English: There, here and over there. Basically, in a sense, to mean restless. A collection of thoughts, musings and ramblings...

Monday, October 28, 2013

‘Discover Wellness’ Announces Exciting News



KOTA KINABALU, 28th October 2013 – ‘Discover Wellness’ announced exciting news today at a press conference held at The Glass, Suria Sabah Shopping Mall. More than 50 health-care agencies, practitioners and brands as well as NGOs will converge at ‘Discover Wellness’; the biggest health and wellness exhibition and workshop in Sabah. Jointly organized by Discover Kota Kinabalu, Eleventh Avenue Marketing and IPEC Certification Bureau, ‘Discover Wellness’ will be opening its doors from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at Suria Sabah Events Hall from November 1 to 3. The exclusive free and open for the public 3-day event will be officiated by Ministry of Tourism Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming.


Participating exhibitors will be featuring free product samplings, live demonstrations, health screenings as well as on-site services related to fitness, massage therapy, nutrition and healthy eating, presented by a diverse group of professionals. The 3-day exhibition and workshop will have exhibitors from all over Sabah and West Malaysia, who will be showcasing world class products such as Sothys, Intraceuticals, Dermsense and MFIII, as well as all natural and organic brands such as Lactovida, Enzyme Home, RBS Amorita and Origin.

Activities for children and the public such as coloring contest, fitness demonstrations and challenges, charity catwalk show, makeup and fashion show by Core Fitness, JuaraGym, Borneo Fitness Academy, Sabah Charity Angel and Imperial Beauty Academy will take place at the Sportmart Atrium (3rd floor, Suria Sabah). “We want to make ‘Discover Wellness’ an event for all – it is very family friendly. We will have activities not only for visitors and fitness enthusiasts but also for children,” said co-chairman of ‘Discover Wellness’ Mr. Alfred Allen.

Visitors will get to sample premium products and services, and stand a chance to win fantastic prizes by entering the ‘Visit & Win’ and ‘Purchase & Win’ contests. On top of that, first 3,000 visitors will also be entitled to receive a gift bag worth RM50.

Mr. Arthur E Lee, founder of Discover Kota Kinabalu said at the press conference that “It’s not just an exhibition to showcase and sell health products. Our primary aim is to educate the public to start taking care of our body, mind and soul,”

Specially invited internationally acclaimed key speakers including MA Carina Lipold, Dr. Sivakumar Kumaresan, Reiki Master Ms. Maria Joy Rowan, Practitioner of Phytobiophysics Ms Tan Hui Hian, Professor Zhu Wen Jun of Yat Ming Medicine will be presenting a broad spectrum of options for improving our health and well being. Some of the topics that will be discussed at the workshops include how to fight diabetes chronic complications using traditional herbs, weight loss lie, how to take simple steps towards a healthy and happy life and many more. The workshops are free to attend on a first come, first served basis.

IPEC Bureau & Certification will also be at ‘Discover Wellness’ to promote their national campaign series titled Reshape Beauty & Wellness Science and Contribute to Sabah Tourism.



“IPEC’s goals are in service of national and ultimate global industry advancement and to raise the competencies of Malaysians in the Beauty and Wellness Science field, increase employability and provide secure structure to adapt more professionals to the field,” said Madam Juliana Lim, CEO of IPEC Bureau & Certification.



Dr. Ng Wee Kiong, the head of Beauty Therapist and Aesthetician Certification Scheme (BTaA) remarked, “The accredited Scheme and certification provide an assurance of safety to the consumers, by endorsing industry best practices and quality treatments adopted by credible and capable Malaysian beauty practitioners. The certification scheme undertakes a globally accepted process of assessment, responsible oversight and periodic re-assessments of the competence of certified persons,”



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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thoughts as a Mosaic Summit 2013 delegate

Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
~ Sabrina Aripen


Ok. So I stole that quote from Mother Teresa. Adjusted it and made it my own.

She said the smile is the beginning of love, but I would prefer to say "friendship" so as not to make the guys run to the nearest exit (Ahahahaha). Aside from that little difference, I love her quote.

I absolutely love this sneak photo taken by Ahmed Mohammed Hussein during one of the first tea breaks we had during the Mosaic Summit held in the University of Greenwich. It captures the essence of the first moments of "getting-to-know-you" between myself and group member Ammar Issam from Iraq - in the midst of a shared laugh that sparks the beginning of a friendship.

Until you've shared that laugh, you're nothing but mere acquaintances. And through friendship, you gain a lot of understanding

Someone had asked me sometime in the first few days of the summit, if I felt that the summit had changed my life. At that moment in time, I wasn't ready for an answer. Sure, I could totally resonate with many of the points that the speakers had shared with us, as I had experienced many of those myself as well. But change? Not sure.

It was when I was sitting in the hall at Community Links, our last project visit, listening to one of the welcoming speeches that it hit me.

