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An Adventure About to Unfold

Breathless, Unbelievable, Awesome …

“En. Nordin, your booking is confirmed. The reference number is ABCXYZ.  Please quote this number when you come to our ticketing office to collect your ticket by 25 September…”

I had just booked myself a Malaysia Airlines seat from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney, Australia, and a seat for the return journey from Perth to Kuala Lumpur.

Well..it sounded easy, but it was not as straight forward as that.

I had to make two phone calls to the airline. During the first call I was informed that for the first leg of the journey, Kuala Lumpur-Sydney, all Economy seats were already sold out. Only Business and First Class were still available. Blast ! That poured very cold water to my plans. I could not afford other than Economy on the 5-star airline, could I ?

Five minutes later, I called the airline again. I got connected to another, more pleasant agent. This time I managed to inform her my whole itinerary.

Then she informed me, “En Nordin, for the Kuala Lumpur-Sydney sector I will put you on waiting list, and for the Perth-Kuala Lumpur sector, it can be confirmed”.

Hmmm. That was much better. My plans might yet be realized then ..

“For the waiting list, what is the chance of success ?”

“50-50.”

“When would I know the outcome ?”

“Call us again in 3-4 days’ time.”

No good. That would be in the middle of Hari Raya (Eid celebrations marking the end of Ramadan fasting month). I could not picture myself on the phone handling the suspense while others in the family were having a good time celebrating Hari Raya.

And more importantly, that would not give me confidence to make commitment for the other part of my plan. If I made the commitment now and it turned out in 3-4 days’ time that my seat to Sydney was not available, then I would have lost nearly a thousand Australian dollars.

“What about Business Class ?”

“Yes, sir. Still available.”

Decision. A quick one. Come on.

“OK. Put me on Business from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney. And Economy from Perth to Kuala Lumpur.”

In the phone line I heard taps of the computer keyboard.

“Done. For the KL-Sydney sector would you like a window seat?”

“That’d be good.”

“Upper deck or lower deck ?”

I had almost forgotten that this flight would be a Boeing 747-400 with a stretched upper deck. And during my company’s better days several years ago I always favored one deck.

“Upper deck.”

“OK. And for the Perth-KL leg, shall I put you on a window seat as well ?”

“Yes, and put me on the right side of the cabin, near the emergency exit where there would be bigger leg room.”

“Done. En Nordin, here are your flight details ….”

And she went on the read me the dates, times and flight numbers, which I noted down.

“En. Nordin, your booking is confirmed. The reference number is ABCXYZ.  Please quote this number when you come to our ticketing office to collect your ticket by 26 September…”

“Thank you..”

I put down the phone, and turned to my notebook PC. The website was still displayed on the LCD. I clicked on the Booking tab, typed in some details, and was immensely and surprisingly pleased that I would not be paying the near-thousand Australian dollars after all…

You might be wondering by now, what are all the fuss about ? What are the plans that I mentioned above ?

This is it.

ticket

Indian Pacific booking

It’s a 4-day 3-night’s train journey of a lifetime on the legendary Indian Pacific, traversing the Australian continent from the Pacific Ocean coast in Sydney to the Indian Ocean coast in Perth. A distance of over 4,300 km. And going to Perth would be like returning home, after all the years that I had lived there during my younger days. More on Perth later. For now, let’s drum up the excitement….

Adventure that spans Australia

Adventure that spans Australia

And here’s the map of the journey. Click to see more details.

Indian Pacific Route Map

Indian Pacific Route Map

The journey from Sydney to Perth would be roughly equivalent in distance from Miami to Los Angeles …

Australia - USA comparison

Australia - USA comparison

And here are what past travelers on Indian Pacific said :

Indian Pacific guest talked back

Indian Pacific guests talked back

Will keep you updated ….

Selamat Hari Raya (Happy Eid).

44 days in hospital

It was today, 22nd August, back 8 years ago in 2001.

It was a sunny Wednesday morning. At 08:20 I was on the motorcycle lane of the Federal Highway going towards Kuala Lumpur, passing through Asia Jaya, a Petaling Jaya neighborhood, and cruising at 80 km/h. Only 10 minutes to go before I was to arrive at office in Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur. I could see the Hotel Armada building looming on my left side. An exit into the main road was about 30 meters away. 10 meters in front of me on my left was a small capacity 100 c.c. motorcycle.

Suddenly and without signal or any warning, the motorcycle cut to the right, directly into my path. I pulled hard the front disk brake’s right lever and simultaneously pressed my right foot hard on the rear drum brake lever. The bike abruptly halted. I jammed my left leg hard on the tarmac to prevent the bike from falling to the side. At the corner of my eyes I could see the small motorcycle exited the lane into the main road.

The next thing I know, I was lying on a hospital trolley, being pushed somewhere. Then I passed out. At 09:30 I regained consciousness. Someone told me that I was in the emergency room of University Malaya Medical Centre. Then I saw a syringe. Arrgh… I hate syringes…

When I came to, I was in the hospital’s orthopedic ward. A steel bar pierced my left foot behind the ankle. Both ends of the bar were tied to two small nylon ropes which went up to a pulley on a high bar at the foot of my bed, and went down connected to something which I could not see. Initially there was little pain, but some time later it came, after the drug and painkiller wore off.

