Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Talk of bad Luck

The Jerejak Resort was out of electricity for the past three days as some idiot who was working on laying pipelines has cut an electri cable instead. This happened over Christmas when the resort was fully booked. Ill equipped to face the situation resort lost quite a few angry customers who left frustrated. The TNB ouir holy national power supplier took almost three days to get power via a generator to supply the resort and by then the damage is done. Today the resort ran out of food supplies i was told and again more angry guests checked out! We had one accident after another too in the past few weeks and who knows what else is in store.
I am looking forward to be promoted to a better position still despite these bad scenarios as I have the feeling that i am meant to take the bull or the devil by the hornsin this matter. When I had my talk with the boss I told him that I look at myself as a healer of sorts, not of individuals but of the place as a whole if the place needs healing. I believe in thin confession after looking back at my past working at places that were on the verge of falling apart or being shut down. One such place was H & H Ship Services on China basin in San francisco. I can safely say that I had a hand in putting Green Gulch Zen center back on its track while i was there. In Malaysia my methods has helped to iron out many situations that woould have otherwise been critical. All these i did without any concious effort towards achieving any goals but simply just to ease the burden or make the road seemed smoother for the rest of the employees or those involved.
Jerejak resort it seems will be a monumental challenge as it would take short of a miracle to turn this ailling hospitality industry into a success. The biggest challenge i foresee is in getting the employees to have an attitude change with respect to their jobs. Most of them are hard and willing workers but they do not work together wellespecially inter departmentally. Alot of egoism has got to be erased especially among the staff members whose attitude is like without them the resort would cease to function. The true meaning of service or hospitality has yet to sink into the minds of the staff and employees as most are self serving.
Then again what do i know? I am new at this job myself and Jerejak is known not for its beauty as an island but for its infamy as a one time leper colony and a detention center for drug abusers. Perhaps i have to work on healing the place itself like a shaman driving away all the evil spirits or bad vibes that still haunts the island. Well whatever it takes the task wil;l; not be easy and the bull is not going to lay down and let me run all over it or turn it into hamburger and the Devil will still be standing his ground in making sure that nothing good comes out of the place. My job will be to clean it all up one way or another and that is what I intend to do. Tough words for a cheeseburger buddha.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What would the new Year bring?

Sometimes life has its twists and turns as unprdictable as the movements of an eel on dry land and just as slippery to catch a hold of. What lays in store for me in the coming year? Will my luck take a more postive change or will bd luck still ride my on my back/ Who knows and at present there is very little that i can do but ride out these last few days of 05 and hope for the best on the future.
I was offered a better more challenging position at the resort which promisses a better salary and thus I look forward at least to this comes 06. The Jerejak is still going through alot of trials and tribulations with one problem cropping up after another looking like there is no end to it. There has been quite a few dismissals among the the managers and looks like the winds of change is blowing through the whole resort management division. Perhaps this is the much needed spring cleaning of personells who has not been performing their best for the benifit of the whole, or perhaps it is one form of cut backs as the resort is not doing too well financially. Guests visiting the resort has voiced complains of poor attitudes and services and the fact that the price is too high especially for the day trippers. But there is little that I can do except give these visitors breaks whenever i can to pacify them and make sure that they are not totally discontented with their visit to the resort.
I am looking forward to having my first Malaysian Solo exhibition show at the University Sains Gallery here in Georgetown, Penang.However I am a little purtubed by the fact that I might encounter financial difficult in getting my works framed professionally and perhaps create some new additional works to add to what I already have. The Gallery is quite large and sits in the heart of the business district here and so ther is a good flow of traffic. I guese this is my litmus test whether I am going to make or break as an artist here in this country.
My wife it seems is fully contented where she is at the Nursing Home in Waterloo, Illinois. According to my mother -in- Law she is happy and has been busy teaching the other patients who has come to like her prescence there. My wife wears a beautiful smile on her all the time regardless of the circumstances and for this many who has come to know her cannot afford but to like her being there. I have been praying to the AlMighty Allah every day for her safekeeping and well being and that is about all I can do for now other than making sure that her two children here are well looked after and grow into worthy adults. InSha'Allah, or Allah willing I will see that they return to the US again to see their mother whether she recognize them or not anymore. So far they have handled loosing her quite well and I hope it keeps that way for now as I am having a tough time as it is to keep them fed and cloathed and not to mention their school costs, hey what the heck, this is what life is all about ain't it? What a boring life it would it be not to have all these shit happening just to keep your mind tickled and your body in good shape. No sense in bitching and moaning especially when you know Allah is beside you, watching over your every move and directing your next step.
2005, I might say has been a downer for me and my family all around and I have been forced to make some drastic changes in my lifestyles and revaluated my principles and at teh same being humbled in my approach. Many great lessons have I learned from many sources that I sometimes was not aware of. I have been helped by many selfless kind hearted samaritans who made my trials a little less burdensome and eased my sorrows. I have llearned never to despair and surrendered my destiny to the Maker and Designer of this life. It is undoubtedly true for me to realize that it is in times of dire need that one turns to the Highest Authority for His devine grace to deliver one through these times of tribulations. I was lost as it was said but now I am found and I have found the Truth and the Truth is within me.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Perhaps the silver lining...

Today my boss asked for my resume with the intention of upgrading me to a better position perhaps even as a Health and Safety Officer. If so, than my patience is paying off. When I took the job as a ticket seller the man who interviewed me asked me why I am willing to accept such a low paying job and I told him that I am hoping for a better position in the future. The job at the ticket counter actually is not so bad as it has given me a lot of time to draw and look deeper within myself in my relations with the general public especially the Chinese and the Indians. Most of the time i have found it ver pleasant if not entertaining and i have come to learn how to communicate with these racial groups better often earning their respect.I have also learn to overcome my fear in dealing with money especially when it belongs to others which is one of the reasons I took the job. It was a challenge to overcome this handicap.
I told my boss the same reasons when he asked me the same question but I added the fact that I have also come to know the people i am working with and if i am to hold a higher position I will have an advantage of understanding who I am dealing with.In the process of doing my job I have earned the respects of my fellow workers, from the boatmen to the front office employees, from the gardeners to the kitchen staff. I realize that it will not be easy working with people who at one time were your superiors but being one of the oldest there has its advantages as everyone call you uncle.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Shit Happens anyways...

Today is my off day from work and so i decided to tackle my daughter's school registration for next year which would take me to the school then to the education office and who knows where else as she also wants to transfer from her present school to another. My cousin Ahmad Kalam as always becomes my primary help driving me here and there and making sure that I do everything right. We frist headed fopr the secondary school where the signature of the principal was needed on all triplicate copies of the request forms. The Principal off course was not available but the substitute was in and so after convincing him that we were not getting hiom to sign his wealth away we headed for the education department. There we sorted out all the pertinent papers and was finally accepted as completing the paper works and now we wait. Then we decided to attempt the school tansfer fprocess and again we repeated the same route and finally when it was all done we headed for another side of town for the 'new' education department office where the transfer script would be processed. Along the way we had to come to a stop at a street light which had numbers and was turning from Zero to stop. My cousin applied the brakes and came to a stop. A few seconds later we were slamped from behind sending our car a few yards into the middle of the junction.
I noticed that my cousin was quite ok other than the fact that he was a little shaken up and then turning around I tried to get out of the car but found out that i could not open the door. The car that had ramped us from behind turned out to be a new sporty Volvo car driven by a young Chinese who was already on his handphone calling someone to inform of what had happened. Perhaps he was on the phone all along and that is why he failed to see the stopped car in front of him. Then the tow truck guys came all four of them handing out cards and the police arrived after taking one look at the mess told everyone to remove the vehicles as it was causing a traffic jam. My cousin left with the owner of the repair shop who had turned up and heade for the police station to make the report anf i followed the wrecked car towed to the repair shop to collect all the belongings from inside of the car.
My friend Cikgu Yusof came to take me home with all the items collected from my copusin's car. I told him that i felt guilty for what had happened as my cousin was involved in the accident on account of running an errand for me. He chastised me saying that i am back to the material man's mentality as it was not my fault or his for that matter and the 'test' was not for me but for my cousin. A spiritual man would just accept it as destiny, all meant to be for some odd reason beyond our comprehension.All the help that has been given to me he said consider them as my right, Allah's blessings and not to be questioned but accept with grace. All the negative incidents that I am experiencing at this point in my life consider them to be Allah's way of making me realize who I am and my relationship to Him, they are his ways of giving me a wake up call. If I doubt or become despair by what I am going through than I have deviated from Him and His infinite Mercy.
I went home later and laid down to sleep giving my body a rest from the trauma that I had just gone through and later did my laundry.

