Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hiking after a long hiatus

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One of the sights which greeted us as we hiked up our usual trail this morning. These are bottles of water left at the start of the hiking trail....to be carried up as extra weight, for those who want a little extra workout. Been almost a year since we went hiking. Used to be a weekly affair for a few years, the hike up the hills of Pokok Sena. The drive there takes about 20 minutes. When Son hit secondary school, we started going hiking. Figured he was getting too soft and not used to the outdoor life... ! So this morning the 3 of us went again! Getting him up was slightly difficult but he was quite agreeable to go! 8)
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Early shots of the rubber plantation as dawn breaks. It's dry season now, so most of the leaves have dropped off....

Hiking was something we started about 4 years ago. Since it was something that Other Half and I used to do in our teens, we picked it up again quite naturally. But getting our boy to go those days was a real effort. He had to be forced and every Friday evening we'd literally drag him there. Did for 3 years straight except for last year when everyone of us got bogged down.

I'll always remember the first hike. We had to hold his hand all the way up and down. I even had to remove the leaves from his path cos he was so afraid of falling. LOL! But by the end of the year, he was running up faster than us.
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Looking down from up... the trail that has been made. The HASH people have thoughtfully put up paper trails. One won't get lost if he follows the trail. This is actually a rubber plantation on hills. We bumped into rubber tappers going about their work on our way up. Imagine the kind of stamina these people have. They not only have to walk the hilly terrain but also carry the rubber latex down.
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Up on the hill... there is a clearing and somehow the good souls carried all these stuff up there. There are even 2 swings. And this time, I noticed they have planted shrubs all around. And the water in those bottles?? You can use it to water those shrubs. Then you carry it down again empty to be filled and someone else who comes will take it up again. How's that???
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The denuded and now flattened hills. They had this big development project planned for this area. It's been a year.... and nothing! Guess the project is on hold. Economic outlook also would not permit it to commence, I supposed. It used to be all green, down there. Used to be our original hiking trail... all gone!
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Sun was up by the time we made our descent. Hence, it's always good to make the climb early in the morning.
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What were once upon a time hillocks... now almost flattened by the constant 'mining' of soil to fill the nearby area.
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Down at the starting point....40 minutes later. You can try to go from tree to tree via the ropes. Quite fun to hang on and move along on it. The HASH people built the shed for their activities which all of us get to use also. Taking photos was a breeze with my SE C905 camera phone; no need to carry an extra gadget. 8) And the pics are not too bad.

We should start going more regularly again. Doing this together takes effort but it's something that is good. Kids and nature.... I think it's important that they understand and feel at home with nature. The world my kids live in is very artificial and sterile sometimes.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Ketuanan Crap....

Mention the word ketuanan and many of us immediately think of the brouhaha concerning Ketuanan Melayu... but the thing is, I've realised that it's not just UMNO who upholds this ketuanan thingy. Probably the whole BN subscribes to that and many of those in power. This concept is probably as old as written history.... going back to the time when kings and emperors found legitimacy and authority of lordship by claiming to be gods... or given the mandate.
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Back in my hometown, MCA has been holding this Open House thingy in Nan Hwa Secondary School the last couple of CNY. I thought schools are supposed to be apolitical institutions but the gahmen (MCA) thinks it's alright for them to use the school premise for a 'political cum cultural' event. In Kedah, the MB's photo is not even allowed to be hung up! I supposed it's the same also in Perak. But the school premise can be used by a political party for Open House! Hmmmmm....
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They'd invite all the people in the constituent to this Open House. This year they even sent out invitation cards it seemed. There'd be this grand entrance by all the VIPs entertained by a lion dance troupe and food all laid out.....or rather you had to line up for your food. LOL! But that's where the meeting of the rakyat and politicians ended.
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Tables are prepared in the school hall... but they are not for the rakyat biasa. You've got to be 'somebody' to be invited to sit there! Segregation by status... the tuan (master) and the hamba (slave).
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Common folks eat standing outside ... this year they erected tents in anticipation of rain. Turnout was still okay...free food! 8) We're suckers for anything free!!! ROFL!

Politicians too behave like they are tuan. Why can't they eat with the rakyat? Sesak-sesak a bit with the rakyat who voted them and mingle with them. But nah! They have to be treated like VIPs. I've come to the conclusion, we not only have Ketuanan Melayu; we have Ketuanan Ahli Politik, Ketuanan MCA, Ketuanan UMNO, Ketuanan MIC.... they come under different guises but basically the same.... cos politics equals to power and kowtows come to those with power! To be elected is to serve? Bah humbug!!!

I thought the Wakil Rakyat(s) are elected to serve the people. At the Open House, it felt like it was the other way round. The Wakil Rakyat is the Tuan and the rakyat the hamba. Will PKR head the same direction in time to come? Only time will tell. Anyway, after seeing this... I think power gets into the head. My two sen today!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Random Shots.... Sitiawan CNY 2009

Even though I grew up here, the roads are just not that familiar any more. There are so many new roads and turnings.... the town has grown! And we do get lost these days!
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Anyway, these are shots from around the town... familiar places of old, some already given a makeover! This is one of those small kampung roads which leads to one of Dinding River tributaries. Still has a nice kampung feel! 8)
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Kg Sitiawan.. I wanted to see the mangrove swamp. Have not been there for years. Took us a while to get there cos the road from Simpang Ampat is no longer there.....I think. In the end I remembered seeing the name on the big entrance on the road to Ayer Tawar... The place has not lost its rustic charm. Couldn't find the rickety bridge we used to cycle on, though.... Probably long gone already. But the water is still clear! So nice to see clear river water for a change! There are many chalets where one can stay overnight and fish.
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This is the Sitiawan of old that I remember! The village feel and look! 8) This is a vegetable farm in Kg Sitiawan...think it was a 'kuchai' farm. Either that or spring onions! 8)
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Church... because of the different weekends we seldom get a chance to attend Sunday service in CTA1. This new church came up about 10 years ago. Met up with some friends whom we've not seen for many years this time around. The church has always been a meeting point with some old friends over the years!
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This was the old church premise which we used to worship in. I used to cycle from my house for Sunday worship every morning together with my sister and friends sometimes. Service started at 8 a.m. So, it meant leaving home at least half an hour earlier cos the it was quite far from home. Most of us were very glad when we got our motorbike license cos it meant arriving at church not so sweaty and extra few minutes of sleep.

