Thursday, December 22, 2016

Human Rights Training In Jakarta

I came back from Jakarta over a week ago and my office's jobs piled up my head till I had terrible mental block. It was like a revenge for going away to China and Indonesia for too long. Today I feel almost back to track with my demanding work and strict Japanese clients who actually help to keep me on my toes.

I was happy and honoured to be invited by my old friend Peter Tan, to be his P.A. and accompany him to attend the recent ASEAN Secretariat Human Rights Training where he was invited to speak in their workshop. My friend Peter had come a long way after his swimming pool tragedy when he was only 18 years old, where he had dived at the shallow end by mistake and suffered from serious spinal cord injury which affected his limbs and mobility. He has struggled a lot to adapt to his fate and needs to use a wheel chair all his life. We lost touch briefly after I went to US and he got married later to a lovely banker wife who has a heart of gold. She was busy lately and unable to accompany him for this trip, so I tagged along instead.




1. We had a quick lunch at KLIA as we didn't expect MAS to serve us
lunch for this short 2 hours flight to Jakarta. Our friendship spans over
30 years today and it was very good to catch up again.




2. It was an eye opener to understand how passengers like Peter, with
special needs are being escorted to their seats in the aeroplane
using the special very narrow wheel chair, provided by the airlines.
Sadly, our AA do not have this special wheelchairs till now.



3. In Jakarta, the airport's personnel in pink uniform wheeled my
friend Peter from the plane all the way through immigration, baggage
claims until he got into the taxi to our hotel. I just tailed behind
and jumped through all the long queues too. Yay!



4. We stayed at this trendy upscale part of Jakarta City where
I could not see the slums or cardboard houses like my previous trip.
There are so many security and policemen guarding the city.
They strictly DO NOT ALLOW any photography of any buildings
yet I took them to share with you all. LOL





5. We stayed at this fabulous JW Marriott Hotel which has the
best and friendliest 5 Star services I had ever experienced.
Trust me, their services are really top notch.



6. The whole neighbourhood is very swanky with beautiful
buildings yet they stopped me from taking photos!
I should be sharing good things since I am not
a threat or terrorist.

7. One for the album by the Christmas Tree inside
the JW Marriot in Jakarta.




8. My room's window overlooked The Ritz Carlton Hotel
on the left.



9. Their F&B manager personally escorted my friend around the
restaurant and briefed him on all the exotic and delicious food.



10. I was not surprised that Japan has voted this hotel as
The Best Hotel in whole Asia! The photo is the Japanese award.




11. The whole buffet spread from breakfast to lunch and dinner
were all fantastic and good.



12. I had lots of fried pork bacons for breakfast!




13. At the 3 day event of ASEAN Secretariat Human Rights Training,
they focused on the Human Rights Mechanisms/Systems and Disability Awareness.
One excellent speaker HE. Dr Seree Nonthasoot from Thailand
shared many important demographics on the plight and needs of the disabled
population around the world. The other invited speakers touched
on other important issues too.



14. His slides pointed out that China has the highest number of
85 million disabled people! That is way higher than our whole
population of Malaysia.




15. Indonesia's disabled population is over 6 million people yet
there is so much to be done to create awareness to provide all
the assistance for the population with special needs in all
the areas from toilets, road accessibilities, public transports
and every where. I always paid attention to these issues ever
since my friend suffered from his spinal cord injury.




 16. It was Peter's turn to speak together with his partner from Laos.
He is Samnieng Thammavong who suffers from polio.



17. They gave an interesting question to all the participants.
It was an easy question, yet they were tongue tied before
giving various answers. I myself learnt something from this.
What is Disability and Where is Disability?







18. The whole group of participants from Asean countries took a farewell photo.
Yours truly sat on the floor at Peter's feet.



19. This place is the departure gate at the Soekarno–Hatta International Airport
which looks cosy! The flight home gave me a new opener on the issues
of the many people with special needs around us. Japan has one of the
best facilities in the world for their aging population which is
growing very fast. Someday, we will all grow very old and weak
where we need to have the right and proper facilities.
I am wondering whether our country will be ready
for my future needs?




