Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The 4 T's of Jawastan

Any man with the essence of Jawastan in his blood will attest to the efficacies of the  4 T's.

This comes to mind because it's Usrah night tonight, and our ustaz who himself hails from Jawastan was the one who declared the above.

So too might have the grandparents of my own jawastani-blooded man, he who is home for a jaunt from the still-blizzardy steppes of Kazakhstan.

And  what I'm thinking of offering for the obligatory but non-mandatory potluck tonight makes use of two  of the 4 T's.

It's non-mandatory for you can come empty-handed but potluck pricks on my conscience and for me it has become obligatory. Something that I like and want to do - willingly, too.

Anyways, being married to one for close to 29 years now, I daresay that any true-blue jawastani will approve as part of a meal  any or all of the following:
  1. Taugeh
  2. Tauhu
  3. Tempeh
  4. Taucho
And somehow yours truly herself and her man as well, had  at one period or another evolved to become much like his favourite foods.

Just look:

This was when we were both taugehs.

Then plump tauhus.

 And now one is tempeh keju and the other tempeh goreng
- both slightly mouldy but nutritious nonetheless
This is the Kazakh way of holding a cup 
of the T that does not need mention - TEA!

Thankfully when the time comes that we are taucho, it won't be possible to show pictures.

In a little while I will be off to the kitchen to prepare a dish bearing 2 key ingredients akin to our evolution - tauhu and tempeh, the dish being Sambal Goreng Jawastan. 

This is my recipe, recorded for posterity due to the stage of my evolution.

Prepare little similar-sized heaps of diced tempeh, diced tauhu, diced beef. (My sister-in-law also uses shrimps and diced beef liver).
Likewise slice just enough long beans or french beans to get a similar sized volume. This is to get  a balanced proportion of each ingredient so that none overwhelms the rest.
Also slice enough petai to suit your taste, but for this it's best to err on the side of caution. You HAVE to slice up the petai because chunks of it in the dish make it look horridly unpresentable and you risk being branded as lazy. Similarly thinly slice some red chillies in the same quantity.
Pre-soak some soohoon and dried tauhu skin - also in enough quantities and neat sizes for balanced proportions.
Tumbuk or blend together some serai, lengkuas, shallots and garlic.

Heat up enough oil in a kuali to first saute the diced tempeh to a light golden yellow. 
Remove and set aside, then saute the diced tauhu the same way. Also remove and set aside.
Leave enough oil to  quickly stir-fry the bashed condiments (longer if you had blended them, that goes without saying) and sliced red chillies, then toss in the diced beef and stir until the beef is about half-cooked. *Add in the long beans, stir a while until cooked uniformly. (*Update: I accidentally left this out in the first publishing).
Plonk in the petai, tauhu and tempeh. Stir a bit.
Pour in just enough coconut milk to moisten everything,  too much  and the dish becomes masak lodeh.
Squeeze a little tamarind juice and add to the mix, some salt and a sprinkle of sugar to taste. I also sprinkle in some belacan powder for the ooomph.
Lastly mix in the drained soohoon and tauhu skin and leave to cook for 5 to 10 minutes on slow heat.

Taste and adjust accordingly.

Here's a picture of this well-known dish of the colonial-era Jawastani immigrants.  I had whipped this up a couple of months or so ago. Maybe it needs a little more green, don't you think?

 But whatever  - it's cheap to prepare, high in protein and simply divine taken with just hot rice or even on it's own. Maybe not for gout sufferers but most of my clan members of Bugistan ancestry who attend usrah are now, I'm very proud to say, enthusiasts of Sambal Goreng Jawastan.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

5 Simple Pleasures To Brighten The Morning

These are what they SHOULD be:

  1. Waking up early
  2. Time with my Maker
  3. A refreshing morning walk
  4. A hearty breakfast
  5. A steamy shower

Instead, I
  1. hit the snooze
  2. hurry with my Maker
  3. do a quickie check on gmail
  4. do a quickie kaypohchee on FB
  5. mull over my long to-do list
  6. then read the blogs

I need  therapy.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Owh .... Begini Rasanya

 Hatiku Sengsara

Kak NITAA in her element!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Cramped Tight

Yesterday, while doing ablutions for maghrib prayers, I had this sudden mother-of-all-cramps in my right foot. I can't remember (yeah,yeah) when I last had one of  these and was wondering my head off as to the reason why.

One time, a cramp developed when someone sat on my foot while at a crowded congregational terawih, I was grimacing in pain as I felt my toes and arch contorting into a shape not unlike that of a Chinese concubine's bound feet (yes I've seen gruesome pictures of these). As you might imagine my focus level dropped to minus infinity. Immediately after the salams I hobbled off to the back and walked away the cramp. Much later on I learnt that in a crowded situation, it is acceptable for one to sit back legs tucked Japanese-style on the last tahyaat before salams instead of the usual manner.

But this time, even though the cramp had eased after some walking on carpet, it came back while doing the last tahyaat - which I completed at supersonic speed. Khusyu' was zilch but hopefully I got points for enduring the pain.

And the reason for the cramp?

