19 December 2017

One of my more unforgettable childhood memory was spending the year end school holiday in Penang with my paternal grandmother. My siblings and I we didn’t actually go there every year but a few times only when my father is not too busy too pick us up in Pasir Mas and drive all the way to Gelugor. Oftentimes we were excited to be in Penang on that time of year. We always look forward to going to the Penang Fair towards the end of our stay. In the meantime however, there’s not much we could do except to play amongst ourselves in the house. Nobody to take us out. Father only comes back a few weeks later to pick us up.

For much of her later life, my paternal grandmother or Tok as we affectionally call her, lived with her sister Tok Bibik in her home in Lengkok Pemancar, Gelugor, Penang. Ever since my father been in and out of job and later, started a new family with my present stepmother, she’d been sort of neglected by her only remaining son. If it wasn’t for Tok Bibik’s kindness, I couldn’t imagine how she would lead her life. So in a way, Tok Bibik was pretty close too us. I remembered her for all her kindness and generosity. It is no surprised that I shed a few manly tears when she passed away today. She’s been ill and weak for a few months now and today she passed away peacefully from natural causes. I don’t often cry but when I do it must be because of something really sad.

Rest in peace Tok Bibik, may you find jannah in the afterlife.

13 December 2017

I got a call at work today from a doctor from the Klang hospital asking me to come see him as soon as possible. Apparently he’s been calling my sisters as well, had something really important to talk about. So I rushed there right after work. From Seri Kembangan to Klang. It drizzled halfway there and then the sun shone brightly up ahead. I met my sister Lina on the way near Aeon Bukit Raja. We went to the hospital together in her car. Could have met at the hospital, easier but somehow she wanted me to drive there.

We met an intern next to my father’s bed. I guess he’s the one who called us all. I thought he was going to explain everything for us but he kept insisting that we wait for the specialist doctor who will come by later. So we waited. My father is wearing an oxygen mask now. According to my stepmother he has stage 4 liver cancer. The doctor doesn’t recommend he goes for any operations now, it’s to complicated and risky. And it is also too late for chemotherapy which would have cause much pain and suffering to the already frail old man. Basically there was nothing else much left to do but to make him feel as comfortable as can be in his final days here. It could be days or next week, month, who knows.

This time around he does actually recognizes me. He kept asking for someone to fix an air conditioner in the room. If you don’t already know, the Klang (Or Tengku Ampuan Rahimah) hospital is one of the most crowded hospital and wards in the country. People from Shah Alam, Klang and even Banting flock to the hospital for treatment and the wards are always fully occupied. There is no first class ward in the hospital with air conditioning, not even individual rooms with beds. Just a big long dormitory of beds for all kind of patients. And here he was asking for an air conditioner. I know he is not really feeling well or knows what’s he’s talking about. At the same time I felt sorry that he could not be in a better hospital. But that is the only place he can afford to go right now.

Lina and I waited for a while for the specialist. Then an hour and then finally after an hour an a half, I asked the intern again to at least give us more specifics about my father’s condition. He’s still making excuses on why he’s not authorized to give us any reports. By 7:00 P.M. I couldn’t bear seeing my father in that state or wait for the specialist anymore so I said my goodbyes and Lina and I left the hospital. The specialist apparently will only be making her rounds from 8:00 P.M. onwards. One single specialist doctor for the entire 3 wards. This government has clearly failed the people.

Should I have stayed longer? I probably should but it is just too painful to watch. Anyway my little sister Izni is coming all the way from Pasir Mas to visit tomorrow. Hopefully she will get more clue on my father’s condition. Her husband unfortunately is too visit with work to come visit. So was Lina’s husband. It is too bad that he can’t depend on his son-in-laws more at this critical stage of his life.

9 December 2017

A few weeks ago I received a distress message from my stepmother telling me my father is about to be admitted to the Putrajaya hospital. She said he was not feeling well the past few days and they went to the Putrajaya clinic for a checkup. A few hours later the doctor referred him to the Putrajaya hospital since his condition was getting serious. To cut the story short, they had to wait for hours to be admitted to a ward because there’s simply not enough space available. It wasn’t until early in the evening when they finally got a bed. My stepmother then related the sad story on how they couldn’t afford to pay for the 700 ringgit deposit and had to beg for the admission guy to accept my father’s blood donation book as a guarantee which is usually not good enough for a semi-private hospital like Putrajaya. Anyway they admitted my father anyway and by the time I get to see him, he was conscious but looked very weak on his bed.

Earlier though, my step-mother asked me to ferry her to their apartment in Puchong so she can pack a few things and clothes for her and my father. It is the first time I got to see their small apartment. I don’t see any beds, only a bunch of mattresses in the living room and mostly empty room. Oh by the way it’s on the fourth floor of a flat with no elevators.

Why didn’t they ask for help from their other child, my stepsister? Well apparently she can’t leave work until late in the evening (even for emergencies?). And there’s nobody to look after their small child (what’s the use of her husband anyway). And although she and her husband live just next door in Putrajaya, somehow they can’t immediately come to visit or help. I started to sense this little family has some serious relationship issues.

