January 24, 2017

Always Full

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The Chinese will stick a red piece of paper with two words written on it Chang Man or "always full" on rice barrels, ceramic rice containers, or wine canisters,and barrels as very auspicious labels.

This will make the God of Fortune smile on the owners.

When Chinese New Year comes around, all these containers and receptacles will have new paper stickers.

The stickers auger positivity in the homes especially.

This is the signboard of a Miri Chinese cafe. Its name is Chang Man, or Always Full.

January 12, 2017

Sibu Tales: Festive Lanterns

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My paternal grandfather was a very frugal man and he was not the type who had lanterns for occasions. Nor were my maternal uncles and aunties.

I don't remember any one in the 1950's have have decorative and festive lanterns in Sibu.

Decorative lanterns only came in when the commercial lanterns became available with the opening up of China and shops selling Chinese goods started to spring up every where.
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Chinese commercial festive lanterns have spread to the UK. Photo I took a few years ago.
Back to our Foochow customs, here is an interesting extract about lanterns:

On the fourth day of the lunar new year, the younger brother of a newly-married woman must send a huadeng (decorated lantern) to the house his sister joined.

In Fuzhou dialect, deng is the homonym of ding, which means family member in Chinese. The act of sending a lantern is seen as a favorable symbol of sending a newborn family member.

"At the day of sending the lantern, people can often see in the streets young boys dressed in brand-new clothes, shouldering a sugarcane with a lantern hung at one end of it," said Lin Yichai, another elderly Fuzhou native.
The errand of sending the lantern is quite remunerative for the young runner, as the child will be indulged to eat to his heart's content at the house and will receive a handsome yasuiqian (money given to children at Spring Festival as a gift).
But it also takes him some effort to earn the reward, as he has to endure the embarrassment and heckles from his peers on the way to the home.

January 11, 2017

Nang Chong Stories : Sourcing for Food during the Japanese Occupation

During the Japanese Occupation my mother often had to row her own boat, and sometimes with a group of friends, towards Sg. Assan, above Pulau Kerto, to collect "buckets of paku".

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The rowing of boats by Foochow women was a normal, daily chore. It was not surprising at all. It would be like driving a car or a motor cycle today.

The Foochow women would follow the timing of the tides. When the tide rose, they would pedal upriver to collect the paku or ferns. And after two or three hours, the tide would ebb and they quickly followed the flow of the river water back.

Going home was an easy task according to my mum. And it would often be just right for the evening meal. Sometimes it would be for the afternoon meal.

Mum said during that period of 3 years and 8 months, they had to be careful not to be seen by Japanese boats. But fortunately God protected them and very few Japanese soldiers would patrol along the rather remote part of that special area of the Rajang.

(Note: Sg Assan already had a small Foochow community. In the next few decades after the war,  a Methodist Church and a school were built led by my mother's cousin, Lau Tiew Nguong who was a great local evangelist.)

January 8, 2017

Sibu Tales : Wells

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this well has been recently "refurbished" for church use in Kwong Hua area. It was probably dug in 1903 when the Foochow pioneers first arrived.

Well water is often considered cleaning and tastier than river water. When the Rajang became very polluted this well continued to give forth good clean water.

We continue to believe in a God whose grace is sufficient for us.

January 7, 2017

Sarawakian Local Delights : The Making of Kuih Jala

The Ibans also call their Gawai kuih Sarang Semut (Ant's Nest). It is a nice, crunchy kuih made from rice flour, gula apong and a touch of salt.No automatic alt text available.

How a very special mould must be used. It is made from coconut shell and small holes are punched through the bottom of the "mould". The batter is pour into the mould and small trails of batter comes out like tiny strings. These are dropped into a small kuali with hot oil. Soon a small kuih is made. Very delicious.
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The making of the kuih jala in the longhouse is often a social and cultural act, when an elder passes on her skills of making this traditional kuih to younger ones in the family. Together the ladies would sit in the kitchen and share tips in the making of this kuih. Once the younger generation has learned how to make this kuih, the elders would beam with pride, knowing that a skill has been passed on.Image may contain: indoor

It is sad in some longhouses according to some senior ladies that many youngsters do not wish to learn this skill.
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The youngsters often comment, "We can buy them from the supermarket. So why should we learn how to make them?"

But the good news is, very often some girls and even some boys would like to learn from their elders. So the skill will not entirely die off.

January 5, 2017

Sibu Tales : Blood Donation

In 1972 my mother was desperately in need of blood and my uncle arranged for her to buy 2 pints of blood. For her next operation a few years later, she was able to obtain free blood because another uncle of mine was a blood donor. Paying 700 dollars for a pint of blood was an astronomical sum in those days.
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It was difficult to obtain blood in Sibu and many trishaw drivers who took patients to the Lau King Howe Hospital also made a few bucks from their blood. The non Bumi patients were only too willing to pay. In fact one man was even willing to provide blood either from himself or from his group of friends for a fee.

Several years later, Dr. Judson Sakai ensured that all Sarawakians should have free blood from Red Crescent Blood Bank. That also stopped hospitals calling up Dayak students in Upper Forms to donate blood. Even in 1974 my husband was called to donate a pint of blood to save a Chinese woman in Limbang from her death. He of course did not charge for his blood. Many students in Tanjong Lobang also were hauled by the hospital in Miri to give blood.

To encourage people to give blood, the hospital awarded the donor with a bottle of Guiness Stout or a bottle of Brand's Essence of Chicken and two eggs after the transfusion.

Our English Principal Mr. KV Wiltshire was very ahead of his time and he encouraged all of us his Sixth Form Students, above the age of 18 to give blood and to save lives. He also got his wife, Pauline to donate as often as possible. He was training us to be Socially Responsible.

This newspaper cutting from See Hua Daily News, reports Methodist School students donating blood. The donor is Datin Siti Zahrah b.Datuk Hussaini. Standing are from left, Tan Kui Chiang and Sheila Kang.

January 3, 2017

Sarawakian Local Delights : 3 kg Grouper

He is a banker, working in Bank Bumiputra but he and his wife are also part time fisherfolks who work very hard.

With the help of handphones he can quickly sell his fish. His customers are always happy with his catch.

You cannot get fresher fish than this in Miri!! How blessed we are!!

January 2, 2017

Sibu Tales : The Oldest House in Sg. Sadit

The photos are by Wong Meng Lei who has written much about the history of the Foochows in his blog, The Rajang Basin, SIBU

Here are some photos of 光華與丁興俊故居位置圖
 The house was was built in 1936.

Thank you Meng Lei for the lovely photos.

January 1, 2017

Hairdressing Service in Rumah Ugap

Short term mission of Grace Methodist Church, Miri. Hair dressing is a popular ministry.

Here at Rumah Ugap we enjoyed ourselves cutting hair!!

Sarawakian Local Delights : Tapioca (Ubi Kayu)

Ubi kayu or tapioca used to be one of the cheapest snacks Sarawakians could have. Tapioca is easily grown wherever farmers grow their p...