THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)
Malaysia Flag Pictures, Images and Photos

Monday, 31 August 2009

Selamat Menyambut Ulangtahun Kemerdekaan!

Hayati dan syukurilah kemerdekaan yang dikecapi...

Thursday, 27 August 2009

The escape: Part 1 (updated)

After discussing things over with Anita on Wednesday, and after I offered to pay for her bus ticket, Anita had actually wanted to leave her sister's house on that very same day.

I told Anita not to rush things. I didn't want her to pack her things in a rush as she may end up forgetting the important things, like her birth cert and ARV medication. She had after all managed to endure her sister & her guy(the so-called hubby, or "jantan tu", that's what Anita called him) for so long, just bear it for one more night. Besides, we weren't even sure what time the bus to the intended town would be available. So we both went to the bus station to buy her a ticket.

After checking through each ticket counter, I finally approached one counter and asked for a morning bus. The guy at the counter at first suggested 9.30 am, but that would be too early.

You see, since Anita's sister and her guy would leave home by 9 am to go to work, and since Anita wanted to leave without their knowledge, I would have to fetch Anita after 9 am. I wouldn't be able to get Anita to the bus station on time if we were to buy the 9.30 bus. So we opted for the 10.30 am bus.

After buying the ticket and after finalising our plans, I sent Anita back to her sister's house. But Anita didn't want me to send her right to her house. When she went for her hospital appointment, she left her son under the care of the guy's mother, who stays just nearby. Anita didn't want the guy's mother to notice my car. Even though the lady is innocent and oblivious to whatever's happening in the house, she may just later in the day innocently ask in front of Anita's sister who I was.

Nope, that had to be avoided, so I dropped Anita off at a nearby petrol station.

I promised Anita I'd fetch her by 9.30 am. So this morning, about 9 am, I left my office to fetch Anita. I got there at about 9.20 am. Duh, there was some sort of a pasar pagi there, making me confused as to which way to take to get to Anita's sister's house. Suddenly I saw amongst the crowd - Anita and her baby coming my way. She figured I may not be able find my way and decided to come out to look for me.

She got in the car and showed me the way to get to the house, as her things were still there. It would be difficult for her to carry everything, with a baby in tow. I just stopped for a while outside the house, and while I held her cute, chubby and playful baby boy, Anita went in the gate to get her things. She had one bag of clothes and one paper bag of milk powder. No, she didn't intend to bring all the things with her on the bus. With her chubby boy, it would be difficult for her to carry so many things.

So the big bag and the milk powder were left in my car while Anita herself brought another small bag consisting of just enough things to last her and the baby boy for about 2 days at the other sister's house.

Coincidentally in the morning, before Anita's sister and her guy went off to work, Anita was tidying up the house (she's being treated like a maid in the house - no, a slave... a maid at least gets paid!) and accidentally knocked the guy's handphone to the floor. Apa lagi, mengamuklah both the sister and the guy! Again, the sister told her to berambus, and said, "Tengahari ni aku tak nak tengok muka engko kat rumah ni!" Hmmm...

Well, she got what she wished for. This morning's escape went rather smoothly. We got to the bus station on time and Anita and her baby managed to get on the bus without much trouble.

So much for part 1 of the escape. I wonder what her sister is thinking now. While she may have gotten what she wished for, frankly I think she still wanted Anita around - as her slave. All the while, Anita had been doing all the house work and even having to serve them their food. And believe it or not, Anita and her baby had been sleeping in their little store room in the kitchen! (There were other rooms upstairs.)

Now the sister will have to do the housework herself.

Part 2 of the escape? That will have to wait until Anita comes back to Ipoh from the other sister's house, if she comes back, that is. I don't think Anita herself will run off just like that - since most of her things are still in my car. I'm just concerned what will happen at the other sister's house. Will that sister be asking too many questions I wonder...

*Update: Just received a call from Anita this morning. She safely arrived last night, but since she needed to get on another bus to go to her sister's place in another small town, she slept at a makcik's (a distant relative) house. The makcik told her that Anita's sister (the one that Anita intended to seek help from) had passed away quite some time ago. And nobody told her about it?? Aduh, how much more cerita Melayu can this get?!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Escape from hell?

I finally met up with Anita today to listen to her problems. She called me at 1 pm just as I left my office. Perfect timing. I told her to wait at the hospital's main entrance and look out for my Kenari. I had only met her once before, that was some time last year, and wasn't really sure if I'd be able to recognise her this time.

But as I got to the hospital, there she was, standing away from the others, making it easy for me to spot. So I told her to get into my car and we'd chat as I drove. We couldn't stop for lunch anyway, could we? :)

OK, so what are Anita's problems?

If you had followed Anita's story here, you'd know that Anita didn't have an IC due to some problems with her citizenship status. Just to recap for those too lazy to follow the link, Anita's mother was a Singaporean who married a Malaysian and eventually got a Malaysian citizenship. However, in Anita's birth cert, her mother's citizenship was indicated as Singaporean. Shouldn't be a problem if her father's a Malaysian, right? Well, Anita has a different father. An Indonesian. And so in Anita's BC, it was indicated that her father was Indonesian and mother Singaporean. That makes Anita a non-citizen. Her mother was in the process of doing all the necessary statutory declarations to correct Anita's BC, but before that was done, her mother died. Her father? Nobody seemed to know where he is. And the matter was left hanging just like that.

