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EURO 2012 (from Malaysia)

It’s that time of the year again where not knowing anything new about football (soccer to some) can get you in deep shit. Not knowing or not keeping up with football will literally be met with jeers, leers and lots of nasty stuff. Keep up with football and maybe just know a little bit more will be awarded with smiles, laughter and a whole lot of brotherly (or humanly) love. Such is the awesome power of the European championships.

As I am writing this, there is less than an hour left till the opening ceremony in Poland where Poland will face off with the Euro 2004 champions Greece. I will be sitting in front of the TV watching every bit of it but I thought that for now, why don’t I just sit down in front of the computer, open my WordPress and just write about the Euro 2012?

As some of you might know, I live in a country in the South East Asia called Malaysia. Not that big a country but with proud culture and rich heritage. Ever since our country had achieved its independence in 1957, we have always loved football. We kinda suck playing it but we loved it. We are below the 100 in the world FIFA ranking but we still loved it. Football is even the national sport here and thousands show up when an international friendly takes place at the national stadium. Perhaps its something that was sparked by the arrival of the best player Malaysia has ever seen. His name was Mokhtar Dahari. I won’t elaborate much but he was given the name Super Mokh and had at one time been accused of using witchcraft because he was so good. His prominence would ignite the flame that is Malaysia’s collective love for the beautiful game.

Now, Malaysia and Europe are really far apart. Even English Premier League games are often watched at night when it is played in the evening there and is also watched at 3 AM when it is played night there. So that’s a really huge time difference. So what does it mean for games at the Euro 2012? Well, from the schedule, most games will either be 12 AM or 3AM Malaysian time. Those are late times to watch football, especially when it happens virtually everyday.

People will be literally dreaming this ball in their sleep for weeks. Media coverage has caused… inception.

So, the subject that I wanted to tackle (see what I did there?) from the beginning of this post was what does this mean for Malaysians? I decided to write this after being inspired by an article in one of the newspaper here in Malaysia. Basically, Malaysian fans, who are made up of people working from 9-5 and also students, will stay up late at night to watch these games or certain games that attract them.

I personally know how hard it is to time your sleep around football matches in Malaysia. Needless to say, its hard. I’ve watched every Champions League game Chelsea played and they were all at 3 AM. Sometimes, when I had school, I would sleep first then wake up at 3. When I didn’t have school, I’d sleep in the afternoon and stay up all night watching reruns of 30 Rock before watching the game. Again, needless to say, its freaking hard.

While he was playing… I was drinking coffee. I’m only human.

For Malaysians, we will probably see a collective Football Fever in which people, tired and exhausted from watching the game all night, go to school and work in that state. Performance will decrease and unless you know football, you’ll be eaten alive by these football zombies. This is also the time where we will see eyebags appearing from students and even the teachers know that its because of football because their husbands probably stayed up late to watch it too. You think I’m joking? This shit happened during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It’s real and it happened before. Football zombies, they’re real.

This shit is real. That’s my teacher on the left. The plumber’s on the right.

This thing is an epidemic but people just need to manage their time around the games. Manage it good and it’d be like nothing happened. Better yet, the ones who just love watching without caring for results can just watch repeats but who loves that, right? Football must be watched live to get the thrill and drama that football always has. The simplest solution for this problem of watching late at night, you ask? Just go to Poland and Ukraine. There, problem solved.

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Durians: The King of Fruits

Sub-Title: The Fruit That All Malaysian Obsess About and Like to Eat But I Apparently Dislike.

Now, if there is one thing that foreigners need to know about Malaysia is that Malaysians are crazy about their fruits. Malaysia is a breeding ground of fruits due to its various climates and also high average rainfall. Durians, rambutans, mangosteens, mandarins, you name it. All these fruits are high up in terms of Malaysian people’s respect. But there is one fruit that’s revered more than any other fruit in Malaysia: Durians.

