Friday, 31 December 2010

Semalam Di Malaysia* 2010

I landed safely in frozen Birmingham at 11.40am. I switched on my mobile and had a Malaysia D50  17-12-2010 17-58-02 quick wash before joining the queue at Immigration. Thankfully the queue for non-British passport holders was much shorter but I observed the Q&A was much longer. Thankfully everything went smoothly for moi. I was only asked how long I was away. Babe called while I was waiting for my luggage. It took ages before mine popped out. At Customs, we were asked to open our luggage and popped it on the conveyor belt. Thankfully, I’d folded my clothes properly and they just gave it a quick glance before waving me through.

Called Babe again and waited inside the freezing Arrival terminal. It was bustling and heaving.  In less than 24 hours, I was vaulted from 35C to -5C. I started having coughing fits again. Before leaving Dubai, I’d put on my thermals, a polo-neck sweater and a scarf. It was still freezing!!! Babe arrived and we met halfway. He gave me a lovely warm bear hug and lots and lots of kisses and told me that I looked like I’d just walked into a freezer. It bloody felt like one. Malaysia D50  17-12-2010 10-33-08

We drove slowly through the very icy roads. Mountains of snow and black ice laid side-by-side. It was crazy to see drivers speeding on these roads. Nothing’s changed. It was good to be home. The casa welcomed me with delicious smells from the slow-cooker and a huge bouquet of red roses. Thank you darling. Mwah…mwah. Made a quick call to Abah to inform him that I’d arrived safely. After a hearty lunch, I’d a quick wash and was out in seconds. I was soo exhausted :-).

I was away for nearly 3 weeks. I left a frozen –5C Birmingham on the 6/12.  We kept on checking with Emirates to make sure that the flight wasn’t delayed. The plane took off at 1.25 pm and the flight to Dubai took 7 hours. The plane was full and nearly a quarter were children. I made myself comfortable and watched 2 movies : Eat, Pray, Love and Avatar Special Edition. I didn’t get the first movie but I thoroughly enjoyed the second very much. My companions on this trip was a South African couple who had their first experience with snow here. They couldn’t stop talking about it. Don’t blame them.Malaysia D50  09-12-2010 15-07-24

We reached Dubai late at about 12.15 am local time. There was so much air traffic that we spent half an hour circling in the air. By the time I got into the terminal there was about 2 hours before my next check-in. By now, I’d a splitting headache and was searching for a pharmacy. After taking 2 Panadols and downing a litre of water, I’d a quick wash and went straight to check-in. My next flight was at 3 am. It would take another 7 hours to reach Kuala Lumpur. Thankfully, I managed to fall asleep on the first half of the journey.

Reached KL at 1.45pm on a bright, stuffy afternoon. I wished my Maltese companions Bonn Voyage. Malaysia D50  10-12-2010 15-30-44They had to endure another 8 hours trip to Melbourne!!!. The monorail was undergoing repairs so there was a loong walk to the airport bus to take us to the Arrival terminals. At Immigration, I put my magnetic M’sian passport in a tray, pressed my thumb and hey presto, I’m out. I just love this… 

I’d another quick wash. By this time, I’m getting good at this. At Baggage, it took forever for me to locate my luggage. Every luggage looked the same to me. Next time, I’m going to put a Union Jack strap around mine. I took so long to be out that my sister was panicking!!! She thought that I’d missed my flight…She was there with my 3 boisterous nephews and their dad. The journey to Port Dickson took us another 2 hours.

In PD, Abah greeted me with bear hugs, tears and kisses. I went in and hugged and kissed Emak. She looked well. Abah said prayers for my safe journey home. Amin. Called Babe to say that I’ve arrived safely. It was 11 pm UK time. We kept in touch daily. I called Babe at 8 am(UK 12am). As usual, we were always confused because when I say good morning, it was Babe’s bed-time.

Abah waited to have lunch with us. My favourite food was spread out on the table. Malaysia D50  08-12-2010 21-06-09 There was goreng ikan sembilang berlada, kerabu pucuk paku and masak lemak udang cili api. but yummy. Then I’d a quick nip into town to stock on some essentials. Dee and family left that night for Puchong and they will be back again for the weekend.

