The time I lost my father-in-law

I remember the first time I met my FIL was when I visited his house to introduce myself. We chatted briefly and after a cup of tea I excused myself. That was almost thirty years ago after I finished my studies in the US. About two years later I married his daughter.  He was a respectable man in the community; everyone seemed to know him well. Being the only SIL of the house at the time, I could get anything I wanted…hehehe….close being a spoilt brat!. “Pa … can I  borrow the car?”,I asked him one morning after the wedding day. He had an old Fiat with that big round steering. “The key is on the wall”, he muttered without taking his eyes off the newspaper. He loved reading the newspaper and would read everything from cover to cover even the court notices in the advertisement section. And I loved that old Fiat; just rammed it over the puddles and potholes. It was so much fun I drove it for hours and hours. Alone.  He never really talked down or badly to me or any of his SIL (as I realized later on) no matter how ridiculous my behavior was. One time while I was resting in the afternoon a bloody big lizard crept into the room, crawling through under the lazy chair that I was resting. AArrrggghhhhh! I screamed my heart out like a crazy man running for cover. Everybody else in the house including my FIL just startled a little bit and looked away with a smile! Hey! That lizard is still in the house……how could you guys……my heart stopped for a moment as I tried to comprehend the whole scenario. My MIL took a broom and chased it away. I looked on as that beast leisurely crawled out of the house and everyone continued as they were like nothing happened. Apparently, the incident was normal and I should not freak out as I was and instead took charge of the situation. My FIL seemed to understand my predicament and talked some sense into me. Since having a lizard in the house is considered bad luck, my FIL held special prayers and assured me of nothing would ever harm me or my family. We are okay Alhamdulillah.

with one of his grandchildren

My FIL was a smoker. Althoughby the time I was married, I started to quit smoking, I would sit with him andjoined him rolling the cigarettes. Later, when I completely quit the cigarettes,I just could not pull it off and tell him to stop. I just couldn’t. I mean themotivation to quit should come from within. The energy and power come from yourown willingness to sacrifice smoking for something better in the long future. Idid not know how to tell him that and every time there was a chance to explainto him I felt it was so unnecessary; maybe later. Finally, that “later” time justnever came. I feel bad sometimes about it but keep telling myself that it wasbeyond my control. Ah well…life is so indecisive!

There was a time when he seeks advice from me. He wrote to me a letter during my study in the UK. It was about some family matters and I wrote back to him with a few advice that I thought appropriate for him to act. We never discussed about it later but I hope he understood everything I said. He was that kind of a person; humble with his fatherly status and willing to listen words of advice from anybody. A few weeks later I received a nice ring from him through the mail…..my advice was clearly indispensable…

my last ride with him …

My father-in-lawpassed away over a couple of months ago and coming back to the house now seems so empty. The fact that he is gone has not yetsunk in and the emptiness is still feltaround the house. The moment I miss the most was when he greeted our cominghome and even more so when we were to leave later on. And that would be the hardest part because hewould be sad and while I explained why we should go the tears would run downhis cheeks. I remember to hold his hands firmly and whispered to him that wewill come back for him so be strong and do not forget to take the medicine. Helooked up to the open road and then turned to me and smiled silently. No wordcould describe the painful goodbye but life had dictated the way we were. Therewere many goodbyes such as that one until he finally squeezed my hand that onelast afternoon. His hand was cold and weak. For a few days, he has beenstruggling to breathe as his lung was getting weaker and weaker. I let go ofhis hand and touched his cheeks. In silence, we were saying goodbye to eachother. He passed away peacefully with all of his children and family members gathered around him. May his soul rest inpeace.

