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Saturday, July 23, 2005

A very memorable visit

Much has been said about the on-going troubles in London. So, I’m not going to add to that.

My parents are here visiting, and we thought Spain would be a great place to go; Al-hambra Palace especially. So, off we went. When the capitol was first ‘attacked’ on the 7th July, we were flying out from Gatwick Airport to Malaga on an early morning BA flight, 7:45am to be exact. It was only when I switched on my mobile at the baggage claim lounge; the tragic news came through from friends in the UK.

Anyway, after taken much time in sorting out our rented Opel Zafira, we headed to the mountainous region of Sierra Nevada. Driving west towards Motril via the costal road, we simply adored the scenic view along the sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea… so beautiful. Weather was great; around 30degC. Just before the road got into Motril, we took the exit north heading towards Granada. One thing, Spain has good roads and driving was indeed pleasant.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAbout two hours and a bit from the time we left the airport, we exit right into the mountain towards Lanjaron (pronounced ‘lan-haron’). View was breathtaking amidst the winding road. Soon, we passed a series of huge wind turbines, constructed in the valley, rotating their gigantic blades rather gracefully… churning out electricity for the region, 'greenly'.

We soon arrived in Lanjaron town centre, a small urban area on the mountain slopes. Time to give another call to my dear friend whom we were visiting. Sulaiman (previously known as Simon) and his family - wife Y, daughter K (6), son D (4) and baby A(1) – left their busy city life and settled in the mountain about two years ago.

I started to know Sulaiman a few years back through our involvement in Silat Seni Gayong. He had been and lived in Malaysia for many times, and the only orang putih to be bestowed with PSSGM sendeng (i.e. authorised to be a teacher/khalifah). For the past year, I had been wishing to visit his new place in Spain but unavoidable circumstances always denied my plans.

‘Waalaikumsalam, where are you now?’
‘We’re here, in Lanjaron. How do we get to your place?’
‘MashaAllah… alhamdulillah. Well, did you pass the wind turbine?’
‘Yes we did’
‘Okay, you have to turn back. Go pass the wind turbine, and you’ll ….. ‘, S gave me the instruction.

So, we turned back.

The way to get up to their place was via a winding rocky uneven single track road, much suited for 4x4 vehicles. We went up slowly. Halfway up, we saw a wild mountain goat, skilfully jumping down the steep slope, what a sight.

After about 15 minutes, we spotted Sulaiman waiting at the track side with his stick.. very much like a hiker/sheppard/bushman.

‘Assalamualaikum, finally we are here!’
‘Waalaikumsalam, masyaAllah. Welcome, welcome. Not far to go. Now turn right and go down’, added S.

Following our mini Mpv, Sulaiman soon stopped us on a flat rocky surface.

Image hosted by‘You can park here’, he said.
‘OK. So, where is your place?’
‘It’s down there’, said Sulaiman, pointing to a couple of Mongolian tents (called ‘gur’), a small bright orange structure, and a nearly finished two-storey modest Spanish cottage house.

What a place!
Next door neighbour was miles away, no electricity, no tv, no radio, no sound of vehicles, nothing. Water was from a fresh natural spring within their land [Lanjaron is famous for its spring water, and it’s commercially bottled]. Hot water from a roof mounted solar panel. Vegetables and herbs from their own grow. Olive oil from their many olive trees. Fruits from their own fig trees, grapes trees, etc. It was a wonderful oasis…. a back-to-nature abode. A retreat, a place of solace for one’s soul.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comIn no time, Y brought up food from their modest kitchen within the bright orange building to the upper platform where we were sitting, admiring the place. On Moroccan mats, in the open, under olive and fig trees, we had a delicious dinner; kofta, rice, salad, etc… finished by a few cups of soothing Moroccan mint tea.

We brought some rambutans (from Tanah Serendah Sekebun Bunga), and Sulaiman decided to try growing them on his land. Let’s pray that one day there’ll be Spanish rambutans for all to enjoy. I joked:
‘Soon, there’ll be a sign down there on the road side: ‘Rambutan this way ->’,
and Sulaiman added, ‘Assam Jawa too’, as he’s trying to grow them as well.
We all laughed.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comSoon, it was Asar time and Sulaiman stood next to the low wall on his cliff facing Mecca and called for prayer:

‘AllahuaAkbar AllahuAkbar….. ‘
‘Ashadualla illa ha illallah, Ashadualla illa ha illallah….. ‘, it echoed in the mountains.
It was surreal.

