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Lighthouse2014 came and (good riddance) went in a jiffy! It was by far the most difficult year for the country in this century beginning with the loss of a big jet airliner in March with 239 passengers and crew, then followed by another two with almost similar amount of people inside (with the third in December as if we needed another major aviation disaster to bookend the year)! On the political front, it was turbulent; home front, mom had a nasty fall at home and broke her left femur; career, the usual cocktail of frustrations and as well as some triumphant achievements. Otherwise, mmm…I don’t know what else to say.

The year started off with me moving back to my parents’ house after mom’s accident where she fell after missing a step while walking down the stairs last October. Even before her accident, I was already feeling a bit concerned if I was doing the right thing leaving them, two aged people alone every night for the expense of my own privacy/space/quietness for the past 7 or some years. They have assured me of being fine, and wanting to be independent but have also firmly refused incessant offers and pleas to get a live-in domestic help. My mom had sworn off maids after having caught our last maid sealing from dad’s wallet!

Shortly after mom’s discharge from the hospital, there were no other thoughts or deliberation on that decision to move back! That was the ONLY solution to a peace of (my) mind, or at least from my perspective. The transition wasn’t hard and I could also see the relief on my parents’ faces. One thing for sure is that there will be less anxiety in the middle of the night when I get this need to check on them.

With the aid of a private nurse, mom has gotten back on her feet again but for short distances. At times, she would forget that she was using a cane or walker but her share of not-so-good-days would render her wheelchair-bound. She has done six months of physiotherapy and is still going for them for as long as the doctors want her to.

We all know the days of letting go of our beloved ones are a certainty (and who knows if I may even be the first to bid adios before anyone else). Live as we all know is so uncertain, fragile and ridiculously brief, therefore I prefer to savour the time that I have with these people. I know there will be trying times to the extreme but also a guarantee of those wisdom-inducing moments that are priceless.

The irony of initially preparing a bedroom downstairs for my dad due to his weak knees ended up being mom’s room now after her accident (and dad got another room from my old studio downstairs). My things that were taken back to my house are now gradually coming back to my parents’. My initial thoughts of permanence and fondness on my own house have now gone on of being practical rather than of the emotional. There are times when priorities, along with your thoughts or feelings due to circumstance, change instantaneously, naturally.

My life is currently on caring for my parents, or just being with them. The other is on my work that has intensified (and demanding). The trimmings are on gym, music and books or the arts.

2015 is almost half-over and I am still scratching my head on what happened to the past four months that felt like just days ago when we ushered the New Year (I hit the sack early that evening). My life (style) has definitely taken a 180-degree turn from what it was, what I had expected or envisioned. It’s neither a complaint, nor a compliment but this is how unexpected life is. We just have to conform.

Finally of Sofuan, a passenger on MH370 of whom we shared the same gym for years – was a nice young man; friendly, positive and so full of life. He was supposedly posted to Beijing a few months earlier but due to circumstances his trip was postponed for at least 3 times! He finally got on board that fateful flight on 8 March 2014, but as we all know never got to his intended destination. He was supposed to be there for just 6 months.

Yes I still feel his absence, that light-up presence, his laughter, seriousness on his workout and life. It’s to the extent, surreal but this is what life throws at us every now and then.

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Clairvoyants HahaMy dad used to tell us how this clairvoyant accurately predicted his paternal grandmother’s death. My great-grandmother was playing mah-jong when this old Taoist monk-garbed palm reader/fortune-teller offered to read her palm (for a small fee). The man “saw” and told my great-grandmother that she would not live pass the age of 70.

Later when my great-grandmother was nearing her 70th birthday, she decided to live out her final days by just playing mah-jong incessantly (regardless of the time of day as long as there were people willing to shuffle the tiles with her). This tile-game was something she loved and enjoyed passionately. From that point on, she was at the mah-jong table for as long as she could into the wee hours of the morning and I presume that she also ate and drank insufficiently.

