Friday, May 31, 2013

Sarawak: Gawai: Harvest Festivial.

This is Elley's relative dancing at Elley's wedding. He had a traditional head gear and long pierced ears. And I specially requested that I have a photograph with him.

During Gawai that year in 1995, the Chan Clan led by Sister Dr Margaret Chan to Batang Air to celebrate this festival with the Dayaks. We flew from Sibu to Kuching, went by 4 wheel drive to the second division, and then by boats on the lake.

The funniest incident we fondly remember was the Australian Chans were helping themselves to the small dishes of food. When the host found out, they quickly took them in, you see, through a language miscommunication, the Australians thought the food were there for them to eat. In actual fact the food were offerings to their Gods.

They brought out the food for us to eat and the fire water the duak to drink.

For Save the world, it is not important to keep the festival but to open up your culture to others.

Elley Lina That's my uncle, the late tama Raja Bala, a good

 dancer...and the food you were refering to is for "Miring"

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Reviving an old Chinese Wedding Tradition.

Katie, the oldest of the Chan grand kids researched and chose to do a very traditional Chinese wedding tea ceremony. She and Matt chose to wear red. A very auspicious colour. Katie wore a Cheong sum/Chee Pao aka long dress, specially made for this occasion. Matt wore a Chinese Tunic. The ceremony was held after the Chapel wedding service and wedding photo shoot.

Katie chose to honor their deceased ancestors by symbolically offering empty cups to their photos. This is a first to me. The traditional ones I had seen as a kid was bowing to them, and bowing to the heavens and earth.

In the paternalistic society, it was always offered the to relatives of the man and then woman. You can't see it clearly here, Katie and Matt chose to kneel in front to the elders. This is Matt's parents. 

Charles and Karen's next. They are still kneeling. In Charles' hand, is an Ang Bao, or Hong Bao or cash gift. Traditionally, the bride gets a lot of jewelery.  I gave Katie costume jewelery, LOL.

Notice now, the couple are standing, My eldest sister Rose instructed us , younger siblings of Charles, not to let the couple to kneel before us. In the olden days, there were a bit of theatrics, like we shouldn't even be sitting, we should be standing if our ranking is low. See the young girl in red, she is Sharlene, she guards all the Hong Baos and jewelery Katie is given, a very important job indeed. In between Sharene and Matt is Matt's sister  Krochelle. She brings the cups of tea to Katie and Matt from me and Elley.

A new tradition, Katies' young relatives in turn offered tea to Katie and Matt who are now seated.

The Bruggys Clan

This is the Chan Clan. We traveled far and near, across the ocean, to make this a special day for Katie.

Behind the scene, Matt's Mum  Mrs Bruggy  and sister Krochelle, Margaret, Grace and Raymond had an important conference on how the procedure of the tea ceremony should take place. A very important planning as everything must be done according to protocol. Raymond was appointed to be the Tea Ceremony MC.

Behind the scene, someone has to pour the tiny tea cups and rinse them for the next round. Here my niece Emily and sister in law Elley and I, as we prepare the cups 

My niece Flora made the tea. The tea has red dates, and other items.

The ceremony was wowed by the dinner guests. You won't even get it in the movies.

The Sarawak Laksa

The Sarawak Laksa so loved by Sarawakians and abroad is indigenous to Sarawak. It is craved for when Sarawakians go abroad.

For the Chans, It was only in 1966 when we moved to Buloh Road did we learn to eat this from Mrs. Chin. Once Mum learned, there was no return. We made it from scratch.

I do not crave for it as I have a non Sarawak Husband, and  my non Sarawak friends didn't like it very much. My Singapore dentist even says it tasted like bitter herbs. I wasn't going to slave away in the kitchen to cook something that wasn't appreciated.

But that was exactly what my two older sisters did, and cooked laksa. I had to pretend to prepare the prawns and they didn't like me. They pricked my thumb and it go infected. They must have said, "You don't like Laksa, we don't like you."

Here's Rose and Elizabeth's laksa. You got to like it, that's all you are getting. When Henry and Elley went to Australia, 8 packs of laksa spice were confiscated at the Singapore airport.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

ABC Letter T for Tradition: Ang Gu Kueh and the Chinese Full Moon.

The Chinese lunar calender as the name says follows the moon.

When a baby is a "moon" or one month old, this full moon is marked with a great feast. To invite the friends and relatives, the proud parents deliver a hamper of cakes and red eggs. Egg signifies fertility, and red prosperity. The red cake or Ang Gu Kueh, shaped in tortoise shape signifies longitivity.

Usally traditionally, it is the maternal grandma who prepares this.

When I was in Primary school, I lived in Padang. We lived among Foochows, Malays, Ibans and a Henghua family. On festivals, we gave each other special food and kueh. That Henghua family, no matter what festival always gave Ang Gu Kueh. I got sick and tired of it, that I stopped eating it.

