August 31, 2010

Old Butcher Shop in Krokop

Krokop in Miri started off as an immigrant's settlement. Here Chinese of different descent especially Hokkien and Hakka came to settle down and build their wooden houses for their growing families in the 1910's. Their main occupation was rearing domestic animals like poultry and pigs to meet the growing demand of the expanding Miri which had then discovered oil. And with a fairly benevolent Brooke government at that time many new people were arriving in this once fishing village.

Along this Krokop or Chu Pah (Pig Farm) wells were dug for personal use (in fact each early household had one I heard) and safe potable water was supplied by Shell and the old SESCO in Pujut 1. Many older people remember bringing their tins with their bicycles and even "bian dan" to carry water. Some men even made some money out of carrying water for others. The river water was murky and salty. However some dug wells only for washing and bathing. Drinking water was thus from the safe water from Shell and SESCO (or government)

Did the Malays and Meriaks have the same stories of where their ancestors get their water supply? Did they also have wells?

I remember this old wooden shop house well. Today upstairs or first floor continues to be  the dwelling place of the towkay and family. Downstairs is still the sundry shop and kitchen.This wooden building is next to the Krokop Chung Hua Primary school which was established in 1946.

This photo shows the shop from the outside. Students and their parents still come here to buy drinks and some cooked food from the lady operator. The stand  and meat  hooks used by the original pork seller are still there.

This shop used to have a fresh pork outlet more than ten years ago. And I used to pop into this window to buy my pork whenever I passed by this place. There were two reasons I would drive through Krokop when I first came to Miri: I was on my way to visit a friend  who lived in Piasau Camp and also to take my family to shop at Ng Siang Hap(a huge supermarket in those days and is larger today) next to the Piasau Bridge. If it was a school holiday it would be very convenient to buy meat from this old towkay....the white tiles which acted as his table are still there.

The other shop window is now all planked up and Celcom banner flies over it. It was actually kind of sad when I took this photo. The shop "has closed its doors" in Hokkien ring very true in my ears. It is a pity really that time has speedily passed by and young consumers are looking through glass windows and loaving (lepaking) in huge malls.

Today the present generation of the family  continues to stay here  and also acts as one of the school canteen operators. Some drinks and tit bits are still being sold here. So it is more or less a convenience stor.

In a way I feel that this family has been serving thousands of - parents well in the hot afternoons especially. I like the idea of driving by and stopping for a cold drink. You don't even have to find a parking place.

Perhaps this was the first drive in butcher's in Sarawak. I would like to remember my experience in this way.

P/s I am glad to see that after all  these years the shop is still there but the old man has since retired - "too old to work now" according to a young relative. Mirians should be proud that they had an old butcher's outlet here to serve school children's was a very strategic place chosen by the proprietor to do his business.

August 30, 2010

Kampong Wireless - Embun Citra Cake House

At the end of the Kampong Wireless (another story coming up) is a delightful old time kampong like home store which sells delicious Sarawak Kuih Lapis (famous until KL bah).

This Embun Citra Cake House is owned by Ibu Siti and her young sons. It is definitely business by the river side or "tepian sungai"

Mother and Son....They have a good system of doing business . Normal days they operate a decent kedai makan (eating place) and during fasting month they close shop and make thousands of cakes and cookies for the Raya. They even have a few days of promotion in KL!!

Siti is sister to my university mate - Zainal Matassan Abidin. And the family was originally from Lawas. ZAM and his siblings grew up in Kampong Wireless when their father was transferred to Miri. And soon after Ibu Siti opened her shop many friends and relatives started to bring their guests to enjoy her food. As her children began to help her in her business their business started to expand and flourish!!

 Ibu Siti is generous and warm hearted! She is very helpful and above all very kind and understanding.

This is their signboard at the end of Kampong Wireless in Miri.

Their excellent promotion for their cakes.

These are their signature cookies.

One of my all time favourite - dodol

All cakes are placed in their several freezers.

Samples of their kek lapis Sarawak....They have pretty names. So check it out for yourself by going their. Their doors are always open like all olden day kampong houses....

Pretty and friendly Ibu Siti. And what I really liked when Naomi and I visited her place was her openness in allowing us to photograph anything we liked or ask any questions we wanted!! Her sons were very hospitable too. When we were there she had so many customers and yet she never lost her wide smile.

