31 Dec 2009

Bali trip

The last time we went to Bali was May 2004 - and that time we stayed at this truly fantastic place called Tegal Sari in Ubud. This time we stayed at Champlung Sari, also in Ubud, not too bad a place, but I was quite disappointed. It's okay I guess if you haven't been to Tegal Sari but after Tegal Sari, this place just sort of became second class. I'm not saying that Tegal Sari is a 5 star hotel - definitely not. But our room had a wide verandah which faced the padi field and it is separated from the other rooms by a narrow path with beautiful trees on either side. Since that was May then, the padi was still growing and the green was like emerald and you were greeted by the sound of birds cooing early in the morning.

Monkey eating my apple

Here in Champlung Sari, you are greeted by monkeys raiding your verandah, fighting on the roofs or stealing your food. You cannot leave anything outside for fear they will steal it.  However they look kind of cute.
 Rice terraces at Jati Luwih

However this time around we got to see more places - we went to see the padi terraces - they are really fantastic - at JatiLuwih. It was quite far from Ubud - maybe around 2 hrs away on a very narrow winding road but I think the trip was really worth it. The water that irrigates the padi comes from the mountains and its so clear you can see right through to the gravel beneath. We had tea and fried bananas with honey at a cafe there and it was simply marvellous. The farmers here still use the ox and plough to plough the land and many were actually ploughing when we were there. There was also a group of young boys swimming in the irrigation canals,their high spirited shouts echoing through the valley. The scene reminded me so much of my childhood and I hope that modernisation, if it came to Bali, would not take this away.

That evening we also went to Tanah Lot to see the sunset. It's been said that the sunset here is just out of this world but this treat was denied us - the spectacular sunset just did not arise - the cloud cover was too low and we could only see mild strips of burgundy and orange - nice but not spectacular. However Tanah Lot itself is an awesome place - its a promontory where the sea has carved out blowholes, caves and also a spit upon which the Balinese have built a temple. It is truly a marvellous sight and a natural masterpiece.

Tanah Lot, Bali


The rest of Bali is just as beautiful as ever though Denpasar is bigger than I remembered it. There are more big malls and shopping centres and also of course more vehicles. The people are just as spiritual as ever - there are holy days in Bali almost every day - each day for a special saint. THis time around too we did not see the Barong Dance or even the Kecak Dance. We just wanted to see the sights - the natural beauty that is Bali. I think next time we'll renew our memories of Kintamani and the volcanic basin  or Danau Batur, and Mount Batur. Anyway I'll try to remember not to come at the end of the year where they have thousands of visitors who go there for the New Year celebrations at Kuta Beach.

THis is my last post for this year so I'll say good bye to 2009 and welcome to 2010. HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF YOU OUT THERE!

27 Dec 2009

Haji Tahir Family Day



(That's me trying my hand at gold putting!)

Its the time of year for the Family day again. This time we're joining in - Repin, myself, Wan and Shasha. Rizal flew to Brisbane yesterday with Pohling and Sophie. They're visiting with Chee Mun there so its a kind of family day for them too.

We had ours at Pengkalan Balak , approximately 22 km from Melaka Town - at a place called Padang Kamunting. Its quite lovely actually - the beach was nice and sandy - soft yellow sand and quite spacious too so we could have games on the beach itself. They started the day with Treasure Hunt.There were quite a number of teams and mine was called Golden Stars - Jasmine, Intan, Azura ,Nadia and me. Some of the clues were quite easy - How many arrows in Robin Hood's quiver, the name of our chalet and so on but we only got 5 answers correct and Lela's team won first prize.

The day was quite warm and balmy - plenty of sun in the morning though not too hot, so it was really fun, sitting there under the shade, talking and playing with my sisters and brothers. Zin however didnt turn up at all and Kamal came late. So did Leha but she was from Singapore so I guess that was excused. Anyway all in all it was a good day and everyone took part, even Mami Leha. It rained in the evening though and the Sandcastle competition had to be cancelled. They all played an indoor game however so things went well.

 It ended with the karaoke and Wan won second prize with his song. Iskandar won the first prize with his rendition of "Cant help falling for you" which was quite good. As in many karaoke competitions, there were a few really lousy singers but I guess they can't help it. Lots of fun and games though.However,in spite of having booked  two rooms for myself, Repin decided to go back to BB in the end so we went home around 11.30pm.

24 Dec 2009

Salmon for Shasha

Yesterday I made a salmon dish for Shasha my daughter. She hates fish other than salmon and Repin doesn't like salmon, so I've never cooked it at home. However yesterday since she was on leave I decided to make a salmon dish for her, using left over pasta sauce, some vegetables and lots of tomatoes. First I marinated the salmon steak with oregano, black pepper, salt and lemon juice. After marinating it for a half hour, I popped it in the oven for 10 minutes under broil. Take it out again and this time I put in the other ingredients - chopped onions, Japanese cucumber, tomatoes, a dash of pepper and finally the pasta sauce. I put it in the oven again and leave it to grill until its well done - crisp outside. It tasted great, especially after I put on some parmesan cheese on top and let it melt. Shasha loved it, finishing the whole piece of fish. I guess that's the only way she'll eat fish and salmon does have a lot of omega 3.

Reading

I've hardly made a dent in my reading list. In the last big bad wolf sale I must have bought over 30 books, and so far have read only about 5 or 6, mainly the ones by Nora Roberts and Julia Quinn because they're the easy to read ones. I still have a lot to go through.- travel books, a biography of Dr Mahathir, a book by Tahir Shah entitled In Search of King Solomon's MInes and another travel book entitled Two Caravans.
I've just finished Anderson Cooper's book -News from the Edge, which reads a lot like his programme 60 minutes. I remember at one time, as a teenager I very much wanted to be a journalist and this book is actually his experiences in all the various hot spots of the world - from Darfur in Sudan to Bosnia and Iraq, even Afghanistan. Written in an exciting journalistic style, Cooper recounts his experiences in these dangerous places, some of which were very very dangerous and he was even taken captive at one time in Africa. Interspersed with these are his memories of his childhood, his feelings when his father died suddenly leaving him and his brother confused for a long time. He also recounted the time when his brother killed himself and how it affected him. For along time he used to wonder why his brother did it and  for a while felt that it was his fault that he did not see it coming. Generally an interesting recount of a journalist's experiences during war time all over the world, an indepth look at Anderson Cooper's life. But reading them  I find that it is a typical American view of the state of war, however objective he tries to be. Many of the places he described were Muslim countries - Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan , Sudan as well as Somalia. They are war torn countries mainly because of poverty, corruption and the fight for power. But they were also sometimes caused by interference by whatever American government then in power which Cooper does not even mention in the book.

In the big bad wolf sale I also found a book by one of my favourite authors - James Herriot - who wrote "All creatures big and small". This one is "Vet in harness" and like the other books written by him hugely entertaining and really funny. Imagine my delight when I also managed to get a whole set of Madeline L' Engle's books- A Wrinkle in Time,A Wind in the Door,A Swiftly Tilting Planet, An Acceptable Time and the last one - Many Waters. These books for children are real gems and she won the Newbery Medal for Children's Literature.I had already read most of them of course - borrowed from my daughter Shasha. These books tell about three children who were growing up in 60s America but they are as different from other children's books as chalk from cheese. They flip from the world of reality to unreality and entwines fantasy and science fiction. Even as an adult when I read the first book so many years ago I was immediately gripped into the children's world of suspense and excitement. Now I have my own set and can read them again and again as I always love to do with my favourite books.

22 Dec 2009

trip to Langkawi


The jetty at Porto Malai, Langkawi


The Langkawi trip had been planned for some time because Repin wanted to use up his Leisure Holiday points. We didnt use the points for two years already and by next year it would be considered void so finally we decided to go to Langkawi during the Awal Muharam break. That was a really bad idea because the highway was very congested even though we travelled at night, after the Isyak prayers. We arrived at the Gunung Semanggol rest area late at night (1.00am actually) and decided to stay there for the night. Room rates were cheap - RM59.90 per room! It wasnt anything much -just the basics but we were only going to sleep there until morning. We pushed off for Langkawi after breakfast at 9 am.


