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

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Buddies oh Buddies…

Ever since I became a volunteer with the Buddies Society of Ipoh, it became apparent to me that quite a number of people don’t seem to know the difference between Buddies and Buddhist.

The first time, after I was newly confirmed as a Buddy, and my number was written on our brochure at the HIV clinic (at that time we didn’t have any hotline number yet – so we put down the personal hand phone numbers of a few of our volunteers), a call came in from a Chinese lady, “Allo… ini Buddhist ka?” It took me a while to comprehend that she was trying to get in touch with Buddies.

There were quite a few occasions when people would pronounce the word as Buddhist and I’d have to correct them and say Buddies. After a while I didn’t bother to correct them anymore.

Initially when we were just a wing under the Perak Family Health Association (used to be known as Family Planning Association), the name was just Buddies of Ipoh. I wasn’t a member then. In 2004 when we decided to stand on our own as an association, we registered with ROS using the same name. But the ROS insisted that the name SOCIETY must be included and so we finally became the Buddies Society of Ipoh.

With the word Society included, more people thought we were the Buddhist Society. The chairperson then was a Chinese lady, so I guess it was even more believable.

But imagine the looks on people’s faces when they saw this mak aji beginning to represent the “Buddhist” society.

Once I attended a meeting organised by the Pejabat Kesihatan Daerah. The chairman was noting down the attendance and read out the names of agencies/organisations to check if there were representatives. When he came to the name of my NGO, he mentioned, “Persatuan Buddhist Ipoh”, and this mak aji selamba-ly raised her hand without saying anything. He looked at me, then back at the list, then he said, “Oh maaf, Persatuan Buddies ya, bukan Buddhist.” Tau pulak sebut betul-betul without having anyone to correct him!

The next meeting organised by the Pejabat Kesihatan Daerah, the Chairman didn’t bother to call out the names, so I was spared from having to get funny looks for representing “Buddhist”. However, a doctor who was sitting beside me, to whom I gave my card to, suddenly became quiet and only after a few minutes, gathered some courage to ask me…

Ni sebut macam mana ya?”

Me: “Buddies.”

(I heard a sigh of relief from her.)

Doc: “Saya ingatkan Buddhist!”

Me: “Kan ke lain ejaannya?”

Doc: “Ha’ah ek, ya tak ya juga.”

Aduh, and to think that she’s a doctor!!

And how can I forget the time when I went to represent Buddies to receive a cheque from HRH Raja Nazrin. The emcee had (as expected) used the wrong pronunciation during the rehearsal. Fine, so I told another officer the correct pronunciation and this officer went to tell the emcee. But the emcee insisted, “Tulis sini BUDIS, bukan BADIS.”

Adoi, cakap orang putihlah yeop!

It’s BUDDIES, the plural for BUDDY, okay? Go to and the translation is RAKAN – which is what we do – we become buddies to HIV infected/affected families.

And yes, I am a Muslim. DUH!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

The typical delivery routine

First get the groceries from the minimarket and stuff em in my car. Yep, itulah kereta yang saya guna...

...then go to the identified PLHIV's house...

...and deliver the stuff!

After my usual pasar tani routine yesterday, I decided to cook lunch straightaway since I intended to visit Sofie and deliver this month's supply of groceries. Sofie had told me earlier that she needed to go to her son's school in the afternoon as the teachers wanted to meet and discuss matters with parents of students sitting for UPSR this year. So if I were to visit, I'd better do so before lunch time.

By 10 am, I was at the minimarket to collect all the items I had listed down and given to the minimarket owner earlier on Friday. The best thing is I only have to go and collect the things... the bills are given to somebody else i.e. the lady representing the club sponsoring the groceries. Hmmm... wonder if I can do the same for my own groceries... hehehe...

By 11 am I was already at Sofie's house. None of her boys were home as they had activities to attend to in their respective schools, although Saiful had initially wanted to skip the activity at his school when he heard that I was coming. Thank goodness Sofie reminded him of my warning that I won't be visiting them again if they used me as an excuse to skip school! Only Ika, her youngest was home with her mother and so the little girl had to help me carry the stuff down from my car. Sofie tried to help too, but looking at her frail figure carrying a bag of rice, I told her to just "dok diam-diam dalam rumah!"

I saw lots of short wires on the table inside her house. That's Sofie's attempt to earn some extra income for the family after her attempts in trying to get a proper job failed. Nobody dared give her a job, looking at her fragile condition. At least with the wires (she's supposed to insert the wires into something) she gets at least about RM120 a month. Last month her sister who came from another state helped her out and so she managed to get RM190.

During my last visit, Sofie did mention she may want to move to a nearby town. She wanted to start afresh where nobody knows her. Yesterday I asked her again, and the plan is still on. She's just waiting for the right time - probably during the coming school holidays. What I like is the fact that she is already planning to start her own small business... selling nasi lemak and kuih at the new place. She had done those sort of things before she got sick, which means she already has the experience. Only thing is, she doesn't want to be doing the same thing now because the whole neighborhood knows about her HIV.

I told Sofie to immediately inform me once she has decided when she's going to move and when she intends to start selling nasi lemak and kuih. I should be able to help her with the capital needed to start off. Ooops, sorry, not me. I meant my friends and blog readers who had always been kind enough to donate through me to be given to the poor families.

Sofie also told me that a few officers from the welfare department came for their assessment visit recently and she was told not to worry as her application for welfare aid will most likely be approved. However, based on past experiences, I doubt that will be anytime soon... although I do honestly hope things have changed (for the better!).

Sofie is grateful for all the help she's getting. "Sekarang ni pun kalau akak tak tolong harus kami anak-beranak tak makan kot," she said. Oh no, sister, not me, but donors! Hmmph, ni yang orang kata, lembu punya susu, si Pi dapat nama... ;-)

Anyway, remember her son Saiful, the one with the poor vision and needed to see an eye specialist? Well, according to the specialist, Saiful may need to undergo an eye operation. However, he will still need to come for a few more follow ups before the surgery. I suppose he will have to wait until after his UPSR before the surgery. Sigh, the poor boy...

Friday, 26 March 2010

Berkhidmat untuk agama, bangsa & negara?

I had initially promised the lady from the club sponsoring groceries for Lin’s and Sofie’s families that I’d meet up with her at the minimarket at 2.30 pm today when I get the stuff to be delivered to Lin. However, by noon she said she couldn’t make it that early and would only be able to make it after 4 pm. So I figured I might as well just get the groceries and deliver them to Lin; and then go back to the minimarket to take photos to be shown during the club’s AGM next month.

Earlier in the morning I had given the list of groceries to the minimarket owner. Lin had informed me that she still had some of the stuff sent last month, and asked if I could replace those stuff with other things. So yeah, I took out the things which she still has, and added some other things. I noticed vermicelli was not included in the list for the past 2 months, so that was one of the things added to the new list. I didn’t mention the quantity lah… little did I know that there would be enough vermicelli for a party!!

Anyway, right after all the items were put in my car, I immediately headed to Lin’s house. I had told her earlier I’d be coming today. She is, after all, no longer selling pisang goreng (please refer my earlier story here for the reason) so she should be home.

Her youngest daughter was in school but her 15 year old son was home, so he helped to carry all the stuff from my car. I asked where her older son was… Lin said he just started work about 2 weeks ago in another town. Great! Even better still, according to Lin, while usually he couldn’t care less whatever happened to his mom when he was home, now that he’s staying elsewhere, he calls to ask how she’s doing. Ibu manalah yang tak suka…

Lin is supposed to undergo a fibroid operation in a week’s time; but when I asked her today, she said, “Saya rasa saya nak tangguh dulu lah kak.”

