30 December 2009

Exes and friends

Some people believe that ex-boyfriends/girlfriends can never be friends after the event. There is just too much baggage to deal with, especially if one side still harbours any feelings or hopes for rekindling the relationship. It also depends on how bad the breakup was.

I think as adults, ex partners can still be friends, have the occasional chat or email exchange, even look each other up. Just like any other friend from college.

For me, I have no difficulty being friends with an ex. I am secure in my own position as a married person, a mother and the past is history, though sometimes a little murky and unclear!

Time, of course, is a great healer. No matter how bad misunderstandings were, over time, people can arrive at a time and place where things can be viewed in a different and calmer perspective, with the wisdom of hindsight and experience.

My sister-in-law just had a visit from an ex-boyfriend, and he stayed over at the family home. She graciously showed him around town and the rest of the family also joined them over dinners and lunches. Hmm......any more embers glowing? Who knows, maybe .........

25 December 2009

Be proactive - it makes a difference

My little baby girl will to go kindergarten for the first time next year, and I already have butterflies in my stomach!

When my son was in kinder back in KL, he had 3 hours of classes. Here in Ipoh, it seems that kinders tend to go for a bit longer - 3.5 hours. So, I was quite distressed when informed by my daughter's kinder that they would extend the hours to 4 hours next year. Apparently it is required by the Ministry of Education.

I tried to obtain a confirmation on this matter from the Ministry of Education. Of course, true to form, I spent a whole morning calling MoE in Putrajaya, with either nobody picking up the phone, the line being busy or the person who eventually did pick up the phone directing me to another number! Well, guess I have to trust the kindergarten....why else would they want to voluntarily want to extend their hours anyway?

So, the new hours are 0830-1230. Such long hours for my poor little baby girl. I quickly called the principal to ask what the extra half hour would be for. She told me not to worry; 0830-0845 would be assembly while 0845-0900 would be snack time. Then classes all the way until 1230.

I feel that schedule could be improved. It is too much to expect young children to sit down for classes for 3.5 hours at a stretch without a snack break. The snack time at 0845 is redundant as the children would have been fed breakfast at home before going to kinder. It makes much more sense to move the snack time midway to about 10am. That would re-energise the kids and rejuvenate their attention. I expressed as much to the principal but of course she politely said the schedule would be fine.

Using an email the principal had sent to parents, I initiated contact with the parents on the email list and explained my concerns, inviting their feedback. I was pleased to receive many replies - all of them saying that they were not aware of the change in snack time and that they too agreed with me that it was inappropriate. I suggested that we should speak to the principal together on this matter. I am glad I was proactive in approaching other parents with my concern, and equally happy that the other parents were responsive.

It cuts across all matters - educational issues, politics, cultural interaction, bad government administration - we need to be proactive and responsive, otherwise who is to make the difference? The old habit of "let others do it" or "why bother" must go!

flymas.mobi – as Easy as 1, 2, 3

Global competition's getting tougher for the airline industry, and they are responding with innovative and better customer service.

Malaysia Airlines recently launched their mobile site at flymas.mobi, a site built for you to book your flight, check flight schedules, check in - all through your mobile phone!

Check out the site, which makes travel arrangements that much easier.

22 December 2009

Root canal treatment

Do you like going to the dentist, or are you one of those who shudder at the very thought? My husband just hates going to the dentist. But I love it. I like having my teeth cleaned and polished....yummy, my mouth feels so fresh and clean after.

How about root canal treatment? That's what you need to do under a specialist dentist called an endodontist (GP dentists do it too, to earn more money, but they can really botch up the job).

Endodontics is the specialty of dentistry that deals with the diseases of the dental pulp. The word is Greek; “endo” means inside, and “odont” means tooth. The inside of the tooth has a space which contains nerves and blood vessels. When combined these are called the “dental pulp”. Although the pulp is important for the development of the tooth, it is not necessary for the tooth to function. Therefore, this tissue maybe removed, and the tooth maintained in the mouth.

I had one done when I was in university. My one and only tooth with a filling started to ache really badly and it turned out that the filling over time, had eroded and my tooth had become infected to the point that it was dying. The options were either to extract it or to save the tooth via a root canal treatment. These days, people try not to unnecessarily lose their teeth as it impedes chewing and well, it doesn't look good either.

So I had the root canal treatment done by an endodontist - in Australia! That costs a bomb.

This year when my little girl was nipped on the face by our dog Bonnie, her top frontal baby tooth was chipped at an angle, exposing the veins. The dentist who examined her said that she could extract it (my girl is only 4) or we could try to save the baby tooth by doing a root canal treatment. The cons for extracting it so early is that her permanent teeth won't start coming in until after she's 6, and with a gap in her front row, the other teeth might start to drift and crowd out the space, making it difficult for her permanent tooth to eventually erupt in the correct position.

So, we opted for a root canal for my girl. Poor darling....only 4 and doing a root canal treatment. But she is a very brave and cooperatve little girl, and the endodontist we used, Jac Lam Endodontics at Wisma Perintis in Damansara Heights, is an excellent endodontist. Light and sure handed, reassuring and patient, Dr. Lam said my little girl is his youngest and most cooperative patient yet. All went well, and her little chipped tooth is still held in place after the treatment.
(image from http://www.dentalstudentbooks.com/dentistry/endodontics.html)

21 December 2009

Renewing and making new ties

My family's first year-end school holidays in Ipoh is flying by. It is going by so much faster than I expected.

It has been a wonderful time of renewing ties - both friendship and family.


Old friends had come to visit and stay with us. Our kids were introduced to each other and enjoyed playing together. The house was filled with happy shrieks and adult chatter.


Then there were catch-ups over Ipoh white coffee - at the old style coffee shops, not those expensive franchised cafes - with ex colleagues and former classmates who were either passing through Ipoh or here to visit relatives.


And just over the weekend, the wedding of my first cousin's daughter - that is, my first cousin once removed - presented another wonderful opportunity for the entire extended family to come together to celebrate the event. There were grand aunts and grand uncles, aunts and uncles, siblings, first cousins, first cousins once removed, second cousins.....

The wedding was a first of its kind for our large family, as the nuptial saw my Chinese first-cousin-once-removed wed a Malay husband. They had been dating for 8 years. What's the big deal, some of you might say? Well, I guess in this day and age, inter-racial marriages have become more common. But that does not mean, it makes them any easier.

There are the huge differences in cultural practices as well as religious beliefs to contend with. With respect to these practices, for my first-cousin-once-removed, that would mean a conversion to Islam, adopting "Abdullah" behind her name, eliminating certain foods from her diet, perhaps even a change in the way she dresses. Her new husband is fortunate that he need not change any of the lifestyle habits he has known all his life. Still, the choice is theirs and they married for love, aspiring to spend their lives together and raise their own family.

The wedding dinner was a "halal" Chinese banquet - respecting the Muslim faith - and the fathers of the groom and bride, respectively, presented their eloquent speeches. I must congratulate my cousin on his speech regarding his daughter's inter-racial marriage, which I roughly quote: "We share more in common than we do differences. We are all Malaysians. Let's make 1Malaysia a success." A noble giving-away speech.

I wish my first-cousin-once-removed all the happiness and success in her marriage.

26 November 2009

Christmas feelings


Christmas may be commercialised these days, but it sure is lovely to walk into the shopping mall and be greeted by Christmas music and decorations. It just brings on a lovely, merry and peaceful feeling.

After all, may good tidings come to all this Christmas season and always!

I am going Christmas tree hunting for our new house. We gave our old tree to my parents when we moved to Ipoh, so it would be really special putting up a new tree in our house in Ipoh this year.

Malaysia can help make a better world

Our PM said this, "Malaysia, with its background of multiculturalism and tolerance, can play an effective part in promoting deeper understanding between the Muslim world and the West."

Can it?

Once upon a time, I believe Malaysia could have been a true model of multicultural and multiracial success. But today, even under PM Najib's leadership, Malaysia is fast regressing and sliding backwards and in great risk of becoming an extreme, paranoid nation led by leaders who use religion shamelessly to keep things in check.

Where is the tolearance and understanding that Najib is talking about? Was it the cow head incident where a group of protestors against the relocation of a Hindu temple to a section of their housing area paraded a cow head through the streets, stepping and spitting on it? (the cow is a sacred animal to the Hindus)

Where is the tolerance? During the holy fasting month, the non-Muslims in Malaysia are careful not to eat or drink in front of their Muslim colleagues. All meetings are conducted without the usual serving of water or other refreshments. Is this reciprocal? An Indian colleague of mine once remarked, how about Muslims eating beef in front of a Hindu? The Indians don't complain about this. In fact, the other races (we are tolerant, you see) don't complain much. But we all walk on egg shells to ensure that our fellow Muslim Malaysians are not offended in whatsoever, tiny, miniscule manner. Oh no, that is a big NO NO.

So, honourable PM Najib, where is the tolerance and understanding you speak about, without even a flinch of guilt or regret, since it is the leadership that has systematically led Malaysia down the path of intolerance, fear, race politics, Ketuanan concept? An adept politician with showmanship and manufactured conviction, speaking of things he doesn't believe in and that don't exist, or at least, that will soon cease to exist.

22 November 2009

Hoi Seng Restaurant, Ipoh Garden

Hubby suggested that we invite his brother and wife out to dinner tonight. We decided to try the relatively new Hoi Seng restaurant in Ipoh Garden, just next to the post office.

I had seen the place come up next to the post office on my trips sending out packages and also when the kids and I have roti canai for breakfast. Seemed like a pretty big building for a restaurant. Fellow blogger Motormouth had already tried out the place and posted his review on his blog. So tonight I took some pointers from his blog and ordered 3 of the dishes he had tried - the Shanghai Pork Ribs, Deep-Fried Lotus Roots with Salted Egg and the Hoi Seng Bean Curd.

