Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Khoo Bee Neo - My Ama

Ama had spent a lot of time with us kids when we were staying in PJ before I was 3. She came down often to look after my eldest sister and brother when my parents were busy. Since I was too young, my memories of her time with us in PJ was when she grabbed hold of my wrist, while using 2 fingers to "walk" up my arm chanting "chang chang kentut, wow wow wow... ketiak busuk!" ending with her tickling me until I begged for mercy.

My most memories of her was when she lived in her Melaka home. We'd go to Melaka every school holiday to spend time with her and my cousins. Again, my memories of my younger years in Melaka were only limited to those times I spent with my cousin Karen and that we used to visit her home with her carefully tended garden.

She would often sit at the back in the kitchen with her beloved dogs at her feet while she smoked cigarettes and drank hard liquor. I remember her bringing me to the market a few times. She'd buy the necessary produce and then hail a trishaw to get back home.

Being uneducated, she could hardly speak English, let alone pronounce our English names. Karen became Karan (which didn't make sense to her since karan means electricity in Malay), Kelvin became Kebin, Janice became Nyenie, I became So Eng. My cousin Karen remembers more.

Always putting others before her, she would often cook a delicious and complete meal for her dogs, like fried chicken with gravy and boiled rice. Right after feeding her dogs, she'd proceed to have her own lunch - a couple of cheese biscuits. Then, she'd also sleep in the tiny back room of her house, leaving the front 2 rooms available whenever we came to visit.

She's also famous for her Nyonya dishes, she being Nyonya herself. I loved most her salted vege with duck meat/bones soup and her kangkung belachan which she would pound with her pastle and mortar. She would feed us to no end, ensuring there was always food in the house in case we got hungry.

Her personal must-haves were a bottle of tiger balm, minyak cap kapak and bedak sejuk. These items are still present in her cupboard, unopened. It was from her that I learnt how to use these elements. I still use bedak sejuk til this very day.

She was also always conscious of her white hair and would often visit the local saloon and proudly step off a trishaw with her grey hairs in full black. I wish we could have somehow dyed her hair before she was buried, she would have loved that.

Also known for her DIY capabilities, she would often try to heal us using stuff from the kitchen. When my brother had a cut on his scalp, she rushed to rub coffee powder on it "to stop the bleeding" she declared. The nurses weren't too happy trying to clean up his wound after that! Mine was a white spot on my wrist, panau. I had seen a doctor about it and given some medication to put on it. For weeks it still didn't go off until we paid our usual visit to Amah who spotted it at once and proceeded to rub this root (I still don't know what it is but it looks, smells and stings like ginger) furiously on the spot until my skin grew red and tinged in slight pain. It was gone within days. Amazing huh, for someone who never had an education. Better than the doctor who tried to cure me.

Though I've never seen her painting, but she loved to paint various articles at home in striking colours. There's a green chair on my auntie's porch alongside a blue trolley. Her old nyonya items like an antigue trunk made of steel was also painted a maroon. Mind you, these paints are meant to be used on wood so they have that standard satin look. If you see anything in the house that is of that finishing, it means it was her handiwork. Oh, her fridge she also painted green, plus a wooden cupboard in bright yellow, all using the same wood paint regardless if it were metal she was painting.

Only at the funeral did I know a bit about her painful past. She was adopted (and was named Khoo Ah Keoh, which means "pick up") and abused by her adopted spinster mother. Later when she got married at her tender late teens, she was then again severely abused by her mother-in-law. She was the second wife of my grandfather as the first wife couldn't take the abuse from the mother-in-law. Coming from a rural area somewhere in Batu Pahat and shifting to Melaka when she got married, my Ama had nowhere to run.

Never having been shown love, she had difficulty in expressing it. But her way of taking care of us when we were young, giving us ang pows whenever we'd come to visit, nagging us to get married quickly to have kids, was her various ways of showing her love to us.

When we kids started going overseas to study and later migrate for my cousins, she would only know we were going to Eropah even though we were going to Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Since we didn't manage to come back more often then, she would ask us if the government could build a bridge from Malaysia to Eropah!

I miss her. She was my closest grandparent and I always knew she loved us with all her heart. So do we love you too, Ama.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


My Ama (Mum's mum) passed away on Sunday 26 June, 05 at 7:45pm at Aunt Poh Gek's home in JB. I got the news just as I was trying to sleep after reaching home from Kuching.

Last night, 27 June, we held an eulogy for her, with speeches from those who weren't able to make it; Lawrence and Kelvin. The flood of memories of her days with us were rekindled with each loving sentence.

Today, we buried her in Kulai at the Nirvana Memorial Park. It was heart wrenching as we watched the coffin being lowered and finally covered. We shed tears and went back.

