Friday, February 28, 2014

Mum and Dad's wedding anniversary.

Photo of Mum and Dad with cousin James Chan Chok Chung, and Deborah and I visiting Australia from New Zealand.

It is March, and I remember in March, it is Mum and Dad's wedding anniversary. I didn't always know that, In fact, I was very jealous that on sister Margaret's birthday, she always had a big party and Mum cooked up a storm. Grandma Kong, Aunties from the Kong side and Chan side came to celebrate, and Margaret got lots of cash gifts/hung baos.

Was I jealous? Why just Margaret? when there were six of us kids. I can't remember, did I get so upset? I must have and I went to complain.

It was only then, they revealed, that Margaret was born on Mum and Dad's wedding anniversary. As it wasn't the done thing to celebrate wedding anniversaries then, they celebrated on the pretext of Margaret's birthday. Oh! I understood.

My Facebook friend Francis Phang said it was all FATE. when I told him how mum and dad wedded. It's all in my book, but not this part.

Rewind back to 1945:

It was the second world war, the Japanese soldiers were taking girls to be their comfort women and men to be their solider. Great Grand Ma, Ah Tai was desperate for a husband for Mum.

Ah Tai wanted the son of this Town family P.

This Town family P. didn't want a country bumpkin girl to be a daughter in law.

It was not meant to be that he should be my dad.

Instead the next best was country bumpkin Dad. 

So Ah Tai chose Dad.

This country Bumpkin was the best choice after all.

He was the first in the region to get a scholarship to study in England, and became a senior government officer.

All of us were college educated. None of the children of that Townie man went abroad. Whew!!!!


My Grand father said " It's ok to cry."

It's a topic that people don't talk about it.
To me, it is no taboo.
I have become aunty bereavement.
I encourage people to cry.

I am glad my grand father,
Showed me "It is OK to cry."
and "It's OK to talk about our departed loved ones."
My Uncle drowned when he was four,
Grand father talked about him in his 70s.
Today, I like to tell my fellow bereaved mum,
Violeta Pineda Zepeda,
for tomorrow she lost her daughter Maribel to Sids 5 years ago.
and on May 15, 2013, she lost her Jayden,
How cruel it is for people to tell her,
"It's NOT OK to cry."
So cry, my dear Violeta,
I cry with you.
Photo: Since appearing in the TVNZ documentary,
"It is OK to cry."
It has become my catch phrase.
I am glad my grand father,
Showed me "It is OK to cry."
and "It's OK to talk about our departed loved ones."
My Uncle drowned when he was four,
Grand father talked about him in his 70s.
Today, I like to tell my fellow bereaved mum,
Violeta Pineda Zepeda,
for tomorrow she lost her daughter Maribel to Sids 5 years ago.
and on May 15, 2013, she lost her Jayden,
How cruel it is for people to tell her,
"It's NOT OK to cry."
So cry, my dear Violeta,
I cry with you.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mum and Dad

Mum and Dad were married inn the War time. They grew to love each other. Mum died on the 2nd day of the Chinese New Year. Dad died 18 years later on the same day and month. Which partially fulfills this Chinese saying.
我们不是同年同月同日生,但可以同年同月同日死 We are not born the same month on the same day, but died the same day in the same year


Friday, February 7, 2014


Photo: Stacey's birthday cake today.....words fail me

photo borrowed from my friend who grew up with my daughters.

Mum learned to make Western Butter cakes.  She made beautiful rectangle cakes, round cakes, square cakes. But she never made a crinoline cake.

Our neighour made them, but her cakes were for display, not not to be eaten. We used to go to their place and stared at them.

I have been chatting with a facebook who was my neighbour's kid, and posted posted a photo of a similar cake. My daughter told me it is a Crinoline cake and asked me why I never made one for her.

Do you know they break the legs of these dolls? Once when we were doing our Charity for Kenya, some one donated a whole lots of legless dolls. I could not have my children see their dolls with their legs broken off.

Here are stories of the Chans that will warm the heart.

One was looong ago. Mum had twins, a boy and a girl. For their birthday, mum made two cakes, and she used a thin layer of water icing before she put on the royal icing. Because we were in the tropics, the icing sweated,
Mum's idea was to dry them in the sun.