It was only recently that I started eating them. Connie my Kuala Lumpur friend made hers. Hers was nice. All these wasted years.

Hailstorm in Auckland and thoughts of my Grandpa.

The polar blast caused freezing temperature and snow in the South. It was hailing when I was driving home. When it hails, I always think of my Grandpa.

This is snow in New Zealand at Mt Raupehu, not in Auckland.

Hail stones have an intriguing effect on me.

My Grandpa left China about 100 years ago to Tropical Borneo when he was 20. When he was 81, and I was 18, there was a freak hail storm.

The hailstorm made a lot sound as the frozen ice pebbles pelted down our roof.

Our house was on stilts. "Snow! Snow!" we yelled and we all rushed downstairs.

Grandpa in his 80s, and all of six of us aged 3 to 18. ( The Chinese believe that you should not go out in the rain or you will catch a cold.) We laughed and picked the hail, the marble size hail. We twirled and danced and laughed in the slushy rain. Grandpa cried, he had left his temperate China, never returned and thought he would never, ever see this natural phenomenon again. Sixty years had past, and God sent few minutes of ecstasy. We told Grandpa, "You can die now."

My big sis Rose stared out of the window, and thought we had gone mad. When Grandpa died 3 years later, I was in Canada experiencing the coldest winter Canada ever had, minus 28 degrees. I looked out of my window, at the falling snow and                                                              
whispered, Grandpa, you are now be back at your homeland China. Go and play with the snow, real snow, not hail.

Whenever we have hail, I want to go outside and relive that incredible time
again. My grandpa, my siblings and me.

This Christmas Day in the summer in Melbourne, Australia, hailstones as big as tennis ball pelted down. I thought of my cousins Kim and Abbie who live in Melbourne. I dedicate this posr to them and to all my other cousins whom I found in Facebook
this year. Most of these cousins I have not even seen because I had left Borneo before they were born. May this episode give them a warm fuzzy feeling of a grandpa they never knew as he had died before they were born.

                                                               These are simulated photos, I went to my freezer and snapped                 icicles growing in it.

I broke the icicles and imagined the day when I was with Grandpa, holding the hail stone in my palm.


*This story is perhaps dramatic only to children growing in a tropical climate*


Monday, May 27, 2013

My world/ save the world/ABC Wednesday Letter T for tragedy,A boat capsizes.

An Express Boat like one these aeroplane boats in the photo capsized in Rejang River.

BELAGA: An express boat, said to be overloaded with more than 100 passengers returning to their villages for the Gawai festival, capsized in the Rajang River at about 9am on Tuesday near Belaga town.
The boat was travelling from Bakun to Kapit and Sibu. The boat was believed to have carried more than 100 passengers, although its official load capacity was for 67 seated passengers.
According to Belaga police chief, DSP Bakar, the express 

boat had the capacity to carry 75 passengers but believed 

that there were 204 passengers on board when it sank.

Read more:
The accident was waiting to happen. The aerodynamics of the boat had not emergency exits, and the sleek look meant they could travel very fast. Often they are overloaded, and passengers even sit on the roof.
People from outside the region sometimes refuse to go in this boat. Once there was an accident involving a head-on collision near Durin, my grandpa's place. It was rumoured that a girl from another region became historical about going it, saying it was like going into a grave. That accident killed many.
When I was little, our roads were really bad in our riverine Sarawak. Our river Rejang river was 350 miles long, and ocean going ship could come up to Sibu, 90 miles from the sea.

In the 70s when I taught in Binatang/Bintangnor, the monopoly of the express owners were challenged. The competition was so fierce. They kept putting the price down, until it was free.  They boats ramped at each other in the middle of the river. Come to think of it, it was so stupid for me to take advantage of the free or cheap fares. I could have drowned or lost a limb.

They build bridges, and these boats are made obsolete. A lot of them to my amazement sail the ocean to Solomon islands. People now drive from Sibu to Binatang and Sarikei. They still use this boats as there is no roads to Kapit.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Alphabe-Thursday for letter B: By gone era.

 Mung beans before they are cooked.
I added lotus seeds, not traditional or authentic, but I am not a traditional person.
Sweetened with cane sugar. A nice warm soup to eat on a cold autumn day or in Borneo on a sunny afternoon.