Monday, December 05, 2005

My Wife Nancy II

You were a traveller and a seeker just like me,you traveled to Russia even when you were in High school and then you lived in Japan for 10 years speaking and writng the language. You have lived in Malaysia for 6 years and almost become a good Muslim if you are not one already. You hold a Master's degree in Linguistics and have taught English for over twenty years of your life, what an achievement! Your children will know all thes one day when they decide to read this blog as it is primarily meant for them. It is my way of keeping a record of who they are and what their parents were.
Today our lives is at its nadir and we are seperated from each other, all of us as both our kids are living away from me with their friends and relatives. With them out of the way I am making full use of my time putting all my energies into taking the bull by the horns and by the Will of the AlMighty, pull all my resources and create a miracle that will bring all of us together again. I may be down but I am never out for so long as this mind and body is capable of working I will prevail.
So I will keep on sending my prayers to you so Allah will keep you at peace and contentment and that he will deliver us through this these difficult times of our lives. Know that everyday that I write this blog I am thinking of you if nothing else and let no one claim otherwise.
Karim has left for Kuala Terenggany to be with his buddies on the East Coast where it is the rainy season. The just had a Monsoon Regata there where racing sail boats from all over the world took part at Pulau Duyong, remember Awi's yellow and Hashim and his family? Well now that I am here in Penang things starts happening over there, just another bad luck. I miss those guys there, the simple life and the simple folks who treated us like one of their own for the six odd years we lived there. Marissa is staying in Brown Gardens, Penang with her cousins. She likes it there better than where I am living right now. She is growing up fast and more beautiful each day.
I am going to get her registered for next year for both Karim and her are required tro re-register with the Penang Education Department because of being foreign students. More paper works and more fees to be paid. I have no idea where i can get the money for their school fees and books for next year but I know it will be there when the time comes, call it faith for its all that I have got right now. Faith and the determination to succeed in this life despite all my failures in the past.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

My Wife Nancy

I imagine you sit alone in your room often enough thinking of us perhaps if your mind is not far too gone to temember us, but we think and pray for you daily, we love you and will do all we can to be with you someday even if you have no memory of who we are.
We miss you, the children may not show it but I know they are doing their best to face the painful fact of their lives, their present and future and I have no answers for them except the fact that all is meant to be, It is Allah's will and we are His servant doing His bidding in this life. Perhaps it may sound like an escape to most western minds but I must declare that all that has transpired in my life is meant to be, a lesson in gettinhg to meet the Lord of Truth. I have been seeking throughout my life for the meaning of my life, why I am who I am and thus far have come to my knees banging on the door of the Al'Mighty for His infinite mercy and thankful for having been chosen to record my life for the sake of my children and grand children. What good is your life if it cannot be shared for its beauty and glory its pain and sufferings in the eye of the Lord.
He created man in His Image and awarded him with the one thing no other living soul posseses the capacity for Compassion, for Love and Devotion, He created me through His breath and His Creative Spirit. I am who I am, created to walk my life through from the day I was conceived till the day I am in my grave. I am on my journey to meet my Creator, my Lord and Master and He is running to meet me.
I have not become all Muslimised or trying to scare you as a Muslim bad guy out to blow up market places to proof a point, No I am a seeker who is almost home with what he has been seeking.
I am drinking sips of LIVITA (Honey)while a loud Bangladeshi is on the phone next door, the Muezzin is calling the faithful to their needs on the loud speaker from a nearby Mosque and the kids are doing battle on the computer behind me, I am at home! Allah is the Lord of Power, the Great, there is none, only Allah is to be worship. It took me a long time of long and windy roads for me to discover myself, for who or what I am, I have been down there as low as any man can get and I have climbed way up there where few I dare say touched in their single life span, and I have not even yet started. This included visiting Chinese and Hindu Temples, studying the Tao Te Ching and the Gita, meeting with great men and sharing my life with the women in my life. All along the way I have questioned my Lord, challenged Him, Tempt Him all for no apparent excuse, I became a Munafik a shirik, I was totally lost into the vortex of this physical life. While spinning in this crazy vortex that I met you in San Francisco, "We were two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl...year after year..." It was in 1998 I will never forget the great quake that hit the Bay Area during while the World series was about to take off between the SanFrancisco Giants against the Oakland A's. I was then living on Mission Street at what used to be the Sear's Roebuck department store, latter converted into the Unemployement Office, I shared a studio with another Artist while working as a produce buyer for Del Tomasso.
Its not it was love at first sight between us we both knew it at least I can still remember our life together spent at 191, Haight Street, in down town San Francisco.
Remember the Zen Center at 300, page street and David Carlson and Blanch! Remember Harold and Noreen and Elyeze and doctor Samuel Kawamoto(sam). Remember all those accupuncture sessions and me becoming the willing pin cusion to be practiced on? You were teaching ESL at the UCBerkley Extension on Market Street. You were well oved by all your foreign students, you were their favorite. I hold great pride in your dedication to teaching. The Malay students at KUSZA in Kuala Terengganu used to tease you as looking Angelic when you walk down the hallway in your colorful baju kurung and tudung. You have worked very hard and with dedication most of the life that I have known you. Youy deserve better than to simply vegitate away at the prime of your life and i am helpless to do a damn thing about it. I have played myself into the hands of fate, I have tempted fate a bit too far, but it is not over till the fat lady sings and I am not about to quit just yet, I just have to readjust a few strategies and rebound soon enough and all through I have found my true energy and devotion to the One, the Al'Mighty most Merciful and Compassionate, I found Allah again.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Living on the fringe

So the only comments I got to my rambblings are from an online vendor out of the bay area wherever that is trying to sell me online dating services, how did they know? How do they know I may need a new companion or even a wife now that my wife is in the Nursing home somewhere in Illinois and the chances of my ever seeing her again is very slim? Where are all those friends that I used to communicate with, it is like they just dropped off from the face of the earth or is it me who ceased to exist? Perhaps this is the true meaning of enlightenement, you slowly but surely loose everything that you once has just like unburdenning even of friends and loved ones.
The last few weeks has seen little of improvements where the daily life is concern and I am still haggling at the price of Ferry tickets to Jerejak Island resort with every other guest that arrives.The management decided to shoot the dog that I had come to love having around,simply because it was a dog and I miss it. The Malays has no love for dogs and they blame it on Islam! It is not because they are scared shitless of the animal for some unknown reason. Perhaps it is because even as children they have been warned by their parents that the dog bites and that is all dogs are good at doing and so they stay away from it. The Chinese are smart to pick on this and they keep dogs all over their yard just to keep the Malays out.The bastard who had the poor dog killed could have with one phone call had it taken away by the RSPCA but NO! Shoot the damn thing even if it was not causing any problem. I hope wherever they end up in heaven or hell there will be a big dog waiting for them with a shot gun it will have to be a dog's hell.
This morning I was at the Art muzium in Penang to find out if i could have a solo exhibiton of my works in the near future. It was located at the Dewan Sri Pinang, a public civic center near the esplanade. As I would have expected, I need to write in a formal applicaton tot he Director accompanied with my potfolio and letter of intent. I was also forwarned of the fact that the chances of being accepted is slim as the place is prdominantly catered to the Chinese Artists. As evidenced by the ongoing collective works on display I can say 99 percent of the participants were Chinese, only a handfull were Malay Artists. What can I say, Penang is a Chinese owned island just like Singapore and the Malays and Hindus only play second fiddle at everything that goes on here. Those who are lucky enough to be among the wealthy non-Chinese acts and behaves like they are a part of the oriental majority. The rest acts and talks big like they own the island but in actuality are mostly empty drums that rises the loudest noise out of sheer frustration. One of my cousin told me once that , it will come a day when the Malays will become the caretakers and gardeners to the Chinese bosses on this island.
Patience is the one virtue that is most sorely needed to live a sane life in this city.Even as I am typing this blog I am telling myself to remain cool and not chew the heads off the few kids tthat are yelling and shouting at eachother while playing some video game on the internet.I feel like I am in an insane assylum among Indian Muslim kids as they yell in both Malay and Tamil languages. The times they are a changing, today's kids have very little respect for the elders and that is a fact that I hate to have concur with, sometimes I feel like kicking some of their asses just for the hell of it to remind them that there are adults around in their crummy little world who value a little peace and quiet. Too bad i had just told the kid next to me off that he has a bad breath and to quit shouting across in from of my face or I will fart into his. He got the message at least for now and mine is that this is their domain not mine, I belong in another space and time.
I belong among the Allan Watts and the G.I. Gurdjiefs, the Dalai Lama and the Hulusi's of the world, not that I am as great a thinker as they are but I am more at home reading them. There is no doubt lessone to be learned even as I am grumbbling about the whole predicament of my life today, I am learning about patience, about tolerence, about accepting the inevitable and dancing with this rythm of life. It does me no good to merely succumb to this scene and walk away with my head bowed and my tail between my legs, I will walk away with alot of rambblings thrown out of my cehst, i will walk away feeling lighter, I will walk away enlightened.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

How much more before its too much?