Peter Tan is now a weekly columnist at
Borneo Post. You read his articles HERE.



****



Monday, December 5, 2016

Attractions Of Silk Road - Xi'an & Dunhuang

Yesterday I have just returned from China after being away for 10 days. I have experienced very cold winters and seen many new eye openers which were captured in over 1000 photographs. Honestly I am still mentally tired after the long train rides and flight home. In a few days, I will be off to Jakarta for a few days on my good friend's invitation. So I decided to post just some preview photos here before I find quality time to sort the photographs and compile them for your reading pleasure.

  
Greetings from our room at Ramada Hotel in Xi'an.
It takes 5 hours by plane from Kuala Lumpur to reach
Xi'an at the Shaanxi Province. The temperature was
like averagely High 7C and Low -3C.




 We took their normal train ride from Xi'an to reach Dunhuang
which is a very ancient city at the Silk Road journey. The train
took us 24 hours each way. Lots of sceneries of mountains,
farms and melted snow along Gobi Desert. Their average freezing
temperature was like High -3C and Low -7C. Dunhuang is
located in the Gansu Province.



This map illustrates the journey from Xi'an to Dunhuang.




 It was a very memorable trip to see the ancient Mogao Caves which we
had talked for many years. We also visited the Mingshan Mountains
and rode camels across the desert!




We took the miserable train back to Xi'an and spent 3 days
visiting the places & temples we have missed since our last trip in 2014.
We enjoyed riding bicycle around the entire city wall of Xi'an
and saw all the tall skyscrapers in the big city within 2 hours.
Xi'an City was the first capital of China and was better
known as Chang'an with a population of over 4.5 million
inside the crowded city itself! This is the most highly 
recommended place to visit after having visited
Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chengde, Chengdu, Nanjing,
Jiuhuashan, Suzhou, Emei Shan and others!


*****


Friday, October 14, 2016

My father's Dementia - A Painful Truth

It has been exactly 2.5 months since my father passed away and it seems like many years have passed so swiftly. I have moved on with my life but with a heavy heart whenever my happiest memories flashed back to rekindle the good times. I am always thankful to my beloved parents for giving me the best upbringing any child could wish for. I want you all to be healthy always, so I will share this awareness post below.

I have been yearning to share with everyone on my personal experience, coping with both my parent's illnesses, on their final days until the funeral preparations. I am always thankful that my wife indirectly got me into becoming a volunteer at Hospis which taught me tremendously, the ways to provide palliative care to all the terminally ill patients who became my friends before they all passed away. These lessons eventually gave me the insight and strengths to provide the best support, care and comfort for both my beloved parents' final journey. Suddenly I became very loud and bold in the watsap chat with my older siblings on all the procedures and eventually went ahead to plan the exact details on how we should handle a dead body according to the Buddhist rites including the funeral arrangements.



My dashing father who swooned many ladies in town.


My late father was a very handsome and healthy man all his life. He worked with the forensics of the government's Chemistry Lab to handle all the very serious narcotic cases in the northern states of Malaysia. He became an expert in all liquid chemical stuffs after being sent to United Kingdom under the scholarship of the Colombo Plan. Naturally he was extremely fussy on his food consumption and preferred home cooked meals which meant healthier food. As a cheeky kid, I often had to sneak out and buy the 'dirty' hawker's fruit rojaks and iced waters which he often raged out on the toxic dyes and saccharine contained. My father was a better known public figure in my hometown for all his charitable contributions and fund raising projects, helping his closest allies like Honda's tycoon Tan Sri Loh Boon Siew and Datuk Seri Tan Hoay Eam, to build & manage the homes for the old folks and cerebral palsy handicapped children for many decades.


  
His earlier ballroom days with a partner during competitions.


