Table of Contents

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Alleged Police Brutality

My colleague Arvind Raj worked very hard on this story and I was honoured to be able to play some small parts in it- assistant camera-woman, stand-up intro reporter and subtitle editor. Be sure to turn on the captions so you can read what the women are saying.

From the sidebar: An exclusive interview with the family members of death-in-custody victim M Krishnan who was found dead in the Bukit Jalil police station on the 7th Jan 2011.

The mother, A Lakshmie and wife P Revathi of the victim are not convinced with the reason given by the police; that the victim died due to a medical condition. They are seeking a second post-mortem to discover the true cause of their family member's death.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Shopping the Golden Triangle

On Saturday I went shopping.

And I mean, really hardcore shopping. In shopping malls with 9+ storeys. If you don't believe me, here's a picture:

I was lucky enough to have two new girlfriends with me who are as thorough about shopping as I am (and wonderfully fun company), as well as Calvin, a Malaysiakini video editor who acted as tour guide and protector. :)

Bukit Bintang is basically the mecca of KL shopping. It is in an area sometimes known as The Golden Triangle. There are four major malls here- Sungei Wang and Times Square, for bargain hunters of all sorts, especially clothes, shoes, bags and electronics. Then there is Pavillion, an upscale mall that reminded me of the ones that sprout all over Hong Kong. It's beautiful, and the food court there (The Food Republic) boasts basically every kind of Asia cuisine, from curry to kimchi. Last is Lot 10, but as I didn't get there, it won't figure into this post.

To get to Bukit Bintang we had to take a harrowing ride on the monorail. The cab of the monorail is short and squat, and not nearly big enough to admit the crush of people trying to get on from KL Central station. As a result, I ended up shoved into a metal bench, bending over a woman sitting down, with my shopping bag sticking in her face. It got worse with every station, and still when people were packed like sardines and almost blocking a door, a middle-aged Chinese woman with a scowl on her face attempted to push into the train, further bruising my already smarting hip bone. She uttered angry words, but gave up when she could not push herself onto the train.

Mercifully, the train ride was short. And suddenly, we were the ground-floor atrium of Times Square that slightly resembles the open concept of the CBC building in Toronto. I looked up and up and up at floors of shops that seemed never-ending. Where to start?

The food court of course, where one can buy a promotional meal for only 4.90 ($1.60 in USD/CDN). Then it was on to the shops. We only covered 2 or three floors, but it was enough to leave dents in our pocket books. Only slightly though. Rarely was any item of clothes over 30 Ringgits, and most hovered around 25. I bought a belt for 9 RN and bright coloured nail polish for under $2 from the lovely Elianto. I was also able to nab an FC Barcelona keychain for my brother, the football-crazy fan.

After we were shopped out there, we headed to Sungei Wang to find someplace to rest our tired feet...and satisfy our sugar craving. What we discovered was even more fun- a concept restaurant based on the most colourful, cute bathroom you could imagine. Yes, I said bathroom, as we sat on squeaky-clean toilets and ate off of a glass-covered sink. My ice cream came in a little pottery bathtub. It was sweet enough to hurt my teeth, but I enjoyed it anyhow. You can check out more about T-Bowl here.

Sungei Wang seemed a bit classier that Times Square- it was less market and more boutiques and chains. Right away I nabbed a black cardi with intricate lace detail for 29 Ringgits. I also bought a dress for 29 in a store full of the prettiest little numbers you have ever seen. I couldn't make up my mind between two I liked, and unfortunately chose one that ended up not fitting. Many stores in Sungei Wang and Times Square do not allow you to try things on because they sell them so cheap. This store didn't give receipts either, so there is no chance of returning it. Luckily I have a wonderful fellow J-Schooler whose style is similar to mine and who I believe will fit the dress perfectly. It's all part of the KL shopping adventure.

Our last stop led us through the crowded streets of night-time Bukit Bintang. There were throngs of people: locals throwing up spinning lights that were liable to land on you if you didn't dodge them, cars honking, performers in sparkling paint frozen in the centre of a ring of people (unless you wanted to pay to take a picture with them), lovely smells wafting from nearby restaurants, and tourist girls wearing a camera and not much else (their dresses barely counted as dresses).

