Monday, December 18, 2006

Malay Romance

“What do you want for our anniversary?” asked a friend’s husband.

“I want…romance,” she had replied.

“How..? Just tell me la what you want..”

“I want romance. Pikir lah sendiri…!” (Think about it yourself!)

“Tak reti…” (Don’t know..)

Malay men…don’t they know the meaning of the word romance? I don’t think so. But then again, what does a Malay woman expect when she wants romance? If you’re a woman, ask yourself. Candle lit dinner at home, perhaps? Dining out, at a very nice and expensive place – without the kids tagging along? A romantic card attached to a box of chocolate hearts or better yet, a small velvety box? Or maybe canoodling in a 5 star hotel somewhere with one’s spouse, leaving the kids with the maid or the in laws?

I remember doing exactly that last one on one of my wedding anniversaries and telling a white lie to my in laws (we were living with them at the time in Seremban) that we had some dinner or other after work and that we decided to sleep over at my sister’s in Bukit Jelutong. The funny thing was, when we came back the next day, there was a big ‘Happy Anniversary’ card on our bedroom table! Imagine my embarrassment because obviously, they remembered that it was our anniversary and probably suspected that we went to a hotel somewhere for some extra 'sound proof' in the middle of the night. Not that the rooms in that hotel we stayed in were sound proof, of course, but I think the thick carpets and thick curtains probably absorb more sound than the rug and curtains at home, so…

Thank God, my in laws are pretty sporting people. Anyway, that’s not the point..

I was trying to identify and determine what actually constitutes romance for most of us Malay women, basically, women like me, the average perempuan melayu. I mean, frankly, the candle lit dinner just wouldn’t cut it for me without wonderful conversation and some other intangibles and I would probably start coughing from the smoke coming from the flames anyway (I’m asthmatic, as you might know). I just don’t fancy things like that – things that is so often used on TV to ‘describe’ romantic - just detest ‘commercial romantic’! Plus, that’s really NOT our culture, is it?

But what is supposed to be true Malay romance?

I mean, come on, think about it. If the people in the kampung want to be romantic, what is the first thing they think about? Everything is so commercialised and westernised nowadays and I am not well read when it comes to Malay books and culture - so it is really my ignorance that's to be blamed, really - but I would really like to find out the real romance for Malays.

Or is there no such thing?

Funnily enough, although I am an avid romance reader, I can’t think of much romantic stuff at the moment that could be construed as totally Malay. That’s probably because when I read, I can clearly see the people in the books – not so much in the details of their faces – just that it is always so very clear to me that they are mat saleh, NOT Malay. So even though I’ve read more than 80 romances this past year (yup, I counted!), I could never mistake the fact and however much I want to, could never imagine myself doing the romantic stuff they do in the books.

But thinking about it, I suppose...to me, romance, if anything, must come from the heart.

As in a special dinner cooked just for you by your husband when he doesn’t really know how to cook but he tries anyway because he wants to show you how much he loves you and he wants to make it ‘special’.

Now, THAT would make me feel romanced, even when my kids are screaming at my side, vying for attention and my husband looks a mess with an apron and a spatula in hand.

You think I’m a bit weird?

But that's exactly what my husband did for our last anniversary.

You think he's romantic? He's not. Well........not really, anyway.

I asked him to cook for me for our anniversary. But not just that, I looked for a recipe that I wanted to try, bought all the stuff needed in order to cook it and asked him prettily to cook it for me! He agreed (but not without calling me every few minutes “babe, macam mana ni?” (babe, how do you do this?)). But I appreciated his efforts and I did, honestly, feel romanced because it wasn’t easy for him to do what he did. Although it would have been brilliant if he had thought to do it all by himself, of course.

So my conclusion is...

You want romance from your husband? Don't give him a hint. Don't ask for 'romance' coz chances are, you may never get it.

Tell him how to do it. Teach him and he will learn. Sow the seeds and you will reap the fruit.

Heh..I have always been a practical person...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Older Movie Buff

I remember those days when I lived in Pantai Hill Park. When there was a maid and only one little toddler. And GSC at Mid Valley was less than 10 minutes away. We used to shop at Jaya Jusco for our groceries 30 minutes before it closes at night and we used to take a nap or lepak at home before gallivanting out just before midnight to catch a midnight show, most of the time at Mid Valley, sometimes at KLCC. We even knew which are the best parking spots to reach the cinema in minimal time and the best ones when we leave the cinema later, at 2 am.