They prepared one gur for us, the top one… whilst they occupied the bottom (‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ they were called… with the central orange building housed a kitchen and wc/shower room). Image hosted by Photobucket.comIt was the first for us; to be in a gur. At the centre of the roof, there was a circular opening covered by another piece of the wrapping fabric, which could be folded via ropes attached, to let air and light in. Its interior richly decorated in bright colours.

After such a long journey, we slept soundly that night, under a clear sky full of twinkling stars. It was a tad cool…. so we closed the door, in addition of our fear of any wild nocturnal visitors; wild boars, foxes and mountain dogs were among others mentioned by the hosts. Goodness!

Our initial plan to leave in the early morning on the next day for Granada didn’t happen. The oasis was too serene and too peaceful to be left in haste. We didn’t get enough of it.

Sulaiman explained a bit about the area. The place was in Alpujarra (originally Arabic 'Al-Bukhara') region, the south-facing side of Sierra Nevada, the very last refuge of Spanish Muslims as they were expelled from Al Andalus in the 15th century. When Islam was outlawed, some of them fled into the mountains and lived in caves and hidden oasis for decades, undetected by the authority.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comSoon, conversation with my Papa led deeper into silat stuff. Sulaiman showed us his parang panjang and a keris, bought in Malaysia. A veteran in such matter, Papa reckoned that the keris, albeit new, looked like it came from a batch of old good besi. Papa tested. After a short ritual, with Quranic verses and selawat, he made Sulaiman’s keris stood up unsupported. Sulaiman was gobsmacked…. and Papa consequently happily passed him the inner knowledge/ilm for doing that.

After breakfast, we again toured the place. Looked at their fruit trees, vegetable patches, natural spring, the yet-to-be-completed house, and the rest of the amazing sanctuary.

Then, I fried the keropok we brought. What a bliss....

Finally, as midday approached, we had to depart for the Alhambra Palace in Granada further north…. bringing with us a wonderful memory of the place we all long to be, again. Till next time….

Jazakallah Sulaiman & family for your immense hospitality; brilliant host. Hope to see you all again very soon. All the best.

Sulaiman teaches silat at a few venues including once a week at his oasis. In addition he also teaches the traditional Islamic archery. Last month he successfully organised the 1st Silat Melayu Europe Training Camp 2005 at his place, a rare occasion which I sadly couldn’t attend. Gayong Espana of which he set up is now affiliates to PSSGM.

Recently, with a friend, he started running a package holiday for Muslims.

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Ready, roll ... action!

It was on Tuesday evening whilst we were relaxing at the apartment in Marbella when Mummy got a voice message on her mobile. It was Debbie, Kakak's agent, asking Mummy to ring her back as soon as possible, even if it was at 2am, she said. Ahhh, another last minute job for Kakak, we said. As happened a few times before, Debbie called a day or two before an assignment day and we (well, mainly Mummy) frantically had to adjust our schedule in ferrying Kakak to studios.

Anyway, Mummy called straight away. Debbie informed that she had promoted Kakak to GMTV's weekend kids programme, Toonattik. Whilst other kids had to go through an audition process on the previous day (Monday), together with an excellent recommendation from the director of a kids magazine Kakak modelled previously, Debbie managed to convince GMTV to take Kakak for this assignment... even without them seeing her.

So, this morning Mummy drove Kakak to the shooting place near Hendon, North London. It was for a trailer of a new segment in Toonattik (from 'Toon Fanattik'). Four kids in their pajamas fooled around with the two presenters, Jamie Rickers & Anna Williamson, at a nice house they rented for the setting.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe trailer (oghe Klate kato 'gezek') will be on GMTV starting next weekend with the actual shooting for the segment taking place in the early August.

Kakak did well and was praised by the director and the presenters. Well done!!!

And tomorrow is another hard day; her annual ballet medal test. All the best.

Hence, no August Malaysian holiday for Kakak, as previously planned. Next year lah ye.

Back to a new UK

We left for Costa del Sol on the early morning of July 7th for the 7:45am flight to Malaga from Gatwick Airport. By the time we landed, the London tragedy has already caught the world.

