Sunday, August 27, 2006

Oops I did it again...

Yes. Barely a few days after celebrating four years of being together, i did it again. Webby told me in no uncertain terms that i was too impatient and had a lot of issues with Christianity.

It all started when we were at Pyng & Sheryl's - my cuz, Choo was there, she was a born again Christian. And we started talking about Christianity. You know what they say - when making small talk, never talk about religion and politics. Those two subjects are completely taboo. They just happen to be my favorite topics, especially religion, so in i happily splashed, jumping eagerly in where angels fear to tread.

They were talking about being 'slain' - where the Holy Spirit 'slays' you by knocking you over with a feather. I was quite interested in this phenomenon, and knowing Webby was a missionary before, i enthusiastically turned to her and asked, "So, can you do that?"

She replied, "No, no one can do that.."

Then i lost it.

All compassion and right view and all that jazz went singing out of the window before you could say hallelujah.

I just snapped because i felt she was joshing me - i felt that she knew what i wanted to know yet gave me the usual crap (see .. so freaking judgemental) about oh we don't do anything, it's all the Holy Spirit.. it reminded me of the time i met this healer called Christopher. I said to him in passing, oh so i hear you do healing? And he said, no i don't - Jesus Christ is the healer, not me. At first i was scornful, then after thinking about it, i thought that at least it was humility there, not claiming responsibility for one's talents. But it did nark me a bit. So when Webby said that, it just threw me in a spin so i went off to join Pyng outside on the deck while i calmed down.

When we got home, of course the issue came up - she wanted to know why i was so upset. So i explained that firstly, it was the way she answered - if she had said yes or no then qualified it, that would be fine.

She said that she would have explained more further if i'd given her the chance but i'd stormed off. And that it was usual Christian jargon.

Agreed i'd stormed off, but i still felt that if she had replied the way i (see.. ego again) wanted, it would've been ok. And that i knew it was Christian jargon but i was hoping she would be able to give me an answer without the jargon.

She of course disagreed and said that she answered the best she could.

I thought about it and agreed that 1) i was too impatient, i wanted the answer my way and when i didn't get it, i got pissed off. Learning - be more patient. Tell your ego to fuck off. 2) i have huge issues with Christianity - she thinks i want to bash it up, but i actually want to know what is the truth. Does the Christian God exist? Does Jesus exist as portrayed in the Bible? Is the Bible the real deal etc. Learning - don't get so hung up on Christianity and don't judge whether a religion is so called better than the other. Underline "don't" many times.

So me bad, as usual.

I decided to go out for a walk. Check out the twin moons thingy. Apparently Mars was going to be visible from earth, so i gazed at the sky but all i saw was cloud. A bit like seeing the inside of my head really.

So after a stroll round the block i came home and decided to do a hundred prostrations to quell my patience and get over my ego. Ok, i know a hundred aint much but to me, who hadn't done a hundred since May?.. it was a big deal.

At least when i was done, i was too tired to feel pissed off anymore. Maybe that's what's meant by purifying one's negativity.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Egg donation II

Well, the two weeks of agonising waiting are up - and the news wasn't good. The pregnancy test was negative and the potential mother-to-be had stopped taking her hormonal tablets.

They were disappointed.

We were disappointed.

Pooi Lam was disappointed.

I think we were more disappointed because we didn't really think it would have failed. I couldn't really believe it when i heard. I empathised with Mr & Mrs HK - especially as this was considered the last resort for them.

As for us, i guess the karma for MH to have a child somewhere in the world just wasn't there.

For now anyway.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation

Over the weekend, i was proofreading Rinpoche's soon to be published book on 'The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation' - it's fabulous.. i can't describe how fabulous this teaching is. It's like my heart bursting!

Just at the begining of the book, Rinpoche says that all Dharma activities must be FREE from the eight worldly concerns, which are:

to be happy when we are praised,
to be unhappy when we are insulted.
to be happy when we receive any gifts,
to be unhappy if we don't.
to be happy upon achieving reputation,
to be unhappy when we are unsuccessful.
to be happy when we are comfortable,
to be unhappy when we are not.

Rinpoche says "it will be better to memorise those eight worldly concerns than a hundred tantric practices and I am not trying to blow your mind away." But he did!

My mind is completely blown.

How often am i subject to these eight concerns and don't even think about it.

It was such a revelation - and it was only the beginning.

The actual Eight Verses of Thought Transformation was written down by Geshe Langri Tangpa but originated from Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Shantideva and of course from Buddha Shakyamuni:

With the determination to accomplish
The highest welfare for all sentient beings
Who surpass even a wish-granting jewel
I will learn to hold them supremely dear.

Whenever I associate with others I will learn
To think of myself as the lowest among all
And respectfully hold others to be supreme
From the very depths of my heart

In all actions I will learn to search into my mind
And as soon as an afflictive emotion arises
Endangering myself and others
Will firmly face and avert it.

I will learn to cherish all beings of bad nature
And those pressed by strong sins and sufferings
As if I had found a precious
Treasure very difficult to find.

When others out of jealousy treat me badly
With abuse, slander, and so on,
I will learn to take all loss
And offer the victory to them.

When one whom I have benefited with great hope
Unreasonably hurts me very badly,
I will learn to view that person
As an excellent spiritual guide.

In short, I will learn to offer to everyone without exception
All help and happiness directly and indirectly
And respectfully take upon myself
All harm and suffering of my mothers.

I will learn to keep all these practices
Undefiled by the stains of the eight worldly conceptions
And by understanding all phenomena as like illusions
Be released from the bondage of attachment.

Absolutely fabulous.

Rinpoche gives a great elucidation of exactly what these Eight verses mean so you MUST MUST MUST get the book when it comes out - please email me at to order a copy!!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Egg donation

A few months back, Pooi Lam had idly mentioned to me in passing that one of her friends, who is based in Hong Kong, was very desperate to conceive a child but IVF had failed and they were looking for an egg donor. I, in turn, idly mentioned it in passing to my friend, MH. MH and i briefly talked about how difficult it is to want to have a child and yet can't have one and then moved on to another topic.

A couple of days later, the topic came up again and somehow, MH thought it would be good to help out this couple, so we told PL that MH was thinking of becoming an egg donor and what did she think. PL relayed the message back to her friend and her friend suggested that MH go to the fertility doctor for a check up to make sure all is well. MH agreed and off we went to the clinic.

At the cosy clinic in Damansara Heights, Dr. P, a softly spoken gentleman, asked her a few pointed questions - like did she know that she would have NO rights to the child, and was she intending to have children of her own etc. He was concerned that she knew who the recepient of the eggs were. In his experience, he said, it was always better for the egg donor and recepient to be anonymous. This way would stop prevent complications such as the donor being attached to the child. He even suggested that MH donate her eggs but it be given to another recepient and another donor's eggs be given to PL's friend. However, MH said that if it was anonymous, she wouldn't really be interested in donating - it was specifically because she wanted to help this couple. i've wondered what karma was involved here!

After ascertaining that MH was being a donor for the right reasons, he gave her a check up and blood test which turned up all OK. As time was running short, PL's friend decided to fly to KL to see MH. The meeting was important to both parties to see if they clicked. So the couple and their first child (also conceived by IVF - but subsequent procedures failed, which was why they were told that the only way forward was to get an egg donor)arrived in KL for the following weekend.

The meeting was good - everyone got along well. MH thought the family was nice and vice versa so the deal was on! The procedure was timed for August to coincide with the school holidays so the HK lady come over with her son. She needed to be in KL for around two weeks for the process.

A couple of months passed with reports of MH's monthly periods to all concerned - including PL - as the 'matchmaker'! Finally in July, on the second day of MH's period, PL took her back to the clinic. MH was given a set of daily injections to encourage all the eggs to ovulate.

She was warned that the injections would make her PMS more directly proportional to the number of eggs. Can you imagine if you normally PMS over one egg ovulating per month - this time, she would be PMSing over 7 eggs ovulating. It was certainly a daunting prospect.

I came back from Taiwan after MH had been taking the injections for a couple of days. She seemed ok but tired. I usually faint at the sight of needles but after hearing about how important PL deemed her husband to empathise with her IVF injections, i tried my best to support MH. The week passed quickly. Mrs. HK arrived the following Monday and she and MH had to both go to Dr. P to make sure both their bodies were in synch. Basically, that MH's eggs were growing at the same rate as Mrs. HK's uterus was getting ready to receive the future embryo. They were both on track.

In addition to MH's daily injection, she now had an additional one in the mornings. I must say MH bore all this tremendously well - there was no sign of the dreaded crankiness - instead, i seemed to be the one suffering from PMS (see my previous post)! The only side effect was extreme tiredness. i felt tremendous admiration for MH - to go through all this for the benefit of another. i don't think i could have done it myself.

The procedure was scheduled last Saturday morning. The day before, we were going to have dinner with PL, Mr. & Mrs. HK, but the final injection on the Thursday which was for the eggs to mature, just knocked MH off. She was feeling quite ill and we cancelled dinner.

