Category Archives: Sophie’s World

Recent thoughts on Malaysians

It’s been another very long silence for me, having not written a blog for many months, a year almost. Luckily C is keeping this blog site alive by writing every now and then. A lot had happened since. Firstly, I am now in Zurich, Switzerland and have been here for the past three months. I took up a job here hoping that this could be a nice change for C and me. Well, within a month of moving here, I just did not feel right at all. This place is too manicured, everything is overly organised, to the extent that it makes me feel claustrophobic. Not to mention that the city is absolutely boring and the supermarkets lack varieties.All these merely make me want to go home more each day. I love Malaysia, for what she is and whatever her flaws are, this is my home, yesterday, today and tomorrow. England was something that was more or less imposed on me, and yet I try to make the most out of it, I like her history, culture and I probably know more about England than I do about Malaysia at this point in time. Simply because you are surrounded by the news, the tv programmes and there is just too much information forced on you. If you are not brain dead, you will surely learn something, the society is generally more intellectual and the competitive side of me prevents me from being ignorant.The same cannot be said about living in Malaysia though. Information is suppressed, one could easily forget about politics or any intellectual arguments whatsoever. We are a nation that is obsessed with food and possibly a cup of ‘kopi’ with friends at the ‘mamak stall’ talking about nothing significant, it all revolves around food. In fact, that is the culture we breed and the products of such a culture is that even when abroad, many Malaysians do not have high awareness about social problems, politics and generally things that happen in their societies. When asked what they miss about Malaysia – food, family and friends. Take that away and there is nothing that stops a Malaysian from going abroad, and in fact, that is what has been happening. I can’t say on behalf of other races, but being Chinese by ethnic origin, some of my Malaysian friends abroad are driven by money and career prospects abroad. They go where their careers take them to. There is no allegiance to any country and Malaysia as a home can be substituted. Patriotism is not something that rings any bell to Malaysians, or perhaps Malaysian Chinese. They can’t wait to prove that they have done much better without the burden of being a Malaysian, they take pride in being not very Malaysian. They are different, they are the creme-de-la-creme that have made it on their own, they are successful. Or is it really? Is that how one defines success?It is extremely disappointing to know such Malaysians. There is no patriotism, there is no sense of wanting to contribute to the country. There was almost an element of hatred and distaste of their nationalities and the shame that the government has brought upon them. To such Malaysians, I can only express my distaste against them. I do not disagree that they may have some causes to be angry about the current state of Malaysia. However, I believe Malaysia can do without a few snobbish pseudo-Malaysians, in fact, I can’t wait for them to become non-Malaysians. They have no rights to claim to be a citizen to this beautiful country. One that does not appreciate the beauty of Malaysia does not deserve any claims to be linked to Malaysia. The country needs someone that cares, someone who cares enough about her to make a difference and tries to make a difference rather than being an aloof by-stander pointing fingers at others. My dream would be to see a united Malaysian community, all fighting for a better Malaysia, not for religious purposes, not for racial benefits, nor for any selfish reasons, but for every child of Malaysia for a better future for all. On that day, I will stand proudly on ‘tanah Malaysia’, the day when Malaysia is truly independent, from corruption and from domination by the elitists.

Should we buy organic produce?