The past few weeks has been one of my soul searching moments in life that has tossed me between believing and tossing it all to the wind. The fasting month came and went and things are back to normal whatever that may mean. The kids are on vacation and dont know what to do with themselves. My son wants to go back to the east Coast and my daughter is staying with her cousins and I am still selling ferry tickets to see the day through.
The wage barely kept the three of us alive and the school is demanding their share of the take as my children are foreign students. I feel like a foreigner here myself somtimes and when i listen to the foreign workers i work with getting their cards red green or otherwise with no problem I envy them. My application for my children's Malaysian citizenship status has taken six years now and the paper works is now headed for the Prime minister's private secretary's desk for perusal. I am praying hard that something will materialize from this as i cannot think of any higher office that i can submit my application to anymore.
On looking back into the past I realize that all these events that have been manifesting in my life are merely repercartions of what i had or had not done in my past. To the Buddhist it is karmic and to the Muslim it is Cause and Effect. Whichever it is I am sure having a good taste of what living in uncertainties is like. Friends would not let me despair too much by reminding me the fact that I am not living in the Kashmir areas of Pakistan right now where the big earhtquake had just left thousands upon thousands of God's children out in the cold. I am not living along the Gaza satrip where killing is a way of life or the many African countries where malnutrition and human cruelties to one another is rampant.
Allah has His reasons and he is All Knowing, or like the Christians would say God works in mysterious ways. Perhaps He is trying very hard to let us know that like in Pakistan's case fighting and killing eachother along the Pakistan/Indian border is not cool or bombing mosques while the people are in it is also uncool. Juist as in Aceh, Indonesia wher the Tsunami swiped half the population and the town, there too He was perhaps sick of Muslims killing eachother, just as in Sri Lanka which was hit by the same Tsunami, there the Tamils and the Sri Lankans are at eachother's throats like there is no end to it, so why not a little lesson in life and death.
Oh well lets no get carried away and take life a day at a time and see where I can finds the money to pay for kids next years' fees.!!
Hey whatever happened to your oldest boy the American Airline pilot! a friend asked me the other tday. Yeah I said whatever happened to him, Last I heard he got married after that we kinda lost touch even on the internet! Well whatever he is up to i am sure he is still flying up there in God's friendly skies and i hope he is happy and safe wherever he is, God bless him and God Bless America.
As for the Swiss Kid, he is most probably still running around angry at ther world just like his father and mother used to be when they were about his age. I met his mom in Green Gulch farm, in Sausalito California sometime in 1984 and the AlMighty or the Buddhas had to mark the occaision with producing him to testify for the aupicious meeting between a Malaysian Dodo Bird and a Swiss Airhead. The result is what we have living in the Swiss Alps of all places and complaining about life. Oh what a great thing this life is!! I pray daily to the Almighty that he protects all my children wherever they are and so my wife and loved ones wherever they are and that he will find it in His complete Wisdom and Compassion to forgive Us All for all our past, present and future wrongs, It is not easy to be Humans.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Job Hunting

It time to keep looking for something worthwhile again and so far there seems to be slim pickings for what i am qualified for and that being in the Health and Safety line.So far two possibilities and i am hoping that my applications would be fruitful.
The kids are doing fine for not having much to go for as far as money is concern.They have not said much about their mother but i cn feel that they miss her and are keeping it to themselves as thay know pretty well that right now thare is not much that can be done for her.
Work at the resort is becoming a tedium as there is not much to do during the fasting monthan there being alot less people visiting the island. I spend most of the day at work reading and doing some water colors.Mo offers for my artworks so far but go to keep painting just to fill up empty spaces.It seems like my creative juices like all else in my life is beginning to dry up like it is part of the aging rpocess.However I still get positive feed back from those who cant draw or paint themselves and that helps to cheer me up abit.If nothing else it is entertaining and keeps the mind occupied.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

It's The Fasting Month Again

Yes the month of Ramadan is here and so my stomach is growling and my head is spinning and I am still running around like I am an enlightened numbnut with no end in sight. Today I learned that my salary will be smaller next month as there was a discrepancy in the amount paid into the accounts department on the 9th. of this month. It looks like the money simply up and dissappeared without a trace and I am resposible for it somehow as I cannot remmber who was on duty when I turned the money in at the end of the day. Its to the tune of some two hundred RM which is about onthird of my salary. I knew this was coming for the pastr few days the moment i was called to justify the missing amount and my feeling has been one of "I dont really give a damn about it anymore than I give a damn if my balls are still functioning.
My son's school principal, his form teacher and the disciplinary teacher has been takeing turns reminding him the his father better pay up the foreign student fees or else... This too is becoming another thorn in my side as I am running out of cash and to think that when I had it and made the payment the school refused to accept it. I was informed through a small piece of paper hand written by the school principal that the school cannot accept the money from the student and that I have to take my son with me and make the payment at the Ministry of Education Office. Well they could have told me that in the first place but instead they had asked me to visit the school earlier and meet the principal which I did and failed to meet anyone as everyone was away that day. Now I am up tomy neck with this kind of bureaucratic crap that I am beginning to turn into a potential terrorist out of shear frusteration.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

And the show must go on...

Its the fasting month of Ramadan for the Muslims all over the world and like all good Muslims my children and I fast. Waking up at three in the morning I walk over to my cousins'house sometimes with my daughter to eat the "Souk". Then back to bed before waking up at six a.m. to get ready for work. I am in debted to my couisns husband and wife for without them my life would be far off worse than it is. I am living on the brink of poverty as my salary barely covers the rent and my children's daily meals. I am flat broke by the middle of the month not knowing where the next break would be coming from. But enough of the financial grumblings and moving on to better things in life like, like...???
No news from my wife where she is at present or how she is GOD ONLY KNOWS. We miss her but have to settle for the stark reality of accepting the fact that wqe might not see her again, not in this life most probably. My son's school is demanding that i pay for his school fees soon or...and I am still trying to get their resident status settled. It seems all decks are stacked against me. Well what can I say the Al;mighty is still testing me and i have to deal with what comes as they come. I am a beleiver and i believe that there is a silver lining behind all these, it may not seem possible at the moment but it is there, all I need to do is just hang in there and ride this Tsunami.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

When you are broke you are broke!

Hello darkness my old friend, I have come to talk with you again! AHH the good old Simon and Garfunkle tune that comes to mind whenver I sit to tell my story. What has been happening since I have been away from the computer? Well life has not gotten any better at least not financially and i dont expect it to at least not in the too near future. My wife God help her is tugged away safe in a home somewhere in Waterloo, Illinois, watch out all you great hard working dedicated beings out ther it could happen to any of you at any time! My kids are accepting the fact that they most probably will not see their mother again not in this life as it cost too much to make things happen these days. And as for me I am getting bwetter at kissing asses and bowing low to welcome the guests at the Jerejak Resort and SPA.
Hey its life! No one ever said that things were to be any different and if they did tell them bullshit! This is IT. Good bad, high lows, take it as it IS and thank the Maker that you still got a life to toy around with. These fingers can still tap on this keyboard and most probably this garbage does get read by one or two die hards out there like my sons in the USa and the other in the Swiss Alps. They better unless they too are too damn sucked up with their own life story that they dont have the time to. In any event who gives a s..t anyways. Thats the beauty about writng this blog, I can let it out and let it blow and hurt no one while I defuse my own.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A life must go on

The last message that I got from about my wife in Columbia Illinois was that she had lost her senses and ran out of the house later to be taken to a Rehab Center. I am not toatlly surprised by the news however am very sad for her and for my children here who i have not told about his latest turn of events. They are going through enought as it is and there seem to be no end in sight. Its a shame for a person who has devoted her life to the persuit of her career as a teacher to end up in a mental home. The Gods must be nuts!
I have been working at the resort fr the past wo months now and most probably bee doing so just to keep my head above water. The job is quite exciting at times and ttotally boring most of the time and so i kept a few books around just to fill the time. Mostly the books are on Sufiism like books by Ibn.Arabi and Kadir Jailani.I am doing a study on the deeper aspects of Islam with the hopre that i can culminate it into a comparative study between Islam and Buddhism. Perhaps turn it into a Master's Degree reasearh paper.I have been hanging out with a few friends with simmilar intrests here and have been into a lot of discussions on the subject.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Life begins in Penang.

Has been quite sometime now that i have been able to sit and jot down a few thoughts and ideas as to what heck am I doing with my life of late. The reason simply being that I cannot afford a new computer or the time to hang oput at a cybercafe. You see I am now gainly employed as a ticket seller at the Ferry terminal for the Jerejak Island Resort in Penang. Yessir! I sell tickets, give out informations and mostly sit around doing practically nothing in between. So being the kind of guy that I am I water the whole yard and garden around the jetty area and when it is not too hot I collect the garbage along the beach which the sea has left behind. I read alot too especially The Dalai Lama's book on "The Bodhisatva's Way" to keep my mind from regression into despair.
My children are getting well settled with teir new environment and new friends and are beginning to pick up with their studies again. I know they miss their mother eventhough both of them has never come out to say it. I see it more in my son than in my daughter as he was more closer to her than she was. Eversince their return from the US after their short stay they have been going through some eyeopening experiences on what life has to offer. After spending some time with the well to dos in Illinois, the cheesecakes and apple pies, now thay are forced to do with sharing meals with their neighbors children or sleeping on cold concrete floors. Oh its character building alright, but what the heck with a millionaire uncle and an airline pilot for a brother, they could do better. Then again that would be too simplistic for this day and age.
Life in Georgetown Penang is a blessing for us as we have many kind and helpful relatives and friends here more so than in Terenggnau. Here there is less character judgement and more compassion and understanding. There is also better opportunities here when it comes to getting employment if one is willing and alot more activities and happenings especially for the kids. The schools are more integrated here as there are more greater number of other races such as Chinese and Hindus attending same schools. This is particularly good for my son as he was starting to become constricted in his outlook towards those other than Malays when he was living in Kuala Terengganu, forgetting that he himself is not exactly a typical Malay.