Ah..that was the good life.


For now, I normally wait for DVDs to come out or watch movies on the free movie channel. Old movies. Movies that I never had the chance to see, even though I had wanted to. Movies that I’ve seen before, once, twice and many, many times.

Movies that I never ever wanted to watch.


Funny though how we have a different view and understanding of some of these movies when we were younger. When I first saw The Sound Of Music, that was when I was very, very young, I didn’t understand much of it. I thought the movie was kind of long and I lost interest halfway. Later on when I was a little older, I saw it again and thought, Ugh! What a corny movie, with all those singing happy kids in their big house in that beautiful place. And that nanny ended up with their father?? I didn’t like it at all.


And then I saw it a few weeks ago and I saw a completely different movie.
No, I didn’t cry when Maria had to run back to the convent. But yes, I didn’t think it was corny anymore. I thought the war issues were pretty serious and I was amazed that they can still go on with their lives when the future there looked so bleak for them.

And I thought the ending was so bloody horrible. Imagine having to cross the mountains on foot with all those children when in all probability there’s a truck full of Nazis fast on their heels? It would have been a terrible experience for them. The movie ended while they were all still looking very serious indeed on that mountain path and for all we know, they might not have made it across the border. In my old movie buff brain where sometimes I tend to mix reality with fantasy, I thought, the moment the director said ‘CUT!’, those Nazis would surely have jumped on them.
The movie started happily enough but overall, I thought that I certainly could not generalise it as a happy movie. A complete turn around from my younger perception of the movie.

Another movie that I come to perceive and understand differently is Ali Baba Bujang Lapok. I was scared when I watched this movie as a kid. With all those swords and evil baddies and killing, man, it certainly wasn’t suitable for my young age of 8 or so at the time. And I never really sat down to watch the whole movie after that until about 1 year ago and boy, how hilarious it turned out to be. I mean, that movie is really, really funny!

And then there were some other movies like The Last Of The Mohicans. I watched that movie a long, long time ago but I kid you not when I say that I still sigh (a very loooooong sigh) at the sight of Daniel Day-Lewis running. Run! Run! Run some more my good man!


Sigh.


I watched this movie recently and it was still as good as before. Everything was exactly as I understood it except for the love scene that suffice to say, previously, I thought was something else but at 30, I know is something different.

Heh.


And then a few weeks ago I saw The Return Of The King (last instalment of The Lord Of The Rings) and it was still very, very good. Samwise Gamgee is still very much the hero, Viggo Mortensen is still damn bloody hemsem and the Lord of the Nazguls is still very, very scary. Nothing much has changed there. Then again, I only saw that movie a few years back so it’s not surprising that I’m still of the same opinion on the matter.


What I would love (or dread) to watch again though and see how my old age has changed in my tastes and perceptions is that movie Dirty Dancing. I used to think that movie was so cool but even thinking about it now makes me want to cast out my dinner, especially when I think about the main characters. I would have described the heroine as ‘that cute girl’ and Patrick Swayze as ‘that cool guy’ years ago but now I think I would probably be disgusted if I ever chance upon the movie on tv and cringe at the stupidity of ‘the good doctor’s little daughter’ and how ‘that seasoned and uneducated dancer’ used her..


Age changes how we view things in life. But it's really a pity when what was once cool is now fool. And try as I might, I really cannot change my mind on the matter...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Princess? Argh!!!

I freak out whenever I think about it.

A girl? My very own daughter? I just cannot imagine bringing one into this world. It just scares the hell out of me whenever I think about it. I am dead serious and by the way, in case you're wondering, I am not pregnant!

But why, you're asking. Why don't I like girls? It’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard, I'm sure. But there it is. You see, It’s just because I’m scared. I’m just so very afraid that I would not be able to do it 'right'. To bring them up ‘right’, I mean. Because girls are just…ARGHHH…too much to handle!

I should know. I was once upon a time, a girl too, you know.

When I go to my friends’ daughters’ birthday parties and they start calling their little girls ‘princesses’ and going gaga over their sweet little smiles, I shudder. When I see those girls wearing ‘princessy’ dresses, all in pink, I feel nauseous. When these girls start to shriek and giggle, I just want to scream! Why can’t girls be sober and serious and intellectual–like from the age of zero?

