Monday, October 25, 2010

I aim to be a traveler, not a mere tourist

One chapter in Anas Zubedy's The Quran and I caught my attention. Chapter 9: The Traveler. How he differentiated travelers into 3 categories. empty traveler, physical traveler and The Traveler. Empty one is described as the one going on trips with no preparation whatsoever. Physical traveler is the one traveling with all the equipments necessary to last a month, but with no heart or brain in it, just merely following the trail of the journey, taking a lot of his/her photos obscuring the views. and The Traveler, is the one who brings all that necessary without overdoing him/herself, and also participate and contribute something into that journey. or better yet, learn something from it. to quote the writer; 'a real traveler is a person who is physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepared. they went with a full tank, and came back with a bigger tank that cries for more. their tanks are forever enlarging. theirs are not just attending but also learning. theirs are not just attendance but also participation and contribution.'
I aim to be that kind of a traveler. not a mere tourist with albums or memory cards full of photographs, but brain and heart withhold nothing of value.
i do not travel a lot. i don't have that much time, nor resources. but when i do, i learn a great deal. might seem trivial to some people, but not to me.
a recent Cambodian trip taught me a lot. it taught me that there are always two sides of a story. i've been to a developed country. i've seen their technologies and quite caught with awe by it. but, the other side of the story is, there are underdeveloped countries in this world as well. and i can say i've been to one too.
the trip's original purpose was to help the people of a couple of Muslim villages. we were divided into two groups and i was in the group going to the village with its habitants already gathered in a small school. i regretted that we did not get to see how they live, but they still needed our help, whatever we could offer.

Whatever. We. Could. Offer.

these children went after the little snacks and trinkets we passed around like they had never seen them before. and maybe they hadn't. how many Malaysian kids you can say haven't eaten a packet of junk food his/her entire life before? be grateful. please.
One particular girl caught my attention more than the rest.

the girl holding on to her red bag tight with both her hands, securing everything that was given to her. she had the saddest expression on her face all the time, but she hardly begged. she just sat there when the rest of the kids swarmed around us with hands outstretched, waiting, hoping. being like that, however, she hardly got anything at all.
i tried to give her a packet of mamee once, but another girl tried to grab it right from her hand. i held on to the packet in her hand, until the other girl gave up and let go. she looked up at me and i tried to smile at her, although something changed in me. she quickly put the Mamee in her bag. i turned around and bit my lips, trying hard not to tear up. I can never look at a packet of mamee the same, ever again.
I remember at that time, images of my nieces and nephews came across my mind. how lucky they are, how they would never imagine to beg and push people around for a packet of junk food or a jelly. how lucky...
After we finished at the village, we went to the Killing Field or Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre, one of the places that proved the cruelty of the Khmer Rouge. to quote Wikipedia (oh, yeah, I googled), the Khmer Rouge was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, who were the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan. The regime led by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979 was known as the Democratic Kampuchea.
This organization is remembered primarily for its policy of social engineering, which resulted in Genocide, which is (quoting wikipedia, again) "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."
I never heard of that word, and never could imagine the cruelty it inflicted until i was there, standing at Killing Field which held 86 huge holes where this regime dumped almost 20,000 bodies of the Cambodian people they killed, mostly without any reason, at all. and these victims included women and children. there was a tree they claimed to be the one where babies were thrown at to die (1). there was a huge tree this cruel regime put speakers on, and played sound over and over again so people outside the camp wouldn't hear the agonizing screams of the victims inside (2).

A seventeen-storeyed memorial (3) was erected to house the skulls (4), bones and clothings of the victims they collected after a massive excavation from the holes. some holes held specific type of victims: without heads, naked bodies of children and women. one hole even held up to 450 bodies... and this is just from one killing field. history stated that during this regime, almost 1.7 million people were sacrificed to this cruel genocide.
seeing this tragic history, not so long ago, only a little more than 30 years ago, its no wonder that Cambodia is as it is today. the people are still trying to recover, are still staggering and trying to regain their footing, economically and socially. and they make do with whatever they have.

the pic on the right is one type of the mode of transportation they have besides the famous tut-tut. people sit on the planks like they sit in a bus. i couldn't take a clear pic of the vehicle (i don't even know what it's called) with people on it, so i took the one without.

