Wanderlusting Sabah (Malaysia) – Part I

I have heard Sabah is a wonderful place but I have never been there. The excuses were lame; it’s far, it’s on the other side of the South China Sea (I live in the peninsular) and the flight expenses will cost me an arm and a leg.

But I have a sister doing a master’s degree in Botanical Studies (she’s an expert in orchids) and had been staying there for the past 7 years.

One fine day, I just bit the bullet and tell her that I was coming. I cannot tell myself the same excuses again.

She was over the moon and set up my itinerary asap.

This is the very scene she sees every morning from her faculty in Universiti Malaysia Sabah. See that? That is the South China Sea. Who in the world would refuse is view? This fine wind? For the first time I understood why she wanted to stay.

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The first stop was the tip of Borneo. Not kidding. The very tip.

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I haven’t heard of it but I trust my sister.

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Oh, the open sea. So this is it?

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Oooooooooooooooh..so many people!

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See that flat rock immersed with water? That’s the tip of Borneo. My heart was pumping real hard. I see that many people were climbing down the ridge. I was not wearing an appropriate thing for climbing so I had my doubts.

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It looked jagged and rocky and my clothes would be turned to shreds but I have no fear for bleeding bottom. It’s the tip of Borneo, for God’s sake. Many people wished they were here and I was there worrying about my clothes.

So be it.

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This was how it looked from below. Nothing happened actually. My clothes and dignity were intact. I was worried for nothing!

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So I just hang out on the tip of Borneo until my sister told me it’s time to go.

I wished I didn’t have to.

Wanderlusting Cambodia – Part I

I am quite obsessed with History. When I was about 11, I found a thick book telling all about a king called Suryavarman II and it was said he was one of most brilliant king of an empire.

Then I thought maybe I ought to see the empire, or what’s left of it.

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It was a beautiful day. Perfect for sight seeing. Siem Reap was a short journey from Kuala Lumpur. We took off at about 6 AM.

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The first sight was not unfamiliar since I live in a paddy planting state but there is always something foreign in first sight of another unfamiliar territory.

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I couldn’t barely sleep on the first day because the next day at 4 AM I would be scaling the stairs, touching the delicately carved walls, skipping in the old court, inhaling the dust of the ruins of Angkor Archaeological Park.

It was like waiting to unwrap the gift that I ever wanted all my whole life.

Wanderlusting India – Part I

Whoever in this world thought India is awesome? I don’t know about you but I had paintings of Taj Mahal on my walls just whispering my name. I just had about enough when I chose to relent.

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Real fancy, right? This is the train from the airport. See that arc, with flashing color? You can immediately see where you at, in case you could not understand the announcement 🙂 That little thing actually made my day.

Just in case you’re wondering I was in New Delhi.

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I think the Red Fort is awesome. The architecture reminds me of some mosques in Kuala Lumpur, also not to mention Taj Mahal.

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Just tell me why a girl would not stop here? Why?

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I loved that cows walk around like a bad@ass. In Rajastan you can see camels too, walking about not giving a rat’s @ss of the traffic jam they caused.

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In some country, this would be considered dangerous and probably illegal. Not here, not ever.

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Just tell me what marvelous sight do you wish upon a star tonight?

When it did come true, please remember to breathe. 

Long and deep, that’s the key.

Madrid Memories – Part I

I don’t know when will I see them again but this was taken in 2008. Curiously I did not feel the same emotions when I was there the first time in 2005. Everything was different; the vibe, the people, etc. Maybe because the crisis was upon the horizon and people’s head was swarming with misery.

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I loved the bear at Sol. I wondered why it was there. He’s like an important symbol but my teachers at the language school never mentioned it.

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I loved the Metro of Madrid. It’s more spacious and cleaner than the one in Barcelona or even Rome and Paris. But the one that I found better than this one is BTS of Bangkok.

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It’s fascinating how much people loved cured ham of Spain. There’s even a ‘museum’ dedicated to it. I managed to stand at the entrance but cannot cooperate my body inside. I find the stench unbearable 😦

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TABAC, as they said. I bought my monthly Metro pass here. The teller did not speak English and I have very few Spanish vocabulary at that time but we managed with a lot of sign language, miming and a bit of yelling. There were a lot of improvisation too and the customers that came later did their bit of hand gestures until I understood.

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I bought several second hand books here for less than 2 Euros. You can find old stamps, old sketches and many priceless memorabilia. This very same narrow way also lead to another place.

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The one, the only, the famous Plaza Mayor 🙂 I went here so many times along with some other exchange students. Most of them are Turkish, Polish and Hungarian. They made me sing a famous Malay pop song on top of my lungs here. I never thought I could miss a country by singing a decade old love song that I don’t even like in the first place.