At the same time, his greatest passion and love for dancing had created his legendary name in the whole ballroom dance circles after winning a Gold Medal from the Royal Ballroom Dancing School in London. He often waltzed and tangoed his nights away with my beloved mother during their retirement years. The famous E&O Hotel gave my parents the honour of a complimentary lifetime F&B coverage each time they patronized their dance floors. Later years, the Hollywood's movie producers were tipped off and approached my father to help out in their filming set of the famous "Anna & The King". He just had to coach the actors Chow Yuen Fatt to waltz beautifully with his partner, actress Jodie Foster in the sequel of the Thai King dancing inside his palace. My Thai-born mother who hailed from Bangkok's Samutprakan village, was a very staunch loyalist of the Thai Royalties, owing to her family's direct connections with the Grand Palace, therefore my father had to respect and decline the glamorous task to coach the 2 famous movie stars. This movie was naturally banned in Thailand.

When my father's age approached the mid 70s, his health was still strong but his brains started to slow down which showed signs of memory loss. He started to forget names, places and often drove the car alone in circles until he lost his way home. Visits to doctors finally confirmed that he had developed "Dementia" which was an alien word to me. I read up a lot about this and watched documentaries on these dementia patients. The doctors at Hospis had cautioned us to get prepared that my father would eventually suffer the worst when his brains could no longer send anymore signals to all his strong & able limbs. Fast forward to his advanced dementia stage, he could no longer remember how to bathe, use the toilet, wear his clothes, eat, walk and even talk! The worst scenario was he could no longer recognize all his children and family on most occasions, therefore he was often very frightened as he was completely confused, lost and drawn into his own world. The last stage would be, his brains could no longer signal his body to receive food and any liquid. His throat and lungs would often get stuck & choked until we had to admit him to the ICU several times to drain out everything. One doctor had warned me that he would eventually die of hunger as his body would reject everything including hospital's bottled drips! It was so painful to watch him slowly fading off even though he had no terminal sickness or whatsoever pain.




Before my poor father passed away eventually, my wife and I had attended a special talk by a university's professor about dementia to learn about its history, causes and preventive measures. I was very-very shocked that Aluminium is very harmful and directly damages the human's brain cells!!! My next blog topic will share the hazardous details of aluminium and Dementia's story. Stay tuned, be healthy and don't curse me please. LOL.




Warning: Food wrapped by Aluminium Foils.



****


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Good Bye To My Parents

The journey of life is not always a path of roses and happiness. The world is enveloped with the balance of night & day, happiness & sadness and birth & deaths, eventually.

My dearest mother left us in March 2015 and my father joined my mother in August last month. They have been the most loving couple I have seen as they had never quarreled even once and were inseparable. 

My family made a trip to our hometown in Penang last week to fulfill my parents wishes to conduct the internment of their ashes into the sea. 




 It was a beautiful morning from the windows of my room
at Evergreen Laurel Hotel @ Gurney Drive.




 We arrived at the quiet and tranquil beach of Teluk Bahang
where no tourists would swim here. I fetched 2 monks to bless
and conduct the internment ceremony.




My family, siblings and their families boarded the chartered boat.




I brought along an ice box full of jasmine with rose petals.
My parents loved flowers and we always had beautiful flowers
in the gardens of the homes we had lived.




After some chanting and prayers by the monks, the older
siblings had to pour both our parents' ashes into the sea.
My sister wept throughout the whole journey as she is
the oldest child who was naturally the closest and well pampered
by my parents. When you become the youngest child in the family,
you will notice that you have the least photographs of yourself in the
family albums, naturally. They also spoke lesser to me!!
Muahahahaha!



........Good Bye to my parents......




 My parents are reunited again in the Land of Eternity.




 Thank you very much to my parents for giving me the 
happiest memories!




 Our hearts were very sad and heavy. 
We had to return to the land and life moves on.






******






Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Goodbye My Dearest Father

My dearest father has left us forever. It was Monday 1st August when I went to visit my father in the hospital. It was about 5.30pm when I arrived his ward and noticed that his hands were very swollen. My heart sank as I knew that his time was nearing the end. I had seen many terminally ill cancer patients from my volunteer days where their bodies and organs had all gradually shut down till the last stage where the water retention would appear. I snapped his photos and sent to my siblings who made a dash to the hospital.




