Knot That Got Unravelled

knot-1110536_1920When I started in the business many years ago, there were many people along the way whom have contributed to my growth. Some in a good way, some gave examples at how I should not be. These people came in so many forms – family, friends, vendors, bosses, colleagues..and I think it is important to realize that “they” are there, at that exact moment to provide you with life lessons – just when you needed it.

Think about it as learning-on-demand. In HR terms, learning-on-demand is a knowledge-based learning and it can happen in real time, any where, anytime, just as when you need it. Cool huh?

And there is a saying that people come into your life for a season, a reason or for a lifetime.

 

Happy Holidays

holiday_wishes

Christmas Eve Dinner

G and I decided to host a simple dinner on the Christmas eve. Simple because it was a pot luck dinner instead of a full cooking session which we had done in the previous years. No turkey and fresh oysters this year as well. Prices have gone up and wallet is thinner. So, roast chicken it was, among other things.

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Garlic roast chicken. Gone in minutes.

nasi-lemak

The neighbour, Shux, brought his delicious nasi lemak. I must tell you that for a single dude, he can really cook. The last he was at our home, he arrived with a couple of ramekins of creme caramel. Seen tucked in between the rice and the sambal was my garlic and herbs steamed fresh clams which another neighbour bought for me earlier at the Kuala Selangor fish jetty.

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My funky rooster plates…hehehe…and the rest of the dishes. I cooked Korean noodles as a filler, lots of garden salad with Italian dressing and green apples salad as another side. Pandan syrup drinks to wash down all these food.

No leftovers unlike the year when we had the turkey. I tell you, we didn’t want anything to do with turkey anymore for a good few months afterwards.

 

The Strange Dreams, Post Umrah

I told G the strange dreams I had since we came back from umrah. Usually it will involve either one of these:

  • me walking towards kaabah from the mosque,
  • George and I doing our circumambulation around Kaabah
  • looking at kaabah from one side of the mosque
  • praying in the mosque facing kaabah
Kaaba
Kaaba

It Is Scandalous!!

I was referring to the attire that I wore when travelling to the two Holy Cities.

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On departure day.

HRB_abaya

The abaya/robe is just soooooooo pretty and amazingly cool to wear despite the outside heat.

However, travelling from KL to Jeddah is no laughing matter. That’s a good 9 hour flight not including idling time before and after. You need something comfortable to wear underneath that hijab and long flowing abaya. Something snappy to go to airplane’s toilet…

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Medina Al Mukarramah as seen from the plane as it descended.

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My phone camera could not capture the beauty of the moon that I saw that night. It was so beautiful.

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Just outside of the umrah/hajj arrival hall.

What’s in the closet?

Lots of long sleeves inner t shirts, tights, track pants, socks, disposal panties, robes that do not have front opening, head coverings or instant hijab. Malaysian and Indonesian ladies use “telekung” for prayers. I had two sets of this for our 7-day trip. As laundry is pretty expensive in these two cities, you may want to bring a few more if you stay longer. It is comfortable and prayer compliance.

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Instant hijab tutorial

Here’s another link

Abayas with front opening/buttons are pretty too but may distract you when it keeps snapping open as you sit on the floor or take long strides. Unless you are apt at wearing the long scarves around your head, bring instant hijab. Beautiful abayas can be bought at the souk. Some shops are offering SAR40/piece for any design. Grab those for you. Maybe a few more for gifts.

Uniglo should be your best buddy for travel t shirt. They are light, comfortable and reasonably priced. It comes with long sleeves too. I wore track pants underneath the abaya for ease of movement. Tights or casual pants from Marks & Spencer or Zara is good too. Whatever brand that you like, make sure it is breathable and comfortable. I had my leopard print tights underneath the cream coloured abaya as I circled the Kaabah 7 times. My running pair of Sketchers was a real great help to move about, travelling, walking the long airport corridors, climbing the various mountains during the ziarah/visits to holy sites. Try climbing Jabal Rahmah in slippers and you will end up with extra pedicure bills when you come back. You will still need a pair of comfortable sandal/slippers to flip flop around.