The Kuala Kedah Jetty was really overcrowded. No place to park even and Repin had to park quite far away - with the help of the parking attendants who drove him to the car park. There were no more tickets for the 11.30am ferry so we took the next one - 12.30pm.


The ferry was okay I guess, quite comfortable and the journey took about 1 1/2 hours. But we had to wait a further one hour for the car which we had booked from Kuala Kedah. However by 3.00pm we were on the way to the Leisure Holiday apartment in Pantai Cenang. It's the same one we took 4 years ago when last we were there. Two bedrooms, a kitchen and dining area, sitting area and balcony facing the swimming pool. Not too bad a deal. After praying and a short lunch we all decided to go out for a drive round the island, more for Yatie's sake than ours because she had never been to Langkawi.


It's changed a lot this island. For one thing Pantai Cenang is now a real tourist hot spot - lots of tiny boutiques selling beach clothes and also other tropical wear, side walk cafes, bistros and restaurants to suit any budget - from the more expensive to the cheapest. It also looks a lot like Bali - a bit like the Kuta area. There are also one or two bookstores now - used books really - to cater to the tourists who want to laze about and read.


The roads are also better - more smooth and wider too so we drove all over the island. Wan took a lot of photos - photos of boats, beaches, shops but very few of us! We went to Dataran Helang and that too had changed. They look nicer somehow and there are more shops too in Kuah besides the old ones. In fact none of the wooden shops are there any longer. But I think this will be the last time I come here during a national holiday and the school holidays! If you want peace during your vacation, I'd advise you not to come here during this time too!

10 Dec 2009

Back in Singapore




I'm back again visiting my little grand daughter in Singapore - our very own two-year-old imp. Its not just visiting Sophia that I look forward to but Singapore itself. I've always admired its greenness and garden-like quality. Its true that Singapore is a very modern city but every time I come here I am drawn again and again to its beauty. Not just the huge trees that one can see everywhere along the roads (and which are decidely absent in many of Malaysia's towns) but also the mature trees in all its housing estates. The huge rain trees along the roads are well maintained and there are flowers everywhere, mainly bougainvilea. It's not that Malaysia is so different in climate and terrain that we cannot have the same trees and the same flowers. But Malaysia does not not appreciate a tree, or at least I think the government does not. What ever trees we have in Kuala Lumpur are always cut and destroyed - to make way for roads, for new housing developments and for the ubiquitous plantations. Unlike Singapore, we cut down trees like its nobody's business but our own and for what - to widen a hitherto narrow road!

And of course the bonus is to be with my little chatter box of a grand daughter. Sophia is now two and a bit, and getting to be very talkative and interesting. She's very imaginative and can tell you stories about her Totoro ( a Japanese soft toy) about everyday activities in her own life and about her parents. Listening to her talk I am amazed that she can use words like difficult, wonderful, hexagon, showerhead. She loves jigsaw puzzles and can do a 30 or 40 piece puzzle in minutes. She has this big puzzle of Totoro with Mei and Satsuki, which she enjoys doing with us. If I put a piece in wrongly,she'll tell me, " That's wrong nenek! That piece doesn't go there!" and she would put the piece in its right place. I think for a two year old she is very advanced. The other day she told me - "Nenek look we have a new showerhead! Mummy and me went to buy it and Kong Kong (her other grandfather on the Chinese side) fixed it for us!" She says things like " I'm going to the library, Nenek" and which 2 year old will tell you she's going to the library? I think only Sophia does that.
Sometimes while playing in the living room she'll run to the kitchen to see what Jona the Filipino helper is doing. Then she'll ask: "Are you okay Jona? Be careful when you use the knife!" sounding so adult you just had to laugh!

4 Dec 2009

walking tour of Melaka

The Queen Victoria Fountain built during the Jubilee anniversary of Queen Victoria's reign. In the background is the Stadthuys.


A view of the Malacca river from the bridge at Jonker Street

29 Nov 2009

Malacca

My prized catteleya orchids just bloomed!
I'm home today for a few hours - to check on the fish pond and the waterfall, my orchids and roses which seem okay in spite of the rain. There are more fish fry when I looked at the pond yesterday but by today most of them will be gone - eaten by the bigger fish. I didn't bother to separate them this time - there are just too many fish now. The previous batch are now at least 5in long and taking over the pond so Repin says let the law of nature play its role - survival of the fittest. At least that way we can control the population. But what I really want to do is give them away.My brothers did say they wanted some but nobody has come to collect the fish since.

Its been raining every day since November began. The skies are almost always covered by dark heavy cumulo-nimbus clouds. You can hardly see the sky actually - its all just a thick dark cloud cover. Kelantan and Terengganu as well as Kedah and Perlis have been flooded again. Year in and year out we hear the same stories - flood waters rising, people being evacuated, landslides at hill side developments. As for the monsoon, it will come and we should be prepared. But we never are. Our drains are still tiny, our rivers clogged (though they're not so bad nowadays) and most of the newer housing estates have poor drainage. I guess we'll never learn. What we need are monsoon drains to take away most of the water out to shore. At least that should contain some of the flooding.

26 Nov 2009

Big bad wolf sale

We arrived very early - about 10 am and yet the crowd was full! You can hardly negotiate your way along the aisles. But there were books and more books! I'm in book heaven!! And everything was below RM20. Most of the paperbacks were about RM8 only and the children's books were mostly below RM8 - about 3-5. Imagine that. But the crowd was too big - at one point I overheard a teenager comment: "Who says Malaysians don't read?" Yes we do, and we are also very kiasu. The moment we hear there's a sale, we all turn up, grabbing books whether some of us will read them or not.

I was mostly at the fiction corner - picking up as many books as I can shove into my pink book bag. I'll go through them later and decide whether I really want them. Those I don't think I'll read I'll put back. Can't see Shasha anywhere... she too must be going crazy because I saw the fantasy and science fiction section was full to overflowing with many of her favourite writers. I got a few Nora Roberts, two Georgette Heyer, one JUlia Quinn, a number of other writers I'm trying to read and numerous chick lit stuff I think Sara might like. They were just simply irresistable - haven't seen books costing below RM10 for a long,long, long time. I also managed to get two travelogues for Repin, and a few Jeffrey Archer although I knew he has probably read them already. I think I must have easily bought over 30 books - some for Sophia and some for the family day children's prizes. And all for only about RM200. Wow... I just can't believe it. Normally we'd fork out more than RM100 for 3 books at the most. Shasha is going again tomorrow and maybe Repin will go tonight! Talk of a flood of books!!


I managed to get a hard cover version of "Looking for Enid" by Duncan McLaren so can return Poh Lin's book which I had borrowed earlier. Enid Blyton was my favourite children's writer and my main companion throughout my growing up years. My very first books were all written by Enid Blyton and which Malaysian child growing up in the 60s doesn't know her? I found out only recently that most Americans never knew her and I was really surprised. Imagine not knowing who Enid Blyton was.Or never having read The Secret Seven stories, The Famous Five, The Chalet girls and all those other books by her. She had written easily more than 600 books by the time she passed away at the age of 71. To me the characters in her stories were as real as my friends. I knew Julian and Dick and George and Anne and even Timmy the dog. Every week I would go to the library near my house and borrow the books - all written by Enid Blyton. So to me, finding the book about her was so exciting. I had never really read anything about this woman who wrote all those wonderful books for children, never really knew much about her. This book details the author's search for the real Enid - where she lived, where she wrote her stories, the places she grew up in, the places she described in England. There are illustrations taken from the original books - mostly from the Famous Five series and they bring back memories of happy days cuddled up in bed in the attic at my grandma's, reading one of the Famous Five books. This is one book I'm really looking forward to reading!

24 Nov 2009

What I'm reading now


I'm reading the second book by Tahir Shah - In Arabian Nights. The first book -The Caliph's House was about Tahir Shah buying a house in Morocco, renovating it and his problems with the contractors and repairing the house. In this book he tells us about his search for Morocco's stories and the real Moroccan. A very interesting and sometimes humorous look at life in Morocco and its tales and beliefs.
Recently also I bought a number of books from Kinokuniya and BookXcess. Some I've finished reading, some I'm still going through and some I'm keeping for next time. These are:
  • Amanda Quick - Second Sight ( read - not too interesting)


  • Georgette Heyer - Cotillion ( always a good book- I am a fan of Heyer anyway!)


