July 30, 2010

Chinese Lady Selling Local Seasonal Fruits of All Sizes

Pasar Tani at Seberkas Centre in Miri is definitely a favourite for many on Fridays and Saturdays.

I like it because of the various local fruits and vegetables I could buy. And furthermore I can get some kuih too and mingle with different races. There is an explosion of colours and noises too.

Recently I discovered I could get something quite special here. That's Terong Pipit or the small sourish wild brinjal which the Thais use in their various dishes. This special vegetable is sold by a cheerful Chinese lady who also sells several fruits of different sizes like cikgus and buah kedundong. She claims that her fruits are organic.

The sour brinjal is excellent in Tom Yam and the cooking of several local fish.

Here's the cheerful lady who sells terong pipit and other fruits.....

In Miri punnets are not used by the local hawkers...instead little plastic saucers like this are used and these liuttle brinjals are for RM1.00 per saucer.

July 29, 2010

Rain Water in Bottles

Water is so precious to life! Most people do not know how precious it is until they are short of it. At RM1.00 a small bottle it is already more expensive than diesel. A man in a desert can even kill for a canteen (container_) of water. And animals too fight for water. Long ago Abraham and his men fought for a well. And so did many Chinese in Ancient China.

God in His splendid ways tested and evaluated His people. Testing and evaluation are not new 21st centuiry terms. God tested (assessed)Abraham and He chose people for different purposes in His own (evaluative) ways. One Biblical story I find difficult to forget whenever I see water and meet issues related to water:

Judges7 5-7 Gideon took the men down to the water and the Lord told him "Separate everyone who laps up the water with his tongue like a dog from every one who gets down on his knees to drink." There were three hundred men who scooped up water in their hands and lapped it;all the others got down on their knees to drink. The Lord said to Gideon "I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites with the three hundred men who lapped the water...Tell everyone else to go home.."

When you drink your water - give God the respect - He is the source or creator of our water.

When I saw this "shelf- ful" of bottled  boiled rain water in Rh Chendang I was reminded of the early days in Sibu when my mother had to boil the rainwater we collected in our concrete well. Every morning she would dutifully boil two kettles of water on her wood fire Foochow stove. One kettle of hot water would be poured into an enamel basin for my father to wash his face! The kettles would turn black from the soot. She would pour the cooled water from the second kettle into the Sun Valley bottles for all of us to drink from. There would be six bottles on the cabinet. In the afternoon she would boil another kettle of water.  And in the evenings she would boil some more if the weather was cold and we would have warm water to bathe.

As I recall this I get so emotional ! She had to do so much more for us because there were so few electrical appliances for her to ease her burden.

Many housewives in the longhouses have been enjoying fairly good living standards in recent years in comparison to many others who do not have enough utilities further in land. They have better income as their husbands are becoming more educated and working further afield. Many have the pleasure of using electricity from their own private generators. Water pumps have helped alleviate their domestic chores as they no longer have to carry water from the river.

Some even drive home in a four wheel Toyota Hilux as their cash crops like rubber and oil palm yield better harvests.

However many longhouses still face shortages in fresh water. As rivers get more polluted and the rainy seasons get more irregular the Iban housewives have to be very proactive in saving drinking water for their families.

This housewife at Rh. Chendang (and it seems all the others are doing the same) keep their boiled rainwater in this way....very well arranged on the wall like cordial bottles in a sundry shop!!...Water bottles are the pride of the longhouse housewives!! When we visited them last month we were touched by her neatness and thoughtfulness. The water we brought was just enough for the day and evening. For our evening meal  she took out her water supply and quenched our thirst. She blessed us with her well stored water.

How many marks would you give this lady for her conservation of rain water for drinking and cooking?

July 28, 2010

Sibu Photographers Photographed

These two are very good photographers from Sibu and they own the blog called I-galleries. You will be able to see lots of good photography there.

I thought when they were standing on the road and near the two arrows they formed a nice photo. Were they deciding where to go?