Alex, the tram and a belly dancer

DSC_5208 - Copy

-a Cleopatra statue in Matrouh, legend has it that once upon a time Cleopatra came to this beach and bathed; it turned her into a diva…

We arrived in Alexandria under the gray winter clouds from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Yet again I found myself travelling to this part of the world to celebrate the successful closing of my daughter’s medical study. I could not miss this special moment for the world; although I left at the office my students’ unmarked test papers and loads of research reports to be read and assessed. It’s a mad mad world at the office at this time of the year; more than what I can bear at this time and age. So, I just dropped everything, grabbed my bag and passport and took off…literally. Sometime if you just could not tolerate the circumstances, you have to make a drastic decision and shot off. It was a nice landing at the Borg El Arab Airport in Alex amidst a nasty winter crosswind and gloomy weather. We went through the Immigration and Customs without any problem. Outside, the chilly wind started to nip my face and ears. It has been awhile since I experience this winter season; the last time was during our stay  in the mountains of Hakusan in Ishikawa, Japan. But more than anything else it reminded me of my aching joints and aging body. It was a struggle just to keep warm and stay comfortable in the middle of a chilly breeze. Returning to Alexandria made yourself wonder if you could experience more than what you had in the last visit. I wanted to feel the grandeur of Alexandria; a mixture of Roman and Egyptian culture and traditions. They speak Arabic, but the environment is not similar to the one in Makkah or Medina. In Alexandria, life is more colorful and downright exotic. The most notable element of Alexandria is the tram. It runs through the busy streets and run down neighborhoods.

DSC_5373The tram cars were old and slow but for 50 cents they would take you everywhere. I think the people of this town deserve a better and modern set of cars.

Fajr was around 5.30 am. As I hurried myself through the dark alley to the nearby mosque, I saw people coming out of the building as well but they kind of not greeting each other or having a small talk as they walk to the mosque. As if going for Fajr prayer is a secret thing to do. May be someone was watching I would never know.

DSC_5359

But I love the atmosphere in the early morning here as you can feel and experience the stories of Hassan al Banna, Syed Qutb and Zainab during their struggles in Ikhwan al Muslimeen. Islam in Alexandria is alive but as vague as the winter sunshine; beaming high behind the gray cloudy sky. Friday prayer saw a full house and a spill-over onto the nearby streets. Ironically, the sermon talked about the miracles of the Qur’an instead of the fate of the muslim in dire straits in Egypt or elsewhere. A safe topic I reckon but I could not care less as I was busy thinking where these people would pray as every inch of the space had been occupied. But to my surprise, when the time for solat, everyone just made space and everybody could pray peacefully. I was truly amazed…hahaha!

DSC_5339 - Copy

-a friendly Egyptian just stopped me in the middle of the street for a photo

The cold weather was really into me so I skipped most of the shopping trips and what not. I stayed home and watched TV. They have 700 channels to choose from and you know what? I flicked all of them. Christian channels were interesting as they sang Christmas songs in Arabic and recited prayers in Arabic also….better than myself saying the prayers. A few Syiah channels were also there as well as Saudi, Jordanian, Syrian etc. I saw belly dancing on one of the channels and it was the most exotic show I have ever watched. I was surprised that a beautiful lady can make that moves and it tickled every bone in my body…hukhukhuk. If I were to study in Egypt I could not guarantee whether I’d graduate or not … may be skipped classes and watched TV all the time.  All of the sudden I feel the need to explore more of Alex and places in Egypt. The long history of political struggles in Egypt since the time of Prophet Musa and Fir’aun up until now has undermined the beautiful arts, culture, people and places of Egypt. We went to Siwa the little oasis in the Sahara and Matrouh , the beautiful seaside town.

 

 

DSC_5509

-private garden at the university

DSC_5471

-at the library Bibliotheca Alexandrina

DSC_5333 - Copy

-funny seller….

 

 

Siwa

DSC_4765 - Copy (3)The road to Siwa was long and lonely. 300 km to the west of Alex and then another 300 km towards the south into the Sahara desert. After a few road blocks, we reached this little town at around Zuhr time. We left Alex at 4 am. So by the time we arrived, it was lunch. The place seemed busy with people and tourists. We stopped by this restaurant and it served the best bbq chicken with all the salad, tahine,soup, bread etc. It was simply superb right out of the traditional oven to compliment the cool Saharan winter.

