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I am not really a fan of classical music, but this one really brings the chill to my senses. I once heard it in one of BCC documentaries (they have really good ones), and later heard it again in “Hangover 2”. With the help of Google, I found out that the music is by Bach, entitled Cello Suite No. 1 Prelude. What a wonderful piece of music! To put it in an analogy, it’s like a conflict between the chaotic deep sea and a calm seafarer going against the current. Very inspiring indeed.

A stranger glances by
to a distant face far wide
Is love a fairy tale?
fades as the ship sail
Or a gem that’s worth the risk?
Where the heaven is an eternal kiss
You are my only exception
As we wander into the love inception
I miss you despite the differences
Perhaps love aches and paralyzes
my mind, my body and my heart
I desire your touches and hug
time is eagerly awaiting
Is this real my darling?

Don’t be fooled, it is NOT a Malaysian made movie. Yes, the characters spoke language that sounded like Malay accent and the setting is exactly like the P. Ramlee era movies. Believe it or not, it is 100% Indonesian made movie. And the accent is not fake, it is the accent of the people in Sumatera.

I accidently stumble upon the movie when I was checking on the song “Laskar Pelangi” by Nidji, I love the song very much, very inspirational. The movie was adapted from the 2005 novel Laskar Pelangi by Andrea Hirata. Made in 2008, it was the most successful movie ever made in Indonesia, both local and international.

Here’s the movie synopsis in Wikipedia:

“The movie, set in the 1970s, opens on the first day of the year at a Muhammadiyah elementary school on Belitung. The school needs 10 students but is one short until near the end of the day, when a straggler fills out the ranks for their teachers, Muslimah and Harfan. Muslimah dubs the children “The Rainbow Troops” (sometimes translated as “The Rainbow Warriors”) and the movie traces their development and relationships with the teachers.”

What I love about the movie is the rawness and natural talent of these kids. Mind you, the kids were casted from villages in Belitung, just like Slumdog millionaire, they never acted before. I’d say the  movie is the best Malay-speaking movie I ever seen. It has a very meaningful yet simple message that even our Yasmin Ahmad’s Sepet could not compete.

The thing about Sepet is, it did not dig deeper enough in exploring the issues and development of the character. It is just an inter-racial love story but in the context of our Malaysian society, it failed at addressing real issues and plight, the characters also did not go through in depth transformation. In fact, I’d say my parents and grandparents inter-racial love stories would make a better one if it is produced as a movie.

To be honest, I am not a huge fan of Indonesian movies, except for Ada Apa Dengan Cinta (which I watched when I was 17). I view most of the movies as shallow-popcorn-junk-love story, the same goes to Malaysian-made movies too. Nevertheless, Laskar Pelangi made me cry. I never seen such a simple yet beautiful story that used kampong kids as the main actors.

The movie main message is about the importance of education. In a small village in Belitung (an island on the east coast of Sumatra), the kids and their teachers gone through so many obstacles in order for them to be successful in their education. The unique thing about this movie is, it deeply explore the character development and the society/environment surrounding their lives. Issues such as inter-racial love between a Chinese girl and the ‘Malay’ (sorry, in Malaysia everything has to be put into race boxes) boy, diversity of race and religion of the village dwellers, Islam religion, the extreme level of poverty of the village, true friendship between the kids, female empowerment as depicted by the female teacher, Malay culture and music such as “Bunga Seroja” and the power of dreams and ambition.

Most of the plots are very memorable, but there are a few plots that touches my heart. The first is the inter-racial love story between the Chinese girl and the Malay boy. On the surface it is just an innocent childhood love story, but the deeper meaning is more important. Many would be surprised that there are a large number of Chinese ethnicity living in Sumatera, Kalimantan and other parts of Indonesia. Although in some areas, the Chinese might be threaten (such as the Jakarta Riot 1998), but in most parts of Indonesia, they live peacefully together. It does reminded me of the ‘ancient’ past we had during P. Ramlee’s time.

