Sunday, July 30, 2006

Take a step back…


First it’s Tun Haniff Omar’s cautionary reminder for us to ‘hasten slowly’ with his A Malaysian Journey.  His message seems like a carefully worded reminder that we could lose it all if we’re not too careful about how we demand for our rights, and that we have to see ourselves first as Malaysians above all else.  Otherwise, no matter where we stand, rich or poor, majority or minority, we could possibly see 49 years of struggle go down the drain just because some of us refuse to give some in order to take some, but rather want to do everything “My Way” no matter what happens. 


Then the Sunday StarMag ran a series of stories about the Rwandan Tragedy about the Hutus and the Tutsis, as seen through the eyes of a film-maker, Raoul Peck, and the despairing experiences as related by Tan Sri Vohrah, and also posed the haunting question with a list of modern time genocides: (Are we) doomed to repeat the horror? 


Being smarter doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it all.  Being the stronger doesn’t mean you’ll win all the time.  Being the minority doesn’t mean you must just let things go without trying.  And being the majority doesn’t mean you can do it all as you please.  Any upheaval at all simply screws up the social order and if it finally ends, nobody’s going to take his cake and enjoy it too.  There are no winners.  We see it happen elsewhere.  We don’t want that to happen here.  You see something’s not right?  Got your differences? Let’s sit down and negotiate.  Chinese saying: “Take a step back; look at the horizon and the sky.”  You’ll see chances for compromise. 


As Datuk Wong says we need to: Stress on the common ground


Let’s look forward to another Merdeka day.  And another.  And another.  In spite of our differences.  Agree? 

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Stray Balloon


We had a birthday bash for the CFO, and there were balloons floating around in the office after that.  One stray one was still stuck on the ceiling as I about to leave.  I hopped and grabbed the string and tied the thing to my bag strap.  It seemed perfectly natural for me to take it home, even though everyone stared at me amused, and I'd say that it makes my bag lighter.  Even though my kids are no longer fascinated by these colorful round things that could float up instead of hang downwards or fall on the floor like all other things, but fly into the sky if you let go of the string.


It somehow reminded me of the kids' early years when we dropped by at the local supermarket one evening.  They must have been giving away free balloons, as we noticed some other kids walking around, even some with more than one in their hands, and their parents smiling from ear to ear.  My kids looked at them longingly and wifey said, "Ooh we're a bit too late as usual..."  I thought I could just go buy some and blow them up, but then they're not the same, as they couldn't fly.  After prowling around without really shopping for anything, we decided to leave.  As soon as we reached our parked car, wifey yelled, "there, they're giving out balloons again!!!"  Wifey grabbed the elder girl's hand while I carried the baby and we ran back to the supermarket's entrance just in time to grab ONE FREE BALLOON..... The rest were gone from the Clown's hands in a jiffy.  It was then I noticed the DJ was making some remarks about a parent with a kid that just ran in exhausted for the sake of free balloons for the kids.  I thought, hey, what's become of us?  Rushing like crazy for something of such low value.  What a spectacle!  I looked at my kids and wondered if they're as enthusiastic about getting free balloons as their parents were. 


As we wandered around again wishing we had another balloon for the younger one, we noticed some stray balloons stuck to the ceiling of the supermarket.  They're too high up for me to grab any.  Wifey and I looked at each other and I shrugged and gave her a resigned smile.


Somehow, I wish this one stray balloon I got now could go back in time to fill that little disappointment I had back then.  But when I went into the house with it, the youngest (who wasn't there yet when we were rushing for those balloons) raised both hands and said, "Uh uh, don't give it to me!! Don't give it to me!!" 


I know lah.  She's too old for that now.  Sigh... have they just grown up a little too fast?


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Miyagi-san, I presume?


When I walked into our Juarez plant one morning, there was a football game going on TV.  Operators male and female alike were glued to their seats or on the floor, watching the on-going battle between Mexico and Portugal.  Our Mexican plant counterpart explained that they had to let them watch the game right there in the factory, otherwise there'd be nobody to run production for the whole shift.  So, might as well relax the rules, supply some TVs and let things take care of themselves.  People are happy they get to see their team play, management is happy they get at least 70% of production for that shift, rather than take the hard stand and issue warning letters to absentees and lose that camaraderie.  Win-win situation.

During one interval, while we were walking around, I noticed some female operators peering at me and whispering among themselves and giggling.  They said something to the Mexican engineer who was showing us around.  Curious, I asked him what was that all about?  He said that I resemble the old guy in the movie "Karate Kid".  I laughed.  I bowed towards them and they laughed.  I said I've been told that quite often.  The guys at the office used to call me Miyagi-san.  Pat Morita has since passed away, but his movies are still going strong.  That night, on Mexican TV, I happened to see that movie being played again.  I still enjoy his portrayal of the old Karate master.