Well yesterday the cleaner came for the weekly once-over (hey, I supplement that by pushing the mop too, okay? whenever I'm in the mood, that is). Anyway, she was a different girl from the one the company usually sends over. She worked fast and hard and the floor turned out so delightfully shiny and smooth with the application of her elbow grease.  I was happy to do away with my house slippers all day.

In the evening in the kitchen, I slid the kitchen rug aside and cooked barefooted - still enjoying the ungritty floor.  It was usrah night and I made cekodok pisang for Muni's buka puasa and then mihun goreng for the usrah's potluck. It was after that that my foot cramped under the tap.

Manja punya kaki. House slippers are important to ward off the "cold" from our tiled floors and I do usually wear them. My mother swears by them and she'd remind us every so often, ever since we became mothers ourselves. Hers are the ones with little spikes on the inners for the reflexology effect. Mine are cheap ordinary cushioned ones but I soon might have to get the spikeys as well.

But the cramp gave me a very good reason to have a thai massage today.

"You want man?" asked the manageress at the counter. Sheesh, just because I'm big-sized she thinks only male masseurs can handle me.

"No...... you got handsome boy?" I almost asked.

I waved my hand indicating no, and she said "Ok, I give you Mown".

And moaned and groaned I did - inaudibly though, to save face - as I relished masseuse Mown's kneading and pummeling as she contorted me, like my cramped foot, into unlikely yoga poses and wrestling holds.

She too, stood on my soles for what seemed a good long while which was indeed reminiscent of the painful experience of my foot being sat on by a heavyweight. But it was after the most satisfying roti-canai treatment of my feets' lifes that Mown administered soon after, that I forgave her.

Gosh - at the end of it I felt like I just had a very satisfying workout, although I did nothing but play, as it were, into the hands and elbows and feet of the inimitable Mown.

Sawadi karp Mown, you certainly deserved your tip.

Just for you, this thai-sounding pantun:

"High, high sun haaaiiiii,  
Son cow die taaiiiii,
Long time search Aiiii, 
New now get Aiiiii!"

Translated from:
"Tinggi-tinggi si matahari,
Anak kerbau mati tertambat
Sudah lama saya mencari
Baru sekarang saya mendapat!"

Owh, did I say workout? I started back at the gym also today.

Monday, 22 March 2010

How to Make Your Youtube Videos Lighter

As in less dark.

The pocho-pocho/line-dancing routines that Syirah recorded were quite shadowy. When I put one up on Youtube to share, it turned out even worse. I couldn't make out whether it was me or my twin sister rocking there.

I scoured the Net to look for something to help improve the "lighting" situation.

And found a tool called Virtualdub.

It is a freeware created by a student who had some free time presumably. He wrote:
"I  basically started VirtualDub in college to do some quick capture-and-encoding that I wanted done; from there it's basically grown into a more general utility that can trim and clean up video before exporting to tape or processing with another program.  I released it on the web and others found it useful, so I've been tinkering around with its code ever since.  If you have the time, please download and enjoy."

So I downloaded it, read the guide and then tried it.

It came packed in WinRAR and I clicked on the .exe file to run the application.

Then clicked File, Open Video File and selected the video I wanted.

It opened in two panes which will show the "before" and "after" effects.

Then I chose Video, Filters, Add, Levels

Then I clicked Show Preview to show the results of my adjustments of the filter

I moved the centre triangular thingamajig to get the brightness that I liked and played with the slider on the preview pane to check how it turned out on the other frames.

Clicked OK, OK. The "before" and "after" effects:

Not bad. Now I can see myself!   *smiles*
Saved as AVI.

Done. I repeated the process for the other two routines, and then plonked them into Windows Movie Maker to make up the sequences and put in the effects and so on. Uploaded to Youtube, and finally put in the captions and sub-titles.

Lot of technical work involved just to share a 4 minute video of my pocho-pocho class - and I now appreciate what my daughter Muni and those in her profession go through everyday and night.

Should I do this again for my gym workouts?

Hahahaha ..... I can hear the groans........

How To Make A Snippet of a Youtube Video

Given my memory as it is, I had better jot this down for future reference.

I wanted a snippet of the youtube vid "Tiga Abdul Part 7" - the part where the character Sadiq Sigaraga was reading off the names of the  _stan countries.

I started by saying a thank you to the guy who uploaded the video in the first place.

Then I downloaded it to my PC using ZillaTube, a piece of software I had installed on my desktop. The free trial version is available here. (The RealDownload utility that I had used a few times before didn't work anymore)

I copied the "Tiga Abdul" URL and pasted it into the ZillaTube dialog box and clicked the download button.

When the download had completed, I opened the file in RealPlayer SP, also downloaded and installed for free from the Real site. From a toolbar at the bottom of the screen (which appeared only when I ran my mouse over the area), I then selected RealTrimmer. It is a wonderful utility available in RealPlayer SP.

I dragged the markers to the start and end points of the snippet I wanted, then clicked "Save Trim".

Walla, I have my snippet which I then proceeded to embed in my previous blog entry. *UPDATE - Before embedding, I uploaded the snippet to my account in youtube to obtain it's embed code.