DSC_4810 - Copy - Copy (2)

DSC_4803 - Copy - Copy - Copy

Time seemed to stand still in Siwa. Donkeys were still pulling carts on the street. The dates farms were everywhere and this place is said to produce the best dates in Egypt. So what else is interesting about Siwa…..the Sahara desert of course. I have yet to comprehend the excitement of going into the desert. As my tour guide explained….let reserve the energy for later!.

DSC_4818 - Copy - CopyWe rode a monster called Land Cruiser 4X4. As I was about to experience the desert, I wonder what this SUV can do with the sand and dunes. And believe me if you own this land Cruiser thing you would never appreciate the performance of this monster until you take it out to the desert. There were sand everywhere and along the way it made up a dune as steep as 45 degrees. Our local driver would drive up the hill and stop at the top and kinda dive down where you could not even see the bottom of it. It dropped almost straight down and you better pick up your heart before it dropped again down the next slope. Again and again we went around this magnificent landscape…..and we just could not get enough of it. It was far better than the rollercoasters at the theme park. At the end of it we had tea and watched a beautiful sunset. Oh! My son went sandboarding and he seemed excited …… not my cuppa tea though!

DSC_4851 - Copy (2)

-with the tour guide and local driver

DSC_4894 - Copy

-roselle at the oasis

DSC_4902 - CopyDSC_4907 - Copy

-a cold lake in the desert

 

Matrouh

 

DSC_5088 - CopyDSC_5092 - Copy

-can you see seven blue colors of the ocean?
DSC_5215 - Copy

– where Cleopatra used to bathe

DSC_5122 - CopyDSC_5080 - Copy

-beautiful beach in Matrouh

 

It was the best of Egypt!

Lovely Irbid

In Irbid the air was cool and the sunshine was gentle. It was Friday when we stepped out of the apt building where we were staying. The place was a nice 2-mins stroll from the main gate of Yarmouk University. Wah this reminded me of the days when I was a student when I used to stay very close to my university ; just a few minutes from the university in Wichita, Kansas. I could see the faculty building from my bedroom windows. I could  rush over five minutes before the class started and still beat the Professor. In Irbid, the streets were quiet as Friday is a rest day here in Jordan. and that means the shops would be closed too. So we headed to the zouk ,the morning market, there must be people selling groceries and stuff .

It was still quiet only a handful of them started to open their shops and rearranging the fruits and vegies …. hmmmm must be a hectic night last night. I supposed so …not that I have been here to join the fun. But back home Friday night would be busy and hectic at the market. Maybe the same goes here. We strolled along the empty street taking in all the smell and aroma of the leftovers strewn at the roadside.

Looking for breakfast we walked deep into the alley and backstreets of this town. Stopped at one coffee shop and we had bbq meat and grilled mincemeat served with bread. They don’t serve hot drinks! Yes sir just help yourself with plain water. hahahahha this is cheap. I just don’t understand the culture here but who cares the meat was superb and mince meat was very tasty.

After breakfast we walked through the market which now had more people and a bit busier. People gave cold stares and cheeky glances knowing we were foreigners. But when I started snapping some pictures they were smiling and started to get excited. In fact the market got hyped up when the youngsters pulled me aside to snap the pictures of them and their produce. They asked where I came from  and got really friendly all of the sudden. I was shocked and excited at the same time. Without words we can understand each other; just a few smiles and a big camera. hahahahaha what a strange world we are living in.

DSC_5949

Father and Son : His father dragged me to the shop as he opened it so i could take his picture in there.

DSC_5948

The son was so excited too….I did not really understand why but went along and snapped all these pictures of him and his father. Hope they are doing well with the shop.

DSC_5947

The father selling meat I supposed.

DSC_5946

Plenty of fresh vegetables …

DSC_5945

apples(I think) for a fiver.

DSC_5944

This old man was selling live pigeons (a delicacy in this part of the world…so i heard)

DSC_5943

You want some fruits!…..