I held my father's hand and it was very cold like ice. I stroke his warm forehead and combed his hair with my fingers softly. I held his hands very tightly and started chanting all the Buddhist mantras, knowing that it would help him go in peace. I promptly walked out of the room and visited my friend in the next ward. My old friend had suffered from a major heart attack and was critical. I chatted with him a bit and cheered him up, not to fear of his sickly condition. My phoned beeped and I saw the message from my sister - "Dad is gone...."




The night was very long as we had to do so much preparations for the funeral. I had booked for the special funeral package last year and it was a real breeze as their professional team handled all the necessary and meticulous details. The most important duty when someone dies is the timing of its soul emerging out of their bodies. It would need between 6 to 9 hours for the soul to rise up and they often felt suffering and lost to experience their own soul tearing out of their bodies. This is the most crucial time when we need to be at their side and chant prayers to seek divine's blessing to help their journey out. My brave and fearless wife walked into the morgue of the funeral parlour alone and stood beside my father's body. She chanted the whole sutra book of Bodhisattva Di ZangWang to ferry my father's soul for over 1 hour. She stood in the middle of several bodies and coffins alone! I believe the other souls also benefited along.




  The funeral wake was held for 3 days and 2 nights.





*****


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Chinese Taoism Funeral

My old friend Crystal passed away about 2 months ago after a big battle with breast cancer that eventually spread all over till her lungs collapsed. She was brave and fought hard till the end knowing that her survival chances were slim. She requested for no life support or medications to prolong her suffering anymore. She knew that her big supportive family members had been showering all their love and attention but she could no longer bear to see them suffer as well. Her 7 loving nephews and nieces were like her own children that she never had. Her final requests was to have the fullest & elaborate Chinese Taoist funeral in accordance to the Hokkien clan's rites. She wanted her funeral wakes to include the Taoism-Buddhist prayers, happy band singing, big loud drummers, paper mansion and street funeral band procession on her funeral day. Crystal wanted to be sent off happily and in style. I was very amused when her family member told me that. It was just her, who always enjoyed the merrily songs and dance.

My friendship with her went back to the late 80s when I was the wildest party animal who went clubbing many nights weekly in Penang. My own clubbing nights were often at the popular Rasa Sayang Hotel's Cinta Discotheque and also Orchard Hotel's The Cinnamon Tree along the coastal areas. Crystal loved the discotheque scenes where she could shake & dance cha-cha very well. She was tall and stood at 5' 10' with a very sweet face which attracted many friends who enjoyed her companionship of an often shy & girl-next-door's giggles covering her mouth. My best friend fell madly in love with her older sister instead and went on hot pursuit to woo her! So my gang of monkeys went clubbing with the 2 sisters as well. Later on, Crystal got acceptance to study at University Science Malaysia and told me that her dancing days were over as she had to focus seriously on her studies! The following year, I left for United States and my best friend married her older sister during my absence. Over the years I did not keep in touch with Crystal but we met just once when I drove over to her house to meet my best friend.

I am sharing this long post of her funeral which might interest some readers from different religious faiths and foreign countries. The 48 photos below will illustrate how a typical Chinese Taoist funeral rites are conducted.


FUNERAL WAKE @ HOME



1. The funeral wake was held for 3 nights at her family home.
The casket was placed inside the living room.




2. Her graduation photo was placed on the altar at the end
of her casket and flanked by a pair of paper "male & female servants"
who will serve her in the after world.




3. The prayer altar was set up outside the house with the
scrolls of the Taoism deities.




4. The family ordered this custom made 'Paper Mansion" which would be enjoyed
by the deceased in the next life.




5. There were many boxes of  "money" and " treasures" that
would be burnt later that midnight.



6. Close-up view of the entrance to her mansion. There was
a uniformed guard at the door with some kitchen utensils to use.




7. They also ordered some movies and CD songs with a Flat Screen TV and
satellite TV service! Wow!




8. They served many types of delicious nyonya kuehs and hot black coffee
for the visitors and well wishers. They also had a fabulous chef on
duty to fry yummy Char Kueh Teow for everyone. We all enjoyed
eating and chatting with friends to rekindle the good days.




9. My wife had never met Crystal but she promptly sat down to
chant the whole prayers from the sutra book of DiZang Wang Bodhisattva
to dedicate the merits to Crystal for a good journey.