We got to Hoi Seng pretty early as the restaurant said we couldn't reserve a table for 6 as they had run out of tables that size and only had large tables. We were told to "walk in" preferably before 7pm. Actually, we needn't have worried. There were plenty of tables available. True, there weren't many small tables but no matter, we had our pick of any of the tables for 8. But the place filled up quite quickly after 7.15pm.

The Shanghai Ribs were tender, meaty with plenty of sauce to dunk the plain buns in. Funny thing was, the waitress called it "Wuxi Pork Ribs" in Cantonese. Now, we had been to Wuxi in China last year, where they serve their famed Wuxi Pork Ribs, and Hoi Seng's ribs is nothing like that. Well....maybe the restaurant just wanted it to be mysterious. The deep fried lotus roots were quite nice, but tonight, not as crispy as it could have been. The bean curd was good, and managed to actually suit my fussy 4-year old's palate.

We ordered bean sprouts (good) and black pepper fish slices (not peppery enough). Overall, the food was above average, and we would return to sample the other dishes on the menu. My kids had no problem with the ambience too, which is a plus point.

21 November 2009

1 Malaysia - at the market

It was wet and dreary this morning, but the marketing had to be done. I had already postponed it by 2 days, stretching the creativity limits of both my maid and myself, as we whip up meals for the family from my dwindling supplies at home.

So off to the market I trudged. To be honest, I hate marketing. I dislike the crowd, the narrow paths between the stalls, the wet floor, the myriad smells, having to haul the week's worth of fresh ingredients to my car. Despite the weight of my purchases, I'd rather buy for the whole week, than have to make multiple trips to the market. That's why I have 2 fridges. (I can't imagine why my SIL goes to the market daily - she must find it therapeutic, or, is it possible, pleasureable??)

Still, the market plays a vital role in supplying fresh ingredients. On days that I just don't want to go to the market, I buy my fresh produce from Tesco or Jusco, but it's not the same. The veges are definitely not as fresh; the fish are touch and go; the chicken, well they're all broiler right?

Anyway, I digress. I usually zoom through the market, having established a pattern after being in Ipoh for 10 months now. First I place my usual order with the chicken stall; buy the dry stuff like potatoes, onions and the like; then I buy my pork; followed by the bean sprouts and bean curds. By this time, my basket is laden and I have to return to my car to deposit my load. When I return I head to my usual vege stall; then I buy my fishy stuff which is just next to the chicken stall; and last, I pick up my chicken which would be all chopped and cut. I'm out of there!

But today, when I went to my last stop, the chicken stall, alas my order was not ready. The vendor was inundated and she asked me to go walk about and come back a few minutes later. Groan!

So I shuffled around miserably and came to an elderly gentleman selling Malay breakfast favourites - nasi lemak (rice steamed with coconut milk and accompanied by anchovies, chillies, peanuts and cucumber) and lemang (glutinous rice mixed with coconut milk and salt, wrapped up in leaf and stuffed into a stick of bamboo, and cooked over a fire). For some reason, I assumed he was Chinese (as this is a Chinese market and I have not seen Malay customers shopping here) so I told him, in Chinese, that I would buy up the last of his lemang. He replied "Seringgit setengah"(RM1.50). Still it didn't occur to me that he was Malay, and I asked if I could have it for a lower price. He replied, "Sudah murah" (it's cheap). Only then did I realize my mistake. I quickly said, "Maaf Pak Cik, saya ingat Pak Cik orang Cina". (I'm sorry Uncle, I thought you were Chinese). He smiled and said "Tak apa, Melayu Cina semua sama. Kita 1Malaysia" (That's alright. Malay or Chinese, it doesn't matter. We are 1 Malaysia).

I continued the rest of my conversation with the Pak Cik in Malay and ended up buying the rest of his nasi lemak too. He said he's in the market every Satuday. I'll remember that.

If all Malaysians think like the Pak Cik, and we take the time to truly be fellow Malaysians, be courteous and respectful to one another, there might be hope for 1Malaysia.

No plastic bags - what's the alternative?

Penang's "Go Green" campaign is to be commended. The state has a "No Plastic Monday" campaign running, which it plans to make permanent next year. Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said “According to the data provided by 45 supermarkets, hypermarkets and other retailers, it is estimated that Penangites had saved over one million plastic bags in four months".

Sounds good.

But I've always been pondering this point. What do people really do with all the plastic bags they get from their grocery-shopping trips to the supermarkets? Do they just discard and throw them out? I don't think so, really.

I always reuse the plastic bags, mainly as garbage bags.

Now, shopping bags can be made of recyclable material like paper or cloth, but what would be the alternative to plastic garbage bags? Is it really true that 1 million plastic bags were saved in the Penang no-plastic campaign? Or did people just have to go out and buy 1 million new plastic bags to use as their garbage bags instead of the ones given out by the supermarkets?

Did it really make a difference?

20 November 2009

School's out!

The cool and rainy weather did not dampen my son's or my gleeful mood as today is the last day of school for the year. Hooray!

No more worrying about homework or exams until next year. Now for the next 6 weeks, I think all school-going children in Malaysia deserve a relaxing, unstructured and fun break after the academic year filled with school days, tuition days, exams and the like.

Happy holidays to all school-going kids in Malaysia, and have a good break too, Moms!

17 November 2009

Penang...still charming


We just came home from a 3days-2 nights family trip to Penang. The kids have been to Penang before, but then, my little girl was only 1. So her memory of that trip is hazy. But they will remember this trip much better.

It was quite fun. We stayed at the Park Royal Hotel, situated along the Batu Feringgi stretch of beach. Our family room was sizeable and comfortable. Room service was prompt, tasty and surprisingly reasonable in terms of pricing. This time around, I set aside my fear of the sun and accompanied the kids to the pool and beach each day of our 3 days stay. They loved it, especially my little girl.

The only thing that scared her was her ride down the water slide at the pool. She took her maiden attempt on the water slide with her father, held securely in his arms, or so it seemed. My husband, however, went down the slide too fast which resulted in both of them going under water for probably about 2 seconds, as he did not hold her above water. But that short time was sufficient to cause her to have ingested some water, and she was sputtering and tearful when they emerged from the water. Nope, she didn't want to go on the waterslide again.

Until the next day, when I persuaded her to try it again, and this time Mommy would hold her and no going under water, I promised. She bravely agreed, and as promised, I went slow and held her high when we went into the water. Still, that was all she wanted of the water slide.

We didn't have much time to sample Penang hawker fare. For lunch on the first day, we ate at Joo Hooi Cafe, which my husband remembered was quite good. We were disappointed with the assam laksa - Kong Heng in Ipoh does a far better assam laksa! The char kway teow, so famed in Penang, also came in as average.

We bumped into cousins who were also staying at the Park Royal. They too have a little girl, who is the same age as ours. The 2 little girls had a ball of a time playing together, and seemed fascinated with the fact that they too, are cousins. Well, our cousins suggested we eat in Ferringi Cafe, a mere 5 minute walk from the hotel, for dinner one night. The food served, Asian-fusion, was rather creative and everyone enjoyed their orders. Except for me, unfortunately - my Nasi Briyani was not too well done; perhaps that was not their forte. For lunch, our cousins took us to Sweet Cherry, a Thai restaurant. The food there was excellent and reasonably priced. We would go back there next time we are in Penang.

We managed to squeeze in Penang Hill (once is enough, for me) and the Toy Museum (in need of maintenance and upgrading). All in all, it was a very enjoyable trip and Penang still has its charm.....indeed, the Pearl of the Orient.
(picture from Park Royal hotel website)

13 November 2009

Not wrong to go on a sponsored Haj pilgrimage?

Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nikmat had said that it was not wrong, not corrupted of him, to accept an RM65,000 sponsorship to perform the Haj in Mecca from Nov 18. His son-in-law supported him in this matter and attempted to explain the issue: "It's like this, he (Nik Abdul Aziz) is like other Tok Gurus and many people want to go to the Holy Land with people like him because his knowledge of Islam is inspiring. Naturally many would want to perform Haj with him."

Herein lies the glaring and sad, sad fact that Malaysian politicians are ill-informed, misinformed, uneducated perhaps, ill-advised, unsophisticated .....(the list goes on).

Yes, yes, we understand what the son-in-law - Abdul Ariffahmi Abdul Rahman and also CEO of Kelantan Mentri Besar Incorporated (PMBK) - is trying to say. In fact, it would be alright and acceptable if the Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz were any ordinary Tok Guru, Ulama, religious teacher - but he is not.

He happens to be the Kelantan Mentri Besar and the spiritual adviser of the political party PAS. This whole thing of accepting paid/ sponsored trips/ items/ gifts/ whatever raises CONFLICT OF INTEREST issues, and naturally questions of impropriety. Datuk Nik Aziz has since decided to cancel his Haj pilgrimage.

Please hire better legal advisors.

You think swearing is normal?

There is an Australian, a former soldier, who has been detained in Dubai awaiting trial on charges of insulting and using inappropriate language to a police officer at the Dubai International Airport (the Age, Nov 13, 2009). Mr. Sun McKay said that he was grabbed on the wrist and yanked by a stranger at Dubai International Airport, and instinctively said: "What the f---?". The stranger turned out to be a plain clothes airport policeman.

Ok, perhaps it was the shock and surprise at the unexpected encounter with the police officer that caused Mr. McKay to say what he said. But it is troubling to note the reporting which says that McKay "instinctively" swore.