“Kenapa pulak nak tangguh?!”

“Saya takutlah kak…”

“Habis tu, kalau tangguh engko ingat boleh hilang takut tu ke?”

I told Lin about the many ladies I knew who had undergone the same surgery and how good they are doing now. While I encouraged her to just go through the op, I told her it was up to her to decide, but since the hospital had already fixed a date next week, if indeed she decides to postpone, she’d better inform the doctors soon!

On another note, I was happy to note that Lin is beginning to get monthly financial assistance from the agency dealing with zakat. What I wasn’t happy about was what she had to go through to get it.

Lin had actually submitted her application more than a year ago. I remember during one of my visits to her house, she did mention that she had to “buat muka tak malu minta bantuan” after she was hospitalised for a month and lost her job because of that. Having been too dependent on her ex-husband before this, Lin had to actually start from scratch to make a living.

Back to the application, Lin would from time to time enquire about her application to the officers, the same standard answer she got was, “Benda ni memang lambat. Mungkin dalam setahun baru lulus.” When it was already a year and she’d enquire again, the answer was, “Oh, setahun pun belum tentu puan.”

Coincidentally one fine day, a newspaper reporter happened to be interviewing the guy who allowed Lin to share his drinks stall for her pisang goreng business. Since the interview was done at the stall, the guy told the reporter that Lin too needed to voice out some problems and so the reporter agreed to interview her too. All Lin wanted to know was the status of her application. So yeah, Lin’s story was published in the newspaper, and the very next day, the top officer at the agency visited Lin personally at her stall, and told her to come to their office. Lin went to their office, and one of the lower ranking staff dealing direct with the public, asked her to fill in another form as they had lost her earlier application. Then suddenly another staff came along and told them that he had found her form, together with all the supporting documents including the letter from the doctor. Duh! No wonder things didn’t get moving!

Not long after that, Lin got a letter saying that her application had been approved and that she’d be getting a certain amount each month. Alhamdulillah, Lin was happy that at least she has some additional income to support her family. The letter gave her high hopes.

After a month, there was nothing yet. She went to the office to ask, and was told to just be patient. After 2 months, she enquired again… still nothing. By then Lin had some additional health problems and was told by the doctor to take a good rest. She had to take a break from her business. And by the time she wanted to start back her business, the guy who had earlier allowed her to share the stall, told her he wanted the space back for his own business.

Lin began to get worried about how to pay for house rental, utilities and other basic needs. It had almost been 3 months since she got the approval letter and she had yet to receive any cash. Then she remembered she had kept the phone number of the reporter who interviewed her earlier. So she called the reporter, not to ask for the matter to be published in the newspaper again, but to seek her help if she could make a call to the higher ranking officer to enquire. What Lin didn’t know was that the reporter ended up having the matter published in the newspaper again!

And whaddaya know… the very next day Lin received a call from the people at the agency. One of the guys asked her why she had her story in the papers again – Lin herself was surprised upon hearing that. But anyway, she was told by one of the higher ranking officers to come to their office the next day.

Lin went, and was told that the particular officer was out. There was only one guy manning the counter then and when he somehow figured Lin was the woman mentioned in the papers, the guy said, “Ohh… akaklah yang keluarkan cerita dalam suratkhabar tu ya?!”

Lin told him she didn’t know anything about the newspaper report, to which he responded, “Eleh… sudahlah kak! Kalau bukan akak yang bagi izin keluarkan cerita tu, takkan keluar dalam suratkhabar punya!”

Officer: “Ni hah, surat ni kan dah sebut bantuan akak dah lulus. Apa lagi akak nak?”

Lin: “Saya tak kata pun bantuan saya tak lulus. Saya cuma nak tahu bila boleh mula dapat bantuannya!”

Officer: “Akak ingat akak sorang je yang susah? Yang perlu bantuan?!”

Lin: “Saya tak kata pun saya sorang je yang susah!”

Officer: “Ah sudahlah kak, baik akak balik aje!”

By this time, Lin’s tears were already flowing. But she refused to budge from the office. She was there because someone from the office told her to come.

Officer: “Balik ajelah kak. Kalau tak nanti saya repot polis nak?”

Lin: “Repotlah. Hantar saya masuk penjara. Tapi nanti kamu tolonglah bagi makan anak saya 6 orang tu!”

Officer: “Akak tau tak, kami boleh saman akak tau, pasal keluarkan cerita bukan-bukan pasal kami dalam suratkhabar tu?”

Lin: “Hah, samanlah. Bukannya saya mampu nak bayar pun. Lagipun bukan saya yang suruh keluarkan cerita tu kat suratkhabar!”

Officer: “Ah! Sudahlah! Kalau bukan akak yang buat cerita, tak keluar suratkhabar nya!”

Despite the tears in her eyes, and despite the fact that Lin is a very sensitive person, Lin persisted. She had the phone number of the reporter kept in her phone, and so there and then she called the reporter. The reporter, upon hearing the tone of Lin’s voice (Lin was crying), and upon being told the problem, told Lin not to go anywhere and to wait for her at the office. The reporter coincidentally was on her way to cover an assignment nearby and decided to stop by the office to help Lin out.

The officer heard the conversation. The moment he found out that the reporter was coming, he immediately went in, and came out again with a form to be filled in and signed by Lin, before releasing the cash to Lin. YA AMPUUN!! The cash was already there! When the higher ranking officer asked Lin to come to the office, it was to get her monthly aid. This particular officer at the counter however, made life miserable for Lin just because Lin was the woman mentioned in the newspaper, giving a bad name to the agency (and probably getting him a scolding from the higher up officers). Imagine if Lin had actually gone back the first time the officer told her to!

Anyway, within 15 minutes, the reporter arrived at the office. When asked by the reporter why he scolded Lin, the officer denied everything – right in front of Lin’s face!

Lin: “Yang tadi awak marah saya suruh saya balik tu apa?”

Officer: “Eh, mana ada?”

Adoi, geramnya akuuuuu… but ah well, you don’t expect the reporter to believe him, do you?

I guess initially the officer didn’t expect Lin to be contacting the reporter direct. And at that time, other officers were not in the office, so he thought he was in power lah kot! The moment he knew the reporter was coming, he probably got worried that another negative news would come out in the next day’s papers, so he immediately turned helpful!

Well, the next time Lin went to the office, the same officer entertained Lin, and this time, he was nice to Lin. He even asked when Lin would have to undergo her operation.

Alright… so you get entertained only when you know the right people huh?

Sheeesh! To think that he’s actually PAID to do the job!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Time to deliver!

My bedroom is beginning to look like a store room now. See the above pic? Those are just some of the things I got from friends and blog readers, to be delivered to poor families. Some of the toys I received earlier are already kept at my NGO center. We usually give out the toys to the children during our annual family day, so that none of the children will go home empty handed.

Amongst the items which are still with me are adult and baby clothes. I had earlier on received 2 big plastic bags of clothes from an aunt, also to be given to the poor families, which I have yet to do anything. You see, for the adult clothes, I'd have to sort them out first, and since I know the HIV infected/affected families better, I'd have to identify which size suits whom. Well, I have yet to sort them out, which means I haven't delivered them either.

As for the baby clothes which I received just recently, well, it's easier to identify who should get this as for the moment there's only 1 infant under me - Halimah's baby who was born just over 2 weeks ago. I'd better deliver them soon before the baby is no longer a baby! I haven't been to Halimah's house though, and I couldn't find her kampong's name in my GPS. But I'm sure Halimah will need to come to Ipoh from time to time for her appointments, especially with both Halimah and the baby having appointments in Ipoh GH, so I think I will check with Halimah when next she's coming to Ipoh, meet up with her then and send her home together with all the stuff meant for her baby.

