Saturday, July 31, 2010

Malaysia Truly Asia



This is our tourism tagline. In 3 words we proclaim to potential visitors to our lovely country that they are getting more than just Malaysia. But I think it is more appropriate to describe Malaysia as truly Asean than Asia judging by the dominance of so many nationals from our neighboring countries, legal and illegal.

Malaysia is a hot favorite to Asean nationals because our climate, culture and relative political stability are welcomed by them. Plus we are perceived as 'rich' and blessed. It is no wonder that we have become a haven and a heaven to even migrant workers from as far as Nepal and Bangladesh, many of whom have decided to settle down here for good. The team leader of the house painters who did my job recently married a local 15 years ago and has a young son who is in school. He is a Bangladeshi and has fused in our culture. Many foreign workers came with the plan to eventually run away and staying on as illegal residents hoping to obtain legal status years later. I think the first maid of my elder daughter planned just that earlier this year. But a group of foreign nationals are coming in legally, as wives of Malaysian men too busy to court local girls or felt Malaysian ladies are more demanding. In THIS report we read of Vietnamese brides coming into Malaysia to seek better security and future. As more of them get married here the trend will encourage their community to grow, just as we see the Filipino and Indonesian maids grew in larger numbers. Now Cambodian maids are being welcomed due to clamp down of Indonesian maids in the past 2 years. Among foreign males we have Indonesians, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Indians and Myanmarese attracted to our shores to work in plantations, construction, manufacturing companies and in restaurants, IT and security sectors. And do not forget those from outside Asean : Middle Eastern and African nationals walk our streets as casually as if this is their home. Some are the richer and connected, others scammers and snatchers. And yes, most likely you will be approached by female DVD pedlars from China, and beggars from Myanmar, Thailand and God knows where else.

It is no longer a certainty that any stranger we will bump into will be a Malaysian. Instead out of every 10 people we encounter, I think, especially in the cities, 2 or 3 of them will be foreigners. In the affluent places you will see Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Americans, Australians and Europeans adding to this vast cultural hotpot we call Malaysia.

Maybe we should pride ourselves as Malaysia: 1World! In that I am not stealing the 1Malaysia concept so passionately pushed forward by prime minster Najib Razak, but rather observe that we are indeed a nation of choice to other nationals. USA, eat your heart out!

Friday, July 30, 2010

When an Old Blanket Tears ...



The wedding blanket given to my wife and I on our wedding day by her late maternal grandmother in 1971 lasted some 35 years and when it began to fray at the edges it started the gradual tear until the blanket split into two. Being an important gift we did not throw it away but I tried to repair it by stitching and rejoining the torn pieces. As with any ageing things the blanket eventually became unuseable but my wife still kept the 2 halves for sentimental reasons.

Today a major news of national interest broke. A powerful politician was charged for corruption. Read HERE and reactions HERE, HERE and HERE. The Pakatan opposition has demanded further arrests as reported HERE. Now what has this got to do with a torn old blanket?

The analogy is this. The Barisan goverment is like an old blanket that is tearing apart. This new report signals the start of a serious tear. The most senior leader carrying the title of 'Tun' now faces charges of graft. For years there was no political will to prosecute but now I suppose things have come to a head that doing nothing will do more harm than good. The BN government really has no choice. Someone has to face the music but is the issue confined to just one man or syndicated to several politicians who also benefitted? If a fair investigation is carried out and there is political will to bring the guity to book, even if it damages the credential of the Malaysian government of the day, the long term prognosis for the nation will be good. For awhile we have read about the drain in foreign investments due to lack of confidence in the government policies and practices. We know what the reasons are. We have to excise the gangrene to heal before it toxifies the rest of the body and kills it. Excision is painful but unavoidable if we are to survive for the sake of our children and future generations.