The last time we went to visit, we were told by the sister (with whom Anita is staying) that the sisters were willing to help - just tell them what to do. After finding out from JPN, my colleague informed Anita and her sister of the documents needed. We told them to inform us once they get all the documents ready.

Well, they never came back. So even to this date, Anita still doesn't have an IC, and her son, who is already 1 year old, still doesn't have a birth cert. It looked as though they weren't too concerned about getting the IC for Anita and the birth cert for her son.

My colleague went to visit her at home recently and found out there were other problems to it. Today, I found out what the problem was.

You see, the sister whom Anita is currently staying with, only pretended to be nice when we went to visit last year. She made it sound as though it was she and her hubby (or so I thought), a convert (or so I thought) who had been taking care of Anita all the while.

Hmmm... what's this with the "or so I thought"? Well, if what Anita told me is true, Anita's sister never married that guy and that guy never converted to Islam. They are just staying together, leading everyone (including the guy's mother) to believe they were married. They kept telling people that they had their akad nikah quietly without all the hassle of kenduri and what nots. And to date they don't have any children either, possibly planned that way.

That shouldn't be a problem to Anita anyway. Her problem is that she had been mentally tortured staying with them. Since she doesn't have an IC, it's difficult for her to get a job, so her sister arranged for her to do some work at home - assembling things for a factory and gets paid based on each finished product. She's paid about RM200 to RM250 a month for that.

BUT Anita doesn't have a single sen in hand. All the money for her work-at-home job is held by the sister who claims she's the one who has to take care of Anita and her baby. Oh, the sister's good at ungkit-mengungkit too. The only time when Anita gets to hold some money is when she needs to go to the hospital for her appointments - the sister would give her RM10.

There was also a time when the sister needed money and told Anita to borrow from any of us in Buddies under the pretext that it was for her baby. Anita refused.

Things get even worse...

The so-called sister's "hubby" at times would try to seduce Anita when the sister's not around (Oh he knows Anita has HIV! He couldn't care less). But when Anita's sister comes home, she accuses Anita of trying to seduce her "hubby".

And since this guy eats pork, sometimes he'd force some of the meat into the mouth of Anita's son.

Of late, the sister has also been finding faults with Anita; calling her b*bi, p***mak, pembawa penyakit and a whole load of sh*t. At times she'd even tell Anita and her baby to berambus. But despite telling Anita to berambus, the sister actually controls Anita's movements. If she finds out that Anita has been talking to anyone, Anita would get a scolding. That's why she makes sure Anita doesn't have a single sen in her hand.

And here's another reason (I think) why Anita's sisters don't seem to like Anita. Anita's mother never legally married Anita's father. Aiyo! All these kawin tapi tak nikah runs in the family or whaaat? To the sisters, since Anita is an "illegal" child, they are not legally adik-beradik.

I told Anita even under Islamic law, they are still siblings by virtue of sharing the same mother. It doesn't matter if Anita was born out of wedlock.

So, now Anita wants to run away from her sister's house. She's seeking help since she doesn't have a single sen. Before she called me today she even went to see the hospital's welfare officer. The officer told her about the possibility of trying to stay at the shelter home where Sharifah was sent to (Kak Ana's place). When Anita told the officer that she'd be seeing me after that, the officer told her to discuss things over with me first.

Whatever it is, no matter where we end up sending Anita, we'd need to settle her IC and her son's birth cert problem. Without an IC, it's hard for Anita to get a job, and without a job, how was she to feed her child? Anita would need to get at least one of her sister's birth cert which indicates that their mother was a Malaysian citizen.

According to Anita, there is one sister who is more of the "boleh bawa berunding" type who would give a copy of her birth cert to be used as supporting document. But this sister stays in another state down south, and she doesn't know about Anita's HIV status. She had promised many times she'd send over the copy of her birth cert, but never got around to doing it. I asked Anita if she'd be able to get it if she went personally to that sister's house.

"Boleh tu memanglah boleh, tapi macam mana saya nak pergi rumah dia? Saya mana ada duit nak bayar tambang bas."

So I offered to buy her the bus ticket. We'd need to settle this IC and birth cert problem ASAP before things get even more berbelit-belit!

To avoid interrogation, Anita is not telling her sister here that she's going to the other sister's house to get the copy of birth cert.

And her plan is, she will leave when the sister and her so-called hubby are at work. And when she leaves the house to go to the other sister's house, she's leaving for good. When she comes back with the copy of the other sister's birth cert and IC, she intends to go straight to any shelter homes that would accept her.

I called up Kak Ana and she's willing to accept Anita and her baby.

So now to plan for Anita's "escape from hell".

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

This and that...

It's the 4th day of Ramadhan.

