For Merdeka Day

May we really embody the colours of Merdeka and not be hypocrites. We may say something but the media says something else. Especially media which panders to their own racial group and become ‘batu api’.
May we really mean what we say when we say we are one nation. This nation consists of people who were never natives to begin with. We’re all migrants, with mixed ancestries and blood. The only true natives are the ones who still need our help.
May we really honour each other and respect each other. I don’t want to ‘tolerate’ you because in my mind, tolerate just means I need patience because I need to bear with you.
May we truly understand what being sensitive is about. Let’s not be sensitive about the wrong issues. Why can’t there be healthy discussion and debate? Why must everything be “you don’t know, therefore you should not comment”?
May we truly be sincere when we say we want to become better Malaysians. That means stop bribing the cops, stop acting like the bourgeoisie that you are, stop pushing your kids to be top scorers, stop throwing rubbish, stop being stupid and juvenile.
May we understand that the enemy is not within. There has never been an enemy within. The enemy is all in your head.
May we live up to what Yasmin always imagined in her mini story adverts.
May we celebrate our freedom and independence from shortsightedness and mediocrity.
May we celebrate the uniqueness that we are Malaysian.
Selamat Menyambut Hari Merdeka to you and me. We need to remind ourselves what 53 years of independence really mean. Especially now. Especially when this is as much my home as it is yours.

The Amazing Sri Nibong Hunt

UPDATE: See this for more of what happened during our fun hunt. Plus pictures too!

Taman Sri Nibong Treasure Hunt for Malaysia Day
We're Offiically Accepting Entries!

Finally, we’ve gotten our sponsors and Jay’s done his recce (and setting questions soon) and so now we’re officially announcing that the Amazing Sri Nibong Hunt is open! (Our banners will be going up around the taman latest by 1 Sept.)
Get the entry form by downloading the PDF here.
Participation is FREE for all Malaysians.
The prizes with a total worth RM4,500 are generously sponsored by Langkawi Online, Penang Adventist Hospital, Mizz Studio, Penang Passion, La Herballe, Priority Fitness, Tropical Spice Garden and lots more.
We have 3 top prizes plus a bunch of consolation prizes and lucky pick prizes up for grabs.
1st Prize: 3D/2N Hotel Stay at The Lanai, Langkawi for 4 persons (worth RM1200)
sponsored by
2nd Prize: Coral Island Cruise to Pulau Payar Marine Park for 4 persons (worth RM800)
sponsored by
3rd Prize: Family Photo Session + Exclusive Photobook Album (worth RM800)
sponsored by
How To Join
Participation is open to all Malaysians, regardless whether you live in Taman Sri Nibong or not. Children above 12 years old and adults are welcome to join.
Of course if you live here, the advantage is that you know this area well and might probably do better during the walking hunt on the morning of 16 September (which is a public holiday by the way).
Please read the rules and regulations carefully before you fill up the entry form. Remember we are accepting a limited number of teams so it really is a matter of first-come, first-serve.
The objective of this walking hunt is to enable all of us to get to know our neighbours, have fun and remember what Hari Malaysia truly means to each of us.
The walking hunt will have questions about this area, puzzles to solve and some physical activities.
So what are you waiting for? Round up your friends/family and join this hunt!
Where to Submit Entry Form
You can pass the entry form back to me directly or you can submit the entry form at the Taman Sri Nibong RA Hall on 4 Sept and 13 Sept (between 6pm to 7pm).
Closing date for entry form submission: 13 September, 7pm.