Recently, the Food Standards Agency released a damning report on the nutritional values of organic produce compared to that of mass-scale farming. The result was that they didn’t find much difference in nutritional benefits between organic and non-organic produce. One needs to remember that the research conducted did not take into account the effects of pesticides, which is one of the main concerns for people opting organic food.Honestly, I was not surprised by the findings. When organic products first became fashionable 10 years ago, I told all my friends that I didn’t think it would make much difference in terms of nutritional value. If it did, then all the fertilisers that are used by mass-scale farmers would be in vain.10 years on, I still believe that there isn’t much difference, but my perspectives changed. Organic farming isn’t about nutrition, although some findings suggest that dairy products are found to contain higher omega-3 in organic produce. Whether this is conclusive I don’t know. But it certainly sounds more pleasant to know that your cows had chewed on meadows rather than cramped in a cage fed with grain day in day out.Now, I don’t eat meat, but I still care where my milk or eggs come from. I want to know that they have been raised naturally, rather than in an industrialised environment. I have seen tv programmes showing chickens in barns. There was so little space and no natural sunlight. Some of the chickens couldn’t even move because their legs are deformed as a result of the rearing environment.An all too familiar argument is that organic farming would never be able to feed the whole world. True it may be, but do you know that a lot of fuel and energy are wasted to run a mass-scale farm? If one is so concerned about food scarcity, the simplest solution is to become a vegetarian, or massively cut down your meat intake. Mass-scale farming only solves the problem temporarily. So long as human continues to devour our planet’s resources as they do, food scarcity will remain a serious problem.Another important reason why I support organic farming is obviously for environmental reasons. If mass-scale farming continues as they do, we would run out of any wildlife sooner than you could pronounce the word. Already we are depleting our forest reserve. Organic farms keep our environment friendlier to the wildlife. I have visited organic farms and it is very pleasant to know that the food that you eat, is a result of natural farming habitat. There were insects that helped to keep pests under control. When those vegetables arrived at my door, I feel very satisfied knowing that not only that they taste better, I have also helped to maintain ecological balance by opting organic. Yes, may be it is not enough, but it’s a step to the right direction.No doubt that organic is more expensive than non-organic, but you will be surprised that it isn’t that much more expensive. C and I have massively cut down on dining out. With the savings, it is more than enough to make a feast from organic produce.For those who remain sceptical, I totally understand, for I was once the same. But for those who are still on the fence, I hope you would give it a try.

A tested way of reducing cholesterol

In February 2008, C and I went to our local clinic for blood tests just for general check-ups. We didn’t expect anything amiss as we are both healthy and exercise regularly, especially C. When the results came back, everything seemed normal except our cholesterol levels which were on borderline high, around 5mmol/l for C and 5.2mmol/l for me. It threw us back a little as we eat very healthily. I mean, we almost follow the book in terms of what the so-called health experts have been advocating.So, after speaking to the doctor, we thought may be it was because of the number of eggs we have been taking to compensate for not eating meat, or rare meat consumption in C’s case. Since getting my test results, I was determined to do something about this. I reduced my eggs consumption and really put in extra efforts when it comes to my diet. I also started eating oat porridge for breakfasts as they claimed that oat porridge is proven to lower cholesterol. C couldn’t be bothered to cook porridge every morning, he continued his routine cereal with milk for breakfasts.17 months went past and we hardly noticed how long it had been. We went for another blood test as a general check-up. I was very anxious to know the results as I thought that if my cholesterol level didn’t lower, that would be it. It would probably be my gene that is the vice and in which case, there is nothing that I could do about it. My mum also has slightly high cholesterol so that kind of explained why I thought my case was genetically linked. C’s whole family has high cholesterol except one. So, it was even less surprising in his case although he is fit and healthy and exercises at least 3 days a week.The long awaited minute arrived. C got his results first, it was no better. In fact, his cholesterol level had gone up to 5.2mmol/l from 5.0. I was so bitterly disappointed as I thought my result would probably be the same given that we eat almost the same food. Then the doctor showed me my result and I was pleasantly surprised that my cholesterol level had dropped to 4.6mmol/l! This is excellent news! We couldn’t quite figure why our results could be so different at first. But after a long hard analysis, by myself of course, C couldn’t be bothered, I thought it must be the oat porridge. It could not possibly have been anything else.I only wanted to share this experience with anyone who is struggling with their cholesterol levels. Give oat porridge a try, and I do mean at least 5 days a week. I am a strong believer in healing through diet instead of taking medication, which merely suppresses the symptoms.

Back again and feeling at home, and also Air Asia X!

It’s been a really long time since I last wrote a blog. As C said, it was a hectic holiday home. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it a holiday, but simply a break full of commitments. It was so busy to the extent that I was only looking forward to the end of it to be back here in England so that I can live my ‘normal’ life again.May be I expected the worst before I went back to Malaysia, so I was mentally more capable to deal with all the things that I had to do. I knew that this was no ‘holiday’. I almost feel relieved that this ‘holiday’ ended.

