Sunday, March 22, 2009

Daddy's Girl

My mum asked me some three weeks ago "Why are you closer to your Baba than me?" I was taken aback and for a few seconds, I couldn't answer her. Seeing that I did not give any reply, she continued "All your other three siblings are closer to me, why aren't you?". To answer her, I laughed and responded " Waa.. that's tamak. Are't three enough? You want me in your "close" book too?" With that, both of us were laughing and we did not approach the subject anymore.

But, that kept me thinking. Yes. I am my Baba's daughter. It was his advise I sought when I am in any trouble, it was his soothing voice I wanted to hear to calm me down when I was far away from home and things did not go the way I wanted them to be, it was him I asked for when I called and it was him I'm eager to meet once I reached home.

Why? You may wonder. Well, I could not answer that for sure. There is nothing wrong with my mum - except for her strict and firm nature, she is like any other mum who love and care for their offsprings.

My Baba is very special to me. He's always ready to listen - no matter how silly, to lend a helping hand, to discuss, to give advice when requested, never raising his voice and above all - never judge. He's there to listen to my sorrow, there to celebrate my happiness.

My Baba is also a very cool and level headed person - he takes time to listen and digest whatever was told to him, he takes time to think things over before making his comments or decisions - such I found him much easier to talk to (than my Mum), our opinions may differ but he will not try to change my views to suit his; he encouraged debates between us (with or without other siblings) - our dining table is never quiet - there is always something to "discuss"/"debate"/"argue" about. Though I am the youngest I was never left out. My "two cents" count.

My Baba's friends are multi-racial. His closest, I remember is Mr Devan. They still visited each other way after they stopped teaching at the same school. There was also Uncle "Gemuk", Uncle A Kow and of course his peers in and around the kampung. He is never a racist.

My Baba is the kind of person who when asked to bring back satay from his meeting in town will bring back not just any satay but the best satay that he can find no matter how out of the way it is. That's just how he is.

He's always willing to help other people too without thinking of his own situation. Put it this way, if he has RM15 left in his pocket to buy something that we need, and along the way came a person asking for help, telling him that he needed some money to buy some medicine for his sick child, my Baba will selflessly give all the money that he has. You may wonder - couldn't he just give part of his money? But that's my Baba - which sometimes created some tense in our household.

One talent of his which I do not have running through my vein (which I wish I have) is his musical talent. Though he could not read the musical notes but give him any instrument - he'll play it beautifully. He can play guitar, piano, organ, sexaphone, drums - you name it. And he is also very good with language. A very fast learner with good memory.

My Baba passed away in 1999. For weeks I did not go back to visit my Mum - it is too painful to look at his favourite armchair empty without him, too painful to no longer be able to listen to his happy welcoming voice, too painful to look at his empty chair at the dining table and above all to not be able to hug him and tell him that I love him. It is even too painful to past by the mosque where he used to preach 3 times a week without fail even when his health is failing - "I have to show up, if not they will think that I am sick" that's what he will tell my Mum if urged not to go - he rarely disappoint his "students" at the mosque.

Well, that's my story. Of my Baba. I thank the Al-Mighty for "Lending" me such a father. I never regret it when He took him away. Al- Fatihah....

For those of you who still have your Dad, do appreciate them, spend some time with them cause you will never know how much longer you will still have them, talk to them, tell them you love them and while doing so, forgive and forget,...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Taman Negara Kuala Koh - Part 1

All these years, my husband never take any leave during the school holiday. Believing that all tourist attracting places will be flooded with tourists & accommodations will be in full occupancy not to mention having to pay peak period surcharge - it's expensive to travel during school holiday, he never take us anywhere during school holiday.

So when he told me a week ago that his leave application has been approved, I was pleased but a bit shocked at the same time.

This time our destination is Taman Negara Kuala Koh. Actually, he promised to take us here since many years ago. But, every year since he made that promise, he will be going with his fishing friends - hunting for kelah (malaysian mahseer or malaysian red mahseer; scientific name : tor tambroides from the cyprinidae family - nowadays, the fish is facing extinction due to unscrupulous activities like bombing, poisoning and illegal netting. Such, a lot of efforts have been taken to ensure that this specie will not go into extinction; for eg. setting Kelah Sanctuaries at Sg Tahan, Lubuk Pertang (Kuala Koh) and Tasik Kenyir - most anglers will catch and release it), leaving us for 3-4 days each time.(There will be more stories on Kelah hunting in my coming entry).