The fact that both the kids in love were oblivious of their ethnicity and religious background, showed how beautiful love is when people are blinded by colours and beliefs. One of the main reason both characters in love are unaware of their differences is the Indonesian national philosophy of Panca Sila, which promotes freedom of religion, democracy and equality. Besides, Panca sila also placed high importance on the Indonesian national identity, where the biggest impact I think is having a common spoken national language of Indonesia. When people are able to communicate freely in a language that all understands, it is easier to nurture the spirit of unity and solidarity.

Another of my favourite scene is when the kids sang the song “Bunga Seroja”. Funny was I heard this music before, somewhere, somehow. It is a 60s song by S. Affendi, the original Indonesian singer. It was just beautiful. To be honest, I got a bit delusional watching this movie, because I’ve to remind myself constantly this is NOT a Malaysian movie. The accent is just too real. The word ‘kite’, ‘saje’, ape’, mane’, ‘iye ke’, ‘bodoh’, ‘cite-cite’ etc… are just very Malay, which I used daily in my Malay conversation.

The contrast struggle of the kids for their education and dreams in a poverty-stricken village really strikes deep in me. I cried many times seeing the kids made the best out of their limited lives. The final scene of the kid called Lintang, who is a math prodigy but was forced to stop school when his dad died while fishing in the sea. Watching the movie itself made me realized how lucky I am to receive good education, while these Laskar Pelangi kids have to struggle in their daily lives just to receive a humble education. Some of them do not even have shoes to wear. It does reminded me of my mom, who was raised in a very poor family, everyday she had to wear the same school uniform and shoes to school until it became very worn-out and torn. She would stitch them again and again until it became worst than a used table-cloth.

Kudos to the producers, director and the book author for creating such a simple movie yet with such meaningful impact to the reality of our everyday lives, especially the lives of the people in Indonesia.

I was in Indonesia for quite a while and I do realize poverty is a big issue there. This kind of movie is really important to the spirit of the Indonesian young people because only though education and self-determination where a society can develop and prosper. Taking the example of South Koreans and Japanese, where the self-determination of the people themselves made their nation economically and technologically on par with other developed western nations.

Another thing I’d like to share about this movie is the subtle Islamic values that it portrayed. In Malaysia, to be Islamic is very surface, you either have to cover up your head or to show that you pray and wear Islamic clothes. But in this movie, which I totally love, it portray Islam in a very spiritual way.

The female teacher wore a long skirt which show more than her ankle, she wore the tudung like it is just an on-off scarf thingy. In reality, her appearance was an exact resemblance of Malaysia back in the 50s-60s. People do not judge you by your appearance, and clothing do not represent your morality nor your faith with god. The female teacher taught everything to the kids, including Islamic studies. One of it is the 5 pillars of Islam. In the current context in Malaysia, it would be a shocker if a religious teacher to be without wearing head scarf and teaching Islam. Other Islamic values is they incorporated a lot of Arabic words in their daily conversation, such as ’Assalamualaikum’, ‘Alhamdullilah’, ‘Alaikumsaalam’, etc. All of them carry the meaning of peace. Islam is also obvious in their day-to-day lives, such as honesty, humbleness, dedication and hard work, spirituality, love and friendship, being grateful, etc.

The fact that the school is a Muhamadiyah school made the story even more interesting. In Malaysia, there’s two school of thoughts, yes, the UMNO and PAS school of thought. But the uniqueness about Indonesia is the diversity in Islam itself. Muhamadiyah is the second largest muslim organization in Indonesia, but Indonesians are free to choose their religion and the Islamic faith. In the movie, although majority of the students are of Muhamadiyah denomination, they were never taught to segregate themselves or look down on those of other faith/denomination. In fact, one of the student in the Muhammadiyah school (Akiong) is a non-muslim chinese. Being an advocate of secularism, I believe religion can truly prosper and maintain a moderate, peaceful influence to an individual’s life when it is practiced voluntarily as personal values, faith and guidance; rather than forced by state punishment or fear tactic by state-appointed religious zealots. Oh, do you know that there’s no Syariah Law in Indonesia (except in Aceh).

There’s another reason why I love this movie – the female teacher herself. She is a true feminist. She turned down the hand of marriage from a rich businessman because she was ambitious in her effort to raise these kids into smart learners. She is also independent and out-spoken, her silent confidence to me is really attractive and admirable.

