Monday, November 29, 2010

In Pursuit of Happiness

What is happiness?? A state of perpetual joy? For some, happiness is when they get a new car or a new gadget... something that they can own and touch. I've just spent some time with my 14-month old niece and I notice that happiness for her is when I carry her and blabber funny things to her. I get the happiest squeals and laughter! It made her happy! It made me happy too! The human contact brings smiles and squeals of happiness from her. Made me happy to be able to reach out to another, what more to squeals of happiness. When we make others happy, we are happy too!

For me, I've learned too that happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy or let Depression and Loneliness be your constant companions.... (Elizabeth Gilbert describes it very aptly in her book Eat, Pray, Love about them as her companions). The mind, then becomes the wandering grounds of those 2 and they have a tendency to eat us up. Loneliness and Depression make our world really small!

We get burdened by our pursuits of the many things we deem important and necessary to us. Very often, we measure happiness by how much we earn and own.... or the freebies that we get. Yet, does wealth guarantee happiness, cos we certainly can't bring a single dime with us when we say goodbye to this world. I am not saying money is not important. It is. But the Bible is right too... we cannot serve both God and Mammon.

Physically as we grow along in years, becoming frail is not a choice. Already our eyesights are failing us. ... 8( And that will eventually bring us into a bewildering time of needing to come to terms with our frailty and eventual mortality. 20 years ago I wouldn't even be thinking about this.

Being old, some of us feel that we have a right to everything, because we are there first. (sounds familiar?) We demand absoluteness from our kids. We feel that our say must be the final one; that we should have the last say. In the end the old alienate their young without understanding that parents too should not provoke their children into endless stress.

I think happiness is when we learn to give of ourselves more than anything; give sincerely and wholeheartedly. Happiness is when we look outwardly rather than inwardly. It's about being able to count our blessings, no matter how insignificant or small they may seem. It's about being able to enjoy the company of our loved ones and those people around us. It's also about being able to be contented with what we have. Unfortunately, many of us miss out a lot of them.

This is a prayer by a 17th century nun. My sis showed it to me and I think it's a nice and meaningful piece.

"Lord, you know better than I know myself that I am getting older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

“Release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody, helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom it seems a pity not to use it all, but you know, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.

“Keep my mind from the recital of endless details - give me the wings to come to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others' pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

“I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.

“Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint - some of them are so hard to live with - but a sour old woman is one of the crowning works of the devil.

“Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and the talents in unexpected people. And give me the grace to tell them so."

Tis a season of glad tidings! I wish that to everyone who drops by!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Finally Our Ipad!!!

*Grins*.... Been waiting for Apple to launch their Ipad here in Malaysia since the US launch months ago. Heard that Maxis might be launching their Ipad packages at the end of the month! Anyway, we got tired of waiting and got one from Singapore! Singapore is a smaller country but deemed more significant by Apple that Ipad was launched there way earlier than here.... and we're still waiting! I supposed it shouldn't be too much of a surprise since their GDP is expected to surpass ours in the near future.

And what do I think of the Ipad! It's fabulous for reading! If the Ipod was already great, this is really great for home use. The pdf books and mags are really comfortable to read at this size; video podcasts too! I know there're many competitors out there like the Samsung Galaxy and Toshiba AS100; all running on Android. The reviews for the latter are mixed. We've no experienced using Android as yet but as it is, Apple still wins on apps. The Samsung and Toshiba come with camera.... and I expect Ipad's next model will probably have one too, with their retina display as well.

Anyway, for now, we're quite pleased with the Ipad. For home reading (and even on the go) it is nice. Very nice! And great as an entertainment unit too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gu long piak...

That's Hokkien for cow hit wall. Very often we're like that... act based on our feelings alone only and because of that we'll hit the wall real hard. Hitting the wall hard means more pain.

What makes us go 'long-piak' most of the time? Because we think we know better? Or maybe we feel we're right? I don't know but each has its own reason. I 'long-piak' sometimes too. But over the years, I've learned to listen to counsel; as much as I sometimes don't like to but because I realize they come from good and well-meaning friends who want what is good for me, I try out their advice. Of course occasionally it still won't work out but I think I'm still better of for trying. Cos sometimes others see things we don't cos we are too clouded by our feelings.

'Long-piak'... it's actually a painful affair. But sometimes it's the only way to learn. Pain makes us better learners. But if we can avoid hitting the wall, it's much better. Why this rambling?? Cos I think I see a friend 'long-piak' and costing her so much; yet she cannot seem to realize it. *Sigh* But it's our own choice in the end... have to hit, you'll just have to.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

SPM 2010

The beginning of another round of exam for the Fifth Formers (and their parents).... for some it ends in approximately 2 weeks. Yup! I know, it's rather crammed this time around. These days we work everything around the festivities and this time, it's Aidil Adha. But for some, the exam will drag on till the 20th Dec (MPV) while for others, they'd be done by Dec 8th if they don't take the Chinese Paper (13th). That makes it really cram for the students and stressful especially those in the Science Stream.

Was at school early this morning to make sure that everything was in place. The teacher-on-duty was there with me at 7.25 a.m., waiting for the Office to open. By 7.40 a.m. the doors remained locked. We had to call the bosses.... and the candidates were supposed to go into the exam halls at 7.45 a.m. The Office should open the latest by 7.30 a.m. so that we can issue the necessary certifications to candidates who forgot their IC or Exam Slips.

Boss finally showed up and said the Office had been opened since 7.30 a.m. Duh! Walking the talk... these days it's more of talk than walk. Had a conversation with a friend yesterday.... talk is cheap she said. I agree. Everywhere, we talk more now. At home and work, in worship places... talk is what we do more, walk is what we do less. We talk and expect others to do the walk... or we talk and take the best for ourselves while leaving crumbs for others not so well connected. But I guess too that talk is cheap because our conscience doesn't prick us so much any more.

I once worked under a boss who was always punctual and on top of things. I'm generally a punctual person but she would usually be earlier than me. This same boss knew almost everything that went on under her nose too. Trying to pull a bluff under her would most likely end up with you looking sheepish! It was difficult not to walk her talk because she walked her own talk and even more. And it was not surprising that in the less than 3 years she was there, the school progressed. Hard to find bosses like that these days... those who actually go down to the ground and find out the real problems.

