The Musings of An Obsessive Book Lover

It’s been a long time since I last talked about my favourite topic ever…. ehem…. BOOKS!

I am obsessed with books. If I ever become a hoarder, trust me, I will be hoarding books. If you come to my house, you will see my 4 big bookshelves. And now, I am in need of a 5th one. (Maybe, I am already a hoarder haha).

Once you have stepped into my house, you will feel like you have entered a small-scale community library! And if you love reading, you will love spending time in my house (ok, tengah perasan rumah sendiri best hahah. But seriously, “rumahku syurgaku” is the right sentiment for me, Alhamdulillah. I can stay in my house for weeks… kalau aku tak perlu keluar kerja dan cari makanan LOL!)

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The cramped ‘situation’ in the shelf of my living room. Sampai buku-buku dah spill over onto the coffee table. Adeh!
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Bookshelves below the stairs…. tinggal satu row saja lagi ruang kosong! Stressed! Tu pun ada space sebab aku double-layer kan some of  the rows!
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This is the bookshelf on the 2nd floor. One of the doors pun dah tak boleh tutup sebab terlalu banyak buku!
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The ‘situation’ on my bedside table. These are the piles that I haven’t read. My TBR (to-be-read) pile. Really need to catch up on my reading and STOP BUYING ANY MORE BOOKS!
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The ‘situation’ at my study desk! This is the main reason I am behind on my fiction reading…  because of the academic reading I MUST do at THIS DESK!

 

As an obsessive book lover, this is my #Confession #Rants

And this confession was brought on by someone who still has not returned my book. (The stress is real, folks). And also brought on by some issues in the social media that disturb my peace of mind. 

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#Confession

Aku kedekut! Super kedekut!

Aku kedekut untuk bagi pinjam buku kepada orang. This is the one type of kedekut that I still find it hard to change (Dulu kedekut lagi dahsyat. Makanan minuman tak nak share langsung sebab geli. Now, at least, I can share some.)

Zaman duduk asrama dulu, bila aku pinjamkan buku kepada orang, apa yang akan terjadi adalah samada buku aku hilang atau pun orang tu ambil masa yang sangat lama untuk pulangkan. Atau pun bila dipulangkan, habis lasam buku aku macam buku buruk! Padahal waktu aku pinjamkan pada dia, buku tu masih baru dan cantik. I wanted to cry!

In my mind, I will feel like “Why can’t you buy the book yourself? I bought my book myself, didn’t I?” My friends could buy an expensive perfume or Body Shop toiletries (zaman sekolah menengah, this was considered luxury item, ok!) or eat at a cafeteria everyday (instead of at the Dewan Makan) and could prioritize buying just about anything else… except their own fiction! But then, they wanted to borrow mine! 

I was so stressed. In my heart, I was like “Aku tak pernah pun nak pinjam kau punya Body Shop perfume ke or whatever it is yang kau dok beli selama ni. Barang-barang mahal kau boleh pula beli. Tapi kenapa buku kau tak boleh beli? Aku menabung lama tau nak beli buku ni! You had no idea how much I love this book… and you just wanna borrow it like that? Iys!” Haha. You guys had no idea how difficult it was for me to hide my displeasure when I had to lend my books to people when they asked (in order to be polite to them). Memang aku terpaksa mengaku, aku tak ikhlas nak bagi pinjam. 

You see, part of the pleasure in buying and reading books is in discussing them. So when I was a teenager, I usually would discuss with people about certain books I had bought and read so that they could be interested to read the books too and then we could analyze the content together! Get it? Readers just LOVE discussing books… it’s just how we are wired. We are nerds through and through  (but we have learned to disguise our nerdy-ness as we grow up LOL).But then, I learned that whenever I did that book discussion with people, somehow it would end up with me having to lend the book to them. I remember, aku sampai fobia nak cakap kat orang buku apa yang aku beli. Hahah. So, I kept my excited thoughts about books to myself after having learned people’s tendency to just wanna borrow my books instead of buying the books themselves.