THIS report points to a potential disaster for the BN government by allowing a very powerful ex-minister to be charged. Most certainly other equally prominent politicians may be implicated. The person who feels vindicated now must be the deposed former MCA president, Ong Tee Keat, whose call for a full investigation into the Port Klang Free Zone scandal led to his downfall.

In a longer viewpoint, a tearing or torn blanket must be repaired, if it is reparable. Otherwise it must be replaced with a new blanket. In politics, if a ruling coalition is no longer able to command trust and respect then they are in for serious reconsideration comes the next general elections. We may be tired of using the same old blanket for 53 years. Me? We stopped using our marital blanket after 35 years.

A Photo to Remember



Thanks to my ex-classmate at BL4 for this scanned pix, and for BL2 for touching, relabeling and resending out. If you tracked an earlier post with class photo and the name list you will know who they are. Although I was not a singles badminton player for my school, to be in the team was an honour in itself. I remember the many evenings I spent sweating out with friends playing badminton. Sometimes we played till it was impossible to see the shuttlecock before we were content to call it a day. I have retired from the sport now although I still keep a few old racquets and a tube of shuttlecocks so that my grand children can learn this sport later.

I am the one squatting in the middle. To my left and right are cousins, one a dental surgeon who emigrated to New Zealand, the other a medical practitioner in active service.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jeju Island, Here We Come

Today I made a booking with a local travel agency for a 8D/6N holiday in South Korea beginning August 30. The main focus is on scenic attractions so the itinerary will include the famous Jeju Island (Hawaii of S. Korea) and Mount Sorak. It will be end summer and the sceneries may not be as nice as we expect but we may be in for surprises, who knows.

It is exactly a month away but I will spend some time reading about where we will be visiting, the food we will taste and of course learning a few greetings and questions in Korean.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Paid Space

I never look at it this way until after I wrote the earlier post. Lying on my sofa and recuperating from my flu I realise that whilst the space I used in the public domain is open to everyone else to use what I've paid for in my house/home is privy to myself and family members and invited guests. Perhaps you will say this is obvious but do we ever look at it this way when we buy a house to stay? The cost is not just the land and building but also the space that comes along with it. We spend time, effort and money to improve the physical assets with decorations, landscaping and furnishings but often forget to do likewise for the living space. It is true that we don't own the land of indefinite depth (I am not sure if it is below 6ft, which sound like anyone who is buried anywhere is actually lying on public property!) but I am pretty sure we do own the space within our property. I am not sure if the property appreciates in value so will the space too, or even if we quantify a value to that space. After all, if that space is filled with anger, ill will, chilly relationship and harsh words, what sort of value will guests attach to that space? But a warm atmosphere filled with laughter, happy sound and love certainly boost the value of this space. Plus if it is surrounded by a naturally quiet surrounding that comes free, well, I guess such a combination can challenge any paid holidays!

Subtlely, developers understood the meaning and economic potential of space development and management and many buyers now realise that beyond bricks and mortar, the invisible is more important to seekers of happiness and peace. We should fill our paid space with good memories, the unpaid ones that husband and wife, children and grandchildren as well as friends and neighbors provide.

Paid Memories



Of the 2 dimensions of time and space I believe that time is irreplaceable but space reuseable. Time moves forward and no matter how much we want to reclaim it we can only do so through our memories. But space can be reused in different time blocks. For example, the same spot I stood on the Great Wall of China in the Badaling section at 4.00pm on March 14, 2002 together with my wife would have been occupied by thousands of other tourists since then. And likewise we were standing where thousands of other people before us, including even laborers and soldiers, did. In effect we were where history was made.

Memories are history. I blog my holidays because they form part of my own history. I know that I shan't be able to be where I once went but for the sheer joy and contentment of claiming the moment in time and space I decide to document them as detail as I can.

I often ask those who have traveled, 'Did you write down what you did, where you go, how you felt?' and when the answer was a 'No' I would launch my advice that if we had spent money to create memory why not save it for future pleasure? The reason why I could specify the actual date and time of our China holiday above was because I recorded it in my journal. That moment was mine to keep. A photograph keeps a living proof and a constant reminder of my memory that is worth recalling flawlessly.