  • JD Robb - Strangers in Death ( I've now read 3 books under the JD Robb title and I find them too similar! Only the places, names are changed. All deal with murder and treated almost the same)


  • JD Robb - Naked in Death


  • Maryjanice Davidson - Undead and Unemployed (Kind of interesting - chick lit)


  • Marina Lewywcka - A sort history of Tractors in Ukrainian (borrowed)

I've finished Undead and Unemployed about a young woman who died but became a vampire and is busy looking for a job even though she already has a job as queen of the vampires!

18 Nov 2009

OUM convocation

Its that time of year again and the graduation ceremonies are on. This time around there are more than 7000 students graduating and the convocation ceremony will take  a number of days. The first day we had Tun Jeanne Abdullah in her capacity as Chancellor. The ceremony as usual was grand, with all its pomp and glory. Maybe our convocation ceremonies are quite over the top, but I think students love it that way. judging by the attendance and the parents and families that come to watch their children/ spouses graduate. And after all it is a once in a life time event, unless you happen to take a post degree. As a wife of one of the university's top brass, I had to be there each and every day. It can be a bit of a chore, but with Puan seri there  at least we get to talk. On the first day we had Puan Rohani as well as Wan and Norizan, Dr Mansor's wife but they all disappeared in the afternoon session giving all kinds of excuses. So Puan Seri and I were left on our own.
Anyway time flew because we were busy dissecting everybody and had a grand time of it too. Well, it wasn't all criticism anyway - there were plenty of praises too. I loved the flower arrangement and the decor for the stage - all done by our own interior designer Prof Dr Shaari. That man is a real genius with flowers - and every year he will prepare extravagant bouquets for the occasion. He does OUM proud. And he is so dedicated and committed he will drive all the way to the Cameron's just to get the flowers that he wanted fresh from the nursery. I heard that he stayed up until nearly 4 am to complete the stage decorations!

10 Nov 2009

Selling the Kia


Today I finally sold my Kia. However after sending it off into Mr Wong's hands I felt rather sad - its been with me for a long time and whatever they say about the Kia, my Spectra has always been loyal to me. For a long time while I was still in govt service, I drove it all over the Peninsula. I went to Kota Baru in it with Maziyan, to JB once, again with Maziyan. I also went to Penang, Perlis and Kedah in it - twice actually. Once with Maziyan before she got promoted to Head of Dept and once with Sharifah. That's a pretty long way and many kilometres of travel. So of course I feel sentimental about this black beauty of mine. We are selling mainly because I hardly use it anymore now that I'm not working and we also have the Livina for most of my travels around KL and Malacca.

Talking of cars - my fave is always the X Trail. It's elegant yet utilitarian and a great lady's 4WD. Better than all those huge hunkies such as the Mitsubishi and Toyota 4WD. I love driving it - it's smooth and quiet, fast when you want it to be and quite good at corners and such. But it does gobble up the gas which was one reason why Repin wanted to change it. The Livina is not as quiet but its a saver where petrol economy is concerned. And like the X Trail the Livina can also speed like nobody's business. The other day while driving back to Malacca I went at 140 without even realising it and could have gone further if not for the fact that I was scared of the speed traps. Hmm just like the X trail. Now my Kia and even the Protons that I used before were always a bit shaky after 130. Even when they were brand new.

There's another thing on my mind now - the Family day we're going to have on 26 December 2009. This is the very first time I'm joining the family day (my family's, not Repin's). They have it every year actually. It started off as a kind of holiday thing with Yah being the main sponsor but lately it has expanded into a real family day with games and stay overs at resorts etc. So this time, after being made to feel guilty by Yah and gang, I've decided I will join them. And they've put me in charge of the prizes!





6 Nov 2009

One Malaysia

Daily we are bombarded by the one Malaysia hype. I can't but be sceptical about where all this is going to take us. It's a noble aim, true, but when politicians do anything we can't help but wonder about the truth of anything they say. Is there any political will in it? Or is it only a gimmick to help garner the waning support from the community? If the PM really means what he says then I think he should also be brave enough to allow everything to be done by merit only. Scholarships, placings in universities, contracts for government work, promotions and so on. Nothing should be based on whom you know, or on the accident of birth. Whether a person is a bumiputra or not should not mean anything when being given a scholarship or a place at university or a promotion at work. There should not be any quotas for certain groups. Fair and square. Then only can we know that he means what he says. Its time too for everyone to wake up and realize that being given a scholarship is not his birthright. I am a Malay, but grew up during a time when merit is given precedence over race. I had to fight for any scholarship I received. When I received a prize for English, I knew it was because I earned it. I won the prize fairly over other girls who were good in English too but I was better. When I was offered a place at a university overseas, that too was based on merit and not just because I was a Bumiputra. This was because in those days the term bumiputra wasn't even coined yet and I had to tough it out with my peers.

Today's kids, especially those lucky enough to be chosen to go to boarding schools from young, can never really understand this concept of working hard for what you want. Everything is handed to them on a platter - pocket money, school books, uniforms are all more or less paid for by the government. To them it is their "right" to be given a scholarship when they get even 7 As. There is no such thing as 'right" to me. True many of these kids are bright enough, but there are others who deserve scholarships too, brighter than they are and often from poorer families. But because of an accident of birth, many of these kids cannot get into universities, because the "quota" is full.

So if the PM really wants Malaysians to think as one people, I think this has to go all the way. Not just where scholarships are concerned. But everywhere. At one point there was a lot of talk about why non Malays or non bumis refuse to work for the government. I think many people know this answer. They do not want to work in the government service because promotions are often mainly given to bumis. Let's just look at the top most post in the government - how many Indians or Chinese or other races are there holding the top post? Don't tell me that there aren't any suitable candidates for the post of DG from the other races? How many Directors of government agencies are there from other races? At one time, when I was a small girl, there were names like Tun Tan Siew Sin, Manickavasagam and so on heading very important portfolios.

I know whatever I say, may sound as if I'm being anarchic but I'm not. I only want what's best for my country. And if the best is not a Malay, so what? Maybe at one time we need to show that Malays too can be directors and director generals, but not anymore. Today everyone knows that we are all just as good as anybody else. We already have hundreds if not thousands of good Malay doctors, scientists, engineers, lawyers. Ours is a beautiful country and we have a lot of wonderful people - just look at all those people who run away to Singapore and Australia to get better recognition, better pay, better appreciation - are we being fair to them? Are we being fair to our young Malays who never have to fight to get what they want? People say that if we are always given things freely, we never learn to appreciate them. I think many of these young people who were given scholarships to study in the US and UK, Australia and Canada don't really appreciate what the government has done for them. Many are in the opposition, biting back the hand that used to feed them. Look at the credentials of many of our young opposition members - I know that many if not most of them were from the boarding schools, given special priviledges from the word go. But do they appreciate what the government has done for them? I don't think so.

So, 1 Malaysia. Is it going to succeed? I hope so because we do need to unite, not just among the other races but also within our own. There are factions everywhere, in all the political parties. People who join politics today are merely doing so to gain something for themselves, not to help the nation. And where does all this leave us, the silent majority?

Many from my generation are united. We have friends of all races. Most of my best friends are actually non Malay. During Hari Raya you only have to visit my house to see the true one Malaysia concept. My in laws are Chinese. I have uncles, cousins and a myriad relatives who are either Chinese or mixed. On the first day, friends of my husband (his x classmates from the class of '66) are people from all walks of life and from all the various races. When my children were growing up I encouraged them to make friends with all races. Some have remained their friends till today.