And after church we'd end up either in Wisma Ganda for breakfast or our other favourite makan haunts with our friends. Though it's not as comfortable as the new premise, this was the place which holds fond memories for me. It's also the place where Other Half and I said our vows. 8)
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Pasir Panjang... its ADUN is the current Perak MB, Mohd Nizal Jamaludin. The Deputy MB, Ngeh Koo Ham is the ADUN for Sitiawan. He can be considered another one of ACS' famous sons. 8) This is one of my favourite places because it's near my home. Mom and dad used to come here to buy fish straight from the boats. I used to cycle here with my friends... and also came on my own when I had my motorbike license.... Sitiawan was very safe back then! The tranquility of the place provided a haven to reflect and think. Teenage years was a time of adjustments and new awareness and one had to learn to make sense and accept the new responsibilities that came with growing up... It can get a little complicated for the marginal person. 8)
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Red Chinese lanterns hanging around town. They lent a festive air to the ongoing CNY celebrations.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Greeting the CNY in the New Village....

This year we followed my sis-in-law to New Village so that we could be where the action was. Apparently this was the place to be to see all the fireworks display. So with the kids in tow, we made our way to the heartland of Sitiawan. New Villages were built during the Emergency (1948-60) to prevent the Communists from getting supplies from the locals. And when we got there, I could see why... there was a field right in the middle of the village. You get a 360 degree view!

Sitiawan was quite a hotbed for Communist activities back then. After all, this is the hometown of Chin Peng, still exiled in Southern Thailand for his role in the MCP. Being a small town back then, some of us knew his family members.
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What's left in the morning. Fireworks these days come in big packages too... unlike those I used to play as a kid. And they cost a bomb too. I think lots of $$$$ must have gone up in smoke to greet the New Year.
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And literally, the whole village was shrouded in a veil of smoke....which was accompanied by the 'gunpowder' smell. The grass was really wet because of the heavy rain but we stayed and watched!

When the economy was good last year and the town folks awash with wealth from palm oil and birds' nest, the display was even more awesome. I guess the fireworks display is also an indicator of our economy. Last year's indicator showed that the District of Manjung, where Sitiawan is located, was one of the fastest growing districts in the whole of Malaysia. How's that??? 8) Makes feel kinda proud of it.
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The firecrackers were fired up even before midnight struck. We stood right in the middle of the field, and all around us, the sky lighted up intermittently..... in that sort of glow that reminds me of the pictures of war zones on CNN. Sure beat the display that they put up for the Sultan Kedah's Golden Jubilee Celebration at Kolej Sultan Abdul Hamid last year for the Golden Jubilee.

I even saw some sky paper lanterns making their way up into the sky. They fly quite high into the sky but stays afloat only as long as the candles in it remains lighted. But nothing beats the sound of the firecrackers which was quite deafening as well as the display in the sky.... talk about noise and air pollutions.
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However, this year's display seemed shorter, guess a reflection of the tough times we're in. Still it was a good experience for my kids.... to be where the action is.. 8)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Teluk Batik.... another page from the past!

One of the things we did during this CNY was to check out some of the places which used to be our haunting places during our youths.
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This is Teluk Batik. How it has changed over the years. I've not walked on the beach for a couple of years. This was a place for camps and barbecues during schooldays.
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It was also a place where we turned into beach bums during the weekends in those days. We'd cycle or ride our bikes there. Didn't even need to change our clothes as the ride back would dry them! LOL! Cos it was a long ride home!
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I was impressed by what I saw. Even saw an artist at work. Wah! Art has a place here! 8) The facilities are nice. Upkeep isn't too bad. The place is quite clean..... the city council is doing its job! Thought it was quite comparable to East Coast Park in Singapore we visited end of last year.
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I think they have buggy rides as we saw this and some horses grazing not too far away. Quite quaint. Only snag is our people here are litterbugs. They leave their rubbish everywhere. Saw them every where. Maybe we should make sure heavy fines are imposed on such people.
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The whole beach was full of people; camping, swimming, just walking around. But the beach seems 'smaller' now; partly eaten up by all the walkways that they've built, to give it a nicer feel. And the sand seems not so clean like before... guess it's because of the constant stream of beach goers it has to accommodate these days.
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Those are helium filled balloons at RM5 each.... cheaper than what we get in Alor Star by RM2.

It's beautiful what they've done to this place but I think it was more beautiful back then when the facilities were not so canggih. The beauty now is kinda artificial. The burgeoning population is definitely putting a strain on the beach for sure! The number of places we can go remain the same but there're more people now.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Feng Shui Masters Say...

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Feng Shui Masters say the year of the Ox is going to be a tough one... Supposedly no fire element in this Ox, so no driving force behind the economy. There'll be global financial woes, strife, etc.... I supposed you can interprete that as a recession. Anyway, the ox is a beast of burden, need to work hard and be made to work harder. 8(

Aiyah!... Don't need a feng shui master to tell us that. The signs are all there. Just heard over the news the the UK has just announced that they're in the worst recession in 29 years! Other countries like the US, Singapore, etc, etc announced long ago that they had already entered recession. Only countries like ours took a longer time to come to that realization .. as, like the proverbial ostrich, we had our head in the sand and did not want to face up to reality. But even our MIER has revised their forecast for our economy and it doesn't look too cheery!