Can't remember if she asked one of us older kids to keep an eye, that wasn't important.

Next thing, when Mum went to check, Dog had bitten a big hole at the side of Boy Twin's cake.

Mum was angry with Dog, and Child who was on duty.

We told her, just use one cake for both. But mum won't hear of it.

On the birthday, she produced two beautiful cakes. She quietly told the Older Child when she was cutting to serve the cake to make sure not to cut the section where she had "cemented" with a big lump of royal icing. Mum is really smart.

Cake making and icing in the Chan family and now Tiong (Grace's) is a family affair.

For the beautiful wedding cake in the last post involved a lot of work. She made sugar flowers, leaves and figurine. Grace couldn't remember how long it took. She did it when she was free on and off during the day for 2 weeks. It was tough work mixing the sugar dough or fondant icing and gum paste. The gum paste had to be rolled to tissue thin and and not break. Royal icing for some of the leaves.

Grace reckoned if she worked full time, it would have taken 10 hours for those things, leaves, flowers, bows... colouring, She couldn't use spray paint as it was done at home. 1 flower was made by a friend of KK. That's the small peach one.

She spent another 5 hours to ice the cake and cover with fondant and put on final touches. Mixing the cake, cooking and cooling took another 4 hours.

Grace was so passionate and almost a perfectionist. She told her daughter Jessie that she took off the crooked lines and redo and redo.... That's why she was so stressed when she make the cakes.

Grace recruited her brother-in-law to knead the dough for her until it was pliable enough to use rolling pin on it. His hands got so tired and hot. Her cousin in law James helped paint the flowers and arrange the bouquet. James it was hard work because the flowers are brittle and not flexible like real flowers where you can squeeze through the foliage etc...

Grace says, "Things like that people don't know, only the cake people know. if doing for 1st time like me, then it was a surprise!"

For all the effort, Grace can say, "I can say, I did it. hehehe"

My comment is, Grace is a very special person to go such a long way for a sister in law. This is not the first cake she made, She made another fantastic cake for our nephew Raymond's wedding. Again, it was a family effort. Some of us returned from Australia and Singapore to help.

Sons and daughters of Sarawak.

My ancestors came to Borneo from China in the 1900s.
My mum was the first of the clans of the Sibu Hakka born In Sibu. My maternal Grandfather Wai Kung was very smart. There was a big ceremony. My mum became a foster daughter of the Ibans of those surrounding longhouses.  A very interesting story. They protected my grandparents and all the villagers.

Today, running in the veins of their descendants are Kelabits, Ibans, Bedayus, Kenyan Kedasans,  Indians, Europeans, and different Chinese dialect groups. 

The PhotoHunt for this weekend is intricate

I am linking my blog post for Heather, whose son was murdered. They are trying to get a bill to pass Cameron's law to make eye witnesses to be responsible.

Amaranthus lividus (Green Amaranth) - Ma See Hin

 In Sarawak, and in Australia, Mother brought back this vegetable from the garden. She didn't grow it. Once you clear it, it sprouts by itself. We called it Ma See Hin aka Horse Shit spinach. However horrible it sounds, it taste quite nice.
My sister remembers it is called by a better name: 

马齿苋 Ma chi xian Mandarin Ma see hin Cantonese Horse teeth 

In New Zealand, I became my mum. When I clear my vegetable garden, I got this Ma See Hin. But the parallel ends here, you have to harvest it early. Left too long, it flowers and becomes too stringly. Like my photo.

Amaranthus lividus (Green Amaranth)

Fond memories of Dad.

Dad died on the 18th of February 2006. He taught me a lot of things. He told us to observe and remember.
On Tuesday, I was at the CBD of Auckland, and saw 2 big wider than one meter disc. On close look, there were strawberries growing.
Yes, you read right, it was a public area next to a restaurant. There were ripe strawberries.
I remember Dad telling us this.
It was in the 1950s, Dad was in London. He was with a friend from Indian.
There was a box with newspaper and an honesty bowl.
Dad," If this was in Sarawak, people will just take the newspaper and not pay the money.
Dad's friend," If this was in India, the honesty bowl would be gone."
I stared at the strawberries, "Hmmm! what would Dad say?"

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

From China to Borneo and Beyond

Year: 01/03/2013
ISBN: 9780473239008
Publication form: paperback

Księgarnia naukowa

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Would you let some one off the street to wash your car?