Disebabkan aku ini sangat kedekut nak bagi pinjam buku kat orang, aku sangat hargai bila ada orang sudi bagi pinjam buku kat aku…. and as a show of appreciation, I will return the book within a few days (paling lama aku pinjam pun hanya seminggu, tu pun sebab cuti sekolah and tak dapat nak return stat). I would just finish reading the book as soon as possible sebab aku tak nak pemilik buku tu tertunggu-tunggu bila buku dia nak dipulangkan semula. (Whereas with my friends, they took MONTHS to finish a 400 page book. Gila slow! Kalau kau tahu kau jenis tak boleh concentrate nak habiskan buku in one seating, atau kau ni busy gila sampai tak dapat nak habiskan buku cepat-cepat… then please don’t borrow the book yet. Wait until you have more free time to read the book before you borrow it. Tak lah owner of the book rasa stress)

I think this is just adab. You don’t understand how an obsessive book lover think! They are in distress every time they are apart from their books. This is not an exaggeration… at the back of their mind, there is always that constant wondering of when the book will be safely returned.

Cannot empathize? Cuba orang minta pinjam Iphone korang? Get it, now? It is almost the same thing to us. 

To a book lover, every single book of theirs is as precious as an Iphone. Please understand. 

As I grew older and had my own money (initially from MARA scholarship and then nowadays I got my own salary), I became less stingy with my books because I could buy them so easily now without having to menabung as I used to. (When I was in school, I depended on my allowance from my parents only! And I didn’t like asking them for more money than what they had already allocated for me. So I had to save my allowance to buy books. Tu pasal aku kedekut… sebab susah payah aku berjimat nak beli buku cerita, ok! hahah) But seriously even with my current financial independence, I STILL don’t prefer to lend my books to people. When I discuss about any book with you, please don’t think that it is an invitation for you to borrow it. It is NOT. It is just me being a fellow good reader, trying to guide you on your next purchase. I am just trying to be helpful on what sort of good books are out there for you to buy and enjoy. That’s all.

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Perhaps one the best things about me being a book lover is that, I don’t care about branded stuff. I will probably enjoy having them…. if I have them. But not having them is neither here nor there to me. I am indifferent to it.

I go for quality rather than brands. Sebab itulah sampai sekarang aku tak pernah cuba membeli Iphone (because for me, I will only use it to make a phone call, to message or whatsapp… which are the things that ANY smartphone can do.  And  I also use my phone to snap pictures…. so the only deciding factor on which phone to buy will be the camera feature. And with Huawei and Oppo in the market… Iphone becomes even less relevant to me camera-wise)  But I did purchase a Macbook… because Macbook has the most ‘value for money’. (My Macbook very rarely hangs! I don’t even have an anti-virus for my Macbook. I have been using my Macbook since 2014 and it works just as well as when I first bought it!).

So, it really weirds me out when I saw news such as below.

 

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Apparently in the UK, students are banned from wearing expensive coats to prevent the poorer kids from feeling ashamed of their inability to wear the same branded coats. I really cannot brain this.
And then I was more aghast when in Malaysia, apparently the parents are stressed out about their kids asking them to buy an expensive Smiggle item just because their friends at school have the same Smiggle item. WTH??
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I have heard about how expensive Smiggle items can be and I have read about how parents were complaining about it, before. But the issue on Smiggle resurfaced after the news on the banning of wearing expensive coat in British Schools hit the social media. Some people believe that maybe Malaysian Schools also should ban certain items from being worn/brought/used in school.
One such example of a parent who had lamented on this Smiggle issue can be read  below:
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While I can see the concern of this particular parent and indeed sympathize with his dilemma, I really find myself slightly bewildered by the whole thing. I just fail to see why we can’t simply go ahead and tell our children NO when they ask for something that we cannot afford to give?
Aku tak faham. All of us used to be a kid too. But we handled our jealousy and disappointment ourselves, didn’t we? Tak perlu pun nak kena ada peraturan “semua orang tak boleh pakai benda branded” just because aku tidak mampu pakai.
Like I said, I don’t buy branded stuff in general. Tapi waktu kanak-kanak dulu ada ja kawan-kawan pakai barang-barang branded… dan ada juga aku rasa teringin. Tapi bila kita minta kat parents and parents kata tak boleh, then we accepted it and WE LEARNED TO DEAL WITH OUR OWN EMOTION!