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Nahid Ramazanov, one of the exchange students from Istanbul had a friend working here and he bought us lunch. It was amazing, rambunctious room filled with laughter and people in 2005 but by summer 2008 no one was there, the food was quite bland and there was almost a heavy dread on the shoulders of the server.

I wonder if it was a good idea to return to a place that you once knew. I wanted to remember Madrid as a place I once belonged, full of beautiful people and dreamy, rustic, citrusy summer but I can’t.

I can only hope for the charm of the third try.

Collection of Words I

1) We may affirm absolutely that nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.

[Hegel, 1832]

2) Men for the sake of getting a living, forget to live.

[Margaret Fuller, 1810-1850]

3) There is the greatest practical benefit in making a few failures early in life.

[T. H. Huxley]

4) You will make all kinds of mistakes but as long as you are generous and true and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her.

[Sir Winston Churchill]

5) If you want to win anything – a race, yourself, your life – you have to go a little berserk!

[George Sheehan]

6) You are beaten to earth?

Well, well what’s that?

Come up with a smiling face,

It’s nothing against you

to fall down flat

But to lie there – that’s a disgrace.

[Edmund Cooke]

7) There are 2 things to aim in life: First to get what you want and after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieves the second.

[Logan Pearsall Smith]

8) Don’t play for safety – it’s the most dangerous thing in the world.

[Hugh Walpole]

9) Have no fear for perfection – You’ll never reach it.

[Salvador Dalí]

10) It’s easy enough to be pleasant when life flows like a song,

but the one worthwhile is the one who will smile when everything goes dead wrong,

For the test of the heart is trouble and it always comes with the years,

And the smile that is worth all the praises of the Earth is the smile that shines through the tears.

11) There are 4 things which never come back again once they are gone; 1- the words said out, 2- the arrows shot, 3- the time past and 4- an opportunity lost.

12) We wear the mask that grins and lies

It shades our cheeks and shades our eyes

This debt we pay to human guile

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile.

13) Go the extra miles. It’s never crowded.

14) I have learned grace from the rivers,

Poise from the cliffs and peaks;

I have learned always to listen

for wisdom when beauty speaks.

15) There is no thrill in easy sailing where the skies are clear and blue,

There is no joy in merely doing things that anyone can do,

But there’s something that’s called satisfaction that is damned mighty sweet to take,

When you reach a destination that you thought you’d never make.

[Spirella]

16) In the depth of winter I finally learned there was in me invisible summer.

[Albert Camus]

17) Fear less, hope more; whine less, breathe more;

Talk less, say more; hate less, love more;

and all good things are yours.

18) For everything you have MISSED, you have GAINED something else.

[Ralph Waldo Emerson]

19) Unless you try to do something beyond what you already mastered, you will never grow.

[Ronald E. Osborn]

20) What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.

[Ellen Burstyn]

21) You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.

[Wayne Dyer]

22) You have within you right now, everything you need to deal with whatever the world can throw at you.

[Brian Tracy]

23) There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.

[Louis L’Amour]

24) Do or do not. There is no try.

[Yoda]

25) Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.

26) How a person masters his fate is more important than what his fate is.

[Wilhelm von Humboldt]

27) For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it,

For every truth there is an ear somewhere to hear it,

For every love there is a heart somewhere to receive it.

[Ivan Panin]

28) WONDER

Wonder to me, is a good place to be

It helps to to think, it helps you to see

Life’s full of twists and turns will abound

But wonder and insights can guide you around

Explore what you may and fill up your mind

And hold in your heart the mysteries you find

Wonder is the saying you yearn

And making a choice in which way you turn

The best path you take will always be right

Cause if you wrong, you can make it right

Each new step you take when you listen and hear

Will give you more courage and freedom from fear

So wonder my love, rid-off your doubt

And you will rejoice with how you turn out

And though you may fall and struggle too

Know that I’ll be there and will always love you

[edited from Jill Thieme’s poem to her daughter]

The Pin – Part 1

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It was the most curious little thing.

The golden pin was introduced to the readers as Katniss and Gale were interacting with Madge, Mayor Undersee’s daughter. The tesserae system was mentioned not long after and we had a glimpse of the invisible division between the rich and poor; the merchant and the people from the Seam.

Nonetheless, Madge did not seem to care about it and apart of Katniss, I was quite surprised when she gave her the pin. Token from the district, she said. It sounded insignificant at first. Who would worry about a pretty brooch while being trapped in the arena with other 23 kids trying their best to murder you? Call me insensitive but I would have not even cared.

But the thing about Suzanne Collins was that she is a master of simplicity. It’s all in the little things. How love actually started an uprising. How a handful of berries fueled the revolution. How a whistle started a collective stand. How an innocent song translated as a tool for action. How a flower suggested hope. How a painting made powerful men cringe. How a book full of lost memories healed broken people.

O.K. Focus.

Back to the pin.

It was once belonged to Maysilee Donner, Madge’s late aunt who was Mayor Undersee’s wife’s twin sister. She was reaped 24 years ago in the 50th Hunger Games, otherwise known as the 2nd Quarter Quell. Unfortunately she didn’t make it back home and the victor for that particular year was none other than Haymitch Abernathy, Katniss’s and Peeta’s drunken mentor.

You could tell that Madge wanted to be just like her aunt, another brave soul. Unfortunately the odd was not in her favor. Theoretically, she could have waited for the coming year, when she would stand another chance in The Reaping but she decided to give the pin to Katniss. I do wonder that if for the briefest moment, she’d failed to do so…What would happen then? Would Katniss still be The Mockingjay? Will the bird stand a chance to be incorporated as the symbol of the revolution? Assuming everything else went according to the story; Katniss would still be recognized as The Girl on Fire. Wasn’t fire enough? Why did the writer have to invent a long story for an accidental hybrid bird mutt for the simple purpose of fueling the revolution?

Say we reverse the situation. Say Madge was picked by Effie instead of Prim. Would there still be a revolution? Was there really a plot designed by the rebels? Would Madge even survive the 74th Hunger Games and gave the same impact to Panem as Katniss did?

Very curious indeed.

Personally, I think fire is not a good choice because it could easily manipulated, tamed, crushed and put out. It doesn’t have the will and reason to survive, like the mockingjay.

As shared by Katniss, it was a slap in the face for the Capitol. The Jabberjays, a carefully engineered weapon backfired as the rebels figured out their sneaky purpose. The birds were left to die but they found new life instead by mating with the mockingbirds. The mockingjays, the instant result of two species had the best of both worlds. They can repeat a range of human vocal sounds and recreate songs.

This is foreshadowing another string of stories.

We perfectly knew that The Hunger Games was designed as the ultimate weapon by the Capitol. Imagine their surprise when a boy had such an impact in his interview only by using simple words and then a girl sang her heart out for her fallen ally. Like the mockingjays, they used love as their defense.Together they survived the looming death by protecting each other. Can’t you see? They are the mockingjay.

Of course we will go into this as one.” [Catching Fire, Chapter 15]

Chapter 2 – Part 1

A bit of Chapter 1

–          I don’t know what the goat, Lady symbolizes. It must symbolized something; if not Suzanne Collins would not spend a few pages of a story of Katniss telling Peeta about how she got it for Prim. The same story repeated during the anti-hijacking session with very little success on Peeta’s behalf and the goat probably died in the end. I just don’t get it. Why? Does it represent Prim? Or was it Peeta? Was it a take on sacrifice? Was it just demonstrating how Katniss try to justify her action without success?

I hope someone would be able to help me to understand the goat.

Chapter 2

–          The first unity declaration by District 12 done was on the day of the reaping when Katniss volunteered. It was the first step to defy the Capitol on national television: silence, not clapping and the silent admiration salute. All of it changed in Catching Fire when the majority barely supported Katniss at the square when Gale was whipped. It was all downhill after that. It’s as if they blamed her (and Peeta) for all the bad things that happened in District 12. This was a complete reversal of attitude from the first book. It doesn’t change much in Mockingjay when they are all in District 13. District 12 was not very keen on violence though the face of rebellion originated from their own Seam.

–          Peeta haven’t spoken to Katniss until they were on the train. 11 years passed since he noticed her and he didn’t even say a word, not even after he gave her that bread 5 years ago. She noticed him glancing her way at school several times but both have this unspoken rule about not approaching each other. Why? It could have been a very easy/nice way to start a conversation. All of a sudden, ‘How was that bread?’, ‘are you okay?’, ’how’s everything with your family?’

O.K. That was awkward. A bread and now we’re like, friends?

The obvious issue was class separation between the Seam and merchant kids. The tesserae severed the little trust that they have for each other besides living in separate part of District 12. Katniss does not belong in Peeta’s circle and vice versa so they let it be that way.

I also think that Peeta is a kind boy and he helped her without expecting anything in return, maybe because he loves her, maybe because he’s just being kind. Maybe the combination of both. He doesn’t seem the kind of person that will let injustice prevails or ignore people suffering. He was disgusted at Capitol’s party in Catching Fire and had the idea to fan the fire of the rebellion. He is genuinely a good person with a big heart.

Unfortunately that fated day, Katniss saw him got beaten by his own mother. She called him a ‘stupid creature’, for God’s sake! Not a boy, but something less than that. Almost like an animal. He already liked her since forever and finding his own mother calling him such a thing in front of her did not help with his confidence. I highly doubt it if he ever thought to confess his love (or even get the girl.) He did it because he was convinced that his death would benefit Katniss somehow, in the term of sponsors. His sole life purpose was to die in order to keep Katniss alive. That was his ultimate plan.

If we look on the other side, we know that Katniss was never good with words and seeing Peeta being with other merchant friends would make her nervous since she doesn’t really socialize well. She doesn’t even consider Madge her friend although she was the one Katniss end up with every time. That’s how slow she is with feelings. So we could assume that it would be out of character if she suddenly approach Peeta to say thank you and left.

Taking note of what Peeta said in the cave about the bakery making apple and goat cheese tarts but they only eat stale ones, Katniss realized that she was wrong about the baker family. She thought they had a ‘soft’ life and silently thought that it was not fair. Also, this means that the bread Peeta gave her was expensive, even the family cannot afford to eat it, let alone waste it. That was why he was punished dearly for being so careless.

This act of kindness saved his life. She was touched by it and I consider it the most crucial and important moment of the book.

If he didn’t throw her that bread (he could have ignored her since he knew what’s coming), she would have not owed him nor paid attention to him (although he had a serious crush on her.) She would never realize that fact ever. Furthermore, she would not feel as guilty and might take him out easily but the whole thing with the bread make her think and feel. It’s against her instinct for survival, against her stoic expression and many attempts to feign indifference towards her competitors.

Her alliance with Rue made her feel more. She was almost like her sister, Prim and her death was one of the most ‘despicable‘ quoting Peeta. After that, Katniss realized what Peeta said on the roof was true. They are not pieces of the Capitol’s game. This journey from being a person who refused feelings and thought that being expressionless will gain her more sponsors changed to another person capable of mourning and crying. The interesting part was that when she started to embrace her feelings (singing for Rue’s death, caring for Peeta), and that is when the people of Panem responded better. These feelings kindled her fire.

Still, she has no idea the effect that she can have, how she can move the districts by a song, a handful of berries and several chosen words for Thresh and Rue.

The feelings grew when she met Peeta and it has been growing ever since.

Chapter 1 – Part 1

There is a lot of things to discuss and I might as well start the ball rolling on the very first page.

3 things.

1) I have read in certain website discussing the same matter that Katniss waking up not finding her sister close by is foreshadowing something already. I don’t know if it’s the reaping or someday she will leave her (dead) along with her mother (to District 4)

2) Buttercup was mentioned very early in every book. Surely the author meant something. There might be no love between Katniss and Buttercup but surely he is important. There is an interesting theory that Buttercup was Katniss’s alter ego (link provided) Well the name already suggested cat-like, also she was nicknamed ‘Catnip’ by Gale and remember who provided shelter for Katniss in the Capitol in Mockingjay? Tigris, the cat. It’s Buttercup’s presence that made Katniss came to terms with Prim’s death.

3) I always have this impression that The Meadow is deemed as a beautiful place by Katniss. A place she was able to play and be a child for once.The story started with a picnic with Gale overlooking the Meadow (last look on her childhood) This is also the place where she hid (a place for refuge) when her mother was angry when she sang The Hanging Tree (her father knew exactly where she was), a safe place for the people from District 12 to be when Capitol brought the bombs, for a tiny moment the author mentioned the tiniest detail about a place Meadow-like, where the hummingbirds were studied at Beetee’s work place in 13. Note the color mentioned. She saw a spring-green (her favourite colour) hummingbird (a bird, she’s the mockingjay) feeding an orange (Peeta’s favourite colour) blossom (a flower, as represented by dandelion) That was how the bird survives. At the same time, Gale was putting on an idea how to snare hummingbirds and playing up to their instincts. Here she find some of his ideas conflicted with hers.

The Meadow Song was sang to Rue, the same song she sang to Prim. Both very innocent, loved and dead, under different circumstances and both affected her differently. One towards the Capitol and another towards the Rebels/Coin. This simple song actually started her fire, made her act upon her hatred towards the Capitol (wreathing Rue in flowers)/Rebels (shooting Coin) and also when she realized what Peeta said suddenly made sense after all.

And of course, The Meadow was also the place where her children play in the Epilogue, happy like her many years ago. The epilogue would not happen if she chose Gale and Panem would still have The Hunger Games.

What do you think?