July 30, 2012

Nang Chong Stories : Rice Crust 锅巴

After the Second World War rubber price went sky high and the Foochow rubber tappers in Sarawak accumulated their wealth slowly from their labour. The Rajang River basin became a hive of busy rubber tapping and rubber sheets smoking. My grandmother and my uncles earned extra money by having one of the largest smoke houses in the Rajang.

Each time the rubber tappers left their homes in Nangchong with their bales of rubber sheets in motor launches their children would expect food supplies to come home in the evening. My grandmother would buy a gunny sack of rice which weighed 180 katies. Rice was merely $8.00 per gunny sack at that time. Hence she was always very accomodating to travellers who had a.long way to go ( and by foot). Often these travellers would stay for a lunch and then continue with their 8 hour homeward journey into the interior..or many would stay for the night. The Foochows would call this kind of preparedness and free meals Guo Dow Buong(Pass Lunch) or Guo Mang buong (Pass Night). Today it is B and B but with payments. In actual fact my grandmother gave a lot of guo dow buong and guo mang buong (rice) to innumerable people. Especially those from Tulai. She was generous with rice and other dishes. Grandmother Lian Tie was one of the most generous relatives I have ever known. She had two or three extra  tables in her kitchen. These tables could be taken apart and let stand at the side of the kitchen.

A gunny sack of rice in the 1940's and 1950's Sibu cost $8.00

The rice would be cooked over wooden fire in a large pot which was called Mook Kewk or buong kuo. What was amazing in those days was the layer of very hard rice at the bottom. this is called Buong Pah or rice crust. In Iban it is called Asi Kera. This layer would usually be given to the ducks and chickens (mixed together with coconut bits called Yah Koo. Corn bits only came later in the 60's.
Grandmother would sometimes have a bit of this rice crust (buong pa) with some sweet tea whenever she did not feel  well. I too make this special dish when I don't have an appetite.

And I thought what a marvellous person she was...her ducks ate what she ate too....This is indeed a very humane kind of  animal farming. In the longhouses the same practice continues. A lot of rice is given to the chickens and ducks and sometimes pigs. Rice grown by the local would be too costly to transport to the main towns for sale and the middle men get a good cut. So hill rice and swamp rice harvested by the Iban women is often shared with their farm animals. Some mini lorries charge exorbitant prices to transport the rice to the towns. So the poorer Iban padi farmers who do not have their own 4 wheel are quite handicapped. But their animals become the beneficiaries of their bumper harvest.
My children love eating the ASI Kera ( or rice crust) because it is very tasty on its own. And sometimes when a special sambal and fruit rojak are made the asi kera becomes a side dish!!

I have come a long way from Nang Chong and over the years technology has changed our perception and our attitude towards rice and rice crust....

Korean Seafood and Rice Crust Soup....

Some people enjoy eating  Rice Crust with Tea (Korean Restaurant)...

Most people avoid eating white polished  rice to protect themselves from diabetes.
Many use Japanese Rice cookers which do not give a layer of rice crust. So they do not know anything about asi kera/buong ba.
Many people eat out and so they have never seen rice crust.

And above all...people no longer use Mook Kewk or the old rice pot over wood fire stoves....These are all long gone from our lifestyle....

Can you remember the taste of rice cooked in Mook Kewk over wood or charcoal fire? Can you remember the taste of rice crust?

Perhaps you may have to go to a Korean or Japanese restaurant to eat what my grandmother used to eat in Nang Chong....

In my recent eating escapades  in Miri I have found out for myself how to get a piece of two of rice crust...by going to a real clay pot rice outlet..and ask them to cook the rice a little longer...and at the end of the meal I would scrape the bottom of the small clay pot and get the best pieces of rice crust...eat to my heart's content. I often wonder why this burnt bit of rice can be just so tasty and nostalgic....

Rice like grandmother used to cook....and later to be shared with the ducks and chickens...How humane !!

木甑 (Mù zèng)

July 24, 2012

Claypot Pumpkin Porridge

On a hot day I would think of cooking something that is cooling and easy to prepare. Most Foochows would  definitely have porridge on the top of their menu. Porridge is often cooked for those who do not have much appetite.