There is supposed to be a Buddies Board Meeting tonight and our meetings usually start latest by 8 pm, but taking into account my buka puasa and prayers including tarawikh, I won't be attending tonight's meeting and have asked the vice-chairman to chair the meeting. Ever since I joined Buddies, I have never attended meetings held during the month of Ramadhan as our meetings are held at night and I'd usually reserve my Ramadhan nights for my own religious needs. I hope the other members understand. If they don't, then they definitely need to choose someone else to be the chairperson in the next board elections. I oh so look forward to that... :-)


Remember in one of my earlier posts, I mentioned about Anita wanting to meet up with me after I come back from Bali? I had asked Anita to call me one day before her appointment, just to confirm. Well, Anita called me up this morning. She has an appointment at the GH tomorrow and asked if I was free to see her. Since we both can't be too sure what time she'd be done with her appointment, I told her to call me once she's done. I was rather curious at first as to why she wanted to see me when I'm not her assigned buddy, but since my colleague had given me a "sneak preview", I do know a bit about the "plot". Sounds serious, but I can only get a clearer picture tomorrow when I meet her.


Sharifah is finally working back at her home state. It's a part-time job at a shopping complex. Puan Nur had wanted her to come home and get a job so they can at least have some extra income for Raya.

As for little Cek Mek, I called Kak Ana at the shelter home today but she wasn't in. But since it was Kak Ana's daughter who answered the call, I asked about Cek Mek's status. According to her, the doctor said the results of the blood tests are not known yet. Which is rather weird I must say - it has been more than a month since the blood test was done. When I asked about the baby's medication, I was told the little girl is still being given medication but it has been changed to another kind of syrup. I am concerned really, because most of the other babies born to HIV positive mothers would stop taking the medication after 1 or 2 months, and they never had to change to the other syrup usually given to positive babies. I just hope it is just a precautionary measure because Cek Mek is considered a high risk baby since hers was a normal delivery and her mother started taking ARV medication rather late in her pregnancy.

Please, please, please... let it just be a precautionary measure...


More money is coming in for the poor families I'm dealing with. I'd better make sure they reach the intended recipients before Raya.

That means more shopping and more house visits to come... SOON!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Ramadhan house visits

It's the first day of Ramadhan.

As planned, after my pasar tani routine, off I went to deliver the many things already loaded into my car since Thursday. For the past 2 days, if anyone needed to hitch a ride in my car, I would have had to turn them down. Luckily I didn't come across anyone needing a lift from me.

Other than the groceries bought on Thursday, I also brought along some clothes. I had earlier received a package from a blog reader and regular commenter (guess who?) - a big box of new and used clothes to be distributed amongst the poor families I'm dealing with. There were new clothes for Sofie's family, and there were used (but still looking new) clothes which were left up to me to decide whom to send to. I decided to take a look first to decide who the clothes were more suitable for.

Well, it was quite tough really. Most of the baju kurungs are rather big if compared to most of my clients, but I finally managed to sort them out. There were also 2 pieces of cloth not sewn yet - which I decided to give to Lin because she can sew.

5 minutes past 9 am, I made a move. First destination - Sofie's house. I had sent a text message to Sofie yesterday to inform her I'd be coming today. When I got to her house, her 2 youngest were already waiting for me on their buaian hijau outside their house. Yep, the buaian hijau Sofie mentioned as the landmark when I first asked how to get find her house. The broad smiles on the children's faces were enough to make me feel welcomed.

I saw even broader smiles when they saw their baju raya. This time around, even Along and Angah, the 2 older boys, sat and chatted with me instead of shying away like they used to do. Yayy, the ice is finally broken! Ahh, moment of satisfaction!

I couldn't stay long at Sofie's house as I needed to unload more things from my car to the homes of other families.

Next stop - Fuzi's house. It had been a while since my last visit to her house. I didn't tell her I was coming since Fuzi is the type who seldom goes out. Besides, I didn't really have to detour that much to get to her house. It was just on the way as I headed back to Ipoh from Sofie's house. Just a little detour from the main road to get to her kampong.

Fuzi's children were already asking about the family day photos. Alamak... I hadn't had the time to send the photos for printing. After the family day I was busy preparing for the Bali trip and when I got back from Bali I totally forgot about it. I myself keep my own copy of those photos on my pen-drive, making it easier for me to forget sending the photos for printing - to be given to the families who joined us at the National Stud Farm. The kids (and their mothers) must be excited to see how they look like on a horse... :)  I must make it a point to print the photos soon and hopefully give them to the various families before Raya.

I took the opportunity to ask Fuzi about her children's performance in school. Since they are all under the sponsorship programme, I will need to send reports to the various sponsors. Well, it seems the girls are doing much better than the boys. The eldest daughter was 2nd in her class, while the 2nd daughter was 9th in her class. And the two younger boys were also 2nd their respective classes... but from the bottom.

After Fuzi's house, I headed off to my next destination - a totally different direction from Sofie's and Fuzi's. Another house which I had not been visiting for quite a while - that of Mr and Mrs K. Yep, the family which always seem to find themselves short of cash and always wanting to borrow money (which they don't get yet they still try their luck every time). Only Mr K was home when I got there, so I didn't go in. I just sent the things to the door. I was told that Mrs K was at the hospital waiting for Baby K who had to be warded again at Ipoh GH. Shah, their eldest son, too had to be warded at the hospital near their town.

I asked Mr K what was wrong with Shah. According to him, Shah came back from his usual football game and suddenly just felt weak and vomited at home. So they brought him to the hospital and he had to be warded since. It has been 3 days now. Mr K did mention something but I couldn't quite understand what Shah's illness was.