And when I surfed through the internet, and looked at pics of girls and young women in Malaysia and how they dress, I start to get palpitations. All that make up, proud display of cleavage, nice and shiny black hair turned brown or even worse, blond, and all those 'oh-so normal’ hugging and kissing between ‘friends’ no matter from which species of the human race they come from. What has happened to those Islamic or at least Malay/Asian values that we were all once brought up with?

A friend who’s working in a large oil and gas company in Malaysia recently told me that the western culture of kissing and hugging one’s friends is pretty rampant amongst the younger executives who have just returned from 'over-seas'. And the company recently was also forced to distribute circulars of a dress ruling to its entire staff because many of these so called overseas educated young executives were wearing skimpy skirts and see-through blouses to the office.

Even the mat salehs here know how to wear decent clothes when going to the office! Only the slutty ones wear those types of clothes! And the question that keeps resurging in my mind is this; what if, what if, my very own daughter turns out to be someone like that..? A cleavage showing, blond bimbo who shrieks and giggles and kisses every 'friend' she meets! Arghhh!!! I may go into cardiac arrest whilst even wondering about it!

You know, when I was a girl, I used to be a bit of a tomboy. But that doesn’t mean that I want my girls to become tomboys. In fact, I dread that too. I just want them to be normal and sober girls who will not insist on pink dresses and tiaras and prefer books and family instead of friends and brand names. Not to mention eager to help me bake and cook in the kitchen, (actually, scrap that, they may leave me alone in my kitchen..) and at the same time, they score all As in their subjects in school and also never forget their prayers and their religion.

Is this possible? If it’s not, then I would rather have 3 more boys to fill the quota if the choice is between that and a girl.

Because I'm scared as hell of raising a daughter.

And that's the truth.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Cherry Crumble

Made this today for an old friend who came to visit. Probably the easiest dessert I have made and it tastes great and looks great too. I substituted the oats with some mixed muesli cereal with the nuts and raisins included. Highly recommended!

Ingredients:
  • 55g butter
  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 400g cherry pie filling (or any other pie filling)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.
  2. Melt butter or margarine in a large saucepan. Remove pan from heat; stir in oats, flour, brown sugar, and salt until a dry, crumbly dough forms. Press about 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of 8 inch pan, making a firm even layer.
  3. Spread cherry pie filling in the crust, and sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture.
  4. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until top is lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature with cool custard.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Bride Photocopies

Have you been to the many wedding-photographer websites lately and look at pictures of Malay weddings?

Is it me or do you agree that the brides are looking kind of the same of late? They have the same sorta made up face.

I look from picture to picture and I can’t tell a couple from another by looking at the bride – need to look at the groom to do that.

It’s really pathetic!

Let me try to explain it. It’s basically the plucked eyebrows that result in the same old thin and dark and long pair of brows that make every bride look well…mm…I dunno…very err...sophisticated, I suppose, but in a nasty sorta way (I’m sorry but this is how I feel!) Liquid eye liners that make a fairly thick dark line on each eye lid of the bride. Fake long and curly lashes that make one look none too different from those Bollywood actresses. And the rest, well, are the normal stuff i.e. foundation and powder – well how varied can that be? Lip stick – mm..no complaints there. Wait, come to think of it, their hair dos are pretty similar too.

They have the same mak andam, perhaps?

I mean seriously, do they have the same mak andam or is it just how the mak andams (or make-up artist?) in Malaysia are trained nowadays? There is absolutely no uniqueness or natural look to it. They all look the same!

Shouldn't these mak andams be enhancing the natural beauty of one's face, NOT doing the normal 'routine' to every face they get no matter what type of face it is and what natural beauty that face has?

And don’t these brides want to look natural any more? I remember when I was married, I kept asking my mak andam to make my make-up NATURAL. Coz to me, otherwise it would be pretentious.

Honestly, people, just be yourself.. especially when you are getting married to someone who's supposed to love YOU as you are.

p/s: by the way, the pic I chose above, is of a friend's wedding whose make up was completely natural and simple...but had to blur it for privacy's sake - you do understand? Thanks for the above pic, my dear!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Just With The Girls

We had it all planned.

First the girls, then the men.

The girls go first and leave the kids to the men. And then the men go and leave the girls, or should I say the ladies, back in their 'natural environment' with the kids.

Everything was prepared and readied beforehand due the awkward timing for prayers at this time of the year – zuhur and asar comes early and are very near each other so one needs to settle those first before going out.