We have too many bosses who are autocratic yet unable to walk their lofty talk, we have religious leaders who on one side of their tongue preach goodwill but condemn and encourage hatred and suspicion with the other half.... cos they deem it as their right since they've been placed on top.

But then again, this is biasa also... we're after all fallen beings. But I've always wondered how far we can go, if we truly retain our best regardless of skin colour... after all, where purity of race is concerned, we've even had a PM with an Indian father but passed himself as a Malay... in fact more Malay than a pure Malay! Technically he would have been an Indian.... but the best part is the whole country bought that idea, that he is Malay. I guess that's probably the best sales pitch and deal ever in this country.

That's Malaysia Boleh for us!

Monday, November 22, 2010


The water from the tap is now noticeably brown. Immediately after the flood, I noticed tiny little red worms in the water too. First I thought it must have been because of my filter... it had not been running for 4-5 days and that would be plenty of time for microorganisms to have a field day in it. But after a friend told me tiny red worms were crawling out from the water she had stored, I realized mine was not an isolated case (and she has no external filter). I read some where that they could be blood worms; from flies. Anyway, with all the water pressure problem that we had been facing, we decided to do away with the sand filter. It stands in the way too, the huge bulk of steel sitting in my porch.

Over the last 5 years, we've been seeing a drop in our water pressure as more houses in our neighbourhood fixed up water pumps to increase the pressure. We've checked and found out that if you install a reservoir (i.e. a water tank) and then pump the water from the reservoir to your whole house, that's fine. But the problem is most don't install a reservoir. As a result, their pumps draw water from the mains, resulting in low pressure for the other houses. We've refused to do the same because that's against the law.

I've written to the authorities regarding the low water pressure a couple of times, and guess what? The officers who came to check told us to fix up a pump as well. I've asked why is there no enforcement on those who break the law..... And the answer, everyone is doing it. Seems to me these days, it doesn't matter whether things are right or wrong. As long as everyone is doing it, even though it is wrong, it's okay! So, I couldn't really get a proper backwash done on my sand filter. Finally decided to change it into a smaller membrane filter. And we fixed it after our extra tank so that it can also be properly washed since our pump is installed after the tank.

Anyway, I spent a good part of Saturday morning watching the plumber work. It was fascinating watching this plumber fix up our new membrane filter. I've not seen such a fastidious and meticulous plumber for a long time. Reminds me of the old school of doing things - pride in their work. His work was neat and clean. His tools were clean and shiny. And he used his brain too! His work was well thought out. The last plumber who did my previous filter system was shoddy and just wanted to get his job done any way; typical of many these days. And we had to help him figure out the pipes! Am pleased with this new plumber's work...

This new filter comes with an auto timer for self cleansing. This little gadget, a Galcon 9001 was actually developed to water plants. Quite ingenious that they use it to stagger the cleaning of the filter. 8)

I was also looking at home filter systems for drinking. I am surprised at how much companies charge for such gadgets. One which I checked out required us to pay RM130 a month (including service) for 5 years. Add that to the electricity and water bills for running the unit, it comes up a whopping RM9500 for 5 years worth of drinking water!

Water is 40sen per cubic metre for the first 20 cubic meter, after which it's 70 sen pcm. Our household uses about 20 cubic metre a month for everything. My water bill for 5 years (for drinking, cleaning and washing) would then be RM480. Assuming I spend RM30 (I think it's way less) boiling water a month, it'd come up to RM1080. Let's say you get a very good thermopot for RM400. The total cost comes up to RM1960. That's a difference of almost 8K! For that cost, might as well get an external filter as well as another internal filter... And I'd still have cash to spare for other things. Well, of course some will argue that's the price you pay for convenience!!! LOL! It's just an observation I made over something that we take for granted.

BTW, folks in the districts affected by the flood are supposed to get a 30 percent rebate in their December 2010 water bill. So check your water bill!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Garbage, Garbage Everywhere... After The Alor Setar Flood 2010

Some people say privatization is actually piratization. LOL! Privatization is supposed to mean better perks for the workers and better service for the people. Well, the former is probably very true but can't say about the latter.

Been a fortnight since the flood. And everywhere the garbage piles stand as reminders of the losses left behind by the waters. The company which has the contract to collect the rubbish don't seem to be coping well in the clearing up. A report said that rubbish went from 1100 tons to 2000 tons daily. I think the figure is more than that. Take a drive in any area that was affected by flood... this time it includes most of Kota Setar... and you'll know what I mean. That's just the flood garbage. Daily garbage 'spewed' out by households remains uncollected for more than a week already!

The rubbish collection in Alor Setar is under Environment Idaman Sdn Bhd, a joint venture between Metacorp and UEM. If we explore the labyrinths of ownership to these 2 companies we'll probably find that they are well connected to certain key people. Anyway, according to a newsletter from Kualiti Alam, rubbish woes were solved when they took over the rubbish collection in SP. I can't say I know much but what I do know is in Alor Setar, the frequency of rubbish collection went down to around once every 6 days in my area, before the flood. Before Idaman took over, it used to be more frequent; once every 2 to 3 days. I seldom find piles of rubbish on the roads. These days, it's common to see rubbish piling up and flies around it; and the smell!!!

The company has also taken to setting up 'strategic' locations for their big bins; kinda like a central collection thing. I guess they were trying to condition people to throw their rubbish at such bins. Well, guess what? These locations became dumping grounds after the flood. And no matter how fast they cleared it, a new pile would appear. Apparently, they've been so successful in conditioning people to think those locations as rubbish dump that people just brought all their spoilt furniture old electrical stuff to dump there. I am thankful that my house is not opposite or near those rubbish dumps. It'd be an added stress just to be greeted by rubbish and be reminded by its stench.

I think they do that because they don't have enough trucks. They probably cut down on the number of trucks (which also means less workers) to increase their profits. Just like SADA (the water company), when the pump houses failed, they did not have enough water trucks or a system to deliver water everywhere. They even failed to ensure water supply to essential services like the hospitals. Both the General Hospitals and 3 private hospitals had to cease operations. Can you imagine, if you were really sick during the flood, you'd have no hospital to rely on? And SADA has not even been privatized it. It has only gone onto Step 1 of privatization; which is corporatization!