All of us were very excited and soo... looking forward for the trip. We left Shah Alam on Monday, (March 16). We headed north through Kuala Kubu. Subhanallah,... the view at the Kuala Kubu Dam is sooo..... beautiful. I can't share any shots this time since I am still figuring out how to transfer images from my mobile. But trust me, it is. If you have the time, take a joy ride there. I do not know whether there are any picnicking area but the view itself is well worth the trip.

Kuala Koh is situated 90kms from Gua Musang. This is a shot taken of Felda Aring - the entry point to Kuala Koh National Park. We stopped by the road site to pick some palm fruits - those left by the roadside - not sure why but looks like these were left out as they may not have met the pickers' standards? We took those which were already brown turning dark and a bit soggy - this is said to be the best bait for kelah.

Our accommodation - Chalet No. 3. Word of caution though : If you are going to stay at the chalet (I think it is true for all the chalets here), do not leave any crumbs or if possible do not sleep on the floor (even with mattress) because you may leave with ant bites.

Our clan getting ready for the boat trip to Lubuk Kaloi to try our luck at hunting kelah. We considered ourselves lucky as the wheather is clear and it is not raining that day.

Lubuk Kaloi, here we come...!

Our makeshift kitchen. We're very thankful for those who built the structure. We were made to understand that the previous fishing groups left earlier than their intended stay due to the heavy rainpour the day before. Menu for the day, masak lemak kobis, sambal tumis mackerel, telur goreng, ikan masin. Life is heavenly. We brought along our food ration. We did not actually expect to get anything, but we're just happy and cherished the time that we wpent together.

Our temporary home. Another word of caution : It is quite tricky to perform solat in a tent. Maybe due to the sand were still soft from the previous two days heavy rain, or I'm moving too fast when changing my position, I slipped from my ruku' straight to sujud. Well, I finally managed, after a few trials.

My husband and two sons found this source of spring water close to our tent site. Hmmm.... talking about our very own source of mineral water... This is bliss.

Our catch for the day. Though not kelah, our day is made. And since it is not listed as an endangered specie, we turned the Temperas (Mata Merah:cyclocheilichthys apogon) from this,....

.... to this. Gulai tempoyak. Pehh!...We left Lubok Kaloi, satisfied and with a promise to make a return trip.

Other than fishing & camping, there are other activities to do in the National Park. Among others, walking through suspension bridge,...

Canopy walking....

.....and all these activities from jungle trekking to bird watching.

Somehow, this trip is so... special, not just because we spent time together and having lots of fun - also due to the fact that about 10 minutes after leaving the National Park, we witnessed a procession of the Batik tribe - which we never dream of seeing. Here are a few snapshots of them - at first, we were not sure if they let us take any photograph of them but they agreed when I asked for their permission. They are quite friendly (maybe a bit shy). Please note their headgears which form part of their accessories.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Our Terengganu Trip......

"Thaipusam fell on Monday - let's go somewhere" said my husband. So, after a while, we decided to go to Terengganu. We spent a night at Marang the year before on the way back from my nephew's wedding in Kota Bharu. At that time, we stayed at a chalet managed by Pak Aziz which has its own private beach, hammock & all. We practically have the beach right in front of our door step. Though my husband, my three sons & I loved it there, my daughter (around 3+ that time) was crying as soon as she realised that there is no TV & Astro. We had a tough time soothing her down. So, this time round, though we would love to contact Pak Aziz and secure a booking, the previous experience stopped us. Finally we chosed Gem Beach Resort in Merang (abt 30 min from Kuala Terengganu).

Though we planned to start our journey very early in the morning to avoid the congestion near & around Batu Caves, we finally started our journey around 9.00 a.m. And of course we are "trapped" in the congestion. But after Batu Caves we have a pleasant journey. When we hit Tanjong Jara, the scenery is Masya Allah... it is just soo... beautiful, what with the white sandy beach and the clear blue and green colours of the South China Sea.

When we were about 4 kms away from Kuala Terengganu, based on advised from a friend (DrSam), after performing solat at Masjid Terapung - Masjid Tengku Tengah Zaharah), we headed to gerai 007 to savour the keropok lekor which was dubbed as "the Best Keropok Lekor in the world". One thing for sure, we can taste the fish which made up majority of the keropok, unlike the light, sodium-laden version which we are used to and the sauce, mmmmm.... need I say more? But beware, even keropok lekor has its own share of piracy. There are many 007 gerais but if you take a closer look, you can see a smaller other number in front of 007 (eg. a very tiny 3 in front of 007).

