Monday, September 29, 2008

Eid and sunrises

We’re celebrating eid on Tuesday over here- a heartfelt wish to my Muslim brothers and sisters all over the world. Ramadhan, as always, elapse fleetingly, and I am routinely left wondering whether I have truly made the most of this period of bounty and mercy.

First day of Syawal will be observed within the four walls of our mobster of a lecturer’s room, trembling from fear of being the next victim of her ‘constructive criticism’. Haha. I made her sound quite criminal, but she’s not, really. She just scowls instead of smiles, and does not practice filtration of thoughts, is all. Oh and don’t try to act smart unless you’re sure, or she may start to question your worth as a human being. These trivia swept aside though, she’s a brilliant doctor and teacher. I just wish our Opthalmology classes had ended before Syawal- next cycle is pretty stress-free- so that we can have a proper celebration.

We’re going through quite a chilly autumn now, as opposed to last autumn at this time of year. Green colour still dominates, although the shade gets duller by the day. I’m coveting the sight of my favourite season here- seas of golden leaves with blushes of crimson speckled in between. It’s the best time for choosing to walk back home from classes- the best time for appreciating the delicacy of nature, as the weather is neither too cold nor too hot for comfort. The sun rises later, giving you a chance to get a glimpse of its glory (no similar chance during summer- unless you’re an owl).

I’ve seen so many sunrises here, more than I’ve ever had back in Malaysia. As seasons trade places, so do my sleeping and waking time, and thus, for a variety of reasons, I consider watching the sunrise most opportune during late autumn and early winter, and exam time in summer (when you magically transform into an owl). For the past three years I’ve lived in this side of the building, facing the sunrise. And all this while, I’ve been longing to switch to the other side towards the sunset. For I’ve always thought that sunsets are prettier than sunrises, and the sunsets here are really something to behold of. Imagine a rainbow the size of the sky.

When it comes down to it, I can watch the sunset every day easily as my sister’s room is just on the opposite side- she indulges in the wonder every day. But I don’t. For the most part, it’s due to lack of attentiveness- the sky will almost always have gone dark when I come to notice about time. But also, I love the moment when I suddenly come across the sunset once in a while- the surge of amazement at such an ornate mesh of colours profiling the sky. I doubt the feeling of awe will recede by watching it every day, but occasions do make things appear more special.

In spite of it, however, I still wish I can watch the sunset every day- some things I believe won’t lose their magic even through constant repetition, and sunsets are one of them.

For now though, I’m perfectly content with beautiful sunrises.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Tempest

Salam Ramadhan everyone.

Two months later and it might feel like I’ve lost my grasp on the writing habit- you know what they say after a continuous 40 days of doing something (or not doing something, for that matter). But old habits die hard, and I’ve been itching since roughly five weeks ago to phrase my thoughts into coherent writing. Suffice to say that I’ve failed, miserably, which says a lot about my current state of mind- incomprehensible. I’m strangely in high spirits, but not the kind that gets you jumping up and down the floor screaming your heads off- more like lying-down-on-bed-dreaming kind of happy. I’m not very happy with the lack of words forming in my head though- swimming around merrily, but always out of reach. A brick wall inside your head is so not convenient.

So since I’ve been sidelined by my own head, I’d better be efficient- I’ll compartmentalise this post into appropriate moments that best illustrate the past two months I’ve been missing.

Best moment(s): every waking moment at home- I’ve been more ‘domestic’ than ever this holiday, traveling only to KL a few times for some grinding legal matters, meeting family and friends… but still it’s the best holiday so far (although I thought the same last year, and the year before too). The Olympics were so much fun and I found myself watching events that I never had much before, like archery and rowing, alongside favourite ones like football, tennis, swimming, badminton, and gymnastics. Other seemingly mundane stuff like eating out, taking pictures along the beach near the house, going to the local pasar malam, and sweating it out at Bukit Pelindung, were enough to make me one contented person.

With Tiey and Mant.

With Bihah and Mant.

With Erfa. Nice chocolate nectar eh, Pa? *laughs*

Worst moment(s):
I don’t think it need be spelt, but well, I‘ll do it for effect. Hehe. The last day on home soil wins hands down as my worst moment this year, even. Summer holidays puzzlingly felt like they were getting shorter and shorter each coming year and by the end of it this time, I was totally caught by surprise. August especially, flew by unnervingly. So, the usual drama at the airport took place (I warned my dad beforehand not to make me cry this time, but he did, again. Argh.), plus another drama involving overweight luggages (we’re students! Give us some leeway!), and another involving that unfortunate time of month- all of which combined to make me one depressed traveler. Oh and, as always, I strained from the urge to vomit right before touching down on my final destination- what was with all the fancy motions by the plane anyway? It occurs every single time I fly, at the same location. Twilight zone stuff.