If you go anywhere, or do anything interesting, do yourself a favor. Journalise it. Perhaps in old age when you are losing your mind it will be the only thing together with photographs to bring a cheer to your face. We are all born without a single memory but in our golden years, memories abound. How you manage them while you can changes the quality of your remaining years. Not forgetting it is part of yourself to be bequeathed to you family.

So the next time you travel, create a voice, photo or written diary. You would be so glad you did.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Total Recall



I am not referring to the movie that was popular 20 years ago but to the ability that people above 60s cherish. In the recent online get-together of my former classmates from ACS Sitiawan who made it to Form 6 in ACS Ipoh in 1966, a classmate Jimmy shared a scanned pix of the class of 1967 (Upper Form 6 class B) and within 48 hours we got all the names of the classmates and teachers right. Jimmy was just incredible with his total recall, especially the names of the female classmates that some of us felt he had some sort of charm for them, or did he wrote down their names somewhere 43 years ago?

The picture above and the names below are what we retrieved from our past.

BL1 - Hoo Wong Ching (BL is Back Row, Left) >>> he is our Jimmy.
BL2 - Lee Mun Hin
BL3 - Dang Meng Song
BL4 - Teoh Hoon Heng
BL5 - Ding Meng Yew
BL6 - Naik Chu King
BL7 - Lee Kam Tuck
BL8 - Wong Choong Leong
BL9 - Chan Kit Lam
BL10 - Ling Hee Huong
BL11 - Sek Chee Keong
BL12 - Kao Chew Kwong
BL13 - Liew Chin Jen
BL14 - Ting Cheh Sing
BL15 - Chan Chen Wai
BL16 - Yee Kok Fai

ML1 - Norehan (ML is Middle Row, Left)
ML2 - Wang Dayang
ML3 - Indra Devi
ML4 - Ong Ah How
ML5 - Sushil Kumar
ML6 - Diong Cheong Hoon
ML7 - Ngu Kuang Hua
ML8 - Rodney Ho
ML9 - Teh Cheow Soo
ML10 - Yew Nieng Choon >>> that's me with the nerdy look.
ML11 - Lau In Leong
ML12 - Ling Siok Ming
ML13 - Chong Looi Hin
ML14 - Ling Leong Geok
ML15 - Ruby Low

FL1 - Koo Yoon Wan (FL is Front Row, Left)
FL2 - Lorraine Clark
FL3 - Khoo Eng Ee
FL4 - Mr. Gong
FL5 - Balraj
FL6 - Teerath Ram (deceased)
FL7 - Foong Ah Yoong (deceased)
FL8 - Chin San Sooi
FL9 - Tan Chin Huat
FL10 - Mrs. Wong
FL11 - Chew Pek Choo
FL12 - Ivy Ng
FL13 - Choy Poh Kee

Check out an earlier post HERE to see another class photo. If any of my readers recognize your name or picture above, or is connected to anyone there please drop me a line. Some of us are working on a reconnection, before we are permanently disconnected.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Fruitless Venture

Some 10 years ago we planted a young mango tree of forgotten species that yielded firm yet succulent pulp that we enjoyed for some 3 seasons only. In the mid 2000s when I was in better physical shape I would track the rate the fruits were ripening, fabricated a long pole with a wire netting at one end to harvest those at higher levels that are showing signs of yellowing. Sometime in 2006 we got the best crop and we gave away these delicious fruits to relatives and friends who raved their sweetness and flavor. I thank the nurseryman who sold us the sapling. Each year or two we would look forward to signs of flowering and new buds to appear. The last good harvest was in 2007 I think and a neighbor lady who knew what a good fruit is boldly asked if she could have some, and when we agreed, unashamedly had her maid climbed up the trunk and brought down most of the soon to ripen fruits. I don't know if that traumatised the tree or I did not feed it fertilizer regularly (guilty of neglect) but soon after that the tree became barren. Until 2 months ago when a few flowers appeared followed by some fruits. Memory of the sweet tasting mango again filled my mind and I look forward to eating some again.