I had suffered very serious fractures to my left leg main bone (tibia) near the knee cap (patella). And then there were skin wounds on my left knee cap, on my left elbow and cuts on my left eyebrow and cuts on both knuckles. The area surrounding my left eye was swollen black and the white part of the left eyeball was blood red. The joint on my right hand thumb was dislocated, and my left face area from the eye to the upper lips felt numb.

On Friday 24th August 2001 they removed my ankle bar, but replaced it with another bar drilled into the tibia bone about two inches below the fractured area. They did that while I was unconscious under the anaesthetics. The other end of the nylon rope was tied to a 2-kilogram weight. I was told that the contraption was called a “balanced traction”, to pull the tibia back to normal position.

Balanced suspension traction using slings. Patient in hospital bed with skeletal traction applied to injured leg, which is supported in slings.

Balanced suspension traction using slings. Patient in hospital bed with skeletal traction applied to injured leg, which is supported in slings.

14 days later, on 4th September 2001 I was told that the treatment was not giving expected results, and thus the weight was increased to 5 kilogram.

On 6th September, Day 16, the doctors told me the results were still no good. The weight was increased to 7 kilogram.

On balanced traction hospital bed, with 1-year old Adib

On balanced traction hospital bed, with 1-year old Adib

Imprisoned for 43 days on this bed..

Imprisoned for 43 days on this bed..

It turned out later that I was only 1/3 through my stay in the hospital. The traction contraption stayed with me, and I was imprisoned to the bed until 3rd October 2001, Day 43 of my hospitalization.

On 4th October 2001, Day 44, I was finally discharged from the hospital, with my left leg encased in plaster cast. I was given sick leave to recuperate at home until December. On 22nd December 2001, I returned to office.

My bike, a Yamaha Virago XV535S, a 535 c.c. V-twin was in slightly better shape than me. There were only light damage to the headlamp, turn signal lamps and the rear view mirrors. After repairs, the bike was as good as new. And I still ride the same bike even today.

The bike at a workshop, awaiting repairs

The bike at a workshop, awaiting repairs

Another view of the bike

Another view of the bike

As for myself, psychologically there were no scars. I did not experience any trauma or nightmares. Maybe it was because I immediately passed out in the milliseconds after I fell down head first onto the lane’s grass verges. A case of the body machine shutting down ahead of extreme pains, to preserve the mind. Physically, apart from the leg fractures and the cuts and grazes, there were no other permanent damage. It could have been much worse had I not been wearing an AGV full-faced helmet and a pair of thick leather gloves.

Middle of Day One – the Friday prayer

Ayer Keroh map, showing Puteri Resort and the MITC area

Ayer Keroh map, showing Puteri Resort and the MITC area

The coach took us towards Melaka. After 3 kilometers, we came to an intersection where at 2 o’clock direction there was this big Mydin hypermarket building. We took the right turn, making the Mydin building to our left. After a short meandering road we came to Al-Alami Mosque inside the Melaka International Trade Centre (MITC) at Hang Tuah Jaya, Ayer Keroh.

Masjid Al-Alami, MITC, Ayer Keroh, Melaka

Masjid Al-Alami, MITC, Ayer Keroh, Melaka

The whole area was spanking new. The mosque looked brand new. And it was overflowing with people – sitting in the main prayer hall and in the surrounding verandah areas. There were long queues in the ablution rooms. I found my way to a toilet-ablution building at the back left side of the mosque. The place was chock full with people as well. But many of the ablution water taps were unoccupied. I turned on one of the faucets, no water came out. Alarmed, I changed my mind and headed back to the main prayer hall. I still had my wudhu’ which I had taken at home more than 3 hours before. I figured I could endure any discomfort and visit a gents when we arrive back at the resort.

I made my way across rows and rows of people sitting on the open piazza and the veranda areas, and took the spiral staircase up to the mezzanine level. Unlike the crowded main prayer hall, the mezzanine prayer area still had vacant spots here and there. I navigated myself forward until I came to the very front edge of the floor where I could go no further. Going further would mean straddling the railing and falling down on the crowd below in the main prayer hall.. A not too pleasant a thought !

And it turned out to be a shrewd move. My roommate at the resort told me later that he was also among the crowd in the toilet-ablution building. Due to the trickling tap water and the crowd, it took a long time to come to his turn at a working tap, and by the time he completed the wudhu’, the hard-floor marbled piazza area was already at full capacity. He had to make do with whatever space available. I on the other hand, was sitting snugly on the carpeted mezzanine floor. Even though the air in the upper part of the mosque was hot and stuffy, it was much more comfortable than what my roommate was enduring downstairs.

Morning of Day One – coconut juice

August 14, 2009. Friday.

07:20 – As usual this morning, after sending off Aishah and Adib on their bus to school, I put on my running shoes and headed for the residential playground behind my home. After several minutes of stretching and warming up, I began my daily 8-lap jog on the grass around the perimeter of the playground.

That took me 30 minutes to complete. By that time the front and back of my shirt was drenched with sweat. After checking my pulse to ensure that it had safely dropped from 145-plus to 120, I signalled to Adam, my second youngest son, who had accompanied me to the playground this morning, to go to the bigger playground equipment suite at one edge of the field so that I could do my cooling down routines.

It was already 08:20 when we reached home. After showering and some light breakfast, I rode my venerable bike for 20 minutes towards office, some 19 km (12 miles) away, at the edge of Kuala Lumpur.