At the last minutes, lunch plans were cancelled due to the above prayer time inconveniences but finally at 2 o’clock, right on time, I was there in front of the building.


Ahh..the cinema.

It has been more than a year. I had wanted to plan something like this when I really, really wanted to watch Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire which is at the moment my favourite book in the series but the others weren’t really interested in watching that particular movie so I had to wait 6 months later to watch it on DVD. But everyone, especially the ladies, wanted to watch Casino Royale because of the rave reviews and oh-that-to-die-for piece of flesh that goes by the name of Daniel Craig. And so we planned and I finally made it to the cinema after more than 1 year of not going due to the children.

And boy was it a most welcomed return.

I read that book by Ian Fleming ages ago while in secondary school – an old and yellow copy owned by my mother – she has Casino Royale, Goldfinger and Dr. No from her years at college or uni - but I didn’t really understand the card games scenes in the book – and I still don’t, because I don't know the rules of the game – but I remember thinking that the Bond in that book was a bit of a softie, because he fell in love in that book.

The movie had stuck to its original book elements and to me, it worked. It’s much better than those satellites and ‘tank in the middle of the city’ movies anyway, which to me, were not too memorable and definitely crossing into ridiculous. But do not doubt that this movie is action packed – for it is, but only the more realistic and believable kind of action, I feel. I have never been too interested in all those tech stuffs and ‘shooting from a distance’ anyway – to me, it really takes away the romance and honour in any spy or war films. It’s the hand to hand combat and 'the infantry' that has always interest me in these types of films.

And this Bond is not infallible like the others. My favourite scenes were in fact, the ones that showed that Bond is indeed, a mere mortal e.g. after he drank the poisoned cocktail and that touching scene in the shower. From start to finish, it has its thrilling moments, its touching moments and quite a few funny moments as well - as all Bond films must have. But it’s that scene at the beach with Vesper Lynd that stole the cake for me. That scene was so good that it is even now clearly imprinted in my brain and it nearly spoiled my bedroom activities during that weekend!

He is one definitely delicious, DELICIOUS looking man.

But the movie was not without its negative points. Well, at least, to the men it definitely had some (Obviously because they were a little jaki of Daniel Craig’s muscled body and after all, he ‘got’ the girl and my husband had ‘fallen’ for Eva Green ever since that other movie with Orlando Bloom.) But seriously, I have to concede that my husband was right when he said that the movie had no climax. It was thrill, thrill and thrill and the pressure was building and building but then suddenly, it all simply turned into steam and NOTHING (if you get what I mean).

But that’s the only thing - quite a major thing, but still, the only thing.

Overall, the ladies had a great time and the guys had an ‘okay’ time but honestly, I thought the movie was great and I can’t wait to see more of Daniel Craig and his blue eyes next in one of my favourite fantasy books that is currently being made into a movie; 'The Golden Compass', the first of the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy by Phillip Pullman.

Can’t wait.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Malay Male Paranoia

A man came a few days ago to view my vacant room. He knocked on the door, I opened, and this conversation ensued:

‘Oh..dah sampai dah?’ (Oh..you’ve arrived?)

‘Hah…suami dah balik ke?’ (Yes…has your husband returned?)

‘Belum, belum tapi dia dah nak sampai dah ni..masuk lah..’ (No, no…but he’s on his way…come on in.)

‘Takpe, takpe..saya tunggu kat luar je lah..’ (It’s ok…I’ll just wait outside.)

‘Takpe, takpe..masuklah..anak2 pun ada kat bawah ni..’ (It’s okay, it’s okay…come on in..my children are playing downstairs.) (Plus it’s bloody freezing outside!)

‘Ok, ok….’

‘So..apa cerita…dalam email katanya your wife still ada kat Malaysia..?’ (So tell me, you said in the email that your wife is still in KL…?)

‘Ha'ah..tapi takpe lah tunggu suami you balik nanti lah I cerita (Yes…but I think I’ll wait for your husband to tell the story..)

Right.

I was stunned by that answer but I controlled myself saying, he’s right..maybe he wanted to just tell us the story once and save his air liur (saliva). I thought it was bordering on rude though, because I was being friendly and trying to be a good hostess by making some conversation with a guest, but instead, he just brushed me off.

And then when my husband did come home, about 5 minutes later, the man went on to tell his story to my husband without even looking at me – as if the hostess who was bringing the drinks and food did not even exist.

...and continued to ignore me for another 5 minutes when I finally got very annoyed and went upstairs with my children.

