Thursday, March 30, 2006

Blessed are those who can't speak

A trip to the pharmacy this morning turned out to be most upsetting. While I was busy packing the basket full of stuff on my list, I overheard a small commotion near the hair products section. I turned and saw a slightly plump sales promoter talking impatiently to what seemed to be a happy, smiling man. After a few seconds I realized that this man was, unfortunately, not blessed with the gift of speech. The woman obviously couldn't converse in sign language either. While he was trying very hard to convey what he was looking for - which had to be some kind of hair product, this woman was getting more and more irritated. Before he can finish explaining, through a series of body/hand/head movements, she snapped and yelled, "APA?" ("WHAT?") He was still smiling and again tried to explain what he wanted. What did she do next? She walked off. I waited to see if she was going to get help. Nope. She walked off and proudly stood by another aisle. I turned to look at the man. He didn't seem to mind that tactless behaviour at all. Perhaps he was used to such rudeness. He continued in search for what he wanted with a smiling face. I'm sure that sales promoter had better things to do for the next 10 minutes (besides displaying her annoying self in front of the cosmetics section) than to help a man who's less blessed.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Can't think of a post title...

Grandma's back at the hospital again. It will be a week tomorrow. This time it was chest infection and a minor stroke. We are back to our hospital routine.

Will be planning a trip to Beijing! (to see an ex-uni mate and of course, to learn more about my ancestors. hah) Desperately need to get away for a bit. Charlene invited me to watch Love In A Fallen City at the HK Repertory Theatre on Saturday, April 1st. Would have loved to go see it but heck, am too busy this week. Can't believe I'll be missing her twice this year. No worries - Beijing next month. Will pop by to see her!

Have been watching a Chinese series based on the story of concubines in the Imperial Palace and have just finished reading Anchee Min's Empress Orchid so am quite excited about going to the Forbidden City and Summer Palace to see it all for myself. My family took a trip to China in 1995 - I didn't go, fearing the lack of proper public toilets. Yes, I have a thing about public toilets. It's been 11 years since, surely it's much better now.

My copy of 1000 Places to See Before You Die arrived a week ago. That box took almost 3 months to get here from LA. Unbelievable. Anyhow, after flipping thru pages of the book and feeling somewhat "culture-less" and ignorant about the rest of the world, I have decided that it's time to bring out the "travel fund" piggy bank and put it to good use again.

Sunday tv programmes are awful, no matter which country you live in.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Malacca - Mum's hometown

Vonessa says I'm slacking. So I'm trying to catch up. A few weeks ago my friends and I took a day trip (more like 8 hours really) to Malacca. Haven't been there in years. My family used to go when I was younger as we have relatives there. It's about a 2 hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. Siew Li and Nava took off work and decided to take a quick drive to Malacca for some good food. Of course yours truly is ever willing to embark on a food related trip.

Short history on Malacca (you can read all about it should you wish by clicking on the link) - founded in approx 1390; it is culturally rich due to the colonization by various forces - the Portugese, Dutch, British and Japanese. The Straits of Malacca was once one of the most important ports in the world, bridging merchants from the east and the west. What is left in this small town now consists of rich architectural designs from all the abovementioned colonies. The Baba and Nonya heritage stems from this small town and many who live here are from the Baba and Nonya descent. has all the details you'll need when planning a visit here. Though, should any of you make a trip out here, I will be doing the planning.

Christ Church - 18th century Dutch architecture - the oldest functioning Protestant church in M'sia; trishaw (am quite upset about the current tart-like decorations on them. They were great as they were - simple, classic, old) ; souvenir stands; the famous Chicken Rice Balls which originated from Malacca

Baba and Nonya heritage buildings. The Baba and Nonyas are also known as the "Straits Chinese" (or Peranakan). They can either be of Chinese descent who have adopted much of the Malay culture or they stem from mixed marriages of the Chinese and Malays. The architectural details on these buildings are beautiful. The building interior is very long, with an open courtyard in the center. Most of these buildings along Jonker Street have been turned into antique stores, restaurants, etc...
ps: Try NONYA Restaurant at 61 N. Raymond Avenue in Pasadena if you're feeling adventurous. It's a pretty chic restaurant with zen-like interior that serves good Nonya food. The lamb with scallion pancake appetizer is a must. Even the sambal is pretty tasty.

Chinese Temple along Jonker Street (a must visit street - especially if you're antique hunting)

Going to the museum; Siew Li & Nava tells us what NOT to do at a museum - flip the pages of a 200 year old manuscript; Nava says they must have gotten the idea for the rice balls from these mini cannon balls.

This is "The Bridal Chamber of Baba Community". It is breathtakingly colourful - although am not sure if I can ever sleep in peace with such vibrant colours surrounding me. Very important - we noticed that the green curtains have divided the chamber in two sections - the inner section for two people and the outer section for one. Any guesses as to why?

