Saturday, January 17, 2009

pre-dep blues

I am supposed to be worried about airport reception when I arrive at Curtin next month, and orientation and things to buy for university and all other serious things.

Well, guess what... I am worried about food!

Haha, typical me. I love food so much I could die. Knowing that I will have keep to a budget in Perth, I am worried about cooking. Apart from cooking rice and frying burgers, my cooking skills are practically non-existent.

I told this dilemma of mine to my eldest sister. She told me that cooking is easy. Yeah, right. And she proceeded to espouse her philosophy - Love thy food. I know, I know. But the Love of Food alone doesn't allow him or her to step into the kitchen!

I had just finished browsing for easy-to-cook recipes that are meant for students. So many websites and long list of ingredients that they make me nervous. Hopefully, I will get a housemate that can cook well so that I can just tumpang her food. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas: A Review

I recently bought this book entitled "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas". This is one book that has always been buried somewhere in my mind. And it was brought to life by a visit to the bookstore. That day was, indeed, my lucky day. Anyway, this book is wonderful with all its small surprises. So, even telling the premise of the story would do the book injustice. Hence, those who wants to read this book (can borrow it from me) MUST NOT read the following passages:

"The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" tells the story of Bruno, a 9-year old boy. He lived in a beautiful mansion in Berlin, with his mother, sister (her name is Gretel but called Hopeless Case in the entire book) and his stoic father. Due to the nature of his father's job as a commandant, he was forced to move to Out-With. Out-With was an empty place, save for a concentration camp facing Bruno's room. His childish outlook on things led him to believe that the prisoners in the concentration camp were his neighbours and that the striped uniforms they were wearing were pyjamas. Bruno's life in Out-With was seemingly uneventful, until he went on some exploring around his house. He walked along the fence separating the camp from his house until he met a boy on the other side of the fence. The other boy's name was Shmuel, a name that was very common on the other side of the camp. They became fast friends (partly because Bruno was bored and that Shmuel was hungry for food). Bruno's friendship with Shmuel, his daily exchanges with his family members and flashbacks of his life in Berlin exposes to the reader that the story was set in World War II and that Out-With was indeed Auschwitz. Through his eyes, we began to see Holocaust from the views of a child. After several months (I presume), Bruno and Shmuel went on their first and final exploration together when Bruno faced the prospects of moving back to Berlin. Bruno snuck into the camp through a small opening underneath the fence. Masquerading as one of the prisoners in the camp, Bruno helped Shmuel to find his missing father (when in fact, he wanted to explore the camp grounds). Unfortunately, just when Bruno decided to leave, they were rounded into a small dark airtight room with other prisoners. And "despite the chaos that followed", Bruno held on tightly to Shmuel's hand to the very end. Bruno's family was in despair after they noticed his disappearance. Both his mother and sister were inconsolable. A soldier discovered Bruno's clothes by the fence and informed Bruno's father. His father traced his steps and deduced the terrible fate that had befallen his only son. Finally, when some other soldiers (presumably Allied troops) came to take him away, he "did not care about what is going to happen to him anymore", because his son is gone.

So that is the summary of the story. The book is special because it was so simple in addressing the most horrific crimes ever recorded in human history. This book allows one to think and imagine what was it like to be in Bruno's shoes - being a boy making sense of the world around him. What disturbed me the most is the fact that Bruno was indistinguishable from the other prisoners just because he had a shaved head and wore striped pyjamas. Is that not a concrete evidence that humans are in fact alike and what separates us are narrow, baseless ideologies? And I was terrified to imagine being in Bruno's father's shoes. He, as the commandant, was essentially the murderer of Jews in the camp. And that the very same death sentence handed to the Jews was also what killed his son.

This book is amazing. It kept me up whole night. It was a simple read with quite simple language (thank god for that). This novel was adapted into a movie with the same name. So far the reviews of this movie were favourable, with many claiming that they actually stayed silent during the final moments of the movie and cried at the very end. To me, that is enough reason for me to go watch the movie (if it manages to land on Malaysian shores, that is). I can't wait!