I arrived at 09:00. Today I did not lug my notebook computer nor did I go to office. Instead I went next door to the head office building’s lobby to get myself thermally scanned by the security people there. This was a precaution to reduce the risk of Influenza A (H1N1) infections, before I and a group of about 70 go to Melaka, 120 km south of Kuala Lumpur. The scan gave me a clean bill of health, with a temperature slightly above 36 Celsius. I left the place, took my bike and went over to the adjacent building to settle some urgent matter at the office.

At 12:45 I arrived at Puteri Resort, Ayer Keroh, Melaka. The directions given to me by Nuraha, an office colleague, were spot on. The resort nestled between the Ayer Keroh Petronas service station and the Seri Malaysia hotel, but was hidden from view from the road.

puteri_resort2

Puteri Resort - inner view from the giant swimming pool

I had driven the Innova south, on the North-South expressway, over the legal limit of 110 km/h to make up for lost time.  I had not planned on driving myself to Melaka, but instead had planned to ride in my colleague Daud’s Naza Ria, a locally badged version of Kia Carnival MPV. However, I decided to change my plans to take account of my daughter’s illness. I needed the flexibility to rush home should the need arise.

Earlier, after leaving office, I stopped by the neighborhood USJ1’s Giant supermarket to find some coconut so that I could give the fresh juice to my daughter, who had been having fever since Wednesday afternoon. I was quite worried because on Wednesday night, the GP that we went to gave Aqilah a 2-day sick leave, and ominously asked her to go to a government hospital should the fever not subsided within 12 hours. And there we were on Friday morning, 34 hours later, and the fever had not yet shown signs of subsiding. We had not yet reached panic levels because even though the fever had not subsided, Aqilah’s temperature did not seem to increase. It just remained there and sometimes seemed to reduce a little bit.

But I could not find any coconut where I used to see them in the past. I looked for packed juice at the coconut milk’s shelf, but it was no good – I could only find packets after packets of coconut milk, not the juice. Exasperated, I tried my luck at the fruit juice shelf, and found it. I grabbed 6 cans. Before leaving home for Melaka, I opened a can, tested it, and gave the rest to Aqilah. I then asked her to take the juice three times a day. I also left word to my other half to ensure that Aqilah did as I asked.

Coconut juice is Malaysia’s traditional remedy for high fever. Lately, with the pandemic spread of H1N1 Influenza A fever, emails telling stories of the virtues of coconut juice flowed freely in the Malaysian internet space. Maybe that was the reason why I could not find coconuts in the supermarket.

I strode into the lobby of the resort, and nearly stumbled onto my boss, who had arrived earlier. He showed me the direction to the lunch venue. After a quick lunch, I hopped onto one of the two luxury coaches that had brought the majority of us from Kuala Lumpur to the resort, to go to the nearest mosque for Friday prayers. There were only five of us on that coach.

GIMP

Take a look at these two pictures :

ikan_UTP_2

Original image

Enhanced image

Enhanced image

The one on the left is an original picture taken by a Sony Ericsson W810i mobile phone camera. Nothing remarkable. It’ a hazy picture of some fish in a body of water somewhere.

The one on the right is the same picture, after being enhanced by GIMP, a freeware image manipulation program.

Quite a transformation. Here the fish are clearly visible, with their black striped bodies and round black eyes. A biggger fish at the centre right of the picture is now also clearly visible. And we can now see that the bottom of the pool is filled with sand. And we can see the ripples on the water’s surface caused by the fish.

All the above was achieved by a just few commands on GIMP.

I’ve been using GIMP on my computers for several years now. It’s a great application. Since it’s a free program, I can put it on my official office computers without any worries.

I regularly use GIMP to enhance, resize and crop photos, as well as to stitch big images scanned in parts, such as maps and posters.

And yes, GIMP enabled me to repeatedly save several ringgits for ID and passport photos, because with it I can take the photos on my own, edit them, and print them at home on a photo inkjet printer. And if I multiply the savings with the number of my children requiring the photos, the figures are good enough to justify the case for a new printer !!

And GIMP even have a stand alone version which you can put in your thumb (flash) drive, and run it from any computer without needing to install GIMP on that computer. Great feature which enables you to freely use GIMP anywhere you go, without the need to bring your own (bulky ?) computer. All you need is that thumb drive and the photos.

I think that’s enough promotion from me on GIMP.

For those who want to read and/or download GIMP, it can be done here.

And here is a history of GIMP.

And BTW, the fish picture above was taken by my son Hanif at one of the various ponds at Universiti Teknologi Petronas in Tronoh, Perak.

Welcome Break

Monday 8th June 2009.

welcome_break_forte_travelodge_abington_1994_kids1

Welcome Break at Forte Travelodge, Abington, Scotland, July 1994

I am here at my wife’s kampung (village) in Dong, Raub, Pahang. Me and family arrived here from our USJ Subang Jaya home around midday two days ago on Saturday 6th June, our Toyota Innova packed as usual despite the fact that my son Khairul Hanif is away for one week now after registering at UTP (Universiti Teknologi Petronas), Tronoh, Perak last Sunday 31st May.

The kampung house is lively with the combined presence of my kids and those of my wife’s sisters Yan and Intan. Their husbands Mohd Nur and Shah are also here.

It’s the middle of the Malaysian 2-week school holidays, and wedding kenduri (feast) tents could be seen virtually in every kampung. Yesterday afternoon all of us in the house including my father and mother-in-laws, Atuk and Wan to the kids, went to one such wedding kenduri in Kuala Dong, about 10 km further up the Kuala Lipis (Siti Nuhaliza) road.