We're Like The Aussies

Jo told me that Malaysians are a bit like the Aussies.
Whenever friends from abroad come to visit, we tend to invite them to stay with us (with open arms). Just like the Aussies, she says, They will even tell you that their house key is in the third flower pot and “just make yourself at home”.
We had this funny conversation when we were having lunch at Pastamania just last week and I was telling her how we love looking up friends when we are abroad.
It’s just fun to catch up with friends this way especially if we know them really well.
Like my childhood friend in London. She’s been asking me to visit her and stay with her when I do go. I’ve known her since we were both six years old.
And remember my HK trip? All made possible because dear SP gave us her entire apartment to stay in during the 10 days we were there (not to mention her extra set of keys so we could waltz in and out of her apartment as and when we wished).
And of course, when I am in KL, I am so fortunate that I have friends I can stay with, any time. They’ll open their guest rooms for me and that’s so Malaysian right?
And guess what? I do the same too.
I told Nir, my uni mate, that she is welcome to come and stay with me any time she comes back from Germany. And she also means it when she tells me,”Come visit me in Dortmund and come stay with me. And this is not ajak-ajak ayam, okay.” And I know she means it.
That’s the Malaysian way of being hospitable.
But that’s not the Singaporean style, I heard from Jo. Singaporeans would never think of impinging on the privacy of their friends so they’d rather go to a hotel room. When a Singaporean does ask about accommodation, she asks, “So which hotel are you staying at?” The very (Malaysian) offer of “come bunk with me” isn’t done.
Frankly speaking, I love hosting friends. I don’t normally open up my home to people I don’t like or to mere acquaintances. And yes, when friends come and bunk over, I have a set of keys for them too. So they can have the freedom to come and go as they please.
I was telling Jo that when I do go to Singapore, I have friends I can really bunk with. In fact, that’s the best part about travelling right? You meet with friends, you catch up, you save on hotel costs and you have a gala time.
So is it true that Singaporeans are like us in many ways but also NOT like us Malaysians in many ways?
I’d really love to hear what you think!

Walk, Hunt and Win

Celebrate Hari Malaysia with Taman Sri Nibong!
As I’m part of the Taman Sri Nibong RA Committee, I’m using all means to get our little residential area in the news. I’m new to this area, having moved here late last year but immediately I was roped in by a friend to help in the committee. (Thanks to our intern Jensen who helped me design the banner above which can now be seen around Taman Sri Nibong.)
Nic & Jay scouting the area
Anyway, I’ve also been roped into the sub-committee to organize Hari Malaysia which falls on 16 September (which will be a public holiday!). Finally Nic’s gotten his wish to really celebrate the formation of Malaysia. For Sarawakians and Sabahans, it is quite unfair to celebrate Hari Merdeka without giving due respect to Hari Malaysia.
This time around, I’ve suggested that the Hari Malaysia celebration include something special, something other than the buffet dinner and performances and lucky draws.
I’m organizing a 3-hour walk-a-hunt on the morning of 16 September for the residents of Taman Sri Nibong. Not only is it FREE (don’t we just love free stuff!) to join, winners will also get good prizes.
Jay of WebMazers has agreed to help me set up the questions for the walk-a-hunt. It will be simple, he assures me. I’ve taken part in Jay’s treasure hunts and they’re quite cryptic!
This is Jay of WebMazers doing his recce last week
But he knows that this will be a hunt for residents to get to know each other and cultivate a sense of neighbourliness so he’s going to make it really easy for the participants. And I’ve asked him to do it pro bono for us as this is a community event.
I’ve always taken part in treasure hunts but this time, I’ll be the organizer.
We’re limiting participants to 30 teams of 4 persons each as any more than that is simply over stretching our resources.
If you want to take part, it’s simple – you need 4 people in your team and everyone should be Malaysians. You should make yourself available on the morning of 16 September (8am to 12 noon) for the walk-a-hunt around Taman Sri Nibong.
Winners will be awarded prizes during the dinner that night. It is NOT compulsory to buy the dinner ticket but you must be there for the prize-giving. If you do want to attend the dinner, we welcome you with open arms too. It’s only RM18 per adult and RM12 for per child with food, fun and lucky draw galore. To buy tickets, you can email me.
It’s a brilliant way to get to know your neighbours! And win some cool prizes.
The first prize is a 3 Day-2 Night hotel accommodation in Langkawi for 4 persons.
With some 10 other prizes too. In total we’re looking at some RM4,500 worth of prizes for this community treasure hunt. Thanks to all my fantastic and generous supporters who immediately said yes when I asked them to help out with the prizes!
Did I tell you I’ve arranged for a pole dancing performer during the buffet dinner too? 😉 I am now trying to get the Penang Dhol Blasters to come and perform. I’ve watched this bunch of Sikh guys do their drum thing and I think they’ll be such a fab addition to the Hari Malaysia celebrations.
Stay tuned for the treasure hunt entry forms for the Amazing Sri Nibong Hunt! They’re coming up real soon!

