Monday, July 21, 2008

Smilers Never Lose, Frowners Never Win

"Oh, how felicitous this transient life would be if the world is always smiling at you and you at them", as I tell and smile at myself, teased by the jovial lyrics of You Are My Sunshine. Considering the seemingly relentless turbulences in life we are facing today, we tend to forget the brighter part of life. They say, for every cloud there is a silver lining; smiles would certainly be that silver lining that embroider even the darkest cloud. Yea, sometimes we just tend to forget the act - the act of smiling.

But how do we smile always without exceptions? Nay, I do not think we have to show the smile in our face at every occasions of hardship and solemnness; people would think one is out of mind and even heartless when someone smiles during a burial ceremony. Also, in certain occasions, smiling does hurt especially when that smile is forced, and even worse, faked. Therefore, what makes smiling still a viable option for curing an emotional wound, then, if it is not always applicable for every situations?

My answer to this is while the physical action of smiling may not be at all times relevant, the sincere intention, the attitude and values associated with the act of smiling would be definitely the reasons why we should smile in most occasions. A sincere smile suggests a lot of positive attributes: warm greetings, satisfaction, gratitude, love, amicableness, sincerity, etc. Few would dispute that those positive attributes should be around at all times.

But drawing a sincere smile is not always easy. While a smile can be drawn anytime - be it forced or fabricated, a genuine smile needs certain preconditions that needs to be fulfilled before one can really throw that golden smile. This, I think, the song "You Are My Sunshine" has something to tell:

"My mommy told me something,
That little girls should know,
It's all about the devil,
And I've learned to hate him so."

That's right, the bottom line of happiness is avoiding everything evil. While saying it is way much easier than implementing it, if we reflect back to ourselves, when did we last made that big, sincere smile towards others and when did we last receive the smile of similar nature from others? Perhaps a time for self-reflection would do...

"But hey, I saw that babe in the TV smiling at me just now," one may argue. Well, how many of those smiles really make one happy? It is the heart that can answer.

Regardless, smiling should be a positive attribute for many cases - though the intention and reaction of smiling may differ. Should we smile? YES, for "... smilers never lose, frowners never win" (in emotional sense)!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Day in the Cat City

Two days ago, my friends and I decided to run an errand as tourists in our own city, Kuching, the Cat City. Kuching is the capital city of Sarawak, Malaysia, located at the western part of Northern Borneo island. Here is the story:

Once upon a time, in an island afar, there were four vagabonds namely Lynn, Alpi, Suha and Janie.

They began their trip by witnessing Kuching from atop of Dewan Shuarah. From there, they saw...

The Sarawak River amidst the city center. Crocodiles live there. Fish also lives there.

Southern Kuching. Southern City Hall is right in the middle. The inhabitants there be blessed.

Roads and roundabouts with trees and greeneries

Then, they moved to the Amphitheater (Panggung Udara)

The Amphitheater...
... is where the Kung Fu masters fight like gladiators, hiyaa! also a place where the love blooms.

After done with all the dramas, all went to Taman Budaya (Cultural Garden?). There, they...

... wanted to be "young at heart" while reminiscing the days when they were young.

Along the journey, a map is referred in case they lost, just like life.

Also just like life, things sometimes turned childish...

Sometimes... umm... less than appropriate.

Or even not appropriate at all...

But every cloud has a silver lining. Along the road, they think and smile.

And so the walk goes on, and so does life.

At the Museums...

All of a sudden, the group stride their feet to the once residents of the White Rajah. Now, the residence is resided by the State's relics, rare and rousing.

Ponder him that he may understand the meaning of all these - those ancestral relics long lost in the pace of time.

More of them reminding about the past, telling thousands of stories untold, yet never said a word.

Then to the dwelling of the creatures of the water (the Aquarium) the group visited...

They decided with a statue of a dugong they must stand along with for reasons unknown. They say, life is full of uncertainties.

From Kuching Waterfront to Kampung Boyan to visit Fort Margaritha...

To the river ya 'all, to the river for night is getting nigh!

And so they get into the penambang; the penambang's owner warmly greeted.

Plain sailing all over the way!

Hey look, Astana Negeri (the State's Palace) is at the riverside! Where is the Governor?

The New Sarawak State Parliament in the making. Greetings to the big boat. O big boat, don't get too close to them lest they sink before thy very eyes.

Arrived at the other side of Sarawak River. Arrived safe and sound.

At Fort Margaritha...

*Read the sign carefully* Don't wanna get lost in the middle of this hilly jungle.


Where? There! INCOMING!!!

Back to Kuching Waterfront...

They were tired and now retired from the fort. Penambang rider wannabe?

An advice for the travelers.

Some are fit to be a crocodile tamer, others are not.

Borneo High Court, where justice is sought. Hey, the girls have done injustice to him!

Kuching map circa 1870's. How does this place looks like, then?

All in all, the trip began about 10:30am in the morning and ended about 8:45pm in the evening. They were all exhausted but were very happy... All slept soundly that night.


This is a place where civilization and nature infused together; this is where I grow. this is a place I call home.

At the golden triangle, the heart of Kuching City...

For I am Kuching! :)

Lesson I learned:
Revisiting the places of interests in my own place really makes me feel special. The places once I took for granted, now reassert my identity on the face of the world.

*Kuching (in Malay) means "cat" in English. Malay is one of the languages I speak and is also one of the common tongues in Borneo.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Never Again

Gone are the days with long hair,
And so will the days remain in the note of history,
And so life shall be reassessed and redefined,
May this marks a milestone in life,
Of identity renewed.