"I want to make positive changes as a leader and show the world that Islam is beautiful"

I must confess, I was a little worried when I was first accepted to come to the Mosaic Summit. I was born and bred a liberal Muslim - I grew up with the basic knowledge of Islam, had even grown up loving Quranic verses when I was much younger, but my budding love for the religion was tainted, and subsequently crushed from bad experiences and horrible stories about the cruelty of Islam.

"Islam is bad, torturous, oppressive" was the message. The list is long. And expectation of being a 'good Muslim' back home was high, and kind of superficial, interlaced with cultural expectations. It got worse in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Islam is now synonymous with terrorism, hatred, and intolerance. Recent happenings back home did not help either.

Sure, I've tried a few times to defend my religion. But my heart wasn't truly in it. I never felt like I truly belonged. I wasn't a 'good Muslim'. And somehow it sounded like an insult to be one.

So naturally, I was worried. Worried that I wouldn't fit in. Worried that there would be certain expectations on myself that I cannot live up to.

But I came - with an open heart and an open mind.

The story about how Mosaic came to being, working hard at restoring people's faith in the beauty of the religion really stirred me. I look around, from the first day of the summit we have heard from Muslims creating positive impact, integrating themselves into a world that tried to reject them with stereotypes, and succeeded to transform the mindset. And there are the delegates themselves - wonderfully open, kind and compassionate, as I've discovered from many conversations, shared stories and time spent together. People that I would not normally have met in my every day life.

It is an eye-opening experience for one that has been fed with so many stereotypical stories. The personal, face-to-face meetups are ones that I treasure the most.

You and I, we are the same. We are all human. We bleed the same colour of blood. Together we have the same dreams of a better world.

The ones that ruin the name of Islam are few, there are more of us who could make a difference to the world through positive impact.

For me, as a result of Mosaic, I now see Islam through new and different eyes. And with that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.






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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Putting the Pieces together – Mosaic Leadership Summit 2013 Part 2

“We can't be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don't have something better.” 
C. JoyBell C., Author
Flying over 16 hours to London to attend a leadership summit and to meet delegates from 16 different countries is definitely an adventure in itself. 

Amid the worries about 'fitting in', I came with a set of preconceived notions about what I could be expecting when I arrived. I've never met people from at least 75% of the countries listed before.

Indeed, it was an eye-opener

I ended my last blogpost with some insight on the speakers that we heard from on the first day of the Mosaic Summit in the University of Greenwich. The day actually did not end just there, but we continued on with a special project - a Team Building Art activity, facilitated by representatives from the Prince's School of Traditional Arts.

With the words 'Art' and 'Teambuilding' in one sentence, I somehow visualised an open space, mural painting and the like. Perhaps a little chaotic as well to accomodate the some 80 plus people in the summit.

However walking into the room, we were greeted with orderly slips of paper on the table, with gilded dotted strips, pens, small paint brushes and palettes. We were doing something that is inspired by Islamic designs - geometric shapes and interlaced web of straps.

The first lesson: Connecting the dots to make a nice 'plaited' border for the artwork!

First we practiced on getting the patterns right on the A4 paper. Then do it for real on the gilded slips. Next, we painted the dots blue or red.



After finishing the borders, some continued painting on some pretty individual pieces, but I decided to join another table to paint on the bigger art piece where the small individual pieces will be pasted on. Just like pieces of a puzzle. Or mosaics.

Hard at work
Almost there...!
I must say - I am not the most talented painter, in fact I always always always failed art in school. I made a few smudges here and there.... but still, the final artwork is gorgeous! And everyone had a part in creating it.

The final piece was presented for show to HRH Prince of Wales during the reception that he hosted for the Mosaic delegates at his London residence - Clarence House.

Ta-dahhhh! The finished artwork in St Catharine's, Cambridge
 There wasn't much time to spare, as then it was time for the Open Forum where delegates are free to share a presentation, a speech, a performance or whatever for 5 minutes. I had put in my name, and decided to speak a little about where I come from, and my passion for gender equality.


I had brought with me a couple of souvenirs that were sponsored by Chanteek Borneo, including a few collectible dolls to be given away as gifts to delegates. Which was a good thing, since I could use one as a prop for my speech. Incidentally, I had also bought a wakid, a backpack made of woven rattan and was able to slip it on to the doll, which represented the KadazanDusun community in Sabah. I also used my nice kain dastar bag and Vinusak beadwork necklace by the Rungus community to illustrate a few points about the contribution of women in the society and why I am who I am.

I was pleasantly surprised that many came up to me and said it was a very inspiring speech. It was a good start to the summit.



On the second day of the summit, we were honored to have Peter Sanders. a photojournalist with us to show some of his work. Peter is internationally recognised as one of the worlds leading photographer of the Islamic World. 

You could feel a vibe of calmness that surrounds him as he showed us photo by photo, each of which was incredibly beautiful and profound. A picture speaks a thousand words, and nothing is more true than that when you viewed his presentation.