The Heady Smell of Herbs

I’ve been dutifully composting my food scraps using the 10-pot system and it’s been about 7 months now.
Don of Green Crusaders (that’s him below) taught me this system and since using it, I’ve never had to throw out any food scraps! I have actually reduced the amount of rubbish I throw out as I compost mostly everything (except unedible and inorganic stuff).
This is Don, the tireless eco crusader!
I can safely report that all’s fine and I couldn’t tell you how pleased I was to find big, fat earthworms in my compost a few months ago. Earthworms make the job easier! Of course besides the earthworms, there’s a host of bugs, milipedes, ants and such but that’s part and parcel of the composting process.
But there is no smell. No stink. That is the beauty of Don’s 10-pot system. It’s really simple once you get the system all set up. And you don’t need to buy those plastic bins or composting contraptions which look really huge and ugly.
Now with enough compost, I can start my little herb garden. (Compost must be mixed well with regular red earth in 1:1 portions. Compost on its own will kill plants as it is too ‘nutritious’!)
I’ve always been interested in gardening. I wouldn’t say I’m Miss Green Finger but I do enjoy getting my hands dirty, watching plants grow and best of all, eating what I grow. That’s the best organic kind of food.
Of late, I’ve been poking around C&L Nursery (opposite Convent Green Lane) and buying pots of herbs.
Rosemary is one herb I really adore, especially its heady aroma as one brushes against its spiny leaves. I am still figuring if it needs direct sunlight or not as my previous pot of rosemary died after 2 years (that pot was kept on the balcony away from direct light). I don’t really use rosemary for cooking – I just want to inhale its fragrance!
Next I came across a type of mint which smells like lemon. Its mint leaves are thin and papery but again, it smells like lemon and lemongrass when you light brush your hands over its leaves. Again I bought this because of its citrusy smell.
Recently a friend gave me two cuttings of Indian borage. It is also known as local oregano because it smells just like that!
Indian borage
The heart-shaped leaves of the Indian borage are thick. big and hairy. In Malay, it is known as Daun Bangun-bangun. Apparently it is a hardy plant but what makes it attractive as a must-have herb in the garden is its ability to help with coughs. A fresh leaf boiled with some water is a good tea to sip if you have persistent coughing. Or pick a leaf and chew it if you have a sore throat.
And here’s more uses for Indian borage – if you have a blocked nose, crush some leaves and inhale.
If you have skin problems or insect bites, crush the leaves and use as a poultice.
If you have dandruff, use an infusion to rinse your hair.
This herb seems to be multipurpose. You can use it for increasing milk flow for new moms, to reduce flatulence and stomach cramps, to reduce menstrual pain and insomnia. Oh yes, it can also get rid of kidney stones!
Besides these herbs, I am also trying my hand at growing turmeric, plantago, basil and Thai basil. There’s something really special when you can eat the stuff you grow!

My Teacher, Skritter

I was going through my thumb drive when I chanced upon my resolutions. I am a sucker for this kind of things and so I actually make lists during the first week of January each year. Anyway for me it’s quite fun to track what I set out to achieve and what I really achieve.
It’s funny how I saw my 2009 and 2010 lists and just reviewed them (though technically I still have a few more months to go before 2010 officially ends).
On my 2009 list, I was pleased to note that I had achieved a major goal I set out for myself.
On my 2010 list, I managed to achieve 3 items!
While reviewing my 2010 list, it gave me a renewed focus on what I want to go for this year. Some are spiritual and personal goals while others are business goals.
Among the 3 items is one which I have been wanting to achieve for a long time now, ever since I could be regretful.
I’ve always regretted that I didn’t pay much attention in my Mandarin classes while at primary school. My teacher was in his 60s and he just taught us on Saturdays and I used to play around. I didn’t think learning Chinese was THAT important.
Well, not until I got into my 20s and thought, heck, if only I could write and read Mandarin. It would be so wonderful (I speak Mandarin and it would have been complete!).
Over the years, I’ve tried to learn using CDs and Chinese learning software. To no avail.
So I made up my mind to engage a teacher only to be slightly intimidated by the fact that I’d need to go for Chinese tuition! I was even thinking of joining some kids in the Kumon centres – I heard they taught Mandarin too. A friend had learnt Mandarin this way!
A few weeks ago, I came upon Skritter and knew that my search was over.
Skritter is an online subscription website where you can sign up to learn Chinese or Japanese. I’ve signed up to learn simplified Chinese. It’s been the cat’s whiskers so far. I’m dutifully engaged because it actually tracks my progress.
I do know that nothing beats a real teacher but this can be a good replacement teacher if you’re eager to learn at your own pace.
Let’s see how it goes!