Feng Shui is just feng shui... a lot of common sense and reading into the signs. Anyway, since the outlook is already so pessimistic, I guess it would also be a good time to look into investing a bit here and there. I'm not much of an investment guru but I think it's worth a try.

So do feng shui remedies work? I guess many people believe so. Otherwise people like Lilian Too and Joey Yap will not be making tonnes from their feng shui stuff. When things go wrong, we try to seek for answers. Cos you see like so many things, actually we have very little control over many things in life. So when things don't go the way we hope, then we start to turn to feng shui, hoping to find an answer. And the one who can confidently explain it to us will also be the one who will develop respect and a following. Guess that's why some feng shui masters make it big! 8)

Happy Niu Year!!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chinese New Year Memories...

Tis the time of the year when CNY comes again....

Was talking to a friend the other day and both of us realized that we've not celebrated New Year's Eve with our own nucleus family. Every CNY, ever since I got married, we've always spent CNY Eve with both our parents. There hasn't quite been a New Year's Eve with our own nucleus family... it has always been with our extended families. My kids' memories of CNY will be one that involves trips back to CTA1 almost every year.

My memories of CNY.... there would be this excitement that all my siblings would feel. Days before the actual CNY mum would bake cookies and make all the necessary preparations which included stocking up the fridge with food stuff. And weeks prior to it, we'd be busy cleaning and painting the house. Mom would make sure that the house is spick and span. My brothers and I, in the meantime would stock up firecrackers for the big day! We would be so excited in the weeks leading to CNY.

On the CNY eve, my mum would get up early in the morning. We would have to help her once she came back from the market. My sis usually ended up with most of the work. 8) Then the big cookout would start. By lunch time all the goodies would be ready. The main treats would be the sharks fin soup(these days I'd settle for the false sharksfin-lah) and popiah, the only time in the year we'd get to eat it. It was a grand treat! We weren't rich and food was usually very simple. CNY would be one of those occasions when the table would be filled with goodies which we'd see once a year! We'd peel the crabmeat weeks before that. So the anticipation was there! 8) These are my 2 favourite dishes. Till today, if it's anything that I miss of my mom's cooking, it would be these two.

Visitations to grandparents would be done after our own makan, usually over the next one or two days. That's when we got to collect our angpows and also toys, catch crabs and chase after the mudskippers with our cousins by the banks of the Bernam River. Life was so uncomplicated those days.

For my kids.... it's an all-in-one affair these days. Used to be lunch with one set of grandparents, then dinner with another set. But with logistic to consider, the last couple of years have been kinda quiet with my parents at my bros' places. I kinda miss that CNY of old..... being kids again. Whenever I go back to the old house, I'd still be reminded of us as kids, playing or our mum chasing us with a cane, painting the walls, doing chores... fond memories they are!

And today, after church, just realised that a whole generation has passed before us. Our kids are at that age where my fondest memories of growing up are at. One of us even has a daughter who is married.... soon to be elevated another rung to datukship... Church was our home church... the church which we grew up in... How time flies!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

And they say teachers educate....

Many schools have gone on a donation drive for the Gaza cause... I see nothing wrong in it really except the rhetorics that seem to go with it during school assemblies. Teachers who try to champion this cause also seem to use this as a platform to give their often times skewed version.... and usually they are lined with racial and religious undertones tailored to a certain prescribed sway....

But the thing which annoys me is the way we teachers rant and rave in those rhetorics and semantics, often sounding like politicians out to win votes and in the process creating bias in the minds of our young.... indoctrinating the minds of the young; I call it poisoning. Sounded to me like we're out to recruit 'followers'. I feel ashamed sometimes that we have allowed ourselves to regress to that level. Teachers should educate and teach the young to reason, not indoctrinate them with their own views.

In one particular school, the speech got sesat to the issue of Ketuanan Melayu.... and how the non-Malay students should be grateful that the school had allocated a percentage of the places for them. What link between that and the Palestinian issue, I wonder? Ketuanan Palestine??? Whatever happened to fair and principled values??? You mean to say that when God created all the different people, He left instructions that Chinese only live in this land call China, Indians only in India, Malays in the Archipelago??? Crazy, right? It's like saying if you are born in Alor Star, then you can only live in Alor Star.... if you go by that flow of thought... The smallness of our minds, sometimes.
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If they have to make the children see.... let the kids understand why the Jews and the Palestinians are warring? The role of HAMAS, the Jewish stand.... the sufferings of the Gazans..... give the facts, let the children see.... an interesting write-up here.. and let them come to their conclusion and learn from it..

Well, anyway, that's the state we are in.....fragmented as a nation, sometimes I think, by conscious choice of our political masters. In many activities in national schools these days, there is a clear separation of the different races, and most activities these days have religious undertones... it has become the norm rather than the exception in national schools. How can we expect the different races to come together if we continue to consciously separate them at school?

I think it's okay to have religious activities... but if we are to carry them out, I think a good idea would be to integrate all the different races, give each group the freedom to practise their faith.... make it a learning experience for everyone... educate to integrate, not educate to divide. Perhaps then, we stand a chance of creating a truly Malaysian identity.

And perhaps too then, we can bring forth a generation of fair minded Malaysians. Right now, we have too many 'wrong' people in every nook and corner of the civil service... who seems to have their own little agendas... the little Napoleans. And the teaching profession is also saddled with these little Napoleans...

Friday, January 23, 2009

More Streamyx Stories...

This is the continuation of the supposedly 'finished' Streamyx story... but seems to be resurrected again and again. After 15 days, hopefully Mol's connection is finally working without any hitches... keeping my fingers crossed. At this point, I dare not think the word resolved means it's RESOLVED cos each time I thought so, it goes disconnected.