Fast forward this week, my father is now in the Klang hospital, waiting for a decision from the liver expert. From what I’m told, his liver has swollen so much that it partially blocked blood flow to his heart, causing some considerable pain at the same time. There’s a procedure that they can perform but it might endanger his life - that is all according to my stepmother, I don’t get the chance to speak to a doctor. She’s asking my our opinion, my siblings and I whether to go ahead with the operation so I said go on then. There’s no point delaying and exacerbating the problem doing nothing. I rolled my eyes when she said they’ll try some “alternative medicines” instead should we disagree with the operation. You might as well sign his death warrant.

Fortunately since my sister and brother works in the government, my father could use their medical benefits so at least all his hospital costs are taken care of for now. How are they going to live day by day with no actual income, I don’t know. There’s only so much financial help I could give since I myself barely make it every month on my own.

When I visited him last Saturday at the Klang hospital he was barely conscious and his yellow stomach bloated to almost twice the normal size. I’m not sure whether he recognized it was me who visited although I suspect he could have thought of me as my younger brother Faiz. Faiz who is working far away in Sabah who could offer nothing but thought and prayers. Sure, that’ll help. Another relative from Penang happens to come visit while we were there. My father couldn’t recognize him either. Earlier before, I got a few texts from my father’s number asking to bring along some KFC fried chickens and mash potatoes because he felt like having some I don’t know whether my father really asked for those or it was just another of my step-mother’s ruse but I bought some snack plate anyway. Still no signs of my little stepsister at the hospital. From what I heard she did visit once with her family but they soon got into an argument and left. It’s not clear what happened but my stepmother probably gave her some snide remarks about her visit or lack of help. Either way she sulked and didn’t come back or contact her again after that. Very mature that young lady. And my stepmother was not being very helpful either with her behaviour. I guess old habits die hard.

There’s a few important lessons I can learn from this whole episode. The importance of preparing yourselves for retirement and rainy days. Not to get duped again and again in your business dealings and ventures. Not to trust people so much even how good or how long you have known them. The importance of having a steady job and income, and not easily swayed by your friends into jumping into the entrepreneur world. But most of all, the importance of choosing the right life partner. If my stepmother didn’t persuade my father’s last good employer to fire him, they wouldn’t have got into this mess right now. It’s true what they say - hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Especially for emotionally unstable and manipulative woman like my stepmother. If I had my way I don’t want to have anything to do with her right now. But then, my father is still married to her and she’s the only person looking after him right now. Can’t even count on their precious prodigal daughter.

As you can see there’s more anger and disappointment in this post than sympathy. I can only say history has not been kind to my father. He made all the wrong choices and did’t learn enough lessons from his failures. Sure you can have a few unlucky moments in your life but for most successful people, you make your own luck.

You know what my mother has to say about all this? It’s all payback for what he did to this family. Somehow I’m inclined to agree.

26 November 2017

After like months of renovation, the National Science Centre (Pusat Sains Negara) is finally open to public again this month. In conjunction with the school holiday which has just started, I decided to bring my family there. After all it’s free until the end of the year. We planned to go early but as always we didn’t get there until 11:00-ish in the morning. As expected, the place is crowded with people. Parking space is hard to find and I had to park by the roadside leading the way to the centre, secretly hoping no policeman is going to come and give me a ticket.

I remember last time we went, it wasn’t this crowded. Then again last time it was not free so many people took this opportunity to come and visit. Many as in half the population of Klang Valley was there in my rough estimate. Anyway the kids had a decent learning experience to say the last. The packed environment is not so conducive for learning or having fun. Honestly I’d rather come another day and pay for entry instead of bustling and mingling with the enormous crowd like that. And after spending millions on renovation, the entire lower floor smells like a large septic tank. Whatever it is that’s causing the stink, they have not fixed it and I doubt they will. Too bad for the country’s premier science centre.

24 November 2017

Happy 37th arbitrary orbit around the sun I guess.

A little bit update on life and career. I gained a lot of weight. I am now 94 kilos. From the average of 85, it has come up to that. I know it is nothing to be proud of. Colleagues, family and friends are noticing and it made me wanna go somewhere and hide. But I know that won’t solve anything. Lack of exercise, hiking and generally indulgence on eating these past few months has finally taken its toll on me. Yeah I should probably change my eating and living habits. Let’s start by cutting on food and sugar and then start those physical activities shall we? If Bujal can do it, I sure as hell can. But I’ll start after having this delicious birthday cake bought by my wife. I didn’t have the heart to say no to that 😉 .

Career wise, it’s been good to me. A few months ago I was appointed department team leader for the primary school campus. It means more responsibility but it is also a recognition of seniority if anything else. It would be nice if I get some pay raise with that but baby steps.

Last week however, came the really good news. After a major reshuffle in the management of my department when a few people got promoted, I was affected also. You are now looking at the new assistant system administrator. I know its not much compared to some of my old time friends who are now directors or managers but it’s a big step up. For the first time in my 11 years career in the IT industry I’m not doing basic technical support anymore. No more going to see users of all sorts fixing their usually mundane and never-ending problems no matter how many times you teach them how to. It’s not that I hate or detest doing those jobs, they had given me much knowledge and experience over the years, it’s just sometimes you will grow tired of doing the same shit if you know what I mean. I have now stepped up to solving server and cloud application problems. Which means generally less physical jobs but more of mentally-challenging jobs that require knowledge and experience. Less brawn, more brain so they say. And the best thing about this promotion is that it comes with a pay rise, not much but it’s something nevertheless 😊 .