Early on Saturday, MH went into the hospital for surgery to harvest the eggs, which took about half an hour. Dr. P had seen a polyp in her uterus in the ultrasound scan and had previously told her that it should be removed at sometime or another, so he removed it as well.

Mr. HK had arrived a couple of days before and was at the hospital on Sunday to make his contribution to the process. Mrs. HK and PL were also there to visit MH. The surgery went well, and Mr. HK's semen was mixed with MH's eggs and there was nothing left to do except wait til Tuesday to see which eggs were fertilized.

So yesterday, we all assembled at the hospital again and found that only three eggs were fertilized and those were implanted in Mrs. HK.

Now we have to wait two weeks before we find out whether the embryo developed.

It's been quite an amazing experience to have witnessed this entire process. Let's pray that all goes well and hopefully in nine months, we will have another bundle of joy in the world.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Attachment and Desire

Attachment and Desire is really my undoing. Much as i fight it and try to practice Dharma - to think of others first before my bloody self. It's often too bloody hard. Why is it so bloody hard? Isn't happiness just a state of being - a different perspective - i know all that theoretically but putting it into practice is too bloody different. I know the demons are all in my own mind, so all i have to do is tame the bloody lot of them. If i had a demon killing gun, i'd shoot the bloody lot! Why am i ranting like this, even. Just focus and transform your freaking mind!

Yesterday, i had a Boggle competition. Boggle is my most favourite game. I'd been looking forward to it for weeks. Of course that's my ego wanting to show off, i guess. Sean had wanted to have a Japanese lunch so Webby and i agreed to take him. After lunch, i suddenly felt so tired, i fell asleep in the car. When we got home at about 3, i just went upstairs and passed out on the bed, after setting my alarm. The alarm just barely woke me up and i scrambled to get ready. We were supposed to meet at Marmalade Cafe at 4.30 and it was already 4.20! Webby was very tired so i told her to just rest. Of course i would've liked her to come with me, but i thought it was better for her to rest and we also had Shirley's dinner to go to after. I guess it was also a bit selfish of me because i'd much rather her be rested for dinner than to come and support my game, but i thought it was a fair trade.

Anyway, when i got to Marmalade, i was still feeling so tired and groggy. I could barely focus on the game. We didn't do well at all, and I missed some really obvious words which i would normally have gotten. Our team came 3rd out of 4 teams, which wasn't very good. The game also took longer than expected and Shirley was supposed to fetch us at 6.45, but i was still playing at 7! I told Shirley to pick up Webby and that i'd go over to Atrium myself later.

After the game ended, i drove home. I was really feeling a bit odd, so i took my temperature and it was about 100 degrees. I popped two panadols and rushed over to Asian Heritage Row. Shirley, Kim, Shida, Pooi Lam and Webby were already there. We had a super dinner and it was lovely to see Shida again after such a long time. Faery joined us later - looking sexy and cool in her micro skirt!

I was feeling much better already, and asked if anyone wanted to go to Qba for dancing later. Shirley said there was dancing nearby so i said ok. Anyway after chatting til around 12, they decided to adjourn somewhere to go dancing.

Aside from Boggle, dancing is one of my most favorite activities.. but i knew Webby was tired so when she said she wanted to go home, i was not in the least surprised. Disappointed, yes, but surprised no.

That's when my demons all came out and started poking at me with their white hot tridents.

I honestly think i became schizophrenic for awhile.. i was having this huge inner battle.

Angel: It's just bloody dancing. Webby's not well, think of her first, you selfish little shit.
Demon: But i wanna go party! i haven't been partying for agessssss *whine whine*. She knows i like partying so much, why won't she let me gooooo.. she doesn't want me to be happy...
Angel: Ages? You only two weeks ago?
Demon: But we didn't even really dance!!!!! It's been so long since i've had a really good dance.... if only i could..
Angel: Don't even go there.. no 'if onlys..'
Demon: Is it too much to ask...
Angel: How can you even think that when someone you care about is not feeling well... you really are incredibly selfish and small minded. All that caring for others is nothing but empty words.. you don't care about anyone else but yourself..
Demon: i bet she just doesn't want me to go to test me.. to see if i sulk.. *sulks*
Angel: Don't you dare show that face to her.
Demon: Why not? I don't get to do what i wanna do and i can't even sulk? *sulks even more*

and ad nauseum...

Got home, got cranky, tried to hide it... thought i'd do some Dharma work to repair the truckloads of negativity i was carrying - worked on this script that has been taking forever to do..

i stewed all night.. trying to tell myself... i should be happy, i should be grateful for all the things i have - telling myself: THIS IS GOOD ENOUGH, you selfish shit! Thinking "THIS TOO SHALL PASS" and any other stupid euphemisms that i thought would help make me feel better. Thinking of the Eight verses.. Webby is my Guru - to teach me to cut my ridiculous attachment to effing dancing. It's ONLY dancing, for God's sake! What's WRONG with you?!

Darn, i should've just followed Faery to Migstema and maybe that would have gotten something out of my system..


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Research in Taipei

Just got back from an amazing trip from Taipei yesterday... not that i thought Taipei was amazing. As a place, i have absolutely no interest in returning there at all. Maybe that's not fair to Taipei as i didn't really get a chance to look around - no, i didn't even make it to the 101 Tower!! It was mostly a working trip, packed with interviews.

This was my first official trip to research into Tsem Tulku Rinpoche's biography, which i am currently working on. He was born in Taiwan under complicated conditions (read the book when it's published to find out!) so i went there to find out more. Prior to departure, several interviews had been arranged.

First, with Tu Mama, someone who was close to Rinpoche's family, secondly, with Shi Mama, the lady who looked after Rinpoche until he left Taiwan, thirdly, with Kuan Mama, who was Rinpoche's mother's classmate and who took him out when he was small. Finally, we also managed to secure an interview with Rinpoche's uncle - David. This last one was the interview i was most nervous about because he had agreed to the interview on the condition that we didn't talk about the family. What else could we talk about? Anyway, it promised to be an interesting trip.

I went with three others; Joe, our Director of Kechara Media and Publications who is also Taiwanese, Irene, a long time student of Rinpoche who had done some research in Taiwan on Rinpoche's behalf in the '90s, and Chia, Rinpoche's personal attendant. We arrived late on Friday evening and went to bed after a quick supper. We had a hiccup though - Shi Mama was no where to be found. She wasn't answering her phone and no one knew where she was. Since she looked after Rinpoche for the first seven years of his life, she would've been a crucial person to interview. Nevertheless, we would progress with the other interviews we had set up. Another minor hiccup was that there was apparently a typhoon heading our way. It was predicted to hit Taipei on Tuesday and go through til Wednesday - the very morning we were supposed to leave! I prayed that we would be able to leave as scheduled.

Day 1: Saturday, 22 July

Saturday morning, we went to visit Tu Mama. I was quite excited because she was the one who potentially had a lot of information to share, especially as Shi Mama was now nowhere to be found. Irene had met up with her when Tu Mama had visited Malaysia in the '90s and already collected some fascinating info, which i looked forward to confirming and hoped she could elaborate on.

When we arrived at Tu Mama's apartment, we found her lying down on her sofa. She was ill and couldn't talk to us! We were crestfallen and didn't quite know what to do. Tu Siao Chie (Miss Tu), her daughter, tried to be as helpful as possible and gave us some info - but she couldn't remember much as she was only 7 years old when Rinpoche was a baby. Tu Siao Chie said that her mother suffered from depression too. Tu Mama used to be very active but as she got older and her hip was giving trouble, she was getting depressed. She managed to get up for a photo though.

After getting as much from Tu Siao Chie as possible, we went for a lovely lunch - typically Taiwanese i was told. I liked their fried rice with jasmine tea - very unusual and fragrant. I didn't care much for the other dishes though - especially the braised beef!

Around 3pm, we went to the Mongolian Culture Centre to look around. There was a Genghis Khan exhibition on but the Centre looked closed. We peered in through the glass doors and it looked all dark inside though the sign said it was open. We pushed the door and it opened so we walked through, feeling a little like trespassers. A lady popped out of nowhere, grinned at us, said something in Mandarin and started to switch on the lights. I felt like we had booked the place just for us!

That night i took a walk to try to find Juliana's Hotel - The Sherwood. It looked near our Hotel Fortuna on the map but after twenty minutes, i gave up, had a steak dinner and walked back. I met up with Joe and went through the interview again as he had to translate the parts i couldn't understand. My extremely basic Mandarin was really put through the test and thank Buddha for Joe and video recorders!

Day 2: Sunday, 23 July

On Sunday morning we went to Kuan Mama's brother's place. Rinpoche has such fond memories of her that i really looked forward to meeting her. At first we couldn't find the place despite walking up and down the street. Finally when we called Kuan Mama, we found that she had given us the wrong house number! Drenched with sweat and ravaged by mosquitoes, we eventually appeared at the right apartment.