Sigh... macam-macam problem lah this family. And worst, it is very difficult to help them financially because they don't seem to spend the money on the right things! I did have with me some money meant to be given to these families during Ramadhan, but since Mrs K and her daughter had mentioned earlier that they suspect Mr K is back on drugs, I didn't dare leave the money with him. It is probably better to put the money in Mrs K's bank account.

My last stop was Lin's house. By then it was already 11.40 am. Lin and her daughters were busy making some jelly to be sold during Pasar Ramadhan later in the day.

And I made the right decision to give the 2 pieces of cloth to Lin. Outside her house was a sign saying, "Menerima tempahan baju kurung. RM25." At least I don't have to worry about her having to find a tailor...

I was happy to see how helpful her daughters were. The eldest who is now studying at a nursing college, came home for the weekend while her 2nd daughter, who studies medicine overseas, is back for holidays until after raya. Her 3rd daughter, who is also in a college for further studies, is having her exams now and cannot come home this week. And thank God they were around when Lin fainted at her goreng pisang stall 2 weeks ago (when I was in Bali).

As for her boys... oh well, they were still sleeping when I visited them today, and when I left around noon, they were still not up yet.

By the time I got home, it was about 12.45 pm.

Families visited - 4.

Time taken - 3 hours 40 minutes.

Total mileage - 125 kms.

Hey, not bad! It is after all only the first day of Ramadhan...

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Back to work, woman!

During our Family Day early this month, I did inform a few of my clients that I'd be in Bali for the whole of last week. Since they were the ones who would regularly call me, it was best if they knew I was overseas. I was hoping none of my clients would call me while my phone was on international roaming.

On the very first day in Bali, I received a text message from Lin's number. The message however, was not from Lin, but from her daughter. She wanted to inform me that Lin had fainted while she was at her goreng pisang stall and had to be warded at the hospital near their home. I replied to say I was in Bali, and that if they needed anything, to call me after the 15th.

A few days later a text message came in from Yah. She as always, kept asking about the monthly financial aid - why it was late and whether the financial aid was stopped. No matter how many times I told this woman I was in no position to determine the monthly financial aid she gets, she keeps on pestering me whenever the money comes in late.

I was having my lunch when her SMS came, so I delayed replying. But when she didn't get my reply, she called! I didn't answer, thinking I'd reply her message once I finish my lunch. But she kept on calling... thrice!! I then replied her message immediately, saying I was in Bali and that I didn't have any clue about her monthly financial aid. Aduh, nak makan kat Bali pun tak senang...

On Friday, a call came in from a private number. One of my colleagues who came together to Bali had called me earlier and the number appeared as a private number, so I figured it could be her. But when I answered the call, the caller was Nuri - another client of mine who last called me more than a year ago! Of all days, she had to call me when I was in Bali!!

Anyway, after I came back, I called Lin to find out why she had to be warded. According to her, the doctor said her blood level was low. Will need to get more details when I visit her, hopefully soon.

On Wednesday a colleague who was on clinic duty then, called me up to inform me about a new client. Although another buddy was assigned to that client, my number was still given to the lady as my colleague thought she may be more comfortable talking to me. You see, this lady, a single mom, not working, stays in an ulu orang asli village, without any phones whatsoever. To call, she'd need to go to the nearest town and call from a public phone.

Well, she hasn't called me yet. I will have to wait for her to call, and then maybe meet her somewhere in town and bring her home, so at least next time I know how to get to her house.

Other than that, I've also got a package sent to me by post, containing new and used clothes to be distributed to the poor families. And some money too have been banked into my account, for me to buy whatever household needs for the poor families.

Yesterday I went shopping for my own household needs. Today I went shopping to buy the needs for the poor HIV infected/affected families. There were already a few bags of rice at the Buddies center, so I didn't buy rice. I bought flour, sugar, margerine, cooking oil, milk, canned food etc for 4 families. When I got to the cashier, she asked, "Makcik nak buat kuih ke?"

Little did she know that for my own kuih raya, all I have to do is to wait for my siblings to balik kampung for Raya... hehehe...

After shopping, I went straight to Buddies center. I had promised a group of trainees from a teachers training college in Ipoh that I'd meet up with them for some sort of interview. They were doing a project paper and they had chosen the topic of HIV/AIDS. Searching through the internet, they got hold of Buddies blog site and emailed us. Short notice, but since I was free, I agreed. 4 of them came, although they got to our center rather late as they had problems getting a transport. But they did come, and we had a good session. They may even be interested to organise talks and exhibitions at their college in future. I told them we'd be glad to help out as long as they don't give too short a notice like they did this time!

Anyway, my car is now loaded with groceries etc. and I intend to start my house visits this Saturday.

All set for delivery!

Bali trip is over, get back to work, woman!!


To all Muslims, have a blessed Ramadhan!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Pi Bani pi Bali - Part 3

The first few days in Bali were packed with ICAAP activities during the daytime, and so we didn't really have the time to go shopping or jalan-jalan except at night. At least it was good that we stayed at the Tuban-Kuta area, which is THE area for shopping.

But I'm not really a shopper, and by the end of the Congress, all I had to bring home were the items collected at the various booths during ICAAP. Among them were these...


Hehehe... I had always been giving talks telling people about female condoms but was never able to show them how it looked like... now at least I have samples to show...