And afterwards around 5 pm, we were at Hulu Dong, to join hundreds of kampung holiday makers (city folks like us who returned to the their kampung for the holidays) at Lata Jarum rapids, near Pulau Chekas. The water was very cool, clear and refreshing. The kids enjoyed themselves thoroughly, and did not want to get out of the water even though the smaller ones were shivering in the cool waters.

I brought along my EOS DSLR camera, but did not manage to take any pictures. I was too busy in the water tending to my 2-year old son Alif, and immersing myself in the cool mountain stream.

On our way back, Shah took us to see a vanilla garden belonging to Pak Haji Ishak Musa, a retired school headmaster, at Kampung Pamah Kulat. Vanilla ? Remember your vanilla and chocolate ice-cream ? It seems that under the right conditions, the vanilla orchid plant, with its vanilla seed pods, could thrive in Malaysia. Pak Ishak’s garden had seen countless visitor-researchers from University Putra Malaysa, an agriculture-specializing university. Pictures of these vanilla trees later.

(Updated 9 June 2009: The pictures)

vanilla_tour_briefing1

The briefing by Pak Haji Ishak

vanilla_tour_the_tree

Pak Haji Ishak with one of his vanilla trees

vanilla_tour_the_pod

A vanilla pod. Inside are thousands of vanilla seeds from which the legendary flavor is extracted from.

Pak Ishak also has several fruiting durian trees in his garden. And a bush of fruiting salak tree. Pictures later.

vanilla_tour_durian_fruit

One of the fruiting durian trees in Pak Haji Ishak's garden. Looking from their size, the fruits would ripen and fall to the ground in July. Searching among the fallen leaves and undergrowth is part of the fun in a durian garden, apart from the feasting of one's tastebuds with the indescribable delicious taste of the fruit.

vanilla_tour_durian_fruits2

Another durian tree laden with fruits.

vanilla_tour_salak_fruit

A bunch of salak fruits in Pak Haji Ishak's garden.

Here in the kampung, Celcom only have GPRS service. That is sufficient enough for me to continue receiving and sending office emails on a Blackberry, and to upload text to the internet using the Blackberry tethered as a modem. But to upload vibrant pictures of the vanilla plant, the salak tree and yes, the durian fruits high up in the sky, require a faster connection. I’ll do that later tonight, when we get home to Subang Jaya where we have a 1 Mbps Streamyx line. Before I got the Blackberry (more like being forced to use one, hehe), I used to go to Raub, a major town 15 km from this kampung, parked my car and turned on the laptop, plugged in my Sierra Wireless HSDPA/3G modem, accessed the internet and logged in into the company’s intranet via VPN to access my emails.

But all that will have to wait. We are thoroughly enjoying the fresh country air with its soft cool breeze flowing through the open windows and the calming sight of hens pecking around on the house’s grass courtyard. How I wish we could live like this in the city. It has been a welcome break indeed …

welcome_break_forte_travelodge_abington_1994

The end of July 1994 welcome break at Forte Travelodge, Abington, Scotland.

Hasta la Vista

It was back in 1977. The Sultan of Terengganu was Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah, the grandfather of the current (year 2009) Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Sultan Mizan. The Agong was Sultan Yahya Petra of Kelantan. The Prime Minister of Malaysia was Tun Hussein Onn. The movie Star Wars opened in cinemas and subsequently became the then-highest grossing film of all time. Malaysia Airlines Flight 653 was hijacked and crashed in Tanjung Kupang, Johor, killing all 100 passengers and crew on board. Abba’s Dancing Queen was one of the world’s top hit songs. The movie Saturday Night Fever came to the world the year after in 1978.

Me – I was a 17-year teenager in Form 4 secondary school at Sekolah Menengah Sains Terengganu at Gong Badak, Kuala Terengganu. I was looking for someone, who could become a friend that I could write to and practise my English. From a list that I got from a magazine, I selected a name and address of a girl in Japan, a Ms Keiko Miyajima. The name sounded pleasant, so I wrote to her. But no reply.

My school friend Zulkonain Awang from Kampung Besut in Kemaman, Terengganu, who heard of my plight, gave me a name and address of another girl, this time a Malaysian, who was a student at the all-girls boarding school Tunku Kurshiah College in Seremban. According to Zulkonain the girl, Zasmida Abu Samah, could speak and write very good English. Well, I got nothing to lose. I wrote to her. And I got a reply ! And her written English was awesome. We exchanged many more letters after that. In all her letters, Zasmida always ended them by signing “Hasta la Vista”. I was curious as to what the words meant. I never came across those words before Zasmida. I looked into several English dictionaries, dead end. In one of my letters I asked Zasmida, but she did not answer that question.

Time went on. Late in 1978 in one of her letters, Zasmida sent me her photograph. I, being the kampung boy I was, got cold feet (hehe). I could not make myself brave enough to send her my photo.

This was the photo she sent me.

zas_1978a

A picture from 1978

And this was what she penned at the back…

zas_1978b

Handwriting at the back of the picture

Scary stuff, the “eternal” thing ….

Then late in 1978, I was instructed by JPA (Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam, the Malaysian Public Services Department) to go to MRSM Seremban, a boarding school, to attend a briefing and orientation camp for students who had succeeded being selected to go for pre-university studies in Australia the following year 1979.

