July 6, 2008

on colourings

Posted in Happenings, Kids, Malaysia, My Home at 5:38 pm by meldee

Don’t box me in.

Taken with my Canon EOS KISS.

***

As the English/Malay speaking half of World Vision Malaysia’s Youth Ambassadors (hah! I sound so self-important) I had to today emcee a colouring contest at the Putra World Trade Centre in conjunction with the My Family Showcase. All registration fees went to World Vision Malaysia (yay! Methinks about RM4,000-RM5,000 was collected) and kids between the ages of 5-12 stood to win cash prizes.

Now, hardly exerting stuff, but it was quite challenging, and hilarious how miscommunication was so rife and there wasn’t enough space for all the kids to colour together; the younger ones remained inside the hall while the older kids had to colour outside (poor things).

Now, why this is blogworthy: it was scary.

Like, seriously—the air of competition, the hardcore coming-early-to-book-a-spot, the doting parents who watched their kids like hawks…now, I’ve entered a few colouring contests in my time (haven’t we all? It’s like some Malaysian child’s rite of passage)—never won, obviously, because when I was a kid my 5 second attention span was much worse and I never got the hang of the shading thing—but I don’t remember those colouring contests being less of a contest than it was a battle!

Ok picture this yeah—clearly some of the kids go for art classes (in addition to the music/piano class, the taekwondo class, swimming class, maths class, English class, spinning class cooking class upper-middle class…yeah I’m kidding about the last three, but you catch my drift); these kids were the ones with the hardcore parents.

The parents that buy them full on mini-tables and chairs and lugged it to PWTC just for this. The parents that forced me to return submitted artwork “because the full two hours are not up yet; Ah Boy, colour some more until time is up, I don’t care if you are tired or not”. The parents that crushed littler kids in the melee that happened during prize-giving up on stage.

Gaah! The kids are almost as scary….especially among the older ones, many of them actually brought pieces of cloth to cover their half-completed artwork to prevent other children from seeing what they’ve done! They’re sitting there on their cushions/mini-chairs, barefoot, little scraps of crayon-stained cloth around them, dusting and scraping away at their artwork, giving their opponents sneaky looks and glaring quite dangerously at me when I make announcements, like they’re thinking “stuff yer gob, ye crazy woman, let me colour in peace! Yer disrupting my artistic train of thought as to whether I should colour the man’s hair cornflower yellow or sunshine yellow.”

Speaking of which, is something else I noticed—call me over-analytical but my Arts training has done me well. I noticed that almost all the kids, colouring artwork that featured families and kids (and a cat, for the older group of children), coloured the skin of the characters in the pictures light. As opposed to dark. Yes, even the children who were Malay or Indian (dan lain-lain).

I just found this so problematic and sad. Things are such that these little ones think that fair is beautiful and dark is not? Sigh.

***

I also found myself asked twice over these last two days, once by a salesgirl at a cosmetics counter, and another time by a DJ at PWTC (I digress here, but why do DJs always put on this fake ‘ohmygod I’m so cool listen to my sexy raspy deep’ voice when they’re at the mic, but when they’re not on it they can talk like a ‘normal’ person again? Gaah.): “So what are you? Malay? Chinese? Mix?”

Everytime I am asked this lately, my answer is always the same. “I am Malaysian”.

This always throws people. “Yeah, ok, but what are you? You speak Malay so well” to which I usually reply, “but that’s inconsequential. I’m Malaysian and I don’t think I should be defined by my ethnicity or my language.”

I always make them uneasy with this…haha.

The DJ-type person also interrogated me on why I couldn’t speak Chinese, because I told him that Jia Xiang (the other WVM Youth Ambassador) was doing the Mandarin version while I spoke in English/Malay. (Gaah. Because!) I was a little offended by this, even though it happens to me so often you wouldn’t believe it, and I told him so. Because I choose not to, and why does it matter, especially to him anyway? Does it make me less of a good person because I can’t speak what society deems my mother tongue?

It’s a personal choice and I don’t think I need to justify myself to anyone.

Call me a shit-stirrer but I think it’s high time we embraced this on a personal level to not be defined in terms of these things. The more we harp on issues of ethnic pride and the whole my-language-is-better-than-yours and all-English-speaking-people-have-forgotten-their-roots issue the more we are perpetuating this vicious cycle.

There’s only one race, and that’s the human race, and we’re all citizens of this same country. So why the labels? Why the need to put everything in boxes? Why can’t we be free to be you and me?

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June 28, 2008

on loving pre-loved

Posted in Kids, Shopping! at 10:38 pm by meldee

No picture today, because I’d love to post a nice artsy fartsy shot of my new purchases but most of them are in the wash.

I’ve recently gone on a Vintage Binge, and by recently I meant I really started feeling the love on Thursday. And as is typical with me, when I am passionate about something, I go crazy all out but if it doesn’t sustain my interest…well, that’s the end of it.

Anyway, I’ve already got some old stuff from my aunts lying around that I’ve been loving heaps but have always felt too self-conscious? Awkward? Too much like a social/fashion misfit to wear? Anyhoo, trawling vintage-inspired fashion sites (as kindly listed for you under ‘Fabulous Fashion’) I’ve been…well, inspired, to go on a mad pre-loved spree.

I’ve decided that fashion is about experimentation. About not always being matchy-matchy perfection, but pushing the envelope about what works and what doesn’t.

Duh.

But yeah, big thing for me ok.

I went to Amcorp Mall today for some Me Time (I’ve been feeling incredibly unbalanced lately, as Miss P. would say, my chakras are all out of whack—nothing seems to work for me lately, be it meditation, thinking positive, or talking to angels) and wandered around the weekend flea market stalls.

I know a lot of the stuff is pretty blah, but what I was looking for was cheap, pre-loved clothes and bags. I was in this shop on the Lower Ground floor and struck up a conversation with one of the workers there, an old Chinese man in a funky hat.

After asking me if I were still studying, he asked me a question I’ve been asked a lot lately. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

In a split second, my thoughts shot from suspicion to paranoia to just a sweet serene blankness.

“A good person,” I laughed.

And I meant it.

***

I also spent RM50, and got bang for my buck (I know how this may be construed by the less pure-of-mind, so let me clarify that a.) I did not hire a hooker; b.) I did not pay to shoot anyone; c.) I did not hump a male deer).

Averaging at RM10 each, I snagged two tops (a lovely sailor-esque navy and red drawstring cotton top, and a halter/pussy-bow top in turquoise chiffon paisley), a lovely cropped white cardi with puff-sleeves and gorgeous embroidery on them, a silk painting-type high-waisted skirt and a red mock croc skin sling bag.

I’m pleased. I still have yet to wear the same thing to uni twice, and have decided that from now on I will buy mostly pre-loved stuff.

