Sunday, July 29, 2007

Local Budget Airline – New Rules

Another trip to the East. Our three grandchildren were all looking forward to our arrival. They were excited when we talked to them over the telephone to say that we were coming. We returned from Sita’s house on Friday evening and our flight out to visit Shaffik and family was on Saturday afternoon. Our PJ house has become like a transit house over the past couple of months. Although we were in KL/PJ area on alternate weeks we were hardly at home as we had to attend to various commitments and run different errands.

We purchased tickets on the budget airline some weeks ago for this trip to Shaffik’s house. It had been quite a while since our last trip there. It was Christmas/New Year holidays when we were last there and it has been about seven months since then. There have been some changes in the reservation/purchase process for the budget airline. They apparently saw potential of making extra money in their loading procedure and had implemented a procedural change to make that extra.

Previously, all one has to do was to log on to the airline website, pick the from and to locations and the dates of travel, agree to the terms and conditions of sale and purchase, make the payment and confirm the bookings. On the day of travel and after producing proof of identity, one will be given a boarding pass which will be used at the boarding gate for boarding, sometimes with producing proof of identity again and sometime not, depending on the mood of the person in charge I suppose. Boarding will be done in an orderly manner. Families with little children, the elderly and those requiring assistance will be allowed to board first, followed by other passengers. This system had been working very well since the start of the airline’s operations.

When making the online purchase for the current trip I noticed some changes in the procedure. If one requires priority boarding one has to pay an additional fee for the privilege. On travel day those with priority boarding were allowed to board first. The others will board en-masse. Never mind if one was elderly, traveled in a family with young children, or slow requiring aid and assistance, one had to join the ‘en-masse’ crowd. This is where you see the ugly side of the people; the jostling and pushing to be in the front; the ‘me first and I do not care about you’ moves; the everyone on his own attitude or some people, especially the Chinese, call it ‘kiasu’ attitude revealing their ugly heads!!

On this trip we notice that there were only about ten or so people who purchased the priority boarding. We did not take the option of purchasing the priority boarding, so we had to join the crowd for normal boarding. The priority boarders were allowed to board first but not before the names of some of them to be called several times over the PA system to board. This is where I see the system as being unfriendly to the masses. Since the priority boarders know that they have priority, there is no sense of urgency in them. All others have to wait for them while they take their time browsing and whiling away at the shopping outlets in the departure lounge, “oh they can wait, I have priority boarding”!! Huh, another kiasu attitude. There alone we wasted about 15 minutes while the boarding staff kept calling and calling the names of the priority boarders!! Only after these boarders have boarded the plane were we allowed to board. The jostling, pushing and the rushing continued. Ram and I were not too far from the front of the queue but because of the distance we had to walk to board the plane with me slowly walking, walking stick and all, we ended being at the later end of the queue when we reached the aircraft. There were still plenty of empty seats when we boarded, hence no hassle there, but to think that people were rushing and pushing only shows the ugly side of traveling cheap!! One consolation though, we were seated together and we had the use of three seats between the two of us. Plenty of leg and elbow room!! Some comfort and yet traveling cheap, ha ha. I do not know how it will be like on our return journey come next Saturday. I only hope it won’t be none the worse then……… Ahhhh…. Whatever it is we will continue to use this cheaper mode of travel when necessary for our travels, so we can’t be complaining too much. We are looking forward to the time when this airline fly the long-haul routes to Europe and UK as we have strong reasons now to travel there. Will write and ramble on about this in the future……….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Whose Fault Is It?

I heard a local news of a fatal accident recently involving a pair of motorcyclist and a heavily laden lorry where the motorcyclist died on the spot while his pillion rider was seriously injured. This happened on a trunk road close to a major junction. I know this road and I pass through it very often. It is a very busy road, wide, straight but uneven, i.e you will feel your car or whatever vehicle you are driving rattling or bumping (is there such a word?) up and down as you go along. Yet, most vehicles plying this road will be speeding along as it is straight and wide.