P/S - To get the screenshot above, I opened my photo editor application, Picasa (also downloaded and installed for free). I pressed the "Print Screen" key on the keyboard and Picasa made the shot available in it's editor. I cropped  the area I wanted, saved it and added it to this entry.

Hopefully next time I'll remember that I have put all this down in my blog in March 2010 *grin*

Sunday, 21 March 2010

What -STAN?

Adoiii.... since coming back from the frozen steppes, I haven't had the mood to go back to the gym.

Aiyoh why lar?

Moooood maa, mood is important. No mood, no focus - no focus, no adrenalin - no adrenalin, no high!

Maybe I still haven't thawed out. You know how it takes so long for a  frozen turkey  to fully defrost?

Same thing.

Key word is "fully" (heppp - not "turkey")

Since I'm human, it takes even longer.

Hahaha excuses, excuses..... and my poochy tummy is gaining a cup-size, lalala.

So the other day my mum asked "Where was it that you went to last few weeks?"

"Mmmm.... one of the ...stans lah, you know like in that P. Ramlee movie"

Mum has instant recall on things like this.


Waah, P.Ramlee knew so many __stans way back in 1964.

However presently there are: (info gleaned from  http://surveycentral.org) 


Historically there was 
East Pakistan, 

The Kurds call their homeland (which they would like to be a nation) Kurdistan.

Baluchistan is a region in Pakistan (basically the part the US is flying over to get from the Arabian Sea to Afghanistan)
Hindustan is a region in India, but the term is sometimes used to refer to all of India
Dagestan is a somewhat rebellious province in Russia
Kurdistan is a region spanning mostly Iraq and Turkey and bits of Syria and Iran
Liechtenstein ends in 'stan' if you spell it as badly.

Where got Gohed-Gostan hahaha!

and Tanjung Rambutan doesn't count, not even Kelantan ish,ish,ish

But in a way, an exercise activity that I did miss while I was in KA-ZAKH-STAN is all to do with what we Malaysian boomers understand by gohed-gostan actually (forwards-backwards).

I think kids nowadays know about gostan(go astern) in the driving context, but probably not gohed(go ahead). The latter is most often used nowadays to mean "carry on, you first".

The exercise with lots of goheds-gostans is none other than my pocho-pocho/line-dancing classes that I attend twice a week with some other aunties.

No joke, these classes. Sixty-plus aunties would made Michael Jackson extremely proud, I tell you.

Good for loosening the kinks before I start gym next week.

A lot of going round and round too.

Maybe I'll have a round of Thai massage as well before the gym.


Thursday, 18 March 2010

PIN and Riddle

Alamak, I think Unker Tommy is right lah, he told me over at the Longhouse that I was starting to lose it.

I refused to agree with his statement but yesterday afternoon at the ATM I keyed in hubby's mobile no. as my PIN - of course it said "What's wrong with you - you keyed in the wrong pin number" or something to that effect.

Actually I was surprised I did that. I never ever use anybody's phone number for something so secret as an ATM PIN. My PIN is the same original random number the bank gave me umpteen years ago.

Well, I had no need for the PIN for about 4 weeks but today what used to be automatic became problematic. The blessed number simply left the building. No recollection at all.

I have cards for 2 other accounts at a different bank but they were useless yesterday because I had programmed  those to have that very same PIN - I mean why should I need to remember 3 different PINs, right or not?

Anyway for each card I gave 2 tries - each a different combination of the 6 digits I thought I remembered. To no avail. (3 wrong tries my card will get swallowed)

Went home feeling slightly dazed. It's really happening, isn't it? Can't remember something you've been using for decades. Instead remembering a number that I never had to consciously, and which is already tucked away in my phone memory.

"You're missing bapak kan?" said Syirah. I was going to get some cash to make the first payment on her driving lessons. "Eh, no lah, everyday we direct message on FB what..."

Whatever, today I'll try this number that's going round in my head right now - XXXXXX. I'm absolutely sure it has come back. Otherwise, I'll have to pop in at the banks with my passbooks and be re-issued with  new PINs. CIMB says they do it on the spot, but Maybank - not too sure lah. I know I have to pay a RM12 penalty for a new card.

Actually the chip on the Maybank card seem to get "rusty" very easily and some of the machines can't read them. People say in such cases to lightly scrape the rust away. Beats me why we have to pay for something of suspect quality.

As for my rusty memory.... hmmm now where did I put my kad pesara? Would need it for those government-subsidised memory-boosters, wouldn't I? Unless I start re-training the old box to use  associative memory-tricks.

Tu cangkul-cangkul lama belah pokok = ?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Female Wet Dreams: Islamic Perspectives & Regulations

With the current fervour on sex-education in Malaysian schools, I remember being taught the rudimentary facts about  wet dreams under the subject "Tanda-tanda Baligh" in primary school agama class. One of the tanda  was of course mimpi bersetubuh. So clueless was I about the matter when I first read it in vowel-less jawi  in my fiqah book,  I pronounced it "bersetabah". And later on in secondary school, our elderly (in our eyes) ustaz dwelt on the act under  the chapter on "Nikah Kahwin". It was an all-girls school and the class was  embarrassed when he was discussing the topic.  I do not remember much about it or about him either - yes, that much I was interested in agama subjects at that time, especially nikah-kahwin.  Anyway, word went round many years later that he had married one of the girls from a senior class.