(I was just interupted by a camera in my face. One of the citizen journalists, or "CJs" in for training today was taking my picture. "I'm sure my son will love to see this," he said. It's not the first time I've been photographed as an oddity, and I expect it won't be the last. Long blonde hair is rare in these parts.)

Pavilion is as luxurious as you could hope. My eyes were dazzled by the huge red and pink decorations in place for Chinese New Year, and the upscale stores for young and old (Marc by Marc Jacobs and Burberry were just some of the offerings). Fat statues celebrated the Year of the Rabbit and huge flowers took up some of the expansive floor. Wide red steps leading down into the mall were covered with tourists taking pictures.

By the time we reached Pavilion, we had only time to eat a well-deserved dinner. I ordered the biggest bowl of noodles I have ever seen from a Thai fast food counter. (Picture soon) As we sat and ate I watched people pass with bags from Cotton On and Forever 21, two of my favourite stores. Alas, the mall was closing as we struggled to finish our meals. I think my wallet breathed a sigh of relief though.

It was a long ride back as we trudged on aching legs and tried to ignore the rowdy pre-teen boys that were harassing the monorail passengers. But it was a happy kind of tired, the kind a little souvenir retail therapy brings. All in all, I'd say it was one of my most memorable, successful shopping trips.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 3- My first impressions of Malaysia

I have embarked on my one month internship in Malaysia! I will be working with Malaysiakini, an independent news organization based in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia is known for placing tight restrictions on local broadcast and print news, but Malaysiakini is able to circumvent these by posting its content online. The website is subscription based, but I will be working in the video department which streams it's videos free on youtube.

After two slow first days at the office, today I got all the action I wanted...and more. But before I get into that, I wanted to quickly reem off some of my first impressions of Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur in particular.

The first thing I noticed as the plane touched down were rows and rows of palm trees. Malaysia is a major exporter of palm oil, which they produce monoculturally.

The second, as I walked outside, was that it is hot. But I expected and welcomed that.

My third observation was that KL is a city of malls. They are simply everywhere, which is convenient for my needs, but not so much for my wallet. Shopaholics beware!

My fourth observation came when I was trying to shake the jet lag with a quick nap an hour or so after I had arrived at my home-stay. I was dozing in my lovely air conditioned room when I was jolted awake by the loudest thunderclap I have ever heard. I jumped out of bed and opened a window to find a literal downpour outside. Rain, rain and more rain can be expected throughout my stay here.

After a weekend of fighting a cold and sightseeing (The National Museum, Central Market, Chinatown), I was definitely ready to get on the job this Monday.

From my homestay it is about a ten minute walk to the Malaysiakini office. The past three mornings I have arrived and had tea with some of my coworkers at a little outdoor restaurant/cafe right next door.

My first day at Malaysiakini was spent meeting people and looking for a story. My second day was spent calling people for interviews for said story. While the atmosphere in the editorial/print office downstairs is tense and serious (which seems to work well for the journalists down there), the TV office is a creative and fun environment.

Today I tailed a videographer/video editor and a journalist to a press conference and a protest. The press conference started late (do they ever start on time?), so the journalists assembled had time to smoke in the hallway of the government office and watch an Indonesian soap on the TV in the tiny room where the podium was set up.

The protest was interesting, but not as interesting as one would hope. It was hot, and though the police had formed a barricade, nothing particularly special happened. All told the real part of the protest was done in about 10 minutes, and then the organizers posed for pictures. Some of the journalists there, however, seemed more interested in taking pictures of the foreigner (me) than the protest and police. I was asked if I was from CNBC or BBC, and seemed to let them down when they discovered I was a lowly intern.

On another note, lunch didn't come till 4pm- a good reason to pack water and granola bars when you are on assignment. Sunscreen and a extra batteries never hurt either.

Tomorrow I will be interviewing people from several NGOs about how they are dealing with baby dumping, which has become a major concern for Malaysians. Unwed mothers in this country are unaware of their options and often feel ostracized and shamed. Some of them are choosing to abandon their babies in public places. We will be investigating a new initiative called "baby hatches," where mothers can leave their babies in a safe and caring environment without having to reveal their identities.

That's all for now. It's getting late and tomorrow morning will come early.

Disclaimer: any and all views expressed on this blog are the opinions of me, the lowly journalism intern/student, and not my university, Malaysiakini or my supervisors.