Our Annus Horribilis of 2013 — and an S.O.S to start 2014!

(George)

2013, aka “Year of the Snake”, has been our economic Annus Horribilis.It is no consolation to hear that so many others have also apparently had a miserable year, financially and professionally, and are in the same boat as us. Misery does not love company – especially when company views misery as a glass half-empty and wants to drain the rest of the glass out of desperation and despair…

The year started off with a bad omen in the form of a client cheque returned by the bank due to the overwriting of the date. (2012 had been changed to 2013). We received a replacement cheque from the client but, in the 2 or 3 days it had taken to identify and sort out the issue, the client decided unilaterally to reduce the scope of the project and the replacement cheque was only half the value of the original.

Things went downhill from there, as potential clients held off on committing to projects, citing the shut off of government $ in advance of the 13th General Election and wanting to “wait and see” who would come out on top and the effect that would have on their own business. Well, the election has come and gone and things have been no better since then. Prices have been hiked and subsidies have been cut, and companies have either run out of budget, or are clinging to what they have until they have a chance to figure out what will remain in their pocket at the end of the year after all the settling out and reckoning of accounts is complete.

Throughout this past year, we met with clients, pitched for jobs, and got offers to participate in several. But when the time came to mobilize to start work, these same clients pulled back and either rescheduled their projects into the New Year or outright cancelled them. All the while, we didn’t panic. For a couple of key reasons:

1) We are two intelligent people with a combined 60+ years of knowledge, skills, and work and life experience. And we complement each other quite nicely: I’m primarily a left brain analytical, structural thinker, while Mrs. B. does better at the social, and conceptual right brain thinking. Surely we should be able to find SOMETHING to bring in the $ with all of these pluses on our side.

2) We (mostly me, I think) looked at things as a test from Allah, remembering His words from the Quran –

“Certainly, We shall test you with fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits; but give glad tidings to the patient – those who, when afflicted with calamity say, “Truly to Allah we belong, and truly to Him shall we return.” it is those who will be awarded blessings and mercy from their Lord; and it is those who are the guided ones.” [ 2:155-157 ]

If we are patient and perseverant enough then God will deliver and provide relief — likely after we have come to understand the lessons that the adversity has taught us about ourselves and about life in general.

3) We have good and extensive networks of contacts, colleagues, former co-workers with their own gazillions of years of knowledge, skills, work and life experience, and their own networks.

So instead of panicking, we did what we do best, which was to put our heads down, face into the wind, and charge ahead, redoubling our efforts to find work from our networks and strategic partnerships with other companies.

We also made ourselves available to the traditional job market once again, figuring it  should be fairly easy for two intelligent people to find work, given the tremendous contribution they could make to employers with their combined 60+ years of knowledge, skills, and work and life experience. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case.

We sent out CVs through our networks. applied for jobs through the traditional channels (Jobstreet, LinkedIn, company websites, job ads in newspapers, etc.), and contacted and met with recruiters. Mrs. B. must have applied on a good 100 jobs, while I’ve applied on a good 50 more. In several months, I’ve had just two job interviews, while Mrs. B. has fared no better.

Our lack of success after several months of searching for work has put us face to face with several very inconvenient (and frustrating) realities:

1)  Employers assume that we want to be drawing top salaries based on where we are in our working life/careers. They can’t believe that we would consider working for them for less than what our experience and career level say we should be able to command. Some of our contacts can’t believe it either, so we don’t get taken seriously by them or by potential employers.

2) Being an expatriate, employers reject me out of hand because they assume I will be expecting an expatriate salary and benefits package and figure that they can’t afford me.

3) Computerized/automated job application systems — notably Jobstreet — appear to be screening out our applications based on an initial search of certain keywords or job titles. In some cases, we get the rejection email “we have found a more suitable candidate” even before the closing date of the competition. What does that tell you?

4) Some recruiters appear to be following the Jobstreet path of least resistance: if our CVs don’t contain certain keywords, or certain position titles, then we get rejected outright. They don’t seem to have the willingness or ability to dig into our CVs, pull out skills and experience that are related and transferable to positions that they are trying to fill, to sell us successfully for our mutual benefit.

All the while that we’ve been pursuing work and jobs, the bills have been piling up, rent and electricity in particular. To the point where we’re several months behind in both and are in danger of not having a place to live (or not having power while we still have our place to live), in the real and immediate future. We’ve been getting just enough work to survive from day to day — having to budget right down to the very last sen with what comes in — but no more. When I say, “survive from day to day”, I mean eat frugally, get our phone top-ups, hang out at McD or Starbuks for a few hours a day on a small purchase so we can use their WiFi to get online, and have enough money for gas to get to meetings with potential clients. Even so, we’ve had to rely on the generosity of others from time to time to make it to the next day when the very last sen was gone.

