Saturday, February 26, 2005

Nice surprise!!

I got a nice surprise yesterday when I opened my mail yesterday. It was a RM1000 cheque!!And it came from a son of a very prominent figure in Malaysia . And surprised I was since I have never wrote to him at all. Somehow, the first donor who also donate RM1000, (who is also a son of a prominent figure) relayed the appeal to him and he chipped in. Thank you very much!

To be frank, I was little bit under pressure lately thinking about how to raise funds to study advanced theatrical clowning (Eccentric Performing) under the great Avner the Eccentric at The Celebration Barn Theatre, Maine, USA in August 2005 and this piece of good news (cheque!) really give me the boost I needed so much.

Alhamdulillah. another 5 months to go and another RM8,000 to go. Yeah!
By the way, Thanks kusyi for cajoling me to write to the first donor in the first place.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Hari ini dalam Sejarah

I was at the National Archives (Arkib Negara) this morning going through the old newspapers of 1965. It was so interesting to read the past printed on that decades old papers. As I journeyed through the heavy and few inches-thick big map-like book, I came across an old 'pantun';

Daun empelas dalam puan,

puyoh mengeram dalam padi,

sangat-lah belas hatiku tuan,

guroh menderam, hujan ta' jadi.

We cannot find that kind of style of writing now with ' o' commonly used than 'u' in such words of guroh, puyoh and ta' instead of tak. In addition, the words used can be perplexing . Even though I might know the meaning of the word 'daun empelas' - daun mempelas, the word 'puan' keep me guessing. It could be a container or some thing.

As I leafed through, one particular news caught my attention. from the date shown, it was during the height of the "Ganyang Malaysia" campaign or Konfrontasi 1963-1966 by the late Sukarno.

6 terbunoh dalam nahas helikopter di-Sarawak

Kuching, Juma'at:

Sa-buah kapal terbang helikopter Angkatan Laut dari 845 Squadron telah terjatuh semalam dalam kawasan Nanga Gaat di Bahagian Ketiga Sarawak, menurut seorang juru chakap tentera keselamatan hari ini.

Katanya, 6 orang askar tentera keselamatan telah terbunoh sedangkan pemandu kapal terbang itu chedera parah. Orang2 yang terbunoh dalam kemalangan helikopter itu ia-lah:

Corporal Hashim bin Nel, Lance Corporal Mihat Hamid, Perajurit Ahmad Itam Budiman, Perajurit Zainal Yusof, Perajurit Ramli Mohamed dan Perajurit Abdul Hamid Mohamed. Mayat2 mereka telah di-bawa pulang untok dikebumikan setelah kaum keluarga mereka diberitahu tentang kemalangan itu.

Sumber: (Berita Harian 6/3/1965)

the news was short and concise. It never tells more about the people who perished in the crash. It never tells that they were all from 6th Battalion, Royal Malay Regiment stationed in a forward operation base,over 100 miles along Rejang River from Sibu. And it never tells why Perajurit (Private) Abdul Hamid bin Mohamed took that fateful flight. It never tells that he wasn't supposed to be in that flight but somehow managed to hop in last minutes replacing his friend. It never tells that he was bound for home just to get married to his sweetheart. So he died and buried at the Tanah Perkuburan Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. His grave is located at the far side of the cemetery and not far from P Ramlee's grave. Just walk straight along the pavement leading towards the small gate at the near end. His grave is just near-by.

His sweetheart eventually proceeded with the wedding ceremony with his coffin. It was in the newspaper with the headline, " Bersanding dengan keranda". (She after that remarried and gave births to several child. She soon divorced and passed away due to cancer in the mid 1980s.)

You might be wondering how I know so much about this unlucky chap. Well, he's my uncle.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Vientiane Times

As promised here are some excerpts of my journal/diary as a Malaysian volunteer in Lao PDR (April 2002 – September 2003).

My first batch of students: Module 2 English for Government Officials, IFA Laos.
Posted by Hello

March 26 ,2002

3.30 p.m.