A few other blog readers have transferred some money through my bank account to be given to the poor families. Well, at least this kind doesn't turn my bedroom into a store room... :-)

And I still have the monthly groceries sponsored by a university's women's club, to be delivered to Sofie's and Lin's family. I plan to do so this coming Friday and Saturday. Apparently their club will be having their AGM next month and they wanted some photos to show during the AGM. Since I had told them earlier I cannot show them photos of the HIV infected/affected families due to confidentiality issues, they figured they'd just take photos of themselves, the minimarket owner, and myself when I next get the groceries from the minimarket. So, the plan is the "photo session" will be this Friday. Then off I will go on my own to deliver the stuff.

My plan is to deliver the stuff to Lin on Friday, since her house is nearer; and to Sofie on Saturday. It's about time I get some updates about them too, what with Lin's surgery coming up in April and Sofie's plan to move to another house.

So yep, it's time for this month's McPi McDelivery!

SIAPA NAK IKUT??! Ooops... tak boleh ikut la...

Sunday, 21 March 2010

The HIV+ mother/daughter

While I do have over 20 PLHIV women under my care, the most amongst my fellow volunteers, not all of them are really active clients. Most of the other volunteers have only about 3 or 4 active clients each, while those who have more, are mostly keeping in touch with their clients via telephone calls only.

In my case, I can’t be visiting all 20 over clients every month. Where got time??

Some I visit every month, or at least every other month; some I just meet from time to time when they come to Ipoh for their appointments, some I visit just for Raya while some I’d just keep in touch by telephone. No, not that I practice favoritism, but having over 20 families in my list, I’d have to prioritise. I usually pay more attention to the problematic ones, at least until they become somewhat independent. Once I see that they can be independent enough, I’d slowly back out from their lives, not totally, but slowly. Maybe from monthly visits I’d reduce to every other month, then maybe quarterly and so on. I can’t be helping them all my life.

I do however, have clients who don’t want me to visit them at home, for fear that their neighbors may want to know who came to visit, and why we visit. One of them is Nuri. She’s so fearful that her kampong folks may find out that she is HIV positive. Coincidentally, I do have another client, Ani, who stays in the same kampong as Nuri, and yes, they do know each other. From Ani, I found out that their kampong folks had long suspected Nuri to be HIV positive because they had suspected Nuri’s late husband, who had been an injecting drug user, to be HIV positive as well.

Oh well, looks like despite the precautions Nuri took, her kampong folks had already assumed that she has HIV.

Nuri was one of those who had initially refused Buddies’ services. To her, having a buddy meant having someone to remind her of her HIV. But the time came when she needed our help to apply for welfare aid, so she called my colleague whom she met during one of our HIV clinic duties. My colleague then passed her case to me, thinking that having a fellow Malay lady as a buddy, Nuri wouldn’t mind me visiting her at home.

Nope, Nuri still didn’t want me to visit her at home. The last time I went to visit her, we promised to meet up somewhere in town, and when I asked her to recommend a place where we could sit down and maybe have something to eat while talking things over, she insisted to go to a place a bit further from her kampong, for fear that she may meet someone she knew.

We did help her get some financial aid, and with the financial aid that she got, Nuri opened up a food stall near a school. Sometimes business is good, sometimes it’s not. But that’s her source of income and with that income she brings up her children. Despite inviting her to join us for our Family Day every year, Nuri had always refused. To her, joining the Family Day activity would mean other people would know she has HIV.

While I feel that her children may want to attend our Family Day activities (otherwise the children hardly gets a chance to visit other places), I still have to respect Nuri’s wishes. I can’t force her to join us. I still contact her from time to time just to find our how she’s doing, but most of the time, she’d just say she’s okay.

After some time, my calls couldn’t get through, and my text messages went unanswered. Once in a while, I’d bump into her at the HIV clinic during my voluntary duty. When asked if she had changed her phone number, she’d say she’s still using the same number. It was as though she didn’t want to give us her number.

Actually I’m a bit concerned about her because she has an HIV+ child, Farah, 9. The girl was diagnosed rather late, because the parents didn’t know of their own infection earlier, and unlike now, pregnant women back then were not tested for HIV. During her first year in school, she was always sick and tests later revealed that she was HIV positive. With the many days of school Farah had to miss due to her illness, Nuri just told the teachers at school that Farah had some lung infections, which was also true.

The poor girl has since started taking Anti Retroviral drugs, and she has to take them all her life.

So why am I bringing up Nuri’s and Farah’s story now? Well, after a long silence, Nuri finally contacted me 2 days ago, from a new number. When I asked if she had changed her number, she said, “Eh tak, ni nombor lama!” But of course, she had been using that number for some time, but because she never gave me the number, it’s new to me!

Nuri called to ask if I could help her sister get a place at a government nursing college (she had already applied online, she was hoping I could pull some cables or strings). Ah, she needed a favour, so she called me! Too bad, I don’t have any cables (not even a rafia string!) at the necessary department or agency, so I couldn’t help her out.

But I took the opportunity to ask her how little Farah was doing, and was told that Farah had to be hospitalised again quite recently, again due to lung infection.

The poor girl! I’ve met her twice before and she looked somewhat fragile. Just like her mother.

The last time I bumped into Nuri at the HIV clinic (which was quite some time ago), I commented that she looked skinnier than before. And her immediate reaction was, “Akak nampak dah berisi!”

I wonder how Nuri and Farah looks like now. I know I have added some weight since I last met them, so I can just imagine a repeat of the very same sentence Nuri said to me the last time…

Thursday, 18 March 2010

How to help?

Early Tuesday morning, after my subuh prayer, when I was busy reading my emails and text messages regarding Kak Ruby's demise, out of the blue came a text message from Mrs K. Again, she was trying to borrow money - for one last time, she said. Even if it came at the right time, I wouldn't entertain her request; what more it came when I was still in shock over the news of Kak Ruby's demise. So no, I didn't bother to reply, and as of today, she too has been quiet.

Later in the afternoon, just when I was about to reach the junction to arwah Kak Ruby's house, a call came in from SN - causing me to make the wrong turn to the right when by right I should turn in left. Didn't wander off too far though, just stopped by the roadside, and only after I finished my conversation with SN did I make a turn back heading the right way.

SN would usually only call me when there is a problem to discuss regarding any of the PLHIVs. I don't get her calls often. So why did she call me this time?

Remember Zali, the guy whose wife left him and their 2 kids? Well, at least that was what Zali made us believe. I could understand why his wife left him, but I could never understand why she left the 2 girls as well, especially with Zali not having any source of income and still on methadone treatment to add. I've tried asking Zali for the wife's phone number so I could personally speak to her and so that I could understand the situation better, but Zali always came up with all sorts of excuses not to give me the number.

My main concern is the children's well being. And that too, is the concern of SN and Dr Ker at the HIV clinic. Which was why SN called me on Tuesday. Dr Ker had asked her to find out if Zali is getting any help for the children. If Zali himself is not working, how and what does he feed his children? I remember one time he called me, begging for help as he and his children had not eaten for the day and when I met up with him in town to pass some foodstuff to him, he cried and told his 3 year old daughter, "Hari ni kita dapat makan, adik!"

At one time, I did wonder what kind of a mother Zali's wife was... but now, come to think of it, I am not too sure if Zali had told me the whole truth. He did tell me before that he is unwilling to part with his children. And from my sources, I was told that once in a while when he goes to the methadone clinic, his wife was seen as well. Maybe that was the only time the wife could see the children (unlike Zali's earlier story to me that his wife never came back for the children).