After I returned to Terengganu from the camp, I wrote to Zasmida that I was in MRSM Seremban for the orientation camp. She wrote back saying that her school was nearby and we could have met had I informed her earlier. Well, mobile phones or internet had not yet been invented then. So no phone call, or SMS (common term for texting), or emails.  The only means of communications was the snail mail. So we did not meet. We never met. And she never knew how I looked.

In early February 1979 I left Malaysia for Perth, Australia. I continued writing to her. And in September 1979 I received news that she had left Malaysia to pursue her studies, if my memory serves me right, in Indiana, USA.

After that we were overtaken by events and drifted away our separate ways.

Then on 24th May 2007, I was at Cyberview Lodge, a hotel in Cyberjaya, for a business lunch with executives from two Australian communications firms. At the inner grass courtyard of the hotel, a shiny golden brass plaque set on a small rock at the foot of a  tree caught my attention.

dscn8948_xtr

A tree inside Cyberview Lodge courtyard, with a rock and a plaque at its foot

zas_cbj_plaque

The plaque was engraved with the words: This Tree Was Planted By Friends And Family In Loving Memory Of Zasmida Abu Samah Pioneer, Cyberjaya 3rd February 2002

If the Zasmida Abu Samah whose name was engraved on the plaque was the same Zasmida Abu Samah my pen-friend, then it could only mean that she had left this world.

If that is so, I could only offer her an al-Fatihah and doa to Allah that she found peace and forgiveness upon her return to Allah. “Return” in Malaysia language is “kembali”, the name I especially selected for my domain kembali.net

In retrospect, the “eternal” word that she chose to pen at the back of the photograph might not be scary at all. Quite the reverse. I now think because of that photo and word my memory of her letters are still strong, and I make “doa” for her whenever I could. I am forever indebted to her, for her awesome English letters. In that sense she had chosen one of the best words there was, to write at the back of the picture.

Hasta la Vista Zasmida.

Epilogue: Prior to publishing this article, I did an internet search for my friend Zulkonain I mentioned above. I found a name similar to him and wrote him a message. On 19th June 2009, I got a response affirming that he was him, and on 20th June I phoned him.

He told me that he was informed by trusted sources that Zasmida had indeed passed away, of cancer. Innalillahi wainna ilaihi rajiun (From Allah we came, and to Him shall we be returned – this is a phrase Muslims utter when we hear people had died or when we hear a calamity has befallen on someone)

Goodbye, Farewell, Hasta la Vista

I started writing this entry in a Putrajaya hotel meeting room waiting for my colleagues to turn up for dinner, listening easily to Biddu Orchestra’s Rainforest and Eastern Journey on a Shure SCL2, to calm my nerves after a full day’s work in less familiar territory.

One of my other colleagues emailed me yesterday, asking me when I would update this blog. Yes, it certainly has been a long while since my last post. Notwithstanding what I had said somewhere else, that the blog gets updated as and when I like it, it has indeed been a long silence.

There’s so much to write about, and equally so much has been happening, both within my sphere of influence and outside, which inevitably drew my time.

Anyway, let’s see. OK. I got it.

These past few days had been full of emotions. I was given a new assignment within the company. It was a mixed feeling – a deep sadness of leaving a comfortable and secure environment, a feeling which crept slowly over a few days after the move, and the apprehension and anticipation of new challenges and experience at the new place.

I looked back at my previous assignment and with a sharp pang felt that a part of my life has gone. Like Doug Ashdown, the Australian singer/song writer, used to say midway in his hauntingly beautiful Winter in America, … “but its funny how you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone …”

Earlier during the day I emailed out farewell emails, to colleagues and contacts within the company as well as outside. I would like to think of the email not as a farewell or goodbye email, because there seemed to be a kind of finality about farewells and goodbyes. But I prefer to call the email as a Hasta la Vista email. More about Hasta la Vista in a later post.

Needless to say, I did several days’ research before deciding on the form of the email which I had sent out. In the version here I had generalized certain sentences to make the email suitable for open publication:
=

From: Nordin
Sent: Tuesday, 5 May 2009 16:39
Subject: On my next segment of the journey

=

Assalamualaikum warahmatullah and Good Day,

Dear all,

Yesterday was my last work day at the place all of you had came to know of.

Today I’m on a new assignment within the company.

This concluded my 7 years 8 months’ tenure in the unit, during which time I have had the invaluable opportunity interacting with you and your team striving towards our common goals. The experience has been rewarding to me in many different ways.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude for your support and understanding extended to me and my team, as well as to apologize for any shortcomings which I might have inadvertently done during our interactions.

I wish you the very best in your future endeavors.

My successor is ________, a no-stranger in this field, having previously served this unit in the mid 1990’s. His phone is ______ , and his email ______ . The rest of the team members are still in the unit, supporting my successor.

My mobile number and email address are unchanged. I’d be happy to receive word from you even though our work might not be in the same field any more.

Until we meet again.

Warmest Regards.

Nordin

Another long lost friend

It was the first day of year 2009. I was at home in front of my notebook computer, trying very hard to complete a self-given assignment of printing some ID photos for my son Khairul Hanif. I had been at it, using GIMP, since the day before, but I had not yet succeeded in coming up with an acceptable “mask” to erase out the source photo’s background image and replace it with a subdued blue gradient background. Unlike my previous efforts with my other children’s photos, the current task was many time more difficult because of Hanif’s hairstyle – which defied my amateur skill in the the bezier-tracing method, or the “channel” method, or the high-pass method.

