Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Something lives in this tree

Around two weeks ago, I accompanied my brother-in-law for his bernikah ceremony at the bride's home in Hutan Melintang, Perak. From Kuala Lumpur, we took the coastal road by way of Kuala Selangor and Sabak Bernam north towards Teluk Intan. The small town of Hutan Melintang is situated in the district of Bagan Datoh, just across the Selangor/Perak border demarcated by Sungai Bernam.

I have travelled this road a few times before and have always been fascinated by the lovely kampung landscape that included paddy fields in the areas of Tanjung Karang and Sekinchan. As we neared Sabak Bernam, we can see many roadside stalls selling mentarang, a type of shellfish that lives in the muddy tidal flats along this particular stretch of coastline. I have not seen this type of shellfish anywhere else in Malaysia.

Also along this road I spotted a number of stalls selling `kekabu'-filled pillows and mattresses. Kekabu is a type of fluffy cotton-like fibre used as the pillow filling. Before the advent of foam or artificial fibres, kekabu was the main material found in pillows and mattresses. The fibre comes from the seed pods of the kekabu tree whose English name is kapok (ceiba pentandra). It is also known as the Java cotton tree. Kapok trees are quite huge... they can grow in excess of 30m height.

I remember as a small boy, there was a big kekabu tree at the back of my grandfather's house. When the family gathered there for hari raya, the older cousins like to frighten us younger ones by telling that a certain pontianak lives on this tree and would come down to suck our blood if we persist in playing outside past maghrib (sunset) time. It was a very good scare tactic... but it also created a problem. Kampung houses those days do not have flush toilets. Latrines were all located outside. You drop your poop through a hole in the outhouse floor into a bucket. A very hardworking gentleman would then come every few days to manually collect your deposits and clean the bucket.

The latrine at my grandfather's house was located next to the kekabu tree... and if there is a need for any of the young ones to do business at night, we dare not do it alone. Therefore one or two of the other cousins are forced to accompany the person doing the business. And because we were chicken-hearted, the business is done with the latrine door full open. If you are the one doing the business, then you'll have to live with the embarassment of having other people watching you crapping your stuff. On the other hand, if you are the one doing guard duty, you have to bear with the aroma from the outhouse while at the same time stealing glances at the imposing kekabu tree for anything that may swoop down from it and grab you by the neck. A classic lose-lose situation...

For the wedding at Perak the other day, we put up at a homestay not far from the bride's house. Next to this homestay is an old abandoned kampung house. In front of this abandoned house is a kekabu tree... and this was what reminded me of today's story.

An abandoned house with a big kekabu tree... brings back scary memories from the past.

Don't want to be around this place after dark...

Sunday, 20 February 2011

In a sulking mood...

No, not me... but a young lady tengah merajuk after not getting to do what she wants.

It has been a really busy month. Have been catching up with already delayed work at site with a number of public holidays in between... now that's when you wish there weren't any public holidays. Then there was the wedding of my brother-in-law. First was the nikah ceremony last week at the bride's home in Perak and last night was the reception at the groom's house in Shah Alam. And then I have to think of moving house by the end of the month. Gosh, I'm beat... but overall, better being busy than having nothing to do at all.

So today's post is just simple pic I caught of my grandniece Nurul Aqilah in a moody pose at last night's reception. Maybe I'll write about the wedding event a bit later.

Now why can't they let me do what I want....

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Ops pyramid

The first flight to bring back our students studying in Egypt, arrived at KLIA yesterday and was received by the Prime Minister, no less. There are still many more of our students housed temporarily at the transit point of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, not to mention those who are still trapped in Cairo.

Even since the start of the public demonstrations in Cairo more than a week ago, the government has made a commendable effort in trying to ensure the safety of our students over there and putting up an evacuation mission. The sheer number of our student population in Egypt made the operations a tough one indeed. Without doubt, it needed careful planning and coordination. Despite the effort, there have been many voices of discontent, especially in the earlier part of the crisis, when many people said that our government was slow to react. Even sadder is the claim that there are parties politicising the issue... either claiming credit for the success of the evacuation or complaining of the inefficiency of the whole operations. I have nothing but the feeling of despise for such people who cannot see through their shallow self-interests. I do not have any children or relatives studying in Egypt and so cannot claim to feel the same level of anxiety as many of my friends who do. But I do believe we have responsible leaders in our country who will definitely do their best when the lives of Malaysian citizens are at stake.

The situation in Cairo has somewhat stabilised and this has prompted some students to decline the offer to be flown home, especially those final year students about to take their exams this month. Yesterday's status update from my former teacher presently in Cairo, mentions that many shops are open again and peace is slowly returning to the city. I hope and pray that the Egyptian people find a peaceful solution to their problems and no more lives are lost. It would be very sad to see their country go into further turmoil because generally Egyptians are very nice people.

I have been to Egypt twice before but those were business trips. There wasn't much chance to do the touristy things like visit the pyramids or browse the museums... but my host over there did treat me to a wonderful dinner aboard a restaurant-boat that floats on the Nile. My Egyptian host is a very gracious and friendly man. He made my stay very comfortable and his hospitality was genuine. I would feel hard-pressed to extend him the same level of kindness should he be able to visit Kuala Lumpur... but of course I'll try my best. He sends me text greetings every year during Eid. When the demonstrations in Cairo reached its peak a few days ago, I sent him a text message enquiring about his situation but to date have yet to receive a reply.

To my good friend from Al-Masr, Mr Mohamed Diab... I hope you and your family are safe and coping well through these hard times. May Allah swt shower you with protection.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Happy Lunar New Year

It is time the tiger says farewell and hands over the reign to the rabbit. As a guy born in the year of the tiger, the previous lunar new year was a mixed one for me. On the workfront, it didn't turn out as I expected but the brief hiatus from work commitments allowed me the time to re-connect with some old friends and share some happiness.

The rabbit brings to mind the image of prolific reproductivity.... but don't get any ideas, of course the missus and I are well past that stage. Perhaps the aspiration we can wish for is for the abundance in health, wealth and good fortune for the coming year. And I relay that wish to all my Chinese friends and readers.... Gong Xi Fa Cai...