Saturday, April 25, 2009

Movie Review: 17 Again

I was pretty skeptical when a friend asked me to watch this movie last week. I thought this movie was going to be a very cheesy kind of flick. But turned out, it was all good.

I was drooling again! This time I was drooling in Bishan Cinema over a movie date with Netty on Friday night. Zac Efron was adorable! I love his facial feature. He is just beautiful and luckily blessed with good physique too. He can dance (very well), he can sing and he can act. Pretty good, huh? Though I didn't really like his High School Musical movies which I found somewhat too teenaged and cheesy.

Movie plot was okay and entertaining. It makes me think of what would I do if I had been given a chance to relive my 17-year-old life?

Anything at all I'd change?

I'd say no. I am contented with my current state of life now.

Batam for A Different Cause

Last time I went to Batam, I was heading to a beautiful resort for a social gathering. Never crossed my mind, that I would go to Batam again for more 'social' purpose.

Accompanied by my sleepyhead, this morning I left home at 6 to Harbourfront. It was all dark outside but I was supposed to take the 7.40am ferry to Batam to do some site inspection work with my association fellows for our planned charity work in the coming October. Sleep deprived, I think I spent almost the entire time on the boat with eyes closed.

About one and a half hour later, fooled by the crazy cab management in Batam's ferry terminal, we generously spent Rp. 50,000 to reach the first orphanage we had to visit. The Rp. 50, 000 was only for a 15 minutes drive, by the way! Amazingly, we reached Batam 2 hours earlier than we expected so we did what we needed to do 2 hours earlier.

First Orphanage: Daruul Aitam

This orphanage has been around for about 5 years and takes care 28 abandoned children ranging from 1 year old to 16 years old. It is run by Indonesian muslim couple. This orphanage is under the Daruul Aitam Batam organization's umbrella. They also run their own kindergarten school nearby. The children in the orphanage are not opened for adoption. They will take care of them until they finish high school and start earn money on their own. The orphanage ensures a fixed activities for the kids: school, praying, studying, etc. Their curfew is at 10pm and they really keep eye on the male and female relationships in the house. Boys sleep on the second floor and the girls sleep on the first floor. They have a gate in the stairways and lock it at night.

Darul Aitam Orphanage, Batam.

List of the children in the foster home.

Jaja - doing his Bahasa Indonesia homework on the floor.

Can't recall the left girl's name but the other little one on the right is called Atia.

The Kindergarten.

Parents waiting for their children outside the Kindergarten.

Inside the class room.

The teacher's son.

Inside the classroom, I saw a boy sitting in a desk by his own. The rests were sitting with friends in four. When I saw him working on his coloring paper alone, I confidently asked the teacher who was standing next to him. "So, why is he sitting alone here? You are punishing him, aren't you?" Then the teacher startled for a second and replied me with laughter. "No, no. This is my desk actually. He is my son." "Oh, I see." SMART GIRL!

During my visit in the kindergarten, I encountered a very interesting discovery. When I saw the kids sitting and playing play-doh outside when they waiting for their class, I noticed a different kid. A Chinese-looked kid. I often looked at him but I kept saying to myself I was wrong. I thought there is no way a Chinese kid could be in such a strong Muslim environment.

The little Chinese guy in the neighborhood.

Later on, the orphanage leader's wife told me that this little guy is a Chinese descent from Palembang. His father left his Mom. His Mom gave the kid to the orphanage when he was only 2 days old. They took him. They named him. He is called Abdul Taufiq Rohim. He is taught to be a Muslim like the rests.

My heart was pounding when I heard her story. I kept patting his head, but this shy little guy kept looking down. Then he shouted to his teacher, "Hungry!" Oh crap! I didn't bring any snacks nor sweets today. Then, I remembered a chocolate sandwich I bought from 7/11 this morning for my breakfast. I haven't eaten it so I gave it to Abdul Rohim. He didn't reacted. The other kid next to him rudely grabbed the sandwich from my hand like a black monkey from Bali. Apparently this rude kiddo is the orphanage leader's very own son. I grabbed the sandwich back and told him, "Give me back the sandwich. I will cut this to all of you! You all are getting a bit." I passed a small chuck to that monkey kid and of course, I gave the biggest chunk to the Chinese kid. I have all the reasons to do so.

Only when I got back to the leader's office in the orphanage, I realized about Abdul Rohim's photo in the children list. No wonder, early this morning I sort of noticed a fair skinned with small eyes boy's photo in the children list on the wall. Initially I didn't pay attention much about that particular photo until I met Abdul Rohim. What a poor little guy! How come you ended up there, darling?