It seems that to this man, without one’s husband, a woman is a non-entity. This is the type of man who takes it for granted that the woman of the house will provide the drinks and food – it’s her job (not unlike a maid’s) - and therefore it is not necessary to acknowledge the woman and say ‘thank you’ or at least, the malays like to say ‘susah susah je..’ (you needn’t trouble yourself) ..and then, without even blinking an eye, the man goes on to consume the food served.

To this type of man, a woman has its uses but not of which that requires the brain functioning for some intelligent simulation because to them, a woman is just not capable of such a thing. Especially housewives like me - I suddenly remembered that I told him that I'm a housewife just before that, somewhere in our conversation…

OR, scrap all the above and we’ll just call him ‘pious’.

But since when has any religion dictated its male followers to be RUDE to women?

God help us women from all the over zealous men of the world.

After the man left, my husband had to listen to me rant and rave about the irritating behaviour of that man and at the end of my long speech, my husband's conclusion was this:

"OK je mamat tu pada I...dia segan tu..." (he's Ok, he's just shy)

WHAT????!!

My husband defended his conclusion by saying that, most Malay men, when confronted with a Malay woman will feel that way; they're not completely at ease, they just feel like they need to keep their distance a bit so as to not be 'over-doing it' because most Malay women will not 'welcome' any extra attention. Basically, they just don't feel 'free' enough to chat or speak to a Malay woman in fear of trampling on certain 'barriers'. On top of that, he says that most Malay men find it easier to speak with women of the other races because that 'barrier' is not there.

What the heck?!


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The 'Very' Haram Sweets

I watched from outside the window as my son’s class teacher distributed a packet of sweets to each child in her class. Even from this far, I could see that it was the chewy type of sweets that are sold everywhere, even in Malaysia.

I saw the eager look in my son’s face as friends gathered around and compared what they got. But the moment he stepped out of class and showed me the packet, saying excitedly, ‘Look, look, mom!,’ I was certain that he could not eat those sweets because of the gelatine content. I told him gently that we have to see first if we can eat that, sayang. And he became quiet but then nodded. ‘Ok,’ he said, like the good boy that he is.

And as soon as I reached home, I studied the ingredients and sure enough, I saw the word gelatine and there was no ‘Suitable for Vegetarians’ anywhere in sight which made me conclude that the gelatine may not be Halal, and therefore my sons cannot eat them.

‘It’s not halal, sayang, we can’t eat this.’

‘Is it very haram mom?’ my eldest enquired in his usual way.

‘Yes’, I said simply. ‘We can’t eat them because we’re muslims and this is not halal.’ (I have explained to him already that there is no such thing as very haram or a little haram, but he keeps on saying very haram anyway, for emphasis, I suppose. For those of you who don't know, halal and haram is a digital concept of sorts: it's either halal or haram - there is no in between.)

‘I am special because I am a muslim, mom,’ he went on, repeating something he heard somewhere, I think from the ‘I Look and See’ cassette by Yusuf Islam (and friends) that we always play for the kids in the car.

‘Yes you are special.’ I said with a smile and off he went with his brother, those very haram sweets already forgotten. But as I am quite a soft hearted person and really senang kesian, I went to get some chocolates for them, to compensate for those sweets. I made a mental note to explain the best that I can about this matter to him. Later.

I couldn’t help thinking of all the other muslim boys and girls who opened the packets themselves and ate those sweets behind their parents back. Most of them kept the sweets in their bags after all and most working parents are too busy to notice these things. I remember walking in a mall the following weekend and saw some young boys (of middle eastern descent) walking with their hijab clad mum. They were eating exactly what I threw away in the bin a few days before that - those sweets with gelatine in them. Didn’t that woman with the hijab read the ingredients on the packet? Or was she just ‘lenient’ in that sense? Don’t they want their children to grow up to be good muslims? And if they do, shouldn’t they teach their children about these things from young? And I am very, very scared of this: can our children grow up to be anak-anak soleh and solehah when we let them consume all that gelatine and alcohol, perhaps not taken directly, but as an ingredient in their food, and in many cases, we are unaware of?

I am no pious woman but pondering upon THAT scares the hell out of me.

And then there was that birthday party my child attended at McDonald’s. The choices of food for our children were stated in the invitation card: hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken nuggets and fish fingers. Of course, the choice for my son was obvious: the fish fingers. But when we attended the party, I saw some muslim children eating the chicken nuggets with their mummies watching on from outside the party area.

