Friday, 28 December 2012

Opening Our Minds

‘Transgender’ is still considered to be a taboo word here in Malaysia; it is a word that some people here do not even WANT to try to understand. Ideals and beliefs are still very conservative and people want to keep it that way, which makes it very hard for transgenders.

I am a very open person who is accepting of other people’s choices and I do not treat anyone differently because of their decisions.  Raised in the West, I was taught to be more open and understanding of others.  However, this is not necessary true for all places. For example, in the Northeast and the West of the United States including New York and California, they are more open while in states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas, people are more reserved about topics like this. Wherever you are in the world, ‘transgender’ seems to be a topic that most people don’t want to discuss and I don’t see why not.

            Every time I tell friends that I have gone out the night before with some friends for dinner and dancing, one always ask me whether I have met any transgender. My answer is, “who cares?”

Yes,  Southeast Asia is known for women who are ridiculously pretty and too perfectly ‘woman’, so many people assume that they are men who have had cosmetic surgeries.  Even if these pretty  ‘women’ are transgenders, it doesn’t mean that they should be treated any differently.  

For example, a couple months ago I was honored to attend my co-worker’s performance near Bukit Bintang. It was at a gay club and honestly I was super excited. I knew that there were gay people here in Malaysia but they kept their lives so low profile that it seemed nonexistent here.

When I got there, I was so happy! There were so many people without a care in the world and it felt like I wasn’t in Malaysia, it felt like I was back in the States.  I met a few transgenders and honestly they were BEAUTIFUL. I really don’t think girls look as pretty as they do and I even told them that. They told me that I must be joking because I was pulling it off pretty well! That was the greatest compliment ever to me! They  were so friendly and they seemed to be so excited to meet someone that was so accepting of them.

 I talked to them for a little while and I don’t think I have ever felt more comfortable than I did in those 10 minutes. We talked about boy problems, drama, and everything in between (and obviously squeezed in some time to show off our dance moves.) At the end of the night, we got each others’ numbers and we promised to meet up and dance the night away. It was one of the best nights for me here in Kuala Lumpur.

            While the experience that I mentioned above was a positive one, not all experiences have a happy ending. Recently, I was in Bangkok with my family. On the last night, we went to enjoy the night market where things are good and can be bargained for less.  We passed by some clubs  and realized that we were inside the Patpong area -- the red light district. It is just like the red light district in Amsterdam -- lots of clubs, bars, and really sleazy people. It is a place where sex is readily available and prostitution is not even an afterthought.

 All we saw were dark rooms filled with smoke, dancers on the tables, and men staring at the women as if they were crowned jewels. While I was walking by myself, I came across a situation that I didn’t not quite enjoy but I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off .  A male traveler was asking for some company and the women was agreeing. When I walked past I realized that they were arguing, he had one hand holding her arm almost pulling her along and she stopped him. I was not quite sure what they were arguing about, but I heard number values being shouted around and I realized that they were talking about money.

 I moved on because I did not want to be a part of the conversation when all of a sudden I heard, “ BUT YOU ARE A LADYBOY!” When I turned around I saw that everyone else was also staring, clearly startled as to what disturbed their shopping. The woman was clearly embarrassed and she did not even give the man the time of day and walked off without looking at anyone around her.

            Slurs like these erupt often, people are thinking up new words to hurt others’ feelings. You would think that as we progress socially, calling people names should not be a common practice, but in actual fact, nasty words are being transformed into more creative words.

             When I first heard about what PT Foundation in KL does, I was so happy that there are people helping to give positive living to the marginalized.  The communities that they focus on for their Positive Living Program are Drug Users, Sex Workers, Transgender, and Men who have sex with men. The thing that is so special about PT Foundation is the people working in the organization because most of them are those who have been there themselves. They are people that have overcome those societal issues and they are finally happy being themselves. They don’t care about what others think about them.
            When I read about what Nisha and Sulastri’s experiences, it put a smile on my face that they are helping people that are going through what they went through and they are lending a helping hand to people that need them. They are doing for people what they themselves should have received in terms of care and encouragement when they needed someone there. 