Kenapa pula kita nak kena suruh orang lain jangan beli benda yang kita tak mampu beli? One day these children will grow up and need to handle their emotions including jealousy and disappointment. And during school is the best way to learn that, and of course, guided by parents.

Ibu bapa yang senang dan berada boleh ajar anak-anak how to be compassionate “Even though I bought you a Smiggle bag, it doesn’t mean you can mock other kids who don’t own one. If you do that and I happen to find out about it, I will throw your Smiggle in the bin! Be kind!”

Ibu bapa yg tidak mampu pula can teach kids to be grateful “Even though I cannot afford to buy you a Smiggle bag, but I will make sure you have enough food on the dinner table, a pair of school shoes and two sets of school uniforms for you to attend school.”

Ajar sajalah anak-anak. Talk to them. Jangan nak ajar value ala-ala komunis “semua kena sama rata”.

Do not create an asinine blanket rule that does not stand reality check.

#EveryHardshipIsAnOpportunityToInstillValues
#JustTalkToYourKidsAndTeachThem
#DoNotMakeBlanketRulesThatDoNotStandRealityCheck

 

So when you go shopping for school stuff with your kids and one of them ask for a Smiggle item, you can say “Look, mommy only have RM 50 to buy 2 pencil cases; one for your sister and one for you. If mommy buy you a Smiggle, your sister would not have a pencil case for herself; that wouldn’t be so cool, right? I am sure, you being such a kind brother, would rather your sister get a pencil case of her own too rather than a Smiggle for yourself, wouldn’t you?”

See?

Engage with their minds! Ask them to evaluate…. which one is better? One Smiggle pencil case or two pencil cases that look just as nice but very much cheaper? Teach your kids not to be selfish by asking them to think about the needs of their other siblings too. And furthermore, teach them about fairness … tell them resources must be fairly divided between all the children according to needs and urgency. You talking to them and discussing issues like these with them is how they get to develop their judgment. This is the sort of conversation that you can employ to teach them the right values. Perhaps this would be one of the conversation that your kids would always remember you by.

Because the truth is when you are long gone, they will remember the values you taught them…. not the toys you bought them.

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Mak Ngah is so proud of you Eshan!

Alhamdulillah, today my nephew Eshan has received an award for being the first in his batch (Anugerah Terbaik Keseluruhan Darjah 1), the best in Math (Anugarah Terbaik Matematik. Not surpising as my Kak Long’s doctorate is in statistics LOL) and Headmaster Special Award (Anugerah Khas Guru Besar). All of us are so proud of him. The first member of the 3rd generation in Azmee’s family has really done us proud.

I told Eshan that I wanted to buy him a present as a reward for his excellent academic performance. So I asked him what he wanted for a present. He said, he just wanted a book. A Star-Wars book! LOL.

I laughed. I was like “Yeah, I should have known.” Genetic/Nature is one thing (my father loves reading, and so do all of my siblings and now even the grandson has followed suit) but the environment/nurture plays just as much importance in developing the habit of your children.

My Kak Long was asked by other parents regarding how she gets Eshan and Aayra to love reading. She was stumped. To her, there was no fancy technique that she had to employ to get her children to read. There is NO TECHNIQUE. Your children pick up that habit from you! Do you spend the bulk of your time reading and writing? If you don’t, then do not expect your kids to do the same thing!

In her own words, while she was commenting on the Smiggle issue on my Facebook status, she wrote “Bagi aku senang… salah mak bapa tak pandai guide. It might sound harsh but it is the truth. I mean everything starts from home. On a different issue, a friend of mine was talking about the techniques on how to improve children’s’ interest in reading. I honestly think there’s no fancy technique. Soalan aku senang ja, mak bapa dia into books ke dak? Children just imitate what the parents do. It all starts from home. So sama juga dgn Smiggles ke Kinder Bueno ke.. mak pak jadilah parents untuk anak-anak. If you can afford, you buy; if you can’t, just tell your children. It’s ok.”