These things grows on trees you know. People don’t pick them. The wait for it to fall which makes slowly walking under a durian tree especially dangerous.

Durians are green, spiky fruit that must be chopped and opened up to get the also light green and suspiciously similar to the shape of poop fruit. Durians also emit a strong and oddly hard to remove smell of thick sweetness that some people find unappetizing and smelly, which makes the shape of the fruit inside even more suspicious.

Those yellow things are the ‘nitrogenous waste’ of the tree, in other words poop. But finish the yellow fruit, plant its seed and another durian tree pops up after years and years and years of waiting.

The taste is… well, not for me to judge. As of the writing of this article, I haven’t touched, yet alone eat a durian for approximately seven years. Yes, that long. It has been so long that I have forgotten the taste of durians. Once upon a time though, I used to love durians. I would eat them whenever durian season comes (I’ll explain later). I used to eat them till my nose bled (durian has a body heating property which makes eating a lot a mustn’t do) but yet, I still ate it in the plentiful. Then there was The Incident!

What is The Incident, you readers ask? One day, I ate too much durian and I puked. Yeah, that was what happened. And since… The Incident, I never ate a single durian again, ever. Which is actually very bad also because this fruit is the King of Fruits. I mean, Malaysians really do like this fruit a lot that they treat it like a king, by which I mean a royal treatment in fruit terms is being eaten by the dozens. Whenever durian season comes, when people would invite me to eat durian, this is the conversation that ensues:

Person: Come on, Musha, eat this delicious, mouthwatering and luscious durian.

Me: It’s okay. I don’t eat durian.

Person: <look at me blankly>

Me: What?

Person: You disgust me! A Malaysian who doesn’t eat durian. <look at me blankly again>

Well, I may have exaggerated some(all) parts  of the conversation a bit but yeah, the conversation is along that line. But I take no heed, even after being compared to having a foreigners taste (not that it’s bad. I’m not racist). See how important durian is to Malaysians? I don’t eat durian, people don’t like to be friends with me.

Anyways, durians actually come in seasons. In fact, almost every other fruit in Malaysia come in seasons. Because we don’t have the four seasons, we replace it with season of the fruit. But how to calculate the coming of these fruit seasons, I don’t know. The thing that I know is when the seasons do come, people from all over Malaysia come home to their kampungs to eat this delicacy. For the whole period of the durian season, people will always find an excuse to come home to their kampungs every other weekend to eat as many of these durians as possible. The most amazing thing is that the news of the durian season is received through word of mouth, which is quite amazing considering we have so many technology to spread news more efficiently. Like I said, Malaysians are OBSESSED with durians!

Perhaps its because of the durians always threatening to hurt people by falling on top of their heads that makes people respect it. Perhaps.

Anyways, after an amazing word of mouth spreads to the whole nation that the durians have bloomed, families and friends alike gather round the ceiling fan (cause durians make you hot) and eat durians together in a show of unity and prosperity. Meanwhile, I get stuck in the bedroom because I don’t eat durian and I don’t like the smell of those durians. But foreigners, don’t let that stop you from trying durian. Who knows, you might even like it. Millions of Malaysians do.

The Concept of Kampung

Some people will literally translate the Malay word kampung into hometown. Some will not even translate that word at all and just write kampung in their writing. But what is kampung really to Malaysians? Hopefully, I can explain it to you foreigners as clear as possible.

My kampung in Tanjung Rimau, Melaka. Looks modern, don’t it?

My kampung is in Tanjung Rimau, Melaka. It was the place where my father was raised and where his parents are living currently. My other kampung is Alor Gajah, Melaka. It was the place where my mother was raised and her parents are living currently. But I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is my hometown but not my kampung.  Do you get it so far?

A slightly less modern home in a kampung. Made of wood, even.

An even more less modern home in a kampung. It doesn’t even have concrete!