My shutter speed was slow and then I realised that Liong was going to squat down to correct his lenses or adjust them....and I took these two shots. Meu Teng looked around but not at me. Did they know that I was sneaking up?

Good moments of togetherness! Well done! Meu Teng and Mr.Liong - wishing you good life! Didn't get your permission to post these two.....The red shirts come up nicely.

July 27, 2010

Airbrush Tatoos in BCF Sibu

While Miami Ink and L.A. Ink take the world by storm Sarawak Tattoo in its traditional ways make its mark on tourists who have read up about its exotic styles. In a quiet way Sarawak Traditional Tattooes have really make their mark on many people in the last and present centuries!!

Youth in particular are interested in something trendy. So the BCF booth promoting airbrush tattooing got quite a big following. I decided to drop by to take a few photos and enjoy the multi-racial crowd which happened to be both young and old. I blended in quite well actually. A friend got one for her ankle and she looked very trendy indeed...and happy that she had one...

A couple was willing to let me photograph their newly acquired temporary tattoo...

A template is used.

Airbrush the ink on....

Here's the whole pattern...

After removing another template here is a beautiful tattoo....

Sibu is changing.

July 26, 2010

"Exchange Road" Today

When we were young there was a road called Exchange Road connecting the most famous road in Sibu in my opinion - the Island Road - and  Pulau Road. As primary school kids we would take this road whenever we wanted to use a smaller and less congested road to go to the only sports field then - the King George Memorial Ground when it was first built and then later named The Duke of Edinburgh's Memorial Ground in honour of the Duke of Edinburgh's visit in 1962. Later this padang changed its name to Padang Datuk Pattinggi Tuanku Bujang. Today the whole padang is gone and on it stands the tallest building of Sarawak - the Sanyan Building.

On  both sides of the small link road were big and deep ditches. Adults and children would look for fresh water snails (their lunch or dinner)in these ditches. At high tide the ditches would be full. When floods swept over the whole of Sibu town cars would even drive into the dtiches and lorries would have to be called to pull them out. And funnily several of us had actually fallen into the ditches because we were in a hurry. I can still hear the bicycle bells ringing  frantically to signal hurriedness or danger as I write this. I had always wondered why it was called the Exchange Road.

Lovely Meranti trees growing in a row  now make a pretty picture along this road which is called Jalan Sanyan. They do make a nice border and a good landmark for people to watch out for.

 There is only one senior government quarters left standing in this part of Sibu now. This used to be a senior government quarters for senior Colonial Officers and later senior Malaysian government officers. iThe quarters used to have a separate unit for their amah and houseboy or cook. While the officers might be transferred out of Sibu the househelp stayed permanently.

 At one time we were so poud that one of the local Sibu Foochows became a very senior officer in the government service and he and his family lived here. Unfortunately he was too high up for many to say hi to. This is still a norm as one moves away from certain social circles one becomes alienated from the lower ranks. Few people can mix well amongst different circles - the usual excuse would be "no time".

Thus at a very young age I learned that we could not simply call any one a relative if he was highly placed in the government. That was the time I learned about keeping social distances. Even if we were related to these high  officials we could not visit them because we had to "keep our distances".  Because we lost our father early in our life we found it even hard to "recognise our relatives" for fear they would say  that they did not know us.  We too needed to have our "face" saved...My mum's greatest mission in life is to protect her children.'s well being and thus we were told not to do certain things like visiting people or relatives uninvited or to take food from people. Those were the days!!

 During the confrontation and communist days this particular house had a guard who helped to buiild even more social walls.

A car park here generates good income (perhaps for Maksak or another company).

By the way the  older Foochows used to call the Governor Tui Wong (King) and Resident - Ni Wong (Second King). The District Officer was the San Wong (third king). I wonder how many still remember this. I used to smile whenever my grand uncles and aunties talked in this a long time ago. Nowadays it would be Tansili or Latuksli or Latuk.....in the Foochow dialect when we drop big names.