After the short visit to this orphanage and kindergarten, the leader drove us to the main road using his humble car and suggested us to take the public transportation instead of cab to get to the second orphanage nearby. It would only cost Rp. 2,000 per person he said. I was hesitating and was about to voice TAXI TAXI TAXI to my fellows. However, my two other fellows from the association already looked so enthusiastic to try the notorious Indonesian public transportation so there I was, an obvious Chinese material in a Mikrolet. Once, they left the car's door opened whilst were were cruising the highway. The car had a natural air conditioning system and it joyfully played Dangdut all the time. Lord, mercy me! Then I turned my head to my pals and told them, "I really think we should take cab after this."

Second Orphanage: Miftahul Ulum

The orphanage has been around since 2002 and started with 10 children. Now it takes care about 25 children ranging from 7 to 16 years old. They said they don't accept babies as they need more attention and funding to take care babies. The place was incredibly dirty and not organized. There is no clear system to manage the kids. Boys and girls are pretty much mixed. No curfew. No separate floors for their rooms. No fixed rules or activities for the kids. The leader who runs the orphanage deeply involves in politics and is also a legislative representative of the area. He also just recently participated in the General Election. How wonderful is that!

Miftahul Ulum Orphanage, Batam.

I was actually very surprised when I saw the second orphanage's building from outside. They have two cars, motorcycles and computers. My first thinking once I got to the place was, "This place surely doesn't need any help from us anymore. No point wasting much time here." Lucky, we didn't have to hang around there for long.

We arrived to this orphanage 2 hours earlier so we only managed to speak to the leader's wife who didn't leave pretty good impression to us. The leader himself was away and could not be reached by phone. The orphanage has a serious hygiene problem. Flies were literally everywhere. Floors were so dirty. Kids look not so taken care of. They have problem with sanitation and water system. Once kids did not bathe for two days as there were no water in the house. I didn't bother to take picture of the kids.

I declined to check on their third floor as I witnessed the staircases were all brown and sticky and we were barefoot. We left our shoes outside the house. My pals went up and I just stood there in the second floor waiting for them. Suddenly, I wanted to go home as I felt the strong urge to bathe with a lot of antiseptic and body scrubs. I couldn't wait to get into the cab and wipe my hands and feet. I felt so dirty after my visit in the second orphanage. Geez!

For such a big 'beautiful' house with only 25 pretty 'grown up' kids, this place indeed left no good impression to us at all. This one can go from the charity list already!

Lastly, we decided to drop these two orphanages from the donation list. We had a 'not-so-good' feeling with the first orphanage's leader who seems to have strong potential to be blinded with almighty hard cash. And, we felt that the second orphanage seems already well-sufficient without any help from us. No question, we need to explore more orphanages in the area and find the right one before we pour our money to any institution! Our visit today was not that fruitful but at least we learned something new.

12 o'clock in Batam means 1pm Singapore time. It was lunch time already. It was hot. We were hungry so we took a cab and went to a mall near the ferry terminal. We had lunch and took a quick walk around the mall then called the inspection visit a day. We went back to Singapore. Finally, home.

OK, the real site visit formal report is waiting now. Oh, no!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Movie Review: K-20

When I visited Seremban last week, I was invited to watch movie called K20 for free, thanks to my host again!

It was an after midnight show in the local cinema. As I am a no owl at all, by the time I entered the chilly cinema past 12 am, I was dozing off already. I watched the 2-hour-plus movie with my eyes half opened, my brain half worked and my body chilling from the freezing Aircon.

All I could remember about the movie was the 1940 war setting in Japan, acrobats, Kaneshiro Takeshi, poor kids and men in black mask and costumes. My personal rating for this movie here would be a little unjustifiable as I was semi-conscious during that time (I couldn't take the sleepiness) but I think this movie's genre is not my cup of tea. I'd rather see Takeshi acting in different type of flicks.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Movie Review: Taken

This movie is damn good! One of the best thrillers I've seen. A real eye opener and full of suspense. Highly recommended - A definite MUST SEE. This movie could be a bad PR for the City of Light, Paris - but this kind of terrible syndicate does exist though.... Female travelers must indeed be careful.


1. Listen to what your parents say
2. Don't be arrogant
3. Don't talk to strangers
4. Don't travel alone
5. Don't party too hard

Additions from IKEA

My balsams are growing pretty well and healthy. I've found the plants have produced their cute little red and purple flowers on daily basis. I'm happy.