And today I am having pumpkin porridge cooked in a claypot.

Beautiful fresh pumpkin from the farm
Shredded pumpkin from a slice that is about 1/5 of the whole pumpkin..It does not matter how much you put in..the moe the better. You can even put in more pumpkin than rice (non-glutinous)!!
Add the shredded pumpkin to the cooked porridge Cover the claypot and cook for a further 10 minutes. Before serving add some salt and sesame oil
the pumpkin when cooked turns the soft rice into gold...A meal in a bowl!! Chinese Pumpkin Porridge

Cooking this porridge is easy and in fact even for a large family a good pot of it can even be for two meals. We usually make porridge for ten with one cup of rice and lots of water. Use any amount of pumpkin. You can boil a few salted eggs or normal eggs for extra treats.

A small claypot of porridge is easily done in about half an hour..and cleaning up is easy too because every one is served a bowl of it and it is a wholesome meal by itself. the porridge also has some bombay onions and superior stock..Pepper and chillies can help enhance the taste. This is a sweet porridge and is cooling .

(If you don't like the golden porridge..you can opt for a Jade Green Porridge....another post...watch this space!)

July 23, 2012

Wenchang Chicken


Can you remember who was the first Hainanese you know?

As a little girl I was very interested in knowing how my Hainanese uncle speak his dialect. And that was how I found learning a language wasn't that difficult. But since he spoke better Foochow we forgot all about speaking of Hainanese and as a busy business man he did not have time for little kids ..and furthermore my aunt was sickly and we needed to interact with her more.

 In fact he was so Foochow that everyone forgot that he was a Hainanese. (May he rest in peace). All his children speak Foochow. Recently I met up with another  relative who has been working in Hong Kong and has dealings with the Hainan Island. He brings many friends to visit the island too during his spare time.

He was the one who told me about Wenchang Chicken. And thus I remember how my Foochow Aunt cooked her chicken in a special way. The chicken is "white boiled" for about 40 minutes  when a skewer comes out of the thigh area clean...the chicken then lifted up and plunged into ice cold water. the chicken is then hanged for a while to be dried in room temperature.

the chicken has to be free range and kampong chicken...

How the skin gets to be yellowish and golden too depends on a sauce made up of ginger and soy sauce and a bit of chili and lengkuas (if you like) After chopping up the chicken like in the picture the sauce is rubbed on the skin before serving..

Another way of preparing this dish is to boil the chicken in fresh coconut juice. the shell of the coconut then becomes the soup bowl and the chicken is chopped and served separetly. I have tried cooking in this way and it is really nice.

In Hainan the kampong chicken is really free range and they run around freely and are reared until they are 8-9 months old before they are slaughtered for this restaurant dish. Discerning customers would know if the chicken is too young. In Malaysia we are served chickens which are only 2 kg in weight and 3 months in age which is actually not healthy food!!

The Wenchang chicken purported originated with an Emperor in the Qing dynasty who came to visit Wenchang . A court chef brought local chickens and cooked in this particular way for the Emperor who loved the dish so much that he made an edit and declare the dish an Imperial Dish called Wenchang chicken. The township flourished ..and the rest is history. Wenchang chicken is served in Guanzhou and the Hainan Island and even in Taiwan.

the Singapore/Hainan Chicken Rice is the name given to the rice..the way how it is cooked according to some chefs...the chicken served may not be Wenchang chicken (in preparation) as it is more the white boiled chicken of Guangzhou....But then we all can try to study the origins of our chicken dishes and the chicken rice that we like so much....

try cooking chicken in fresh coconut juice for your backyard!! But do prepare the very important sauce to drench the chicken before serving....The chicken should be free range and reared at least up to 6 months...

July 21, 2012

Ikan Kembong & Beef Soup

Ikan Kembong or Kan Bong Ngii is a favourite fish amongst the Malays and many Non Malays in Miri. And one of the favourite ways of cooking this very sweet fish is using banana leaves to wrap them and have the fish steamed or baked..or plain "charcoal grilled" like satay. To this fish is added a very spicy and chilli-hot sauce and the fish sort of cooks in a juicy sauce...The aroma brought forth by grilled banana leaves

add to the flavour of the fish. all the juices from the fish will be contained in the banana leaf wrap. Besides the banana leaf also helps the plant to be clean . And the fish is also protected from flies and other insects. What a neat way of cooking!!

the look of the dish is also very charming and attractive.