Has the usage of swear words become so common, to the point it is instinctive? Is it to be recognised as acceptable behaviour? Perhaps to a large number of Australians, Americans etc. etc. (I may be generalising here) it is accepted behaviour, but for a large part of Asia and definitely the Middle East, as Mr. McKay has painfully learned, it is not regarded as acceptable behaviour. It is rude, crude, barbaric, demeaning and just plain awful behaviour.

It made, and still makes, me cringe during the days when I was in university in Australia and exposed to daily colourful language by my peers. We would be cuffed if we spoke like that back home.

Mr. McKay says he is "astounded by the situation". Well, I am equally astounded at how liberal swearing has become. He further believes he has been treated unfairly, and wants the Australian Government to formally complain to the United Arab Emirates about his treatment. Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs however, has rightly said it is limited in what it can do to help Mr McKay, as travellers were bound by the laws of the countries they visited.

And Mr. McKay is chanting the usual mantra, "They don't have the best record of human rights here". ....predictable.

11 November 2009

Anti-terrorism and ISA

At today's round table discussion organised by the Foreign Ministry’s South-East Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism (SEARCCT) in collaboration with the Australian High Commission in Malaysia, the Australian Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, William Paterson, said , “Malaysia chooses to use the preventive detention approach under the ISA ... has it been effective? Without doubt, yes, it’s been very effective".

This is a very dangerous statement for Ambassador Paterson to have made, for even though he said every country had to come out with its own initiatives in dealing with terrorism, I am certain that some ignorant or twisted Malaysian politician will seize upon this endorsement to unravel whatever positive progress has been made to recognise that the ISA is an archaic, outdated, abused piece of legislation that stifles democracy in Malaysia.

Even the wording of the article by the Star, Aussie anti-terrorist expert backs ISA, may give the impression that the ISA was praised in its entirety, which it was not. It also smacks of hypocrisy for an Australian Ambassador to praise the ISA when Australia is so big on human rights, something the ISA completely violates. (Incidentally, Ambassador Paterson was awarded the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal in 2005) Or perhaps when the ends justify the means; when the threat of international terrorism is reduced for Australia; Australia would support whatever measures that were taken to achieve that measure of security, despite the collateral costs those measures may have incurred.

Certainaly no legislation like the ISA would ever be adopted in Australia.

It must have stung Australia when Indonesia used "human rights" as their basis for refusing to use force to make the Sri Lankan asylum seekers disembark.



08 November 2009

Have you heard, "Penatlah saya"

For readers not schooled in Bahasa Malaysia, "penatlah saya" means "that would make me so tired".

Where did I hear this?


At the post office, Pos Malaysia Berhad. The story behind this goes like this.....I use Pos Laju, Pos Malaysia's express courier service quite a bit. And to be honest, Pos Laju is reliable and more cost efficient than the other private courier services. I send out between 3 to 8 packages each time.

Is that too much to handle for the Pos Malaysia counter servers? Well, apparently so. Because each time I approach the post office counter with my transaction, the attending counter officer's demeanour sours (it's not a very big post office and they recognise me by now). That already puts me off. Hey, I'm giving Pos Malaysia business am I not? Once, the post office counter staff insisted on weighing all my packages, tallying the cost and getting my payment first. Then after I had gone, she said she would stick the respective Pos Laju forms onto the packages later at her leisure (the packages have been separately labelled, so she would only have to match the names on the packages with the correct Pos Laju form). I was uneasy with this method as it leaves a big error for margin. True enough, for that batch of packages, the post office mismatched the forms to the packages, resulting in people receiving someone else's stuff.


The post office did not apologise for this error, nor did they offer to reroute the packages to the correct recipients for free. We had to pay again for the second delivery.


When I went to the post office to make another delivery following that erroneous transaction, I specifically told the counter staff at the post office to individually weigh, and to individually label the form onto, the packages. This is when the counter server said "Penatlah saya!" I was truly taken aback - this is the post office's service and her job, in particular. Well, I told her to weigh the packages and I would stick the forms onto them myself - she was only too pleased to allow me to do that!

If possible, I try not to use Pos Malaysia Ipoh Garden.

This led me to search for other better staffed post offices in Ipoh. Do you know that there are Pos Mini (mini post offices) - these are actually privately owned agents of Pos Malaysia i.e. the operator of the Pos Mini would be the proprietor and business owner. With a business ownership mentality, the service level is definitely many notches better than the normal Pos Malaysia post offices. Fortunately I found an excellent Pos Mini in Taman Cempaka. The counter server (only 1 person) is efficient, courteous, patient, diligent and professional. And no matter how busy she is, she never utters a complaint and does not scowl at customers.

One day in Jaya Jusco (One U or Mid Valley), I happened to walk past their comments board. Pasted onto the board were all the customer feedback, the good and the bad. One particularly struck me. The complainant said that she had asked the Jusco salesperson to unlock a chained handbag for her to try out. While waiting for the slow-moving salesperson to do so, she had walked a few steps away to browse at other merchandise. When she returned to the handbag, she found it still chained and locked. She summoned the same salesperson who said that since the customer had walked away, she had assumed she was no longer interested. Well, the customer asked her to unlock the bag for her to inspect, to which the salesperson whined "Penatlah saya!"

Now, where have I heard that before?

'Friendly visits' to check on maids' welfare

Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam announced that from Dec. 1, 2009, the Manpower Department and Home Ministry will launch a program to conduct random visits on homes to check on the maids’ welfare and working conditions as well as get feedback from the employers on the maids’ well-being. The HR Minister said that the visits would be friendly in nature, “a public relations exercise”, with no specific questions asked.

Several concerns arise, immediately.

First and foremost, security and the right to enter. The HR Minister already accedes that the officers would have no power to conduct the random visits at the employers’ premises if they are denied entry. And given Malaysia's stellar record of crime and creative imposters as well as robbers in disguise, you can be sure that many homes will refuse entry to the officers. How can the public be certain that the officers are genuine and not criminals in disguise? And dropping in unannounced - that would be extremely rude, invasive and unwelcome.

What is the exercise expected to achieve? A PR exercise? Usually PR exercises are to improve and entrench businesss relationships with customers, so using this jargon for such an exercise is inappropriate. What relationship do we have with the Manpower Department and Home Ministry - other than the fact we pay a heck of a lot of money to maid agencies; we pay an annual levy to the govt for employing our maids; we get fined when the maids decide to run away and live as an illegal in Malaysia with their new-found boyfriends (a practice the govt has done little to curb). What service do we employers receive from these govt agencies? Now, you want to enter my home to "look around" - I don't think so.

Would there be enough manpower from the departments to deploy? Would the officers involved be adequately trained in "PR"? Will they be polite and professional? Will they, err, expect "something"? Malaysians already put up with a lot of "attitude" from govt officers whose job it is to serve the public, but instead of doing so professionally and expeditiously, they make the public wait, grovel, beg and worse.

Is this whole farce an attempt to placate the Indonesian government? Please. Show some strength, some backbone, some pride. Otherwise, our government will be very busy launching "PR programs" each time another country complains about their nationals' welfare, whether they are here for work or leisure.

05 November 2009

Of valid tickets and faulty machines

I read with the feeling "it happens everywhere" an article describing the outrage of the Melbourne public over a case, one of many, where a commuter's valid multiple-trip ticket failed to work on a tram despite his repeated attempts to validate it on the tram's ticket machine.

And when the ticket inspector came a-checking, the commuter was fined for not having a validated ticket for his tram ride. Despite his explanation that the machine simply refused to validate his ticket. The official response was "he should have either got off the tram or bought a new ticket". The commuter in question intends to fight the fine in court.

And so he should. Because ticket inspectors should really apply some common sense. It is daylight robbery to require a commuter to buy another ticket because of a faulty (or selectively faulty) machine.

Back home in Malaysia, we get fined for not having valid parking tickets displayed on our dashboards. Several times in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, KL, after they replaced the parking meters (now why did they have to do that? The existing parking meters were working fine...ohhhh, silly me, of course it is to create a "job" for "someone"), I simply could not get a ticket out of them. I was not alone.

One morning, I followed the instructions on the dastardly machine and it simply refused to work. A gentleman came along and offered to try. I said, sure thing, go ahead. He too, failed. A second gentleman came along, thinking we were idiots for not being able to work the machine. Hah, he was equally foiled by the wicked machine. I can't remember how many people ultimately milled around us waiting to get their tickets, but I do remember having to ditch the idea of getting a parking ticket and just dash off to do my marketing. If a council officer had come around, I am positive I would return to find a compound notice on my windscreen, and would the local council entertain my explanation that their ticket machine didn't work?

It happens everywhere.....lack of common sense by council enforcers, dodgy ticket machines installed by dodgy means for dodgy purposes.

02 November 2009

Malaysia has lost its way, says Ku Li

And Tengku Razaliegh is so right, frank and honest about it.

How many of our corrupt politicians and leaders would admit this?

The veteran Umno man told the British Graduates Association at a dinner in KL on Nov. 1 that it was a fact that those Malaysians who “can stay away and settle overseas do so with the encouragement of their parents. Their parents tell them to remain where they are, there is nothing for them here. The illusion of nostalgia does not explain why parents fight to send their children to private and international schools rather than the national schools they themselves went to." (Malaysian Insider)

Tengku Razaleigh said that the very same politicians who recite nationalist slogans about our national schools and turn the curriculum into an ideological hammer send their own children to international schools here or in Australia and Britain.

Indeed, I have Malay friends - highly educated, from connected familes, affluent - who send their children to international schools. And these same Malay friends hold PRs in other countries, namely Australia and Britain. Why? Do they not feel secure in Malaysia, where their position and priveleges are protected, and where they are accorded so many "goodies"? Do these Malays feel, too, that the BN leadership and stranglehold on the country would only lead to the enrichment of BN politicians and the ultimate ruin of Malaysia and its people?