DSC_5940

Come and take our picture !..the whole zouk came alive when they knew I was taking photos……very nice people

DSC_5938

This guy was so shy….but I snapped him anyway. I hope it was okay for him.

I love their hair styles hahahaha to tell you the truth… very unique and dashing; young people need space and freedom ….fashion gives them both. Let them have it after all they look good and neat! Back to Irbid and a few places that I have been , their youngsters do wear splashing hairdo….


By the afternoon the air got cooler and the whole neighborhood looked like an old European sub urban —- summer time at the place I used to be but could not remember exactly where ; maybe in France or Italy. The wind gave you the same summer feeling– the one that will make you remember the lovely place you did not want to leave. Irbid gave me that lovely touch.

What a wonderful place to be!

The Place We Once Called Home – Ohkuchi-machi

 

The flight to Komatsu was a bumpy one. A real scary one! Other airlines would have postponed such a flight; but maybe it is a common thing here. A small commuter plane run by a local airline (IBEX) using a small jetliner CRJ700- Canadian Regional Jet. The plane must be a tough one to be able to go through such a strong turbulence. Anyway, my heart dropped several times during the 1-hour flight from Tokyo to Komatsu which is located on the west coast of japan. Amid fiery thunder storm, we arrived just a few minutes late. Down here the storm left a wet and quiet day going into the breezy night. The day in Komatsu was about to end and as always there is no night life in this part of Japan.

Tadaimak! I’m back! It was here that I left the town after a year sabbatical at JAIST. The road back to the place we were staying seems so familiar. I drove through this traffic countless times making every single stop and turn a nostalgic milestone. We stopped at one of our favorite shops- 2nd street- only to be greeted by a familiar face at the counter. I knew this guy and he is still running this place. I grabbed a pair of shoes and left. The night was still early but Okuchi-machi was dead already. We lived here for the most of my time in Japan. Just could not wait to meet the neighbors tomorrow. It was summer so Fajr was early at 3;30 am. By 5 am the sun was already high in the sky. The place was revealed by the late summer sunshine—it was refreshing as ever. Listening to Khai Bahar on youtube, I walked through the morning mist. Khai bahar was still on smule when I was here, and his voice always accompanied me on my way home in the evening. That day I listened to him once again to relive the beautiful moments of my time in Japan. It’s a short 10-min walk from JAIST (where I spent the night) to Okuchi-machi, and, that morning was the most nostalgic walk I’ve ever taken. I wish for the first time the distance was longer. As if I wanted to count every single flower along the road and greeted every single farmer tending the gardens. We went to Tanganuchi house and met Tanganuchi-san, nice old man living next door to the house we used to live. He was surprised of course but greeted us gladly nevertheless. The wife wasn’t there. She was the one who made us feel so welcome here despite the language that we hardly understand.

We made our way to another house. On the way, I saw this familiar face and once he recognized me he jumped up and down and ran to find the door. Like a little kid who has not seen his father for a long time. I was overwhelmed—this is the type of people that is truly pure and honest in a relationship. Despite so little English, and us with minimum Japanese, we managed to communicate and developed a special relationship. His name is Motosa-san (aged 64 years old) and heads the community in Okuchi-machi. We greeted each other without words to describe our excitement only smiles and continuous bows from him to show his gratefulness of our presence. He led us to his house and met his lovely wife. She was surprised of course; we exchanged  greetings and good wishes. The wife speaks English very well. That would complete my visit in Japan. Meeting these people and knowing they are still up and about would  end my holiday with a beautiful memory. Actually, reignited the past memories of our experience living in Japan. Hmmmm…let’s book a flight for next year…Hahahaha!

It has been over a year since I left JAIST …….DSC_1553

A road leading to Ohkuchi machi …

DSC_1554

The sign that I always violated huhuhu ……

DSC_1555

Friends (old and new) that I met after the Friday prayers….

DSC_1559

 

They have a new shuttle bus now …..

