Sunday, October 24, 2010

What I learn from ‘the car boot sale @ swap meet’.

It’s Sunday today, my husband and I have some plans to give our sitting area a new look. How I wish we were in the UK or Australia right at this moment to be at the car boot sales to find the odd and unique items with a cut-rate cost, but not shoddy (if you choose wisely).

I enjoyed my Sunday mornings –  rain or shine at the basement car boot Greenside Edinburgh (suffocating though); another covered swap meet at Broadway Fair, Perth, WA; the huge open parking area of Belmont shopping centre, Perth, WA (approximately 200-250 sellers and traders (with a bigger number of bargain hunters, of course); and some other times, when we went visiting friends all around the UK, car boot sales were one of the main activities on Sunday mornings, especially for the postgraduates families.

By the way, to those who are unfamiliar with car boot sales (UK term) and swap meets (OZ term),  it’s a place to buy bargain stuff, mainly pre-loved items (clothing, shoes, luggage, house decors, kitchen appliances) as well as other new unused items sold by traders. In swap meets, pots of plants (flower plants to herbs, including curry leaves, lemon grass, chilli plants), fertilizers and insecticides could be seen and bought.

For some, it’s a crowded place selling junks, but for me, it’s an interesting place to see the culture of others, to have a peep in another’s life, and ultimately, to find something that I need with lower prices (oh, and I could brush up my bargaining skills too!). For the newbie in town, car boot sale is also a place to meet Malaysians!

There were some lessons learned from these car boot sales;

Firstly, I need to have a list. If I didn’t plan things that I needed (and wanted) to buy, I ended up buying things that I didn’t need. When I was in Australia, what I did was (during recuperating days after giving birth to Alwani), I planned on how I want to furnish each room in the (imaginary Malaysian) house (3 bedrooms+2 bathrooms +kitchen +lounge).

Then I usually added another bullet point or two of the things that were needed immediately i.e Alwani’s winter wear size 00-0, Al Fateh wooden puzzles (not compulsory, though! Hahah). For the wives out there, do seek your husband’s permission; he’s going to pay the shipment!

Secondly, if you fail to produce a list, don’t despair, you can still go, BUT you must set a budget. Though from my experience, this was a pretty bad idea. Consider this scenario, I had AUD15 budget, and I brought only that amount to Belmont, no more, no less; and I intend to finish every cent of it on the things that I might need. Do you think it’s wise? But at least when having a (small-ish) budget, you won’t be coming home with too much regrets.

Hence, if you don’t have a list, stay at home! Or better yet, use your $15 budget to buy goodies at Woolies for a picnic/BBQ brunch at King’s Park or Burswood Park, by the Swan River. Or if it’s a beautifully rare sunny day in Edinburgh, why don't we enjoy a cuppa steaming hot coffee with prawn mayo sandwiches accompanied with a truly good book at the Princes Street Gardens. Bliss!

Thirdly, I learn the art of bargaining. I must admit that I'm a good haggler! I think it's inherited from Mak.

Fourthly,  I learn to choose wisely (expensive less quality items vs cheap high quality stuff). If you're a pro-car boot bargain hunters, you'll learn to be choosy. Always remember that you're going to use this item for a long time. And when you found 'it', BARGAIN! It's a must! Wajib!! Oh, and do pay attention to  the sellers, too, since they are the indicator of the products being sold.

Fifthly, when you plan well on the things that you ought to buy, trust me, you'll save a huge sum of money. For us who were just starting our lives in Malaysia, only having our wedding gifts to start our lives with, car boot sales offer a large variety of things that could be essential in your house, both in the UK/Australia as well as Malaysia, that is if you're not too fussy. Roughly, our house that we're staying in at the moment are 80% filled with stuff we bought abroad, both from car boot sales and store sales. Quick instances: Hamza Yusuf are still wearing Al Fateh's clothes which we bought from swap meets, their funky sturdy bookshelf reminded me of the days teaching in Al Hidayah Islamic School, where I used it there earlier.