Anyway, someone big must have made some noises for I saw some private lorries and backhoe loaders in my residential area. Within 2 days they cleared most of the hills of rubbish!!! Now perhaps that's real privatization!!! LOL!! Anyway, these were just my observations... waiting to see whether the hills of rubbish would appear again at the same sites.

The storm drains were quite effective in draining the water when the flood water was still manageable. However, take a walk along these drains in Alor Setar and you'll find many parts of the storm drain filled with soil (with grass growing on it some more) and rubbish. What have the maintenance people been doing? Don't they dredge the drains or at least make sure the excess soil or rubbish is cleared from them??? Do we need disasters to remind us??? Anyway, we are garbage generators.... no wonder Mother Earth is so polluted.

For now, the 2 hills of rubbish near my place have been cleared. I hope they stay that way but Idaman has only collected rubbish once from our houses since the flood. And that's been like almost 2 weeks already.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Going Out to Jitra After the Flood

I was half-hearted about going cos I was thinking of sprucing up my house these next few days. And I was still feeling tired from so many things... flood, cleaning up and work. But because they adjusted the visitation time so that I could finish cooking my lunch, I went for this little outing with my church friends to distribute some food aid.
This was at Jitra, at one of the 'kongsi(s)' just in the outskirt of Jitra town. We went out to distribute some aid to those affected by the flood. This was our first stop. Kim's sister was the one who brought our attention to this place. She liaised us with a young Indian Pastor who was familiar with the areas we were to go. This is also an area where the foreign workers congregate. You find Indonesians, Bangladeshis, Vietnamese and Myanmarese (I think) apart from our own locals. This particular place was around 1 1/2 - 2 feet of water from the water mark that I saw on the wall.
Our next stop was a house in Kg Giam, where I think the first victim of the flood, a 64-year old German woman was swept away by the strong currents. A young man we talked to told us the water went above the rooftop of this house. Everywhere we could still see the waterline on the tree leaves. At such a house, you don't get to see waterlines cos the whole house is submerged. He also told us that the currents were very fast and strong during the flood and one would be easily swept away. You just flee with whatever you can because you don't have much time to do anything else.
Another house that was completely submerged. Everything looked so normal when we were there. Yet, the people here had just gone through a terrible time. Can you imagine, everything you own being totally swallowed up by the rising waters? I saw some mattresses being dried in the sun. In the towns, we throw away our flood mattresses. Many of these people don't have that sort of extra cash to buy a new mattress. As a church, we send funds to the villages in Cambodia to help them build schools and support their teachers. We are part of medical teams to countries like Vietnam. Yet, I feel we've missed something here; our own people. Perhaps there is less glamour working among local people.... I wouldn't know.
This was another house that was flooded. Hidden behind the bushes, it's difficult to spot the house if you don't look for it carefully. At the height of the flood, you can't even see the rooftop! And again, the currents here were fast because it's near the Jitra Irrigation Canal. The mother of the lady of the house had just undergone an operation and could not walk much. The Pastor said a prayer for her before we left. And the lady, herself had just had a baby. She was only 2 weeks post delivery when she had to clean the whole house all by herself. Most of us would still be pampered at 2 weeks post delivery. Her kids were so happy to see us.

These are folks with less who lost more. We throw away our old TVs in working condition and don't think much about it. In one of the houses, I saw a small old diode TV sitting on the table. We throw away so many of our usable things. These people find it hard to afford those things. Our kids eat out at KFC, MacDonald's, Pizza Hut at whims. For these kids, I think it would be a grand treat to be able to eat at those places. And these folks are in our midst.... not just found in some other countries which we seem to be sending our mission teams. We spend so much of our resources and manpower there.... those which can be utilized here too. Perhaps it's a time to evaluate ourselves.

It's been a while since I went to places like this. I get too insulated by my comfortable life that I often forget what is out there. I wonder too if they get enough aid. I get the impression that aid these days is filtered by race first too, just like the recruitment of the civil servants. Cos when the head begins to rot, it'll spread downwards. And we, the people are the parts below.

So did I regret going? Nah! Sometimes everyone of us needs a little push to move. I am glad to be reminded of the blessings that come my way and that each of us can do a little to make our world a better place.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rain... supposed to make me happy. I like to sit and watch the rain. I like the coolness that it brings. I like the smell of the air after a heavy shower. I like the pitter patter sounds of raindrops falling. And I like to drive in the rain sometimes.

But these last few days, rain is one thing that sends my stress level up. The water table is rather high now. The ground is still soggy from the recent flood. Puddles of water can still be seen at many places and what used to be grassy fields are now soft.

Yesterday evening, we had a thunderstorm. We had an intense and heavy downpour for about 1/2 an hour. I was at a friend's house having tea with Thomas and Marie. Despite the heavy downpour, a neighbour rang the doorbell and to our horror, there was already about 4-6 inches of water on the road! Apparently the rain was causing flash flood everywhere. My kids phoned and told me that the strong winds had blown my cardboard boxes onto the floor and that my backyard was turning into a 'swimming pool'.

I rushed back despite the heavy rain. The roads leading to my house were flooded between 4-6 inches too! It was a relief to be home with my kids. Then the rain tapered off and water started receding. Phone calls started coming in; about water entering the house, bathrooms, etc. And it took only half an hour of heavy rain to do that.

This afternoon the skies were dark again and with it the stress level went up too. Aiyo! The rainy season is just starting. It usually floods in the lower areas in December. The rainy season has finally begun but I guess this time around, many of us are jittery about it.

And later that night, we went to the shopping complex. We took extra care not to park our cars in the basement; and many were doing the same too! LOL! In Jitra, some people went for midnight movie only to come out to discover that the basement car park was flooded. Truly one expensive movie for many of them!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Nicholas Sparks

No 47. This is a book which I 'jumped' back and front (and back again) cos it was simply too predictable. I didn't quite enjoy it probably cos I am not a romance novel fan. Finished this book before the flood hit Alor Setar.

The story is about a young widow who finally falls in love again. There are 2 guys; one a sophisticated engineer and the other her late husband's best friend who is a mechanic. The engineer is actually an obsessive and controlling freak who becomes the heroine's nightmare. His jealousy turned him into a deceptive and murderous stalker. The mechanic turns into her saviour.