Shortly after her 70th birthday and while still shuffling her tiles at the table, she went into cardiac arrest! Dad said that he saw her desperately gasping for air and was in a lot of pain during her last hour.

So, was that clairvoyant so freakishly accurate?

My take on this is that my great grandmother did a self-fulfilled prophesy on her death! Anyone even HALF her age would collapsed or drop dead with that kind of physical punishment!

Now, I honestly don’t know if there are any so-called “real” clairvoyants or fortune-tellers out there nor is it fair for me to stereotype them as none being so. From my own experiences, I have not met with any (yet?). I used to follow my Dad since I was a kid to numerous of these clairvoyants/phychics or whatever you want to call them from palm-readers; face-readers; tarot-card readers; playing cards-readers; Chinese bone-measuring methods; numerology; predictions through date and time of births; crystal balls; i-Ching; dice-rolling ; to the coin-operated fortune-telling vending machine that we found outside a Siamese temple in Ipoh when I was a kid (where I was totally fascinated with the little turban-wearing automaton inside the glass display of the machine that would spin a “wheel-of-one’s-fate” every time a coin was dropped into the machine. When the wheel stopped spinning, a scroll would drop out with a reading of the coin-depositor’s fate printed on it).

I believe my dad developed his interests in clairvoyants after witnessing the fate of his grandmother due to the accuracy of that clairvoyant’s prediction of the woman’s mortality to the mark. He was so drawn to fortune-tellers that he used to “hide” his visits from my mom, but he took me along for company with a tacit agreement that we went “to the supermarket” instead (there were no “malls” then). I guess mom had played along because she never questioned why we never brought anything back from “the supermarket”!

Even at that age, I realized that the “accuracy” of most clairvoyants’ so considered answers came from their skilful questioning posed on the clients. They also gather information from “casual” conversations before or in-between reading sessions and were skilful listeners. They knew the psyche of their anxious, curious and mostly desperate clients and how to work on them as though they themselves were (uncertified) therapists. Whatever they have read of my dad’s regardless of their popularity or having charged exorbitant fees, none ever came true! As for the not-so-good stuff that we got from these people, we tend to put a little more attention on them just to be cautious but they tend to manifest into paranoia! Like my great grandmother, we sometimes manifested our own predicaments!

Despite witnessing what my dad, his friends and relatives experienced with clairvoyants, I dabbled into it myself giving them clairvoyants the benefit of the doubt that I might have finally stumbled upon one that was “real” or accurate. I was fresh out of college and into the working world (and having chosen advertising) where I found myself constantly at the mercy of mean, if not mad and sadistic superiors; later, with the affliction from failed relationships and lost loves. It was out of desperation that we tend to seek whatever that could give us a glint of hope or solution to our so-considered “predicaments”.

Most of my experiences also ended up with the advice of keeping charms and talisman sold by these clairvoyants to ‘activate’ what I was seeking (despite knowing that my dad already had a slew of redundant, hideous-looking objects occupying precious space in his house bought from his clairvoyants through the years). Of course none were ever effective despite paying ridiculous prices for them. A lot of times, my solutions came after the elimination of fear, then a process in clear-thinking and taking rational steps toward the problem. I am sure talisman or charms have nothing to do with it!

At this point of my life, I realized that the best fortune-teller one could consult is within us and that is our gut feeling. Whatever consequences your decisions have brought you to could only make one stronger as long as we don’t repeat the wrong ones. Believing in yourself, being confident and the most importantly, being positive will very likely create the life one seek if we keep working at it.

Oh, and always give thanks to whatever we already have.

grandma 101

Cutting her own birthday cake complete with a little white chocolate Chinese God of Longevity!

Cutting her own birthday cake complete with a tiny white chocolate Chinese God of Longevity!

My maternal grandma turned 101 last 13 July, 2013 (nope, this is not some sort of a 101 introductory material on being, or on grandmothers as the title might suggests), and there is this question that everybody asks about her on her alertness despite her age.

