April 30, 2012

Romancing the Pipa in Xian You

"Wah...never ever saw pipa?"

It was spring when we arrived. Just in time for the pipa season. Travelling through the countryside was just the right thing to do in spring. and what a delight for us the "Nanyang returnees" and relatives from distant lands. We were very enthusiastic in photographing the pipa and knowing everything about the fruit to the amusement of our hosts. Our team members went down the valley and up the hill slopes to get good shots of the fruit and even the trees and especially the pretty fruit picker..

Luckily there is no sign which says "NO PENTAX" (In Sibu there was once an sign for NO CAMERA - and the Pentax was the camera used for the sign. At that time our Chief had just bought his Pentax...and it caused a lot of laughter in Sibu) ......this time in this farm. Otherwise our Chieftain Meng Lei could not take good photos.

Pipa is now grown all over Fujian especially in Putien and Xian You This fruit is very expensive in Fuzhou at the moment. Also known as the loquat (play /ˈlkwæt/), Eriobotrya japonica, it is in the family Rosaceae. It was formerly thought to be closely related to the genus Mespilus, and is still sometimes known as the Japanese medlar. Other names are Japanese plum and Chinese plum.

The pipa has been cultivated in China for over 1,000 years and has been introduced to Hawaii
The pipa was often mentioned in ancient Chinese literature, such as the poems of Li Bai. In Portuguese literature, it is mentioned since before the Age of Discovery.
The Malaysians love Pipa Gao枇杷膏 which is soothing for the throat and acts as an expectorant. It is good for indigestion and asthmatic attacks.

I have just been told that pipa also has some sedative effects lasting up to 24 hours. No wonder I could sleep so well during this trip - snoring and all. 
(sources - from Wikipedia)


You need any help?

You need any help? (hahaha two different photos - same caption)
3 kg RMB 10.00 - fresh from the tree....and from the basket too..You can choose what you like...We found out the ugly ones are very sweet. The pretty ones are very sour!! There you go....
A grandmother brings her family's pipah to sell from door to door. "Since it is a great season we are giving  away some and selling some." In Chinaese it is half give half sell or 50% off. I would not mind helping her carry her bian dan but I might not be strong enough due to lack of training. All the pipa will be on the road in no time....Both baskets would be at least 30 kgs.

It is really good to be in Fujian countryside during Spring!!

April 29, 2012

Blue Mountain Coffee in Xiamen Univeristy

It is not every day that you get together with two wonderful senior professors in Xiamen University who happen to be "overseas Chinese returnees" and who intellectually excelled in their fields for more than four decades in post Communist and now modern China.  Being such gracious people they even set up a meeting in a nice "western cafe" which serves Blue Mountain Coffee!!

Both of them understand that we "returnees" from Nanyang are more likely to order KOPI in the morning. That was really thoughtful of them. Actually that was my first cup EVER of Blue Mountain Coffee. I was really really humbled and touched. Blue Mountain coffee beans happen to be (at the present moment) the most expensive and sought after coffee beans in the world..
A cup of Blue Mountain Coffee in Xiamen Univeristy Cafe (within the Run Run Shaw Building)
Interviewing Professor Chen Yiming

It was a brilliaint and cool morning. The mists hanged low and photography where a little bit of sun peepsed through some trees gave us some good shots!! As we had risen early we had been walking around  the Xiamen university drinking in the beauty of the most magnificent campus of all China. This was our first real mainland China day after our long haul  flight from Sarawak (16 hours with a long lay over in KL).

An arrangement had been made by Prof Xu for us to meet up with renown Migration Historian of Xiamen Unverisity Professor Chen Yiming who was Riau (Indonesia) born. She had spent a large part of her childhood in Singapore. She "returned" to China in 1956 to embark on her university students. By then Xiamen University was very appealing to overseas Chinese and furthermore the university education was free!! Although her parents had come from the Hainan Island she had actually stayed in the island for less than 30 days in her life!

And so over a cup of Blue Mountain Coffee we talked about our topic - the History of the Migration of the Heng Huas from Putien to Sibu (Sarawak)on 20 th May 1912 led by Rev William N. Brewster.

 Professor Chen exudes the gentle beauty of a Chinese educated woman and shows us the excellence of a great mind.

................................................................................This is extracted from Wikipedia for you:...........................

Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee or Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is a classification of coffee grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. The best lots of Blue Mountain coffee are noted for their mild flavour and lack of bitterness. Over the last several decades it has become one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees in the world; over 80% of all Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is exported to Japan (Now that China is opening up to Blue Mountain Coffee...the world is very short of it now. Prices will boom certainly.)

It is a globally protected certification mark, meaning only coffee certified by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica can be labeled as such. It comes from a recognised growing region in the Blue Mountain region of Jamaica, and its cultivation is monitored by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica.

