Mar 31, 2013

Two sweaters - a haiku

There were two
In shades of yellow
One was new
The other mellow

Aug 23, 2012

The magic that comes from simplicity

Tonight I finally succeeded in making the perfect plate of Spaghetti Alfredo. It  was so simple I'm surprised it took me this long to get it right.

I can remember the moment I first tasted the dish. It was sometime in 2001 when my dad received his MBA. We were at tha banquet following the graduation ceremony and I decided to try this peculiar, pale-looking pasta dish. I was smitten from the first mouthful.

The sauce was creamy but not heavy. There was a hint of some kind of cheese but not overwhelming enough for me to pinpoint. Interestingly enough, it reminded me of Laksa Kelantan, a popular laksa dish from my hometown.

Ever since then I had been trying to recreate this pasta dish. The bolognaise sauce was a breeze to me by then but the alfredo eluded me. I must have tried at least a dozen different recipes and reluctantly swallowed half a dozen failed concoctions. I've used fresh milk and powedered milk, margerine and olive oil, chicken stock and beef boullion, crumbled and grated Parmesan. But tonight, finally, I got it right. And it was surprisingly simple.

All it took was some butter, heavy cream and *Parmigiano in the right proportions. It also took keeping myself calm when the butter initially separated from the cream or when the Romano initially refused to dissolve. When I finally stirred the pasta in and sprinkled some fresh chopped parsley from the backyard, the dish looked, smelled and tasted like the one I first had over ten years ago. And where did the recipe come from? An old cookbook I got from a thrifstore for 50 cents.

Magic, isn't it?

Bon appetit.

*I used Romano cheese instead because I didn't have any Parmigiano at hand. The result was the same as far as I could taste.

Feb 1, 2012

Canadian economy off to a lackluster start in 2012

Prime Minister Stephen Harper once again reaffirmed his goal of whipping the Canadian economy into shape by implementing more austerity measures, but economists worry that this may lead to further decline in the country's GDP. The energy sector is to blame for November 2012's sharp drop in GDP. The drop followed a pattern of no growth in October.

Oct 26, 2011

This page is now Occupied

by Lin Abdul Rahman

Photo by Deanna Budgell

The Sputnik, Fal 2011, Issue 6

On September 17, a group of protesters set up camp on Zuccotti Park in the Wall Street financial district to demand a reform to the US financial and economic system. Over the next few weeks, the number of campers swelled, media attention grew and the movement’s influence began to spread.

Although criticized as being leaderless, the movement’s goal of ending corporate greed and lobbyist control over government policies resonated across the globe.

On October 15th, 900 cities around the world staged their own “occupations”. In Malaysia, over 200 people “occupied” Dataran Merdeka. In Spain, over 46, 000 people “occupied” Madrid Square. In Toronto, over 1000 people gathered at the corner of King and Bay Street and marched to St. James Park. Later, “occupations” sprang up in Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, London and Windsor.

Despite the movement’s growing popularity, authorities have shown little sympathy and no sign of acquiescing to occupiers’ demands. The occupiers, meanwhile, show no signs of leaving. Mainstream media attention has been largely pessimistic while critics question the movement’s ability to sustain itself. After all, these occupiers are just rabble-rousing anarchists and hippies without clear objectives, right?

This image seems to be at odds with the movement’s growing influence and my curiosity was naturally piqued. I decided to visit St. James Park myself.

It quickly became apparent to me that a lot of planning and organization had occurred even before the October 15 March took place. As soon as the contingent arrived at the park, various areas were cordoned off for specific purposes. The camping area came with family-friendly and female-only sections. The Sanitation Committee had prepared rows of port-a-potties and hand-washing stations. The Medic Committee put up signs saying “no photos” around the medic area, as would be the normal procedure in medical facilities. The Media Committee kept occupiers and everyone abreast on everything occupation-related. There was also a “free occupy library” with free reading materials and an occupation “must read” list.