In a nutshell, I recommend Malaysians to watch this movie and be inspired. I really hope one day a Malaysian author or film producer can write or produce such good quality art work that hopefully can inspire a whole nation of ours. My wet dream.

P/S: For those of you who grew up in the 80s and 90s, probably you would be familiar with the ‘minyak rambut Tancho’ (Tancho hair wax) used in the ‘Bunga Sejora’ scene. My family was big on that during the 90s 😉

2010 came and gone. 2011 will be a new 365 days of fresh start. Whatever it is, as Malaysians, we must be united as one, and united not on the basis of political ideology nor skin colour; but we should be united based on our love of Malaysia as a nation, our contribution to the country’s freedom & progress, our identity as Anak Bangsa Malaysia and our dream for a better Malaysia.

Here I conclude our 2010 journey with a song from a distant past.

A lady at the window alone…

Pondering her emptiness inside…

Staring at the cold dark night…

The warmth of the bright moon…

Longing for a piece of love…

She feels tired…

Wondering if the love will ever come…

How wonderful it is to share this beautiful world together…

A companion that understands…

She wants to see the world with her love…

The exotic cultures, the lovely scenery, the friendly strangers…

How amazing it is to share her deepest desire and secrets together…

A companion that cares…

She wants to be by the side of her love…

The loving touches, the intimate conversation, the tears and laughter…

Sitting by the window…

She dreams of the prince charming that never came…

The reality of her life is a bitter pill to swallow…

She doesn’t have the answer…

Speaking on behalf of the countless single ladies out there…

Men need to realize…

Please don’t be intimidated by a successful, modern lady…

She is as caring, as fun, as interesting, as loving as you longed for…

Plus she is intelligent, independent and confident…

The modern relationship is based on equality and team work…

No more traditional role of husband and wife,

But a modern expression of love… freedom to be who you are.

This is why i love life…. songs like this… 😉

Ahh… Malaysia, my home land, love it or hate it, it is part of me, my identity. What it is being a Malaysian means to you? To me, it is a personal affair. Living in the heart of our capital city, the feel and smell of Kuala Lumpur is like the soft touches of a secret lover, the passion lingers long after, even if I were to escape to a faraway strange land. But Malaysia is diverse, Kuala Lumpur alone does not represent the rich exotic quirkiness of Malaysia.

Sometimes I wonder, the humour cartoons and jokes about Malaysians, does it really represent the people of Malaysia as a whole, of is it merely a mainstream stereotype we got used to it as time passing. Who are Malaysians? Are we only consisted of the 3 major races with the rest dumped into the Dan Lain-lain category? What is race anyway – is there such thing as Malay, Chinese and Indian? Why there’s so many resentment inside our hearts, yet our love and tears still goes to our beloved country?

Sometimes I ponder, we are so used to all the BS by the authorities and people in power that we created an immune toward those people. We became unhappy old hags, constantly blaming them for our little pathetic lives. Well, definitely there’s truth to it. But why, for how long are we going to be in such state? I am sick that every morning waking up, seeing the faces of Malaysian children walking to school, knowing very well that as they grow up, they will learn the art of being a racist, ignorant, and ass-kisser.

Travelling outside Malaysia, let me see a glimpse of the real world where it is not so much different from ours. But our little Malaysia is a tiny dot in the world map, not even worth to consider as important among the international community.

Who cares about Datukship and all the status awards given by our spoiled sultans? Who cares about our local entertainment industry that is dying day-by-day? Who cares about our national car of inferior quality? Who cares about our rubbish, segregated education system? Who cares about our apartheid economic policies? Who cares if our country’s economy will soon collapse? Who cares if we are responsible for the sufferings of the forgotten orang asli, our natural environment destroyed, basic human rights of immigrants violated, the deepening of state-sponsor Islamization, the open practice of corruption, and the widen poverty gap of the rural poor?

So what’s left is only us Malaysians. We do care. Let’s forget about race and religion for once. Let’s forget about politics too. We are diverse. Regardless of skin colour, we are all Malaysians. And about religion, let’s not make a mockery of faith. And gosh, stop blaming the West for everything yellow (budaya kuning). Let’s appreciate our diversity as Malaysians. What makes us unique?

