Friday, December 31, 2010

Coming up....2011

Happy New Year! Every year end, the same thing happens. An old year gets eclipsed for good and a new one takes its place. But essentially all of us plod on almost the same... Oh! I forgot, that's why we have resolutions. To make the plodding a little different. But then again, it becomes the same cos most of us can't keep to those resolutions. He! He!

There'll be no new resolutions for me and I'll try not to carry the baggages from 2010 into the new year.... except for this 'flood' wound on my knee which seems to keep reopening. I miss swimming and cannot wait for it to heal totally. Problem is each time I thought it was okay, the skin tears open again.... the second tear being today over a seemingly healed skin. And it's been almost 2 months. So, I'll definitely have to carry this from the old year into the new! No choice.

2010 would still be a year to remember. I finished 49 books, (non) novels. 50 would have been a great figure but I ran out of time. I was happily distracted by the 'ins and outs' of people in my life. I failed to finish reading my Bible... still a bit more, the flood put a dampener to my reading. 8( I reconnected with old friends and that's a resounding yay of gladness!! I saw all my nephews and nieces too! It's also a year to be remembered cos my father-in-law passed on. It was all very sudden but I believe God loves him more. There were changes too at home but I can see more good out of it for my children.

It's also a year dotted with unpleasant memories... suicides, of friends lost, upheavals, etc.

A new year! The thing that I dread most is a new school year means a different kind of busy is now in place... the 'pek-chek' type. Early mornings, coupled with mad rushes... those will be the hallmark of most of the weekdays. But I'm still glad to be working.

As for the rest of what's coming up?? I guess they'll just be 'business as usual for me' except that as always, I'll try to make my own penambah baikkan, whenever possible or try to learn to cope as situations change. Life is full of changes! So no resolutions again this year, unless you count tambah baik as one.

So, Happy New Year to all who wander in. Here's a toast to you all!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ending 2010 with si tenggang's homecoming

This is one of the poems which our students in Form 4 will not be reading cos it has been phased out. I've done the new poems with my Form 4 students but somehow I don't enjoy them as much as I do the old ones. The new ones come across as rather... I don't know. At this point, I think they seem to dumb down our kids. Maybe I'll change my mind after a couple of rounds.

Anyway, the year is coming to an end. And somehow, si tenggang's homecoming seem apt this year.

the physical journey that i traverse
is a journey of the soul,
transport of the self from a fatherland
to country collected by sight and mind,
is a stranger's knowledge,
from one who has learnt to see, think
and choose between
the changing realities

Life is also a journey of the soul. You collect your experiences and you process them. And you make your choices based on your understanding of realities. I've learned that our realities change. I've been let down by people whom I thought were friends. Lies become truths. But still, we've to deal with the changing realities. Moving on...

it's true i have growled at my mother and grandmother
but only after having told of my predicament
that they have never brought to reason.
the wife that I begun to love in my loneliness,
in the country that alienated me
they took to their predecisions
i have not entirely returned, i know
having been changed by time and place
coarsened by problems
estranged by absence

Another phase coming into my life. I look at my parents' generation. Many of their marriages were glued by their children. Take the children out of the equation and you get lots of gaps. And children become parents cos parents become children. And sometimes you get alienated. It's hard on everyone.

There's a couple in my church who celebrated their 50th anniversary this December. It's awesome! 50 years is a long time. Somehow it's just so easy for most to drift apart despite being under the same roof. But 50 years means love takes on a new depth. If you are able to find that, then in your partner you find your soul mate.

but look
i have brought myself home,
seasoned by confidence,
broadened by land and languages,
i am no longer afraid of the oceans
or the differences between people,
not easily fooled
by words or ideas.
the journey was a loyal teacher
who was never tardy
in explaining cultures or variousness
look, i am just like you,
still malay,
sensitive to what i believe is good,
and more ready to understand
than my brothers.
the contents of these boats are yours too
because i have returned

When we hit our forties... confidence is built on our success and achievements. Some of us become arrogant, some will be humbled by the realization of how temporal everything seems, some will just live from day to day, trying not to think about what awaits them, preferring their present, hoping it will remain. Some become wiser, some none the wiser.... life is a journey, not a tardy teacher if we take note but many don't. There are shortcuts in life too... by learning from others' experiences. Sharing makes our journey easier sometimes.

travels made me
a seeker who does not take
what is given without sincerity
or that which demands payments from beliefs.
the years at sea and coastal states
have taught me to choose
to accept only those tested by comparison,
or that which matches the words of my ancestors,
which returns me to my village
and its perfection

I like this stanza... People give but to be given freely, that's priceless. If you have even a friend who gives of her(him)self freely, it's one of those closer things to heaven on this side of the divide. God gave His Son freely for us. Christ died freely for us too. Try mirroring that and you'll get what I mean....

I've also learned to discern. Words and actions, they are the best indicators of a person's sincerity. We talk more than walk the talk... I thought some people were different but one changing reality for me is I was too naive.

i've learnt
the ways of the rude
to hold reality in a new logic,
debate with hard and loud facts.
but I too am humble, respecting,
man and life.

i am not a new man
not very different
from you;
the people and the cities
of costal ports
taught me not to brood
over a foreign world,
suffer difficulties
or fear possibilities.

What's done is done. There is no point brooding. Difficult moments come but they also go. Till our time here is done, we might as well head for possibilities. Life goes on....

God grant me the serenity
To accept what I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And wisdom to know the difference

Here's to A New Year!!! 2011!!!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Last Days...

...before school starts! Yup! These are the last days of the hols and also 2010. But I've gone back to work. Schools don't start on a new year these days. A new school year actually starts on the old school year for students also.

