Sunday, August 29, 2010

Baby in the Bin, and Murder

The courtroom seemed divided. To one side were a number of young people, most of them nervously biting their fingers as the judge was quietly deliberating the situation. On another side, several old religious looking men sat, looking smugly at each other. It was the first ever case of it's kind to be tried in court.

The judge got up and addressed the courtroom. "The defendant is found guilty"

The defendant looked up, and then stood, albeit unsteadily, overwrought with emotion. She thought to herself, "I'm going to die because the people who knew better, the people who were supposed to guide me, pretended that sex didn't exist"

Two weeks later, early in the morning, she was ushered out, and prepared for her impending hanging. As her head was covered with the thick, black, heavy cloth in the silence, it occurred to her that she and her baby were the cats that curiosity killed.

6 Months Ago

She certainly didn't expect it to be so wrinkled, red and ugly. It made a small sound as it tried to make itself more comfortable in the white blanket it was wrapped in. She closed her eyes, brushed her lips carefully against it's forehead and wrapped the white blanket even tighter around it.

"It's now or never" she thought, holding back tears. The baby in the blanket was after all her baby, born just over 6 hours ago, with the help of her closest friend, wikipedia and a very frantic boyfriend who fainted after hearing her screams of pain. She gathered the baby and her things and walked carefully out of the school hallway. No one knew what had happened, it being a Sunday. Her secret was safe.

She had picked the decorative fruit basket from the teacher's lounge area, put in several blankets and she now carried the poor, red, ugly thing in it. She had targeted a house two streets away from the school, hoping they'd take her baby and give it a proper life, one that she could never give, considering who she was and what she was doing now.

She could have gone to her parents, but they would have turned her out for bringing shame to the family. Good kids didn't go and have babies without being married first was their school of thought. The education system would have kicked her out of school, religious creeps would have labelled her a sinner. Really, she had nowhere to turn to, except for her close friend and the guy who got her pregnant, but they were as helpless as her. And so, they decided that she'd have the baby in secret, place it in front of #37, ring the doorbell and run. She said she needed to do it herself, and be left alone.

Alas, neither she nor her friends knew that #37 had been empty for the past few days. They were on a vacation for a week, and were surprised to find a baby, carefully wrapped up, but dead lying in a basket outside their house. They reported it to the police. Within a few weeks, with the magic of DNA testing, they had identified the mother of the baby. She was in the lab when they came and arrested her, to the horror of her classmates. She followed the cops out quietly, recalling articles in newspapers mentioning the possibility of charging parents who abandoned their babies with murder. She thought they'd never do it, but here she was, being charged for the very same thing the whole country had opposed against.



Note: The story above is a fictionalised version of the baby dumping scenario in the country. About two weeks ago, the cabinet suggested that baby dumping be tantamount to murder. While no baby deserves to die in any way whatsoever, charging the parents for murder will not possibly nip the problem in the bud. Kids in schools are not exposed to proper sex education, mostly learning things off friends (who are sometimes equally blur) Pregnant teens are removed from the school system, and are looked upon by the society as immoral and a possible bad influence, and then there's also some religious issues which I will refrain from touching because it is not my place to do so - hence their need to hide the evidence of ever having a baby. My knowledge of the courtroom scene is minimal, so I don't really know what the judge says, and neither do I know what the hangman says - I can't seem to research it online, and asking lawyer friends was just too embarrassing.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Most Intimidating Interview - On the Radio

We're slowly making our way to the end of August, and in less than a week, the nation once again celebrates Independence Day for the 53rd time. As usual, I was listening to the radio on the way to work this morning, and to mark the celebrations, they had a new special segment interviewing powerful and influential women of Malaysia (or Malaya) from the days gone by - mostly from the time right after independence. Today, they interviewed the very first woman ambassador.

Now, I've always heard this particular radio dj interview people in the mornings, and I'd say she prepares herself quite well, in the sense that she doesn't ask stupid questions, and is able to handle any topics they're discussing about either if it's regarding business, politics or any other current issue. I do find her voice a wee bit annoying, though... just a wee bit.

