Thursday, December 31, 2009

In the waiting room



People are always waiting for something.

They could be waiting for the train, an opportunity, promises to be fulfilled or the return of a loved one.

But "what does waiting mean in our lives and what is life without waiting?"


That question was posed by Danny Castillones Sillada in his article "What is Life without Waiting?" (The Metaphysics of Waiting).

The passing of the old year demands another round of gloomy introspection and Sillada's article came at the right time, given the value of waiting in our lives.

"Waiting," he explains, is "an emotional and mental state, which is preconditioned to anticipate someone or something to arrive at a particular time and place".

Sillada tells us that there are two types of waiting: empirical and metaphysical.

The empirical form of waiting is "where the certainty of the waited and the occurrence of event are tangibly expected to happen within a particular time and place of the waiter".

But what happens when the "waited" doesn't appear?

Does your desire for it become habitual?

And does that longing develop into optimism that soon it "would turn up at any given moment"?

Sillada describes "this intangible form of waiting, which is beyond the empirical certainty of the two elements (the waited and the appointed time), as the metaphysical aspect of waiting".

All of us have experienced this type of waiting.

"Even if the chance of the waited to come were nil, something ineffable and magical could happen to the waiter, because the metaphysical aspect of waiting" has the power "to motivate the waiter to do something worthwhile within the process of waiting".

That is the most important point of Sillada's message.

As the following view puts it:

"Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow -- that is patience." (Source unknown)

My conservations with thoughtful people reveal the same central idea: patience is absolutely necessary when we embark on anything significant.

It could be looking for a new job, searching for the next break or writing a book.

Don't expect overnight success, however we define it.

And the period of "restlessness" that comes with the journey is a given.

But that "gives us wisdom to dissect and rationalise the purpose and meaning of our existence", writes Sillada.

"The tension between despair and anxiety, boredom and activity, joy and sorrow as well as victory and defeat": that is part and parcel of the long wait.

I draw comfort from the words of Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet, jurist, theologian and sufi mystic.

"Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form."

Happy New Year!

Picture by Jehan Mohd

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Nagasaki Castella: Love at first bite



Cake lovers all over the world surely must have heard of Nagasaki Castella (picture).

It is a Japanese sponge cake (made of egg yolks, brown sugar crystals, refined white sugar, thick rice syrup and flour) and is said to be popular in Japan and other parts of the world.


I first tasted the cake in December 2007 after attending the Second Asian City Journalist Conference (ACJC) which was held in Fukuoka City, Japan.


(The conference was jointly organised by UN Habitat Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (Fukuoka) and The Nishinippon Newspaper).


I had plenty of time before my flight home.

So I browsed the shelves of one of the duty-free shops at Fukuoka International Airport for something interesting to buy and I chanced upon individually wrapped long boxes which looked very attractive from where I was standing.


The boxes contained the Nagasaki Castella.

I love cakes and I couldn't resist the temptation that was staring at me intently.


I bought three boxes for myself and friends back home.


It was a wise decision.


The taste was incredible.


As journalist Jehan Mohd describes it: "It was love at first bite."


You will feel a "slightly gritty sensation when the bottom of the cake is put into the mouth," states a brochure inside the box.


"This comes from individual grains of finely ground brown sugar crystals."


"It is nice and rich without being overly sweet. It is soft and fluffy," says Jehan.


For journalist Aref Omar eating the cake sends "a shot of bliss" through his taste buds "which takes me back to my childhood".


The Castella is a heart-warming story of East meeting West.


The cake was introduced to Japan by Portuguese missionaries (some accounts say Portuguese traders) in the mid-16th Century and it is one of the finest examples of Japanese innovation.


The flavour is great and the history is fascinating.


Altogether it is a very satisfying experience.

 
I tasted the Japanese delight again when Takeshi Kokubu -- senior editor of The Nishinippon Newspaper -- presented every participant of the Third ACJC, which was held in Nanjing, China last November, with a box of Nagasaki Castella.


