Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Sings my Soul (Book 3) by Robert J. Morgan

When I saw that Booksneeze was giving as complimentary book 3 of 'Then Sings My Soul', I straight away clicked to get a copy. I reviewed book 2 before and found it so enriching. Book 3 details a deeper understanding of church history and hymnody. The book starts of with an introduction to the different segments of the western hymnody. And pages that follow include muscial scores and the story behind the hymns.

It is true, as per author Robert J. Morgan, that a hymn can minister to your soul. Not only did I find the stories inspirational. I found myself being ministered to as I read the lyrics of some of the hymns, hummed others and sang out loud the rest. What drew me to the book was that the hymns ranged from hymns my kids sing to like Jesus Loves Me to the modern Shout to the Lord.

If you do not get any other book in the trilogy of Then Sings My Soul, get this one at least. I am so glad I have it on my shelf to inspire me all the days of my life. The richness within will certainly bring a song to your heart.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My take of Montenegro

I left Jordan in the week hours of the morning to head for Montenegro. I gave myself the 3 hours allowance in case the cab never showed up or something happened along the way. But when I reached Jordan airport, the gate was not even open.

Went through my bag to retrieve my book and found an uneaten apricot I had taken yesterday from the buffet line. Settled down to munch and read. I could only go in like some 2 hours before boarding.

One thing I realised was that the plane actually took off at the appointed time in Jordan. So we boarded the plane really about 40 minutes before. That left me only about 1 hour waiting time, which was great.

As we aproached Montenegro, I was struck again at how barren Jordan was of greenery and how blue and green Montenegro is. Also how much I take for granted trees and grass in Malaysia.

Podgorica airport is relatively small. When I went through immigration, the lady had to take out a huge dusty book to check Malaysia. She was talking to her colleague about me from this place called Malaysia. I found it amusing but wished they could hurry me through.

Baggage was unloaded just outside the airport by 3 burly guys and I saw them take it off the plane and onto the moving belt. That is one of the great things of flying business Your luggage is also priority.

Went outside and waited for my partner who would be sharing the cab with me. She turned out to be a friendly girl from Uzbekistan and we talked alot on the way there. People in this region speak Russian mainly. And they have a tendency to take step closer to you when they talk face to face. Initially I felt the need to take a step back but soon came to accept that they require that level of closeness to communicate. Also, I found them to be very helpful in that they do seek you out and offer assistance when they hear you are in trouble or ill. One lady from Yugoslavio seeked me out during tea break to offer me some herbal medicine as I was feeling flu-ish. She assured me that even her 9 year old daughter takes it. Oh well....

Unlike last year in NY where I felt out of place talking about my kids and personal life, in this region, it was the most enjoyable thing everyone wanted to do. All we wanted to talk about when we could was our kids, our life back home, our wife nagging us and the daily routines of life. It was so easy to get along with them and they made such an effort to talk in English whenever I was around.

Most of them have just come out of USSR rule and democracy and freedom was something new to them. So, it was sooooo great exchanging view points on bringing up children. For ONCE I was an expert on Malaysian politics and the feeling of freedom. How much we Malaysians take for granted....

Montenegro in itself was HOT. Before I went, hubby actually google searched the weather and it was forecasted to be cold. But it was so humid that I was sweating and wished desperately that I could jump into the pool or into the sea.

The place we had the meeting was an hour away from the city so I didn't get to see the city. But I got to visit 2 other small coastal towns - Budva and Kotor. All of them having an 'old town' which was quaint and rustic. Much like those castle like towns with shallow drains and weaving streets. It was LOVELY.

In Kotor, we even managed a boat ride to a man made island. It was originally a stone where 2 fishermen found a painting of Mary and Jesus. And that rock turned out to the the resting place for alot of fishermen. So they decided to take the trouble to carry rock after rock from mainland to this rock and make an island. They then built a church and placed the picture in the main altar. Every fishermen who subsequently visited the island left behind some plates of silver. And every wedding that was held there, a small momento was left behind in that church as well. The ceiling was painted depicting the story of the old testament and the walls were painted with the story of the new testament. And that was all that was on this island - a church for the resting of fishermen. Further outwards, we even saw the opening out to the sea heading to ITALY!

The place we had our training was idylic. So idylic that I understood fully the meaning of idylic. You could walk in the middle of the street and the car behind you would not honk. You walked and stood and sat anywhere and everywhere and felt the calmness of the sea, the warm breeze and quiet nature take over your soul. You could be in the moment and enjoy it without guilt or pressure. It was so great.

The sea, goodness, the sea was a marvel in itself. The sand was not fine and white like that in Bali. But wave after wave has cut and polished stones into marvellous oval shapes that lined the sea edge. The lady who I had breakfast with decided to go to the beach with me on the last morning. We just stood hand in hand supporting each other as we walked into the clean sea. Marvelling at the stones that looked like M&Ms, small sweets, dark chocolates and some bigger ones that had colourful lines and smooth contours. Coming out from the beach, we felt like we had just gone through some reflexology. I felt so much like sitting down there just taking in the sun, the calm and the gentle motion of the waves.

After 3 days in Montenegro, it was time to go home. It would be highly unlikely that I would go to this country again. But I am so glad that I had the chance to be there. A place where nature can overtake your soul. A place where your soul can find nature.