Adults trying to make do with their lives and children with nothing better to do, running around, some shirtless, some dirtier than the other, with no clear understanding of what their lives are missing.
And this was the scenery that greeted us almost all along our journey. houses which we could barely call home, seeing the poor condition they are in. due to floods that come every end of the year (according to our fluently malay-spoken, Cambodian tour guide, Encik Ansari), most of the houses are built high above the ground.

it was a difficult sight to behold, a hard experience to swallow.
but, yeah, we had fun. we rode in tut-tut, went to Siem Reap to see the famous Angkor Watt and we shopped too. Cambodia is famous for its original precious stones (which i had no freaking idea how to buy) that come with much cheaper price (i was told) than what you get in Malaysia. and since we traveled a 6-hours journey by bus to Ho Chi Minh on our way back to Malaysia through Vietnam (by plane, of course) i took the opportunity to buy some cotton fabrics and telekung there for my sisters too. and some shirts for my parents, brothers and nieces and nephews.
but, the cheerful physical things i brought back couldn't really mirror the not-so-cheerful mental memories i keep with me. i might be in a shock. i did not expect it to be the way it was. but heck, i learned. a lot. it was, in a cruel way i might say, a wonderful experience. one, i am impatient to experience again. and again. and again. honest.
so, yeah, i aim to be that kind of a traveler. the real traveler who is "physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepared. the one that goes with a full tank and comes back with a bigger tank that cries for more. the one who is not just attendance, but also participation and contribution. the one who is not just attending, but also learning".
and yeah, there's more yet to see, more yet to learn.
'Maka bukan sedikit negeri-negeri yang Kami binasakan dengan sebab kezaliman penduduknya, lalu runtuh ranaplah bangunan-bangunannya dan bukan sedikit pula telaga yang telah terbiar dan istana yang tersergam (telah kosong, ditinggalkan). Oleh itu, bukankah ada baiknya mereka mengembara di muka bumi supaya dengan melihat kesan-kesan yang tersebut mereka menjadi orang-orang yang ada hati yang dengannya mereka dapat memahami atau ada telinga yang dengannya mereka dapat mendengar? (Tetapi kalaulah mereka mengembara pun tidak juga berguna) kerana keadaan yang sebenarnya bukanlah mata kepala yang buta, tetapi yang buta itu ialah mata hati yang ada di dalam dada.' (Surah Al-Hajj, ayat 45-46).
Moga kita menjadi orang yang belajar dan menghayati dengan hati, bukan sekadar melihat dengan mata, kemudian lupa, mendengar dengan telinga kemudian alpa.
Open our eyes, open our minds, but most important of all, open our hearts.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My thoughts on flying