I spent the evening chatting with my parents and Eriq, my eldest nephew. There was soo much catching up to do. I also called up my aunts and close friends informing them that I’m back. So far, I’d no problems falling asleep as I’d the air-conditioner on when I’m sleeping.

As usual, Abah did all the cooking and I helped with the chopping, washing up and cleaning. Abah would go to the market with a list of things that I would like to eat. I’d written a very long list of food. Soo much food, soo little time :-). I spent the morning stalking the feathered species around our casa with my camera. There were plenty and they Malaysia D50  10-12-2010 15-22-15looked and sounded soo different to what I’m used to. I bet my parent’s neighbours think I’m loco…The birds on these blog were those that I managed to photographed.

Apart from the obligatory siesta, I spent the afternoons reading Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. It was really thrilling that I managed to finish it in the first week.  How I wished I had brought the whole trilogy with me. Also completed another set of Sudoku. I managed to pop into town a few times to get some postcards and books, checked out the night and farmers market, met a few friends and said hi to the neighbours. It was also Abah’s 77th birthday. He had a huge smile when his 5 grandchildren sang happy birthday down the phone. Eriq bought a cake and we’d sate for dinner. Happy birthday Abah and many happy returns.

In the evenings when it was much cooler, I popped down to the beach with Eriq to get a few shots.Malaysia D50  11-12-2010 07-44-26  Thankfully, this time no more resorts and hotels have been added to the coastline. But near the town, more sea have been reclaimed and lots of construction works carried out. I bet on my next trip, the coastline have altered yet again.  We checked out stalls for souvenirs  and I bought a PD t-shirt for Babe and a fridge magnet to be added to my collection. I wanted to admit my mistake on my previous trip home about dolphins. They have been spotted at Tanjung Tuan which is famous for its light-house. I thought there were NO dolphins in PD seas.

On Friday night, Hanim and family picked me from my parents and we went back to our kampung (hometown). My grandma died last year and it has been my wish to visit and recite prayers at her grave. On the same night too, another Auntie was holding a doa selamat (prayers of thanks) for my uncle’s successful Hajj to Mecca. It was a wonderful time catching up with the whole tribe again plus more delicious spread.

It was very strange to be back at my birthplace. I have not been back ever since I left for the UK Malaysia D50  11-12-2010 08-06-3714 years ago.  But it felt the same. I’d a good night sleep in my late grandma’s house surrounded by fruit trees that I used to climb when I was young. Early in the morning, armed with my camera, I walked to my great grandmother’s house which has fallen to pieces. Just look at this grand house with its tiled steps especially imported from the UK, if I’m not mistaken. I’d fond memories of this house with its huge wooden attic. The intricate carvings were still there. Will my grandma’s house be abandoned like this??? 

I walked further down. The padi fields were no longer there. They have been reclaimed and replanted with various things. My uncle had planted a few dragon fruit trees and starting rearing goats. Good luck with that. At least, the land hasn’t been totally abandoned.

After a quick cold shower, we went to the farmers market in search of breakfast and lunch. Malaysia D50  11-12-2010 07-59-04 There was soo much to choose from. For breakfast, we bought nasi lemak and some local delicacies. Hanim bought some fresh produce to cook for lunch. After a long, leisure breakfast, we drove to the cemetery. We said prayers for my grandmother, poured holy water and strewn flowers on her grave. RIP to a very wonderful woman. We also did the same to other family members who were buried here.

Then a quick visit to another aunt, Bibik. She wasn’t feeling well and we wanted to make sure that she was ok. I think our presence did bring her smile back. Later in the evening, we popped into the famous Rembau night market in search of more food. It was food galore. Both my aunts, Hanim and Ateh, and I chose what we liked and then we went over to Ateh’s house to eat what we’d just bought. My oh my, the table was groaning. There was soo much food and we’d a wonderful time polishing them up. Life was just good.