Here is my take on what I have observed when I was a kid where she shared a room with my brother and I. Her bed was on the other side of the room from our double-decker bed, where on most nights I could hear her whispering her “book-keeping”. She would whisper the numbers like how much she had spent on groceries, who owed her money or what bills she had settled right down to the balances in her purse and savings account (three years later my brother and I moved in our own room. He and I fought like cats and dogs until he went to college but that’s another story)!

Even when she was in convalescence at my parents’ guest room after being hospitalized, I heard those whispers again while I was paying a visit to my former bedroom where I still keep my collection of action figures and sci-fi toys. Upon hearing that, I knew she was going to be fine! This was just a few years back.

There, I hope that answers it. I can see why experts are encouraging people to utilize their brain more in playing games that require more strategizing or planning like Sodoku, Mahjong, word games etc.

I also think my grandmother’s longevity has a lot to do with genetics too. She has always been healthy all her life and was admitted to the hospital just twice – once for a mastectomy (she was already in her late 70s then) and another with intestinal problems (in her late 90s) with the exception of visits where she gave birth to her kids. This was a woman where when she was in her late 70s was still bicycling around our housing area looking up friends and doing minor grocery shopping!

Bad habits? Of course she has plenty but we are not going there, right?

Going back to St. Michael’s Institution after what felt like a hundred years was awesome. Then again, it was actually the hundredth year celebration that I was there on 29 September, 2012! For years I have been looking forward to this centennial celebration, but I have to admit that there were times that I was doubious since anything could happen before the event. Now, I am happy to boast that I was there along with three thousand plus fellow alumni, current to former staff and students.

I could still remember the terrifying moment on the first day of school like it was just yesterday. I was desperately clinging on to my mother’s hand but after the first two weeks, I was fine. Admittedly during those years, going to school wasn’t exactly something that I looked forward to everyday! Somehow, over the progression of the decadess and being in constant contact with a few old Michaelians had me missing the school, the happy times that I had with my mates. I have also always loved the architecture and thought it was one of the most beautiful classic structure in this part of the world.

Of course, not all of my childhood schoolmates whom I am still keeping in touch with feel the same way about wanting to stay connected with the school in any ways. For me, my formative years were mostly unforgettable. I had my fair share of unbelievably mean teachers to the most caring, kind and nurturing ones. As with my fellow class and school mates, some remain as friends but mostly “detached” as we moved on to different directions in life.

But regardless of how we have grown, changed, moved on, (and sadly some “checked out”)… it is still that wealth of memories that came out of those years that make my life a lot more fuller!

Below:

1) The welcome banner.
2) With my two other old fellow Michaelians touring the school. It was so hot and humid that our shirts were soaked!
3) The venue for the evening’s dinner.
4) With my Form 1 (year 7) teacher, Mr. Timothy Chee.
5,6 & 7) The evening of the celebrations.
8) There are some 3000+ Michaelians here!
9) Thank you for the memories, St. Michael’s! Here’s to another 100!
10 & 11) My last visit to the now demonished old primary section. This was my first classroom at St. Michael’s institution. Image circa 1993.

centennial grandmother

Last Saturday, my Por-Por (Chinese for maternal grandmother, or can be addressed to most* elderly lady as a sign of respect) turned 100! Well, 99 to be precise as I have explained before that most of us, especially the old-schooled Malaysians of Chinese ancestry (with the exception of a few like yours truly) like to add another year in account of the 9 months in the womb.

What was initially planned of a grandeur scale had to be trimmed down after one of my aunts called and said that it was advised by “people” not to do so at my Por-por’s age. I have personally read from somewhere that in the olden days, they (the Chinese) believed no birthday celebrations should be done after the age of 98. The purpose of that was not to “remind” the gods that they have over-looked or left this one out from their army of “men with bull heads and horse faces” or better known as the Chinese version of the Angel of Death, or the grimm reaper! So, a person after that age is to live as as inconspicuous as possible!

