Monday, April 26, 2010

"Luckily you are plain-looking"

My girls sometimes remember things they eavesdropped on and pester me for clarification. The other day we were talking about how our society is becoming less and less helpful. I told them a story of a friend of mine who was robbed by a motorbiker in broad daylight, dragged a few meters on the road and people simply stared at her without attempting to help. Worse, she had to borrow ten cents to make a phone call to her housemate. No one would volunteer to help.

Prompted by the story, they suddenly remembered one of their aunties whom, they heard, had been robbed thrice; twice at a bus stop when she wasn't driving to work, and the other time, just outside of her office building. They asked me what could the reasons be. Caught off guard, I said "maybe she looks "expensive"". What I meant was she is the type of person who likes to wear jewellery and fine looking clothes.

One of my girls said "luckily you are plain-looking, mom". I looked at her, pretended to be hurt and said "O....K...", to which she quickly said "it's meant to be a compliment!". Right, thankfully I am plain-looking. I only wear a ring on my finger and a necklace and I wear a baju kurung most of the time. If that wards off robbers, I'd be happy to be plain-looking forever :-)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

of baju kurung and living in Sabah

Being a Sabahan, I grew up without much awareness of the ethnic-stereotyping that is quite typical in Peninsular Malaysia. In Sabah, there's nothing weird about wearing a baju kurung and speaking Malay while eating pork in a Chinese restaurant because baju kurung and speaking Malay are not associated with being a Muslim. In Sabah no one thinks of others as being Malay, Chinese or Indian. That would have been difficult to do, considering that there are more than 100 ethnic groups here.

The most that people do to point out differences would be to label people as Muslims or Non-Muslims. It is only when it is really really necessary that people ask what your ethnic group is. It doesn't mean that people don't recognize differences. They do, quietly, because there's no need to be loud about it. Anyway, I think there are some exception to this. Like today for example, I met a friend's mom for coffee. I wore a baju kurung because I was working. We don't know each other that well, having met only once in Perth. She hesitated a bit then blurted out, "you are wearing baju kurung. Does that mean that you have become a Muslim? Because I'd like to invite you for a meal at home one of these days and I don't want to be serving you food you cannot take". Stunned, I looked at her then laughed my heart out. I explained to her that everyone wears baju kurung here, whether or not one is a Muslim. It is comfortable and easy to take care of so I often wear one. The aunty smiled and realized her mistake for generalizing.

That reminded me of the first time I got the same reaction. It was in KL, a few years ago when I was a student. I wore a baju kurung to one of the lectures at the uni and somebody actually congratulated me for having become a Muslim. It was a shock then, because that was my first introduction to the stereotyping, and back then, I thought the person who said that to me was kind of... rude. But that was before. Now I can laugh this thing off and do my best to explain my position. I live in Sabah and here anything decent that you wear is almost everyone :-).

Saturday, April 17, 2010

No padicure/manicure on Tuesday and Friday?

I have my padicure/manicure once in every three weeks for the simple reason that my nails are very soft and unhealthy They break easily and are very difficult to take care of. The lady that does my nails is a Filipino who is very friendly and never runs out of topics. Since the four months that she's been coming to my house to do my nails, I find that I always learn something new from her. In my mind, I call her 'Informative Bea'- there's a lot of lessons to be learnt from her anyway. The best thing is she doesn't even know that she's very informative.

Bea talks about everything under the sun, from horoscope to business management to health. And I always find that the things she says are things that you can only get from good sources, or experiences. Some of the things are unbeliaveable but somehow still make sense. Coincidence perhaps, but still good to know. Like this morning as she was doing my nails, she reminded me that the last time she did them was on a Friday. Puzzled I asked her what's wrong with Fridays? And she pointed the condition of my nails that were worst than ever before. Even the cuticles were thicker, the skin peeling and they hurt quite a bit. She said from her 15 years of experience doing people's nails, she found that nails done on Tuesday and Friday always end up having this problem. "You must be kidding Bea," I said. She said she's serious. She has no explanation for that except that it's something like when it is full moon, people tend to become depresed. Wow...speechless. Could it be true? No matter what she reminds me not to call her for my next padicure/manicure on those days again...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Making sense of Martians and Venusians (part 2)

Men are born with the need to appreciate power, if not to be powerful. That's just the opposite of women who need, most of all to feel loved. That's the second generalization I learned from the book. And with this realization, I know that my hubby made a tough decision to choose to come back to KK the first chance he got instead of waiting for the promotion that's due sooner or later.
As a person serving the country in the government sector, his chances of promotion are always better in KL, the capital city rather than in KK. But he has chosen to come back home to his family now rather than later. According to the perspective gained from the book, choosing love over power can affect a man's sense of 'manness', making him a bit lost. But my hubby chose us and for that I am grateful...His decision made me feel appreciated, loved, important. The next time around, I know I'm going to have to make some selfless decisions get my phd done even though I've come to the point of 'almost quitting' because of the many challenges I faced and the duties I have to carry out now.

So when power and love are balanced, there's harmony...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Making sense of Martians and Venusians (part 1)

Yes, I've heard of John Gray's "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" most talked-about book since it was first out in 1992. But I couldn't be bothered to read it then. For one thing, I wasn't in a serious relationship- I mean I wasn't married. And I was young and silly...but I'm glad I had the chance to read it, finally, after all these years. Apparently being too idle since he has been apart from the family, hubby bought one, read it, liked it and made me read it. I'm glad I did because I have been much enlightened by the book. I thought I'd share some knowledge here...