YOU are the parents! Kenapa pula kamu yang nak kena susah hati bila anak-anak minta Smiggle dan kamu tak mampu bagi? YOU set the rules… not them! THEY need to know that the household has got some sort of structure! Kalau you lenient tak tentu pasal, it doesn’t provide them a sense of security or a secure base. They need to know you are consistent and reliable, even as you are saying NO to them. Just tell them you cannot afford it! Tell it as it is! Be honest! Don’t worry, the children can handle it if you start that honest pattern of parenting soon enough in their childhood. It might even teach them empathy… because they get to know and appreciate their parents’ difficulties and sacrifices. I could handle it when my parents said no whenever I wanted even more story books than what they had bought for me. I handled it by saving my own money and buying the books myself (and hence aku kedekut nak bagi pinjam aku punya buku, hahha. I never sold any of my medical books to my juniors when I no longer used them. I kept them all until now…. ehem, like a hoarder. Hahah)

I can just imagine what my father would tell me kalau aku cakap kawan-kawan aku ejek aku sebab tak ada barang-barang Smiggle. He would probably say something like this, “Kalau diorang ejek Kak Ngah, Kak Ngah cakap sajalah Kak Ngah tak perlukan Smiggle untuk dapat nombor satu dalam kelas. And prove it by getting number one in class.”

And I would  go, “Good idea, Dad. I will say it exactly like that!”

See? Every interaction, every difficulty in life… is an opportunity to instil values! In this case, he would be teaching me how to respond to hurtful taunts and stand up for myself! But you MUST talk to your kids! You must coach them how  to handle life’s situation and then let them handle it themselves.  Don’t create A DIFFERENT REALITY or ANOTHER RULE just to protect your kids’ feelings. You are not doing them any favour that way! They will never grow up.

And this is the reason that me and my siblings are not on board with Dr. Maszlee’s idea that Tahap 1 students will not have exams next year. Aayra will go to school in another year and she is so looking forward to exams. “Aayra nak dapat nombor 1 macam Eshan. So, Mak Ngah kena beli hadiah kat Aayra juga.” She is so competitive.

I didn’t have the heart to tell Aayra that she might never get the chance to get number one like Eshan next year… because there will be no exams, my dear.

Some parents said, “Weh, bagus juga tak ada exam. Anak-anak stress. Kecik-kecik darjah satu dah kena pergi tuition!”

What? Siapa suruh you hantar anak you pergi tuition? My sister never sent Eshan to any extra class or any tuition!  YOU as the parents are the ones who stress them out about exams! YOU are the one who send  them to all these classes to get them a good result. Academic jadi tak fun and exam jadi menakutkan because of you. Kalau diorang just pergi sekolah, balik sekolah and face the exam (without going to any more extra classes) they get the chance to handle the life situation of facing an exam! They get the opportunity to face the anxiety and deal with it! At the same time, they still have enough time to play and enjoy their childhood when they don’t have to attend all these unnecessary extra classes at the tender age of seven!

I am all for children enjoying stress-free childhood. But not at the expense of their education. Reduce their stress by employing wise parenting in deciding what extra classes are necessary and when! Not by abolishing exams!

Exams are good indicators of students’ understanding of the syllabus. There is a purpose for having an exam! Undeniably, the pressure is there but it is manageable. The UNMANAGEABLE pressure comes from you, the parent! You send them to tuition classes after school hours, and then YOU tell us they are stressed? And then, you salahkan exam kat sekolah pula? This is so skewed, God!