You get more than your money's worth. You get to see a river view. You can even sit there and enjoy the scenery or the boats which pass by. When it is not the fasting month you can order your coffee and drink in the beauty as well as your fix!! A few months back when I was there in the evening I told my friends that life would be just so good if I have a place like this too...just a small hut will do by the river side....By the way....there is broadband here.

Some reflections too....

And she is landscaping the place to ensure that you get a good equatorial rainforest feel. The sons use nibong stumps for their decorations too. I think one day her children might even have a great dining place within an art gallery.

So do give her and her sons your support this coming Hari Raya.....or any other day throughout the year!

August 29, 2010

Twirls of Potato Goodness....

Want to have some new business ideas? Creative thinking helps an enterprising business student to come up with a good plan for his future business.

What can one doe with a potato from the good earth?

Mashed potato - potato chips- potato salad - potato pie - potato puffs - etc....

What about these twirls?

These are twirls of goodness...and exciting to look at !! Your head goes round and round looking at them.

Do you know how to make them?

Here's the lady who can cut one potato into twirls like this with a sharp knife. Can you do the same thing?

find out more in Taiwan!! Synthesis......Some bright business student thought of this idea.....

August 28, 2010

Kapok for your pillows

Years ago before supermarkets and departmental stores started to sell imported rubber foam pillows (Dunpillo) most of our mothers bought kapok by the katis made our own pillows.

Kapok is a natural fibre from a huge tree and I would consider that it is better than any other man made fibres for pillow making.

When I was young I loved my kapok pillows after they had been sun dried for a few hours in the hot tropical sun. The smell of freshness was heavenly and the aroma of the healthy sun and the smells of the outdoors filled the air of the bedroom for the whole night!! As I slept on the sun dried pillows I would have better dreams.

Today the smell of sundried pillows will still bring back lots of memories of yesteryears and of grandmothers chatting with aunts in the kitchen while waiting for chicken soup to boil or kuihs to cook in the steamer!!

It will also bring back memories of giggly girls whispering interesting stories in big beds - big enough for five little girls under the mosquito net!!

i must say kapok is still the best material to use for pillows to this day!!

August 27, 2010

Is it a Brinjal?

The proprietor of Luak Bay Mini Mart who is Marudi-born said that he did not know what this plant was and I was very welcome to take photos of it. It is very fulfilling when shop keepers welcome a photographer who seems to be lurking around the corners of s shop lot looking for Chinese cultural artifacts or Chinese momentoes. He and his wife were very cooperative and supportive of my interest.Sometimes he would jokingly ask "Haven't you photographed enough yet?"

This is the first time I have seen a plant like this. Probably a bird dropped off some seeds here. The soil is extremely fertile at the end of a block of shops in Luak Bay of Miri. In a few days I hope I can get to cut up the fruit and see what is inside. It would be another kind of brinjal I suspect. But I could be very wrong.

This is the fruit after the yellow trumpet like flower drops off.

This is a small fruit before it is full grown.

This is the young yellow flower before it opens.

This is the whole plant - look at how green the leaves are!!

A view of another flower before it opens. The stalks and branches are deep purple.

Could any one help by giving the name of this plant and can the fruit be eaten?

With a parting shot the proprietor told me that he would like to know the name of the plant. I hope I can find that out soon.

August 26, 2010

Baby Boy Photos - Foochow Style

For the past few generations amongst the Foochows in Sibu it has always been the joy of parents to photograph their baby boys in the buff especially in a bath tub. You can call this parental pride or glory for having a male child in those earlier days. And it can also be called a photographic keepsake of a baby's maleness.

A picture like this brings a lot of smiles definitely. No doubt some of you might even have a photo of yourself when you were babies (male or female) in different cute poses in a bath tub.

However in retrospection I really feel that it  indeed is very significant is that the baby's first bath time is momentous . As a new parent I had my camera ready to take photos of my babies when they were born and when they were having their baths.And I am sure now in this digital age many parents are even more ready with  their camera to take photos of their new baby boy (especially)!