Well, anyway, our group would usually go out for dinner together at night but I guess it wasn't easy for the others in the group always having to opt for halal food when they easily had so many choices around! During dinner on Wednesday night, while we were discussing our programme for Thursday (ICAAP ended at noon), I suggested "free and easy" for Thursday after the closing ceremony. Let them do what they want to do and go where they want to go. At least I didn't have to feel guilty about the others having to keep me in mind when deciding where to eat. Besides, I'm a big girl... I can take care of myself...

So yep, after we got back to our hotel on Thursday afternoon, the others went off in 2 groups... while I went back to my room for a while for my prayers and then immediately I went off to ronda-ronda Kuta. Walking around alone had its advantages... I simply walked at my usual fast pace without having to think if there was anybody else in the group needing to walk slowly. I walked and walked until I reached the other side of Kuta, looking around at what was available and only had my lunch on my way back to the hotel.

Souvenir items were definitely cheaper at the area nearer to my hotel. So yep, bought them on the way back too. Didn't really buy much, but at least I had something else in my luggage other than the condoms... :-)

I didn't bother to go far for dinner, there was a nearby warung selling halal food, with lots of paintings decorating the place. The food wasn't too bad either.

As for Friday's programme, since I had booked the Saturday flight back to Malaysia, together with my room-mate, while the rest were to stay on until Monday, I had pre-arranged for a van & driver to bring me around Bali on Friday - on my personal account. And since the van could take 8 people, I offered the rest to join me if they wanted to. And so they did. One of the gang however had gone to stay with his friends in Bali after the ICAAP closing ceremony on Thursday, and so there were only 7 of us. But a friend from Nepal joined us for the ronda-ronda Bali and we were back to 8.

Our driver/guide was very helpful. Although I opted for the Kintamani tour, we didn't really follow the usual itinerary for the said tour. We skipped what we didn't want and went for other things which weren't included in the original itinerary.

We stopped to see stone carvings...

stone carving

Wood carvings...

wood carving

We then went to Tegallalang (not sure if this is the right spelling) to see their beautiful rice terrace.

rice terrace

Then off to the Holy Spring Temple...

holy spring 1

holy spring 3

holy spring 4

holy spring 2Saw these ducks at the temple but it was the white duck that attracted us... nice hairdo don't you think?

We also stopped by a coffee & spice farm where amongst others, we were shown the luwak coffee or the animal coffee. The animal coffee? Well, luwak coffee begins like any other coffee as a small red fruit on a coffee tree.


The coffee then gets eaten by the luwak...


This fella (the luwak) was sleeping when we visited.

The coffee then comes out from the luwak's rear end, looking somewhat unclean, but still retaining the skin surrounding the coffee bean, preventing the bean itself from coming into contact with anything else in the stomach of the luwak.

Having said that, no, I didn't try the luwak coffee although my colleagues bought a cup to be shared just to get the taste. I did however try the other drinks offered free by the people at the farm - the cocoa, ginseng coffee and ginger tea. The luwak coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world, so they didn't offer that for free tasting.

Then off we went to Kintamani, to see the beautiful sceneries surrounding Mount Batur Volcano.


mtbatur2 mtbatur3

Buffet lunch at Kintamani with Mt Batur in the background.

On our way back after lunch, we saw a ceremony going on and asked our guide to stop for a while, just to have a look...

ceremony3 ceremony2

After that we did stop at an Art Market, but didn't buy anything. They were too expensive for us cheapskates.

Our Nepalese friend needed to get to the airport by 6 pm to catch her 8 pm flight, so we then headed straight to the airport to send her off. We didn't want to be caught in the jam and decided it was better to be early. So yep, we got there by 5.30 pm.

And after checking with our guide/driver that he wouldn't charge extra if we wanted him to bring us to Jimbaran for dinner before sending us back to the hotel, off we went to Jimbaran after sending off our Nepalese friend.

We could see the airport's landing strip from where we had dinner...

jimbaran2 No, the plane wasn't THAT near to our place. I zoomed in to get this pic.

I also took 3 pictures of sunset at Jimbaran, using 3 different modes...

jimbaran5 Auto mode

jimbaran6 Beach mode

jimbaran3 Sunset mode

And this was our dinner...

jimbaran4 Kena kira betul-betul budget sebelum order... ratus-ratus ribu wei... rupiah lah...

Headed back to the hotel after dinner. The next day my room mate and I were to leave for home while the rest were to check out from our hotel in Tuban and move to Ubud instead. And they decided to use the services of the same helpful driver.

All in all, it was a good trip to Bali. The Congress was beneficial, and although I didn't get to go to many other attractive places in Bali (we simply couldn't cover everything in one day!), it was a good trip anyway.

I must say that our group did manage to confuse a lot of people. Many simply had a hard time trying to guess where we were from. I could pass off as either Malaysian or Indonesian... a few of us could pass off as either from China or Korea or Japan or Hong Kong or Taiwan... a few others could pass off as either from India or Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. And things were even more confusing for them at our booth during ICAAP, when we had people who could converse with them in Tamil, Hindi, Mandarin, Malay or English.

