Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Shaping my mini juniperus chinesis trees

This evening, or should I call my morning, as I am still adapting to Europe’s time zone despite being home for few days, I head out to the garden for my dear bonsai plants. It is time to prune, shape and transfer the little bonsais in the backyard into a proper pot. I selected 3 mini juniperus chinesis. After working on them for a little more than an hour, they are ready to join the other bonsais on display at the balcony, a place I call my mini paradise.

My only hope now is for them to grow healthily in these little pots barely the size of my palm. When this region was blanketed by haze for the past few months, I lost 7 mini juniperus chinesis. They just mysteriously turned yellow and died a slow death despite the twice a day “bathing” ritual. However, I am thankful that the other bigger trees survive the harsh weather. Survival of the fittest taking place right in front of my own eyes!   

Here are some of my “artworks”, before and after :

1. The broom tree

2. The informal upright tree

3. The windswept tree

Monday, 23 November 2015

A bowl of soup in Amsterdam

It was quarter to eight when my family and I arrived at Amsterdam’s Nam Kee Restaurant after a painfully long journey from Brussels, brought even longer by heavy rain and traffic congestion. Everyone was hungry. Mom was tired of Western food, my friend can’t wait for Nam Kee’s delicious “wanton mee” while I look forward for the delicious roast duck recommended.

After settling down, the waitress served a bowl of soup as starters. The bowl of soup didn’t look appetizing to me but I decided to take a sip for I was too hungry to wait till the main courses to arrive. After the first sip, I reckoned that the taste is very familiar. I then took a second sip and I almost cried with nostalgic happiness.

At the instant, my memory wandered off to faraway Auckland, to the Chinese restaurant by the name of Love A Duck in Dominion Road where I went almost daily for a simple lunch or dinner. Over there, my usual order was a bowl of Dried Vegetable with Spare Ribs soup with a bowl of white rice and nothing else. Throughout my Auckland years, it can be said that Dried Vegetable with Spare Ribs soup with white rice was what I ate the most. After leaving Auckland, I never had Dried Vegetable with Spare Ribs soup that tastes exactly the same as Love A Duck’s again until that night in Amsterdam. It was my comfort food.

I almost gave it a miss but glad that I didn't
“This soup was my favorite when I was staying in Auckland. Mom, can you cook this at home next time?”

“You better don’t. She will just make you another version,” retorted Yong, knowing too well that mom likes to add extra ingredients to soups or dishes till it can be a completely alien thing.

When the duck was served, I was almost full after taking two bowls of rice with the soup. Yet, that still didn’t stop me from asking a refill of the soup and another bowl of rice. Time flies over us but leaves its imprint behind, just like the simple Dried Vegetable with Spare Ribs soup. 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Faux Paris

I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people – Isaac Newton

Cruising past Eiffel Tower on the evening of 16th November 2015. 
It was a warm morning on the 14th November 2015 in the beautiful Swiss city of Zurich when I was awoken by the endless messages and emails coming in concerned friends and colleagues with the news that Paris was under siege by terrorists the previous night that left more than 100 people dead. One by one, I replied that my family and I were in Switzerland and that our hotel in Paris was booked for check in on 16th November.

Over breakfast before heading to the Swiss Alps, fear and confusions were everywhere when the BBC news reported that French authorities close its borders, Paris in lockdown, suspects on the run, more terror expected and etc. Should we change course or continue on to Paris as planned? Mom wasn’t in the mood for Paris but Yong and I were optimistic that Paris is safe. In the end, we still make it to Paris without any problem and in fact, not even a single road block, not a single man in arms in sight till we get to Arc de Triomphe.

Then, slowly, the feel of an empty Paris starts to creep in. The usually busy Champ de Elysees was unusually quiet. Tour buses that normally line the drop of tourists at Place de la Concorde were nowhere to be seen. Major tourist attractions, museums, art galleries and the opera house were closed to public. Even the gypsies that normally target unsuspecting tourists near Eiffel Tower were staying home.