Thus far I have managed to rent a place for ourselves got the kids in school, got myself a job and made a few possible connections for future ventures. Now I need to get me a decent transportation and I will be just about ready to take on this Island and all it has to offer. Working at the Jarjak Resort and SPA is a good start as it offers me a good venue to meet people especially those who can afford to take the time to stay at the resort and those who come from overseas. I have sat and talked to a few intresting individuals since I started working here and in the process have introduced them to this blogsite with the hope that they will remaind in contact. I have been able to share my thoughts with many younger guests who visit here on subjects such as the environment and just being aware, meditation and self discovery. It is intresting enough to note that most were intrested and cared enough to listen when I spoke and some came back with their own views which was encouraging.

Pualau Jerjak or the Jerjak Island covers about 960 Acres of land covered mostly with virgin jungle. The Island has a unique history as it was the first place the British East India Company used as its Post under Captain Francis LIght also known as the founder of Penang. It was maintained as a Quarantine Post for migrant workers from India and China employed by the British to work in the rubber plantations and the Tin mines in the Malay Peninsular. Light late abandoned the island when there was an outbreak of Malaria among the employees and opted for the much bigger Island of Penang itself after negotiating a treaty with the Sultan of Kedah.
The Island of Jerjak later was used as a submarine base by the German Navy during WW11 from which many british warhips and Maritime vassels were sunk in and around the Indian Ocean. The Japanese too later used the island to keep prisoners and practice their samurai techniques on removing heads during the occupation. Later when all the fun and killings were over the island it was converted into a leper colony where all the lepers from the rest of the nation were gathered there for R& R. After this the island became Malaysia's Alcatraz where hard core drug addicts were interned and then suddenly it all ended and the government decide to turn the island for a more positive use, build a resort.

Most guest stumbbled upon the resort jetty for one reason or another, they got lost looking for something else or they made a wrong turn and ended up at the jetty,few will tell you that they Knew of it through some ad. or promotion. Many arrive with a grumble having not being able to find the Jetty as there was practically now signage along the highway to make it possible to follow to the location. Due to ever changing of charges and or the lack of standard offers and information on such, guests often become disheartened after listening to one too many excuses as to why and what- fors.When it comes to the staff and the management personnels it is a whole different scenario and worthy of a whole new blogpage. Well I will leave it at that for now.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Kids Are Back in Town

My two children are back in Malaysia and are fast asleep from anexhausting long trip from Columbia, Illinois to their present pillows and bedsheets in Sungei Pinang, Penang. We arrived here by the Transnasional Express bus from Kuala Lumpur where my cousin Zakaria had dropped us off at the Jalan Duta Bus Terminal. They had put up at his house yesterday upon arrival and I have been staying at there since my arrival in Kuala Lumpur from Kuala Terengganu a few days earlier. Zakaria is to me as close as it gets to becoming a wholesome person. A very hard worker with a no nonsense attitude towards everything that he does in life. A very devoted and strict Muslim yet flexible when he wants to be a successful career man who was high ranking police officer and later an attorney, giving up being a lawyer he joined the National Bank and giving that up is now head of security for a major company in the oilpalm plantation business. I love this man and have very high regards for his achievements in life. His weakness is in his love for good food for which money or time or distance is of no consequence.

Two days ago we went to Putra Jaya, the new mega city where all government offices are presently located not too far from Kuala Lumpur to look into what has become of my application for my children's citizenship status. We dropped in at the Dept of Registry where e the files I had submitted were being processed and discovered that not much was being done about them. Upon enquiring we learned that there was an inconsistency with regard to my children's date od birth and the registeration date for my Muslim marriage certificate. According to the dates and figures my children are cosidered bastards as they were conceived out of legitimate Muslim procedures. However if they were to be viewed from the original marriage certificates which took place in California they are okey, they are legit. So on account of this their applications have been sitting in someone's drawer till we decided to start digging arround for them. For the past six years I have received various excuses as to why my children does not qualify to become Malaysian citizens and now I have this.

The final decission will still have to be made eve if all the paperworks were acceptable by the Home Ministry where a Minister will have to sign the okay and this will take God knows how long according to the man we talked to. The gentleman offerd an advice that we see someone we might know at the higher levels and get them to push for the application to be accepted. So off we go round the mulberry bush to look for the key man in the Home Ministry who could make things happen and this includes writing a letter justifying why the application should pass or be acceptable and providing more documents in the process. Such Is, Such Is.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

What Is Gobochan?

My friend Raof learned of the medicinal purposes of the Gobo root, a fleshy root stem found only in Japan when he met with an elderly Japanese who was doing a long term study for the cure of Diabetes utilizing vegetables extracts in the form of a soup. Eversince he started producing the drink which comprices of five different kinds of vegetable he found that there were quite a number of successful cures for such deseses as diabetes, overweight and general aches and pains related to the flow of blood and the healthy cells in the immune system. The ingredients are made up of your everyday vegetables such as carrots, radish, a specie of mushroom, Gobo root and so forth, but the essence of the potentcy of the soup is in its preparation, its measurements and time of preperation, one has to prepare it with a Zen mind.
This drink is found to heighten the health and growth of cells in the body, existing cells are rejuvenated and dead and unhealthy cells are being consumed by the healthy new cells. I have been drinking this soup eversince for the past few weeks and found that it helps me to move my bowels every morning and I urinate alot more regularly. I sweat very easily too and I feel alot mot lighter and not as sluggish especially in the mornings. My sister who is way overweight has made it her drink of choice now that she has lost a few kilos and moving about with less pain. She is now visiting her grandchildren in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and is busy spreading the Gobochan health drink among her friends and relatives there.It is our intention to patent this drink and hopefully with further research to bottled it for better commercial production. We are looking for a better name for this drink, one that will be more Zen-like and has a catchy sound to it. So if anyone has suggestions please let us hear it.

I have booked my bus ticket to KL for tonight and will arrive there in the morning sometime and I hope there will be some good Samaritan to fetch me at the bus stand or even find a place to stay. I will have a day or two before my children arrive from the US and so I hope to be able to go to Putra Jaya and dig around for some answers as to what is happening to my application for PR status for my kids which has been pending for the last six years. My kids are of the age where they will need to carry an identification card with them whereever they go and at the moment they have none. There is no excuses being given as to why they do not qualify for permanent residency and it has been a burden on me for the past five or six years everytime I am being confronted with this issue. Being a Malaysian father I feel at least I deserve a better response from the government agencies that handled my childrens' case. Not to recieve even a letter of acknowledment after filing with an attatched copy of a letter from the Deputy Chief Minister of Penang, is like an insult to the office and stature of the Minister.

No doubt I am a non-entity as far as those working at the Registery Department or the Home Office, I am just another file number that is not of critical importance, who am I? I have worked alongside foreign workers who got their IC crads done in three months or some even less. These foreign workers from Indonesis, Bangladesh, Miyamar and so on somehow has better luck than me a local. All those who I have seekd advice from kept telling me that money talks and bullshit walks, that i need to use bribery one way or another otherwise my file will keep sinking to the bottom. But i was also told that i need to go to the source myself and sit down and protest in fron of the Prime Minister's office and demand for some direct answers. And so this is what I will have to do in the next few days in KL. If I end up in the detention in Bukit Aman so be it, Allah is merciful and to Him I will seek refuge for whatever will befall on me. I have sat and taken enough unjutifiable crap from the government's bureaucratic mismanagement and lack of caring and hoity-toidy attitude of the office workers. It is time to evoke article 666 and call on the Devil to do the job where the angels failed.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

From Awi's Yellow House

I am now in Kuala Terengganu right now in my friend's office using his computer to update my life's stroy for the world to see. I got here yesterday morning and spent the day with Raof harvesting some horseradish and later doing some cleaning up behind his house while he cleaned the radish leaves. I came to get some paper work done for my children at their former school, I was told I needed to get the transfer letters ASAP. I also needed to get my wife's employer to provide me with a letter that could satisfy the needs of the American Workman's Compensation program. It would be a great help to us if she does qualifies for it as she has worked for most of her life teaching and has done justice to the American Cause overseas through her simple charms and dedication towards her students. If she does not qualify for some form of conpensation she will have to come back here and continue her finding a cure for her ailments.