Press conference at Yayasan Salam. Met Balakrishnan, another volunteer who will bound for Cambodia (He ended up overstaying his tour of duty in Cambodia and married a local Cambodian) . He will be attached to LCDI Phnom Penh. Me à Institute of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vientiane, Laos. Met HE Ambassador of Lao PDR. Another volunteer Mr Devinder is also bound for Laos. He instead will be attached to Ministry of Education.
(He soon attached to the Dongdok National University, the only university that exists in Laos).

Tomorrow morning will go to:

1) Embassy of Lao PDR, Jalan Ampang Hilir for visa – 10 -11 am
2) RHB – USA Visa Application Fee RM171 .( I was preparing for the deferred Clown Camp trip for year 2002. I went subsequently in 2003 ).
3) Citibank – to replace lost card. Call first – 12 pm
4) Yayasan SALAM – collect traveler cheques – USD600 and ticket – 9 am
5) To meet Uncle Buttons, I hope, if not try Friday.
6) Buy things.
7) Call up Naza.
8) Pay bills and Clown Camp fee. USD99.

Tonight – meet Kak Farah ( my boss) – address given.

Plan in Laos – to write my journey from start till end.
( never never materialized!)

Tonight stay rumah Rashid, SS14, near Jaya Supermarket. Today met her at Pizza Hut. Long chat.

US Visa Application – fee
- passport? Copy?
- Letter
- Self-addressed envelope? Stamp?
- Return address?

Today bought – this journal – 4.90
- Lonely planet – RM59.90
- Pizza Hut – RM27.00
- Oprah – RM28.00
( don’t ask!)

Money left at 6.41 pm – RM276.00

March 29, 2002

Drove early morning (7.00 a.m.) to KL. Arrived at SALAM, PJ (10.00 am). Collect ticket and books for my English class).

Went to Central Market. Appointment with Button a.k.a Sam Tee at 1 pm. Postponed until 2 pm. Met him à the tarik. Fruitful discussion. Found out the cheapest airfare to US. He will be going too as the instructor. Been clowning for 8 years.

Trip cost: airfare à USD1344.50 (Bangkok – La Crosse – Bangkok) – Northwest Airlines
Visa : USD45 (might face problem!)

Unable to meet up the cost within this May. Otherwise, I might postpone till next year (2003). Funds might available at that time.

Anyway try my best to go this year.

March 30, 2002

Sent Clown Camp application form to Dr Snowberg (Richard Snowberg, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Clown Camp® director) thru email. To inform him tonight with request:

Confirmation letter
Scholarship letter
Send it to my Laos address.

April 1, 2002

Depart from KLIA – 3.15 pm
Arrive in BKK – 4.20 pm (local time)

Already Check in Lao Aviation. Had drink with Devinder. Orange juice. Struck short conversation with a Singaporean – he is bound for Yangon. Slang – pretty much Malaysian English.
Next flight 5.45 pm.

Comments: Salam should brief us in details where to go, etc. there should be a proper SOP for outward bound volunteer in the future. There should be as well proper documentation of volunteer’s experience for guidance for the next batch of volunteer.

Have USD26. courtesy of mak at KLIA. Time difference – 1 hr (they are early).

5.45 pm local time

Sitting in departure hall waiting at Gate 1. Devinder is reading my Lonely Planet. He already checked the Lonely planet website. Not much info.

Flight supposed to depart 06.25 pm. (the plane left at 6.55 pm) Very much April Fool Day!