Unless your kids have ADHD / Autism / Learning Disability, there is NO NEED for them to go to other extra classes other than the ones they have at school while they are STILL in TAHAP 1. I can still understand if you send your children to tuition classes in their UPSR/PMR/SPM year, but not in other schooling years. Because they need to learn how to live a life and how to be a functioning happy human being too… not just learning the syllabus. Other than one month of intensive private tutorial for Add Maths at the end of my Form 4, my parents did not send me to any regular tuition throughout my schooling days! They believe that tuition class is not necessary if you can focus in class and do your homework properly. Kids learn resilience when they have to face the disappointment of not getting the best result in their exams and the jealousy of seeing their friends getting a better result than theirs. That disappointment and jealousy must be handled. I can only imagine how Eshan would feel in the future when he may no longer get number 1 in class or may not get an A in some subjects…. we all had faced that situation too; it was disappointing, but we handled it, guided by the response of our parents and our family.

So parents, BE A PARENT! Read to your kids, discuss the moral values of the books you have read with your kids, interact with them at an intellectual level and instil values in your kids. Talk to them, reason with them. You will find out that these children of yours are smart and they can handle stuff … if you can be a parent!

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I leave all my dear readers with videos of my Eshan telling an imaginative story about Galaxy’s New Planets. He is so creative, Masha Allah. My favourite planet is the Chocolatey planet. What’s yours? 😉

#PaluSulawesi Reflection: A Spiritual Journey

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Flying for #Palu #Sulawesi. The view from the window of my flight journey towards humanity.

There are times when I sit back, to wonder and reflect on what I have done to deserve so much blessings in my life. Whenever I feel like life has become a little too mundane, a little too predictable or a little too comfortable (until I could feel my soul withering away in the midst of the same repetitive routine) God will send me a new experience to waken up my soul and rejuvenate my spirit. He didn’t let me continue being heedless and ignorant, comfortable in what little, insignificant things I have done in this life. He guided me to search for something MORE in life that would make my existence meaningful again… colourful again… hopeful again.

 

If God were to let me continue being the old me without any wonderful experience for personal and spiritual growth, I don’t know where I would be at this moment. Perhaps, I would be bored and disillusioned with life by now. But Alhamdulillah, every now and then He would send me to a #life #BootCamp to beat the disillusionment out of my soul and thrash the cynicism out of my heart.

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The Sierra Delta Team!

Relief Mission: Imaret4Sulawesi

I believe that the year 2018 is my year for volunteerism. And it so happens that 2018 was not my exam year (unlike the two previous years) and I could devote more time on social issues that I believe in. (God has perfect timing and perfect planning in the timeline he has created for the plot in my life story. Thank You, God.)

 

I volunteered to be a PACA in April/May 2018. I remember how MUCH I learned just by mingling with people of different background than me. Just by being involved in the process of election, I gained a lot of insight regarding the political arena in our country. Those are the knowledge I could not get simply by doing my favourite pastime of reading. Though it pains me to say this, I must admit that reading is not ALWAYS enough (I stupidly used to feel like I can pick up any book to learn on any subject without having to get out of my house. LOL). Reading only provides you a certain level of intellectual insight on any particular subject but it would not provide you with emotional insight, nuances, perspectives, reflections and most importantly #SpiritualGrowth and #PersonalMaturity which you can only gain by being in the field. It doesn’t even BEGIN to compare! Deductive learning (by reading) is great…. but inductive learning (experience in the field) is almost always superior!

 

When the news of earthquake and tsunami in Palu hit the media, I was devastated by the heartbreaking destruction and the numbers of life lost. My friend and I registered our names to several NGOs to volunteer to help, either as a medical/psychological team or just general aspect of volunteerism (food and basic needs distribution/cleaning crews / setting up tents). At last after 3 weeks of waiting with no response by any NGO, IMARET answered our application to volunteer as part of a medical team in which our tasks would include giving general health service as well as #PsychologicalFirstAid (PFA) to survivors. I can still recall how ecstatic me and Dr. H were to be called upon to serve in this relief mission by IMARET. Thank you, IMARET for giving us this opportunity to experience relief mission abroad. It was an experience of a lifetime that will never be forgotten, Insya Allah.