Our uniqueness comes from our values as Malaysians. Our vision for a better Malaysia. Isn’t it beautiful to travel from Kelantan to Johor to Sabah, and be totally blown away by the rich cultural diversity we have. Isn’t it amazing to delight our taste buds with such heavenly fusion of Malaysian food heritage. Isn’t it wonderful to see all Malaysians break away from their skin color comfort zone. Isn’t it lovely to have a common-speaking national language that is free from racial and religious sentiment. Isn’t it invigorating to see young people looking forward to bring about change for our country.

There’s still a long way to go. No doubt. But for once, let us try, change is possible.  So back to the question – what is it being a Malaysian means to you?

There’s something about Mark Zuckerberg that caught my eyes. Yes, he’s a billionaire. Yes, he started Facebook. And Yes, the Social Network put a negative spot light on him. But I wasn’t interested on those aspect about him, I am interested in his attitude about life. I don’t know was it due to his Jewish origin or his Atheist belief, he came as a person that really inspires me.

You see, most people in this world try hard to impress others, to the extend where they will show to others how ‘cool’ their lives are. At one point in my life, I was one of those people, perhaps of my vulnerable self-esteem, I was trying hard to be ‘likeable’. Especially to impress guys I guess. But it turned out, guys dig ladies who are not me. I was like in-between girl, a ‘friend but not girlfriend – girl’. It was depressing though, I wasn’t good enough no matter how hard I tried to impress others.

Mark Zuckerberg really reflected the kind of person I am. I am just, different. I like the fact that he appears to be extremely down-to-earth, humble and genuine. His awkwardness shows that he’s not pretending to be someone else. He’s comfortable wearing his sandals and sweatshirt. He’s never a stuck up, nor does he talk bad about others, despite having his best friend sued him and the idiotic Harvard twins squeezing millions of dollar out from him. Besides his good nature appearance, he’s extremely intelligent. Yeah, intelligence is sexy. To me, an intelligent man is much desirable than any wealth or good-looks or material possession.

One the other hand, there’s me. Perhaps the majority of men haven’t catch up with the progression of the females from the last century, intelligent women have to sometimes ‘act dumb’ or ‘lower their career marketable ability’ in order to impress men. Apparently having an intelligent girlfriend is no sexy to men. Yeah, they do tell others they like intelligent women, but it is a deliberate lie. Truth is, what they really meant is they want their women to be busy with her own thing so that she will not bother him 24/7. But when it comes to ideas and opinion, it’s hard for us women to express ourselves without making the men feeling intimidated.

Having a fly-high career, expressing intelligent views and opinions, making important decision, holding top position, not portraying the traditional female roles seem to be undesirable traits for a woman like me. You see, for a country like Malaysia, there’s a certain expectation to be young and female. You are supposed to beautify yourself by the standards of beauty magazines, pleasing men in any way that they like (or not they will leave you for the next bitch that can fill the role), you are not supposed to have ideas and opinion that is against his views (even though you know his IQ is damn low), you are supposed to bear his disrespectful attitude towards you and advised to be patient (because a man is always a man, they can never change rite?), you are supposed to play a role of a superwomen – cook like Martha Steward, clean like his mom, act like a trophy wife, submissive and quiet, especially in front of his friends and family, look like playboy playmate or all-covered hijab (according whatever the guy’s preference about his woman), work less hours and earn less income than him, bear babies and forbid to refuse sex (or suffer the risk of him having a second wife/mistress/divorce), and overall you are just a slave under his dictatorship.

In Asian culture, ‘saving face’ is an important aspect in mating. You are expected to make your husband ‘look good’ (but it is ok if the husband treated the wife like crap). So for people like me, I have no place. I do not fit the expected nature of an Asian wife. You see, I view the requirement of cooking and house chores as a sexless role, that means it supposed to be the role of everyone in the house to make sure the house is in good shape. While I have stopped reading beauty magazine ever since I listened to the song by Bar Luhrmann (Everybody Wear Sunscreen), and it is true I gained back my self-esteem the moment I stop looking at unnatural-photoshoped-female body . I consider myself as highly opinionated, I do not feel the need to self-censor myself to a guy I like just because my views might offend him.