7.55 pm local time

Thunderstorm at Vientiane’s Wattay International Airport. Unable to land. Scary air pocket!! While trying to divert to Udorn Thani Airport, the nearest airport to Vientiane. I hold that seat so tight. Some passengers screamed.
(It is a 25 year old French ATR-75 twin propeller plane and according to the Lonely Planet, there were quite frequent air crashes by that model of ATR 75 in the northern Laos. I still keep the return air ticket of that flight. prefer taking the 3 days train journey from Nongkhai to KL or fly Thai Airways instead)

Udorn Thani is in Thailand. 1 hour drive from Vientiane. A chap sitting beside me is a Malaysian working in Southeast Asian Union Mission, based in Singapore, visiting (his missionary projects in Laos). He also ‘blank’. Lucky me! Devinder has the contact number. (just in case if we are stranded in Udon Thani for the night)

Udon Thani is 55km south of Nongkhai. Nongkhai is the border town before entering Laos thru Friendship Bridge. It is very much cheaper to travel from BKK – Udon than BKK – Wattay.

9.20 p.m. local time

Arrived in Vientiane after thunderstorm stopped. Embassy’s driver picked us up and send us straight to our guesthouse. Met En Sahron, 3rd Secretary. Checked the room – really really basic. Devinder was not happy with it and planned to move out. A Mansion as what we were told back in SALAM? Not really. Spent the night on hard, hard bed!

April 2, 2002

7.00 pm is already bright. Need to find: bank to cash out traveler’s cheque. Mop, pail, toiletries , kettle, laundry?, broom, plate, bed sheets, pillowcase. Went to Seri Fitri Restaurant the night before. Takeaway of biriyani, samosas. Borrowed from Devinder
28,000 kips. My mom’s USD26 lost! 1USD = 9400 kips. RM1 = 2500 kips. Waiting for IFA’s (Institute of Foreign Affairs) people this morning. Need to find bottled water.

Went to see Devinder’s room. Terrible state! Sink is filthy. Barren room. I just wonder whether this is the mansion’s Mr Ghani of SALAM mentioned earlier! It is like a very cheap flats and he expect us to stay here for a year! No way! (We later found out that it was the ‘bo phenyang ‘(lao words for no problem) – apathy attitude of the local that made us spent the first ‘april fool’ night in Laos).

9.30 pm local time

We went to the Malaysian Embassy by Lavitaxi. Cost us 19,000 kips (around RM8). See Mr Shaharon again. He called Mr Boun of IFA on the housing problem we are facing. Unable to meet him as he got visitors to IFA. Met HE Ambassador Mohamad Daud (He is a Datuk and now serving in Poland). He welcomed us to Laos. Met Madam Sengchanh Soukaseum, the IFA’s Director General. Saw her paintings. We complained to her. She immediately arranged for new accommodation. Not much available. Anyway met fellow volunteers from Singapore, Jaclyn (from Singapore International Foundation). And Margaret Fowler from UK. Can see small classes conducted. arrangement by Mr Boun. Lokse Guesthouse, just next door to IFA. USD250 per month. Expensive!


Met 2nd Secretary & Head of Chancery of Malaysian Embassy, Zahairi Baharim from Melaka. He suggested to us to rent a house instead. USD200 – USD250 shared. Went to lunch with him and Mr Phailath, the embassy’s chief clerk and looked around for house for rent around Sapanthongthai .
Went to Public Bank – changed USD100 to kips.

3.00 pm local time

Met Director General – Ministry of Education. Mr Lytou Boupou.

Moved out from Lavitaxi apartments to Lani II Guesthouse – USD12 – USD15 shared for 5 days until April 7, 2002. I hope we can get cheap rented house. Otherwise Lokse is a bit too expensive. For especially with only USD300 in my pocket. Tomorrow – I think I will go to IFA.

7.30 Monday (April 8 2002) – official function at Rumah Malaysia. Yet to receive invitation from embassy.

Try to check email. Server down. Cheap rate 100 kips – 1 minutes. 1 hour 6000 kips (RM3)

April 3, 2002


sent email to Azmi (my friend who own a internet café in Jerantut) to convey message to my parent that I am OK in Vientiane. Received email from Md Jepp – wanting to donate RM50 ( that is all he can afford for my clown camp trip appeal). I felt honored and touched with this kind gesture from a friend I have known since my years in STAR Ipoh and UK. (He studied in London).

