Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #2

My Thirteen Homes

1) St Lucia, Brisbane, Australia: Think it was a one bedroom flat. My parents lived here at the time I was born.

2) Lim Garden, Ipoh, Malaysia: My paternal grandparent's home when first we moved back to Ipoh. I'm not sure how long we stayed here for.

3) Canning Garden, Ipoh, Malaysia: Rented house in Canning Garden near maternal grandparents. We stayed here for about 5 years.

4) Ipoh Garden, Malaysia: My parents first house in a neighboring suburb to Canning Garden. Notice how all the suburbs are some sort of garden? I always found that so unimaginative. Check out the names of the subsequent places I've stayed.

5) Toowong (Place of doves), Brisbane, Australia: A really tiny one bedroom unit. My father was staying there before we moved over so it is where the four of us crammed for a couple of months.

6) Auchenflower, Brisbane Australia: Supposedly my mother decided to buy our quaint little wooden house the moment she saw it. I lived there for 11 years.

7) Island Glades, Penang, Malaysia: I rented a room from an old lady when I started my first job.

8) Pulau Tikus (Rat Island), Penang, Malaysia: I moved to another rented room because I couldn't stand the fungus and oil spills in the shared bathroom anymore. Unfortunately, this one was also owned by an old lady.

9) Sungai Dua (Two River), Penang, Malaysia: I finally decided to rent an entire apartment because the second old lady wouldn't allow Richard to come up to my room.

10) Bayan Lepas (Takeoff area), Penang, Malaysia: Our first property. Richard and I bought a 3 bedroom apartment when we got married.

11) Bayu Perdana (First breeze), Klang, Malaysia: We sold our apartment and rented a house when Richard took on a new job in a different city.

12) Bandar Botanic (Botanic city), Klang, Malaysia: After two and a half years at the first house, the landlord informed us that he had sold the place and we had to move. I was 8 months pregnant when we moved to this other rented house in Klang. We stayed only 3 months before moving to Indonesia.

13) Kedamayan (Peace), Palembang, Indonesia: And here we are now.

My out of control guava tree is blocking most of the house but I can't trim it until all the fruit ripen. The weedy looking thing you see creeping along my front fence is my four angled bean plant. They look messy but are delicious. And that guy, Mr. Soon-to-smell-nice.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How honest do we really need to be?

I think we all value honesty. Most of us try to be honest and give honest opinions. Of course, there are those out there who just habitually lie and we all eventually don't trust them anymore. And what about those people that just say what we want to hear? They are liars too. Yet we all do I it sometimes. I know I do. Things like confirming to my white haired grandmother that she didn't draw in her eyebrows too dark. I just don't want to burst her bubble because I know she put effort into how she looked. If it gives her some sort of confidence, then who am I to bring her down? So I'm fine with lying to my grandmother.

My problem is trying to find some way to be honest with our new driver. I'm telling you, I nearly passed out in the car yesterday. This is not a joke. I held my breath for so long that I was very nearly unconscious. In the end, I just had to take short, shallow breaths. Like the type a fish takes when its out of water.

And why did I need to do all this? Because the driver was driving with one arm resting against the side of the door. Y'know, putting his elbows up to just where the windows starts. That means the side air conditioning vents shoot right through the armholes of his shirts and straight to his armpits. That jet of air just propelled the smell straight to the backseat where I was with Aaron.

I know some people have problems with body odour and that its often because of bacteria instead of uncleanliness. Well, perhaps lack of hygiene in the very first place caused the bacteria to be there but how can I tell him? Richard says we should just buy him some deodorant or some perfume. But wouldn't that just embarrass the guy and make him self conscious around us? I know he still feels new and is trying to make a good impression so this would be terrible for him.

This is an instance where honesty would really be the best policy for everyone but how do you do this without making him feel bad?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Funny Little Man

I am having some really funny conversations with my little man. Everyday, something new and completely surprising. So many fresh ideas from a fresh little mind.