Next to the mango tree, which has now grown really huge, is a chiku tree of a variety that is very sweet and tender, brought back from Teluk Intan, Perak. It was recommended by my in-law who planted the same in his compound. This chiku tree has also matured and started bearing fruits for almost 2 years. But ....

Every good thing will invite unwelcomed visitors.

So my mango and my chiku trees attracted a squirrel in the neighborhood. This creature which I believe I caught in a rat trap but released out of pity (or was it its cousin ? never mind) started visiting the trees when they are in season. Together with other family members (I think there are at least 2 of them) they would scamper along the party wall from my rear neighbor (who also have a chiku tree) to my trees. They were having a party, running boldly over my garden. I really don't mind sharing the fruits with them but it look like they were always ahead, and greedy. Before the fruits get ripen they would attack them and ate them half ripened and leave the ramnants on the ground.

I have a mongrel that does nothing. It could not even chase the squirrels but being 11 years of age I can excuse it but it didn't even make an attempt. Twice we saw fully eaten mangoes in the garden with just the seeds for us to view. Those were the work of the mongrel which also have a good taste.

A few weeks ago when some workers came in to repair the broken drains they too help themselves to the half ripened mangoes. And so does the workers who came later to repaint the walls and gates. Last night when we returned home in a drizzle I was excited to see a fallen ripened mango near the tree trunk. I picked it up and sliced the skin only to find the fruit infested with worms inside.

Sigh! Looks like creatures and visitors are having a go at my fruits but not us. I thought of caging the unripened fruit in wire nettings or tie them in plastic bags but the idea doesn't work or not practical. Perhaps the trick is to camp next to the trees but that would be absolutely silly and ridiculous. Any idea how to reclaim my territory from the creatures?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Try Beating This!

Although I am down with a mild flu I kept my plan to bring my wife to the local immigration office to renew her expired passport. Days earlier when I called them to enquire if they open Saturday the sweet voice at the other end of the line said no but they will be opened on Sunday from 8.30am till 1.00pm. I thought that was very sensible and considerate of the immigration office to realise that working people need to find free time to attend to such matters. Thank you.

So this morning I said to my wife that we should be there no later than 8.30am. My earlier experience with the immigration office here many years ago was that even as early as 7.30am applicants are queuing up at the unopened office to get their numbers. Then there were much jostling and pushing. Not expecting the same scenario I was nonetheless surprised that at 8.20am when I arrived there were already 20 people ahead of us. However this time the queue was orderly and people more civil. More importantly the counter services were courteous and prompt. I am glad we were well prepared with the right documentations so there was no delay. By 9.00am my wife have had her application submitted and her renewal fee for 5 years of RM300 paid. The cashier said to return 2 hours later to pick up the new passport. Now this is unbeatable. I don’t believe in the States, Canada or Australia you can get your travel documents replaced this fast!

The 2 hours thereafter was well spent having breakfast, marketing and shopping. At 11.15am when my wife showed up to collect her new passport it was given to her as promised.

While I had previously complained lots about Malaysian politics and government bodies today’s encounter with the immigration has been a weekend treat. Tomorrow I will begin scouting for a brief holiday for my wife and I.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sitiawan Online Reunion

Barely a week after I attended the 'Friendship Lunch' in Klang organized by my old friend and class monitor I suddenly met up online with my long lost classmate who is now residing in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada through another classmate's contact. I guess I have not been making much efforts in locating old friends but the process has begun with one contact opening doors to others.

