24 Feb 2009

Folk Tales

The story of Putri Gunung Ledang is one story that most Malaysian kids know - either from their parents or grandparents. Tiara Jacquelina however has changed it so much - made it so different that it has become almost another story completely. I'll always remember this lovely story of the Princess who lived on top of a mountain and when proposed by a king for her hand in marriage, demanded that he presented her with 7 trays of the hearts of mosquitoes, a bridge made of gold connecting the palace to her mountain home and 7 bottles of the tears of maidens. The king managed to get all these except her last request, which was the blood of the 7 year old crown prince. Even this the crazy king almost gave her but she came to him in a dream and told him that she would never marry a man willing to kill his own son for a woman. It was just a test for him, she said.
Malaysia is actually quite rich in folk tales but not many of them are documented. Some have been passed on orally from grandmother to grandchild. My own grandma was never really a story teller but her younger sister, Nenek Nyah (grand aunt) was. I remember rainy nights when we kids would curl up under the blanket and pester her for stories. She would always obligh. One story I'll always remember is the one she called "Hantu paku". A 'hantu' when used on its own is actually a ghost. But a hantu paku in Malay is a proverb meaning someone who takes somebody's possession and then claims it as hers. What we would say - a thief! This is the story of "The False Princess" and this story can be found in many other cultures. One that I know of is The Goose Girl, a German folk tale. A story very similar to this one can be found in Japan and China as well as India. There are other stories - of fairies and monsters too. Nek Nyah was a great story teller. And like most story tellers she would modulate her voice to suit the story ,whispering sometimes and even sing. I can see us kids in her room... crowded around her, listening with rapt attention to the stories she would weave. Holidays with Nek Nyah were always wonderful. But she also made sure we did our chores - sweeping the garden, carrying away fallen twigs and branches and sometimes helping her bury the thrash in the compost pit. Nek Nyah was the typical grandmother. Although she wasn't technically my grandma - she was my grandma's sister - she treated all of us the same. It was she who taught me how to knit though I was never really good at it. She also taught us to be very economical when using the toothpaste - put the paste exactly halfway across your toothbrush she would say - not spread all over it. Then and only then - after chores are done, teeth brushed and all of us in our pyjamas ready for bed - would she start her stories. And all her stories would start with ,"Once in a land far away..."
Now at 50 plus with my own grandchild, I wonder - would I ever have the wisdom and the imagination of this wonderful lady? Would I be able to tell my own grandchild stories too? Stories she would always remember...

21 Feb 2009

Chi Chi and Ginger

Chi chi our Siamese mixed feline is resting inside her makeshift tent! And look where Ginger is - she's in her favourite place - the bathroom sink where she's safe from the unwanted attention of our two monsters - Apin and Momo. These two have been bullying poor Ginger who since last year have been 'quarantined' in our bedroom and Sara's room. Nowadays Chi chi too prefers to stay inside our room - where she feels safer maybe.

17 Feb 2009

My pretty grand daughter!

watching the teletubbies
Sassy in her flowered hat

Sophie enjoying her bath

15 Feb 2009

Plant a tree campaign

Repin planting a tree at Bukit Kiara Recreation Park. I think more private organisations ought to help take care of the environment. One of OUM's green campaign is to plant more trees.

This was on Sunday. I'm so glad and so proud that OUM is helping plant trees as part of its corporate responsibility towards the nation. They donated 500 trees as part of the "Plant a tree campaign". The PM officiated the function. I didn't have to do anything - just stand and look pretty.(LOL)

14 Feb 2009

Garden pests

To get rid of white aphids - get a clove of garlic, blend with a cup full of water until very fine. Put the garlic water into a spray and spray the affeted parts. Do this twice a week until no more aphids remain.

Bicarbonate of soda is also good for getting rid of red spiders and other pests. Spray on the leaves of affected plants once a week.

White aphids which are actually live pests look like clotted powdered milk and stick to the stems and leaves of plants, killing them slowly. Most of my beautiful hibiscus have to be destroyed because of this pest. And cutting the affected parts is better than leaving them because the aphids will fly to other plants and infect them too. Once you have cut them, put them in plastic trash bags and either throw them or burn them. Since its the hot season now here in Malaysia (well Malacca anyway), we don't burn our rubbish. We don't anyway - usually the thrash is put in the biodegradable bags and the thrash man will take them away. Aphids love the hot season which is why there are so many just now.

My roses however are doing wonderfully. Most are in bloom though I can never get them to bloom as flourishingly as I always see them in the UK or US. Especially if you are there in summer - at Hyde park or the Regency Gardens.

I dare not use chemical pesticides because Chi Chi and Ginger love to eat the grass outside and Toi the tortoise eats the hibiscus flowers too. So no chemical pesticides for me. Our poor tortoise though have to hide under the bamboo leaves nowadays because of the heat. I have put a tray of water for it to splash in but maybe its too shy to come out. After all Repin likes to take it and put it out on the grass whenever it tries to come out at all. In fact at the beginning of the hot season, sometime in January I thought Toi the tortoise had gone away. He was no where to be seen for a few weeks at least. But about two weeks ago I caught sight of him hiding under a pile of dead leaves under the bamboo trees. Maybe its cooler there. What a relief! The Chinese believe that if a tortoise comes into your garden it is good feng shui. Our Toi has been around for almost 2 years now - since the big flood in 2006 when we were away doing our Haj. It must have been carried into the garden by the flood waters and decided to stay on for good. I hope for good anyway.