And why on earth wouldn't Zali give me the wife's phone number? My guess is he doesn't want me to find out his wife's version of the story.

I do want to help the children, but any financial help would have to go through their guardian; in this case, Zali. But frankly I'm not sure if I can trust Zali with cash. What if he uses the money for drugs and stop going for his methadone? Which was why the last help I gave, I gave them foodstuff.

Nevertheless we did try to arrange to get financial help for the children. I had even got him to sign up the form to apply for Pediatric Aids Fund (under the Malaysian Aids Foundation), but Zali did not give me the copies of supporting documents needed, like his children's birth cert, his IC and his bank account details. OK, so maybe he doesn't have a bank account. But his wife is working with a government agency, sure she has a bank account. I really need to at least speak to his wife but Zali had not been cooperative. I don't even know the wife's name, and neither does SN.

Zali too still has a mother, who stays in another town. Zali doesn't want to stay with his mother as it would be difficult for him to come every day to Ipoh for his methadone. He doesn't want to leave his children with his mother either, because according to him, his children are too attached to him already.

Hmmm... makes me wonder... is he actually using his children to get sympathy and financial help? Aargh!

I am really concerned about the children's well being, but it is difficult to help when you don't get full cooperation.

So how to help?

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Al-Fatihah: Ruby Ahmad (Updated)

Pic of Kak Ruby & myself at KLCC taken a few years back.

Blogger, Ruby Ahmad, passed away at 9 pm last night at Gleneagles Medical Centre, KL.

Her jenazah has already been brought back to her home at 95/50 Gedung Lalang, Ampangan, 70400 Seremban.

Funeral will be held today, 16th March 2010, after asar (waiting for her son to come back from Dubai).

May Allah bless her soul.

Innalillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un.

*Update: Just got back to Ipoh after visiting Kak Ruby's jenazah in Seremban. When news about her passing went around this morning, some were saying that she died after just a bout of cough. Apparently, Kak Ruby had been diagnosed with breast cancer since a few years back, but she had kept it to herself and close family members. Even her close friends didn't have a clue. She underwent treatment, and survived. It seems in January this year, the doctors noticed a few spots at her liver. Over the weekend, she complained to her husband about some pain she was having, and noticed that her eyes too had gone a bit yellowish. She was warded on Sunday, and passed on last night.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Busy weekend

The exhibition in conjunction with International Women's Day went into full swing over the weekend. With more crowd anticipated, many activities were held during the weekend.

I had however promised Kerp that I'd be attending his wedding reception in Kelana Jaya, so Saturday was my off day. After all the obstacles Kerp & Pinky (his wifey) had to go through, I made it a point to attend. I still went in the morning to Kinta City Shopping Complex to help set up the Buddies booth, and once the volunteer on duty arrived and after briefing him on what to do, I left things to him.

It was about 10.20 am by the time I made a move from Ipoh. I had promised an alumni senior of mine that I'd notify her once I leave Ipoh. She wanted to pass some goodies for me to distribute to the poor HIV families under my care, and she thought it would be better if she caught me before the wedding reception. I told her I'd usually reach the Damansara Jaya exit in 2 hours, and since yesterday I needed to take the Subang exit, I told her it would probably be 2 ++ hours.

But hey, I actually made it to Subang toll in 2 hours. I stopped after the toll, and noticed there was a text message from my senior, to say that she was waiting for me by the roadside in front of the CGC building. Got from her some clothes, pillows and a pair of ladies shoes.

Then off I went to Dewan MBPJ Kelana Jaya, where the wedding reception was held. The moment I got to the parking lot, I saw Raden Galoh and her family. RG too wanted to pass 3 bags of toys to be given to the infected/affected kids under Buddies. Ahh... great! I always prefer to make my trips to KL or anywhere else more than just a single purpose trip. This time, other than getting to attend Kerp's wedding reception as promised, I also managed to get a load of stuff to be given away to the poor HIV families.

Sorry, I didn't bring my camera along to the wedding, so no pics from me. But I did get to meet quite a number of fellow bloggers, among them were Dato Rocky, Kak Ena, Kak Ton, Mat Salo, Shah, Zorro, Elviza and of course, Raden Galoh. Many of Kerp's wheelchair friends also came.

I left right after the arrival of the royal guests, HRH The Regent of Perak & his consort. (Oh, bukan tak hormat my raja, but I had already eaten and was already outside the dewan when he arrived).

By about 4.30 pm, I was already back in Ipoh. It did occur to me to just drop by Kinta City for the exhibition, but I finally decided not to. I needed some rest myself. Besides, today, the last day of the exhibition, I was on the morning shift.

But hey, I still managed to mow the lawn (yep, using my brand new "kerbau") this morning before going for the exhibition!

Together with me on the morning shift was a young "temporary" volunteer. Temporary? Well, she was interested to become a volunteer, but she will only be around until August or so, as such we can't really take her in to meet our PLHIV clients and all (due to confidentiality issues). But taking her in to help with exhibitions and awareness campaigns wouldn't be a problem at all. And it would be good exposure for her!

2 volunteers and 2 buddy bears

Right behind our table, there were handcrafts... nope, these were not made of rattan, they were actually made using recycled magazines! Anyone interested to find out more, or if you wish to order (manalah tau, nak buat bekas hantaran ke, or nak buat souvenir items ke), you may contact Rita.

Performances on stage began at about 11.30 am or so. The Pink Champion of Perak (support group for breastcancer) started off with a mime.

Then the DJ called for 5 women to come on stage for a game. The game? Since the theme of IWD is "Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities - Progress for All", the women were supposed to spell Progress for All... backwards!


The jazzercise instructor and her team performing.

And this was the scene when she got members of the audience to join her on stage!

Oh no, I didn't join the jazzercise! Didn't want my body to shake on stage in front of everybody! Shy lah! After all, I had my share of exercise for the day when I mowed the lawn at home earlier in the morning!

But I did join the next event called "Drum Circle" organised by KAMI. Right now I can't for the life of me remember what KAMI stands for, but it's a family support group for mental illnesses. By this time, my shift was just over, and 2 other volunteers came to our booth to take over.

Yep, that's me on stage with a kompang just waiting for instructions.

Then a few of us exchanged intruments. First the kompang, then I got to hentam the... errmm... whatever-you-call-it drum.

There were a few other performances after that, but since my shift was already over, and I figured I needed some rest after a stretch of activities for the whole week, so by 3 pm I left.

Tomorrow, after office I'd better go to my NGO center to make sure that all the reports for our coming AGM are ready to be distributed. We need to send out the notice and reports to all members ASAP as our AGM will be at the end of this month.

I'd also better check out on Halimah... if her baby has been discharged from the hospital. She did mention to me that the baby had some "jangkitan kuman", but I don't really know what kind of infection she meant.

A blog reader has also donated some money through me to be given to Lin, who needs to go through an op in early April to remove her fibroid, so I'd better make sure I pass the money to her soon so that she doesn't worry too much about her finances for the time being.

Ah yes, back to normal routine...

Thursday, 11 March 2010

The exhibition

The exhibition at Kinta City in conjunction with International Women's Day, which was launched on Monday, 8th March, is still on. For Buddies, today was our first day at the exhibition.

I had initially wanted to get all the materials from our centre yesterday, after the meeting. But since the meeting ended quite late, I decided to get the things this morning before going to my office.

So yep, that was what I did. The centre is not that far from my home anyway, so it didn't really cause me any inconvenience to drop by. I then went straight to my office, only to leave again at 9.30 am to head to Kinta City to set up our booth. Although my shift today was from 2 - 6pm, I still had to go in the morning to set up the booth.