For teachers there is the Staff Meeting to attend. We had it in a hotel this year. I guess the school meeting room was not 'corporate' enough. LOL! I can never get it why the teaching fraternity wants to be seen as corporate. Don't they dig it??? We're teachers! Anyway, we go back to school this week to register students. We had a session to register the ponteng students yesterday. Tomorrow we 'register' all the students. The thing is they tell us they want classes to begin on the first day itself; no waste of time. But the point is, we waste time all through out the year on lots of lost causes.

Other Half asked me whether we'd throw out students who don't go register themselves tomorrow. The answer is no! We still have to take them in on Sunday when school reopens proper. In fact, these days, we don't throw out any student from the system. If a school expels a student, the Education Office has to find them another school. One school's problem then become another school's.

I saw 2 students of mine working at TESCO recently. They were really recalcitrant students, right up to Form 5. Got totally hopeless grades too in their SPM if I'm not wrong. Well, they thought they could easily get any job; even tried to get into the Armed Forces. At school, one would be really dirty and smelly most of the time despite advice to spruce up. And suffice to say, both were constant discipline problems as well. Guess what, I saw them looking really smart and neat at TESCO. I almost laughed out aloud when I saw them. What our schools couldn't do, the school of life did. Sometimes I feel that by not allowing them to experience the consequences of their actions produce people do not know the value of hard work or that life is no bed of roses or even we need to learn to toe the lines.

And one more... we are reminded to be professional in our work. One no-no this year. If parents come see us while we are in class we are to tell them we cannot talk to them. We are also not allowed to collect fees from the students in class. They have to see us in the Staff Room during recess. For those of us unfortunate enough to get the last few classes, collecting fees is like a cat-and-mouse game. It's a constant chase. I think I'll try remind them to see me during recess and see if it works. If it doesn't I might just send memos to my boss to inform her of each reminder I send out to my students. And at the end of the year, the collection of fees not done becomes their problem. We can say we did what we were supposed to do but the students refused to pay. LOL!

As it is we face difficulty in fee collection. It's not that parents don't give the money to their kids. It's just that their kids don't pay. And parents also don't seem to be asking receipts of payment from their children (I'll leave that rambling about parents for another day). So, the administrators think we waste time if we collect fees in class. But the thing is most of us are experienced enough to know that a class idle would be noisy. So most of us collect fees after work has been given out in class. There are also lessons to be taught in this process after all... don't pay you get hauled up!! Public reminder, or call it whatever you want. LOL!

We make attempts to be more professional but our attempts very often show us to be pea-brained. And very often our focus turns to those things which make us to be seen as doing something that everyone can see when in reality, there are many things important done which cannot be seen. Aiya! We are a very outward appearance people. Siao! Is it no wonder that our schools are rotting??? I brace myself for yet another year.... they'll definitely be fodder for ramblings.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rounding Up...

2010 ends in a couple of days. For me, that's another chapter done!

This blog... It has served as a record of sorts of my ramblings, activities, the people come in (and gone out) of my life, changes, thoughts. I look back and would ooh and aahh over some of those ramblings. It is a good reminder. Sometimes my memory tends to fail me. And reading through jolts those gray cells a bit.

Friends... they are integral in our lives. But they come in and out of our lives. Still, our lives are the richer for them too. Anyway, saying goodbye is something everyone of us has to do also. When this life is over here, we have to say goodbye (like it or not) and move on. I went through housekeeping on my mobile phone a few weeks back... I've deleted a lot of numbers not used, people who have moved out of my life and also added new numbers. But we've FB too.

Family... ties get broken sometimes but it can be mended if all are willing. Keeping a family together requires effort but something worth it. Takes 2 'to tango' though too.

Children are ours as a trust. Each year adds a year to them and brings them closer to leaving us. They grow up and go away. The search for opportunities tears families apart. Has been and still is a reason. But one thing I observe, parents pine for their children and wish for their children to be nearer them, especially in their frail years. I see many lonely parents now. Many let their children go in search of a better future because they love them but many children also 'forget' their parents.

Parents... we once looked to them as everything. But they grow old. They become forgetful, sometimes even childlike in their behaviour. Where once we tested the limits of their patients, the role begins to reverse. Where once they cared for us, the task now falls in our hands. Parents grow old... that's a sad part. One day, we go down this path too.

Work... 2011 beckons. I was sitting down with a few men friends one night. I've been rather laid back in my ambitions, I realized. One reason is family, the other being the lopsided system that I am in. But God has also been good to me. In those moments I've felt like giving up, He has always been kind and generous to me. And I've yet to feel wanting. I realized this after talking to my friends; about friends who have been made Guru Cemerlang. I did not apply. Anyway, I've gone through 2 schemes in my years of service, the SSB and SSM. God blessed me once in the former and twice in the latter scheme! And the last 2 came at times when I had wanted to give up. I don't know what is in store for the coming year. Probably there'll be many frustrations but I'll just have to take it one at a time.

Faith... there have been many moments of doubting. But I observe this. It's usually the little things done by others to us (or vice versa) that cause cynicism to creep in. I often find myself having to dig deep to resist the urge to walk away from it all. In these last few years, the term little Napolean is often used. Well, little Napoleans are everywhere... even in the House of God. Cronyism too... it's everywhere. And the reason is simple. We're fallen creatures. Only by grace (through faith) are we saved, and not by our works. Cos if we go just by works, it would all crumble so easily. The first offense from those little things would crumble them all!

Growing old... This is perhaps the most difficult thing we have to do. As we come to the end of our journey, as our earthly body begins to fail us, it bares us to this tug-a-wars of pride vs humility, pessimism vs optimism, despair vs hope, the questions about eternity... It makes some of us go into that hopeless search for that little bit of youth left in us and sometimes we lose it all because we fail to remain dignified.