It was not until Mum came to ask me if I wanted any of her clothes. I know she has some lovely nyonya tops and I thought I'd take a peek at them. As soon as I opened the cupboard, the smell which only belonged to Ama hit me and my eyes drank in all her familiar clothes. The last straw was seeing her beloved hand bag, which she would always tote along with her, her unopened bottle of tiger balm and new boxes of bedak sejuk, all her signature possessions.

I just stood there and sobbed uncontrollably until Mum came in to see how I was progressing. I told her I couldn't do it, I couldn't touch her clothes without thinking about her, I couldn't whiff her scent without bringing back sharp memories of her. As at now, I still haven't really found the privacy to give in to grieve.

At this point, I can't write out any of my memories of her.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Last weekend I was in Melaka for Father's Day. Now I'm in JB on a Wednesday, going back to KL tomorrow and on Friday, I'm off to Kuching for a company trip. In two weeks time I'm supposed to go for a wedding in Penang. And in between, if need be, I'd have to go to Alor Star since my Dad is adamant of coming down to JB even though he's just had his cataract removed on Monday.

Lord, preserve me.

Laboured Breathing

I am now in JB as my grandma was admitted to the ICU last night with her vital organs shutting down. She's been suffering since last Nov when she fell and knocked her head and lost her speech amongst others to the point that she was in a semi vegetative state.

Mum took a morning flight from Alor Star and KS, Jan and I picked her up from KLIA on our way down to JB. We met up with my eldest sister (who hopped over from Singapore) at the hospital.

Ama looked absolutely frail and her breathing was laboured. The doc is not optimistic and has warned us that her time could be up anytime now.

So now we wait...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Refugee Day

There's this really funny tagline for an ad on the radio, about World Refugee Day. It goes like this:

It Takes Courage... To Be A Refugee...

Cracks me up evertime I hear it. That's a challenge to you and me. Go on, be a refugee.

Diamond Face

A few months before my wedding, I volunteered myself to be a "face model" for some friends. They were going through a course teaching them how to use the make-up products they were selling and had one last task to accomplish before they would be deemed "pass". It was sort of a competition whereby 10 artist would be selected to go to the final round the week after.

So there I was, rushing from work, totally excited about getting tips on how to put make up (since I don't even wear it to work). My face was cleaned up, eyebrows plucked and sat ready to be worked upon. Then the expert/si fu walked by and gasped upon seeing me.

She looked at my face and declared, "Ah, this is what we call a Diamond Face". Immediately I was surrounded by the other students gasping oohs and aahs, albeit towards horrification. I felt like a freak in a zoo. Obviously having this face shape is undesirable as the si fu started giving more detailed instructions as how to hide my diamond flaws.

After the given 45 minutes, all made up, the speaker summoned me and another girl up to the stage. Since they spoke in Cantonese, my mother tongue which I don't understand, I had no clue as to what I was up there for. Initially, everyone clapped when I was summoned so I thought my artist had been chosen to go to the final round. I was beaming for her when I was suddenly
plonked on a chair. Swiftly, two experts came up and started removing make up on half of my face. Dread filled me but I held on to the notion that she's probably just trying to make it slightly better than it already is.

By the time this expert was done, it was clear and apparent that the 2 of us on stage were selected because we looked like total clowns. I had 2 different make-ups on my face and I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself in the ground when the rest of the participants passed me by with a pitiful look, pretending to examine my make-up and diamond face. As quickly as I could, I excused myself and went home.

When I looked in the mirror, I liked neither of the 2 designs on my face. Two of my cell group members dropped by and one exclaimed that I looked like a clown while the other was a little less harsh with a mere "I don't think the make up suits you". Immediately after they left, I scrubbed my face of every trace of that humiliating experience.

Thank God I never felt like that during my wedding as the experts who worked on me did a MUCH better job. And no, I don't have any photos. Even if I did, think you that I would expose it??

Monday, June 20, 2005


Thank God for fingernails. My scalp is plaque with a forever itch, my legs which fed a thousand mosquitoes over the weekend and my feet which are almost bleeding from my incessant scratching have benefited with relief thanks to my nails.

Disgustingly, it comes with anti-social side effects: snowflakes from the top of my head with each swivel especially when I bend down towards my food, peppering it if I'm not careful, red angry scars from all that scratching, little lumps from mozzie bites with a big X right in the centre (again, thanks to my nails). So it is no wonder I'm glued to my seat and not wanting to move much as it will cause a flurry of scratches. Then I'd be scraping my dna from under my nails soon after.

I've never had chicken pox before but I know a chicken poxee will constantly be in a state of itch. If this is just a preview of what poxees suffer, I'm going to get myself a good pox jab. God help me that I don't need to get the jab in the first place!

Hijau Kuning

This was way back in Sunway College during my less cool days. Fitting in perfectly with the nerds, I often proved my worthiness to this club.