On some days, I would have a couple of pairs of socks thrown in the tote bag together with a plastic bag. When the time comes to make a quick dash to the mosque, I could just slip on the socks and place the slippers in the plastic bag for hygiene purposes.

Two things you must remember when choosing the correct attire here. It must be loose, covering your entire body (not provocative) and comfortable for walking. Trust me, you will have a lot of walking. Either back and forth from hotel to the mosque, or when you want to explore the surrounding vicinity. The building blocks surrounding the Nabawi Mosque are built in grids. The entire grid is made up of various classes of hotels – from 1 star to 5 star. Medina’s weather was a bit cold at the we were there. It was the end of the year so it was considered as winter. The night could be around 15C and the mornings might be a tad chillier than that especially with the wind factor.

One thing glaring about the area where we stayed was the lack of cafes or restaurants. Not even food stalls. There was only one shawarma stall nearby the hotel. We had a meal at the Movenpick cafe. About SAR99 later of two shawarmas, an Americano and a latte later, we were not very happy with choices of eating places.

Ok. I digress.

 

 

 

Please Bring Your Own Wet Tissues And Toilet Rolls

No kidding.

Toilet experience can be VERY challenging over on this side of the pond especially for women. Try to do your “business” back at the hotel. Big or small business. If you are on medication which is diuretic (like mine), make sure you time the intake well so that you can do your stuff in the hotel.

Be prepared to bring your own supply of wet tissues/wet wipes, hand gel and some supply of dry tissues. To have a bottle of mineral water is always a good idea.

I tell you why.

Toilet in Arafah
Toilet in Arafah

Many ablution places are nearby toilet area. That makes the area to be generally wet. Do not expect toilet rolls to be available to you. Or flush system in some cases. Or someone aiming well into the toilet hole. Which is generally squatting toilet. Unless you walk into the malls’ toilets. Which is, again, generally wet. In some places, women toilets are smaller than men’s. Dont ask me why. So, when prayer times come and you are racing with other women to take your ablution, you will find yourself fighting for that space to do it. Never mind the long, sweeping robe that you have to make sure dry and not sweeping some unthinkables off the floor.

Pressing moments require creative solutions. I generally carry a bottle of mineral water to perform simple ablution. Go to one corner of the toilet compound if you can, and perform the necessary stuff. No point in fighting, pushing and making all the other Sisters (and yourself) annoyed.

The wet tissue is important too as the toilets generally do not come with hand wash basins. I also carry a small bottle of hand gel.

Toilet in Abdul Aziz International Airport (umrah/hajj terminal)
Toilet in Abdul Aziz International Airport (umrah/hajj terminal)

My theory is this.

Medina and Mecca receive millions of people from all over the world on a daily basis. With them, they will carry all kinds of ways and culture when they arrive. And that includes toilet etiquette. Or the lack of it. Some do not even have a proper toilet at home, let alone knowing the difference between a shower cubicle and a toilet cubicle. Or how to use a toilet roll when papers are so scarce?

Aiming properly while doing your business might also be a challenge. I still do not have a proper theory for this…

Get That Food

Yes, let’s talk about culture shock.

The reason being is that, during umrah course, all they mentioned was – do not get into argument with the locals, be patience, respect the local law, respect other people’s spaces.

We Malaysians are really good bunch of people.

What we were not prepared was in essence, was a lot of things. Food, attire, the officials, weather, toilets, language, ways of doing things…

You can take out a kampung girl from the kampung, but you can’t take the kampung out from her.

By the third day, I was dying for something familiar – my fried fish, sambal and ulam. Ok, second option? Noodles. Try looking for anything that resembles noodles in this part of the holy city? I could not find it. I dreamed of eating fried tuna fish, hot steaming rice accompanied with spicy sambal belacan and ulam. I salivated over the thought of tomyam noodle, laksa curry, mee mamak basah, hokkien mee.

Damn.