All of us are in our early 60s and I have 8 in my group now. Several more should come into the list in the coming week depending on how actively those who have the email contacts start to share, and how many in the group actively check their mails and reply/comment. Perhaps in our 50s we were too busy consolidating our career but most of us now should be reaping/harvesting the fruits of our efforts. But surprisingly a few are still working (some by circumstances, some, like me, compelled to). I would like to be able to meet everyone from my old class of 65 somewhere, maybe not for a meal but for a few days off in a resort to relive our good old days.

On a more sombre tone, we are all living on borrowed time. Like going back to schools we get excited to meet our friends again. My 2 year 10 months grand-daughter is eagerly awaiting for her chance to be enrolled in play school next year. I wonder how will she respond to all the new kids she never met before but may one day become her old friends ...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Reality Check



Today mark the start of an era of stepwise subsidy removal as announced in THIS news report. The subsidy removal this time is confined to just sugar and fuel items and the quanta are mosquito bite size but as often as these steps are announced, the cumulative removal will escalate into a compounded rise in cost of living that some families will find unable to adjust. Sound a bit like boiling a frog in a pan of water being slowly heated up that it was unable to sense the temperature rise but will eventually be cooked.

I don't fault the Najib government for this subsidy removal, it should have come much much earlier in the good times when we could afford them. But the problem with our politicians is that they only react when things start to get out of hand. I pity those who have debts to service, young family and ageing parents to support and medical bills to pay.

If a survey is to be conducted today I'm sure many respondents will take the view of Opposition Leader, Anwar Ibrahim, HERE.

(Photo credit: Star Online)

Healthily Old

Someone shared this with me and I'd like to do the same. I think it is a universal recipe to live a long, healthy, happy and productive life. See how much are you in agreement.

Ten Healthy Habits That May Help You Live to 100

1. Don't Retire
I don't believe it means we should keep working till we drop. I take this to means that we must stay active physically and mentally.
2. Floss Everyday
Good dental health help prevent complications. I'm glad I am a daily flosser.
3. Move Around
This sound like a nag but a constructive one. I am not successful here.
4. Eat Fibre Rich Cereal for Breakfast
Hmmmm, hard to change what I am used to eat. Perhaps I should change my white bread to wholemeal as a matter of non-negotiable switch.
5. Get at least 6 Hours Sleep
Oh yes, I actually need 7 hours or more, and a short afternoon nap.
6. Consume Whole Food, Not Supplements
Agreed totally but cannot fully avoid supplements.
7. Be Less Neurotic
Thankfully I can avoid being one.
8. Live like a Seventh Day Adventist (No alcohol, smoking excessive sweets, eat well, take care of body)
I guess casual wine/liquor drinking is OK, and taking occasional fast food is also harmless. No?
9. Be a Creature of Habits
I really want a daily routine that is 80% fixed but each day is different for me.
10. Stay Connected
The 'friendship lunch' today is a good start.

Oldtime Reunion

We meet in school to study, make friends, then we separate on our ways to universities, get jobs and marry, set up families and establish our careers. Throughout these years we have little time to think back of those classmates we miss, not until now when we are retiring or have reasons to reconnect. Maybe we have more time now as children have all grown up, or left us. Maybe we think we need to revisit our long lost classmates and clink glasses and crack silly jokes and behave like adolescents again without being offended.

It was for most or all of the above reasons that a classmate of mine invited me to join a 'friendship lunch' today in Klang. There were 12 of us and I know about half of them but being all Foochows or Kutiens and from Sitiawan, we felt immediately at home with each other. For 2 hours and over 6 deliciously cooked dishes in the Soon Wah Seafood Restaurant (in Jalan Angsa, Berkeley Garden, Klang) and a bottle of complimentary whiskey from one of the friends, we shared and laughed and took pictures for remembrance.