And some strict muslims do not even allow their children to step into McDonalds’ due to the uncertainties about the handling, frying oil and utensils etc. Not to mention about the emails we get about their support for Israel or things like that.

Sigh.

But I was consoled by what happened a few days after that day when my son brought back that packet of sweets. He came out of his classroom and showed me a sweet. A different one.

‘Mom, the teacher said must show your mum first before you can eat it.’

Hmm.

Some good muslim parent must have pointed out to the teacher about the last packet of sweets. I was relieved. There is at least one other muslim parent who is concerned about what their child is eating and was concerned enough to inform the teacher about it.

Alhamdulillah. It's not easy to bring up one's children in a non Islamic environment when all you want is the best for your child, in every aspect.

I am not alone where this is concerned after all.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Black Bottom Cup Cakes

At 9.45am yesterday I decided that I wanted to give some cup cakes to some good friends who I intended to visit and we were running late because my eldest son had to go to a birthday party in the morning and we had to leave by 11 am. And therefore, I admit that I scrapped the cake part and used a cake mix instead which I had in my kitchen cabinet. It turned out very, very good, honestly. But next time I make this, I do really intend to try the real recipe below.

Ingredients:
  • 224g (8oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. Line muffin tins with paper cups.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt until light and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Make a well in the center and add the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Stir together until well blended. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full with the batter and top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What matters...

I read somewhere that currently there’s some discussion about the terms Bangsa Malaysia and Rakyat Malaysia.

To my rusty and under-utilised brain, there’s not much of a difference. I’m sure some people have a cause for concern about which term is best used in the country but I really do think it is not a big deal.

What matters is that we are Malaysians.

Do you know how lucky we are to be Malaysians? I am in a better place to realise this, I feel, because I am not currently staying in the country and therefore has better means to compare and really understand the matter. For my story below, I will try my best to write in our national language…

OK, itu saja je tipu kat atas tu…sebenarnya ni nak cerita sikit. Kali ni kena tulis dalam bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Melayu or whatever our fickle government has decided for us to call this national language of ours.

Darn…terkeluar jugak... Okay, try again..

Masa bulan puasa hari tu, saya telah berkenalan (why does this sound so formal?) dengan seorang wanita yang berasal dari negara yang bermula dengan huruf P, yang terletak di sebelah negara yang bermula dengan huruf I (YE, saya telah TERberi dia alamat laman web ini (untuk tengok resipi saya) oleh itu saya terpaksa tulis ini dalam Bahasa Malaysia sebab takut dia baca…) Boleh teka kan negara mana?

Alah, yang ada ujian nuklear tu lah…

Okay, kakak ni baik jugak umur dia tiga puluh dua tahun, masa mula2 kenal, dia ingatkan saya lebih kurang umur 23 tahun (sukanya hatiku), terkejut dia apabila dapat tahu saya hanya 2 tahun lebih muda darinya. (God this sounds like those awful letters in Pancaindera which I always read with interest have always tried to avoid reading...)

Saya mula berkawan dengannya, tukar-tukar juadah berbuka puasa, dan semasa Hari Raya, saya telah menjemput dia dan keluarga datang ke rumah saya sebab saya kesian jugak kat dia – katanya dia tak ramai sangat kawan kat sini sebab orang2 P yang dah jadi warga British kat sini semua tak sama bahasa dengan dia (loghat lain katanya) dan lagi pun dia mengadu orang P kat sini kebanyakkannya tak pelajaran tinggi macam dia, oleh itu, otak ada sempit sikit…(saya rasa mungkin saya setuju jugak kot…) Dia memang hebat kot sebab dia ada masters – sama seperti kebanyakan orang negara P yang tinggal di ibu kota negara itu.

Bila dia dan keluarga datang pada Hari Raya kedua, kami sambut dengan cara biasa kami – dengan budaya Melayu kami. Buat air sirap, teh, hidang makanan (wantan mi, nasi himpit, rendang, kuah kacang dan kuih muih) dan jemput mereka makan. Tapi tiba-tiba saya kena 'tegur' dengan nada yang agak serius, katanya…(lebih kurang seperti ini:) Macam mana ni? Awak nak suruh kami minum air teh ke, nak suruh kami makan? Mana boleh minum air teh dengan makan makanan macam ni?