random entry, yeah, i know. my babble, whatever.
flying... seeing that word i always picture freedom. i guess the word fly, the image of a bird soaring happily in the sky defines freedom, eh? no one can catch it when it's on air, no one can grasp it, unless someone is cruel enough to shoot it down.
okay, moving on. why this sudden topic?
i've been trying to write about this particular passion of mine for so long, only now that the right time came up.
i love to fly.
no, i don't have wings (rolling eyes), i'm still human, and thus human needs help to fly. hence, the airplanes.
i bet whoever invented airplanes (was it the Wrights' Brothers? i forgot), did a lot of study on birds. their aerodynamic shapes, their physical abilities, their intuitions. and who invents these creations which don't need help whatsoever to fly? yup, Subhanallah... everything comes from Him and always goes back to Him.
so, airplanes. I like airplanes. i like flying. some people admit of having the fear of flying (i seriously don't know the scientific name of that phobia), but i love it.
my first time of boarding an airplane and flying was when i was in standard two, eight years old. it was my first trip much further than the one i usually took. me and my parents went to Langkawi and came back to KL by airplane! i still remember the excited look my father had when he first told me we're going to fly! and seeing that was my first trip on the plane, it was only natural that i wanted to know everything about it. i was even curious on what was going on in the pilot's cabin. and seeing the excitement on my face one particular steward was quite smitten by me (hahaha... perasan mode!), he gave me a huge MAS paperbag containing everything, from pens, notepads, playing cards, and a huge box of orange juice they used to serve to the passengers! and yes, from that moment on, i fell in love -sadly not with the steward, gila hapa, i was eight years old!!- but with flying in an airplane.
yeah.. i guess first impression does count, uh?
during those childhood times, i used to hate having to sit at the wings. because i was such a spoiled daughter, i usually got the window seat and not much can be seen when you're sitting at the window looking out at the wings. worse if you got the emergency seats, you got to look out at nothing since the seats are set further than the windows to allow for opening the emergency doors if the need arises.
but, as i grow older, i find myself looking forward to sitting at the window seat besides the wings, but still very much prefer not to be the emergency seat.
because, believe it or not, i love watching the wings, now. yeah, weird. peculiar. a bit mentally off. whatever you say. not budging me one bit.
i love the wings. i especially love watching them during take-offs and landings. Landings, mostly. you probably do not notice this, but right before landing, two noisy sounds can be heard from the airplane. one is the time when the tires start to come out from under the belly of the plane and the other is the one when the wings widened. i seriously don't know the technical significant of this mechanism, i sure as heck don't know the technical term of it, but i love watching the flaps (let's call them the flaps, shall we?) of the wings as they go up when the plane lands because the air rushes at them from down under. i know people who fear landings and take-offs, but i love them. because of this. and the feeling you get when the plane lands smoothly on the airway. the relief and happiness that you made it safe back on the ground. i find myself always smiling when landing.
and in a more poetic note, flying symbolizes something else to me too. in a way it defines life. and the journey you took in your life. the part when you 'take -off' in life, going somewhere, sometimes not even knowing what you're going to face. and yeah, when you're on air, do you know what else you're going to face besides clouds? nope. there might be a sight of the most beautiful rainbow you've ever seen, there might be peculiar shapes of the clouds that remind you of something, there might be a spectrum of color you've never seen before shining through to you. but, there might also be turbulences, there might also be sudden storm or thunder or peltering rains, there might also be a strong shake that makes you grasp the side of your seat tighter. there might be a lot of things. in life, also, there might be a lot of things you're gonna face. unexpected things, most of the time. there might be good, there might be bad. and you go on flying through it all. because you have to. there's no other way. that is the only way you'll learn. the only way to reach your destination. your goal. your landing spot. and when you do land, when those flaps go up and those tires touch the road, you smile. because even in life, when you succeed in all those things you face (happily dubbed with flying colours), either it be turbulences or rainbow, you feel relieved, happy, stress-free. and you'll smile. you will smile like i do everytime i land and watch those flaps go up. the feeling is mutual, i tell you.
that, my friend, is my thoughts on flying. :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Linkin Park