So what is new in all these?? Nothing actually! What is has already been, and what will be has been before... says the Philosopher. It's just that for each of us, everything is a new learning experience... if only we can have the knowledge to make us wiser in our own journey.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Constant Princess... by Philippa Gregory

Book 49... I thought I was going to stop with 48 books! Anyway, I started this book quite a while ago but these days, my reading tends to get a bit 'distracted' cos I read on both the Ipad and Ipod. Finished it 2 days before Christmas. Nothing beats the Ipad for home use but the Ipod is still very handy when I am on the go.

Anyway, The Constant Princess... This is the 3rd of Gregory's books I've read. The Other Boleyn Girl got me motivated to read up about that era. Also, The Other Queen, helped me with an easier understanding of the setting and time; all which made reading all the more enjoyable.

This novel gives the background to the rise of Queen Katherine (Catalina), Henry VIII's first wife; the one he married when he was still a teen. She was a constant princess throughout the entire novel. A constant presence even after the death of Arthur, her first betrothed. A constant presence during the 7 years of wait to be betrothed to the future Henry VIII, even though she was almost a prisoner in England. She was also constant in her pursuit to be the Queen, a role that she believed she was born into. Also, her constant fervent belief that she is anointed by God to be a Queen... All throughout we can see her constancy!! And the writer puts it very succinctly the meaning of the word 'constant' in this novel.

Catalina, the youngest child of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain was betrothed to Arthur, the Prince of Wales but he died. Then she married her brother, Henry VIII, though she was quite a few years older. In those days, women were supposed to play a subordinate role. But funny though, that they somehow always end up influencing court life or run the politics from behind the scenes. Queen Catherine played an important role in winning a battle against the Scots when she was regent of England. Henry VIII was away on a campaign in France at that time. Actually in real life, she was quite a remarkable woman; having contributed to the eradication poverty and providing better educational opportunities during her reign.

But what caught my attention is how fervent the characters are in the story. They believed they are born into their position, blessed by God and anointed to do his bidding on earth. Yet they were willing to lie, turn a blind eye to their own misdeeds. God's name was much used in vain. God's name was also used to consolidate their 'rights'. God's name was everywhere as long as it profited them! Sounds familiar???

What was is still today. Religion has always been used to separate people into 'us' and 'them'. And they went to war for that; think Crusades. The Christendom and the infidels, the Pope and his grip on Christendom. The cycle is always the same... the Moors and their centres of great learning were wiped out in Spain by Isabella and Ferdinand, in the fervor to expand Christendom. Today, we have the Muslims doing their own jihad against the rest of the world...

Anyway, Catalina (later to become Katherine) is always a constant in the story and one with great EQ and cunningness. She was smart actually, in every sense of the word. Historians who studied her have commented that if she had been a man, she would have been defied all heroes of History. After Arthur's death, she waited 7 years like a prisoner and without means while Spain and England hammered out an arrangement of her future. In Henry's life too she was also almost always a constant. Her persistence, patience, humility and faith got here where she was....

It's not just a nice book for History buffs. This one provided me with lessons about the similarity of ages past and the present.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas This Year

... been a busy hols, this year. And I thought term time was busy enough. Christmas came so suddenly this year. I had not much time to 'plan' my Christmas shopping. And the Christmas mood wasn't really felt till the eve after I went out for breakfast with the George, Linda, Lee Fun and Andy. And we ladies, joined by Deb went out for a short shopping trip in the afternoon.
Roast Lamb
As it has been for the last few years, we spent Christmas Eve at Ah Ho's. This year's highlight was Joseph's roast lamb. It was still over the fire when we arrived. We were early. I wanted to see it before it was carved up.
Dinner was nice, it always is at Ah Ho's place. And this year, her kids (D-I-L included) did all the cooking.
MYF Carolers 2010
Then we waited for the carolers. It's been a tradition for many years that this is the last stop for the carolers. So we had a second round of people dropping by after 10 p.m.; parents of the kids who would pick their kids up after the caroling.

Church service on Chrismast was at 10.30 a.m. This year's attendance was very good. Almost 350 people, almost a 3-fold over our normal attendance. There was buffet lunch, kindly sponsored by an anonymous kind soul. God kept the rains away and the weather was just nice enough for an outdoor makan.

I saw a group of young people taking a group photo after the service. They are our earlier batch of church kids now grown up. Many of them were primary going when we first came here. And now some of them are already married. Adults they've become. How time flies!

This was followed by a wedding dinner reception at the Chans' place. We're getting a flurry of Chan weddings. This is the second wedding in the family in 2 months and a 3rd will follow suit within the next 4 months! An informal dinner at the house instead of the usual restaurant wedding dinner meant that we could move around and mingle in a relaxed atmosphere.

My gal had a nice time collecting presents this year! She asked me how come she received so many presents! We told her it's because people remember her. 8) For a kid at her age, presents make Christmas time a happy time. My boy was kept busy with his usual MYF year end activities. Reminds me of the years past when Other Half and I were at that age. Our year end hols would be filled getting ready for Christmas too! And it was good for us. Our time was well filled and working together with our friends helped to shape our characters.
Watching video
Christmas this year is also enriched by the presence of the Thompsons in our midst. It's been many years since they left here and I think it's nice that we're able to see them rather regularly in the last couple of years too.

So, Christmas 2010! Yup! It's a blessed one for many of us.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Penang State Museum

I'm in the museum mood these days... this is the 4th museum I've visited this month. The Penang State Museum - the last time I visited it was when I was really small and I don't think I could understand much back then.
Penang State Museum
I think it's good to visit a local museum at the start of any trips so as to get a better picture of the place you are visiting. It's like doing a background check thing. Helps you know a person you're about to hire/interview better. For a place you're about to visit, it helps you appreciate the value and aesthetic beauty of the place. I wished I had gone to the museum first before we went round The Heritage Trail. But it was closed on the day we planned to visit it. Anyway, the building used to house the Penang Free School which now is in Green Lane.