It was on a break from this strenuous work that I was inspired to log into my blog to see what new spam comments had been captured by the blog’s Akismet spam filter.

There were the usual drugs-related spam comments, but there was one comment which the filter gave an exception and categorized it as a valid comment. Opening it, I immediately saw that it came from Amir, a friend whom I had not met ever for over 25 years since he returned to Malaysia from Perth, W.A. in the mid 1980’s.

Amir was one of my matriculation classmates at Leederville Technical College in 1979. In year 1980 we became housemates when he, Mukhtar and me shared a two-bedroom apartment in Stirling Highway, Nedlands, less than 1 km from our University of Western Australia.

Well, Amir, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate that very much. And yes, I still remember. And to jog further the memory, I put here several pictures of our times in Perth.

We should meet together one of these days – you, me, Mukhtar, Abdul Muis and Abu Mansur.

Some of our pictures in Perth, for the memory …

ltc_malay_class_1979

July 1979. Leederville Technical College's 1979 class of Malay Language, under the gentle guidance of Cikgu Puan Habibah. The class was held at nights at next-door's Leederville Primary School. Malay Language was one of the elective subjects in 1979's Western Australia'a Tertiary Admissions Examinations (TAE).

Winter 1979. Abu Mansur and me at Amir's and Anis Ahmad's Beatty Park Apartments in Vincent Street, North Perth. Abu Mansur was staying with Yoong Foong Sun (not here) in another unit of the same apartment building, whereas I was staying with Nor Azmi across the busy Loftus Street in Carr Street, Leederville. Anis was holding my first love, a Minolta SRT-Super SLR camera with a fluid 50mm Rokkor f1.4 lens. The camera was also known elsewhere as SRT-303 and SRT-102 (Googled in January 2009....)

Winter 1979. Abu Mansur and me at Amir's and Anis Ahmad's Beatty Park Apartments in Vincent Street, North Perth. Abu Mansur was staying with Yoong Foong Sun (not here) in another unit of the same apartment building, whereas I was staying with Nor Azmi across the busy Loftus Street in Carr Street, Leederville. Anis was holding my first love, a Minolta SRT-Super SLR camera with a fluid 50mm Rokkor f1.4 lens. The camera was also known elsewhere as SRT-303 and SRT-102 (Googled in January 2009....)

January 1980. Linden Lodge apartments in Stirling Highway, Nedlands. This was the place I stayed for the first two years at UWA after completing the matriculations examinations at Leederville. For the first year in 1980 my housemates here were Mukhtar Hashim and Mohd Amir Abdullah. The person we paid rents to was an elderly and very pleasant lady Mrs Arbuckle, who stayed in the ground floor unit directly beneath our first floor unit.

January 1980. Linden Lodge apartments in Stirling Highway, Nedlands. This was the place I stayed for the first two years at UWA after completing the university entrance examinations at Leederville. For the first year in 1980 my housemates here were Mukhtar Hashim and Mohd Amir Abdullah. The person we paid rents to was an elderly and very pleasant lady Mrs Arbuckle, who stayed in the ground floor unit directly beneath our first floor unit.

August 1980, Linden Lodge, Stirling Highway, Nedlands. It was  the morning of Eid Fitri 1400H. Me and my housemates Amir and Mukhtar and our senior friend Leman (Abdul Rahman) were having breakfast. On the dining table were two fruit cakes that I baked, a "dodol" in "mengkuang" pack from Amir's parents in Melaka, Malaysia and a can of cookies mailed by my mum in Terengganu. Yes, mailed, as with international snail mail, which took many days to arrive. Obviously one could not email a can of cookies or a dodol pack then (or even now, hehe), notwithstanding the fact that to all intent and purposes, emails as we know them today, had not yet been invented. For the three of us, this was our second Eid Fitri in W.A. For Leman, who was the owner of the Honda and Yamaha big bikes I test rode, it was his third Eid.

August 1980, Linden Lodge, Stirling Highway, Nedlands. It was the morning of Eid Fitri 1400H. Me and my housemates Amir and Mukhtar and our senior friend Leman (Abdul Rahman) were having breakfast. On the dining table were a fruit cake that I baked, a "dodol" in "mengkuang" pack from Amir's parents in Melaka, Malaysia and a can of cookies mailed by my mum in Terengganu. Yes, mailed, as with international snail mail, which took many days to arrive. Obviously one could not email a can of cookies or a dodol pack then (or even now, hehe), notwithstanding the fact that to all intent and purposes, emails as we know them today, had not yet been invented. For the three of us, this was our second Eid Fitri in W.A. For Leman, who was the owner of the Honda and Yamaha big bikes I test rode, it was his third Eid.

August 1980, Eid Fitri 1400H. At our senior Mohd Feizal and wife's apartment in Hampden Road, Nedlands. This was the first house Abu Mansur (who took this picture), Mukhtar, Amir, Abdul Muis and me visited after the Eid prayers.

August 1980, Eid Fitri 1400H. At our senior Mohd Feizal and wife's apartment in Hampden Road, Nedlands. This was the first house Abu Mansur (who took this picture), Mukhtar, Amir, Abdul Muis and me visited after the Eid prayers.