Have you ever seen anyone escaping the duties of these grim reapers? Even if we could, do you think our bodies are designed to? Another one of those beliefs was never to admire a child of his or her beauty or intelligence in front of them. Again, the gods might hear it and thus would take them “back” to benefit the heavens instead! No matter what, a friend or a relative was supposed to say the opposite! Can you imagine the kind of a psychological damage it would do to a more sensitive child if he or she was constantly told of being stupid and ugly? This issue was also touched on a scene from the 1937 movie on a poor Chinese family, “The Good Earth” based on writer Pearl S.Buck’s famous novel of the same title (Pearl spent most of her formative years in China)!

With the omnipotent powers willing, I believe in exactly a year from now, my Por-por would want to see all her dear ones coming together again and it would be sad if we couldn’t. I hope by then, we don’t have to “quietly” celebrate my Por-por’s official as in her birth certificate her100th birthday where we have to whisper; have far less candles on her cake with the purpose of deceiving the gods!

Yes, I am proud to have the experience of being with her in good and trying times (oh yes, she could nag till the gods had to take Valium) but regardless, she is a blessing. OUR blessing.

*also used in extreme caution on possible old spinsters if you don’t want to be whacked either verbally or physically!

Images:

1) Por-por making her birthday wishes! One of them could possible be for another 100!

2) My uncle supporting her from the back where she turned back shortly after this shot and said to him, “Don’t push me onto the cake”!

3) A fruit basket that my mom assembled for my Por-por when we went there (Por-por’s place) for lunch.

4) A simple home-cooked lunch spread by my aunt (Mom’s younger sister)who was still recuperating from a nasty bicycle accident a few day prior! She used to cook up twice as much in previous years single-handedly!

5) Por-por’s birthday cake. The cranes, signifying longegity are made out of white chocolate. I don’t know how to read Chinese so, can’t dicipher what the characters mean.

I took a day off from work some three weeks back to drive my aunt and Mom to Kuala Selangor thinking that it was a leisure trip – sight-seeing, food, fresh fish shopping and probably more food! Only when I asked why weren’t we stopping at Kuala Selangor when we were passing through (on a convoy with my cousin’s SUV in front of my car), my Mom finally said, “What leisure trip? We are here to try out an unusual deworming method through the ears at Sekinchan!”

My mind just totally went blank before I wondered if it was too late to find an excuse to back-out and how?! After getting myself composed at about 10 seconds later, I thought to myself why not? Life couldn’t be more exciting than this, right?

Since we were already quite late after we had confirmed the location with the assistance of our iPads and GPRS of the deworming place, we decided to grab a quick meal at a restaurant nearby that unbeknownst to us, specialized only in shark meat dishes! We were surprised that they turned up pretty good though my aunt and Mom didn’t really like them. My cousin told me that he had tasted shark’s meat before and they had a sandy texture to it. The ones that we had on that day tasted like ordinary fish meat but a tad tough or even slightly rubbery otherwise pleasantly edible. The dishes were like, shark’s meat omelet, shark’s meat soup, spicy shark’s meat with spicy prawn, shark’s meat Gung Bao style, Shark’s meat fried noodles etc.

We then arrived at a slightly dilapidated looking Chinese wooden house where the owner’s wife, a friendly Mrs. Cheah greeted us. She led us to the back portion of the house where the operation took place. There were already some older folks having their ears rested on the small end of conical-shaped funnels on low wooden tables. The air was filled with what smelled like some kind of burnt leaves.

After having sat myself down on a low chair, an even lower small table was placed before me where Mrs. Cheah’s husband placed a hot plate on it. He then scooped a tablespoon-full of still cooking, sizzling and smoking black glob of herbs on the hotplate. Mrs Cheah would immediately place the cone over it with the wider side down. On the other end, we would place our ear over it before any of the fumes escaped.