After checking-in at Gem Beach Resort, my children became very impatient to go to the Beach. However, as we approach the beach, we saw a red flag hung on a pole on the beach, so, we went to the pool instead. As our journey is not made during school holiday, the pool is quite deserted. So, my four children were having a whale of a time in the pool. It is not until their father announced that we should take a stroll on the beach that they came out.

My four children having fun at the beach

Some of their "catch". You can find shells in good unchipped condition.

The next day, we spent our time at Pasar Payang. Not so much for shopping but for the colourful activities going on here.

Then to Masjid Kristal. Our trip to Terengganu does not end here. Though we spent the second night at Impiana Cherating, we dined in Kemaman. But the best is when we took a joy ride to Pantai Teluk Mak Nik (or Monica Bay, its more glamorous name)at Kuala Kemaman. Here is where we found two most exciting part of our travel. One, it is here that we found the Best Sata in the world. Too bad we did not take any photograph of the humble-looking gerai sata located along the way out from Kuala Kemaman - our batteries ran out. The taste is out of this world.

And the second is at some corner opening to the sea - close to pasar nelayan we found the following shop :

Here is where my children went crazy and their parents......
Our trip though short is so.... satisfying. Hopefully we will be taking this trip again.


As I mentioned earlier, I have been thinking of going places since I am a young child. Among places which I told myself that I will visit one day are the Royal Observatory where the Greenwich Meridien line is, the Stonehenge at Salisbury Plains and Yorkshire. Yorkshire? One may ask. Yes. Yorkshire. Why? Out of reading "The Railway Children" and "The Secret Garden" of course. And somehow maybe as my Great Uncle was somebody who was attached to KTM, I do not know about this one, but influence can work in a funny way too. For whatever reason it may be, I do love taking train rides.
During our visit to Yorkshire, one of our itineraries is to take the train from the North Yorkshire Moor Railway ("NYMR") in Pickering to Whitby. Though it is only an 18 miles journey, and since it is allowed, we planned to hop on-hop off at stations which caught our attention - among the stations which we planned to hop off are Levisham & Goathland (this station was used in the filming of Harry Porter)both reputed to be beautiful and picturesque villages. However, due to some unforeseen circumstances as well as misunderstanding the quite complicated time-table, we found ourselves spending time in the beautiful little town of Pickering.

The little town has its own share of attractions. It is the major station on the NYMR and the line from Pickering to Whitby is the third line in Yorkshire - passenger carriages were pulled by horses until the first steam engine was introduced in 1847. Today, the steam engine is still in good working condition and appealing to most railway enthusiasts. Hopefully, in our future travel, we can realize our itinerary.
Pickering is also home to the Beck Isle Museum of Rural Life. It displayed the largest collection of Sidney Smith photographs as well as collection of rural crafts and exhibits of living style from the bygone era.
A small town it may be but Pickering has its share of good souvenir shops, ice-cream parlour - my children go crazy about the 36 flavours on offer
Though we missed the train that day, visiting the little town of Pickering more than made up for it. It is a clean, beautiful town with friendly people ready to greet you with a smile on their faces "'owdai'elp tha?"

Pitter Patter Falling Falling ....

It is raining outside. It has been raining last night and it is raining again this morning. Though it means that I can't yet bring out the laundry to dry outside and that I have to carefully balancing the umbrella so as not to get my daughter wet on her way to school while half of my shoulder pleads to have its share under the umbrella and many other activities stopped or postponed, I can't lie to my feelings that to a certain extend I secretly love it when it rains - of course when it is not in its raging, rampage manner which claims a lot of lives and belongings.

I love rain for many reasons :

(i) it reminds me of the Greatness of the Al-Mighty - a time of reflection;
(ii) it is a good time to snuggle in bed with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate;
(iii) it makes the air cooler and refreshing;
(iv) it makes the environment greener;
(v) somehow, when it rains, moods changes for the better - tamer, more controllable

When I was young, staying in the kampung, I always managed to "run away" from home when it rains. Knowing that my Mum will never allow me to go out, I make my escapes when she is performing Solat. I knew that I will get into trouble when I got back but maybe, if I time it correctly like coming back when she is performing another prayer or when one the neighbours is dropping by I can avoid the nagging or worst still the pinches. Hmmm... my Mum is very strict though - she is one of the few who does not believe in "all works and no play makes Jack (in this case, Jane) a dull boy". To her, I have to stay at home after school, doing my homework and revising my lessons until I go to sleep only stopping for prayers and makan - no social activities except when she dragged me along for her party meet at the Balai Raya.

