Friday, August 26, 2011

A Little Bit of Hope

To all Muslims, Selamat Hari Aidilfitri! May you reach your respective destinations safely and be blessed with good luck. This is the Muslim celebration which marks the end of Ramadan (the month in which they must fast from morning to sunset each day). The dates of the celebration are determined based on the sighting of the Syawal New Moon; this year it falls on the 30th and 31st of August. Clashing with Malaysia's Independence Day, it seems. To all you lovely folks, this is an early wish. 

Selamat Hari Aidilfitri!
Back to updates, thank goodness for the people who are holding me together. Sometimes a little hope, no matter how much it hurts, goes a long way. That being said, do you know the Greek Mythology on Pandora's Box? Pandora was a woman who opened a jar and unleashed all evils of mankind except Hope when she closed it again. In other versions, she manages to trap all of them again by opening the jar for Hope to  escape. Is Hope not actually an Evil then?

In reality, hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man's torments. 
 ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Secret Recipe
Of course, don't mistake me for a pessimist. I do believe Hope helps us hold on, reminding us never to back down. At least, I hope so. Ignore the dark humour.

Ah Yee
Secrets are binding all of us together as well. As I cannot say too much, I will touch on the subject of my kaimah ('godmother' in Chinese) teaching us how some of her delicious dishes are made. Here are jars of deep fried seaweed wrapped with a thin layer of popiah ('thin crepes made from wheat flour' in Hokkien). I cannot find any other reason to explain the extensive collection of recipes in her head other than that it's built from secrets of the trade and years of experience.

All gobbled up by now
Also, I've had dim sum (点心) for breakfast. In restaurants, all you have to do here is wait for the waiters to come by with their huge trays full of different little savoury or sweet snacks. When you see one that you like, you just need to lift it off the tray and tuck in. To give you an idea of what sort of dim sum[s] there are, several examples include various dumplings, flavoured buns, fried or roasted meats, congee (or rice porridge), glutinous rice and rice noodle rolls (also known as 'chee cheong fun' in Cantonese). I haven't done much justice here, so perhaps one day I'll write a proper post on this gastronomic subject.

Dim Sum (Small Snacks in Cantonese)
Anyway, it is about time I go to bed. Goodness knows if it is because of stress, but my sleeping hours are starting to fluctuate again.

PS. Do cherish the people around you. And hope that Hope will be a friend to you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


When I was young, I'd lived at my grandparents' place until I was five. My memories are few but by no means hazy. I do remember growing up among the blaring of the siren that tells the workers it is lunch time (they lived in a shop house running a family business), the ringing of the telephones, the house being cleaned each day, the joss sticks lighted and 'fed' at the alters, the vacuum cleaner humming lullabies.

Sometimes it surprises me at how random the memories can be, such as running into the living room to give them a hug, sitting on the back of a bicycle and sitting on my grandfather's lap as he parks his car properly. And even the toy below which, believe it or not, I used to play with, the sort of toy where you have to fit some blocks in according to their shapes. 


It has since been passed to my three younger cousins and recently the newest addition to the family. It used to be difficult to remove the blocks, taking a strong adult to open it and let the yellow blocks fall out once again. Time has loosened its grip. 


During the Hungry Ghost Festival on the Seventh Month of the Chinese Calendar, we performed our first ancestral rites without the presence of either of my grandparents. I suppose the arrangement can be improved.  Times are changing, it seems. We are all just holding onto the past.

And even so, time is loosening its grip.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bound For Flight

Childhood is a bird whose soul is bound for flight.
But men would clip their wings and force them to the ground.
Remember this for tomorrow it’ll ignite your dreams so bright.

Outside, the swing belongs to the little girl in white.
Inside, the carpet brings the boy to a quaint Arabic town.
Childhood is a bird whose soul is bound for flight.

Grown-ups gather just to witness such a sight.
Their bullets pierce the air till the crows come crashing down.
Remember this for tomorrow it’ll ignite your dreams so bright.

Some, in pain, let go and choose to lose the fight;
Others in a whisper let the message be passed round –
Childhood is a bird whose soul is bound for flight.

Those who still believe, like a swan that holds on tight
Glides beyond the clouds, the sunlight captured in its crown.
Remember this for tomorrow it’ll ignite your dreams so bright.