Also got email from Zaimizi Hamdani asking me my phone number. He was my senior and House Captain of Black House in 1990. Humble chap. Went to US to study and now work with SAUBER-PETRONAS.

Late morning

We went to IFA. Met Mdm Sengchanh and queried when I can report for duty. Monday.

We walked to IFA and come back to LANI II Guesthouse by tuk –tuk. 5000 kips charged. He asked for more but we refused.


Sent email to Ghani SALAM on lodging. Didn’t get reply yet. Went out around Vientiane. Managed to get to know places like Talaat Sao (Morning Market), US Embassy, Ministry of Education Sisaket Museum is nearby.

On the way back, met Mr Santhi Sitthisone, chap from IFA (researcher), peeling mangoes at the restaurant near Lani II Guesthouse. Apparently, the restaurant is owned by his mother-in-law. Big family. His wife is the 9th! His elderly in-law was grinning wide looking at me. He spoke something to Santhi in Lao. I can guessed what they were saying , I told them. His brother said “ If I am single, there’s a lot of Lao girl around”. My guess is correct! We laughed. It is true, lao women are beautiful. No wonder HE ambassador Daud told me about it two days ago. In an email to a friend, I told him that I got to get married as soon as I come back to Malaysia.

What a nice day!

Plan for tomorrow

See house mentioned by Santhi. USD300. fully furnished.nearby. 3 rooms. Remember Devinder’s advice – get other houses to see , bargain to USD200 -250.

Post office – get IDD card for Devinder, me – stamps!

Public Bank – enquire on how to open bank account (8.30 am)

check email.

April 4, 2002


Ministry of Education sent a vehicle to LANI II Guesthouse to pick up Devinder.
I went to Public Bank to open saving account. While waiting, overheard conversation in Malay. Happened to be a malay chap is talking to the bank officer in bahasa melayu. Introduced myself and found out that they are En Amiruddin, kak siti’s husband (Personal assistant to HE Ambasaddor) and Mr Teo Kim Siong. Teo invited us inside and we chatted. They are nice people compared to the coldness of embassy’s people. No doubt they are helpful to a certain areas but the ‘malayness’ is not there.
(By the way now I realized, I was wrong. Zahairi and his family(Zanariyah, Zikri and Zakuan) become like family to me. They are now in Kuwait serving the country. Teo is still in Vientiane, working with a local bank after he left Public Bank in 2003. He has been in Laos since 8 years ago.)

Followed Abang Amir back to his house near the Vientiane International School in Phonsavanh District. Met his son Hilmi, a 19 year old college dropout (intentionally) and a rugby player. Hit off easily with them. Bro Amir was admitted to hospital in Udorn Thani, Thailand for three days on the day we arrived. That is why I have not met Kak Siti. Had roti canai. Feel like my own family already.

Followed Hilmi to VIS, sent his younger sister meal for lunch. (
Again I was wrong here, she is actually he, his brother Kiki! With his long hair and nick name of KIKI, easily he can be mistakenly appear as a girl than a boy).

Came back, Kak Siti is already home. Cooking. Tried her maman masak negeri sembilan. Hot and tasty!Hit off easily with her. Warm and very sharp person. Had lunch with them. She is very helpful. She will give me her cooking stove and periuk. She will be leaving soon after 3 years in Laos. Previously she was in Seoul.
(She left for Tehran. I met her again in Jan 2004 during my volunteer stint with Mercy Malaysia in Bam, Iran. She will be back in March this year for holiday, Abang Amir told me the other day. I am meeting her soon!)

After Lunch

After sending her to embassy by tuk-tuk, we ( Abg Amir, Hilmi and Latip, the only local muslim tuk-tuk driver in Laos) went to cybercafé. Checked email. Ghani replied. USD250 is too expensive for house rent. Asked to keep looking for few days. Kak Siti has USD200 rate house and promised to inform me the outcomes. We will call her tomorrow. Ghani told me that embassy and IFA people is trying to look for a house for us. He also said SALAM will cover our accommodation cost for LANI II and Lavitaxi). He added, if need be he will come over to sort things out. But that is not a good option either.