This is the very special Nisha talking about experiences and what drove her to be a part of PT Foundation and to help others. She is an inspiration to the community, not just the transgender community but all that have been mistreated.

This is Sulastri Ariffin explaining to us what she does at PT Foundation and the difference between transgender and transsexual. Both, Nisha and Sulastri are inspirations to everyone by showing that as Nisha puts it "we are all human beings" and that there is no reason to be treated differently. 

People who have been through the same situations as people they are helping are better helpers because they know the exact situation and feelings in those critical moments when understanding of the issue at hand is most essential. When I am upset and someone says “I don’t know what to say.” It makes me a bit angry inside because I wish they could help me with the problem that I am going through instead of treating me like a sobbing idiot.

The PT foundation has opened the doors for so many people and hopefully can change more people in Malaysia to embrace a more tolerant views about transgenders. 

love and prosperity,
Anitha Thanabalan 

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Powering Through

        In my years, I have dealt with a lot of heartbreaks and seen a lot of people give up because of the smallest things. They believe that they no longer have a chance to be happy because of the circumstances that life has given them. I have had best friends giving up on life because of relationships and because they just couldn’t take it anymore. But everything looks so menial when put in a bigger prospective. For Jenny Pong Seow Chin, even when everything seems to fall apart, she manages to have a smile on her face each and every day.

         From a very young age, Jenny Pong Seow Chin has learned that things do not come easy, so she had to grow up very fast taking care of her siblings and helping her mother around the house. She never enjoyed the luxuries that some of us now take for granted yet regardless of all of that she tries to make everyone around her smile with her infectious laughter and her always positive attitude.

         Her situation is very much like another person by the name of Nick Vujicic.  Nick does not have arms OR legs. He was born with neither arms nor legs because of a birth defect. He struggled throughout his life because he always wondered whether his life was worth anything. He dealt with a lot of frustration because he had to deal with bullying and self-esteem issues from his peers because they did not know how to react to a person like him.

However, throughout everything and all the issues that he had to deal with, he is an inspiration to so many people. As he grew older, he learned to deal with his disability and he started to be able to do more things on his own.

Currently, he is living in Los Angeles inspiring people everywhere and he is the president of an international non-profit organization and has his own motivational speaking company called Attitude is Altitude. He inspires people to look beyond all the problems and put a smile on their faces. He inspires children that bully and are bullied. He gives them the message that ‘sooner or later everything will work out and if you put all your energies to something positive it can get you very far.’

         Jenny Pong Seow Chin’s legs were amputated when her doctor told her that she could never regain feeling in her legs. However, when she went into surgery, she realized that the incision that the surgeon created was uneven and because of that, it prevented her from sitting upright, causing even more problems. Because of that, she had to drag herself on her stomach in order to complete her chores. However, one of her brothers had a brilliant idea to create a trolley so that she could move around with more ease. With her family’s help, a trolley was constructed for her to move around easier and safer.

However, after 26 years of not being able to sit upright, she finally got the opportunity when her custom made wheelchair was presented to her this past Sunday. This wheelchair has been in discussion for 2 years. After it was made in October this year in Singapore, it wasn’t delivered till Dec 23 as Mr Lee, the maker has been waiting for Pong to heal from her stump infection.

The unforgettable day is Sunday, Dec 23 2012. A group of people went to Ipoh to change her life for the better. The photos show how excited she is to be able to finally sit up after so many years. It makes me so happy to have helped someone with something so important.

         Both Nick Vujicic and Jenny Pong Seow Chin have proven to me that through all the hardships that we have all been through, it is nothing compared to what they have had to go through for most of their lives. It gives me a new perspective for I realize that no matter how big I think a problem is, I can always pick myself back up and continue my day normally with a smile on my face.

If they can do it, then I can. 

         And, I must.


love and prosperity,
Anitha Thanabalan

Monday, 15 October 2012

Fruits for Lunch

‘Aiya, no need to get fruits la Lucy… We already have so much food for lunch today! Park inside the office!’ Ching Ching said to Lucy who was sitting in her car one morning. ]

Lucy giggled and nodded. ‘Okay, okay...’ Lucy said. Happy that she succeeded for the first time in talking Lucy to not get fruits for lunch, Ching Ching pranced away to open the office gate so Lucy could park her car inside. To her dismay Lucy drove off, leaving Ching Ching speechless standing with a wide opened gate, and me laughing hysterically at Lucy’s clever trick. She wins again this time! 

