go into HRMIS and apply for a whole week's leave right after returning from a three day most needed vacation of sorts in my kampung tanpa halaman (village without compound). True, I seldom go on leave other than the occasional medical and there remains a total of 69 days to my name, but assertion is not my middle name. So I have not gone to see 13-day old Zara.

It is a love-hate relationship of sorts that I have with that place south of the border I call my kampung tanpa halaman. So many reasons to hate yet many more memories to love, the way I love my 3 year stay on the 25th floor of Great World City. Yes, a building is a city there but well, a village to me. Spent 3 hari raya eid-ul-fitr in that kampung and made real nasi dagang. And since down on the ground there is no compound to shout about, actually up to 5 floors below my apartment is a shopping complex, it is to be sure my kampong tanpa halaman.

That April visit was the first time I was back there since I left, walking down memory lane with precious people from that part of the past doing the things we used to do then,......going to Tong Seng for chicken rice then ice cream in the mall, and to River Valley for nasi padang, and hang out all afternoon at the bookstore until it was time to wander into the restaurant for dinner and then spill out into the crowd on Orchard Road for that long, long walk back to the hotel.

Anyway, I could not make the short non-chalant walk up to the boss to ask for leave after that holiday, neither could I bring myself to ask for a week or so off to go see my Zara this month, since I'll be away from office close to a fortnight, to attend meetings at my other kampung tanpa halaman. Yes, I go to this place so often, it does feel like I am going back to kampung! But almost always, I stay in a hotel, no halaman, just Rue de Lausanne outside the hotel.

So here I am sitting at the concourse of St. Pancras international, wondering what Min and Eez thinks of their Mama and one day, what Ary and Zara will think of their TokTok. I hope they forgive their yellow-bellied grandmother who has been forming a whole gamut of feeble excuses and laughable reasons for not applying for the time-off and making arrangements to go to Doha and see them.

The gentleman sitting beside me on the flight over was actually visiting his brand new grandchild here in London, before he flies off to New York. He is even worse off than I am, even though I say so myself. It took him 4 months to come see his grandchild who was born in January. But will I break or match his record? I pray neither! I will go see Zara soon, well before she is 4 months old and goes home to her kampung halaman for the summer and hari raya.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Welcome Little Zara@Peanut

So the last time i posted anything on this page was 4 August last year....ape mimpinya hari ni rasa nak menulis?!

I received the news at 5.20pm Malaysian time....A tiny little bundle of anugerah Allah arrived in Doha today, all of 3.135 kg of joy to Eez and Amin and may be Abang Ary!...Alhamdulillah! Baby and Mummy doing really well, i'm told...Alhamdulillaaah....

Been going back and forth between Flickr and Facebook, waiting for her photos...but i guess the happy Daddy has not had a free moment to get the photos up yet.

I should go to bed...Good night little Zara, it's morning really...will tell you all about how it feels to be your grandma next time!