However, sometimes it's better to save the money from the car boot sales and wait for the Boxing Day sales. i.e. I did not find a suitable and attractive floral arrangement for my lounge, so I did not buy any from the swap meet. It would be useless if I buy the bouquet (which I did not fancy) because I believe that it'll remain in the shipment box forever and ever! Trust me, you should not pay the shipping fees for the things that you don't need. Life's too short to waste your time, money, energy...

So last but not least spare your money for the first-hand items. Use your Argos catalogues (in the UK) and weekly junk mails (Western Australians) as your guide. You need to do your homework to compare prices. Our lovely Corelle was 'buy 2 and get 1 free' sale item at Big W ($80 for 24pax set!), the TEFAL and Marks &; Spencers cookware were bought during post-Christmas sale. Remember the floral arrangement in my list? I found the perfect dark red 'fresh' peony arrangement at Target, 4 days before we shipped our 'treasures' from Australia. And not to forget, for huge furniture, we frequent the charity shops to find good bargains i.e Al Fateh's pine bed and the sturdy study table.
CBS collections: mirror panels 3 for $5, wooden frames 5 for $5, and my lovely red 'fresh' peony $35.99 $9.75 (I still have the price tag on!)

To those who can still enjoy car boot sales and swap meet, I envy you!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What I learn from 'the XIX Commonwealth Games 2010'.

Our family enjoys watching sports events together. This is the time to sit together where the kids and I learn new rules of some of the events, teaching the children about different flags, the medal table and reasonings (why 1 gold is better than 10 silver). These kinds of events set a platform for us to learn new things and communicate with each other.

The first thing that I believe Dato Seri Utama Rais Yatim, my state mate, should do is to send the RTM sports commentators for courses and training sessions to improve their communication with their audience (with the exception of Hasbullah Awang). These commentators should speak with substance; giving professional comments and opinions based on technical issues of the event, in-depth background on sports or its players and any other information related to the events. I was watching the lawn bowl event, and the commentator kept on repeating, 'Oh tidak! Mengapa X (the Malaysian player), mengapa?', 'oh, sukar buat Malaysia', 'Aduhai, mintak-mintak jauh' and it was tremendously annoying! What I learn is that, these commentators need to do their homework on the issues stated earlier. They should also watch and learn from other professional sports commentators from abroad on their commentating skills.

Gold Muslimah
Do you know who is Nur Ayuni Halim and Nur Suryani Mohd Taibi? These two ladies are the top guns in 10M Air Rifle. I'm so proud of them when they stood on the stage to accept their gold medals with their white hijaabs, declaring that they are true Muslims. To me, it's a fabulous way to portray that Muslim ladies can be excellent sports women. It gives hopes and motivations to the young emerging lady athletes in the universities, SBPs, MRSMs and schools, as well as proving to them that the hijaab is not a reason for them to be inactive in sports. I believe that our two top guns have discretely performing their dakwah, masha Allah. 

Praises on air
Astro's effort on recognising the successes of our athletes should be applauded. Those short clips on the Malaysian contingent achievements - on the stage receiving medals, and off the stage, fighting as true champions, were excellent. It stirred the interest of the kids to know and watch the sports, and making the athletes themselves, and their parents and family members feel appreciated and proud of their hard work and achievements. I am a big believer that all accomplishments, big or small, should be highlighted. This will make others feel highly motivated to do better, or to follow the others footsteps to become successful. 

Insha Allah, I always try to draw attention to the successes of my husband and children, since I know that it makes them feel appreciated and loved. Even picking up the rubbish should be applauded so that the munchkins know that it is a good deed and by doing so, they are loved by us, and up mostly, Allah.
Alwani is the Queen in seeking praises! We don't mind giving them to her, but she needs to earn it!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What I learn from being 'a cleaner'.

I admit, I was a cleaner for nearly 6 years, and I'm proud of myself.

I was privileged to live in the UK for 6 years and a bit, doing my A-Levels, Scottish Highers and Bachelor Degree. I have all these certificates to prove my achievements, but believe it or not, I learned more from the outside of the classrooms in Stevenson College and Moray House, School of Education.