In 2012, I wrote about the car window washers and their problems. This problem has not gone away.  I took this photo from my reflection mirror because I was afraid this washer might turn nasty on me.

Photo / APN
Bottom photo: courtesy New Zealand Herald.

When I was 6, Dad had our first car. Washing the car every Saturday was a joy. All of us kids washed, and Dad polished with an old singlet.

The washers are already banned under a bylaw, and offenders can be fined up to $20,000.
But the council says the sanctions are costly, complex and ineffective, and it wants the Government to change the law so it can issue infringement notices - possibly in the form of spot fines.
Under the present law, it must get police to confiscate washers' equipment or prosecute them.
Councillors yesterday unanimously backed a proposed law amendment that would allow the council to specify bylaw breaches that would result in an infringement notice.

My 2012 blog post.

You can't see clearly the woman in the rear mirror. I had been wanting to do this post for a very long time. But it was very hard to take the photo, as I didn't want her to know. When I eventually took the photo last Saturday, the news article was published on Tuesday. A very timely thing.

I don't know if this happens in other places, in many of our busy road junctions, at busy times, men and women come without being asked, and they have a long brush and clean your windscreen. It is a symbolically clean as it is haphazardly done, ( 2 cars before the lights changed, because I actually stalked them today). Then they tap your window. Some people don't give them any money. The cleaners are always polite, and don't insist you give them money. I always give them, not because they clean well, but I appreciate their willingness to be out there, especially in the cold winter evening.

A friend from South Africa who lived during the Apartheid times, told me, to her, it is an automatic reflex to wind up her window when she sees someone with a stick approaching her. Other friends say they are a nuisance, and dirty the windscreen rather than clean it.

The trouble, is these people dress like riff raffs, smoke while cleaning. I like to give them some pocket money for being in the cold. Better than just begging.

However, not many people think like me. What do you think?

***I looked in the photo carefully, she was bending down, she could have dropped her water bottle of detergent. She could have been drunk. I actually had told her, that on my way over, the man at the other side of the road had cleaned my window. She proceeded to clean my front window and said she and the man was competing. Before I could find some small change, the lights had changed, and I had to drive off without giving her any money. But not after I managed to take the photo.)***

Drunks terrorise suburban shoppers
Last updated 05:00 10/04/2012

Mt Albert residents fed up with "menacing" transients who they say are scaring people have vowed to rid the suburb of the problem.

Community leaders are urging residents and business owners to bombard authorities with complaints while they also putt pressure on police to do more.

Locals say the vagrants have been driven out of the central city and were congregating at the Mt Albert shops where they were drinking, begging, busking, "hustling locals", cleaning windscreens at intersections and sniffing glue in public.

"These people are quite intimidating," Albert-Eden local board spokeswoman Pauline Anderson says.

Sometimes in groups as big as 12, they were scrimping together enough money to buy booze then drinking it in public.

"Then of course during the day it progressively gets worse because they get more high and more drunk to the point where they're dodging traffic and just being a menace and people in Mt Albert are crossing the street to avoid them," she said.

Police could take several hours to respond to calls which often had to be made several times but she said police patrols had increased lately at the board's request. Anderson said they wanted people to be more proactive.

"There is a little bit of apathy which I believe is a big part of the problem, that people think that because they call and then police take the details and then nothing appears to happen then people stop calling and that is the worst thing that you can do."

The council ran a campaign with business owners about four months ago outlining the options available and providing phone numbers to call to report the issues.

If all the incidents were reported they would have the statistics to back up their complaints, Anderson said.

"All we can do is encourage people to keep on at the police, to keep ringing, reporting everything they see, every incident."

The aim was to try to draw people back to the shopping centre because "the more we go there, the residents, the less these people will feel comfortable going there".

"It's not about we don't want them in Mt Albert, we just want them to behave in a socially acceptable way and it's up to us to show them that really, it's unacceptable what they're doing. We don't want them in our faces doing what they do."

search/label/Alphabe-Thursday. Jenny Matlock

Dad's hands-on science lesson with Mung bean.

This is one lesson that I won't forget, and have used it to apply to teaching my own children and my students.

Dad was teaching one of 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 my 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.***