The person interviewed this morning (to be known as PIM hereafter), however, was a totally different kettle of fish. I suppose growing up at a time when things were different, she had a totally different way of viewing things from the dj, from her priorities, how she viewed the nation's political system at that time,etc. She answered questions with a certain degree of vehemence, and peppered her interview with subtle sarcasm and mild intimidation and somewhat mocking, quietly making us, the listeners perceive the dj as an ignorant young woman! There was this time when the dj asked her about her opinion on the racial riots of 1969, and PIM  emphasised on the importance of the Rukun Negara (loosely translated as the Nation's Tenets), and turned to ask the dj if she knew what the tenets were. (Naturally, I imagined her turning towards the dj in slow motion)

The dj, in good humour, replied that they were printed at the back of exercise books used by school kids. The silence was so thick that you could hear the radio static. PIM asked her again if she could recite them then and there. The dj gave a weak laugh, indicating defeat. Funny really, because I've always imagined that it was the dj who would be the witty/sarcastic/evil one who had the power to make the interviewee squirm in their seats.

It kind of makes me wonder how I would handle such a situation, to be put down so many times, quietly and quickly that way. It was as though PIM was a trained assassin and the dj was the unwitting victim. The request to recite the tenets was certainly not the first and definitely not the last either. I tried recalling the tenets later in the morning after listening to the show,  and surprisingly, I could. I suppose all those years in school reciting the tenets during assembly really drilled them firmly into my long term memory. However, had I been in the dj's shoes at that point, I'd have forgotten them due to frayed nerves!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Are You OK, Karaoke?

If there was anyone who could admit knowing me well enough, they'd certainly corroborate to the fact of me admitting that I'd try anything once. Naturally, when I say anything, it refers to anything that I wouldn't mind doing, and perhaps the occasional dare like trying to put off fire with my fingers. And that is precisely how I found myself *agreeing to go for a karaoke session with a bunch of friends from work (from a different department from me), most of whom I've only dealt with regarding work matters before this despite my loner-like tendencies.

Now, I've always imagined local karaoke sessions to be the type where middle aged Chinamen (mostly businessmen) would sing at the top of their lungs to Chinese songs from the 70's or 80's, while discussing business over food and drinks, a place where a someone of my **demographics would never be caught in, but there I was, among a few early twenty somethings right up to a few early thirty somethings, singing, eating and laughing and actually having a much better time than I had initially imagined!

One of the songs I picked:


On to more new things now, I guess. 

* Funny how I got invited, really... some poisonous gas escaped from a neighbouring company one day in mid July which had our whole company packed into the carpark/main building, and I had decided to socialise a bit, ended up talking to one of the interns based in another department, towards the end, he mentioned karaoke, I think I said 'cool!', and about half a month later, he and his department people plan a karaoke outing, and I get invited as well!

**The truth is, I don't really fit in anywhere... or at least I'm not exactly sure where I fit in. According to a another friend from work, I should be a proud owner of an i-Phone (based on his view of my demographics), which I'm not.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Hills are Alive...

...with the sound of people.

Over the past half month or so, my sister and I have been unsystematically climbing hills nearby. I suppose these are what you could call baby steps in preparation for the gargantuan task of someday climbing Mt. Kinabalu, the highest peak in the country. We have currently covered two hills so far, one called Broga, and another called Bukit Gasing,

Broga Hill

Situated just a little over an hour away from our home (if you don't lose your way, that is), Broga seems to be a very popular hill among the locals, with people starting to trek up as early as 6 am while it is still dark to catch a glimpse of the sunrise. Good intentions, no doubt, but unless you made a deal with the clouds, there's no guarantee that you're gonna get the sunrise you want.

The cousins, sister and I reached the foot of the hills slightly before sunrise, much later than we had planned as I had missed two (2!) turnings on our way (trust me, when the GPS asks you to go straight on a road that splits into three, it can only mean trouble). I also had a bathroom emergency because I had taken some coffee in the morning, and had to end up peeing in a hole in the ground in a stand alone wooden hut, in the middle of nowhere while my three lovely companions shined their torchlights through the top of the door so that I could see what I was doing. Lesson learned: No coffee before hiking.

(The picture was taken later in the day on our way down when it was brighter and clearer - and yes, this was the bathroom. At least I didn't have to pee in the bushes!)

 There were many people going up the hill, it being Saturday I suppose. It kind of reminded me of ants slowly making their way to the source of food. We joined in the bandwagon,  making our way among the crowd. Naturally there were some slippery places and at times you'd wonder what would happen if you fell down one of those gorges.


There were quite a number of seasoned climbers as well, as some of them were impatiently climbing up the hill instead of taking in the fresh air and the beauty surrounding them.