I am now staying at Awi's Yellow House on the Trengganu River next to the Sultan Mahmood Bridge, on Pulau Duyong Kecil. Awi's yellow House is a must for anyone travelling the road very least travelled and at the cheapest cost for the most extraordinary experience of meeting a few of the world's most seasoned travellers from all over the world. A place where East meets West at a coffee table overlooking the flowing river where iguanas and kampung kids swim amidst diapers and all sorts of garbage having a hell of a time. This is Awi's Yellow, where every morning you are awakened by the cry over the loudspeakers of six or seven Bilals calling the faith ful to their needs.Where every fridady evening thers is a Pasar Malam or night market selling from used LeVis to Keropok Lekor a kind of fish sausage common to the east coast. But if peace and quiet and privacy is what you are looking for and safe not to forget safety, Awi's is the place for you if you don't mind shitting through the hole in the floor and watching your waste dropping all the way into the river, than this place is as unique as it gets.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Words from Columbia Illinois

Got words today that my children will be returning to Malaysia on the 24th. and that's less than a week from now. I also learned that I have to go back to Terengganu and secure their letters of transfer of schools from their former shcool to give them to the schools here in Penang.So what if you have to got to Terengganu or Timbuuktoo!! I am getting tired of putting all my thoughts down like and addict who cannot stop from smoking. Who is out there reading these daily moaning and groaning of a wiped out! flat on his butt of an Artist World traveller cum Mystic man wanna be, what a bloody waste of time and precious space in the all ready crowded Super Highway, Cyber Space, whatever.

Have you been following my ramblings? Who are you, what do you think? What would you have done if you were in my shit right now?! Hello! Is there any body out there!

So I will book a ticket for tomorrow night's bus to Kuala Terengganu I am used to it, travelling that is, I just dont feel right sitting in one place for too long, its the Gypsy blood in me and dont ask me from whose side it comes. I am used to staring out of bus windows at streaks of green passing by as we drive up into the Central range of the Malay Peninsular. I am used to having wild dreams and fantasies raging through my mind as we drove through the night towards the next destination, never forget to wear a thick sweater for it can be chilly in the bus.

What have I learned from my ten days spin from Medan to Bukit Tinggi to Padang and back? Like my friend David C mentioned, it could turn out into a bum trip. What is it that I come back with, what in me changed, what did the trip do for me? Not a thing? I am no more a better or richer man nor can I say that my sense of pride in the Art of Travelling has now been compromised. I am sure its no one's fault that I failed to learn to appreciate all the little gestures that most of the Indonesians has offered all along the way, the smiles and treating me with honor and dignity worthy of a visiting dignitary. Its just not the same anymore or maybe I just had a great time but did not want to admit it! If I am allowed to with my children I would gladly move to one of the smaller towns in Indonesia or perhaps like Payakumbuh, where all the beauties and wonders of nature and man exist side by side. A place filled with Mysticism and belief in the 'Alam Gahib' or spiritual world. Carl G.Jung once said something like, Mankind has lost his sense of Awe and Wonder of Nature. Man has fallen asleep in this Land of Maya, he is dreaming of himself dreaming in this Land of MMAYA.

Well it looks now like I got to get use seen and being seen in the neighborhood of my childhood days, River Road at SungeiPinang. Most of the faces I have seen so far do not look the least familliar and most are young and looks like the run the hood. Oh well might as well get used to it I hope that my two children will not have too much difficulty adapting to the change. I am not too worried about my daughter I believe she can handle herself but my son might find it harder, its is good for character building, change is. So long as the change does not cause too much strain on your budget and on relationships or on the physical and mental health or their sense of belonging.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The journey continues

Throughout the day we drove soughtwest headed for Bukit Tinggi passing through small towns like Padang Sidimpuan where we had a late lunch and made the acquaintance of a lovely lady who was the daughter of the owner of the restaurant. We kept on our journey through the villages of Kota Nopan,Muara Sipongi Batas Sumut which took us into Western Sumatra and arrived at Bukit Tinggi later in the night. We put up at a relatively cheap hotel called the Lossman Hotel where all three of us shared a room. One of the most striking scene about the town or Kota Bukit Tinggi is the prescence of buggies or horse driven carriages which is one of the main form of transportation around the city. The city itself sits on top of the one of the highest points,930 meters above sea level and surrounded by 3 volcanoes, the Tandikat,Singgalang and Merapi.

The whole trip in getting here had filled me with awe and wonder at the beauty of nature and the interdependance between man and the environment. It always amazed me to find a man walking in the darkness of the night along this mountain road headed home or on some lonely errand such as looking for missing goats armed with a short spear in his hand and a Parang or machette hanging from his waiste. Could I have courage to take on such norturnal challenge and not loose my nerves in the darkness armed only with a flashlight in hand to point me the way ahead. This is life, the distant group of men and women bent over tending to their rice field in the distant mountain side, the children happily taking their bath in the fast flowing streams and rivers while the women washed their cloaths, this is life, the call to prayer from the many mosques and men women and children all dressed for the occaision walking towards the houses of worship cheerfully, this is Life.

One of the areas that we had passed through was the Desa Pernyambungan where the Presantren Purba Baru or religious school for Muslim youths were located along the road. These religious schools or retreats were very rustic and it is known that their studies were strict and very regimented according to Islamic teachings. For those who wishes to deepen their undertanding of the religion this is where they come some from far away places such as Malaysia and Brunei. The schools were not for the propagation of any radicalism but purely to foster a strong religious background based on the teaching of islam. Students boarded in small huts barely able to house two people. According to my friend Pa'Selamat, alot of children had to leave due to the strict practice and a few even ended up loosing their minds. These places reminded me of the Zen centers and other religious retreats such as the Yoga centers and Tibetan schools that had sprouted all over the United States in the recent years.

The next day I was able to transfer all the pictures I took from the digital camera to a disc and thus emptying the memory chip in my camera. I was very relieved and excited at the fact that my pitures came out pretty good as I had my doubts about the correct way of using the digital camera. Now how I wish I know how to load the pictures onto my Blog pages instead of just writing. As a picture speaks a thousand words not being able to have the pictures included in the pages defeats the purpose of my blog journal.Recording events and sights utilizing a digital camera is such a convenience that it allows for me to take over 200 shots before I need to off load the camera and its much more easily executed for a non professional photographer like me.

6 -6- 05

The journey to Padang was not as memorable as most of the sceneries we passed through were quite simmilar to thos we had passed before, mountains and ricefields. Padnag is the capital city of Western Sumatra but fir it did not much attraction other than the fact that it is just another big city and my time is too limited to hang around big cities. However one fascinating aspect of the mode of transportation is the tri-motorcycles which is constructed from old vintage motorcycles such as BSAs and Nortons. Elsewhere today these would have fetched good prices among antique collectors. Havign arrived in the evening at Padang we stayed at more fancy hotel called the Hayam Wuruk Hotel. I spent sometime at an internet cafe cathcing up with the latest in my email. The news from Colobia Illinois is not good and my mother in law is having a most difficult time with my family.

As I was in the process of getting my pictures transfered at a photoshop a aprade of pre-schoolers all dressed in their traditional cloaths and accompanied by their own marching bands passed by in front of the shop. It was like a blessing for me and with my spare chip I started shooting away capturing as many faces and costumed clad kids as I could. What could be a better clebration than to see children marching in colorful costumes to welcome your visit. The fanfare reminde me of my own children during their Kindergarten years in Sendai, Japan. Ina many ways the Japanese and the Sumatrans are simmilar in lifestyle and even their landscapes. Off course the Japanese are more refined and disciplined but the Sumatrans have alot bigger land mass and people to deal with and there are saveral different sects exisitng together with different cultural and religious beliefs here. these includes the Malayus or malays and the Minangkabaus, the Bataks and the Karoks. About 90 per cent of the Bataks are Catholics and thus more churches are found in their part of the country than mosques. According to my friend Pa'Selamat there is very little conflict that occurs between the Muslims and the Christians here as they have learned to coexist in harmony over generations ago.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Heading for Bukit Tinggi

We deaparted Bkt.Lawang for Medan and later in the afternoon decided to leave medan for Bkt. Tinggi along the way stoppin at Selamat's house where I took a bath and performed my Magrib prayers. Soon after we were on the road and i slept most of the way in the back seat as it was took dark to see much travelling at night. We arrived in the morning at a roadside coffee shop where we had some breakfast and continuedon our journey along a narrow road punctuated by pot holes every fifty yards or so which made the journey slow and very bumpy. The road ran through an oilpalm plantation belonging I was informed to investors from foreign countries including Australia and the US. The road has suffered from the abuses by the heavy vehicles used to transport the oilpalm products out of the area.

After sometime the road got better as we left the oilpalm area and headed into a more flat area where ricefields replace the landscape from oilpalm. i ften stopped to take a shot of the breathtaking scenes of miles and miles of ricefields that stretches all the way to the foothills in the horizon. As we continued on we were confronted with on coming traffic of wild motorcycle riding schoolkids and minibuses zooming at break neck speed passing by us with barely inches to spare. It was a miracle of life that not an aciident occured throughout the journey despite the suicidal rally like traffic. It seems it was the last days of school for the some secondary school kids and so it was like a victory celebration to be finally liberated from the business of schooling. Most of the kids had colorful grafitti splattered all over their white school uniforms and some more enthusiastic ones even had torn their school shirt to shreds. The minibusses were loaded to the roof with these yelling and screaming teenagers speeding past by us as though headed for a doomsday jamboree.