Yesterday, Aaron and I were in the garden watching the birds. After awhile, they all flew away and he became a little confused. So I said "Wait awhile, they'll come back." He leans forward, gives me the stop sign with his palm and says "Patience". He said this several times because I didn't get it at first. How could I possibly anticipate that word!

Today, he was playing around in the house with his basket of balls. He kept walking back and forth so I asked him what he was doing and we have another lovely little conversation.


"Oh, what do you want to buy?"


"I see. And where are you going to buy it?"


He runs off and comes back with one arm hooked around his basket and the other hand grasping both shoes. "Shoes. Mama. Outside."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fun Monday - Whats in a name and on my plate?

This week's Fun Monday is hosted by Mariposa's Tales:

(1) Please share to us how the NAME of your BLOG was made? I can't wait to hear interesting funny stories!

(2) Please share to us (in words or photo, though a combination of both will be a bonus!) your favorite/ most common dish!

1) I started blogging at the start of 2007 when I was breastfeeding Aaron every 1.5-2hrs (even through the night). I had a few people call me a cow but I didn't think that was a very attractive blog name so. 'The Milk Bar' sounded much more refreshing.

2) I don't think I have just one favorite dish. I like all sorts of food and must have tens of favorites. The one that I'll pick to blog about today is 'Laksa Lemak' because I happen to have an archived photo of it. Not the best photo but trust me, this was DELICIOUS!

Laksa refers to a type of soupy noodle that comes in many variations. They are often sourish and spicy - incredibly appetizing. But those aren't my favorite. The one that I like best is the Nyonya version of it cooked in a coconut milk broth infused with pounded lemon grass, kefir lime leaves, coriander, chillis, onions, garlic, tumeric root and galangal. The main food in it is the fish but I usually just use canned tuna for convenience. I'm not that into fish and its really the taste of all those spices that I love. Finally, it is garnished with ginger flower, cucumber, lettuce, bit of lime and prawn paste. Like the other laksas, it is fragrant and spicy, but not sour. Instead, the coconut milk makes it rich and creamy.

Kemarau Island

Yesterday, we decided to go to Kemarau Island. This is a small island where people flock to during the last two days of Chinese New Year to pray. That was last Wednesday and Thursday but I didn't want to join the crowds. Supposedly, people from as far as Singapore would make the pilgrimage to this place. There is a temple there dedicated to Toa Pek Kong. He is a minor Taoist deity in charge of looking after households, villages and rural lands.

We hopped on a little 'speedboat' to get to the island. The trip lasted about 2 mins and it cost us IDR50,000 (USD 5.45).

I sat in the middle of the boat. Here's the view looking in front:

And here's the boatman behind me:

The alters were all locked up so we couldn't get a closer look and other than the temple, there was only the new pagoda that is still under construction. The island itself was full of shady trees so it would have been pleasant to walk around if it wasn't for the rain that started when we were there.

My favorite part of the excursion was this sign at the base of the pagoda that was under construction.

1. It is prohibited to go up. (Probably just while still under construction.)
2. It is prohibited to take photos on top of the dragon. (Two large dragons lined the stairs leading up to the pagoda)
3. It is prohibited to 'go on a date' in the pagoda.
4. It is prohibited to deface the pagoda.
5. Beware of 'Garong' cats. I can't find 'Garong' in the dictionary but it definitely doesn't refer to any type of feline. From what I have gathered, it refers to either perverts or people who supposedly try to seduce strangers. I'm not sure if they are flashers or not. I wish my Indonesian was better so I could have a better understanding of this type of words that no dictionary is going to define.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Trishaws in Palembang

When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I remember going for some really fun rides with my grandmother on the 'Beca' (pronounced be-cha). These are trishaws. We used to have them in Malaysia but they are a rare sight these days. I never thought I'd be on one again.

In Palembang, they are still a popular form of transport for short distances. Here they all are, lined up outside the Perumnas market.

I don't really want to use them on the roads to go anywhere but I thought it would be fun for Aaron to try it out. We called this guy to the house and paid IDR 10,000 (USD 1.10) for a trip around the neighborhood.