On the other hand, some guys may not like his girlfriend to be sociable to other guys, just because he is scared she might be unfaithful to him. That is just a lame excuse for men to control women. Some even have to get the ’permission’ of her husband. Another thing is girlfriend checklist. Yeah, guys have it too, don’t deny it. Nowadays, guys have these ridiculous desire to have the perfect gorgeous trophy girlfriend. Not to mention, the pure bloods will only date pure bloods of their own kind. Having the wrong kind of religion or lacked of religion means the guy may not even care to look at your face. So, in another sense, I feel there’s this high expectation for me to turn into something else just to be able to impress those ‘eligible’ men.

Coming back to Mark Zuckerberg, he is dating an American-Asian that do not look like a supermodel, in fact she’s seem to be very comfortable to be herself and an intelligent lady herself too (she’s Harvard medic). I guess what I desire is a guy that can look beyond my skin colour and appearance, treat me as his equal ally and care to appreciate me as I am while value my intelligence as something of an asset to him, rather than an intimidation. Is guys like him still exist? I wonder.

my malaysia
I’m a drifter
Without a direction to flow
My body goes beyond the heaven and universe
My mind is open space wide
Neither corners nor borders
My soul is light as a feather silk
The air is my only guardian angel
In the world far and distant…
I see laughter of little kids playing kites
Running around on the muddy green field
I smell the sweet scent of ripe durians
Across the road on a wooden stall
I caress the white grey hair of an old nyonya
And her lovely smile touches my heart
I enjoy eating spicy sour penang’s laksa
Reminds me the happiness of living
I talk to strangers while backpacking Dungun
The hospitality is way better than a five star service
I sleep soundlessly on a lazy Sunday afternoon
On the white sandy beach in the Sipadan Island
Life in Malaysia is like watching an old 40s movie
Laid back, easy, simple…
The beauty of simplicity
Set me apart from my ‘rat race’ friends
I want to lead a different path
Even though I’m not sure
How and where to get there
Living as a drifter paves me a unique way
To look in perspective about what really matters
I want to discover
The essence, the truth, the journey
And my spirit has the hope for better and peace
For nothing is wonderful until…
Love conquers all.

Myanmar...

OMG, I’M GOING TO MYANMAR!!!!!!!!!! AS AN INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER FOR THE ASEAN HUMANITARIAN TASK FORCE!!!!! I’M GOIN BY 15TH SEPTEMBER AND SO THANK GOD, AFTER ALL THE BITTER HEART BREAK FOR THE PAST 2 MONTHS, I FINALLY FEEL ALIVE AGAIN!!!!!!!!

this are the stuff they emailed me…
You belong to the 16 successful candidates out of 105 applications from 10 countries who passed the administrative and thematic selection processes. It is indeed significant that you are selected to undertake this Volunteer assignment under this innovative ASEAN Volunteers’ programme. The evaluation process was competitive. Final selections were made considering the candidates demonstrated motivation for community development, understanding on humanitarian assistance, relevant community/volunteer experience, cultural sensitivity, proportional geographic and gender distributions.

Key Terms and Conditions:
– You would be assigned to the most vulnerable villages in the Cyclone Nargis severely affected areas.
– It would be an initial three-month period, extension depends on project activities and funds availability.
– It is expected that a Volunteer would accomplish the tasks required for three months/assigned project duration. If the Volunteer decides to leave before the project-end date, the project reserves the right not to cover his/her Rountrip Airfare.
– ONE Roundtrip Airfare would be provided (to-from-to ASEAN member states only)
– A basic allowance of 300USD would be provided at the end of each month. A daily per diem would be given at a local rate, which would be explained in detail upon your arrival to Myanmar.
– Details of your duty station and project involvement would be discussed upon your arrival to Myanmar.
– Basic health insurance is provided during the duration of your project mission.
– Modest accommodation is covered by the respective project duty stations.

COOL HUH?! 😉

gorgeous love lavender

Timely Rain Drops

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bitter butter beer ginger~

dusty attic

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