I have often heard of and read of many fatal accidents all over the country but this piece of news attracted my attention more than the others. The news went on to say that the motorcyclist, riding on the side of the road, and in trying to avoid a pothole, swerved a little to the inner side of the road, causing a car that was behind to swerve too to avoid colliding with the motorcyclist and in that instant the motorcyclist lost control of his motorcycle (perhaps due to an aftershock when the car just missed him). The next vehicle that came by was the heavy laden lorry which was traveling immediately behind the first car and I assume a little too close to it, could not avoid the motorcyclist in time and crashed into it. The pillion rider was thrown some distance away by the impact while the motorcyclist was caught underneath the lorry. No other details were given of the accident and I guess if there were more, the details would be gory or gruesome.
Now, in the above scenario, whose fault was it? I had the opportunity to talk about this accident with some friends. Most said that it was the fault of the motorcyclist. (It is common perception of the general public that whenever a road accident involving a motorcyclist happens it is the motorcyclist that is likely at fault!!) Some would say that the lorry driver was at fault. The first car was not at fault as he had no alternative but to sway away from hitting the motorcyclist. However, if you look at the whole scenario, if the pothole had not been there the accident would not have happened? So, was the pothole at fault?

My blame goes to the authorities’ in-charge of the road, the town council or municipality or public works department in charge of roads or whoever is directly responsible for maintaining the road. The catch word here is ‘maintaining’. The road has not been properly maintained. That pothole was not the only pothole in the whole stretch. There were others. The quality of the road is also questionable. It has never been smooth. It was not properly built in the first place. But why was it not properly built? That question attracts other questions that would invariably end with improper control system and monitoring by those responsible. It is not only this road that is questionable but many other public facilities and infrastructure works that yearns for answers to obvious questions as above. Although I am now generalizing but look back into the last couple of years; look at how many bridges and highways that were closed either fully or partially because of poor workmanship that had caused cracks, fatigues and other failures; how many public buildings had walls and ceilings collapsing; public amenities and facilities not meeting specifications, and so on and so on…… Whenever such ‘things’ occur one will usually notice fingers start pointing at others. This authority blames that authority and others and vice versa. The poor contractor, who constructed or built the facilities are usually seen as at fault. But is that true? I have my doubts. The contractors inevitably become the scapegoats and meanwhile some others goes away laughing and Scots free.

Much as we want modern facilities, the maintenance of such facilities demands equal attention. Development budgets should have equal allocation for maintenance. Then again, the development itself should be properly monitored and executed, that every dollar spent was not spent ‘in vain’ but was worth its value. A thorough review of the system is required to ensure seamless procedures, that funds are properly administered, that development are properly monitored, that maintenance are properly executed. There are still a lot more to be done, and a lot of changes to take place before we can call ourselves world class and I doubt, I may sound very pessimistic, that we will be anywhere near world class in my lifetime……..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Friday, July 20, 2007

One Hospital To Another

A busy week keeping doctors’ appointments at several hospitals.

Last Monday Ram had a specialist appointment at one of the Government hospitals in Kuala Lumpur. This appointment recurs once in six months. I could not take her to the hospital as I had to attend a meeting in Kuala Terengganu (KT) for which I did a day trip flying out to KT in the early morning and returning by the late evening flight. Ram’s nephew who was free that morning took her there. As is always the case the appointed time to meet the doctor was just an indication of when one is required to be at the clinic. The actual time one gets to see the doctor depends on when the doctor is available. If he/she has a ward case to attend to, and that is always the case in a large government hospital, then one can spend hours waiting for ones turn to see the doctor. This time was no different for Ram. She was at the hospital at just about 9.00 am and got to see the doctor only when it was close to noon!! Anyway, with the help of the nephew she was well taken care of. We normally bring along lots of reading materials for the wait.