Clown camp – received email from Bro Raja (STAROBA). Will donate. Gave him my account number and sent TQ notes.

Suddenly electricity cut off. We decided to go to Seri Fitri. Had samosa and the tarik.

April 5 2002

Today – to look for house mentioned by IFA. Going to embassy to see Kak Siti. Going to perform jumaat prayer at Jame Mosque near Namphou fountain.

Ghani informed us that SALAM is OK with USD250 rent per house. Kak Siti called last night and will assist us in looking for house to stay. Money left – USD296.30 + USD70.

Devinder called home. Expensive!

Went to Public Bank with Devinder. Met Teo. After that we went to IFA looking for Boun. He is not around. Anyway we cancelled our arrangement with Lakeo Guesthouse. Had our last drink there.

Walked to embassy to meet Kak Siti. While waiting (she was busy with EPU people come in from KL), managed to write two postcards home.will pass it to Bro Amir who will be going back to KL next Saturday.

Went to Kak Siti’s house for lunch. Had sotong kicap and papaya salad lao style (tam mak khung or som tam in thai). Nice! Like kerabu.. She got the recipe from her friend’s maid.

Went to Jame Mosque Vientiane for my first Jumaat prayer in Laos. Met Nursalim, an Indonesian who works as a religious teacher. He stays near That Luang Road, near Malaysian Embassy. Copied the local prayer time-table with the help of Mydin, Seri Fitri restaurant worker who can speak simple malay. Went back to Kak Siti’s house after prayer. Followed her to work. After dropping her off at the embassy, went back to LANI II Guesthouse. Paid Latip, 5000 kips.God knows how much it is!

Performed asar prayer with the help of the timetable and still tawakkal on the qiblat direction. Slept until 6.30 pm. Latip pick us up around 730 pm to Kak Siti’s house. Arrived and only Abg Amir was there. The rest were at the Vientiane International School. KIKI got basketball tourney. Waited for them. Had coca-cola and biscuits. Not long after that, Bruneian Hajah Mariam and her three children came. Chit-chat. Got to know that her eldest child passed away in 1999 due to brain tumor while they were still posting in Laos. Her husband, Haji Ramlee is the defence attaché at the Brunei Embassy in Vientiane.She brought along chocolate cake.Stayed until 10 pm. Haji Ramlee apparently co-owned that Seri Fitri Restaurant along Mekong River. She invited us for dinner the next day at Seri Fitri.

April 6, 2002

Woke up at 6 am and performed subuh. Slept back and woke up at 8.30 am. Oumath from Embassy came with two friends (property agents) and went to look for house for rent. Quite far from our workplace as we observed even though the houses shown are fully furnished. 1 – near Novotel is 2-3 km from city centre. 1 – next to LANI II guest house (wooden, quite nice).Price range USD300 –USD400. can’t afford it. Went back for lunch. Had ‘meehoon goreng’ or local pad thai with seafood.

Afternoon appointment with Kak siti cancelled. Waiting for Latip to come. Did not turn up. Don’t want to contact Kak Siti assuming that she is already out meeting her friends on something. Never mind, waited for 7 pm dinner. Maybe she is busy. Went out early around 5.30 pm. Went to Scandinavian Bakery just to look around and then strolled along Mekong River. Tried to write something and had pakora at Nazim Halal Restaurant not far from Seri Fitri. Prayed at Jamek Mosque. Met Abu Sholeh an Indian Muslim trader who just came back from India for after one year vacation and at the same time getting married. His wife is now 9 months pregnant. He will be back when the child is 1 year old. Went with him looking for house for rent. Checked out ads at Samsenthai Road supermarket. Got one near petrol station, 2 bedrooms. He will call today and to inform me the outcome after maghrib. Went to Seri Fitri after that. Everybody (Kak Siti’s family and Hajah Mariam’s) were already there. Including Ms Junko Taguchi from JICE. Stayed until 930 pm. Hajah Mariam brought along seri muka pulut hitam. Damn good.