I finally can see why Penang is called The Pearl of the Orient. Penang was truly beautiful in the days of Francis Light. They have such beautiful paintings of the scenery and the mansions built by the colonialists at the museum. Back in the old days, there were no cameras. So we have only paintings to rely on. The colonialists came and built many mansions with beautiful and spacious gardens. I guess it's something to remind them of home. Only that in this part of the world, the gardens are green throughout the year. Britain gets really dreary during winter. Suffolk House was one such house built back in the old days. You've got to see it to see what I mean; truly breathtaking and reflects the beauty of a pearl. And I didn't know that Penang was originally called Pulau Ka Satu too. You always learn something new when you go to the museums.

The Penang State Museum has more paintings than artifacts, which is understandable given the fact that Penang history is actually quite recent, unlike Kedah which is a seat to older civilizations. But the paintings and pictures brought to life many of the old streets as well as buildings. It also gave a very good account of its progress on a timeline, which always serves to build a better understanding and appreciation.

Also I learned that the British too had slaves to maintain those beautiful mansions with their undulating surroundings. Got that from reading Sir Francis Light's will. The rise of any society often means the enslavement of another, quite true also in today's society even though enslavement has taken on a more palatable form today.
Church of the Assumption,Penang
Next to the museum is the Church of Assumption which was built in the 19th century. I tried to read up more about it and learned the difference between a church and a cathedral. It was recorded that the church was elevated to the status of a Cathedral in 1955, which enable it to hold the seat of a Bishop. Interesting! 8)

Hannah said I was kiasu when I told her that I had read up about Rummikub after she asked me over the phone (before we met up) whether my kids had played with it. That's just me... it's not the kiasuness which compels me to find out more. I just want to know.... for the fun of it. 8) Sometimes, knowing all these has also made me realize that there are many similarities we share with those before us.

And hurray! Today the SPM ends for my school... it means I can finally have this off my mind! Else I've to keep reminding myself of the last day so that I can go back to school to collect the school's harta pusaka from the Chief Invigilator. So I went to school this morning, cleared all the stuff and I'm finally done for the year... where school is concerned! Can 'sau-tong'

Sunday, December 19, 2010

One More Memory for the Album...

Old friends... we've just spent a couple of days with an old friend and her 2 kids in Penang. Gosh! We're getting old.... to have 'old' friends one must be old. Other Half, Hannah and I were school mates, MYF mates, church mates.... and we're all from 3 different years! Anyway, we stayed at the Bayview Hotel Georgetown as we thought it would be a convenient point to do the Heritage Trail which is nearby, something which Other Half and I recently have started taking interest in.

We picked Hannah and her 2 kids up from Butterworth on Thursday. It's been more than 15 years (I think). The last time we met, my boy played lantern together with the kids at her parents' house. One was a toddler and the other was still in diapers! Both of them are taller than me now. 8( And they're such nice kids.
Chew Jetty
We immediately took a trishaw ride to the clan piers after checking in. The trishaw riders entertained us with stories as they pedaled, one of how Love Lane (one of the roads we had to past) was a popular place for the American GIs on their furlough during the Vietnam War. Many love stories, trysts, etc, etc took place there.
Chew Jetty 1
The trishaw riders dropped us off at the Chew Jetty. We took a quick walk there before going for dinner. We over-ordered! Other Half and I have passed by the area so many times, yet never stopped to walk on the jetties lined with houses; our own watered down version of Venice! We didn't even notice that they existed there! I thought the jetty settlement was rather quaint.
Logan Memorial
After dinner, we opted to walk back to hotel as the night was rather cool. The picture above is the Logan Memorial. This is just one of 4 sides; the other 3 sides being Temperance, Fortitude and Wisdom. It was a rather long walk but we walked past many other historical buildings and monuments. I've just realized that Penang is actually very similar to Singapore in many aspects but it's nicer, not so 'controlled'. It is a nice place to walk to see the different architectural designs. You get a mix of everything, even buildings with influences of ancient architecture from China. I finally see why it is a UNESCO historical city. Georgetown is a city with a past that gives it its present character.
Then it was off to Toys R Us to get a Rummikub. The toy makers should make Hannah and her kids their games ambassador. This gift of game from them to our kids is now our fond reminder of them and this trip. My kids are now hooked to the game. We got back and my gal set up the board after dinner. We played 2 games and she finally won!!! She never got to win the entire time we were in Penang.
Cheong Fatt Tze
One place which we found really interesting (and inspiring) was the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion... can't miss it cos it's painted indigo blue! I think the colour is really ugly but the guide says tourists started coming in for their tours after they changed to that colour! We had a guide for this visit, Joanna. She made the trip really interesting through her stories, descriptions and explanations. Entrance is RM12 per person but to me, it's really worth it. She explained the logic behind the construction of a building and I am awed by the way the artisans and builders from the days of old pay such details to them. In Bayview Hotel where we stayed, our room's bathroom floor couldn't drain the water properly and the other room had really squeaky air con fans. That despite the wing we were in being just recently refurbished. You can see the lack of details in the way things are done today. Joanna made the history of the house really entertaining by adding in snippets of stories everywhere... bringing the house very much alive.

Our 3 days-2night stay in Penang were also peppered with makan-makan here and there and also an afternoon of rain which 'chased' us back to the hotel... where the kids played one round of Rummikub while sitting it out. Instead of the 'proper' establishments, we opted for the hawkers and old coffee shops. It was fun, despite the cramped dining arrangements. In Penang, most places have nice food, anyway. Penang is rather congested now cos it's holiday season plus our stay coincided with the Chingay procession, some flower fest and lots of other things which are going on. We actually got stuck in a jam for almost an hour an Queensbay area on our way home... it was that packed!
Walks on the Esplanade and Fort Cornwallis, some catching up, late night games; it's definitely something memorable for all of us. Memories like this is what makes our life more colourful, meaningful and also fun! When we're old and as long as our memories hold, meetings of lives such as this will always be something nice to remember cos when we're old it's not what we own that matters most, it's the memories we have. And it's such memories that our kids will bring with them too as they make their own journeys. So, this one is definitely one that makes up the memory album.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

ASTRO.... I think I've been shortchanged!