Because wearing things that have been loved, makes one feel loved.

Call it psychological (or call me psycho).

***

I saw the kids again today, and all seems to be well after the minor mishap of two weeks ago. I felt a lot more centered, having heaps of feminine energy coming off the other four, and though I lagged behind in a lot of things today I found peace when two little boys sat on my lap and read to me.

I discovered that K., a 6 year-old Sagittarian, who normally drives us a bit crazy with his hyperactivity, has a vice (yes, as we all do). Reading. He reads remarkably well for a Standard One kid, and while his English is a bit more touch and go, his Malay is pretty good. I think that short reading spell did us both good, because I’d never really been able to bond with him before (it’s a bit hard to cuddle a whizzing ball of energy!) and after that I actually managed to convince him and another boy to sort out their bookshelf!

And something else that I found beautiful. So just bear with me.

One of the volunteers, S., ordered cupcakes for the kids. In the end everybody ended up having about two—these gorgeous chocolate cupcakes with icing on it, some with flowers and some with frolicking white bunnies (I know!).

The little girl I love so, M., was very quiet today, clearly something is on her mind. Anyway she took one with flowers and ate it, and took another one with bunnies…to give to the live-in child minder.

I don’t think any of the other children did that, which I found understandable (I mean, they’re kids, and it’s sweet sugary goodness).

It just goes to show that you can be used and abused, ignored and treated as a crowd rather than an individual, but still love finds ways of shining through.

I really do love that kid. Actually, I really do love all of them.

*happy sighs

June 15, 2008

on doing it for the kids

Posted in Kids, Malaysia, My Home, Social Responsibility According to Me at 9:28 pm by meldee

Hello?

Taken with an Olympus FE-190 digital camera in Sibaju, Kalimantan, 2007.

***

I’ve been working with children at a shelter for abused children for almost a year now. It’s something I look forward to and do with a few close friends, all who are wonderful and patient people. We do activities with the kids, and try to mix it up so that they (and ourselves) don’t get bored—we’ve done dances, yoga, art, kungfu/kickboxing/taekwondo…it’s usually a whole heap of fun 🙂

Yesterday was particularly trying, though. Most of the others in the group couldn’t make it, so it was just myself and another volunteer. To keep it simple, we decided to play games with the kids—the Memory Game (where you study 20 items for 1 minute, then cover them and try to remember as many as possible) in pairs (so the younger kids wouldn’t feel so lost) and Blind Man’s Bluff.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I promised a ‘prize’ to the pair that remembered the most number of things in the prescribed time period. There were two pairs that came in at a tie, so I gave out four sweets. As is the case with children, most of them also came up to me later asking if they could have one too, to which I said ‘No’ as some of them didn’t give in their papers, or score as highly as the others.

What I didn’t anticipate, however, was that a ruckus would break out among the children over the simple reward of sweets. Among the younger ones, fine, I know it’s inevitable for some sort of tantrum to happen, but it was when the older girls (they are about 12) started throwing tantrums I was utterly shocked.

Fights even erupted among some of the boys because one of them started taunting the others with his ‘sweet victory’; needless to say they were none too pleased with that. What made it even more difficult was that there were four new children, and as the other volunteer said, the kids are probably still trying to establish a new ‘pecking order’ among them, hence the fisticuffs and tears.

I tried explaining it to them as slowly and gently as I could that things don’t always happen your way. You need to put in effort and try your best to succeed at most things, and if your friend receives an award and you don’t, you should try to be happy for them, not be jealous, and tell yourself that it could be your turn the next time around.

The younger kids had trouble understanding this, and one of the new boys was mumbling fiercely about how I should just go away and that he didn’t care about what I was saying. One of the ones who we’ve known from the beginning, K, started crying continuously, which kind of set off a new episode of tears from the rest.

One of the older girls tearfully said that she thinks she understands what I’m saying, because when she gets an ‘A’ in class for her tests, her classmates get jealous and refuse to talk to her. And it made my heart bleed, because yeah, while we say that kids will be kids and they’re too young to understand ‘grown-up’ things like this, I don’t believe in that. I reckon that it’s never too early to inundate children with the idea that a merit system exists, and not to expect things because they are their divine right. Rewards should be earned, even if it’s just the sense of satisfaction they have in their achievements.

One of the girls, S, rather sullenly asked me why I was being ‘like this’, and that she didn’t like me anymore because earlier when I came in, she’d said ‘hi’ to me and I didn’t respond. This distressed me a whole lot, and I took her aside to explain that this week we were seriously understaffed and that I had so many children clamouring for my attention at the same time, and that I didn’t mean to ignore her and it certainly didn’t mean that I didn’t care for or love her. This made her eyes glisten with tears, because I gently told her that I couldn’t give all my time to only her, and that she had to learn to share.

She gave me a hug and said that yeah, she understood, but actually she was upset because I didn’t give her a sweet. (Sigh)

Another thing I noticed while I was checking their Memory Game list was that even among the older children (aged 10-12), they had such incredible difficulty with spelling. Even the oldest of the group struggled with spelling ‘cermin mata’ (spectacles/glasses/sunnies) and ‘rantai’ (necklace)! Which made me wonder how the girl that got ‘A’s in her tests did so, unless it was for maths.

This is another clear indication that the education system has failed. These children are urban children, who live and study in government schools in the Klang Valley. They know songs like ‘Smack That’ (to our horror, heh) and keep up with the latest movies, and yet, they can’t spell or read even Dr. Seuss’ ‘Cat In The Hat’.

Of course, there are so many arguments about why this could be. It could be because, simply, the children are ‘bad’ students; it could also mean that they’re (and I hate to say this, because I really don’t believe it) ‘stupid’. It could be an indication that their teachers are lackadaisical, or that their parents didn’t do a good job. And I wouldn’t dispute the last point, because these children are from abusive homes…but at the same time, don’t their teachers notice, or care that a 12 year-old girl struggles with reading words like ‘goldfish’?

Maybe one could even argue that teachers are not paid enough to care. And that some teachers are idiots to begin with (which I agree on this under certain circumstances), which then leads one to question why such people are teaching in the first place. Which just makes us go round in circles again.

And if this is already the case for children living in the suburbs and urban areas, what are things like for children out in the villages or outskirts?

Sigh.

It’s so easy to say that yeah, things are as such; but honestly, to witness it firsthand, for it to be true for children that I love and care about, it makes me want to cry. And yes, it does make me want to try and save the world but I know there’s only so much I can do.