His project - The Art of Integration is a graceful and visually poetic reminder that Muslims have been a part of British life for well over a century and have made and continue to make an important contribution to the United Kingdom's rich cultural diversity.

We also had Aaqil Ahmed, the first Muslim to hold the post of Head of Religion and Ethics at BBC as one of the speakers of the day. It was interesting to note his outspoken and strong presence, in contrast with Peter's quiet yet impactful approach. Being Muslim, his appointment had initially cast many fears on viewers that Christian faith is being sidelined and downgraded on the television network. He shared with us the many challenges he had to face to dispel the negativity that surrounds Islam and prove that Islam is a religion of peace.

Our fifth speaker - Bushra Nasir, was voted one of the UK's most power Muslim women. The first Muslim female headteacher of a British state school - Plashet school, she talked about how she had revived a failing girls' school in the London borough of Newham (one of the most deprived boroughs in the country) into one that is highly esteemed. According to her, mixed faith schools improve social cohesion.

After a powerful morning followed by a good lunch, we expected to be wilting over like flowers in the heat when we were introduced to the last speaker for the day. One and half hours... phew!!

It was not meant to be. He had us all sitting up straight in our seats as we savoured everything he had to deliver.

A very entertaining speaker (and obviously a very talented and engaging teacher), John May is the Secretary General of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. He is a campaigner, teacher, youth worker, writer and broadcaster who has spent his career working with and for young people in the UK and around the world.

He shared his passion on working with young people and showed the differences between each generation. According to him, what the sheltered milliniels (the generation now) really need are a set of beliefs:-
1. Believe in Yourself
2. Believe in your Ideas
3. Believe in others
4. Believe in action.

The second day ended with some sharing by all the group leaders, all of whom were delegates in previous summits, on what they have accomplished since then.

On the third day, we had 3 speakers with us, before we had to prepare for our grand reception hosted by HRH Prince of Wales.

In the morning, we had Stephen Howard, Chief Executive, Business in the Community, as well as Khawar Mann - chairman of Mosaic, is also currently chairman of Medsi Group, the largest healthcare provider company in Russia.

Stephen Howard shared that we should all recognise that everyone wants to play a role in making a difference, especially businesses. In a nutshell, we should ask ourselves "Are what we are doing, something that is worth doing? Does it matter?"

Khawar's main message was that we should go out and do something that really inspires us. He also told us that if 80% of the time you are complaining about your work, have the courage to leave.

In the afternoon, we had Dr Alan Knight, Environmental Sustainability Director, Business in the Community. He has over 25 years' experience working with global and national organisations, advising them at board level on global sustainable development issues which affect business, society and individuals. Sustainability is all about long term solutions, doing things that address the problems, not the symptoms. We should aim to leave a legacy - what do you want to be remembered for?

After a short briefing, it was all hustle and bustle as we excitedly got ready in our finest garments in preparation to meet Prince Charles. HRH the Prince of Wales hosted a special reception for the Mosaic delegates at his London residence - Clarence House.

**I wonder though if the date was chosen as to its significance? It was also the 12 year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The lobby was full of excitement as each delegate entered, in traditional wear.

As I was the sole representative of Malaysian Borneo (Sabah and Sarawak), I decided to add something tribal that I feel can represent all the different parts of Malaysia. So I wore the conventional lace kebaya, but paired it up with some Sarawak prints for the sarong and selendang, and wore beadwork by the Rungus community of Sabah.

And of course, accompanied by my ever favourite Kain Dastar bag from the Iranun community of Kota Belud.



It was a foot-aching 2 hour wait... but it was worth it. A seemingly soft-spoken and humble gentleman, HRH the Prince greeted every single guest with a handshake or a smile, and spent some time talking to everyone. Accompanying him was Founder Chairman of Mosaic, HRH Princess Badiya bint El Hassan of Jordan.

It is such a great honor!


For the rest of the first week, we went on project visits around London, travelling via public transport. Our first stop was at Sir John Cass Redcoat Church of England School. Up until 1966, it was a failing school but currently it has climbed up to the top 1% schools of the country. While it is a faith school, it is attended by roughly around 85% - 90% of non-whites, with Bangladeshi Muslims being the biggest majority. The school practices multifaith prayer at assembly every morning and each student learns in general about the 5 main faiths at school.

In terms of leadership, the school focuses on developing independence of its students through security and safety by forming a culture of mutual respect for all, as well as ensuring that they have the best and most inspiring teaching staff to motivate their students to greater heights.

I found it very interesting how in UK so much emphasis is placed on music and performing arts, where it is actually taught as a subject at school and not just something extra you picked up on the side on after-school hours.




The next place we went to was Kids Company founded by Camila Batmanghelidjh in 1996, which provides practical, emotional and educational support to vulnerable inner-city children.

Their services reach 36,000 and intensively support 18,000 children across London, including the most deprived and at risk whose parents are unable to care for them due to their own practical and emotional challenges.