Another favourite dish is the beef and towgeh soup which could have originated from Thailand. the soup is darkened by soy sauce and the beef is boiled to absolutely tender and can be easily cut by a spoon!! An important ingredient is the use of lengkuas to help make the soup very nourishing. The crispy towgeh makes the dish very delightful. If you put in 50 cents worth of the sprouts or towgeh you already have your required vegetables for the meal.

Each time I make this soup or order this soup I would think of a Thai friend who used to live in Kampong Baru in Sibu. She was also my hairdresser and the wife a an Iban friend. Perhaps once a week or once a fortnight I would visit her to have my hair done. In those days my hair was still coal black...She would have been able to give me a good hair dying session today if she was in Miri..

.And of course this was the soup she taught me to make. She had a young son then and was most helpful in getting me a Malay traditional midwife to "arrange my womb" before I had my next baby...and I was given the "traditional post delivery bath" in her home!! I am eternally grateful to her for her moral support and kindness. She has a heart of gold. She can be said to be my first Thai friend in my life. Perhaps one day I would be able to meet up with her again if I have her contact as we have lost touch in the last 30 years and she has moved on in life... May be some one could help them.

A simple cucumber salad can complete the meal!!

Some rice with these two dishes would make an evening meal very comforting. How nice it is to celebrate the end of a hardworking day with two good and nourishing  rewards....

July 18, 2012

Nang Chong Stories : Pearl Powder for children

Do you remember how your mother and the neighbourhood aunty would try to get you to take some pearl powder?

I still remember such goings on along the streets where we used to live. Ah Hang's Mother (Mrs. Lau) would suggest that it was a good cure for post fever besides a good bowl of duck soup to revitalize the body after a long illness. I did suffer some long illnesses when in primary school. So I had my share of pearl powder and a few expensive ducks.

Pearl powder( 珍珠粉pinyinzhēnzhū fěn) has long been prepared and sold in the Sibu Chinese medicine shops since the beginning of Chinese sinseh's appearance. One of these  sinseh was my great grandfather who had a small practice as a sinseh who could select herbs for his "patients" after he "felt their pulses". In his later years he enjoyed the company of Western doctors according to family elders.

When my brother and sister suffered from fits as a result of high fever my mother would prepare a small teaspoon of pearl powder mixed with some water and forced the teaspoon into their mouth as a home cure or as a complimentary medication to the fever medication from the Western Doctor...Pearl Powder according to our elders would readily lower  body HEAT and control the fits and fever.

 Fits (or kee soong) were quite common in Sibu in the 1940's and 1950's in Nang Chong and most families would keep packets of pearl powder ready in their bedroom drawers for emergencies. In those days medicine like Panadol and first aid kits were non-existent. Only tables like 693 and Iodine were available in homes which could afford them.

 Every parent or grand parent would have other home cures like Foochow Tea Flower Oil or simple alcohol bought from the Sibu shops.. It would take a slow boat journey to bring a sick child to see a doctor.

It was a sad or even tragic era because of the slowness of motor launches in those days many children died from fits and high fever before they reached the hospital. One of my aunts actually had her life shortened by fits when she was giving birth Both mother and baby died.( According to the medical records the Infant Mortality rate in the Rajang was quite high in the 1950's.) As a result of my aunt's demise my grieving maternal grandmother " volunteered to look after her children  until they were old enough" while their father continued his career in the government service. Grandma thus lived in a government house in Race Course Road sacrificing a lot for my cousins. Relatives from Nang Chong and especially my first uncle and third uncle and all of my siblings and mother often visited her there. She did all the cooking and the washing while the children were in school. Third Uncle would bring a good duck for her to cook and she would prepare a lot of longevity noodles for all of us. Those were amazing days!! Later this uncle remarried and my grandmother went back to Nang Chong again. These children would visit Nang Chong during the holidays.