To our friends and colleagues that have provided food for the furkids, and/or loaned us money in the too frequent desperate times this year, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We do promise to make good with you when good fortune comes back our way.

It is very difficult for us to ask others for help, even when we really need it. We are proud people that still believe old school: that you can get anywhere by your own efforts with intelligence, hard work, patience, perseverance, good humor, and faith in the blessings of the Creator. With no luck to date in moving forward despite all of this, with doors to work or jobs slamming shut in our faces just as we approach them, we have considered the possibility that certain forces have been called up to block our path, and have sought spiritual guidance to deal with this. We’ve done one round of cleansing the house, and will be proceeding with a second round  (as well as personal fortification), shortly, to deal with anything particularly stubborn that refused to leave or that we may have missed the first time around.

We’ve done all that we can, and have made the most of all of our own efforts this year and are now down to the excruciating crunch. Trying not to fear or panic but to remain upbeat, hopeful, and optimistic, mindful of Allah’s words that –

“On no soul doth Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Pray): “Our Lord! condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; our Lord! Lay not on us a burden like that which Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector; help us against those who stand against faith.” [2:286]

So here we are, needing some real and immediate help, and sending out this S.O.S. to anyone in a position to respond and help us get back on our feet.

Our immediate need is for JOBS that will give us the ability to make arrangements to pay accumulated back rent and overdue power bills in the short term to avoid the unthinkable for both.  We then need to whack away at loans from friends and other bills after that. Securing jobs is our overwhelming priority at the moment: possibilities of work through our company just won’t cut it at this point in time.

For Mrs. B., she has an extensive background in HR, recruitment, organizational development, and running F&B and hospitality businesses. She is incredible at relating to, and getting along with, a wide variety of people. As for me, my background is in SME and community development, with some experience in retail sales and management. I’ve word primarily in the government and NGO sectors. One of my exceptional talents is writing, including proofreading and editing.

If any of you have immediate openings in your own organizations where we might apply our skills, knowledge, and experience to the benefit of both parties, then please get in touch with us. If you don’t, but have friends, colleagues or contacts that do, then please have them contact us, or pass along their info to us.

So. There is is. The Annus Horribilis that was our 2013, and the S.O.S. that is the start of our New Year. Wishing you all — friends, family, colleagues, the regular readers of this blog, as well as the simply curious that came across this blog by chance — a very Happy New Year and successful and prosperous 2014! We expect to meet you on the other side of the coming year, with a MUCH better story to tell, Insha Allah…

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Meaning Of Loyalty

I seriously think that one of the investments that Malaysian government ought to put in place pronto is to send its officers, ministers and whoever else to public speaking programs. They also ought to invest in media crisis and media relationship programs so that whatever statements that come out from those mouths will not offend the poor rakyat further.

My latest rant was inspired after reading this.

angry-cat

It is so sad and disheartening how some politicians are so confused by the meaning of loyalty to the country vs loyalty to a political party.

I love this country and I feel blessed to be born as a Malaysian. I am not going anywhere and so is my husband who has adopted this country to be his own. None of our 26 furkids will be relocated to some English speaking country anytime soon.

Being blindly loyal to a certain agenda is bad for the morale. My disagreement to a certain plans by the Government does not mean that I am any less of a Malaysian neither that makes me less of a supporter of the governing ruler.

Even with the minimum wage will take place in days to come, it runs in tandem if not more with other rising living costs. Toll hike, electricity hike and other necessities will take a serious toll on low and mid income earners. Me included.

Petrol price was raised up a few months ago. Yearly salary review, on average is between 3% to 5% if you were lucky. Inflation rate, it was said, stayed at 1.9% and unemployment rate stays at around 3%.

Try walking out from the house with a RM50 in your pocket, it will not stretch that far.

Let’s look at the average expenditure of a normal household:

  • Grocery: average RM200.00 per grocery buys and this limits you to normal food such as sugar, rice, oil and no fancy brands or fancy vegetable either. Another pet peeves is the hike in pet food prices too. We used to buy this particular brand of pet food where a 9kg bag will cost just slightly below RM100.00. Now we buy the same bag at around RM120.00. We need four bags of this every month…
  • House rent: average between RM1,200 to RM1,800/month
  • Electricity: average RM100 for an apartment or RM300 to RM500 if you live in a house with one/two units of aircond.
  • Water: RM100 for apartment, lesser if it is a landed property
  • Transportation: If you drive a lot, this will be a real pain for you. Toll costs, petrol and bank loan repayment will easily set you back at least RM1,500 per month. At least and I am talking about a small Malaysian brand cars…Try to look for a cheap parking in the city for less than RM5.00/hour and you will be hard pressed.
  • Personal care: unless you opt to buy the real “rakyat” no-name brands, then you are ok. Otherwise, a good deo spray to make you smell good will be around RM12.00. Standard haircut is about RM50.00 for hair saloon.
  • Eating out: unless you are a real mamak fan and does not mind curry, curry and more curry on a daily basis…