Who knows? Your reverie from yesterday just might
Be a phoenix perched upon an ashy mound.
Childhood is a bird whose soul is bound for flight:
Remember this for tomorrow it’ll ignite your dreams so bright.

sunset birds-smaller Pictures, Images and Photos

Disclaimer: This image does not belong to me. Find it here.

This poem has been published last November in Concrete, my university's independent newspaper. It's written in a villanelle, which is a poetic form that consists of five tercets and one quatrain, where the 1st, 6th, 12th and 18th lines have the same sentence. Same goes for the 3rd, 9th, 15th and 19th lines. This sounds complicated, but after a while, you might notice that the form is pretty straightforward.

That aside, all I have to say is that no one should ever give up their childhood. I don't mean childishness, as this is different from being childlike. As a child we learn to hope, and that's a lesson every adult should know.

I'm open to constructive criticism. Suggest new flying techniques and not shoot me down. Bird metaphors still in my head. Thank you!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

First One's the Charm

I love first times. They are the most exciting, adrenaline-pumping, endorphin-inducing moments in life. Not that I am saying I don't love second times. Or thirds (Especially if we are talking about helpings). But first times never come back and hence are charms.

Earlier this month was my youngest cousin's first birthday, the same baby that I talked about last year right here. I had not seen her for at least nine months, and how she's grown! Quite the screamer, but I'm sure with time that would change.

In Hokkien culture, on the first birthday, the baby will be placed before a number of items and allowed to pick three, which supposedly represents the possible types of careers that he or she would be inclined to, as well as certain personalities.

For example, if she had taken the abacus, she'll probably go for accountancy or maths. And if she'd taken the chicken drumstick, she'll love food. A red egg would represent poor results in exams. A book suggests one who loves to read or one who is studious. Money represents either a career that earns a lot of money or money-mindedness. Evidently, meanings change with each generation. As you can see, the first thing she took was a pencil, which probably means she would be able to write well.

The rest remains as usual. There will always be huge amounts of food to feed the large number of mouths. And a cake to top it off at the end of the day. She was not able to eat most of them given the absence of her teeth. She did get to taste the cheese cake though, and kept staring at it while smacking her lips afterwards.

Her first birthday cake
Here is her happiest face for the night, laughing and smiling while she waved and said "Ba-Bye" (That's baby language for Good Bye) to us. Ironic, isn't it?

Genuine smile

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Meeting the Gang

These are some of the friends, who, the moment I flew back home, immediately roped me out for outings. They considered organizing a Penang trip so that I could satiate my hunger for Char Kuey Teow when I'd been craving the noodles for months. And of course, the other reason being that "food tours" are the best tours around. 

We wanted to go to Malacca (think chicken rice balls and Nyonya dishes) but due to lots of discrepancies with the timing and dates and all, it boiled down from Malacca to Penang (think Char Kuey Teow, Assam Laksa and more Nyonya dishes) to Sunway Lagoon (a water themed park) to Midvalley (a shopping complex).

Huge Plate of Spaghetti!
It was alright with all of us, since it was not short of a "food trip" anyway. And besides, what mattered was that we got to meet each other after such a long time!

Spaghetti (2)
Typically Malaysian
Taking photos of your food is quite an Asian habit (I kid you not), look at the photo above! Have you ever seen such a huge plate of spaghetti?

Five of us(1)

Ah, how I missed them- because we'd known each other since high school (four out of five of us were in the same class in our Second Form) our friendship is the sort where you can tease each other to your hearts desire without having to think through too much about what you want to say. We agreed to get ourselves lovely matching shirts to commemorate that.

Five of us (2)

I've met quite a few friends since I've returned, so there are more to come. But for now, I just want to thank my delightful, bubbly friends for constantly making the best of the time we get to be together.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


How unlike me to indite frequent posts. Unfortunately, there has been a number of events that occurred lately, which, however stressful they were at first, seemed to boil down quite nicely, and things have ended well so far.

At Broga Hill

It is about time I revealed to you what I have been doing lately, but photos would take a while to be prepared for the blog. As a short summary, I have been on Broga Hill, attended a cousin's first birthday, attended several prayers, gone out with quite a lot of friends I have not seen since I got back and so on.