When I was growing up I used to play with friends of all races. There was Visalatchi, Letchumi, Violet the Eurasian girl, Cheng the Chinese boy, Lai Lee, Ah Kim and so on. When it rained heavily sometimes my mum would ask either 16 year old Eddy or Cheng the Chinese neighbour to go over to my school with an umbrella for me. Often Cheng would cycle to my school and take me home on the carrier behind him. Can such a thing happen today? I remember the days after sports practice at school when I would go back with one of my Chinese friends and eat at their house - normally fried kway tiow with lots of cockles. They knew as Muslims we can't take pork and we trusted that there would be no pork in our food. Trust. Its a big word. Do we trust now? I think many adults today have done a big big wrong - we have taught our children NOT to trust. I once heard a child, a 3 year old, scream in mock fear whenever his mother drove pass a masjid.
"Ada hantu! Hantu!" And who taught him that? Not another child definitely.... but his own mother. Need I say more?


4 Nov 2009

New reads

I've just finished reading this fantastic book called "The Caliph's House", by Tahir Shah. Tahir Shah is British and a writer who has lived in London most of his life.But as a child he had visited his grandfather who was at that time living in Morocco. Since then he had always dreamed of living in Morocco too so when he got the chance of buying a house there he grabbed it with both hands and moved with his family to this country,when he could neither speak Arabic nor French. When I first started reading the book I thought that this is another of those travel books - in fact Tahir Shah did give it a second title - A year in Casablanca. But once you start reading, you just can't put it down. It grabs you and pulls you along; Tahir's reason for leaving England sounds familiar enough - small cramped apartment where you can hear your neighbours quarrelling or making love. When he uprooted his pregnant wife and little daughter I thought 'what an irresponsible man" but reading on I realise that this man is neither a dreamer nor irresponsible. It is because he loves his family that he takes them away to his dream house - albeit an old and ramshackle one that has seen better days. Tahir believes he can bring back the glory days of the house - Dar Khalifah - a huge rambling house that is full of jinns. Renovating a centuries old dilapidated house is no mean feat but he is adventurous enough, enterprising enough and maybe 'innocent' enough to carry it through. He meets with con men, liars, lazy ruffians who work as his contractors and deals with them with the classic aplomb of the innocent gullible man. This book is not funny 'funny' but Tahir Shah's sense of humour and style shines through. His view of life in Morocco is lively and original. I'm now reading his second book -In Arabian Nights, which promises to be as entertaining as the earlier one. I'm also looking forward to reading another book of his - In Search of King Solomon's Mines.

27 Oct 2009

Visiting Sazlina

Sazlina is much better now judging from her speech. At least I can understand much of what she said - though she still can't really talk normally. I think she has improved so much - she's almost 50% better now. Zahedah came along with me to see her but I had to pick her at the college and send her back. In fact I'm still with her now, using her computer. My friendship with Zah is such that we can not see each other for months on end and in fact years but when we do meet its as if the time in between is nothing. I guess true friendships are like that. I've missed seeing her, Gita, Gurnam and all the others.
Zahedah talked to Sazlina and she managed to answer - at least can or cannot. She showed us where she fell ( a few months back she fell from her bed and had to have a few stitches!)
We spent about an hour with her and the time just flew. Since Zah had a meeting with her pengarah we had to leave.

17 Oct 2009

Deepavalli

Its the Festival of lights today and we are going to Dr Selva's house. Of course today we are in Malacca - after a long absence the house needs to be given a proper airing and cleaning.
Our plants are generally ok unlike our neighbours . Bakar has been discharged but Norlee, EDy and Shima as well as Nazreen are still in hospital. We visited them yesterday and today - they seem to be better but Norlee still has low blood platelets.
I left Mum and Yati in Malacca while Repin and I went back to KL to visit Dr Selva.
His house is somewhere in SEction 12 - quite a nice place and very near to the university. I wish we could live here but most of the houses are old. What I like about this place is the land - most houses have lots of land - hmmm more gardening space. I've already run out of space in Malacca!

13 Oct 2009

Going around London

Today we decided to just take the tube and travel to the various interesting places. It was kind of interesting and a good way to explore London. Yesterday we had lunch at this Malaysian place called "Jom Makan" at Bayswater Road. It's more expensive but not as nice as Melur. It catered more to European tastes, I think.
WE also went to Covent Garden and had a nice time looking at the wonderful shops there, though I didn't buy anything. Nothing tempting anyway.
Next stop was Regent's Park and Buckingham Palace. This took a while because we walked from Regent's Park all the way to Hyde park Corner and thought of walking to Oxford Street but Repin said he legs were aching so we took a tube back to our station at Marble Arch. Then more souvenir shopping after which we went back to our hotel to pack. Tomorrow we are going home.
I miss my cats - Chi Chi and Ginger, especially.

11 Oct 2009

In London with Nurul

Repin at Covent Garden


Today we met Nurul our niece who is here studying Dentistry at King's College, University of London. We had taken her out for dinner when we arrived on 3rd October and lunch on the 4th. Today we'll just go for a tour of LOndon - the normal sights - Tower of London, Westminster, Big Ben and Tralfalgar Square and perhaps go to the British Museum. We spent a whole day with her - I'm sure she's tired - I am! Lunch was at another Malaysian restaurant in Tralfalgar Square - called "Jom Makan". It's not as nice as Melur but the place is bigger, better decorated and I think has more English patrons. Melur is more authentic Malaysian cuisine anytime!


With Nurul at Trafalgar Square


We also went to the British museum and spent a lovely 3 hours there - just wandering and looking at the various exhibits. They really have so many interesting things to see!
With Nurul at Big Ben

Charing Cross was great but we couldn't really buy so many books - not enough place in our luggage. After lunch we walked over to Westminster, took pictures of the Abbey and the houses of parliament as well as Big Ben and the London Eye. The weather was beginning to turn rainy so we decided to go back to our hotel where we could all rest and pray then later go for dinner at Melur.
Tomorrow is Monday so Nurul will not be able to spend the day with us. Repin and I have decided we'll go window shopping instead after our walk at Hyde Park.

10 Oct 2009

Stamford and back to London

Today is the last day of the tour. We all have mixed feelings about leaving the tour. For one thing we've met some wonderful people on the tour. No doubt there are some who still are very outdated and have snobbish outlooks - one of them is Val (don't know her full name) who is from Australia. She has this upper class look and is quite snobbish - hardly talking to Repin and myself. Her husband though is a very nice and friendly guy and told us that they had visted Kuala Lumpur and enjoyed their stay at the Palace of the Golden Horses. The majority though are really friendly and I made a number of friends among them - Joy from Ohio, Charmaine and Barbara from Sacremento, Dot from Florida, Buddy and his wife from St Louis. There's also a lovely Japanese- American couple from San Francisco who are sisters and are such dears. I think this is a wonderful way to meet friends.

From York we went on to Stamford, a small market town in rural England. We had lunch here - pasta for me and tuna sandwiches for Repin. We were joined later by Penny and her sister who also did not want to visit the church there. Stamford is a charming town - so typical of many English country towns - narrow cobble streets, small but beautifully designed shops,a small river that flows through - the Tweed I think -and a village green where we can see people basking in the sun. Lots of quaint looking English pubs with funny names - like The Stag's Head, Queen's Arms and so on.

The huge dining room


Our last visit is Belvoir Castle - a beautiful castle which still has the original owners staying there! The castle was originally built during the time of William the conqueror, by one of his close friends, a knight. The Duke of Rutland (who is the owner) still lives there with his wife and four children. Its really quite awesome - not just the castle but the family itself. Imagine being able to trace your family way back to 1066!


With Repin in the garden at Belvoir Castle



For a building that's been around for centuries, it's remarkably well kept and beautifully maintained. According to Hugh the Duke's family made their millions during the hey day of the wool trade and clever investment and cannyknowledge of economics have built it up. I'm sure it needs a lot of money to maintain a castle this size!



We were given a guided tour by the manager of the estate - a woman. The halls are so luxuriously furnished and it seems every monarch from the time of William had stayed here, including the present queen.



There were so many paintings - originals by Constable, Gainsborough and many others I did'nt recognise. There was also a painting of Henry VIII - an original done during his time at the time when he was still handsome.