just as i promised, see?
so, what is the history behind Linkin Park? no, i'm not going to tell you when or where or how they were born, seriously no (rolling eyes), but, i'll tell you how i got hooked with them.
to be perfectly honest, i din't grow up with them in my teen years. when a few of my matrix friends were quoting and rapping In The End, i laughed and shook my head at them, finding the absurdity of the situation where two teenage girls were so hooked up to some band babbling about an ending.
it took me a year after that to realize that they are not just some band.
it was my first year in uni. my first semester as a pharmacy student. i enrollled a month later than the rest of my classmates, i was a tesl student before that. i guess the late situation stressed me out. i was afraid of being left too far behind in study, and mind you, it's a pharmacy course. Pharmacy. tough one, seriously. and i mean, seriously.
so, i had this roommate. i couldn't remember her real name now (people's names always elude me, but i remember familiar faces. i guess i'm more of 'a face person' than 'a name person', if you know what i mean). she asked her friends to call her Sookie, after that cute, chubby character in Gilmore Girls, and she was the one, i mean Sookie my roommate, not Sookie from the Gilmore Girls, who introduced me, formally, to Linkin Park.
no, i didn't literally shake hands with Shinoda or Chester, are you crazy?!
okay, sorry about that.
Sookie took IT course. she was a cool and relaxed person, always finding something to laugh about and a hopeless romantic who fell for Shane West in A Walk to Remember. strangely enough, she also fell for Linkin Park. and dragged me along with her. heh.
i guess she grew tired of me groaning every time i study, that she handed me Hybrid Theory cassette one fine morning. to shut me up, or to calm me down, i seriously don't know which one was her true intention. i think that was how i remembered the first time i truly listened to Linkin Park. i couldn't remember any other method of introduction. and as i listened to the band screaming and tearing my eardrums apart, with Sookie grinning knowingly at her side of the room, i fell in love. muahahaha! what a way to say it, but i just did. a bit too late since the band was already established and famous through out all the world, but there i was, grinning from one ear to the other along with her.
and yeah, i did babble along with Mike and Chester for In The End after that, got problem with it, huh?
soon after that i found myself borrowing Hybrid Theory and Meteora from Sookie more time than i could count and then finding my own way, i bought those two albums and another one too, The Reanimation. which quickly became my favorite one. it's an electronically re-mastered, remix of Hybrid Theory, actually, but there was one particular song, Wth> You, which got me hooked on that album. it's romantic. heh, not a way you would describe Linkin Park, i'd say, but that song is just that. here's a snippet of its lyric:
It's true the way I feel
Was promised by your face
The sound of your voice
Painted on my memories
Even if you're not with me
I'm with you
You now I see keeping everything inside