The Blue Mountains are generally located between Kingston to the south and Port Antonio to the north. Rising to 2,300 metres (7,500 ft), they are some of the highest mountains in the Caribbean. The climate of the region is cool and misty with high rainfall. The soil is rich, with excellent drainage. This combination of climate and soil is considered ideal for coffee.

Two enviable bags of Blue Mountain Coffee beans...properly certified...photo from Wikipedia...

April 28, 2012

Military Court and Kapok in Kinmen

Kin Men is an island just  2 km from Xiamen. You can reach it by ferry from Xiamen which is also an island itself. There are several ferry rides each day but it is also dependent on weather forecast. Sometimes the fog is so thick that the ferry does not go across. A ferry ride is quite an experience - people from all walks of life and loud tourists do not form a good pleasant  group. It is also useful to bring lots of Taiwanese dollars. If you can you should spend two whole days and stay a night at a fairly well recommended hotel.

Besides a nice oyster noodle lunch I enjoyed one spectacular place in Kinmen - the Qing Military Court Museum and its beautiful Kapok tree at the back.

Spring is a good time to visit Kin Men - temperatures are mild at about 18 degrees celcius...This gives you a good time to walk all over the places you wish to visit. Make sure you have a good taxi person or you have a good public transport schedule in hand.
Kapok flowers strewn on the clean back yard of the Military  Museum
Close up of two kapok flowers. (Mu Mien hua)
Photo from Wikipedia (in Punjab)
Kapok flowers on the roof of the Qing Military Museum
The kies are usually cloudy making it quite hard to form a good photograph. The tree is at least 150 feet tall.
It must have been quite a traumatic experience to approach the Qing Magistrate in those days. Ordinary folks had been known to be beaten in the court to confess. Beheading was a common punishment. It is not difficult to imagine the sorry plight of defenceless poor women and children because many TV drama series produced by both Chinese and Taiwanese today feature such stories...Chinese legal system and especially its punitive systems have been well documented . 
Photo from google...
In the back yard tourists can sit down and rest under this kapok tree..it was really a poetic and romantic moment for me. It makes me want to come back again to enjoy this dramatic scenario again.

I met two young English teachers at this point. They have come from the USA and Britain and would look forward to another year of work. What a good way to spend one's youth teaching English!!

Set in Qing architectural back ground and graced by beautiful kapok flowers this special visit makes me feel as if I am within a TV drama .

Kin Men will be one lovely COOL spot in my life's journey!!

April 27, 2012

Unforgettable Kin Men Island - Lu Family's Oyster Noodles

Early morning oysters are harvested in Kinmen Island
Known as Quemoy in English this group of islands has graced many travellers' tales. Today it a popular tourist spot for both the Mainland Chinese and the Taiwanese. One must bring lots of Taiwan dollars to spend here.

Taiwan stations as many as 55,000 troops on the offshore island of Kinmen [Quemoy]. Since the Ming Dynasty, it has been called Jinmen, meaning a "strong gate as if made of gold", for the place was like a gate controlling the sea area. The people share the same traditional festivals with the mainlanders, especially Zhangzhou and Quanzhou people. 

Excellent Oyster Noodles of Kinmen Island . You start counting the oysters ..but you lose count because the noodles  is just so GOOD!! Even a picky eater like Steve Ling kept quiet and finish his bowl of noodles before every one else. That's a record.

Special plate of braised choices of meat and tauhoo...Also very good.

Very special braised items.
The shop owner and his family - The Lu Family reunion in Kin Men (Photo courtesy of Mr. Lu)
Mr. Lu of Kin Men Island and Mr. Wong from Borneo Island
The visit to Kin Men Island was really worth it. Xiamen is on an island itself. Kinmen Is is the second island on our itinerary. Two more islands to go to in the next few days...and lots of boat rides...it will be ok for someone like me who is very used to river boats and ferries.

April 26, 2012

Meeting Professor Xu Qiaozhen

It is not every day that one can meet an alumni in Sibu. Therefore it was all the more meaningful when you get to meet one in Xiamen on the first day of your arrival in China!! My grandmother's village was next to his (Tanjong Kunyit) and when he was in Senior Middle Three in the Chinese Department of the Methodist Secondary school in 1951-53 I was still a little girl living in Kerto.

In 2012 April 12th I had the opportunity to meet this remarkable Sibu born Physics Professor of Xiamen University.
A very simple cover of the Year Book (Sarawak Sibu Methodist  High School
 1954 class
Graduation Memorial/Remembrance Book (Note that the middle Chinese characters for Sarawak  is not the same as today's)
Prof Xu was  gracious when points out HIS PAGE in this posed photograph
Message from Mr. John Pilley (the Principal) in the Year Book

But what was even more incredible was the Year Book he brought to show my team!! 1953 Methodist Secondary School's Graduation "Memorial" Book contains many precious pages...and if you are interested you can see a copy of this (we made a full copy at the university copy centre) at the Methodist Message Office Library...You are always welcome to Tea and Bao Session on Mondays 4.-6 p.m. there with Wong Meng Lei as host...and enjoy turning pages and pages of reference books available there.
The Editorial Committee wrote very succintly about Prof Qu..."He is a very hardworking boy from a poor family. He was self supporting - working part time and studying at the same time. In the morning he went to school and in the afternoon he taught in another school  and did everything possible to earn a few cents..."