The dining room is so huge - with 24 chairs at the dining table. You can't talk to the master of the house if you are sitting way down for sure! And the bedrooms - gorgeous four poster beds that Queen Elizabeth 1 had slept in.Imagine that! They must be super rich to live in a real castle and to be able to maintain its huge grounds. There are even peacocks in the garden.Part of its maintenance come from these guided tours - it costs about 6 pounds sterling to visit the castle.



At last we are on our way back to London - The Hilton Metropole in Edgeware Road. We arrived about 3.15pm and were quickly checked in. Both Repin and I did our prayers and had a rest after which we walked to Oxford Street for some souvenir shopping. Tomorrow we are meeting Nurul again and go and visit the British Museum and perhaps the L0ndon Eye, Covent Garden and some used books at Charing Cross Road.


9 Oct 2009

Sir Walter Scott's house and York

The Abbey in Bath

On the 9th morning we were out again - this time to York. But on the way we stopped at Abbotsford House, Sir Walter Scott's house. It's a lovely old farmhouse which he renovated and enlarged. There's a huge library full of really old books, mostly first editions, because he was a collector. He also had a bust of Wordsworth in his study. He must have really liked Wordsworth! Somehow I thought Walter Scott was older than Wordsworth, mainly because of his poem The Lay of the Last Minstrel which I had memorised when I was in Form 3! I also loved his novel Ivanhoe. Abbotsford is actually in the border country between Scotland and England. This is a truly beautiful part of England - with lots of old villages, woody hills and streams.

After Jedburgh we passed through the moors - just along the border. It is a rather bleak and lonely region - with craggy hills and poor-looking brownish grass. They look stark and lonely with no human habitation for miles around except for some sheep. The main economic activity here is sheep rearing because the soil is not very fertile - rather chalky we were told.

We stopped for lunch at a rest area just off the highway near Newcastle - fish and chips again! Our next stop will be York, which is another very old town. It used to be called Yorwich (Jorwick) . Because of a huge jam on the highway, our coach driver took evasive action and used the country lanes. This is more interesting actually because we drove through James Herriot country. I could see apple trees, pastures where cattle are grazing, beautiful English cottages and we even passed the veterinary clinic that James Herriot used to work in although he changed the names in his book. His real name was Alf White and the town is called Thirsk. I've read some of his books and enjoyed them very much, especially All Creatures Great and Small.

The town of York dates back to the Romans and some parts of it are even medieval. Constantine the Great was actually born in York - in a garrison where his father was a soldier. After the Romans came other Germanic tribes and later the Vikings who actually gave it its name. In 1066 though, The Normans conquered England and William the Conqueror made York his base. He found that the Roman walls were strong and made use of these ramparts and the castle, strengthening it even further. So the buildings in York have an interesting mix of eras. The guide told us that York has some of the most truly medieval architecture in the whole of England!

We had a walking tour of York and passed through a very narrow street called The Shambles. This place used to be the slaughter house for buthering animals and entrails as well as other animal parts could be seen strewn all over the street. The meat that has been butchered would be hung on hooks outside the shops. As there were no forms of refrigeration in those days the meat would be left hanging on the hooks sometimes for days until someone bought them. This place in those days was a mess, hence the word 'shambles' which still carries the same meaning today.

Since the beginning of the 20th century however, the meat industry has become more hygienic and the Shambles was no longer used as a slaughter house. Today it is a kaleidoscope of beautiful arty shops and glamorous boutiques.


Our hotel in York is also the Ramada but it is a renovated Manor house. It gracious beauty is charming and welcoming. The dining room is the original dining room of the former owners and has beautifully panelled walls and dates back to the Georgian era.

7 Oct 2009

Chester, Lake District and Edinburgh

Chester

Early the next morning, after breakfast we all trooped out to visit the historic town of Chester. Chester, according to Hugh is actually built later than the Tudor era. It was built in the hey day of the wool trade in the early 18th century although much of its buildings are Tudor in design - the black and white timbered buildings so prevalent in Stratford which is the real deal.I'd been here before of course - back in 1993 when I attended the testing course at the University of Lancaster. We were given an hour and thirty minutes but most of that hour was taken by Hugh for his walking tour of Chester. Its a beautiful town, especially the town centre where most of the "tudor buildings" are situated. There's a boardwalk around the buildings, a kind of second story with a corridor all around the outside of the buildings. This is the first of its kind since before this there weren't any shops with second stories or a verandah around them. I've always liked this beautiful place - especially the Tudor architecture. But after going to Stratford I think I fell in love with that place already.
From Chester we went to the Lake District which is only about an hour and 30 minutes away. We spent the whole lunch hour there. I was here too before in 1993 but that time we had a boat ride on Lake Windermere and tea and scones at a teashop there. This time around Repin and I had a pizza at a small cafe beside a river or a stream. It was quite chilly (by my standards) but Repin loved the weather of course. The place is beautiful and so tranquil - with the lake and the Autumn foliage just beginning to colour the landscape . The surrounding hills were just turning gold and red with autumn. Its so beautiful Repin is thinking of having a holiday by the Lakes the next time we visit!
The tranquil lake with some students kayakking


The beautiful autumn foliage in the Lake district


From the Lake district we went on to Edinburgh. Edinburgh is another city that I've been to but this time around we are staying here for 2 nights! However I was quite unlucky because that night I developed a igh fever and had to stay in bed. In spite of the fever, we did take a walk and Repin and I found this delicious Muslim food shop - Kebab Mahal, somewhere a few blocks from our hotel. It was the most delicious lunch I've ever had! And they gave us huge helpings too - so much so we had to take back half the chicken.

6 Oct 2009

The Cotswold, Stratford upon Avon, Llangollan

Today we drove through the beautiful Cotswold countryside. The land here is slightly hilly with beautiful rolling hills, pastures full of fat roly poly sheep and black and white cattle grazing lazily in the rich green fields. We stopped for an half hour at a small country town called Stow on the Wold. Wold actually means a small river so Stow on the Wold means town beside a small river! The weather is still drizzling - fine rain drops that seem innocuous but can still get you wet. Luckily we got our umbrellas now. After the brief stop we drove on through the Cotswold countryside. We passed picturesque looking country towns, small stone cottages that are so typical of England - surrounded by stone walls, lots of colourful flowers and climbing roses. How I wish we could take our time to enjoy all this beauty. Stratford upon Avon
Our next stop is a beautiful little town so well- preserved you could think that Shakespeare is still alive. Yes, its Stratford upon Avon - Shakespeare's birthplace. His parents' house is quite small by today's standards but at that time in the 14th century I suppose it passed for standard. The Avon is a river that passes through the town and is one of the most beautiful places in England. We had a walking tour of Stratford and had a group photo taken in front of Anne Hathaway's cottage. Anne Hathaway was Will Shakespeare's long suffering wife. Lunch was at a little Italian place in Stratford and was it yummy! Even Repin enjoyed the spaghetti which had a tangy sauce. We spent an enjoyable hour here looking at souvenir shops and taking pictures.
Llangollan, North Wales

From the Avon valleywe passed through to Northern Wales. The country here is more dramatic, with higher hills and shaggy crags. For lunch we stopped at Llangollan (pronounced as Sthlangothlan), a little town in Wales. Here we had a barge ride on an aqueduct - a kind of canal built by a Welsh engineer. It ran for many miles and parts of it is so high we can see the countryside around us for many miles. There are no aqueducts like this in the world so this is kind of a wonder. The ride took us an hour and after that we all trudged in the rain to a pub where all the others had drinks (of the alcoholic kind) so again Repin and I felt left out. Anyway after that we drove back to England and arrived in Chester our next stop by 7.30pm. After checking in we had dinner which was already prepared for us. It had been a fairly tiring day so we were quite glad to rest after that. Tomorrow is another early start!