The best part was when one guy came over, struggling to speak to us in English, and there we were struggling to make him understand what we were trying to say, and then I suddenly said something in Malay to one of my colleagues, the guy asked, "Bisa bahasa Indonesia?" Duh... the guy was from Papua and was more proficient in Indonesian language rather than English.

Buat penat je cakap orang putih...

Monday, 17 August 2009

Pi Bani pi Bali - Part 2

The ICAAP programme book and delegate's photo ID

With the welcome and opening ceremony over on Sunday, and with the shuttle bus drop zone for our area being quite far from our hotel, we decided to rent a van to fetch us at our hotel and send us to BICC. We were charged IDR70,000 per trip, that's about RM24 or so, or about RM3 per person. The Congress was only for 4 days, so we thought might as well make our lives easier by renting the van for all 4 days. Besides we had to bring loads of Buddy Bears to be placed at our exhibition booth at the Asia Pacific Village. The bears may not be heavy, but they were bulky!

icaap1 Welcome to ICAAP 9!

On the first day, after sending over our bears to our booth and putting up some posters, we rushed off to attend the opening plenary session; which was supposed to end at 10.15.

icaap5 The plenary session

Since the opening of the Asia Pacific Village was at 10.15, we got out of the plenary session by 9.45 am and headed straight to our booth to get our Buddy Bears all ready for presentation and distribution.


icaap3 Our booth at Asia Pacific Village

Since we had the same delegates attending ICAAP to man (or woman!) our booth, we had to take turns at the booth. I had wanted to attend workshops, symposia or oral abstract sessions on the topic of HIV women and children, and there was one such workshop at 10.45 am on the first day. But we were so busy setting up our booth, I lost track of time and only noticed it when it was almost 10.45 am. I immediately dashed off to the room where that particular workshop was supposed to be held, only to be told that it was cancelled. How frustrating!

But over the 4 days, I did manage to attend 3 plenary, 2 symposia and 3 oral abstract sessions - and in between I managed to help out at the booth, go round to see the other booths and even managed to sit down and chat with some new and old acquaintances; all certainly useful in expanding our network.

In addition to that I also managed to join a field trip on the first day. I had also signed up to join another field trip on Tuesday, but during my absence from the booth, someone from a TV production had come to our booth wanting to arrange for an interview with me. My colleagues had agreed for the interview to be held during lunch break on Tuesday. The field trip was also supposed to be during lunch break, so when told about the TV interview I had to cancel the field trip.

On Tuesday itself, since we wanted our booth to be full of Buddy Bears during the interview, we made sure the bears were only distributed after lunch, ie after the interview was over. And oh, I found out that the person who had arranged for the interview was none other than Anom. Yep, we finally met, of all places, in Bali, not Malaysia!

icaap4 Our Buddy Bears all set to move to their new homes.

Having the booth (which we got for free) was indeed a blessing. More people now know about our Buddy Bears and we also managed to get lots of new networking all over Asia Pacific! Simply grrrreat! Some of the visitors even wanted to buy our bears but we remained firm with our NOT FOR SALE policy. Oh, I'm sure there would have been a few who actually lied by telling us they were dealing direct with HIV infected children and wanted the bears to be given to the children. But we didn't have any lie detectors to determine that - the bears which didn't land in the right hands, let's just say they were for promotional purposes.

My poster presentation was on Wednesday. I needed someone tall to put it up as the poster was big and the boards were quite high, so I got my tallest colleague to help me out. And before we took off the poster at the end of the day, we made sure we had a group photo in front of my poster.


Exhibitions ended on Wednesday as Thursday was just the final plenary followed by the closing ceremony. So on Thursday we traveled light to BICC, without having to travel with the bears.

closing1 closing2 Performances during the closing ceremony.

closing3 The audience too giving the dance a try!

closing4 ICAAP volunteers given the much deserved recognition.

closing6 ICAAP facts and figures

Since we weren't told what time exactly the closing ceremony would end, we told our van driver to fetch us at 12.30 pm. We left the hall at 12.25 pm although the closing ceremony was not over yet. But we already knew that the next ICAAP will be held in Busan, Korea.

Overall, being a first timer to ICAAP, the whole thing was an eye-opener for me. Not only did I learn new things, I also managed to expand my networking and the experience was indeed refreshing. I do hope to follow up on things here at home so we Buddies can improve our services to the community, in particular the PLHIV community.

Coming up next... Part 3 - Ronda-ronda Bali

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Pi Bani pi Bali - Part 1

Waiting for the Ipoh-LCCT shuttle bus, with our luggage... the bulk being our Buddy Bears.

As early as 2.30 am on Saturday, 8th August 2009, 7 of us were already at the at the Ipoh-LCCT bus station in Ipoh. Originally 9 of us were supposed to be going for ICAAP (International Congress on Aids in Asia and the Pacific) in Bali, but one had to back out at the very last minute as her husband was unwell. Another volunteer didn't have to take the Ipoh-LCCT shuttle bus as she was already in KL and promised to meet up with the rest of us at LCCT.

We reached LCCT at about 6.30 am. The counter for our check-in was not open yet and so we decided to have breakfast first. It was while we were having our breakfast that our other colleague came and joined us for breakfast.