Once out of the house I ran and ran (in the rain) to the small river not far from my house. And here, in the rain, I became all that I want to be - I am the Captain of a big ship, I am a successful fish merchant, I am a part of Swiss Family Robinson- the prospect is wide and large; but most of the time, just to watch my paper ships travelled down the river. It was here that I started having ideas that I want to go see as much of the world. I dreamt of travels, I kept wondering of other people's way of life and so far, I considered myself lucky.

(Oh yes, if you are wondering of the missing link between me, a kampung girl and my readings - my Dad was a Religious Teacher (he taught at Kajang High School, Kolej Pertanian (now UPM) & last at Sek Keb Agama Dusun Tua) and my Mum gives great importance on educations - though they have their limitations, they make sure that books and more books are available for their children. I am lucky that I started reading at an early age - thanks to my Mum, late Dad and my older siblings - through them I became bilingual early)

Rain brings a lot of memories to me; days when I reached home cold, dripping wet, my school uniform completely drenched, my Mum will immediately asked me to take it off and quickly wash it and hang it to dry close to the stove. Those were the times when we were hit quite badly, when there is only two uniforms - one pinafore and one pair of baju kurung and at that time, for reasons which I do not understand, baju kurung is reserved for Friday; days when I braved myself through the rain in the wee hours of the morning to get the bus to go to school - my school is in town which is about 15 miles away from home; days when my cousin & I were trapped in the rain during our bicycle ride to the nearest town about 3 miles away - sometimes with purpose, sometimes just for the joy of riding - and of course without my Mum's knowledge.

Hmmm... I miss those moments and to re-live it, let me just enjoy the pitter patter of my good friend - the rain.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sibling err..... Rivalry?....

"When are you going to write something about me?" asked my second child when his sister told him that Ibu wrote a little piece on her. "What do you want me to write about you?" I asked him back. "Well, .. anything. Anything about me". Now, come to think about it, for the whole 9 years of his life, we have shared a lot. Happy times, not-so-happy times, bad times, worrying times, fun times, you name it.

Hakim was born on March 30, 2000. He was a good baby - hardly cried, colic-free baby. Unlike my "scary" experience with my eldest (he cried every day between 9.00 p.m. to 3.00 a.m. without fail until he is 3 month old leaving me in a phobic state), Hakim was an angel.

Hakim did not utter a word until he was about 2 years old. It managed to scare us a bit that we consulted a paediatrician but was told that children have different milestones, different levels of development. She kept reassuring us that Hakim will be talking soon. He did. & it seems like he has been repressing himself all the while. He talked and he talked. When he does not know the word that describe what he is trying to say, he "created" his own word for it. Those were the days.

We sent him to a kindi when he is 4. Always being the more studious one, he will do his homework immediately after coming back from school - a habit he continues until today. He asked questions after questions on things that he does not understand. He tried to outdo his older brother in almost everything - sometimes he succeeded, sometimes he failed. But whatever the result is, it will never dampen his spirit. He just want to do better. He is not scared of public speaking - he volunteered to speak during school assembly, he participated in story telling competitions, he participated in quizzes, drawing competitions, anything that draws his attention.

But Hakim has many faults - he is temperamental; getting too big for his head at times especially when he scored better than his older brother; though he is the more playful one compare to his older brother, he yells at his younger siblings when they are not behaving; he plays tricks on them sometimes until they cry (then is when Ibu takes control)- to his younger siblings, he is a brother who they can play with but should not displease; and, he is a grumpy traveller (during the journey but he is OK when we arrived at our destination).

A few times his behaviour when he is with his siblings get me so worried. What if my son bullies his schoolmates? What if he is a rude student at school? But so far, the feedback that I received from his teachers are quite favourable - no, he is not naughty at school; no, he does not disturb his friends in class; in fact, he is on the quiet side. Hmmm... Perhaps he is already so naughty at home that he does not have to be at school.