In actual fact the medical journals do document the functions of pearl powder as "an anti-inflmmatory and detoxification agent. It is also used as a relaxant."

When we were young we did not know that pearl powder actually came from the milling of fresh water pearls. Today many Chinese medicine shops continue to sell pearl powder (prices range from RM 4.50 to 10.50 per packet of 10 gms). The popularity of pearl powder as a medication for children's fever continues.

Indeed many of my friends still think that a dosage of pearl powder once a week leads to excellent complexion!! It has been used as a cure for acne in many cases.

close up of fresh water pearls
Pretty pearls which promise to give young ladies beautiful complexion
Authentic fresh water pearls
Small packets of pearl powder....Not too much of this should be used to help babies "reduce"  their body heat.
Many beauty products like face powder contain some pearl powder. Creams which promise whitening elements contain small traces of pearl powder. But as consumers we will never know how much pearl powder has been used in the manufacturing of these products.

Did I give pearl powder to my babies? My own mother had a good laugh when we discussed this over the phone....she said may be only if THEIR paternal grandmother were Foochow..then they would have had some pearl powder as babies....

Do Cantonese mothers believe in Pearl Powder?

July 17, 2012

Sibu Tales : Pawn Shops

source : http://immobilenblasen.blogspot.com
Pawnshops are beginning to see a comback overseas. In times of economic downturn perhaps a sparkle of hope can be seen in the sluggish markets all over the world for pawnshops. Pawnshops help people who need cash instantly and cannot wait for papers to be signed.

Chinese word "Tang" for Pawn. In Sibu during the Pioneering days when there was no bank, the Foochows and other Chinese depended very much on pawn shops. Many of the pawn shop keepers became quite rich after a decade or two.

Entrance to a Pawn Shop.
In those  days pawn shops were a boon to the local populace because they came to help when no one else could help. It was too expensive to borrow money from anyone too. Besides many relatives were reluctant to give a loan.

A good friend of mine said that when she was young she heard stories of how the the local pawn shop owner saved many people especially when one of her uncles had little money to send his aged father for an operation. He had no money to pay for their air passage to Kuching. Her uncle and aunt pawned their watch and gold bracelet (both were farmers)to raise the money for the trip. Besides they had sold their rice harvest which was not enough. Later when their fruits could be harvested they were able to redeem their watch and gold bracelet. They had refused to sell their padi land. That was almost thirty years ago.

I remember many women also depended on the pawn shops because they could not raise the collateral to raise enough money to pay for something that they needed to buy. So it was very much a hush hush procedure. A cousin of mine finally let go of her gold watch to buy a much needed air ticket to KL in order to learn dress making. She did tell the pawn shop owner that she would not want to get her watch back. So she got a better sum of money since the pawn shop owner was very understanding.

In some places pawn shops are also second hand shops.

In the tv drama "Six Children" no one would fault the mother for pawning her sewing machine to raise just enough (500 won) to pay for the fees of her second son - to enter secondary school. Also using the pawn shop as part of the plot indicates how observant and correct the script writer was. It was typical of that period of time.

May be some people consider going to the pawn shops embarrassing. But I can assure you when times are hard pawn shops are the only source of help for some very desperate people.

Very interestingly the history of pawnbroking is very very old.

In the west, pawnbroking existed in the Ancient Greek and Roman Empires. Most contemporary Western law on the subject is derived from the Roman jurisprudence. As the empire spread its culture, pawnbroking went with it. Likewise, in the East, the business model existed in China 3000 years ago no different than today, through the ages strictly regulated by Imperial or other authorities.

In spite of early Roman Catholic Church prohibitions against charging interest on loans, there is some evidence that the Franciscans were permitted to begin the practice as an aid to the poor.[citation needed] In England, the pawnshop came in with William the Conqueror, with an Italian name, Lombard. In 1338, Edward III pawned his jewels to the Lombards to raise money for his war with France. King Henry V did much the same in 1415. The Lombards were not a popular class and Henry VII Tudor harried them a good deal. In the very first year of James I Stuart an Act against Brokers was passed and remained on the statute-book until Queen Victoria had been on the throne thirty-five years. It was aimed at the many counterfeit brokers in London. This type of broker was evidently regarded as a fence. It is also known that Queen Isabella of Spain pawned her jewelry in order to send Christopher Columbus out to what he believed was the Indies. source : Wikipedia®

July 16, 2012

Once a Year Cake - Foochow Mee Sua Kuih

I must say thank you to my niece who came up to greet me at the BCF. She was born in Nang Chong and she has been very familiar with Nang Chong life until she and her parents moved to Sibu during the 1970's.