Here’s to a blissful and happy 37th birthday. Hopefully by this time next year I’ll be fit as a fiddle if not buff and ripped ☺️ .

My target for 2018 is to finally graduate from G7 - climbing all the 7 tallest mountains in peninsular Malaysia. I have done 5 and 2 more left to go. And of course to lose maybe 15 - 20 kilos of my weight?

14 October 2017

I’m sure by now you’ve read the review about my last trip to Sabah. It was a memorable trip, the furthest I’ve been away from home. We stayed at an apartment called Cyber City near the KK International Airport. I booked the place on Airbnb and stayed there on the first and last day of our visit. In the middle we stayed overnight in Kundasang. The apartment measured just a little bit smaller than our very own Casa Riana with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. 2 of the bedrooms were fitted with air conditioners while another air cond is fixed in the living room. The place comes with a swimming pool, gym facilities and a sport hall as well. I thought the kids would certainly enjoy themselves in the pool but unfortunately due to our busy schedule, we didn’t get the chance to use them until the last day. Even then it rained in the morning and the pool didn’t even open until 10:00 AM which is too late for us anyway.

On the morning of the second day, we packed all our stuff to leave for Kundasang. We thought of leaving some at the apartment to lighten the load plus the fact that we are going to come there again the day after the next. But our host told us we can’t because somebody else will be staying there immediately after us and so that’s fine with us. On the day when we checked in the second time, we can smell the distinct stink in the air. My guess is they didn’t take out the garbage from during our stay until a few hours before we came. Furthermore we were pretty certain that they didn’t change the sheets because I can see the same stains that we made from our last stay on them.

I have a good mind to leave a permanent negative review on their Airbnb listing but I thought I’d message the host first airing my grievances. She apologized for everything and promised to look into it so I decided not to proceed with the negative review. Perhaps it was all her staff/cleaner’s fault for slacking on their job. Or maybe they have been sloppy that way all along. Guess I’ll never know because I have no plans on staying there ever again. Sure they give one of the lowest price near KK and there’s no charge for extra guests but that’s no excuse for sloppiness. I’m not telling you not to stay at Norita’s Airbnb listing near KK but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Travelling in a big group with my extended family members can prove to be quite a challenge but doable. You have to take into account the size of the group’s number when booking for accommodation and transport, cooking in or eating out etcetera. Basically we have 4 sets of working adults in the group. Well one set is retired so that leaves us with 3. When it comes to expenditure, we divided everything into 3 groups with my family and the other one covering 3/4 of the budget. Okay, to cut the story short, when you are already a working adult with a fixed income and no significant commitment, you are expected to pull your weight and contribute to the party. I know you’re saving for your wedding next year but still no excuse to be a passenger on the trip. Even the retired people gave a sizable contribution without even asking.

In any case, I am reluctant to organize such a big and faraway trip again in the future. Especially if we can’t reach a consensus on the budget and expenditure. Next time it will probably be me and Linda and the kids. It’s much better and simpler that way.

10 October 2017

I’ve heard unfavarouble stories from my friends at work about how they car would be stuck for weeks at the workshop after an accident. I was beginning to fear the same one week after the accident when my car was still not finished with the repairs. Fortunately my fears were allayed when the insurance claim agent called telling us the car is ready on the 10th day. We went to pick up the car at the workshop in Serdang. You know that rows of workshop near the night market? That’s exactly it.

Our car looked absolutely fine. I mean without the smell of the freshly sprayed paint, you couldn’t tell it was a new paint job or realize that it has been in a terrible accident just a week before. What’s more we didn’t have to pay a cent because it will be all claimed against the Honda City’s owner insurance. Actually we did pay 300 ringgit because we asked the workshop to fix the back of the car which was involved in two minor accidents some time ago. That said we were pretty happy with their work. Our car looked almost brand new without any of those unsightly scratches and dents. Let’s we can maintain it that way for a long time in the future (I’m looking at you Linda).

Anyway if you’re ever involved in an accident in Selangor or KL, you could try to deal with this one insurance agent Ah Ben at 012 6568838. He’ll take care of everything for you and all you’ll have to do is pickup the car when it’s done. He’ll give you regular update on the repair works and the speed and the job that his preferred workshop is pretty good too.

3 October 2017

My wife was in her regular drop-off routine that fateful Tuesday morning. She had just dropped off Hana at her kindergarten and on the way to work when suddenly a car came out of nowhere and t-boned our car. I don’t know what’s got into the her, the lady driver but somehow she didn’t slow down or stop at the stop sign and rammed straight into our car. My wife was quite shocked, naturally and she got out of the car to scold her. Moments later I got a distress phone call from Linda relating to me about the accident.

