Dasvedanya Moskva

WE LEFT MOSCOW on the leap day of 29th February 2008.

(Top) Farewell group photo at the apartment building; (Bottom, L-R) Farewell group photo at the airport; thank you Sasha :-)

(Top) Farewell group photo at the apartment building; (Bottom, L-R) Farewell group photo at the airport; thank you Sasha 🙂

Final few moments spent with friends while waiting at the airport (29 Feb 2008); (Bottom, R) From Moscow, we transited in London’s Heathrow before arriving home (1 Mac 2008).

Related post: Goodbye Hong Kong (link)

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Farewell Friends

IT WAS A cold winter day on this date back in 2008 when we went to M’s school for her to bid her friends goodbye.

It was a cold and gloomy day on her last visit to her school. (27 Feb 2008)

It was a cold and gloomy day on her last visit to her school. (27 Feb 2008)

A class photo with her classmates and teacher Ms. Swindle for remembrance.

A class photo with her classmates and teacher Ms. Swindle for remembrance.

(Top) M sitting next to the school wall that has pictures of its international students; (Bottom, L-R) She left the school but a “piece” of herself remained… M pointing to herself in the photo; (R) Point of no return… exiting the school gate one last time. (27 Feb 2008)

M held up very well throughout the brief visit to school, but once in the car, her tears flowed and so did mine.

Two and a half years later, this “process” repeated in Hong Kong (link).

Sunday’s Skate at Gorky Park

M AND I had our first skating experience today in 2006 at Gorky Park, Moscow.

Every winter Gorky Park transforms into a winter wonderland to the delight of skaters and cross-country skiers as the whole park – including its paths and walkways – becomes an ice-skating rink! How cool is that, pun intended.

During winter, many parks around Moscow open ice-skating rinks (eg. Izmailovo Park and Sokolniki Park) but Gorky Park remains one of the more popular ones, other than the rink at the Red Square.

That Sunday we made plans with a neighbour and his daughter and met up with local staff Tanya who came with her friend Helen and two daughters, at the entrance of Gorky Park. The Park, founded in 1928 and named after Russian writer Maxim Gorky, is a short drive from our home then, and it’s even within walking distance on a fair-weathered day.

Tanya led the way into the park and helped us rent the skates. We had a choice of placing our passports or cash as deposits for each pair rented, we obviously chose the latter.

She then led us to “каток для начинающих” (pronounced as “katok dlya nachinayushchikh” – ya, try this for a tongue twister!) which means “rink for beginners”. There were iron rails to hold on, much like the ballerina’s practice bars, except that our mission was to move forward along the bars whilst ensuring our feet stayed firmly grounded at all times during practice.

Once we were tired of the beginner’s area, we ventured out to join the rest, even though I was merely inching away while others sped by. M evidently had more fun than me as Tanya and Helen led her by the hands and took her cruising around the park a few times. I imagined there were numerous Irina Slutskaya and Evgeni Plushenko-wannabes in the crowd too.

As much as we enjoyed our outing, we only lasted 1.5 hours. Other than feeling numb (from the cold) we were feeling sore too (from the numerous falls). We didn’t stay long enough to enjoy its night time ice disco complete with music and lights show.

And that was our first AND last attempt at ice-skating for now 🙂

Hubby appeared ready to take on the world… erm, perhaps just the skating rink… erm, a rink for BEGINNERS, that is!; he held M’s hands briefly as did I, but it was a case of “the blind leading the blind” and M certainly didn’t hide her skepticism!

L-R: Help came in the form of locals Helen and Tanya, while the “greenhorns” took a picture at the triumphal arch that is the entrance of Gorky Park just before leaving; a closer look at the crest on the pillar – hammer and sickle (coat of arms of the Soviet Union), rising sun and a laurel wreath – all symbols of communism. .

Showing off our skates – stainless steel has replaced what were previously horse’s bones – there’s a size 37, a 32 and a 38; Tanya brought her own pair, naturally.

A little historical background on skates and skating provided by Where Moscow magazine, December 2007 issue… “Centuries ago, it was common to speak of “racing on bones”. They took two bones of a horse’s shin, sharpened the ends, abraded the narrow edges to turn them into skids and drilled small holes for straps. The results resembled skates… The first skating rinks in Moscow were arranged on the ponds and on the Moskva River.”