DSC_1560

where we found our lost keys…

DSC_1561

The shuttle that  run from Jaist to Tsurugi…now big and spacious

DSC_1562DSC_1563

 

Revisited my favorite spot in the library…DSC_1565

No one was around….as always.DSC_1566

 

Out and About in Tokyo

First day in Tokyo reminds me a lot of the time we used to spend during our last days in Japan—riding the trains. I think they are the best transportation in Japan. They run fast, arrive on time and can take you anywhere you want to go. Although an hour ride will put a pain on your back, it is nevertheless quite comfortable for the money you paid. We arrived late in the evening at Haneda Airport; by the time we were cleared at the immigration and customs the train service has retired for the day. We spent the night at the airport to catch the first train in the morning. My daughter bought us a 3-day pass for Metro lines. She gave us a map for Tokyo and the map for the subways and off we went. First, I was not sure about this but after a few rides, going around with the subways was quite easy. If I could do it you guys could do it as well. So, don’t worry if you need to catch the train for your next trip in Japan, you would get the hang of it in no time. Besides, the staff at the station would make sure you will not get on the wrong train. They are very helpful even if we don’t speak much of Japanese; just ask and be polite!

Our destination was to get to the place where our daughter lives, on the north-eastern part of Tokyo. The green line will take us there and on the map, it is labelled A for Asakusa. The stop is called Higashi-Oojima and is about half an hour from central Tokyo. The word, “Tokyo”, seems to sound big and complicated but believe me it is the most friendliest place I have ever been. I don’t know how to describe it but you should come and experience it yourself. The only thing that you need to remember is to behave and respect the local culture. Our daughter has just started working here and we came to see how she’s doing. The apartment was big enough for her and a couple of roomates; situated in a new and modern apartment complex along the Edo river. The cycling tracks and jogging path along the river made my heart dropped. They were long and wide and run along the river for miles and miles. Every time when I looked down from the balcony, I would see people racing through the misty morning chasing the river flow. What an awesome sight! And in addition to that, they have thousands of cherry trees planted along the river bank. I could imagine the pretty cherry blossoms that would be here in the spring. I hope my daughter will be safe and happy here.

We had a good sleep to refresh ourselves from the jetlag. It was early in the afternoon and we were ready to be out and about to explore this great metropolis. We chose the Imperial Palace to spend for the rest of the afternoon. Sunset would be at around 6pm so we had about 4 hours to enjoy the beautiful summer sunshine in Tokyo.

The sight of the Imperial Palace was so magnificent from any angle you look at it. Too bad we could not get into the palace but looking from outside would be enough for me. I have been to many palaces and castles in Kanazawa and Kyoto so this one should be as great as those places. It was amazing to see that this place is in the city and has beautiful lawns and fields. People used it as running tracks along the road circling the Palace. I could see how running is a favorite sport in Japan; everyone runs. A short ride away we stopped at the Tokyo Skytree. At night, it was a beautiful and glittering tower reaching into the sky. It took my breath away. We took a few pictures and left. It was time to chase the trains again.

Oojima at night

 

We had an opportunity to visit The Camii Mosque of Tokyo

 

Dinner at a small Egyptian restaurant

On My Trip To Japan

This time my story starts with a quiet Eid ul Adha. Lately the Raya has been very quiet for us. Last Raya we went off to Jordan after a brief first-day of Raya. It seems that we have a difficult time to digest the spirit of Raya. But deep down I’d like one day to have a long and relaxing Raya celebration. It is the time to reconnect with family and long lost friends. But not today. At the moment I’m trying to kill time on a flight to Tokyo; a near 7-hour journey from Kuala Lumpur to Narita. So far it has been a bumpy flight, hurricane tail-whip affect from the Philippines, the Captain said through the plane’s broadcast. But it’s okay as the delicious vegy  baryani has killed off the jittered stomach. I have a lot to tell but have no time to sit down and write. The time just flew away quietly. It has been already a year since I came back from Japan. A lot of things have happened to me and around me. One was tragic; a good friend and close neighbor shot and killed himself one afternoon. Just like that. He ended his life abruptly leaving behind family and friends wondered what went wrong.