Surprise, Surprise! Unexpected purple dots!

Last night I went to IKEA Tampines with the girls. I had no intention of to buy anything from IKEA, so I barely bought things from there after circling the enormous store for a couple hours. Thanks to their brilliant shop arrangements, they put all the plants and gardening tools almost in the last section before the cashiers.

Less said, I could not resist buying the cute green indoor plants, gardening water spray gun (S$1.80/pc) and three Mandel saucers made in Germany for my new pots (S$ 1.50/pc). What a deal! I was ecstatic to grow my green therapy kits at home.

Pachira Aquatica or the Money Tree - S$ 9.90/pc.

Cuphea hyssopifolia - Brazilian White - S$ 1.90/pc.

Cuphea hyssopifolia or False or Mexican Heather - S$ 1.90/pc.

Balsams, Pachira and Cupheas.

This morning I decided to split my balsam plants to the other pot. I don't know whether the second pot is cursed or what, but each time I put plants or seeds into it either the plants can't grow healthily or nothing happened. Forever soil. I am tired of waiting, so I put 3 balsam plants in that pot. I hope these three won't die.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Book Review: The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Here is another piece from Mitch Albom that I miraculously finished in one day. The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I could not stop flipping one page to another. I was curious to find out the next persons that the main character is going to meet in heaven.

This book tells about the story of an old man named Eddie, a maintenance manager, who was killed in a freak accident to save a little girl from crash in an amusement park called Ruby Pier where he worked and spent most of his life. After Eddie died, he finds himself in heaven, experiences different stages of his life from childhood to adulthood and meets five persons who affected his life significantly. From his encounter with each person, Eddie learns something about his life that he never apprehended before on earth.

Eddie first encounter is the Blue Man, a man who died from heart attack when he was driving his car to avoid hitting Eddie when he was a young kid. The Blue Man teaches Eddie about strangers. How people are all connected. He says that strangers are the people that you have yet to come to know.

Then, Eddie meets his Captain. The man who led him during World War II in the Philippines. His Captain was killed in an explosion when he was trying to save his troops. His Captain reveals that he was the one who shot Eddie's leg during the war to prevent Eddie from running into a burning hut. Eddie thought that there was a child inside the burning hut and he was trying to save the child. From his Captain, Eddie learns about sacrifices.

Third person that Eddie meets was Ruby. Ruby happened to be the person who was in the same hospital room with Eddie's estranged father when he was very ill. Ruby tells Eddie all the final moments of his father life and what caused his death. She teaches him about forgiveness.

Forth person Eddie meets was his late wife, Marguerite. She teaches him about eternal love.

Lastly, Eddie meets Tala. Tala was the child who was inside the burning hut during Eddie's time in the Philippines. Turns out, Eddie was not hallucinating. Tala tells him that she had forgiven Eddie and she explains to him his life purpose. She tells him how Eddie had safe many children and many people from harm through his work as maintenance worker in the amusement park.

Then the book was closed with the story of Eddie finally finds his heaven. He finds himself sitting in a Ferris Wheel with his beloved wife, Marguerite. His home. A place where Eddie waits for the persons who need his guidance before they find their own heavens later on.

This book presents an unconventional concept of heaven. Heaven in this book is not about finding a beautiful place beyond the sky where good souls meet angels, Jesus, holy persons or anything that is written in the Bible. According to this book, heaven is the state when a man feels most contented and comfortable during his time on earth.

If the person was a singer, his heaven could be a stage where he could sing beautifully, wow thousands of audience and receive endless standing ovation. If the man is a cook, his heaven maybe his kitchen where he could keep his hands busy making nice food. If the man is a painter, maybe his heaven would be his studio or garden where he could turn the white canvas into a beautiful painting. Heaven could simply be a state when you are happily chit chatting with your family in your living room or when you are taking a walk in a park with your lover. It can be anything that the person loves most.

This interpretation of heaven in this book is indeed to the contrary of the one be always believe in the Bible. Which one to believe is subject to personal belief. I am sure this book's main purpose is to teach their readers about the wisdom of the connections of the many parts of human's life. Everything happens for a reason. Past is the cause of present. Present is the cause of tomorrow. Only time will tell. However, one thing that made me think after I finished reading this book was about the persons that we are going to meet after we die and people whom we are going to guide to heaven.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lunch Time Disturbance

Everyday, I always long for the clock's both hour and minute hands to move to the number 12 that marks the official commencement of lunch time.
As much as I love my one hour lunch time and want to enjoy every second of it with good food and relaxing chat with my lunch buddies, I often get annoyed by:

One - rude food sellers who can't stop yelling at you in Mandarin or taking your orders in super high volume as if you are a deaf person.

