Atchafalaya Swamp

Saturday, July 12, 2014

OMG - Book Review by Connie Goh

Pacha's my sister. Here's Connie's review of her latest book. Thanks Connie!

Getting to Know Allah Through the Canvases of a Mother and her 5 year-old

This week, I will be reviewing an amazing book called OMG (Oh-My-God) by Pacha & Bali, a gem I discovered during a recent book hunt for local book authors. I have been collecting books especially children ones to build a mini library at home. You may also hunt for more bargains for Raya or even donate food and other necessities to be given away to the homeless at the Strada Bazaar located on Level G of The School by Jaya from now until 25 July 2014. The bazaar operates daily from 3 to 10 pm.
Unlike the conventional children books about fairy tales, adventures, characters, phonics, and so on, this truly is a unique find; it is a rare book about Allah explained through fun and colourful canvases painted by a mother, fondly known as Pacha and her talented 5 year-old daughter named after the island of Bali.
When I first picked up this book, I had zero expectation of what I will find in the book, other than reviews by others telling me that this is a colourful book about Allah, as it explains Allah in easy to understand terms. So I decided to contact the author through her Facebook account.
Can you imagine my excitement when Pacha replied me? I mean, as a book lover, I was excited to be able to speak to the author. The feeling is akin to fans meeting a celebrity. And so I asked Pacha, why this book?
According to Pacha, “The book is done because I have ‘googled’ the Internet and also tried to find in local bookstores, any children’s version of a good night book of Allah’s attributes in English. Unfortunately, there were none. Some came close but they are just not engaging or good enough for kids to understand it. At first, I did my own adaptation by using slip of notes and read it to Bali even before she turned 1 year old. When Bali started taking art classes in 2012, we began to paint. Our paintings, with God’s will, were later turned into the beautiful Art Coffee Table Book with light explanation of Allah’s names, after inspirations and helps from friends and family.”
Later on, I picked up the actual book from Pacha and started reading it myself and occasionally, to my 2 year-old daughter who kept asking me about the paintings. True enough, for a non-Muslim, this is indeed an easy read. There are a total of 30 paintings and 99 Allah’s names or attributes explained in beautiful, sometimes catchy poems, all compacted into this 3ft x 3ft hardcover. Pacha and Bali shared their favourite things and places through their paintings.
Floating Lanterns in Jimbaran by Pacha & Bali
Attributes of God in this painting are: The Appreciative, The Most High, The Most Great, The Preserver and The Giver
I would definitely recommend this book to my friends, Muslims or non-Muslims who are interested on the subject or want to understand who Allah IS. According to one peer in my reading club, this book is too beautiful and helps the non-Muslim to understand the Muslim better and Who they are worshipping for.
Mexicola by Pacha & Bali
As for my takeaways from this book? The simple descriptions of the 99 names found in Quran “painted” an overall picture of Who Allah IS and depicts His awesomeness to the believers. What’s more interesting is that the paintings are very down-to-earth yet suggest deeper meanings if one would observe closely. My favourite piece is none other than Pisang Goreng and Godok time with Nenek. It talks about the borrowed life Allah gave to His believers and the guidance to the Right Path He bestowed. However, it gives me a sense of homeliness and the strong family ties that keep one’s sanity in-check in this ever changing world full of challenges.
The book also teaches one on faith, forgiveness, humility and compassion. It advises readers to learn to give, to listen, and to see all things that is good and appreciate life even in tough times.
This is a catch my dear readers, and an ideal book to give to your loved one during this holy month of Ramadan. You may order your very own copy through OMG by Pacha & Bali Facebook Page.
Connie Goh traded her corporate career as a communications specialist to become a full-time mother to her now two year-old while waiting eagerly to the birth of her second bub through gentle birthing. Since becoming a mother, she has been an avid advocate for breastfeeding, attachment parenting and gentle birthing. She writes for The School and believes in learning through play and holistic education for children.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

It's for the kids, dude.

Some folks are probably wondering why I even bother to "expatriate myself". I wonder about it too.

Truth be told I initially rejected the offer simply because of five decades worth of "baggage". I think the best years to become an expatriate is in your 30s or 40s when you have all that youthful energy to start a life somewhere. What more with a family in tow. 

Anyway the offer is for a limited time only. A lot can happen in five years but five years can also whiz by and before you know it, it's time to go home.

In my case it has nothing to do with career progression or money. Well, may be a little on the career part (by towing the line it may be my insurance in exchange for job security). In fact I'll be making less due to some sharing with my new uncle called Sam. But the kids man? Damn, think how exciting this must be for them?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Down the slippery slope

FOUR YEARS AGO when I had last put my thoughts on this blog I had an inkling that for me at least, there is no where to go but down. I was approaching fifty at the time so mid-life "issues" might have something to do with it. Maybe.