So these Malays are "preparing" their children for ultimate flight out of Malaysia with well laid paths of foreign education and PRs in a number of countries. Well then, at least, if and when their children leave Malaysia, they will live in the "real world" where they will compete on merits with others.

The esteemed Tengku also said that Malaysians felt a sense of loss not because they did not love the country, or were ungrateful. “It is because they feel the erosion of the institutional infrastructure of our society. Institutional intangibles such as the rule of law, accountability and transparency are the basis of a people’s confidence in their society."

Tengku is right again. Our government has gone down a windy, slippery, dangerous road that has seen the judiciary, police force and other government agencies lose their independence, professionalism, accountability and therefore, the trust of the people. How can one trust a public institution where a citizen died there under unexplainable circumstances? How do we not lose faith when selective corruption raids are mounted, yet at the same time it is plain for all to see the blatant corruption of (former) Menteri Besars etc living in palaces in prime locations, but with not a twitter of rebuke let alone punitive action from the government.

Our schools are in a mess. Why else would ministers be sending their children to international schools? The "crude nationalism" as Tengku calls it, blindly sidelines English, stupidly denying its value and importance to all Malaysians, and the country. Always the same old "Bahasa Malaysia is the country's language and the key to our unity". Really??

Our leaders are not connected to the realities of the challenges of the world today, only to their disgusting priority of getting rich through their station as politicians, leaders and high ranking government officials.

30 October 2009

Aussie (another one) rescued from Canadian mountain

It was reported in today's Age (Australia) that an Australian bushwalker has been found cold and wet but otherwise fine after spending the night in the snow and rain on North Vancouver's Grouse Mountain.

The person in question, Frederick Hayes, 24, wore only light trackpants and a hoodie jacket, with no torch or any other gear, and became separated from friends on the bushwalk at about 5pm the previous day.

Now, this is a mountain trail, in Canada, not some tropical paradise where daylight hours are long, the temperature warm and humid. One must know that it snows on mountains, in Canada. Mr. Hayes is very lucky to have been found alive by the North Shore Rescue volunteers. The rescue leader said "There's three inches (75mm) of snow on the ground, so we really want to appeal to the commonsense of the people who do hike these trails," he said. "I have to be very upfront and honest with you, these kind of (emergency) calls strain search and rescue (crews) because we are a volunteer organisation and all of us have to be at work in the morning."

I couldn't agree more with the resue leader.

Australians seem to be an adventurous bunch. I have nothing against Australians nor against adventurers hikers, but they should be appropriately geared with, among others, maps and compasses (I think - I'm not a hiker), as well as properly attired. Because when they get into trouble, they then cause a whole rescue mission to be activated, which in this case was made up of volunteers. Otherwise, it would be official search and rescue missions costing tax payer dollars. And more than that, rescue personnel also take on risks in any recue mission.

Not too long ago, another Australian, no less than the Victorian state Minister Tim Holding was lost on Mount Feathertop in Victoria's Alpine National Park. His rescue involved the use of "aerial support", all in all costing a pretty penny, no doubt.

And the lesson here? Think a little about your own safety and that of others when you attempt that hike or walk for your pure leisure and hunger for adventure.

28 October 2009

How much does your maid eat?

Over the recent Deepavali weekend, my parents came to visit and stay over. They came with my brother, his wife and theiry baby boy. My parents had to bring along their maid of 6 months as they did not want to leave her alone in the house - who knows what she might do?

Anway, my Mom has been regaling me with stories of how much her new maid eats. I have seen her in action, whenever I visit KL. She eats about 2 cups of raw rice a day, for lunch and dinner (wait, wait, she cooks the rice of course. Phew! Had to clarify that lest we be accused of maid abuse, given the sensitivities of the time) Maybe a bit of perspective will help here. My family consisting of myself, husband, 2 kids and our maid cook about 2 cups of rice for lunch/ dinner, and we usually don't finish the rice. There is always a bit leftover. So that's about 4 cups of rice a day for 3 adults and 2 kids, compared to my Mom's one maid who gobbles up 2 cups of rice a day.

Oh, and she loves sugar too. She eats (drinks?) 1 kilogram of sugar in about 2 weeks, give or take a couple of days. And of course chillies! My Mom lets her blend a whole kilo of dried chillies with onions, garlic and ginger to make her "sambal" which she can't live without, and she eats all of that in a matter of days. Then she complains of a stomach ache! I wonder why she gets a stomach ache, don't you? Then she has the cheek to let us know that back home in Indonesia, she doesn't get to use onions and garlic for her sambal, so it is extra delicious here! (that's why she can't help stuffing herself!)

My Mom's maid has also told my maid, "Saya mari kerja di Malaysia mesti makan banyak banyak!" (When I come to work in Malaysia, I must eat a lot!)

I asked my maid if they were short of food back home in Indonesia. My maid says no. Back home, they may not have much money, but food is abundant as they grow a lot of their own food and raise livestock. The volcanic soil ensures abundant crops and the Indonesian govt also has a food aid program that distributes rice and cooking oil to needy families every month. My maid says that while they may not eat as much meat as we do, they have plenty in terms of vegetables, potatoes, soya bean products and local fruits. So where does this gluttony come from?

My Mom's maid is obsessed with food and her weight, complaining that she has lost weight since she came here. So when they were all here, I took the maid to my bathroom and weighed her on my digital scale. The scale registered 43.3 kg. She was 41kg when she came - she's put on 2.3 kg in 6 months. Nobody can say she's not been fed well! She is also very short, well under 5 feet.

My former colleague had a maid who also ate a lot. She went through 1kg of sugar a week, mountains of rice and stole condensed milk, as she just loved to eat it. My colleague found empty cans of condensed milk under her bed.

I wonder if the contract should stipulate how much the maid should eat? It wouldn't matter, as the maids break their contract anyway. And there is nothing the Malaysian and Indonesian govts can do about it, despite their countless meetings and MOUs. The fact is, there are very few maids from Indonesia who have a sense of honour, obligation, loyalty or gratitude despite earning more money than they ever could dream of working back home in Indonesia.

21 October 2009

Teoh inquest: 80pc chance of homicide, says Thai expert (the Star)

I think the general public feeling and perception is that there is no way that Teoh would have committed suicide. The whole affair very much spanks of foul play and the MACC and the government have a lot to answer for.

It has been very unprofessional of the MACC personnel to say that he did not want to care or to know about what happened to Teoh, when he was alerted that a body had been found on the ground as it was not inside the MACC office.

Hitting and beating suspects or even volunteers under interrogation? Very well known, no matter how much the authorities may deny it.

Homicide at or in or very near to a government premise to a person who was just interrogated?? You draw your own conclusions...

19 October 2009

Dangerous dogs

I don't know if there are any American pit bull terriers in Malaysia, but if there are, I sure hope the owners know what kind of dog it is. The following is an excerpt of a report by The Age newspaper (Australia), and I have highlighted certain pertinent sentences.

Death-jab dog 'on killing rampage'
Paul Millar, Mex Cooper


A Melbourne man has told how he feared for his life as he wrestled with an American pit bull terrier that had torn his dog apart.

Eric, from Reservoir, said that the dog locked onto his wrist and arm after he went to try and free his tiny dog from the jaws of the terrier.

The American pit bull - which had to be lethally injected after refusing to let go of Eric's hand - is believed to have been on a killing rampage, mauling four pets and biting a 10-year-old girl in Reservoir, in Melbourne’s north.

The dog latched on to Eric’s hand for more than 20 minutes. Paramedics were forced to inject the animal with an overdose of drugs after it savaged Eric's two small pet dogs, killing one, as he walked them along Arundel Avenue in Reservoir about 7.20pm. Eric said the police told him to hang onto the pit bull as they feared it could have gone for his throat.

Eric said that the dog obviously had a taste for blood as less than an hour earlier it had killed a cat and bit a young girl. ‘‘It had torn my little dog to shreds. I did not want to let go, I did not want to let go of him,’’ he said. He said his ordeal lasted for about 15 minutes.

He said there had to be tighter restrictions on those types of dogs and asked why anybody would want to own one.

Earlier, Reservoir resident Janette said she believed the same pit bull had killed her cat and attacked her pet dog, which was being walked by her 10-year-old daughter.
Janette said the dog had bitten her daughter on the finger and left her dog, which remains at a veterinary practice, badly wounded. ‘‘It could have been worse ... it was out to kill... I tried to attack it in the driveway and I had no hope, it was horrendous’’ she said.

A Victoria Ambulance spokesman said the killing had been an "absolute last resort" at the request of police who could not shoot the dog because it was too close to the man.
Intensive care paramedic Robert Voss, who was forced to use medical supplies to put down the American pit bull, arrived at Arundel Avenue as two policemen were trying to restrain the dog and free the injured man’s hand.

"As a last resort, we euthanased the dog for them. We used some sedation and then some paralysing agents." Even then, everyone was still "scared and frightened", he said.

Police last night spoke to the pit bull’s distressed owner, a 25-year-old Reservoir man, and investigations are continuing.

Pure-bred American pit bull terriers are a restricted breed in Victoria and must be desexed in a bid to eventually wipe out the breed.

The attack has renewed calls from the RSPCA for the breed to be banned in Australia. The Victorian RSPCA’s president, Dr Hugh Wirth, says the dogs are a menace and are not suitable as pets for anyone.

"They are time bombs waiting for the right circumstances,’’ Dr Wirth said.
‘‘The American pit bull terrier is lethal because it was a breed that was developed purely for dog fighting, in other words killing the opposition.

"They should never have been allowed into the country. They are an absolute menace.