I learn from what I earn. I earned from being an avid cleaner in various spots around Edinburgh throughout my six years there. I was employed by Mitie Olscott, working in the main branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland (5-7am); Br Yamin of Edinburgh Mosque (flexi hours: 3 hrs daily) and Edinburgh University Services (Pollock Halls during summer holidays; as well as Language Faculty (5-7am) after 'resigning' from Olscott since been offered better pay by Edin Uni Services).

I learn that money doesn't come easy, the halal money, I mean. You need to work for it! Waking up as early as 4.30am in the the bitterly cold and wet winter days to clean office spaces was not an easy job, truly challenging I must admit. Walking away from your warm bed to 'your office', knowing that you would be completing the usual cleaning routine: emptying bins, dusting the tables, hoovering with Mr Henry (the vacuum cleaner), buffering the floor, wiping the pantry, splashing some blue chemical in the toilet bowl: would not be a super motivation for some to wake up and leave the bed. But I did, not for the stated reasons though, I did it for the£4 - £6 per hour. I did it for the sole reason that it would fatten up my ROBOS bank account for at least £450 (x7 for RM at that point of time) monthly.

With the wage I earned, I learn to appreciate life, I learn to explore the beautiful world of Allah. Yes, travelling was my passion at the age of 18. I traveled to the places where RyanAir and Easy Jet (the low-cost airlines) offered free seats, which meant, I would have more to spend on accommodation (mainly YMCA and youth hostels), food and souvenirs (I love leather bookmarks!!). Hence, I learn to control my expenditure (which ain't easy, people!) and I did not dare to ask money from my parents for the reason of  overspending! So, I work hard, then I play hard.

Alhamdulillah, I managed to travel all around the UK (Scotland, England and Wales), from the Land's End to John O'Groats; hitched a trip with Bang Ammar and Kak Huda + little Anis to Istanbul, Turkey; Legoland Billund in German with Noi; Cool Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmoe, Sweden trip with Noi and Marina; Disneyland Paris trip with Nani and Kak Ain; the rustic 2-week Egypt trip with N, Nani, Kak Has, Kak Kathy and Nonoi, covering Cairo, Sinai (and saw the historic Suez Cannal), Hurgada at the Red Sea, Luxor and Alexandria ; the coupon collecting-drive yourself- all around Italy trip with Kak Lily, Nawfal and Hakimi, where we covered Brescia, Verona, Venice, Firenze (Florence), Rome, Pisa, Genova, Nice (France), Monte Carlo (Monaco), and Torino; and just a bit of Northern Ireland.
Kak Kathy, Nani, Kak Has, Azza, Nonoi and N, Egypt trip, Y2K.

Honestly, if not with the wage by being a cleaner, I would not be able to see His fantastic and phenomenal creations, different and unique, subhanallah.(And I must admit that I learn more about Geography too! More then what I've learned from the PMR exams, definitely more!)

Furthermore, I learn the art of giving. This was not easy, since I thought that I've worked so hard, why must spend it on others? But having the pleasure to see the happiness in Mak's eyes when I bought the stacks of  the Royal Albert Old Country Roses teas sets, plates and bowls seconds in Stoke-on Trent (a 'China' adventure with Pipah) and Bally & Clarks shoes for Abah in Norwich and Colne; that was priceless! And trust me, scholarship money would never ever be enough, ever! Thank God for creating cleaning jobs!
Mak's frequently used OCR collections.

Last but not least, I learn about save vs spend. I learn how to love to do both, up till now!

So, to those who have the opportunity to travel, please do. We'll learn alot about the country, culture and people; we learn about being true to Allah: obeying the rules of halal and haraam instated by Him; we'll learn to be grateful for the things we have; we'll learn to appreciate our lives; we learn how to survive.

Alhamdulillah for all those experiences Ya Rabb.

p/s:  Believe it or not, my dowry and wedding gifts from my husband were from his cleaning wage as well!
Thank God for cleaning jobs!! haha..