Devinder and Taguchi went for drink and music. Me walked back home to LANI II Guesthouse.

April 7, 2002

Early morning, 745 – 8.00 am went to Khua Din wet market located across Thalat Sao. Just like Pekan Sehari Jerantut. Met Abu Sholeh there. Observed that lao people eat noodles + ulam a lot and they open their shop very late. Will walk around Vientiane again today. Am not sure how much longer my shoes will last.

Saw farmer kandar bananas on one side and mint plus sawi on the other side.

April 17, 2002

Quiet a while since I jotted down anecdotes in my journal. PIMAI celebration (Lao New Year) just finished and tomorrow, I am going to work again. Kak Siti went back to Malaysia. Her mother in law passed away. Went to HJ Ramlee’s house for makan the other day. Had nice evening there with the presence of HE Brunei Ambassador.

Received email from Kak Inda Sako (she too passed away of cancer in Jan 2004), informed me that that bubbly 6 years old Fahmi passed away the very day I arrived in Laos.

April 21, 2002

Made my first phone call to Malaysia. Mak quite delighted to hear my voice but her first remarks made me giggle.

“ apa khabar? 6 bulan kat sana cukup dah tak?”

April 22, 2002

my second batch students at IFA,Laos
Posted by Hello

My first day of teaching. Co-teached with Jaclyn. 20 adult students. IELTS 1.5 . Interesting experience. Government officials. High and low ranks. Nice people, but must remember they are all adults. To treat them respectfully.

“I am alright so far”.

Went to weiling shop. Open today.
Had nasi goreng. Nice and no MSG. Met Weiling’s friend, Victoria from UNDCP, Jaclyn and Steven. All Singaporean working and volunteering in Laos.
Stayed there until 9.30 pm. Devinder arrived from KL earlier.

April 29, 2002

One week of teaching passed. Susan Davies complimented me. She said I did quite a good job considering me as a first timer. I think she is not worry too much about me.

Katrina (backpacker from Singapore) is leaving tomorrow. May not see her. Teaching. Anyway can always contact her thru email. Volunteer allowance will be credited on Friday. Saturday to go to Vang Vieng with my student, Mr. Niyom and others. Devinder might follow.

Already applied for Lao multiple entry visa. Will draft the IFA’s letter around this week. I don’t know whether I can go to US or not this year. Funds are not coming in. maybe should postpone to next year. More time to raise funds. Possible training in USA or Swiss or Oz. will look for opportunities.

May 19, 2002

Spent whole morning washing clothes. Cuci toilet and downstairs. CK Leong (my housemate) tak balik. Had breakfast (scrambled eggs + tomato plus stale Lao baguette (1 week old). Kenyang!

Tidur sampai 2.30 petang. Mandi & Solat. Pergi Saylom. Lepak di Phonetip. Saja nak makan ice cream and nak jumpa Santhi. Dia tak ada. Semalam masa ke Udon nampak dia and his pregnant wife di Nongkhai. Ke Udon agaknya for check up.

Balik singgah di bowling centre. Baru teringat why wei ling closed her shop early today. Terlupa malam tadi dia beritahu pasal bowling meet. Jumpa Mr Sim, Yim Kuan, Ravi and Usha, Kak Siti and Kiki. Lama dah tak main. Best jugak and cheap too. Fee – USD1 per game. Kasut – FREE!

Balik stop at Seri Fitri. Had dinner with Ravi, Usha, Kak Siti and Iki.

Next week pergi Udon Thani naik bas dengan kak siti!

May 23, 2002

Feeling not well this morning. Flu. Working until 2.30 pm. Went back home early. It was very hot even after maghrib. ( It was summer in Lao and temperature can go up to 40 celcius).

Sunday, February 20, 2005

"Bila lagi?"

I hate that question.

It was tiring to answer it all over again.