Kids that come here have a variety of activities to choose from, including art, cooking, indoor sports, and even help for homework! We got to help out with some of the activities while we were there.


According to Kids Company, vulnerable groups helped by this organisation ranges from the ages of 0 - 24.





On Friday, we were packed to leave Cutty Sark to move to our new place in St Catharine's College, Cambridge. I was sad to leave my little cosy room in Greenwich which I grew to love, but also excited to see what Cambridge is like.

On the way, we stopped for another project visit, this time to Community Links, an innovative east London charity based in Newham, running a wide range of community projects for over 16,000 people every year, boasting of 30 years of experience working with local people to support children, young people, adults and families.

Through their national work, Community Links share lessons with government and community groups across the country to achieve social change.

Here, we played a few games which teaches lessons on cause and effect, as well as to illustrate that in any situation, there are many players (some that you may not even know are there) who will be affected by any action. We also learnt about how the organisation deals with helping debt-ridden people, for example giving advice on which debts are priority (must be paid) and which ones are not.


And with that, we closed a fruitful first week with Mosaic International Summit, setting our sights for an even better week at Cambridge. The first week had been mostly about learning from the best, and getting inspired on activities that we could do in our communities when we return.

Stay tuned for Part 3!!


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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Putting the Pieces together - Mosaic Leadership Summit 2013 Part 1

It feels surreal.

Walking on the cobbled streets of picturesque Cambridge, with stately old buildings whose history seem to whisper from the walls, it feels unbelievable how far I've come. Not just in distance, but the experiences so far.



Punting in Cambridge. Ahhh the romance!


I remember that it was last December when I first read about the Mosaic programme. A good friend forwarded an email, excitedly telling us to apply. At that point of time I was on the journey of rediscovering myself, changing careers, trying various work opportunities in the hope that something would 'fit'. The details of the programme seemed incredible, and a trip to possibly London or the UAE for nothing less than a leadership conference is like a dream come true. So I thought "Why not?"

I do not remember exactly what it was that I written in my application, except it was a whole lot about my work for women's issues and other causes I have worked on with much pride.

And then in February, came the email. I was shortlisted for an interview!!

I was in the midst of organising an installation banquet, and going to the interview meant flying out to Kuala Lumpur AND staying over, but I knew that I couldn't give up the chance. And coincidentally BFM, a local radio station, also in Kuala Lumpur, wrote in to ask me for an interview after reading my article on LoyarBurok about feminism.

What are the odds? I felt like I was suddenly thrust into a different dimension.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I went to both interviews, had a wonderful installation dinner, and in April I received the news - Congratulations on being awarded a delegate place on the Mosaic International Leadership Programme!

I was astounded. I couldn't believe it!

After months of eagerly waiting, I am finally here. Meeting with 80 delegates aged 25-35 from various Muslim majority countries including Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE, and UK, getting inspired to make positive changes in our respective communities. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Etihad Airways, I had a wonderful journey from Kuala Lumpur.
 
The Mosaic International Leadership Programme aims to develop leadership skills, inspire thinking about global issues, and equip young people to become involved in their local communities.
The programme lasts for 12 months and begins with the Mosaic International Summit, a 2 week period of intense residential training.
 
Founded by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2007, Mosaic’s mentoring programmes create opportunities for young people growing up in our most deprived communities. Mosaic’s vision is for all young people to be supported to realise their potential.

Mosaic is an initiative of Business in the Community (BITC), part of the family of charities overseen by The Prince’s Charities, the largest multi-cause charitable enterprise in the United Kingdom.
This year's summit would not have been possible if not for the generous support provided by the supporters of the International Leadership Programme, including Prudential Corporation Asia, Qatar Foundation, Credit Suisse EMEA Foundation, Etihad Airlines, Qatar Shell, Crescent Petroleum, Al Maktoum College of Higher Education, and Pearn Kandola.
 
 
During the first week, we were placed in University of Greenwich and staying at Cutty Sark Hall, a cosy residence for students at Greenwich. I absolutely loved the atmosphere there, with the significant Meridien line just close by and central London just a few trainstops away.

 
 
 
We had the honour of having several outstanding speakers with us during our time there. I was completely blown away with some of the leadership tips that our speakers shared with us. As you can see from the line-up of speakers - these are not your ordinary people.
 
*** First day Speakers***
First up, we had Deema Bibi, CEO of INJAZ (http://www.injaz.org.jo/)  an NGO that first started as a project under Save the Children, funded by the USAID and re-launched in 2001 as an independent non-profit Jordanian organization under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah with the mission "to inspire and prepare young Jordanians to become productive members in their society and succeed in the global economy"

She talked about the expected roles of women that prevented many from going further in terms of leadership. She also shared how we should embrace painful experiences, tragedies or failures (she is a cancer survivor) as those are the times that allow us to reflect and see what is truly important in life. Her tragedy had resulted her in shifting careers, and that is something I could relate to personally, being someone who had just given up 8 years in an accounting career to follow my passion for human rights. I am very interested in what INJAZ is doing, if it is something I can model on for my own youth movement Borneo Youth Revolution in Sabah.