What I learn from 'Maher Zain'.

Taqwa vs Wealth

I was one of 'the chosen one' who had the opportunity to watch and listen to brother Maher Zain's mini-story of his life and journey in Nasi Lemak Kopi O @ TV9. Before this, we are just one of the millions who extremely enjoy his voice and songs from his new (original) album Thank You Allah, but now, after listening to some history of this 28 year old Lebanese born artiste, my respect for him and his songs moves up another level.

Having a choice to live in a high-profile life, earning million dollars annually versus an unknown journey to reach the hearts of millions of Muslims (and Muslims-to-be insha Allah); which path might you choose? For someone who have tasted the glamorous life of LA, brother Maher Zain bravely chose the second option. Why? To be nearer to Allah.

Believe in Allah's Promises

Brother Maher Zain's journey of being a better Muslim has opened my eyes to be a better and stronger believer. As an outsider, I must admit that I think that brother Maher Zain has passed Allah's test of 'taqwa vs wealth', therefore Allah grants both to him now. He chose to be closer to Allah, to pray in the mosque back in Sweden, left the fab life that he might have in LA for the sake of Allah; be happy and contented with continuing his journey in an unknown region.

But look deeper, for choosing the right option in life, Allah has granted him more. He grants him with sharp ideas to make brilliant songs and lyrics. Allah grants him health and wealth to travel all over the world to spread the truth using his intoxicating voice. Allah grants him with a style with suit him and his ways in doing his 'dakwah'. Allah grants him good family and friends who support him and not turn back to him. Allah grants him with good communications skills to communicate with media and fans, on and off stage. The list may go on and on.

The lesson I learn is choose the right path, Allah's path. Allah may test us with wealth, happiness and highly recognised and acknowledged by others, but it may be against His paths. So choose wisely.

Thanks brother Maher Zain for the lesson learned. Jazakallahukhairan kathira.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What I learn from 'my back ache'.

Yusuf whimpered in his cot. I peeped at the digital clock, 2:03, I was pretty sure that he needed milk. As I set my mind to walk to the kitchen, I halted. I tried hard to execute the plan but I just couldn't move!

It was a scary moment for me. I could feel my toes and fingers, they weren't numb, but I couldn't move my body. I shook my husband gently, asked him as softly as possible to mix a bottle of formula for Yusuf, he obliged sleepily. As he came back to the room, he brought a bottle of warm rub as he saw me pinching my back profusely. Yes, his miracle massages and warm rub soothed the pain, alhamdulillah.

So then I paid a visit to a GP, to make sure what went wrong with my back. I found out that the effect of the epidural poking procedure during my third birth was the cause of the horrid pain. I was not surprise since the procedure I had on the 30 January 2009 at HSNZ was a failure. The pain killer fail to kill any pain, though several dosages were added through the drip.  And at the end of the 10 hours of labour, we discovered all the pain killers were 'spilled' on the hospital bed. What a waste! What worse is that, I'm suffering the pain, up until this moment!

Why epidural?
I took the pain killer during the previous giving birth processes. I discovered from my experiences that this was the only pain relief which helped me to stay strong and energised for the pushing bit. But I must admit, the 3rd time in HSNZ the atmosphere were different from King Eddie's. At King Eddie, the anesthetist and midwives deliberated with both my husband and I on the pros and cons of having epidural, they were relaxed and not rushing for home. But on the 30th of January, 2009, I overheard the anesthetist talking to the head nurse to speed up the process since it was nearly 4p.m., his home time. Was that ethical? To poke my spine and thinking about what to eat for tea?

What I learn from my back ache episodes;
  1. Love your body and learn about it. I learn that I need to do my stretches. Two hours is the maximum time for me to sit in front of the computer, then I need to stand up and do other short activity to relieve the pressure on my back. 
  2. I am thankful to Him for bestowing me a great husband.
  3. Alhamdulillah for another day.
  4. Make lots of du'a that I'll be stronger and find a cure for my back ache, aamin.
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