Since the main doors to the shopping complex only opens at 10 am, the exact time that the exhibition starts, I had to go in through the loading bay. There I was carrying the buntings, posters, and 3 bags of pamphlets/brochures/bookmarks - all at one go - to save me the trouble of having to make a few trips to my car.

The 2 who was on duty for this morning's shift came in at 10 am, after the doors to the public opened. I then left them and headed back to my office, and only came back to Kinta City at 2 pm after my lunch and zuhr prayer.

A rep of the Bar Council Legal Aid Centre (Perak Branch) with one of our volunteers (in the red vest) posing in front of our booth.

We didn't have enough space to put up all our posters, so we used up the space at back of our buntings. Yep that's Siti Nurhaliza and Umie Aida (their posters lah, not them in person!). Maybe tomorrow I'll bring Dayang Nurfaizah along (her poster I mean).

The stamp of support for equal rights and equal opportunities. As of today, 3 pieces of the above have already been stamped and signed by members of the public.

Today being a working day, we didn't really expect many people to turn up. But hey, it wasn't so bad. It was after all, a shopping complex, and so yes, we did have some interested people turning up at our booth. 2 ladies even inquired about how to go for testing, claiming that "a friend" is constantly worried about being infected because her ex-husband (divorced about 4 years ago) was an IVDU. They even showed some interest in volunteering. I hope they eventually will.

It was during my shift that we got our brand new red vest (as in one of the pics above) which we plan to wear during all our awareness programmes. So yeah, the 2 of us in the afternoon shift were the first 2 to wear the vest.

My shift ended at 6 pm when another colleague, the vice-chair came over right after work. Tomorrow I will have to go through the same routine again. Go to centre to get more brochures and bookmarks. And oh, some condoms too. Leave office by 9.30 to set up booth before rushing back to office again. Then after lunch, rush to Kinta City for my shift at the booth.

Oh by the way, Halimah called me up today to tell me that she had already given birth last Saturday. My mind was too occupied with the exhibition I forgot to ask if it was a boy or a girl...

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The discussion, the lawn mower and the 888 tag

As mentioned in my previous posting, I had been invited to join the discussion organised by the women’s wing of a political party, pertaining to problems faced by women. I didn’t get any proper letter to really know the exact topic to be discussed, but I just went anyway.

It was only at the meeting itself did I get the letter, and the actual topic of discussion was “Bagaimana Menangani Masalah Sosial”.

Other than representatives of the political party itself, others invited were NGOs, JAIP and the police. All the representatives were women.

As always, matters pertaining to women’s rights were raised… we spoke about empowering the women etc but then we realised, maybe we have been targeting the wrong groups for awareness. Many of the awareness programmes had been targeting the women, but what’s the point if men themselves are not made aware of their responsibilities? So yeah, target the MEN!!

Anyway, all the problems seem to be inter-related to one main thing – FAMILY.

I shall not go into each and every detail of the discussions. If we had not focused on a few major topics, then discussions would probably still be going on at this very moment! So we all agreed to set up a few sub-committees. I volunteered myself to be in the sub-committee for the setting up of a shelter home in Perak. A home which accepts the problematic cases without prejudice and without making any prejudgments. A home which wouldn’t say no to HIV cases.

I had expected the discussions to end by 4 pm (we started at 2 pm), but it went on and on until after 4.30 pm. Immediately after the meeting off I went to a machinery shop which sells stuff like lawn mowers and the likes. I had initially sent my old lawn mower there for servicing but when I got to the shop yesterday, I decided to trade in the old faithful for a new lawn mower. The old one is already at least 10 years old! A new one should be easier to start! I had promised the guy I’d come and get the new lawn mower at 4 pm today, but I was still in the discussion then. When I got to the shop, the guy said, “Haiya, saya ingat you sudah lupa! Saya punya orang sudah tarok minyak semua, tengok you tada datang. Pukui lima setengah tutup kedai lor!”

“Sorrylah taukeh, meeting habis lambat leh… ini baru pukui lima, sempat lagi apa?”

So yeah, I’ve got myself a new toy at home now. Am not sure when I’m gonna start “playing” with it. Maybe on Sunday, before my 10 am shift at the exhibition in Kinta City. Otherwise it will have to be during one of the weekdays next week but I will have to get it done before next weekend.

After a short rest at home, I checked my emails and then off I went blog-hopping… only to realise that I had been tagged by a blogging cat for the 888 tag. I promised her I’d respond, so here’s my response!

The rule:
1. Go to your photo files… select the 8th photo folder
2. Select the 8th photo in that folder
3. Post that photo along with the story behind it
4. Then challenge 8 blogging friends to do the same.

Hmmm… okay kitty, I’ve checked my photo files. They are divided into 5 main folders – Family, Alumni, Office, Buddies and Blogger. There’s no 8th folder. But I still kasi chan. The main folder have sub-folders under them, but only the Buddies folder have more than 8 sub-folders. The rest have less. So yes, I kasi chan again. I selected the 8th sub-folder in the Buddies folder. The sub-folder is for the Buddies Annual Family Day 2009. That settles rule #1.

Then I selected the 8th photo in that sub-folder to comply with rule #2.

Then comes rule #3. Aiseh… post the photo along with the story behind it?? Errrr… that particular photo shows a group of my PLHIV clients. For confidentiality purposes, I am NOT supposed to show pics of the PLHIVs to others! So sorry, I cannot comply with rule #3.

And because of that, definitely I cannot go on to rule #4!

But hey Cat-in-Sydney, I promised I’d respond… and I have responded! Aci tak aci belakang kira!!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The talk

Yesterday as I was on my way to the launch of the International Women's Day events at Kinta City Shopping Complex, MF (hai sayang... tee hee) called me up, asking, "Puan, esok macam mana puan?" Laaahai... dah janji nak datang, jadilah yeop! He then asked, "Pukul berapa puan?" He'eleh... your own letter stated that it's supposed to start at 9 am, follow that letter lah yeop... ish! ish! ish!

Anyway, another volunteer promised to tag along and since her office is at the same building as the college, we promised to meet up at the college lobby at 8.45 am. So this morning after making sure I had all the necessary materials in my bag, especially my external hard drive which stores all my files, off I headed to the college.

I got there quite early, and waaah, quite a few of the staff came to greet me. And oh by the way, MF is a staff, not a student as I thought! Well, quite a number of their staff are quite young, I must say. Or is it that I'm the one who's old? Hmmmm....

While waiting for my colleague to come, I was introduced to one of their senior management. The CEO conveyed his apologies for not being able to attend. Once my colleague arrived, we immediately headed to the library where the talk was to be held.

I then made sure my powerpoint presentation was ready before the function started off with one of the staff reciting the doa. The emcee then invited the senior staff to give a speech. He spoke to the students about voluntary work etc and it seemed at first to be quite a long speech, then he himself realised that it wasn't supposed to be his talk but mine... :-) so he stopped and the MC handed over the mike to me.

The talk went well, and I must say amongst the many talks I have given so far, the response this time was the best. Students and lecturers alike responded well and asked quite a lot of questions, to the extent that my throat was rather dry by the end of it. Oh yes, there was a bottle of mineral water and a glass at the rostrum, but I didn't feel comfortable about gulping the water down my throat with everybody else watching me... (I ni pemalu, jangan tak tau... hehehe...)

Questions asked range from matters pertaining to life-span of someone with HIV, what precautions to take when we have to handle someone with HIV, what sort of encouragement we should give to an HIV +ve person, etc.