Kuan Mama was as lovely as i had imagined. She was very apologetic over the mix-up with the house numbers. I was hoping for more information today after the disappointment with Tu Mama yesterday. Unfortunately, sweet and kind and sincere that she was - she thought Rinpoche had left the country when he was three or four years old. It was only later that she realized that he was in Taipei until he was seven.

We didn't get much information from her but it was nice to meet her and feel how caring she was. After lunch, we went back to her brother's place and she and Irene worked together to find Shi Mama for us. A few international faxes and many phonecalls later, she finally succeeded in locating Shi Mama at 4pm. Joe and i were quite tired but were re-energised when we heard the great news. Better still, Shi Mama was coming over immediately.

She arrived - a small wizened lady - somewhat different from what i expected. Unfortunately, she seemed to be unable to give us much concrete information either. It was a great disappointment.

Day 3: Monday, 24 July

We were scheduled to meet David at 11 am at our hotel. We were all dressed in our best and there was some nervous tension in the air. We had been discussing how to best approach him all weekend. As we took the lift down to the lobby, I jokingly said, our mantra for the day is 'do not piss the uncle off'. It was about 10.50 am when Chia and i were getting our things together at a table near the lobby entrance. Joe and Irene had gone off to do something when a tallish, unassuming white haired man walked in, casually but tidily dressed in a short sleeved collared t-shirt, khaki trousers and holding an umbrella. Irene had organised with him that she would be wearing a red top. It was a bit like a blind date. Anyway, Chia and i looked at each other and thought it would be the uncle. Even though it was still early, Chia sprinted off to find our missing team mates. As Irene rushed up and started to talk to the man, she confirmed it was him.

He sat down easily and i liked him immediately. He was courteous, warm and i was greatly relieved that he spoke in impeccable English - albeit a strong American accent! Even when Joe and Chia spoke to him in Mandarin, he would reply in English. Firstly he looked at the photos of Kechara House and the various Dharma outlets. He read all the captions carefully and commented on some of them.

After he looked through everything, Chia and Joe presented him with the gifts from Rinpoche which he treated with great respect. When the gift giving session was over, David stood up and said, "Now I'm going to have to be very rude and go off and do something..."

I was aghast. We hadn't even started the interview and he was leaving already?!

He smiled at all of us, who were looking at him with jaws agape. "I need to go.. and have a cigarette," he said cheerfully, and walked outside to light his cigarette.

We were so relieved.

When he returned, we decided to adjourn upstairs for a yam cha lunch. We had intended to book a private room, but the menu for their private rooms were rather exhorbitantly priced, so we decided to stay in the main dining area and hope that not many people would be taking lunch there, being a weekday and all.

True enough, there were only a couple of other tables.

We politely asked if we could take some video and he agreed. Another silent sigh of relief! We then started to ask him about his family and he was surprisingly open and very frank. There were areas he did not want to discuss, which he was quite clear about and we respected his wishes. Overall though, our interview with him was by far the best and most informative of the entire trip.

After lunch, he left and we went to find the chinese puppets that Rinpoche wanted. We took the MRT to the end of the line, Dian Sway, to the area where Tu Siao Chie had said we might be able to find them. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Like saying, oh, it is in Marble Arch .. or in Puchong.. Anyway, it started to drizzle and as the typhoon was supposed to hit the next day, i decided to head back to the hotel myself as the others continued their mission.

Day 3: Tuesday, 25 July

I woke up and quickly looked outside the window. The air seemed still with no whiff of rain or wind, let alone a typhoon. I guess Setrap must have heard our prayers. When we went down for breakfast, they had even taken away the 'Typhoon status board', which showed the path of the typhoon on a daily basis. Apparently the Typhoon had gone through the central and southern part of Taiwan and was passing us by completely. I felt like it was a bit like the passover - that somehow we were looked after by a higher power.

Today had been left free and easy - no interviews were scheduled so we were planning to visit some bookshops and Dharma stores. The night before, i had also found some info on a puppet museum and a puppet theatre which we could call to ask more information on where we could buy these puppets.

Then we received some photos of Rinpoche's grandfather and mother as well as comments and corrections to Irene's mini-thesis on Rinpoche's physical lineage, which were dropped off by David. As we looked through the photos, Joe decided to call Tu Siao Chie to clarify something. She passed him to her supervisor who told us that there was an article on Rinpoche's grandfather in one of the back issues of the Mongolian and Tibetan Culture Centre Newsletters.

Excited by this, we decided to go and check it out. We split into two teams - Chia and Irene were to go puppet hunting and go complete their purchases at the Dharma store. Joe and i would go to the Culture Centre to hunt for the article.

Joe and i hopped into a cab and arrived at the Centre at 1.30pm. The Centre was closed for lunch and would re-open at 2, so we went to a quaint little coffee house nearby to wait. It was a nice opportunity for me to chat to Joe one-on-one for awhile, but time flew and soon we had to go back to the Centre.

The staff gave us a huge pile of back issues, and Joe and i started scanning the articles. As i didn't really read Chinese, i was simply scanning for the word 'Wang', which means King or Prince and the article was on Palta Wang, Rinpoche's grandfather. Apparently it was a full page article. There were also articles in English, which i tried not to get distracted by, though i wanted to read them. I also looked carefully at the photos in the chinese articles, which were captioned in English, strangely enough.

The room seemed to have no aircon and the air was stuffy and still. We finished looking through all the issues and couldn't find the article. So we went through them again. Still no luck. Then i went through them yet again - and still nothing. We found some interesting articles - on Lama Tsongkhapa and Tarr Temple.

A few hours and a massive migraine later, we left with a couple of photocopies of some articles we each wanted. At least it wasn't a complete waste of time. We trudged back to the hotel.

It was our last evening. Joe went to see his friends. I went to have dinner with Ju at some supposedly famous Taiwanese place. It was like dumplings and wantons - it looked like a cheap fast food place, but wasn't really. I didn't even take a card from the restaurant when we left. We wanted to go to a night market and asked the waitress for the name of one, so she wrote it down for us and even sent us out to a taxi and told the taxi where to take us. I was impressed with the general courtesy of the Taiwanese - not just that incident, but overall, in my general interaction with them throughout the trip. Maybe it was just my good fortune to have met only nice people so far!

Day 3: Wednesday, 26 July

Irene asked for a wake up call at 5.30am. We were at the airport by 6.30 for our 9 o'clock flight. Just as well we arrived early because our luggage was grossly overweight. Fortunately, i was traveling light and could hand carry my entire belongings. Even with my check-in weight allowance, we were overweight by 36 kilos. Irene bargained for a reduction and they eventually charged for 30 kgs, which ended up as about RM800! Chia, Irene and myself had a check-in luggage each to take care of when we disembarked. We were a little nervous about customs, in case they wanted to tax us for the buddha statues we had bought. At KLIA, Chia was suggesting we walk to the back of the hall and go out the other side of the baggage hall as on our side, it seemed like most people were getting stopped.

I told him not to point as he was gesturing the huge circle he wanted to take as his exit route! I took the first bag of ours that came out on the carousel, popped it on my trolley and said i would go out first. With a silent prayer and hoping my Gaden monk bag would make me look like an innocent non-smuggler of any kind, i strolled through the customs' green lane.

Thankfully i emerged unscathed and waited for the others. They were taking so long to come out that i had guessed one of them had gotten stopped. Sure enough, Chia got caught and had to pay some taxes! I think he is such a transparent fellow that he probably had guilt written all over his face! Poor thing.

Anyway, i passed my bag to Chia and headed off home.

For the first time, i was so glad to be back in Malaysia - i didn't have that feeling when i came back from India in April this year. But this time, i was really glad to be home. Maybe it was the three cockroaches i shared the hotel room with. Or that i didn't particularly like the food. Or that Webby didn't come with me. But i'm glad i went - it was good to meet the key people in Rinpoche's early life, especially his uncle, whom i hope to meet again.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

No Smoking in the Attic

Last Saturday, Webby and I went to the opening party of the mini O - our mini olympics amongst a group of friends which we'd taken part in over the past few years. It was held in an art gallery called the attic, which was nearby in Jalan Bangkung. We paid RM25 to get in, which included one drink. It was a nice party - not too crowded nor too empty. But the best part was the no smoking policy. Since it was an art gallery by day, and we'd just rented it for the evening, smoking was confined to the small balcony outside. All the non-smokers were ecstatic. At last - to party without breathing in second hand smoke. Webby and i went home happily without reeking of smoke.

We all know the benefits of non-smoking. I personally don't have a big issue with it. If anyone wants to smoke, so be it, but i do think it's not fair to impose their wants on others.

While i sympathise with smokers for not being able to smoke at a certain venue, they can simply go outside for a smoke, whereas for non-smokers, we have no choice. It's either don't go clubbing or go clubbing and breathe smoke.

So, smokers - please - be kind and think about us for a change.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Take me as I am or leave me...