Every Tuesday when Lucy comes to the eHomemakers office, we always have fruits after lunch bought by her at the nearby mini market. Sweet juicy papayas, oranges that if turned out to be sour, were sprinkled on with a little bit of salt and the sourness was gone (a trick that Lucy taught us), guavas or sometimes even apples. No matter what, there would always be fruits. After eating lunch, Lucy would run off to the kitchen and bring out a big plate of fruits, which we always found room to stomach, no matter how full we were.
Every intern that joins eHomemakers, no matter how short their stay, HAS to meet Lucy, and there has never been one intern that was never fond of her. Some of the previous interns even called her ‘Aunty Lucy’.  During lunch sometimes, Lucy would talk to the interns about her journey with SLE, and how she became the woman of perseverance she is today, and us interns would listen attentively. Who would have thought that quiet Aunty Lucy who was busy counting eco-baskets in the next room had such a big story behind her?
There was once where I was cranky and on that same day, I had to film Lucy’s video journal in the office. I grabbed the camera and set up, sulking. Halfway into filming, I couldn't help laughing at Lucy’s gullibility, and my mood was instantly changed from sulky to happy.  (see video below)

Thanks to Lucy, the office is always cheerful and happy. Lucy never ceases to ease the stress level in the office, her bright smile and laughter always does the trick. She is an angel in disguise, and despite our stress and struggles in eHomemakers, Lucy is definitely a reason why we carry on doing what we do. There was never a day I remember being in the office with Lucy where I had a bad day.
I can’t wait till next Tuesday.  

Rhonwyn H.


Jenny Pong in the Hospital with Pains

                I have never been proud of myself when I get sick, for I’d whine for attention. Even a little flu would make me feel like my world is about to end and I’d pout and grumble for the stuffy nose, or the headache or any sorts of mild pain I might suffer.

                Never had I seen anyone as jovial as our Jenny Pong Seow Chin though hospitalized. Just recently on the 12th of June 2012, Jenny was admitted at the hospital with fever due to bladder infection.

                Although with pain, she could cheerfully greet the interviewer, something which is quite an admirable feat. I can only imagine the pain that she would be going through.  As she said, “Smiling is the only cure for any sickness.” It is something everyone should make an example of. Smiling isn’t hard; people claim that it only takes 17 muscles to smile. Shouldn’t we all be doing it often too?
                Smiling actually helps in pushing away the negative aura and bringing forth positivity. Try to be like Jenny – try smiling through your pain and you can feel the difference. Though it may not kill the pain, but it makes it more bearable.
                Morphine is the drug given to alleviate the pain that Jenny is having, but for the interview she refused to take the drug as it makes her feel like she’s “going to heaven”. She endured the pain with a smiling face to talk to the interviewers. Isn’t that something admirable again?
                It takes strength to stay awake despite the pain she’s going through. I cannot admire Jenny Pong more than I already have. If it was me, I’d rather have painkillers and I would not think of the repercussions if I was meeting anyone – but Jenny had taught me to stay strong. If she can do it, why can’t I?
                How I wish I was as cheerful as her the next time I am down with a fever and able to talk to people as if I was healthy, instead of showing a sour face – trying to gauge people’s sympathy. We should not just look at Jenny and say “Oh, she’s a great woman, and I want to be like her too.”
                We should set her as an example of a person we should be, not a person we want to be.
                Jenny Pong is definitely a woman of steel. She is the epitome of strength, the pillar of courage – an example of how people should persevere in the face of adversity. I hope that things get better for her, because she deserves better.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Jenny Pong Seow Chin - My Superwoman

Photo Courtesy of 
Maria Skouras, The Advocacy Project
I can vaguely remember the small humble house at the foot of a limestone hill in Ipoh - a hazy memory of my yesteryears.

I remember holding on to my father’s hand tentatively as I walk into this home of a stranger – a place I’ve never been to. I know father knew the person who lives here, but I don’t know who it was.

        When I saw her, I knew in the heart of a little girl, that this woman has been through a lot, but I wouldn’t have guessed it, not with that beaming smile she shone upon us as we entered.

        She had no legs, and she moved around in a make-shift trolley, and it made my heart cry to see her that way. Although I know that I shouldn’t be feeling that way because she is a strong woman and strong women don’t want people to sympathize with them – instead we should be proud of her.
        Sometimes when I think that life is too much for me, and that I can’t seem to move forward just for a teeny-weeny problem - I think of her. How she would have felt when the doctors amputated her legs. I’m sure her future would have looked bleak for her, but she didn’t let that bring her down.
        She shows other women that she is the epitome of courage and strength. You don’t have to jump off a cliff and dive into churning waters to show that you’re fearless, nor do you need to lift weights to show your strength. You just need to be brave to face the challenges life puts in front of you, and have the power to rise above that, knowing that it is easy to give up but you’ve managed to stand up tall spiritually.
        Nowadays when I feel low and on the verge of giving up, I think to myself, if she and many others with the same problems can do it – who’s to say I can’t stand up tall and face only small challenges. She is my role model and she is someone we should all respect for we don’t need a man in a flowing red cape and the letter ‘S’ on his chest to be the figure of valor. All we need is to look at Jenny Pong Seow Chin and learn from her the true value of strength and perseverance.
Photo Courtesy of 
Maria Skouras, The Advocacy Project

        I left the house with Mandarin oranges in my hand – it must have been during the Chinese New Year Celebration – thinking that when I grow up I will not let any obstacles in my life bring me down. I will persevere and stand tall in the face of adversity as when I look into her eyes, it told me that you can be strong if your heart’s in the right place.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

One Journey Ends, Another Begins

Pong on a Reclining Wheelchair With Ah Yan(neice), Ah Kam(Red Blouse), Lucy(Blue Shirt)

Pong went to Singapore, with the help of funds from different people, to get a special wheelchair made by Mr Lee of Delcon Technologies. Her dream of becoming a motivational speaker came true when she spoke to the employees of Pteris Global and Cisco Recall in Singapore.  

Pteris Global and Cisco Recall donated a wheelchair to her and they took her to several places of interest in Singapore including Singapore Flyer and Garden in the Bay! Here are some pictures while she was there.

The Singaporean Physiotherapist assures Pong that sitting upward will greatly improve blood circulation in the urinary system.

Hence,Pong needs to be very discipline after this trip, ie: perform her daily exercise to strengthen her spinal muscle. Eventually, she should be able to transfer herself independently from wc to bed to floor. It takes time but it is ACHIEVABLE.

A solid foam bed is needed for her to perform her daily therapy. She can also email  Mr Lee of Delcon Technology about her performance/development every quarterly. The Physiotherapist will also help to review and provide the next course of therapy exercise. The modified wheel chair will be completed in about 3 weeks for Pong.
The two kind-hearted Singaporeans look forward to see her transferring herself independently when she goes to Singapore to give another motivating speech, hopefully to United World College!
She now can finally sit up after 26 years!

Pong's group arrived in KL for a few days after the Singapore trip. We now have to sort out how to transport her on a manual wheelchair without the appropriate disabled van!!
Her stumps are bleeding due to the trial trips with the manual wheelchair, so we have to be careful these few days.

Here are the steps in the next few years:

1.   Get special wheelchair and others appropriate hardware
2.   Ensure physiotherapies are appropriate at the Ipoh side so she can sit up, and there is proper home care ( cement floor fixing, security etc) - reduce risk of stroke, heart attack.
3.   Appeal for much needed surgery at a hospital in KL -- use colon to make urinary tube
4.   Appeal for reduced rate or complementary sugery. Fundraise whatever necessary to get the surgery done and the medical care for healing of wounds.
5.   Long term physiotherapy + a van for the wheelchair in Ipoh
6.  Tackle other health problems -shrunken kidney ( from laying on trolley too long) and leukemia.

Follow Jenny Pong on FB at Jenny Pong Seow Chin.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Music Within

Recently the Czech ambassador (Jan Fury) showed up at my house asking for a copy of the Akar Umbi CD.

I had told him there are only 20+ copies left - and they are all with Rafique. So I burned him a copy and also gave him Marina Roseman's CD, Dream Songs of the Malaysian Rainforest, since he's so keen to get his hands on it. That made me realize there are many who really enjoy off-the-beaten-track music, especially if it's aboriginal stuff.

Since June 2009 I have had 7 Akar Umbi tracks on (downloadable for 75 cents a track) - but there appears to be have been no downloads so far, so I made all the tracks downloadable for free.

Later I realized that SoundClick compresses their music files to low-grade mp3 (128 bits or less!) - whereas allows high-grade downloads (320-bit mp3 or flac) which is almost as good as wav or cda quality (original CD encoding).

I only discovered BandCamp a few days ago, thanks to a German DJ & audio wizard who stayed with me for a week and helped remaster some ancient tracks.

Well, I realized BandCamp was a much better platform to keep Akar Umbi and Mak Minah's songs online - people can listen for free and also download by paying a small fee.

That's how it should be - those who want to possess the tracks can easily afford a few bucks, while everybody else can still access the music at the best possible quality.

Also, BandCamp allows me to include detailed program notes for each track -  so a complete album download also comes with all the notes and images. This makes it unnecessary to ever consider reissuing the album as a CD - too much trouble to replicate in small quantities - and too difficult to distribute globally.

Digital albums make perfect sense to me, because binary codes are weightless. (A few years ago Universal Music actually expressed an interest in repackaging and distributing Songs of the Dragon - at first regionally, then perhaps globally - but the recording industry went into a slump and they simply dropped the idea.)

So on 7 September 2012, one week before Minah Angong's 82nd birthday, Akar Umbi has found a permanent home (I hope) in cyberspace!

It doesn't matter much to me whether most folks opt to just listen - if even a handful decide to download, I might earn a few extra bucks over the years, to cover my internet bills.

Amazingly, Mak Minah is worth money even after her death. Last year, Solaris Publika embarked on a "TextWalk" project, inscribing short quotes from 60 Malaysian writers & poets in cement.

I was asked to contribute a couple - then they wanted something from Orang Asli folklore, so I let them use a few lines from "Kuda Lari" and they eventually paid me RM500 for that, which I handed to Semboh, Mak Minah's favorite granddaughter, who was so delighted.

I told her Mak Minah still cares for her!

The link to Akar Umbi ~ Songs of the Dragon is

Guano Breath is an umbrella name for all my musical experiments :-)

By Antares

Sunday, 3 June 2012

"Life is So Short" She Said

I rummaged through the piles of plastic that came with the large stock of eco-baskets which the weavers just brought to the office.

I grabbed a hand-woven piece and read its serial number out loud to Lucy so that she could note down the stock. It wasn’t easy when there was so much information on the label. Lucy bobbed her head up. Adjusting her glasses, she looked at the basket I was struggling with.

“Is that a ‘Pinnochio Shoe’?” She suddenly said, referring to the unique piece I held in my hands.
“Err, yeah.”I replied.

Nodding, she recited the whole serial number to me, that bought me time to catch up with her on the next few items. She was one fast middle-aged lady!

And a one-woman show for the eco-basket project!

Aww, I'm smiling already!

Lucy’s commitment to volunteer work with the eco-basket project at eHomemakers and the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) Association (not to mention her duties as a wife and mother) – sees her traveling back and forth between Kajang and Kuala Lumpur / Petaling Jaya (that would be about two hours, one-way. Four hours, daily, goodness!), rushing to catch the next bus or a train, walking to offices from public transport stations, running errands and making preparations for events or coordinating other volunteers. 

Although it is so easy for a busy woman like Lucy to get cranky from exhaustion, or maybe even big-headed for being so indispensable, she doesn’t behave this way at all. She just does her tasks, smiles at young interns like me who make mistakes in front of her, and excitedly tells you stories from her past (and maybe offer you salt-sprinkled oranges for lunch).
Lucy wasn’t always the chirpy, passionate, confident, 'go-get-em' kind of person she is today.

The woman speaking to crowds at SLE events and eco-basket exhibitions, the woman confidently delivering her story in the 'Portraits of Perseverance' documentary, the woman dedicated to volunteer work that she’s passionate about – a few years ago, that woman was in a shell, shy and passive.

The turning point in Lucy's life happened, because of a fellow Lupus patient – her close friend, Justina Low Yew Lee.
One strong, unique lady - Justina Low.

In life, there are just certain things that trigger some sort of change within a person. That change could be due to a desire spark to make that change, or it could be purely involuntary. Change that can make or break a person.

I know of a boy who was extremely sweet and bubbly as a kid. He had a very creative and colourful imagination, and he often would chatter on about things beyond his years. He had a bright, sensitive, yet confident natural instinct.

Many things about him changed ever since he entered primary school.

Due to his upbringing in an English-speaking home, he found it difficult to learn Chinese language. His Chinese language teacher would pick on his Chinese language homework, telling the whole class how he had ugly handwriting and that he was not as "smart" as the rest.

I don't know if the teacher did what she did intentionally, but the impact on her students was made. Many of his classmates repeated the teacher's insults on him, poked fun at him, and refused to play with him. For a boy who was barely eight, the continuous bullying from both his classmates and his teacher reduced his self-confidence.

From a child who seemed to take the sunshine with him everywhere he went, who could play with action figures, make up his own clever role play scripts, and name several species of dinosaurs from the top of his head - the bullies in school made him a sullen and sheepish individual, too shy to speak up.

I'm not directing this at Chinese school teachers, because I have had the privilege of having strict but loving and tactful ones. The teachers he had obviously weren't meant to be teachers.

Although the story has a happy ending (he grew up to be a successful individual, with a sense of humour), it's sad how some events in our life can change a person for the worse

Lucy’s was a different story than the boy's. Justina was chatty and adventurous. She was a very positive, happy woman who always tried to push Lucy out of her shell and to live life to its fullest. She was that type of person - a source of joy - wanting others to be as happy as she was. Justina had succumbed to Lupus in 2011.

Lucy and Maria Skouras (Photo credits to The Advocacy Project

So it seems lightning does strike twice in the same place. Within three months of Justina's death, a very dear aunt of Lucy's passed on. Then, her mother-in-law - whom Lucy had been taking care of - passed away as well.

A loved one’s death is never an easy thing to deal with, especially if it’s sudden. Having someone close to you - laughing with you, involved in your life actively and making plans with you one moment - and then, losing her for good in the next moment... 

When you finally realize that you wouldn’t have the chance to do the things that you've been planning to do with her anymore - it would be a harsh blow to anyone.

Lucy could’ve allowed Justina's untimely death to affect her. She could’ve stopped volunteering at non-profit organizations. She could’ve let herself continue to mourn her loss. She could have gone into depression. She could have kept staring at door that Justina had closed. That her aunt, her mother-in-law had closed.

And her name was Justina. (Photo credits to The Advocacy Project)

But she didn’t let herself fall into that state.
In many ways, Justina's passing had sparked a desire in Lucy to change her way of life. Lucy could hear Justina telling her, "Go do it, don't be afraid!"
Remembering her friend's wisdom about life, Lucy started to make changes to hers. She began to step out, speak up, explore, travel and meet new people – things Justina had wanted for her quiet, shy friend.

This new perspective of life saw her traveling on a boat in Cambodia with the documentary team, making new friends at an international conference, speaking at SLE events, learning to be a group leader in the eco-basket project, telling her story to the world through the "Portraits of Perseverance" documentary, befriending other strong women figures, and impacting more lives through her passion for volunteer work.

 Lucy - with some of the eco baskets - flashing a winning smile.

Justina’s death propelled Lucy to try and do things that she never would have had the confidence or drive to do otherwise. And because Lucy begin to have that drive, she has accomplished so much a year after Justina left her! Watching her handlng her work with leadership and independence, speaking confidently and brightly, I find it hard to imagine that she used to be a benchwarmer, a passive player who was afraid to step up to opportunities given to her.

“Life is so short,” has become Lucy’s new life motto.

"Life is what we make of it, you can either do nothing or you can do as many things as you can every day!" She told us young interns who were (okay, maybe some of us still are) trying to figure out what our lives are all about.

Justina strutting some marketing skills! (Photo credits to The Advocacy Project)

I did not know Justina personally. But I can see part of who she was live on through the way Lucy lives her life now. Lucy now steps up without shying away from new people or situations, she has overcome her comfort zone. As she is doing all these, she has become even more of  an inspiration for others to do the same. All I can say is, Justina must have been quite a person to be able to leave such a great impact and mark on Lucy’s life.
Photography by Wang Junmey
There will come a time where we will be faced with news or events that might threaten to take away something that is dear to us - our confidence, comfort or people we love. That's where we have to choose between curling up in a sad ball and refusing to move on, or to address the issue, solve it and keep walking.

We're only human. Experiences can bring us down. 

As cliché as this may sound, what I've learned from Lucy these few months is, it’s alright to fall, it’s alright if you don’t handle these hard times perfectly and it’s alright to be brought down, as long as you find a way to get back on your feet and overcome adversity. Don't let it drag you down and change your positive outlook of life.
While you do what you choose to do, just remember that, what Lucy says is so true  - life really is so short.

We only have so many days. So, live.
Just live, test your waters, make mistakes, learn from them, climb high and get back up when you fall, love yourself and love others without fear.

Beyond the obstacles that dominate our sight, are stars to be reached. 

You only live once.

by Junmey

Monday, 28 May 2012

Closing the "Portraits" Chapter

eHomemakers will be releasing its documentary,"Portraits of Perseverance" (POP). Before we do, here are some teasers for your viewing pleasure. Our interns, Rhonwyn and Josh met up with three of the women in the documentary for a chat.

The production of this documentary allowed the women involved - who are of vastly different backgrounds with each of them facing unique challenges - to interact, to share and to enjoy each other's company in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. 

From the initial doubts, their thoughts about one another, to talking about the "very cool" eHomemakers intern, Morgan Reed - we've got it all here in their interviews!

Nisha of the Pink Triangle Foundation. (Still looking good in the candid screenshot)

Always confident and ready to speak, Nisha Ayub was very excited to be part of the POP documentary. A social worker of a foundation for transgenders, Nisha has seen and done many interesting things. Like the rest of the women, her experience in the world gave great insight and provided a fascinating angle to the documentary.

The scrutinizing eye of a camera may not be everybody's friend. Not only has it been accused of adding weight and highlighting fat spots, some people just do not feel comfortable being on camera, especially when being interviewed. Nisha thought it felt weird talking in front of the camera for the video journals.

Sulastri, who is also working at the Pink Triangle Foundation.

Well, she certainly wasn't alone on that, as her co-worker, Sulastri Ariffin, too had her share of issues with the camera.

Film work aside... Initially doubtful about getting on the POP bandwagon, Sulastri has come to a point where she's glad she chose to participate in POP. Going through the whole process, she now feels the need to tell her tumultous life story to the world, as well as a passion to "contribute to the community out there".

Lucy, giggling in front of the camera, as usual.

Then there's our sweet Lucy Goh (well it seems being camera-shy is a trend here!)  Lucy's candid recall of meeting Nisha: Lucy gave her a top-to-toe scan (which Nisha is used to) before she said, "Hi'.

But once they started talking during the women's meeting at Crowne Plaza, KL, Nisha realized that Lucy "is very very friendly even though she's a very quiet person." Nisha thinks that "Lucy's very intelligent too."

Just like Sulastri, Lucy has gained confidence along the way, as there were do-or-die situations where she just had to speak up! Although she still breaks out in giggles (bloopers!), the woman you see speaking to the camera talks with new-found confidence, as well as with conviction. (Filming her for this video was very fun for the intern team. Lucy kept giggling so the team also giggled, laughed and roared with laughters!)

Now that the finishing touches are being applied on the documentary and things are wrapping up, Nisha, Sulastri and Lucy look forward to moving on from this great life chapter and experience.

And when they do move on - be it to other projects, or to work with women - I believe that no matter how far they get in life, and how many lives they impact, 'Portraits of Perseverance' would always remain close to their hearts. 

by Junmey

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Fashion and Sense

Miss Kelantan.
Photo by Colonizing Photography
After my first encounter with the transgender community in
September 2011, I began to be more proud of being 'female'.

They aren't women biologically, but they appreciate women's physical beauty more than I did, so I decided it was time to appreciate what God gave me.

I started to dress up more 'lady-like' than before. My usual
T-shirts and jeans were slowly replaced by blouses and skirts.

I could hear my mom's mind screamed, "Phew, I finally have a daughter!"

She was invited to the 'Miss Transgender Malaysia 2011 -- Fashion and Sense' by Nisha, but no one wanted to go with her, so I got to!

So, for this special "1Malaysia" event, I willingly wore the saree I bought during my trip to India a few years back. I thought I looked decent enough for the occasion, but I couldn't achieve the the glamour look that the transgenders seemed to do with ease at the event.

Their fabulous looks amazed me.  Maybe it was their makeup?  Their special gowns, and beautifully designed dresses?   Whatever it was, they looked absolutely gorgeous. Their clothes were so colorful and flowy on their nice builds, while mine was made with a heavy silk and slightly too long for my short build.

We went a few hours before the event to interview Nisha for a video journal.  She spoke about why transgenders love to look beautiful. 

It is about being who they are -- women, and confident enough to be show their physical beauty.

"It doesn't matter what size and shape we are,
we are all beautiful!" Nisha declared.

The event is a platform to unite transgenders from all over Malaysia and give them a chance to broadcast their talents and skills

The main hall was occupied by the performers rehearsing before the event,  so we had to sit in the lobby.  Looking back, I must have looked so ridiculous. A 17-year old wearing a too-long saree, sitting on the big puffy lobby chair studying the SPM Sejarah book, charging a HD video camera waiting to film Nisha at the event for Portraits of Perseverance... on a school night!

Although SPM was just about a month away, this was an event that I wouldn't miss for the world. It's not everyday that you get invited personally by a member of the transgender community to attend such a glamorous event, even if it meant waking up early at 6 the next day and dragging my lazy butt to school.

Miss Perlis.
Photo by colonizing Photography
The event was free seating, so my mom and I    chose a table near the stage. There were ten of us at our table. Seven transgenders, a Chinese man, and my mom and I.

The transgenders were gossiping among themselves about who and who got a boob job, and talking about what colour eye shadow who was wearing and I heard lots of "Amboooi sayang, cantiiiiiiiiik la engkau pakai baju ni!" (Like OMG babe! You look sooooooooooo gorgeous in that dress!).

The Chinese man sat slumped in his chair with his arms crossed, watching his surroundings. It was hard to tell if he was as interested in the event as my mom and I through his poker face. How did he even get hold of a ticket?

When everyone tucked into dinner, I couldn't help but notice the table manners of the transgenders at our table. Although they considered themselves women, the amount of  food they ate still showed their 'manly' side. They ate big piles of rice and lots of meat, whereas a typical 'lady' would probably not do so to watch her weight. On top of that, they ate a lot of cake from the dessert table.  But they were so slim....must be the metabolism rate.....

Miss Wilayah Persekutuan wearing my favorite dress.
Photo by Colonizing Photograpy
"Our next contestant is Miss Wilayah Persekutuan!"  the MC announced. As the contestant emergedfrom backstage, I was in awe.

She was dressed in a royal blue gown with gems embedded on the  back. She looked so proud wearing such a beautiful creation. 

"I would have given up all my dresses to anyone who would let me wear such a gown to prom!!" I thought to myself.

The rest of the contestants were dressed in equally stunning gowns.
As Miss Wilayah Persekutuan strutted her poses on stage, I couldn't help but notice her postures. Every move she made was full of grace and elegance.  Time for me, the 'woman-to-be' to learn.......

At the end of the competition, Miss Kelantan won the crown. I wasn't surprised at all. Her poise, her knowledge and her personality were all top notch. Everyone at the event loved her. Who ever would have thought that she was a transgender!

As for me, the event taught me one big lesson --  being a woman is fabulous! (even when your sari doesn't fit you well)