Anyway, things ran smoothly, flight was on time and reached Bali on time. Upon our arrival, even before immigration clearance, there were already people there holding ICAAP placards so that the delegates would know where to go and whom to approach. Although there was quite a queue for immigration clearance (they only opened one counter for that purpose despite the many foreigners around), our luggage got through without a hitch despite our initial worries that our package of Buddy Bears could be rather suspicious looking.

Our transport to our hotel was arranged by the ICAAP organisers, so we didn't have to worry about getting taxis. The hotel that we booked was not in the list of ICAAP's official hotels (we cheapskates opted for a budget hotel) but there was an official hotel nearby so we were supposed to be sent to the nearest hotel in the official ICAAP transport.

Well, the moment we got into the van with our things and all, we managed to coax the driver to send us to our budget hotel - giving our loads of luggage as part of the excuse. The other excuse was we had a handicapped person on a wheelchair in our team. The driver didn't argue at all, he sent us to right to the reception of our hotel, and although he didn't ask for it, we gave him a small token.

Our hotel... quite comfortable I must say despite it being a budget hotel.

Inside the room...

Outside the room

Our hotel pool

Initially we wanted to go to BICC (Bali International Convention Center) on the same day to register, but by the time we checked in and went out to get lunch, it was already 4 pm and registration for the day was only open until 5 pm; and so we decided to register on Sunday itself.

The long queue to get our delegates photo ID. Our friend here on the wheelchair managed to skip the queue. One of the organisers helped him out.

After registration and familiarizing ourselves with the convention center (which was quite a task I tell you... where was this room and that room... where was our booth at the Asia Pacific Village... where was my poster supposed to be put up etc) we went back to our hotel. We needed to get ready for the Opening Ceremony and Welcome Dinner at the Garuda Wisnu Kencana park in Jimbaran. We decided not to take the official shuttle bus for the opening ceremony. Thank God for that. Imagine our horror when we got to GWK and saw that all vehicles (except for VIPs) were to park at the bottom of the hill and we were all supposed to climb up all the way to the park where the function was supposed to be held. Even our van was not allowed to go up initially but the driver helped to appeal to the security people, telling them that we had a wheelchair-bound person on board - how on earth was he supposed to go up the stairs all the way?

So yes, our van was given permission to go up; even then our friend still needed help getting around as there were still some steps we had to go through to get to the park. Luckily the security people there helped to carry our friend in his wheelchair.

Group photo at GWK before the opening ceremony.

A not so sweet looking Malaysian with 2 sweet looking Balinese.

The Buddies present chairperson and past chairperson in action... nice or not my body??

A group of delegates with their attractive red umbrellas.

Performance on stage during the opening ceremony. Notice the moon?

Coming up next... Part 2 - The Congress activities...

Friday, 7 August 2009

This and that...

Sharifah's appointment at the Ipoh GH was on Wednesday. I was too busy at the office in the morning so I didn't go to the hospital to meet up with her.

But I called up after lunch to find out her latest blood test results and they (Sharifah, Kak Ana and my little Cek Mek)were on their way to a shopping complex to have lunch. I had planned to go to the same complex too to buy some stuff for myself and also to get some Indonesian currency. (I am now temporarily a millionaire... of rupiahs...)

So after zohor, I headed to the said complex, went straight to the food center and saw them there, just about to start their lunch of mee kari. It was only 2 weeks ago that I last saw Cek Mek, yet this time it was obvious she was even chubbier than before. Lagi rasa nak picit-picit! And oh, just by looking at her face, many people thought she's a boy!

Kak Ana has got temporary custody of the girl - for 2 years (or earlier if Sharifah is ready and able to take her baby home) and Sharifah will visit from time to time. Ample time I think for Sharifah to find herself a job and become financially independent.

After lunch yesterday, she headed back to her hometown. Her mother misses her already, and she intends to get herself at least a temporary job before Raya so they'd have some extra money to spend for Raya.

Anyway, Sharifah need not start her ARV medication yet. Her CD4 is above 500. My concern now is Cek Mek's test results. The little girl's appointment is in 2 weeks time. I am hopeful she's not infected.


I found out from the buddy who had been helping out with Anita's case about Anita's latest problem. She has yet to settle her IC and baby's birth cert problem, now she's already facing another problem. No wonder she wants to see me personally after I come back from Bali. The buddy who had been helping her is a non-Muslim and her latest problem in a way involves religious matters. She thought the non-Muslim buddy wouldn't understand. But the same buddy met her when she went to the hospital for her blood test yesterday and found out what the problem was, and called me today to inform me about it. Aduuh, berat. She's even thinking of running away from her sister's home. But she has nobody else, where is she to go with a baby in tow?

So how? Stay tuned for the continuation of this story... after I come back from Bali. ;)


I've finally finished the management accounts and cash flows for my business client! Legaaa...

The 2 new staff at the office are coping quite well and are fast learners. Yayyy! I just need to settle a few more minor things at the office today.

The monthly pocket money and bus fares for the children under our Sponsorship Programme have also been banked into the various bank accounts. I usually do so between 10th to 15th of each month but it has to be a bit earlier this month.

Now to get myself prepared for the Congress in Bali. All the travelling and Congress documents for my group members are with me, so I'd better make sure everything is in order.

I haven't started packing anything yet. By hook or by crook I need to do everything today.

And oh, I'd better make it a point to visit my ailing aunt again this afternoon...