I was watching 'Rent' - a musical.. a couple at their engagement party sing 'Take me as i am or leave me' because one half thought the other half was flirting with a waitress at the engagement party. Basically one half is an ivy league 'control freak' and the other is a musician and a free spirit. The free spirit claimed to just be talking to the waitress and not flirting. Maybe the free spirit just wasn't really ready to settle down. And maybe the control freak was just feeling insecure. Who really knows except the free spirit what her motivation was. In the end, they went their separate ways. I know it's just a show but i thought the issue was interesting.

It brought me back to the question of asking people to take us as we are. But just what are we? Who are we? And what defines us?

Aren't we a constantly changing flux? If we are a free spirit or even it's opposite - a control freak - can we be different? Would that mean compromising our inner being? Our core personality? Is there a core that doesn't change? I used to say I'm not monogamous and i would never change. Well, i've been monogamous for almost four years now... so never say never!

I was discussing with Webby about compromise a few weeks back. She said compromise means that you are giving up something unwillingly and has a negative connotation. Instead, she said, we should think more on whether we complement each other. It was quite eye opening for me as i hadn't realised that the word compromise does have very negative implications. She said that if we think we compromise more than we complement each other in a relationship, that means there is something wrong with the relationship. Or rather, that there is something wrong with the way one views that relationship. A bit like the glass is half full or half empty thing. Everything is perspective.

Ajahn Nyana said a few weeks ago that we should just look at what we have and say - it's good enough. I just wonder though - if we accept what we have as 'it's good enough', does that mean we would simply stay with the first person we dated (arggh!) although it would also mean my husband wouldn't have left me...


Monday, July 10, 2006

Legalised gangsterism

Just as GL dropped us back from badminton, there were two motorcycles parked outside our gate. My heart sank. It was the supposed privately run security detail for our area - and this was the third day they had visited our house. Webby's car was parked on the street and on three separate occasions, had been broken into (smart tag stolen, even though it was in the glove compartment), her left wing mirror been stolen and most recently, been bashed up (see 'bad car-ma' below). We suspect that it's because we hadn't signed up with the security company, which consisted of two men supposedly patrolling the three streets in our area during the night and one man during the day.

This was basically legalised gangsterism. The jaga kereta now graduated to jaga rumah is asking for RM50 per month to make sure your property is 'safe'. Webby was hopping mad when they approached her on Friday for the first time, pointing out that if they were any good, her car wouldn't have been broken into and vandalised so many times. They ignored her complaint and were very insistent on her signing up and said they would come and pick up the form later but she said we'd be out. They came the next day, and I talked to them - telling them what use it was to pay when we didn't feel safe. They still were very aggressive about us signing up. In the end, i told her i'd have to discuss it with my housemates.

We gloomily decided that it was better that we pay the RM50 per month than have something happen to our house or worse still, any of us.

She wanted to scold them (so did i, actually!) but i told her to not aggravate them and just ask them to help look after our house.

I wish there was another way to deal with this problem. We even smsed PL to ask how much it would cost to get a guard at our house. She said depends on whether it's a Gurkha or local and different qualities and whether armed or not armed etc. I was at first quite attracted to the idea of having our own body guard but realised it would cost us a packet and a half, so that fantasy had a quick death.

So we signed up.

Some people say that we have to stand up to these people - but at the risk of my family? No thanks.

Imagine Me & You

Just had a fabulously delicious meal at Carol and Zahrul's fabulous new house last night. Carol is the most amazing cook - so far i've had the best chocolate cake and the best quiche at her house. Positively orgasmic. I would move in next door except for the almost negligible fact that the house next door costs almost three times the price of my house. Carol and Zahrul are one of the nicest couples too. Z is incredibly sweet and obviously dotes on Carol - lucky Carol!

Anyway, after that wonderful dinner, washed down with plenty of wine, we had to make a move as Sean had to go to bed since it was a school day the next day. I was thrilled when GL passed me her DVD of 'Imagine Me & You'.

I'd wanted to watch Imagine Me & You ever since i saw the trailer - being a fan of most romantic comedies. I had to wait for the DVD because i don't think it was shown in cinemas here. Piper Perabo (ex-Lost and Delirious and Coyote Ugly) had an interesting British accent. Made me a tad curious why the BBC couldn't find a British actress for this part. Maybe they wanted an American actress to appeal to the other side of the pond. Anyway.

Overall the movie was pretty predictable (i like that though..) and saccharine sweet. Made me think about the eternal question though - is there such thing as love at first sight? and what if you are married to/engaged to someone else and you see a spark across the room... what do you do, if anything, about it?

If you haven't seen the movie and want to, stop right here as i'm about to talk about the ending.............

For political correctness, Rachel should've left Luce to go back to Heck (if you don't know what the Heck i'm talking about, go watch the movie). It would be the 'proper' thing to do. After all, Rachel was committed to Heck in holy matrimony (and all that ^%#%). The lesbian theme is actually completely irrelevant except that it gives the love story a different twist. Rachel fell in love with some one else. Period. Her angst and what choices she makes is the basic storyline. The right thing to do would have been to NOTpursue it.

But are we in control of ourselves or not? Or should we be in control? Should we disregard strong feelings for someone else because we are so-called 'taken'? I personally think monogamy is overrated. But saying that, i wouldn't act on anything while i am with someone out of pure respect for my partner. It's all about self control and not giving in to our delusions and attachments and the golden rule of not hurting anyone.

There is one poignant scene where Luce is confronted by Heck's best friend, Coop. Coop throws the line back in her face - so much for not wrecking other people's lives... we all (well, most of us anyway) don't want to hurt other people. But often we do - sometimes unintentionally, which can be excusable, and sometimes intentionally - because we so-called 'cannot help it'. Is there anything we really cannot help when a decision is ours? But how far to we go to put others' happiness above ourselves? According to the Buddhist credo, or what i understand of it, we must always put others' happiness above ourselves. Do we then obey our parents blindly - because that would make them happy? E.g. marry someone because they think he is suitable for you even though you have no feelings for them whatsoever. Or not go travelling because they think that's not a good thing to do. How far do we go? Going back to the movie - i'm sure many people will be most disapproving of Rachel and Luce's relationship - more so because of infidelity rather than homosexuality. I think it's because everyone is so afraid that their partner will fall for someone else and leave them...

Saying that though, i'm glad Rach ended up with Luce! GL just pointed out to me that actually Rachel didn't leave Heck. Heck left Rachel because he didn't want her to stay with him out of obligation. And that it was nice that their friendship (Heck and Rach's) was emphasised as the cornerstone of their relationship and that staying together or letting go was decided by both. I guess that's how the writers redeemed Rachel for her infidelity - though she had only one kiss or two..

If nothing else, the movie's anti-homophobic stance deserves applause. The movie portrays a lesbian relationship as fairly normal, with Rachel's mother providing some kind of balance by being stereotypically disapproving and disbelieving for a whole 3 minutes or so. But support was at least predictably and warmly provided by Rachel's dad, played by Anthony Head (of Gold Blend nescafe ads in UK - gosh - does that tell my age.. but more famously, in the popular series 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', which also has a lesbian sub-plot but i won't go into that here).

With movies like 'Brokeback Mountain' and the TV series like 'L Word' and 'Queer as Folk', homosexuality is definitely moving into the mainstream. Hopefully, in time, gay marriage would become as accepted as interracial marriage is today, which is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Imagine that!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Exciting drive to Bukit Tinggi

Just had to blog this - It was a Friday evening. GL was driving her citroen, Kim was in the front passenger seat and Webby and i were in the back. We were following Carol and Zahrul's car to go to Bukit Tinggi for dinner. Friday evening traffic meant the road was quite busy. So GL then decided to make a U-turn. The opposite lane was clear and where the road divider ended, she quickly swung her car around.

Yay we thought.

For about 30 seconds.

A car came round the corner, heading straight for us! Idiot! We all unanimously pronounced. The car swerved around us and fortunately there was no mishap. Moron! We thought, looking at each other incredulously. Where do people learn to .. before we could even finish the thought - another car came hurtling round the corner and we had to we went round the corner, we saw streams of cars coming straight at us and we finally clicked that we were on a one-way street, facing the wrong way! The road divider meant we couldn't turn around so we simply threaded hair raisingly through the traffic until we emerged at the end of the road.

It was quite amazing that no cars honked at us - i think they were just too stunned. Probably thinking what are these four Kedah women doing! It's quite a miracle that we were completely unscathed.

What a classic.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Bra Shopping Break

Pooi Lam invited me to join her at a one day Wacoal and Shiseido Sale so i thought why not. I needed to pop into KMT in Piccolo Galleria anyway so it would be great if we could have lunch in Bukit Bintang after shopping. She picked me up yesterday at 10.30 a.m. Oh such luxury to have a driver! The sale was held at American Express at UOA II in Jalan Pinang.

What bras have to do with travel i don't know.