So yes, I must say that the talk did in at least a small way open up their eyes and their minds to HIV/AIDS, especially with the real life examples I gave about my own clients.

Hopefully after this more colleges will organise such talks for their students. It is this age group that we need to target as more than 70% of HIV infected people in Malaysia consist of youths.

Coming up next: The discussion with the women's wing of a political party pertaining to problems faced by women. Yep, it is confirmed for 2 pm tomorrow.

Monday, 8 March 2010

International Women's Day 2010

8th March 2010 - It's International Women's Day and the Perak Women for Women together with Soroptimist International Ipoh is jointly organising a week long celebration in Ipoh. The venue is sponsored by Kinta City Shopping Complex, Ipoh.

The theme? Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities.

Although Buddies will only be setting up our booth there from 11th to 14th, I went for the launch today. The Guest of Honor was YB Dato Hamidah Osman, state Exco.

While waiting for our VIP guest to come, a group of nurses from KPJ Ipoh Specialist Centre performed the poco-poco dance.

Arrival of our guest of honor (in blue tudung).

A welcome performance by the cheer leading group who call themselves Titans.

Launch of the event by a group of... women, of course...

Putting the stamp of approval for equal rights and equal opportunities.

Stamped and signed!

Performance by children from City Ballet Ipoh.

A group of retired ladies from Kelab Pesara Ipoh not wanting to be left out of the performances.

There was supposed to be one more performance, but it was already 6 pm and I needed to go back. So that's about all I have to report on the launch...

Coming up next: The talk.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Busy week ahead

The Perak Women for Women Association (PWW) will be organising a list of activities in Jaya Jusco, Ipoh from 8th to 14th March in conjunction with International Women’s Day 2010.

Activities include information and awareness booths, health screening, blood donation drive, performances etc by various groups and organisations. Buddies too have been invited to set up our booth… in fact I was asked if Buddies would like to perform anything. Performance? I told the lady we didn’t want to spoil the whole event!!

Setting up an exhibition booth would be great, but we simply don’t have the manpower to man the booth the whole week. Understanding our situation, PWW agreed to provide us with a booth from 11th to 14th March.

Frankly, even for just 4 days I knew it wouldn’t be so easy to get enough people to man the booth. After all, the exhibition is supposed to be from 10 am right to 10 pm. So we drew up 3 shifts per day: 10am – 2pm, 2pm – 6pm and 6pm to 10pm. I suggested that the Thursday and Friday day shifts be taken up by those with flexi working hours… or the pensioners. So yep, managed to get one or two volunteers for each shift.

Monday 8th March - Although we’re only taking part from 11th to 14th, I do intend to attend the launch of the International Women’s Day celebration on Monday. Other than lending my support to PWW’s activity, I would like to have a look at the exhibition space, so it will be easier for me to decide which posters to set up at our booth later.

Tuesday 9th March - I will be giving a talk on HIV/AIDS at hai sayang’s college… hehehe…

Wednesday 10th March – Nothing confirmed yet, but I’ve heard angin-angin that I may be invited by the women’s wing of a political party to join their discussion on matters pertaining to problems faced by women. Somebody recommended my name as I deal directly with HIV women. I’m not sure yet if it’s on though… if it’s not, then Wednesday can at least be my rest day…

Thursday 11th March – My shift for the exhibition will be from 2pm to 6pm, together with another senior volunteer. But I still have to go for a short while in the morning to set up the booth before going back to my office, as the 2 volunteers on the morning shift are both quite new.

Friday 12th March – Again I will be taking the 2pm – 6pm shift, this time with a trainee volunteer.

Saturday 13th March – My off day from the exhibition as I plan to attend a blogger’s wedding in Kelana Jaya.

Sunday 14th March – Back to the exhibition… this time I will be taking the 10am – 2pm shift.

So yeah, busy week ahead. I just hope I can take the heat… with the kind of hot weather we’re getting now…

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Hai sayang

When a guy, MF, called me up during the CNY break, asking if we could provide a speaker for a talk on HIV/AIDS they plan to organise at their college, I told him it shouldn’t be a problem as long as he didn’t give us short notice. I made it clear that we are all volunteers, we have our own jobs, and as such it wouldn’t be easy to meet last minute requests.

At first MF mentioned 5th March, but with an option to having it on another date more convenient for us. I asked if it could be done in the afternoon, as it would be easier for me, but he insisted it would be easier to get more students to attend in the morning. So we finally agreed to have it on the morning of 9th March.

But all those arrangements were by phone calls; and so I told him to at least send us an official letter either by fax or by email, for our records. I gave him both Buddies’ fax number and email address.

I waited but the letter never came. Then last week MF called, just to confirm with me that the talk is on, but he had been busy so he asked if it’s okay for him to send me the letter this week. He didn’t ask for anything else, he just asked me if I am still okay for the 9th March talk.

Monday morning, after I came back from Kuching, I received a text message from MF (whom I believe is a student of the college), saying that the CEO at his college requires the biodata of the speaker. I was rather busy in the office then, and thinking that since the talk is next week, there’s ample time for me to write my biodata and email to MF later.

But later in the afternoon, this guy called me up, saying that his CEO wanted to see my biodata on that very day and asked if I could give my biodata there and then! I understand the CEO’s concern – surely he didn’t want to have any Tom, Dick or Harry to give the talk on such a serious topic to the students in the college. But really, MF should have asked me for my biodata earlier and not give me last minute notice. What… he thinks I have nothing better to do, is it? He’s so busy he couldn’t send me the letter I requested, yet he thinks I have all the time in the world to prepare my biodata there and then?

But I figured he must have already been scolded by his CEO for not getting all the required info ready, I just typed a very brief biodata of myself and emailed it using my personal email address. The first email bounced, so I asked MF if he could give me another email address. He did, and I think this time he gave his personal email address.

The next morning, I received another SMS from MF – saying that his CEO requires a more detailed biodata, like a file attachment. I told MF that I’d be busy the whole day, and so if he insisted on a more detailed biodata, I’d only give it to him the next day. Actually I could get my biodata done in the afternoon, but I was getting rather pissed off. I mean… he’s the one who’s not properly organised; why is it that I, as the invited speaker, who’s getting pushed?

A few minutes later, I received a call from the college, this time not from MF, but from the student affairs officer. This officer was more professional in his approach. Anyway, based on the short biodata I gave earlier, and looking at my name, 2 of the officers at the college recognised the name. They were personal friends of my business partner and one of them even joined us during our Kuching trip. The moment the lady saw my name, she exclaimed, “Eh, I baru gi Sarawak dengan dia!”

I guess after that they didn’t worry too much about whether I was “qualified” to give the talk. The student affairs officer just asked what I needed them to prepare for my presentation. So I just told him that my presentation would be in powerpoint format and so they’d need to prepare the computer, projector etc. I will just bring along my external hard drive where all my files are kept. I took the opportunity to tell him that I was still waiting for the official letter from them inviting us for the talk. “Laaa… takde pulak dia bagitau saya pasal surat. Nanti saya tanya dia balik!” said the officer, commenting about MF.

This morning when I downloaded my emails, one email caught my attention. With an email coming from a “hai sayang” as the sender’s name, when all other emails had proper names as sender, naturally I thought it was one of those spam emails. I almost deleted the email without opening it, but suddenly I noticed the subject line of that very email - “Jemputan Ceramah AIDS”. Mak aihh! It was MF, attaching the official letter that I was waiting for!

Hai sayang??!! I bet he uses that name to communicate with his girlfriend and forgot to change the sender’s name when he wanted to send the official letter to me. I purposely replied the email just to say, “Noted, TQ” just so that he’d notice that he just “hai sayang”-ed me. Muahaha!