Tuesday was my repeat appointment with the physiotherapist at the rehabilitation centre of another hospital. This is for my right leg and my right arm which are not functioning properly. I use a walking stick, I often mentioned this in previous postings, as a walking aid. The walking stick does help in lessening the stresses on the leg and knee. The rehab centre is very well equipped. I was previously shown how to strengthen my leg and arm muscles using the equipments they have. I have some similar equipment at home and I do use them daily and whenever I can to continue with the physical therapy on my own. When I am away in KT, and whenever I get the opportunity, I use the hotels’ gymnasium and their equipments to do the physical therapy plus swimming in the swimming pool since swimming is one of the best therapies for aching bodies!! The aches and pains are much reduced now and I can now move my hands and legs quite freely. Where previously I could not push my right arm to the back at all I can now stretch backwards and scratch my back quite easily without pain in the shoulders. I am slowly regaining the use of my right arm and leg. I can drive my car again, unhindered by the aching leg, although I am careful not to overdo it. So, on this appointment with my physiotherapist I was shown more ways of strengthening exercises and I look forward to regaining the full use of my right arm and leg. The aches and pains are still there, and I guess it will be a very long time before it will go off, if at all the aches and pains will go off, but I am not complaining. I am in fact thankful that I have only these aches and pains as I have seen others in worse conditions. I do not fret on the parts of my body that do not function properly as time can heal and I am very happy and thankful that other parts of my body are still function properly.

Wednesday was Ram’s appointment with her dentist. She has to do quite a few refills of old fillings and measure up for a row of missing teeth.

Thursday was my follow up appointment with the ortho surgeon of the hospital where I go for my physiotherapy to review the condition of my right leg and arm, while Ram had an appointment with the specialist in surgical department at another hospital (the same one she went to on Monday). I sent her to her hospital first and then proceeded to my appointment. I had to wait for more than two hours before I get to the doctor and after reviewing my condition I was prescribed with the same previously prescribed medication as they are working well for me. I hope the medication and the physiotherapy will lead to me getting back to my usual and normal daily activity unhindered. Ram too had positive response to the treatments she gets and is happy with the outcome. So, at our age we are happy that we function well and not handicapped, walking stick aside, and our quality of life is still maintained. My fervent hope is that I can drive long distances again and am really looking forward to it…… because………, we have plans to go the ‘pearl of the orient’ that is Penang, sometime in August and I hope I can drive there…….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Flight Delays and Problems

I had a meeting last Monday in Kuala Terengganu (KT) at the place where I do facilitating stints on a fortnightly basis. The meeting was to review our observations and the feedback we get on the programme and find ways to improve.

My flight to KT on Monday was uneventful. There was a delay of about half an hour both ways. I have got so used to these delays that it is always factored in into my programmes. Even those awaiting my arrival in KT have set aside and factored in the delay times!! I think there is lately something not right with the attitudes of the airline staff. Delay appears to happen every day and for almost every flight!! 10 mins late is still a delay and sometimes the delay can stretch over hours. I have yet to get a flight out to KT or return to KL that is spot on time!! I also very often hear announcements of gate changes for certain flights and the gate changes can be from one end of the building to the other end. And these gate changes have been very frequent.

The meeting in KT was agreed upon at a brief discussion we had when I was facilitating a programme in KT last week. On returning to KL Friday morning after that facilitating stint I thought it was convenient to make bookings for my Monday KT trip at the airline counter at the airport. The counter staff at the airport told me that all flights to KT on Monday were full. I was stumped!! I thought to myself I will have to try and book a seat on the budget airline or I will have to travel by bus to KT or make some other alternative transport arrangements. As soon as I got home I got online and was able to make bookings for the Monday morning flight to KT and the late evening return to KL from KT. Wowwww…… I thought to myself….. the counter staff was trying to pull a fast one on me???? On Saturday a colleague who was also required to attend the meeting in KT on Monday called and said he too had the same problem at the airline counter at the airport on Friday and asked how I was going to KT and thought we should go together and drive in one car to KT. I suggested he tries purchasing the airline tickets on-line like I did. He did and ‘hey presto’ he was successful!! So, how come all the flights to and from KT for Monday was full at the counter on Friday?

There were complains in the newspapers these few days of various customer dissatisfaction with the airline with some suggesting staff sabotage as a reason. The airline company MD himself replied in the papers that there is no such sabotage but that the problems were technical in nature! Oh come onnnnnnn!! Mr MD. Who do you take us for …… fools?