Something I couldn't figure out about Mexico though.  They seem to bar the access to  For the 5 days I was there, I tried and couldn't get into my blog.  There was always this message that said the URL was forbidden.  And I've often wondered why I never saw any Multiply bloggers from Mexico.  That could be the reason.  Anyone with some evidence to contradict me?  Or some reason why it is forbidden?....


El Paso - That old song in my mind...

Out in the west Texas town of El Paso

I fell in love with a Mexican girl

Night time would find me in Rosa’s cantina

Music would play and Feleena would whirl…..

When I realized I had to land in El Paso before setting foot in Mexico, that old song just came up and kept playing itself in my mind.  Marty Robbins went on to sing about how a handsome young cowboy “wild as the West Texas wind” came in one night and he had to challenge his love for the pretty young maiden.  His challenge was answered in less than a heart-beat and the handsome young stranger lay dead on the floor, after which he had to run for his life, out through Rosa’s back door.  A few years down the road, the wandering cowboy with his heart still yearning for his Mexican dancing girl arrived at the hill overlooking El Paso.  There, feeling in his heart a love greater than his fear of death, he rode into town with “five mounted cowboys closing in on him on his right and on his left rode a dozen or more”.  Shouting and shooting he rode straight for Rosa’s back door but he was shot down before he could get there.  As he lay dying, he found himself cradled in the arms of his Mexican maiden….

After Cinderella, Snow White, Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck, I’d grown up with a steady diet of cowboy comics featuring Davy Crockett, Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hikok, etc.  Then I progressed to Louis L’amor novels and John Wayne movies among others.  It is no small wonder then at the mention of El Paso, the memories of these came flooding back. 

I’d not imagined I’d ever set foot in El Paso in my lifetime.  Not even in my dreams.  But there was I, even walking around in this historic town where nobody walks (to get anywhere significant, that is).  The town, like most US towns, is built for the automobile.  There are very few tall buildings.  Most stores and supermarkets have huge parking lots.  I sort of enjoyed every moment as I sat there in the lobby listening to the old portly hotel manager’s west Texan drawl telling about Mexicans, Chicanos and jokes from the internet.  The next day before we left, he asked us where we’re going and I said, “South of the border”.  And he broke into another of my favorite songs;

South of the border

Down Mexico way…

I’d not be there had I not responded to the call of duty and accepted to take the trip to our Juarez plant in Mexico.  As it was, we had almost always set up and run our production lines based on some drawings, sketches, photos and word-of-mouth advice from ‘those who know’ until recently when our Manager of Production Process for Asia-Pacific region came and gave us a first-hand audit.  And that was it!  Our process standard wasn’t up to par.  We needed a bench-marking trip to get ourselves up to world-class standards to meet world-class customers’ demands and to compete with world-class competitors.  Fuyoh!!  After looking at what others are doing elsewhere we realized we are still “jaguh kampong” in spite of the awards and certifications we display on our walls! 

But, work aside.  I found the lyrics that has been playing on in my mind every now and then through the years.

El Paso

Marty Robbins

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso

I fell in love with a Mexican girl

Night time would find me in Rosa's cantina

Music would play and Feleena would whirl

Blacker than night where the eyes of Feleena

Wicked and evil while casting a spell

My love was deep for this Mexican maiden

I was in love, but in vain I could tell

One night a wild young cowboy came in

Wild as the West Texas wind

Dashing and daring, a drink he was sharing

With wicked Feleena, the girl that I loved

So in anger

I challenged his right for the love of this maiden

Down went his hand for the gun that he wore

My challenge was answered in less than a heartbeat

The handsome young stranger lay dead on the floor

Just for a moment

I stood there in silence

Shocked by the foul evil deed I had done

Many thoughts raced through my mind as I stood there

I had but one chance and that was to run

Out through the back door of Rosa's I ran

Out where the horses were tied

I caught a good one

It looked like it could run

Up on its back and away I did ride

Just as fast as I could

From the West Texas town of El Paso

Out to the badlands of New Mexico

Back in El Paso my life would be worthless

Everything's gone in life, nothing is left

It's been so long since I've seen the young maiden

My love is stronger than my fear of death

I saddled up and away I did go

Riding alone in the dark

Maybe tomorrow a bullet may find me

Tonight nothing's worse than this pain in my heart

And at last here I am

On the hill overlooking El Paso

I can see Rosa's cantina below

My love is strong and it pushes me onward

Down off the hill to Feleena I go

Off to my right I see five mounted cowboys

Off to my left ride a dozen or more

Shouting and shooting I can't let them catch me

I have to make it to Rosa's back door

Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel

A deep burning pain in my side

Though I am trying to stay in the saddle

I'm getting weary, unable to ride

But my love for Feleena is strong

And I rise where I've fallen

Though I am weary I can't stop to rest

I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle

I feel the bullet go deep in my chest

From out of nowhere Feleena has found me

Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side

Cradled by two loving arms that I'll die for

One little kiss and Feleena, goodbye

Photo credit: Nirot