Friday, February 26, 2010

Conversations over a cuppa...

Every year during the Chinese New Year, I looked forward to those very meaningful ads. by the late filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad. Something's definitely missing this year. I recalled this one being aired in 2006. It's one of my favourites.
The scene opens in a yard where four elderly women were sharing some stories and discussing their offspring. The first boasted of her successful businessman son whose clients include Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau.
The second scorned at this and talked about her surgeon son who makes 20,000 pounds an operation.
The third bragged about her auditor son who makes half a million a year.
Yet the happiest of them all turned out to be the one whose son came with just an Iswara and drove his mother home to celebrate Chinese New year with her.
This clip reminds me to think about my own life. What is the right balance between chasing riches and living a life? When I gave up my job last year, I tried really hard.
The first challenge I need to deal with was to overcome my dependence on a lucrative salary, perks and lifestyle that came with my job. I managed to let go and learned that life is actually very short and simple. There are many things I can live without.

Sometime back...I had tea with some former colleagues. They remind me about the same scenario on Yasmin's ad. We talked about our families, careers, health issues and trends.
One boosted about purchasing a special edition Armani bag which costs her RM5,000.
The other boasted to us that 'so and so' was overjoyed that she got her Hermes bag at RM14,000 and now the price has gone up to RM18,000!!
Then there was a comparison of whose house is larger etc.
As much as I enjoyed catching up with these friends, I detested those trivial conversations that we discussed. I realized that I just coudn't blend into some of their topics anymore. I was being extremely truthful when I pointed out that whether owing a RM5,000 or RM14,000 bag is a sin (to me)! And that my husband and I feel very comfortable staying in our humble abode. They may have thought that I'm just being a sour grape when I made such a remark just because I couldn't afford to own one myself.
But wait,...the amount of money used to purchase a branded bag could feed many meals for the poor, shelter for the homeless or someone seeking funds for medical aid. Then my friend was quick to reply that she did her part in charity as well. No doubt. But again, what is RM1,000 donation compared to a RM14,000 bag? I am not sure. I feel that charity should always come from the heart and not from obligation or the feelings of being guilty.

As I approach the 3rd month of the year, may I remain to be truthful and conscious and not forget those who are less fortunate.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Annual Affair

For the last few years, my Chinese New Year routines had become truly mundane and it has repeatedly become so, yearly.
It is basically...
- Buying cookies, mandarin oranges, pineapple tarts etc.

- Packing angpows, Give angpows, Receive a few angpows too.

- Neverending Dinners : Reunion Dinner, Lo Sang Dinners, Chap Goh Mei Dinner, Open House Dinners etc.

- Running with buddies on the 1st Day and then 2nd Day as well.

- Watching TV from noon till night, if at home.

- Giving & Receiving : Visit some relatives and friends with bagful of goodies and came home with bagful of goodies!

- Finishing up all the mandarin oranges and cookies in the cookie jars.

- Wait for the next Chinese New Year and repeat the same old routine. Sigh!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sleepless at Putrajaya through the eyes of an observer...

During the 12hr walk last December, my husband John sacrificed his precious sleep to support his wife all through the 12 hours. I must admit that my walk would not be any easier if he wasn't there to cheer and motivate me.

It was the 1st Putrajaya Night Marathon last Saturday, and thousands of runners took Putrajaya by storm! This time, I decided that it was my turn to play the supporting role. Although I didn't register for the race, I could feel the excitement of those participating. The response was overwhelming - perhaps, it's because it was the very first night marathon ever held in Malaysia. While waiting for John, I followed the 7.7km race and ran together with the other runners at 9pm.

The overall event was well-organized and rated as good:

- Ample parking space.
- Convenient toilet facilities.
- Sufficient sponging and water stations (both water & isotonic).
- Generous supply of power bars before and during the race.
- Staggered start time for the different categories to avoid confusion.
- Distance markers placed at every kilometres with arrows to indicate directions
- Professional road marshalls to guide runners and some were roller-blading to assist slower runners to ensure safety.
- Friendly volunteers who acted as cheering team as well.