To The Gurdwara We Will Go

We were at the Sikh Gurdwara yesterday as part of the Penang Heritage Trust monthly site visits. I often look forward to these events as we get an insider’s view of the historical building or place.

Sikh Gurdwara with flag pole denoting to travellers a place to stay for the night
Sikh Gurdwara with flag pole denoting to travellers a place to stay for the night

I am sure you’ve passed by this place of worship if you drive along Jalan Gurdwara going to GAMA or the Four Leaves Bakery. Most likely you would have thought it was a Sikh temple. It is but it is also more than that. And what with it being built in 1903, this building has seen more than 100 years of development in Penang!
Like everyone else, we were deeply curious about the Gurdwara. What is inside this place? What do the Sikhs do here besides pray? And we could finally get our myths righted then and there by asking the turbanned leaders.
Look closely at the mural...
Look closely at the mural...

I mean, have you ever wondered about the Sikhs? They are probably the most misunderstood people here in Malaysia. Everyone thinks Punjabis are Sikhs (the term is usually used interchangeably – I cannot think how annoyed the Sikhs are!). This is a misconception as Punjab is a state and in this state, the Punjabis could be of any religion – not necessarily Sikhism! Or the perennial favourite – Bengali as a term for the Sikhs. Again, it is misconstrued.
The Gurdwara is not only a place of worship but also a community centre for the Sikhs. It is a place for travellers (in those days of ship travel) to rest and have some clean accommodation before they moved on elsewhere. The accommodation is basic – the netting bed or charpoy doubled up as an easy bed without the need for mattress. (That is quite innovative because there won’t be any bedsheets to lug about!).
Pakoras served in stainless steel bowls
Pakoras served in stainless steel bowls

Everyone, regardless of their faith, could come into the Gurdwara for a free vegetarian meal. Their communal kitchen is fairly large. We were told not to miss the special milk tea and pakoras the Sikh ladies had prepared for us at the end of our visit. It was true. The milk tea was smooth and delicious (better than Hong Kong milk tea!) without being too sweet while the deep-fried vegetable fritters were simple and homely fare.
How do I look with a shawl over my head?
How do I look with a shawl over my head?

The first floor of the Gurdwara housed their prayer hall. To enter, we had to cover our heads with scarves. While we women looked rather sweet and demure, men with scarves just looked quite Taliban! We were told that the Sikhs would read from their Holy Book and in this hall, prayers would be recited every day.
The kind and humble people who prepared our tea
The kind and humble people who prepared our tea

We were also given booklets explaining about the Sikh religion and what their core beliefs are. Although I had friends who were Sikhs when I was in school, it never occurred to me to probe more. Now I know better of course.
Inside the prayer hall
Inside the prayer hall

If we could all visit each other’s place of worship and have the religion explained to us, we could all understand more. Understanding each other and appreciating each other’s uniqueness will alleviate fear. It is only fear which creates misunderstandings about religion.
Just the other night, I was speaking to Fabian and feeling really lucky that I have access to his Catholic mind and all the theology he’s learnt. Again, I may have Catholic friends but I sure did not dare ask too many questions back then. It is only with friends who are open enough does one dare approach the subject of religion. It’s all very curiously interesting!