When I answered with the normal scripts I usually used such as,
"Belum sampai seru", "Sibuk dengan kerja", "Tak terfikir lagi",

they would retorted gleefully,

"Ish, jangan tunggu lama sangat", "29 tahun, dah patut sangat", " Carilah cepat-cepat", "Nanti, kau dah pencen, anak baru sekolah menengah".

Amboi! senangnya cakap. I wish they know the real reasons why I will not dwell with word 'settling down' for the next 2-3 years. Do they ever think or understand that some people got to push his needs and plans aside just for others.

And it can be a great nuisance when this question comes out from the people we hardly know or meet. Perhaps they have no other idea to say or ask when stumbled upon each other. I will be glad if they could ask me questions like,

"kucing kau dah beranak ke?berapa ekor?"
"eh, bila kau nak tulis buku pasal pengalaman kau?"

or perhaps simply,
"buku apa yang awak baca semalam?"

Ah, never mind since I have a very perfect answer that will make them quiet whenever that question arise again.

" I am gay".

Friday, February 18, 2005

Poems : cancer

My good friend, a poet and emergency specialist Dr. Alzamani wrote down these poems for the event I had yesterday at the Ministry of Finance. Even though it was another poem of his was recited by the Minister, these remaining poems struck deep inside my heart. I dedicated these two poems to the people i know well (Inda Sako- d. Feb 2004, Hafzani and Mahirah -who were present yesterday, happyd, Fahmi- d. April 2002) for their indomitable spirits against cancer.

Cancer & Hope : Through the rain of pain

Through the rain of pain
stain of disdain
and plains of strain

One must seek to gain
Life, even in just one grain
No matter how much is the rain of pain

One must seek to give
What one can, for others to live
No matter how short or how brief

One must seek to care
And let them live to dare
breathe better and have more to share

One must seek to hope
And help to cope
So as they fall, they find a rope

In all these pain, disdain and strain
There is always sunshine after the rain
There is always hope for less disdain
and meaning that many will gain

Even if

Even if it means
Living just a little longer
To savour a little more memory to remember

Even if it means
Easing a little of that enormous pain
So that a smile breaks easier

Even it it means
Death in the end
Despite a life that lasts just a little longer

Let them at least smile through the pain
Let them at least laugh through the strain
Let them at least breathe a little easier with less disdain

Alzamani Mohammad Idrose
7 Februari 2005
Hospital Kuala Lumpur

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Secondhand Bookshop

I love wandering around in secondhand bookshop. There is unmistakably some kind of attraction that brings me to that place filled with books, books and books.
Surrounded by towers of books, time seems does not exist.

And it did two weeks ago when I made my pilgrimage to that Chowrasta Market,Penang. During my volunteering years in Laos (2002 - 2003), that was the place I went while waiting for the next train to leave for Bangkok. It was kind of ritual to take the night train to Butterworth from KL and arriving in Butterworth at 7 am the next morning. Jumping off the train, I would take the ferry to Penang and walked to Masjid Kapitan Keling to have my morning shower. And I would spend the next hours at the Chowrasta Market immersed in my reading before clutching some books for the 2pm train ride to Bangkok.

Jalan Chowrasta Posted by Hello

Chowrasta Market Posted by Hello

close-up: Bahagian buku-buku lama Posted by Hello

Inside: Heaven on earth! Posted by Hello

towers of back issues of Reader Digest Posted by Hello

Monday, February 07, 2005

Have the Courage to Say Yes to Your Dreams

Dear Yanny,

In a week you will turn six. When you were only three, you lost your momma and are now in a boarding school in Shanghai, China. I sit in my apartment in Paris, hoping someday to help guide you into adulthood, through work, and beyond. Since we are so far apart, maybe this letter will give you a few appetizers from my heart's cupboard.

Lying in bed, your momma invited me to be your godmother. Fairy godmother would probably better define me! But your mother knew I would always be there for you.

Yanny Jacqueline Wang,
learn to say yes to your dreams. Then measure your risks, and trust serendipity to guide you.
Let me explain...