Will be away from 8th to 15th August. See you later folks!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Hectic week

This week is rather hectic for me.

I will be away for the whole of next week so there are so many things I need to settle before I go off, especially at the office.

A business client will be having their board meeting next week, and I need to get their management accounts, including cash flows ready by this week.

We have 2 new staff plus 1 practical student who just reported for duty on Monday, and so this week I'd have to teach them what to do etc.

Last night we had dinner for my office staff - farewell dinner for one staff who just left the Company, and appreciation dinner for another staff who has been with the Company for 5 years.

Yesterday, a cousin sent me a text message, informing me that my 93 year old aunt's health had deteriorated. So yesterday afternoon I brought my mother to visit my aunt. Very likely I will visit again before I go to Bali.

On my voluntary work, a few calls and text messages were received this week. Puan Nur (Sharifah's mom) sent me a text message on Monday just to ask how I was doing - lama tak dengar cerita, she said. How thoughtful of her, at least she remembers me even when she doesn't need my help.

Last night while I was having dinner with my office staff, Sharifah called. Her appointment with the doctor at Ipoh GH is today, and since the appointment date was given to her by phone, and not written on her hospital card, she was wondering if she'd have any problem at the registration counter.

Earlier Anita called. For those who may not remember Anita, she's the 22 year old who had not done her IC and had not registered for her baby's birth.

That was a few months ago. Her baby boy is probably about 9 to 10 months old now. I was not assigned as Anita's buddy, so I left it to another buddy to help her out. The buddy did inform me earlier about the need to get any of her siblings to come along especially to get her IC done.

But when she called on Monday, I was informed nothing had been done yet - not her IC, not her baby's birth cert. She asked if she could see me when she comes to Ipoh next for her appointment. I'll be back from Bali by then so I agreed.

I have only met Anita once. I wonder why she wants to see me instead of the other buddy...

But I will only get the answer after I get back from Bali.

In the meantime, I need to settle so many other things first. It's already Wednesday, and my Ipoh-LCCT bus will be at 3 am early Saturday morning.

Whatever it is, I need to get everything ready by Friday. So, what am I doing blogging?


Sunday, 2 August 2009

Rainy day at the horse farm


2nd August 2009, National Stud Farm, Tg. Rambutan - The Buddies Annual Family Day.

We had some of the children of our PLHIV families asking their parents why we were having our family day at Tg. Rambutan. One boy even asked his mother, "Kita pergi sana buat apa mak? Gi tengok orang gila ke?"

I guess the town is more known for its mental hospital... some don't even know of the existence of the National Stud Farm there.

Oh well, it rained rather heavily in the morning...

rainy morning

... so we were stuck under the tents eating up our breakfast of nasi lemak, while one of the vets explained to us about the farm and the horses.

When the sky cleared, the scenery was beautiful...

horse farm

We were then allowed to touch and feed the horses at the nearby stables...

feeding horseHere... you can eat all you want. I don't eat this vege...

Then came the demo on how they replace the horse shoe. The horses get new pairs of shoes every 4 weeks.

horse shoe 1First, take off the old shoe...

horse shoe 2Then, adjust the new shoe so it will fit nicely...

horse shoe 3Then fix the new shoe...

horse shoe 4There... all done! Imported shoes some more... jealous or not??

Then group by group, we were allowed to take pictures with the horse(yep, the one with the new shoe). Here's a group of our volunteers with their pose...

volunteers & horse

We were then brought for a tour around the farm in an Executive Coach.

Errrmm... I mean this executive coach. Classy don't you think?The executive coach with some happy pelarians on board...

It rained on and off during the tour, so we brought along our umbrellas on the executive coach.

We were lucky as there were some newborns at the farm... during the tour, we saw at close range some colts and fillies less than a week old... a few just 1 or 2 days old.

newborn Sorry, can't remember if this one's a colt or a filly.

sleeping babyAnd this baby here was sleeping and didn't even realise there were some kaypoh visitors around.

This proud stallion here is the father to many of the horses born in this farm.


And oh, we were even shown where these horses mate!

honeymoon suite The honeymoon suite...

After the tour, we were brought back to the tent for lunch. We were entertained by the balloon man during lunch.

balloon man This guy also did some magic tricks much to the amusement of the kids and adults alike.

After filling up our tummies with food glorious food, it was game time! (right timing, huh?) Sorry folks, no pics here ok? Suffice to say, all the children got some gifts and prizes to bring home.

After the games, came the moment most were looking forward to... the horse ride! Two horses were made available, one white horse meant only for the younger and smaller kids, while the other horse for the bigger children and the adults. I was busy going left and right making sure I got pictures of every single person who got onto the horses.

I can't show you pics of the PLHIVs and their families, so here's all I can show you...

horse dung The horse dung, freshly delivered while someone was taking his/her turn for the horse ride!

It then rained again right before tea time. Ngam ngam just in time for everybody to get the experience of getting onto a horse (which wasn't easy I tell you... tertonggeng-tonggeng!).

The rain subsided a bit after tea, so yep, we did manage to take a group photo before we headed home. And oh, we also got a souvenir each from the National Stud Farm.

Okay people, that's all I've got to share with you... Opah Pi the koboi tua wants to go home now... giddy-up horsey...

horse ride