I find the plot draggy; as though the author was trying to prolong the book. I got impatient and read the ending half way through. This is one rather difficult book to finish. I guess perhaps compounded by the fact that I wasn't in a romance-thriller mood. I think I'll give Sparks' books a break for a while.

Have not been able to concentrate well in my reading since the flood... the mind tends to shut down or wander after a while.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

To Apply for Flood Aid

When politicians talk about aid in the face of any disaster, they make it sound like assistance is just a call away. In reality, it's difficult to get it.

Collection of data is just not well organized. For example, if a housing estate is flooded, counters should be set up in that particular housing estate for a day or two for everyone to register. It makes vetting easier too. But nah! We've been given the run around chasing this illusive flood aid that the gahmen says the qualified flood victims will be given. It feels like they are hoping that not everyone applies for it.

In the early days after the water receded, we were told that we had to make a police report about flood affecting our premises. As my own experience has shown, police efficiency ranks really low. When you make a police report, you are actually traumatized twice! One by the reason to make the report and the other by the act of making the report itself!

Then a day later, word was that we had to register ourselves with our JKKK (Jawatankuasa Kemajuan dan Keselamatan Kampung). Now how in the world are we to know who our Penghulu is? So, in our traumatized conditions, we had to trudge to wherever we were told the Penghulu would be waiting. And so, we gave our names so that they can pass us the necessary forms to fill in. I shall wait to see whether they contact me to fill in the forms. I'm more inclined to think that it was an exercise of futility.

And finally, a colleague of mine was kind enough to pass me the actual form. There is a closing date on the form to be submitted in - 28th Nov, 2010. So, we're going to fill in the forms and pass it to the Minister for Housing and Local Government. Hopefully something moves since his own house was flooded. I've been seeing repair works being carried out to his house the last few days.

As usual, the non Government organizations are quicker in disbursing aid. Immediately after the water receded, one of the most prominent presence was by the Buddhist Tzu chi Merits Society Malaysia. At the height of the flood, their members could be seen bringing in food and water bottles for flood victims who stayed back in their houses. They worked tirelessly and helped regardless of race.

Even some of my Malay friends speak very well of them; of how they would go from house to house everywhere distributing food parcels, water and even blankets. Right after the water receded, they started coming around my area with food parcel and some cash aid. Most if not all my neighbours turned down their offer of aid.

And this act was also reciprocated by the PAS' Unit Banjir as I saw them making an effort to go to Taman Lum Sum to help with the clearing up. Perhaps this is the first step towards a better race relationship... I hope so.

As for the BN politicians... I guess they should learn to help without using that as an opportunity for publicity. Instead of hanging big pictures and flying big flags, a small identification mark would have suffice. People will know who you are and what you stand after all ends. The BN politicians still don't seem to quite understand that. For them everything is an opportunity for publicity.

As for the rest of the government agencies??? I've more bad experiences with them than good ones, more unpleasant stories than pleasant ones.... I am not saying they didn't do any good. There are still many good civil servants. But... rescue services, the police... they are supposed to answer to their oaths of duties.

Anyway, this experience have taught me that the authorities are not very organized. My police experience during non-bencana (disaster) times also shows them to be sluggish. Better perks have not translated into better service. And during disaster times, it's just as sluggish if not more.

So, another tale and thoughts to share...

End of the Year School Roundup

I like end of the school year, especially this year cos I just don't seem to be able to get back into grind at work after the flood. The mind is numb and the body is tired. Many of my colleagues are feeling the same.

But the usual tasks await. There are tables and chairs to arrange for the SPM exam, JOB to check, classrooms to prepare, lots and lots of paperwork like our Annual Appraisal Forms (SKT) to fill in; the nitty gritty that must be completed before we close for the year; basically lots of housekeeping to do.

But what I find meaningless is the SKT or our Appraisal Forms. We are told to submit them every year. But most appraisals are meaningless. These days to get the Excellent Service Award means you are in the bosses' good books or you have made your impression (not necessarily one that makes a difference to the students). Making a 'good' impression does not necessarily mean you have taught well. Very often, it's the kay-poh jobs that you've taken up. Kay-poh jobs doesn't mean it's something that touches or make a difference to a kid's life. It's more about making your bosses look good. Well, that's how most appraisals look to us.

So, what one of my colleagues did was to download samples of extensively written SKT from the Net for us to copy. The whole idea is to make your SKT look good. LOL! That's how our civil service is like today... more about appearance than substance cos if you take a good look at the bosses who sit up there today, I think they don't quite measure up in many sense of the word.

End of the year... this year, I welcome it with relief cos it feels nice not to have to get up so early in the morning to go to work for a while. But overall, this year's closing term doesn't seem to have those light moments associated to the impending hols.

Add that to the fact that my school is still on though many schools have decided to close a day earlier. She seems to think that we don't work enough! Everyone seems to be still in a blur... probably all the adrenaline spent last week. Happy holidays!!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Snake Stories

This is one creature I don't like. My years in rural Baling gave me lots of face-to-face experience with them, especially the poisonous viper or popularly known as ular kapak bodoh up here. We'd find snakes in our shoes, postbox, driveway.... everywhere. But that's Baling where even the centipedes were humongous! When we moved up to Alor Setar, I continued to have encounters with them, though no longer the vipers. Here it's more of the other species like the cobra and some others which I don't know their names. I dread them. I once sat with a stick at the hole from my gutter for almost 2 hours till the Bomba came cos a 6 foot cobra hid in it. It had slithered in after being hit by my friend. In the end, the fireman stuffed one end with plastic while I poured water from the upper floor. After a couple pails, he finally released the water and out came the snake, dead!

Rising water means snakes too must flee to higher grounds. And houses would be an automatic choice for them. I had my own encounter with one while I was cycling in the flood waters. A baby python came up beside me for a breather during one of my pit stops. I guess the snake and I have mutual feelings cos it disappeared just as soon as it appeared.

Then as the water was receding, my opposite neighbour found 2 in her house. One was stuck in her sliding door. She was trying to push the doors but they refused to budge. The snake slithered clumsily away as it was still cold. There were lots of cloths on the floor which she used as stoppers at the doors. She then piled them into the pail at first and then removed them again cos she thought of doing something with the cloth. Then her maid took the bucket of water into the bathroom. She went hysterical when a snake popped up as she was attempting to pour the water out of the pail. Both snakes were mid sized. We were all in stitches as she related her tale to us. But I can imagine the horror which her maid must have gone through at that time.