August 1980, Eid Fitri 1400H. Somewhere in Nedlands, most probably in Fairway (street), at our fellow Malaysian student Hawati, Hartana and Rohani's apartment. This was the third house Abu Mansur, Mukhtar, Amir, Abdul Muis and me (who took this picture) visited after the Eid prayers.

August 1980, Eid Fitri 1400H. Somewhere in Nedlands, most probably in Fairway (street), at our fellow Malaysian student Hawati, Hartana and Rohani's apartment. This was the third house Abu Mansur, Mukhtar, Amir, Abdul Muis and me (who took this picture) visited after the Eid prayers.

August 1980, Eid Fitri 1400H. A small get-together at our apartment in Linden Lodge, Nedlands. Enjoying the satay prepared by Mukhtar, "nasi impit" by me, and the gravy by Amir, were our friends Ismail Hadis, Munawar, Abu Mansur and Roslan.

August 1980, Eid Fitri 1400H. A small get-together at our apartment in Linden Lodge, Nedlands. Enjoying the satay prepared by Mukhtar, "nasi impit" by me, and the gravy by Amir, were our friends Ismail Hadis, Munawar, Abu Mansur and Roslan.

December 1980, Linden Lodge, Nedlands. It was the beginning of the summer holidays. In this picture were Mukhtar, Abu Mansur, Amir, Ainullotfi, me and Abdul Muis.

December 1980, Linden Lodge, Nedlands. It was the beginning of the summer holidays. In this picture were Mukhtar, Abu Mansur, Amir, Ainullotfi, me and Abdul Muis.

My 1420H (2000CE) Hajj in pictures

It’s Saturday 1 Dzulhijjah 1429H. In slightly more than 1 week, on Sunday 9 Dzulhijjah (December 7, 2008) the Hajj for this year will start with the Wukuf at the Arafah desert, south-east of Makkah. Every year this auspicious event would remind me of my own Hajj back in 1420H (2000 CE). The following pictures were a scanned selection from my photo album. Back then digital cameras were still rare and very expensive.

Thu March 2, 2000 (26 Dzulqaeda 1420). Me and my other half at Masjid Al-Nabawi grounds, Madinah. This was our 7th day in Madinah Al-Munawwarah, having arrived before dawn on Friday Feb 25, 2000.

Thu March 2, 2000 (26 Dzulqaeda 1420). Me and my wife at Masjid Al-Nabawi grounds, Madinah. This was our 7th day there, having arrived at Madinah Airport before dawn on Friday Feb 25, 2000 on a Saudi Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur.

Sat March 4, 2000 (28 Dzulqaeda 1420). My Madinah roommates in our room, ready with our ihram garbs. This was our 9th day in Madinah and the day we left the city of the prophet (S.A.W) on our way to Makkah.

Sat March 4, 2000 (28 Dzulqaeda 1420). My Madinah roommates in our room, ready to go in our ihram garbs. This was our 9th day in Madinah and the day we left the city of the prophet (S.A.W) for Makkah.

Thu March 9, 2000 (3 Dzulhijjah 1420). At Jabal Rahmah in Arafah. The hill at the background was where our father Adam (A.S.) and mother Hawwa (Eve) met again after they were taken to earth out from their previous place in Jannah (Paradise). We were here as part of our pre-Hajj visit to Jabal Thur, Muzdalifah, Arafah, Mina, Jabal Nur (Hira' Cave) and Tana'im.

Thu March 9, 2000 (3 Dzulhijjah 1420). At Jabal Rahmah in Arafah. The hill at the background was where our father Adam (A.S.) and mother Hawwa (Eve) met again after they were taken to earth out from their previous place in Jannah (Paradise). We were here as part of our pre-Hajj visit to Jabal Thur, Muzdalifah, Arafah, Mina, Jabal Nur (Hira' Cave) and Tana'im.

Thu March 9, 2000 (3 Dzulhijjah 1420). At the foot of Jabal Thur, a mountain on 151° bearing from Masjid Al-Haram with 4.5 km air distance and 13 km road distance. At a cave on this mountain Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) and his companion Abu Bakr sought refuge from the Makkan Quraysh, before they proceeded to Madinah to fulfil the Hijrah (migration), the year of which marked the start of the Muslim calendar.

Thu March 9, 2000 (3 Dzulhijjah 1420). At the foot of Jabal Thur, a mountain outside Makkah some 4.5 km air distance and 13 km road distance, at 151° bearing, from Masjid Al-Haram. At a cave on this mountain Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) and his companion Abu Bakr sought refuge from the Makkan Quraysh, before they proceeded to Madinah to fulfil the Hijrah (migration), the year of which marked the start of the Muslim calendar.

Tue March 14, 2000 (8 Dzulhijjah 1420). My Makkah roommates in our room, ready in our ihram garbs before we left for Arafah to do Wukuf, which is a mandatory component of Hajj.

Tue March 14, 2000 (8 Dzulhijjah 1420). My Makkah roommates in our room, ready in our ihram garbs before we left for Arafah to do Wukuf, a mandatory component of Hajj.

Wed March 15, 2000 (9 Dzulhijjah 1420). Me, outside the tents in Arafah, on the morning of the Wukuf day.

Wed March 15, 2000 (9 Dzulhijjah 1420). Me, outside the tents in Arafah, on the morning of the Wukuf day.