Just a thought, for all the aspiring teachers and educators out there (and let this serve as a reminder to me, too). Teaching is an extraordinary profession, because it requires a great deal of patience, compassion, and passion for learning and the desire to impart this knowledge upon those who don’t know. The minute you feel any of these elements waning, leave the vocation for a while and recover the part of yourself you’ve lost. Because I won’t deny that it’s an extremely exhausting and draining area. But you owe it to your students, who look up to you and admire you more than any other adult (yes, maybe even their own parents!) to give them the best that you can.

I know, though, that this is impossible. There will always be those who teach for the mere sake of it, and not for the love of children or knowledge, but for money and power. There will always be teachers who are arrogant, who have lost their sense of wonder and who see the children as pests and not as people. And this makes my heart bleed, because it’s such a vicious cycle.

I promise (to myself, and the Divine) that I will try to give as much as I can, be it love, time, knowledge or just a smile, to all the lives I am blessed enough to touch and perhaps impact. I want to be a better person, not just for myself, but for the kids.

One of the girls at the shelter, M, asked me what I worked as. I love M, especially, because she’s got these adorable chubby cheeks and the sweetest smile. She’s such a perfectionist too, and so energetic. Perfection is her ultimate goal.

I told her I was working at M.University, and her eyes widened. “Akak, will you be my teacher when I go to university?” she asked. “Of course,” I said, “But you have to finish primary school, then secondary school, and do really well; then only you can come to university.”

She looked up at me with her trusting brown eyes and smiled that smile that always melts my heart. “Ok, can. Ya, I will come to university, but only if Akak is my teacher.”

In my heart, I whispered to her that I think I already was.

November 3, 2007

singkawang sojourn day 3 & 4

Posted in Friends, Happenings, Kids, Snapshots, Social Responsibility According to Me, Travel and Adventure at 12:47 pm by meldee

Imma back for Part II. Am going to take my time doing this, as I need to conserve energy and witty quips for my other Singkawang/WV write-ups, and I need lunch (and coffeeeeeeeee) and want to run over to the Child Care Centre in PJ with some party dresses of my little cousin Celine in time for Deepavali so in case the older girls haven’t got any new dresses yet, these might do 🙂

Day Three began with breakfast. We had traditional Dayak food (as most of them are Dayak), cucur and…somethinglikelemang. And coffee. Man, these people like their sugar! I had two cups because after the tossing and turning, I needed the caffeine fuel to keep me going. But it turns out that that wasn’t breakfast, that was just an appetiser! Real breakfast consisted rice, more fried chicken, more pork, fresh cucumber slices (damn sweet!) and bamboo shoot kerabu. We were stuffed!

After breakfast, the lot of us jumped back into the 4WDs for the village of Sibale where we visited one of Kalimantan’s most renowned elementary schools. This place, Sekolah Dasar Subsidi Sibale, is different from the others, so we were told, because of the school spirit there, and attitudes towards learning. It has 167 students with many others on the waiting list, and is a private school of sorts because they get no government assistance.


The kids there welcomed us with another dance! We were then invited to sit in their classrooms 🙂


Yeah baby I was there!


There is something almost Communist-like about this photo, haha! But they’re not, I assure you. They were just lining up for a special assembly where we handed out more exercise books.  The kids then sang their school song for us, the bridge of which is stuck in my head: “ohh…I love Sibale..”

After sweltering in the sun accompanied by frantic fanning, we took off for the area of Sabau to the small sub-village of Tawang. About 7km from the town (if one could call it that) of Samantalan, we had to disembark from our comfy air-conditioned vehicles and trade them for motorbikes as the roads were BAD. Thank goodness it hadn’t rained, because we’d have gotten stuck in the red clay! I was really excited about getting on a bike again as the last time I did I was probably about 9 years old, and I was riding around Melaka with my late grandfather. I had the offer to go with Tim’s Stepdad Grant on his Ducati when I was in Bega but it never manifested 😦  Nevermind, next time.


Anggoro and I! Lemme just say it was an Experience, riding along these roads at a rather fast pace with no helmet, the hot sun beating down on you…it was about a 2km bumpy-lumpy-umpy ride, one of those which my Gran would remark: “Kalau pregnant memang tu baby sudah terkeluar!” (“If you were pregnant the baby would’ve come out already!”). You can see already from this photo how baked I am 🙂


Another welcoming committee!


But this time, with a garland of fluvvers! *heart* Ugh, my hair’s growing longer again and losing its shape already, bah!


The two main WV projects here was the clean water to every house, and this study hall sort of thing where the village kids could study, learn nature appreciation, dance, play games, etc 🙂 Most of the kids were barefoot here, which was kind of sad. There were also lots of farm animals wandering around aimlessly and pooping all over the place; one of the leaders told me they’ve been asking the government for the longest time about getting funding, or materials to build fences for the animals because it’s so unhygienic for the kids to be wandering and playing around fecal matter :/


The kids singing while others watched on.

After watching more performances, more speeches, and another huuuuuge lunch (where somebody mentioned there was dog meat if we wanted it, eeps!) it started to rain so we needed to take our leave before the roads got worse. So some of us squeezed into Pak Tom’s jeep while the others had to rough it in the rain on bikes (which I am very jealous about because I wanted to ride the motorbike in the rain! Hmmf!).


More cucur and somethinglikelemang, served with hot diluted condensed milk as appetisers.


It’s a miracle I managed this photo at all! The ride was about 10 squillion times more bumpy in the jeep! That’s (clockwise) Siew Ling, Su, Su Ting and me. And the bumpy-lumpy-umpy road.

After this, it was a huge sigh of relief to be back in the 4WDs on proper (this is highly debatable, but everything is relative) roads. One thing I should mention about the roads, they’re all full of potholes and are not done properly, at some stretches even the bridges are makeshift ones—our driver told us it’s because of the rife corruption among government officials. Hmm, sounds familiar…

Anyway we headed back to Singkawang, another close-to-2-hour drive. Hurrah!Most of us passed out for close to 2 hours after rejuvenating showers. Mmm, nice clean bed…


Group shot on the steps of the hotel foyer while waiting to go for dinner.

Singkawang is known for being the ‘Hong Kong of Indonesia’. It’s population is almost 70% Chinese, so you can imagine the overabundance of Chinese eateries. Combined with yowling sounds of bad karaoke and tacky CNY decorations that are never taken down, it was just like being in parts of Ipoh or JB! There are lots of Hakka people here, my kinsmen, yeaaaah.


It was Phoebe’s birthday the next day so we had an early birthday celebration for her with cake! After that was a short drive around the town (it’s actually pretty big!) before heading back to the hotel to pack, bum around, and get more shut eye.

The next morning, after breakfast (and extremely crunchy fried noodles, gaah), we headed over to the WV Singkawang office for a de-briefing session.