We only spent a night here as Hanim had to work on Sunday. Before we left, another pit stopMalaysia D50  11-12-2010 20-19-41 at Cik Alang’s house. They had just retired and enjoying a much calmer life in the countryside. He had just became a grandfather and brought the house down with tales of his grandson antics. That was one proud grandfather. 

On the drive back to PD, my sister called and asked us what time will we arrive. The tribe was in PD and they were having a BBQ and a cake for Abah. I told them to go ahead and not wait for us. By the time we arrived, it was on full swing and Eriq had invited several of his friends. We’d a wonderful time polishing the delicious spread. Ooh my poor tummy :-). Hanim and family left quite late for Subang Jaya. Thank you and have a safe trip home.

On Sunday, I followed my sister back to Pucong. We were going to take the Komuter from  Malaysia D50  12-12-2010 18-07-19Seremban to Bandar Tasik Selatan. Her elder sons had already gone back with their father. Abah gave us a lift to the bus station where we took the bus to Seremban. I used to take this route when I was studying in Seremban but everything was soo unfamiliar. We’d an ice-cream while waiting for the train to Bandar Tasik Selatan. It was an hour’s journey and by the time we arrived, K was waiting for us.

On the way to their home, I bought Thai seafood tom-yam and telur bungkus for dinner.  After dinner, K and Dee drove me to CY’s casa in Shah Alam. It wasn’t easy finding it in the dark but we arrived safely. They dropped me here where I’ll be staying for at least  2 days. CY’s mum was also in the house. We’d a wonderful time yacking until 2am!!!

It was very late when we got up. After a light breakfast, we decided to check out the SACC Mall. Malaysia D50  13-12-2010 14-35-30 Lots and lots of stuff but we came out with nothing. We’d lunch at the De Palma. We’d a good laugh cos I ordered Mee Mamak and CY ordered chicken chop. I’d local food while CY ate western food…The portions were small but they were delicious.

Then we walked through PKNS, which used to be our hang-out. Nothing’s changed although there were lots of small stalls cramped into the concourse. We checked out every stall and I bought a pair of white pants with linings (?) and 2 packets of serunding (shredded meat). I was hunting for calendars with a Malaysian theme but there wasn’t any. We stopped at a drink stall and I’d the coconut shake. It was fresh coconut juice with the flesh blended in ice cubes. It was delicious and it was my downfall. Up to now, I still have this very nasty, irritating cough.

The next day we drove into KL. We were going to drop CY’s mum at her brother’s house  Malaysia D50  14-12-2010 11-59-42before heading for the famous KL twin-towers. The number of toll booths we’d to drive through and pay was unbelievable. High-rise buildings mushroomed everywhere in KL. I had a hard time finding my bearings. Everything had changed soo drastically that I felt like an outsider in my own country. After dropping her mother, CY’s sister, sister-in-law and niece joined us for our trip to the twin-towers.

Guess what? The tickets have all been sold out since 11 am :-( :-( :-(. We were there at 11.30pm. I knew we’d to be there early…but never mind. There’s always next time. We checked out the souvenir shop and I bought another tee for Babe and a fridge magnet. Then as usual pose for pictures. We then checked out the uber-expensive Suria KLCC. Couldn’t afford anything so we decided to have lunch at the food-court. I ordered a claypot meal but it came out without the claypot and it was soo bland. What a let-down. Since I was hungry, I requested the famous Penang kuay-teow which was utterlyMalaysia D50  14-12-2010 14-47-33 delicious.

Then we checked out the Xmas decorations and I couldn’t resist asking the girls to pose outside M&S.  It was so tempting to go in and buy something. How ridiculous was that? At Isetan, I fell in love with 2 very beautiful, expensive top. I wanted to buy only one but somehow ended buying both. One, I’m going to wear on the way back to the UK. The other one will be for a very special function. I couldn’t wait…

Then we decided to chill out at the beautiful lake and fountains outside the twin-towers. It must be a favourite hang-out cos there were hundreds of people waiting…Waiting for what!!! Then at 7pm, everyone was looking towards the towers. They were waiting for the lights to be switched on. It started at the base and the whole floor started lighting upwards one by one. It was just soo beautiful. About 7.30pm, we joined the crowd to go home.