 
The second speaker we had was the "iron lady" Sayeeda Warsi, Baroness Warsi, Senior Minister of the State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities appointed on 4 September 2012. Of Pakistani origin, she was the third Muslim minister and the first female Muslim to serve as a minister in the United Kingdom, although she never won an election. The moment you walked in, you could feel the air of confidence that she exudes. It was definitely a day for feminism, as she too emphasised on how women leaders are affected by social gaps which are imposed by husbands, brothers and fathers. It is all too important to have men who are willing to be equal partners. Ones that understand and are able to step back to allow their women to be who they are supposed to be.

I can only wish for such a partner in my life.

 
 In a nutshell the first day was a lot about women empowerment and how women can be changemakers. It is all about being passionate and having strong beliefs in what you can do. And I know I do.

As for now... I am off to explore Cambridge, so see you later! Look out for Part 2 ;-)
 

 


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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Awesome Buys: Custom-made Kain Dastar Bag

Being trendy or glamorous is not something that is me. I might have been, in my teenage years, always tried to follow the latest fashions in an attempt to be 'one of the crowd' and sort of 'disappear' unnoticed. But I've noticed lately that my idea of fashion has turned towards the colourful, DIY types and sometimes pre-loved in my attempt to upcycle (which is why I started up Garage Sales at Farida's in the first place).

By default setting, I am actually more of a t-shirt & jeans-wearing gal. And my closet is filled with tons of t-shirts that I couldn't bear to give away. I just got terribly bored with my clothing selections. Maybe I should explore the idea of making them into a quilt or bags.

I shun big brands like Coach, or Guess or MNG and the such. Well, I will have some pieces, if they are at like, rock bottom prices. But I recently walked into a Coach store, just for fun, and saw that the wallets cost like RM700++... OMG! And seriously, NONE of the bags and stuff I have browsed through is worth the price tag. Seriously, if that is the price of being trendy..... (Sorry fashionistas!)

But if there's anything that I really really love... that's accessories. Earrings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches..... depending on the design. Shoes, nope. Bags... maybe.

I have huge issues finding a bag that I truly like. I have like browsed through hundreds of shops, in the malls and online, but nothing came close to what I liked. When the Hari Raya season came up, I was desperate. No way I was going to fork out close to RM200 to buy something with a brand, but is not up to my expectations (now... if only I had the same kind of choosiness when it came to men ;-p or do I?)

The answer: Custom-made bags.

Last year I purchased one from a local bag-maker Cinda Stephens of This Side of the Island Shop, and I absolutely loved it. So this year, I went back to browsing.

My first purchase from This Side of the Island
I wanted something functional, something I could use everyday, something unique. I saw a couple of designs that went up on the page a day or two before I checked it out, and it was all sold out! Especially the ones in patterns that I liked.

Tough, very tough. So I decided to ask for a custom order bag. I've seen Cinda make some really lovely bags using Kain Dastar (which is used to make Sigah), just that I didn't like the bag design.

A Kain Dastar with horse patterns, one of many designs depending on district or area of origin
I remember my first close encounter with a Sigah, a traditional headgear made out of folded Kain Dastar. Colourful, it sat majestically on top of our TV console in the living room, a gift for my dad at one of his final trips to plantations before his retirement. I wasn't Kadazan-Dusun, or significantly of any race at all (in other words, I am Rojak), so it wasn't something that I see often. But I loved looking at the weaved designs, wondering how it was produced.

How a Sigah looks like. Source: businessirranun.blogspot.com
The Sigah is such an icon of Sabah, it is also an important landmark for many who visit Penampang (who could possibly not recognise that roundabout?)



Sabah's possibly most famous (?) roundabout. Source: claab65 at www.panoramio.com/photo/33793464
For years, my dad's Sigah sat there on the shelf, collecting dust but still folded in its form, like some sort of crown, until one day we moved. Then the Sigah was unfolded and refolded as a square for easy packing to be taken away to the new home. And I don't know where it is now. 

Back then, I hadn't really appreciated the patterns or seen the beauty of local handiwork (blame it on too much American TV growing up ;-)) but of late, I am realising how much Sabah traditional crafts are dying due to lack of interest by the younger generation to continue with traditions. There has been many efforts to revive the local handicrafts, especially in fashioning hair accessories using local batik and designs, adopting some of the accessories such as necklaces into everyday wear or marketing dolls wearing the several unique costumes that can only be found in Sabah.

So back to my story about the bag...

I was informed by Cinda that if I wanted a custom designed bag using the Kain Dastar, I would need to make my order to Kadaiku, a souvenir shop managed under Seri Pelancongan (Sabah's tourism agency).