Without a second to waste, I quickly texted my boss and rushed to the scene. At first glance our car was not too badly damaged at the passenger side. But it is going to cost a few thousand ringgit of repairs nevertheless. The other woman’s car, was worse off. The front bumper and engine compartment was almost totally crushed and even the airbags are deployed. Although the damage was severe, I still asked Alice (that’s her name) whether she wanted to settle there. Obviously it’s too big of a damaged to pay so she said we’ll have to lodge a police report at the station. I took her number and drove the Alza very slowly to the Serdang district police station in Kinrara. Thankfully I could still drive the car although the left suspension is wonky as well as the steering wheel. Believe it or not, a tow-truck guy appeared out of thin air seconds after the collision. They’re like vultures I tell you.

The traffic police officers were really helpful at the station. The took down our details, the details of the accident and within half an hour our report were finished. They even took the trouble to find us a workshop to send our car. Of course they would made a cut from that but it’s a nice gesture nonetheless. The sergeant in charge said we would know the result of the investigation in two week’s time but it looks very likely not out fault and we will claim for Alice’s insurance policy for the repairs. Ben the guy from the workshop that they recommended showed up at our place an hour later and now our car is at a workshop somewhere in Serdang. It was all pretty fast and efficient. Whether they will do a good paint and repair job, that remains to be seen. At least we were spared the headache of bureaucracy. Ben handled everything for us, the insurance claim and also dealing with the authorities.

So now for the first time ever we were without our one and only car. These past two days Linda has been hitching a ride with her Uber-driving brother. Tomorrow I will have to send her to work on the bike and the kids will take the bus every day now. Hopefully Adam doesn’t call us to visit him this weekend cause that’s not going to happen. Also I really hope the car will be ready by next week, before our long-awaited Sabah trip.

2 September 2017

The condenser that almost depleted us all of our savings

My wife came home with some bad news one evening saying our air conditioner in the car is not cold anymore and just blowing hot air. It’s a stuff of nightmare, driving in the car windows down without air conditioning. So we head to the nearest car air cond workshop and the mechanic suspected something is leaking since the air cond gas has depreciated considerably. Not wanting to do a full blown repair on it yet, we asked the mechanic to refill the gas first and put in that little green indicator oil to find out which part of the system is leaking.

After that the car was cool again but only for a while. Exactly one week later, I turned on the air cond one morning and it was just blowing hot air again. That’s when we knew for sure that some major repair is needed. So we went back to the same workshop and the mechanic quoted RM1,400 to open up everything, replace the condenser and other parts if necessary. Since it’s a fairly expensive repair we decided to consult a few more workshops, who knows we might get a lower quotation. True enough, the next workshop we enquired upon quoted just under RM890 which was a fairly significant reduction. The workshop was not exactly bustling like the first one we went but it is a air conditioning workshop. It is run by a middle-aged chinese man with his family in tow.

As usual, the repair takes the whole day and when I went back to pickup the car later is was cool as a cucumber again. But one problem though, the air cond switch doesn’t turn which is not really acceptable especially after the amount of money we spent. He then took another hour to fix that and when its finally fix then I get to go home. That said, the air cond dial still doesn’t feel as smooth as it used too. I know he got the car air cond cool again but that defective switch kind of spoiled the entire thing. I don’t think he’s fully competent in fixing all type of car air conds and I can’t really recommend his workshop.

It’s true what they say - you pay peanuts you get monkey rate jobs. The other important lesson from this episode is you’ve got to have savings for rainy days and car breakdowns. My wife and I had been saving some money for our new home and also emergency things like this and they came in pretty handy that day.

28 June 2017

The dreaded rush hour home

About this time last year, I was still working on the second last day before Raya. My wife can only go on leave on the last day before Raya so it made little sense for me to take any earlier leaves. I can still remember the dreadful feeling when most of your colleagues have left for the holidays but only you and your Indian manager doing pretty much everything at work. It’s not pleasant at all. So this year I wisely asked my wife to take an earlier leave and me myself took my leave two days earlier than last year so I don’t have to repeat the blues of working on raya eve. That said, I still need to wait for my eldest son to come home from boarding school before we can begin the journey back to our hometown. That leaves us just one day left before Raya so you can imagine the impending traffic rush.

Hence why I devised in my head, a cunning plan to skip all the major road that is usually congested with traffic and use alternative routes instead. First I used the Hulu Yam - Batang Kali - Gohtong Jaya road instead of the usual MRR2 - Gombak - Bentong road. It was clear all the way to Gohtong Jaya and Genting Sempah with a little bit of traffic after that, nothing major. Then we took the Mempaga - Raub alternative route which is almost void of traffic. Everything looks good until then. Sure there was a little bit of crawl from Raub to Kuala Lipis but that was expected since we had no other routes to ply.

But nothing prepared us for that epic 4 hours plus crawl along the central spine road. You know that new little highway just after Lipis and before Merapoh? The road was smooth when we entered around 4:30PM but 30 minutes later the jam lasted until nearly 10:00PM. We had to break our fast a couple of cream breads cause there’s no rest stops or restaurant anywhere in site. Despite my immaculate planning beforehand I was completely ill-prepared for this one. I don’t remember facing this horrid jam the year before or else I would have taken another route.