I believe many of my contemporaries will remember this area and the kind of security it has throughout our secondary school days. Later many changes took place here because of changes in governments and government policies.

July 25, 2010

Revisiting Wong Nai Siong's First Sunrise in Sg Merah

Wong Nai Siong came with agriculturalists who were dirt poor but willing to meet the challenges of a new Nanyang. No one amongst them was an artist or a poet. A few were literate. Wong Nai Siong himself was highly educated. Later as the pioneers prospered they sent for educated men to come and teach in the schools they established. One of the schools established here was the Kwong Ang School.

I wonder how they felt on their first sunrise in Sg. Merah.

Here are four shots of mine taking from different angles over a few minutes. The sun rises fast in an equatorial land and it is hard to capture its colours.

Standing on the porch of the  holiday villa I was staying in I watched the sunrise in its pinkness with perhaps too much clouds. The street lamp was still on.

Walking a little further away the pink colours contrast with the dark shadows.

More light.

I took more of the electrical wires.

After a few moments the rain came suddenly making the grass very wet . The opportunity to take more sunrise photos was lost....and perhaps another time I would be able to take better photos with even more glorious colours. Chasing sunrises in Sg. Merah was quite an experience! I am sure the spirit of Wong Nai Siong and his pioneers must be smiling.

July 24, 2010

Chinese Classical Scholars of Sibu

I had an opportunity this year to visit  Sibu's annual Borneo Cultural Festival which is always held in  July.

There was a good photographic exhibition organised by the Sibu Photographic Society. However this year it was also held in conjunction with exhibitions by the  local Chinese Calligraphic society and the Art Society.

This kind of exhibition would draw many like minded people and those with a curious mind. And after the opening ceremony I was delighted to meet up with an old Methodist School Colleague Mr. Hii Lik Kwong.

He has so many former students from Chung Cheng coming up to take photographs with him. Mr. Hii is a good Chinese scholar. And he also has a keen mind to learn about everything. Mr. Hii taught in the Methodist Secondary School until he retired not too long ago.

Although Mr. Ting Lik Hie did not teach me (He was a teacher in the Methodist Chinese Primary School ) I remember him as a man whose calligraphy is world famous. He and my uncles and aunts were good friends and colleagues. Here he stands next to his friend Mr. Hii.

Although Sibu is fairly large we can still cross paths with lots of former teachers and colleagues. It has been a great honour to meet up with them and chat with them about old times.

It is now more and more difficult to find classical scholars like these two who embraced Confucian way of learning and teaching.  Both had come from the old Chinese system of learning in the early days of Sibu and had lived through the difficult days of the Japanese occupation when all education stopped and learning was just a few hours of Japanese language learning  Japanese- run temporary schools. Besides holding calligraphy brushes and pens they also held rubber tapping knives and axes in their younger days.

Struggling Chinese scholars then went to Taiwan for an overseas education only to come back to the then Colonial Sarawak to earn a small pittance. Later they had to retrain in Sarawak Teacher's Training College in Sibu to be certified  as "trained" teachers. Their starting salary was $180.00 with the then Teacher's Provident Fund. And yet they have been able to send their children for higher education overseas very much on their own effort. Today they have a small pension from the Federal Government.

We must seize this kind of opportunity to be gracious and warm towards them. Often people forget to show gratitude to these  teachers who in their humble ways sacrifice their whole life for the love of teaching and especially in instilling good values and virtues amongst several generations of students.

July 23, 2010

Ministers' Breakfast Menu at Choon Seng in Sg. Merah

Sg. Merah - the place where the Pioneering Foochows first set foot on in 1901.

Today it is fast changing. Besides good historical background it is also a place where ministers and politicians will have breakfast like ordinary people.

Go to Choon Seng Coffee shop and order : Ministers' Breakfast Menu Set and you get this

Great Local Coffee (White) and very sweet because it is made with condensed milk.....

