#271 begging

Of late I met some strange ways of begging.

Yesterday at a bus stop, a Malay elderly lady didn’t flag the bus when the only bus that ply along the road arrived. I was waiting for a friend. When the bus passed by, this elderly lady carrying a ten dollar note on her left hand and fifty cents on her right. She asked for fifty cents so she could board a bus.

I asked, “Do you have an elderly buscard?” She showed me the concession card hung around her neck. One stop away was the Gombak MRT station where she could top-up the card. As I do not understand or speak Malay, I gave her the fifty cents. I also approached some Malay passerbys to tell her that she could top-up her elderly card at the MRT station. They talked to her and she walked to the MRT station.

When my friend arrived, I said, “We should follow the Malay elderly lady to help her.” Strangely when we reached the MRT station, this Malay elderly lady refused to go the station with me mentioning the word, ‘Bedok’ when I persisted.

This exasperated me as the train ride or bus rides to Bedok meant she might have to pay double the fare if she didn’t use her elderly concession.

Then I saw a Malay young girl and asked her to explain to the elderly lady that there is an officer at the MRT control station who could service her even when she cannot see. The elderly lady still refused. The young Malay girl couldn’t accompany her as she was waiting for her mother as her sandals broke.

A Chinese lady sitting around asked and I explained to her. As I talked and observed this lady’s reaction, it dawned on me this could be a scam.

Is this a scam where the elderly has been asked to beg and in return she has to give a cut to whoever taught her to beg in this manner?

Generally when we see an elderly person, we would give without question. Is this scam to exploit the frail elderly and those kind-hearted?

Corner of Raffles Hotel facing City Hall cross-section: Several weeks ago I met a 45-year-old Chinese lady poorly dressed with unkempt streaks of grey hair asking for two dollars so she could buy some food to eat. I offered to buy her food and she turned around to question my sincerity. This aroused my curiosity. I asked, “Why are you begging?” She spoke good English. By sight, one could dismiss her mentally unstable but not when talking with her though. She came all the way from Toa Payoh to beg! She said, “I’d been tricked many times in following those who would buy me food and then told me they changed their minds.” She added she wanted to get a job but… Looking at her appearance, I said, “If you wanted to go for a job interview, you have to dress tidily and comb your hair otherwise the hirer imagine you’re making a fool of the hirer and yourself”. In the end, I added, “Since you doubted my sincerity, why should I trust you?”

On one occasion at Bugis Junction, an elderly Indian man came to beg money for food. I offered to buy him food as I thought he might use that money to buy booze. Strangely he rejected my offer and quickly disappeared.

In my personal experiences helping the poor and sick, these will never resort to begging however bad their situation. These poor would rather die with dignity!

Lately, I see individuals sitting by the road or pathway leading to MRT stations begging — looking pitiful, lame and frail. Some on wheelchair…

I cease to buy packets of tissues from those elderly as the tissue-packets came from suppliers who get a cut from that sold!

Are these part of a syndicate scam?

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#264 possible quake predicted 2 years ago

No one expected an earthquake to break out in Haiti even though she was warned 2 years ago by scientists a quake was possible. No one believed this could happen as there was no quake for the last 200 years in its natural history. No one was prepared for this tumultuous magnitude.

The 7.1 magnitude Richter scale earthquake literally wiped away the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince — its infrastructures and all government buildings; presidential palace, justice palace and the churches and cathedrals and the 5-star hotels…many, many others. These buildings were supposed to withstand the quake but… Naturally the loss of human lives outweighs all — the nationals (an estimate of 150,000 or more dead in a city of 3-4 million people without mentioning those homeless and missing), foreigners and peacekeepers.

Haiti is the poorest nation in the West, if not in the world. This is the result of greed and corruption of governing leaders who thought of themselves rather than the people. Is this one ugly face of democracy?!

The aerial view of the island is made up of Dominican Republic and Haiti. On the Dominican Republic, it’s green but on the Haiti side, it’s brown, little vegetation. Were the people in Haiti so poor that they exhausted that they could find in order to survive? Interestingly, the quake whose epicenter struck close to the Haitian capital did not affect the Dominican Republic.

However the Haitians are resilient. One witnesses those surviving are grateful they are alive.

Children as young as a few years old were rescued from the rubble after several days without nourishment or liquid; a few elderly in 70s and 80s; and the one in his 20s after 11 days! One cannot underestimate the will and  inner strength of man…

Looting was evident in all places of tragedy when aid was slow in coming after several days fled by.

Though the promised aid was forthcoming but food and water was slow…so very, very, very slow in reaching the people in need…naturally a hungry man is an angry man.