ASTRO is the company which provides satellite broadcasts in Malaysia... sole monopoly for paid TV. And these days, in some places, if you don't subscribe to ASTRO, even RTM channels are not clear.

Lately, I find myself getting irritated by the advertisements which keep coming on every 15 minutes. It has gone to the stage that I am actually considering cancelling my subscription for a while. If I stop for even 6 months I'd be saving quite a lot. And that can go to the upgrade of my broadband connection. Who knows? Maybe I'd get so used to it that I might just keep away from ASTRO for a while.

A 40 minuted serial like CSI and the new Hawaii Five-O becomes a painful viewing experience because it is prolonged by at least 10-15 minutes of adverts; adverts which I don't want to watch. I thought when ASTRO started, they promised us shows with no adverts. I guess over the years, they've been slowly inserting the adverts bit and by bit without the viewers really noticing it. They're putting psychology to work here... conditioning! And like lab animals, we've been conditioned.

I've not been watching much TV this year. Hence, when I sat down recently to watch a non-recorded CSI, I found myself getting irritated by the advert breaks. And it reminded me of an article I read an article about cable tv in Cambodia. Seems they pay less over there. We pay more and the company still earn on top of the earnings from paid subscription. Might as well just watch RTM or whatever free TV stations.

I was just having an email frenzy with bro a few nights ago. He was actually surprised that we're paying so much for our broadband connection that gives paltry connection speeds. He said things haven't really changed much in the years when he worked in East Malaysia and now. In our neighbouring Singapore, internet connection is not only cheaper but way faster too... here the Gahmen sets this commission, that commission, awards this broadband, that broadband... but the end result so far has been... we pay more for less.

Try getting an Iphone with a package in Singapore and here... you'll see what I mean. We Malaysians pay more for everything...

So, yeah! Maybe I'll give internet TV a try. I've been hearing quite a bit about it... how you can choose what you want to watch. It'll probably save me some time and maybe make my TV watching more pleasant as it should be than turn it into a hair pulling session!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When a teacher marries his student...

Now what do you say when a 23-year-old teacher marries a 14 year old student? How many of us feel that 14 is a good age to be married today? The husband is 23 years old, supposedly the 'abang angkat' to the bride and also her younger siblings' religious tuition teacher. Wah! Better be careful who we allow into our homes... silap-silap our daughters and sons kena the marriage trap also. LOL!

I thought when we send our children to teachers, they are in safe hands to be nurtured and educated. Can this be considered an act of betrayal of trust then? Throw in religion as a point for argument, and this results in everyone being forced to shut up. God becomes the de facto one sided arbitrator, not of His willing choice, I'm sure. So if a girl starts menstruating at the age of 10, does that mean that she can also be married off?

The Law Minister says underaged marriage is okay while the Women's Minister says underaged marriage is morally and socially unacceptable, careful to leave out religion in her statement. I thought moral values are the fruits of religious beliefs. What is right then? The ambiguity. She also said that what is right may not be good. Right is supposed to be good in the bigger picture, I thought. So now right is not good... then is it okay to be not good if the action is right? I get confused!

At 14, how mature can a kid be today??? He (she) is more likely to still be rebellious, still trying to understand self, making sense of his world, etc, etc. And at that age too, if an older person showers them with attention, the likelihood of them drinking it all in is almost a sure thing. Nothing beats being showered with lots of attention at that stage.

But as a parent, I'd shudder to think of my 14 year old coming to me and saying he(she) wants to get married and that it's his (her) right. On one hand, we have the Child Act which is supposed to protect the children. On the other hand, we have the Syariah Court which can rule otherwise. Whose interests are being served and protected, I wonder sometimes.

Statistics show also that many child marriages don't last. So are they saying that statistics are right but may not be true. Maybe we are practising the exception to the rule... something which we seem to be doing a lot now. For example... all men are created equal except the Bumiputeras. All Bumiputeras are the same except the Malays... that's why only Ketuanan Melayu and not Ketuanan Bumiputeras. .. are the Orang Asli (Sengoi, Negrito, Jakun, Temiang, Kelabit, Dusun, etc, etc) considered Malays??? See why it can go so wrong??? ... this rule of exception.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