I did sort of expect the price to be above RM200, seeing that it is custom-made, and possibly one-of-a-kind bag in the whole world. Even if another bag was made, the design would not be 100% the same. But still I was shocked when I was quoted the price - RM298.

This was what was replied by Seri Pelancongan:-

Kain Dastar is a local tapestry, exclusively hand-woven by the Iranun Community in Kota Belud.  Due to the scarcity of this cloth, which is mostly done only by the old women-folks in Kota Belud, using aged-old method, makes this material a very expensive material as well as difficult to procure.

Of course, I also considered:-

1. I am the type that would use the bag every single day and wear it out anyway. It's a good buy, if I make the fullest use of it.
2. Unlike Coach, that costs possibly thousands of ringgit, this is still reasonable ;)
3. It's totally unique, exclusive and Sabahan!
4. The money I am paying for the bag is supporting local industry. It will go back to the ladies who weaved the cloth, to the local bag-maker... and of course, the staff of the shop.
5. It's wearable / usable local craft. Totally worthy of showing off.

With that, I decided to go ahead with my purchase. And I have not regretted it at all. It's the perfect accessory and I get tons of compliments on it.

Check out the pictures, it is gorgeous! Damn... I feel like a trend-setter ;-)





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Friday, August 16, 2013

Story of A House... and my idea of groupwork

This story is inspired by some real life scenarios, and something I thought about just this morning when I was thinking about group dynamics and how it works...



Once upon a time, a married couple decided to acquire a piece of land and build their house of dreams. This had always been what they wanted from the start - a place they called their own, a creation from their own ideals. It would be unique, special.

The money mostly comes from the man's inherited wealth, but the wife too did contribute part of the cost from her savings. It wasn't much, but then she would be doing a massive part of the housekeeping to keep the house in order. (It's not money, but human labour is worth something afterall.)

The man, being very excited about the house, starts sketching his ideas about his house.

"Honey...." he asks the wife, "do you think we should have the bedroom on the 1st floor? Or should we keep everything ground floor level?"

His wife, feeling a little flattered he was asking her opinion, thought for a moment before answering.

"Well... you and I are not that young anymore. I also have a bad knee, and going up and down the stairs is going to be difficult for me"

"But I want a bedroom on the first floor. I want to wake up to the view of the sun rising and spend the evenings watching the sunset from the balcony" he responded quickly.

Wife shrugs in response, "looks like you made up your mind anyway" and the man went back to sketching his dream house as he intended.

A few weeks later, the man brings over a few workers to start building the house. Day by day, the house begins to take shape.

Wife looks sadly at the house "this wasn't really what I wanted", but her words were ignored by the man who said "this is much better!"

Within a span of few months, the house was almost finished and ready to be moved into. Ideas now shifted into how each room would look like - the colours & finishings.

"How about you pick out the curtains for the rooms?" the man asked his wife as they were browsing around in a shop.

The wife felt excited and happy. At last! She felt trusted and her opinions valued. Immediately, she set herself busy by picking out the nicest patterns that she could find, waiting almost impatiently for the finished curtains to arrive at the house so she could hang them up.

But when the curtains finally arrived, she was shocked to find them in a completely different pattern than the ones she had picked out.

"These were not the ones I picked out? What happened to them??" she said in horror.

"Oh, I don't think those were suitable. This one matches the colour of the wall much better" he said, completely oblivious to the way her face suddenly changed from excitement to bitter disappointment.

*****************************

"I do not feel that the new house belongs to me at all. It is not mine. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING about the house I can claim ownership over. It is all his! So why should I unpack my things, and make it mine, when I don't feel like it is at all?" she commiserated with her best friend over tea.

"I can't even plant flowers that I like in the garden, because it 'spoils' his plan for the house. He would even uproot the plants, because he doesn't like it. Where is my part of this beautiful dream house? There is none. And the only thing I can do is leave, and build my own dream house and no one can stop me"

With that, she stood up resolute, and left.

*****************************

The story wasn't supposed to have a happy ending. It is a little messy, but something I was thinking about this morning. Just writing that story above makes me feel frustrated. Blocked out, unappreciated and shot down.

I believe that building a team, an organisation, or a group is similar to this story of building a house. Everyone's opinion should matter, because be it a partnership, or a group of 3 and more people - decisions affects everybody. If someone's opinion is not taken into consideration, how can we expect them to be able to claim ownership, or feel like they truly belong?

Teamwork is about making compromises and creating win-win situations. Because we all do want to create a niche for ourselves, a real passion that gets us out of bed every day.


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Sunday, July 28, 2013

The choice of ordinary and less ordinary

I was having a lazy Sunday morning, lying in bed at 10am and still in my pajamas -  jabbing and swiping a finger furiously at my phone.  Aligning candies, smashing chocolate, crushing jellies in the virtual world of Candy Crush.  With one eye shut & no glasses, a feat for one who is very short sighted. It felt like the best Sunday ever, to loll around and do absolutely nothing constructive.