Air Asia X, by merlyn.pauley

Anyway, the point of writing is to share a little of my experience of flying with Air Asia to Kuala Lumpur from London Stansted. I wasn’t expecting a lot as my family and friends flew with them before I did. So they said it was okay for a budget airline. On arrival at London Stansted, the check-in procedure was rather stress free. So that was a good sign. We made a mistake of not buying more baggage allowance, so with 15kg per person, we really struggled to fit all the things that we wanted to bring home. On calling to enquire if I could up my allowance the day before, I was told that this had to be done 48 hours before flying. So my only option was to pay at the counter or shed my baggage weight, of course I chose the latter! The customer service didn’t sound very friendly. He mumbled so softly that I had to ask him to speak up.Boarding the plane was rather civil. In fact, the experience was much better than what we had with Easyjet or Ryanair. There was no such non-sense such as paying for a ‘priority boarding pass’. Only business class and those with children and special needs get priority. Others were boarded according to seat numbers. YES, you do get a seat number! And no need to run in order to get a prime seat. Also, they don’t make you fit your hand luggage into that steel frame and enforce you to check-in your hand luggage in order to squeeze extra pennies from your wallet. We also get to pool our luggage allowance instead of restricting to one bag a person and what not (like the Easyjet or Ryanair).The seats were surprisingly spacious! In fact, C found it more spacious than conventional airlines and I noticed the space too. What I liked was that there were only two seats on each side with four in the middle column. So C and I could be on our own without having to trouble someone in order to go to the toilet etc. Service was okay. You cannot expect services like those in conventional airlines. Food was also not bad. We chose the Asian option because we know that they make better Malaysian food than they make pasta or other western dishes. The only drawback is that the meal portion was small and far and few. So I would advise everyone to bring their own fruits and snacks to top up.We came across a few turbulence on our outward journey. We think that may be because the plane was smaller, we felt the bounce a lot more and it made us feel nauseous. The inbound journey was much better. Would I fly with them again? I think that depends on the cost savings. As London Stansted is sort of inconvenient to get to from where we live, we would really think twice to fly from there again as the hassle is really so much that it wouldn’t be worth it if the savings is not great. But for anyone within easy distance, I think it is a good option as Stansted is not as crowded and chaotic as Heathrow and Air Asia does provide good value.

My pledges to reduce carbon footprint

It has been a while since I last wrote anything. Mainly because I am so busy doing nothing, but also that each day has been so monotonous that there wasn’t much inspiration to venture writing anything. However, I hope those days had passed as I have again found myself occupied with renewed interests in reducing my carbon footprint.C and I have always been very keen to keep our carbon footprint minimal. Not to mention the reduction in energy bill, it also makes us feel proud that we are responsible to our environment. However, we know that no matter how much we try to cut down on our footprint, the main culprit is our air travel. Well, an annual return trip home to visit our families in the Far East is the equivalent of the CO2 produced by our household for the whole year! So, for all the moral high ground that we earned from composting, cycling and buying UK produce etc, would be for nothing if we continue to make our annual trips home. As much as I wish to reduce our carbon footprint, I am not sure if I would be willing to sacrifice the precious family time that I get to spend with my family. It is a very difficult decision.You know, for all that I am, I am definitely not a hypocrite. I don’t want to have done all I can do for the environment on a daily basis, to be faulted on a 3 weeks holiday with my family because they happened to live thousands of miles away. And yet, this is the real dilemma. I think realistically, we could only cut all other holidays to compensate for the one indispensable trip we have to make. I suppose because of this, we should do more for our environment than someone who doesn’t do any air travel for the whole year.I also have another idea. If we can afford a bigger house with a bigger garden, we could grow a few trees to compensate our carbon footprint, but until then… Speaking of trees, we had a friend over to help us prune the ash tree at our backyard. We were very close to cutting it down because it was blocking all the sunlight to our flat. However, I’ve noticed that it is a favourite spot for birds to perch and rest while making their journeys in the morning and at sunset. I don’t want the birds to have lost another tree. It also makes me feel horrible to be responsible for the felling of another tree on this planet and I supposed we could do with less sunlight. I only hope that more people would raise their awareness on the actions that they take and the impacts on the environment.