This One's For the Album

Memories are made of these.... one of the reasons why my gal feels that this hols has been one of her best hols. Right at the beginning of the hols, she and I made a trip back to Sitiawan on our own.... just the 2 of us. Try as hard as she did to stay awake so that she could be my co-driver, she just couldn't keep her eyes open. Somehow, she'd always doze off in a moving car, triggered probably by the hum on the move sound. LOL! It was also a trip for her to spend time with her cousins from afar. And one of the places we took them was Teluk Batik for a picnic.
Teluk Batik 2010
I have not done this... gone for a picnic by the beach for ages! And this is my gal's first. With my bro, he's always game for anything just so that the kids can have fun. I can safely say that all the children think a world of him. My little nephew tells me that his papa can do anything and is the best.... I think that's the best compliment any father can get from his own kids.
Beach Football
It's amazing that the kids found the beach so fun... my sis-in-law, sis and I sat with my little niece in the shade watching them and talking. Occasionally I'd walk down to the kids. Sitting there too brought back so many memories of yesteryears, a time when we used to cycle and then ride the motorbike when we got our license to Teluk Batik for a swim and to hang out with friends. We'd swim and go back in the same clothes which will dry by the time we got home. 8) And we too used to enjoy the beach as kids and teenagers... as adults, too often, we forget what can excite our kids and we cloister them up with our so called busy modern lifestyle. The digital world too distracts them from this other world...
Crab,Teluk Batik
My gal spotted this crab and it started a frenzy of chase by Bro. We used to spend many afternoons by the Bernam river catching crabs during our visits to our maternal grandma during our childhood days and those experience came in handy as he caught this big fler. It was really comical to see him running after the crab after he managed to stop it from burrowing into the labyrinth of crab pathways under the sand. The kids literally ran away from the crab in the beginning, afraid of it. LOL! We released the crab after everyone had a good look of it.
In the Waves
This has to be one of my favourite shots. The kids sat there for hours, looking out into the sea, having conversations, aged between 6 - 10; just playing with the waves as they rolled in. If only time could stand still... and they remain as they are! They grow up way too soon!
By The Sea
They entertained each other and ownself... enjoyed the sea water, oblivious to the heat that was beating down on them. Nature the best play mate.... All of them got really tanned too, a few shades darker!
Street Football
You'd think that 5 hours of sun and sea would knock these kids out, But nah! They still found energy for a game of street football with the beach ball, barely an hour after we got back; in a vacant plot behind the old badminton court near our house. This was after they had taken their bath and changed into clean clothes. We had to do another round of laundry after that! This area used to be a lalang patch long time ago. Together with our neighbours' kids, this used to be where we would play hide-and-seek as kids so very long ago.
Fire Away
And so we thought that would totally knock the kids out... We were wrong again! As we (me and my siblings) hardly get much opportunity to get together these days, we sat and talked through the night. The kids waited patiently for us to finish our conversation before reminding Bro that he had promised to take them out for a night of 'helicopter-shooting'. He had brought with him sets (for each kid) of this 'helicopter-like' toy which you propel into the sky with a rubber band. So armed with that and close to midnight, the kids fired away into the sky, lighting it up with the pretty LED lights which floated down, fluttering in the night sky. If memories are not made of these, then what is?

That apart from hours of Beyblades which they seem not to get bored with. Bro even brought back the arena for the beyblades to battle it out. I even brought Shaun (my nephew from Other Half's side) to join them and he too had a grand time. Nights out to Lumut, dinners..... it was a good time together. These are the things that memories are made of. My little gal played mostly with boy-toys but she enjoyed herself tremendously. It's been the 'funnest' hols for her this round.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jalan-Jalan Cari Makan...

This was at Kg Malabar, Penang. These days we are trying out the old kopitiams. It's still best to go on foot if you want to explore the small and busy streets of Penang.... and at this time of the year when the weather is cool, you don't actually feel the humidity of the tropics that much!
Restoran Ho Ping
Instead of driving right up to the doorstep, a little walk often times allow us to discover other things as well. You tend to have a more leisurely pace to look around when you are on your slow trusty 2 feet.
Beef Soup Noodle
This is supposed to be Beef Soup Noodle. The soup is really clear, not the 'murky' or broth-like usual beef soup that I get. . But the beef balls didn't taste beefy enough to me. Still, it was quite soothing on the stomach to start the day with clear soup.
Char Kway Teow
Char Kway Teow in Penang... this is still better than any char kway teow I've eaten in Alor Setar. Penang char kway teow in Penang still rule anytime. This is Daughter's fare. Other Half and Son also ordered the chicken (char-siu) rice from one of the stalls in the kopitiam. It was just so-so.
Ho Ping Sign
But this is what caught our eyes! LOL! I supposed this is Manglish... and I wonder what's truly meant by 'modal' on this sign. Modals in English refer to verbs that behave irregularly. The proprietor runs this place via small irregular behaviour??? LOL! Anyway, I noticed that the coffee shop was not in want of customers... it was relatively busy during our short time there.
Alley Coffee Shop
A little walk after breakfast to help digest our food brought us to alleys where food is sold and served. Our own little Penang-style alley dining.
Alley Nasi Kandar
The smell that was coming out from this Nasi Kandar alley really gets to you and makes you want to sit down and have a plate of nasi kandar.
Motorbike Rental
And if someday I start to feel a little adventurous again, I might just do this... rent a motorbike and zip through the busy traffic of narrow Penang streets. Been a long time since my motorbike riding days in PJ.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Day Out... Penang Butterfly Farm

Been a while since our last trip to Penang. This hols have absolutely been filled with activities and things to do since its start. I actually have not had much time for my things actually. So it was good to 'get away' as a family.

Instead of our usual shopping haunts we went to the Komtar area instead. School term is around the corner... so it was only natural that we went bag hunting. Have not been to Komtar for quite some time. Still don't like the place cos it's too big.