Another friend found a big snake under a car, all curled up, sluggish from the cold water too I presumed. She called the Bomba but it took them more than an hour to arrive. In the end she had to call in a relative to catch the snake, probably another python by the description that she gave.

For me, I'd start buying sulphur to put around my house come year end cos that's when the rains would come. When it rains, snakes too look for dry and higher grounds. I don't like them. I used to pour sulphur granules at the edge of my garden but they caused my grass there to die. So these days, I buy sulphur blocks and put them on my fences. Hopefully that's enough to deter these slimy creatures from my house.

So this flood??? It has given me so much modal to sembang and write about. The experiences are priceless!!! But that doesn't mean I want to go through it again! 8) The worries...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

As life returns to before...

Took some pics and vids during the flood and I've just quickly put some together... to remember this by in the years to come.
People are still picking up from where they left. Many things about the flood will continue to be coffee shop talk in the weeks, months and years to come. The authorities failed us and were caught with their pants down. It showed the glaring inadequacies of our system to cope with a disaster like this. Early warning systems did not work because everyone thought it would not be bad. Guess people no longer subscribe to this adage, "better safe than sorry".
Alor Setar Flood 2010
This is an aerial view of Titi Gajah, taken by my friend's brother who flew in a helicopter to send food supplies to her cos she was running low and her attempts to flag down help came to naught. It's got to be one of the more spectacular delivery of foodstuff during the flood. LOL!
The concerned bro and his assistant pilot.

The planners for the double tracking project did not foresee the artificially man-made bund turning a greater part of Alor Setar into Venice-like. Yesterday, my day helper called me to say that water was rising again at the housing estate next to ours. I took a drive there and informed my neighbour who did the same. It seemed the GAMUDA-MMC contractor broke the bund to release the water from the other side where villages were still flooded. Water came rushing back into those houses which had just been cleaned and also the kampung houses. So much for no-brainer!

Hospitals shut down because of power failures and water cut. Our newly completed supposedly state-of-the-art Sultanah Bahiyah General Hospital had to be evacuated... on hindsight it seemed like a bad decision. The hospital was built with no planning to cope for a crisis like this. Water trucks which were supposed to send water to keep the hospital running failed to deliver. Patients had to be evacuated to as far as Taiping. District hospitals could not refer critically ill patients due to the closure of roads, etc... there must have been untold deaths; unnecessary deaths due to bad decision and a let down by bad decisions.

We had at least a day to prepare for the rising waters... 2010 is a repeat of 2005, only worse. The Civil Defence and Armed Forces could have been mobilized to cordoned of areas with sandbags. They could have gone around giving warnings to the kampung and city dwellers. Yet none of this took place. They sat in their chairs like the proverbial ostrich, hoping that the problem would go away.

We had meteorological reports which reported a tropical depression. The rains came unabated and the water level at the Timah Tasoh Dam rose above danger level. Couldn't the engineers have released some water earlier to reduce the capacity?

The water treatment plant had to be shut down. I am sure the engineers could have predicted that. Again no warning for the people to store water.... the silence from all is very deafening; ineptness everywhere.

In Jitra there were reports of looting. In Alor Setar, we hardly saw any police. Today, the traffic light at the old hospital broke down. Guess what the traffic police did? They cordoned of the left and right roads and made it a straight flow traffic, creating a traffic jam that moved in a snarl. Why couldn't they put a traffic police to direct the traffic? Makes it pointless to have traffic police. Looks like they are there to parade themselves on their big bikes for show.

So I wonder... could be that after years of brain drain and appointments not by merits but by race, we've caused our own descent into this abyss of our own making. Cos the impression that seems to be given is one of helplessness, couldn't care less and ignorance!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Flood and Cleaning Up

There are so many things memorable this flood. When the water rises, we flee, especially if your house is single-storey cos there is not a single dry spot in your house! A state of panic tends to set in. And once the water level stabilizes, your hopes rise cos you know the flood will recede soon. And you begin to make plans to clean up...

This time, my church members organized themselves into groups, armed with pressure pumps, wiper and push brooms.... and food. Kudos to the Social Concerns Committee. As soon as the water receded, groups would move in to help with the clean up and also the lifting down of the furniture from whatever higher level. Cleaning up was a massive task as the mud would be everywhere. And if you leave it to dry, you'd need more effort in the clean-up process. And while the groups worked, there'd be those who prepared food. Cold drinks would make their appearance as we were in the midst of working. People just stepped in once someone did the organization. Truly God sent!

KL gave me a call to go over with my pressure pump on Monday morning. I had gotten up very early to clean my porch as I knew that a busy day awaited me. With my boy's help we cleaned up our porch in 40 minutes!

When I arrived, the stench and sight that greeted me was enough to bowl me over. Sometimes, the shock is just so great that you don't know where to start. But start we did.
Flood 2010,Alor Setar
I phoned LF and asked for reinforcement. Both she and her other half came with another pump. Soon other friends came and we began to clean the house section by section. It was a lot of hard work but 4 hours later, the house was clean again.
Flood 2010,Alor Setar
Doors get warped after being soaked in the water. There are lots of repairs which need to be done. There was one door which totally refused to budge even after we hammered it. And furniture made from chipboards would literally disintegrate in your hands when lifted up. Only solid wood would withstand the soaking, hence, everywhere now, you see piles and piles of damaged furniture by the roadside. The damage is extensive!

Then Ah Ho phoned me and told me I was needed at another friend's place. As there were already enough reinforcements and only a small section left, off I went. When I got there, the kitchen had been done but the pump that had been working there was on its last legs. Another church member also came with his pump at around the same time I arrived; and dividing up the work into sections, we were soon done too. We then met up at Esther's place to clean up her kitchen and porch. When I got there, lunch was on the table! We tucked in as we were all famished. Fried beehoon had never tasted that good! 8) The other group had also just finished at KL's house and were there as well.

And it was time to move again. I went to 3 more houses that day. In each house, we would divide our work and clean our areas. With everyone pitching in, work got done very quickly. Many hands indeed make light work.