5 Oct 2009

Hampton Court, Stonehenge and Bath

A view of Hampton Court



Our tour begins today. We all gathered at the hotel lobby. Looks like the rest of the tour group consists of Americans, Australians and Canadians. We're the only Malaysians in the group.Most of the people seem to be about our age or slightly older. There are also one or two young people - a couple on their honeymoon and a mum and her young daughter.
The weather today is not as kind as yesterday. It was drizzling slightly when we started out. Thye first stop is Hampton Court palace which was the favourite seat of Henry VIII. Its situated on the banks of the Thames and was a present to him from Sir Thomas More, the man in "A man for all seasons".
The rain got heavier as we walked in the gardens of Hampton Court. Neither Repin nor myself brought umbrellas so we both got wet. However most of our group were also wet as many had forgotten the vagaries of the British weather. It took us slightly more than an hour walking around the garden - it is beautiful no doubt, but so structured and rigid in its lines. One interesting thing was the vine that supposedly had been planted more than 200 years ago, during Queen Mary's reign - and is still alive. In fact there are some grapes hanging from some of its vines. Its really old!





Our next stop was Stonehenge - the mysterious prehistoric monument that have stood in the fields here for more than 5000 years. We spent roughly a half hour walking around the stones and taking pictures. I think I saw a Malaysian family there - a husband and wife.Mr Hugh Davies our guide said that not all the stones were from there originally. Some had been carted from as far as Wales and were put there later. These stones seem to be some kind of prehistoric tribute to the Sun - a kind of religious tribute. At least by he time we arrived at tonehenge the rain had stopped and the sun could be seen again. The weather was cool but not too cold.
FRom STonehenge we drove to Salisbury a beautiful old English town, (Its pronounced as 'Salzburi)which is dominated by one of the oldest and largest cathedral in England - the Salisbury Cathedral. Our lunch was here and for the first time Repin and I had lunch at a pub called the White Hart. We had fish and chips and hot tea which was lovely because of the cold weather. I also managed to buy an umbrella for Repin which costs 4 pounds!




Bath, UK


After an hour here we drove on to Bath where we would spend the night at the Bath Hilton.
Bath is a lovely town - full of gracious and beautiful buildings. I can imagine it during the Georgian period in the late 18th and 19th century when all the 'ton' would come here to enjoy the 'waters' and go to the Assembly Rooms. It is a town redolent of the grace and romance of the past - think Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer!
But this town was also famous in an earlier period of history - during Roman times the Roman garrisons used to go to Bath for vacations. Evidence of this only came out much later in the 20th century. While excavating the site of an old Georgian mansion, archaelogists found evidence of a much earlier period. The romans baths were finally fully excavated only after digging much deeper where they found columns and rooms where the roman soldiers were supposed to have stayed. It seems that over the years these baths had been covered by other buildings. Today Bath is as pretty as ever and the architecture of the period well preserved. Bath was a well known resort city to a lot of Edwardians and Victorians.
The hotel is right in town and after dinner we decided to go for a short stroll round the place. Its very quiet and its only 9pm. I wonder what the people here do at night?

4 Oct 2009

London

The weather today is bracingly cold -perhaps about 17 degrees F. After breakfast, which was scrambled eggs, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and baked beans - that was all we could eat because the rest wasn't halal -we decided to walk across to Hyde Park. Today is Sunday 4th Oct. We'd planned to meet Nurul for lunch and then we thougt of walking to Oxford Street for a bit of shopping. I hoped to get a woolly jumper at Primark. Hyde Park as usual is a lovely place to walk - lots of green. Of course this place has no flowers. For that we'd have to go to Regent's Park or maybe St James but also I think most of the blooms would have gone because of the colder weather. It is not really that cold - just a bit bracing. Fresh and brisk but a bit too chilly for me. After about an hour of walking we decided to go over to MacD's for a cup of hot chocolate. By that time it was already almost 12 noon - time to head back to the hotel and wait for Nurul then go for lunch.
LUnch was again at Melur - but this time Nurul was with us so we ordered the set which had sambal udang as well as a plate of rendang. Nurul seemed happy with the food and happily tucked in. Well she hadn't eaten home cooked food for some time so I'm sure she misses all that.

3 Oct 2009

London, first day

So after weeks of anticipation, Repin and I are on our way! We're going to UK for a tour (sampler) of the UK- England, Wales and Scotland. Our flight to London was Saturday and we were off very early in the morning - 6.45 am to be exact. We arrived at the airport about 7.30 and the queue was already very long. In fact it took us nearly 40 minutes to check in - so long was the line! Then another wait in the lounge but this was not so bad. Once our baggage were in everything was easy. The flight took off about 10 minutes later than scheduled. Our seats were right at the back - numbers 56 D and E I think. It was a long flight and I couldn't sleep either so luckily for me I had my book ready. By the time we arrived at Heathrow I had finished reading the two books I broughht with me! Immigration and customs was another long wait - more than an hour! Then we had to wait for the transport to take us to our hotel which is the Hilton Metropole. So by the time we arrived at the Hilton Metropole it was already 7pm.
The Hilton Metropole is not a big hotel but its very comfortable and situated right in town, close to the main centre of attractions, such as Oxford Street, the tube and so on. Its very accessible and what's better very close to a lot of halal shops so its easy for us to eat.
Anyway after checking in and getting our rooms, we did our prayers then quickly changed to go out and find dinner. We're lucky the Metropole is in Edgeware - its so near to all the places we like for example Oxford Street and so on. We found a nice Malaysian restaurant - Melur which is actually the old Mawar! They had changed owners and so the old Mawar is now another flower! Food is ok - great because we already missed Malaysian cooking! After dinner we walked around a bit and then retired to the hotel for an early night!

30 Sep 2009

Sazlina

I haven't visited Saz for sometime now - first there were my classes at UM then Sasrah came home and then it was Ramadan so now that Raya is over I feel that I must see her again. Its not that I havent thought of her - I have been thinking and feeling guilty that I've not seen her for a while now. Anyway today Shasha and I went over to see her. She hasnt really improved by leaps and bounds, though I must say that she's so much better compared to a few months before. At least now she can walk on her own though she still cant speak clearly. Her father says the neurons that connect speech in the brain are all haywire so that is why she cannot speak clearly. She understands us and knows what she wants to say but can't say them because of this. I felt so sad for her - she cried so much when she cant get us to understand what she wants to say. ITs really a test for her and sometimes I ask myself why she is so unlucky. Unlucky in love and unlucky in life. Poor girl. I told her father that I was going to UK so will not be able to visit in the next few weeks but I will try to see her again soon after I come back from UK.
It seems that very few friends have visited her in the last few weeks and she was feeling depressed. I guess that's the way of the world. When you're healthy and people can get something out of you , you'll have lots of friends. But when you are down and out, like Sazlina, they only see you once and then that's it. They will soon forget. It's been almost a year now that she had the stroke. I hope she will get better soon. I want her to at least get her speech back...

29 Sep 2009

All kinds...








Momo after he was shaved! Poor thing could not balance himself and the other cats hissed at him. They couldn't recognise him without his heavy coat of hair! Even Apin hissed at him. He looked so disoriented and sad....









20 Sep 2009

Idil Fitri

Family portrait without my youngest - Sarah. Taken in Semabok on first day of Raya.

Sometimes I wonder where the time goes - suddenly weeks have just flown by and now in fact its the all ready the first day of Idil Fitri. Today is Idil Fitri - the end of the Muslim month of fasting and abstinence from all things deemed worldly and unpure. I guess that means eating just enough to keep a body going - not over indulging at the breaking of fast, abstaining from impure emotions such as anger, hate, jealousy and envy and so on. The month is a kind of test for us. However, from what I see many of us ( me included) fast for the pleasure of eating all kinds of goodies at the end of the day, which actually beats the concept of Ramadan. Over in the middle east and Pakistan we hear of suicide bombs and shootings and people dying. What would the Prophet (PBUH) say I wonder if he were around. Its rather sad - just as was more or less prophesied on his trip to Heaven and it was said that he asked God to give him 3 boons. The third was that his people be not divided but Allah gave him the two boons except the third. And so it is that until today the Ummah is divided and would always be so until the end of the world.
On the homefront both my sons Rizal and Ridzuan are back. Shasha came on Friday night and Wan and Rizal on Saturday with Pauline and Sophia. She's two now my little grand daughter - a very talkative and cheeky two year old, her face always full of fun and mischief.