I went to college and got a degree in Music and Theatre. Everyone expected that I would then go on to graduate school and become either a composer or a professor. Wrong.

I took all my savings (from go-go dancing in a hunting lodge in upstate Vermont, and teaching flute at $5 an hour ) and took off for my dream city Paris! I was 22 years old. Within four weeks I fell madly in love with a brilliant street acrobat with a pH.D, met a theatre director who wanted to recruit me for his school, connected with a modeling agency, and started orchestrating music for cartoons at 'La Maison de la Radio.'

Four clear paths presented themselves to me: run away with the circus and make no money; go to Strasbourg and get a Masters degree in theatre; make a ton of cash modeling fancy furs and wearing high heels; or pursue a career in composing music with my first paying job. Guess what I chose? I followed my heart and joined an incredible baroque street circus. For the next ten years, from one village in France to the next, I was known as Lili Ratapuce.

I went back to the U.S. in 1980 with my newborn baby, Lailah. Again, I had no money. But within a few years, I had built a career as a freelance celebration artist, performing for the rich, the modest, and the poor. Some days I dressed up as a mermaid. Other days, I impersonated The Statue of Liberty. And on others, I wore shimmering iridescence blue wings. In the fancy hotels of Manhattan and in the schoolyards of Brooklyn, they all called me Dragonfly.
It was all wonderful! But Yanny, the work that changed my calling was becoming a clown-doctor for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit. We visited hospitalized children twice a week, all year round. Some kids had life-threatening illnesses like cancer and heart disease. Others had been shot in street fights.
For three years, I grew more than I had during the rest of my life. And because attitude is so critical to wellness, I contributed to the lives of many others.
Then, I found that my dreams outgrew what I could accomplish with Big Apple. The most difficult choice I ever faced in my working life was to change things while they were still going well. I decided to reinvent what I had learned under my own vision.
I went back to Paris. Made hundreds of calls. Wrote hundreds of letters. When the first of many grants came in, my husband, Patrick, and Lailah left New York to join me.
I now direct a company of 48 performers 'Le Rire Medecin (The Laugh Doctors). We work in eleven hospitals all over the country and see over 40,000 kids a year. Twice a week, you’ll find me in a huge cancer hospital in the suburbs of Paris.
Recently, when I came back from my summer break, I discovered that we had lost 20 kids. This means that my brown-eyed Olivier, mischievous Charlotte and Pierre, the poet Shirley, the philosophical Maude, Oscar, Melanie, and Sami from Lebanon are gone. Daily, I think of their families. I will never get used to the grief I must live with, yet I have learned to accept that the work I do makes a difference in the moment. Those moments add up to minutes and then to a lifetime. If we can all still see the value of a smile, then maybe we'll all be OK.
All those moments, and all those smiles, and all those changed lives were possible because a dragonfly learned to say yes to her dreams.
You are still too young to worry about going to work and making brow-wrinkling decisions. But when you do, I will be close by. For now, let's celebrate life together. I'll be there for your first taste of champagne, and to give you a bottle of my Vetiver perfume.
Please make me laugh when I am an old clown!

I love you,


Note: Caroline Simonds is the executive & artistic director of The Le Rire Medecin, the prominent clown doctors program in France. She co-wrote "The Clown Doctor Chronicles" with Prof. Bernie Warren of the Fools for Health. She is writing to her goddaughter, Yanny.

Clowning in Sarawak General Hospital


Just came back from Kuching last Friday. Managed to conduct hospital clowning visit at the Paediatric Oncology Wards of Hospital Umum Sarawak. Thanks to kusyi's partner in crime, Abang Zul who wonderfully captured the magical moments! Enjoy.

DR Bubbles with two young clowns after successful red nose transplant using latest technique (stickers!) Posted by Hello

Stage fright! Posted by Hello

flying kisss! Posted by Hello

surprisee! Posted by Hello

priceless moment! Posted by Hello

photo ops Posted by Hello

radio (active) station. where's the DJ?? Posted by Hello