In 1956 when China promoted its new government and new ways..Prof Qu saw his opportunity to seek a FREE UNIVERSITY EDUCATION he quickly took a slow boat and arrived in Xiamen. Thus he began his brilliant career in Physics which at that time was in need of good brains like his.

He servered Xiamen Univeristy until his retirement. Now he is Vice Secretary General of Xiamen Senior Professors Association and Chief Supervisor of Xiamen Solidarity of Retunred Overseas Chinese from Malaysia. He is also Secretary General of Xiamen MEMS Research Society. He continues to be Professor of the Physics Department of Xiamen Unviersity.

He and his wife continue to live within the university campus.

I was so so touched by his kindness towards our team. He came to the airport to receive us at 9 p.m!!. Took us to a VIP Cafe where we enjoyed  Blue Mountain Coffee - a special brew and very expensive per cup in the morning when he arranged for a meet up with another professor  who has special interests in our work...and then when we departed the next day for Xian Yew he came to say good bye even though he had only a few minutes to spare before a meeting.

He has indeed lived up to the Methodist School Motto in his very special way and capacity


(P/s another similar story is available in Steve Ling's blog "Going Places".)

April 25, 2012

Mrs. Elizabeth Brewster in Sibu 1938

Ling Ngae Chuaong is now 83 years old and living just outside Sg. Merah in Sibu in an area which was once designated by the Brooke Government as Heng Hua Bah (Village). Blog owner of Rajang Basin visted him three weeks ago to trace the history and origins of the Heng Hua Pioneering families (22.05.1912 and 17.6.1913) of Sibu.
Mrs. Elizabeth Brewster (the Mother of the HengHuas) came to visit Sibu and her beloved Heng Hua  People in 1938.  The then 10 year old Ling Ngae Chuang  is standing on Mrs. Brewster's  left. This is a historically valuable photo for the Ling family. By 1938 the hard working Heng Hua pioneers have already cultivated rice and rubber and established their churches and schools in Sibu. They had married and had children Mr. Ling Sing Wei (who arrived on 17.6.1913) looked very prosperous standing tall and smart looking at the back in typical Tang or Chinese suit. Mrs. Brewster had taken off her sun hat to have the photo taken)
She must have felt so proud of her husband and his far sighted ideas and Mr. Ling Sing Wei

Between 1949 and 1951 she applied to the Chinese Government to allow her to continue to live amongst her beloved Heng hua people in Putien but her application was rejected. She finally left China in 1951 and later died in the United States. Many Putien people still remember her good work and sacrifices. Rev Ling King Yong who is now 92 years old in Du Wei of Putien remembers her presence during his wedding in 1941. Mrs. Ling passed away in 2011. (more on Rev Ling in a  later post)

I hope with this photo many of the descendants of Mr. and Mrs. Ling Sing Wei would come forward to contribute more information and historical facts to build up a good history of the Heng Hua People of Sibu!! Please contact Mr. Wong Meng Lei  of Sibu.

April 20, 2012

Bubuk for Sale in Bintulu - CASH n CARRY

A photo essay.....

Bubuk or tiny shrimps - only found in Malaysian waters and especially near Bintulu and Miri
Fishermen set up their own stalls...10 kg. already weighted and ready...real CASH and CARRY...
Chinese red rice yeast already pounded finely for the colouring for beleacan
The fresh and lovely bubuk...sometimes it can be RM 30 for 10 kg...sometimes it is only RM10  for 10 kg...but  the best belacan is from Bintulu and you must never argue with any one from Bintulu about this ...5 kg of bubuk makes about 1.5 kg of belacan and it takes a few days to pound and dry in the sun - pound and dry in the sun....the stronger the sun the better the belacan....

April 18, 2012

Nang Chong Stories : Plank Walks

Lovely scenes from Lau Pang Sing Jetty and the Nang Chong Cooperative....

Common plank walk in Nang Chong...Man's challenge and response  in Sarawak.....This is strong enough for  a good Honda Motorcycle and lots of bicycles...

Google map of the small stream I had to cross from my grandmother's house in Nang Chong to buy stuff at the Nang Chong Cooperative. The Cooperative was washed away by the erosion..and today a long plankwalk gpes acrpss tje stream where originally there was a good bridge..and right to the Wong's home at the corner at the top on the right hand corner. Cars can drive right up to the house in the two houses at the top. The house with the red roof belongs to the Ling family. The Hook Ming Church is at the bottom of the aerial photo in blue.

wood debris on both sides of the plankwalk....at high tide - when we visited the  Wongs.
Lovely view from the plank walk.
a beautiful mangrove tree protecting the banks of the river.

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). ...