Dr Wirth said local councils were not doing enough to enforce strict laws on pit bull terriers. Restrictions for owners include confining the dogs to their property, ensuring the property is escape-proof, while a signpost warning of the dog’s existence must be displayed outside the property.

‘‘Local government has got to spend some money going around identifying these dogs and forcing the issue," he said.

The latest attack comes after a toddler was scarred for life when she was attacked by a pit bull in Melbourne’s west earlier this year.

Prime Minister's Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) website sucks

Big on ideas, bad on implementation. That's still our government's trademark.

I read in the Star today that the government is seeking public feedback and ideas on ways to improve national unity in Malaysia. The Prime Minister's Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) is leading the Government Transformation Programme.

Apparently feedback can be submitted to Pemandu's website at www.transformation.gov.my or via email at ideas@transformation.gov.my.

So I submitted my feedback to both the website and the email. Guess what??

Pemandu website: Gave me this response "Data too long for column 'feedback' at row 1" - Does the govt expect one liners?

The ideas@transformation.gov.my email address: I received this message, " This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification. Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently: ideas@transformation.gov.my Technical details of permanent failure:DNS Error: DNS server returned answer with no data"

How predictable of all our government initiatives! Was there no testing of the website? Hello....is your inbox full?

16 October 2009

Malaysians still insensitive to each other

It is with disappointment that I note a display of insensitivity at worst, or oversight at best, by the authorities (principal, vice principals, relevant decision making body) at my son's school.

My son attends a Chinese medium school with a long history and well regarded reputation. He sat for 2 papers yesterday, at the start of his year-end final exams. The exams were to continue today and resume after the weekend on Monday 20 October, until Wednesday.

Do you notice anything amiss with the timing of the final exams? I did, the first time I saw the exam notice circular. Deepavali is smack right in the middle of the final exams.

Now, I feel that is inconsiderate and insensitive of the school towards the Indian students in the school. True, their number might be small as it is a Chinese school, still they deserve to have the time and peace of mind to celebrate their festival, just as the Malays have one whole week for Hari Raya and the Chinese also have time off for Chinese New Year. The Indian students in my son's school should not have to be worrying about and revising for exams at the time of Deepavali.

This year, Deepavali falls on a Saturday, which means the Indians don't even get a weekday public holiday, unlike the other 2 major celebrations.

Belatedly, something must have triggered in the mind of the school authorities as the school announced yesterday that exams have been postponed to Monday 26 October. I think having to postpone exams just after one day reflects badly on the planning, sensitivity and most of all, the spirit of unity and muhibbah, on the part of the principal and relevant decision makers in the school. And it is in school, that our children should learn tolerance, respect and consideration for other races and religions. Again, I say, how disappointing.

14 October 2009

Cleaning the koi pond

I always enjoy watching fish of any kind swimming placidly in a pond. So when we had the opportunity of building our own koi pond, we were thrilled.

Today, the koi pond is filled with 70-odd koi and various aquatic plants (which I waded into the pond myself to position) and is serene and peaceful to watch.

But I didn't realise the amount of effort needed to firstly, get it going, get the eco system in the pond to stabilise and to maintain the quality of the water. The first 2 months, the water in the pond was green and murky with lots of algae forming and floating around. We were told that our gravity fed filter system needed some time to get the water balanced; as would the algae, which would need time to eventually stick to the walls of the pond, and stop floating around like some renegade sea-weed. I guess we are finally reaping the rewards of a lovely pond.

Still, there's cleaning to be done. Like yesterday. Husband was down with fever and yellow phlegm, so he gallantly asked me to clean the filter mats in the filter bed. What does this entail? Well, firstly, I have to lift up the very heavy iron grill doors on top of the filter bed. Then I have to stick my hands into the filter water and lift up the heavy, water-laden filter mats (they look like sheets of very coarse carpets).

Now the mats - they stink! Smells all fishy, mossy and yucky. And they are caked with brown-green looking stuff. So, I have to hose the mats down to get rid of the stuff stuck to the mats, otherwise it will restrict water flow from the pond, which flows to the filter bed under the force of gravity, causing the pond to overfill and overflow (thereby wasting water). Sounds all technical, huh?

Anyway, it's heavy and sweaty work, which I have done several times since we commissioned our pond sometime in March/ April.

As with everything, beauty requires maintenance.

13 October 2009

Sick in Ipoh

When I first moved to Ipoh in December 2008, one of my initial concerns was to get references to good doctors here. Back in KL, I knew who to go to for what. In Ipoh, I was groping in the dark.

It seems that God would test one's heart and response to challenges wherever one goes - we can pray for things to go smoothly, but often times God would throw a spanner in the works. I believe it is so that we don't take God for granted and treat Him like a Santa Clause who grants us our prayer requests. God is God and His ways may not be understood by us, but therein lies our faith.

So, not long after moving to Ipoh, my little girl fell sick. My former colleague from KL told me that his dad has a paediatric clinic in Fair Park, so I took my daughter to see him. She got better, and it was Chinese New Year. Straight after the New Year, my little girl fell sick again - very high fever, lots of mucus from the nose and a little cough. This time, my mom in law suggested we see her old family GP, who is a rather aged doctor in town. Upon examining my daughter, she diagnosed possible bronchitis and noises in her lungs and told me to admit my daughter into hospital right away. I was stunned at the severity of her diagnosis.

I rushed back to my inlaws' house (we were still staying there at the time), asked my husband to send my son to school while I went to Ipoh Specialist Hospital with my daughter. Which doctor to see? Our paediatrician in KL had suggested we see Dr. Adeline Tan but she was on CNY leave, so we were lined up to see her partner at the clinical suite they run together, Dr. David Manickam. There were lots of patients waiting but the nurse was kind enough to let us go ahead of some people due to the urgency of my daughter's condition. I was practically in tears by then. New to Ipoh, daughter sick, everything unfamiliar and not having my own parents to turn to here.

Thank God, my daughter did not have to be admitted after all. Dr. David said if I could administer the antibiotic myself and manage her fever, she could go home. We needed to go back daily to see him, though, for her to be nebulised. This challenge so early into our move to Ipoh made me feel all kinds of emotions - why did we move, I have no support here, I felt so alone. My husband is not very good with kids, let alone sick kids; my parents in law still work and have a hectic social life; my bro in law and his wife are somewhat allergic to children.

But, everything turned out well, despite my feelings, frustrations and fears. You know, in the end, each and everyone of us is really alone - we have to be strong, capable, and keep God in our hearts.

10 October 2009

Shameful Malaysian Customs Officers

My maid just came back from her Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays in her home in Jawa. She came back via an Air Asia flight and arrived at the LCCT in Sepang.

Her flight arrived on time at 1230 and she was supposed to catch the 1400 bus directly back to our city. But she was held back at customs for more than an hour, causing her to miss the bus. She had to catch the 1600 bus instead.

The delay at customs was due to the goods she had brought back - some salted eggs (she wanted to show our children Indonesian salted eggs which have pale blue shells); homemade sambal kacang (pounded peanuts with chilly and sugar); salak (Indonesian fruit from a palm tree); cooked tempeh (fermented soy bean cakes) and petai beans (bitter or stink beans - parkia speciosa).

When she passed through customs, the inspecting officers told her that all the goods she brought were not permitted to be brought into the country. But, they told my maid, if she lets them take some of the stuff, they would let her take the remaining things through. In full public view, my maid said they proceeded to help themselves to half of the above mentioned goods she had brought. To the extent that the lady customs officer brought out her tupperware and a spoon to scoop half of the homemade sambal that my maid had brought. As for the cooked tempeh, the same lady officer took a pinch out of it and pronounced to her male counterpart "Sedap!" Mahu?" ("It's delicious! Do you want some?")

Is this the way our Malaysian Customs Officers are trained? To "tax" goods by taking it for themselves, unashamedly in full public view? If it were truly not permitted to enter the country, then by all means confiscate the goods and destroy them.

Shame on our customs officers who behave in such an undignified, greedy and unprofessional manner.

Dogs and chicken bones

It's such a big debate over the issue of feeding chicken bones to dogs.
Let me state my stand - I don't believe it's a problem, and I have fed cooked chicken bones (and other cooked bones) to my dogs for years, and none of them have ever had any problems, none of them died, none of them choked on the bones.

My inlaws are scared to death of feeding chicken bones to their dogs and always give me the "it's dangerous" spin when they learn that I do. Perhaps tiny toy dogs and those oh so cute but impractical poodles/ chihuahuas (no offence to poodle/ chihuahua owners, whatsoever) should not be given bones, but large breed dogs surely can handle them. And lest we forget, wild dogs have been eating fowl and all manner of prey (including their bones) for hundreds of years.

When I was a child in a rural town in Perak, it was not only unfashionable to feed dogs manufactured dog kibbles, it was practically impossible to get them! So, what did we do? We cooked our doggie meals. We boiled rice together with bones, cheaper cuts of meats and liver. All my dogs were fine - all 9 of them.

Actually, I wonder if those people against feeding bones to dogs have ever watched a dog eating bones. A dog would grab the bone in its jaws, give it several mighty crunches and swallow. Immense enjoyment. You should see it.