Aaron absolutely LOVE IT! He squealed and giggled the whole time we were on it. I took the maid along with us just in case I didn't understand the 'driver' and that brought our total weight to about 110kgs. The poor guy had to get off the bicycle and push when we came to a slight incline. Although, I think they are used to much MORE weight than that. These men are scrawny but incredibly strong. Anyway, the added weight made the downhill runs extra fast.....we were rattled and bumped the whole way but it all worth it.

Here we are all squashed under the low roof:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thursday Thirteen

I'll give this a go. I often spend time complaining about Palembang but in actual fact, I do enjoy living here. So my thirteen is on:

Why we moved to Palembang

1. The adventure of living in a developing country.

2. To give Richard's career a bit of a fast forward.

3. To live rent and debt free.

4. To enjoy a slower paced way of life.

5. To break out of our comfort zones. Change is hard but its always for the better. I don't want to get too comfortable in one place yet.

6. To see how people in different parts of the world live.

7. To be able to be in awe of progress and modern cities again. HA! HA! We only found this out after living here awhile and then leaving the place.

8. To allow me not to need to go out to work and spend time at home with Aaron instead. Although there I days that I do wish I had to go OUT to work.

9. To experience life in 1950s Malaysia. This is supposedly what much of Palembang is like.

10. For the very affordable manicures, pedicures, massages, hair spas etc.

11. For the perks that we enjoy as part of the package: A maid to help in the house and a driver to take us everywhere.

12. For the surprises that life throws at us here. From stink bugs, to muddy water, to power problems....

13. And finally, I have to admit it. For the money.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Do they know what they're getting into?

I was chatting with one of my friends from Penang, Malaysia yesterday and it turns out that he and his wife will be having their first baby this year. So now I have two friends who will be having babies in 2008. One by one, my friends are all converting to parenthood. I love this news! Soon there will be no need to feel awkward while meeting people who wonder why I don't just sit still and have a decent conversation with them.

When I asked my friend how he and his wife were, he told me about the usual pregnancy complaints (indigestion, dizziness, etc). Standard response. I was like that too. All we focused on at that time was the pregnancy and of course, the big question: How on earth is this baby going to exit my body?! I didn't give much thought at all to what would happen afterwards.

I do remember having these daydreams of me sitting at the computer while a contented baby played in the moses basket next to me. When he was tired, he'd just close his eyes and go to sleep. The other daydream was me continuing to give piano lessons as that same baby slept quietly through it all. And of course, I'd still be able to go for my own cello lessons. Richard would be able to hold the fort while I went out for a couple of hours. Well, reality sunk in pretty quickly once Aaron arrived.

So, today, I've been wondering about my two friends and their growing babies. Do they know what they're getting into?

The more experienced parents out there are probably wondering if I fully realize what I've gotten myself into and if I realize what lies ahead. Ha! Ha! I'm wondering too...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Next time, work for blood relatives.

Some of the regular readers might have picked up that I have close to zero friends here in Palembang. The only people I know are the people who work for us and the people that work at Novotel. I can't even say I know anybody in the gym since its usually empty when I'm there.

Yudi, our driver was definitely my friend. We had lots of laughs in the car. Between Yudi, Aaron and I, somebody always managed to start a conversation that ended up with us slapping our thighs, laughing.

Anyway, Yudi is gone. Fired. The car is rented by Richard's company and he actually worked for the owner of the car (his brother-in-law). Unfortunately, Yudi has split with his wife and so, he got split from his job.

I know its ridiculous and one has nothing to do with the other but its how things are here. Plenty of jobs here (and elsewhere too) are obtained just by being related to somebody else. Thats good on the one hand but it looks like blood relatives are a safer bet since you can't get un-related.

