Saturday, 5 September 2009

National Day Weekend

Friday, 29th Aug 2009: Reflections on our 52nd Independence Day

My buddy Mahendran swung by my office of a Thursday evening when I was working late and we went out to dinner in Brickfields. Over the course of thosai and ginger tea, we discussed the countries we have visited and whether emigration was an option for either of us.

I told him unequivocally that I love Malaysia too much to even consider emigration. Mahendran felt the same way. The response to the question of why I love this country so much, however, was far from straightforward.

Why do I love my country? Because we have a better environmental record than China and a better human rights record than Myanmar? Because I am too afraid to leave my comfort zone? Because I have been conditioned to be complacent?

This brings me back to a conversation I had with Covert Mum, during which she asked if I were now an expert on the geography and political history of all countries, due to the nature of my work.

"No," I was quick to qualify. "I am only an expert in the most rundown, beat-up countries with the highest level of human rights violations. I can tell you everything about Somalia, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, and next to nothing about, say, Norway, Finland or Switzerland". Although my statement was intended jocosely, it did make me wonder if the reason for my patriotism and love of this country is due to the fact that I measure it against the lowest common denominators -- the least developed and least peaceful nations, with the greatest transgressions of civil liberties.

Talking it over with Mahendran helped me realise that this was not so. We know that our country and its people could not just be conveniently reduced to 3 major races and 'other minority races'. We know that we are so much more, and so much better, than the definitions and limitations that the politicians have encumbered us with. We won't play their game anymore, and we won't get fooled again.

What do I love about this country, apart from its natural history, its ancient rainforests, its climate, its abundance of resources and its flora and fauna both indigenous and introduced? What would impel me to put my neck on the line to protect and defend this country?

I love this country for the fact that for every village headman who thinks that it is a good idea to abandon stray dogs on uninhabited islands, there are thousands of Malaysians who would speak up and protest against such cruelty, engage the local council to develop better solutions, assist in or fund the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of the dogs (indeed, put themselves to inconvenience by offering to foster and feed the dogs in their homes until adopters could be found!) and assist in the Pulau Ketam spay and neuter project.

I love this country for the fact that for every bigoted Member of Parliament who proposes measures to subjugate women and restrict women's freedom and leadership, there are thousands of Malaysians who would protest, write letters to the Press, call up radio stations, take action to do the exact opposite of his recommendations and create opportunities for women leaders instead, and provide aid and assistance to women in need.

I love this country for the fact that for every timber company that decides to log an area and displace an indigenous community, there will be thousands of Malaysians who would lobby for environmental protection, protest against social injustice, provide physical and material assistance to the displaced peoples and carry out environmental surveys and data collection, even if amateur, of the area in question.

I love this country for the truck driver and other road users who stopped at a busy Shah Alam intersection, alighted from their cars and helped me in trying to extricate a stray kitten from under a car in 2007.

I love this country for the young people of different faiths and social backgrounds who volunteer with Food Not Bombs to serve vegetarian food to the less fortunate every week, come rain or shine.

I love this country for the Legal Aid volunteer lawyers who had inspired me to follow in their footsteps and had sacrificed so much of their time and resources to provide legal assistance to the most marginalised and disenfranchised groups in our society, despite the constant threat of arbitrary arrest by the police who work to protect the interests of the Federal Government.

I love this country for the people who adopt from shelters, clean up rivers and beaches, volunteer at welfare homes, speak up against injustice and soldier on to make this country the best that She could be.

For we are a young country, and many of our failings are signs of underdevelopment. But the fact that so many of us chose to stay put and strive to help the country overcome its shortcomings, protect its institutions of democracy and civil society and raise its environmental, animal welfare and human rights standards, among others, is what makes this country great.

I know my great-grandparents came to Malaysia from China a hundred years ago for a reason. They saw this country as a land of opportunity for those willing to work hard. They saw this country as a safe place to start a family and raise their young.

I share their vision and I will be part of the mechanism to make it come true. I know that my fellow Malaysians and I will work together to bring inclusiveness, progress, justice and economic, political and environmental stability to this country.

There is a line in our national anthem that goes: Tanah tumpahnya darahku. Loosely translated, it means "The land onto which my blood will spill". It may sound militant, but what it really means is that "this is the country where I will die".

Those words ring true for me. I know this is the country I wish to serve, and this is the country where I will draw my final breath.

Happy 52nd Birthday, Malaysia.