Weekend to Prague and Cesky Krumlov

I recently went to Prague and Cesky Krumlov with C for a long weekend. We saw some incredible prices for free and easy tour to Prague at lastminute.com and thought that it would be fun to go away for some sightseeing.For someone who is prudent on spending, I obviously triple checked to see if we were getting the best deal. Like our previous experience, we actually found it cheaper to book our flights and hotels separately with easyjet and expedia. Better still, expedia offered 50% off for a guided day tour to Cesky Budejovice and Cesky Krumlov (a UNESCO heritage town). We thought it was fabulous price because had we gone on our own, it would be a lot more hassle and perhaps cost more as well. The day tour only cost £28 per person including transport, lunch and English speaking guide! So it was a real bargain for us.It is actually my second time to Prague, the first time was 9 years ago. I find that the city is still more or less the same. Due to the economy downturn, there were much fewer tourists than I had expected. The economy downturn has obviously had a huge impact on tourist numbers to this city where tourism plays an important role to its economy. However, the city is cleaner than 9 years ago and prices have obviously gone up, but not by unreasonable margin.One thing that impresses me most is that even as a small country where the cost of living is comparatively low compared to other European cities, the public transport is extremely well run. It was snowing when we were there, the roads were very well-gritted and things were as per usual. It puts Britain to shame when a heavy snow has literally frozen the whole country with public transport suspended and people unable to get to work. I do not think that ‘the heavy snow was not usual’ would be a good enough reason for such a large scale failure.Cesky Krumlov has a lot of charm being a very old town and still retain some medieval character at parts of the town. You have to enter through the town gate, which is a very narrow passage and cars are not allowed in the centre of the town. When we were there on a Sunday, the town was extremely quiet. As a tourist, I obviously liked it because there were no crowds and you could spend as much time as you wish taking photos or wandering about. However, I understand from our guide that businesses are suffering for the town relies almost solely on tourism business.

Wherever I walked to at Cesky Krumlov, the views were very pleasant. The town is so old that it looked almost a little unreal. It is as though you have travelled back in time. Sometimes, I wish that cities would preserve their old medieval buildings better and we would be able to see more of them today. They are obviously so much more lovable than tall bland glass buildings.Prague is a little like Cesky Krumlov but much bigger and more modernised. But it still retains a lot of character especially where the old town square is.Food was relatively cheap when compared to other European cities. Also, I am an official Czech beer lover. They have totally converted me. I tried a few pilsner and they were so much smoother than some other beers that I have tried before. It is also not very gassy which makes it easy to drink.As a whole, I think the city has a lot to offer. We had a very pleasant break and C was obviously a very happy man so long as he got to drink his beer.

It’s hard being unemployed.

I quit my job about 2 months ago. I was so bored in the office that I could no longer bear 3 hours of journey to and fro work just to sit there and surf net or twiddle my fingers. It took me a while to make up my mind, considering the economy but I was confident that it was the right thing to do. I was unhappy and had been unhappy with this job. Being unhappy for more than 6 months is a long time and mine was much longer than that. So I told myself, I only have one life to live, should I die tomorrow, I want to have lived today.Since quitting my job, I have taken up a few past times. I have put in more hours in my piano practice. It has been my ambition to know how to play piano decently. I have also started exercising, despite the fact that I still complain about the weather. I am starting to rebuild my interest in baking and at the same time starting a new short online course on Jane Austen. All is well and with such a fulfiling life, who needs a job?

My only insecurity is when I have to meet with acquaintances and having to explain what I’ve been up to. I find it difficult to justify why I am not working. Shouldn’t everyone work? What should I fill in as my occupation in those routine forms that one has to fill in when you apply for anything? Well, so far I have been able to manage it well. I find enough in me to keep myself on the ground. But how long could I manage this evil called ‘peer pressure’? I am so angry at myself, not because I am not living up to others’ expectations, but why am I succumbing to ‘peer pressure’? But then, is it really just peer pressure? Shouldn’t everyone work anyway? Regardless of whether you are happy or whether you actually need a job?Then, there’s also another important question, how do I measure myself? I am not a professional anymore, so exactly what do I do as a person? I mean, what do I tell people what I do besides that I enjoy playing piano at home and like baking and I enjoy doing nothing, for now anyway? So how does one measures success aside from their career achievements? Granted that I have no other talent whatsoever. Should I care? After all, why should I bother if I only have myself to answer to? At the time of writing, I also just suffered another panic attack, should I be zealously looking for a job?I am still finding the balance between all the conflicting ideas in my head. I am also reminding myself not to start a job, if I am so lucky to have one given current conditions, if I will end up being unhappy again. I need to get my head right as to what I want to do and not just work, for the sake of working, for the sake of telling others that I have a job and that I contribute to my household. It’s hard and it’s doubly hard when you haven’t got a clue and have no confidence outside your comfort zone. Is that what they called character building? What a fancy name for confidence crisis, but I like it.