This is my second major flood in 5 years, and this is far worse than the previous. I know foremost in everyone's mind in the aftermath is the cleaning up. It's daunting! The mud and stains would mean hours of scrubbing, what more caked ones! But very often, because the water gets to so many things, you are left with a feeling of despair. The first thing that can bring back that sense of normalcy is a clean house. Else, everywhere you turn, you are reminded of that despair. So it's very heartwarming that so many offered their help, including people like LF and Andy whose house was flooded too. They went beyond their own troubles too...

I dropped by KL's house yesterday night! The house was spotless... it was a total makeover! Except for a few hidden corners in cupboards and shelves still with some dried mud... they had replaced some of the 'melted' furniture and everything looked so normal again. I am sure it's the same in all the other houses too. Life is slowly moving back to the way it was before the flood....

I did 2 more houses the day after and another today; the porches... I've never cleaned so many houses in such a short time. Every single joint ached the day after! LOL! It was good that so many made the effort to bring that normalcy back into our lives. And it was also a good time to bond... sometimes it's just nice to know that there're people there for us. Sometimes it takes a calamity to bring people together too....

For Things To Move, Politicians Must Suffer...

This is from The Star. Must our politicians fall sick or have their houses flooded for actions to be taken? Najib is allocating RM5 million to the KL GH Intensive Care Unit because he noticed that the ICU was rather dilapidated while he was warded there. Don't the officials at the MOH have people putting in reports for that? Maybe they do... but 'unimportant' reports like this probably get pushed to some bottom of a pile since money is often channeled to grandiose projects.

If this is how things can get moving in Malaysia, then I think all of us should hope that the politicians 'suffer' more so that allocations can be given for repairs, upgrading works, (re)construction, etc, etc.

I thought the 'chain of command' is supposed to ensure that things are kept tip-top in any organization and country. But then again, this is Malaysia. Even in my area, there's been a drain-hole in the middle of the road that's been missing it's metal cover for months! And it has not been repaired. It's a good thing that no one fell into it during the flood cos it was covered by water!

The officer-in-charge of such things must be really sleeping on his job. Go round Alor Setar, and you'll find lots of potholes not filled up too. There was one time when the grass was not cut regularly and the reduction in the times the rubbish was collected as the contractors awarded the project by the Federal Government dragged their feet, so goes coffee shop talk.

I guess we should hope that another politician falls into the drain hole or his car suffers some extensive damage before it gets replaced or repaired!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A generator, a dinghy and a Toyota Hilux

These are the things which we'll need as 'flood equipment'. A generator so that we can generate some power to make our stay at home more bearable during the depressing nights surrounded by flood waters. We've all been softened by our good life that a little discomfort sent so many of my neighbours to Sungai Petani and Penang. One of my neighbours who went to stay in Park Avenue in Sungai Petani said the hotel looked like our neighbourhood as she met quite a few familiar faces there! LOL!

A water tank but after our last flood experience 5 years ago, we installed an extra one just for that purpose. So, this round we had plenty of water even though there was no power supply. Water and electricity supply are essentials for the pampered two-legged creatures today.

During this flood, one of our neighbours was kind enough to leave us their generator as they evacuated. Despite the loud noise from the generator, we were glad for the light and fan. It was a welcomed break from the silence and gloom.

A dinghy so that we can put our gal on it should we need to evacuate. What is thigh-deep for us is chest deep for her. Our main concern during floods has always been our children. Hence, we always evacuate them at the first sign of trouble and leave them with friends while we stay back. Other Half and I have been entertaining ideas like foldable kayaks to have as our flood project too. LOL! Would make a good rescue vehicle too!!

A Toyota Hilux cos it would probably also open up many of the 'inaccessible' roads to us. My bro has suggested charging units for our computers and phones. I wonder whether there are solar powered ones apart from the battery operated ones.

But nothing beats having good neighbours and friends in times like these. They are the ones who make everything bearable. During this crisis, our neighbours and friends came through for us. I had a place to leave my children safe and dry. My neighbour provided us with 'dry' transport in to check on our house and ferry things out. He managed to get a lorry as our transport. Each time he wanted to go in, he would call us to join them. It was an experience for us in itself. We 'rescued' dogs, picked up people on those trips too.

Neighbours and strangers strike up conversations with ease because all share something common. And also calls from family and friends. Conversations become a therapy of sorts. It takes your mind of the current problem and the impending possibilities. It enables you to get a bearing of sorts. It takes your mind off your own problem when you realize that there are others worse off than you. It also enables you to offer assistance. In helping others you actually empower yourself. It frees you from your little cocoon of worries. Many of us worry. I too. It gives you resolve to move on too.

We learned to watch out for each other.... and my heart is warmed. So, in conclusion, what's priceless; and that which made it bearable for many of us were the people. In the aftermath of the flood, most people I know talked about the way they've been blessed by their friends and neighbours; offers to park their vehicles, stay, etc, etc...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lessons From The Flood

This is by far the worse flood in more than a decade (some say 3) Alor Setar. I think more than half the city experienced some form of flooding. In my own area, I think the deepest was around chest deep... and that's was just not too far from our place. I see the kampung folks walking past with 'water-line' at their chest level. I stopped some of them to 'sembang-sembang' a bit too. Many of them suffered tremendous losses!

Many people say the KTM double tracking project undertaken by MMC-GAMUDA (I think one of the royal families has a big stake in it) had a hand in making it one of the worst floods ever in Kedah. Of course, they denied it. At the height of the flood, if you were to go to the flyover near Tmn PKNK, you'd see the bund where the tracks lie separating the flooded area and the 'dry' area. But then again, the contractor said the flood was because of the heavier than normal downpour..... I think the flood would have happened regardless but the double tracking did make it worse, much.