Later still in the afternoon we came by the local town area where a market scene greeted us along the roadsides. It reminded me very much of most parts of rural Malaysia and the activities looked very fammiliar with people buying and selling everything under the sun. We stopped and had lunch at one of the restaurants further down the road and the main dish was gold fish. I was begining to feeli like i could shit gold after eating so much of this fresh water fish as salt water fish is almost unavailable in these central regions of Sumatra. The food here is not something that one would brag about as one would the enchanting beauty of the panaromic scenic views that one encounters amost all along the steep and winding road as it passes through one village after another and one valley to the next. The distant mountains and the flowing rivers,the lush green foliage and the rustic huts, mosques and other roadside attractions carries one's imagination back in space and time.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Jatayu Air to Medan

My flight to Medan in Sumatra was delayed for two hours in Penang and so I had to spend time loitering around till the take off. While sitting in a massage chair bedisde a Chinese gentle man i got to learn a little about life in Medan and what to expect from a Chinese business man's point of view. I might have given him the impression that I was on my way to have a wild time in medan as he told me all the good spots and how the girls are young and beautiful, readily available and not too expensive. I felt a little offended by this revelations but I thanked him for his friendliness and the good conversation we had about both the countires of Indonesia as compared to Malaysia. Here in Malaysia life is like eating a piece of cake where everyone has their hands on it. He was implying of the corruptions found here especially in the government. Medan is alive he said eventhough not as attractive as Penang in its infrastructure, the city of Medan is is bustling with all kinds of business activities.

This I found to be true when I set my foot on the Indonensian soil for the first time in my life, this is where my mother was born and her mother before that. My accounter with the gate keepers was not too traumatic as the Immgration and customs officers were quite normal in getting me to pass through the entrance into the city and the country. My first Indon encounter was with a potter who insist on getting my luggage for me and not taking no for an answer. My worry was that i had no small change on me and had no idead what to tip him and there was no need for his services as I only had one luggage but this is what happens when you travel.An army officer was suddenly by my side in his most polite and smiling manner enquiring my destination and if this was my first. I slipped away by telling him that I have a friend waiting outside and did not see any problem so far.

The porter's tip problem was solved when my friend and host was there standing at the entrance with a placard bearing my name on it. One look at him all my worries about travelling in the country dissolved. His name is Ribut and in English it means 'Storm' he has the look and size to fit his name. He handed a change to the porter snapping at the guy in Indonesian which made the porter recoiled in fear and healthy respect. As we walked away from the airport I felt the nostalgia of being on the road again perhaps for the last time in my life and only this time I am on the road with a heavy heart thinking of my wife and children. I decided to drop my psychological and emotinal baggage at the airport and look forward to an adventure of a lifetime ahead of me.

Our mode of transportation out of the city to Ribut's home was a Vespa and I sat pillion riding through the city hanging on to my nerves as the traffic around me whizzed by close enought to take off my skin. Ribut despite his size and the huge luggage stuck between his legs managed to weave his way through with no problem and finally after some rough bumpy rides avoiding potholes and speed bumps we arrived at his house snugged at the end of a narrow lane away from the main road. The house has yet to be completed as the brick walls are still waiting for the final plaster and the bathroom needed a proper door.

Upon arrival I was introduced to his mother who in the beginning looked at me with a disdain look that made me feel a little uncomfortable but later we got to know each other and she became more hospitable and filled my time at the house with all the informations and advice for one like me about life.I also got to meet Ribut's three children the eldest a teenager just finishing secondary education and waiting for her exam's results while the younger two were a boy and a girl. They were warm and friendly although they did not know what to make of me staying with them. However by the after noon we were well acquainted and were swapping jokes left and right.

Ribut and I took a ride back into town to exchange some currencies from Malaysian Ringgit to Indonesian Rupiahs and to meet a friend of his who could help us with my plans to travel the country.The friend's name was Selamet which in English simply means 'Peace'which mad me laugh inside as I felt the dichotomy of the two individuals who will be my guides for my travels in Sumatra. Selamat drives tourist around as a career and from his past experiences as a truck driver and also an express bus driver he was about the most perfect man for anyone who wishes to take the roads less traveled through the Barissan Mountain ranges of Northwestern Sumatra. He speaks just about every dielect of the region's indegenous people and knows each region and its population's cultural as well as religious nature. He is also a good communicater as just about everyone we met and talked to opened up to him and through him I got to understand alot of the historical and cultural backgrounds of the places and people we met up with.

1 - 6 - 05

After understanding my intentions and agreeing upon the cost of the trip we set out of medan the next day and headed for a place about an hour's drive from the city called Bukit Lawang. As we arrived at the scenic site of fast flowing river and mountians in the back ground I noticed that most of the buildings close to the river were mostly wrecked and later learned of the tragedy that ook place late last year during the fasting month of Ramadan. The tragedy occured around about eleven at night just after the 'Tarawikh' prayer at the mosques just as everyone had returned to their homes there was a tremendous loud roar from the river and a wall of water came crashing down the river causing devastation along the river banks that claimed 190 human lives. The flash flood which took place in total darkness as the electric supply was wiped out was a horror to the witnesses I later talked to. One man who I thought was a drug addict by his appearence and manners had lost all his brothers and sisters including his parents who used to live in one of the makeshift hut built on the river bank. Where was he I asked and he told me that he was working at the water tank further up the hillside behind the shallet buildings and all he could remember was hearing a loud roar and thought that thend of the world was unfolding below him.

From the water marks left by the flash flood left on the shallet buildings it looked like the whole area along the river was buried under water loaded with uprooted trees and rocks that wased up right to the parking lot area about 500 yards away from the river bank.A small 'surau' or mosque was spared eventhough it sits right on the river bank on the opposite side from the shallets. Yes Allah's little home was spared while the rest of the shallets and restuarants built on and along the river dissappeared in one clean sweep. Also wiped out were four villages along and further down the river killing most of its inhabitants in the darkness of the night not knowing what hit them.

As I took a hike the nex day along the river I saw what might have been the cause of the flash flood as part of a hill was exposed caused by a landslide. Perhaps this landslide had caused a temporary damming of the river and later with the water rising the dam broke loose releasing a great amount of water rushing through the whole area. It was very fortunate that an orangutan reservation located up the river was spared from the devastation. This area is frequented by wild orangutans which comes out of the forest every so often to feed or be cared for when in times of delivery of the young.During my walk with Ribut and a guide these friendly creatures often came out to greet us and then dissappear again into the forest. They are not aggressive but caution is prudent in their presence.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

When in Doubt talk to your dog.

Later my call to the US was answered by my mother in law who sounded like she wanted to lay me on the line ans straighten me out like all mother in laws would and sure enough the first question she asked me was if I was divorced with my wife! I dont what is going on there or what would give her the idea and she said that there's a conflict of interest here but did not elaborate and so I have no idea what she was trying to say. She then asked where I am living and I told her that I am living on the road as I am in the process of travelling to Indonesia. Next she insisted that my children cannot stay there and I will have to take them back. It was not fair for me to dump them there in her lap as she is too old to care for them and their mother. I told her that it is not a problem for me except that I have no financial means to get them over here after spending so much to send them there and then there is the Immigration problems that I will have to look into again as this was the main cause of all my aches and pains with regard to my family who are all US citizens. Otherwise I told her that they are welcome to come back but at least give me a chance to get my life together again.

I then spoke to my daughter and asked her how things were and she said that it is not too bad. I asked her if she would like to return and she said yes so I told her to be patient and I will try to solve the mess one step at a time. my wife and son were still in bed as the time was very early in the morning in the US. I hung up the phone feeling like a load has been laid on my shoulders again and I spent the rest of the evening discussing all the options that I have and what my mext moves will have to be. Should I continue with my plans to go to Indonesia or should I go to Terengganu and take on the job that was offered to me to lecture at a training institute in Kemaman by Captain Ramlan? What about their education and what about their mother?

As to the question about divorcing my wife I have no intention of doing so and never did and no matter what happens to her farther down the road I will take care of her because I love my wife despite all the negativity that has occrued between us over the years. My wife as I have said before has suffered enough and she deserves better than being discarded like a wasted rag in some mental home. If she comes back here I will still care for her simply because she is my wife and I had made a promise to he late father that I will do so unless she is the one who is asking for a divorce and I highly doubt it as in her present state of mind I do not think she can make such a request. From the way things are developing over there I also doubt that she will find good care from her mother, brother or her relatives and friends. Her mother has told me among other things that if is not fair for her and the kids to be there and that her brother has said that he will not take any responsibility over his sister or nephew and niece's welfare.

Hence I am left with no other choice but to face the consequences of trying to bring them all back and continue on facing the predicaments of living with my family whose citizenship status will always be a source of pain and anxieties regardless where they live and so much for Globalization!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

What has become of my family?