With you
You now I see even when I close my eyes
With you
You now I see keeping everything inside
With you
You now I see even when I close my eyes..
this is basically the same lyric as the original version. sweet, huh? and here is a snippet of the added version for the remix version, even more romantic... :) (please, don't laugh):
It ain't like me to beg on my knees
Oh, please oh baby please
That's not how i'm doing things
No i'm not upset, no i'm not angry
I know love is love, love
but sometimes it pains me
I'm never without you,
i'll always be with you
You'll never forget me, i'm keeping you with me...
there. listening to that, i always imagine Shinoda kneeling and pleading and that never fails to bring a smile to my face. heh.
after Meteora, they went on tour, produced tour albums, did collaboration works with Jay-Z, and Shinoda went on rapping with Styles of Beyond and produced Rising Tied under the name Fort Minor, which also was a hit. i bet you've heard of Where'd You Go and Believe Me. but the song in that album which held quite a memory for me was The Hard Way. nice one. you can't put together rapping and melancholy music in the same sentence until you heard that song. and all this while Linkin Park went on a hiatus. for four years since their last official albums.
and then, like the spectacular band that they are, they came out with Minutes to Midnight in 2007. my final year at uni. tough final year. Thank God for these guys who finally came out of their cave, heh! i bought the cd and dvd of the band doing their work to produce that particular album. they had to go to a secluded house and drilled themselves for the work. it was hillarious watching them went through the process, heh. out of more than a hundred songs written by everyone in the band, not just Shinoda and Chester, but Rob, Brad, Phoenix and also Mr Hahn contributing, twelve songs were finally agreed upon to be produced and What I've Done became the first single and was such a hit, it was also in the Transformer's first soundtrax. and became my permanent wake-up call too. literally and figuratively. literally because it is and still is the song of my alarm clock (ngehngehngeh), and figuratively because it's the song of regrets and moving ons. something i'm too, very much familiar with.
but the song that touches me deeply from that particular album is Leave Out All The Rest. i'm sure you've heard it. final single, i think, from that album. and also included in Twilight's soundtrax. not such a fan of that particular saga, so i'm not going to elaborate on that boring movie, heh! anyway, LOATR is also a song about moving on. about leaving something good behind. good memories. good deeds. so, yeah, we have our bad moments, we have our bad judgement, we have our bad mistakes. but leaving all those out and just taking or remembering the good ones is not such an easy task to do, ey? that's what the song tells us to try to do, actually. nice, huh?
this album, Minutes to Midnight, to veteran fans of Linkin Park might not really be what they expected. they expected it to be like Hybrid Theory and Meteora, headbanging and screaming and tearing your heart apart. this one is quite the opposite. not so much headbanging, not so much screaming. but the lyrics can tell you the reason why. they've matured up. after four years, they became adults who see things differently. they scolded the ironic situation where people can pray and still get into a war and bomb a mosque (Hands Held High). they became sensitive people who were touched by a catastrophe like the hurricane Katrina and wrote a song about it (The Little Things Give You Away). in a way, i could relate to that. because i've matured up too. and that's why i love the band so much. even they admitted in the album that they aimed to come out of their comfort zone, something i could relate to, too, and they succeeded with this one.
i might not grow up with them in my teen years, but they grow up along with me now.
and this year, in September, out came A Thousand Suns. again, people have numerous comments about this one. i read them in their official website, more than one person is dissatisfied, saying they want more along the line of the first album. a reply i liked about that complain came from another fan who said that as a fan, we should appreciate the band, not just one particular album. we're a fan of the band, not just an album. if we said we only like one particular album, we're not really a fan of that band, just of that particular tracks of songs. i agree with that. if you truly like a band, a true fan, you'll appreciate everything they have to offer. any changes. any new improvements. and Linkin Park improves, a lot. to my best knowledge. and so, i'm still a die-hard fan of them. :)
speaking about A Thousand Suns, it really is something different. the first time i heard it, i have to admit, i was not very much impressed. but i expected that. after Minutes to Midnight, they got quite a lot of work to measure up. but after a replay, i already got the song i put on repeat one. heh. Waiting for The End, their second single is terrific. the lyrics is something i could really relate to these days, talking about moving on (again), and how desperate it is to just want something different from what we have now. i am in that situation now, so that song struck a strong chore in my heart.
the rest of the tracks is not bad, either. i even found my 'feel good song' from this album, When They Come For Me. its music is a happy tune and the lyric is, ehem, funny, that i always smile listening to it. each song has its own uniqueness, its own trademark sound, although i do wish for more complete songs rather than talks and instrumentals. but then, i enjoy the album all the same, still.
they've matured up. we could see that in their lyrics, hear that in their music.
the reason that i like them so much is that they ackowledge the presence of God. you can hear that in The Catalyst, their first single from A Thousand Suns. they ackowledge that people sin. and they ackowledge that only God can help us. can forgive us. they might not believe what we believe, but it's much better than songs saying making a wish to a star or an airplane, for that matter, because this kind of lyrics is dangerous. it might deviate us from what we should believe in without us realising it. we should only wish to Allah, pray to Him, what do we need an airplane to change into a star for, right? the music might sound nice, ear-catching, but i prefer to listen to what they're saying, what the lyric is all about, the story behind a song. i prefer to be careful that way.
so far, Linkin Park's lyrics are okay. scratch the cursing parts, most of what they're trying to say is that the world is coming to its end. something we all are aware of, but not that prepared for. they are trying to help us realize that better. not many people would take it that way, but i do. in some twisted, poetic way of mine, i'd say that Linkin Park and i have the same opinion about the world these days. how we keep on doing the wrong things and do not realize that all those catastrophe happening are God's signs that what we're doing are wrong. it's a difficult lesson, trying to fathom that.
now, what more can you ask from a band that you love, to prove to you?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Good bye September...