The next day, CY and her nephew gave me a lift to PD. I was a lovely drive although we wereMalaysia D50  14-12-2010 18-31-07 nearly  lost on the way out. I called Abah saying we were on our way and that CY and nephew were joining us for lunch. There were still a few more tolls along the way. Travelling must be very expensive in Malaysia. We arrived in PD and had a wonderful lunch prepared by Abah. Thank you Abah and thank you CY for a wonderful time. We will do it again in 2 years time, Insha’allah.

It was nice to be home. Eriq told me that he got his results and passed all his papers. Well done but his CGPA was only 2.85. Must try harder next time. Later that night Abah and I watched the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup between Malaysia and Vietnam. Well-done to Malaysia for scoring 2:0 but they still need to win for the return league in Vietnam. Thankfully, they did. Malaysia was to meet their arch-enemies, Indonesia, in the finals. It should be interesting especially when there were a few thousands Indonesians migrants living and working in Malaysia.

On Friday, my niece, Emil, and her friend came over to spend the weekend with us.  Later in the evening, we went to the beach cos they wanted to have a swim in the sea. Eriq and friend tagged along. I didn’t join them cos I was too engrossed stalking a sea sparrow. On Saturday, Dee and her younger sons came over to PD. The house was back to chaos again:-). Malaysia D50  14-12-2010 18-57-20

My relatives also dropped by and brought more food. It was wonderful catching up with them. That night we checked out PD’s night market and Abah requested Yong Tau Foo. There was excitement in the air when hundreds of bikers turned up. Traffic was at a standstill. Luckily, we lived at the top of the housing estate and managed to get home safely.

On Sunday, my childhood friend, RMN, invited me to join her to meet an old school mate, AK, who had just returned from performing the Haj. We drove to our old haunt in Seremban where we met AK and hubby for  brunch at Kopitiam, Seremban 2. I had the lovely Mee Rebus with iced lemon tea which was a huge, huge mistake. My cough flared up again :-(. Apart from that, we’d a wonderfulMalaysia D50  14-12-2010 19-10-34 time reminiscing the good old days.

Dee left for Pucong that evening. Emil and friend stayed behind and will accompany me when I leave on Tuesday.  I spent Monday packing and spending quality time with my parents. Emil then got an e-mail saying that she was accepted to further her studies in UITM, Penang. Congratulations. She’d less than a week to get everything sorted out. So we went through her check list to make sure that she doesn’t missed anything. Good luck to a lovely niece.      

Babe and I kept on checking the news because of the snowfall that had grounded UK’s airports when it was time to fly back to the UK. It was very sad saying goodbye to my elderly parents. But I promise to call them every weekend and see them every 2 years. All I can do is pray that Allah will look after all of us always. Amin. Eriq’s friend drove us to Malaysia D50  18-12-2010 18-07-05Dee’s casa in Pucong. All I need was pay for the fuel and toll charges. We stopped at Sepang F1 circuit where I wanted to get a Lotus tee for Babe. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any and you can only purchase them on-line,

We’d lunch at Dee’s casa before I asked Eriq and friends to give Emil a lift to her boarding school in Klang.  She needed to have her school certificates authenticated. After they left, Erif accompanied me to the hair-dresser to have my hair hennaed. I wanted to surprise Babe. And he was really surprised :-).

That night, Induk and Susi came over to wish me a safe journey. They brought sate for supper which we thoroughly demolished. We’d a wonderful time catching up and Induk bought me a lovely green sequined baju kurung Malaysia D50  21-12-2010 11-42-01and some local delicacies. Thank you soo much. Dee later asked Susi whether he could drive her to Penang because K will be away in Sabah due to work commitments. Thankfully, he agreed. A big thank you again.

The next day, Dee and I with her 2 younger sons plus Emil and friend, made a trip into KL.  I wanted to get a specific kind of tote. We took the bus to KL Central, then a Monorail and then the Komuter into Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. Apart from the girls, we have never been on a Monorail and what an experience it was. At JTAR, we checked out all the shops but I still couldn’t find my tote. In the end, we bought stuff for Emil’s. We later joined the queue for lunch at KFC.