You know, TM has this policy that problems will be resolved within 48 working hours.

Over the years, the many times of dealing with the Helpline has taught me a couple of things or two. First, you have to be persistent in chasing your report. My experience with this round is, the TM technicians where I am seem not very professional in their work.

The latest episode... The technician called to say that the connection was working on the 3rd working day after the report. But when I checked, it wasn't. So I called him back and told him it wasn't working. Mol's connection was already 'down' for 15 days... I asked him how and he mumbled something about not being available as it was late in the evening already. He said he would look into the matter again the next day...(4th day!! Aiyo! By then my patience was really, really on thin ice). So I called the Helpline again to check the status of my report... Surprise! surprise! The problem was noted as resolved... this same technician had reported it resolved at 2 something! I remembered trying to log in at 3 something with no success!!! So, if I had not called nobody would look into matter!

Then, I insisted that they escalate my report again and that something be done as I've had 15 days of badly interrupted surfing with most days disconnected. The lady on the other end was very sympathetic... she escalated the report did whatever necessary, talked to her supervisor, emailed the technician's supervisor... and before the night was over, some fler from KL called up to notify that they had rectified the problem. 15 days!!! And once the matter went up higher, baru boleh jalan.

Question! How is it that KL could solve the problem so quickly while the local TM technician was basically below par.... and now I need to think about asking for a rebate for those 15 days of horrible service! And hopefully this time, the connection doesn't go kaput again!

....if your Streamyx connection is down...make sure you not only call the Helpline to report, you also have to keep checking on the report. I did it for 2 weeks.... 8(

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Cult of Youth

A friend brought to my attention this phrase 'cult of youth' months ago. Everyone of us want a piece of that... Everything around us is actually all about being young. Plenty of young wannabes among the old, trying to delay or offset the inevitable...... I'm sure everyone knows the 50-something Joan Collins in her tights. Or Madonna with her obsession of workouts in search for that fountain of youth, or Cher and countless others. All in the pursuit of lost youth!

The media celebrates the cult of youth. We seek that fountain of youth.

The cult of youth can be likened to Peter Pan's NeverLand and also Michael Jackson and his Neverland Ranch...a place of toys, bumper cars...where you never have to grow up. No need to grow up...no responsibilities...do as you please. And The Weird One indeed did not grow up. Led a 'carefree' life, had allegations of child molestation, bankruptcy, underwent so many surgeries in pursuit of everything youthful....and I thought with the kind of money that he had, he'll never run dry. I was wrong!

I read some where that Osama bin Laden does not have to worry about the destruction of the Western Civilization. It is already self-destructing via this cult of youth. More are remaining single as marriage means having to grow up, assume responsibilities. Most definitely.... I think if I were single now, I'd be leaving a very carefree life, no need to see to much of anything else. No harried rush.... but I guess I'd also be missing out on a lot also...

Statistics already indicate that there will soon be more aged than the young. A nightmare where health care is concerned. Simple maths.....production of babies not enough...cannot sustain the previous gen and the economy. The old ways.....parents take care of kids (when they are young) and kids take care of their parents (when they are old) hold true... It's this circle of life that keeps the circle intact. But the circle is already under a lot of pressure...

Being young is the hype...all the adulations for the young..at the end of it, we lose a bit of our civilization everyday as these youths grow older without realizing...waking up some day only to find out that all is too late! Cult of the youth... me?? I think I'll stay with growing old gracefully.... while remaining young at heart. 8) Hopefully..... I won't buckle. My two sen today.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Living in Whirls...

Yup... I feel like my life is moving past like pieces of pictures of a slide show... and it's on auto mode. 3rd week of school coming to an end and CNY is just around the corner. And already my mind is numbed by the ceaseless 'whirlings' of the daily routines and the unexpected. The tiredness at the end of the day! You plonk yourself onto the bed, close your eyes and the next minute the alarm rings. You open your eyes... and the first thought..."is it time already?" Whatever happened to the idyllic life that I always dreamed of??? 8(

I guess there'll be lots of working mothers out there who feel like that. In many ways, I think I'm having it slightly better than many as my working day ends slightly earlier. I still get to see the sun when I go home. So I am still able to get some things done before the day is over. Sometimes, I wonder whether I should just quit and be a stay-at-home mom. But the thought frightens me somewhat, losing that sort of independence that I'm so accustomed to.

I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day! Guess I wouldn't be the only one wishing that. The days seem to zoom past now... I supposed the time will come one day, when I shall find them crawling at snail pace... can't imagine yet but it will come. There is a time for everything under the sun.... one of my favourites from Ecclesiastes 3.
1 There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
2 A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
So I supposed I should be thankful that my days are filled with meaningful activities and people, that I am still able to do the things that I am doing.

It's better to busy than have nothing to do!!! I guess.....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Life's Journal...

Took time off today for a funeral... I never liked funerals. It's not that they remind me of the inevitable but that feeling that it leaves in the heart...it's kinda difficult to explain, a kind of heaviness....from seeing the living mourn.

First time too that I went to the Memorial Park in Kebun 500. It's a nice place. Nicely landscaped and all that! Got me thinking... nice resting place.... does it really matter where we are returned?? I mean from dust to dust, ash to ash... when the soul leaves this temporary house, it's just a shell that's left and that shell will return to the earth too. Where you place it.... don't think so it's going to matter. And after a generation or so pass... you are likely to be forgotten. And the tombstone will be the one marker that indicates you once passed through this earth. But the ravages of time will also eventually swallow it up, like everything else.

But a few things are reinforced again this time around... life is about relationships. The love of a spouse, friend, parent, child, God .... without them, it's kinda difficult to make meaning of our existence. So, yeah... go live that life, fly that kite, walk the paddy fields.... appreciate the people in your lives. Our lives are enriched by it... till the day comes, when God calls us all home.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Love and grief...

