Friday, July 27, 2007


We're currently having the 39th Session of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) at the UN. Various countries made their presentations followed by sometimes heated yet interesting discussions. To challenge myself, I listened to the French translation of those presentations. Lots of issues were being discussed, from trafficking to female genital mutilation (FGM) to economic rights to health issues etc -
But what struck a chord in my heart is this photograph that is on display. 

This could be your nenek (grandmother) and mine. Instead of spending her golden years in tranquil existence, this nenek is taking up arms to protect her family & land from being taken away by unscrupulous invaders. Oh nenek! :(

To think that the current hot story on OK! magazine this week is about Britney Spears who "stood up and rubbed grease from her fingers into the front and back of the dress," effectively ruining the garment & that "a pair of $595 Marni shoes and a $5,602 Versace gown also met their demise in the course of the day." For Heaven's sake! Some of that money could help ease the pain and suffering of the untrodden poor in other parts of the world... If only the rich were to help the less fortunate, perhaps they would find that inner peace they so badly need.

+ Dearest Soul mate (whoever you may be), I intend to bring our family (during the school vacations) to do humanitarian work in Palestine, Mozambique or in whichever country that needs our help, God willing...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Niagara Falls

Oui, Ivania (Mexican Fulbrighter whom I knew from Sciences-po days), Apeckchya (Nepali UN intern) and I survived the long trip to Buffalo (Beau: Beautiful, l'Eau: Water) & Canadian border enduring a Chinese speaking tour guide and an extremely rude bus driver. What a weird but hilarious weekend! The highlight of the trip was the boat ride that took us very close to the waterfalls. God's creations are indeed fascinating!
It was also nice meeting people in the bus such as Sandeep, Azhar's Deloitte 'twin' (so surreal, from the way he laughed to similar academic qualifications) & Shishir, jovial Chicago financial consultant.
Watch this space for more writings & pictures. But now, I must catch that F train to work! yawn...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Reflections during flood @ Queens

It rained so heavily this morning. The train did not run, the buses were very late... arghh... frustrated, wet people were all over the place... the umbrella didn't keep me dry. With drenched clothes and braving the mid-calf flood, I walked home and rested in bed with a good book and cough medicine. Anyway, while resting, my mind wondered off to my junior college days...

There was this quiet male Chinese cleaner who swept the grounds and cleaned the college. He was thin and frail looking. A mean person would say he was retarded due to this facial structure. I noticed that he always looked at students studying. Every day before he went home, he would stand by the study tables and looked at the open books. He seemed so sad; then he would walk away with his signature gait. 

I don't know why but I can't erase that image even after all these years. What was his story? Perhaps, he had always wanted to go to school but never had the chance due to poverty or war or ... Perhaps, he longed to learn how to read. Gosh, I wish I had talked to him then. I wished I knew what was on his mind when he looked at our books. I wish I had helped him... :(

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Reaching for the next star

Of late, there have been some cynics who spoke with much discouragement of my dreams. Obviously they have forgotten of how Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore's former Prime Minister) ignored all criticisms and transformed Singapore (which has no natural resources) into a first world country within 30 years of independence.

The Nepalis said, "It is the mind that wins or loses". I had once scaled the Everest region, despite chest pain and near death experiences and I shall exercise that same determination and perseverance in reaching for my next star.
Nenek advised me to stay away from negative people. She encouraged me to always "usaha & doa" (strive & pray). So dear cynics, I will quietly distant myself from you. Remember, at least I dare to sail across the constellation, something that you are not even brave enough to dream.

First, they ignore you,
then they ridicule you,
then they fight you,
then you win.

~ Gandhi

New York Philharmonic

Mark Adam Collins & I attended the "Summertime Classics - Moscow on the Hudsons" at the Avery Fisher Hall last night. We had a scrumptious Turkish dinner at posh Dervish (Mark belanja!) before running to catch the train to Lincoln Center, with Mark lugging my heavy books.

But what beautiful music! The New York Philharmonic was simply excellent. I've attended many concerts but nothing can be compared to this one. Maestro Lorin Maazel (a Fulbright fellow) was brilliant and hilarious. He connected with the audience and taught us what to look out for in the music. He told us the background of each musical piece and commented on certain musical sections. Kevin Kline (my first celebrity sighting in NYC) was there to narrate the story of 'Peter & the Wolf' amidst absolutely delightful music. The experience was exhilarating and I've never been so inspired to learn the violin!