You also get slices of toasted bread oozing with butter and kaya.

This is Mr. Wong - not Minister Wong. (I think half of Sibu is Wong) Meng Lei normally drinks Chinese Tea...but for this occasion he is giving himself a treat.

Feature writer Yong Gien Hwong taking a photo of Mr. Goh - the Coffee Barista who has been in the coffee making business since he was 7 years old.

So give it a try....See you at Choon Seng Coffee Shop.

July 22, 2010

De-leafing of Cangkok Manis

I often pass by this corner shop on my way to work. This Foochow lady is very interesting and often cares to chat a little. I normally would stop longer if I were the only customer. It strikes me as very interesting as she pulls the leaves off the mani chai (sayur manis or changkok manis).
This is the only stall in Miri I think that sells cangkok manis leaves only and by weighing. She will sit down there diligently and pull away all the leaves from the stalks. In Foochow the verb is "lak" or pull the leaves off a stalk.

Here she is helping to de-leaf the mani chai or cangkok manis and place the nice leaves into a plastic bag for a customer. In other places the customer will buy all cangkok manis with stalks.

Cangkok manis is an unusual green which is very sweet when stir fried with eggs or some balacan. I like it in sup terjun (prepare a tasty soup base and when the soup is boiling throw in the leaves).

I have even replaced the spinach with cangkok manis when a made quiche years ago. Came out very nice ....

Years ago when I was young all my neighbours' kids would be beaten by their mothers using these cangkok manis stalks. It was really a painful business. I was lucky to come from a home where parents did not believe in beating of children.

Cangkok manis strangely is not popular in West Malaysia and apparently only a few families plant it according to a friend. To me it is a good ingredient for pan mien (hand made noodles) and mee sua......

Which photo appeals to you?

July 21, 2010

River Teku's Pink Enchantment

 Sg. Teku was settled by a group of Heng Hua people in 1912. The Methodist Heng Hua pioneers were very hardworking and cleared the area between Sg. Merah and Sg. Teku in no time. The community prospered as rubber prices shot up by the invention of the motor car (Ford). A Church (Methodist Sik Ang Tong) and a school (Kian Hing) were established. Later the Sg. Teku Methodist Clinic provided very good service to the local Ibans and the Heng Hua settlers too. A few wooden shops were built on the west bank of Sungei Teku  to encourage the ubiquitous bicycle and tyre shops and sundry shops.Today Sg. Teku has become suburban but the old shops although abandoned are still there.... Many of the rubber trees are still standing tall.

More than 40 years ago my classmates and I cycled all the way to Sg. Teku to visit our classmate Ling Teck Choon. The Sg. Teku was a big stream to us then and we enjoyed a small picnic. The naughty boys took a dip in the cold and red water. We girls were too scared and any way we were not prepared to swim. It would be nostalgic for me to see Teku again - this time in a Toyota !! It would have been great if we had ridden bicycles. But we were hard pressed for time. By the way I can still cycle in the Sibu Style : ride a bicycle and carry an opened umbrella for shade.

Thus I  was given a guided tour by Rajang Basin (Meng Lei) and Yi Fang (See Hua Daily News) to Sg. Teku to see how much this area has developed. So much change has taken place.(PHotos taken by Nikon Coolpix). In a way Meng Lei is like my genie in the lamp - my wishes could be granted.

 Sg. Teku surprised me. I was given a welcoming gift - the sight of several patches of pink flowers in the river.

These two photos are by Meng L's Pentax (rumoured to be the only one in Sibu)

"Pretty as a picture" is my caption for Meng Lei's photo....Seeing this watery scene transported me to an enchanted forest...

Thanks to Meng Lei for his photos...

And if only at night there were fire flies....my cup runneth over.

Sibu Tales : Making Bah Gui from Scratch

The pioneering families of Sibu Foochows continued to practise the  adoption of girls from poor families who become their maids (slaves). ...