Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Jalan Raya di Pennsylvania

Eid Mubarak! Selamat Hari Raya!

Our morning started with Eid prayers at the Whitehall mosque (I drove like the wind, bypassing all those long trucks on the highway so as not to be late). The mosque was packed with Muslims of all nationalities. Everyone was dressed their best. The Malays wore their baju kurungs (even Amrin who came down from New York City to celebrate Raya with us) amidst the biting Fall winds. Hamidah and family even wore matching blue baju kurungs. Steve, pakai baju Melayu la!

Allahu Akbar! The takbir brought tears to my eyes as I sat in the prayer hall, my first Eid prayer far away from home. The sisters around me embraced me warmly. I then passed a compilation of Hari Raya songs to Hamidah and Rohana from Singapore. Eid is not complete without Saloma & Ahmad Jais' "Selamat Hari Raya" songs!

We then had breakfast at the mosque - bagels, donuts and coffee. The mosque was decorated with balloons and banners bearing Eid greetings. The kids were also entertained by 2 Mascots & 1 Superman! What a brilliant idea! We later headed to the sprawling countryside where Hamidah lives. More delicious food and interesting conversations followed. We had so much fun taking pictures at her backyard, amidst those gorgeous red and yellow Autumn trees.

After Steve & Ali successfully solved the computer problems at Hamidah's house, we headed home to Bethlehem for dinner at my house (most of us had classes that day but we skipped them to celebrate Eid). Amrin who had to leave for New York managed to sample Kak Alo's delicious Lontong, Rendang and kuih-muih. Yes, in the spirit of Hari Raya, Kak Alo took the effort to prepare all those food and we even changed the curtains in the house! When I told Emak this, she complained that there was no one to help her cook in Singapore now that I am in Pennsylvania! :)

Dinner was good. The girls also brought food (courtesy of Lehigh dining meal plans). We laughed and ate Kuih Tat, Kuih Lapis and pizza too! Most of us are far away from home but our Hari Raya outings made us less homesick. Ika and I are now inspired to cook Nasi Minyak this Friday to continue with the Hari Raya celebrations!

Khairil Johari Johar's Sepasang Kurung Biru broke the silence of the night as I tidied up the house. My heart grew heavy and my eyes went moist...

Tiada salam atau ucapan
Tiada pesan tanda ingatan
Suasana penuh keriangan
Ku teringat pada seseorang...

Tetamu datang tetamu pergi
Namun tak tiba orang ku nanti
Hanya sepasang kurung nan biru
Menjadi teman mengubat rindu ku...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A smile from a homeless man

I was driving home tonight from my research class, thinking of the 15-page analysis paper due tomorrow... argh... While waiting for the light near Fahy Bridge to turn green, I looked out of the window and saw a homeless old man dressed in worn out clothes. He was kicking the dried Autumn leaves on the pavement. He saw me looking at him. I smiled. His tired face broke into a warm smile. Then he walked away in the cold night dragging his torn shoes. As I drove away, tears rolled down my cheek...

How cold it must be for him! How warm it was for me in my car.
How cruel the wind must be, blowing at him through his thin jacket! How snug I feel in my black leather jacket bought from St. Germain-des-pres in Paris.
How sore and cold his feet must be! How warm my feet will be in my heated bedroom.
Where will his next meal come from? When will I finish all those assignments?

As much as I was thinking of pampering myself with a US$329 L.L.Bean expedition haversack, I ask this pertinent question. Why the extravagance? Had I not been blessed enough?

Thank you kind Sir for the gentle reminder. Yes, we sometimes forget how fortunate we are.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Soup Kitchens

Lehigh University students take on Washington DC [DC Serve Fall 2006]
Lisa, Xochitl, Cheryl, Ali & Hidayah spent 4 days during the Pacing Break to volunteer at the following places:

Martha's Table: a non-profit organization founded in 1980 dedicated to fulfilling the needs of low-income and homeless children, families and individuals. McKenna's Wagon (7 days-a-week) mobile soup kitchen feeds the hungry and homeless at 9 locations in DC.

Dinner Program for Homeless Women: a non-profit organization providing hot, nutritionous dinner and social services to 60-90 homeless women and their children. Together with Zacchaeus Kitchen, the Dinner Program also serves breakfast to an average of 275 men and women a day, 6 days a week.

Capital Area Food Bank: the largest, public, non-profit food and nutrition education resource in the Metro Area. They distribute millions of pounds of food to the community and educate thousands of local residents on hunger, poverty and nutrition issues.

*Hidayah has done some reflection from her experience and would like to start a similar program under her Gedung Kuning Foundation. Pls. email her at if you are keen to hear her thoughts on the homeless problem and how we all can help.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Washington DC

We spent our rest time from working in the homeless shelter to soak in the sights and sounds of USA's capital. Ahh... those lovely monuments and fascinating museums...

Who can forget:
1) Whirlwind driving and getting lost in DC, Maryland, Virginia (the Pentagon!) & historic Bristol (!?); yet no one complained :)
2) Drinking Chai tea and eating yummy Nepali-Indian food (especially after fasting and being tempted by all those delicious food we prepared at the shelter)
3) Trying to finish endless Lehigh's assignments while we were there (yeah right)
4) Reflecting on our experience volunteering at the various shelter
5) Trying to catch some ZzZzz...
 amidst loud snoring
6) Cutting, washing, cleaning, packing, serving food... all in the name of humanity
7) "Igor, where are you?", "Ali, hurry up!"
8) Lawyer Marc & preppy Frenchman... alas, I live in Pennsylvania...
9) Craig from Montana on a secret rendezvous with Alice... *wink...
10) Carlos, the silent room-mate in suit and tie!

Lisa, Xochitl, Cheryl, Ali & Igor (our Croatian friend), thanks for being such good sports! I miss you all :(

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ramadan @ Lehigh Valley

I miss "bubur masjid" (porridge prepared by volunteers at the mosque), the Ramadan bazaar and all those delicious kuih-muih (cakes)! I miss Emak's cooking and praying Terawih at Al-Falah mosque...
But I'm also enjoying Ramadan with my Bethlehem family (Philip & Kak Alo), as well as my Muslim friends in Lehigh Valley. As Eid approaches, P. Ramlee's Dendang Perantau echoes in my mind and brings tears to my eyes...

Di hari raya
Terkenang daku kepada si dia
Kampungku indah nun jauh di sana
Ayah serta bondaku

Di tepian mandi
Danauku hijau yang aman damai selalu
Nun di sanalah tempat aku bertemu
Aku dan dia

Ramadan Mubarak. Maaf zahir batin.

Lehigh Fulbrighters

Lehigh Fulbrighters are such a warm, united and fun lot! Anna Rendon, aren't you lucky to have us under your charge? *wink...

Remember, how we all met at 6am to take the bus to NYC for the Fulbright meeting; our impromptu meeting with the Maldives Ambassador; Louis singing near the United Nations headquarter and Hidayah's funky New York haircut! You guys are simply the best!