I did some net searches, and of course there are people arguing on both sides of the spectrum. Examples:

from http://www.sheffieldforum.co.uk/archive/index.php/t-134865.html - I gave some to my dogs, under supervision, the other night, testing this theory that bones are bad, and they both crunched them twice and they were gone. Lips-a-licking they'd have happily demolished a few more! (I'd say, well done for at least testing out the theory and see, your dogs didn't die!)

from http://dogs.thefuntimesguide.com/2006/05/dog_ate_chicken_bones.php -Fortunately, the bones that Jersey ingested on this day passed just fine -- but it took a couple of days. I was completely on edge for that part of the vacation. Thankfully, he didn't seem to suffer at all from this little (I'd say that's one panicky owner)

from http://dogs.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Dog_And_Chicken_Bones - Common wisdom has long told us that a dog and chicken bones go together about as well as elephants and bicycles. We've been taught that feeding our dogs chicken bones is dangerous for them, likely to cause intestinal injury.
Where does a lot of this information come from? Mainly from manufacturers of commercial dog foods who would rather you purchase their products so they can make a tidy profit. Pet owners who naturally want to protect their canine companions tend to believe this information and pass it along to other dog owners, thus perpetuating the notion that chicken bones are harmful to dogs under any circumstance. However, a dog and chicken bones can be compatible under the right conditions (I'd say this is the most balanced, calm and sensible opinion I've read)

Nowadays, I feed my dogs manufactured dog kibbles 5 days out of a week for the convenience, and the other 2 days I cook them some "real" food. Imagine the poor doggies eating the same boring, dry biscuits that have no texture or variation in taste or feel whatsoever day in day out for their whole lives. Not my dogs.

09 October 2009

Hokkien Mee (Tai Lok Meen)

I took my kids out to lunch in Ipoh Garden South (I know, it's a school day) because yesterday while buying herbs at Soong Kong, I spied 2 ladies eating the black, thick noodles that I love so much at the Sentosa Ria coffee shop next door.

I grew up eating Hokkien Mee or Tai Lok Meen (big fat noodles) in PJ and I so miss Hokkien Mee; however, it is not an Ipoh dish, so there is a dearth of places that sell it here. And even those that do, don't match up.

As I discovered today. It looks good enough, but there was just no "fire" taste to the dish; the black sauce used failed to deliver the salty-sweet taste that is trademark to a good Hokkien Mee; and the fried pieces of lard were not numerous enough nor crispy enough. I took away a packet of the Hokkien Mee for hubby and he too said, "fail".

There is one other place that sells a kinda passable Hokkien Mee - an old uncle and wife who run a stall in a coffee shop (sorry I can't remember the name) opposite Yum Yum Restaurant on Persiaran Greenhill.

Sigh.....I would be glad to find a good Hokkien Mee in Ipoh.

07 October 2009

Hornet attack tragedy

I read with great concern and sorrow for the family whose 3 precious children died from a hornet attack. The mother remains hospitalised in a critical condition. It seems such a random and innocent thing - to take a stroll near their home, never imagining such an outing could turn out so tragic. My prayers and thoughts go out to the family.


One would not expect to find a hornets' nest to be found on the ground behind some rocks. An internet fact sheet on hornets said that hornets nest in hollow trees, wall cavities, chimneys and similar structures and that they show a preference for wooded areas. The pictures in the news show the hornets' nest clinging to the bottom of some large rocks in an area that was more grassy than wooded. Nobody could have guessed that such danger lurked there.

It seems hornets have been rather busy, as a group of about 20 runners taking part in the "Bergmarathon" around the northern Austrian city of Linz on Saturday 12 September were attacked as they approached the finishing line. Angry hornets also put a Swiss businessman in hospital after they attacked him at his holiday home in Gurk in Carinthia’s St. Veit district on Tuesday, 22 September - he was mowing the lawn.


A bee breeder was quoted as saying "If we are being attacked, all we need to do is find a place to squat down. Don't keep running or moving our limbs, as this will make the bees misunderstand that we are going to attack them." That sounds amazingly simple, but to squat down? I don't know how many people would have the presence of mind to do that. And in the tragedy in Sarawak, it was an open space. There was no where to hide, no safe place to squat down. Perhaps there should be hornet/ bee talks to educate the public on what to do in the event of an attack.
(image from arkive.org)

03 October 2009

Ideal weight for my dog

We've got 3 dogs and my inlaws have got 5. They are all from the Labrador family but this batch was fathered by a Lab of questionable bloodline, so they are no longer pure Labs. Still, they are all adorable and loyal dogs.

Now, the issue of the weight of my dogs has been bugging me because each time bro in law and his wife come round, they say "Your dogs are thin, especially Benjie. He's all bones!" Then when mom in law comes by, she says the same thing. I suspect she's just repeating what she heard from them since she's not that much of an animal lover and has precious little time to spend with the dogs anyway. She wouldn't know any of their habits.

True, Benjie is on the lean side. Queenie is a real food hog and she is the biggest, while Bonnie has the slightest build but for her petite size, she looks quite filled out. Benjie is tall and gangly, with a straight arrow tail. His appetite used to be really poor when he first came to us (all 3 were first raised by bro in law by the way). My maid and I had to persuade him to finish his food, and even hand feed him. But the last 2 months has seen a marked improvement in his appetite and he always finishes his food now, even ahead of greedy Queenie.

Back to the thin part. With all those thin remarks, I did some reading on the net and the general consensus out there is that Labs should not be overweight. When patting a Lab, you should be able to see his last 2 ribs and definitely when stroking the dog, be able to feel his ribs without having to press down hard to feel for them. That puts my dogs in the acceptable weight category. My inlaws dogs on the other hand would be fat! Waddling walk, and no ribs to be felt. I know. I checked.

I wonder how many people use Hill's Science Plan dog biscuits for their dogs. My 3 were raised on them, but Benjie just hates it. So I've switched to Fides (Belgium) and Top Ration (US). I intend to try Propac next.

30 September 2009

Celebrating in multi cultural Malaysia

Hari Raya Aidil Fitri just passed on 20th September 2009. I hope all my Muslim friends had a safe and peaceful celebration. My son did not go to any Malay friend's house to celebrate with them. In fact, being in a Chinese school, my son does not have any Malay friends.

This is worrying. This is a bad sign for the country.

Despite being 52 years old, Malaysia's people have shown that they have not learned to co-exist happily together. Otherwise, the cow head incident would not have occurred. But how will we teach racial and religious tolerance and respect to our children when there is little opportunity for the races to mix, given the diverse school systems that Malaysia has?

When I was a child, I spent most of my primary school years in a rural national school. I was one of 3 Chinese students in the class; there were probably 5 Indians in the class. The rest were Malays. The non-Malays learned to converse in BM very well, even speaking with the requisite accent. In my teen years, whenever I spoke Malay on the phone, the person on the other end of the line always thought I was a Malay. I learned the quirks and culture of the rural Malays; the Malays in turn learned about me, my food, what I do in my spare time etc. I think that experience enriched my life immensely. I also saw how Malay students in rural schools were given ample assistance by the government in terms of scholarships, placement in MARA colleges, matriculation programs, express classes. You name it. I must also state that being the top student in my rural school, I too was given a place in one of the MARA colleges (like a charity political handout, perhaps?). I did not take up the offer. I wonder where or who I would be if I had? (in politics? Ha ha ha....)

Anyway, I am scratching my head thinking how to let my children have friends from all the races in Malaysia. Did I hear someone say "send them to Kebangsaan schools" or "send them to private schools"? Well, the choice of a school is an entire topic worthy of days' of discussion.

Tainted politicians should exit quietly

I wholly agree with Kuala Lumpur-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Wanita chief Alice Lee who said that "Politicians, apart from being capable and talented, must also uphold morality". To be in high office, and to even aspire to be a leader, one must be prepared to uphold integrity and honesty; to know the difference between right and wrong, greed and temptations; and definitely, when one's wrong doing has been exposed, to know that it is time to leave.

Leave so that the institution you say you want to lead will not be damaged by your (mis)conduct; leave so that you have some semblance of dignity left; leave so that your family will not continue to suffer in silence and plaster stiff smiles on their faces in public while parroting the press secretary's prepared text of "I stand by my husband/ father" but deep down inside they are revolted and disgusted by what he has done.

MCA has already suffered much in the 2008 general elections, showing signs that it may be considered wholly irrelevant by its former electorate. With Datuk Sri Dr Chua Soi Lek's unashamed exhibition of raw ambition and hunger to be chief of MCA, willing to do anything and to enlist anyone's help (Ling?) to succeed, what hope is there left for the party? What credibility or integrity or standing would a party that is led by a person whose misconduct has been exposed, admitted to, and embarrassingly circulated have? What standing would MCA have in BN? I would be highly embarrassed to be associated with such a party.

Imagine Datuk Sri Dr Chua giving a speech to our young people on the topic of interity or being a good family man? Could he? It would just take a sarcastic remark from someone in the audience to bring the house down in laughter or awkward silence.

It is tragic that Datuk Sri Dr Chua's personal activities were publicised in such a manner. And who does not know that there are so many more leaders out there who have less than desirable standards of morality/ fidelity. It's just that they haven't been caught in the act....and that too, is tragic.

29 September 2009

Shampoos

Haven't written much about any new personal care products I've used recently - that's because I haven't finished using the stuff I wrote about!

Let's talk shampoos. Everyone uses it to wash their hair; to make it look clean, healthy and bouncy; to make it smell nice. Oh, and we don't want our hair to drop because of an unsuitable shampoo and no dandruff, please! I have thin, baby soft and straight hair, and alas, my hair drops quite a lot whenever I wash it.


So I tried Avalon Organics Biotin B Complex Thickening shampoo. It is specifically designed to to help restore thinning hair and is fortified with an elixir of biotin, saw palmetto and wheat protein to help control hair loss. Several people I recommended it to have been very happy with the results and have asked us to order the shampoo for them. They obviously found that the shampoo could help strengthen hair strands and boost body and volume for a healthy scalp and thicker, fuller looking hair. For me, I found that the shampoo did make my hair appear fuller.

Right now, we are using "Whenever Shampoo" by Kiss My Face. I find it suitable for frequent use as it gently but thoroughly cleanses hair without stripping or drying. It contains pure essential oils and organic herbs such as nettle and sage. It is really very pleasant and refreshing, and gentle enough for children too - my little girl has used it, and she likes the smell.