Saya terkedu sekejap, begitu juga suami saya…

Saya pun cakap, kat negara kami, takde masalah makan sambil minum air teh - air sirap limau pun saya ada buat dalam jug, kalau awak nak..Dia kata teh tak boleh ‘masuk’ dengan makanan savoury sebab teh tu kan manis….

Hmm...

Betapa ‘flexible’ nya orang Malaysia..saya rasa ini mungkin sebab kita ni berbagai bangsa dan berbagai adat, jadi apa saja boleh 'jalan' kat negara kita…

Selepas itu, pasal wantan mi pulak…saya terangkan, mi ni makan dengan wantan, dengan sayur dan sup dia…kalau adab orang melayu, kita sebagai tetamu mesti jamah sikit hidangan tuan rumah sebab telah terhidang dan lagipun hari raya (penat saya masak hanya untuk dia yang datang hari raya kedua). Tapi dia cakap dia taknak makan sebab dah kenyang…

La…………………

Tapi nasib baik dia ambik sikit untuk anak dia yang hanya makan satu suap aje. Lepas tu, dia nak rasa sikit rendang, dia pun ambik lah sikit…dia rasa..pssss ‘Pedas!’ katanya, ‘tak tahan! Awak tak marah ye kalau saya tak habiskan ini?’

OK (sigh)……nak buat macam mana.

Selepas itu, suami dia yang dah habis minum tehnya nak rasa makanan kami, dia tanya kepada kawan saya, sama ada ok makanan saya untuk dimakan sebab dia batuk-batuk.

Saya dan suami cepat-cepat cakap, OK..sebab tak pedas wantan mi. Sup dia panas-panas ni, makanlah…

Tapi kawan saya tu cakap dengan suaminya…TAK, tak. Bukan sup…macam sos makan dengan mi…

Huh? Pandai-pandai pulak dia. Makanan kita, kita tahu lah apa bendanya..lagi pun tak nampak ke sup tu cair and banyak, takkan sos pulak namanya…

*Sigh*

Lepas tu suami dia pun makan. Tapi dia tak usik pun mi dan wantan tu – hanya minum supnya saja!

Sabar je lah...

Now, look at us Malaysians, we are multiracial. Because of that, our palate is diverse. We are open to Malay, Indian, Chinese, Arab, Western, Japanese and Korean food. And we are more open in many other ways as well and can easily tolerate other people’s culture and beliefs too.

We are very liberated in that sense compared to many other people.

We are not always adamant that we are right (tengok kisah sup).

We can blend in almost anywhere because we are used to a variety of races, culture and languages.

Perempuan tu memang baik. Kami pun ada beraya ke rumahnya selepas itu dan kami dilayan dengan baik. Then again, we are very open minded people and our level of tolerance to anything different is pretty high, I think. Terer betul orang Malaysia. Memang terer. Doesn’t matter that we are a bangsa or rakyat. The most important thing is, I think, we are united in all that matters.

To me, as trivial as it sounds, food and culture matter very much.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Trip To the Hospital

On the second of Raya (Eid) I was already feeling the pains.

On the fourth Raya I was tossing and turning at night with a cold sweat and biting back tears while my husband rub some minyak kayu putih onto my stomach and my back.

After the ointment and a bowl of Special K, I felt some relief and my husband said: we should go to the hospital.

And so we did, after waking up Kuzco, my then housemate (sadly for us, Kuzco has gone back to Malaysia, leaving me at a lost next time I want to knead some dough) to give him the baby monitor so that he will be roused from his sleep if any of my sons start to wake up. We then left the house at 6 am to go to the nearest hospital.

Why the hospital, you may ask, and not a clinic? Over here, the NHS (National Health Service) system is a little different. To go to a ‘clinic’ like in Malaysia is somewhat similar to going to the ‘Health Centre’ here. Everyone is supposed to be registered to their own personal GP at their nearest Health Centre . In all honesty, the service they give here is of a high standard and it’s free, but do you know how difficult it is here to get to even see the doctor?

Every time I call the doctor to make an appointment for my children, my husband or myself, the doctor’s receptionist will tell me that the doctor can only see me next week, at the earliest because his appointment book is full for the week. Needless to say, by the time we reach our appointment date, we have either successfully self medicated ourselves with medicine from Malaysia or from the pharmacy (since coming to the UK as a 'mother' who is supposed to care for her family, I have learnt to self medicate, to learn the names of suitable medicine for my family and I have also brought lots of medicine from Malaysia because I knew of the 'situation' here from previous experiences) or the sickness has taken its full course and we have recovered with our own antibodies – and you know how horrible that can be.