Basically, kampungs are defined by generation. That is the simplest way of putting it. My parents once had kampungs in places like Johor and Perak which was the home of their grandparents and after their grandparents dies and they have kids, their kampungs become the place where they were raised and where their parents are currently in. Their kids experience the same thing as they did, having kampungs at their grandparents and after a period of succession, will have their kampungs at the place where they were raised and where their parents are living at the moment. Are you following?

Generally, the concept of kampungs and the succession by generation can be related to the Muslim holy festival of Eid-ul-Fitri. During Eid-ul-Fitri, families will gather and ask for forgiveness for past faults. Eid-ul-Fitri is a fabulous occasion and an important date in the Muslim calendar. Some people even forget enemy bonds so that they can bask in the glory that is Eid-ul-Fitri. To get together, families will go to the one place they have in common: their parents home. Grown up brothers and sisters will bring their kids to their parents place and the effect is that a kampung is born. The same thing will happen to their kids and their kids after that, a succession by generation. That should be clear for you.

Another concept is that kampung is a place that is not modern or not a major city. This concept was insinuated when young people leave their hometowns to go to the big cities and as the cities grow more modern, the hometown remains the same and become their kampung. Basically, kampung in this meaning means places that are backwards. This concept of kampung is not supported that much and will mostly be redundant when future generations decide where their kampung is. If they chose their parents home, then it will be in Kuala Lumpur or other big cities as people now have permanent homes there for work in the cities. Even now, some people celebrate Eid-ul-Fitri in the cities but visibly, cities are empty during Eid-ul-Fitri which makes this concept of kampung probable for the time being.

Kuala Lumpur before Eid-ul-Fitri…

…Kuala Lumpur one day before Eid-ul-Fitri (because everyone is leaving the city to their kampung at the same time)…

… and Kuala Lumpur during the first few days of Eid-ul-Fitri.

I am writing this as a first post of my new Malaysia travelog, despite being born and raised in Malaysia. I hope that my travelog on Malaysia will help people understand, especially outsiders about the unique country that is Malaysia. I started with the concept of kampung because I think that this is one of the things that foreigners are always confused with. Till next time.

Riyadh Avenue Mall: Lulu and More…

Riyadh Avenue Mall looks majestic from the front and looks beautiful on the inside

To tell the truth, I didn’t even know that the name of this mall was Riyadh Avenue Mall. All I knew was that my dad called this place Lulu Hypermarket. Why, you ask? That is because the single biggest thing in this mall is Lulu Hypermarket, a sort of a Tesco in a mall. As a matter of fact, at the side of mall, there is a large neon sign saying Lulu Hypermarket. I don’t have images of that now but maybe later.

The fountain greeting visitors... which is not working

Going inside Riyadh Avenue Mall, there is a fountain waiting for visitors. It’s a small fountain but for such a small mall, it was impressive. Another mall, Riyadh Gallery even has a small river in it but that is for another post.

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Sandstorms: Mission Impossible Got It Right

Since coming to Riyadh in January, my stay here has been quite event-less, nature-wise. The chilling cold is the only thing to note when it came to Riyadh weather in winter. As Riyadh approaches higher temperatures, weird things happen. One day it was cold and the next hot and then cold again. But the most weirdest thing is the sandstorm.

I was playing a game on TV at that time and things were normal. It was the 25th of February. Outside, it was sunny and peaceful. Nothing out of the ordinary. I turn around one second and the next thing I knew, darkness ascended. I’m being hyperbolic, I know but I can’t describe it any other way. I did see some heavy winds outside but for a sandstorm to hit Riyadh? I didn’t expect that.

The outside of my home during the sandstorm...

...and the outside of my home before the sandstorm. Different, right?

I know that Riyadh is not Dubai. The title of my blog post says ‘Mission Impossible Got It Right’ despite MI4 was filmed in Dubai. But Dubai and Riyadh are quite close. By car, you’ll get there in less than half a day. So I assume that the weather will be similar. Look at the images below. Looks kinda like in MI4 during the sandstorm chase, doesn’t it?

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