Broga has four peaks, all grassy, and as you make your way, you get to see the bottom of the hill below, and parts of the surrounding town. The climb is somewhat quite safe (despite the incline) although it can be a bit scary because there really isn't much you can hold on to, since it has grass instead of trees. My sister actually got a splinter in her finger when she accidentally grabbed some lalang at a certain point. It took us awhile but we finally managed to reach the final peak, after surpassing through a narrow crevice between two boulders and hauling ourselves up the boulder. (The sister helped pull me up a bit here) 


One of the pictures capturing the view below the hill


The grass at the sides of the hill. There seems to be a path leading us up the hill, and although it looks friendly, it wasn't as easy to climb as we initially thought.



A picture of a dead tree on one of the peaks.

The boulder before the final peak. It was too crowded, so I had no choice but to put up pictures of other people in it! (I'd have preferred it sans people, naturally)

The climb felt pretty good, and despite it being merely 400 metres above sea level, reaching the peak is exhilarating and  gives you a sense of accomplishment.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Help! The Vampires are Gonna Run Lose

* "Use less garlic, there's no such thing as vampires" says a wise man, to the public via the local newspaper. No points for guessing that said wise man is a politician. Ahem.


So apparently, the uncertain weather conditions in China has caused a massive reduction in the export of garlic, and while the demand remains the same (actually the demand has probably increased with it being Ramadan and all now where people are busy making extra stuff for the breaking of fast every evening, etc) which has led to an incredible increase in the price of garlic. And after all that, the only thing a hapless politician can advice is for us to use less garlic in our cooking. How constructive and forward thinking.

Now, even with the limited knowledge of economics I have, I understand that there is probably no way that we can reduce the price of garlic, but you'd think that the Minister for Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism would have something better to say or not say anything at all. In fact, his advice of using less garlic is probably what most consumers would be doing with their own free will as a temporary countermeasure until a better solution is found - such as searching for a different source of garlic. A short search on google shows that garlic is also grown  elsewhere around the world, but not as much as China, of course, But still, that's worth a try, eh?

So for now, people are going to suffer from slightly tasteless food, and loss of blood due to vampires. :D

* Not his exact words ;)


Monday, August 09, 2010

Yogyakarta - Food and Volcanoes

A slightly cloudy afternoon welcomed us as we touched down at Adisucipto Airport, greeted by an extremely distressed airport staff. We found out a few seconds later, why... the lines were long, almost non-moving. After the immigration process was completed about over half an hour later, we lugged our bags ahead and was greeted by the tour guide and the driver.

Our journey started almost immediately that afternoon. The bags were sent separately to the hotel while we were taken to our lunch destination, a place called Hartz Chicken which was a big disappointment seeing that it as also available in our country, not that any of us had tried it before, but that's beside the point. The thing is, we were all ready to have our tastebuds explode with new and interesting local flavours and not franchised outlet stuff. (Actually, we probably overlooked a lot of things while planning for this trip, being in different countries during the planning - one of it being not knowing that food was also part of the tour package!)

After the disappointing lunch, the tour guide explained that Yogja is also known as the city for education, boasting a large number of institutions for higher learning and that many homes there offered home stay for foreign students. According to him also, it is famous for silver, some batik, and a very important and famous Sultanate that might face the fate of being left without a proper heir. He also told us that his real name was not Johnny as he had introduced himself earlier, but when he was at school, there were two other boys with the same name and his seniors gave them new names. His was Johnny, which he stuck to, seeing that it was convenient for his job, talking to tourists and all. (I unfortunately cannot remember what his actual name was)


As we drove along the city streets, we entered a quieter region, heading towards Merapi, an active volcano situated at the border of Yogya, which last erupted in 2006. Of course we were not on Merapi itself (which would have been uber exciting), but at this place called Ketep Pass. Ketep Pass functions like an educational centre for Merapi where there is a screening of Merapi in fury, spewing hot lava in all it's volcanic glory, a museum and places where you can observe Merapi (and it's dormant neighbour - Merbabu) at a safe distance. Cloudy skies prevented us form getting excellent views, but I must add that volcanoes, even from a distance can make you feel very, very gloomy for no apparent reason. So probably it was best that we didn't go too near. 


Merapi is somewhere in the background. 

We hung around the volcano observatory for quite a bit before heading out again for our long drive back into town for some shopping at a gift shop where you could get some traditional craft stuff... couldn't find the compulsory batik cloth I was looking for, although we spent quite a bit of time there. As most places close by 9 pm, we headed out to dinner, and instead of sticking with the dinner planned by the tour agent, we picked our own place courtesy of TripAdvisor (at least we managed to research for places to eat!) and had an incredibly enjoyable meal - all local cuisine. 

End of Part 1.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Rage: Or why I can't blog about my travels.

There's way too much rage,
  Trying to lock it in a cage,
Is like sifting through garbage,
  Or eating cabbage.