The last I heard from Yudi, he was working odd jobs as a mechanic. He mentioned that his wife was trying to get back together with him. Of course, we asked if he would be coming back to work if they were to make amends but his response was:

"If somebody spits at you, will you lick it up?"
(This must be some sort of Indonesian idiom. I laughed at it for ages and can't wait for an opportunity to use it!)

I guess not. In the mean time, I'm getting to know the new guy. His name is Iwan. Same age as Yudi but at a completely different stage in life. I'll do a post on him once I find out more.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Old Kuala Lumpur

During my December trip to Kuala Lumpur, I intended to take some photographs that would show the various aspects of the city. Unfortunately, much to Bilbo's disappointment, I only managed to show some of the bustling yet boring scenes of the shopping malls.

Since December, I've been to K.L. twice more and each time, I've had my camera out and ready to capture some of the local spirit. This was much harder than I thought it would be. Both were short trips, the first to meet Richard and the second was a stopover on our way home to Palembang. This meant that we stayed in the most convenient place: a city hotel by the malls. While we zoomed past the historical train station, high court, state mosque and Pudu jail on our way there, I couldn't get any good pictures and didn't have time to return to those locations.

I walked around the hotel area looking for something that looked distinctly Kuala Lumpur but the scene was always the same: mega buildings, foreign hotel chains, malls and restaurants. Well, these days THAT is what K.L. is about. This must be what tourists would see of the city. I guess they would have some sort of handbook that would lead them to each of the historic sites and another handbook detailing the best shopping in town.

Don't get me wrong, there are still many old parts to K.L. but it does take some looking around for them. Especially if you're a tourist and don't have friends in the city.

So, back to my photos, I've decided to share some from my delicious breakfast at an old style coffee shop. This place is within the city but not within the Golden Triangle mall area so most tourists would probably miss it. This place is typical of many coffee shops in Malaysia with the 'anchor store' being the drinks vendor and the tenants being the main attractions with their different foods.

I had the Low Shu Fun with the meatballs. Low Shu Fun is a type of short, round and pointy noodle and the meatballs aren't really balls but a roundish rectangular shape. This meal is delicious and anybody visiting K.L. needs to find this store to try it. I ordered a second round and ate at this place both times that we were in K.L. In fact, I had this three out of the four breakfasts I had in K.L. (over the two trips).

Here, the man is cooking the noodles and meat-rectangles in his boiling cauldren of tasty soup.

And here it is. The bowl of dark noodles is mine because I couldn't wait to mix it up and have a bite...even before I took the photo. The other, untouched bowl, is Richard's and is what it looks like when served. The meat-rectangles are in the soup.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Yes, Aaron.

Just like every other morning at around 6.45am, I called out to Aaron to come eat breakfast. As usual, he runs over to the table and stands by his chair so I can put him in it. He surprised us for the past two days by feeding himself the entire meal (without too much of a mess). He had an even bigger surprise for us today.

As he sat in his chair, feeding himself, Richard sat beside him and was also dutifully eating mouthful after mouthful of oatmeal with banana. On the other hand, I was walking about, looking at what else there was in the fridge to make my breakfast more interesting and basically moving around aimlessly. After a short while of this moving around, I hear:


I look at Aaron.

"Sit down"

I smiled at him.


I sat, and ate.

He absolutely surprised me. He's never said so many things in a row before. I can't say it was a real conversation since he was basically giving me instructions. (OMG! He's ordering me around already!)

It was definitely a proud moment for me to hear him speak and look so much like a little boy. Although, I also now realize that I'll have to step up the training on his 'Please' and 'Thank Yous'.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lets go for a drive

Richard and I started this 'project' back in December and he finished it off in January while I was in Ipoh. The whole idea was to give Aaron a bit 'map' that he could push his toy cars around. Unfortunately, we forgot to draw more roads in the picture and had lots of parklands and lakes instead. So, now, its become a bit of a playground for his little Fisher Price 'babies'. We tried to put a bit of everything in it; numbers, chinese characters, music rests, flags...

I'm not much of an artist so I stuck to coloring this time. All the drawings were done by Richard. He's obviously the arty one in this family!