10. My wife had notified the nephews and nieces to observe the 3 joss sticks
that she had placed on the urn at the start of her long prayers. They were told
that when the 3 joss sticks started to burn at different lengths all the way down,
it would signify an auspicious journey.




11. The brood of nephews and nieces were so excited to see the 3 joss sticks
had really reached the auspicious lengths as per the website's photo above.
The soul of Crystal "communicated" with her older sister who gave their assurance
for her to go in peace to the better realms.




12. The band started to sing some happier songs that final night.




13. The Taoist Monk in yellow robe conducted long prayers and
rituals together with the entire family members.



14. The Taoist Monk led the family members to cross over the
mini heavenly bridge.




15. The niece carried the urn with lighted joss
stick to represent the deceased.




16. At midnight, they placed all the paper offerings, money, treasures and
mansion at the cross junction near the house to burn them all.




17. When all the paper offerings were burnt, it would be sent
instantly to the "after world".




18. The paper mansion being set on fire.



FUNERAL DAY



19. An altar was set up outside the house with food and fruit
offerings before the funeral at 2.00pm.




20. The clothes and shoes of Crystal were placed on the chair
with her paper effigy attached. Her clothes & shoes had her DNA.




21. The band sang their final happy songs that could be heard
in the whole neighbourhood.




22. The paper sedan chair was prepared ready to carry 
Crystal's soul which would make its way to the crematorium.




23. It was a very sad moment to have their last look at
their youngest sibling Crystal and bade farewell.
They have 6 siblings and Crystal was a very caring sister
who spent a lot of time doing long prayers before she was sick.
She often showered all her family members with her generous
gifts. They all loved her so much! This made me wonder why
good and kind people always died so young?
Karma Rules.




24. 2 sets of drummers hammered their last thunderous numbers
in front of the casket.




25. Her effigy had been placed on the sedan chair outside
by the road sides.




26.  The Taoist Monk conducted the final rites before
the funeral ceremony.




27. The casket was placed outside the house, right behind the
altar and the hearse transport.




28. The back of hearse transport.




29. The front view of the funeral hearse.




30. All the family members and friends paid their last respects
to the deceased.





31. The funeral cortege left the house and all the mourners walked for
some 2 kilometers away before boarding the chartered buses.




32. The sombre funeral procession.




33. The funeral street band followed by the Taoist Monk
and the sedan chair.


CREMATORIUM




34. The final place - United Hokkien Cemeteries.




35. This is the foyer area of the crematorium.




36. The coffin was placed outside the entrance to the
cremation chamber.



37. The drummer giving his final beatings on the big drum
for a good send off.




38. Final rites conducted by the Taoist Monk before
the cremation starts.




39. The body was cremated inside the chamber while the Taoist 
Monk led the family members to the open space to send off the
soul.



40. The family members circled the sedan chair with prayers
before lighting it on fire.




41. The final send off.




42. This terrace, houses all the other urns at the columbarium.




43. There was a food canteen with the comforts of air cond
and dining tables for the mourners and well wishers.
They served white porridge with dishes for our lunch.




44. This is a common sight at Chinese funerals where they
would place a bucket of fresh water with petals of assorted
flowers. The colourful and pretty flowers are always believed 
to contain good frequencies.
This water would be used to wipe our hands and faces
to help purify & brighten up our well being after attending
funerals which are deemed as "Yin" occasions.



COLLECTING ASHES @ COLUMBARIUM




45. The funeral undertakers had collected the ashes and placed
them inside the metal pan for the family to sort out.




46. The ashes have been sorted out and arranged inside the white
marble urn. The undertaker sealed it with glue and tied with a 
red fabric ribbon.



47. The Taoist Monk conducted a special prayer to bless the new
niche to place the urn. This columbarium was inside another
temple grounds of another location in Penang.




"May Her Soul Rest In Peace
In The Land Of Eternity."


****



Selamat Hari Raya at Hospital

Today is the first day of Hari Raya and I have been admitted to hospital since Monday. It was just my usual next appointment for the new ...