I betcha he’d be quite embarrassed to meet me next week!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

PhD in business

I was on clinic duty again this morning. As I got into the hospital compounds, I saw 2 hospital security and 2 policemen at the parking lot near the specialist clinic. Apparently some idiot couldn’t find a nearby parking space, didn’t want to park any further and so simply parked the car in the middle of the car park – blocking at least 4 properly parked cars from getting out. I didn’t see the idiot who parked the car there, but I sure hope they towed the car away! Baru padan muka. Kalau ya pun nak cari jalan mudah, janganlah menyusahkan orang!

At the HIV clinic, there were supposed to be 3 new cases to be referred to us today, but only one turned up – an ex-IVDU who is undergoing methadone treatment. His wife, who had been tested negative, came along. They don’t have any children, and they seemed to be coping well.

That was it. Nothing exciting at the clinic today.

Remember I had planned to visit Lin before my Kuching trip but ended up visiting Sofie instead because Sofie had to be warded at the hospital? Well, yesterday I finally visited Lin to deliver this month’s supply of groceries for her family. I had taken the supply of groceries from the minimarket on Monday afternoon as I planned to visit Lin the next morning before going to my office. I figured if I visited in the afternoon, she’d be at her pisang goreng stall and it would be a problem for her to carry all the stuff back home on her motorbike.

So yes, I went to visit her in the morning. The house was quiet. Rahim her son was in school, her daughter Marlia was asleep (afternoon session in school) while Lin herself was just lying down in bed waiting for her alarm to go off at 9 am – the time for her to take her ARV medication.

I then found out that Lin is no longer selling pisang goreng. It wouldn’t have been a problem had I visited in the afternoon after all.

So what happened? Why did Lin stop selling pisang goreng at the stall?

You see, during my groceries delivery to Lin last month, she was told by the doctor to have a good rest for one week due to her swollen wrist. Well, after that when she wanted to start selling again, the guy renting the space (Lin just tumpang his stall without paying any rent) told her he wanted the space back as he himself wanted to sell more than just drinks. There wasn’t much Lin could say as the stall wasn’t hers. So she went to tumpang another stall nearby for her pisang goreng business.

Then all the badmouthing started. The guy (the one who originally allowed Lin to use his drinks stall to sell pisang goreng) started saying out loud, “Bukan aku yang halau dia” and whatever other stuff implying that Lin was the “tak mengenang budi” type. Then he himself started selling exactly the same stuff that Lin was selling – pisang goreng, cucur udang etc.

I think what probably happened was that with Lin selling pisang goreng at his stall, more customers went to his stall. He was probably thinking that if he starts selling pisang goreng himself, he’d earn more income. So he told Lin he wanted the space back, without telling her what he intended to do. What he didn’t expect was that Lin managed to get another space nearby so soon before he managed to start anything at his stall. So he started badmouthing her, and immediately started selling the same stuff himself.

Not being the kind who wanted to get into trouble with other people, Lin gave in. It’s difficult if there is a competitor with a PhD (perasaan hasad dengki) in such a small business. And Lin didn’t want to risk the prospect of the guy finding out about her HIV and starts spreading the story to all and sundry.

So for the moment Lin is no longer selling pisang goreng at the usual place. She’s looking around for another place for her business, away from the PhD guy. But she may need to postpone her plan. Her appointment with the O&G specialist recently had confirmed her fibroid problem and the doctor had set a date for her to be operated in one month’s time. If Lin is to start her stall now, she will need to take a break in such a short time. So might as well settle her fibroid problem first.

Now Lin worries about the hospital payment. She asked the doctor for a black & white on the cost to be incurred so she could start asking around for financial assistance to cover her hospital bills. But the doctor told her not to worry about it – just go ahead with the operation and worry about payment later. “Bukannya mahal pun, tak sampai seratus”, added the doctor. Even tak sampai seratus is a whole lot of money for people like Lin, especially now that she has no source of income other than our Sponsorship programme for her children’s schooling, and the alimony from her ex-husband (which doesn’t necessarily gets paid on time). Thank goodness, this year she is getting the supply of groceries so at least she doesn’t have to worry about her children not having anything to eat. Judging from what I had delivered to her for the past 2 months – they should have enough supplies for the whole month while waiting for my next delivery. She’d better pray for my health as well so that I can ensure the groceries are delivered on time!

I told Lin not to worry about the hospital payments. There is ample time for me to arrange whatever documentation needed for her to be exempted from payment, just like the letter we managed to get for Halimah recently.

Lin’s only worry now is her house rental and utilities. No business this month, and she may need some time after her operation to recuperate before she can start thinking about how to generate income for the family. But ever since I knew Lin, never once did she attempt to beg or borrow any money… unlike “you know who” who kept on trying despite saying that “Kak Zah tu garang!”

Whatever it is, I hope Lin will be able to cope. I will keep a close watch on her.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Kuch… kuch… Kuching!

As early as 7.30 am on Friday 26th February, I was already at the Ipoh-LCCT bus station in Bercham, for our all-girls office trip to Kuching. I was the one holding all the bus tickets, flight boarding passes, hotel booking confirmation etc AND the office cash for use in Kuching (to pay for group payments, shopping masing-masing sendiri punya cashlah!), I figured I might as well be there first. Oh well, I’m most of the time the first to arrive anyway…

With our flight ETD at 12.55 pm and our bus ETA at LCCT at 11.45 am, I didn’t want to risk not having enough time to check in, so I opted for web check-in and so we didn’t have to rush once we got to LCCT as we already had our boarding passes with us. There was no luggage to check-in anyway (time pergi hand luggage enoughlah, time balik different story).

Anyway, our bus was on time, our flight too was on time. We didn’t have enough time to have lunch first though, and we didn’t think it was worth buying lunch on the flight, so we only had lunch when we arrived at the Kuching airport. Only after our tummies were filled that I went to purchase our taxi coupons to get to our hotel. When I asked for 2 taxis, the lady suggested that I took the van instead. 2 taxis @ RM30 each, 1 van at RM50. Oh yeah, might as well take the van. There were 8 of us.

Our hotel? Oh, just a budget hotel, not at the Waterfront, but still within walking distance. Good enoughlah. And adjacent to the hotel lobby is Chillipeppers, which offers a variety of food, and opens 24 hours. So food-wise was not a problem even if we got hungry in the middle of the night.

After checking in, and having a short rest, off we went heading to the famous Waterfront. Just jalan-jalan enjoying the scenery.

basking A diiferent kind of basking?

We wanted to go for a river cruise, but the bot tambang, with a fare of only 50 sen one-way, would only bring us across the river. We wanted a short cruise along the river.

Well, there was a special cruise…


…but after looking at the fare, we decided not to.

cruise rate

So we asked one of the bot tambang operators how much he’d charge if we wanted him to bring us for a short cruise before dropping us off on the other side of the river. He said he charges RM5 per person, so yep, we grabbed his boat.

boat cruise Nothing close to the earlier cruise boat, but whaddaheck!

It was only when we were already cruising along that I realised the boat we were on didn’t have a single life jacket on board! Uh oh… other than my partner’s daughter (seen here in this pic with me), all the rest of us couldn’t swim to save our lives!!!!

sarawak river cruise

But the boat ride went smoothly, and I still managed to get a lot of pics from inside the boat. I’ll just put one here…


We were then dropped off on the other side of the river, so we walked around to see what was on that side. While there, we saw dua ekor kucing-kucing di Kuching ready to get into a kucing fight!