She quickly chose this cake to let me taste. Indeed it opened my eyes because I have not tasted this very traditional kuih before. And I am just full of praises for this creative dish.

Made from Mee Sua (mien sien) it has the saltish  background. Other ingredients would include lots of pepper and dried prawns. The fried onions and garlic would give this kuih its aromatic flavour.

Close up of the kuih
Nicely shaped kuih. It can be eaten steamed hot from the kuali or when cold to reheat it...fry nicely with a  coat of egg.
I wish it is not just made for BCF... 

July 15, 2012

Writers in Borneo Cultural Festival Sibu

Tonight at the Borneo Cultural Festival a well known author Winnie Chan Ching Ming will be launching her  new book at the Sibu Town Square....Her book is entitled "Love in Spring Rain". Born in Hong Kong and educated in the USA Winnie Chan has written many books since settling down in Sibu and has helped many readers. Her husband Rev. Dr. Tie King Tai is the Principal of the Methodist Theological School.

The Sibu writers are very united in promoting books written by Sarawak writers (from Kuching to Miri) and have sold many books in the last few days. The books are displayed in a tent manned by volunteers who support good writing in all the different languages.

15th July 2012 Winnie Chan (Mrs. Tie King Tai) will be at the Writers'  Stall to sign her newly published book....
Lee is the person behind the Writers' Stall in BCF....He and his team have made a great effort  .
this is the new book by Winnie Chan Ching Ming.

More than a hundred titles are on sale during this period. While most books are in Chinese many are also in English and Bahasa Malaysia. Mr. Lee hopes that next year more writers will come forward from Sarawak to take part in this exhibition and sale. Those interested can also contact Mr. Wong Meng Lei at Methodist Message and Mr. Lee himself (c/0 Methodist Message)

There are many books on sale....One of them is The Tastes and Flavours of the Foochows...Two of the  main authors of the book are Meng Lei and Yi FAng. Madam Tang is the Supervisor of the Sibu Foochow Cultural Gallery where this book can be bought in Sibu.

July 11, 2012

Sibu's Rock Bands and Frankie Lea

One young man from Kapit made a name for himself in the rock music scene in Sibu in the 1960's and 1970's. He is Frankie Lea who lived at the end of Tiong Hua Road.

Looking for money was his objective from a very young age after moving to Sibu from Kapit. Even his studies were on hold and he ended up in the same class as his younger brother ..He sold tofu fah even before  that was considered a health food. He would walk with a tub in his hand and his little brother would be carrying a kettle of sugar syrup behind him. Like Apaches walking in single file they would go from house to house calling out to housewives to buy their freshly made tofu fa...

As a young teenager he upgraded himelf to a musician to finance his own studies in the UK. (not Ulu Kapit).He "even controlled the music of three nightclubs" for about 10 years!! And those were the days he and his friends cannot forget to this day...He could get help from any of the timber merchants but he did not. There was one community leader who even wrote by snail mail in his own handwriting to ask about him and his well being when Frankie was studying in the UK. But Frankie would always reply..he was OK.

Here are some photos he is willing to share with me..A Sibu blogger cannot NOT write about the history of this famous son of Sibu.

Sibu like any other town in the world had its share of rock and roll music in the 1960's after being impacted by the rock wave created by Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson to name two famous singers. This wave of music also coincided with the timber boom when tycoons could spend money in nightclubes.

Those younger than this blogger would know about the Swining Swallows who used to play in the Merrido Hotel Lounge...Frankie was part of the band.

Sibu was waking up after the years under Communist threats and the unrest due to the birth of Malaysia. The teething problems seemed to solve themselves and by sheer coincidence timber boom helped Sibu to become a reall "happening place" with Taiwan singers swinging into the local scene. Bands became popular. Dances were held in SRC and hotels had their lounges and night clubs. Musicians could make a living. More and more night clubes opened. Some were seedy while otheres were quite reputable.