We didn’t have dinner until well after 10:00PM that night in Gua Musang. From there we took another alternative route via Dabong and Jeli which is a lot longer than the usual route but at least we were spared the horror of that long crawl near Kuala Krai. We finally got home in Tanah Merah around 2:30AM. From Gua Musang I was so tired and sleepy, it’s a little miracle that we arrived in one piece that morning. I even had to stop for a while to rest and shut eye. It’s a horrid experience that I don’t want to repeat ever again. Overall we took over 15 hours for that single journey, longer than anything I’ve experienced before.

For the return journey, we took the Grik - PLUS Highway route to Ipoh because we were giving my sister in law a lift. Traffic was smooth all the way to Grik and then disaster struck. When searching for the fastest route to Ipoh using Waze, the app instructed us to head to Kulim/Butterworth instead of the usual Kuala Kangsar route. At first I didn’t give it much thought because I thought there will be an exit to the highway somewhere ahead of us. Little did I know it was 69 kilometres before we found the exit to the highway near Juru in Penang. By the time we realized our mistake, we wear already near the Kedah border and it would be too late to turn back then. Basically we took a detour through Kedah and Penang before going to Perak instead of driving straight to Perak. Thank you very much Waze. Remind me to just follow the bloody signboard next time.

I thought going back on the fourth day of Syawal would spare us anymore traffic jams but boy how wrong were we. Traffic was horrendous from Kuala Kangsar all the way to Ipoh and a few more kilometres after that. Although it was not as bad as the one before, my knees and body still hurts from all the braking and driving. So what’s the moral of the story here? Get to know more alternative routes and prepare backup plans in case your best laid plans go wrong. Second, don’t always trust Waze blindly, especially when Internet is spotty and the app can get traffic time horribly wrong. Or maybe I should just stay quietly at home and avoid all that altogether?

5 May 2017

While I was about to go to sleep last night, I got a call from a warden in Adam’s school. He said Adam slipped and injured his left foot while leaving the school hall just now. Actually he was more like, running to his class and in his typical fashion, slipped and hit his foot on the raised cement divider. He didn’t feel much pain at first but felt the full force of the injury after making his way to his prep class. So the warden in charge took him to the Kuala Kubu Bharu hospital for treatment. Fortunately Adam didn’t break anything from the x-ray result. But he is limping awkwardly and could barely walk and struggled to climb the many flight of stairs to his class or dormitory.

I wish I could pick him up sooner that Friday afternoon but I got to work and Linda is using the car so I had to wait for her to come home first so that I can drive all the way to Hulu Selangor. I braved the Friday evening rush hour traffic that day to go and pick up Adam. Usually he would take the train home but obviously that is out of the question. Adam didn’t go to school for the whole day that Friday. When I went up to see him in his dorm, he was fast asleep. I helped him to pack and carefully lead him down the staircase. Thankfully we still keep the crutches left behind by his uncle. We made it to the car park slowly but surely. When we left the school, Adam was missing a few of his belongings. He couldn’t find his school bag in class. Actually I went up to his class to look but they were nowhere to be found. And then somebody either accidentally or on purpose switch their school shoes with Adam’s. It was the exact same shoe brand and design but one size smaller. Other than that, he also lost his sandals which he left outside his dorm. I know you can’t help but lose stuff in hostels and boarding schools but this is way too much. Hopefully some of them will turn up again by the time he comes back.

So I took Adam to see my panel doctor and asked for him to have a few days off. The doctor was kind enough to give him medical leave until Wednesday which is coincidentally Wesak Day so we could send him back to school. Adam was on crutches for a day or two before his foot started to get better and he could walk with a minor limp. It was just a little muscle strain that needed some medication, TLC and a good rest. When we returned to the school on Wednesday, Adam couldn’t find neither his school bag, school shoes nor his sandals. If money is no object, we would have gladly bought new shoes, sandals, school bag and books for him but no we don’t have that much money to throw away. We asked Adam to look for his bag again in and around school. Why would anyone want to steal a school bag with subsidized text books anyway? He must have misplaced it somewhere. As for the school shoe, we told Adam to wait a while longer in case the culprit realized his mistake and return them back to the shelf. We just had to buy Adam a pair of new sandal in the end because he would literally walk barefooted to the surau than wear a flip-flop or a pair of shoes. That’s how much he didn’t dare to break the rules, it’s bordering on ridiculous.

We went to look for a sandal first next door in Antara Gapi and when we could find none, went further away to Hulu Yam Bharu. In the end we went all the way to Batang Kali to buy one in an Econsave mart. Should have gone straight there in the first place. A few days later Adam called and said he still couldn’t find his school bag anywhere. Some of his teachers even scolded him for the missing bag which is unreasonable because it was not entirely his fault (or is it?). I had to swallow my pride and call his warden to report about the missing bag and ask him to help find it. The same warden who took Adam to the hospital that evening said he thought he saw Adam carrying the bag to his hostel block. Which is what actually happened. He did brought back the bag to the hostel block but he asked his mate to keep the bag in his dorm first while he goes to the hospital. So the bag was with his friend all along and somehow he had forgotten all about this. What’s even weirder, his friend also didn’t seem to remember to return the bag to Adam.