The girls need to run more errands while we decided to call it a day. Thankfully, we were Malaysia D50  22-12-2010 10-49-57on the bus on the way home, when the heavens opened. You don’t want to get stuck in KL during the monsoon rains. We arrived home drenched but safe. Then I packed my things and got ready for my trip back to the UK.

I called Abah when I’m on the way to the airport. Hanim and family were already there.    We’d a drink and a chat at McDonalds before Z and family joined us. Thank you for seeing me off and may Allah bless you all. At 12pm, I bid everyone goodbye and checked in. 

I boarded the 2.10am flight from KL. I was soo tired that I fell asleep and had to be awakened for my meals. I reached Dubai at 5.10am local time and the azan (call) for Subuh prayers was booming through the terminals. I bought a bottle of water and went straight to check-in. Depart Dubai at 8.05am. Watched Shrek: The Final Chapter and Russel Crowe’s version of Robin Hood.

When we flew over Europe, I could see that it was totally blanketed with snow. Europe was totally frozen. I’m glad that I wasn’t stranded in Dubai. That would be my worst nightmare. All in all, I’d a wonderful time in Malaysia, with my lovely parents and sister plus family, friends and relatives. I missed all of you already and I hoped to be back in 2 years time, Insyallah.

Malaysia D50  22-12-2010 22-30-19

*Night in Malaysia

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas

We’d a very quiet, very laid-back Xmas. There was no Xmas decorations except for a recycled wreath on the front door, no Xmas trees, no Xmas pressies and not even Xmas dinner. We decided to forego Xmas this year. But we do want to wish every one a Very Merry Happy Xmas.

It was a year since Trish disappeared, now confirmed dead. RIP to a wonderful, beautiful sister-in-law.

It may be our last Xmas in this casa. We are expecting to go casa-hunting after the new year.

We spent the afternoon taking a long leisure stroll with our cameras at the snowy grounds of Coombe Abbey.

The slides below were taken during our Xmas eve visit at a frozen and icy Brandon Marsh.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

First Snow

Coventry D50  27-11-2010 09-31-16

The snow had begun in the gloaming,
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.

Every pine and fir and hemlock
Wore ermine too dear for an earl,
And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
Was ridged inch deep with pearl.

From sheds new-roofed with Carrara
Came Chanticleer’s muffled crow,
The stiff rails softened to swan’s-down,
And still fluttered down the snow.

I stood and watched by the window
The noiseless work of the sky,
And the sudden flurries of snow-birds,
Like brown leaves whirling by.

I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn
Where a little headstone stood;
How the flakes were folding it gently,
As did robins the babes in the wood.

Up spoke our own little Mabel,
Saying, “Father, who makes it snow?”
And I told of the good All-father
Who cares for us here below.

Again I looked at the snow-fall,
And thought of the leaden sky
That arched o’er our first great sorrow,
When that mound was heaped so high.

I remembered the gradual patience
That fell from that cloud like snow,
Flake by flake, healing and hiding
The scar that renewed our woe.

And again to the child I whispered,
“The snow that husheth all,
Darling, the merciful Father
Alone can make it fall!”

Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her;
And she, kissing back, could not know
That my kiss was given to her sister,
Folded close under deepening snow

The First Snow-Fall by James Russell Lowell

I was kept waiting for the white stuff to be sent to Coventry. Coventry D50  27-11-2010 09-36-49 I was glued to the tv watching northern and eastern Scotland along with northeast England blanketed by snow. It was bitterly cold but still nothing. Not a single fluff :-(.

Imagine to my delight when I woke up to white, winter wonderland, Yaay…it snowed at last. I was grinning from ear to ear. I quickly donned my warmest attire and went out, armed with my camera. It was a very brisk, bright cold morning

At first we thought of checking Groby Pool D50  27-11-2010 12-35-32out Donna Nook but the weather up there wasn’t too promising.  So we went to check out what the natives have been up to at Bradgate Park. It was a very icy drive and seeing some drivers speeding on the M69 was just ridiculous.