In fact, when PL and i came out of the lift, we were wondering if it was hoax. Maybe it was a marketing gimmick. Sorry, we have no bras for sale maybe you would like to book a holiday? We walked nearer in trepidation and were relieved to see a few shiseido eye shadows on the reception desk. i wonder what Amex's business travel clients thought of that! Was that all the shiseido products, i asked... there were like four compacts and one refill sitting sadly on the desk. Oh and one eye whitening serum. Yes, the receptionist cum cosmetic saleswoman said brightly. Oh we said, wondering if we'd see the same number of bras on offer.

We went in and were led to their conference room which was their bra sales room for the day. It was crammed with women diving into brown cardboard boxes of bras. PL and i walked round the room once and then divided to conquer. The boxes were labelled with the sizes so it was quite well organised. I found my box without much difficulty but was very disappointed to see how ugly they were *sigh*. Oh well, at least they can be perhaps used as anti-rape devices. One look and any libido will droop...

At RM15 a pop, i thought i'd get a couple.

Then i thought i'd shop for Webby and friends. Yes, i know i should've thought of it earlier but.. anyway at the finishing line, i decided to sms Faery, Cookie, Kim and GL. Shirl i thought wouldn't want to hear anything about bras at that moment in time! Cookie was first to reply so i went in search of bras for her. Next came Kim, who's the same size as Webby. That size had the most choices available so i smsed Kim to ask her which color she wanted - white, black, black with embossed print, flesh color, yellowy flesh, pink with polka dots and frills, dark olive green, blue...

She wisely called me back and gave her order. In the end, i bought 13 bras of various sizes. All for RM195. Not bad for an hour's shopping. It appealed to the Penangite in me!

After shopping, we had a nice lunch at Moussandra and strolled over to see KMT's renovated premises. It looked really good but the rest of Piccolo Galleria didn't look as good. The ground floor was turning into central market and many shops had shut down in the floors above.

PL dropped me back around 2 as i had truckloads of work to do. The morning was a lovely break though. And i wish i'd bought more bras...

Saturday, July 01, 2006

good cake-ma

After the bad car-ma the night before, we had some good! A lovely surprise arrived on Saturday - an absolutely fabulous cheesecake was dropped by our house - my favourite kind - with the crunchy biscuit base and lemon topping! It was really 'Just Heavenly'! Thanks darling - you know who you are - we'll drive you anywhere anytime...

bad car-ma

Last night, or rather early this morning, when GL and Kim left our place after the Germany-Argentina match, GL called and said it looked as if someone had knocked into Webby's car. We rushed out and sure enough someone had! It had a huge dent on the bonnet and the right front headlight was gone. The street was deserted. So there was nothing we could do but go to sleep and get it fixed in the morning.

We took some photos before we took it to the workshop.

The photo below shows the position of the car on the road. How on earth could someone have hit her car i don't know.

And the fact that the bonnet was hit means it must have been a really big car - a truck or lorry. There is some sand on the floor in front of the white gate on the right of the picture. So we were wondering if some contractor had backed into Webby's car while turning out. We don't know exactly when the accident happened, which didn't help.

The workshop told us it would cost about RM1300 to fix it (including a dent on the side when some girl drove into Webby's car). More experiencing of karma. There was no note on our windscreen from the person who hit the car. Not that i'm surprised. I'm sure loads of people would simply drive off - wouldn't you?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

My birthday

This year i had a great birthday. It started off with cooked breakfast in bed - scrambled eggs and sausages and freshly hand squeezed orange juice.. and a newspaper! What more could i ask for.

My birthday also happened to fall on the same day as the Oxbridge 4th Wednesday events so I decided to celebrate at the same time with my friends and invited them along to the event.

We had a fabulous dinner at my favorite restaurant, Cafe Cafe, which was only 10 minutes away from Bangsar, traffic permitting. The ambience is lovely - with crystal droplets floating from the ceiling, rich velvet drapes and European posters. I always feel like i'm no longer in KL whenever i step through the doors.

It was so lovely to see Faery again - who had been missing in action as she went on her Dharma mission to Italy and England. We also hadn't had Cookie's company for centuries - or it seemed like it. She looked so fab - she had lost so much weight, i was so envious! Wills even made it by the skin of his teeth - coming straight from the airport! GL and Kim also made the trek across town - i really appreciated having my friends with me... Andrew Lee, an old friend - i've known him since i was about 6 - also came, and Tze Meng, who was at Cambridge with me.. Pooi Lam and Sian.. Elizabeth..

Sean came too but he wasn't feeling well - GL was my heroine for the night as she took him home half way through dinner. Really appreciate it, GL.. Susan couldn't do it because she wouldn't be able to (a) find her way back to Bangsar and (b) find her way back to Cafe Cafe.

Anyway, the food, as always, was superb. I had foie gras - if i was going to die tomorrow, at least i would die happy. I tried Kim's risotto which was really very good - especially as i'm not a risotto fan. Elizabeth brought a delicious chocolate mud cake..

At the end of the evening, Wills was my hero for the night as he bought dinner for our table! Such a sweetheart!

A slight hiccup to the day was when Sean locked the bathroom doors and we couldn't find the spare keys... after searching fruitlessly until around 11.45pm, i decided to call it a night and find a locksmith the next day.

i spent the rest of my birthday in blue and yellow lights... the best part of the entire day, i'd say ;)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Last Thursday, GL had asked me to join her as part of the Soroptimist delegation at the Perdana Peace Conference, at PWTC. I had a thousand and one things to do (and more) but what the heck. It sounded interesting, so off i went without any preconception of what it was about. I didn't know anything about it at all except that Tun Dr. Mahathir was giving a keynote address and that would be interesting at the least.

We arrived on time and the hall was already filling up. Luckily we managed to get a couple of seats - though i did politely ask a sour looking gentleman, i mean, man, whether the two seats were taken and he looked at me as if i had asked if i could take his wallet. GL and i sat down and commented loudly about how could we expect peace on earth if people can't even smile at each other. Anyway, in a few minutes there was standing room only. When Puan Sri Gnanalingam, our SIROM President, arrived, there were no more seats. Except for one, next to the unsmiling man. She asked him if it was taken and he said yes so she retreated to the back of the hall. Forty minutes later, she came over and asked if she could sit there until the person arrived. He suddenly got up, grabbed his bag and stormed out of the hall.

Very bizzare.

Well, at least Puan Sri got her seat!

But i digress.

Tun Dr. Mahathir delivered his speech interspersed with a very strong video on the war in Iraq. There were dead women and children, crying children etc. Yes, many in the audience shed a tear or two. I didn't. I don't know why i didn't. I can cry over the smallest act of kindness but i wasn't moved by the atrocities. I felt that the video was overly biased against the Americans, although their actions were obviously very, very, very wrong - the massacres, the killing of innocent civilians etc. My CNN lobotomised brain automatically thought - what about the innocent people who died in 9/11? What about Iraq invading Kuwait? War kills. Simple. Kills Americans, kills Iraqis and anyone else at the wrong place at the wrong time. Tun Dr. Mahathir was advocating 'Criminalising War' and that by the US and UK invading Iraq illegally - because it wasn't sanctioned by the United Nations, effectively Bush and Blair (hmm i hadn't noticed the alliteration before) should be war criminals.

Dr Denis Halliday and Mr Hans-Christof Von Sponeck then followed with their speeches - they were both former UN Humanitarian Coordinators in Iraq at the Assistant Secretary-General level, and both argued strongly against the US hegemony over the UN. Dr Halliday stated the obvious - Killing is unjust. There can be no just war. I did learn a few things - that the US contributes 22% of the annual budget for the UN, which is less than USD400 million. And that it costs the US over USD5 BILLION per month to keep troops in Iraq. I left the conference with some extra knowledge but being a staunch 'make love not war' person anyway, I didn't feel particularly outraged.

Then coincidentally, on Sunday, i received an email about a documentary on 9/11. I was directed to a website called, where there is a video documentary about the whole 9/11 incident which proves beyond a doubt that there are questions which need to be answered. The details would take too long to list here. See the video yourself and see what you think.

It has changed my view of 9/11 forever.

As long as there are people who are above the law - unanswerable to anyone, the world will never be at peace. If Bush, the loudest proponent of war, remains in power - he is there because of the votes of the American people. America - wake up! I personally believe that Bush is there because he sold the soul of America. In order to get the significant Christian vote to stay in power, he agreed to the 'constitutional amendment to protect marriage'.

Maybe to the Christians in America, it's ok to go kill non-Christians. Maybe to the Christians in America, it's even a good thing to kill the 'heathens'. So in exchange for the right to kill, Bush agreed to kill gay marriages. How do gay marriages threaten the institution of marriage? What IS marriage? While celebrities can go around pro-creating at the drop of a hat without getting married, and people like Britney Spears could get married overnight in Vegas and regret the decision the next day, a man who loves another man can never get married because it is viewed as being against the law. What law? Something coming from love is seen as sick and illegal while something else coming causing death and torture is considered acceptable regardless of the cost. What kind of sick world is this?