My take of Jordan

No, I didn't get to do the Dead Sea or Petra. I made it there for work and had to rush off after that to Montenegro.

As we were about to land in Jordan, what really struck me was the vast land of flatness. As far as the eye could see, you saw nothing but brown land.

Reached the airport and followed hubby's advice to change some money there - for taxi and visa. It was visa at arrival for Malaysians. Lining up for my visa, I was struck at the truth of how men in this region (generally) overlook women. I saw a whole bunch of women sitting at a corner seemingly waiting for their men to call them to the visa line when they were due. The men, one behind and one in front of me also talked to each other like I didn't exist. They just simply talked above my head and through me. While lining up, I was very irritated with the fact that they took it for granted it was ok to cut queue. Like 1 man would line up and when he was up, he would not only call his women, but also call his friends to join him. It was a good thing the immigration officer read into my frowns.

That was my first bad impression of Jordan. And it continued when I was getting the cab. It didn't help that I was with another man (another resource person for the training going to the same hotel). So the administrator for the taxi as well as the cabbie himself considered only the man's directive.

The journey from the airport to the hotel took about 45 minutes. And again and again I was struck at how dispersed the buildings were. How dry and hot Jordan was. And yet how majestic each building can be. Initially I was un-impressed with the brown-ness of all the buildings. Only to realise that they were all made with marble/stone block by block. Thus really there was not much need to cement and paint.

I also saw camels at work and at rest along the streets of Jordan. As well as street vendors selling beet and grapes and some other fruit along the way. I also saw petrol tanks being filled up. Oil after all is a common thing in Jordan.

I also saw signs for universities. And even saw a student (presumingly) waiting to cross the street. But when I looked left and right, I could not see any building that looked like a university or any place that resembles a town for which the student may be heading to. I gathered my assumption of how it should be (campus ground or university building) is very different from what the reality in Jordan is.

When I reached the hotel, I was dismayed. There didn't seem to be any shops nearby for me to wander into. And I later realised that shopping in Jordan is not like anywhere else. You really can't NOT take a cab to move around. The place around the hotel were streets and streets dotted with an occasional worth while shop PROVIDED you knew which road to turn into. Seriously.

However, a cab ride round a corner or two, and you may come across an oasis of restaurants or shops. And then emptiness or nothing worth while in between.  You would really need to go into down town or areas which you KNOW to get things which you want. So, you really would need a tour guide or a local to bring you around.

My colleague, a local took me around. I would say down town in itself is a mix of 'Bangsar like' streets. Well landscapes, beautifully lighted, almost boutique like lots with their own grounds. Then further away in nearby suburbs, you have single-storey shops in rows, still boutique liked for some but joined with 7-eleven like shops. And then further away still you have small town like shops, some occupying only half a shop etc.  

I had 2 great meals in Jordan. Both in a group so the cost of the meat and vege platters were shared out. It also came with their bread and side dishes like humus etc. Each meal cost about JOD25. Which is quite cheap considering a Western meal in an unassuming restaurant can cost the same as well. Service charge and tax is quite high going at about 15-25%.

I bought baklava and some other sweets from Jordan.  I also got smoked nuts and some Arabic coffee. All local delights. The coffee is NOT from Jordan but Jordanian coffee places roast the beans themselves and then add in spices, which you can buy seperately. The beans are lovely and roasted at high, medium or low heat which affects the taste, aroma and colour of the coffee. Spices usually added are cardanom. Spices are also a plenty in Jordan.

A muslim country in majority, I was so thankful I was surrounded by minority Christians in my every day dealings. And it was great that there was a kindred feeling in that we were together from different countries even as a minority.  

I made some great friends while in Jordan. The comfortable space they grant you while talking is about the same as in Asia. The Jordanian professionals are very friendly and very open.  My wonderful colleague Yazan even made it a point to wake up at 4 am to see me off.

So, although I didn't really get to see Jordan, I felt their local culture and experienced some other side of it too. I also learned to love their food. Will I be back? Prayerfully yes and next time with more free time to spare.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Great herb for cough!

I was down with a dry and itchy cough 2 days ago. Took Copastin which helped me in my previous case. Also took some herbal cough syrup.

Since the cough syrup bottle was almost empty and since we were going to 1U. Decided to go to the chinese medicine shop in 1U to get the cough syrup. I have found that the one sold there (and also in Tesco Mutiara Dsara) works the best.

So while I was there, I was telling the guy that I was having this really itchy cough and wanted the fastest way to get rid of it before I spread it to my kids.

He recommended something to me.

The first thing I checked was the price. Good thing it was only RM5.30. Though I found out later in Hai O it is sold for something like RM3.80.

It comes in a bottle of 100 pills. And it is called Chuan Xin Lian Pian. In the 1U shop, it came in a green and white box.

I can safely say it's GREAT. The guy told me to take a min of 2 and a max of 6 tablets per time, depending on the severity of the cough. Taken 3 times a day with warm water.

I took it straight away that night and again the next morning. And I can say that my cough is gone. The itch even is all gone and I don't have any urge to cough at all.

Google search it and I must say it's great. The herb is supposedly anti viral and also anti bacterial.