As usual, a pit stop at Groby Pool was a must. The car-park was like an ice-rink and the pool was also frozen.Groby Pool D50  27-11-2010 12-54-02 I bought along a loaf of bread to feed the birds. Boy…weren’t they glad to see us. No exotic birds, even the hybrid ducks have gone.  There were plenty of robins fighting over scraps of bread. As we walked back, I spotted this lovely Long-tail tit flirting from tree to tree. A few Redwings were busy feeding on the berries by the car-park.

Then it was a very slippery Newtown Linford D50  27-11-2010 13-08-38drive downhill on a road covered with a blanket of ice, Holy s—t!!!  It was pretty scary. Luckily there weren’t any cars coming the other direction. Babe said that he’s going to take the other route on the way home. Don’t blame him.  

It was a very nice surprise to find not many cars about. It was either too cold to be out and aboutBradgate  Park D300s  27-11-2010 13-28-22 or people were stuck at home. The park was also very quiet. No deer greeted us at the entrance but our favourite noise-box was waiting to be fed by the river. As usual, he was sooo noisy and very demanding. It was a delight to see him about.

We continued walking and spotted several herds of deer feeding among the bracken. We walked on the road instead of the footpaths by the river. It was too icy and slippery. Bradgate Park D50  27-11-2010 13-45-45 From a distance, Lady Jane Grey’s house looked amazing nestling among the snow and bathing in the bright winter’s sun.

We walked towards a herd of young stags feeding. We just stood there watching them, watching us. As we continued walking, this handsome stag came strutting down the hill. What an amazing mammal. Once the rut is over the stags will leave the matriarchal herd and eventually regroup with other unrelated stags over the winter.

There wasn’t much else Bradgate  Park D300s  27-11-2010 14-16-09 about and we decided to call it a day. On the way back to the car-park, we came across this amazing sight. Hundred of deer were marching in front of us, heading towards the mountain. Wow…Everyone stopped to watch them thundering past. This was the first time we saw such a spectacle.

Last week, I was busy clearing my table and tying loose ends. I’ve warned my colleagues and Procurement staff that I’ll be away the whole of December and don’t want my table cluttered with stuff. Bradgate  Park D300s  27-11-2010 14-38-25 They often have the habit of putting stuff when I’m not around :-).

Babe tagged along during one of my lunch walks. We walked towards Heronbank. I was quite surprised that the reeds have been cut and dug a lot. This cheeky Pied wagtail was so busy feeding that I could get so close.

We saw a Greenwoodpecker flying in but he took off before we could get to our camera. I ate my sandwich by the bench watching the terns and ducks skating on the frozen lake. Suddenly we heard the ice cracking and wonder what it was.Warwick University D50  26-11-2010 12-56-59 We watched in amazement at this swan was paddling and therefore braking the thin ice…

Babe continued with his adventures to Brandon Marsh while I trodded back to the office. As I entered the building, it suddenly went dark. Huh…the porters said it was my fault…Actually, the electrics was overloaded because portable heaters were running at full blast. The central heating wasn’t working again.

Without the portable heaters, our office will look like this. This was the scene at Brandon Marsh when Babe went there.Brandon Marsh D300s  26-11-2010 14-20-20 It must be freezing.

I also attended an EMALINK workshop on “The next generation OPACS” at Loughborough University with my colleague, GLW. We left at about 12 pm and arrived at 1pm. We made a quick tour of the library and GLW checked the shelf to see if his thesis was still there. GLW did his post-graduate studies here.

During this 2-hour workshop we explored how the Next Generation OPACs will enhance and improve integrated access to resources. There were 25 representatives from various universities and we discussed the key criteria in selecting a system and the benefits that can be expected. I’m looking forward to to testing the Encore that we’d purchased but not install YET!!!

It was my cousin, Lyanna’s graduation on Friday. The graduation ceremony was held at the beautiful Coventry Cathedral. How grand was that!!! She had received her Engineering degree. Congratulations and well-done.

Also congratulations to WFP. He and M are expecting twins next year. How exciting was that. They’ll make wonderful parents.

It's double the giggles and double the grins, and double the trouble if you're blessed with twins. 

~Author Unknown~