I was first made aware of the disturbing episode when I switched on my mobile phone whilst waiting for our luggage; first, a text from SK of Lancaster. Then, another from the intel at our Msian Embassy in London. From that point, my phone simply didn't stop beeping.... I must have around 10 text messages within that short period of time whilst at the airport; mainly from family and friends back home who were frantically trying to reach us for the past 2 hours when we were in fact on the air and unreacheable.

Today, we safely got back home... but to a new United Kingdom. From that fateful morning, this island won't be the same again. May God help us all.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Audition drama

Malam tadi, macam biasa, dah last minute... barulah kami nak kecoh.
Kakak's ballet school has suggested 4 students from her class/age group to attend an audition for a panto to be staged at our local theatre, and Kakak is one of them. The audition was this morning at the Town Hall.

So, last night, mummy and daddy surfed the net looking for mp3 file of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' song of which she had to sing, in addition to dance and others. After a few glitch, daddy got the file. So, mummy proceeded with coaching.

Soon, Kakak cried... 'I can't do it', she gave up. Well, I guess, pushing an eight year old girl to be Judy Garland was quite a tall order. Nevertheless, mummy was cool and managed to persuade Kakak to continue, in her 'huk, huk' state and cracking voice. It wasn't looking good at all. By then, I decided to get some food from the local Indian; pilau rice, persian chicken and popodum were Kakak's orders.

Half an hour later, when I got back, Kakak came running down the steps...
"Daddy! I memorised it all by heart now!", she said.
"Well done! Go on then... ", I said.
and she sang the whole song ... rather beautifully.
It was quite late when we all finished our dinner. Mummy checked the paper again, it said:

The audition will be held at the Town Hall Reading at 10.00 am onward on July 2nd 2005.
Children will be required to sing the first part of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow', be prepared to dance and speak.

Please wear suitable dance attire with hair neatly groomed.

Laaaaa.... 'the first part' of the song sahaja. Kesian Kakak, kena paksa nyanyi to the end. Well, apa nak buat... dah habis nyanyi pun and Kakak dah lena tidoq.

This morning, biasalah, with the kids... nak bersiap satu hal. By the time we got to the Town Hall, it was about 10.20am. Well, we thought '10.00am onwards', so takpa lah datang lambat sikit. We were wrong. It did start at 10am, when all the children were briefed and shown the dance routine they needed to perform. In fact, the first group had already been called into the audition room. Luckily, there was a second group waiting... and 3 other girls of Kakak's dance school were part of it. Fuh... lega.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe girls practised their routine in the corridor, and were kind enough to show Kakak the steps. Being Kakak, she wasn't really serious in practising and gettign it all right, rather busy playing with Adik.

Soon, they were called in.

Half an hour later, a group of girls came out. They were all dismissed. Kakak was still in the room though. Her friends told mummy, Kakak cried because she couldn't do the dance routine! We sort of knew that was going to happen... when she wasn't that bother to practice and be serious before she went in. But her friends said, Kakak was however, asked to do other routine that she knew of...

About 20 minutes later, a lady-in-charge came out and asked all parents of children who were still in the room to go in. So, mummy went. A few minutes later, they came out.
Kakak got the part!

Hang on a minute.... she couldn't do the dance routine and cried. But was shown and asked to do other routines (of which she did fine indeed).... and got the part. We felt that, her friends were somehow 'cheated'. Yet, a late girl who didn't know the routine, cried... and got it. In fact, a couple of them were indeed really good in their routine. Well, the casting panel might have different views of which we'll never know. We're not complaining....

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAnyway, rehearsal for the panto will commence in November, and the show will start in December > Cinderella.

WELL DONE !!! again...

Friday, July 01, 2005


Ever heard of Julian Beever?

He's an English artist famous in Europe for his pavement art. What's so special about his art is that he drew it in complete distorted form, meant to be viewed only from a certain direction and angle... which would transform the flat 2-dimensional image into amazing 3D.

Here are some:
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But, if you view it from a 'wrong' direction and angle... it looks very odd, like this one:

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which suppose to look like this (from the right spot/angle):


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Great eh?


I might have told this before elsewhere.

One summer day last year, a Malaysian friend who was then living in a flat ('apartment' for non-british) in Edgware Road, Central London spotted smoke coming from a flat below his. It was mid-morning in this rather affluent neighbourhood mainly dwells by Arabs.

Instantaneously, without any hesitation, he leaned out from his window and shouted on top of his lung:

FIRE!!!! FIRE!!!!