Buying a Turkish carpet

C and I do not celebrate Christmas. As usual, we were looking for somewhere to getaway during the Christmas and New Year break. Well, we had in mind somewhere near enough to England where business is still as usual. The list was down to Turkey and Morocco. We decided in favour of Istanbul because we have seen many beatiful photos of Istanbul and we foolishly thought that being relatively close to the Mediteranean Sea, it should be slightly warmer than England.In a hurry to get the best priced tickets and hotel rates, we booked our tickets and hotels without doing any research. About one month before our travel, I started reading books and checking out what to see and do in Istanbul and generally about Turkey.Before this, I knew little about carpets. I certainly did not know anything about Turkish carpets. However, having read some travel guidebooks, I thought that if I could get a good handmade carpet at a good price, it’s probably worth the hassle. I have a machine made carpet under my coffee table. The wool keeps coming off and stick to our clothing.On arrival at Istanbul, we immediately saw a Turkish carpet shop in our hotel. They look absolutely magnificent. The designs, the colours and the sheer quality is nothing compared to the cheap carpet that we have in our living room. Nevertheless, we didn’t form any serious intention of buying a carpet then. To me, it was more as a souvenir for myself if I do get to buy one that I like.The next morning, we visited the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. When we came out of Hagia Sohpia, a man approached us and suggested that we should also visit the Basilica Cistern just a few steps away. We were a little hesitant by his approach. He then reassured us that he’s not a tour guide, so if we would follow him, it’s only 10 yards away. On that reassurance, we were a little more comfortable. For your information, a tour guide would charge you for taking you around. On parting, he said that he has a shop nearby and perhaps we could go for a quick visit, just to see local art in Turkey. (I later found that this is a common tactic used to lure customers into their shop.)

Turkish carpet shop

We had plenty of time and I was open to the idea, so we decided that we would go and have a look. On entering the shop, we realised that it’s a carpet shop. They offered us apple tea and asked us to take a seat. I knew this is the culture and it’s their way of welcoming their customers. So we accepted the offer. One man started rolling out different carpets with different designs, colours and sizes, mostly wool carpets. At the same time, he explained the difference between Turkish carpets and other carpets e.g. Persian carpets. The main difference is the weaving technique. Turkish carpet is double knotted (the rest of the world is single knotted) and I understand from him that Turkish carpet is therefore more durable. Nothing was mentioned about the price because we all know the cardinal rule that once the price is mentioned, it means that you are interested. We do not want to go down that route unless we have seen something that we like.After about an hour of rolling out carpets after carpets and explaining to us the meaning of the designs, we saw one that suited our taste. It was a wool on wool carpet, the size was about 6 x 4. On enquiring the price, he initially proposed £500. But then he said he hoped that we would introduce more customers and so he would reduce it to £350 by giving us a huge discount. Of course I wasn’t going to fall for that.Well, I did really like the carpet. But I thought £350 was way too much for a carpet, eventhough it was handmade and I wouldn’t be able to get that for this price in England (e.g. in John Lewis). However, that doesn’t mean that I have to make up my mind immediately and it was our first carpet shop. Both of us were very hesistant, we liked the carpet but it was too expensive. So the guy asked us to give him a price. We had in mind £200, but we didn’t want to counter offer as we weren’t sure whether we were still being ripped off by paying £200. So we decided that we would go to a few more shops first to gauge the prices. The guy then became a little hostile. He started raising his voice and said that it’s already a good offer and we should accept it and take the carpet. If I had any doubts about buying the carpet then, I knew that whatever the price, I wasn’t going to buy from this man. He then dropped the price to £250. Although that’s a huge drop and we suspected that it’s probably still not a good bargain. So we left, thanking the man for his efforts. He wasn’t happy at all for sure. It wasn’t a good experience. We left knowing a little more about carpets and also their tactics.Our second encounter was on the same day in the carpet shop in our hotel. I specifically wanted to go to a shop that I have more confidence in to check out their prices and to see whether there is any visible difference in terms of the carpets that they sell.The man was very friendly and speaks very good English. He politely showed us different carpets starting with some breathtaking Hereke silk carpets. Once we have touched the silk carpets, we completely lost interest in the wool carpets. The designs were so much more delicate and detailed. The touch was, as they say, silky smooth. We set our eyes on a Kayseri silk carpet. The size was 3×2 feet and 9×9 knots per sq cm. He told us that because he would charge us much less because business is not good at the moment and he just wants to make a sale so that there is cashflow. He said that the carpet would easily sell for USD1100, but if we could pay cash, he would sell it for USD790. We didn’t have any cash at the time, so there was no danger of us making an impulse purchase. We really liked the silk carpet, much more than the one that we saw earlier. But USD790 was way more than what we had in mind, although the carpet was probably worth more than that. We thanked him and told him that we would think about it. He lowered to USD740, but still, it was more than we would spend on a small carpet, although the piece was absolutely delicate and attractive. This was a different experience from the earlier one. The man was really friendly and there was no ill feelings even though we left without making a purchase after more than an hour inside his shop. I left still thinking that I might purchase the carpet, but I just needed to be sure about the price.Next day, we went to Ephesus to visit the ruins on a guided tour. As usual, the tour included a visit to a carpet shop. Different from the others, the shop is a cooperative that is set up under the initiative of the government. They source carpets directly from the weavers and the objective is to keep the carpet trade alive. Many young women have no intention of making carpets as it is very labour intensive and with other jobs offering better pays, it is not surprising that they would rather pursue other careers.