There was no shortage of what society calls “hippies” but they were mostly involved with the basic mechanisms that kept movement running smoothly. There were trained marshal teams patrolling the park in the evening to keep it safe. The Sanitation Committee keeps the park clean. The Facilitation Committee keeps discussions going and ensured the movement remained as participatory as possible.

There was little semblance of anarchy at the park, except maybe for the multitude of signs hung on trees and tucked among bushes. – signs that cleverly and clearly articulated the need for change.

These signs highlighted problems regarding a myriad issues: inadequate health care; rising tuition fees and student debt; lack of citizen participation in government; infringement upon native, minority and immigrant rights; violation of workers’ rights; a failed capitalist economy; increased military spending; the list goes on.

To the movement’s critics, this underscores its lack of focus. To me, this illustrates one simple fact: there are so many things wrong with our system today that it’s hard to pinpoint one single problem that can be easily addressed. The global economic and political system has become so corrupt that it is harming rather than serving the interests of the people, also known the “99%”.

Evidently the Occupy movement’s slogan, “we are the 99%” is not an oversimplified concept designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. A research team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich developed a complex model which demonstrates how a few transnational corporations (TNCs) own disproportionately large chunks of the world’s economy. Simply put, there is a small network of 1318 corporations worldwide, each owning several other corporations and businesses, each of which have ownerships in several other businesses. This multiple ownership gives these corporations control over 60% of global manufacturing revenues.

This means that most of the world’s wealth is going to top tier of this network, which largely comprises of financial corporations like Barclays Bank and the Goldman Sachs Group.

Hence, it makes perfect sense for the movement to begin on Wall Street and spread to Ontario’s financial hub on Bay Street and elsewhere on the globe. Our political and economic systems are closely linked and the problems we face are multi-faceted. Instigating change, therefore, will require a global effort.

While the movement has mobilized people from diverse backgrounds, it appears to attract a lot youths in particular. This is not surprising as the younger generation’s future hinges precariously on the stability of today’s economy, whether they are entering post-secondary education or the job market. Nonetheless, it is contingent upon society as a whole to ensure that there is an economy for youths to graduate into.

Students in Chile took this to heart when they protested against increasing privatization of universities and rising tuition fees. Over 80% of Chile’s population responded in support of the students, forcing the government to replace its Minister of Education, negotiate terms with the student movement and reform Chile’s education system.

Perhaps it’s time for us to do more than just gripe about our own rising tuition fees and increasingly unsatisfactory educational experience. If there’s anything we can learn from Chile and the Occupy movement it is that we all have a voice and, when we speak in unity, that voice will be heard.

Aug 21, 2011

Hello Kitteh!

The little fella showed up at our house about a week ago looking scrawny and mangy. It's fur is the colour of charcoal with little specks of yellow. It must be about five or six months old. It hissed at us but didn't retreat completely, as if to say, "I'm coming close so you can be nice to me but you should know that I can be mean too."

We gave it a few pieces of crushed keropok that were gobbled up within seconds. We left a few more for the night, alongside a bowl of milk.

We've since gotten some proper catfood for the little furball and a regular supply of milk. We don't see it more than once or twice a day but the bowls are usually emptied within a few hours, which is a good sign.

Cautiously eyeing the bowl of milk. Hakim sprinkled some catfood on the floor to encourage it to eat.
(PC: My brother, Hakim)

Yesterday the little kitty ventured up our back doorstep and took a few cautious steps into our kitchen. I guess it's trusting us a bit more. I try not imagine what it must have gone through to have become so edgy and fierce.

I brought the food bowls from our front porch and refilled them. Mama and I continued cooking while the little kitty enjoyed its dinner. Since Mama is mildly allergic to cat fur, I didn't let it get any further than our kitchen door. It seem to get the message and lounged on the steps, hissing whenever I came near but never leaving its perch.

I think we might actually have a pet. It's time to investigate 'it's' sex and choose a name now.

Sniffing out its new spot.

Getting comfy but still giving me attitude.

Settled in and chillin', finally.

Aug 15, 2011

Simple pleasures

It's day 14 back in Canadialand. Yes, I'm still counting the days to remind myself of lessons learned.