I think the rakyat has been prudent enough in their spending thus so far. We try to limit buying expensive stuff so many times in a month, try buying Made In Malaysia items which is not necessary a cheap way too as some will break after a few times of usage. We use our old vehicle, eat at home, vacationing in the country….sigh sigh sigh…

Maybe, just like Dato Sri Paduka Marina’s “You Walk The Talk”, well, walk the talk first!

Grrrrrrr!!

Adultery And Pregnancy, For An 18 Year Old.

In an advice column, read:

“I’m 18, a female in my second year in college. I met this man a month ago. We had sex only once, but that was a day after my safe days were done and the guy took no precautions.

My period is several weeks late. Is it possible that I could be pregnant? If so, what do I do?

How do I tell him? He’s a married man who’s only been married for nine months. If he denies responsibility, what do I do?”

The advice, who came from the Advice Columnist read:

“Much depends on your own and your family’s belief system regarding unmarried pregnancy, raising a child, or having it adopted, or whether early abortion’s acceptable or not to you, and those who matter to you. These are your decisions to make, soon.

Take a pregnancy test immediately through a pharmacy-sold kit or clinic. If it’s positive, talk to your parents, as you need their support. See a doctor for medical information, a school counsellor regarding your ability to stay in university, and your faith leader if that’s appropriate for you.
You and this man took huge risks, and now need to move quickly to get informed about the consequences and responsibilities.
If you are carrying his child, he should not be “protected” now.
You both squandered the chance to protect yourselves — him, from the fallout of his adultery, and you from becoming pregnant (or contracting an STD) before you even understand all that it means.”

Wanna hear what I have to say?

  • For an 18 year old, please be known that you are not as old and as wise as you think you are. In fact, many 18 year olds are so blinking idiots that many can’t pee straight yet, let alone having sex with a married man.
  • How much did you get paid to have sex with this man? Or, did he promised to teach you something exciting while flipping the karma sutra? (Or do you need to Google what is Karma Sutra?
  • You talked about your “safe days” and all know, meaning you did have some grey matters in between those ears. What were you thinking when you decided to have have sex with that married man?
  • Found yourself pregnant at 18 after having that 10-minute (could not be a one-night stand as he is a married man of 9 months) oh-pleasure? You can’t even feed yourself right, let alone walk to the nearest 7-Eleven to buy that rubbers for your own protection, and you want to carry a baby and raise a child?
  • The blinking 7-Eleven is always around the corner. They never, ever run out of rubbers. They have all kinds of colours, ribbed or not ribbed, always displayed at the cashier too so that your 18-year-old eyes will not missed them. Oh! The packaging is always ever so bright!

Read the entire post here.

Mortality

I have been crafting the outline of this post for a long while now, not quite sure on how to put it down and nail it direct. There are just so many thoughts on this topic, and just so much feelings involve that I really have no idea where to begin.

But, begin it must.

Perhaps one of the most profound change that I have been trying to do for the past one year is to make sure that I will respond to someone’s email as prompt as I could get. That means, within 3 days or less. Or try to reconnect with friends of yesteryears.

Sometime late last year I went to one of our favourite restaurants in Bangsar which was famous for its seafood. The Operations Manager, her name was ML, was always around to greet us. I have been going to this restaurant ever since I was carrying Lyn and more so. And that was more than 25 years ago. ML was always there.

She was not at the restaurant when I went there. I grabbed one of the passing managers and asked him where she was. Imagine to my surprise when I was told that she passed away a few months before due to cancer…

Another lady who was working at a local GLC, lets name her Puan Z ….I knew her from a few years ago when I was called for a consulting gig with that company. We remained as friends and she was one of these competent HR practitioner I have ever known. I tried to place her in another organization sometime last year, trying to court her to another position but she declined. We promised to meet up for lunch not soon after.

As I sat with one of her ex colleagues last month, I found out that she passed away sometime mid of this year.  We did not get to have that lunch…

A few friends from my Facebook whom I knew back from school days were another stories like these. We touched base when we could and sometimes meet over lunch. Then, one day, they were gone..

Such profound effect that all these have given to me that makes me think that I should have trusted my gut feel whenever it says, “Hanie, get in touch with so-and-so.”