Weaving turkish carpet

This time, we see how silk is being made from cocoon and I even had a try on the carpet making myself. The owner again offered us apple tea and showed us different carpets. He explained three factors that determine the price of a carpet:1. the number of knots per square inch;2. the quality of the material, i.e. the types of silk or wools used; and3. the quality of the dyes, natural dyes are always preferred as the colours last longer.

Extracting silk from cocoon

He also said that because silk is a very strong textile, you could not have pure silk on a cotton pile as the silk will cut the cotton. Therefore, if you ever come across silk on cotton carpets, the silk is not pure silk, it is artificial silk. Also, if you want to know what material is used for the pile, always look at what material is used for the frayed ends of the carpet, they can’t lie on that.Again he showed us different types of carpets. This time, we didn’t like any of the carpets, but we thought we would enquire about the price nevertheless. We asked about a wool on wool carpet which is the size of a runner carpet (approximately 6×2 feet). He offered it for TL 600 as the final price. We thought it was still way too expensive, even compared to the first carpet shop. He lost his patience, again, after an hour. We thanked him and left. We are not surprised with the change in attitude because of our first experience. It was easy to say no because we didn’t like the carpet at all, but just wanted to see how much he charges.Two days later, we went to the Grand Bazaar to do some souvenir shopping. A guy approached us about carpets, again. Yes, it happens all the time in case you wonder whether one would get enough of them. We didn’t mind, because we were finding this very interesting and we wanted to learn more about carpets too. This time, armed with more knowledge than before, we went in. This is a much younger guy. He was funny. I told him that I only have TL100, he showed me different carpets ranging from TL200 onwards but nothing within my budget. They were all not to my taste. He even tried to fool me on some of the materials. But we have been doing some research at night in our hotel room using the internet. So we knew more and called his lies. He didn’t seem offended. As time wears on, he grew impatient, like others. We began to find that funny because they all seem to use the same tactics. So we thanked him and left.After visiting all the shops, we found that there is really no way of knowing whether you get a good bargain. As someone says, it’s like going to a casino, the house always wins. So, the advice is to pay no more than what you would afford. If you could get a carpet that you like, that would be great. Don’t pay more than what you could afford. It’s for the experience and the fun of it.There have been many stories about travellers being lied about what they bought. For example, some are manufactured carpets rather than handmade (although it should not be too difficult to tell from the underlay of the carpet). A lot were conned thinking that they bought Hereke or Kayseri silk carpets when in fact they were Chinese copies. Don’t get me wrong, Chinese silk carpets are still good carpets, but they are not the same as Turkish silk and they are less expensive on the market. So, with those concerns in mind, I completely changed my perspective. I thought I would set my budget to USD200, if I could get something that I like, it wouldn’t matter whether it’s a Turkish carpet or not, because that’s what I like and I would pay USD200 for it.With that in mind, I withdrew USD200 cash from an ATM machine and thought I would return to the carpet shop in our hotel and see what else he could show us. This time, we met a different guy, he’s the owner of the shop, relatively young age. He met us briefly the other night and knew that we liked that particular piece.