Love is a many splendored thing.... love makes the world go round...

But this hit home over the weekend... love and grief; they are inseparable. If you don't want to grief, don't love. And the world you know will become a colder place.... but no grief!

Helen Keller said this...."The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart." But things felt with the heart sometimes can hurt. And they can actually hurt more than a physical pain. Life is terminal... and because of that it will hurt.
1 Corinthians 13:13
Right now three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. (ISV)
Seeing a friend grief because of the demise of a loved one hurts! Death is inevitable and invariably all of us will have to deal with this grief too.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Kite Flying....

This is what parents would do....for the love of their kids.
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This is under the hot 4.30 p.m. sun. The sun was shining brightly...and it's the time of the year when it is extra bright; only consolation being the cold wind. Lil daughter was really excited about being able to fly her kite. We got it on our way home from town earlier on. Last week Other Half tried to fly a stunt kite with her which my bro got from Ozzieland but it was too difficult to control.
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But after a few tries...the string got entangled. That's the mummy trying to disentangle it. Had to move under the small shade to get out of the sun. It was really hot. After the tanning session in Penang during the MSKPPM in December, I thought I've had enough sun... and this is the time of the year when the sun is slightly nearer the Equator.. But it was nice to see my lil gal having so much fun. After a couple of tries, she could actually fly the kite by herself.
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The wind was quite strong. We had to pull really hard at the string....

There, one evening of kite flying, and I've gone back to being one shade darker again. 8(

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Kuala Terengganu Falls....by election 2009

Or rather..Kuala Terengganu rises... which ever way we look at it, I guess this is a clear message to the Gahmen.

In the weeks culminating to this by-election, we've all been fed with sometimes subtle, other times crystal clear attempts by the Gahmen through mainstream media to paint the BA in a negative light. BA is not without faults... there are many issues which I think people would like answers to but generally, many of the BA elected reps have tried to bring about a positive change.

Many political observers will be coming out with their commentaries in the coming hours. But for me, this is a small indication that perhaps the Malays have also come of age.... there is still hope that racial politics may slowly be phased into the dusk, that maybe the new dawn which began in March last year may actually break into a morning. That perhaps...BN's brand of racial politics, the one that thrives on its own version of divide and rule, is coming to an end. We won't know.... cos a peek into the future is not a luxury that we have. However, this is a hopeful indicator....

Gaza, School Children and Faith...and Boycott

Faith is supposed to be a source of comfort and understanding. Yet our expression of faith has sown division, instill suspicion and sometimes incite hatred. Faith is supposed to make us more tolerant, yet it has contributed to racial, religious and cultural tensions.

And our politicians, instead of resolving those tensions in the way they should; they exploit faith as a means for their own end. So faith instead of sowing tolerance, drives the people apart.

We've a Minister of Education who encouraged school children to gather and protest the HAMAS (Gaza) cause....... Why not ask these same students to gather and protest about the conditions faced by the Indians or the indigenous people of Malaysia? Our education system is also skewed... we teach our children skewed values for our own interests.

It's not that I don't sympathize with the plight of the Palestinians. I think the 'war' is silly. HAMAS and the Israelis... they're basically fighting for land. One of HAMAS' goals is to obliterate the Jews...go read the HAMAS Charter. So the Israelis will definitely be jumping at every threat and seek to destroy before they are destroyed; they are after all a nation under siege. If you know your foe is out to kill you, would you not want to do the same to him??? Peace with the Jews is not on their agenda... and on the Israeli's end, probably to have the HAMAS being so bent on Jewish blood also would give them excuse not to say aye to the creation of a Palestinian state.

This is politics! And when the big boys fight, it's the small people who get caught and become collateral losses. And others get caught up in it too.... some using it as a means to push their own cause. Hence you have countries like ours portraying it as an aggression of one religion against another, to garner support for our own end... The history of Israel (and Palestine) is complicated. One nation carved up to give rise to another....and if you go back even further...... a fight for birthrights?

And we have politicians here telling us to boycott things US... stop working for US franchise, stop buying US goods..the list goes on. Okay...tell that to the franchise holders of MacDs, KFCs, Starbucks and ask them to return their license, stop using Microsoft or CISCO or Red Hat or Apple, stop drinking Pepsi, stop using everything US... and where does that leave us??? Hardly a wise thing to harp about at this juncture. Our own economy would be crippled should we stop using anything Microsoft, I think. That's very us...shooting our own feet with our own mouths!

HAMAS, Israel.... they all too have their own agendas. You think HAMAS really cares whether Palestinian children get killed by Israeli bombs??? If they did, in the first place they wouldn't be hiding in those places where children are known to be. Nope...they too use the people for their own means.

Porridge In Alor Star

Been a while since my last post on a makan place in Alor Star... this is one of those places to go for clear porridge in Alor Star.
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Tis a shop with no name. It's located off Jln Raja, near the Fire Station and located right opposite Pesisiran Tanjung Chali. It's a nice place to go eat really cos it overlooks the river that cuts through Alor Star. Most of us refer to it as the porridge shop near the Flora Inn.
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Pics not too clear cos I used my camera phone. But for the diner, there are many choices of food. I like the 'la-la' and kerabu dried prawns with chilli and onions. They go well with porridge. This place is a favourite for those who want something light for dinner. It was already quite packed when we got there! But service is quite prompt.
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Some of the food that we took for the night. We always end up taking more cos they are so readily available. You know what they say.... we always tend to take and order more on an empty stomach.
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Did a little shopping after dinner at Pacific while waiting for time to pass to get the boys from youth meet. The CNY crowd is there alright...but this year it seems a little subdued. The air of festivities not quite there. While we were waiting to pay, many of the counters cash registers went crazy and had to stop...and everyone had to wait. It was rather uncomfortable cos the place seems warmer. Probably air-con set at a higher temperature.... cost cutting. Signs are there... people seem more prudent this year.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Alor SeTAR has lost its STAR....again!!!