We waited until sunset before getting on another bot tambang to get back to the Kuching Selatan side of the river.

sunset Sunset at Sarawak River

Once back on the other side, we just walked around, “surveying” the place – where to get souvenirs etc. Then our tummies started grumbling… “woi, laparlah!” and so we walked over to TopSpot, one of the famous food centre in town. All of us being newcomers to Kuching city, we didn’t know there was a lift from the parking lot (we went to the place on foot anyway, so didn’t see the lift), and so menapaklah all the way to the roof top! Ordered seafood for dinner and we had good food for quite a reasonable price. Burp! Err, sorry, no pics… we were so hungry we grabbed the food the moment it was served (the food came quite late as there were soooo many people that night).

After dinner, we decided to get back to the hotel. We had a long day of travelling, so we might as well get a good rest before another long day the next day. Anyway, we decided to use the staircases on the other side of the food centre which was nearer to our hotel side. Konon-konon short cut, no need to walk so far. We got to the ground floor, and we were at the car park, with a divider at waist level separating us from the road leading to our hotel. Too lazy to walk back to the front, we decided to climb over the divider! There weren’t any male species around anyway, so whaaaddaheck!! (didn’t notice if there was any CCTV though…)

So yep, on the very first day of our trip, we were on a bus, a plane, a boat AND we climbed over the divider!

Day 2 : I had already booked a van and a driver for day 2. With a rental of RM270 for a 10 seater van inclusive of petrol and driver from 8 am to 10 pm, I considered it a good deal. Most of the others that I found on the internet offered 9am to 6pm package. The guy I dealt with already had other engagements but he promised to make arrangements for another driver to come and fetch us.

First, we had our breakfast, at Chillipeppers near our hotel, while waiting for our van to come. I told the driver Zul that we wanted to visit the Cultural Village in Santubong and that we wanted to make sure that our timing would be right to catch the 11.30 am cultural performance. I left it to Zul to decide where to go first and what time to get where. He’s a local and he’s used to driving tourists around so he should know better.

Zul said there was still time, so he brought us to the Cat Museum first.

cat museum

cutey cats The girls becoming catwomen for the day!

After about half an hour or so at the museum, we headed off to the Cultural Village which was about 40 minutes drive from Kuching. Zul was so good he even offered to buy the tickets etc even though we didn’t ask him to. He even got the tickets at a cheaper rate (I think probably it was sort of “commission” paid to him for bringing in tourists, but mind you he returned every single sen of the balance to me, we managed to save RM10 per person for our entrance fee!)

OK then, in we went for our walk around the cultural village. First stop, the Bidayuh longhouse.

bidayuh The lady sportingly posing when I said I wanted to take a pic with her.

According to the lady (in the above pic), this chicken in the pic below (called Manok if I’m not mistaken) had been staying at the longhouse since small and is already used to having visitors around.

cv chicken

anak dara atas tangga

Anak dara duduk atas tangga…

iban Coming down from the Iban longhouse.


The girls taking a breather at the Penan hut.

orang ulu The Orang Ulu longhouse

melanau Melanau Tall House

gasing One of my office staff giving the Sarawak gasing a try. She ended up almost hitting me with the gasing instead!

malay A makcik posing at the Malay Town House

chinese Finally, at the Chinese Farm House

Anyway, it was a very hot day and walking around to all 7 Sarawak houses was quite a feat! I was sweating so much, and my face felt so oily, I think I produced enough oil to fry an egg! We finished our rounds just in time to get to the theatre for the cultural performances. The place was packed with people, there weren't anymore seats for us, but we managed to get a standing space at the back row, good enough for us to get a clear view of the performances on stage. Luckily the theatre was air-conditioned, I was dry again by the time the 45 minute show ended.

cultural show

After the Cultural Village, we told Zul to take us for lunch. We wanted to try mee kolok, and asked him to recommend us a place. So he took us to a small restaurant in Satok. Our mee kolok looked somewhat pale, but mak aihh… pedasnya boleh tahan!

After lunch, off we went to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre with the hope of catching a glimpse of the semi-wild orangutans there. Before giving us our tickets, the guy at the ticket counter told us there was no guarantee we’d be able to see any orangutans at all. Apparently, those who visited during the morning feeding time went back disappointed as none of the orangutans showed up. It was fruiting season, the orangutans could easily get food in the wild and didn’t bother to come during feeding time.


But guess what? We were lucky enough that during the afternoon feeding time, while we were there, a few orangutans turned up, including one the rangers call “Hot Mama” (this one if she starts coming towards you, you’d better run for your life!). So yep, we managed to clearly see some orangutans at quite a close range, distancing ourselves just enough for our safety.

orangutan Hot mama and baby

Before sending us back to our hotel to freshen ourselves, Zul brought us to the civic centre. There was a tower which we could go up to have a good view of Kuching city. It was only when we got there that Zul remembered that just 2 days before, somebody committed suicide by jumping to his death from the tower. True enough, the guard there told us that the tower was temporarily closed to visitors. So what he showed us was just the spot where the guy fell and died. So much for a view of Kuching city…

We then went back to our hotel to freshen ourselves and told Zul to fetch us again in 1 1/2 hours time. We were tired, yes, but it would be such a waste to stay in the hotel for too long since we were there just for a short holiday. There was no time to waste. Zul then took us around Kuching city, heading towards the kampong area in Kuching Utara. The day before we were on that side by boat, this time we took the longer route by road. Zul even showed us the Chief Minister’s house.

Zul then brought us to Kg Gersik, to buy the famous kek lapis Sarawak. I didn’t know buying kek lapis Sarawak would be quite a task! There were so many varieties we didn’t know which ones to buy! Yes, they provided samples for tasting, but with so many varieties, I got confused even after tasting. So I ended up with my usual “hentam sajalah” approach. Just took 5 types – ikut nasiblah!

For dinner, again we went to TopSpot, and ordered things which we hadn’t ordered the night before. This time Zul took us in through the car park and dropped us off right at the door to the lifts, so we were spared from more huffs and puffs up the stairs to the roof top! And after dinner we didn’t have to climb over any more dividers. Hehehe…

Then we went one more round at the Waterfront area as my office staff wanted to buy souvenir items. But most of the shops there close quite early at night and so we didn’t really have time to buy much. We just headed back to our hotel and I paid Zul for the day’s services.

Although I booked the van and driver for just one day, we were sooooo satisfied with Zul’s services, we decided to hire him for the next day. Our flight was in the afternoon and so we decided to check out in the morning, get Zul to fetch us at the hotel and bring us to Pasar Satok before sending us off to the airport.

So yep, after breakfast (again at Chillipeppers), we checked out and the total we had to pay for the hotel (for 8 people for 2 nights) was only RM480! That’s just RM30 per person per night. Cheap no? And the place wasn’t bad at all.

Anyway, off to Pasar Satok we went.

pasar satok

I bought myself the “mandatory” terubuk masin and a few souvenir items to bring home. There was still enough time after that, and so we asked Zul to bring us back to the Waterfront for one last round as the girls wanted to buy more small souvenir items for their kaum-kerabat back home.

I decided not to buy anything else, so I just lepak-ed at the riverside while waiting for the girls to shop. By 11.15 am, we made a move to the airport as we hadn’t checked in yet. Our flight was at 1.55 pm. And guess what? Usually for van charges from hotel to airport would be RM50. For the additional 2 1/2 hours or so driving us to and waiting for us at Pasar Satok and then Waterfront, Zul just charged us an additional RM10. I bet if I had approached him direct for Saturday whole day rental, we would also probably be charged at a cheaper rate. So yeah, if anyone out there plans to visit Kuching and needs the services of a reliable van + driver, I’d highly recommend Zul.