Wed March 15, 2000 (9 Dzulhijjah 1420). My other half with her friends, outside the tents in Arafah, on the morning of the Wukuf day.

Wed March 15, 2000 (9 Dzulhijjah 1420). My wife with her friends outside the tents in Arafah, on the morning of the Wukuf day.

Wed March 15, 2000 (9 Dzulhijjah 1420). Me and roommates inside our Arafah tent, during the Wukuf period.

Wed March 15, 2000 (9 Dzulhijjah 1420). Me and roommates inside our Arafah tent, during the Wukuf period.

Fri March 17, 2000 (11 Dzulhijjah 1420). Me and some of my roommates, inside our tent in Mina camp. We were back in normal clothing, after we had cut our hair following the stoning of the big jamrah the day before. All of use were bald, because we chose to totally cut our hair, because that was a better practice according to the Prophet S.A.W's sunnah.

Fri March 17, 2000 (11 Dzulhijjah 1420). Me and some of my roommates, inside our tent in Mina camp. We were back in normal clothing, after we had cut our hair following the stoning of the big jamrah the day before. All of us were bald, because we chose to totally cut our hair, because that was a better practice according to the Prophet S.A.W's sunnah.

Sat March 18, 2000 (12 Dzulhijjah 1420). At the entrance to Maktab 82, which was a Mina camp allocated by the Hajj authorities to pilgrims from Malaysia.

Sat March 18, 2000 (12 Dzulhijjah 1420). At the entrance to Maktab 82, which was a Mina camp allocated by the Hajj authorities to pilgrims from Malaysia.

Sat March 18, 2000 (12 Dzulhijjah 1420). Me outside the Maktab 82 tents in Mina.

Sat March 18, 2000 (12 Dzulhijjah 1420). Me outside the Maktab 82 tents in Mina.

Sun March 19, 2000 (13 Dzulhijjah 1420). My other half, walking towards her friend, in our Maktab 82 camp in Mina. The tents' air-conditioning units could be clearly seen above our heads.

Sun March 19, 2000 (13 Dzulhijjah 1420). My wife walking towards her friend, in our Maktab 82 camp in Mina. The tents' air-conditioning units could clearly be seen above our heads.

Sun March 19, 2000 (13 Dzulhijjah 1420). Around 4:00 am. We settled down to wait for the Subh prayer time, near Jamrah Al-Shughra after completing the 12 Dzulhijjah's jamrah stonings. We did our Subuh jamaah prayers there, and afterwards we did the final 13 Dzulhijjah's jamrah stonings.

Sun March 19, 2000 (13 Dzulhijjah 1420). Around 4:00 am. We settled down to wait for the Subuh prayer time, near Jamrah Al-Shughra after completing the 12 Dzulhijjah's jamrah stonings. We did our Subuh jamaah prayers there, and afterwards we did the final 13 Dzulhijjah's jamrah stonings.

Sun March 19, 2000 (13 Dzulhijjah 1420). Another picture of us waiting for Subuh time near Jamrah Al-Shughra after completing the 12 Dzulhijjah's jamrah stonings.

Sun March 19, 2000 (13 Dzulhijjah 1420). Another picture of us waiting for Subuh time near Jamrah Al-Shughra after completing the 12 Dzulhijjah's jamrah stonings.

Sun March 19, 2000 (13 Dzulhijjah 1420). Around 6.30 am. My other half at the tunnel exit in Mina 1, upon our return to camp after after completing the final jamrah stonings.

Sun March 19, 2000 (13 Dzulhijjah 1420). Around 6.30 am. My wife at the tunnel exit in Mina 1, upon our return to camp after completing the final jamrah stonings.

Sun March 19, 2000 (13 Dzulhijjah 1420). Around 6:40 am. Me nearing our camp in Mina, after completing the final jamrah stonings.

Sun March 19, 2000 (13 Dzulhijjah 1420). Around 6:40 am. Me nearing our camp in Mina, after completing the final jamrah stonings.

Sun March 19, 2000 (13 Dzulhijjah 1420). Tents in Mina, seen from our bus on our way back to Makkah. We had completed all Hajj components in Mina. Only Tawaf and Sai'e remained, which we did later, on March 21, 2000.

Sun March 19, 2000 (13 Dzulhijjah 1420). Tents in Mina, seen from our bus on our way back to Makkah. We had completed all Hajj components in Mina. Only Tawaf and Sai'e remained, which we did later, on March 21, 2000.

Sat April 01, 2000 (26 Dzulhijjah 1420). Masjid Al-Haram in Makkah, 5 days before we left for home in Malaysia.

Sat April 01, 2000 (26 Dzulhijjah 1420). Masjid Al-Haram in Makkah, 5 days before we left for home in Malaysia.

April 06 , 2000 (1 Muharram 1420). The ladies at Hajj Terminall, Jeddah Airport, waiting for immigration formalities before we departed for home in Malaysia.

April 06 , 2000 (1 Muharram 1420), Day 41. My wife and friends at Hajj Terminal, Jeddah Airport, waiting for immigration formalities before we departed for home in Malaysia.

April 06, 2000 (1 Muharram 1420). The gentlemen at Hajj Terminall, Jeddah Airport, waiting for immigration formalities before we departed for home in Malaysia.

April 06, 2000 (1 Muharram 1420). Day 41. Me and friends at Hajj Terminal, Jeddah Airport, waiting for immigration formalities before we departed for home in Malaysia.