I'm digressing.

I just wanted to share an article from Muslim Matters written by Umm Reem about the technicalities of the title of this post (see, even I find it hard to write it out)  which is rarely discussed amongst us Muslim ladies. The  comments section  is also an interesting read - there's an opinion about a female having a wet dream during menses.

Do read on.
Some time ago, I gave a series of lectures on Taharah (cleanliness) to the sisters in my community. A number of questions were raised from the discussion. It was nice and a very open talk since the one giving the lecture was a female herself. The sisters felt quite comfortable asking questions, in detail, that they normally feel shy about.
One of the matters that we discussed was about the exact nature of female wet dreams. I realized that this issue is not only complicated for sisters but also a much neglected subject. This is why, I decided to have a full entry on this topic, for a number of reasons:
  1. This matter is not as simple and clearly distinguishable for sisters as it is for brothers, so it must be thoroughly explained.
  2. There are a number of lectures given from shayukh to the brothers, in detail; however, rarely do we ever hear any Shariah explanation for sisters, in detail.
  3. Mothers feel shy talking to their daughters about it. In which case, if the young daughter experiences a wet dream, she may not know the Shariah ruling on it or how to purify herself afterward.
Hence, I decided to contribute this piece, along with the help of a professional Gynecologist, Dr. Fatimah Lalani and Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, so it may help and benefit all the sisters who read this.
Wet dreams are as normal for women as they are for men. Although, the frequency may be lower compared to men, nonetheless, the occurrence of wet dreams among women does not indicate any abnormality.
Umm Salamah said: “Umm Sulaym came to the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alihi wasalam, and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, Allah is not too shy to tell us the truth. Does a woman have to do ghusl if she has a wet dream?’ The Prophet said: ‘Yes, if she sees water (a discharge).’ Umm Salamah covered her face and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, can a woman have an erotic dream?’ He said, ‘Yes, may your hands be rubbed with dust. How else would her child resemble her?’” (Bukhari)
Therefore, if a girl/woman sees a wet dream, it does not mean that she is sexually perverted, lewd or immodest in any sense. It is out of her control, especially for younger girls who may be experiencing many hormonal changes in their bodies. In fact, the Shariah itself recognizes wet dreams as a sign of puberty.
“And when the children among you come to puberty (al-hilm)…” [al-Noor 24:59]
The same term, al-hilm, is used for both puberty and wet dreams, marking wet dreams an indication of puberty.
Besides, Allah azzawajal created wet dreams as an outlet for men and women to release their sexual energy. It happens as a result of human nature which Allah azzawajal has created Himself and no blame can be put on a person. Moreover, since wet dreams happen during sleep, while a person has no control over himself/herself, the Shariah frees a person from any blame.
The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alihi wasalam, said: “The Pen has been lifted from three: from the one who is sleeping until he wakes up, from the child until he reaches the age of puberty, and from one who is insane until he comes to his senses.” (Tirmidhi)
Also, keep in mind that the Prophet, sallallahu alihi wasalam, did not reprimand the woman who had a wet dream, neither did he declare it “abnormal” for women. Rather, he made it quite clear that women can have wet dreams just like men do and there is no oddity or incongruity with it.
Aisha (ra) said: The Messenger of Allaah, sallallahu alihi wasalam, was asked about a man who notices some wetness but does not remember having a wet dream. He said, “He should do ghusl.” He was asked about a man who thinks that he had an erotic dream but does not see any wetness. He said, “He does not have to do ghusl.” Umm Salamah said, “O Messenger of Allah, does a woman have to do ghusl if she sees something like that?” He said, “Yes, women are the twin halves of men.” (Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood)
And so, I want to remind the parents and the husbands to educate themselves on this subject before making any hurtful or psychologically damaging remarks to their womenfolk. This matter is as normal among women as it is among men.
Having said this, I want to encourage mothers to inform and educate their daughters about such dreams. Do not underestimate what others are capable of teaching your daughter, including her friends (inside or outside the schools, Muslims or non-Muslims) or even teachers. Even if they do not attend the “sex-Ed” class at the school, I can assure you that they will be taught by their fellow students. Most of my teen students learned about these issues from their classmates during 3rd and 4th grade. That was about ten years ago and over the time; our society has only become more corrupted.
It is best that a daughter hears and learns this information directly from her own mother rather than from someone else educating her in school or in the streets. A mother’s education is sincere, pure, and free of any vulgarity. Besides, a Muslim mother can/should always point out the Islamic recognition of the normality of our body functions and the Shariah rulings about it.
Do not wait until your daughter asks you, because she may never ask you. This is a step that a mother has to initiate and be the first to “break the ice.” My suggestion is to explain exactly what happens during a wet dream, next give her the biological/hormonal cause, and then explain to her the Islamic ruling about it. Make your daughter feel comfortable, do not pass any embarrassing comments, put a smile on your face but be precise.
Also, do not wait until her menstrual cycle starts. It is better to educate her once the signs of puberty start appearing in her. During my discussion with Dr. Lalani, I asked her if a girl could have wet dreams before she has her first menstrual cycle. And she replied:
“Yes I suppose it is possible. Puberty is a continuum and can begin around age 9-10, starting with development of breasts, pubic and underarm hair, a growth spurt, and then menses. Throughout this time you have hormonal changes, so I suppose you could have a wet dream, prior to onset of menses.”
It led to my other question: Can wet dreams in itself mark the onset of a girl’s puberty (balagha) making her accountable for her religious obligations like fasting and hijab? Of course as any fiqhi matter, this too, had ikhtilaf (difference of opinions). I do not intend to defend one opinion or the other, but I will briefly mention both opinions.
Those scholars, who support the opinion that wet dreams are an indication of a girl reaching the age of puberty, base their opinion on the signs of male puberty and do not make any distinction between the two genders; they include menstruation as an additional sign for females.
However, the other opinion is inferred from a number of ahadith that state that the rulings are to be established at time of menstruation, like the hadith of the Prophet sallallahu alihi wasalam:
“Allah does not accept the prayer of a menstruating woman [i.e who has gotten her menstruation] unless she wears a veil [khimar]“. [Abu Dawood, at-Tirmizi]
And like the narration in Sahih Muslim in which the Prophet sallallahu alihi wasalam indicated that a man’s prayer is cut off when a woman who has gotten her menstruation passes in front of him. In this hadith, the sign of a baligha (a woman who has reached puberty) was indicated by her menstruation, wAllahu ta’ala ‘alam.
To conclude, since the female wet dream may or may not be accompanied by a discharge, contrary to that of men, I posed a few questions to the shuyukh based on the discussion I had with other women and I received following answers from Sh. Yasir Qadhi:
These answers are by Sh. Yasir Qadhi:
To be honest we rarely find such DETAILED discussion in fiqh books, most likely because men are not as familiar with this topic as they should be.  However, based on the hadith of the Prophet, sallallahu alihi wasalam, I would say that:
Question: If a woman sees a sexual dream but is confused whether she had an orgasm or not, what should she do? (Please keep in mind that female genital area is always wet, and they do not necessarily always have extra discharge upon orgasm, so the matter is not as easy to discriminate as for men)
Answer: The ‘asl (original) is that she has not had a wet dream, so until there is yaqin (certainty) she does not have to take a bath. Therefore, if she does not remember an orgasm, and her private area is not extra wet, she doesn’t have to do ghusl (bath).
Question: If she sees extra vaginal discharge but is sure that she didn’t have any dream of sexual nature at all?
Answer: Vaginal discharge does not necessitate ghusl, no problems here.
Question: If she sees extra vaginal discharge and is confused about the dream (i.e. vaguely recalls something but is not sure either), again keeping in mind that extra vaginal discharge could be completely hormonal or due to the normal menstrual cycle?
Answer: She must have yaqin (certainty) or at least a very strong presumption that she’s had a wet dream (which includes an orgasm).