26 September 2009

Char Siu & Chicken Rice in Sec. 17

Phew...just came back from a very short trip to KL to visit my parents. Husband went to KL for work and asked us to tag along since our son has a whole week off school for Hari Raya.

We had dinner at our favourite "tai chau" coffee shop, Ming Kee. We ordered the old favourites - crispy chicken with onion rings, sweet & sour pork, "yau mak fu yi" (chinese lettuce fried with fermented bean curd) and seng kong tau foo. Still tastes just as good!

For lunch today, I bought back BBQ pork and chicken rice from another old favourite - a shop called Choon Yien, located at the ground floor of a block of flats on Jalan 17/13 in Section 17, PJ. When I was still working in KL, my colleagues and I used to like coming here for lunch, but you got to get here early, though. If you get here at 1pm, most of the tables would be taken and you have to wait for quite a bit. The BBQ pork, roast pork and roast chicken are all very nicely done here. The rice is oily and fragrant, with enough sauce from the meats. The complimentary soup that comes with your rice could be any of the traditional Chinese soups like lotus root, old cucumber, peanuts with preserved vegetable etc. - and they are all yummy as they have been boiled with lots of chicken bones to make a really flavourful stock.

The proprietor of the place is the guy with the moustache - friendly guy - while his assistant also sports a moustache but is bespectacled. James is the name of the assistant, and he is probably the one you will deal with. Be warned that he can be temperamental, but once he recognises you, he is a nice guy too. Might be easier to get your order if you greet him with a "Hi, James!" Works for me all the time.

22 September 2009

Maid agencies to avoid

Like most things, we try to obtain references or recommendations when trying something new - a new restaurant, a new tutor, a new beautician. So I think it would be really useful (for me, definitely) for others to share the positive experiences they've had with maid agencies and to put a word of caution on agencies you wouldn't want your friends and families to go to.

The good: In my experience, Zaha (KL) and Kawasama (PJ) are honest maid agencies that have been around for many years. At least they didn't shutter down and disappear after taking my deposit. When you need their follow-up counselling service for the maid (and maybe for yourself too!), they are also responsive. A reader posted that she has used Top Management (Ipoh) several times.

The bad: A family member used an agency called Global Access Sdn Bhd or Global Management & Services (Puchong). It was a very bad experience. They were very prompt in coming over to get you to sign the agreement and to collect a huge deposit - then it took them 5 months to deliver the maid, when they promised no more than 2-3 months. Each time a follow-up call was made to the agency to enquire about the progress, the manager cum owner was rude and liked to say "you are not our only customer". Then the maid ran away after 2 weeks. No apologies, nothing from the agency. It took almost 3 months for the agency to deliver a replacement, and guess what, the maid who finally arrived was not the maid that my relative chose, it was a completely different maid whose biodata they had not seen before! The agency had taken the liberty of sending the maid that was chosen somewhere else and giving my relative any maid they had, without first informing of the change. When queried on the change and that we had not been informed, the rude manager merely said "Take it or leave it". Once your money is with the agency, the bad ones know they have the upper hand as you are not about to let your money sit with this agency and go to another maid agency - besides you can't, as you would have to cancel the maid application made through the bad agency first.

20 September 2009

My experience with maids

Like most working women in Malaysia, I employed my first maid when I was expecting my first child. Most of us have the mandatory 60 days maternity leave, after which we are obliged to go back to work, or use our own leave, or quit our jobs. Unlike in first world countries where a woman can take up to 3 years of unpaid leave and still have a job to go back to when she so chooses.

The first maid agency I ever used was called Zaha, in KL. Being first time maid employers, I remember we were surprised that we had to plonk upfront almost RM5,000. That was (and still is) a lot of money, just starting out in our marriage and careers. The first 2 maids Zaha sent to us had VD and Hepatitis B. But Zaha was good, as they did not send the maids to us - the diseases were revealed by the medical exam done upon the maids' arrival and they were sent back immediately. Obviously, the medical exams done in Indonesia were defective (fraudulent??) Zaha replaced the maid and I finally got my maid 2 months after I delivered. That threw all my childbirth plans into massive disarray, but I guess that's life. You can plan and plan, but only God knows the outcome.

In 2001, an Indonesian maid's starting salary was RM380. My first maid was on the big side and in her forties, so she was slower in moving around. Still, she did her work honestly and she was a clean person, which were important aspects to me. Unfortunately, she suffered an epileptic episode and upon further medical examination, it turned out that she had a brain tumour. I guess the medical exams on maids do not include a brain scan. We sent her home, one year short of her contractual period, and advised her of her medical condition. Of course, there was no refund to us from the maid agency, nor any discount for the next maid we had to employ.

My second maid was arranged by a different agency, Kawasama. This maid had previous experience working in Malaysia, so we had very few problems with her. She completed her 2 year contract and asked to extend her contract with us. We were agreeable, to this. However, in the midst of her third year with us, she had family problems and had to return home.

We continued to use Kawasama for our third maid, who is into her 5th year with us. This third maid started with us at a salary of RM400. For her third year, we gave her a raise, making her salary RM460. In her 4th year, we paid her RM500. This year, we are paying her RM550. She gets to go home for 3 weeks every 2 years. Now, this maid is the most intelligent of all my maids. She reads the papers. So with all the hoo-ha going on between Malaysia and Indonesia on maids working here. she has asked for her salary next year to be RM650. Quite a jump, eh?

Going by my record, there has been no maid abuse, and we have been very reasonable employers in giving her increments. Her increments, in % terms, are even higher than my own increments! The Indonesian embassy in KL said that their benchmark salary should be no lower than RM500, preferably RM600. Well, my maid is well within range.

The Malaysian and Indonesian governments should take note of the very good conditions under which the maids work (net salary, free board and lodging, and some maids really eat barrel loads!), and treat the cases of maid abuse with the right perspective - such cases should not be used as a bargaining chip by the Indonesian government.
How has your experience with maids been?

News: It’s RM500, not RM800 for maids

Sunday September 20, 2009
EXCLUSIVE By PAUL GABRIEL (the Star)

KUALA LUMPUR: The Indonesian Embassy will renew passports of maids if employers agree to pay them a minimum monthly salary of RM500 and not RM800 as reported.

Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia Gen Da’i Bachtiar said the embassy would be flexible although the benchmark set was RM600.

“If the maid is happy with a RM550 or a RM500 wage, the embassy will renew her passport when the employer seeks to extend her services.

“The benchmark we are setting is RM600. But it is between the maid and her employer to decide on what is acceptable. But it can’t be lower than RM500,” he told The Star.

Gen Bachtiar was clarifying reports that he had set a RM800 minimum wage before the embassy would renew the passports of Indo­nesian maids. This drew criticism from various sectors here which said RM800 was too steep.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil described the wage limit as not feasible.

Clarifying his position, Gen Bachtiar said he had probably been misunderstood during a recent buka puasa event he hosted for Indo­nesian workers here.

“Many told me that their monthly wage was below RM500. I asked the factory workers how much they were paid and found out that their wages were even lower.

“I said this should not be, as factory workers are categorised under the formal sector and should receive higher pay up to at least RM800. This could have been misunderstood by the media to mean RM800 for domestic workers as well,” he explained.

On Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam having confirmed that Indonesia had asked for the RM800 minimum wage for maids, Gen Bachtiar said he was unaware of that.

“There must be a reasonable limit set. Our maids, with the same ability level as the ones sent here, earn RM1,600 in Hong Kong and Taiwan, between RM600 and RM750 in Saudi Arabia, and RM700 in Singapore.

“Their wage in Malaysia, in the peninsula, is between RM500 and RM600 on the average. But in Sabah and Sarawak, it is as low as RM200 to RM300,” he added.

Meanwhile, in Kluang, Subramaniam said the Government might consider reducing the RM445 annual levy charged for employing Indonesian maids to ease employers’ burden.

The minister, however, did not disclose the proposed amount after opening the National Job Carnival 2009 yesterday.

Employers had expressed concern with the high agency fees incurred for employing Indonesian maids which could cost between RM6,000 and RM7,000 for each maid.
Speaking of the request for the Indonesian maids’ salary to be raised above RM800 a month, Subramaniam said such a request had never been made by the Indonesian administration.

Introduction

I am creating a new section in my blog as a space for news, thoughts and exchange of views on the maid issues affecting Malaysians, in particular Indonesian maids, since I have no experience in employing maids of other nationalities. If you do however, have views to contribute on maids of other nationalities, it would be helpful and appreciated if you would post your experiences.

I realise people in industrialised nations, closest being Australia, do not agree with our maid hiring policies as they have in place stringent employee protection and minimum wages (with that said, there are lots of workers working for less than minimum wages in first world countries). But Malaysia is at a different stage of growth and age, therefore this space on maid issues is primarily meant for Malaysians.

18 September 2009

Samy Vellu is a liability to Barisan, says Dr M

I (and maybe you) continue to be amazed at the hypocrisy of our politicians and leaders, both current and past. Just look at the statements made by Dr M as quoted in the media:

If we look at other countries, whenever a leader fails, he resigns. In Japan he commits harakiri - how many BN leaders have failed, have lost the trust of the people, have been involved in scandals made public and undefendable, yet remain in high office? Dr M, how can you make this statement with a straight face and honest heart? Yes, in other countries, leaders who fail, who are involved in sex scandals, who have corruption charges, step down and resign and lead a quiet perhaps repentful life, but not here in Malaysia.