           Grandmother Chan had a mui zai (slave.) Her parents bought this poor girl to serve Grandmother for the rest of her life.
My father, John remembered fondly of Grandmother’s mui zai  whom he called Ah Jia, (big sister.) In fact he saw her more than he saw Grandmother. She kindly separated the rough green husk of the sweet mung bean soup, so he would have it as a smooth watery thick soup. 
There was talk that the British government in Malaya and Singapore was going to pass a bill to emancipate slaves. Those not releasing the slaves would be punished.
To preempt this, when this mui zai was 16, a marriageable age, Grandfather Kee Seng arranged for a suitable mate and married her off. This was much to the aghast of Grandmother. Grandmother whinged that this mui zai was paid for by her parents; therefore she was her property. This mui zai was her slave for life.  Grandfather Chan had no right to sell her property. 
But Grandfather would not have any part of this old feudal slavery system. They married her off to someone up the Rejang River.
The emancipation law was never passed and Grandfather never heard the end of Grandmother harping on and on about it.
Some of those mui zais maintained a good relationship, coming back to the family as though they were part of the family. In many cases where they had suffered abuse from their owner and hated them; they never came back to visit.  Some, their new family forbide them to. Grandmother’s mui zai  never came back.

Father did meet the mui zai many years later. Father was on official duty in a school near where she was married off to. She came and was hesitant to talk to Father, now an official of the government. She wanted Father to help her grand children to get into teachers’ college.  
She said quietly that it wasn’t that she didn’t want to visit the Chans, it was because she was not allowed to. She had been emancipated from one family into the slavery of another. She mentioned what a good family she had grown up in, and she would rather be old and single and be a mui zai in the Chan’s home. 


Father's hands-on education.

Mung beans has a special place in my heart. This is one lesson that I won't forget, and have used it to teach my own children and my students.

Dad was teaching one of us the siblings," Roots first or Shoots first?"

That particular sibling couldn't answer. Dad rounded all of us, and did this experiment of growing mung or green beans.

The mung beans grow quickly, and in a matter of three days, we got our answer. He also reinforced this by asking Mother to buy a packet of bean sprout. We looked carefully at the sprout. The long pale green is the root. If the sprout is too old, and shoot has started to grow, the bean sprout is useless to eat.

Once my daughter G sprouted her beans and they looked so lovely and delicious to cook. We had never cooked the tiny plants. My sis Grace asked if she could cook it, so she did. We found that mung bean plants taste hairy and bites us, so this experiment showed that the mung bean plants were inedible.
I also did this with my kids which which grows faster, in the light, it the cupboard, and why plants bend towards the light.

I did the same experiment with niece Ruth. She was really excited.

I have about ten groups of students, and I taught them to observe the life cycle of the mung bean seed. They were all very keen in doing this, and we lined our pots along the window.

What a better way for kids to learn. You may like to enjoy this lesson with your kids.

***This plants are grown on the sill, that is why they are so lush and green. It took only a week.
If you want to grow your own mung bean sprouts, it is best to grow them in the hot water cupboard. Just line your container with about five layers of paper towels. Everyday, add some water and gently tilt the container so the old water will drain out. if you don't change the water, you might get a smelly cupboard.***

Friday, May 24, 2013

Home remedy for a cold

My Ah Tai (great grand mother) was a very good home remedy doctor. People came from far and near for her treatment. She will be proud of me doing this post.

 Manuka Active UMF honey with pure lemon juice, stir with a wooden stick. Slurp little by little as though you are sucking a strepsil. This little jar of honey costs more than NZ$25. Some suggest a teaspoon of this good honey, but I feel it is too sweet for me.
 Grate some ginger, steep in hot water, when cool, add Honey. Hint, never add hot water to honey. It kills all the good properties of the active organism in the honey. Optional: add lemon rind juice and all to the ginger tea. Sometimes, I use wasabi, it clears the nose, and garlic. Caution: Garlic is very difficult to swallow, and the smell is very over-powering.

Not bother with home remedy, buy some vicks drops

These are very good for you.

Some Manuka honey has an antimicrobial property not shared by other honeys. This property is called the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF®) antibacterial property.

The little jar is UMF 25+. and is worth it weight in gold. It is good as a balm, when you are on the onset of a flu, it will help to check it in time. Though, I find it too sweet.

Every morning I take a teaspoon of the UMF 10 or 15 in a warm lemon or cider apple vinegar.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Joseph and Unagi

My second brother, is a fisherman hobbyist, if there such a word. applies here. He enjoys the peace and tranquility when he goes fishing with his mates. And then when the fish bites, there is a lot of excitement.

He took me fishing once, at 4 am in the morning. Even doped with the anti-seasickness pill, I was still groggy. I told him, "Thanks, Joseph, having fished once in the deep blue ocean is good enough for me."

We caught a lot of ray sharks that day.

I wonder when he is in his law firm, if he dreams of fishing. Joseph is lucky to live on a private island with his private jetty.

This one didn't get away. It's an eel, caught off his jetty. It is as long as his son Jordan's height.  Joseph smoke an eel, Japanese style or Unagi. We loved it. You need to fillet it carefully so there is no bones.

Unagi (うなぎ) is the Japanese word for freshwater eels

especially the Japanese eelAnguilla japonica. Saltwater eels 

are known asanago in Japanese. Unagi are a common 

ingredient in Japanese cooking.