Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tjoet Nja Dhien

I recently watched the 1988 Indonesian film "Tjoet Nja Dhien". Tjoet Nja Dhien or Cut Nyak Dhien (1848 – 1908) was the famous Heroine of Aceh Province. She had fought the Dutch from the jungle for 25 years.
I was filled with emotions when I watched how the determined Dhien led her people to fight the Dutch. Even though she became blind, she gave them inspiration to fight for independence. I remember writing about Panglima Salleh Selempang Merah who led the villagers to fight the communists in Muar, Malaysia and about Hajah Aisah, my maternal great-grandmother. 

"Hajah Aisah’s grandfather was a Temenggong (Minister of Justice) in Muntok, Bangka Island situated east of Sumatra in Indonesia. He was “bangsa Radén” (a race of Princes/royal blood). He fought the Dutch. As he did not want to live under the harsh Dutch’s rule, he escaped to Karimun Island in the Riau Archipelago with his family. To avoid detection, he did not use his Temenggong title and name. No one in Karimun Island knew that Hajah Aisah’s family was royalty. They lived their life as commoners..."

How I admire these unsung heroes with their unwavering spirit and a common aim: "Untukmu, jiwa ragaku!"

[*Both stories will be featured in my upcoming book.]

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The General Assembly Debates

The 62nd General Assembly debates started this morning! Some of the streets in Manhattan were closed to traffic as about 70 Heads of State and nearly 30 Heads of Government headed to the UN. Security was tight and the General Assembly Hall was packed. However, I was fortunate to be able to hear and see the leaders up close and personal from the gallery [the debates can also be heard via webcast - ]

My favourite speaker in the morning was Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France. He spoke with so much passion and conviction. Au nom de la France!
And George Bush's speech? Ah well...

Got to run now as the Head of States of Iran, Afghanistan and Indonesia are among those speaking this afternoon!

An evening with the Mets

Gwen, Dana, Ben & I watched the New York Mets play against the Nationals at Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens last night. What an experience! Gwen & I who are both baseball illiterates, had to ask Ben and Dana to explain some of the game rules. But the sheer sight of the field, the impressive lights that illuminated the stadium, the crazy fans cheering, the sight of hot dogs and other game food, the cool music and our ultra mad "neighbours" who cheered in Spanish and purposely supported the Nationals, made the outing worth the while. Of course, the night wind was harsh and we left halfway when the Mets was losing to the Nationals 5-1; our neighbours who probably knew about half of the spectators in Gate B seats went wild with joy!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

International Day of Peace

Friday, September 21, 2007 is the International Day of Peace.
As I was walking along the corridor on 10th floor, I turned and saw one of UN's Messengers of Peace Michael Douglas (the actor & Catherine Zeta-Jones' husband) walking beside me! What a pleasant surprise! What a gentleman, and handsome and humourous!

Michael's area of focus is disarmament, and peace and security. Thank you for helping the UN, Michael!

Thursday, September 20, 2007


The world premiere of Trade, a film that sheds light on the underground world of human trafficking, was organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) at UNHQ in New York. UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa also introduced UN.GIFT, the United Nations-led Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking. The goal of the initiative is to raise understanding and encourage action against human trafficking.

Ah oui, I brushed shoulders with Kevin Kline outside the press conference room. During the press conference, there were comments made about the "disagreements" between himself and Angelina Jolie. *lol... I hope celebrities like Kevin Kline who contribute to humanity will not play up the media (there are some Hollywood artists whose humanitarian works are laced with hidden agendas).

Trade follows the story of a 13-year-old Mexican girl (Paulina Gaitan) and a young Polish woman (Alicja Bachleda) as they are kidnapped by sex traffickers in Mexico and transported for sale in the United States. As they make their brutal journey north, the young girl's older brother (Cesar Ramos) and a Texas cop (Kevin Kline) set off on a desperate and dangerous rescue attempt.

*Mayor Michael Bloomberg, proclaimed September 2007 in the City of New York: "Anti-Trafficking Month"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ramadan in New York

I had stomach flu on the first two days of Ramadan and rested at home. But I dragged myself out of my basement den to go to the Ramadan Bazaar at the Malaysian Mission near the UN.

All the delicious food (laksa, nasi lemak, bubur kacang, rojak, teh tarik etc) and Malay music reminded me of home. Amali, Teresa & of course Sharon who worked at the Mission were there. Poor Gwen was sick and chose to rest at home instead. We shared the table with talented Ummi ( from Bangsar (*joke) whose Parson School of Design's classmate Ruth is from Pasir Ris, Singapore! What a small world! Amali told me that he had met Ummi earlier at an anti-fur demonstration!

We chatted and ate (psst, Amali, your bubur kacang tasted better!) and reminisced about Ramadan celebration back home. As we were leaving, Amali whispered to me: "Hey, we have to throw all the dirty paper plates. We can't expect the Malaysians to clean up after us." We burst out laughing. Ahh, the Singapore-Malaysia love-hate political relationship. But, in actual fact, there is nothing but good friendship among fellow Malaysians & Singaporeans :)

Ramadan Mubarak to everyone. Yes, to Firdaus & Faiz in Moscow too. I'm sorry I didn't send my kek lapis prune over for you to taste, lain kali kot... Faiz, I make doa that you will get to see the "star of piercing brightness" in space next month, amin!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Our girl from Gedung Kuning

Our girl from Gedung Kuning, how she has grown!
... and how she never changed! Always busy, always getting involved...

Remember how she helped Mama (Hajah Maimoon, Nenek's sister-in-law) who had stroke and had difficulty walking? The 4 year old Cik Idah would walk behind Mama to steady her. She would also hand Mama the gayung (small pail) filled with water for Mama to bathe. Poor Mama who didn't have any daughters, was shy to ask her sons to bathe her (although Cik Hamid would help especially when her health deteriorated). But Mama's spirit was strong and she did her best to fight the raging stroke. Mama, may Allah bless your soul!

Ahh, those kind people who lived in Gedung Kuning. Cik Idah will always remember how they taught her to help others albeit in some small ways...

Monday, September 03, 2007

"Climate Change" Conference @ UN

"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children." 
- Tribe Unknown

Yes, it is THE Week! Kudos to everyone who worked so hard to plan the conference! Yes to us too, the pro-bono interns who are the unsung heroes @ UN :)