So far there is no news from my family in the US and I am a little concern as to what the doctors there has to say about my wife. I am torn between forgetting them for the time being and focus on what I am setting out to do but the thought of their well being still is at the back of my mind. I hope and pray that they are all okey and enjoying the summer in Illinois with their grandmother and other relatives.
Here in Penang I am gearing down towards packing my luggage into a back pack and accumulating all the tips and the do's and donts' of travelling in Indonesia. While in Penang I also spend a good amount of the night times shooting the breeze with my friend and teacher Cikgu Yusof who would take me to his watering hole where a group of friends would gather for a long discussion about anything and everything but every once in a while the topic of religious practice would be debated. I have learned a great deal about Islam while having my Nescafe tarik, Cikgu Yusof is somewhat of an authority on the subeject of Sufism and the metaphysics aspect of Islam. It is good to be able to sit and carry out a conversation with men of your age who are well seasoned in their rsepective life and careers, men who grew up here most of their lives and whose intrests ranges beyond watching TV or soccer games. Open minded individuals who knows the inside stories of the politics of the country or the interpretation of the verses in the Holy Book.With this group of people I can share my thoughts and feelings of my 24 odd years of travelling and seeking without feeling like I am bragging getting back honest responses without being made to feel small or insignificant as I would with my own brothers in Kuala Terengganu. I feel being accepted and respected by these gentlemen for who I am and what I have achieved in my life despite my not being independantly wealthy or successful in life. I wish my elder brothers were as understanding and compassionate sometimes instead of judging me in the negative and letting their wives delivering the blows at me while they sat and watched like educated tombstones. The fact that I never take their wives to task is out of respect for them never seemed to register in their minds anymore.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Wali Sogo

I have been reading up on some backgrounds about Indonesia especially places that I intend to visit like the Bukit Tinggi and Padang Areas. From what I gather while surfing the Net, these areas looks very inviting and there is one or two University in the area that is worth looking into.Medan, the city does not seem like a place I would spend too much time at even though my grandmother and my mother were born there. According to my Uncle and Aunties and my relatives here in Penang my grandmother was a relative of the Sultan of Dilli and when the late President Soekarnoe of Indonesia decided to put an end to all the Sultanates in Indonesia my grandmother and grandfather left Medan for Penang. I have been told by my sister that she still remembers the days when someone fron Medan would arrive with gifts of sarongs and sometimes small jeweleries for my grand mother. I doubt that I would be able to trace my grandmother's lineage in Medan but I will poke around and see what kind of worms I can stir up if and when I find the time. It would make an intresting study to trace my ancestral roots both on my grandmother and grandfather's sides. My Grandfather was a Singhalese from Sri Lanka and he was an artist, now how would the two end up becoming my grandma and grandpa?

I got my airline tickets and will be leaving Penang on Tuesday for Medan, Sumatra. Incidently I just learned that I would gain one hour flying to Medan from Penang. Friends advice that I purchase a round trip ticket to avoid any hassle from the Immigrartion officers at the airport. The duration of my stay would be for one month but I will try to talk my way into being allowed to stay longer as my trip would take me into remote areas. It has come to my realization that I can set up a business of becoming a tourist guide for my friends and realtives here once I have set up a good program with my Indonesian counterparts and scope around for all the attractive places for my clients to visit. If this can be achieved it will be an ideal project for me to be able to do everything else that I have in mind to do. Well it all remains to be seen.

One of the books I am reading is called Wali Sogo and it is about the early Muslim missionaries who spread the religion throughout the Indonesian Archipelago. These propagators of Islam were considered to be men of great spiritual powers and skilfull means and some were considered as saints by the Indonesians who later became Muslims after encountering these exceptional beings. Their exploits in the land that was predominantly influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism alot of Animism and even proponents the black arts of which I have been warned to be careful of. The stories told of how they converted the people of Indonesia and its surrounding countries are often very chellenging and filled with mysticism. How they overcome their adversaries makes a good study for the spread of islam in the Nusantatra as the Malay Archipelago in known in Indonesian.

Friday, May 27, 2005

A tript to the Indonesian Consulate proved a waste of timeand by the look of the facility it is not what one would have expected of a consulate. It did not look like too many people were eager to go to Indonesia as it did when I visited the US Embassy in KL but this is just a consulate not the Embassy. I asked about being able to stay in Indon for a longer period of time instead of just a month as is allowed by the Immigration law. The man at the counter asked me if I have papers to say that I am off to do some study there and if not I am to go to KL and do it. I felt that I will not be making any progress in facing this Malaysian employee at the Indon consulate who looked like he would rather be off having a chendol, and so I gave up and left. If this is any indication of things to come I guese going to Indonesia is not going to be as smooth a ride as I might hope for.

Now I am about to make my final prep and that is to purchase my plane tickets. There are a few airlines that flies to Medan in Sumatra and the cheapest choice so far is Jentayu Air belonging to Indon. Most probably this will be my choice of transportation. I checked into taking the ferry from Penang to Medan and the cost is half that of the plane and it takes about four and half hours as opposed to the forty minutes by plane. Friends here adviced me to take the plane as the boat ride will be too much for me and the service at the airport would be much more better and faster than that at the ferry terminals. Oh they said, you can afford it. If they only knew, by right it should cost me next to nothing as I have a son who is a pilot and I am his benificiary for the fringe benifits that pilots get on of which is to fly cheap anywhere in the world.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Pearl of the Orient

Georgetown Penang, my hometown and look at what they have done to it! It is still as beautiful and as inviting as it used to be and food is still the big draw here where you can find all the food prepared in as many culutre from around the world. But when in Penang you have to bow to the Laksa Penang and the world famous nasi kandar, you can wash it all down with the best of Ice Kachang or teh tarik. No matter how strict a diet you are coming to Penang would mean making sacrifices when it comes to eating.

The people too are like a breath of fresh air compared to Kuala Terengganu as there are so many different ethnic groups here that one cannot help but feel like one is in a wok full of mixed vegies ready to be fried. The Chinese, Malays and Indians, the main group of races here and along with a variety of others such as the Europeans and Japanese and the hosts of visitors from all over the world makes this place a poutpoury of cross- culture and mixture of religions exisiting in harmony alongside each other. It is an invigorating feeling to be constantly dealing with someone who is not of your religious or cultural background and yet walk away feeling well served.

The negative image of the Island is still the fact that it is getting over crowded and the environmental degradation that has been a dilema for the government. However I am sure in due time things will change for the better as the government learn to deal with all the causes of these aches and pains. Penang island is a raleative small area and most of it is either developed or impossible to but the population is ever growing despite the lack of space.

My trip to the immigration went smoothly and my International Passport will be ready tomorrow. I will next have to visit the Indonesian Consulate here and get a visas and if all goes well my next move will be to get a plane ticket to Medan. In Medan a friend of a friend by the name of Ribut (Storm) will be waiting for me to get me to places I need to go. I hope to visit Aceh and od some sketching perhaps fast charcoal drawings and then from there my next move will be made according to what turns up.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Georgetown Penang

I was seen off by my Friends Raof and Rafi and Rafi's family at the bus stand in Kuala Terengganu and while loading my luggage in the undercarriage of the bus I was asked to become a translator for the bus driver who was having a hard time convincing a couple of Cyclists from Europe that hteir bicycles were taking up too much space in the luggage compartment. The couple told me that the person at the counter had told them that it was okey to do it at no extra cost but the driver insists that they had to pay 50RM for each of the bicycles. I did my best to explain both side's arguments and left them.
The six hour bus ride from K.TR. to Penang was as uneventful as in the past and I sat beside a history teahcer who was on his way to confirm his acceptance at the University sains Malaysia in Penang to do a master's degree program. We got to talking and soon I was defending myself on the choices I had chosen in dealing with my present predicament. He thought that I should make every effort tobe with my family in the United States but after listening to my reasons he changed his mind and wished me success in my travels in Indonesia.
I was picked up my my cousin Salleh a the new Bus stand in Penang early in the morning and spent the day in Sungei Pinang justifying to just every Tom Dick and harry about my trip to Indonesisa and they all looked at me like I have flipped at last but they played along with me not to be too discouraging.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Letting go of the Non-Sense and seeking what makes Cents.

The house at To'Jembal has finally been settled as far as my presence is concern, I have sold, given away and burned away most of my family's belongings saving only the few items that meant most to them and myself. I was very surprised at how much photographs I had accumulated over the years and often felt ashamed that I wasted so much money over such hobby and the hundreads of CDs that I had to give away or discard. Neighbors came over and ransacked my belongings taking whatever they could use from cloaths to window curtains and the potted plants and even the compost piles were not spared. I see this as my charitable act of which eventhough I could hardly afford was meant to be as such.

The act of giving is more of an authentic power than the act of receiving it is said in the Qur'an or Hadiths of the Prophet (SAW) somewhere and sometimes at the back of my mind I realize that I am forced to be charitable in this life whether I like it or not. On the other hand I have found that there are times when I am most in need there was always someone somewhere who would share their wealth with me. It is coming to the final stage of preparation for my journey and between me and Raof we have decided to drive to KL together and have a talk with his sister with regard to setting up a joint venture. I would be her buyer and artist while she becomes my dealer and manager as I travel through Indonesia. My friend Raof will be the runner and oversee my side of the business making sure that I am safe and seek out potential market for my works. He is also managing my litterary and artworks putting together all my writings past, present and future making sure that they all are arranged accordingly and presentable for the general readers.