Good thing I brought my emergency ration from home (dont laugh!) – noodle in cup, a jar of sambal, soup in sachet and my favourite drinks such as Milo and Aik Cheong coffee. Somewhere in between the days when the caterer served the three-times daily meals at the hotel, that I saw fried fish, sambal and ulam. (grins)

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There were some nights when we just wanted something to nibble on. So, G would go out to buy some Arabic bread and cheese. We had our little picnic in the room by spreading a plastic sheet on the bed and we had our bread, cheese, fruits and mint tea. It was so basic that it felt so romantic and awesome.

IMG_20151229_033253On some days, George just wanted his comfort food. That means having to go to the ginormous malls that surround the Masjidil Al Haram and….visit these places…

KFC in Mecca
KFC in Mecca
Burger King in Mecca
Burger King in Mecca

His regular Americano and muffin cost from Starbucks twice as much than in Kuala Lumpur. Sigh.

Starbucks in Mecca
Starbucks in Mecca
Expensive coffee in Starbucks Mecca
Expensive coffee in Starbucks Mecca

Would have been interesting to try out the Mc Donald’s but the nearest outlet was a tad too far for walking.

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On most days, we ended up at the food court where I tried out strange food to my palate such as liver sandwich which was surprisingly, yummy! (sorry no pix). Otherwise, be prepared to spend about between SAR10 to SAR30 for food. Portions are big though. You can share with at least another football team.

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The Art Of Finding The Soul Mate

This piece is dedicated to a dear friend, Mohsin who is a game changer, explorer, adrenaline junkie, single & available and is on his quest to look for The One.

All of us grew up watching Disney movies where the Prince and Princess will live happily ever after at the end. The movies are always accompanied with beautiful songs which are so Disney-esque.

And still did not see it in the real world.

Beautiful, I thought. But I never thought that true love would happen to me. Finding that elusive soul mate is just a fairy tale. I grew watching so many loveless marriages and shattered relationships that the idea of true love just eluded me.

The Never Land

Being single at one point of my life taught me a few important things, and I call this my Never Land:

  • never underestimate your own strength of living through life
  • never have the “I am a victim” mentality
  • never “settle” as you deserve more. Psychobitches and psycho bastards are abound and difficult to shake off.
  • never disregard your bull shit detector/gut feels that God gives you
  • never accept “half loaf of bread”
  • never be needy and desperate
  • never compact your life in a small box. The world is your oyster, go explore.
  • (this is for men) never let your dick do the thinking as it has no brain for rationalisation.

Some friends ask me how do G and I achieve a balance in our own marriage. Being so different and yet so compatible. Well, I do not have all the answers but one thing we agreed upon is that we both have had life experiences before we met each other. If we had met years before we were destined to meet, I do not think we will even tolerate each other, let alone being married! Being the practical people that we are, we treated the relationship as a business similar to merger & acquisition. We prodded, examined, asked, validated everything from divorce papers, salary slips to health screens to legal papers. Then we opened up the “closets” and think about whether we could live with all these information with a knowledge and acceptance that history was done. That this person is here, now, present and he/she cannot undo what has happened in the past. The acceptance is important because this is where the trust comes in. The trust that whatever you found in the closets will never be used against you in the future. This is where the NDA (non disclosure agreement) comes in. Next step is to sign the M&A or in this context, the pre nuptial agreement.

But, one of the key things is this – your “customer service” must be opened, 7 days a week, 365 and a quarter – ever ready to serve your “client” (spouse/partner/soulmate). Come rain or shine, this customer service must be grounded, neutral and objective.

Why I Am A Big Advocate of Pre nuptial Agreement

Donald Trump, one of my big time idols advocates pre nuptial agreement. “It’s a hard, painful, ugly tool,” says Trump. “Believe me, there’s nothing fun about it. But there comes a time when you have to say, ‘Darling, I think you’re magnificent, and I care for you deeply, but if things don’t work out, this is what you’re going to get.” It is worth noting that he was married twice before Melania Knauss and both ex wives tried contesting the pre nup with no success.

See what happens when the love is lost? When you are still in love, you want to give and give and love and care the other person. When the love is lost, trust me my friends, even a single sen will be dug out from the past – where was it gone to, what have you done with it, etc etc.