Alor SeTAR has lost its STAR again....gone to Eternity maybe, this time. LOL!!! Politicians in Alor Setar while their time playing with STARS! Four years ago, it was changed to give it a more modern feel... reach for the star, go for glory, blah, blah, blah..... now it's back to the old name again. BN comes into power...they change name. PAS comes into power...they also change name. What difference? Same bag of stuff!
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Plus this PAS Menteri Besar is super into putting up his face everywhere. You see his face plastered all over the town on these small advert boards or banners. Guess this has something to do with the MB's pic not allowed in Federal Buildings. So, he's making sure that people know his face.... not that it matters to most people, I think. But sure is a waste of money. It's like he wants to be recognized. Hardly an attribute of a person who wants to serve in the name of God, right? But then again, who is to fault that....only human. He's only as human as us also. 8) So, can't really blame him to want to plaster his face all over town so that he be recognized, right?

The name change....more money will be spent changing all the signage. Money which can be better spent on other things. But I suppose this will 'menjana ekonomi' for those people in the signage industry. After all too, MIER has readjust their forecast for our economic growth next year. Recession is expected to hit us mid of this year! 8(

As a city, Alor Setar has not seen any improvements under this new state gahmen also. In fact, ever since Alor Setar became a city (since the BN gahmen time), there has been a deterioration of service... Rubbish is collected less frequently; grass is not cut so regularly.....roads also not that well maintained. In name we have a Mayor, but in practise he has hardly brought any improvement. And PAS hasn't done much either, from the looks of things. Money now (and before) was spent on all those study tours overseas to learn how to better manage the city, I supposed. 8(

So, will there be another change of name if the gahmen changes again??? Politics.... PAS...BN...most their politicians seem to come out from the same bag! .... at least where this former of city of STARS is concerned.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lesson For Today...

I wonder if this will be a lesson I'll try to remember and avoid but for whatever reason, this is definitely something that reminds me that it pays to be inefficient, to be laid back.....

After having been given a class to handle... and after completing everything in the register and most of the admin stuff, I am now told that I've to take another class. It's no real big deal actually, this thing. But still, I think it's not right though it's not something I'd lose sleep over.

This goes to show the 'wishy-washiness' of the way things are done. Plans are made without much thought and when they run into a problem, they'd take the easiest way out rather than look longer and harder for a solution that doesn't dishearten. I don't really know why I am ranting and raving now...except a perceived injustice because of somebody's (or bodies) incompetence!

And even though I feel (bear in mind this is only perception) that the fair deal of duties level has been breached this year, I've told myself to let it be. Handling SPM is headache enough without having to deal with class matters. There will come a point in time where the threshold is broken and I supposed then, I'll probably just say my mind....which I think will happen quite soon at the rate things are going.

....I realize that those who sound out their unhappiness over their perceived overload of work tend to get less work at the end of the day. We always prefer to take the path of least resistance. At work, it has also become the norm. Go for those who resist less and work gets done. The heads have all learnt that too. In the end, those poor sods become the victim of their own silence. I supposed I'm one of those sods. 8(

And these poor sods are usually the ones who are more conscientious too. It's such a sad state that our system has evolved into, made worse because heads are not doing what they are supposed to do. Hence, the Little Napoleans are having a field day and we continue to rot.

Two weeks.... I may have spoken too soon. The fires are being stoked... a real test of patience.... how long more will my resolve last????

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Two weeks later...

The last day of the second week of school.... after two weeks, I kinda wish that the hols had continued. But somehow going back to school this year was not as 'fiery' as before.... Things can get rather messy early part of the year. New schedule, new style of doing things... add that to all the nonsense that we have to put up with, it's easy to lose one's cool. Tempers fray easily! Our personal feelings sometimes get into the way of professional decision making, complicating things!

But this year, I find myself taking everything more toned down. Not much fire and brimstone thing this time around even though I wasn't happy about certain arrangements. It seems easier to let things go... well, I'll see how things continue in the coming months. Maybe the stress of everything hasn't really quite gotten to me yet. Still got spare from the relaxing months of the holiday!

And maybe, just maybe, passing that milestone in one's life has something to do with it too .... finally grown up at middle age!!! LOL! But I kinda liked the 'new' me. Less complications in a way.... and life seems cheerier too. So far, the things that used to get to me don't seem to get that much of me now.... it's a nice feeling! Nice not be that Type A personality all the time. 8) Probably too because of the people around... family, the young people and friends in my life. You take a cue about life from them... a few surprises here and there, a gesture least expected... they really do make life seems more, well... 'fun'. They also remind me of the simple things that have slipped into the recesses of my gray matter, swallowed by the 'properness' of adulthood...how those simple gestures can bring the 'ooh' and 'aaah' out from me, even though silently! It's nice!