With family at KLIA before departure.

Funniest moment(s): I’ve retold this story over and over again, and I still find it tickling to the bones. There was a health awareness program at the clinic where my father worked and I accompanied him there for the day. A blood drive was held, and so I went to donate mine. The medical assistant there asked me random questions whilst poking me with the giant needle- my place of study, course, etc. Afterwards he got up to the nurses gathering nearby and jokingly said that someone came from Russia, referring to me. Not long after, a nurse came to my side, smiled, and asked, “Can you speak Malay?” Puzzled, all I could utter was “uh?” and she good-naturedly repeated her question before the situation sank in. I stifled the urge to laugh as I sheepishly answered her question to the affirmation. She then realised her misconception and gave an embarrassed laugh, together with practically everyone within a two-metre radius. Jeez, someone actually took me for a Russian, which was a hoot, considering how many Russians would normally stare at me like I couldn’t get more alien. Haha.

Weirdest moment(s): Have you seen a tapir other than the ones at the zoo? And two days in a row? I happened to see one at my grandfather’s orchard as he ran towards us before fleeing the other direction. The white saddle of his body startled me- he truly looked like a giant baby in a napkin. The very next day, I followed my dad to work (in Kerteh) and on the way back we saw a dead tapir by the roadside, appearing to have been hit by a car. There were cliffs at either side of the road with dividers alongside it, so it seemed unlikely that the tapir was attempting to cross the road in front of a car- he must have been hit whilst going along the road, a situation that seemed bizarre anyways. The weird encounters piqued my interest in the well-being of these cute animals. I know tapirs are endangered and protected animals, but unlike many other similarly-fated creatures in the past and present, these guys are not being hunted to extinction- they are essentially being driven out of their habitats due to deforestation for developmental purposes. What use is the protected status if they’re being actively rendered homeless by the authorities anyway? Do these people think tapirs find it fun to take a stroll across highways?

Sometimes people can just be infuriatingly ignorant about the welfare of our less-intelligent cohabitants. I can’t expect everyone to go gushy over a cute cat, sure, but at least practice some civilisation, if not compassion. Those who think it’s amusing to drill holes into a spider’s abode for instance, think again, this time using your brain. Would you like this to be done to you? Being ousted from your home and worse still, you can’t even say anything about it? Animals may lack higher cognitive functions that humans possess, but they know when we are being cruel to them. Unlike us, they are not capable of being cruel. So where’s the sense of shame? It’s not the fact that you see me as an animal lover- if treating these lovable creatures with justice and respect they deserve is solely the task of an animal lover, then every single one of us should become one. Enough of the unkindness and warped sense of superiority. Please.

Scariest moment(s): A tie between going past Bukit Bauk in Kerteh and my ambulatory exam second week of the current semester. My father told me the story of Bukit Bauk, a place so haunted people who went there came back suffering from fits of hysteria. The recreational park built at the foot of hill had been abandoned as nobody dared to come close to it. Every motorist going to Dungun though, must pass the entrance to the park, and even this near-encounter had caused some tingly experiences for many. So when my father and I were spending the night at Dungun due to the health awareness program the following day, I was naturally terrified at the thought of passing by the hill. Thankfully nothing happened, but my heart was doing double-twists the whole way, which I was sure had nothing to do with the works of supernatural creatures. My father, however, said he had intense headache as we drove past the infamous area. I made a silent vow not to ever go through this experience again.

The exam was an entirely different matter- we were all not really aware of its existence other than its existence (meaning we knew there would be an exam but were vague on the details), and all of a sudden we were doing practical reports and slammed with tens of questions about emergency medicine for the exam, all in a span of three days. I didn’t exactly nail it, enough to say, but it could have gone worse. And lucky I had the nice old lady for examiner. ;p

Special moments that made the holiday different:
visiting my Quran teachers, old headmaster and great-grandmother. The first ustaz, Ustaz Yusof, had taught me Quran since I was little (about four I think) until I reached standard six, when he became ill and stopped teaching altogether. He was the one who taught me the proper way to recite the Quran, with precise makhraj and tajwid, and I couldn’t thank him enough for that. His strictness (always with a cane in hand) made us work harder; any moment of daydreaming would be swiftly halted by his booming, scolding voice.