My boy managed to convince his little sis to go a Nerf as her present for her improved grades last year. I'm usually not one for 'violent' toys but we relaxed it this round. Shooting games have certainly gone tech these days. The 'bullets', though fly far don't quite make themselves felt upon impact. The set we got for them was more for target shooting. And the darts make this whistling sounds when you release your trigger. The target board is also able to tally the points based on your accuracy. In another game, it tells you which part of the board you are supposed to shoot. I told my girl that this is a boy-game... but she was sold by the big bro. These days, both of them get along very well... something which we're glad to see.
Penang Butterfly Farm
We went to the Butterfly Farm too. Son was the one who was keen to go. For us trips to places like this actually beat going to the shopping complexes all the time. They get kinda boring unless you have things to buy. And window shopping doesn't quite appeal to me most of the time. Still haven't gone past that wandering around without anything in mind to buy kind of activity. 8) Some people are born to window shop. I don't think I make that cut yet.
Butterfly,Penang Butterfly Farm
The Butterfly Farm is actually quite nice. Son even managed to buy some specimens for his school project. Apparently it's hard to catch bugs these days. Many kids today don't do the 'catch-bug' thing these days. I remember catching spiders to 'duel' with friends' or bros' when I was Primary going. We'd chase grasshoppers, horned beetles; even ladybirds were not spared. My kids don't go for such hunts just for the fun of it. They feel squirmish about it. 8(
butterfly,pupa,Penang Butterfly Farm
There're always new things to learn from places like this. Golden pupa.... not sure from what butterfly though.
Atacus Atlas,Penang Butterfly Farm
And I learned the name of this butterfly, Atacus Atlas. In April this year, on our morning hike we saw a huge one at Pokok Sena. This place has quite a lot of live exhibits of the different bugs. And it is also well kept. Apparently too this is one of the largest butterfly farms in the world! Fancy that! We noticed an Eco Park adjacent to it. Will bear that in mind for future trips.
Tanjung Bungah
Dinner was here.... End of the World Seafood Restaurant in Teluk Bahang. This place is their new location, though. The old place was a wooden building which was literally at the end of the world with a sea view but was taken back as the area was gazetted as forest reserve.
Sweet Sour Crab
So, how's the food? The sweet sour crab was good. Crab meat was firm. Sauce was not overwhelming. Enjoyed it even though eating crab is a messy business.
Steamed Garoupa
The steamed fish was delicious too. Fresh and firm! Sauce complemented the fish.
End of the World Restaurant,Tanjung Bungah
Can't say the same for the mantis prawns though... We ordered the deep fried in batter version. One medium sized and 3 small ones came up to RM50. I enjoyed my Tanjung Dawai mantis prawn experience more. Seafood these days is no longer cheap.

But all in all, it was a nice trip out even though Penang was rather congested at this time of the year, this being school hols. Come to think of it, the island has become more lively lately... LGE seems to be doing a good job there.

Friday, December 10, 2010

50 years...

How does it feel to be married to the same person for 50 years? Does the "and they live happily ever after" work that long? Today we share this celebration of 50 years of the Khors journey together, their Golden Wedding Anniversary. They are known as Uncle Pete and Aunty Ruth to many. Ruth was the one who named our daughter. So, I always have a soft spot for her. She chose a good name for our gal. And so when I look at my girl, I'll always remember her.

I think to stay married today is a difficult thing. Divorce rates are on the rise. Marriage is an institution considered by some as archaic today. Many live together without getting married (even though studies show that actually married couples tend to stay together longer compared to those who live together without any strings attached).

Marriage is not a bed of roses, that's for sure... plenty of onak and duri tales. To fall in love, I think, is easy. To remain in love is the hard part. Boy meets girl (or vice versa). Boy falls for girl... dates and proposals. Those are the heady days. Then reality sinks. Living together brings quirkinesses together. You think you've got it all figured out, but reality is you've got to be flexible to learn and adapt as you go along. Norms and culture set roles for the man and woman. But lines become blurred with changing times and expectations, some for the better but very often too for the worse. Hence we have the institution of marriage in trouble today.

Love is actually no just a feeling... it involves more than that...

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 sums it up very well...
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

Living up to these verses is no easy feat. But to see Pak Khor and Mak Khor celebrate their 50 years together gladdens me. Mak Khor shared in church a couple of months ago about their relationship and it's nice to hear that they are still there for each other, for better and for worse. And is the "they live happily ever after" true? Apparently so according to Mak Khor, in her sharing tonight. It was a good sharing.... one spoke in Mandarin while the other translated, in between they got mixed up... the languages, LOL! The sharing was humourous but contained many snippets of wise words and advice. This is one dinner which I truly enjoyed attending....
And this is little presentation that I did for them. The sound got lost when I uploaded it to the Net. Been having problem rendering it with the sound but somehow, yesterday night, when I converted it into the DVD format, just for once, the DVD copy worked. After that, I just couldn't get it to comply again. Divine providence??? I don't know. Technology is supposed to be straightforward.... but maybe... God bless them both!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gadget bytes.... WD TV Live

Straight from the HDD, USB Thumb Drive, SD Cards.... most storage devices... plug it into this little box and it'll play it on your TV! Wonders of technology these days.... death knell for DVD players, this will probably hail. Then again, some day when all TVs are connected to the Internet, it'll also be end of the road for such gadgets.

We ordered this in May... but only got it recently. A newer model with HD has come out. It's a small little box which you plug into the TV. And then all you need to do is just plug in your HD or your USB thumb drive, and the movie or whatever media that's in it will play. A convenient little thing to have since it negates storage space for DVDs. Many of us have drawers full of old CDs and DVDs and though small and thin, they tend to take over space over a period of time.

Was just thinking about the gadgets which have come into our lives over the years and how our lives have been transformed by them. Never imagined how all these little things become so pervasive in our lives and how dependent we become of them too.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Huawei IDEOS and MiFi..

Mi-Fi is Wi-Fi gone portable. It means you can have your own personal 'hotspots'. Bro just got us a Huawei IDEOS Smartphone which doubles up as a Mi-Fi. Had it for a couple of days already. And this is our first experience with and Android based gadget. Reviews said the phone felt plasticky but I thought it looked and felt rather nice. I've just learned that IDEOS stands for Industrial Design Evolution Operating System.

This is supposed to be a 'cheap' Smartphone which runs on Froyo or Android 2.2. Bro got it at a discount from SITEX 2010 and sis delivered it by hand to me. 8) It has 802.11n Wi-Fi and HSPA too. 8) But it doesn't run Adobe Flash because its CPU is not powerful enough. I think this is its only setback. I had actually just wanted a MiFi. But because bro said this cost just a tad bit more, I agreed to it even though my mobile broadband plan is solely a data one.

Been waiting to get a just a MiFi router for some time but we thought we'd wait and see. These days, with so many WiFi enabled gadgets, it makes sense to get one. This smartphone supports up to 8 WiFi connections, according to reviews. We tried connecting wirelessly via our Ipods and it was a breeze.... no hiccups! Our first smartphone!! 8) And I am quite pleased with it.