It is also a show of responsibility especially when you have a business to run. Pre nuptial agreements ensures the company’s sustainability which in return takes care of its employees. Do not punish the employees for your own stupidity when the company is split into several ways upon your divorce. Imagine 10s, 100s or thousands of employees who are out of jobs when this happens.

The Check Boxes

Sure, you can create as many boxes as you like as you go along but remember all these boxes must also be a reflection of yourself. Would you check all these boxes for yourself?

So Where’s The Art In This?

Be brave, listen to your gut feel, open up your mind and do not be gullible. It is easy to fall in lust and confused it with love.

Jaded About Life

It was a glorious morning today. The sun shone so brightly and the traffic was, well, as usual heavy. We took the usual 2 hour or so drive from home to wherever fringe of the city. And this morning was in Phileo Damansara to meet someone who has a big name in the education industry. I have admired him from afar due to his successes in building an education hub where I think, at least in my mind, revolutionary.

There he was, in his jeans and shirt ala Richard Branson. Serving us drinks in his ala Google office. It was love at first sight with his office when I first visited sometime last month.

Then, this Man talked. Visionary, quick paced, thoughtful in his responses, just like many leaders whom I have met in my career. Then, we talked about youth and his education hub’s activities in helping these young folks finding the niche in their career lives.

I went away disappointed with his views. I just feel that he has been jaded with life and feel that many of these youngsters are with no hope to help them get the right career.

Youth/young people are exactly that. They think they know everything, and yet they know nothing. Some are lucky enough to be able to carry through their schooling days until university days with no problem, thanks to mom and dad who worked day and night.

Then, there are those who are just bored with conventional educational life. They want to do something different from what their parents have preached them or what the society has dictated them to be. To be what, they still have not found out.

It is those who are in the capacity to help and do something and can do something should guide and mentor these young people.

After all, were we not young before?

Touching Photos, Touching Lives

A picture, they say, says a thousand words.

No need for elaborate sentences, but a brief description is enough to bring out the emotion. I found this link that conveys such strong human emotions that I just have to share this.

Touching photos.

Enjoy and dont forget to ready the tissues first!

Phoenix Rising From The Ashes

In a recent radio interview session by BFM89.9 on entrepreneurship, I was asked what (animal, plant, etc.) are you most like?

I said, “I am an oak – strong, resilient. Oak trees have deep roots that come rain or shine, winter, drought- it looks as if it is dying but it is not”.

2013 was not a very good year for the family – career and financial wise. It was fraught with disappointments, one after another. A major project that was supposed to take off in the first quarter of 2013 never took off due to insufficient financial resources of the client. Then, there was this client whom we found out was and still is a major fraud who had cheated people by the millions, and still walking around as a free man. But then, that is another story to tell on another fine day.

The furkids got sick one by one, several crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I still mourn of them. The flowers died, even the money plant that you thought could grow in the Sahara; the grass outside of the gate turned to brown and dry away, just like my heart each time I see them;  even the rambutan tree which were fruiting all throughout the years just simply refused to bear any fruit. It was as if trying to tell us that there was something seriously wrong with something, whatever they are.

I felt side lined. Empty. Demotivated. Dejected. A failure.

There I was on the stage as one of the key panellists in this women forum on entrepreneurship sharing my old success stories of building the empire that crossed the length and breadth of Malaysia. At the same time I was comforting myself how this success can always be created again and again.

“Resilient, dear Self”, I said.

“Be strong, bounce back better and stronger than ever, dear Self”.

“You have done it many times over and you can do it again”.

There were so many times when I could not see in the dark that chocked my breath but as God might have planned His way to show the power He has, He gave a peek of the end of the tunnel. As each day passes by, the light just got bigger and bigger.

I could see it. I could taste it in my mouth. I could feel it in my bones.

Success. Again.

Just like the phoenix rising from the ashes. This time higher and better.

There is still a journey to be made towards the end of this tunnel but I can see it. It is getting brighter and brighter.

I just knew it.