The first point I learnt is that men and women deal with problems in ways too different that they often cause great miscommunication between the genders. Men, when they have problems, prefer to be on their own, while women want to talk and be comforted. Not just by anyone- mostly from their partners.

A girl friend lamented to me, "my husband has stopped talking to me. He works long hours, hardly ever sees the family, and yet when he is home, he prefers to watch the TV or read the newspapers. I feel so neglected. Like he doesn't care anymore, even when I'm not well. Maybe he wants me to die so he can marry someone else..."

If I hadn't read the book, I might have judged the husband in the same way she does, but I'm thankful that I have. I have learned that doing little things like watching TV and reading the newspapers are actually ways for a man to solve his problems. He has to be on his own until he finds the solutions to all his problems. This would be the most painful stage for his partner, because the man would be oblivious to the partner's need for caring. (Wives, tell me if you have never experienced this...) Once he has found his solutions, he would be back to his normal self, like nothing has ever happened. Hmm, annoying but it looks like we wives have to live with it. I am now deducing that if a husband doesn't talk for a long time, he might have great problems that he's trying to solve...and not because he has stopped caring.

Women, on the other hand, solve their problems by talking and expecting to be comforted. So when the wife talks about things like other people's problem, complaint about the mess in the house, how bad her day was etc, (which would definitely sound like nagging to the husband), she is in need of caring. A little hug and some comforting words will do the job. She doen't need the husband to solve her problems; just to listen.

I was amazed at how true these are. The next time my girl friend laments about such things, I think I'll know what to say. Most importantly, the next time my man goes to his cave, I'll remember his need to be alone, and wait patiently till he comes out of the cave, even though I know such time is always painful...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Reflection

I have this recently met friend whose smile reminds me of a bright sunny day. She's one of those people who can make others feel good even at moments of pain. Once I asked her what's her secret for being ever cheerful and pleasant, and she jokingly said "keep feeding the spiritual side of yourself. It will reflect on your physical side". Good advice. And so for Easter, here's some food for the soul:

1) Sometimes, God breaks our spirit to save our soul.

2) Sometimes, He breaks our heart to make us whole.

3) Sometimes, He sends us pain so we can be stronger.

4) Sometimes, He sends us failure so we can be humble.

5) Sometimes, He sends us illness so we can take better care of ourselves.

6) Sometimes, He takes EVERYTHING away from us so we can learn the value of EVERYTHING we have.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Good Friday reflection

Like any practising Catholic, I went to church for Good Friday mass yesterday. After four years in Australia, the super jammed traffic and super packed church compound at KK shocked me a bit. I thought coming an hour earlier before the mass time would get me a place inside the church. Little did I think of bringing a picnic chair just in case...and there I was, stuck outside the church under the hot sun. Like many others. It would have been so easy to simply walk away and forget all about Good Friday.

I looked at all the people-some loooking grim and tired, some chasing after little toddlers who couldn't understand why they had to be there, some obviously frail-but all seemingly so into the celebration. And their faith amazed me, as usual. How could I not be when just that morning as we were watching a documentary about Jesus, my little boy asked me, "why didn't Jesus use his power to get off the cross?" It struck me that many must have been asking the same question. Why indeed? The Christian faith teaches that it is because of LOVE that Jesus endured the crucification...which might be too abstract to some to understand. I guess that's why different religions suit different people.

It must be faith that brought all these people to the Good Friday congregation. Faith which is sometimes difficult to explain with logic. And as long as the faith makes you comfortable, and you feel that it helps you to lead a good life, then that is your truth...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The key word is BALANCE

As I was browsing through Dawama (the bookstore of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka) today, my enthusiasm of choosing books for my kids turned sour when I came across a certain book that promotes the Malay language as the SOLE language to be respected in Malaysia. Well, at least that was my impression when I read through the introduction section and chapter 1 of the book. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Bahasa Malaysia. On the contrary, I love Bahasa Malaysia. As much as I love English and my own mother tongue. In fact I love languages.

But it dissapoints me to know that people can actually write in such a way that makes it seems like using English and other languages in Malaysia is a crime. The author blasts the aspiration of certain people to encourage people in Malaysia to learn English more in order to obtain more knowledge. To the author, that is unacceptable (at least that's how I interpreted it when I read the sentences), unpatriotic, unMalaysian.

I wonder what's the author's agenda. If the author were an academic, I would have to say their writing style doesn't reflect a broad mind, unless of course, the author is an academic with some other agendas. I am sure his intentions are good, but to me, to write in such a way creates a bad consequent. It might corrupt the young Malaysians' minds (or people who are not used to thinking for themselves I might say), making them think that English shouldn't be learnt at all.

It saddens me that this kind of writing is being circulated in my country. Yes, I support the idea that Bahasa Malaysia should be given due respect, and that other community languages should be helped to thrive in this era of modernisation. But the key word is BALANCE. While doing that, it is wrong to give the impression that English should be left out. Even a primary school kid knows that without knowing English it is almost impossible to go on the internet!

My hope is that Malaysians (the extremists) will learn to be more balanced. There is a good side of everything. But then again, I am a Libran, and my middle name is BALANCE.

Blogging Life...TataJane Copyright © 2010