I draw pleasure from simple mundane things these days, like Popeyes fried chicken for example.

In my two-and-half months' stint as a jhr intern in Ghana, I only ate meat once. (Well, I might have unknowingly ingested bits of meat on several occasions, but I only knowingly ate meat on one occasion and it was halal.) Consequently, I not only craved meat in general but I also longed for the greasy, MSG-laden crispiness of Popeyes fried chicken. So when Abah suggested we break our fast at the only Popeyes outlet in Brantford, my head automatically bobbed up and down in agreement.

Now, fast-food-chain fried chicken is hardly our typical Ramadan feast. But then again, I’ve been lucky enough to see happiness in people who have a lot less than I do (to say that they have nothing at all would be a gross exaggeration, if not a sign of ignorance). I’ve seen people carry heavier loads, walk farther distances and endure hotter suns in a day than I have had to endure in my entire life. I find it a little bit harder to complain about things now. Too bad I had to go on a $5000-internship half-way across the globe to learn this but I suppose every lesson has a price.

As I write this, I can’t help but see how inconsequential this seems. But then I remember feeling absolutely contented on the drive home from Popeyes; the most important people in my life are alive and well, I’m doing what I love most in life, my belly is full and I have a home to go back to. My happiness is the sum of little inconsequential parts and I’m thankful that I have the capacity to recognize them. I hope I stay this way.

The sun made a beautiful display of receding elegently behind the funeral home across from Popeyes as we were leaving. The day couldn't have had a better ending.

Aug 8, 2011

Back in Canadialand

It's 6.30am on day 9 back in Canadialand.

During the early hours of a day like this, Ghana feels like a lifetime away. The pangs of sadness that accompany every thought of those I left behind are slowly fading. My eyes no longer well up whenever I think of my office mates at Luv/Nhyira FM. I no longer get choked up whenever I think of the people I see every morning on my way to work - Ahmad Musa the elderly security guard at our guesthouse, the old lady selling roasted plantains and coco-yam, and Mable, the ten-or-so-year-old girl who helps her mom at her little breakfast stall. Yup, I was that emotional during those last few days in Kumasi.

I haven't shed a single tear since I came back but I still use the exclamation mark extravagantly whenever I chat with my friends from the Gold Coast. I still miss them terribly and the feeling is bitter-sweet. I'm glad to be back on my home turf surrounded by all my creature comforts but it still hurts a little to grow so attached to some people over such a short period of time and then leave them.

I miss my morning routine of catching a tro-tro to work, getting let off in the middle of traffic (sometimes) and dodging between cars and motorbikes to get to my office. I miss walking into the lively newsroom at Luv/Nyhira and setting up my laptop at the 'international desk' - the side of the newsroom reserved (or relegated, depending on how you look at it) for those of us with our own laptops.

I miss the way people greet each other so wholeheartedly with a 'good morning' and a heartfelt handshake, as though they haven't been meeting one another every single morning. I miss the way every visitor to the newsroom goes around to acknowledge every person with a greeting.

I miss the way my single-syllable name gets played around with or discarded completely;
Saeed: Shazleeeeeeennn!
Ohemeng: My Lin. Our Lin. Their Lin. Lin Lin.
Kofi: Lin hu shuu!
Kwabena: Miss Abdul Rahman.
Kate: Oieebo!
Benji: Obruni!
Dela: Lane!

I could go on and on with my list of why I miss Ghana but I won't. As much as it saddens me that these things have to be in the past in order for them to be cherised, I'm thankful to have had the experience. I must have been asked a hundred times if I will return to Ghana. My response was initially vague or ambivalent; now I can say with resolute certainty that I want to go back for another visit. Ghana, Kumasi and every one I met there will always have a special place in my heart no matter how many times I return to Africa.

My last day at Luv/Nyhira FM. I brought everyone some farewell gifts so they rushed out and got me a kente-print dress and some beautiful wood carvings in 'retalliation'. I was, and still am, deeply touched.
From left: Freddy, Zarau, Kofi, Cynthia, Eric, me, Gloria, Ohemeng, Kwabena.