That’s Pak Tom talking, and explaining to us how the families for to-be-sponsored children are selected. It’s all very democratic, apparently talks go on for as long as 5 days. All the villagers are gathered and separated into groups where they begin to discuss whether each and every one of the families in the village qualify as impoverished, poor, moderate, or well-to-do. They are also given a list of criteria, of what qualifies as impoverished, etc. Each village has their own standards, so it’s all relative. I was extremely happy at this 🙂 We then each had to give a short speech on our feelings and thoughts, and a few of us had tears in our eyes as we spoke of what we’ve seen. Sadly for me, I didn’t understand most of it as it was in Mandarin, so I had to go with the short translations that came whispered my way.


After that, we very very very quickly made a stop at some places to buy goodies (and in my case, coffee, wahahaha!) before commencing our 3-hour drive to Pontianak to catch our flight back to Jakarta, then home. That’s our driver, Mas Hendrik (I think) doing the thumbs-up sign unwittingly as I snapped this photo 🙂 The coffee smelt yum! They ground it freshly before sealing them up. I bought a kilo of it 😀

Most of us slept in the car again. Haha.


After about an hour and a half of driving, we stopped off at Sungei Pinyu for lunch at another Chinese restaurant where we had fried noodles and pig’s insides *cringe*. I mean, the fried noodles weren’t bad, but I gingerly picked out the liver, intestines and huge chunks of pork lard. Gaah. I am so not Chinese ok.

We got to the airport just in the nick of time! We didn’t have to wait at all, just check in, have a quick toilet break, pay airport tax (Rp 25,000 – about RM10) and a compulsory donation of Rp 5, 000 (to which I indignantly exclaimed “It can’t be a compulsory donation, this is more like extortion!”) before we were allowed to go through. Oh wells, it’s only RM2 -_-”  But still, it’s the principle of the whole thing, no?


There’s always time for a photo! Me and Jia Xiang a.k.a Fatino having our celeb-plane-boarding moment.

A quick flight later and we were back in Jakarta! We said our goodbyes to Imelda *sobs* and proceeded to hunt for dinner, waste time, etc before our 8.20pm flight. Which was brought forward to 8.15pm. Which was then promptly delayed to 9pm.

I couldn’t find my Krispy Kremes 😦 So we had A&W for dinner instead. I kept to my word, no more fried chicken! I had a rather yukky fish burger instead. Digress: if they have beef, chicken and fish burgers, how come no one has duck burgers? I mean, I don’t like duck, but I’m sure others do. Why why? And also, why do they call them hamburgers if they’re not made from ham? Were hamburgers created in Hamburg the way sandwiches were created by the Earl of Sandwich?


While waiting for our shuttle bus to take us to the international terminal, Siew Ling and I wailed and scratched furiously at our assortment of bites. Here we are with our saviour, Mopiko! *three cheers* Now that I’m home, I’ve applied Calamine Lotion to my bites, so I look like a leper -_-” Yes, verrrrrrrry sexy.

Phew! Thus ends my 56k Killer post. Apologies if it isn’t as wordy as yesterday’s, but I’m sitting in a mighty uncomfortable position on my bed (mattresses, more like) and I’m dying for coffee. So I shall end this here, and add more notes, entries, etc as I go along. I will permalink these entries on my sidebar (if I can ruddy figure out how, bah—should be a breeze though) to enable easy access 🙂

In summary, how I found my trip though? Amazing. I was touched by the warmth and gentleness of the people, how readily they opened their hearts and homes to us. I was touched by them taking the time to put so much effort into planning our welcome ceremonies, meals, accomodation and all round comfort. I went there thinking I could teach the youth there a thing or two (me being highly successful and all, ahem), but it turned out the other way round.

They taught me how to be humble, how to be thankful for what I have and will have by virtue of my position of birth in the economic strata. They taught me good humour, to look at things with continuing wonder because life is something to be marveled at. They reminded me to hold on to my dreams and pursue them diligently, because they have it so much harder and yet their drive to succeed is almost as great as mine, if not greater.

This trip was a blessing. I say this without pomp and ceremony, and without further elaboration because in retrospect, too many things and epiphanies occurred for me to properly, cogently word it. So….yeah 🙂

I’m very very happy, and would love to go back there again.

Prepared with mosquito nettings, Ridsect, and a sleeping bag.

November 2, 2007

singkawang sojourn day 1 & 2

Posted in Friends, Happenings, Kids, Snapshots, Social Responsibility According to Me, Travel and Adventure at 7:33 pm by meldee

So I’m back, huzzah! Back home, back on Facebook (gaaaah!), back online *strokes modem affectionately*…back to being worked up about the same old small things like my TAC requests from BOTH my online banking accounts not showing up, which is horrible because I have absolutely NO CREDIT left on my phone. Bah humbug!

But this isn’t about banking, though my banking stories could possibly entail a whole new entry in itself. I am quite fascinated with banking; it’s a strange fixation not even I understand.

This is about me finally going off on a mini-break, humanitarian trip, and journey of self discovery of sorts to Western Kalimantan, around the Pontianak region. And let me just say, 4 days sure as monkeybottoms was not enough!

For those who don’t know this, Pontianak is a vampire of sorts in Malay folklore that comes about when pregnant women die in childbirth—they come back to haunt and terrorise other pregnant women at night, wooo~ as Suet would say. But this was Pontianak the town, and it is located near/on the Equator 🙂 So at 12 noon, nobody has a shadow! How cool.

I’ll just give a quick summary of travel details before you fall asleep on me, I’ll explain more as I add photos 🙂 You better damn right hope my bandwidth hasn’t been exceeded for this month! (note: Gaaaah. Gaaaaah. Dropshots is still being a royal pain, have gone back to Flickr. This one also limited. Rawr!)

The Malaysian World Vision (henceforth known as WV) Malaysia entourage consisted myself, two WV staff (Susan and Su Hsien—yes, another one! Haha what a coincidence), two other youths (Jia Xiang and Stephen, both from JB), a journalist from a local Chinese travel mag (Siew Ling, my new friend *heart*) as well as a local celebrity (and supposedly some sort of icon in the Chinese-speaking world, which I am undoubtedly excluded from—she’s a DJ, presenter and singer too) , Phoebe, and her assistant Su Ting.

Everyone spoke Mandarin except me -_-” Thankfully I also have the ability to tune out almost immediately should conversations commence in said language, unless everyone’s pointing at me and laughing whereby I would then proceed to either very aggressively demand to know what is being said, ignore them even more, or sulk.

Anyway.

From KL’s LCCT, we took a flight to Jakarta where we met Imelda from the World Vision Indonesia Jakarta office who was to also accompany us on our trip. From there, we caught another flight to Pontianak (flights from KL-Kuching-Pontianak were too few and far between). From Pontianak, it was a bumpy, crazy 3 hour drive to Singkawang which was our homebase for this trip. Honestly, in the heavy rain, the driver was going at 80km/h around bends and bumps, and they have no seatbelts in the back seat (believe me, I kept reaching behind frantically for it!)—they also have a strange system with their indicators and their honking. Want to overtake, honk. Vehichle in front (car, bike, pedestrian) going too slow, honk. Going round bends at top speed, honk. See someone you know? honk.

Malaysian drivers seem really considerate and gentle in comparison, which is really saying something. Heh.

Anyhoo, you with me so far? Ok.


Our transit at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport. On the shuttle bus I saw a Krispy Kremes and let out a little yelp—Su Hsien (who studied in Perth) asked me why and when I breathed “Krispy Kremes!” she literally grabbed my arm and with wide-eyes exclaimed “Where?!” but it was closed, and we couldn’t find it again after. Sob. Anyhoo, I loved the giant chandeliers they had—and the wood carvings and all that! So pretty!


After that was the Supadio Airport in Pontianak—this place was a madhouse. Indonesia has a strange Smoke-Anywhere policy—you can even smoke in non-smoking areas, go figure.


Because of all the smoke and people, the three of us escaped outside to—you guessed it, more smoke. That’s Siew Ling, the journalist (I later found out she’s also a Pisces, has had similar relationship troubles to my good self and is same blood-type B! Plus I totally want her job ok! She’s been to Japan, Sydney, all sorts of places! Only problem is, me no speaking/writing Chinese) from Let’s Travel, me (I deflate in heat) and Su Hsien, who works in Publicity and Communications in WV Malaysia.

After the crazybumpyscary ride to Singkawang, we arrived at the Mahkota Hotel. I’m not sure if it’s a chain of which there is a branch in Melaka which I stayed at over Chinese New Year this year, but I was honestly expecting something no frills, no fuss, even a little bit dodgy. So when I saw this, I was pleasantly surprised—and felt guilty. Was I not supposed to be experiencing poverty and destitution?!


The dining area where they had live performances every night which consisted of a few people yowling and dancing to musty old English songs like ‘I Beg Your Pardon (I Never Promised You a Rose Garden)’, etc. Thankfully I blotted the sound out by watching StarMovies and HBO 😀


The reception area. There was Pak Tom and Feliki (sp?) from WV Singkawang there to look after us, and Susan from WV Malaysia in the centre. I had the least luggage of all—which frankly made me quite worried when I saw that even the guys had bigger luggage than mine o_O


After a full day of travel, we headed out for dinner. Su Hsien has a sponsored child, Rita, who traveled three hours that day to meet her. Su Hsien had a load of stuff for her; maths books, pencils, etc—I chipped in a balloon from a packet that my dad told me to bring along and give to the kids along the way. I was initially quite skeptical but when the balloons went down like a ton of bricks with the kindergarten kids especially, I regretted not bringing more.

Anyhow, this was a picture of us at dinner. Clockwise: Su Hsien, Rita’s teacher (I forget her name), Su Ting (Phoebe’s assistant), Phoebe, me (bah!), Stephen, Jia Xiang, Siew Ling, Imelda, Pak Tom, Anggoro, Susan and Rita. Rita’s 8 and she’s really really tiny! My brother looks like Godzilla in comparison to her. She was also really shy. Dinner was great—I’ve also discovered another tendency among the people we visited, to always, always, have fried chicken. I’m swearing off fried chicken for a month, at least.


Day #2 of our visit, kicked off with breakfast in the hotel! I had way too much coffee (as usual) and as the result was remarkably bubbly at the ungodly hour of 6-something in the morning. The sun rises really early there, and they’re one hour behind Peninsula Malaysia time. With Stephen, Jia Xiang and Su Hsien, taken using the timer *beams*.

Before we headed off to the villages,we stopped by the WV Singkawang office to pick up some stuff—exercise books and clean water, etc for the children and us.


Check out that beautiful shade of blue sky *marvels*.


Myself and the guys. Though there was a slightly bigger communication challenge between myself and Jia Xiang, conversing with Stephen wasn’t as bad because he’s in his third year doing Biotech at UCSI. Jia Xiang is still doing the Chinese school equivalent of Sixth Form in Batu Pahat. They’re both really incredibly jovial and high-spirited and made the trip that much more fun, as I am quite boring around strangers.


The WV Malaysia entourage and Rita, Su Hsien’s sponsored child. You can learn more about sponsoring a child here. Mind you, I said sponsor, not adopt. When you sponsor a child you don’t just give them money, it goes to a pool that benefits the entire community your child lives in. It could go towards building a new school, a new well, pipes and materials, and training teachers so that your child has a better shot at a brighter future.

You know the saying about giving a man a fish a day to feed himself, compared to spending a day teaching him how to fish? Or something like that? Yeah, that’s what WV does. I personally really like the idea of teaching the communities self-sufficiency as opposed to the spoonfeeding most governments and some charities do.

The first village we went to was called Sijankung, about an hour’s drive away, where we visited a kindergarten jointly funded by the church and WV for children aged 3-5. It was literally, four rooms in a row. It makes our schools here look so…pompous.


The kids were so good! Though they gave us a naturally curious once-over, they remained fully attentive to their study. Apparently they’re quite used to visitors, and love love love taking photos. In kindy they learn the basics of reading, writing and ‘rithmatic, as well as 10 core moral values to help ease the transition into elementary school.


The kids. Awww…look at their lickly iddy widdy uniforms *spasms with delight*. We were celebrities of sorts there, really, because the mothers kept insisting on taking photos with us 🙂 One of the mothers I talked to kept gushing over how good WV has been in helping them out, especially with her having 10 kids (gasp). She was really lovely *warmfuzzyfeelings*. I hope I’m that good natured especially if I have 10 kids! LOL.


Me and the kids’ outdoor-learning classroom.


The next kindy on the visit list was the one at Sagatani where all the kids wore bright pink! So cute! There was an adorable little boy there that absolutely stole my heart with his twinkling eyes and gap-toothed grin.


Their headmistress, Ibu Yenni (in purple) giving a mini-speech before the kids started singing and dancing for us.


“Who wants something special?!” The kids all reacting joyfully, but none more so than my little boy (look carefully, he’s the one with the huge grin and is up on one arm elevating himself above his peers). They had to answer really simple questions like “which animal has a trunk/long neck?” and they got sweets, pencils, and balloons (from me).

I love ickle kiddies. There’s just something about them that’s so full of awe at the world that we adults are so weary of and jaded about that’s breathtaking in its naivete. I reckon we can all learn something from them.