Conversations from the previous day start floating in my head - of how I planned to leave sometime next year. 4 months…. 1 whole year the most, if my wildest fantasies came true. My time was running out, and I felt the need to grab all the opportunities that I could, while I still can.

Except that I suddenly felt a stab of unfamiliar fear - that I would never live the ‘ordinary life’. At many points of my life, I crave to be ‘normal’.

Normal? What is normal?

It is not a word that I could define myself with much. In a little more than 3 weeks, I would be turning 34, but already a single mother of a 14 year old. I am qualified to be some high-flying accountant for a big corporation, yet here I am, still at the stage of carving a new career path. Most days I am just scraping at the bottom of my purse, when other people my age are buying branded everything. I am planning for something that will define the next 2 years of my life. By then I would be 36. Then what?

The normal or ordinary life would be the straight path so different from mine. From the age of 19, I was already screwed for anything even remotely ‘ordinary’.

Maybe it is the recurring dream for years that I have of a baby son that I apparently will never have. I don’t know why, but sometimes he appears in my dreams. And those days I used to spend in IKEA, dreaming of a home I would one day build, for a ‘real family’.

I guess I fear that I wouldn’t have time for any of that. For me, it was a crossroad – I either take one path or the other.

But then I remembered Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and what she spoke about ‘Leaning In’. This is exactly what she meant when she talked about how women lean back from achieving their full potential for a future they aren’t even sure of yet. They make plans for a family, when there isn’t even a sight of Mr Right in the horizon. Not even the distinct possibility of having a fairytale romance just yet.

I may never know how it will be to lead the perfect life, and I yearn for it. But it shouldn’t stop me from living my full potential.

In time, all the good things will come.



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Friday, June 28, 2013

The Fine Line

Many years ago, I was living in Sunway as a student. For me, the fast, chic urban lifestyle was so different from the life expected in sleepy, easygoing town of KK, which was in many ways a huge culture shock for me. One of the things I found so different was the way how people mingled - back home, it never seemed as if race or religion was a huge dividing factor.


One day, I was going out to have lunch with my roommate - a nice girl, who was raised in Singapore, and in a far more religious family than I. We were scoured the mall for a restaurant to choose to have lunch in, and her question would usually be "Is it Halal?"

At that time, that question seemed very foreign to me, and I responded with a little laugh "Sure it is! They don't serve pork UNLESS it is stated on their restaurant entrance".

"Really?" she responded. "In Singapore, all restaurants are not Halal, unless it is stated otherwise"

It then got me thinking about how applicable would my statement be in a relatively foreign place like KL. After all, this wasn't Sabah and everything that I was used to. I knew that back home I wouldn't have such doubts, and thought longingly of how all races could all sit together in a restaurant and still be perfectly happy. It was a huge source of pride, that we Sabahans could do just that.

Then a few days ago, I felt .... betrayed. Violated.

I have never been particular about labels of Halal or Haram, and neither am I too particular about which restaurant I dine in. But I do have one requirement: that I am not served with pork. I know some may frown on what I am about to say, but I have no qualms with eating in a restaurant where pork is served, as long as I am not served with any. I'd be happy with eating vegetables instead or fish. And be with friends.

I am not one of those people who are truly religious, or are completely agnostic. I feel that I fall into a very grey area where I believe in God, I feel blessed, but I just am not fully religious. But here's the thing: At the end of the day, I would still like to observe the Ramadan month, and join in the festivities after. But how can I enjoy these moments, while forsaking one of the most basic of elements that makes me a Muslim? Something that I was brought up believing?  I would definitely feel like a phony claiming myself as a Muslim just so I could "enjoy" the good parts.

Above all that, I am thankful to God for the reminder to live healthily and eat well, which I trust is the reason for all the restrictions He places on us. That is me - I believe that everything has a reason. And that is why I avoid pork and limit my alcohol intake. Because I truly believe that it is good for me.

I don't see a reason to distance myself from other cultures, races or religions. Or to shun eateries and homes of those that serve pork and alcohol.

But how many Muslims would see the world like I do?

For months I've noticed the trend of more restaurants serving items of forbidden ingredients, but it didn't matter to me. Because I am not going to eat it, and why should it stop others from consuming what they wanted? Until I was served with something I was not supposed to eat, minus the label. I was NOT forewarned.

What if that had happened to any other Muslim but me? It upset me a great deal, because to me it reflected a great deal of insensitivity or ignorance that not everyone is able to eat pork. Especially not in Muslim-majority Malaysia. It made me feel as if I was pushed aside, unimportant and left out. Does it mean that Muslims should only eat at "Malay restaurants" or other Muslim-friendly outlets? 

I vented, and it seems like no one could understand how it feels, ridiculing my thoughts and feelings because I was just the bitch who believed in taking away their pleasure. It was very upsetting for me that instead of trying to understand my view as a (not even moderate) Muslim in laidback Sabah, people took to attacking me personally.