The Fourth ACJC was held in Fukuoka City, Japan on December 14, this year.


The obvious move for me, needless to say, was to go back to the same duty-free shop at Fukuoka International Airport for the Japanese sponge cake.


The picture below shows journalists Suzieana Uda Nagu, Jehan Mohd and Sharifah Arfah enjoying the Castella with hot tea.





Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Feliz Navidad ... however you say it ...



Christmas in many parts of the world is both a secular and sacred holiday.

Many countries bring their own cultures and traditions to the Christmas season.

It is as much a celebration of spirituality as it is of goodwill.

Those who observe Christmas go to church, sing carols, exchange gifts and attend parties as well as family gatherings.
 
Christmas in Malaysia is celebrated in typical Malaysian fashion where people of multi-ethnic and multi-religious backgrounds thronged the homes of their Christian friends to soak in the festive spirit.

This is consistent with the concept of "rumah terbuka" or "open house" which makes the celebration of major festivals in Malaysia more meaningful.






Food is the main component of any festival.

Visitors to a Malaysian open house on Christmas Day may find traditional Western offerings of the season -- roast turkey, mince pies and fruit cakes -- sitting comfortably with local delicacies such as devil's curry, beef rendang and pineapple tarts.

For many the celebration continues well into the small hours.

Selamat Hari Raya Natal, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Merry Christmas.

However you say it, it means "have a good time"!

From me to you:

Merry Christmas or just enjoy your day off!

NOTE: Pictures by Jehan Mohd

Thursday, December 17, 2009

ACJC now on Facebook






The Asian City Journalist Conference (ACJC) is on Facebook.

It is called UN HABITAT’s Asian City Journalists’ Conference Group.

It is a platform for environmentally conscious journalists and associates in Asia to hook up and communicate with like-minded individuals.

Japanese architect and urban planner Shunya Susuki first proposed the idea over dinner at a traditional Japanese pub in Fukuoka City, Japan on December 13, 2009.

Present at the dinner were journalists from Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The conversation over dinner mainly centred on establishing a space for journalists and associates connected with ACJC to create an online presence and to act as an alumni association.

That was when Susuki – who participated in ACJC as coordinating officer for UN Habitat Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (Fukuoka) prior to his transfer to Fukuoka City Hall in April this year – came up with the Facebook plan.

Everyone present enthusiastically embraced Susuki’s suggestion.

Indonesian journalist Robert Adhi Kusumaputra (KOMPAS Jakarta) volunteered to create the UN HABITAT’s Asian City Journalists’ Conference Group on Facebook.

After the dinner party, Kusumaputra, Cynthia Delgado Balana (Philippine Daily Enquirer) and Faezah Ismail (New Straits Times Malaysia) adjourned to set up the page.

Do check out the group on Facebook.







Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lee Byeong-Heon sizzles in Iris!



Watch South Korean actor Lee Byeong-Heon (picture) in Iris an action-packed Korean drama series, now showing on KBS World (Astro Channel 303 on Wednesday and Thursday at 9pm).

As bitter National Security System (NSS) secret agent Kim Hyeon-joon, Lee keeps me on the edge of my seat leaving me asking for more when each episode ends.

His romance with NSS profiler Choi Seung-hee (played by South Korean actress Kim Tae-hee) is sweet and touching which seems strange considering his tough demeanour.

Not really. The "I am ready to kill anyone who opposes me" secret agent is actually a very soft and romantic man.

He is the guy every woman wants to have!!! Big, strong and loving!!!

Iris reminds me so much of BBC's Spooks, a "tense drama series about the different challenges faced by the British Security Service as they work against the clock to safeguard the nation".

I am annoyed that Astro has removed BBC Entertainment from the Metro Package. I can no longer watch Spooks.

Give me one good reason why you did that, Astro!!!

I am so grateful to KBS World for Iris.

NOTE: Picture courtesy of New Straits Times