After two kindergartens, we upped it a level and proceeded to the village of Sibaju for lunch and to see the kids at the elementary school. While the two kindergartens had clean running water, Sibaju didn’t. The community here was so excited about WV coming in to help with building them a school and getting clean water to each home that they actually gave their land to build the school! Here we also met two other sponsored children, Santo (sponsored by local artiste Michael Wong) and Orisius (sponsored by Lite FM DJ Non). The kids were lovely, they welcomed us with huge smiles, enthusiastic greetings and a traditional dance.


They’re camera-lovers! They found every way to entertain us to ensure photo-taking 😉 Here a boy on stilts tottered around for me while his friends crowded around to get their 15 seconds of fame;)


Phoebe and the kids. She even taught them the “ke ren lai, kan papa” song. If my phonetic-ising of it is wrong, shaddap I don’t care, as long as you get the picture.


Me and the tiny dancers 😉 The girl at the far left of this photo and in the centre were amazing dancers. You couldn’t take your eyes off them! They had amazing grace and rhythm, and it was a pleasure to watch 🙂 Of course, when the lot of us got dragged up there to emulate their dance moves, guess which two-left-footed numbskull ended up massacring the steps -_-“


We also had fresh corn for a lunch appetiser! Believe it or not my pale-as corn beat Su’s orange one in terms of taste and texture hands down, hah! We were also making (lame) jokes about how it’s not the person that chooses the corn, but the corn that chooses the person (yalah okwe are very lame, go away).


I love this shot! As we sat down to lunch in their tiny seating area of sorts a little girl was peeking up at me talking to some of the other people, and I snapped this picture of her. Needless to say shortly after she was very rudely pushed to one side by her bigger peers also trying to pan-cute for me. Sorry guys! 😛


I don’t remember his name but this boy (aged 13, with one eye :|) followed me into a classroom and wrote this down on the blackboard for me 🙂


Naughty naughty! This bubbly cheerful little girl skipped school that day because she heard visitors were coming to this school, so she popped by to say hello and amuse us with her stilt-walking antics 🙂


As guests of honour, we got to give out exercise books and pens sponsored by WV Indonesia to the kids! It was an extreeeeeeemely hot day, mind you, so discount how I look like.


Me and Siew Ling, and the yummiest lunch ever! There was sambal belacan, bamboo shoots, fucuk and potatoes, and pork with onions, nyum nyum. I don’t know how they made it but lemme tell ya, it was damned good! It was so good I’ve even decided that it’s on par with my grandma’s cooking, which is really Saying Something.

After our lunch, we went to the homes of Santos and Orisius to give them gifts from their sponsor fathers.


The girls. The kids all followed us to his house cause they wanted to see what would go on. Orisius’ sister is seriously so emaciated, I think she’s about 10-12 and she has to do the cooking and cleaning sometimes. They live in a tiny two room wooden hut with no electricity and running water, and no furniture at all. His father left his mother when she was 7 months pregnant with her youngest child, so she has three kids to take care of and the barest minimum income to cover it. Sigh. She couldn’t have been more than 35 years old, but she looked so utterly worn out and defeated that it made her look twice her age.

I honestly cannot imagine living under such conditions, and to do so with three kids depending on you, no husband and no outside, good grief.


I distracted myself with taking a photo of this giant-piant spider (as opposed to eensy-weensy). Izuan, any idea what this species is?:)


Their kitchen. Observe the peaceful puppy and kitten! Also, try to imagine cooking for your family of four, day in day out, under such conditions.


Village kids (and Imelda in the stripey top) seeing what they could see (me, in between scratching viciously at the horrid insect bites and slapping away at Aedes mozzies).

After this house, we had to trek about another 15 minutes to the house of Orisius, who is Non’s sponsored child.


That’s Su with Orisius (in yellow) and his parents in the background. Mind you, while this house looks a lot better than Santos’ (they had electricity, a TV and VCR player), their family has 8 kids, of which Orisius is the second-youngest of. His parents work as farmers and tap rubber, and have to walk three hours each way in a day to get to work. His mum Marina was telling us, the only reason why their house looks ‘nice’ in comparison to others was because a few years back, when they reared pigs, they sold the lot and built the house. But they don’t have toilets or pipe water, and all the pigs died because of disease, so their burden is at times too heavy at times that they can only afford to let 5 of their 8 children go to school.


Me being a jakun with their last giant pig. I didn’t dare get too close because it looked so fierce! It was so fat, too! Imagine if anything had happened, the headlines: ‘Death by Pig’?! *shudder* That’s like Hannibal. I’m kind of afraid of actual pigs (but not of eating their meat, har har!) after reading Hannibal.

After this, we headed over to the village of Sendoreng where we would spent the night, interact with the youth there and sit in on a discussion/open forum between WV and the village elders (all male, needless to say).


One of the village elders had very kindly let us bunk at his place. We were told we wouldn’t need to bring anything cause it would all be ‘taken care of’…little did we know what awaited us…


Ta-daaaaah! Our room, to be shared between me, Su, Susan and Siew Ling. That was it, folks—a few mats on the floor. No pillows, no bedsheets, no blankets, no mosquito netting (to our chagrin at 4am when each of us were fighting a losing battle with them vicious jungle mozzies). We gave the boys our single tatty mattress because their room looked like…urm, a haunted room in a haunted house. It had cracks in the floorboard and all, so the lads stayed up till about 3am chatting and looking at the stars until they totally crashed at about 4am.

Meanwhile us four became blood donors—I had no pillow or blanket (Susan came prepared with hers, hmmf!) so had to roll up a few of my clothes as a pillow, bummed socks off Siew Ling and used my hoodie as a blanket of sorts, reverting it and using the hood to cover my face because those damned mozzies wouldn’t leave me alone! Gaaaaaah! They even flew into my ears! We woke up the next morning ragged and exhausted, but thankfully we all were good-spirited about it 🙂 That night has been nicknamed ‘The Night of 1001 Sleeping Positions’, of which I probably contributed to about half of. I was sleeping kneeling down in yoga positions!


Heh, anyway, the rest of the house. They had a little pool and an alcove of sorts that had an image of Mother Mary inside, which I found incredibly beautiful. Close-ups later (as in, another entry).


The youths of the village, who were the raison d’etre of Jia Xiang’s and my presence on the trip. They were lovely—shy at first, then after a while they got warmed up. The girl in the solid baby blue shirt, Magdalena, has an amazing voice that can totally transfix you. She sang an Indonesian song at my request. My request, because Jia Xiang (who gave himself the Indonesian name ‘Fatino’, LOL, because of the difficulty in pronouncing his name) were divided into groups and we had to show them pictures of our lives here, and talk about our experiences and interact with them—we were talking about ambitions and hers was to be a singer, so I asked her to sing something for me.

When she did, it blew me away. I told her shakily how she’d better not let go of this dream and to hold it close to her heart because it might someday come true—I dunno why but something tells me she will succeed. She’s 18, and is the only one among the group of about 20 of them who can speak passable English. I hope she gets the chances she deserves, she and all her friends.


