Bring the rainbow warriors in..

When I asked good ol friend Heru to get me the original copy of the book Laskar Pelangi in Bahasa Indonesia, I was not quite aware of what I was in for. As any good friend would, he dutifully sent the book via registered post from Jakarta ( thanks dude, I owe you one! ).

The book is a masterpiece. Andrea Hirata, the author not just touched millions of readers throughout nusantara, but pulled onto their heartstrings to the plight of these dirt poor remote kids whose spirit to learn was higher than any mountain we can think of. I was one of those readers who cried, laughed, sighed and everything else with the book. The teacher characters in the book made me realise how tiny is my contribution to the industry, compared to my compatriots who braved the challenges of going into these remote places to teach remote and poor rural children who really, really want to learn. The kids depicted in Laskar Pelangi walked miles out of their kampungs just to attend ‘sekolah pondok’ full of holes on the roof that each time it rains, they had to stop classes.

It has since been made into a movie…

But I have not watched it. However, I do enjoy the soundtrack from the movie itself. Indonesians are damn talented people. They produce good books, good movies and good songs. Just not good politics, which is a pity.

A REALLY bad marriage

I love chocolates. And I cannot live without chili. But marry them together, I scream for ( their ) divorce!

I can eat the most spiciest ( bad English, but get the idea already? ) of chili padi and any red and fiery sambal dishes. But I can’t take this. Not because it is hot and spicy ( which usually equates to yum and tasty for me ) but because it’s hot and spicy and tastes bad. Dark chocolates and fiery red pepper just doesn’t go together, IMHO.

Though I have to admit, the colour combination does look good.

A homonym

I was standing outside the Chinese temple next to Hotel Malaya on Jalan Tun HS Lee, waiting for the husband to pick me up after a course I attended at sch/o.lastic.malaysia .. In simple term, I was actually just outsite the world famous ‘copycat place’, Petaling Street. There I was, while waiting, had my 15 minutes of reflection upon the different forms of madness I witnessed all within a total of slightly more than 1 hour spent exploring the place.

I have a little confession to make. I’ve never, in all my stay here in Malaysia, walked in through the famous stretch of street lined with vendors selling copycat stuffs, not unlike Patpong in Bangkok. It seems to be a mecca for tourists all over the world, but even when I was a tourist to Malaysia before I made it my home– slightly more than a couple of years back, I somehow had this phobia of walking in through there. The image of ruffian looking and gangster-like vendors somehow put me not at ease. The closest I got before today was the outside of it, around Jalan Hang Lekir and Jalan Sultan area. But not in Petaling Street itself.

So today, my course was right smack above PublicBank on Jalan Tun HS Lee. During our lunch break, the Petaling Street virgin that I was, asked two coursemates to take me in there, to bask in what I have missed– or not missed at all.

I didn’t need anything actually. But what the heck, I was already there so might as well I experience some haggling the street is famous for. We went to see a copy watch stall and I playfully started to try to haggle the price down to see how much it would be lowered down to, and how good my skills are. I didn’t realise my coursemates looked a tad worried. One of them nudged me and whispered ‘if you haggle, you must buy cannot play around here, these vendors are gangsters mind you!’ *gulp*. Since they ( my coursemates ) are locals, I decided to be smart and listen to them rather than get into trouble, and that was how I ended up with a fake Adidas watch for Rm 15. My skills are not too bad hokay, cause the initial price was Rm 45?

That was Madness #1.

Madness #2, was when a European tourist, wanted to buy a watch which was said to us in Malay to be Rm 60, but when the vendor communicated the price to the tourist, he pressed the digit Rm 100 on the calculator. The watch which I knew I could bargain all the way down to Rm 20. But the unsuspecting tourist walked away gleefully with it for Rm 100. *sigh*

Madness # 3 was when a Merc driver parked his car inconsiderately just outside Hotel Malaya, where the fruit vendors are, and ladida went in to do some shopping with his wife. 5 minutes later, a large tourist bus was coming from Jalan Hang Lekir and needed to make a right turn at the junction into Jalan Tun HS Lee, but the car was parked right smack at the junction, which made the coach unable to make the turn without smashing into it. The coach couldn’t turn in, it couldn’t reverse as there was traffic behind it. The frustrated coach driver honked angrily and traffic came to a standstill for a good 5 min or so, just so that the merc driver could take his time shopping. When he came back, he was nonchalant of the frustrations he had caused so many other motorists, and drove off looking so ‘selambe’. I honestly felt like throwing the waterbottle I was holding at him as he drove off, but I rather not be mad in the already apparent madness…

Madness #4 is simply pure madness in the literal sense of the word. A mad man, dirty and shabbily dressed, broken slippers, torn bag, torn shirt outside the Chinese temple I was standing at. I watched as how he gleefully threw the plastic cup onto the busy road and tried to run after it and this went on and on, each time causing a cab driver or two to shout at him, wary of the accident he may cause. Once he even tried to get near to me, perhaps trying to show me his ‘skills’ but before he could do so, the ‘pakcik teksi’ whose cab I was standing near, yelled at him to back off.

So yeah. Madness is a homonym.

The toughest thing

I used to think that the toughest thing to do is to learn how to cook, or bake for that matter. But I conquered that by learning formally and informally and practice, practice, practice.

I also used to think Maths was the most difficult thing to learn, but all of the major exams, I never failed, not a single one. Through blood, sweat and tears, I did it.

Then it was learning other new skills, be it aikido, or living away from my big family back  home or learning to trade or be my own boss when I started the homeschooling program etc, etc. All of them, when initially I thought would be the toughest thing to do, I aced in them after I’ve mastered them. Through sheer hard work, tears and failures and practice. And mind you, I am a very determined person. If I feel the need to master something, I would go all the way out. I am a survivor like that.

But, as ‘hard‘ as I may be, there is something I find too difficult to do and am still finding it way too difficult. That is to ‘redha’.  Redha, or the willingness to accept the things that I can’t change, or the willingness– with 100% sincerity to accept my fate and destiny which may not be what I desired despite giving my all.

So yeah, that is the toughest thing to do, I find. The only thing, I think I have not been able to master despite trying and trying and trying again.

It’s tough.

Goodbye, Sir

I was a struggling student when I read Angela’s.Ashes and was an even more pathetic struggling student when I read the sequel, Tis. All I knew was back then, at that point of  time, his life struggles growing up in Ireland were heartwrenching, and mine was nowhere close. I had wanted to go to Ireland because of him, of course knowing that he is in U.S now. But the way he wrote about Ireland, although gloomy as his childhood was as such, it gave a very raw picture of Ireland that one cannot help wonder, what must it be like to be there. And he gave me many ideas and inspirations with Teacher.Man which I read just a couple of years back.

He passed away at 78, yesterday.  To me, he is one damn good writer, a greater teacher and someone whom I don’t mind reading again and again.

Rest in peace, sir.

FrankMcCourt, writer-teacher and everything else. Died at 78 in Manhattan Hospice New York City.