That’s why we opted to go to the hospital and not bother to call the Health Centre for an appointment to see the doctor.

Back to my story. There was no one in the reception area of the hospital except for a woman who was whimpering on a wheelchair, obviously in some kind of pain. There were two men behind the counter, dressed in normal clothes and I went directly to them, to enquire about seeing a doctor.

The large bearded white Brit who interviewed me was not too kindly. He asked me a few standard questions about my condition and said without compassion, “You should really be seeing your own GP (at the Health Centre) for this.” I think he was probably assuming that I was having some menstrual cramps or something and so I replied;

“Don’t give me that shit! I’m here at the hospital to see the doctor and you’ve got no right to turn me away, you fat arsed wanker!”

Heh. I wish.

Instead, I said with a wince and an exaggerated moan to make sure he knows that I indeed have ‘a case’ to go to the hospital: “Well...I was in pain all through the night…”

Fortunately for me, he looked at me and just nodded and asked me to sit down. A few minutes later, my name appeared on the screen and I went directly to the examination room. The person sitting at the doctor’s table was none other than the man I saw entering the hospital main entrance just a few minutes before that, who I was sure was one of the hospital’s staff because he waved to the men at the counter and went straight inside, but I would never have guessed that he was one of the medical staff - because of his extremely casual dressing. He was wearing an old and worn denim jacket and a cap and carrying a bag pack over his shoulder. On top of that, he walked with a street swagger. So I had thought; he must be one of the hospital’s cleaners who was friendly with the the admin staff.. no doubt.

It turned out that looks can be deceiving indeed and he was a doctor, and a kind and polite one too at that. Sorry, doctor.

Dr Uduku was obviously not a Brit. As he asked me questions and checked my urine sample and blood pressure, I curiously thought, isn’t he supposed to be serving the people in his own country? I’m sure they need him more than the well nourished and over eating people here. But I wasn’t about to ask him that directly because, well, I really am a well behaved person.

The results were good, thank God. Nothing serious, just mild gastric pains, Dr Uduku announced. At that, I wondered what a full blown gastric pain would feel like and I thank God that mine was not so bad. In truth, I did not understand 50% of what the doctor said but fortunately, I managed to understand when the doctor advised that I eat regular but small meals, to stop eating 4 hours before I go to bed and to not forget to take the medicine he has prescribed.

The good doctor then proceeded to type something on his computer and printed out my prescription and minutes later, I left the hospital with my husband, feeling reasonably satisfied and happy that I have had some medicine prescribed for me by an actual GP – unlike the medicine I normally take.

We went to a pharmacy later and my husband had to pay £13+ (bloody expensive!) for a bottle of some white stuff and some capsules which I later realise has gelatin in the coating. One week later, I am still feeling a little pain now and then but there has been no more sleepless nights and I hope to completely recover soon, God willing.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Beware Of The Face Reader

A friend is convinced that I can ‘read’ people faces and expressions better than other people can.

On two occasions (that we have thoroughly discussed, of course) I have actually successfully gauged that 2 separate couples are having problems in their marriages, even when I had no prior knowledge whatsoever of their relationships before meeting them. It turned out that my feelings were true.

My friend is convinced that I have this talent and that maybe that is the reason why I appear aloof and none too friendly when I meet ‘new’ people – because I can read and assess them from their facial expressions and air muka, so I tend to be careful. I hope that made sense. But I have to admit that I am a little impressed.

With myself, that is...if what she says is true.

‘So, it’s not because I’m a bit shy or because I’m not very good at making new friends?’, I asked her.

'No', she said, definite. 'I ‘m sure it’s because of your ability to read facial expressions easily, therefore your guard is always up and you just don’t want to be too friendly with just anybody, she said.'

Hmm..interesting.

That’s a nice way to explain what I have always thought to be my inability to mingle easily with strangers or what other people might mistake as just me being a little snobbish.

I think I’m going to believe her without a doubt because she makes me feel good about myself.

Ahhh..my friend is a good friend...

I guess I am actually very sensitive to the smallest frown and the less visible scowl. But only when I care to be. I suppose many people also have this ability but I was surprised that the 'friction' I saw between the couples I mentioned were not so visible to others.

So, I suppose all I can say is: if you're quarrelling with your spouse or partner, beware if you're meeting me...