In the end, Adam found his school bag, walked around happily with his new sandal but had to wear that one size too small shoes because the idiot who took his never returned his shoes. Although we just left him there on Wednesday, by the next day he called us to come during the weekend because he lost his songkok and he wouldn’t dare break the rule and wear a kopiah instead. Just when we thought we don’t have to visit him for at least another week. So we visited him on Sunday and helped to do his laundry at a self-service laundromat in Batang Kali. Apparently he’s quite left behind in his studies and homework that he didn’t have time to do his laundry. The things you do for your kid. While we would want him to be independent and self-reliant, we felt it is imperative that we support him as much as we can in his first year at boarding school. Help him transition and fit in to his new environment, at least for the first year (or two). I know back in my day, my parent almost totally left me on my own at boarding school but the times are a-changing and we can’t expect the same level of hardiness with our children.

That said Adam, we expect you to not lose anything valuable and of importance again in the future. Our money doesn’t grow on trees you know and we can’t possibly just go out and buy a replacement every time you lose something. You must learn to take care of your properties and remember the hardship your folks went through to be able to afford them. We love you but please take much better care of your stuff.

25 March 2017

If you have read my review of Sunway Lagoon, there’s a few behind the scene stories that I didn’t mention there. How did we get the tickets so cheap? My wife’s colleague knows someone who works at the ticketing office in Sunway Lagoon. He managed to secure us those special tickets which comes under the corporate account of a state government agency. Apparently they have special price for these agencies because they usually buy the tickets in bulk. The caveat was, we had to pay the full price in advance and only get the tickets a month later which was fine by me. A month goes by but we didn’t hear anything about the tickets. My wife asked her colleague a few times about this but she kept getting vague answers from the ticketing agent. Two weeks passed and we were getting increasingly restless with the whole deal. Could have we been duped by her friend and paid 250 ringgit for nothing?

Finally by the third week, we got the confirmation from the ticketing guy. There’s an opening to visit Sunway Lagoon with the discounted ticket on the 25th of this month so we agreed and confirmed the date. That’s the other catch, he can only produce one set of tickets per month. I don’t know how the system works but I don’t care as long as I got those cheap-ass tickets. By comparison, the normal ticket price for adults is RM120 and RM96 for children.

Another thing that I didn’t exactly tell you the truth about is the lunch. Guess how much we paid for lunch at the park that day? Zero, zilch, nothing, nada. When we called the ticketing guy (now I found out he’s an event manager) before entering the park, he said if you want to have lunch just give him a call. We really thought he was going to give as coupons or discount vouchers or something. So come lunch time, we peeked at one of the restaurants in the park and looked in dismay at the exorbitant prices. The cheapest meal we could find was 12 ringgit something and that was just some basic spaghetti. I was resigned to spending a fortune on those but my wife reminded me to call the event manager guy first. So I did and he asked what do we want to eat. Since we’re already in front of Lighthouse Bistro I said how about that one. Then he asked me to pass the phone to the restaurant manager and they talked for a minute and then the manager said I can order anything I want free of charge. The bill will go under the event manager’s account, no kidding. So we ordered some chicken rice, chicken wings, nuggets, fries and drinks. The restaurant manager also said if we’d like anything more just holler. I cannot believe my luck. From discount voucher to free lunch. I mean our lunch that afternoon should easily cost something around 60 - 70 ringgit. I can’t thank you the event manager enough. I don’t know whether it’s appropriate to mention his name here but to be on the safe side I won’t. But you know who you are and thank you so much!

I guess it was our lucky day. First we got the cheap-ass tickets and then the sumptuous free lunch. To be honest, I was about to get really pissed off when we had to wait more than a months for the tickets. We thought if we didn’t get the tickets by the 7th week, we’d cancel and ask for a refund. Needless to say, we wouldn’t have had that amazing yet affordable experience in Sunway Lagoon if we did. Thank you again A!

15 February 2017

My mom’s birthday was 2 days ago on the 13th of February. It must have been nice for her to have a birthday just before Valentine’s Day for I am sure those days before the creeping Islamization of Malaysia, my parent must have celebrated it. So she should be getting one present for her birthday and another one for Valentine’s Day, how lovely. I don’t know, I never asked. And on the next day it is my Dad’s birthday. What a coincidence. Those were the days, the happy days.

So on my Dad’s birthday that is today, I gave him a customary call. You know just to find out how he’s doing. You see, my parent is divorced ever since I was 9 and he moved on to have a new family with a new wife. I got a step sister from that marriage, who I rarely meet, naturally. My Dad is quite old now, well in his 60s now. By right he should be resting and enjoying life after retirement right about now. Unfortunately he’s not relaxing at home occasionally looking after his grandchildren like he should be at the moment. Instead he’s working for this islamic charity organisation who seeks donation for wakafs (the dedication of a property by a person through a will or otherwise for religous purposes or for charitable purposes). You know how you sometimes see some old man setting up stalls in public places to collect alms or entice people to give to that purpose? Yeah my old man is doing that right now for a living.