So, gut feels tell that to you and you follow as you would never know whether you will see that person ever again.

My Hope For 2014

The reporter whom I have been corresponding since several years ago ever since I did a CSR program with a local car manufacturer invited me to write out my 2014 hopes. The topics should touch on women and/or entrepreneurship. What can I say? There are just so many things that I sincerely hope will happen in 2014. Which is not good at all. If I have to list the 2014 hopes, here they are:

  • a better year health wise, wealth wise and career wise for the both of us
  • that the price of goods will not escalate again. Try taking RM50 to the market today and I can assure you the shopping bag will still have a lot of empty space at the bottom.
  • stop the escalation of pet food, not just human food. Imagine spending a good quarter of the human food cost on good quality pet food, and you will know what I mean.
  • that all Government websites will be friendlier and is actually in working order? And please, busy websites does not mean it will make things easier to find too.
  • entrepreneurship fund allocated at RM1.8 Billion – and yet I am not seeing it. Trying downloading the application form through the various organization’s website and you will end up with a “503 service temporarily unavailable.”
  • another 2014 hope – that all the women who are on soul-mate hunt on-line will stop being so blinking gullible. That “doctor” and “engineer” who cannot spell their own country’s names rights are scammers, scammers, scammers who just want to see your tits and yahoo-dia on the webcam, ok? Oh yeah, then screwed up your bank account too. Sheeeshhh…
  • that in 2014, the Pahang government will do something about the drainage in the state, to be specific, in Kuantan. I must have heard about the “drainage projects in progress” since I was 18. And, that, has been more than 20 odd years ago. I want to relocate to the East Coast, people!
  • that, my dearest, only daughter will smart up and start living for herself. You dont need a man to validate your existence, beauty and brain!!
  • that…prospective employers will stop saying, ‘Where are the talents?” Blind. The talents are out there!

Annual Dinner JARO (Rao Association)

967440_10202917142633807_2058527523_n 1477017_10202916467176921_134854603_n 1481997_10202916470577006_162254127_n 1483857_10202916467456928_518286391_n 1488440_10202916718583206_289495141_n 1501906_10202916447096419_558419343_n 1503718_10202917178754710_1831915247_n 1526741_10151860864361169_494334746_n 1527836_10202917187634932_1198725141_n 1528620_10151860865606169_1099935587_n 1533281_10202917146433902_2077142725_nIt is believed that the Rao clan originated from a small place located in Rao, Sumatera, an island located in western Indonesia. A proud clan with its own distinctive language and traditional recipes, more than 600 Raos (Rawa) had gathered at the local hotel in Ampang for their annual dinner.

The dinner menu last night consisted of regular Rao recipes such as gulai lemak ayam (chicken in tumeric curry), rendang Padang among others.

My own Rao clan mostly resided in areas such as Raub, Dong, Lipis in the state of Pahang. Our dialect is a bit different that those Raos who reside in Perak for instance.

2013 Is A Mixed Bag Year

We are just days away from the new year. 2013 has been a mixed bag for the family that I have no idea how we went through it until now.

MIXED BAGS

 

December has always been a tough month for personal and work wise. For the past several years, I have been able to work on several CSR works in December. Unfortunately not for this year and this has made me sad as I was lining up several things that I thought I could do to end the year.

Hope 2014 will be a better year.

Tom, The Cat Who Thinks He Is A Seal

2013-02-13 23.36.22Tom the sealTom the sealTom the seal

 

TOM (Jan 2013-Dec 2013)
Dearly missed.

As you lay motionless in my arms, I am drowned in sorrows
Caressing your velvety paws
Never say it is over
Till it is over.

When you reach that glorious place
Tom, with that handsome feline face
Never say it is over
Till it is over.

Photo0531(above pix)

Pix of Tom in my arms yesterday morning just before I bury him underneath the rambutan tree in the garden. The same garden where he loved to play in.

Tom was a rescued cat from a wet market. He was hungry and was looking for food the day I found him. With that lovable face and baby blue eyes, I was instantly in love with this boy. He was loving and loved to move about on the sofa or the floor like a seal.

 

At The Big Bad Wolf Sale

Time: 2 am

Location: The Big Bad Wolf Sale, The Mines Exhibition Centre

Event: The CRAZY Big Bad Wolf Sale that runs for 24 hours (6-15 December, 2013). Yes, it runs for freakin’ 24 hours…

As we entered the humongous event hall, and saw gadzillion books..(they put up about 3 million books for the event). The hall was packed with humans, humans and more humans at 2 am!

Husband: Wow! I get a hard-on just seeing these books.

Wife: Me too! And, I don’t even have a penis!

cool cats

We left the event hall at 4 am and the hall was still packed.

Crazy.