Archive | January, 2007

new things

28 Jan

Logic of a 15 year-old  boy with Aspenger’s Syndrome in the book The curious incident of the dog in the night-time:

“…And Sioban says people go on holidays to see new things and relax, but it wouldn’t make me relaxed and you can see new things by looking at earth under a microscope or drawing the shape of the solid made when 3 circular rods of equal thickness intersect at right angles. And I think that there are so many things just in one house that it would take years to think about all of them properly. And, also, a thing is interesting because of thinking about it and not because of it being new. For example, Siobhan showed me that you can wet your finger and rub the edge of a thin glass and make a singing noise. And you can put different amounts of water in different glasses and they make different notes because they have what are called different resonant frquencies, can you can play a tune like Three Blind Mice. And lots of people have thin glasses in their houses and they don’t know you can do this…”

women as child-producing-machines?

28 Jan

“Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can ask for is for them to do their best per head,” Japan’s health minister said. He added: “Although it may not be so appropriate to call them machines.” BBC reported. [here for news]

The first stunning thing about it is by calling women birth-giving machines which is ridiculous. The second thing is to ask them to do their best. Having babies usually is a decision of a couple, unless the woman is single mother (however unmarried women are shunned so it’s quite unusual for them to have a baby on their own). What parents consider before having baby are usually financial capability and lost of freedom; it actually means that the environment is not conducive to have more children.

Furthermore, raising children is seemed to be woman’s sole responsibility, the husband don’t have to participate. Some of my male Japanese colleagues are so workaholic that they work almost all the time. I estimated that their time at home were only from 11pm to 7am and sunday. I couldn’t understand how can they take care of their family. Apparently they don’t have to. If they are subordinate in the company, at home their are the boss and wife is their best servant.

Any independent woman will think twice before getting into this kind of tied-down life, won’t they?

If the health minister continues with his mindset that women are responsible for Japan’s low birth rate, he should think again. Women are not solely responsible for the situation. Anyway, he can’t force any women into the role of birth-machine because women are not ones.

cold-blooded journalist

27 Jan

I went to library to watch An Inconvenient Truth to find that the DVD was missing. So, I watched an older movie “Hotel Rwanda”. It was based on a real story of a man  Paul Rusesabagina. He saved more than 1000 people from genocide in Rwanda in 1994.  He kept them in the hotel he managed and used his financial power and connections to military personnels to keep the killers at bay. The genocide itself took almost a million people lives within 100 days.

Scene by scene, each seemed too cruel to be true. It starts from when Paul’s neighbour was beaten. Then when violence broke out, the UN only saved all the westerners and left the Africans to their death. Their lives were traded with bottles of whiskey. And, how can one forget the scene of the foggy dawn when Paul found thousands of dead bodies on the street? How can one doesn’t feel the stink when Paul, so hopeful of the help his people would get after knowing that the footage of the genocide would be shown overseas, was told off by the reporter who shot the scenes that people would just say ‘oh god it’s horrible’ and continue to eat their dinner. It’s awfully true. We heard the news everywhere; but as if they were just something vague, we just felt thankful that we were not there.   

A worse thing I found out afterward was apparently the radio reporter who was fanning the hatred and encouraging Hutu people to kill all the Tutsi people was a Belgian reporter. Media is so powerful that it can make it or break it. It was so horrible to use the power in such a way. Worst of all, he was not even Hutu – Hutu may still have the historical reason to feel bitter toward Tutsi.

It’s horrible. Really. I’ve been lucky enough that I have no personal bad discrimination experience, but many in my country had. People died because of their race and skin colour. Nothing came close to the scale that happened in Rwanda, but they were already bad enough. Does difference always have to mean threat?  

Perhaps now we can ask, “How about Darfur?” 

Save Darfur petition www.savedarfur.org

About Paul Rusesabagina

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Rusesabagina

http://youtube.com/watch?v=zj47ap8mI54 

About Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire – UN peacekeeper at Rwanda that time who insisted to stay back and saved as many as he could http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rom%C3%A9o_Dallaire

Reflection

12 Jan

Only days into 2007, I have already had to give myself a hard pinch which I truly deserved. The thing was I did not get my priorities right.

The holiday mood caught me up so tightly I messed up my last assignment really badly. Firstly, the assignment was not done with maximum effort. I am okay with any results I get as long as I think it is the best I can do at that moment. The results were often not great, but at least I tried my best. Bad results just meant that there were lots of room for improvement. But this time, I am really disappointed with myself because I did not put in the effort needed.

Secondly, I made a wrong judgement. I had a few trips in December thus I put the assignment on hold. Then I realised I did not have enough time to finish it nicely. But, I was due to go for another trip. I confidently thought that I could bring the assignment with me, find an internet cafe to polish it and send it out. But, before I set off, I did not check what kind of computer system used in internet cafes or whether it was actually available at the first place. To make the matter worse, I did not do what a journalist should do when he/she reached a new place, that was to check the communication options available. When I finally wanted to do the assignment very late in the evening, I found that there was no Microsoft Word on the system (too bad that cursing did not help). Worst of all, the next few days spent on the remote areas on the weekend meant no internet connection at all. The only fortunate thing was I sent the first draft of my assignment to my own email thus I was able to forward it for submission. No changes could be made. Hence, the deadline passed and I submitted something that I knew was utter rubbish.

While I was in the minibus touring the beautiful Scotland Highland, the truth struck me. I set wrong priority list. I could have made few sacrifices for the assignment, but the travelling got hold on me so much I did not want to miss it. But I came to the UK for study and the fullfilment of my strong desire to travel should be just a bonus. Yet they became more important than my main objective. What a silly thing to do.

Well, there is no point of crying over spilled milk now. I hope that experience and this post will always serve as my self-reminders whenever I get sidetracked again. Always remember why you started in the first place and do it with heart.