We observed a lot of staff’s mishandling. I can give many examples of my observations on instances of mishandling by staff apart from all those that I mentioned above. For example, gate openings at the departure lounges are usually opened an hour or more before the scheduled flight time but many were opened less than half an hour before the flight!! One two hours delayed flight where passengers had to disembark because of a technical problem, was delayed further after passengers had reboarded due to punctured tyres? Couldn’t the puncture be attended to during the two hours of attending to the ‘technical’ problem? Or did they purposely ‘miss’ the puncture in their routine checks. I always see the co pilot going around the aircraft checking it before the flight. Did he also purposely miss the puncture? And …… when there is a technical problem, there will be many people around the aircraft and only a few working……. A case of more supervisors than workers?? How very efficient!! The airline is trying its best to cut cost and increase profits but at whose expense? So, Mr MD, please go down to the field and the shop floor. See for yourself what is going on for the sake of your customers.

The budget airline, being low cost, does not provide the same creature comfort that the other airline provides. There are no aerobridges, and passengers have to walk quite a distance to board the aircraft. If not for the disadvantage of needing a walking stick to walk I would opt for the budget airline to fly to KT as it appears that this airline is a lot more efficient than the above airline I mentioned. However the flight times do not quite suit my travel schedules. Hmmmmm, dilemma dilemma……

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Weddings Galore

Weddings are a weekly affair now. We have had invitations to weddings almost every week for the past few months. Some of the wedding receptions were held at night and most were on daylight hours, usually held from 12.00 noon to about 4.00 or 5.00 pm, buffet style. If at night it usually will be a sit-down dinner starting at about 8.00pm, i.e guests will start trickling in at 8.00pm. The wedding programme will usually be more formal in setting and will start after 8.30pm with the wedding couple arriving amidst the beatings of drums with, sometimes, the accompaniment of wedding songs or verses from the Holy Book or hymns glorifying the Almighty and the prophet, depending on how the hosts want to ‘project’ the occasion to their guests. This will be followed by the blessing of the wedding couple, usually done by the guest of honour and elders from the two families. All these will take about an hour or maybe more and dinner will only ‘take off’ well after 9.30pm. (Ram and I have made it a habit of eating something light before going to these nighttime dinner functions, weddings or other dinner functions alike!!) Speeches, intro into the backgrounds of the wedding couple and cutting of the wedding cake will follow after dinner. Some of these wedding functions will go on until almost midnight!! However, the daytime functions usually are more informal. There will be the same programme but they are executed quite in an informal manner, while the guests are free to partake in the food served. The other advantage of the daytime functions is the possibility of people attending several weddings on the same day one after the other as they do not have to wait for the whole ceremony to be over before moving on.

The trend for timing of wedding receptions has changed over time. When I was small, that was circa 1950’s wedding receptions were held mostly during the day hours and usually in two batches, for men at about 2.00 pm and ladies at about 4.00 pm and all will be over by 6.00 pm. This trend had slowly changed over time, when they were held at one go for men and ladies either during the day hours or at night. I can understand the rationale for the earlier timings of day hours only. In the late 40’s and early 50’s most people commute on bicycles and trishaws, the quaint three-wheeler two-seater vehicle (tricycle) on ‘paddle-power’ of the trishaw-man (equivalent of a modern day taxi cab!). Not many people have cars and to own a car is to display upper status in society!! So, people commute by trishaws and when they have to go further distances taxi cabs, which were quite rare, were used. There was also no bus service then. Hence wedding functions held during the day hours. Separate function for men and ladies were held to hold it to traditional religious practice of segregation between men and ladies. As time goes on and as the population increased, and living conditions improved and society became more affluent, more and more people had cars, more money to spend, public facilities improved and so on, the trend changed slowly to what it is today.

Dressing to attend weddings had also changed and the trend to my mind had changed negatively. If everyone had tried to be as formal as possible in their dressings, most in traditional or national costumes, formal and most presentable dresses in those bygone days, people, especially the younger generations nowadays have regarded attending weddings as just like any other outings. They will just wear casual wear, most in T’s and jeans!! That’s how much respect they have for their hosts and I think it is most improper of them, indecent even. One will see family members of the wedding couple dressed in their best but receiving guests who are in varied dresses. Some in similar formal dresses but most with so very casual dresses as though they are going for a picnic!! It goes to show how lightly people take to tradition. One reason that traditions are dying. For me it is showing disrespect to the host and the wedding couple.