The days here in Palembang are extremely long so hopefully, this will be able to capture some of Aaron's attention. I've also brought back with me a big stack of books for us to go through and more of my old toys. Aaron is still getting re-acquainted with the toys he hasn't seen for the past month so I won't be bringing any of the new ones out yet. I'll SAVE them for later.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Would you believe it? My first outing with another mom!

OK. We're back in Palembang now and its as if we never left. Aaron is as happy as he always is and I'm back to my same old routines.

We were in Kuala Lumpur the day before returning to Palembang. I spent most of the day with an old friend who has a beautiful 10 month old girl. Aaron is already 18 months yet this was my first time going out with a friend who also had a baby in tow. Finally, somebody else who understands completely what its like to constantly split your attention between the adult conversation and the baby. Another person who understands why you have to keep taking the baby out for a walk during meals. Well, for this meeting, the dads did a great job taking the babies out whenever they got restless while we ate.

Aaron was very interested in the other person his size and kept trying to engage her. I think he tried to pull her along to walk with him too without realizing that she doesn't know how to walk yet. They were SO CUTE!

We went to the Aquaria KLCC for some air conditioned activity. I think the babies must have enjoyed it but it really wasn't anything to rave about except for the several large fish to be amazed at and this incredibly slimy frog that I couldn't take my eyes off. I don't usually use this word but it was JUST. SO. UGLY.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

See you in Palembang

WOW! Its been a hectic weekend with the drive to Penang and back. I'll blog all about it when I'm back in Palembang. In the mean time, there is a lot to pack and several last minute gatherings.

I don't know what happened with the photos for the last post but I have re-posted them so take a look when you have time.

See you in a few days.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Year of the Rat

Happy Chinese New Year! This is the year of the Rat, so if you're born in 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985 or 1997, this is your year.

Apart from the family reunion and consumption of too many cookies and cakes, Chinese New Year is very much about traditions and fashions.

My family isn't a very traditional family but there are still several practices that we observe. I'm not sure if the reasons behind them are the original ones but they are what we were taught.

1) We leave the lights in the house on overnight so that the God of Prosperity can find his way to us.

2) We don't sweep the floors on the first day of the new year in case we accidentally sweep the good luck away.

3) There is absolutely no arguing on this day. Everybody has to hold their tongues on this day. Even Aaron is 'indulged' so that he does not cry. So today, he got out of his car seat, too many bites of our cookies and too many walks 'outside'. We don't want to start the year off with any bitter tastes.

4) When we visit somebody else's home, we usually give them several mandarins and maybe some cookies or a packet of peanuts. They will give us something similar in return. The mandarins end up getting recycled from one house to another. Sometimes the other goodies are kept but they usually get given out to somebody as well to minimize the amount that we need to stock up on at home. The whole idea is about perpetuating the cycle of giving and receiving.

5) Nobody wears black on this day. If possible, we dress in red or any colour related to red. Supposedly, red is traditionally worn to chase away some monster....this is some ancient chinese myth. I don't know much about it at all, we just all reach for the red clothes.

Thats about all I can remember that we do. Other families will have many more traditions like being vegetarian for a day and also special prayers.

The first day of Chinese New Year is also when many people will wear new clothes. In the past, my parents told me that it is the only time during the year that they would receive any new clothes to wear. These days, people are more casual and will not always be in brand new clothes. They do try to have some chinese element on it if they can. I wore a Cheongsam (also called Qipao) from 37 years ago. My mother had this made from some material she received as a wedding present.

The most well dressed people on this day are usually my grandparents. My grandmother is wearing the traditional Sam Fu (literally, shirt and pants) and my grandfather is just in a new red shirt. They still look like a beautiful couple don't they?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Reunion Meals & Home Casinos

The eve of Chinese New Year is when each family will have their reunion dinners. I have no idea how other families do it but we have always had a reunion lunch at my maternal grandmother's house and then a dinner at my paternal grandmother's. Some years, there is literally insufficient chairs in the house to fit everyone that has come home. This wasn't one of those years but there was still a pretty good crowd.