A bird sampan; this thing is called The In-Law Box - I have no idea what it's for but I'm sure it must be from some Chinese culture I am not aware of - perhaps this is a box (looks more like an urn) for presents and such used to bribe one's in-laws with; The Royal Press - located along Jonker Street

The A'Famosa Fort - Portugeese fortress built in the 1500s after the arrival of Alfonso d'Albuquerque and his fleet; one of oldest European architecture left in Asia
(read about the Malacca Fort)

Jonker88 (you guessed it, located at 88 Jonker Street) is NOT to be missed. This is a museum/dessert cafe in a Baba Nonya style house. The seating areas are located in all three sections of the house. We chose to sit in the open courtyard and got to enjoy the slight drizzle of rain. The ambiance is great and they even play French and English oldies while you enjoy your bowl of ice kacang and cendol.

Baba Durian Cendol (the BEST ever! @ Rm2.70, that is USD75 cents) and Mango Ice Kacang
By the way, durian is that green spiky fruit which you will either love or hate. I, of course, love it.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Slurp or Burp?

The International Etiquette Dining Quiz:
Don't Gross The World Out

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Are you American?

I know this is long overdue, but better late than never. To those of you who have been dying to take this quiz, here it is.

This is the infamous American Slang Quiz which my alma mater presented us (International Students) during our Orientation week in '97 (yes, yours truly has managed to keep this for almost 10 years) instead of giving us a handy dandy American Slang Sheet. Have never been made to feel so stupid in my entire life - read some of the answers provided and you will understand what I mean. A few of us thought of picking all the wrong answers to be funny, but since this quiz suggested what they must have thought of us, we'd probably be put in a special "Getting to know the American Slang" class or perhaps even in English 100 (and of course we'd have to pay for the units). Little did they know that more than half of us grew up watching Threes Company, The Benny Hill show and Friends.

In case the picture isn't clear enough, I'm doing you a favour by retyping the quiz.
To my Fall '97 International buddies, care to take the quiz again for old times' sake?
To my American friends - don't tell me if you get anything lesser than a 10/10.

Have fun!
ps: Personal favourites are questions 7 and 14.

American Slang Quiz

1. If something is "your bad," it is:
a. Your lack of style
b. Your mistake
c. Your problem

2. "Catch ya later" means
a. Stay away from me, I don't want to catch your cold
b. You will have a race and someone will find you
c. See you soon

3. If someone is "stoked" they are
a. Excited
b. On drugs
c. Very wet

4. If something is "tacky", it is
a. Wobbly
b. Over-priced
c. In bad taste

5. "Cop a 'tude" means
a. Beat up a cop
b. Become suddenly violent
c. Act or speak with a bad attitude

6. If something is "on the house," it is
a. Free
b. Upstairs
c. Avoided because it is dangerous

7. What is "cramming"?
a. A contest of seeing how many hot dogs one can fit into one's mouth at once
b. Studying last minute for an exam
c. Jamming as many people into a phone booth as possible

8. "I bombed the test" means
a. I did really well on the test
b. I did very poorly on the test
c. I set my test papers on fire

9. What does it mean to "hang"?
a. It is a form of capitol punishment
b. To gather together with friends
c. To go bungee jumping

10. If something is "dope," it is
a. An illicit drug
b. Cool or hip
c. Messy

11. What are you doing if you are taking a "rain check"?
a. Accepting a check from a person who does not have enough funds in his/her bank account
b. Postponing an offer until a later date

12. If something is "humor," it is
a. A type of ice cream bar
b. A medical term for a cancerous growth
c. Funny

13. "The party was the bomb" means
a. The party was not fun
b. The party was at the club "The Bomb"
c. The party was really fun

14. "Chill"means
a. To get a fine wine ready for dinner
b. To stick your head in the freezer on a hot day to cool off
c. To relax

15. "Get outta' here!" means
a. Pack your bags and leave immediately!
b. You're kidding me! (What you're saying is unbelievable!)
c. What you said really made me mad!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Time out

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the planet. Grandma was admitted to the hospital for a serious case of stomach ulcer. It was one of those very unexpected in-your-face type of situation. One which made you think of all sorts of things you never thought you'd have to prepare yourself for. When I was in LA, all I could ever do was worry and feel sorry whenever a situation like this came about. This time around, having witnessed grandma almost passing outside the apartment was more than frightening. I cannot explain in detail how it's been the past few weeks, except that situations like this make you realize how vulnerable we all are. You start thinking of things way ahead of your time and tend to pay more attention to everyday things around you. You learn to be thankful for little blessings, and especially for people who truly care. While grandma was in the hospital, it was heartrending to see the number of old folks who weren't really cared for by their own family. Dad's mum was put in a home before she passed, which wasn't our choice, and visiting her was a torture each time. Mum and I never got out of that place without shedding tears. These are people with families - normal families. Is it so difficult to give some love to the people who raised you?

Many have said that it's a cultural thing. In Asia, children are expected to take care of their parents when they're old. This is no longer true. Almost everyone I know do not expect to be taken care of by their kids. In fact, the percentage of Asian children immigrating abroad is growing day by day, as seen in my family of four. The question is - why should the task of taking care of one's parents come out of sheer expectation or obligation?