The next morning (ragged, sleep deprived, sore and blood-drained) with the wonderful people who took good care of us in Sendoreng *heart*.

I’d just also like to say that insofar as I am grateful to be sponsored this trip, my judgment hasn’t been (completely) clouded over in gratitude, etc—but I really, really, really do admire the work that WV does. Especially the fieldwork: the meeting with village elders, sourcing materials, getting to know the people and children—it’s really draining and tiring, and I imagine, quite disheartening at times when it doesn’t work out.

And I find it swell that even though this is a Christian organisation, they in no way tried to make myself (or the other non-Christian travelers) feel uncomfortable with conversion-speak and whatnot—it just goes to show really that at the end of the day, religion is just a personal choice, a vessel if you like, by which we each become good, useful human beings. Of course there were the obligatory pre-meal prayers, but I understand completely that it was a show of thanks for the food (amen!) and companionship; I’m all for being grateful for this (esp. the food).

But what I like best about their work is that they don’t just give the people that need it the money; they equip them with actual skills and knowledge, like saving (and banking, woots!), teamwork in building the kindergartens, wells and community areas, and of course, child protection rights. Which is amazing, because not even here in Malaysia where we view ourselves as ‘advanced’ and ‘civilised’ do we actively educate our children in their rights. In fact, some of us are even told by our own parents that we have no rights *ahem*. But that’s an old story—I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy because of WV’s actions.

Because there is no excuse for abusing children; not culture, not “Oh I’m Sorry I Lost My Temper”, not financial problems, nothing. As Pak Tom put it, the money just serves as a catalyst to get things going; sadly as much as we try to disassociate ourselves from it, money does make the world go round. BUT it’s not the only thing; there are also the core values I found myself reminded of during this trip: comradeship, love, altruism and the sheer might and power of the human spirit and heart.

Will continue this post tomorrow 🙂 More pictures then!

October 6, 2007

“the erection was massive!”

Posted in Friends, Happenings, Kids at 9:25 pm by meldee

…and I quote Yee Hou’s MSN display name 😛

No, I haven’t gone all smutty on you, tough luck. This is in reference to the MUSA General ELections; for weeks prior to this Yee Hou, my fellow Assistant Returning Officer went around proclaiming happily, “Harroo, we are Yee Hou and Merody from the Erections Committee!”, clearly bagging the shit out of a certain type of accent.

But yeah! At long last, it’s over—official results will be out on Monday but most of us already knew who won 😉 And rightly so. I know I am supposed to remain unprejudiced and fair as well as equitable (and I was!) by remaining impartial but lemme tell ya I’m breathing a huge sigh of relief the results turned out the way they did 😉

The polling throughout the week and the climax of the event–the vote counting (which went on till 11pm Friday!) was really interesting though, and I learned a valuable lesson:  do. not. have. too. much. sugar. because. then. i. cannot. sit. still.

I was leaping around the function room, pretty much, due to a high of sugars and carbohydrates. Bad bad bad.

The end of this does, however, also signify the beginning of week 12—I have 2 more weeks of being an undergraduate before I will and can be declared unemployed! 4 more assignments to plod through, ugh! At least with the elections (erections, haha!) out of the way I should be able to really sit down and concentrate on my work—hah!

Have been feeling very gloomy as of late. Heaps of things have been going on, and I think it’s really beginning to take a toll on me. Today at my session with the kids at the childcare centre I snapped at a little boy who’d been harassing one of the younger kids, and it upset him so much he crawled under the table and refused to come out.

It really broke my heart and I feel terrible because I didn’t mean to; I get narky with my own little cousins and snap at them too, but they get over it because they know me. I just wasn’t mindful enough to remember that these kids are special and they don’t know me well; they need to be treated with extra extra extra love and care and tenderness because of what they’ve been through.

I feel rotten 😦 Working with kids isn’t as easy as I thought, and it really makes me wonder at the amount of thought and maturity it really requires to bring a child into this world. And how sensitive they are—they pick up vibes and absorb moods really quickly. It made me more aware that there will never be adult solutions to children’s problems. You can’t reason and apologize profusely to a child and expect that to soothe rough words or conduct in the heat of the moment when you raise your voice or hit them, accidentally or otherwise; all the child knows is that you’ve done that, and no amount of apology or placating can heal their tender little hearts.

It may seem like a small incident, but to me this was an epiphany of sorts, and brought on some self-realisation. And questions, of course. Always, questions.

Too often and too hastily we think only of good things if we were to have children, like them achieving all sorts of wonderful things and being the best child ever; but there are always the what-ifs—what if they have a disability, either physically or mentally? What if in the course of their young life, they are subject to abuse from a person in authority? What if they turn out completely unlike what you expected? Could you still love them as unconditionally as you would if they were ‘perfect’?

Simple questions, with not-so simple answers. Or answers, simple or otherwise, at all.

September 9, 2007

50:44 coalition: migrants, workers, refugees

Posted in Friends, Happenings, Kids at 9:56 pm by meldee

I’ve been very lax today, largely because even with the gammy ankle I’ve had to play driver and walk around (again, gaah) because I promised my aunt who’s holidaying in China now, that I’d send her girls for their Sunday Dhamma class.

In the car on the way back, my little cousin Ann Jee produced a very postmodern piece of writing which she entitled ‘An Interview With A Faber Castel Highlighter’. Honestly, this girl is a clown.

Procrastination. Aaaah.

Anyway, as promised. Pictures from yesterday.


An aerial view of the Central Market Annex area where they were serving Burmese food. I loved the traditional sausages! I think this particular cafe, Bau Bau Cafe, serves food for free to the homeless. They were featured in the July issue of KLue I think.


The toilets in Central Market are very funky. They actually have turnstiles ok, where you have to feed the machine 50sen (daylight robbery! I always argue people shouldn’t be punished for having to heed nature’s call) before you may proceed to pee. But I suppose the ang moh tourists must love this, the rustic-feeling toilets. Though if they wanted really rustic, they should go to one of those zinc jambans in the kampung where the toilet is a hole in the ground.


Interesting right?


I really liked this display. It reminded me of Heroes, where they had a timeline of photographs and newspaper clippings etc to trace the trajectory of events. This one traced clear abuses of human rights in Malaysia.

Now, for the kids! 😀


I loved this little boy. He’s so bubbly and creative, and amused us with handstands and cartwheels when he finished his artwork. I spoke no Burmese and he spoke no English but we got by on hand gestures 🙂


The kids sprawled on the floor hard at work, me (and the foot), Petra looking happy.


I loved their intricate traditional costume. The girls were so demure and quiet, and very shy.