Who you surround yourself with, it makes a world of difference in our lives. I am glad for the people in my life now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

An Idiot's Guide to Being a Photographer

How difficult is it to be a photographer, huh?? Not very difficult if you have the Idiot's Guide to Photography. 8) Use the Auto button; even if it's a DSLR.... LOL!!! That was what I did! Other Half is the photographer in the house...with 2 other photographer wannabes but me?? I usually let them do it cos it's easier for me. Anyway, he was working so I filled in for him. Else he'd be a much better choice!
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This one is a birthday dinner... 80th birthday! And this cake is really nice...not just to look but also to eat! Indeed a blessing! Even for those of us who were there to share the moment! ... and a night of discovery too. Birthday Gal took part in the swimming event in the Olympics, played water polo as the only female in a team of all males, guarded the goal in the hockey team, climbed coconut trees.... a fantastic achievement considering the era that she was born in. 'Tabik!'
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Couldn't resist this cute fler! She's so big now.... yeah! I'll probably see her again in a couple of months and I'll say the same thing again. She was so tiny the last time we saw her! And she was sleeping so much then!
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Mouth watering delectables... but as I was on the move everywhere, my appetite was somewhat dulled... but still, I enjoyed the food very much.
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..and also the company. Been a while since I actually had a chance to talk to some friends who attended. So it was also a good time to catch up a bit... we could have conversations going actually... cos the music was just about right. No loud blaring music or singer wannabes crooning away! For a change, the atmosphere was just nice for dinner and conversations! I find dinners with all those 'karaoke' sessions a bit painful for the eardrums!
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And this the highlight of the evening... my lil Rainbow was asked to present a bouquet of flowers to the birthday girl. Surrounded by 8 other golden girls....this will indeed be something memorable for my girl too in the years to come.

Other Half's Nikon was not too bad...add that with the flash... Wah! Even I was impressed. Could take quick successive shots really well...what with the flash going non stop... the Enelope rechargeable batteries we got from Singapore were very fast too! So, with those to help... all I needed to do was just press the button and move my legs! LOL!!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Weekend with Streamyx...

Been spending lots of time 'with' Streamyx, which was my weekend date.....not just going online but basically fixing and troubleshooting for 2 friends over the weekend. Very time consuming...trouble shooting....call and wait.
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Mol fixed her line up last week. Since then, I've been hanging on the phone with their Call Centre in double digit number of times; each time they'd bring me through their script. You give them something out of their scripts, they'd get sesat also. That's how 'versatile' the technicians manning their Helplines are. LOL!

Anyway, thought it was solved yesterday! But after an hour or so of downloading, the line went 'kaput' again. Called them and they say it's probably the modem giving problem. So what we did was to try it at another location...worked fine. Probably the wires... but to convince them that takes forever since they tend to think that we consumers are somewhat ignorant.... so the chasing continues. After more than a week, the line still doesn't quite work. Still waiting.....

Earlier we had to go to the TM Office to remind them to come fix the line.. 10 days after signing up! And the CRO gave the excuse that it was delayed because of the year end holidays! .... how's that for efficiency? Hence, WiMax is welcomed here....some competition is good. Also, always make sure you read the fine prints. She signed up for the Voice Plan also but apparently the Voice Plan was not activated till the Streamyx was fixed. So she ended up having to pay for her calls for the first 10 days....apparently. How is that?

Learned one thing though, you can ask for a rebate if the report you lodge is not resolved within 4 days. Must make a mental note of this!

We had better luck with the second connection. The joke with this one was our friend did not know that she had been subscribing to Streamyx for almost a year! And all that time, she was still using her dial-up! Paid for Streamyx for nothing! LOL!!! So, at her request, Other Half went and bought a modem for her. We tried a new DLink modem which we've not used before.... he is always going for new models.... says it spices things up. We went, expecting that setting it up may not be that easy.... but, after some calls to the Call Centre and tries...the connection worked. But still, it took us almost 2 hours to get it going.

I must say this though, generally setting up a connection these days is much easier than those early days when we had to do so much more; of course, provided there is nothing else wrong with the lines. Remember being one of the earliest to sign up for dial-up in Alor Star in those days... it was complicated just getting the connection going.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Teachers Whom I Remember...

This post was supposed to have been posted 2 days ago but got tergendala.......

We usually remember our firsts... my first real teacher was Mrs. Ting ND. I don't know why but her name is always in my mind. I remember the awe my 7 year old self had for her, still remember her, very fondly.... just plain simple admiration. And I can't give any other reason why except that she was my first real teacher. I just liked her for being my teacher! 8) Goes to show that sometimes we can like a person just for being themselves... LOL!

My dad... I followed him for his classes. He was not only a good teacher but also a good story teller. He taught me my Maths and English well. Of all my siblings, I spent the most time following him around. He took an interest in all of us (kids) in his own way, me and my badminton.... he would play with me every evening and within a year, I actually became quite good. For my bros... it was fishing, knife collections...

Mrs. Moses T... she built the foundations of my faith. She may come across as diminutive and gentle but this is one lady who loves God. I bumped into her mid of last year and she could still remember me and Other Half; even called us by name when we approached her! Awesome! I think she's 80 but she was still driving and sharp as ever. She was on her way to do her hair! She was the one who gave me my first opportunity to give a talk to the IMYFers. I was in F4 and I think I must have confused the kids even more! LOL! She believed in us! Oh! The camps she used to organize. There was one year (after my F5) that she got my group of friends to cook and help in the IMYF Camp. Up till then, I would never imagine that we, a bunch of 17-year-old girls could cook for a camp with so many campers! We also helped with the group studies and games. She believed in us, and for us it meant a lot! God bless her for the souls she touched and brought up all those years!

Mrs. Wong TM... my F2 teacher. Many of us liked her and we went to great lengths to sometimes just bump into her. Our faces would just light up whenever she talked to us. And because I liked her, her subject became my favourite and we would look forward to her classes... one of my favourite memories, sitting under the big trees during PE lessons sometimes, just having conversations her. Another, of us cycling fast and furiously to beat her to class in the hot afternoon sun. F2 was in the afternoon session those days! I did relatively well...studied because I wanted to gain her favour.