 

IMARET has slowly but surely gaining recognition for all their good humanitarian works which had first begun in December 2014. Just recently, IMARET had received the Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (IMSHA) in the category of Disaster Relief NGO. The IMARET tagline of “Charity Begins with You” conveys the principle that ANYONE can contribute to humanity in whatever capacity we can. There are many categories of volunteerism including arts, social services, health services, community empowerment, public safety, environmental protection, and disaster relief. If you are not a doctor but you are passionate about the environment for example, then join the relevant NGOs like Environmental Protection Society Malaysia or Malaysian Nature Society.

 

Personally, as a doctor, I joined MERCY, Islamic Relief and IMARET as platforms for my volunteerism. But I also joined other NGOs related to writing/arts. There is always something you can contribute to the society regardless of your career or your lifestyle. You just need to find it and take the leap. (For someone who is very skeptical to join any organization unnecessarily, I am all in when it comes to organizations involving volunteerism. I am not even a member of Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), see? But when it comes to volunteerism, I would join without a second thought.)

 

Let me share with my readers a certain insight I gained a few years ago about life. Most people think that volunteers are very altruistic and noble-hearted, who do all these charity because of the nature of their good hearts. While I am sure that those are, of course, true, to a certain extent, but it doesn’t explain the whole picture. As a psychiatry MO, I believe that behavior is sustained when it is rewarded. I don’t think of myself as kind, altruistic or noble by any stretch of the imagination (hahah! Really! Those who knew me KNEW that Afiza garang… mana ada dia nak baik hati tak pasal-pasal. Soft-spoken pun tidak. Mother Theresa jauh sekali bagai langit dengan bumi. Haha). But I volunteered anyway because the act in itself is rewarding to me. I have my own selfish reason for volunteering. For example, I gained immense satisfaction, pleasure and euphoria when I witnessed the previous government was brought down and replaced by PH when I volunteered to become a PACA. I volunteered then not because I was so noble… but because I was so angry and because I had things in life I cared about and I wanted to champion those issues! Not really because I was that good, or that nice or that altruistic who would sacrifice all pleasures in life for the sake of others. I am too practical and too realistic to ever achieve the kind of nobility and altruism that are usually associated with volunteerism. Seriously, Mother Theresa, I am NOT.

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This is the truth! You gain more than you give every time you decide to do something charitable. It is like Sunnahtullah!

So why did I volunteer to go to #PaluSulawesi recently? Again, not because I was that self-sacrificing or that altruistic with no self-interest whatsoever. Volunteering is addictive, you see. I did it FOR MYSELF! I did it for the experience it would give me. I did it for the knowledge and the wisdom I could gain. I did it to know how people cope with trauma and to experience the effect of their resilience on my own soul. It cleansed me in ways I could not even properly describe and explain. It must be experienced and felt. And that’s why I encourage all my readers to volunteer for a cause that you guys truly believe in… experience that feeling and that emotion first… go inductive… and come back and tell me whether or not you can describe yourself as altruistic when you decide to volunteer again and again and again. Once you have tasted it, you would KNOW that you volunteer for YOU! For the benefit that it gives YOU! For the wisdom and insight it gives YOU! Things you can never get by staying home and doing the same old thing over and over again. So, volunteerism actually benefits YOU! That’s the reward that sustains the behaviour. Really, for your own private reasons, you actually volunteer for yourself MOSTLY… not just for others!

 

So yeah, I volunteered to Palu because I remember how it had felt while volunteering previously… and I wanted to experience the emotional fulfilment and the cleansing of the soul and the mindful reflection that would come with the experience. Those are the rewards I gain by my volunteering. See? As I said, behavior is sustained when it is rewarded. The Sunnahtullah is such that charity benefits the giver more than the receiver. And that’s the truth.

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Hanging out with teachers!
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PFA with kids!
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Kids saying goodbye to me!

The Wonderful Colours Of Diversity

In this mission, I have met a journalist and a full-time Humanitarian worker. It was great to get to know people of different career background than me. For the first time in many years, I made non-doctor friends with whom I can hit it off immediately.