Parisians, to the best that I know, has always retained a magical belief that the City of Light is impervious to any siege, civil disorder and military occupation. However, this time, Parisians are acting to the multiple attacks by terrorists on the night of 13th November with fear, bewilderment and generally confused responses. It is the second time in 2015 that mass killing by ISIS linked terrorist happened. As Sir Isaac Newton rightly observed, the madness of people can’t be calculated and Parisians are in defensive mode.

Only Galeries Lafayette conducts its business as usual. Tourist’s dollars, especially from Mainland China are hard to resist. It is like a mad house inside. Luxury goods were taken off shelf faster than a blink. And while mom was busy shopping, Yong and I slipped out, walked the 20 over minutes towards the Louvre for mementos of an empty Paris. At dusk, we head to Rue de Cambon for dinner before a cruise on Seine. Eiffel Tower was in tricolor instead of its usual yellow sparkle.

As I bid adieu to Paris, I am disappointed but glad that we are all safe and sound. This is not the Paris that I know! Faux Paris!!

Monday, 9 November 2015


My grandmother and I
My grandmother, my beloved “ah ma” is still around. She’d just celebrated her 91st birthday in October but I couldn’t make it home from Beijing for it and a deep sense of guilt disturbed me for days. Finally, I was with ah ma yesterday night at Catrina’s wedding and again, for family dinner tonight. Despite her age, ah ma is still in good shape except that she needs the help of a walking stick and a hearing aid. At the time of writing this, I find that words are inadequate to describe the full and happy 91 years of ah ma’s life thus far and all I want is for ah ma to stay healthy and to be around us for many more years to come. 

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Congratulations to Gary & Catrina

Family portrait. 

Congratulations and best wishes to my dearest God sister Catrina and Gary Lim on this auspicious occasion of your wedding. 祝你 百年好合,永结同心。 

Friday, 6 November 2015

Boy denied or received insufficient treatment due to mom’s shorts?

I read with rage when I saw the headline that a two year old boy was denied treatment at two government clinics and a hospital because the pants his mother and aunty wore was too short. Fellow Malaysians read with rage too of such stupidity of the incident.

The boy who cut his finger last Saturday was rushed to the 1 Malaysia clinics in Saleng, Bandar Indahpura Kulai and the Kulai Hospital. However the boy didn’t get proper treatment from these three public health care institutions and were finally given treatment at a nearby private clinic. The boy’s father, Wong Xiang Lan was quoted as saying that: “My son was crying aloud at that time, so a nurse gave my wife a sarong and let her in.”

After reading the article, I thought for a while. Something is wrong. My earlier rage was not even necessary but like fellow Malaysians, the sensory image of the headline that crept in before the finer prints had left a damming few seconds of impressions to me. 

 There is a mismatch of information in the whole report, I said to myself. 

The mother of the child claimed she was denied entry because of her attire but was later admitted after donning a sarong. However, she left two hours later when her son was not given proper treatment.  Whether it is proper or improper treatment, the fact is that the boy was given treatment. It is actually hard to judge whether a treatment given is proper or improper, depending on the treatment given by a medical personnel and the interpretation of the person receiving the care. Hence, the headline is actually misleading. DENIED TREATMENT means the boy did not get any treatment but truth  should be IMPROPER TREATMENT.

There is a big divide between DENIED and IMPROPER, and this is what that stir up the emotions of the readers. At time like this, we do not need the media to spin to headlines to create an even more distrust between the public and the government, and in this instance, it involved all government run institutions from the clinics to the police force and finally, zooming in on civil servants themselves.

On the other hand, dress codes should not be imposed in government clinics and hospitals for family members who bring in sick or injured patient. The duty of the medical personnel is to treat the patients and not to look at the legs or arms or even shoulders of those who accompanied the patient. When faced with a medical emergency, the first thing in the mind of everyone is where is the nearest hospital or clinic and to rush the person there or to be there. Having the right attire would not even make it to secondary thought or plainly, won't cross the mind at all. 

Thankfully that the incident involving the little boy did not develop into something more complicated, otherwise, who is to blame? The security guard following the “brainless” instruction from moral police up there or the mother who forget to don a proper attire before rushing her precious son to get medical treatment?

Minister Subramaniam and Minister Salleh Said Keruak, can you two please look into this matter? Small it may sound to you but underneath it reverberate two big issues about sensational journalism and public opinion about government institutions and its servants.