Monday, 31st August 2009: SPCA on Moody Monday

We had a long weekend this week, thanks to the National Day celebrations. I chilled out with my buddies on Friday evening before going back to the parental home the same night so I could wake up early on Saturday and take the Battletank to the workshop to have her resprayed and made buff.

Saturday and Sunday were spent at the parental home with Amber and Chocky. I spring-cleaned the kitchen cabinets, tidied the rest of the house, polished the furniture, gave Amber a bath, washed the cars, cleaned the fountain in the porch, washed the rugs and finally managed to fill in the remaining Scrabble tiles.

It was a productive two days but I was anxious and on the edge the whole time over whether the Whisketeers would get adopted and whether the Battletank would be fine. The workshop guy kept asking me how much gas I had left in the tank, and how far would it go on that much fuel. I had the niggling suspicion that he was going to take his family on a jaunt to Genting Casino before he decided to start work on my car.

I went to the SPCA after breakfast on Monday, driving Covert Mum's utterly femme, berry-coloured mini car. It couldn't possibly be any bigger than a Dodgem car. Being the big brute that I am, I hit my head against the door frame of her car while entering and exiting. Now I know what it feels like when cartoon characters brain themselves and have twittering birds and assorted stars and planets spin and hover above their noggins.

Imagine my relief and happiness when I arrived at the Front Area of the SPCA to find that Mitchell had already been adopted. However, Tabitha and Rafferty were still there, and both looked a bit lean. Dr. Pushpa explained that they had mild flu but were now recovering with medication. I was sad and worried and held my kittens for a while, praying that they would find new homes soon. If they are not adopted and not significantly better by next week, I will take them home and nurse them back to health and fitness. In the meantime, I will just have to put my faith in the SPCA and trust them to call me in the event the kittens are not recovering as they should.

I kissed the Whisketeers good luck and got to work washing the dogs in Kennels D, E, and F. I prepared a tub of Tacktik EC solution, grabbed the shampoo bottles, leashes, grooming scissors and flea comb, and started work on the six forgotten dogs in Kennel D.

I was in the middle of washing and grooming the dogs when I noticed a few visitors watching me. They stared, perhaps out of habit, but made no indication that they were remotely interested in what I was doing. There were no smiles and no greetings forthcoming.

There is nothing I hate more than when people stop to stare, as though I were a bad smell. The look on their faces says it all: "Thank God I don't have to do dirty work like the poor people here!" It makes me irritable and sarcastic.

"Hello," I called out to them, unnecessarily loud and unnecessarily brash, "Are you here for a visit or is there any resident dog or cat in particular that you would like to adopt?"

"Egads," their expressions seemed to say as they regarded me with surprise and suspicion, "It speaks English!"

"Just looking," they would then mumble, shifting uncomfortably.

"Well, if you're going to stand and stare, you might as well come in and lend me a hand", I press further.

The starers disperse to make themselves useless elsewhere. My strategy works every time. Nothing gets rid of people quicker than the idea of hard work. Sometimes, though, I am lucky enough to get visitors who actually chirp "Okay!" and dive right in. Such visitor-volunteers are overwhelmingly female, and overwhelmingly young. Still, it is a heartening trend that should be encouraged.

I finished washing and grooming about 15 dogs and wrote a note to let the vets know which dogs have been washed. The visitors and office staff have all left, and it was time to let the dogs out to play in the shelter compound. I put away my dog-washing kit and commenced cleaning the shelter. I put the donated newspapers away, cleaned out the litter trays and washed and disinfected the Front Office/Admin/Reception Area. Next, I soaped and disinfected the cages, kennels, Cattery, Maternity Kennels and washroom. Reve was still in Belgium and there were no other volunteers around, so it took me a fair bit of time to get everything shipshape and sanitised.

Hauled out the trash, had a shower in the shelter washroom, kissed Tabitha and Rafferty goodnight and left the SPCA premises around 1930h. Swung by the barbershop for a sensible haircut. Short-back-and-sides-and-trim-the-sideburns. This time, though, I made sure I didn't end up looking like a pudding basin on legs.

I was in the midst of feeding the Rowdies already when I received a text message from a good buddy, RJ, who was in need of some company. I drove over to RJ's house so he wouldn't have to nurse his broken heart alone. A heartache hurts as much at 50 as at 15. The only difference is that we learn to cope in different ways with the passage of time. We had a few beers and watched golf on the sports channel. I know RJ is trying very hard to be strong and to move on with life, and he is doing a good job so far, but perhaps we both need to get in touch with our emotions a smidgen more.