There many different poses parents can put the child in e.g. baby in towel - father bathing baby - father and mother bathing baby etc...All these photos would enrich the photo album and the memory of the child. Most of us remember things and events up to four or five years. So it is good to  snap baby photos for the baby as keepsakes.

Here's a beautiful one - baby boy in a blue tub. (Baby girls in pink tubs..)

And to day we not only have photo albums but Face Book Albums!! As I look at my former student's Facebook I just can't help but fall in love with her new baby boy....and this is such a beautiful baby photo...which I am sure will be treasured by all.

These are other photos I collected from the Internet for my post today. I hope you can see how happy babies are when they are in their bath.

And kudos to Mag for taking beautiful photos of her children and thanks for giving me the permission to use the photo ....And may angels protect baby boy always. Happy memories. And I do hope that all these innocent babies would have happy childhood surrounded by good parents who only want the best for them.

August 25, 2010

Lunch Break

What is the life of street cleaners like? Have you ever given them a thought for a moment in your life?

Most of the ladies I meet are friendly and cheerful. They go around working very diligently. I have never indeed met any of them sitting down by the road side. Nor have I met any group of them forming a circle of chattering and laughing females. All of them get the thumbs up from me.

Sometimes the good MMC has a shed for baskets and homemade brooms used by these street cleaners. And in the afternoons I get to see some of them sleeping in the shed. The poor ladies can only have some privacy by using their broad sun hats.

Most of them come from the squatter areas around Miri. If they can afford to buy the expensive urban houses they would not be working as street cleaners if you ask me. The squatter homes in Canada Hill many years ago supplied good household help and temporary help for hotels and coffee shops. But today many of these people have been moved else where like Kpg. Api Api and Tudan. Invariably whenever there is urban development squatter areas develop vis-a-vis urban expansion especially in Asia.

I remember my student days in Kuala Lumpur when many of my course mates came from the sqatter area of KL. That was the only life style they knew. But over time their families moved out of their old homes as they became more upwardly mobile. By hardwork and by concerted government action KL was slowly cleared of their enormous squatter population after about 30 years! But little squatter areas also crop up whenever such demographic dynamics can thrive!! One such squatter area is the water villages of Kota Kinabalu. Such forces are hard to predict  and difficult to solve without careful study.
Too much on this at this point.....

It is really up to the government to choose between harsh stringent rules and regulations or a more enlightened caring and balanced system. There should be checks and balance of course. But could squatter areas be the result of other social ills?

I do hope that our community will continue to give our appreciation to these ladies who keep our roads free of rubbish and dead leaves AND OTHER RUBBISH THROWN OUT FROM CARS. And I hope that MMC will continue to have small sheds like these built for these workers who actually form a very important unit to maintain our town's cleanliness.

August 24, 2010

Homeward bound with the harvest

This post is dedicated to the Chinese women farmers of Sarawak!! I would like to thank them for providing us with food diligently as they work hard in the sun and rain every day....and chasing away insects and pests...they are showing us the true way of life - work hard - produce food - and rest well at the end of the day. Joy is watching nature bursting with flowers and seeds  and sharing the same atmosphere with mankind. Man and nature at peace!

Enjoy these frames as I did taking photos of her!! She is a woman with a good heart. Follow her with my lenses from the side.

Each step of hers was purposely and steady as our life should be. And in front she has this wonderful crop of long beans. There are more growing on the bean stalks!!
The weeds on the ground are like our challenges which creep into our lives and tormenting us. But as strong men and women we have to destroy them to the best of our ability.

The road is rough as our life's journey is rough.

Home is where the heart is as one poet wrote. At the end of the day she gets some rest and enjoy the fruit of her labour.

It was a warm evening with a brilliant sun. And making a short trip to visit her was indeed a rewarding thing to do.

Small farmers eek out a simple living out of the soil. They are green people and do not necessarily destroy our earth. Small farms are beautiful and safe. The world is surviving because of wise people who hold on to beliefs in returning to the basics and going small. Micro credit is in helping millions of women in South Asia to triumph over poverty. Small farms are in. Simple weekly markets even in London are in. People go for miles to search for the impeccable organic fruit. And for health reasons many even grow our own vegetables so that we are not eating pesticides.

And I hope that our community will continue to support safe farming and the small farmers.

Finally urbanites should spend more time in a farm away from the stresses of a city.

August 23, 2010

60 Year Old Bridal Gifts

60 years ago my father's first cousin Ah Ling Koo married a Mr. Lau . Even though it was a match made marraige love and mutual respect grew in the years which followed. They could not have been happier as they met challenges bringing up their children and moulding them into good citizens. They have lots of Foochow role models to follow according to her. In her very humble ways she often talked about her hardships during the Japanese occupation and later how she and her husband made ends meet. But she had great pride of her own parents who gave her the best that they had. She was given 3 bridal gifts. Not too many and not too few. And these she treasured.

Amongst the bridal gifts that she received and brought over to the Lau family are these two items - a hand crafted wooden bed made in Sibu and a dressing table (the mirror never broke ). It is her pride that she still sleeps in her bed every night and uses the mirror every day. I am wondering if these two could be items that could be metaphors/images for good marriage. A solid wooden bed which blessed my aunt with many children and now grandchildren and a mirror which brought good luck?

She still uses her thin cotton mattress over which she puts a rush mat from China. In the olden days she had a mosquito net overhead. Now with mosquito netting for windows the whole house is protected. However mosquito netting for beds has become very popular again in 5 star hotels in most tropical countries especially those having lots of island paradises.

This is the pretty 1930's Shanghai style oval mirror of her dressing table. Every part is still in perfect condition. My aunt is one person whom I know treasure her belongings and take care of all her household items well.

She still has several water reed (rush) mats from China. These are warm in winter and cool in summer. Very eco-friendly mats indeed!! (Look into the mirror.)

It is from Ah Ling Koo that I learned a great deal about our precious customs and life styles of the Foochows in the olden days in Sibu.

My own paternal grandmother's grave is just next to her mother's in Sibu.Sometimes I wonder how my grandmother and her mother lived and worked in Sibu  from 1909 to 1930's. How did they spend their leisure hours ? Did they visit each other often?

Cultural articacts are getting rarer now and I believe we should really value them for posteriority.

August 22, 2010

A cup of RM 1 Kopi -0 with Reflections

After Three Kopitiam is the new kid on the block where kopitiams are concerned in Miri.

As Ghosty Nana has mentioned in her blog this new place replaces the old hawkers' stalls which replaced a car park in the space between the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Old Standard Chartered Bank. These transformations have been taking place for about 20 years.

However one of the most unpleasant transformation was the siting of a public toilet right at the end of this "businesses in the middle". This leads to the question - where are the best places to locate 5 star public toilets in Miri? And how far apart should public toilets be from each other? World Toilets Council should give out a handbook on their guidelines.

This is the attraction of the moment given by After Three : Kopi O is only  RM  1 (Make sure you order CUP with saucer and say SMALL or RM l.00. Or point to the menu. I was given the bigger and costlier cup the second time I went there. Sometimes sign language is useful too.)

I managed to capture the reflections in my cup. Waiting for my kopi 0 to cool a little and looking at the reflections I was inundated by happy memories. This is triple vision. Seeing visions through the reflections in a cup of coffee.

This is a pleasant shot of employees having a rest. The orange brand colour looks nice framing the dark colours in side. White comes out beautifully too. However it was difficult to align the bamboo and the steel rods inside. Lots of contrasts.

I ordered my Sichuan Smoked Duck and noodles. The fruit is free. Fork and spoon come with the large plate in this way.

After Three...but the outlet is opened before Three ...

View from inside.

Shooting at each other : William Ting and Ghosty Nana.

Upper Window...outside is the 5.30 sunlight in Miri.
A couple on motorbike viewed through the string curtains . This is another benefit you get - when you sit inside you can watch all vehicles passing by - from the market to either another part of Miri by going  left or to Canada Hill and beyond by going  right.

But the crowd and the serving staff are too noisy - I suppose as kopitiam should be - every one talks very loudly and the noise is not absorbed by the glass windows. So it is not a place for you to have a quiet time.

Any way it was a fun evening with  good friends . A place at the moment to be seen in and be happy at......No harm giving it a try if you can find a parking place. BE warned that you may take more than half an hour. Come AFTER FIVE and park near the Catholic Church.

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). ...