Not that I am ashamed of him or anything. I am sad more than anything. I consider my Dad as something of a role model. A role model of what not to be or to do in life. My family’s history is long and complicated but let make it brief here. You see my Dad had a steady job as a plantation manager in a government-linked company right after he finishes college. He met Mom at the same college but ironically she didn’t finish her studies for some reason. After a while he asked her hand in marriage and then after 5 years there’s 4 of us siblings. We had everything that a well-to-do middle class family could ask for then. A steady job and income. We had a nice home in Cheras and I was about to go to school at S.K Jalan Peel nearby had things not changed (the school’s registration was still stamped on my birth certificate until now).

For some reason, my Dad felt adventurous and decided to leave his comfy and steady job and start a business. A laundry business some more. Now that isn’t necessarily a bad thing you know, starting a business, people do it all the time. Some might even do well and achieve many great things in their life. But my Dad, unfortunately is not cut out for the business world. After resigning from his job, investing all his savings and borrowing a substantial amount of money from the bank, his laundry business went bust. I recall Mom telling me we had to pay our single employee at that time in one ringgit denominations and coins towards the end. Eventually my Dad was declared bankrupt and we had to sell a lot of things to pay to the bank. Our decent car and most of all our nice home in Bandar Tun Razak, Cheras. To make things worse, my Mom’s brother was one of the guarantor for the bank loans so you can imagine the humiliation she felt when things went south.

As the months past, our financially situation didn’t really turn for the better. My Mom for once was fed up of living in hardship and the stigma of bankruptcy, decided to leave my Dad and return to her hometown in Pasir Mas to live with her mother. It’s almost like a classic malay drama story. I remember vividly like it was only yesterday how we walked from the Pasir Mas train station that fateful morning together with my siblings towards my grandma’s house with nothing much in tow. Lucky for us, it was only like 2 miles away. Little that I know, I would spend the rest of my childhood there until I finish high school. My Dad, he didn’t come along to join us though. I suspect my Mom would have liked him to stay away and fix the mess he created. As the years goes by, my Dad somewhat recovered from that dark episode in his life and managed to secure a steady job. In agriculture of course, what else. It’s what he does best. It’s not for lack of trying and he did tried a few times to get our little family back together again. I remember he came to visit us once or twice a year and tried to reconcile with Mom. Somehow Mom can’t seem to find a space to welcome that man into her life again. Much to our despair, she and my Dad formally divorced in some time in 1989 (I think). I remembered that year very well because I got third place in school for the final exam.

As I mentioned, Dad moved on a got himself a new little family of his own after that. Even my Mom secretly married another man, a senior teacher who already had a family of his own. You heard that right, my Mom actually became somebody’s second wife. The first wife was naturally not so thrilled with that arrangement. I don’t know what she did but my Mom’s second marriage didn’t last for more than I year a think. She became a single divorcee again from then on until I went to college.

As fate would have it, I went to the same college that my parent went to in Serdang, Selangor. In fact my two other siblings also went to the same college later on. Despite the absence of a father figure and not much financial support from Dad, my Mom did a remarkable job of raising all 4 of us siblings until we all graduated. Sure I graduated 10 years too late but the point is, Mom did it all on her own, with the meagre earning she earns as a teacher. I don’t know maybe she finally felt lonely without a man in his life but one day she came up with this surprising if not crazy plan of reuniting with my Dad again. My Dad by that time in the early 2000s managed to climb out of the financial ruin almost 2 decades earlier, went on to get a steady job and a respectable position (as a plantation manager, what else) and were living happily with his new family. When my Mom brought up the idea I was naturally excited and keen to see our family reunited again after all these years. Finally we can have a normal family and parent like everyone else. But life of course, had other plans for us.

Since pretty much everybody in my immediate family had no objection to Mom marrying Dad again, they were remarried some time in 2002. As Dad is still based in Johore at that time, he had to regularly commute from JB to Serdang every other week. And you know what? His other wife had no idea that his husband is now married again to his first wife. At least not at first. And when she finally found out, all hell break loose.

My stepmother is one of a kind. Once she found out Dad is married again to Mom, she did everything she could to ruin my Dad’s life, ruin our life there in Serdang and indirectly ruin her life as well as her daughter’s life. To say that she’s a stepmother from hell would be an understatement. Somehow she got hold of my Mom’s phone number, my siblings’ and I phone numbers, even my grandma’s back home number and started hurling abuses and profanities at us with every single call. She even shamelessly send poisonous letters with obscene drawings just to spite us. That went on for a few months. To be honest, as much as we hate her for doing that to us, you’ve got to see it from her perspective too. There she was living happily with my Dad and her daughter and suddenly one day she’s sharing his love (and wealth) with another woman and her children. That’s enough to drive some people crazy, no?

Not content with hurling abuse and profanities at us, my stepmother did something even crazier that ultimately led to my Dad’s downfall. Somehow she managed to convince his boss to fire my Dad. I don’t know whether she personally went berserk at the office or something to make him fire Dad but unemployed my Dad she did got. After that incident, Dad was understandably mad at her insane actions and decided to leave her altogether and come live with us in Serdang. That should be the beginning of something wonderful right? The family back together again and all. Alas it was not to be.