Thanks Mark for agreeing to bring my books back to Singapore.
Thanks Mary (my S'porean UN aunt) for the tickets! Give us more! :)

United Nations, Nations Unies

I started my pro-bono UN internship with the NGO Section, Department of Public Information in New York on Monday, July 2.
Friends asked, "Is it worth it, 6 months of no-pay & no benefits living in the world's most expensive city?"
Alexa, the intern from Paris lamented, "Is it worth it, us with our Master degrees slaving sans salaire?"
Let's hope the UN experience is worth the sacrifice.

During Ustaz Hannan's family visit to the UN, his precocious 5 year-old son asked, "How come Malay is not one of the official languages here?". I smiled and told him, "When I become the Secretary-General of UN, that will be one of the things I will implement!"

+ Malay (& Bahasa Indonesia) is spoken by about 350 million people.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Shalom Fresh Meadows!

I'm finally here, my new residence at 65-11, 180th St. Fresh Meadows! I left PA at dawn with all my stuff in my car (Kak Alo & Philip drove ahead of me with all my stuff in their car too!). The panoramic view of Manhattan in the morning mist was simply breathtaking.

I was controlling my tears when Kak Alo told Kak Waty, "Take care of my grown-up daughter, ok?" Kak Alo & Philip, I love you dearly!
I met Devi who stays in the other room in my cosy basement apartment. Devi is stylish, neat and nice. Kak Waty's family who live upstairs is also very welcoming. And guess what? I spoke some Hebrew to the neighbours next door, Ani lo medaberet ivrit! The house I'm staying in is 3 doors from the Utopia Jewish Center. Ahah... looks like I'll get some practice with the neighbours. While running this morning, I bumped into Yichhak's brother who greeted me Boker Tov.

Ken! Hidayah the intern has started her New York adventure with her first daily morning run :)

Leaving Bethlehem...

Some images snapped @ Lehigh on my last day...

As I walked around Lehigh University, I felt 'sebak di dada'. I've grown to love the picturesque campus, met some wonderful people, learned from the best in the field.

How can I forget mugging @ library; makan sessions at Din's & Raya's; chillin' at Deja Brew & Denny's; all the community service trips; everyone at St Luke's Hospital; learning to bake Kek Lapis from Kak Alo; luncheon with neighbours & friends; cooking Sambal Goreng; coming back home at 5 am (from studying) only to meet Philip at the door and have him ground his 'daughter'; buffalo wings; smiling at the shy American grad student who shovelled snow from my car; all the outings with beloved sorority sisters of Alpha Delta Kappa; LL Bean; bonding with good friends; the memorable car accident outside Trembley the night before Commencement.

As per Anuar Zain's song 'Perpisahan':
Ku harungi hari demi hari
Bersama wajah tak mungkin akan kembali

Well, this Pennsylvanian girl will soon become a New Yorker.
A new city, a new adventure.

Amish County

Staying in Pennsylvania is not complete sans visiting the Amish and Mennonites. So Doris, Connie & Julie took me to Lancaster County to see them.

Some info from Wikipedia: The Amish are an Anabaptist Christian denomination known for their plain dress and avoidance of modern conveniences such as cars and electricity. They separate themselves from mainstream society for religious reasons: They do not join the military, apply for Social Security benefits, take out insurance or accept any form of financial assistance from the government.

Two key concepts for understanding Amish practices are their rejection of Hochmut (pride, arrogance, haughtiness) and the high value they place on Demut or "humility" and Gelassenheit (German, meaning: calmness, composure, placidity) — often translated as "submission" or "letting-be," but perhaps better understood as a reluctance to be forward or to assert oneself in any way.

The Amish anti-individualist orientation is the motive for rejecting labor-saving technologies that might make one less dependent on community; or which, like electricity, might start a competition for status-goods; or which, like photographs, might cultivate individual or family vanity. It is also the proximate cause for rejecting education beyond the eighth grade, especially speculative study that has little practical use for farm life but may awaken personal and materialistic ambitions.

Streets of Philadephia

"What! You've never walked around Philly? But you've been everywhere in the States!" exclaimed my sorority sisters.
So there I went, walking down the streets of Philadelphia on 21 June in the good company of Lenore & Ginny.