Hope that was beneficial.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Fantasia Bulan Madu

Amy Search was at the pinnacle of his singing career when I was sort of struggling at mine (I didn't get very far anyway). Being then a working mom with school-going children, I was not  into the entertainment scene at all. To me Amy Search was just another rocker, one of the better-looking ones I might add, the one with that banshee voice. With names like "Amy", "Awie", "Man Bai", etc rather than decent ones like Jamal Abdillah or Sudirman Hj. Arshad, I was more than happy to give these wailing rockers a miss.

Until 20 or so years and many kilograms later...

I sat up and took notice when I learnt from Kak Teh's Choc-a-Bloc Blog that Amy was performing in the UK. He has still kept his good looks and I was wondering whether he could still hit those high notes, being that he was older now (and a Tuan Haji to boot).

Anyway, somehow in my retirement years, this song from Amy pulak struck a chord within. Fantasia hahahah.....

I still wonder if he really reached those notes at his UK tour.

Written by the maestro M.Nasir, this song has powerful lyrics and I'd like to dedicate it to all oldish lovers of bloggerstan, and especially to Lady mamasita and Sir sakmongkol. Enjoy guys!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Back Into The Steamer

It may be true to say that people in most countries joke about their national airlines. "Mana Ada Sistem" even made it to the Parliamentary hansard back in the nineties.

I had experienced flight delays before and have learnt to tolerate a few hours of inconvenience. With Air Asia, especially on domestic routes, do expect cancellations and re-timings without explanation. Delays get longer and longer the later the time of your flight departure as flights tend get back-logged during the course of the day.

When British Airways was BOAC something like half a century ago, my late father's British boss used to say it was "Better On A Camel". Remember when PIA, the Pakistani carrier, was leased to fly some of our Haj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, the in thing then was to say "Perhaps I Arrive" or "Please Inform Allah".

My husband was unfortunate to have to fly with SABENA, the Belgian airline, when the transport workers were on strike. Those days porters controlled the trolleys and you had to tip them as well. But no porter or trolley was around for hubby and he had to lug his no-wheelie suitcase around by himself. It was "Such A Bad Experience, Never Again" and this was echoed by a Belgian lady we met years later.