Turkish carpet

It was already late at night, and he said he would like to make a sale on that day because it’s a Monday. The Turkish believe that if they could make a sale on a Monday, this would bring them good business. He seemed like a nice guy, so I was completely honest with him. I told him that I only had USD200 in cash. He said he couldn’t sell me the Kayseri silk piece for USD200. However, he asked if I would be able to pay more. He reduced the price to USD430 without me even having to bargain! We were still hesitating because this was still more than what I wanted to spend, although we could easily afford it. By this time, my only concern was whether it was pure silk whether it was Chinese or Turkish, it did not matter, so long as it was not artificial. He showed us the artificial silk and it did seem different from pure silk. He also showed us a few other pieces which were also reduced by a huge margin compared to the prices quoted the other night. With what was presented to me, we both agreed that even at USD430, it was worth it. It was delicately made, the colours and designs were exactly to our taste and would match our furniture well. It did not matter much whether it was a real Turkish Kayseri silk because we like it. So, we sealed the deal! Having looked and touched it many times, I am more convinced than ever that we got the real thing. We may or may never find out, but it doesn’t matter. It was also nice to have bought it from this owner because he is so friendly and a breath of fresh air compared to the other sellers that we have met, who were pretentious and bossy. He’s so friendly and down to earth.

For those who wish to buy a Turkish carpet in Turkey, my advice is, spend what you could afford and not more. Always go to as many shops as it takes and compare prices. Learn more about carpets before you go and bargain hard! Don’t feel pressured to buy even if the owner starts to turn pushy. Resist the temptation to buy when you like something but the price is way beyond your budget. I hope that everyone will give this experience a try as it’s part of their culture.

The winter is here yet again

It is that time of the year again. Cold, wet and scarcely any sunshine. This year, there wasn’t much of a summer season in the UK. It may be marginally better than last summer, but still, there was hardly any sunshine throughout the summer months. Before you know it, the winter is here again. At this time of the year, I always think about home. I always wish that I am in the tropics with plenty of heat.I read an article on the Times about a month ago about why women always feel colder than men. Of course there are many reasons why one’s sensitivity to coldness or heat is different from the other. However, apparently women have a more efficient system of conserving heat in the cold weather. Because the body needs to maintain its temperature at 37C in order for our organs to operate, when the external temperature is cold, our body tends to restrict blood flow to the rest of the body, in order to conserve heat and women’s body are better at this than men. Hence our hands and feet, which are particularly sensitive to temperature change because of many sensors around our toes and fingers, feel cold all the time.I went jogging to keep my body warm and it in fact helped a little bit for that hour after I had exercised. But things were back to normal pretty soon after. The weather hasn’t helped either, when it’s grey and gloomy, the only thing you want to do is to slip yourself under the duvet and sleep through it. I suppose drinking a glass of wine might help.

Global financial crisis

I have never been more interested in the financial state of the world than in the past few weeks. These are worrying times, the stock market is in free fall and nobody has any trust in banks anymore. 1 year ago, a bank collapsing would be rather unthinkable, but nothing surprises anyone anymore.I am actually not overly concerned with the state of economy save for the fact that I am unable to change job due to recruitment freeze by many companies. Other than being bored in the office because nothing much is happening, my life has been pretty much unaffected. However, I have been saying that I’ll probably be made redundant sooner or later with the rate it is going, or rather NOT going. Nevertheless, it is not necessary a bad thing. Perhaps I would then have every good reason to do whatever I want to do. Yes, no doubt finance would be stretch but after all, money does not exist. I am starting to buy into this idea that money is all about confidence, without it, it is worthless. Recent events have shown us that this is more true than ever.My sympathy to those who have lost their jobs. But hopefully we’ll see light at the end of the tunnel.