In spite of his wealth of experience, Dad struggled to get another job fitting his qualifications. Maybe it’s his age or other factors, possibly the economy but Dad failed to get another respectable or steady job within the plantation industry until this very day. It even come to the point that he had to sell nasi lemaks in the mornings in front of Central Market to make ends meet. That was possibly the lowest point in his life. Mom then had no choice but to became the sole breadwinner in the house, at least until Dad gets a decent job. And believe me he tried. As months goes by, we come to see history repeating itself. My parent’s second honeymoon period was well and truly over and with the pressure of being the single provider for the family, it didn’t take long for Mom and Dad to fight and argue again. Things gradually turn for the worse until one day Dad packed a few of his most prized possessions and go running back to his other family. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to him.

We rarely get to see him again after that except for once or twice a year, during Hari Raya especially. All that while Mom and Dad was still married but in reality they’re just as divorced and separated as they were a few decades earlier. I wish Dad would do the honorable thing and let my Mom go in a dignified and respectful manner but no, he didn’t lift a finger or show up once during the fasakh divorce proceeding. Yes Mom had to literally fight her way to divorce herself from Dad, again. It was a rather painful memory for all of us to see our family broken to pieces again. But one thing time does well is heal. Mom recovered from this second painful episode in her marriage with Dad and went on to achieve great things in her career. Right now she is retired and enjoying the fruits of her labour by jetsetting and holidaying around the world with her savings and pensions money. It could have been the two of them holidaying abroad together but it was not meant to be.

As I said, I look up to Dad as a role model of what not to be in life. I learned some very valuable lessons from him like not to quit your day job to pursue pipe dreams or learn how to control your crazy spouse better and not let her ruin your career and your life. Dad made some terrible, life-changing decisions in his life that let him to the state he’s in today and I’ll be damned to repeat those same mistakes as he did. Am I being harsh too him? Maybe. Should I’ve done more to help him now that he has no one else to turn to? Probably. But every time I thought of giving or helping him in one way or another, my evil stepmother came into the picture. Why should I help the person who single-handedly ruined our family and our lives. Every cent I give to Dad half will go to that woman. Yes I’m mature enough to be on speaking terms with her whenever we meet but deep down inside, I don’t think I could ever forgive her for everything that she’s done to us.

Post script:

It was not my intention to bore you with the story of my life here nor do I think I did justice for everyone involved with my storytelling. Sometimes letting it all out gives me that liberating feeling for something that I have kept pretty much to myself all these years. Hopefully the day will come when I could put this all behind me and do the right thing.

8 January 2017

As I drove away from Semashur last week, there was a pang of sadness leaving Adam Farihin behind. It will be the first time he will be away from home for a prolonged period of time. Away from his parent, siblings and friends. Friends that he’d known since a long time. The first evening, we came to back to an Adam-less home. Every time I looked into his room I’d half-expected him to be there in front of his computer playing games for hours while balancing on the two legs of his chair. He’s not there anymore tonight. Instead his youngest sibling has decided to occupy his room and slept there almost every night. I also wondered when he’s gonna call, at least to tell us he’s doing okay but I guess he’s busy with orientation week. He did called us the next day although only for a few seconds. He asked us to bring a few more clothes, hangers and also his mother’s home-made tom yam. I reckon you’ll learn to appreciate your mother’s cooking now huh?

I guess this is a normal reaction for every parent who is parting from their children. I’m sure it will get better with time. Today we went to visit Adam in his school. We just waved at the security while driving in. I presume they saw our school sticker hence the smooth entry. I can tell Adam was glad to see us. He waited impatiently at the surau as we were 5 minutes late. We had lunch together and he related his experience during the first 5 days there. He said the food was okay, not as bad as I’ve been telling from my experience. He had to wake up at 4:00 in the morning though to shower because else he had to wait behind all the seniors.

Rumour has it they will leave the first formers alone first and the bullying will only commence during the second year. That’s what his senior said anyway. Although I was rather alarmed at first to hear that, I’m sure any kind of bullying is nothing serious and not physically abusive or else the teachers and wardens will be hearing from me. It’s part and parcel of hostel living and it’s quite common everywhere. Ideally nobody likes this kind of culture in an educational institution but it’s a vicious cycle. The seniors did it to the juniors and on and on it goes through the years. I wish they would put a stop to that but unless there’s some serious paradigm and culture shift by all the students and teachers involved, I don’t see it going away anytime soon. My advice to you son, if the seniors ask you to do something (or help them), just swallow your pride and play along. As long as its nothing humiliating or abusive just do it. If you think they have crossed the line somehow, don’t be afraid to let me know. It will deal with them accordingly, I promise.

The good news is Adam get to come home every two weeks starting next Friday. We can go pick him up as early as midday every Friday. I doubt these kids even get to feel homesick at all except for those out of state. Just consider it as an extended summer camp Adam except that you have to go all year round. With the kind of negative influence these kids can give you in and outside of school these days, we worry for you if you attend regular day school. Yes it will be tough at first but just like your mom and dad before you, we are sure you will get along fine. Hang on there kid!