And so too with the Kazakhstanis, one said that she we would be very, very happy indeed if her Air Astana flight is only one-hour delayed. Another couldn't understand that we flew the airline on our way over to Kazakhstan. He himself took a Middle-Eastern carrier.

And I must admit though that they are very justified to feel as they do.

Only with Air Astana had we been delayed by 24 whole hours i.e 1 whole day. That was on the flight TO their beautiful country. And a meeting had to be missed.

For my journey home, the 9pm domestic flight from Astana to Almaty I was booked on was cancelled. That flight would have given me a comfortable 2 hours 15 minutes to connect to the Almaty-KL one.  Turned out that  passengers were re-assigned to the 10pm flight giving me only one-hour to recheck-in at Almaty upon arrival. And what if the 10pm was delayed?

Well,  the pretty ticket agent I saw at the Air Astana office was kind enough to put me on an earlier flight instead even though there were many already on the waiting list. Thanking her, I proceeded to check-in and requested my baggage to be checked through to KL. With furrowed brow, the young lady manning the counter managed to print-out a luggage tag bearing the the word MALTA. Aghast I told her the correct code for Kuala Lumpur which is KUL. Imagine my bag vacationing in Malta without me - I cannot allow that.

Looks like the correct airport

Upon arrival in Almaty, I hung around at the luggage carousel on a hunch. And yes, there  was my bag, all 19.6 kgs of it (400 gms short of the 20 kg limit for excess) with it's bright yellow transfer label, waiting to be picked up. I would have thought that they would intercept it before putting it there, apparently they did not.  Anyway I grabbed it, and wheeled it to the International check-in area and waited for the announcement. According to the display monitor, the KL-bound flight was on time.

When the announcement came, the monitor displayed a DELAY of one hour. And no one rattled. Not even me - after 3 weeks I had become like a Kazakhstani. You are thankful for an hour's delay. And the reason for the delay? They were waiting for the 10pm flight coming in from Astana! The one that I was to have been off-loaded to...

Eventually the flight took off one hour 30 minutes later than originally scheduled.

Aaaah.... Air Astana - Always Slow To Arrive,......... Never Again?

I'm not sure.

I love the subdued  manner of the Kazakhstanis during the flights, the well-behaved children and their  squeals of delight as the aircraft flew into little pockets of turbulence during the descent, and their gasps of "Waaah" when they saw our lush green landscapes as the plane emerged from the clouds (the way I had done when I first set eyes on their snow-covered ones).

I liked the Captain's announcement at the end of each flight -  "Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for flying Air Astana, the flight is completed".

 Yes,  so too is my trip: completed.

And somehow it IS nice to be out of the freezer and back into the steamer.

Here's Syirah trying out my body-warmer

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

What? No Sightseeing?

Nampaknya ISP kami disini  menyekat hubungan ke Blogger pada waktu siang. Malamnya pula laju bukan main. Tapi tea-lady ini tak sabar nak tunggu malam, tambahan pula angin di luar menderu-deru merenjiskan salji, tak bernafsu pula rasanya nak keluar merayau-rayau. So, tea-lady ni ubah setting internet ikut jalan lencongan melalui DNS lain yang lebih terbuka dan..... jengjengjeng, I AM IN!

This is most probably my last update from Kazakhstan as I will be flying home on Friday. Frankly I have not seen much of Kazakhstan at all, except for the views from the airplane window. It really has been too cold to venture outside Astana Central, and aside from our chilly adventure near the Baiterek, the most we had done was to walk to the eateries and the supermarket round the corner from the hotel when we were putting up there. Now that we have moved into the villa, we regularly do 30-minute walks to the Mega Centre and back, for food and groceries.

Much of my time is spent indoors, helping out wherever I can with whatever remeh-temeh matters that arise. Yes it has not been a holiday as such, but I am enjoying it nonetheless. The walks do provide some exercise though not quite like the drenchy sweaty exertion I enjoyed at home. But the villa being three-storeys high with stairs so steep you need first-class knees, I guess they (stairs and knees) help keep the old hamstrings toned. Plus the stationary bike at the top of the stairs outside our bedroom gives us no excuse to prove again the theory of inertia.

The stairway leading down to the office

The stairs leading to the third storey

The stationary bike

Madam Kulyash the landlady loves plants and the house is filled with them, all thriving. She'd come and check on them every now and again, feeling the soil for wetness. Yes, watering the plants is one of my duties here but I think they are pining for the loving care of the Madam.

Lucky for me I'm not also the cleaning-lady; the company uses a cleaning service for the general cleaning of the office area five times a week, and the living quarters twice a week, plus once a month they do a major cleaning job from top to bottom.

Madam Dhana (waving) with her permanent crew Ghul
and a part-timer

I think Ghul will have an easy time cleaning the second level - the boss's SoHo.

Bare-footed but work goes on

The general office area is still not fully equipped and cluttered with boxes and wrappings.Can't show that yet, but maybe on my next inspection trip haha... 