Two - people waiting for your seat to be emptied immediately once they see you are about to finish your last bites.

Three - thick skinned ladies who dare to ask you to leave your table after you finish eating.

Nevertheless, all the moral issues above could not compete with some women who exploit the disabled people to do physical work with her. I feel that the most heartbreaking thing during lunch hour in Singapore is to witness women using a blind old man with cane to help her sell more tissues in hawker centers. I feel so sick each time I get to see this pitiful scene. The worst part is to experience the feeling of being so helpless and futile in response to this situation as I am actually unable to do something to help him but purchasing the $1 for 3 packs of tissues from her!

I hope one day, all the things on this big blue marble will be in better order.

Monday, April 13, 2009

First Time Visit to Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur, Seremban, Malacca

Since I am currently residing in a country which is practically the hub of Asia, while I am here I feel compelled to travel around Asia and beyond once I have the money and time to travel. I have Hong Kong, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and Europe in my 'places-to-visit' wish list.

Malaysia was indeed a place I eventually have to visit as it is near from Singapore but it is not really in my top list because I think I can go there anytime I want. Somehow unplanned, for this Easter holiday, I happened to be invited by a good friend to go to Malaysia. I said, why not? This is going to be my second visit to Malaysia and my first visit to KL.

I always think that traveling is good. It gives you new perspectives. You get to see new places, experience how people live in other country, feel the cultural difference, meet new people, try their famous local cuisine, take pictures, relax and most importantly, detach yourself from office routines.

Malaysia, here I come...!

PETRONAS Twin Towers.

After spending a good 6-7 hours trip inside a business class coach, Aeroline, finally on Friday night I had my feet stepped on Kuala Lumpur land for the first time. It was pretty late, I had not much time to go around as most of the shops were already closed.

Friday, 10 April 2009: Kuala Lumpur

The famous PETRONAS Twin Towers (Finally!)

Dinner: Mexican Food at Carlos Mexican Canteena in the Pavilion.

Lime Sizzling Chicken BBQ.

Saturday, 11 April 2009: Seremban and Malacca

Breakfast: Seremban's Dim Sum

Malacca's Taman Rama-Rama (Butterfly Park).

Possibly the cutest living beings in the park...?

Orange Python. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!

Lots and lots of Crocodiles.

Chinaldins - Fish (Monsters) from Amazon, Brazil.

Malacca's Snack House and Es Cendol

Es Cendol.

Malacca City Tour

A different way to take a nap.

Lunch/Dinner: Banya's Malay Food

Banya (Baba Nyonya) Malay Food.

Sunday, 12 April 2009: Seremban - Home

Breakfast: Asia Restaurant's Laksa

Seremban's Laksa.

Oleh-Oleh: Seremban's Siu Pao and Pineapple Tarts

Seremban's Siew Pao.

I like Malaysia. The people and atmosphere are just very different from what I thought. I like the nice and kind people and undoubtedly Malaysia's local abundant good food. Everything is relatively cheap though can't say the food was cheap there as Danny, my host, literally footed all my eatery bills during my whole stay in Malaysia.

I remember Danny asked me why I chose to visit Malacca instead of KL? Usually girls or other first timers to Malaysia would like to go to KL and shop there. Why Malacca? I said, I wanted to see something else than city scenery. I'd love to go to KL one day, shop till I drop, but at this point of time I am just so keen to see something new. Some new places with culture, nature and architecture that can be explored. But, apparently Malacca didn't have that much to explore though. Lucky I canceled my plan to stay in Malacca for 3 days as after 3 hours I felt, we are pretty much done exploring the city. But, Malacca was nice anyway. The architecture is wonderful - mixed Chinese, Malay, Portuguese and Dutch! It made miss Holland again when I saw the wind mill replica.

The main thing that pretty shocked me was the fact that people there are not obsessed with latest trends. Even though they have the purchasing power, most of the people don't mind using old cars or motorbikes as long as these things can transport them from one place to another. This is so different from people in Indonesia or Singapore who constantly racing to keep up with the latest models or technologies on cars or motorbikes. This phenomenon is indeed something new to me - there are people who can still live without following trends in this very day! Maybe we should learn from Malaysians on how to stop running.

In conclusion, how to best learn the culture of a country? Engage a local people to take you around and explain about their place. Much better if you could stay with them at their house. You'll learn a lot more than the place itself offers you.