They very kindly obliged when I gestured for a photograph 🙂


That funny creature in polka dots was actually Elton John! One of the girls drew him and coloured him in 🙂


I loved this little boy! Chammai and I made a spastic plasticine cat together. It’s the only thing I remember how to make from my primary school plasticine sessions.


I forget his name, but how clever! He made a camera 😀 His looks even more funky than mine lar.


One of the girls made this. I’m not sure what it is exactly but on the first impression it looked like a little kid riding on an elephant. So creative!


And this is possibly the most decent shot my camera took all day. My macro function deigned to work, resulting in this. Another little girl made a pestle and mortar, and an engagement ring? Hmm. Perhaps this is a sign? *sends mental nudges to Tim*

I think I’m getting my ticket on Wednesday. I am suuuuuper excited. This is it, folks! The culmination of my entire 8 months’ worth of slogging over articles, labouring over pictures,  abusing my poor brain into thinking of clever things.

Huzzah!

August 12, 2007

happy feet

Posted in Friends, Kids at 12:23 am by meldee

It’s been a super long day, but since my hair is still wet from my shower and I’m far too lazy to plug in my hair dryer and use it, I will just have to waste time while waiting for it to dry and blog 🙂

Today was the first session I had with the kids at the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) shelter in PJ and this wonderful group of water-fire influenced spiritual friends, whom let me tell you, have made me a very happy fish indeed. Since meeting them at various points in time over the last few weeks, and discovering many, many mutual friends (signs! Signs everywhere! *flutters Piscean fins happily*), I have been at peace and very, very satisfied. I shall attempt and uphold anonymity, because three of them are Scorpios, and we all know (or should know) that Scorpios love keeping secrets 🙂

Though obviously I’ve been crazybusy, in between juggling uni, work commitments, a vague semblance of a social life (though this point is very debatable—don’t bring it up with me, please) and planning for these sessions, I seriously cannot even begin to describe how happy I am.

Anyhoo, we met early-ish today and headed over to someone’s house to practice Bhangra dance moves—yes, we were to teach the kids some funky dance moves! 😀 One of the girls attends dance class, and she came up with the idea of dance therapy, which would also make for a brillo ice-breaking session between us and the kids. We also brought along costume-y stuff; scarves, sunnies, caps, jewelry—for the kids to get fancied up in as they execute their booty-shaking moves. The warm-up intro session we had among ourselves was hilarious—we (ok, fine, I) was tripping over my two left feet (can’t dance for nuts) and grinning sheepishly as I endlessly missed cues and stood gaping like a fish out of water.

The actual session was fantabulous though—every other week, we are to have about an hour and a half to two hours to hang out with the kids (14 of them in total, all aged between 3-11 years), and this being our pioneer session, we were needless to say rather nervous. The kids were great though, so helpful and friendly—some of them stuck to us immediately, and wanted cuddles and poked about the big bags of props we’d brought, and ooh-ed and aah-ed over the laptop and speakers.

Kids being kids, they had boundless energy— they leapt and screamed and poked at each other, ran away from us and jostled for our attention (there were four of us volunteers) and fidgeted like mad throughout the initial introduction-yoga-this-is-what-we’re-doing stage. But as we got into the dance moves, they really started to loosen up and constantly badgered us to “look, akak, look! See, I can do it!” before shuffling boisterously, huge grins on their faces.

I even got my bum patted by one of the six year-old boys, which was quite shocking. I didn’t know what else to do but laugh—I did however tell him that he’s not supposed to do that, which made him very bashful and apologetic. One of the other boys kept poking my hands going “hey, hey, look at me!” before I told him it was impolite to address someone as “hey” while poking them; he should say “excuse me” in lieu of “hey”. He looked really blur for a moment and then proceeded to poke at me again with gusto, but while going “excuse me, excuse me”. Haha, oh well, I tried.

The part where the kids played dress-up was hilarious. The girls grabbed at the array of scarves we’d brought, and pinned flowers and earrings and bangles on their skinny frames, while the boys fought over caps and gloves and sunglasses, and the lone pair of earmuffs one of the girls brought along 🙂 One of the boys was a natural—he was all pimped out in a cap, sunnies, bling and gloves, while dancing and posing in a very hip-hopper-ish manner. He even had a huge gold hoop earring on!
They cracked us up and completely wore us out—I think we must’ve danced at least 20 times to that song. Haha I’m going to be Bhangra-ing in my sleep. Needless to say we were all pouring with sweat, but really getting into it towards the end once we’d mastered the steps. Even the child minders, and one of the mothers, joined in the fun 🙂 The mother, who I’m told has four kids at this shelter (to protect their anonymity all I can say is that it’s in PJ) kept thanking us, saying they’d never had this much fun before and how the kids were enjoying themselves.

This made me feel very warm and fuzzy inside 🙂 At the end, the kids kept asking when we’d be back, and gave us endless hugs and cuddles. One of the littler ones (a 3 year-old girl) who sat out the dance came up to me, wrapped her arms around my neck and cuddled me like she’s known me all her life, before proceeding to slide down and nestle her head in my lap *goes all wibbly*.

Children are such a joy, and I’m glad that these few hours we set aside for them made them so happy. The pure joy on their faces, and their brave little hearts, having to have gone through so much at such a young age…my heart really goes out to them. They made us promise to come again soon, and to bring our things (especially the sunglasses—haha!) so they can dance again. One of the girls jokingly exclaimed once we’d left the grounds that we need to do something more reflective and calming in two weeks’ time! Phew!

I realise it may sound like I’m ‘angkat-ing bakul‘ (literally, lifting my own basket, which means self-praise) by saying this but I honestly feel so happy being surrounded by kids and I know it’s a wonderful thing myself and the other girls are doing. Because time is so precious to us all, but I reckon for things that really really matter, one should make time. And things don’t always have to be me-me-me (though my Arien bits doth protest too much) because as cliche as this sounds, karma does have a way of coming back to either bite you on the bum or make you the happiest person alive. Karma points aside, I also reckon everybody needs a way of feeling as if they’d made a contribution back to society; this is my way of doing it.

I think this is definitely one of those things I was meant to do in life—work with kids. I can’t believe I’d ignored the signs before; even back in the day when the Interact Club of Subang Utama worked with kids and brought them to Sunway Lagoon, my days as a junior instructor during the Outward Bound holiday camps, the fun I had with the kids from Rumah Ozanam when my dad brought them up camping in Cameron’s…Yalah, it’s bloody cheesy, but I wish all you readers out there the same sense of fulfillment and happiness in whatever you do 🙂

*tip tappety taps way across room with face mask on*

I can’t wait for the week after next 😀 I have extremely happy feet, and a heart full of love tonight. It’s been a great weekend, indeed.