He said he had a right to criticise anyone for the sake of the Barisan, and added: "I've criticised Pak Lah, who's Samy Vellu that I cannot criticise?" - yes, in theory Malaysia is a free country with its citizens given the right to express opinion and criticize, but in reality that freedom is only accorded to the Dr Ms, Najibs, Hishams etc. etc. Anyone else criticizing too much would have the infamous ISA used against them. And does Dr. M have the grace to accept criricism hurled at him the same way he lambasts others so cuttingly?

He said Samy Vellu became popular because he (Tun Dr Mahathir) had helped him. He wanted to build a university, I persuaded the government to give a RM50mil allocation and I've helped in many more of his projects," he said - this is said with so much personal pride and smacks somewhat of "oh you poor thing MIC, since you are in BN, we just have to help you out". Should not BN, as a coalition of different parties, rightfully help to ensure that all the component parties are strong and meet the people's expectations? Obviously, there are no equals within the BN, and MIC certainly is the loser.

As an aside, I am not saying that Samy Vellu is not a liability.

Restoran Makanan Laut Yam Yam, Ipoh Garden South

This restaurant is one of my brother in law's favourite restaurants. So, we've been there several times with them.

The restaurant serves Chinese food, and the taste of its dishes are moderately good. My brother in law and his wife love the sweet and sour crabs, chilly crabs (any crabs) there. Other dishes they like to order are the pork patties....strange, I can't remember any other outstanding dishes there. What I do remember when we paid for dinner there is the outstanding price! Rather expensive for a non-air conditioned place.

My kids are not impressed with their sweet & sour pork.

Old Style eating place, Ming Kee

When I say old style, I mean a place that the kids would complain about going to.....old shop lot, no decorations, no air conditiong, peeling paint, greasy tiles and floor, but reasonably cheap and good food.

Before we moved to Ipoh, one of my family's favourite place to have rice and dishes for dinner is Ming Kee in Paramount/ SEA Park. It is on the same row of shops as the famous Sunrise Duck Rice, but on the opposite end, facing the KFC at the traffic light junction.

The best dish there. for us, is the Crispy Fried Chicken with Onions (yeong choong kai). We have yet to find any other restaurant that makes this dish better than Ming Kee. It is served with lots of chicken pieces battered and fried, and cooked in sauce accompanied with lots of big onion rings. If you are a lover of onions, you can ask for extra onions - we do!

The steamed fish in ginger or bean sauce is good, fish head curry is great (you can also have plain vegetable curry, just as good), all their beancurd dishes are delicious, and vegetables fried in many different styles. Oh, and we always order the sweet & sour pork for our kids. The proprietors are very friendly and they usually give our kids free soup to go with their rice.

Dim Sum in Kao Lee @ Ipoh Garden

We decided to try some place different for dim sum last Sunday. The usual popular restaurants would be crowded, so we trooped off to Kao Lee in Ipoh Garden, near Wooly's. An uncle had recommended this place to us.

It was easy enough to find parking at 10am, and we waited about 5 minutes for a table. It was bustling inside the restaurant but there weren't queues like you would see in Ming Court.

You can get all your favourite dim sum items here. Their specialties are pasted onto a wall, with pictures, so you can pick which one you would like to try. I picked the Chinese-sausage rice (lap-mei fan), my favourite New Year rice, to go with our other dishes. It was rather dry and crumbly, as Kao Lee does not use glutinous rice, just normal rice. The kids liked the char siu pao enough, while the other dishes like siu mai, har kao, chee cheong fun, congee, wu kok .... were passable. Perhaps lacking in a distinctive flavour one would find in the other famous restaurants in town.

Still, if you don't want to jostle with crowds and have people watching you while you eat, you could try this neighbourhood dim sum restaurant.

16 September 2009

Road rage

I am a moderately aggressive driver. I use the horn and I flash my headlights. But I do allow drivers who indicate to cut in front of me, and I also allow drivers who are having a tough time turning at a busy junction the chance to do so. I'm not that bad, right?

Well, today while driving my son to school, the cars were as usual clogged up in front of the school, forming triple lanes on a very narrow road. I was moving in a lane that eventually would merge with the lane on my left. Problem was, this fellow on my left in a red Honda (I think Honda drivers have a problem) refused to let me merge. When I inched forward, so did he, coming treacherously close to me on my left.

So I had to let him go ahead of me and I slipped behind him. I of course, felt very unjustified. I showed him the middle finger, not really expecting him to see it in his rear view mirror. But he saw it alright! He must have been watching me, sensing my annoyance. He returned my signal, adding more of his own. It didn't make a difference that his wife or girlfriend (he looks to be in his forties) was seated next to him. I think if we had not been in front of a school, he would have got out of his car. Anyway, I've memorised his car number plate.

Fortunately my kids in the back seat had no clue what was going on. I felt ashamed too for having succumbed to feeling so pissed off with that guy to have to resort to such a display. I am as low as him...if I were a guy, I might be worse than him. Food for thought.

15 September 2009

Presenting Malaysia in a positive light?

Our Prime Minister was quoted as saying to the Malaysian diplomatic corp to "help Malaysia present a more positive image to the world". Image is one thing, the reality is another. And the diplomatic corp cannot, for very long anyway, hide the facts of weak leadership, money politics, rampant corruption, selective prosecution, intolerance fanned and encouraged by certain quarters, and a ruling government that is a sore loser unable to get over its defeat in the general elections last year.

To begin with, Malaysia has never had much success or great ideas in marketing Malaysia's strengths, compared to, say, our neighbour down south. It is true that Malaysia has many positive things going for it, but sadly, the events of the last couple of years have seen our nation, thought to be a shining example of a successful third world, Muslim country, increasingly losing its footing in the international scene.

Our leaders' talk rings hollow, insincere and ineffective. 1Malaysia? We have seen everything that is the opposite of that.

12 September 2009

Noodles at Chee Wah

We had noodles for dinner last night. Usually the kids would be thrilled as it isn't rice, but when I said we were going to a coffee shop-style place, they complained. "Why not 1919?", they wailed. They were set straight about not expecting every meal being in a posh, air-conditioned place, and besides their uncle would be joining us for dinner. That helped to cheer them up a bit.

My hubby had been telling me about this place for sometime. That they had very good "loh shee fun" (white, short,slippery noodles nicknamed "rat tails") but also that it is quite, erm, a messy and uh, "not so clean" looking coffee shop. Aha, that's not so very inviting. But, in Malaysia, you know and I know that the good food is served in run-down-yet- popular places.

So, Chee Wah is located on Jalan Che Tak in Ipoh, near the Caltex petrol station. The shop sure looks old and dirty. The proprietor wisely does not seat anyone inside the shop, they set up tables outside. Oh and the shop starts serving pretty late, from 7:30pm onwards. We were the first to arrive at 7:25pm.

Our first dish was fried mee hoon/ vermicelli. Quite well done and tasty. Then came the dozen fried chicken wings - another house specialty. Piping hot and well marinated - the chicken wings and drummets disappeared in a jiffy. Then the star arrived, claypot loh shee fun. It comes boiling merrily in the claypot and the proprietor brings along the eggs in his hand to crack them into the pot for you. Then you stir the egg in yourself. At first look, it is soupy, eggy, with lots of bean sprouts and some minced meat but very insipid and pale in colour. Not like the ones you get in KL. I am a KL girl after all. But the proof is in the eating, and it was delicious! Full of flavour, fragrant, with the bean sprouts adding crunch.

11 September 2009

What do you do when your friend...

.....stops writing, stops replying to your emails, and you have no idea why? Do you feel bewildered, sad, disappointed? Does one continue making the effort to communicate and keep in touch, despite the wall?

I guess many would say it depends how much one values the friendship. If the friendship is to be cherished, just like in any relationship, the one who cares makes the effort, takes the time and is patient.

Coming to the point of time, does the answer "Oh I didn't have time to write you" ring hollow? I have always been able to shoot out a short email just to let people know I remember them no matter how busy I was at work, at home, with the kids. But I guess that is my personality, my standards. Like my husband says, I can't expect everyone to think or act the same way as I do. Besides, that's why we have friends who are so different from ourselves. Heck, even in marriage we end up marrying opposites, which has its own very sticky problems - but that is a topic for another time.
(picture from competetick.com)

10 September 2009

The Ugly Malay and the Beautiful Malay

You may have already read Marina Mahathir's blog where she honestly wrote about the ugly behaviour of some Malays, http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/2009/09/ugly-malay.html. There were pretty strong reactions to her article from both ends of the spectrum.

I followed a thread in the Star that lead to a blog by a fellow Malay-Malaysian entitled the Beautiful Malay, at http://harismibrahim.wordpress.com/2009/09/07/the-beautiful-malay/.

Malaysia is made up of myriad races and people of different political beliefs and lifestyles. So be it, and indeed that is the strength of any country - to be plural and multi-layered in all aspects. But what must exist is the FREEDOM to be different, the RIGHT to be respected and protected by the law EQUALLY, and an EDUCATED GOVERNMENT.

09 September 2009

The "outcast" koi died

This morning, our golden coloured China-koi died.

He had been given to us by a friend who had kept him in an aquarium for several years. Due to the restricted size of the aquarium, the koi had not grown well - he has a bloated stomach disproprotionate to his length, causing some imbalance as you can see him swim much like a duck waddling.

From the day his previous owner released him into our pond, he was an outcast. Swimming alone away from the school of our other koi, he liked to seek refuge in the pebbles of our plant pots in the pond. After a couple of weeks he seemed to acclimatise to his new surroundings, swimming more actively around. Then he disappeared through the pipe into our filter bed, where we let him stay for a while. We fished him out, and again he swam out of the pond into the filter bed. We rescued him a second time but now, he's gone.

Maybe like people, once confined, fish just can't get used to being free.