Mr. Ling KN... my bandmaster and MYF counsellor. Spent 6 years of my sec school in the band, 4 of which overlapped with the MYF. He's one of those who really had a great impact in my life and many others. He gave us opportunities to explore possibilities and confidence in ourselves. He made us reflect on the values in life and challenged us to do greater things for what we believed in. I'd consider him one of those teachers who touched my life as well as the many others who passed through the MYF and school band. We argued lots with him in the band and, each time, still he gave us second, third, fourth chances! He never gave up on us! The MYF Camps under his watch were good...we had lotsa fun and good grounding in our faith. Another teacher who believed in us... allowed us to make mistakes; and picked up the pieces that we sometimes left behind.....

Mrs. Tan KT... my Add Math teacher. There are no Add Maths problems she couldn't solve. We tried to find one that she couldn't solve but gave up. Reason? She would do the questions in every book she could lay her hands on! I've utmost admiration for her dedication. A no-nonsense teacher but I discovered her 'normal' self from our badminton games. I was privileged enough to be asked to join the teachers for games those days! 8) Hats off to her!

Mrs. Tan YH... also my MYF counsellor, one whom I could always confide in. She believed that we had potential, always ready to lend a listening ear and encouraged us on. She was the one I confided in with my teenage problems and also some of the major decisions in my life; and I could always count on her giving me sensible advice; and plenty good ones came my way! Am truly thankful for her concern. When we do meet, which is rarely now that her Other Half is in full time ministry, there's always this familiarity of old. 8) And her Other Half was another good teacher who had an impact in my life....my Form 6 teacher!

These were some of my many teachers who inspired and made a difference in my life. They were very good teachers in their own rights. Knew their subjects well. They imparted not only knowledge but also wisdom to us. Some of them grounded me in my faith, taught me the values of principles and obeying God. They taught us the value of truth and doing what is right....and by and large they led and taught by example. So there! My teachers were relevant to me! .... and I remember them not for the subject matter that they taught but by the way they touched my life through their lives and examples. I think our education system has lost some of those things... these days, it's all about cramming, spoon feeding and the number of A(s). We realize the need to build character, instill good values but when it comes to the crunch.... results still precedes everything....plus at one stage, we seemed to be taking just about any 'Tom, Dick and Harry' into the teaching profession. Sigh!!! I once had to see a trainee teacher sleep and drool on the job! How did he get into the system in the first place???

Saturday, January 10, 2009

For you Cavebaby....rural Alor Star

For you Cavebaby in Planet Kambing...... Hope this helps... and here's your flat-as-a-pancake picture...

This is rural Alor Star. Alor Star as you know is the state capital of Kedah, which incidentally is known as the rice bowl of Malaysia. Yup...the names says it all. This is the place where you see lots of paddy fields.

We're practically surrounded by paddy fields and our lives are intertwined with the paddy planting season. This is the time of the year when farmers start to harvest their paddy. The harvesting will continue for the next one month or so. After that will be the the 'torture-months' for those with allergic to stuff in the air cos the farmers will be burning (yup, non environmental friendly) the stalks.
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This was a little trip taken by Rainbow, Papa Rainbow and Mama Rainbow on Friday evening to the paddy fields. Unlike previous times when we would cycle, we decided to walk. First to go into paddy territory by going under the railway bridge. Papa Rainbow had his knapsack for his camera and a flask of cold water for Rainbow in case her parched throat needed watering. 8) Do not underestimate the height of this bridge... a car an still pass under it! And notice the old makcik (aunty) by the river??? She is fishing!! Life is idyllic here!!
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This is how paddy looks like.... very much like wheat, right? This particular area is still not quite ripe yet. So everything looks really green still. While this is growing, the farmer would fertilize and keep the pests away. Keeping the pests away is a lot of hard work.
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Some of the nearby fields are already a golden colour and harvesting activities have also begun. Notice how the harvester is surrounded by birds?? They're all excited by the prospects of free grain. It's quite a sight to behold...all those birds flying round and round the machine. In days of old, harvesting was a back breaking job... the farmer would use a machete to cut the paddy stalks.
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See the 3 shadows?? They are (from left) Mama Rainbow, Rainbow and Papa Rainbow, all three of us busy snapping away! I was trying out my new camera phone...at 8.1 megapixels, it's supposed to take nice pics. This particular field is not quite the golden hue yet. Probably will be a week or so before the farmers start to work on this patch. The farmers make sure the whole field does not ripen together...
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This is the kampung or the village...right in the paddy fields. It's rather rustic and quite charming. Life is relaxed and easy here... in the evenings you can see lots of people on the road, hanging out with their friends and family. I always enjoy coming here in the evenings. The canals have just been dredged to prepare for the next planting season. You don't see any water plants in it. Planting during the drier season is made possible by the canals which bring in water. Paddy cannot grow without water.....they need lots of them!!
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Two canals diverge in a kampung of paddy farmers...... LOL!!! I could go on some more but I shan't cos I've been quoting Robert Frost quite a bit lately... under the tree there's a family. They are fishing!
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That's me, with Rainbow hanging on to me for dear life on a rickety bridge. These bridges connect the fields and houses on both sides. Notice that the earth on the river bank is all cracked. That's because the canal was quite dry for some time and the dry season has started. The sun is really hot at this time of the year but the north easterly wind brings with it the the cold winds of winter from China. So, cold wind and hot sun.... one gets burnt easily!
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This is paddy, still green, in its full muddy glory. You would not want to walk into the soft mud. Early in the planting season, the whole paddy field will look like a sea... sometimes it feels like we're living on islands in the middle of an ocean. The fields then becomes a place to fish...but one has to watch out for slippery creatures like the cobra!
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As it was already getting late..... like the birds in the sky who were making their way home...we too started our walk back home. Notice the formation that they fly in? It was quite a fun evening out...... hope this helps you in your homework.

BTW, I've previous posts on the paddy fields here and here.

Update 31/1/2009
Cavebaby's end product... Yahoo for her and her kiasu parents...LOL!
http://planetkambing.blogspot.com/2009/01/cavebabys-homework-results.html