Autumn (and winter) in United Kingdom

11 Jan

One of interesting things about four-seasons place is the weather. The place where I come from has tropical climate which consist of hot&dry and hot&wet with a lot of sunshine. There, I hardly has any strong wind or storm. We has occasional man-made foggy days because of forest burning. However, Indonesia is very big, there are colder places at the mountainous areas. But, the weather in the UK is still more interesting.

Last month, there was foggy days which limit the view and prevent the airport from its full capacity and people from flying home. I was on my way to Boughrood when I looked out of the window and saw the forests covered with fog. It reminded me of the movie Narnia when the kids went to the foggy forest. So, the scene is not just imagination, that kind of forest does exist. When I was in Boughrood, there was time when fog formed cloud like shape and hung so low near the trees giving mystical and serene feeling.

Another time, there was a combination of chilly strong wind, drizzle and sunshine when I was on top a hill at Edinburgh. Two half circle rainbows were formed across the city. One looked so close as if I could find one end of it in front of the white building. The soft drizzle seemed like blanket of the city making it felt so dreamy and the ray of sunshine passing in between the cloud gave the sense of hope for the future – that in greyness or difficulties, there is always ray of light. At the moment, I couldn’t help thinking about ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ and for a second, about my own silver linings.

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I didn’t manage to touch snow, but I saw it from faraway. The mountains of Scotland Highland capped with snow that, unlike to their grey surroundings, were shiny.

It’s interesting to see so many faces of weather and colors of seasons, and how all those invoke so much feelings. I think the kids here have the privilege to have so much variety to play with their imagination.

I still miss tropical sunshine very much though. I need to draw power from the sun, just like what Superman always does. 😛

Christmas experience

10 Jan

It was started one afternoon with “Mari? Hi, I am Danny”. I then spent six interesting days of my christmas holiday with him, his wife Karen and their family and friends. They moved to Boughrood, Mid-Wales for 28 years ago and still seemed very pleased with the place. They are running a B&B and have two very lively dogs who always play around. [here to see the place I stayed]

The place is beautiful. We could see the Black Mountain from the kitchen window. Unfortunately, it was foggy when I was there. The house was comfortable and cosy with a fireplace in the living room burning wood.

To make things better, the bed was so warm and comfortable, incomparable to my Cardiff hard and cold bed, that I had the best sleep since I came to the UK. It has white linen with flowers embroidery on it and gave very down-to-earth feeling. The room overlooked the garden at the back of the house. I had my private bathroom with warm water. There were old oil lamps hung on the wall, but I didn’t use them.

But, more enjoyable thing was to know about British way of life. Prior to the trip, I was busy so I didn’t really have any preparation. Once we met them, I felt rather anxious on how to interact with them. Fortunately, they didn’t treat me as stranger. We had lunch in the kitchen, walked the dog, chopped off some tree branches for house christmas decoration and started doing the work. I saw their flock of sheeps, goat and chickens in the farm. From the kitchen, we can see the small garden where they hung bird feeders and we can see many birds there all day long. I saw woodpecker and robins.

Food and dining culture interest me. I learned that we ate meals in steps: appetizer, main course, dessert followed by tea. I learned a lot about local christmas-sy food such as that mince pies do not contain any meat, christmas pudding served with Brandy and lighted up before serving, christmas cake has this yellowish layer of marzipan, made of almont, and icing layer. I cracked open walnut and chestnut. I learned that some cheese purposely made mouldy, that pork served with berries sauce and chicken with apple sauce, that we can make our own bread.

During Christmas eve, we hold a party. I met many old people and learned about their lives. A man is doing serious gliding who told me passionately how the aircraft work, another worked as aircraft controller engineer and shared his computer class and his feeling when he sang with the choir team at the millenium stadium, a lady was a publisher, some paints or writes, some keep horses. There are others who I did not get to talk to but everyone has own story to tell. I find it very interesting how people are passionate on what they do. It is something that sometimes lack in my own society – the lack of pride in what they do.

The children came on christmas morning with lots of gifts. Apparently gifts exchange was a big thing. There are tons of them. Even I got a lot (unfortunately I did not bring a lot of presents there). The daughter gave me very delicious home-made chocolates. We had early champagne before gift opening and had christmas meal at the dining room afterward – complete with the firecrackers and the paper crown. It was started with melon as appetizer, followed by mince meat etc for main course and delicious mince pie with cream and christmas pudding for dessert. It was  warm.

The people I stayed with are good people and it is interesting how they live. They care about environment and take recycling seriously. The son works as social worker and volunteers for trade union. Despite my skepticism toward strong trade union movement here, I think he has a good intention and does what he thinks is right. They live the life they want. Well, the good thing is the UK provides good social security for them. In Wales, old people have free access to medical and public transport. I am not sure if it will do them good in the long term as now the country is competing with hard-working developing countries, but it is definitely nice to have such welfare system.

I got to know the popular TV soap (EastEnders) and radio shows, how to light up fire at the fireplace, how to spin wool. And that there are always something written about something and people are really interested with history of their place.

However, although the language, the food, the mindset, the lifestyle are different than those in my own culture, our lives are essentially similar. The bond in the families and friends, the love of life and its concerns are familiar. At the end of the day, I felt the warm similar to my own. Experiencing their family warm eased my longing for home.

The days flew by and it was time to go home. The journey was ended with “Cardiff is not far, you know. Come back anytime.” as Danny and Karen send me off at the same bus station I arrived. Initially I thought it was only a polite gesture; but as they told me again, I knew it was a genuine invitation. I wish to go back there already.

Thanks to Karen, Danny, Nick, Dawn, Nigel, and all other lovely people I met there. Thanks to Daisy, Spike and Mo for not disliking me. hehehe