Of course you would feel more strain on your neck than anything from your ear cavity. I could hear the herbs still sizzling and crackling! Apparently, the crackling sounds were actually the worms dropping into the sizzling concoction and well, explode I guess. After three minutes (and my incessant asking of whether my three minutes were up) the plastic and duct tape constructed cone was removed. Mr. Cheah then came and pointed to me the dead worms that missed the sizzling herbs earlier! The smaller one looked like desiccated raw coconut while some of the larger ones were totally offensive with slight grey stripes on them! After a about a 1 to 2-minute break, the same process was done on the other ear (and this time, I had MORE fat ones and double the quantity compared to my right ear)!

After the whole “treatment”, we were given cotton buds and a small bowl of ash-colored pulverized combination of “secret” herbs. We scooped the ash-like herbs up with our cotton buds and apply it to our ears to soothe them.

Someone actually asked me if the worms were faked? How would I know but then at just 20 bucks a pop, I doubt it! Making faked worms and having them heat-resistant is a little too cheap with that price they charged including labor.

According to Mr. Cheah, the purpose of the treatment is to cleanse the “air passages” in our heads and bring relief to migraine and sinus problem sufferers. The secret ingredients of the sizzling herb concoction came from Mr. Cheah’s family that was passed down from the generations since his forefathers in China.

I asked Mr. Cheah how these worms manifested; he said that they were, “from the air” like how certain bugs appear in our grains or uncooked pasta despite having stored them in lidded containers. For these worms, they probably live on the protein or other stuff in our ears. Yuck!

Yes, I would go back there again but the only deterrent is the distance! We drove for hours and spent about probably less than 10 minutes for the treatment! Also, this place is known to be crowded with mainly domestic tourists on weekends and public holidays.

Pictures courtesy of Elaine.

Came across this electronic dictionary yesterday while browsing at Borders (The Gardens)! It must be the coolest of this price range since my now 7 year-old Franklin’s Merriam-Webster’s Electronic Dictionary that I bought from the now-defunct Borders at Wheelock Place, Singapore!

I am one of those who want to check on an unfamiliar word almost immediately whenever we come across one at any time, on anything we read on any formats. I don’t carry in my rucksack/backpack anymore any of those traditional bulky (regardless of how small they were) dictionaries. Then again, I wonder whoever does that now in the age of smart phones and iPads, as if I was not geeky enough already! And I don’t feel safe whipping out my iPad here in KL/PJ anymore regardless of whether I was in a coffee shop, restaurants or Starbucks! My smartphone at most times plays stupid and take forever to get connected in addition to my presbyopia that adds to my inconvenience.

So far, I have tested out my new Electronic Dictionary Bookmark on the current book that I am reading. It fits quite snugly between the pages of my thin paperback, partially thanks to the lightness of this gadget. The thickness is no more than 1.2mm including the protrusion of the keys/buttons. The power source is a lithium battery housed on the top of the bookmark behind the screen. The screen may be just 39mm in diagonal but I could read from it well without any squinting.

I don’t know yet of the battery performance but my only complaint is the keypad where you will need to flex a little more finger muscles to key in the words. This keypad is similar to some used on hand phones and calculators, except that this is thicker, hence the requirement for more pressure needed. I have a feeling that they would eventually crack after some time depending how often you use them like what I have seen from those hand phones.

The Dictionary Bookmark has 38,000 entries an retails at RM100. In the UK, it costs at around 20 quid each so, at RM100 over here is not at all bad. I paid S$53 for my old one and that has served me well over the years and is still one of my bedside companions after my books. I won’t spend anything more than that even though I have once lusted over those sophisticated and costly ones just because they talk and teach you how to pronounce correctly. Nah, I am now good with these two and there are plenty of online dictionaries out there that even teaches you the right way of using profanities.

Juxtaposing my new Dictionary Bookmark with my first-generation Blackberry-like Electronic Dictionary from Franklin’s.

Juxtaposing my new Dictionary Bookmark with my first-generation Blackberry-like Electronic Dictionary from Franklin’s.