To me, he is my son. Though I have to work harder on him (behaviour wise) than his other siblings, I love him so very much. He has his softer side too. He can be gentle and nice, he can be very generous as well - in fact, he will be the first to put his pocket money in any donation box compared to anyone else in the family. He does not care if he has no more money to spend for himself. That's my Hakim, my son, my companion, my pillar of strength and at times, my sidekick. He is still 9 year old - please, do not judge.

A Daughter's Worry

My daughter refused to go to school the other day. She is only 5 year old going to a kindi which teaches using the Montessori method. When I asked her why (it is a three-hour per day class, anyway) she told me with a frown so big spoiling her otherwise smooth forehead giving the impression of shouldering the worries of the world, "I can't catch up with the others - I just could not find all the shells which the teacher asked us to count in the picture given to me". For a moment it startled me. Since I do not know the real situation which sum up to this conclusion of hers, I repress my comment. After all, I have been trying to instil in my children not to be judgmental. So, I just kissed both her cheeks, hugged her and told her that she will not know what she will miss if she didn't turn up at school that day. With that I took her hand in mine and walked to her school (only about 2 - 3 minutes walk away).

Since we are still early and the teacher is quite free I told her about my daughter's worry. She laughed and she told me "Your daughter is doing fine. But she is a perfectionist. It worries her when what she did is not similar with the others, or when what she arrived at is different from her friends." I left not knowing whether I should feel relieved or otherwise. Should I be relieved when my five-year old wanted to be a perfectionist? Shouldn't she be enjoying her much too young age? Shouldn't she just be a child without worries about being competitive? At that age, she shouldn't be pushing herself too hard. Then, I tried to do some self-searching - am I involved in moulding her into thinking that she has to be the best? is there anytime when we are together that what I may have said became the impetus of making her think that she has to push herself harder each time? If I did then I have to re-do it now and soon. Though I can't think of any situation which may lead to this perception of hers, I can't help feeling sorry for her.

All I want is for her to enjoy her childhood. To have sweet memories of happy moments with her doting parents who love her sooo... very much. To not think of striving to be the best,... yet. In short, to enjoy being a five year old. Though she could not get everything she wants, she has a very loving and supportive home (we are just normal parents - she does get the scolding when she's over the board). She has parents whom she can always talk to with just about anything and everything, parents who do not judge her, parents who embrace her no matter she can count shells correctly or not, parents who celebrate her joys and grieved through her sadness.

Today, I am going to tell her that she is such a wonderful daughter regardless of what she may have felt about herself and that her parents love her oodles & oodles & oodles & oodles.......

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Walk Through Time

It has been quite some time for me to finally start my own blog. In between taking care of my 4 children and housework I simply just could not think how I can manage maintaining a blog. However, I finally take the plunge and who knows this may go a long way.

As my initial entry I would like to share about my recent trip to Penang Island. The highlight this time is the Penang War Museum. Though excited about the prospect of walking through history I do not know what to expect even as we paid for the entrance fee.

But as my husband and I walked through from building to building dragging along our 5year old daughter and 3 year old son I can't help feeling how it may have been to endure life during war (our two older sons had run off with their grandmother). I am just glad that we don't have to and how thankful I am for those who fought for this country, for those who protect it and save its dignity - Thank you.

For those who are planning to visit Penang this coming school holiday, do include the War Museum in your itinerary. Take the walk through time. Look at how those who defended our country lives - sleeping quarters, medical infirmary, logistic centre, cook houses. communication room, etc. Crawl in the escape tunnel. For info., the fort was manned by the British, Malay & Indian/Sikh armies but it was attacked and fell to the Japanese during WWII. It became a Japanese army base camp where the POWs were interogated, tortured and some, executed. Witness the bullet holes in the walls of the torture chamber. Imagine the suffering endured. And if this is too much, just enjoy the view from the battery which looks out to the sea down below. Take your time to appreciate it.

BTW, the Penang War Museum is located at Batu Maung, some 20 minutes from Georgetown, up in the hill. The museum is occupying the military fortress built during the British occupation. The admission fee is RM15/- per adult and RM7.50 per child above 5. Though the fee may be quite expensive, it is really a small fee in exchange of peace and harmony that we are enjoying today - bear in mind that the War Museum is not fully explored yet and the fee can really assist in ensuring that maintainence and further development can go ahead.

Leaving the Museum, I can't help feeling how lucky we are today. How fortunate to be born in a country where harmony is its second name. To live in peace among the many races; to respect each others religious beliefs and to appreciate each others culture and also to be blessed with a beautiful country. Let us all be thankful for such blessings.