Never again will the past days be revisited,
Except for lessons of history,
In leading the present life,
For a promising future.

A Month or So in Borneo

It has been a month or so in Borneo, my homeland, my hometown, my love. After a long recess, the non-update of my blog, I believe this is the time to get rolling again despite the stark difference of online capability I have here (in Borneo) as compared to that of Chambana's. This time, I would like to notate few observations and thoughts I deem deserving to be shared to fellow readers.

When I first arrived after a long journey from Chicago - Los Angeles - Hong Kong - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching, I did not hesitate to appreciate more my safe arrival to my homeland.

"Alhamdulillah (Thank God)", I uttered to myself once the MH airfleet grounded its wheeled foot on Borneo soil - safe and sound. And that marks the first moment of precious time in my homeland.

My family picked me up - my parents and my siblings were present. All noted my physical change - my long hair. Besides that, they still "complaint" that I'm still not much difference *ehem* in terms of weight. Well, that's about my physique. But I would like to reflect more on what I've witnessed so far on what I've seen in my hometown, Kuching.

After two years leaving the city, I have seen quite an astonishing material development of the Cat City. The most pleasant one is the existence of a Mid-Valley style Megamall - the Spring, which was once quite a distant dream for Borneo inhabitants is now available especially to the Kuchingites. Also, the opening of another large emporium, the Boulevard, also signifies that Kuching is fast becoming a metropolis of the exotic Borneo.

Next, the roads. When I first arrived, I was confused by the roads in Kuching. This is because many new roads have been built since I left. These include few long flyovers and intersections to better serve Kuching residents. Though confused, certainly I am happy with longer miles of tarred roads in Borneo.

Third, my own family. I have moved to a new house and my siblings are now matured than before. Yea, I notice this with less ramblings and cat fights in the house - a sooth.

With the changes, I am pleased to think that Sarawak is developing at the reasonable phase despite the already long hiccups in world and national economic situation we are facing. The advent of two large shopping malls, newly build roads and oh, some completely new residential and commercial areas definitely are signs that Sarawak is progressing in its economic development. Before, to shop in high-end stores was only equated to Kuala Lumpur for many Sarawakians. Now, they can shop those in their very capital city. This can also be a proof that Sarawakians' living standard has improved - now, at least the gap between fellow Malaysians in the West Coast of Malaysia is lessened though there is still much to be done.

However, not all are roses; there are also thorns. My experience of living in the West for two years has taught me to be more observant about civic awareness and civic values of our citizens - for they are still lacking both.

I cannot help but compare the reckless driving culture of my fellow citizens with the conscious driving culture of the Americans. Now I realize how dangerous Malaysian roads are not primarily because of the quality of roads we have, rather the driving habit of the people. In the States, pedestrians and light-vehicle users (bicycles etc.) are respected but not very much here. In the States, cars slow down when they see crossing pedestrians even when the pedestrians are "guilty" (jaywalking is not allowed in the States) but not here whereas here car drivers (not all) pretend not to see the crossing pedestrians despite the red-light for them and the green-light for the pedestrians at the crossroads!

Next, the queue. Perhaps the first cultural shock that I have once I set my foot in Malaysia is our inability to form a proper queue in public spaces. This happened when I tried to enter a train from KLIA International Terminal to KLIA Domestic Terminal. Waiting for the arrival of the next train, my fellow colleagues (who went back to Malaysia with me) and I were forming a line at the frontest of the train entrance door. Well, a line looked like a line when there were about 2 minutes before the arrival of the train. However, once the train zoomed near the platform, the lines are now… wiggles! The entrants wanted to push their way in and the exiters wanted to gleam their way out. This reminds me of waiting in Champaign bus stations. Even during snowy days, people still care to line up. Not to mention them helping the less able to board the bus with the ramp-facility and trained dogs they have…

Another that disappoint me is our young generation - my generation. Contrary to my prior thinking, I thought this "lepak" culture was a sickness inherited from the hedonistic Western culture. Only after I returned to my homeland I realize that this is a unique sickness of our own. There, I rarely, if ever, see young teenagers (aging 11 - 17 years) loitering around malls, roadsides and bus stops. Here, it is almost like a ritual. I see the lepakers with bizarre guises and hairstyles, boys and girls, with perhaps their only activities are watching people passing by, chatting with themselves and teasing girl bypassers. In Chambana, I see these youngsters volunteering for charity groups and their school. Even if they sit still, they sit with a book in their hands. Oh adik-adikku… :(

Political situation… This is perhaps the most highlighted story of the day by our media, our bloggers and our storytellers. Let alone the judgment of sodomy and the Altantuya case issues to the side. What I want to highlight here is our political culture that is centralized on attacking personal characters rather than discussing on policy matters. No wonder what is defined as "newsworthy" in our 8pm Prime Time News is when our Parliamentarians exchange among themselves words such as "katak" and "barua" rather than an insightful speech about the problems of constant power outage in Sabah and the answer related to it. Do we need more of these?

Economic situation… Well, it is a shock to me when Utusan Malaysia a few days ago reported that our projected inflation rate is anywhere around 6-7%. What does that mean? It means that our money is shrinking in value. Even the high yield of Tabung Haji and ASB dividends are almost neutralized if that is true. Oil price? It is soaring… with the purchasing power of the people hardly able to catch up. Also, the food shortage (especially the rice) is a looming worry for the nation. The rice is getting expensive due to the international shortage and export limit imposed by rice-exporting nations. What next? I think we should plant our own food in our backyard.

Time to pen off for now.