We were all men so we could be open and frank. But I said that the next round we should allow our spouses to join as they are a part of our lives. When will it be? October? For sure my classmate who organised today's lunch told me that I will certainly be 'targetted' although I live the farthest away. By the way, he invited me a few days ago, but 2 days later 'uninvite' me as he said 'there are no more place left'. Coming from any other person I may be offended but from my ex-class monitor and hometown friend, how could I be so easily belittled? I guess we all have learned to take things easy and light in our sunset years. It is a recipe to a happier retired life I'm sure.

Now You See It ..

The ancient art of Changing Face has fascinated me. I often wonder how does the artiste do it in a split second? It is not illusionary and to me it rank higher than magic. Celebrity magicians like David Copperfield and David Blaine had better watch out. Here is a Youtube clip of how a 25 year old artiste combine magic with instant costume change ... watch till the end for the finale.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Country Roads

It is a pity that John Denver is no longer with us but his songs live on. One of my favorites is Country Roads which I love to sing karaoke when I have the chance. Here is one Youtube clip that is of a good resolution and with lyrics for you to singalong. Enjoy.


Island in the Stream

I always enjoy listening to Kenny and Dolly sing this duet. On radio they are a pair, on video they are a couple. Watch them flirt with each other in this Youtube videoclip. I don't know about you but their voices really blend well.

The Week that Was

Looking back I wish the days has been less hectic but having ridden over them I have a sense of relief. Last Monday was a full business meeting, an important one for my company. The rest of the week was spent on planning my house repainting as well as the actual work itself, which took 3 days and ended on Saturday. Then yesterday was a celebration of my father-in-law's 92nd birthday. I tested my voice on the karaoke machine in the function room and realised it was noticeably aging. Ah, well, I should have expected that.

I held back the repainting until little Andrew is bigger. He is now nearly 6 months and I decided not to hold back this once-in-5-years maintenance job. The wall paint on the perimeter concrete wall as well as the metal gate and grilles have aged, part of which are showing signs of peeling or rusting. If I hold back any longer the damages will be more extensive. Furthermore I'd never know when will be a better time, so I picked a team of foreign workers partly because they are cheaper and partly because they 'know' me so would not do anything irresponsible.

I decided to buy my own paints and pay for labour at an agreed man-day rate. This method is more transparent as well as more accountable since I'd be paying for actual work done, and not for slackness, absenteesim, and any weather interruption which the contractor promised will not be charged to me.

Compared to the previous repainting work done in November 2005, this job cost far less. I really wonder if I had been cheated of the paints previously but certainly I overpaid for the labour which was on a lump sum basis. Well, I do learn to be wiser over the years. I never expect a perfect job and I accepted some imperfections here and there, which I'd either close my eyes or carry out the touch ups myself later.

During the purchase of the paints earlier last week my wife and I agree to buy 2 lazy reclining chairs that we will place in the patio for us to sit and enjoy either the morning breeze or evening sunset. This morning I decided to treat myself. While my wife busies herself readying the house for the return of Ling and brother Andrew (who stayed away for 4 days while the repainting work was being done, and for the paint odor to dissipate) I pull out one of the chairs to the patio and laid down, wrapped in an extra jacket, and closed my eyes to take in the wind and cries of birds welcoming in the new day. The moment felt good and I rewarded myself a full hour there.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Is This It?

I've never been away from my blog for this long, almost 4 weeks, and the reason is unashamely this: I have no inspiration to write! I wonder if this is the defining moment when I make a decision to change my blogging lifestyle or is this just a phase that I will get over soon? Only time will tell. For now I admit I am tired of commenting on politics and society matters which surprisingly takes up 25% of my blog time. It shows how frustrated I was with the direction Malaysian politics was heading since March 2008. And I don't have another interesting topic to write on. To my visitors who land here, don't go away please. Just go to any of my past 800+posts or any topics and I'm sure there will be something of interest there. Honestly, when I need to find myself again I think Mrs Brown Daughter blog will be a nice start.

Anyone out there willing to suggest a kick start to this old engine?

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