And I'd have to inspect the bricquettes in the indoor sauna as well, who knows someone might have used them for a summertime barbecue instead.

Anyways, that's it - no sightseeing this time, but who knows I might get called up for a another tour of "duty".

Till then, До свидания (dasveedanya) Kazakhstan.

We Have Moved

We recently moved into a three-storey villa (what Kazakhstan people call a detached bungalow) where hubby's employer is setting up a  branch office in Kazakhstan.

This villa also serves as the living quarters for the two Malaysian staff (seen in the picture)

The landlady Madam Kulyash made sure the ice and 
snow was cleared off the steps before the big move.

The interior is just the right size for warmth and cosiness.

The lower floor was used as a gym/recreation area by the landlady's family and is now where the general office area is set up, just across a well-appointed restroom and bathroom-cum-jacuzzi-cum sauna. The living room on first floor is now the bosses' office area and the kitchen is now the tea-lady's office.

The unsecured internet connectivity that I had set up over the weekend worked fine, however it seemed not to like Blogger that much. The connection was forever timing out purportedly due to the server at the other end taking too long to respond, especially Malaysian-based blogs.

So I've not been able to read new updates from my blogroll, as well as not being able to update my own blog, a task that I do proscratinate on at the best of times.

This morning, IT guy Michael came to configure a proper secured connection. Blogger behaved better after that and tonight I got to my own blog at lightning speed including a few others. So if you see an IP from Kazakhstan in your visitor trail, that is most likely me - not to say that I'm your only fan from around here...

Anyway I thanked Michael in heavily-accented Russian "Spaseeba" and he replied with a very crisp British sounding "Not at all". There goes my dream of teaching English to the locals. They might end up saying "No problem lah".

Looks like Blogger is taking a long time saving this draft. I'll have to quickly make a copy and try publishing this post before it decides to time-out ithout saving.

Till next time, warmest regards to everyone :D

Friday, 5 March 2010

The Perils of Literal Translation

Being here in Kazakhstan, we really need to know some Russian and/or Kazakh to get by. Alas, aside from perusing the cafe menu and making out the Russian words for rice, coffee, tea, burger, kebab, milk, halal etc, I have very little Russian vocabulary to even attempt a decent sentence. So there's no possibility of me getting into gaffes with Malaysian-Russian lah.

This email I received this morning illustrates such a likelihood if we are not into the nuances of a foreign language. Not that I read, write or speak English-English all that well, but this Punjabi-English really cracks me up. (No offence intended to any Begums or Khans).



I am an olden young uncle living only with myself in Lahore.

Having seen your advertisement for marriage purposes, I decided to press myself on you and hope you will take me nicely.

I am a soiled son from inside Punjab. I am nice and big, six foot tall, and six inches long.
My body is filled with hardness, as because I am working hardly. I am playing hardly also.  Especially I like cricket, and I am a good batter and I am a fast baller. Whenever I come running in for balling, other batters start running. Everybody is scared of my rapid balls that bounce a lot.

I am very nice man. I am always laughing loudly at everyone. I am jolly. I am gay. Ladies, they are saying I am nice and soft. Am always giving respect to the ladies. I am always allowing ladies to get on top. That is how nice I am.
I am not having any bad habits. I am not drinking and I am not sucking tobacco or anything else. Every morning I am going to the Jim and I am pumping like anything. Daily I am pumping and pumping. If you want you can come and see how much I am pumping the dumb belles in the Jim.

I am having a lot of money in my pants and my pants is always open for you. I am such a nice man, but still I am living with myself only. What to do?
So I am taking things into my own hands everyday. That is why I am pressing myself on you, so that you will come in my house and my things into your hand.

If you are marrying me madam, I am telling you, I will be loving you very hard every day. In fact, I will stop pumping dumb belles in the Jim.
If you are not marrying me madam and not coming to me, I will press you and press you until you come. So I am placing my head between your nicely smelling feet looking up with lots of hope.

I am waiting very badly for your reply and I am stiff with anticipation.

Expecting soon.

Yours and only yours,

Choudhary Warraich, born by mother in Okara and become big in Lahore, Punjab.

Oh my, that was a good guffaw I had.........

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Some Impressions of Astana

Sunday morning the sun shone brightly on Astana. The sky was a brilliant blue.

So 3 sun-starved Malaysians decided to jalan-jalan around the area of the Astana Baiterek (Viewing Tower).

As they say when in rome..... do as they do. And we hailed a taxi the Kazakh way - and that is to just stand by the roadside and raise an arm shoulder level.

Now a "taxi" can be ANY car willing to stop and give the hailers a ride (in the proper sense). For money.

Recognisable metered taxis do exist, but they are few and far between.

However the "hitcher" taxis have been absolutely reliable so far, though usually the cars look like they have seen better days, but they are warm and comfortable inside, and they get you to your destination.

We've ridden in European, Japanese and Korean makes and have been "cabbied" by people from young lads to fifty plusses. I guess taxiing's a way for them to earn an extra tenge(Kazakhstan currency) or two.