Sorry - just needed to rant.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Visiting the Rainbow Home

Shirley came over at 10am to fetch Susan, Sean and i to the Rainbow Home. Even though i have been there twice, i still cannot figure out how to get there - unfortunately, Cheras is indeed an alien planet to me.

Rainbow Home is the home chosen by the SIPJ (Soroptimist International Petaling Jaya) as a project to impart good and moral values to underpriviledged kids. This isn't considered as an orphanage as there are only two orphans there. The rest of the kids come from single mothers or parents who can't cope because of various problems including drug abuse. Ages range from six to eighteen, and a few of the kids are slow in development and go to special schools.

The kids greeted us from inside the house when we were just outside the gate – calling out ‘teacher’! ‘Hello teacher’! It was quite heartening to have such a warm welcome!

When we entered the home, we found a bit more than we bargained for. Sheila (the lady in charge of the Home, who is a pastor's wife) had told Shirley that there would be 12 kids but when we arrived, there were 20 or thereabouts! i think Shirley looked quite panic stricken at first! But the kids settled down quickly without much ado and sat on the floor in front of Shirley who was doing the reading this time.

Jas Bir, IPP (immediate past president) of SIPJ, had conducted the first reading/story telling a couple of weeks ago and did a great job of it so it would be a tough act to follow. But follow Shirley did and excelled in her own way.

Shirley started off by telling the kids ‘no, we’re not teachers, we’re aunties’ and introduced herself and the rest of us – Carol, Kim, Susan, myself and even Sean, who came along too. She got all the kids’ names down and then proceeded with the recall session as we discussed last Weds. I had brought along a couple of fluffy toys to add some interest to the "Ali and the tiger" story (the Malaysian version of the shepherd boy and the 'cry wolf' story)- an old dusty sheep and a leopard. Yes I know it’s supposed to be a tiger, but I didn’t have one. Aside from the spots vs stripes issue, they do look alike, right?

Anyway, since a lot of the kids weren’t there at the first session when Jas Bir told the 'cry wolf' story, Shirley went through it again and added another dimension to the story – what friends are for, which is to care for each other. After that, we had a brief ‘get to know you’ session – where Shirley asked the kids what their favorite subjects were at school and their interests. That was quite fun – the boys were especially excited when she asked if anyone liked football! The kids also shared that they tended to like the school subjects which were in each kid's native language, or language they understood best. The chinese educated kids liked chinese and some others liked English. It was great to get to know what they liked and why. Some of the kids are so bright it breaks my heart that they don't have the opportunities other kids take for granted.

The last half an hour was spent telling the story of Rapunzel – using the pictures from Anna's book to illustrate it. Anna is a fourteen year old girl who seems slightly challenged, but from the first session, she continues to show such a love for hearing English being read that is so touching.

The kids seemed to be enthralled by the story and inched closer and closer to Shirley and ended up practically crowding round her at the end! They really enjoyed the ‘story telling’ part. Later, Kim said that she observed that the kids were actually quiet and seemed mesmerized by Shirley’s spoken English, and that may be what the kids find most fascinating. We also realized that the kids really liked the pictures and Shirley said she had some books with big pictures in which she can bring at the next session.

All in all, I thought it was a great job done by Shirley, so kudos for that. when Shirley first brought up this reading project to me several months ago, i was very clear and adamant to her that i did not share her passion to read to the kids and that i did NOT wish to take part in the actual reading. I would be very happy to help brain storm, plan lessons and do whatever preparatory activities etc. but definitely NOT do the reading because i’m simply not very kid oriented! However, saying that (and i still feel the same i.e. I am not keen to do the readings), i have told the team that i WILL of course do so if the team is short handed and if i am available at that time.

I do think this is a really great project and hope that it will benefit the kids in more ways than we anticipate. Shirley will do a good job leading it as this is her brainchild and her passion – I remember her saying she couldn’t wait to get started and she was so excited about it! So now it’s started – i look forward to helping in whatever small ways i can.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Oxbridge English Language Event

10ish on Saturday morning, i toddled off to Sunway University College to help out at the annual Oxbridge English Language Event. This is organised in the name of The Oxford & Cambridge Society of Malaysia, where society members who are alumni of the respective universities give talks to around 1000 Form 4 and Form 5 students from top Malaysian schools, from Melaka, Seremban and as far as Johore (though not this year).

This was my third year participating. The first year, i had foolishly agreed to give a talk on 'Effective Writing Skills'. As a writer and not a speaker, i should have declined, but fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Anyway, needless to say, the following year and this year, i opted NOT to give a talk but to simply contribute as a judge in the essay competition.

i was a little perturbed when i heard that one of my fellow alumni had declined to participate as judge because he felt that there was a conflict of interest, i.e. because it was held at Sunway University College, and our current President is also the Executive Director of Sunway UC.

The reason why i was perturbed was because i felt that while the Society enjoyed various great events, such as the Boat Race Ball and lectures and talks by prominent and prestigious experts in their fields, the English Language event was one event where the Society actually gave back to society. Fair enough that community work is NOT in our charter. But this event costs the O&C Society less than RM1000 (for prizes for the winners of the essay competition), and the only other cost is the time from those members who volunteer to participate.

On the other hand, the event costs Sunway some RM15-18,000 as they provide all the logistics for the event, from bussing the students and teachers in from their various schools, lunch for all of them, a team to meet the Oxbridge speakers and judges and make sure we know where to go, a Sunway teaching team to shortlist the essays for the Oxbridge judges, our tea and lunch too etc. In addition, they provide the venue - even our parking is paid for! They also organised the trophies for the winners of the essay competition which have the Oxford & Cambridge crests engraved onto them.

In my humble opinion, Oxbridge and Sunway together did a great job. When i heard the kids cheering in the hall as the various Oxbridge speakers went up to get their token of appreciation (also thoughtfully organised by Sunway), i really felt so glad i could be part of it.

Conflict of interest? Who loses? As i see it, the Society wins - Oxbridge gets kudos (and those great speakers do deserve it too), Sunway wins - yes, it benefits from being linked to Oxbridge, and raises its profile with the schools but best of all, the kids win.

Yes, the winners of the essay competition received some cash prizes and trophies. But the real benefit for the students was from having the opportunity to listen to good speakers talk about writing and speaking skills - and i trust that each of those students would have gone home with at least some iota of knowledge which was generously shared by our speakers.

So maybe it's not of direct benefit to the Society members, and maybe that's why some may see it as 'controversial' and a 'conflict of interest'. Or maybe it's the fact that Sunway gets some benefit from it and that can be considered a conflict of interest.

There was a suggestion that Oxbridge hold the event at a 'neutral' venue. Which is a constructive suggestion, but unfortunately, the Society does not have the manpower to organise this huge event and i am not sure that the members would think it worthwhile to spend RM15-18000 to sponsor this event.

i am sure that if the majority of members decided that the event should NOT proceed - for the simple reason that a minority number of members may think it beneath the Society to lend it's name to an event such as this - i would personally feel a most compelling need to resign from the Society. I'm sure it wouldn't be a great loss to the Society.

They probably won't even notice.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Master Cheng Yen

TR had told us a while back to watch a programme on Discovery Channel on Dharma Master, Cheng Yen. I had tried to catch it a few times but never seemed to be able to. I woke up late today and remembered it was on at 10a.m. so I quickly snapped on the TV.

I was enthralled.

Master Cheng Yen is a Buddhist nun based in Taiwan. She started the Tzu Chi movement in 1966, together with a core team of 30, consisting of mainly housewives, who supported the movement by saving NT0.50 (USD0.13) of their grocery money per day. From such humble beginings, Master Cheng Yen has built hospitals in remote areas of Taiwan and whole communities around them. Tzu Chi literally means "compassion relief" - it's a multi million dollar organisation today which is purely dedicated to give practical aid to the poor and provide spiritual encouragement to the rich. I was particularly moved by how she is so hands on in her approach - everyday, she only sleeps five hours and takes her meals in five minutes. The rest of the time is spent walking through her hospitals and talking to patients and doctors to see how to improve things.

I had often heard that Buddhists, unlike Christians, never go and provide relief in disaster stricken areas. I didn't know anything about it so just kept quiet. This TV documentary highlighted that Tzu Chi actually has 10 million members, of which 1 million members are trained volunteers all over the world. Training takes two years and is not to be taken lightly. At any time, these volunteers can be called into action.

Throughout the years, Tzu Chi has consistently helped the communities in disaster struck areas. First in Taiwan and then also overseas. In the Tsunami stricken Sri Lanka, Tzu Chi was one of the first teams to arrive. Six months later, when most of the relief organisations had gone, Tzu Chi was still there and was involved in the building of 675 houses. Even when the hurricane hit US, Tzu Chi sent its teams there to provide financial aid when it was sorely needed.