Skating at Gorky Park is said to be a tradition dating back to before World War II. According to some reports, as of last year, Gorky Park’s newly inaugurated enlarged ice-rink is now billed as “Europe’s largest”. It grew from 15,000 square meters to 18,000 square meters (according to my estimate, about the size of three football fields?). But Europe’s largest? Or perhaps comparable to Europe’s largest natural ice rink in Davos Platz, Switzerland (also 18,000 square metres)…

Reunion of Roommates

My sister with Niki, me with M, Kak Nor with three of her kids, Aimi (then 5), Arif (then 3) and Aina Suraya (then 1 plus). Pix taken in the Wetlands, Putrajaya on 22 Feb 2003.

My sister with Niki, me with M, Kak Nor with three of her kids, Aimi (then 5), Arif (then 3) and Aina Suraya (then 1 plus). Pix taken in the Wetlands, Putrajaya on 22 Feb 2003.

ON THIS DATE 10 years ago, two former roommates were re-united. One was my sister and the other my next-door neighbour.

I was staying in Presint 8 Putrajaya then and one day, during our neighbourly chats, Kak Nor said I reminded her of someone. She went on to tell me of her first year roommate in Penang’s Universiti Sains Malaysia by the name of …

My mind went “OMG”, my eyes almost popped out. I exclaimed “That’s my sister!”

And so the historic meeting was arranged for the former roommates who had not seen each other since they graduated more than 10 years earlier, both married with kids now.

My sister came to Putrajaya with her daughter and got re-acquainted with Kak Nor who has four kids. The old friends caught up on old times while visiting places of interests in the administrative capital.

A small world indeed, I ended up staying next door to Kak Nor in Putrajaya who shared a room with my sister when they were both first year students in Penang!

While on the subject of roommates, I am reminded of my own roommates in UM and flatmates in UK.

Roomates & Flatmates

Left: With my first year roommate Ananthy and second year roommate Julia on the steps leading up to Block D, 7th College, UM. Pix taken 1990-91. Right: Alenka (Slovenia), Sylvia (France), Saskia (Denmark) and Roxana (UK). Pix taken in the kitchen of our 5th floor flat, Sentinel Towers, Leeds, on 24 Feb 1996.

 

A Valentine’s Rendezvous with Pak Samad

I MET UP with Pak Samad on Valentine’s Day of 1990, and here’s a photo of our rendezvous… TOGETHER with my coursemates at Jabatan Penulisan, Universiti Malaya 🙂

Final lecture by Pak Samad at Studio Jabatan Penulisan, UM. (14 Feb 1990)

Final lecture by Pak Samad at Studio Jabatan Penulisan, UM. (14 Feb 1990)

We had the privilege to have renown journalist and writer A. Samad Ismail, fondly known as Pak Samad, as guest lecturer in our first year for one paper which was AK103 Mass-Media Organisation. He had retired from full-time journalism in 1988 with an illustrious background – including prison terms during British rule and later detention under the ISA – and subsequently earned numerous awards for his literary efforts.

That day he gave his final lecture, but it wasn’t the last we saw of him.  The following month, on 1st March, he invited his former students to his home in Petaling Jaya for a gathering. I am sure he had hoped some of us would go into journalism… well, some of us did, but briefly. As far as I know, only one in my batch is now still working in the press, MK in Utusan Malaysia.

(Top) Group photo with Pak Samad at his home. The perfect host, he even entertained us with a rendition of "Begawan Solo" on the guitar after dinner. (1 Mac 1990)

(Top) Group photo with Pak Samad at his home. The perfect host, he even entertained us with a rendition of “Begawan Solo” on the guitar after dinner. (1 Mac 1990)

Singapore-born Pak Samad passed away on 4th September 2008 at the age 84.

I recently found notes of one his lectures!

Pak Samad's lecture notes dated 18 January 1990.

Pak Samad’s lecture notes dated 18 January 1990.

Pak Samad Said at Pesta Buku Kebangsaan, Changkat Pavilion (17 August 1991)

Pak Samad Said at Pesta Buku Kebangsaan, Changkat Pavilion (17 August 1991)

I met another illustrious Pak Samad (A. Samad Said, 1986 National Laureate/Sasterawan Negara) on 17th August 1991 during the National Book Fair where he was promoting his latest book then, Warkah Eropah. One of my coursemates, CC had picked him as her subject for her final year AK316 Biography Writing project and Pak Samad had consented to be interviewed. I recall accompanying CC for the interview at a café in PJ and he came across as a very humble man, still is till this day.