 

Usually, it would be quite difficult for me to feel at ease with people who did not have any common ground with me. Because, really… what would we talk about? I am not really a people person. When I talk to someone, there must be a reason for that communication to happen. I don’t seek interaction just for the sake of interacting… it would not be enjoyable to me.

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Arrival at Jakarta Airport. First day kenal team mates.
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In Palu Airport. Last Day of mission.
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With Dr. J at Puskesmas Nokilalaki.
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With BSMI team!
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The boys having fun at kolam air panas after a hard day of work.
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How we had our dinner every day.

 

But while being on a mission when you have to share the same limited space in the car for hours to reach a very deserted area where all the unmet needs are, you get to know each other better. You get to know their habits, their life philosophy, what makes them tick…. those are points of learning you wouldn’t get by interacting with people of the same background. Nothing challenges your preconceived ideas more than when you had to hang out with someone of a different background than yours. And boy… we had numerous conversations that challenged each others’s preconceived ideas and belief system. It was heated but it was fun. We didn’t always agree with each other but we reflected on each other’s points and it opened up our minds.

I guess, in that 10 days I felt young and youthful again. We could even argue over songs and lyrics played on the radio in the car… thinking that each other’s interpretation was somehow less accurate than our own. Haha. It was silly but still it was intellectually stimulating… a conversation I haven’t had with many people since I joined medical school.

When I was in MRSM Langkawi, my friends were those who wrote poetries, composed short stories and read literatures. We talked about books all the time. We talked about social issues and politics even when we were just secondary school students. My ambition then was to be a lawyer or a writer or a journalist…. things involving social sciences rather than pure sciences. But alas, my scholarship was in medicine and nowadays I found myself surrounded by people who are mostly clinical rather than creative. I still read and write…. But I no longer have the same type of friends who share my interest and with whom I can talk about books and social or political issues that used to fire my soul when I was younger. (One of the reason I fought so hard to get into psychiatry was because this field has the closest resemblance to social sciences compared to other specialties).

I guess, for that short 10 days I felt young because I was learning and absorbing knowledge like a new baby being thrusted into the world for the first time. Just like a baby whose world shifted from that of the mother’s womb to that of the planet earth, MY world shifted from the cocoon of all that is medicine to the larger concept of what humanitarian is all about. THAT is the difference between volunteering in an NGO than in MOH… you get a taste of a different flavor. A forgotten flavor that I used to taste and now fully remember. And it was refreshing.

When you hang out with a journalist or a humanitarian worker, they told you of their experiences covering news and volunteering in war zones. The conversation was new, novel and interesting. They told you stuff that you only read from your thriller novels all these while… of international intelligence network, of humanitarian issues, of battles and conflicts that you could only see on TV.

They taught me and Dr. H the concept of having a ‘grab bag’. They said that as non-civilians, their grab bags are something that would always be with them wherever they go. They have been trained that way…to always be ready to run and leave everything behind with only their grab bag in hand. Since then, me and Dr. H created our own grab bag… a much simpler version of their own grab bags. Ours only contained our purse, phone and passports. Theirs contained money, phone or any other mode of communication, passports, laptop or any gadget required for them to complete their mission, change of clothes and survival necessities (water/ simple energizing food).

Listening to their stories, looking at their inspiring Instagram pictures of all their previous missions… I felt a certain amount of poignancy and nostalgia. Suddenly, the poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost knocked my mind. I wondered then, how my life would be if I had said no to my medicine scholarship.

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With the journalist (the one in a yellow scarf). He wrote about #PsychologicalFirstAid and submitted his article in Kosmo. Our names were mentioned in his article as part of the PFA team bringing Upin Ipin into Sulawesi. We were so excited when we read his article. Haha!
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My facebook status… telling all my facebook friends that my name was mentioned in Kosmo. hahaha. Childish, MUCH?

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This is a screenshot of the particular part of the Kosmo article where my name and the names of my teammates were mentioned. We all couldn’t stop gushing over the article 😀 and we thanked the journalist profusely LOL.