Tzu Chi is really Buddhist compassion in action, with the help of western medicine.

If a humble nun and 30 housewives can achieve so much, how can we say "I can't"?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Taking the 8 precepts

At about 10.45pm on Wesak eve, i was happily tired, showered and wrapped snugly in bed. While Webby was showering, i logged on idly to see who was on MSN. Joe popped me and invited Faery in.. saying URGENT... i said what's up? He said can we come to the 8 precepts ceremony at Damekhang. It wasn't compulsory but TR had said it would be good if the writers could come. Without hesitation, I said sure.. what time? He said oh..11 to 11.15!

Webby and I promptly went into hyperdrive, picked up Faery on the way and rushed to DK. In the car, we all said we weren't going to take the precepts and just observe. When we stumbled in breathlessly, TR was already there. With about twenty people sitting reverently on the floor in front of him. Stunned into stupidity by everything (they say moving too fast drains the blood from your brain - well, that's my excuse), we even forgot to prostrate to our Guru! Anyway, we quickly settled down and TR warmly welcomed us, explaining to the audience that we were just there in our capacity as writers and then he began his talk on the eight precepts.

The precepts are basically promises in front of Lord Buddha to do something for the benefit of others. The reason to take vows is to give a positive messsage to our sub-conscious mind that we are good people and that we can be better, and that we are better. That we want to focus our energy and mind on something higher.

The Mahayana vows were specifically for lay people who wanted to have a clearer feeling about Dharma practice. Taking vows mean taking responsibility. Taking vows means that we directly cut off any negative distractions that are negative attachments which we have, and on a higher level, to indirectly cut the roots of negative actions.

I learned something interesting - if you do something without a vow.. eg if you don't drink alcohol, it's neutral. You don't gain any merit. But if you take vows, you collect merits for NOT doing the things you vow not to do. So if you don't do something anyway e.g. you don't drink alcohol, you might as well vow not to, so at least you gain merits for that. In my mind, I was thinking that's not really fair. It's not really giving up something if you don't like it anyway. As usual, TR immediately responded by saying that when we don't do something in this life, it means that we have the imprint from a previous life, so if we don't like alcohol now, we probably abstained from alcohol in a past life and did the sacrificial thing then.

At the end of the evening, Webby, Faery and I all decided to take the 8 precepts. After all, it was only for 24 hours and it was on such an auspicious day - Wesak.

The next 24 hours were interesting. I had never been so mindful of my actions. Webby and myself caught ourselves singing/ humming and once, while walking in the mall, we tried some lotion and inhaled the fragrance appreciatively before catching ourselves!! A bit late, but better late than never!

All in all, it was a great experience and I find myself more aware of what I am doing, even now. So thank Buddha for TR's invitation to us and Joe for conveying the message just in time!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sean's 100 prostrations

Yesterday evening, Sean wanted to do some prayers, so he did 21 Migtsemas and then he wanted to do prostrations, so i told him to go ahead. He did 10, then 20, then 30.. i stopped what i was doing and helped him count. Amazingly enough (i thought so anyway) he did 100. Non-stop. In about twenty minutes. Usually we do 3 prostrations together or 10 at the most. We said the dedication together and then he went to bed. When he woke up this morning, he said he dreamt that Buddha came to teach him but he was speaking in a language he couldn't understand. Maybe Indian or Tibetan, he said. Then, he wanted to do some more prostrations but he said he didn't think he could do as many as he did last night, so he did 10. I'm so proud of him and hope that he continues to explore his spiritual path.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

haiku for hurt

razorsharp words cut
deep into my soul, my heart
wishes it could stop.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Praising God / Adam and Eve

Re petty terms (the comment on my previous 'God' article), read this fun article on Praising Him. I was told by Webby that it is very biased, extreme, unfair and offensive really - but I say that if one is trying to prove a point, of course one would be extreme and biased towards the point one is trying to make.

But to try to be fair, let me put her points against this article forward. She said that (the Christian) God doesn't demand us to praise him in the Bible (I have not yet read it through so I don't know - if anyone has references to the Bible that does say that God demands our worship and praise, let me know please!) although there are numerous - almost all over the Bible - reports of people giving praise to God in the Bible. Praising God could come after winning a war or a healing - it is their belief that those are gifts from God. Although whether wars are a gift from God is debatable. Webby says that there is a good lesson in the Bible because at that time, this mechanism was practical as it kept the people at that time more humble. Webby also says that the Bible is very much about that particular period, that culture, and may not be applicable to people today. Otherwise they would be more arrogant than they already were.

Praising God, according to Webby, is simply expressing thankfulness to a superior power for everything good that we have. Oddly enough, I like the idea of having a superior power that one can thank for good things. BUT, I don't like the idea of this superior power ONLY having responsibility for good things and NOT the bad. Bad stuff is either Devil's fault (poor guy - gets the blame for EVERYTHING) or it's our fault for having sinned - or worse, for Adam and Eve's sin which we had nothing to do with! Incidentally, Webby says that the devil shouldn't get that much credit for being responsible for all the evil either! The Christian view is that good is always God and evil is always the Devil, rather than looking at themselves.

Adam and Eve's sin is my pet subject. I am a mere mortal mother, and I have a child. I KNOW that my child does not know any better so I will put away dangerous stuff out of his reach. I won't tell him, hey don't touch that 'cos it will kill/hurt you. I simply make sure that anything that could harm him is way out of reach. Why would God, in his infinite wisdom and omniscience, leave something wide open to Adam and Eve? Being omniscient, he would have KNOWN that Adam and Eve would eat the freakin' apple and damn the rest of humankind. So why did He do it? We are told that it's all about free will and obedience. So God, knowing that A&E would be disobedient still tests them? To prove what? Anyway, since Adam was made in God's image and at that time sinless, how could someone sinless and pure be disobedient? Was he not pure to start with?

What I found interesting in Genesis 3:4 was
"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

The only lie in this was that the serpent said you will not die. The serpent did NOT con Adam and Eve when he said you will know good and evil.

And God's biggest upset was that when Adam and Eve ate the apple, they would be like him. (Wasn't that his pet peeve too with Lucifer? That Lucifer had the balls to think he could be like/equal to God.. the arrogance of the fella - chuck him outta heaven for that one!)

Genesis 3:21
And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

So because Adam and Eve did not listen to Him, God cursed them - he actively decided that they should suffer. It wasn't a natural law of Karma which is out of control (because of course God is omnipotent) but does this punishment show me a compassionate and loving God?

Genesis 3:16
To the woman he said,
"I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you."

17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,'
"Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.

and 3:21

After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side [e] of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Why didn't God simply put this flaming cherubim with flaming sword to flaming guard the flaming tree of knowledge?!

Then we wouldn't have to have sinned and could still be living in Eden eating fruits... hmmmm no astro, no steak, no champagne, no sushi...

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Last night I slept at 5 am after I couldn't keep my eyes open. What was I doing? Pat and I were chatting online about Christianity and I was asking her about her God. I was trying to reconcile the God whom Pat and Webby KNOW (not feel or think) as real and the contrary view of Buddhism.

I was reading about the Dalai Lama's visit to to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1979. A monsignor in the receiving line recalls his encounter with the Buddhist patriarch: The Dalai Lama approached him, gazed into his eyes, and queried, "Father, do you know the difference between you and me?"

"No, Your Holiness," replied the monsignor.

"You believe in a personal God," the Dalai Lama observed, "and I do not."

I am having huge difficulties reconciling the God so many Christians believe to be real, and the complete opposite from Buddhists. There have been so many reincarnated high Lamas and Rinpoches - coming back lifetime after lifetime. And not one has come back saying - hey guys, guess what, Jesus LIVES! And oh, God is definitely there - and what he wants is... etc.

When I have asked about inconsistencies in the Bible, such as why is there so much violence in the Old Testament (see Book of Joshua - where there is killing after killing after killing..."Everyone in it they totally destroyed. They left no survivors." and "He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded." Reading it makes me want to cry. All this death and killing because the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded it? Christians justify it by saying that they had to die because they are evil/did no obey God etc. Or that it is simply metaphorical to show the power of God, as in if God is on your side and you obey him, you will win all battles. I don't buy it. You can't pick and choose - oh this part in the bible is metaphorical and this part is literal. It's either all metaphorical or all literal otherwise how will people know which parts are which.

Or best defence of bible I have heard is - God's ways are higher than ours. Ours not to question God. He has his reasons.

What a cop out. Great.

So we just blindly believe? All that we don't understand we simply say He knows best? Wasn't that how we ended up justifying apartheid, lack of women's rights, slavery etc - because it was all 'justified' by the Bible? And now, the Christian prejudice against homosexuality and gay marriages? How does gay marriage undermine the family? Are Christians worried that there will be no offspring to be little Christians? If all these sins were so evil, wouldn't Christ have specifically said so?

'Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened' says Christ, Matthew 7:7

I've been asking for years... I still don't have answers. I guess I will still continue asking and seeking and knocking... and see who is finally behind the door.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Last night, we had another writers' briefing cum dharma talk from H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche. We started around 8 and ended at 2a.m. - a bit like a half day at work, but what amazing revelations! Sprinkled amidst explanations about Buddhist items such as singing bowls and scripture holders were gems of wisdom and Buddhist dharma.

TR talked about emptiness - what is the realization of emptiness? It is the awareness that everything is a projection of our self centred mind. All karma is due to projections of a dualistic mind. When you stop these projections, you stop acting on projections, and you can break out of samsara. No more rebirth. Talk about mind blowing. Wow. The difficult thing is to distinguish between understanding, which is a passive intellectual exercise and realization, which is an active one.

However, while realization will bring you out of samsara, it will not necessarily bring you to enlightenment. Wow. I wanted to talk to Webby more about what we learned last night but Webby had an early morning meeting so we just chatted for a short while and went to sleep. So much for realization.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Memoirs of a Geisha

Watched the charity premiere of "Memoirs of a Geisha" last night. Lovely Wills had been so kind to have bought tickets for Daph, Cookie, B, Webby and I. Unfortunately, Daph took an MC, and Webby didn't make it since she was sick. I asked Pyng and Sheryl, but they had already seen it, then Kim, who didn't reply my sms, and Serina, who agreed to come, then at the last minute couldn't, so I happened to bump into Pat online, who fortunately was free and said yes! Wills and I were wondering if there was going to be a bomb at KLCC or something since it was a bit disconcerting that there were so many obstacles! In the end we still had one spare ticket.

Pity Webby couldn't come, as she was really looking forward to it. She missed a fabulous film. I heard it was panned by critics but I simply loved it for its sheer visual feast! The plot and sub plots were okay, but how simply wonderful to watch Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi and Datuk Michelle Yeoh in beautiful settings for 2 hrs and 16 minutes. After the movie, Pat, Wills and I were musing over if given the choice, which woman we would love to have out for dinner. I still can't decide. All I can say is I can't wait for the DVD - legitimite one with all the commentary etc!

Thanks for the Memoirs, Wills!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

First Weekend of the Year

The first weekend of the year absolutely flew by.. Dinner on Friday night was with Webby (of course), Cookie, Faery, Fandy, Blurkids and James at The Ship, then we proceeded to my favoritest hang out, Captain's Cabin! We were meant to have around 20 people - but at the last minute, we were ffk-ed by more than half of our expected numbers.. 13 people cancelled: Gary, Bibs, Anita, Suja, Tilak, GL, Kim, JB + family. How fortunate that Cookie had invited her motley crew.. otherwise it would've been a pitifully small group for Captain's Cabin. Later, Sonny and 'Susan' turned up.. and Pyng and Serina too... so we were a respectable number in the end! Unfortunately Webby must have eaten a nasty oyster, which took its revenge by making her nauseous.. along with the smoky environment, we had a pretty unhappy Webby. I didn't improve things by freezing up since I didn't know how to make her feel better. I forgot the golden rule of empathy rather than simply problem solving. Oh well.

Late night out meant late rising on Saturday.. we woke up in time for lunch with Cookie and GL at Esquire Kitchen and then we had to dash off for our Dharma marathon session at 3 p.m., leaving GL to take Cookie home. The session started around 4 and broke for an hour and a half at 6.30 for dinner, when Faery, Webby and I ran off to Champs. Shirley surprised us by turning up for the second session. Almost twelve hours after we stepped into Damekhang, we finally left for home. Amazingly enough, I did not have a single bored moment.. though the huge amount of information was a bit too much to absorb towards the end, TR was as interesting and entertaining as always - somehow making dharma easily understood and applicable to my monkey mind! Until the next session!

Came home and saw our empty sofa... no Cookie :( But she left a sweet card for us in my laptop (how did she know I would look at my laptop when I got back, I wonder).

Another late night, another late morning.. woke up in time for lunch with Gary, Bibah, Hanis and Isaac at Chilis. Was lovely to see them and catch up before they left for Brunei. After that we had to run off to DMK to drop off keys for KMT then off to 1U for Webby's wall climbing class. Shirley surprised us again by dropping by and we went off for dinner at Cravings.

I can't believe that the weekend is over already.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Cookie's cast is off!

Took Cookie to run errands yesterday - went to her office, went to her GP (though we didn't actually see her since she was reportedly on her mobile phone and after waiting about 15 mins we decided to leave), went to the bank and finally to GH - to see Dr. G. I dropped Cookie off at A&E, but wasn't allowed to park anywhere near. The public car park was a good 15 minute sprint to A&E so I called Cookie to tell her I'd simply wait in the car until she was ready. When I picked her up an hour and a chapter of my book later, she had gotten rid of her cast - yay - she can now party! We got home about 6.20 p.m. and darling Webby had cooked a splendid Mexican meal - chicken tortillas with cheese... mouthwateringly delicious - especially as I was pretty hungry. After stuffing my face, Webby and I dashed off to play badminton with Pyng, Pik Choo, Anita and Suja. Had a great time as usual.. I do love the game. Hope Cookie can join us soon sans bum leg!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Quiet start to the New Year

Last night we had a farewell dinner for Webby's parents and Blurkids Simon came back with small fry's computer, so he stayed for dinner. Webby made linguine with funghi and sundried tomatoes while I, the eternal carnivore, roasted a chicken. After dinner, we put away the table extensions until the next time.

This morning, Webby's parents left around 9a.m., Webby went to work, and small fry went to school.

The house seems suddenly so empty.

Only cookie and her bum leg and I in the living room and Umi hiding somewhere in the back.

Such a quiet start to the year.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Webby's Birthday and New Year's Eve

Webby's birthday falls on 31 December so every New Year's Eve tends to be even more festive than usual. On her birthday eve, we went to Captain's Cabin with Weni - met poor feverish Simon there, GL, Jasbir and her gorgeous children. We had an absolute blast as Susan was prime target for the divas and even the band since it was her birthday!

This year Webby got a pair of wings for her birthday from Cookie, who hobbled up a flight of steps to take us to a wondrous little shop full of wigs and masks! I'm not sure what Webby's parents thought about her wings but her dad actually tried them on! Webby's mom cooked yummy noodles for New Year's Eve and we had a few friends over for drinks - Anna and Carol, Debbie and Wei Lin, Faery and Fandy and of course Cookie, who had been involuntarily installed in our house since she was immobile. Serina even dropped by which was really sweet of her. Weni turned up for a flying visit which was great - especially as she already turned up the night before.

It is always so nice to have friends old and new at New Year's. For Auld Lang Syne indeed...

The Saga of Cookie's leg

Cookie has been having a bit of a bum Christmas. She was playing badminton with us on Christmas day and pulled a muscle in her calf. We decided she should come and stay with us to recuperate since she couldn't walk properly. Poor thing only had the couch downstairs because it would be more difficult to negotiate the stairs everyday. At least downstairs there was a toilet and the kitchen, and the front door, outside of which she could have a fag! As opposed to proper bed and shower upstairs. Hmm what a choice. Anyway, her leg got briefly better after a tortuous trip to a chinese doctor. Her foot could go flat on the ground after that. But somehow her leg started to swell a couple of days later. Maybe it was because we took her for a walk to BSC for lunch at Esquire Kitchen.

Anyway,on New Year's eve - or rather on New Year's day because it was already 1a.m. by then, we thought we should take her to the hospital.

Fanda, Webby and I drove to Pantai Hospital, which was our nearest A&E. The doctor there suggested that Cookie be admitted for tests. He suggested an x-ray and when she was admitted, the orthopedic surgeon would come and take a look at her. Cookie didn't want to be admitted but since the doctor advised it, we thought that it would be a good idea to get it checked out properly. Being admitted, she would also get immediate attention from the Orth (sounds like some creature from Lord of the Rings, doesn't it), rather than wait til Tuesday for his clinic. Fanda kindly put his credit card down for a 3K deposit, but got a bit upset with the admissions nurse, who wanted him to basically underwrite all costs for Cookie. The admissions nurse didn't explain what costs were incurred and was rather rude. Maybe she was pissed off that she had to work on New Year's day. But there is no excuse for rudeness. Cookie and I were secretly rather impressed with his putting his foot down. Our chivalrous knight in shining jacket!

Anyway, while Fanda fought with the admission process, Webby and I went home to collect Cookie's stuff. We returned to the hospital, passed her her bag and cookie monster, said our farewells, promised to visit in the morning and left. We dropped Fanda at KL Sentral and went home. Just as we drove up to our house, Cookie rang to say that actually we could come and pick her up because she was checking out. The Orth appeared and said that she needed an MRI and that wasn't available until Thursday so she might as well go home til then.

So we went back to the hospital to pick her up. An x-ray, one pair of crutches and about RM500 later, we managed to leave. By the time we got home, it was already past 4 a.m. We finally slept around 5. It was a rather novel way to bring in the new year!