What I observed... the lack of information from the authorities. Many people were caught by surprise how fast the water came up. I can't imagine the losses suffered by some. I've learned quite a bit from this experience. For one, instead of depending on information by word of mouth, I've turned to the Internet (am so glad for the Netbook and mobile connectivity) for information.
MADA Telemetri
One is by watching the river levels myself. MADA has a telemetry system where the levels of the rivers are recorded by the hour. By watching it I learned when to expect more flood waters. Also, I noticed that the ups and downs have their own cycle.... tide times. So we learned to be more watchful at certain times. My bro kindly emailed me a site to get a more accurate time. It helped to alleviate many of our worries! The only problem is the information from the MADA site is not well organized at all. A map showing how all the rivers are connected would have been a great help. But there's Google Map to turn to. I'm thankful for my Geography lessons. 8)

I've also gained better understanding about the workings of the high and low tides. Now I've an app in my Ipod which provides me with accurate info about it. Both Other Half and I continue to monitor the rivers for our own peace of mind... Sg Bata in Jitra (that's the early warning), Sg Kepala Batas, Pantai Johor and Sungai Kedah at various points. The ups and downs give us an indication of what to expect. Flood waters creep in silently and quickly but if we take heed, though inevitable, we'd still be able to buy a little time to prepare.
Alor Setar Flood 2010
At Teluk Wanjah, all it took was just a couple of hours for the roundabout to turn into a huge swimming pool accessible only to heavy vehicles. Even the town centre got inundated and the basement shops at City Plaza must have suffered huge losses cos flooding over there is unthinkable and they were unprepared. Flood water and its capillary-like reach can go far and quick...
Flood,Alor Setar 2010
Rumours take on a life of their own... there are lots of 'misinformation' from well-meaning people. An example,... As the flood water was receding suddenly my friend said her sister told her 6 dams will be releasing water soon! I got on the phone (thank God for that) to ask another friend to read the newspaper article. Turned out that they will open 6 gates of the Timah Tasoh Dam if the weather conditions worsen. Then when the power came back on, I read the news myself... turned out that particular segment was meant for the situation in Kangar! Also, every evening, people will be reminding each other that the Thai authorities would be releasing water in the night... thus they became the bad guys. LOL!

The paranoia and fear remained with us, after the flood water receded, word started to get around that SADA (the water company) would be shutting their Bukit Pinang water treatment plant and we'd be left with dry taps for 2-3 days. This coming after 3-6 days (depending on area) without power supply and 3-5 days without proper water supply. Info is available on the SADA website... most people don't think of checking it there. Everyone is very jittery now.

There are lots of lessons for us in this disaster. The authorities are basically quite unable to cope well with a disaster of this magnitude. Rescues were fraught with problems and prejudices. Professionalism was lacking from the authorities.... UMNO as usual use it for their political gains... One of my friends who was driving to Perlis saw this huge truck with Shahidan Kassim's photo perched on the engine and a banner stating his constituency... he was trying to gain some publicity from 'helping' the flood victims.... udang di sebalik batu. Only God knows what his niat(s) were. According to Chinese customs putting a photo such as this indicates a funeral procession. LOL!!!!

But the NGOs and some religious groups helped without prejudices. It was not uncommon to see churches and the Buddhist groups going around on their own giving aid regardless of affinity or race. Shame on many of our government rescue units who went on the basis of skin colour.

One Indian man called up for a boat for his ailing mother... the first question he was asked was what race he was. And then he was told they give preference to their own kind... such kind blatant prejudices, fed by our education system and also the poisoning of the minds at their religious institutions... Life apparently is divided into Malay, Chinese, Indian by such bigots. In one Chinese school which was turned into an evacuation centre, evacuees vandalized it by writing words like China Babi on the boards... I guess they didn't realize too that it takes another pig to identify another pig..... Humans identify humans, pigs identify pigs. I didn't know that pigs too are divided into different races and can identify each other. 8)

Such a sorry state that we've allowed ourselves to evolve into.... who is to blame???

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Police Reports and Flood Victims

I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've stepped into a police station. Anyway, word was going around that Najib said the government is giving some cash aid to all flood victims. Many of us decided to go... after all, in all my years, I've hardly been given any special aid.

So, off we went, us three ladies. When we arrived at the One Stop Centre at the Police HQ, the place was swarming with flood victims.
Lines at the Alor Setar Police HQ
We duly took our places in the line and waited... waited and waited. By the time we were done, 3 1/2 hours had passed. I cannot believe how inefficient how police is. Computers didn't help them speed up their jobs. In fact, it slowed them down markedly. Writing would have been faster!!!

Obviously there are tens of thousands of flood victims. A simple form for us to fill would have suffice. They can always check the area... flood waters are not illusive like criminals. They can always check. In my time there, I had ample time to observe the going ons.

For one, all the police banners with words like Mesra, Cekap... are crap! Though they are overworked, natural disasters like this don't happen everyday. There was one Sarjan who closed his counter at 4.30 p.m. citing computer failure. And over the period of the next few hours, I noticed that their computers kept hanging... holding up the reports. The same Sarjan also said in a rather arrogant voice that we could make reports in any police station. Another crap cos we had just come from the police station near our place and were told to go to the main one.
Old folks lining up
There was an old lady with a walking cane in the line when he closed his counter... where was his compassion??? Obviously he must be thinking that serving an old lady doesn't add up his pahala.

Oh ya! How many police officers do you think are needed to change a printer cartridge??? Two!!! And their computer system must be really archaic cos it kept hanging. I wonder who they contracted to write their software and supply the hardware. How can the police force's frontline equipment be so fragile and break down so easily at even a crisis like a flood. Would it then be able to cope if something bigger were to happen?

Most if not all us have been going days without proper sleep and food. Making us wait for such a long time to make one report just shows how inept the police is. Add that to the fact that the reports had to be typed and most of the officers typed painfully slow, the whole process certainly showed their ineptness. All police officers should go for typing classes!!
Making Report
A report which can be done in 5 minutes needed 10-15 minutes with one finger typing!!! And the One Stop Centre felt more like an oven. The air-condition just couldn't cope. So, like its personnels, the equipment too floundered along! Nice banners they had, with smiling police officers as their poster boys and girls. But when it came to real service, they certainly didn't seem to match up to those smiling and seemingly cekap poster officers. Like many things Malaysian... indah khabar dari rupa. Looks good on the outside but no substance!

And the way the lines of crowds were organized. There were no officers to direct the people. They had one row for those above 60 years old, another row for those above 70 years old and one more for those not in the said categories. Guess who got to sit down while waiting????
At Alor Setar Police HQ
The last group!!! No brainer and certainly not prihatin. So while we sat, the aged hobbled and hung on to their canes, standing on their weary legs.