People Who Touched Your Heart

And then there were the survivors… fellow human beings who touched your heart with their beautiful resilience and amazing coping mechanism.

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At Puskesmas Nokilalaki with Ibu Muznah and my team mates.

We met survivors who had continued working at Puskesmas (Pusat Kesihatan Masyarakat) while dealing with their own loss and grief. Their welcoming smiles totally warmed my heart. It embarrassed me when they thanked me over something that I felt so small and insignificant. We were at Puskesmas seeing cases in the general clinic and never expected to be given lunch or anything. We brought our own breakfast bars for lunch. But look at what they provided for us every day we were there! Great yummy lunch that we never expected to get while on a mission! We felt like our own small effort is nothing compared to their own acceptance of our presence. It was a truly humbling experience. It is amazing how you can develop closeness quite effortlessly but deeply just because all of you have the same mission and the same goal!

 

 

In that 10 days in Palu, there were times when I surprised myself by thinking “Now, I know why relationship is important. Why networking is vital in a mission! It makes your work process so much easier!” I used to feel like “I can sacrifice relationship over my version of truth, my principles and what I believe as right. You either follow me or you don’t. But I am gonna do it and there is nothing you can do to stop me!” I am even like that with my own parents and my family… and they have learned to accept that part of me so selflessly all these years and I never thought a thing about it. I took it all for granted. To a certain extent, I STILL believe that truth and justice should always trump everything else in life. But these days, I started thinking that maybe there are ways I can have my principles/truth/justice and still maintain heartwarming relationships with people and mind their feelings a little bit. Well, I don’t know. Cognitive dissonance is hard to detangle.

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At Puskesmas Banpres with the staff!
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One last picture on our last day at Puskesmas Banpres

And the kids! They were entertained by the simplest of things. It was so easy to coax laughter out of them. Look, I am not great with kids, in general. I am not entertaining enough and I don’t know how to act all adorable and silly with kids. I mean… heck, I am a serious person most of the time. My jovial side can only be accessed by someone I am already close to and even then, I am not all that humorous, LOL. But when you are on a mission, you have no choice but to strengthen your free-traits and put aside your biogenic traits for awhile. So that’s what I did. Performing and conducting one class full of kids every day are hard work, guys! At the end of each session…. I was drained and exhausted. But it was a good kind of exhaustion! The best kind!

 

Theme Song

Towards the end of our mission, we the Sierra Delta group members (the 4th group sent by IMARET to Sulawesi) had experienced hardships and joy, tears and laughter, quarrels and reconciliation. I would say, we knew each other’s characters and annoying habits quite well at the end. Hahaha. (I know, I can be annoying. LOL. Tabik spring to them for their kind tolerance).

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Our last meal in Indonesia at Jakarta Airport.We left Palu bringing back beautifully poignant memories. 

After all our numerous daily talk and conversation about songs, one of my group members could already predict what sort of songs I would like or dislike. One day, he just told me to find this particular song on YOU TUBE that he was sure would be my type of song. I was very skeptical about it initially. But I clicked on the song anyway for the whole Sierra Delta group to listen to. And what a surprise… I was immediately in love with that song. The title of the song is Menimbang Rasa by an Indonesian singer, Oslan Hussein.  I was so amazed that he could predict my taste in songs so well! Haha.

We played that song while being on a journey to various deserted areas to conduct PFA sessions and I have come to think of that song as a theme song of our experience in Palu Sulawesi. Our group song!

Until now, I keep putting the song on repeat. Haha. This is what I call as  #CannotMoveOnSyndrome. 

Have a listen and let me know if you love the song like I do. 😉

I end my reflection of my experience in #PaluSulawesi here, my dear readers.  Until next time, I remain, your humble blogger.

P/S:

My next post would InsyaAllah be on the details of the actual mission itself. And there were a lot of details to write about but it would be too cramped to share everything in one post. So if you are interested in humanitarian mission and would like to know the mental and physical preparation required, the actual work involved and everything else, stay tuned!