I am in the midst of compiling a CD of songs for my broken-hearted buddy. Although I know RJ's preferred genres are reggae and classic rock, music of the 60s and 70s should also speak to his soul as they do to mine. If you have any good songs to add to my list, please let me know!

My existing list:
1. Sharing the Night Together by Dr. Hook
2. Woman by John Lennon
3. I'd Really Like To See You Tonight by England Dan and John Ford Coley
4. Babe by Styx
5. Moment of Forgiveness by the Indigo Girls
6. Sometimes A Song by Dan Fogelberg
7. A Little Bit More by Dr. Hook
8. How Can I Tell Her About You by Lobo.
9. Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton
10. Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison
11. Against All Odds by Phil Collins
12. Look Away by Chicago


hobbit1964 said...

There needn't be any reason nor excuse to love this country.

It is simply OURS.

No matter what the crap we have elected to govern may say to the contrary.

Pat said...

I loved your bit about why you love Malaysia, and I have to agree with my bil, Jeffrey: It is simply ours. For that reason alone, matters most.

Your sms told me that there's just one Whisketeer to go. Yay!!! And, to a wonderful family, me hopes!


~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thanks Jeff! I never thought of it that way before. I thought you had to have a reason and justification for everything, like, you should be friends with me because I am relatively nice even if a bit insane and my spelling is passably good even if my grammar isn't.

Thanks for being so happy for me, Pat! Yes, Mitchell and Rafferty went to good homes -- the kind of people who didn't ask the SPCA for a discount and who informed the SPCA they would do the follow-up vaccination at their regular vet's --people who have regular vets generally treat animal babies as their own family members.

Unknown said...

Another friend in agreement : Yes, it's ours and Malaysia is our home.

Now, if there's one really proud to be a Malaysian, that's you - oozing so much patriotism.

Cat-from-Sydney said...

The Whisketeers no longer with you? Oh....we're really hoping they'll go to good homes, if not better than yours. Mama's been talking about going "home" quite often nowadays. But nothing concrete so far. Purr.....we're just glad that she's finally home with us. To us, home is where Mama is.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Keats, thank you and Happy Belated National Day! We all demonstrate our patriotism in different ways. You demonstrate yours through the good work you do with the Cheshire Home and other welfare organisations and through your efforts in inculcating a love of reading and the English language in young children.

Dear Cat-In-Sydney, two of the Whisketeers have been adopted by good families. One is awaiting adoption at the SPCA. She is doing fine and getting along well with the other cats. I can't keep her with me for too long because she might get too attached to me and not accept anyone new. One of my previous fosterees, Felicity, was so attached to me that she would scratch anyone else who tries to pick her up. Upon the advice of the vet, I had to leave her at the SPCA for 1-2 weeks before she would get used to other cats and people. She was finally adopted when she allowed others to pick her up. It breaks my heart to have to part with my babies. East or West, home is best, eh kitty?

mamasita said...

E.Lynn..your entry is as usual so well detailed and always a great pleasure to enjoy..hehe does a washbasin with legs hairstyle looks like? haha

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Datin Mamasita, thank you for your visit! A pudding basin on legs is shaped like a Christmas pudding, naturally! Those fruit-laden brown ones with custard sauce! I would look like one of the Three Stooges! The last time I had one of those haircuts, I had to use RM20 worth of gel to spike and style my hair so I wouldn't look like I had just escaped from a mental institution!

Saya... said...

Haiya Lynn,

Don't go to the barber lah...go to a salon! Heheh.

Nice playlist. Love the classics.

When are you comin over to spring clean my house? Im jealous of your parents. My cupboard need spring cleaning! Everything lah needs cleaning...hahaha

Ellen Whyte said...

A timely piece; I'm having second thoughts about choosing this as our home.

Keep me up to date with the Whisketeers?

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thanks for the visit and kind comments, Saya and Ellen!

Saya, I prefer the barber because of the whole atmosphere - the stripey pole, loud Tamil music, the smell of coconut oil and cheap-ass aftershave... Love it! Yes, we do share the same taste in music. And you can train the girls to spring clean the house. I started at their age. Split chores into bite-size chunks for them. (First we do this shelf, then this box, then we rest, tomorrow we continue with the rest of the cupboard). I trained myself that way.

Ellen, everyone has second thoughts about everything -- a relationship, a new job, a new house -- that's normal and should not mean that we should move frequently in search of fleeting happiness. One day, you will go home, and I will stay here because this is my home, and where I feel my chakras are most balanced, just like your home feels best for you too. Only one Whisketeer left -- Tabitha. Thanks so much for your help!