The police got their pay raise quite recently... I am beginning to think that they don't quite deserve it, seeing the way they got the reports done. Anyway, all throughout the flood, I didn't really see any police... I heard the sirens of their cars, though. Their presence weren't really felt.

Sitting there and watching the police officers at work and seeing some unpleasant, possibly race-related actions make Najib's 1Malaysia sound hollow and fake! Add that to the racist actions of the rescue workers during the flood who have been selective in the distribution of aid like food and water and also rescue efforts... I'd say UMNO has succeeded in dividing Malaysians into Melayu, China, India and Lain-Lain. 1Malaysia is only a political gimmick! We are more divided than before; and the most insidious thing is our authorities can no longer be depended to be fair and compassionate in the truest sense. Everything is tainted... sad thing indeed for Malaysia.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kota Setar Flood 2010

This is one flood that's going to be remembered for some time. The city is slowly turning into a sea of water. 5 years ago, our place was one of the few places which were hit. The rest of the city was so normal back then, unlike this round.

We've been literally running away from the water. Water level rose so quickly in such a short time. I tried to cycle back to my house yesterday but turned back after I fell. Water was already above thigh deep with rather strong currents. Immediately went to take my jab and down some antibiotics. The flood is like a cesspool... real one.

In times like this, you can watch, experience and learn many things. You realize who your friends are, and those who who will go the extra mile for you even though they themselves are in the same predicament. I get to talk to neighbours whom I never or seldom talk to.

And today, my 'refugee' centre has also seen rising water. It's still rising and we do not know when it will stop. It's been a tiring few days. Hoping to see an end to this darurat.

More to come...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Flood stories...

Flood season... road is cut off already and I think most of my colleagues will not be able to make it to work. My own area is also starting to have water coming in. In the last major flood of 2005, our house was spared as it was on higher ground. But many neighbouring houses were more than thigh deep.

The first sign is always the cars parked along the road. These days sign of affluence is there... most kampung folks own cars too, some more than one also. But cars are a necessity these days, the public transport is really bad.

Guess what flies off the shelf during a time like this?? Drinking water!! Rising water means the pump houses cannot operate. So you have a quirky situation where there's water everywhere but not a drop from your tap, if your water comes from those affected pump houses. I always wonder why the water people don't come out with a design that can elevate the pump house or something along that line so that the water supply will not be disrupted. Right now, even those people not affected directly by the flood have no water supply.

Was at TESCO first thing it was opened and already there were people bathing in the toilets. Goes back to the water problem again. And when I came out, an old makcik asked me whether the toilets had water. People are flocking to those public places with water. In a way, I guess TESCO is doing a public service. There'll be more people flocking there today I guess, if their water supply is not affected.

Some schools are not accessible. Yet my colleague tells me that certain Heads insist that the teachers must report themselves for work at the school nearest to them. If you head towards Jitra, the whole area is a disaster zone. Water level in town went up more than 4-5 feet in many areas. So, if a school is located in the vicinity in all likelihood majority of the teachers (and students) will be stuck at home or affected by the inundated roads. What is the purpose of reporting to work at a school not yours??? No brainer!!!! And most people have things such as these.... safety, damage to property, etc, etc.... on their minds.

Anyway, Jitra is basically quite cut off now. Most of their access roads are under water. I've got friends still stuck in Hatyai from last weekend.

And break-ins. In times like this, there are those who have no qualms about profiting illegally from other people's predicaments. Some literally drove up in lorries and carted away goods from the shops. The authorities have obviously failed here.

On rescue operations.... we're still a divided nation. Most rescue workers are Malays. Some people complain that the rescue boats pick up people by the preference of skin colour. Go figure what has happened to our country.... almost single race civil service, etc. The politicians are to be blamed... someday, the undoing of our country will be traced back to their doing.

But I notice how life goes on as usual for the unaffected. It's surreal to see sometimes. I remember thinking to myself how normal life looked on the outside for the unaffected in the last major flood. We went on for days without power and a day or so without water and it was a worrying time. Then, when you drive out of your disaster zone... and everything is so normal. That's life too...

Flood water in our area spreads slowly cos we're downstream and near the coast (the water has to lalu our area)... Such kind of flood is like a cancer. You can anticipate it, make some preparations but you are helpless against it. Sometimes you get 'lucky' in the sense that it gets into your area but passes you by. And you are spared. Sometimes you get hit real bad and it can really bowl you over.

Anyway, I hope it won't get any worse... Deepavali is just around the corner.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Flood Season...

I was on my way to school this morning and I noticed there were unusually many cars parked on the shoulder of the road.... the flood is back! In most of the villages, the water has been rising since yesterday.

Back in the 2005, we didn't have rain but the water came rushing down from the north. This time, we've been having rain and further up north, it's also pouring. The water is slowly moving southwards and to the coastal areas.

Arrived at school, there're less students. It's exam season now. Hopefully, this will be a reminder not to hold exams this late in the year. These days, they want to push as much 'academic' time as possible into the school year; which I think takes the fun out of school.

Some of my colleagues' houses have also been flooded, some up to knee deep. Some have already moved out. The cleaning will be massive. Flood waters always bring in the mud and if you don't clean them as the water recedes, it's going to be horrendous cleaning them.

Flood also means a possibility of no power supply and water supply as sub-stations and pump houses get inundated. We had to do without power for a few days back in 2005. Most of my neighbours moved out till the water receded! It's going to be a few days of anxious waiting for many.

But this time around, with FB we get better eye-witness report too of the flood situation in certain places! But this wonder of technology will only be available only if there is power supply. Little towns like Changlun literally came alive with traffic crawl as stretches of the highway got flooded.

Update 9.58 p.m.
Yup! Water level is going up in my area. I can already see cars from the village parked near my house. Took a drive with my neighbour in the evening, and the water is rising fast. Called a few friends.... in Jitra, some buildings are 5-6 feet under water. Jitra was difficult to access today as all its major roads were under water. Going by the last experience, it takes about 2 days for the water there to get here. And tonight's the beginning of what I hope is less flooding than the last round's.

Die, die also hers....

It is mind boggling how selfish we can be at times these days... especially when it involves kids. I recently helped a friend's kid fi...