A 10 minute drive downtown in daytime may cost us 600 tenge (equivalent to about RM15), at night 1000 tenge.

The middle-aged driver we had yesterday was friendly.

"Cheena?", he asked.

"Nyet, Malaysia", we said.

"Aaaah, Malaysia...Kazakhstan... turis?".

"Nyet, business"

"Aaaah, biznis..... Kazakhstan.... Astana. Malaysia?"

"Malaysia..... Kuala Lumpur"

"Aaaah, Kuala Lumpur....   Kazakstan ...tenge, Malaysia?"

"Malaysia..... ringgit"

"Ringgit? Skolka tenge....ringgit?" (skolka is Russian for how much)

I showed 4 fingers followed by a zero by joining my thumb and fore-finger.

"Aaaah. Malaysia.... kikboks?" He asked while gesturing with a closed fist.

"Hahaha nyet, Thailand, Thailand". But I was reminded of the interest in Muay Thai of mamasita's kain pelekat blogger.

"Aaah, Thailand"

And.... we arrived at Baiterek, paid him the 700  tenge he requested and said our spaseeba(thank you in Russian) and rehmat (thank you in Kazakh).

The authorities have shoveled the snow since
I was here last Wednesday. Note the cloudless sky.

The Baiterek is the city's icon, symbolizing a tree of peace, unifying three levels of the universe - lower, middle and celestial. We did not venture inside, preferring to walk around and take pictures, but it says in my guide-book that there is an aquarium, an art gallery and a cafe on the lower, "below ground" level, and a restaurant and a viewing gallery on the upper "celestial" level. The "trunk" is accorded the middle-level.

The area around the Baiterek is Kazakhstan's administrative centre where ministries and government offices are, much like Putrajaya.

We didn't have to walk for very long before the unforgiving cold bit - especially my 2 inadequately covered escorts who felt their ears progressively turning to ice. It must have been minus 11 degrees

We ducked into the upmarket Keruen shopping mall to get warmed up and balk at the items on display in the boutique windows.We also managed to use a Russian language kiosk machine to top up our phone credits. It took 10% off our payment as fees - and I bet it charges the telco as well. We are using Bee-line, but there is also Aktiv and K-cell.

The Keruen is the low-rise building on the left

After 40 minutes or so, we braved the cold again and walked back towards Baiterek and onwards  in the direction of the President's Palace.

The President's Palace
As I understand it the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev, like our sultans, holds his position for life. Other than functions related to the appointments of parliament and government hot-shots, he is also the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces as well as the life Chairman of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan. The 350-strong Assembly is not part of government but is focused on maintaining inter-ethnic concord, and promoting cultural and spiritual revival. Kazakhs look up to the President as a visionary who inspired the development of Astana as the new capital of Kazahkstan.

We had to nip  into another building for warmth and comfort, where we met up with Yerlan and his family, who took us to his office for zohor prayers. Then back to sightseeing, this time travelling in the comfort of his car.

Inside the Pyramid of Peace, under the glass
roof stained with  lovey-dovey doves. 
No dead mummies here but maybe one fat mama.

The Pyramid also known as the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation "has been conceived and designed by architect Sir Norman Foster and inaugurated in September 2006. It contains accommodations for different religions: Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and other faiths. It also houses a 1,500- seat opera house, a national museum of culture, a new “university of civilization”, a library and a research center for Kazakhstan’s ethnic and geographical groups. This diversity is unified within the pure form of a pyramid, 62 meters high with a 62 x 62-meter base. The building is conceived as a global center for religious understanding, the renunciation of violence and the promotion of faith and human equality. The Pyramid of Peace expresses the spirit of Kazakhstan, where cultures, traditions and representatives of various nationalities coexist in piece, harmony and accord. Bathed in the golden and pale blue glow of the glass (colors taken from the Kazakhstan flag), 200 delegates from the world’s main religions and faiths will meet every three years in a circular chamber — based on the United Nations Security Council meeting room in New York. ; Height: 77 m (252.62 ft), total area: 25,500 sq.m.; Accommodates: Opera Hall for 1,500 seats, The Museum of National History, The Research Center of World Religions, Library of Spiritual Religious Literature, Exhibition and conference rooms" - from Wikipedia

A section of the interior wall  nearer the roof is lined 
with plants and flowers

The younger Kazakh is a visitor from
London. The more mature one is Yerlan.

Another young Kazakh man
- the guide at the Pyramid
  Talgat, the bellboy
and the doorman

I am not able to discern a common look in the Kazakhs as there are 100 different ethnicities making up the population.

From Wikipedia:
  • Kazakh, 44 percent
  • Russian, 36 percent
  • Ukrainian, 5 percent
  • German, 4 percent
  • Tatars and Uzbeks, 2 percent each
  • Azerbaijanis, Uygurs, and Belarusians, 1 percent each
  • Ninety other nationalities, 4 percent.
But they all have the exotic mysteriousness about them including being gracious, polite, and soft-spoken.

With our "nephew" Azizali.
He can sense if someone's good or bad.

And with the beautiful Zhannara who 
cooked us a fantastic meal on Saturday


This is only half of it

Will tell more later... Insha Allah