Friday was a hectic day with me going grocery shopping to prepare for all the festival goodies - the ketupat, rendang and sambal udang. I had bought the prawns earlier in KL (at the wholesale market) but still had to buy the meat and chicken for the rendang. This year most of my mum in law's relatives will not be coming over since mum has gone back to Semabok. It'll be just mine and Repin's friends and maybe my sisters and brothers.

Saturday was D day - all the cooking was done mainly by Yatie but I had to help of course. That night after the breaking f fast we all turned on the tv to listen to the announcement, but it was more or less already decided. The sighting of the moon would just be for appearances sake. And at 8.30 pm it was announced that Sunday would be Idil Fitri.

At 8pm though it poured. The rain came in sheets - not just a mild drizzle. The takbeer group would continue in spite of the rain but fewer than 30 turned up. I was getting worried when the rain didn't stop after one hour, but luckily towards 10 pm it stopped.
I always feel a pang during the reciting of the Takbeer, welcoming the new month of Syawal and praising of Allah and our prophet, peace be upon him. Visions of raya past fill my mind... I remember those days when both my parents were still alive and the takbeer in Banda Kaba was done by my uncles and other cousins. It was normally a festive occasion with all of us going to each other's houses to wish Id Mubarak. Children would be playing with sparklers, you can hear sounds of the takbeer on the radio in every one's houses and laughter and loud cheerful voices shouting out greetings. Those days have gone forever - they're just memories now. Even when I go back to my village, things are no longer like that anymore. I visited my old aunts - Mami Timah, Mak Esah and Nenek Soyah. Mak can't walk anymore - she has to use a walking stick to help her and Mami is worse. I gave them each a batik sarong and a RM50 angpow. Nothing much really, considering that they're the last of my relatives.

6 Sep 2009

Relaxing in Melaka

Its wonderful being home in Malacca at last. It feels as if we hadn't been back in ages though we did come back last week - just one day. There's so much to do here - weeks of dust to vacuum and so on. Oh yes, Cindy came with the new curtains and they are really pretty. The living room curtains are in apple green stripes with small pink roses and a rose sheer for the dining area. Upstairs Shasha's room is very retro, with bright green polka dots and Sarah's room has pale lilac stripes with pink roses. My room is the only one wthout new curtains. Even the kitchen gets a new one - a sweet pink and green with pictures of cups and kettles with roses printed on them. Looks like the theme is green this year as opposed to the browns and greens of previous years. Outside the garden is bloomimg too. I've added some more roses to my collection and hope these will stand some neglect because I sure can't be here all the time for them.
Ramadan here in Malacca is a peaceful time. Just being in Malacca is enough to banish all our stress. Repin especially gets to relax completely here though his idea of a stress free weekend is to sleep the day away. However he did get up top accompany me to the garden centre where we got more soil and some plants to add to our burgeoning garden. My hibiscus and the canna lillies are really blooming. After cutting off the diseased plants, the new shoots are coming back nicely now.
The week before I visted Yah in Shah Alam and she took Sarah and I for a drive around her housing area. She wanted to show me a special garden - all roses! And it was a real treat. I was so fascinated by the ability of the house owner to plant her roses I rang the door bell. The lady was so generous and friendly. She even shared with us her tips on growing roses - she used fish meal as fertiliser. She said that she bought fresh fish from the market (normally slightly stale 2 day old fish are cheaper she said) and chop them up into small pieces before blending them to make a fish paste. These she would bury inside the soil and around the rose bushes. And the roses really came out looking great!

3 Sep 2009

Ramadan

Its three days since Sarah went back to Russia. At least this time around she got to spend part of Ramadan with us at home. For 4 years she's been fasting in Russia, eating I dont know what. It isn't much but even a week of Ramadan with her at home is better than nothing I guess. Its now well into the second week of Ramadan - probably about 13 days maybe. I never counted actually - just followed the days as they come. Ramadan this year is quieter I feel although the bazaars are still running. I went to Alpha Angle this morning and it was very quiet - the car park was almost empty. Of course there are hundreds of people at the Ramadan bazaar which can be quite claustrophobic, however the malls are almost empty.
Our Ramadan bazaars here in Kuala Lumpur are quite something. Food of all varieties - some you've never seen before, most traditional delicacies and whatever kind of food - Western, Eastern, Asian and whatever - just name it and you can find it here. But of course you have to be wary - not all the food sellers are experienced cooks. In fact many are once in a blue moon cooks - trying to make a quick buck during the Ramadan. For the horde of office workers who throng the bazzaar anything that look interesting and appetising will do! Only the experienced shopper will know the difference between the real sellers and the 'fly by night' sellers.
I haven't managed to do any tarawih prayers yet though we did attend one at OUM the other day. What I really wanted to do was go back to Malacca and stay there for the whole month so that I can attend the prayers every day. But since my husband is here I guess I have to remain in KL, at least until close to Raya.
Today we started baking cookies for the Eid which will be on 20th or 21st of September. I think I'll bake at least 3 types - choc chips, pineapple tarts and Repin's favourite -using ghee. All so unhealthy but oh so delicious.
This raya will be Sophie's first that she will understand. Last year she was only 1 year old and sick with fever. Hopefully she'll be fine this year so that I can see her running around the Malacca house playing.

10 Aug 2009

Views of Nexus







Calm and peaceful scenes at Nexus Karambunai, the place for a vacation!

5 Aug 2009

Some photos

Sunset at Karambunai
With our grand daughter Sophia (Its early morning - hence the grumpy early morning face)

Pauline, Rizal and Sophia at the breakfast table


The verandah of our rooms. Ours is on the left while the girls' room is on the right.



Kota Kinabalu


This picture was snapped on the way to KK. KK has changed a lot since we were last here in May 2008. The beautiful esplanade is no longer there - I think they are renovating the place and adding a garden. So right now what is left is just rubble and large tracts of empty space. We can't even walk to the seaside. Luckily our room in KK (We're staying at the Promenade now) faces the sea so at least we can see it.
Today we all walked to the Phillippine market to buy some souvenirs. The market has not changed at all over the years though prices have gone up - still the same stalls packed with Indonesian made goods as well as Borneo pearls. I bought some souvenirs for En Mail and others back home - batik for Norlee and so on. Tomorrow we'll be going back to KL on the evening flight.

3 Aug 2009

Nexus Karambunai

Most of the ponds are filled with all kinds of fish!
The intrepid photographer!
A view from the verandah of our room




Today is our third day in Nexus. This place is really beautiful. Yesterday we spent the whole morning on the beach and Sophie got sooo brown! She tans easily my baby. Above is the view from my mother in law's room - there's a pond which is connected by a shallow stream to another pond just in front of my room. There are lots of fish - looks like sepat and catfish. It is peaceful here - we sit on the verandah and enjoy a quiet afternoon. Since its too hot to go to the beach we just relax, read and look at the beach from our rooms instead.


In the evening Repin and I took mum for a stroll in the sprawling grounds. She had to be pushed in the wheel chair but at least she could see the golf course and look at the flowers and numerous fish ponds along the way.

1 Aug 2009

Karambunai Holiday

View from our room


Part of the long stretch of fantastically soft white sandy beach.


Too many things have been happening lately. Well for one thing its Sara's third week home and we're now in Nexus Karambunai, holidaying. Nexus is really gorgeous - the hotel is quite secluded (there are pros and cons to this) and has a beautiful 6 km beach! White and fine sand, clean (most important) lots of green and a really fantastic landscape. Lots of small lakes and ponds connect the various wings. Our rooms face the ocean and we can sit on our small verandah every evening and admire the sunset. The whole family is here - complete with my grand daughter, Sophia and my mum in law.
Nexus is actually a great resort but too far away from Kota Kinabalu. Although they have bus shuttles daily to and fro, the time between each shuttle is not very convenient. The first one out is at 9am and they fetch visitors back only at 3pm. THose who go at 3pm can only return at 9pm in the evening. So when Repin and I went out (to get food supplies to supplement the hotel's meals we had to get back in a taxi which cost us RM70!
Food is catered more for the European and American taste - for us who have been used to hot, spicy food, everything tastes bland. And the price is a shock to the purse strings. However I guess we should have expected that. After all it is far from town (about 30km only) and most of the people who come here are foreigners - mainly Japanese, Europeans, Bruneians and Singaporeans. I think we could be the only Malaysian family staying here. It could also be because of the price - a bit too steep for most Malaysians. Imagine a plate of nasi lemak ( which costs about RM4 in KL costs RM32 here.) You can guess the rest.


