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.