How do you survive and keep sane and good when your loved ones are missing or dead? Dead bodies strewed everywhere. The stench in the air. People are in state of shock. Rubbles strewed all around. Buildings collapsed. No home to return to. Literally nothing!

My impression of Haiti was Haitians practised voodoo which is one black magic or dark forces which even seeped into the churches – the Catholic cathedral and the Episcopalian cathedral! Can this quake wipe out this voodoo practice?!

Can Haiti start from ground zero? I know the people have the ability but… Will the necessary aid and billions of funds raised get to the people there?  (I hope NOT those American contractors assigned to build Haiti though!) Are there good and able leaders who are willing to sacrifice themselves for nation-building?

On Russia Today Spotlight tv program, I heard an interview where this young Haitian student working on his postgraduate in Russia is very articulate in his understanding of his own country and insight into the devastation.

Those Haitians studying overseas will not be able to receive funds from home any more…

I pray for God to raise good, upright and able leaders who are willing to sacrifice for the new breed of Haitians.

#259 true champion athlete

After watching the interview of Marion Jones-Thompson on the Oprah Show here in Singapore today, I was moved to tears as Marion stood out a true athlete and a champion.

Yes, she went to prison on March 2008 for six months for lying to Federal agents about UNKNOWINGLY taking performance-enhancement drugs during the Olympic Games in Sydney and she had apologised publicly to the world but in my heart Marion Jones will remain the fastest woman athlete. Sadly she will not return to running again.

She looks as beaming and beautiful today. Throughout the interview she fielded Oprah’s questions rather matter of factly with occasional tears and I could not, for a moment sense slight of bitterness.

From Oprah Show

Marion says was allowed to bring only a tiny number of personal possessions to jail with her—a Bible, a few photos, and a list of important addresses and phone numbers. Marion says she spent much of her six-month sentence writing to friends and family. “I learned that the only real way that I could communicate how I was feeling, how I was doing, with my family—in particular my husband—was to write long letters every day,” she says. “About important stuff, mundane stuff, my feelings on how I feel about the boys, where I’m at, who I’m meeting, the incredible stories that these women are sharing with me.”

Since her release, Marion says she has a newfound love for her freedom. “I appreciate so much more now the little things—going to the supermarket, being able to buy whatever I want,” she says. “There are days where I drive to pick up my son, and I just thank God that he’s given me the gift to do that. There are so many days when I was in prison when I had wished I could have … just held my kids or picked up the phone and called my best friend.”

While she was disappointed to be sent away, Marion says she believes her sentence was fair. “I believe in the legal system, Oprah, and I didn’t want to go,” she says. “Sure, I can compare my story to recent stories about other athletes or other people who were involved in certain situations and didn’t get much time. It would be easy to do that. It would be easy to point the finger and say, ‘It’s the judge.’ Or it’s that. But you know what? It’s me. I made the bad choice to put my future and my freedom in somebody else’s hands to make that choice for me. I did that. And because of that, I have to live with it.”

Marion says her experience has taught her to question other people’s motives. It has also forced her to realize she can no longer hide behind athletic prowess. “In the past, it was ‘Marion Jones, the athlete.’ And Marion Jones, the person, a lot of times, got to hide behind that. And while I was in prison, I learned that I used the athlete part of it all as a cover for a lot of my weaknesses. I think a lot of the choices that I made in the past were because of those weaknesses,” she says. “Now, of course, I don’t have that cover anymore and I have really had to find out who I am.”

With her life of athletic competition and very public legal ordeals behind her, Marion says she is eager for the future. “I am energized by this next chapter. I think really it’s going to be bigger and better than that last,” she says. “My goal now is to find out how to connect with people on a much bigger level. How can I help young people make certain choices and not make certain bad choices like I did? … What am I going to do with this negative experience and turn it into a positive?”

#245 hiv positive: suffering silently

I’m grateful to Shane, a New Zealander, for sharing his journey that he was HIV+ on this   ‘Death Diminishes Me’   [produced in NZ] on BBC World radio on 17 July 2009:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/documentaries/2009/07/000000_global_perspective_death_diminishes.shtml

Trust that this will speak to those who champion and are proponents of the homosexuality and gay community rights which is a controversial issue and a taboo subject for the average person!

#239 oldest person in the world

Can you imagine living to 130 years old?

From the news on the BBC, I read and viewed this — Sohan Dosovah from Kazakhstan, the oldest person in the world — her eyes still bright and alert:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7992696.stm.

Kazakhstan’s famous ‘130-year-old’

By Rayhan Demytrie
BBC News, Karaganda, Kazakhstan

Sohan Dosova pictured on the front page of a local newspaper

“Do you remember Tsar Nikolai’s era? When the Red Army came and when Vladimir Lenin died? Well I do. So take a guess how old I am.”