Frankie also played in the Sibu Music Society Band

Rock musicians performed in cinemas too as well as open air concerts. School boys bands were being formed too to fulfilled the dreams of school boys and school girls.

He was a good runner for Sibu's Sacred Heart School and later for the Methodist School (where he studied Lower Sixth in 1972) Here he is running against Jimmie Ting Chek Ming (now a Miri lawyer)

Frankie was also a good runner.

Frankie in action...MOON GLASSES were the rave in those days...

Frankie with family members..posing for a farewell photo before he left for the UK at the old Sibu Airport in 1975

Frankie was always a hardworking young man who supported himself and his family. He worked hard to earn his own money for his UK education. After he completed his education he worked in KL for many years before he migrated to the US.

Profile Picture
Frankie is now a Texas man.....a man with a heart of gold...and a good friend to his school mates and fellow Sibu-ians and Kapit-ans.......

Frankie with his Sacred Heart School mates in a recent Miri homecoming gathering... Frankie is on the left. Mike Wong (Dave's Deli) is in the middle with Joseph Siong on the right..Strong friendship is the only term to summarize their ties even after 40 years of separation across the seas and continents.

(With permission from Frankie Lea..some photos are from his album...Thanks Frankie I am really honoured.... And thanks for the great memories ...and stories... of Sibu.....thanks to all friends of Frankie...and Gabby too...)

July 6, 2012

Nang Chong stories : Okinawa Spinach

Have you ever reflected on the wisdom of your elders? When we were young we took everything for granted. Knowledge was gained in school. Home was where we lived and worked. Our elders were older people who had never been to school. Most of them were willing to learn for their children.  But I must say we children have a lot to learn from them orally.

We can learn a lot of medical uses of our local vegetables if we pay attention to what our older generation plant and collect in the jungle.

One of such precious vegetables which my mother and aunts had grown in our gardens and formerly in Nang Chong is Lang Ging Hern or Okinawa Spinach.

This is not a common vegetable in Miri where the Foochows only arrived in the 1970's. But it is a common market vegetable in Sibu and around Sibu.

In the past the Foochows loved this vegetable as part of their daily food. When fried with hoong ngang or the thick rice vermicelli this vegetable turned the rice vermicelli to a lovely pink colour. As children we liked to only drink the soup which in those days seemed to be very savoury and  tasty.

In most households in Nang Chong there would always be a row of this pretty vegetable. Sometimes if there was a surplus  or a sudden flood which submerged the vegetable plots my mother would pick them quickly and chop them up for the pigs she was rearing. She did not know then that this vegetable was actually very healthy and organic food for her pigs (rich in iron). No wonder they grew so fat and huge. Mum used to say that they were tired of this vegetable so they would share with the animals and ducks which seemed to like it too.

I used to be on the look out for this vegetable in Miri. But it is quite hard to find.

It can be used as a salad vegetable, with cheese, tomotoes and a bit of lime juices and fish sauce.

When a new mother is lactating, she can eat a lot of this vegetable too. It will help her build up more iron. The Foochows believe that red vegetables help increase red blood cells.


(There is a very good article in great detail in Chinese in a book published by the See Hua Daily News entitled "In Search of  Treasures amongst Grasses and Weeds in Sarawak" compiled from articles written by Miss Yang Yi Fang of Sibu. This book was complimentary for subscribers of the See Hua Daily Newspapers last year. )

July 5, 2012

A Sibu Story : "You might just empty your friend's father's ashes"

My life with smokers has not been easy . As a univesity student I suffered from bouts of bronchitis made worse by fellow college mates who were chain smokers. Later as a teacher I had colleagues who smoked like chimneys. And I was pretty glad that in recent years many schools and colleges have developed themselves as "smokeless zones". 

It is hard to discipline smokers. They throw their cigarette butts every where and the rude ones would sometimes puff into the air for no better reasons other than that they love smoking!! The more you complain the more they smoke!!

Smokers have many stories to tell. But I have some interesting  ones too.