Hopefully my project will grow of its own accord with the participation of my friends in the US and Japan through the internet. This as I said before is one study of an aspect of Globalization and what it does to a family unit moving from one country to another. It is also a study in self empowerment and emotional intelligence being put to the test in a global stage. The trials and tribulations, the unexpected and unforseen circumstances beyond my control all has to be accepted as Baba Ram Dass would have it, 'Grist for the Mill' and the mill is grinding its cork and screws all being primed to face the next venture. Win or loose, right or wrong choices it is all in the hands of the Almighty...'Inna LilLahi W'Inna LilLahi Rawjiun'. What comes from Him will at the end of the day return to Him. The game is only over when the Fat Lady sings and not till then and as Pink would have said " And The Show Must Go ON!"

It is also the Buddha's birthday today and so I will have to say a few words in honor of a great Teacher if not a prophet as I see the Buddha Gautama to be in the chronicles of Man. I was born and raised a Buddhist for twelve years of my life and converted to Islam when I moved back to live with my immediate family to Terenggnau. I used to feel that was less of a Muslim being raised a Buddhist at my early age but today I am proud of the fact that God has chosen this path less traveled for me to pass through this allotted time of my existance. Whatever I have learned as a Buddhist has greatly enhanced my understanding as a Muslim, I have had glimpses of my original nature through the teachings of the Buddha and as such my worship of God is more personal than just fulfilling a religious obligation.

As my friend Raof's partner and MD of this office walked into the room I greeted with "Happy Birthday to you!" off course he looked surprise and gave a second about when exactly is his birthday, then he said. "Today is Buddha's birthday not mine." But it is, I insisted, it is my birthday, and his birthday pointing at Raof and yours too. By now the very devout Muslim in him stuck out and brushed the whole thing aside as too deep to think about or too dangerous. And I dropped the humor wishing that I could share with him who or what being a Buddha is, the fact a man of his intelligence and strong relegious upbringing should at least take the trouble to have a right understanding of another religion especially one that exist side by side in the multi-racial, multi-culture and multi-religious country of Malaysia. Religous tolerence does not end with respect for other's belief alone it is also the taking of time to understand better of what the other's beliefs entails. What are the differences and the simmilarities, how do we become inter- dependant and exist with greater unity despite our differences, it is the practice towards The Merging of Differences in Unity or Sandokai.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Good bye wife, good bye kids

My wife and kids are now in the US, Colombia, Illinois to be exact and I am sorry for them more than feeling relief at having them make the trip. I wish to God that there are other solutions to our predicament but as my eldest brother always liked to remind me in the past , I am the one who asked for it all and so I am to blame. My family left on the night of the 10th of May taking the Korean Airlines from KLIA in Kuala Lumpur. To see them off were my cousin Zakaria and his family and my friend Raof who drove us from Kuala Terengganu to KL in his Mercedes. I thought of sending them off in comfort rather than have them travel by bus and suffer the tedious ride.
Saying goodbye to them at the airport was not easy but I had to put on a brave look and bear the silent pain. I keep reminding myself that it was for the best of everyone.
My son carried two thousand US dollars in his wallet and most probably felt like a big man walking through the metal detectors and security systems and my wife looked just as lost and distant which made me wanted to reach out and touch her but I know she will recoil for some inner odd reasons. Eversince she fell ill she has drawn away from me emotionally and sometimes I would hold her to myself only when she was asleep. I feel like I am loosing a piece of myself and I am helpless to do a damn thing about it. My daughter is my hope for holding the family together as I felt my strength in her in dealing with the situation. She keeps her emotions in check very well and is quite alert in spotting changes and the need to act accordingly. If nothing else she can handle her brother.
I managed to sell the damaged car for not too bad a price and spent the money purcahsing the family's needs for the trip and then some. I kept some for myself as I do not know where or what will be my next move. For me going back to the US in the near future is out of the question even if the American Consulate in KL would offer me a visas immediately which is most highly unlikely. My mother in law too has sounded her concern that my going back there would not be advisible as she is having a hard time dealing with my family as it is. So I am here, a bachelor not by choice but by necessity and so I will have to set about planning how I would be spending my time in the next few years untill such time that God decides if and when I see my children again.
I will have to let go of them and for the time being focus on my immediate future, for the past thirteen years I have devoted my life and time to raising my children and it has been quite an experience after traversing three countries and living the life in three different cultures and religious background. Today I am sitting here asking myself what do I want to do? What is there out there that is worth the time and trouble to quest for. And the answer is Indonesia! I have always dreamt of exploring the country and its people and this is my opportunity to do so and perhaps in the process discover some form of business that I can generate to create an income out of it. An so the chances are the next time you hear from me might be from a small town in South Sumatra or in Medan. The travels of the Cheeseburger Buddha is about to begin and stick with me and you might learn a thing or two yet.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The trip is on

Today my mother in law called from illinois and informed that she would purchase the plane tickets for my wife and kids and it would happen in two weeks or so. I am relieved needless to say as it takes a load off my mind. Now it is a matter of psyching my mind up to face the upcoming journey back to the the land of Lincoln and beyond. It has been almost ten years since I was last in the States and I look forward to returning. I left San Francisco in 1995 for Japan where my family and I lived for three years before moving here from Japan. Japan was a good transition place for me after living in the US for 21 years of my life.

I was 25 years of age when I left Malaysia in 1973 with my first wife and son who was then 4 months old and on looking back I realize that I have traveled around the globe four times in my life so far. My first destination in the US in 1973 was Green Bay, Wisconsin and I lived in the Pecker country for eight years of my life where I worked as a boner or meat cutter for 3 years to get myself off the ground and what a vocation it was for one who has never seen snow in his life to be working at during those years. It was demeaning and dehumanizing to the mind and body but it was the most effective job for one who needed some form of character building having come from a culture that was not so well equipped to face the harsh reality of being in a red neck country like Green Bay. I slowly but gradually became a regular drunk and a peckerhead. Green Bay was one major lesson in life its ups and down and working in the packing houses was definitely a downer that created a man out of me. A few years down the road I was divorced and living like a bum on my own.

Ya Hey! Green Bay! Bart Starr and the Packers, chicken booyah and Old Style Beer.

I remember living out on a farm on Humboldt Road with my landlord Mr. Leon P Lodl a unique man in his own way. He educated me into becoming more of a gentleman instead of the mixed up Malaysian kid that I was. He taught me how to drink wine instead of guzzling down beer by the barrel and turned me on to Jazz and classical music. We used to drive up north to Iron Mountain, Michigan where Leon owned a church and was in the process of turning it into a ski lodge. On these trips I saw some of the most beautiful country especially during the fall seasons. I will never forget standing on top of one of the world's most tallest ski ramp and looking down at three different States and Canada when the leaves were changing colors, it was like a sea of colors all around me and I still remember telling Leon when he asked me if I could paint the view that only God can paint such colors.

Later I was talked into joining the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay where I spent five years of the best time of my life getting a degree in Fine Arts. Through the university program called the University Without Walls I was able to travel to England, South America and back to Malaysia. In a way travelling from one country to another has always been in my blood and I love it. I have been very fortunate for some reason to be able to move around and live in different parts of the world and I hope this will keep on happening till I am too old to do it anymore. For now I am looking forward to seeing the good old Mid West again, the corn fields and the sylos, the lazy summer months and the frigid cold winters. Asta Lavista Malaysia.

when it rains it pours

This evening upon returnig from picking up my son from his school, my wife was talked into letting my daughter drive our car to the house from the main road and my daughter who had never driven before slammed the car against a coconut tree when she failed to make the final corner towards our house. I was watering the plants when this happened and I heard the car coming down the road faster than it should and when I caught a glimpse of the car coming around the corner I told myself that my wife has finally flipped as she was not going to make the curve at that speed. Sure enough the car made straight for the coconut tree and I was too stunned to even move. The first thing that came to my mind was , there goes our plane fares to the US. I was counting on selling the car to pay for our trip to the States as this was the last item we have that would buy the fares for the four of us.

Then I saw my daughter scrambbling out of the driver's sit crying and followed by my wife from the rear sit, Iwas even more surprised and did not know if I should be angry or just let it go. I continued to water the plants and let things settle down a little before walking over to check the damage. My son was sitting in the front sit like he was not sure what was going on. A couple arrived on a motorcycle and after explaining what had happened I borrowed a hand phone and called my friends for help. We managed to pull the car out of a small ditch where the front tyres had sunk into and evaluated the damage. It was decide that repairs can be made without involving the insurance claims and thus save the premium from being raised.

I do not know if the damage caused by the accident would lower the sale value of the car or not but needless to say I felt like I am being taken through the ringer as one shit after another kept pelting me like the saying when it rains it pours. Oddly enough I did not feel too much anger over the whole incident and help came without too much trouble eventhough it was late in the evening. Being Muslims my friends told me that this was yet another test from the AlMighty. I am beginning to wonder if it will ever end or what else lies in store for us before the AlMighty decides that we had enough. I am greatful that my wife and children were not hurt in the accident.