okay, i planned to post this yesterday. but knowing me these days, i'm not so much of a writer. much less a blogger. which would answer your unspoken question on why i have been missing these past days... eheh...
so, SePtEmBeR... tell you a secret, i have always loved september. i dunno why, or maybe i do.. it's because i celebrate my birthday every 1st of september, and almost always, through out the month, i'll be very happy, claiming it MY month. heh... a bit crazy, if you ask me, but what the heck?
but then, this year's September proved to be much more challenging a month than the rest of its predecessor.
it started off with the end of Ramadhan and i looked forward to the house swarming with my siblings and nephews and nieces on raya. a tad bit late since the house was only full on the fourth day of raya but still it was a happy raya. one of the happiest, i would say, and we also took family picture this year, with everyone in it, yeay! (which is not yet done, though, duh! :( ) anyway, that was the good part of it. the good part of september this year.
the not-so-good part of it was just lurking around the corner...
so, i have to take over some extra work from my colleague who was going for her maternity leave. she safely gave birth to a baby boy on 3rd of september, friday, the date of my last post. even that one particular post was a trial for me. that shocking news... and happened in september too... :(
moving on. the work. i must admit, i didn't look forward to it. this colleague of mine is in charge of the buying and supplying of medicines and medical supplies, something i sure as heck not familiar with. challenging. very. i have to learn something completely new and alien to me. but, i like the learning part. because i always like to learn something new. the responsibility that comes with it, the answers i need to have prepared for the big boss to ask me questions, and the reports i need to do are the things which pretty much scared me after raya. heh... so far, i took it in a stride. almost well, staggered a little here and there, but pretty much it was a smooth ride, Alhamdulillah.
which brings us to the next not-so-good thing. my boss is transferred away!!!!!!! uuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!!!!!!! uurgghhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! sooooooooo saaaaaaaaad!!!!!!!!!!!
okay, enough howling.
that howl is not supposed to be on sarcastic note, mind you. i'm genuinely sad my boss is moving away, i barely slept for weeks. and when i did sleep, i dreamed of the transfer. pathetic. yeah. i couldn't help it. my boss is practically one of the nicest, coolest, calmest person i ever met, and believe me i haven't met that many people like her. and i ask you, how many woman do you know can be a nice, cool and calm boss? heh, yeah, you get me there. even i am not such a nice, cool and calm person, and i'm not even a boss yet, hah!
the transfer is kinda sudden, quite a blow, i would say. it's a good thing for her, because she gets to work closer to home. not such a good thing for us here i would say, stuck with uncertainty about the one replacing her. lets just say, the first week was like a quiet storm brewing in, waiting impatiently to swarm us all in its swirling thunder, rain and lightning. heh. i guess we've been living too long under the sunshine, we were pretty much caught off guard when the storm decided to crash in. don't understand the metaphors? heh, good. i don't intend to elaborate, anyway.
it's changing season. and it happens in september. my favorite month of every year. it's pretty much a lot of things to take in, all at once, i'm not all that sure i can do that. i guess it's time for me to get the heck out of that comfort zone, ey? be vulnerable again? be cautious again? not such a good idea to look forward to... :(
but then, people don't say life's a cycle for no good, concrete reason, right? it is a cycle, and you can't be stuck at the top all life long. you'll go down, once in a while, and only when you're down, you'll struggle harder to make it back to the top, right? oh, yeah, again with the metaphors. sorry. what i mean is, life or destiny or fate or more correctly, God has to push you down, once in a while, force you out of that comfort zone, blanket you with darkness and block out the light once in a while, so that you can reevaluate your life. your value. your purpose. right? you'll put on effort you haven't tried before. you work harder, you work longer, you think faster, you become smarter, just to get yourself back on top. and then you find reason behind God's beautiful creation of day and night. the creation to lead us to think that not all things go on as they are. they take turn. day and night. rain and dry. top and bottom. sunshine and storm. all under His will. to make us think. us, who are blessed with the beautiful creation we call akal. beautiful, isn't it?
so, i'd say, september this year brings me a lot of new things to ponder. september this year leads me to reevaluate myself. find my value. find my purpose. find Him. :)
it's still a sad goodbye. september will always be my favourite month of every year, though this year's proved to be much more challenging, it broadens my perspective too. it teaches me to take good and bad things in a stride, believing with all my heart that He will help me all along. and when you believe that, what else matters? right? yeah... :)

p/s: by the way, Linkin Park's new album came out on 14th of september, so that's another good thing about this year's september, heh. am listening to it right now, in fact. i'll tell you all about it in the next post, okay... :P