I've already finished reading Alexander McCall Smith's books - well at least 2 of them. They're great - simply written but with a sly humour underlying the story, not unlike PG Wodehouse. His character - Precious Ramotswe is a smart and sassy lady - practical, down to earth and full of traditional wisdoms. I really love this book! And the writer also gives you an insight into Botswana village life.
However I didn't really enjoy the shopaholic book. Can't stand the character - Becky who is disorganized and simply irritating. I like my characters sassy, but practical and intelligent. Becky is impractical and if not stupid at least shallow and spineless. Left the book for Shasha. I think I'll continue with my re reading of Anna Karenina today. I also think its time I caught up with my other books.

12 Feb 2009

This and that

Books I got recently - (1) Nora Roberts - Divine Evil
(2) Nora Roberts - Seaswept
(3) Alexander McCall Smith - The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency
(4) Alexander Mc Call Smith - The Kalahari Typing School for Men
(5) Alexander McCall Smith - Morality for Young Girls
(6) Wendy Markham - Bride Needs Groom
(7) Sophie Kinsella - Confessions of a Shopaholic

Shasha recommended me the Sophie Kinsella - I didn't want to get it but she said its quite good reading - humorounyway I started reading the Alexander McCall Smith book - very interesting and introduces us into Zimbabwean culture and life. The main character is a lady detective, Precious Ramotswe, a practical, funny and intriguing female detective who uses her intuition and keen observation to solve all kinds of crime - whether it is a husbnad who has run away or a clerk who has swindled his company. Subtle British humour - more on the Jeevees variety.

Oh yes, we caught a few movies - Inkheart, Twilight and the two girls got to see Bride Wars, Underworld 3 as well as the first two. I quite enjoyed Inkheart. Twilight ... well I cant even say that the book is better because it wasn't. I think the character for Bella was better in the movie. I didnt like the character in the book but I preferred Edward in the book. A bit of a let down.

Sarah has come and gone. Three weeks is too short but her winter break is just that - 3 weeks. At least we went to Mersing for two days - otherwise it would have been just Melati for her and maybe a weekend in Batu Berendam. But anyway I got to see my girl for a while and she got away from the cold Russian winter. Can't wait to see her in July.

3 Feb 2009

Mersing jaunt

We took off for Mersing very early in the morning from Melati. Why Mersing you might wonder. In fact my brother in law did ask and even commented - its like the boondocks - why go there? It was actually my idea - I'd heard a lot about Mersing from my friends, my family and also read about it. Everyone said the beaches are lovely and very isolated. You could swim there completely privately and no one would be around. So off we went that fine morning when it was still quite dark. The road was clear of traffic for once - it was 1 February and a holiday so probably that was a reason. Anyway, armed with sandwiches, currypuffs and lots of drinks the whole family set out for Mersing.
The first part of the journey was quite uneventful - we were on the PLUS highway going south until Kluang from where we went on to the road to Mersing. Kluang is fairly large to my surprise. I had always thought it was a small town, perhaps like Alor Gajah in Malacca. In fact it is the second biggest town in Johor I was told and the main administrative centre for Central Johor. The signs were quite clear at first but still we got lost in Kluang itself. Somehow I knew something was wrong because we were going south to JB not east to Mersing! So we turned around and went back to a gas station that I had seen earlier and there had to ask for directions. Luckily the man there gave us very clear instructions and soon we were off again. The road was narrow and winding and very slow as we could not overtake the truck infront of us. Passed oil palm estates, fruit orchards, small villages and finally jungles on both sides of the road. At one point we saw a group of monkeys eating something a driver had thrown out of a window. My daughters shouted," Baba! Baba!Mind the monkeys!" He slowed down slightly and it was a fairly narrow miss. The monkeys however ere quite unperturbed. They just sat there in the middle of the road and carried on eating! I worried somewhat about other drivers hitting them.
We passed a few small towns - towns like so many others in Malaysia. Out of the way towns with one main street and typical Chinese shophouses lining them. FRom KLuang it took us about 2 hours of driving before we reached Mersing.
Mersing is a typical coastal town, not unlike Renggam. A handful of buildings clutched together near the coast, with the Mersing river in between. Before checking in our hotel we decided to go for a short drive around the town, to get our bearings. WE took the coastal road and passed a jetty as well as some colonial looking buildings, a beach that did not really beckon as it was low tide and the sea was quite far away. Furthermore it looked quite muddy in some parts. It was fairly scenic though - you could see the islands in the distance. I knew that Mersing is the take off point for many island tours - Pangkor, Pulau Rawa and also some dive sites. At 1 pm we went to the hotel - Seri Malaysia which is opposite the District Hospital. It faces the sea but is not on the beach. You'd have to cross the road to go to the beach.