After the long sabbatical leave in Japan, I went back to teaching. The classroom smelled the same and the students had the same smiles and cheeky faces. Just a few things that make you realize how much you miss teaching. Teaching is my job and after 27 odd years at it, your teaching skills have grown with you. A classroom is no longer the room with four walls but a stage where you pass the knowledge, perform your lesson and test your ability to make the lesson relevant to the students. No flashy slides or hard core English accent, by the end of my lesson I want to see their eyes glittered with awe and their faces reveal the opening new chapter of their life. I could feel it and they certainly could feel it—the lesson learnt. All the accessories in class teaching will make you grow tired and sometimes frustrated when things go wrong. However, preparation of the lesson would be the utmost important part of teaching. Never go into the classroom without it. Even when you know the subject matter like the back of your hand, be prepared and ready to execute the lesson plan.

Teaching is a beautiful thing. The relationships you made with the students are priceless. Every time anyone of the students responds to your hope and expectation, return the favour appropriately and sincerely…..with encouragement and motivation for a job well done. I don’t see any sane individual to take advantage on this situation and does something bad. A trust that must be honoured responsibly. When the classroom door closed behind me and the lesson started, I would have a special moment with my students. The moments of my life as one can put it. So these moments must be planned properly and strategise thoroughly. At the end of the class I would reflect on it and see if it was a good lecture or not. Sometime when the class went so good I would celebrate and reward myself with nasi lemak or nasi kerabu hahahaha! ( I usually don’t take them in the morning). But if the class went the other way I would go back to the office and nap—that’s the end of my day! I’ve never expected anything in return but good students will honour you someday down the line. And when they do you would reflect the beautiful moments you had with them. What a priceless reward!

My Moksu

FullSizeRender (6)

The message beeped in late Friday night and it did not look good. I tried to read it a few times and it came up the same thing. My auntie lost her battle in ICU and passed away. She was fighting multiple diseases and at around midnight her body gave up. It was a great loss for me. Auntie Moksu Peah was a half-sister and a good friend to my late mom and great auntie to us all. Her warm smile will always be with us for eternity. Rest in peace Auntie! May Allah place you with the pious in Jannah. She was buried early the next morning in her hometown in Golok, Southern Thailand.
IMG_8968
I have never been to this border city despite it is only half an hour’s drive from my home in Pasir Mas,Kelantan. Many of us in Kelantan have relatives living across the border; it was once a place common to us. The King of Siam took away our land in a battle long time ago. Anyway, it was a bitter past that has redesigned our present life. Her burial was done swiftly and quickly right after Fajr prayers. I arrived a few hours later. I pushed myself to go and crossed the border in an effort to meet my auntie’s family. The thing that I should do a long time ago. I met them every now and then during Raya or wedding feasts so we don’t know each other very well. The faces are bits and pieces from the past. I tried to put them together to make a picture. A picture that meant a lot some time ago. We were speechless as if trying to figure out what was the last words we said to each other. It seems so close to our heart; yet, too broken to mean anything. We did not mean to break anything, circumstances had put  us apart; thus, we took our own path. But now we are here again so let us start again. The smiles and the friendships that we once ignored. It was very unfortunate to meet again in a very sad situation. We have lost someone close and all of the sudden the world seemed crumbling down. I saw frustration and hopelessness on every face that I tried to recognize. The eyes were still wet with tears whenever they tried to tell the last moments of Moksu’s life. I went to her grave; the soil was still fresh. Said prayers and contemplated on the warm relationships that we managed to cherish. I remember mostly of her smiles and relaxed conversation that we had every time we met. My late Mom always talked about her whenever I asked about our relatives; as if Moksu was the only one I should worry about. It was the last day of Ramadhan and her passing away will blow away the spirit of Syawal to the limit. For the first time her family will celebrate Hari Raya without her and her favourite dishes of the day. Things will be difficult for everybody.
IMG_9051
At the immigration complex in Rantau Panjang