Ustaz Hussein, in contrast, was very gentle n soft-spoken. He taught me the art of taranum, and a bit of berzanji. I first had a dream of me visiting him this holiday and immediately asked my dad about the plan, and thought of visiting the other two influential persons in my life as well. Seeing him for the first time after a few years made my eyes welled up with tears- he looked very thin and frail, walking with the aid of a walking frame. And as a result of his conditions, he didn’t remember every single one of us, even after we prompted him with details. I felt a mixture of sadness and happiness as we talked; sad to see him unwell and so thin (he used to be a little plump), happy to be able to see him again. It didn’t matter very much that he didn’t remember me anymore, I just wished him well and always under Allah’s blessings and protection.

Meeting Ustaz Yusof was a merrier event- he seemed healthy and in good spirits. We drank tea as we listened to his childhood stories, mainly about how he came to choose to study religion instead of more ‘academic’ courses, as he was one of the top students in his state at the time. When we were leaving, he broke into tears as he hugged my brother, and as I watched, I too, had to wipe away a tear or two. Elder people are easy to please- a simple visit like this is enough to make them feel so happy and appreciated, something that we younger people have to learn a lot from. Ustaz Hussein even said, “bila orang ziarah, rasa mcm ubat kepada penyakit kita.” Let’s be more grateful for what others have done to us, no matter how small the deed is.

Next destination: my old headmaster, whom I called mudir (‘headmaster’ in Arabic). He fell sick not a while ago, but when we met him he appeared to be his positive and smiling self. I looked up to him when I was a scruffy standard-one student- I would wait for him to arrive at school in his red proton saga and open his door for him. He would then thank me profusely and search his pockets for a RM1 coin to give me as a reward, and made my day. He was my English teacher, and a very good one at that. But more importantly, he was a great motivator- always encouraging me to expand my abilities further, be it in English or other subjects, by entering writing and oratory competitions, and even offered me to skip a grade once (it was a private school so that was possible). In short, he was my unofficial mentor, something not any teacher could simply be.

We took pictures with all three of them, and all of them had one common remark when asked for it- “Kena pakai cantik-cantik sikit…!” Ustaz Yusof even insisted to change his shirt and put on his serban. Hehe.

My sister, brother, and I with ustaz Hussein and his wife.

With Ustaz Yusof.

With Mudir.

I am not one of those students who are very close to their teachers; those who ask a lot of questions, confide in them with their problems, and even have their telephone numbers at hand… that’s not me. I prefer to ask my friends before resorting to the teacher (something that my mother wasn’t very happy with- “Always ask your teachers!” Hehe) and I keep my polite distance from them, save a very few. It’s not that I don’t value them much- I do- but I don’t know… perhaps because I was quite the rebel and often got into trouble with some teachers (minor stuff, nothing quite tragic). But anyway, I do appreciate my teachers and I want to visit them at my old schools, but due to my aforesaid states of relationship with most of them, I’d rather be accompanied by friends and visit as a group. So friends who read this, let’s do it sometime, alright? ;)

The last event I would like to mention is the visit to my great-grandmother’s place in Muar. My sister and I went with our grandparents on a day’s visit. She was the mother of my mother’s father, and, according to her identification card, she turned 100 this year (which was a bit far-fetched- she was more like 90). When we met her, she was in an amazingly good shape, her memory more than anything else. She remembered us clearly, what we were up to, and asked the well-being of each of our siblings. We stayed for lunch and went back to KL that evening.

I didn’t meet a lot of my friends this time, but I got to meet people from the older generation instead, which was just as swell. I might sound a bit dramatic in my accounts, but I did feel quite emotional during those visits, something that I tried to somewhat conceal at the time. I pray to Allah s.w.t to bless all these good people and put them amongst the righteous in the hereafter.

So there. An attempted short report made long. Excuse my plain and crude language, I’m writing this during a very demanding rotation with a lecturer whose remarks and expressions remind me of the Wicked Witch of The West, or bitter lemon. She’s a very good teacher though, but I still doubt I’ll ever consider choosing Ophthalmology as a specialty. Hehe.

Alright, I’m off to cook for iftar. I wish everyone a very happy and meaningful last ten days of Ramadhan, and special wish goes to my mother, father, brothers Muhammad and Luqman, sister Aliah; grandparents Aki, Tok Siah, Tok Mat and Tok Ampang; Acik, Ateh, Acu, Ummi Cik, Aunty Og, Aunty Ita, Aunty Hanis, and their respective families; Aunty Dah, Ibu, and all my friends… I’m sorry if I missed anyone. I guess this is my version of Salam Perantau.;p

My mum and dad... they celebrated their 24th anniversary on September 9th. May Allah bless both of you always. ;)

Ps: Today (22nd September) marks our 3rd anniversary of coming to Russia by the way. =)
Pps: Is this like, my longest post ever? *cackles*