Update: 11th Dec, 2010
Huawei IDEOS
Was at HK Wong Kok Kitchen at Komtar recently. Though you can get the signal for the Penang Free WiFi, you can't do any real surfing with it. So, Other Half and Son 'leeched' on my connection so that they can check their FB, while I checked my mail on the IDEOS. Totally cool! The only snag is the power tends to go down rather fast if I leave the portable hotspot on.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Yi Xiang Bak Kut Teh, Auto City

The sign says it all... Bak Kut Teh! This is a relatively new place at Juru Auto City. The banner outside posted the opening date as 3rd of this month. We were on our way home after another trip back to Sitiawan. As our gal was feeling rather dejected and sad after leaving her cousin at home, we let her choose dinner. And she wanted bak-kut-teh.
Yi Xiang Bak Kut Teh
So we stopped by Yi Xiang Bak Kut Teh at Auto City in Juru. There was a small crowd there even though it was past dinner time. Must be because the place is new. People tend to go try out new places.
The menu...
Bak Kut Teh
And this is how they looked when served. Everything is served separately. One thing nice about this is the each soup has its own individualized taste. The ribs are nice. We ordered the stomach which I found soft and nice. Even my little one enjoyed it. There are many other parts which one can order.
Yi Xiang Bak Kut Teh
The side view. However, my gal still prefers our regular bak-kut-teh fix at Lot 7 in Alor Setar. She says it's nicer and I am inclined to agree with her... and might I add a whole lot cheaper too. Our meal came up to almost RM70 which I think would cost about half of it at our regular joint.
The soups are kept piping hot till the end of the meal via this blue flame under them. Kinda quaint! But for an outlet that looks so 'posh' on the outside, their toilets were dirty. Would we go back there again??? Not sure about that though.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Extraordinary, Ordinary Condoleezza Rice

My 48th book! Been a long break since my last book. This is a memoir of a triumph of family values and unity over racism and prejudices, that if we believe in ourselves we can be anyone we want.

Condoleezza Rice is no stranger to me. Used to admire her cos she was the first lady to be appointed as the US National Security Advisor. She was also the US Secretary of State too. Prior that she had a remarkable career at Stanford University too.

To put it simply, I enjoyed reading this book. Her parents believed in her. They invested in her. They sacrificed for her; how they got her a grand piano because they believed in the best for her. Reading about Rice's success also reminds me that segregation (she grew up at a time of great racial prejudices) often squeezes the more than the best out of the segregated. Rice wrote about how her parents and community created a parallel world to the ugly one which separated the blacks from whites in America; a world which enabled her to grow into her full potential despite everything.

Ordinary people can become extraordinary when pushed by extraordinary circumstances... Rice, her parents and her community was part of that equation. Similarly here in Malaysia, the Chinese has achieved success despite double standards... partly because the extraordinary bias in our system requires them to dig into the extraordinary, hence the extraordinary successes that we seem to hear about so much.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gotong Royong...

Gotong-royong means coming together for a community project.... and that can mean so many things; weddings, funerals, cleaning up the neighbourhood and even building houses (in the old days).
Taman Golf
Today we had a gotong-royong to clean up our area. A group of residents wrote in to the relevant authorities for approval as well as assistance (such as the Bomba, MBAS, SADA, etc, etc.) Some big guy at MBAS was even supposed to come and give a speech but apparently he didn't show up.

I spoke to the guy who was one of the organizers and he said when they first organized it, they were not sure whether the residents would come out. But I noticed that more of those who turned out were senior citizens. But as they moved around too, they realized that many residents were not aware that there was a gotong-royong going on. However, as my boy drove me around, I noticed that in many areas, residents came out and also tried to do their part. First lesson, we need people to organize us.

I did my small part... helped to clear the sediments from the big drain near the football field. But with only hand tools, it was a mammoth task. The authorities should have come with some machinery. Apparently the Majlis Bandaraya promised to send 20 'muscles' to assist. Many drains are actually blocked. As recent as 3 years ago, the drains would regularly be cleaned. These days, with privatization (by the previous gahmen, word has it), service has gone down the drain. We pay, they make money but don't give the service. Malaysia definitely Boleh!
I saw the tools but not the muscles. Maybe they were in another area... but one guy said the tools came early in the morning.... minus the workers. Second lesson... the authorities, political leaders cakap a lot of kosong things. Maybe that's why they give out goodies nearing election... instantly seen to be contributing to the rakyat. And we are easily 'buyable'.
Pokok Sena,Volunteer Fire Fighters
As it was the first time that this has been done in our area, the organizers didn't forsee some of the problems like making sure everyone knew about it. However, they did a good job in going around with the Pokok Sena Volunteer Firefighter Group... the 'real' Bomba was supposed to assist also but we didn't see them also... maybe I missed them.

The residents were willing to move together but the authorities seemed very 'tidak apa' and lack sincerity in assisting. And of course, in racial Malaysia, there were some mutterings that if ours had been a more predominantly Malay area, maybe they would be more visible.... Actually, I think it's not just Chinese or Malay area that's the real issue here. It's more of the civil service (in this case state civil service also) that is lacking in their professionalism or commitment. We pay this cukai and that cukai and don't know what some more, we elect political reps and all that... kononnya they want to serve the rakyat. They seem very incapable of fulfilling their oath of service....

And we have the Minister of Housing and Local Government from Alor Setar too... but he's from BN... this is PAS state. When the giants don't get along, all the semut kena pijak and suffer. So, we've cleared some drains today but many of the drains looked like they are in need of major repairs... maybe we've to wait for Election season to come, kut?

Die, die also hers....

It is mind boggling how selfish we can be at times these days... especially when it involves kids. I recently helped a friend's kid fi...