What could've been better was the atmosphere during the entire marathon. The roads were somewhat dead. No cheering team. Basically, it was just the runner and the road.
It was boring and so lack of 'live'. The atmosphere at the race village was no better. By the time the full marathoners arrived, the atmosphere was drab. The Milo and 100Plus stations were gone. Suggested that the full marathon to start at 7pm instead of 8pm in future.

Being an observer that night, I witnessed the pain all the marathoners went through and I can confirm that running a marathon at night is not any easier than the day. The weather was hot and humid. The rain earlier that evening did not help clear the stale air. It was dull, lonely and boring especially after the half marathon where most runners were left to run their own pace. Cheering team is not popular in Malaysia at all. So, it's always the runner and the road. In the dark (although the streets were well litted that night) runners have to rely mainly on their mental strength to stay motivated in order to overcome any pain or fatigue.

At about 10pm, I was already at the finishing line together with Gail to cheer and welcome the half marathon runners, while waiting for John. I assumed he'll be back at midnight.
The first male marathon runner arrived at 10.28pm (2hr 28mims). Later Jenny Lim and her kids joined me to cheer other runners. We saw and congratulated Don Khor for crossing the line first in the Men Senior Veteran Category with a remarkable time of 3hr 10mins. And then Amutha for being the first Women full marathon runner finishing her first marathon at 3hr 32mins.

Everyone who reached the finishing line heaved a huge sigh of relief and with pain written all over their faces and bodies as well! So glad that they eventually made it. Ah, this feeling is familiar to me! I looked at my watch again and it was past midnight - there was still no sight of John. I was getting anxious...did he injure himself? maybe he had cramps? I was so anxious that I cheered the wrong runner whom I had mistaken for John (embarassed)..argh!!!
At 12.25am, he finally made his way...

See, not bad - as usual, he kept his cool and still able to keep his 'trademark' smile as he ran towards the finishing line. Yet behind that smile was a very worn-out body that only he himself could feel. 4hr 25mins may be a dream to some runners, but for John it was not a good race. He succumbed to fatigue and boredom half way through the race. I guessed his body wasn't prepare to take the stress of a night marathon. Still, I am so proud of him. He had managed to pull through another marathon and not surrender. For him, it was an experience which he aptly puts it "THE PUTRAJAYA NIGHTMARE MARATHON"!

Not a single soul I knew, achieved a PB (personal best). Many runners performed below par and for some, a PW (personal worst) yet they can not claim that they did poorly because running at night is different.
Every runner ran the same 42km route and endured the same pain, but each one has his/her own story to share. It is truly heart-warming as I listened to different runners sharing their experiences, and all I could say was no matter how long it took for them to finish a marathon, every runner who finishes the marathon is a winner.

Running a marathon is no easy feat. It takes loads of courage and determination. Running a night marathon is even harder. It is punishing, lonely and boring. Boredom can kill a runner's desire to continue in a race. Many times a runner really needs to psyche himself/herself to keep going no matter how tired he/she maybe, and to fight the urge to quit.

As we were strolling to the parking area at around 2am, we saw many runners still on the road struggling hard to complete their race and we both knew just how painful that journey can be.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Poem : Playing God?

If you play God, play God at tennis,
A strict code of conduct is expected.
Clear lines must be drawn in the sand.
The ball will be either in or out.
At times there is talk of love.

If you play God, play God at chess,
All decisions must be black or white.
They are ways for Him to be kept in check.
Bishops are available for consultation.
There is the possibility of mating.

If you play God, play God at cards,
There is a clear opportunity for cheating.
You might deal from the bottom of the pack.
Aces can be hidden up your sleeve.
The joker should be specially marked.

If you play God, play God at darts,
He will dislike their resemblence to nails.
An acceptable target must be provided.
There is a fine line he will not be permitted to cross,
Cursing should never be allowed.

If you play God, play God at monopoly,
Everyone is expected to take turns.
He must sit at a table like everyone else.
You might refuse him a room at your inn.
He is certain to be feeling overconfident.

This poem is taken from the book 'Playing God' by Glenn Colquhoun. He is a doctor and his revealing poems are mainly conversations between his doubt and his indoubted love for his work. He feels like a fraud, he knows he can not fix everything. He said he is a human being with a little bit of science and a lot of doubts. Yet he is admired for his honest voice, dry sense of humour and a quiet instinct for tapping deep emotions.