Do you remember this antiquated cigarette butt holder? Smokers can push their cigarette butts through the holes and the knob can help push them down. When the small container is full...an office boy or the tea lady can throw out the butts and ashes. It is not a happy task emptying ash trays because of the stench which stays with you and in your air passage.

My fathe rused to have a similar cigarette butt canister or ash tray..we loved pushing down the  axle..it was like a toy to us.. Whenever I see a picture of this I remember my father who smoked a little...and was very polite and suave in the way he smoked. He had that special style of smoking...suave Shanghai style and rather discreet....you saw a light in the garden...and you knew that your father was outside the house and he was having his quiet time....our wooden was never filled with his cigarette smoke.

Here is another but tragic story from older Sibu days......

A friend  kept his father's ashes in a beautiful urn like this. One day his friends came to the house before he got home ...These smokers could not find an ash tray....they looked high and low and finally found an "ash tray"..They never did ask "May I..............?" 

.they emptied the ashes and started smoking ...drinking beer and telling stories. When my friend came back from his over time and sat down for a late night dinner with his friends and family..to his shock.......he found cigarette butts and ashes...in the urn which had kept his father's ashes!!
This is an urn meant for ashes after cremation

Moral of the story....in your enthusiasm for cigarettes....never take things too lightly...you may burn more than a good friendship...and you might disturb some ghosts...

This kind of incidents have happened many many times every where. I just hope that friends and relatives would be more courteous in using certain items as visitors. I would say smokers should even refrain from smoking in a friend's house....if he/she must smoke...go outside!! A flower pot can be used as a ash tray or a beer tin even...but do not take down a precious urn which might hold the ashes of a dearly departed....

Have a great day today..it's going to be hazy and smokey in Miri...so take care too...And smokers please be a little courteous...we are already struggling with our breathing...

July 4, 2012

A Buffalo and a Wedding in Rh Aling (June 2012)

Agan's daughter is getting married!! The kampong is all stirred up with excitement. An uncle and his family have come back all the way from Johore to join in the celebration for the niece. A marriage is a sacred union not only between a man and a woman but between two families. Henceforth the two families also become one and will defend each other for their rights and survival. A marriage seals friendship. A marriage also confirms the strength and integrity of the two families.

In the past spouses  were selected through a communal consensus!! "The  wisdom of the elders often bring about very strong marriages without consulting the stars or written words" according to a senior member of the community. Today young people fall in love but a happy marriage results when the two families agree to the union. An unwelcome son in law or daughter in law often create a lot of conflict . And furthermore some couples do "kahwin cowboy" (elope) but that's another story.

This special wedding is much anticipated because the two families are very happy with their children's choice and is blessed by the whole long house.

This is the beautiful Ulu Limbang from the top of a hill near Rumah Aling.

One of the kampongs along the Limbang River...serene and down in the valley.

The team of wedding organisers had to cross a river to fetch the buffalo. They parked they hilux on theopposite  bank of the river .

A buffalo has been chosen and paid for @ RM2000 special friend's price..It is usually more than that....This buffalo farm is 2 hours by road from rh. Aling.

How many Ibans are needed to pull a buffalo out of his shed?

Uncle  Laman bathing the buffalo. How tame is this animal?

The buffalo has been slaughtered. The bride's father is Agan ( centre)

Preparing to take out the innards

The team bringing the slaughtered buffalo back to the long house..another two hours' journey.

Part of the journey home.

Preparation for the feast

The Gotong Royong

Parts of the buffalo

Even a young boy is helping out...well prepared wood pieces..

The BBQ section

The temporary wood fire kitchen built just outside the Ruai...

The prepared food in the Indian Curry Pots

The Pansoh section (Bamboo section) manned by ladies...

The beautiful bride getting ready to walk towards the "bridal" stage for the nuptial blessing.
Family photo..the groom's family..Meripa's son is married to Agan's daughter...
This has been a grand communal effort..the whole valley is alive with music and song..the union is witnessed by the whole kampong and God above.

May their marriage be blessed and may they live happily ever after....

All photos by Laman - in Ulu Medamit @ Rumah Aling
4th June 2012

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). ...