I had lost some friends and family over the intervening period. 2013 was the worst though. Apart from my Dad's passing, barely a week after his one of my best friends from high school succumbed to Stage IV colo-rectal cancer. In the weeks leading to the inevitable I was visiting my old man at a hospital 30 miles away, sometimes two three times a day, and also dropping by to see Mole at his sister's house on the way back. By then he was reduced to a shell, naked on his bed lotus position, holding his head with his hands fighting a pain that narcotics can barely alleviate. So you can imagine that I may have needed some emotional rescuing at that point.

Anyway fast forward to 2014. Life went on as usual in the swamps of eastern Borneo. Then the work died down so I was put on loan to the other side of Borneo (the north side). In early April, a day or two before Unker Bernard passed away an email came in. It was sudden and unannounced and was to change my life forever. I was to be transferred lock, stock but with no smoking barrel.

It was the start of my heading down the slippery slope.

To cut the story short just over three weeks later I found myself in George Bush Intercontinental smiling to the CBP officer and showing him my 5-year work visa. That same night I took a connecting flight to the former French town of Lafayette, Louisiana. April wasn't even out yet -the work visa process took only two days in Kuala Lumpur - a record I'm told because that usually takes 60-90 days. Hmm, why is the refrain "we just want your money" keep going round the back of mind?

So I spent two weeks in the bayous just to jump start some 'govment paperwork: Tax ID, SocSec, Coast Guard letters etc and headed back home again to wait for the movers to come collect my worldly possessions from the other side of the world to Port Galveston.

Forgive me if I sound flippant. The process of uprooting one's family to the other side of the world in a space of a couple of weeks is anything but. My long-suffering better half was tasked with solving relocation headaches so it was a stressful time. At least for men my age. We have two school going children you see, a girl in primary and the elder boy in middle school. The school systems and calenders on opposite sides of the world are like night and day, so here they are in the middle of the school year when it's almost coming to an end over there. Then there's the assets and junk one accumulates through more than two decades of marriage; the house, the car, bicycles and what-not (so what should we do with the house, rent it?).

Since these events happened less than two months ago you betcha the house hasn't been rented out yet. And the car hasn't been sold. But the bicycles and kid's toys are on its way though.

And oh, while my family lies languishing in a rented home on the outskirts of north Houston with no furniture (the steamship hasn't arrived yet) and no TV and internet, my employer saw fit to drag me away to the bayous for my first assignment.

You can take the Swampman out of the swamps but the swamps always wins. Period.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Return of the Swampman

It has been four long years since I added anything to my near-defunct blog.

I have since moved from the swamps of East Borneo to the swamps of the bayous of Louisiana. More on this later but I think I may already be in purgatory as a prelude to my special place in Hell. I hear they reserve a special spot there for someone like me.

A lot has happened since then; not least my three favorite bloggers have upped and gone away (see In Memoriam side-bar), the latest being Unker Bernard aka Zorro this past April. Fortunately I was home for his wake where spirits were downed in an atmosphere of good cheer all around. BTW, it was the late Zorro who had nicknamed me Swampman, so it saddens me that he would never come visit my blog again.

                                                                       Three PAS reps @Zorro's funeral
                                                                                        Me and buddy Ronnie
Four long years is long enough to be in mourning --my Dad had also passed on in August last year...on the very same morning that Kerp had lost his wife to cancer?

Enough. Time to move on.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Smiling For Dalilah (Scenes from Kg. Labuhan Dagang)

I DON'T HAVE much to say here 'cept good-bye, Dalilah...

For a kick-off, d
on't you think it's a strange coincidence that my last posting was EXACTLY a year ago? July 19, 2009? Yes, that's when we lost Bang Captain...


Hey, my missus was a bit upset when you became the second woman (besides her that is) to sit in my low-slung, mid-life-crisis coupe... heh heh. No other woman (yet) besides you and her has had that honor, che-wah...

Anyway, she was cool bout it later. Really. Hey, it's THE Raden Galoh after all!

Today, she saw you an hour after you drew your last breath this morning, dear, And when the nurses and the ladies went out of that curtained partition around your bed, I too went in and drew the curtains around so we could have our privacy and say my piece to you.

You look so lovely with your full head of hair, D. So serene. No, I did not shed a tear for you D because I was actually happy for you. It's time you were released, dear...

Me? No regrets for you
laa, D. You've led a heck of a life, didn't you?

You will be sorely missed by all whose lives were once touched by you. That's a given, D.

You've gone and left us bereft, and in mourning.

Gone, yes gone. But I do not doubt that you will ever be forgotten, my dear Dalilah.

Love and Peace.

-Mat Salo

Bereaved father (right)

Bereaved mother