Anyway, time to get the details for each event going. Will have them done soon!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Colours of the Mind

As I sit here struck by pangs of dizziness, I feel that it is time to show you my latest fascination. I admit that I am in favour of Impressionist and, to a certain extent, Post-Impressionist  artworks, to which I will refer to later on.

Recently, however, I have discovered the beautiful masterpieces of Leonid Afremov. Born in Belarus, he is a painter who experiments with oil and palette-knife techniques. From that, he creates unique and vivid pieces. I find them quite dreamy. What do you think?

White Mood - Original Oil On Canvas by Leonid Afremov Pictures, Images and Photos
White Mood

couple Pictures, Images and Photos
Couple by Leonid Afremov
leonid afremov Pictures, Images and Photos
Autumn Park by Leonid Afremov
Much of his paintings include landscapes and figures. You might notice that he paints many scenes with umbrellas and wet grounds that reflect the light of the surroundings. I believe that is what makes them so optimistic and romantic...after all, the atmosphere right after a rain is extremely rejuvenating.

Bale Pictures, Images and Photos
Bale by Leonid Afremov

Louis Armstrong Pictures, Images and Photos
Louis Armstrong by Leonid Afremov

leonid afremov Pictures, Images and Photos
Guitar and Violin by Leonid Afremov
As I had mentioned earlier, I love Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. Basically, Impressionists paid attention to the spontaneous movement and light in the art while Post-Impressionists were more concerned about structure.

But they are similar in the way they use magnificent splashes of colours to create life in their works. I've placed some paintings alongside one another so that you can see why they remind me of the kinds of paintings I like.

Bridge Over Dreams - Original Oil On Canvas by Leonid Afremov Pictures, Images and Photos
Bridge Over Dreams by Leonid Afremov
monet claude Pictures, Images and Photos
The Japanese Bridge by Claude Monet (Impressionist)

leonid afremov Pictures, Images and Photos
Cafe in Paris by Leonid Afremov
Vincent Van Gogh Pictures, Images and Photos
Cafe Terrace at Night by Vincent Van Gogh (Post-Impressionist)

Two Sisters Limited Edition Signed Giclee Pictures, Images and Photos
Two Sisters by Leonid Afremov
สวย Pictures, Images and Photos
Untitled by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Impressionist)
More importantly, I find that Afremov's painting, as do the likes of Monet, Van Gogh and Renoir, use bright colours to show us what artists see in their mind's eyes. From their paintings, we get to see how these artists interpret the world around them. We get to experience the beauty of everyday life and, eventually, change the way we see the world we all live in.

whaite swan - original art oil painting on canvas by Leonid Afremov Pictures, Images and Photos
White Swan by Leonid Afremov
Now is the world not beautiful?
Balloon Parade - Original oil on canvas by Leonid Afremov Pictures, Images and Photos
Balloon Parade by Leonid Afremov

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Half Full or Half Empty?

Life is a roller coaster. That is a fact. Deep down in our hearts, we know that fact to be true, no matter how optimistic we choose to be. There comes a time when it becomes too hard to see the cup as being half full instead of half empty. It becomes harder to stay hopeful and yet, hope is all we have to hold onto.

When one is away from home, domestic news travel late and much is cushioned to avoid excess worrying. And back home, it's been a roller coaster for everyone.

Trips to and from white buildings that roll in the withered and roll out the freshly bloomed. Men and women in white, all wishful and frank, their faces masking all that they must have seen and felt. On their lips are the words that reassure and in their hands are the risks that they will take because no one else will. The white buildings contain so many emotions. They are roller coasters themselves.

I have a reason for being cryptic, although I must state this one thing. This roller coaster ride of a year is too long and I want it to stop.

A very lovable person told me this a few days ago, "An optimist sees his cup half full; a pessimist sees his cup half empty...A chemist sees his cup full, half in liquid state and half in vapour state." Perhaps cups are always full, only that we do not always see half of it. It takes time to condense, I suppose.

5x7 Lonliness of Autumn Pictures, Images and Photos
Leonid Afremov's 'Loneliness of Autumn'

PS. I love Leonid Afremov's paintings. I think they deserve another post.