Meet Sohan Dosova – the newly found treasure of Kazakhstan. She is 130 years old, at least she is according to her documents.

The Soviet passport issued in the early 1980s states that Sohan Dosova was born in the Karaganda region on 27 March 1879.

Now after a new national census in Kazakhstan, she has been “rediscovered”.

“This is a truly unique case,” says Ludmila Kolesova, the head of Karaganda region statistics agency.

“According to international standards we do not usually seek proof of ID when collecting census data, but when it came to Sohan Dosova we had to check her documents and verify this information with the social services department. They confirmed her date of birth.”

Tea with butter

Sohan Dosova can still walk, albeit with great care, assisted by a walking stick.

She eats slowly, and her favourite snack is bread soaked in tea. Sohan chews her food with a single remaining tooth.

Sohan Dosova
Sohan says she can no longer dance, but she enjoys singing

“My secret is to add butter to my cup of tea; this is how Kazakhs like their tea,” says Sohan, speaking a mixture of Kazakh and Russian.

She can still see, but has hearing problems, so most of the communication is done via her granddaughters – and there is no shortage of them.

Sohan had 10 children, and three of them are still alive. Her son had seven children. One of two daughters had six children, and the other, 22.

“There is a small tribe of great-grandchildren,” says 53-year-old Gulgoim, her eldest granddaughter. But when pressed, Gulgoim was unable to say just how many.

Sohan Dosova has lived her entire life in Aul, a village in the central Karaganda region, the industrial heart of the country.

Most of the population work in the coal mining industry. Semipalatinsk, the first Soviet nuclear test site, is nearby.

Some of Sohan’s grandchildren are mentally ill. They are among thousands believed to have been victims of Soviet nuclear experiments.

But Sohan has stayed healthy.

“She is in good shape, alert and active,” says Valentina Shamardina, a family doctor with 40 years experience.

“In my whole career I never came across cases like this. When I first arrived to do a check-up I demanded to see her passport and it all looked correct.

“I’ve never heard of anyone living that long.”

Frequent visitors

If Mrs Dosova really is 130 years old, that would make her the oldest person in the world. But if she ever had a birth certificate, it no longer exists.

Sohan Dosova's Soviet passport issued in the early 1980s
A Soviet passport issued in the early 1980s makes Sohan Dosova 130

In fact few rural Kazakhs born in those days are likely to have been registered. It was common for people to make up their date of birth.

Her true age is simply impossible to establish. But the local media is satisfied she’s the oldest woman in Kazakhstan.

Since the results of the census were made public, journalists have become frequent visitors to Sohan’s fifth floor apartment.

“This place is small, I need a bigger flat,” says Sohan. “There are too many people living in this crowded apartment, there is not enough room.”

Certainly her family appear to be hopeful that all the media attention might result in an improvement to Sohan’s living conditions.

But up to now, no benefactor has been forthcoming. So Sohan continues to live a simple existence in her old age, watching television, laughing and smiling.

Her granddaughter Nuken claims she loves dancing, but Sohan says she is too old for that now.

“I can’t dance, my knees hurt… But I can sing.” And so she gives a gruff rendition of her favourite Kazakh song.

#214 food scare

Milk, an essential for babies and now cup noodles, the popular fast food for adults especially the elderly who found this convenient to prepare.

All one needs is to pour hot water into the cup and wait for several minutes…voila, the food is ready for eating! Mind you, the price for a cup noodle is not that cheap…but for convenience, to fill the hungry stomach and saving time in this fast track life is an alternative choice!

Tainted milk in China stole the headlines at a time when the global financial crisis was looming large, now this cup noodle scare in Japan where insecticide is found! Is there something more sinister?!

About a million cups were recalled. This scare comes at a time when prices of some staple foods are on the rise!

The Nissin Foods product company was founded by Mr Momofuku Ando. Died at ripe age of 96, he was born in Taiwan in 1910 and returned to Japan in 1933. According to sources, he was inspired to provide cheap food for the masses after witnessing people queueing for hot ramen (noodle) at a black market stall during the time of food shortage in WWII.

Interestingly the first instant noodle came on the market in 1958 but the cup noodle in 1971.

#197 amazing children saved mothers’ lives

Amazing what a child understands and does in times of emergency!

In England, James Cooke reports

A three-year-old boy came to his mother’s rescue by dialling 999 after she had an epileptic fit.

Jack Thomson called the emergency services from his mum’s mobile phone. When the line went dead he found another phone and dialled again.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7627938.stm.

Another,

Jakob Seviour saved his mother’s life by calling 999 when she had a fit and now he is being put forward for a national award.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7568697.stm.