Weddings have also become a much simpler affair nowadays. It used to be held for two or three days some thirty or more years ago but has now become just an afternoon or an evening session. Whole families and neighbourhood used to be involved in wedding preparations then but has now turned to be just a function with everything outsourced and close family members and neighbours involved just as guests. If those days families get closer because of this team work in wedding preparations it has now become just a function one has to attend. No more of the camaraderie amongst family members and neighbours. Close family members used to contribute material things for the weddings, like rice, bagsful of onions, eggs etc etc. and they get together to prepare the food and cook together, and prepare the house to make it presentable for the wedding function have now changed to family members offering monetary contributions in envelopes and everything else outsourced!! It has become so impersonal, distant and cold!! Ever wonder why families are so far apart emotionally nowadays?

Traditionally the wedding couple will, a few days after the wedding, be brought to meet the elders of both the families starting from the most senior in the family and may take a few days to cover all but this tradition have died……. The bride or groom will not recognize who is who in the family until much later……. sometimes months and years even before one of them meets up with an uncle or close relative of the spouse!!

It is sad that these traditions have become lost in the modern societal changes, the materialistic world of ‘I’ before ‘you’. The ‘kiasu’ attitude of everything for ‘me’ first before even thinking of offerings to others. Will the above tradition be redeemed in the future? Nahhhh, something drastic will have to take place if it was to go back to tradition…… It will just remain nostalgic thoughts and something to reminisce about, nothing more. Gone are the days, as they say, and yes……. they are not likely to come back……… hmmmmmm.

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Fortnightly Sojourn to Terengganu

I previously wrote of a facilitating stint I made at my last place of work (before I retired). Since then I have been requested to do the same thing once a fortnight, ie. every alternate week and for two days, Mondays and Thursdays, of the week. On Mondays it will be held in Kuala Terengganu and on Thursdays in Paka about 150 kilometers south of Kuala Terengganu. 30 kilometers south of Paka is Kerteh where Sita is located. Hence it has become routine for us to go to Kuala Terengganu on Sundays, to Kerteh on Tuesdays and then back to KL / PJ on Fridays, every other week.

These alternate weeks are periods that we look forward to, especially for Ram, as we get the chance to play with little Najla. She has become quite attached to Ram too and we can feel her excitement every time we arrive at the house. Not only that, she look forward to following us to the hotel in Paka, where the facilitation is held, specifically for the opportunity to play in the swimming pool. After office, Sita will come by the hotel and take Najla home. One time she told her parents in a sing song manner, “tomorrow Naya (that’s how she address herself) follow to mi and tok bah to the hotelllll and go swimminggggg….” and with a flick of her head told the parents, “daddy and mummy….. go to work” ha ha, sort of telling the parents that’s no place for you to go as you have to go to work!! Little kids, they always fascinate me.

As I am still walking around with the aid of a walking stick due to the problems in my right leg, driving long distances is a no-no for the moment. So we normally fly to Kuala Terengganu on Sundays and fly back to KL on Fridays, taking cabs in between. It is so much easier and restful for us to do so. It would take more than seven hours to drive from KL to Kuala Terengganu and it would be too taxing for me to drive that distance.

The walking stick has helped me ‘break the ice’ when I facilitate. As I walk into the room walking stick in hand and with all participants looking at me, eyes fixated on the walking stick, I will just give a smile, a wide grin rather, and then take my time to hook up the portable mike on my shirt collar, give it a tap to ensure that it works and then say, “its only from the knee downwards (while lifting the stick)……. the rest of my body parts are functioning properly……” That never fails to generate laughter from the participants. And it is always good to start facilitating with laughter. I will then just crack a few jokes and then start the introduction and so on……

These fortnightly sojourn has become a delightful routine for us all because Najla is ‘factored in into the equation’, that it has become something we look forward to. It has made us miss our other grandchildren in Bintulu and although we speak to them on the phone often it is not the same as being with them. So we plan to go to Bintulu sometime towards the end of July, on the free week, and that period of time is also something we look forward to just as much… The kids know about our impending visit and they are just as excited….. Ah well, we will just have to wait and see what new antics the three kids have in store for us……

At the Museum not too long ago!

Future Leaders Making Statements??

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya