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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Life After 5

First of all I would like to apologize for the long silence, a week blessed with whimsical birthday cakes and favours for me to do. But I am back and hopefully long enough to serenade your quite time with more of my chimerical syok sendiri stories.


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Life in the US started only after 5pm for all of us especially for my roommate Lisa. After the gruelling 9 to 5 workshop we untied our aprons, wiggled the flour from our clothes, straightened our crooked face and headed on to the nearest shopping Malls. The shuttle bus service would only take us to places within a 5 minute drive from the hotel, hence the visit to the same mall almost every night. The Americans take pride in their big Malls, confident we have seen nothing as fancy as what they presented before our eyes. We pleaded to differ and they were quite surprised to learn we come from a country which malls are accepted as the second home, well for most of us.

Since money was not something we brought in abundance, window shopping was the only thing to do. The only shop that did damage to our pockets was the DOLLAR XTREME SHOP. Purchases after purchases of fridge magnets, key chains, souvenirs for relatives and friends were made everytime we walked by the shop. Most items were made in China and as much as we tried to buy American made stuff, it became a feat frivolous to attempt.

Some things did come cheaper like children's clothes and most of the branded items. However food wise it was dollar to ringgit there. For example, Mcdonald's burgers were around 5 dollars each, about the same as the ringgit price here. A vegetarian "kebab like" wrap costs a whopping 7 dollars which mind bogglingly is more expensive than a meaty one. Tapi apakan daya itu saja yang boleh dimakan, itulah yang kami pesan. Anyway, after our fourth consecutive order for a vegetarian wrap at the same shop, the Asian guy behind the counter looked at us in bewilderment.

" Why do you people order Kosher food? Why not try our chicken range or our steaks" Lisa who was in shivers due to the lack of protein in her diet squealed "...that's because we have to be vegetarian when we travel since the meat are not halal here" That Asian guy was forming more lines on his forehead when he couldn't understand our predicaments. He continued "...I am a muslim of course the meat here is halal!" We gulped and looked at each other before we screamed "...why didn't you tell us so? arghhhhhhhhh!"

Jet lagged, we roamed the hotel premise looking for something to do. When everyone else was sleeping the three of us would be chuckling away in the gym or at the pool table or in the game room. Lots of quaters were swallowed and lost in the event of entertaining a bunch of thirty year old kids. And I played pool for the first time too, well, more like arranging the balls into the arrangement which suited my fancy,to the horror of the experienced pool players Lisa and Chef. And I did it when they were looking wee hee hee.

On some days when the sun was lending its rays a little longer, we took the opportunity to try our luck at the miniature golf course. At a glance, the course looked terribly easy, a one cough terus masuk lubang kinda impression. Dengan penuh aksyen, kami pun memukul bola itu, sekali...dua kali...tiga kali....empat kali pun tak masuk2 ha ha ha. Kali ke enam baru la terhegeh2 bola tu tergolek masuk. Chef came a bit later and when he saw our struggle he shook his head and yanked the kayu golf lalu cuba menunjukkan how silly we were. Akan tetapi apa yang ditunjukkan hanyalah cara2 "Bagaimana Untuk Memalukan Diri Sendiri Dengan Pukulan Yang Jauh Lebih Banyak" mwahahahaha.

We worked hard and played hard and that granted us the reason to savour moments spent here at The Hilton Indian Lakes Resort Bloomingdale.

Our comfortable room with huge springy beds

Monday, October 19, 2009

That Thing We Do

"Why were you there exactly?" someone who was obviously tired of reading my endless sedih entries, questioned me impatiently. I almost laughed when I saw the exasperation on her face, uncertain if I was injecting suspense to the way I write or boredom instead. Truthfully, I am savouring every single detail of my trip, unwilling to let the memoir melt down on me like an ice cream on a hot Sunday afternoon. I am still in my dreams folks, unawakened by the reality, so do pinch me, every time I go astray ;o).

As all might have guessed, my travel to the States was to pursue knowledge on cake decorating with the Sugarflours Team. We, like the rest of the other international cake enthusiasts there, participated head to head, shoulder to shoulder kneading our way to complete the teachers' training course before we were conferred the PME Trainer's certificate. The modules had our sleeves rolled up from 9 to 5 with an hour lunch break in between. It was one week of hard labour for the Malaysian contingent, with us trying to acclimatize to the weather and different time zone. We were at most times walking deep in our slumber with our eyes wide opened building cakes and constructing royal icing bridges. The most difficult part was to stay awake during the round up sessions. I almost dozed and fell off my chair on one occasion.

All in all it was a wonderful opportunity to rub shoulders with established cake decorators whose work have constantly left me gawking and gaping online. But through an event such as this, I was privileged to meet and talk to them personally, exchanging ideas on a subject which is dearest to us. Therefore I would like to take this opportunity to extend my heartiest gratitude and appreciation to participants from Argentina, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, India, United Kingdom, Canada, Spain and the United States for their support and friendship. I am humbled by the professionalism and the hospitality shown.

Below are glimpses on "That thing we do"

Watie looking delighted with the Sugarflours name tag. This was our formidable looking work station. It shouted "serious work only" Yikes!...Yawn...


My roses are not as dainty as Lisa's the instructor. Maybe because she is English, yes, that's why. But my hibiscus isn't any better either ha ha ha.

Glorious food, vegetarian food! Sayur -stir fried, blanched, boiled, souped, sandwiched, and mashed, presented in all forms imaginable. To compensate we bagged the cookies and crisps home.


We had to say "cheese" in all the participants' languages. Keju included. So the Malaysian contingent pouted their lips to mouth "kejuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu" for the camera!

Stay tune to "That thing we do too" next folks!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Home Away From Home


As everyone adjourned to their respective kampungs and hometowns for Hari Raya, we too were transported to a kampung far far away. A place so alien to the eyes, a weather so foreign to the face, would be our temporary home for this leg of the journey. This is a kampung unlike any other, located about 45 minutes drive to Chicago, situated in a replica ambiance of Wisteria Lane, which saw us ooooing and aaahing at every erected structure. Looking at those lovely homes reminded us so much of our own...which might not be as pretty or as beautiful but it is where this heart cozily resides.



Our first impression of USA was met with our expectations of it being all spruced up just like the street of Desperate housewives. We bumped into a few Susans, Brees and Lynettes minding their chores or walking their dogs but never a sight of Mike fixing a household. sigh! ;o) I took a 360 degree turn to enjoy the welcoming view of the entire Kampung, appreciating the presence of a friend who like me felt the experience was too surreal. The landscape was preparing itself to usher Autumn, the temperature was decreasing, the leaves were falling and we were freezing.



It was drizzling on the first day at Kampung Bloomingdale. But that did not deter us from trampling on the fallen leaves leaving our footprints on the sidewalks. We dashed to the nearest grocery store, raced to the nearby lake and skipped all the way back. Everything was almost in a walking distance from our hotel but when the temperature dropped too drastically we would take the free shuttle service provided by the hotel. Selepas tahu mengenai perkhidmatan percuma itu, tidaklah kami dengan kurang bijaknya berjalan kesejukan lagi.



We took refuge in Kampung Bloomingdale folks... it was our home away from home.



Bloomingdale

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Leaving On A Jetplane

I wished I could tell all, relate every thought on my mind, every emotion in my heart, every ache on my soles. I was trying very hard to remember every single detail, so hard sometimes I forgot to just immerse myself in the moment. This was the journey of my wildest dreams, too wild for a tamed, subdued person like me. Who would have thought a home baker, a self employed worker, a self proclaimed manager be given the opportunity to fly out to a country which was never in her "to do list" in the first place. United States of America was as good as any country in this world spun on the blue globe. It was just there for me to point out with my index finger but never to venture.

The journey commenced the moment we had to apply for the elusive American visa. It wasn't easy folks, even harder for my friend Lisa who had to spend days filling up the unnecessary forms which required details like the information on all our siblings. So just imagine our chef who had more than 10! Honestly, we never dared to harbour high hopes to actually make it to the land of the free. There were too many bumps along the way which were disheartening to the soul. Lisa's handbag was stolen together with our visa receipts, Chef and Watie's husband's visas were not approved till the very last minute, not to mention the reluctance of our spouses and children to allow us to make this trip. The days prior to the departure were just as eventful, but I was glad for the experience, good and bad were swallowed
with of a glass of self reflection.



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I thought I had a good plan, which was to make myself cry days before the trip in hope to cry less at the airport. It failed miserably. I had to leave my kids and husband on Raya eve, unthinkable for many, unforgivable for me. After rounds of kisses and tight embraces I had to break free to descend the escalator to board my flight. It was then it rained tears on me. I couldn't look back for fear of losing my composure. But I did anyway, right before their images disappear from my cloudy vision. I flanked my hands and blew kisses, so many, that it was difficult for my son to catch and keep them in his pockets. My daughter just cried uncontrollably, my husband...he wrote me the most beautiful sms ever as he was too tight a throat to say it himself. Oh sedihnya saya masa tu Tuhan saja yang tahu.


Since our visas were only approved at the 11th hour, we didn't get to reserve good tickets for our flight. Dah jadi macam naik bas loncat, the difference was the journey occupied almost 29 hours of our time. We arrived at Changi Airport via Japan Airline around 10pm and had to wait till 6am the next day to fly to Hong Kong with United Airlines pulak. The transit was very trying for us, kami seperti orang2 yang kepenatan dan kehilangan arah meandering all over the place. In the end we slept on the airport's carpeted floor beralaskan bag makanan, bag tangan dan siku. Berlinanglah air mata pada keesokan harinya when Syawal was received by just us dusting the dust and the dirt from our pants. After a quick rendang tok and nasi impit breakfast we boarded the next flight to Hong Kong before the final 16 hour one straight to Chicago O'hare Airport.


For those who have travelled with Malaysian Airlines before, flying with another foreign carrier felt as if you are chained onto your seat as a bandit ready to be transported to a god forsaken prison. The leg room was small, the seats weren't as comfy, the facilities were limited. No tv screen at each seat, the food was bland and the cabin crew wasn't as helpful and friendly. Being constrained in our seats with a typhoon somewhere in Japan to propel through and 16 hours to count down didn't ease our discomfort either. Masa nilah all of us appreciated our national carrier, "bestnya kalau naik MAS" was on our thoughts most of the time. I noticed we sometimes have the tendency of belittling anything Malaysian but surprisingly on this particular trip I became the opposite. I discovered being Malaysian is a privilege, a birthright you should cherish and take pride in. I have never been more proud to be a Malaysian, I was representing my country in my own little way.


...and so, after much turbulence, endless doa's, countless visits to the loo, coffee breaks, tea time, orange juice moments and vegetarian food consumptions, we finally made it to Chicago, United States of America! Alhamdulillah.




to be continued.


Lisa the jet setter and chef the lone walker

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Surprise!

There I was standing, as hard as for me to believe it, on a foreign soil on the first day of Syawal. The resonance of takbir didn't permeate the air that day and it never left our hearts either. We have been reciting it, humming quietly in our little corner almost throughout the 29hour journey. It was the one and only reminder of Syawal since the rest of the world was not clad in baju melayu and baju kurung neither was the world splashed in Raya colours we were missing to see.

In between casual chats and jokes amongst the three of us, quiet moments seemed to fill what seemed to be the longest flight ever. During those times I could see eyes gleaming as well as glowing, a mixture of bitter and sweet, a combination of pride and sorrow. The three of us were huddled there for a reason, a reason we neglectfully ceased to remember, the one which suddenly changed the melancholic sound of our takbir to a... victorious one.

We managed to pull ourselves together folks...simply because we were there to win a wholesome of knowledge!

So come and join me in this journey of self betterment in hope you are also able feel and see the picturesque views from the angle of an amateur Rm399 camera owner. The pictures captured will never do justice to the true beauty of the places but they are still a spectacle to cherish nevertheless.

Another journey to write about with Lisa my trip organizer and chef my mental torturer he he he who will grace most of the pages here. All this made possible by the sweetest individual ever Watie, as sweet as the name she concocted for her little rendezvous in Bangi. My heartfelt thanks to all of them.

Our little raya spread prepared by chef's wife and Lisa's mum savoured with a bite of guilt and a gulp of rindu in the morn of Raya at Changi Airport.