Why was it so different years ago compared to now? Why didn't it feel so shockingly insensitive back then?

Then the answer came to me: Clear boundaries.

We could all eat together in the same table, because we could be so upfront with each other with what we could /could not eat. It 's about trust and honesty.

Back then, I felt that everything was a lot clearer and stated. If restaurants served pork, it would be informed clearly. It just felt.... a lot more comfortable for people like me.

Having clear-cut boundaries means acknowledging limitations yet allows one the option to make a personal decision whether or not to say "heck with it" and just step beyond the limits. It's all about being able to make informed judgments. I would so much rather know that a certain place is not acceptable for my religion, and decide that I would still go anyway because I made the choice.

I don't know if it makes sense for anyone else, but it sure does for me.


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Monday, April 22, 2013

Food Review: Catch 22

Kota Kinabalu, blessed as a city by the sea, is famous for its seafood and its numerous seafood restaurants. For most choices, seafood means Chinese-style cooking.

Then enters the newest seafood restaurant in town.

Catch22 - once you are hooked, there is no escape.

Unlike most Chinese seafood restaurants in KK, Catch22 credits its special culinary offerings to the influences of the Gulf Coast, Mediterranean and Asia. According to Chef Leo Velazquez, "I grew up along the coastal waters and worked in the food industry in Miami, Brazil, Sri Lanka and West Indies. And that is where my inspiration for this new restaurant comes from. We use only the best fresh fish and seafood such as Tilefish, Salmon Belly, Cod, Cobiaa and North Atlantic Halibut, plus other locally grown produce."




Located on the ground floor of Oceania Hotel in Sadong Jaya, the restaurant is located just a stone's throw away from the newly upgraded boardwalks of Sembulan Riverpark. There's still a lot of construction going on in the surroundings at the moment, but it looks like it is already nearing completion.

Sadong Jaya is normally a very busy place during the working day, but parking space was not a problem by the time I got there for the food review, at around 6pm in the evening. A refreshing ambience of turquoise  white and grey greeted me.

On such a hot day, I ordered the Cuban Orange & Mango Batido (RM10) a slushy mix of orange juice, mango and sweetener milk. One sip, and I was hooked!



APPETIZERS

We were given a whole variety of appetizers to taste, and boy... taking the pictures made me hungry.

Texas Prawn Cockail (RM18)
Crisp shredded lettuce, poached prawn, Texas cocktail dressing

Yummy start to a meal! Different from most restaurants that uses Thousand Island dressing instead

Polenta Tempura Softshell Crab (RM16)
Soft shell crab with sweet and sour vinaigrette

Crispy, savoury perfection!


Ceasar Salad (RM10)
Romaine lettuce, anchovies, shaved parmesan and garlic croutons

Flavorful and a healthier choice

Salmon Belly (RM16)
Salmon belly, 8 spice glaze & a charred lemon wheel

A little more fatty, as it is the belly. The 8 spice glaze gave the dish a tangy finish

Smoked Fish Dip (RM14)
Smoked fish, mayonaise, garlic confit, herb grilled flat bread & spring onion
* Signature dish!

Definitely something I would order again! The mixture of smoked fish and garlic is pleasant on the palate

Prawn Scampi (RM18)
Sweet prawn, garlic herb butter & grilled flat bread

Another favourite!! Definitely would order again.

MAINS
Prices are according on the fish of choice, while the style of cooking is named after various places / cities

Fish of the Day - RM23
Prawn - RM25
Sole - RM25
Halibut - RM30
Salmon - RM30
Cod - RM35



New Orleans
Sweet potato mash, sauteed greens & citrus buree blanc


California
Cheesy polenta with smoked prawn & tomato broth




Pacific Rim
Crispy skin fish with Pak Choy vegetables & drizzled with Sweet & Sour sauce




Florida
Walnut crust with mashed potato & hogwash sauce

I love the crispy skin!

Maine
Baked fish with lemon risotto

My absolute favourite among all

Sides are also available for order at RM5 each. Pick from your choice of:-
Corn on cob (with chilli butter), garlic butter vege, Gringo rice (yellow rice), Coleslaw (North Carolina style), Corn bread, Hushpuppy (potato ball), Cajun wedges, Mash potato, French fries, Potato salad


DESSERTS

No meal is complete without some sweet stuff to top it off!

Vietnamese coffee tart (RM10)
*Signature dish!

If I didn't need to share, I would take the whole tart and take a big bite of that cream covered, syrupy coffee caramel , crispy tart. It was soooo good! 


Mango & Strawberry Mouse (RM10)

Surprising mix of sour and sweetness

Banana Split (RM10)

At times, the simplest desserts are the best and most satisfying

Catch22 is open Mon - Sun: 06:30 - 22:30. Serving more than your typical fish and chips ;-)


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