There is always a table for adults and one for kids. I graduated from the kiddy table when I got married but this year I find myself back there again because of Aaron. Aaron is really the only kid there as all my cousins are now grown up.

This year, we didn't go to my paternal grandmother's house but invited her and my uncle over to our house instead. For the first time, my grandmother suggested that we played blackjack. It is extremely common for families and friends to gamble during this season but we never did this in the past. We've been missing out on a lot of FUN!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Its going to be a hectic week

Wow, I've been back in Ipoh for a whole month now. It has been an extremely enjoyable time with my family and also one of my closest friends. The time has zoomed by and is just going to accelerate from now on.

Tomorrow, we go to Kuala Lumpur to do some shopping and pick Richard up. Then on Tuesday, we'll stop by Klang on the way back to Ipoh. We'll be here on Wednesday and Thursday for the Chinese New Year Reunion dinner and also the first day of the new year. Then, its off to Penang for a couple of days before returning to Ipoh for one final night on Sunday. On Monday, we'll be heading back to Kuala Lumpur again for two nights before flying back to Palembang.

I'll try my best to keep Aaron on his nap schedules but I think he'll be worn out with all the travel back and forth. So will I!

Being back in Palembang will be restful but I'm not looking forward to the sudden absence of activity. It always takes awhile to get back into the routine of being at home for most of the day with nowhere to go. I think Aaron gets bored of seeing only me as well.

No point thinking of the boredom now. We're going to have a fantastically busy but fun week full of family, friends and food.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Sarong

In Malaysia (and also Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia), Muslim men often wear sarongs to go to the mosque. Indian men around Malaysia are also frequently seen in a white sarong.

My father is neither Muslim nor Indian but he wears a sarong at home. He picked this practice up from his father, my grandfather. My grandfather's parents were Chinese born in Indonesia and this is probably where the whole sarong wearing practice started.

My father is the last person in the family that wears a sarong and I doubt that there will be anybody else that picks up the habit. I'm not sure that I would encourage Aaron to wear one but if he one day decides that he likes it, I wouldn't tell him not to. Of course, I doubt that he'll look as cute in it then as he does now.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Let me get the bill

Along the lines of yesterday's post on food, today's post is about what happens when the bill comes. Here in Malaysia, and many other Asian countries, there are often mini hand battles involved in fighting for the bill. Why?

1) Friends that haven't met each other for a long time often feel they need to give each other a treat. The problem arises when both parties feel the same way.

2) People who know that they earn more than the other party. For example working people vs student or people who have been working several years vs fresh graduates.

3) People who try to show that the HAVE lots of money. Whether or not they really do doesn't matter to them.

4) Finally, there are the genuine people who sincerely want to treat the other party to an enjoyable meal. I'm usually in this category. I love food and I like sharing it with others.

Sometimes, you think you have succeeded in paying the bill only to find out that the other party plays mahjong (or something) with the restaurant owner and all your money is returned to you so that he can pay.

The winners of these battles for the bills don't stay winners for long. The original 'loser' would then feel obligated to organise another meal so that they can repay the other party. Yes, if they had just agreed to go 50/50 in the first palce, all this would have been avoided but there would have been no 'face' in that. Sometimes these back and forth treats feel good but other times, they feel a little tedious and obligatory.

Roti Canai

I'm down to my last 13 days in Ipoh. I have to schedule many more meals into my days so that I can get all the cravings for Ipoh food out of my system before I leave.

Roti Canai is an Indian bread/pancake that I really like but somehow forgot to have more often this trip. The tossing, flipping and stretching of the ball of dough into a thin sheet that is finally folded into a square is always mesmerising.

The original Roti Canai must have been just a plain square but these days you can get all sorts of fillings; banana, eggs, cheese, onions. I usually just have the plain one or occasionally, the banana one.

So, the Roti Canai is going to be tomorrow's breakfast.....time to think of morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and supper.