But I can't deny that the resort itself is beyond beautiful. Situated between the South China Sea and some mountain ranges, it also boasts a beautiful 18 hole golf course. This place is also a paradise for bird watchers for even to my untutored eye I could see a number of eye catching birds. I specially love the well-landscaped grounds - lots of water around - riverlets and streams, ponds and small fresh water pools linked together by wooden Japanese bridges. LOts of greenery too so the whole place looks like a beautiful garden.

25 Jul 2009

Great reads



Finished three books this week - among them one I started some time back but didn't finish - Jodi Picoult's 'Handle with care." I didn't really want to finish it at first but took it back from the shelf and finally completed it last night. The thing about Picoult is that her books are never a "nice read". They make you feel too much, question you too much and days after finishing it, the questions and 'what ifs' still hound you. Her stories are great, but never comfortable. Well she affects me that way. This is the fourth Jodi Picoult I've read - the first being the one about a missing child who was stolen by her own father - Vanished. Handle With Care is about a family with a child who has a congenital bone disease,Osteoporosis Imperfecta or OI, which makes her bones very fragile and brittle. In fact her bones are so brittle they are breaking all the time - any sudden move on her part causes them to break. It is about a young family who suffer physically, emotionally and mentally trying to help their child; trying to give her as normal a childhood as she could have. On a trip to Disneyland, the child Willow falls. She's taken to the hospital and the doctors who view her x rays accuse the parents of deliberately harming her. Both parents are arrested on charges of child abuse because Willow is found to have dozens of broken bones - some of which are just healing while others have healed. Willow is taken into protective custody together with her older sister. Finally after weeks of fighting a system that is prejudiced and ignorant about OI, the family is reunited. The lawyer who handled the case told the parents that they could sue the hospital and her family doctor for not telling them before hand about the child's serious disabilities. BUt to have this lawsuit, they would have to admit that having Willow was a mistake. Even if the OKeefes had known about the child's disease would they have aborted the baby? What would be the 'right' thing to do? Should she kill the unborn child and deny her the right to live - even if that life is spent wholely on a hospital bed? The child, called Willow by her parents so that she could be as strong and as supple as the willow tree, is courageous, funny and intelligent. In this novel Picoult uses multiple voices to portray the different relationships in this family drama. It is engrossing and suspenseful. Picoult tells a very good tale - diving deep into the medical history of OI and weaving in a lawsuit in a story of family relationships and the caring of a sick child which can shatter even the bravest. The lawsuit brings out many things into the open. The question is will the young family survive all this? A book that I can recommend to all.

24 Jul 2009

Harry Potter and other things

Shasha got us tickets to watch the latest Harry Potter movie on Wednesday. It wasnt too bad - I'm not sure but I feel that it wasn't as good as the earlier ones. Harry is so much older and so are the other actors - Ron and Hermione. I read the Half blood Prince such a long time ago that I had almost forgotten the story. Maybe I should go back and re read the book. I think they added a few scenes that weren't in the book. What I hated was that they killed Dumbledore. Now that we have read all the books we realise that Snape wasn't really evil but was just playing double agent but at that time (when I first read the book) I hated him. Anyway the film was as good as the book - maybe I can give it a 7 out of 10! So far none of the fantasies beat Lord of the Rings trilogy.
I've also be rereading some of Shasha's fantasy books - The Thief of Atolia, Queen of Atolia and The King of Atolia (a trilogy). I really enjoyed these and can recommend anyone to read all three. The characters are well drawn and the story line has so many sub plots and twists and turns you are really surprised at the end. It's about Eugenides, a young "thief" of royal blood - related to the Queen of Edith. I'm not going to tell the story but all three books are really great reads - books that you cant put down. I finished the last book at almost 3 am in the morning!

22 Jul 2009

At home with Sara




Actually Sara's been home for more than a week. She came back last week on Monday, looking tired, pockmarked with acne and happy to be home at last. The last semester she said was a real torture chamber and I told her 5th year is going to be worse. She agreed dejectedly, then like mercury changed the topic and talked instead of what she is going to do during these 6-7 weeks of home leave.
Thursday was Sophie's birthday. My grand daughter is now 2 years old! When we saw her today she was wearing her favourite green dress - she looked so cute! And not as talkative as before although she did call me and asked "where is datok?" She refused to talk to Sara at first but a half hour later was persuaded to sit on "Auntie Sara's" lap and be read to.
Sophie's birthday party was only held on Saturday - so that everybody could attend. We made fried bee hoon and vegetarian curry puffs. I was surprised that we received a number of compliments on both because I always thought that being vegetarian it wouldnt be tasty! I guess I was proven wrong - according to Rizal's friends the vegetarian bee hoon was really delicious. Sadly for Sophie though she had a little accident due to the lighter used for lighting the birthday candles, burnt her cheek and for a while there were only screams of pain. I remember during last year's birthday celebration she also had a little incident in which she fell on her face. Poor little baby. I just hope there won't be scars. But apart from that the birthday party went well though we could not stay long. Immediately after that we had to rush back to Malacca.

11 Jul 2009

meeting old friends







Lena is here from Perth, Australia so it was a good excuse for all of us to meet up once again. So there we were - 12 middle aged ladies having a ball at the Green Dragon Chinese Restaurant. To say we were noisy is an understatement! Everyone is talking - asking questions, updating news and generally yakking about what they had been doing for the last year. The last gathering that we had was sometime in 2008 - slightly more than 9 months ago. Then we had Seok Ching, Judy and Florinne with us too. Today's group is smaller, mainly those who are still in Malacca although Kathy Idros came down from KL. Looking at them brings me back to our school days. Never mind that we're now grey haired and weigh at least ten kg heavier - the way we were all behaving no one would have thought we were way past 50! Everyone teased Jullian who goes to bed at 9 pm every night, even now. Jullian blushes but smiles and tells us she doesn't enjoy watching television and there isn't much for her to do at night which is why she sleeps early. This brings on more teasing - this time of a sexual nature, which Jullian accepts cheekily saying she needs a man maybe! Everyone shrieked with laughter - not just a man, but a young one with a high performance index!
Then amidst the laughter someone mentioned that Rita has had a biopsy and the atmosphere turned serious. Rita isn't with us. The restaurant staff - two young Malay girls in tudong looked at us in wonder. Everyone is talking in English. There are Malays and Chinese and we are all eating in a Chinese restaurant, laughing about things we had done in the past, things we are doing at present and talking about travelling in the future. This scene can only be seen among people our age - where all races can mix freely and mingle as equals. In today's scenario, with the present generation, things are no longer as simple as this. Malays do not mix as freely with other races,mainly because many of them do not speak English and the Chinese will not speak Malay except when necessary. For all the government's talk of unity and harmony, there is precious little of it among the younger generation. Maybe Najib should look back at the past and at our education system then (60s and early 70s) to find out what is wrong with the education system now and why we are breeding little 'undercover racists'. Is it the politics of disunity that is causing this?

Anyway enough of this retrospection. Finally at 10.00 pm, we had to get out of the restaurant, so we adjourn to the nearest Kopitiam cafe - there to continue with our get together. This time , out in the open air, we had a roaring good time. Lois had lots of stories to tell about her travels, Kat Idros talked about how she met her husband and Yan Lin went to get Rita to join us. When Rita came there were more jokes about boobs and biopsies and everyone had a good laugh when Rita said hers are still intact. Finally at 11.00pm we made a move home though to some the night is still young. At the Kopitiam next door a couple sing a blues number. There are lots more young people there - young families with small children, and groups of students in black t shirts playing a guitar,more couples. I smile at this place that was once a sleepy hollow - no you can't say Malacca is a sleepy hollow any longer. It is very much a hip town - what KLites would call a 'happening' place.