Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mexico Trip - Conference part 1

After the long awaited months and a lot of hiccups.. finally Mexico came.

The journey as expected was really.. really long.. I was in my most comfortable outfit--sampaikan Craig, Francyne's husband said "Anom, I've never seen you so casual -- even while we were travelling, you were always in heels and proper office attire". Craig used to be my boss before, hence the comment.. Abih dah la long flight -- I have to walk a lot and I was in my sport shoes(pasal kaki masih sakit lagi kalau jalan banyak2) takkan nak pakai smart2 plak..

Sampai kat LA, we separated from Francyne & co.. and continued our journey to Mexico City.. The stewardess on the flight to Mexico was very, very unfriendly -- tak inform pun kat we all yang we have to isi the immigration form. Dah la bagi food yang salah to me, nasib baik tak de mood nak makan..

Anyway, the conference was fun.. the hotel was so-so, the traffic in Mexico city was horrible. Every morning we have to be ready for the bus to get us to the conference at 6.45am... That means, wake up at around 5.00am.. Jet lag was not so bad.. But the first day was quite bad.. All of us was like zombies at 12.00 noon onwards -- because that was about 1.00am kat Malaysia.

The following days were better.. afternoons are the worst la, but we all got over it fine. Cuma disebabkan terlalu disoriented, the first morning tengah bersiap-siap, instead of pakai my contact lenses, I threw (curah) the lenses into the sink -- how stupid was that!! So disebabkan tak bawak spare.. terpaksa la pakai glasses yang dah teruk conditionnye the whole conference.
On Monday 4th August night, we were invited to attend the Kaiser Family Foundationnye dinner - in Westin Hotel in Centro Historico.. We were like very late because we were stuck in the traffic. We took the bus, had to do a bit of "Amazing Race" round the block at night in Mexico city before we reach the hotel.

The hotel setting was very 'funky' -- with a lot of shiny red, black and white colour furnishings. It was dark as well.. Somehow I felt like I was in one of the CSI Miami settings -- u know, the crime scene set before the crime happens. Anyway, at the dinner, we were assigned different tables to sit and we have a name card to put in front of us at the table so that others at the table know you.

At my table, I was surrounded by Americans. Front, right and left. The hot topic was the US Presidential election.. Eventhough I didn't follow the US politics that much, when I asked questions, they took the time to explain. That was the great thing about being there at the table.. Someone asked me about the Malaysian politics, suprisingly they haven't heard of Mahathir Mohammad, much less Anwar Ibrahim -- though they heard about the Petronas Twin Towers. It was great fun..

Francyne sat at the table behind me, she sat with a couple of journalists from Caribbean, a British woman named Penny who worked with Kaiser. Later that night, Penny told me that she went to school with a Malaysian princess in the 1970s.. She can't remeber her full name but she promised to google her and let me know when she gets back. That reminds me, I have to email her to get that Princess' name.

On that table too, there was this girl named Marvilyn Brown -- she's HIV positive and she used to be a guest in Oprah Winfrey Show. She wrote a book -- and an advance reader edition was distributed FOC at the dinner. I got her to autographed my copy -- when Francyne introduced her to me, Francyne told me that she was in Oprah and me being a little bit blur -- lambat respond -- so I think she wasn't quite happy la when I didn't recognise her -- a bit of attitude la..Yela... how said, you became a celebrity because of HIV.. how sad kan.. tu pun ada hati nak eksyen.. I haven't even started reading the book yet. Tengokla, when everything is settled, I'll start..

Richard Gere was supposed to come to dinner tapi he was shooting a movie somewhere so he didn't make it. His brother David Gere was there, but we did know about it until a couple of days after that.. Kalau tidak brother pun brother la..Anyway, end of the year masa kat Bali during our General Assembly nanti, Stephen (Kaiser representative) promised to try and get Richard to come to the event.. Orait..ada la can kan nak bergambar dengan dia.. hahaha..Berangan Anom.. eh.. bukan I sorang si Francyne and Lisa pun sama gak..

Other than that, saw Bill Clinton and Annie Lennox in person -- of course body guards were all around takde la dapat dekat kan.. Also was face to face with this actress -- Sheryl Lee Ralph which at that point I can't remember her name, otherwise would have asked to take a picture with her. Anyway, a youth was busy interviewing her so malas la nak kacau daun gak kan.. she played Rita's (Lauryn Hill) mother in Sister Act 2.

Too many things happened at the conference -- the whole conference was divided into 3 -- the Global Village -- where all the fun, happening things went on, the sessions at the Centro Banamex and the exhibition which was situated on the same floor with the Media Centre.

At the conference, for the first time I saw real life protests, -- dalam pelbagai2 bentuk -- ada yang protes terbaring, ada yang took their top off -- had their body painted with all the protest messages and just stand there at the media center for at least 45minutes -- can u imagine?? I was so shocked, tak teringat nak tangkap gambar..Even if I teringat pun.. rasanya tak sanggup nak amik..so humiliating.. Even Francyne yang mat salleh tu pun tak sanggup nak tengok..

A lot la was going on, tak tercerita the whole event punye coming and going -- it was labelled a Social Conference as a lot social things went on -- not just the serious conference stuff. Most importantly - this conference gave the people who are affected by HIV a platform to come out in the open and say what they need to the public be it men who have sex with men, transvestites, sex workers and others.

Lupa plak -- I also met with this Mufti from Zambia -- he's part of this network called - African Network of Religious Leaders affected or lifes are affected by HIV/AIDS - ANERELA+ .. He wanted to know the view of our religious leaders on the topic -- I told him it's very much a taboo to talk about HIV in Malaysia. He's interested to talk to Malaysian Imams or Muftis to change that view because HIV knows no boundaries.

The interesting part that I discovered was how Muslims from other countries have a bigger perspective of the issue and they want to discuss it -- because to them, it is there, it's affecting people especially the young ones -- if you ignored it, it will get worse. In fact, 2 Iranian doctors were supposed to present papers in a couple of the sessions but they weren't able to make it due to some technical problem.

Next I will update about my involvement in a HIV messaging and jalan2 experience in Mexico and LA. Enjoy some of the pictures below. (K. Ja/Shana -- enjoy, sorry na lambat update..)

In LA airport waiting for our luggage -- si kecik ni tak letih pun.. still full of energy

The Centro Banamex -- where it all happened..

Annie Lennox -- at one of the press conference

Bill Clinton speaking at his Keynote address session..

Methadone Man & Buprenorphine Babe
Superheroes Raise Awareness of Lifesaving Medicines for Drug Users
-- Lisa stopped them to take pictures

Anom & Lisa going through booths at the Global Village

The normal protests..

Dewi - Metro TV journalist doing her stand up for the camera crew for her news piece.

Us three with Glenn -- a participanting journalist from Papua New Guinea who is also an Australian. Great guy..

Us again with Stephen from Kaiser -- notice the spectacles ?? Hodoh betul..hahaha..

Indian performers in Global village.. or maybe it was another form of protests -- tak sure la..

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Just got back!!

It's been a while since I blogged. Just got back from a very, very long trip.. masih lagi ada jetlag..tapi kerja dah kena start.. Will update soon with lots of pictures and stories..