This instance was merely a few months when I joined the Australian Matriculation. These 2 Indian dudes in my class who looked like hommies always sat in front and often peppered the class with jokes.

One day, he wore a football jersey in yellow and green and I excitedly went up to him and said, "Wah! You're a fan of Kedah ah?" I still remember his look of bewilderment and his "Huh?!" which I responded by pointing to his shirt, saying proudly "Hijau kuning mah!" (colours of Kedah).

He looked ready to cry as his face contorted into an anguished torture, "THIS is an original Manchester United jersey!" he bellowed.

I never saw him wearing it again.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Ode to Mr. Rat

You've ran over our countertops, scurried up tricky metal rods to reach the bread we tied hoping it was out of your reach, climbed onto our dining table, eaten countless loafs of bread and my freshly baked cheesestick cookies.

At times we would manage to catch a glimpse of you. KS declared you were ang moh as you had brown hair instead of the expected black asian type.

I still remember the first time you announced your presence, with the barking of Ah Jin at the back as he snuffed you out behind the washing machine.

And now, my furry friend, you have been lured into the trap we bought for RM8, dangled a piece of your favourite food - bread. The first bait was my layer cake at first which I will not forgive KS for doing and you didn't appreciate. Anyway, as you baked in the sun, scrambling around, we all felt pity and KS wouldn't, no, COULDN'T look at you for he would surely have released you as he begged me to drive somewhere far away to set you free elsewhere.

As your limp body lies in some dumpster now, I hope you have somehow been able to express your tragedy to other potential Mr. Rats of House No.49 and discouraged them that WE MEAN BUSINESS.

My Forte

We bought some furniture from Ikea over the weekend and have them in boxes downstairs. I've been slowly fixing them up from the box and it excites me just to be able to fix them up in a jiffy.

I've always had an interest in fixing simple things up and always have fixed up tables and what not even though there are guys around. Stand aside boys, I'm having fun!

KS and I often joke that we have such diverse roles, I like to do the guys stuff around the house while he's more domesticated. Like last weekend, I had to clear away the dead rat we caught (oh yeah, I forgot to mention we caugth Mr. Rat at last! Just hoping that is the only Mr. Rat around) while he was ironing upstairs. So I'm the one who would want to hammer up new mirrors, fix a leaking pipe while he will cook and do the laundry. It feels strange but it works for us.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Last (Wo)Man Standing

KS and my 3 colleages I currently have lunch with are all ill today. And my supplier is also on MC. So I'm bracing myself and wondering when it's gonna hit me. Murphy says it will hit just before I go Kuching next Friday.

Now, I really wouldn't mind a bout of purging because I did a terrible thing yesterday (and today), I weighed myself. I've been living in denial. No longer am I what I thought I was. The least painful, fastest and effective way is to be infected with some virus to flush it all out somehow. Where are those bugs?!

Of Chocolate and Fishing

I discovered there is someone I know who wants to go fishing like me! Yay! So right now we're trying to find someone who has the fishing gear and the patience to teach us.

Having a massive headache now. I'd like to blame it on the following:
1. Woke up to check the clock which read 12:15 and gave me a fright when it was only 8am
2. Washed my hair and it's still wet so it's affecting my brains

Never mind that I guzzled down a chuck of my sis' chocolate laden brownie for breakfast. Nope, it's not the chocolate and I DON'T GET HEADACHES FROM EATING CHOCOLATE! I fervently pray that I don't coz otherwise I'd have to give up chocolate which is worse than having to exercise.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

MJ Acquittal

I was updated unknowingly about Michael Jackson's acquittal yesterday when I took a dip into the local online paper. Even though I haven't been following the case, it must be horrible for the world to take a fine tooth comb and go through your life. Hey, we all have things we want to hide. I love his songs and think he's a great artist, albeit weird with all his fancies for childhood.

The local radio station is now dedicating the whole hour to his songs. The DJ is reading what Malaysians are writing in about how they love him.
It's as though he just died.

But I wonder if he will ever be able to bounce back, since he's always been troubled and unmotivated. He just might lose the will to live.


I don't know why but I've had the urge to go fishing lately, much to my husband's surprise and dismay since he has no interest whatsoever.

The thought of being able to fish for your meal and having it fresh seems to appeal to me. Also, I'd be able to quietly read a book while waiting for the bite. Of course, I certainly wouldn't know if I'd be able to sit in the shade while doing so, or will it be so hot that I'd simply want to rush to the nearest air cond room.

My colleague who goes fishing regularly tells me there are several places to do so in Klang. Her family of 2 girls would also fish and in between they'd be busy colouring books or having a picnic. She has mentioned of this place in PD which I think sounds pretty good, called B'Tish, sort of a hotel/resort/apartment where she went last weekend and her kids didn't have their fishing rods so they simply used a piece of branch with strings attached and voila! Big fish too! Apparently someone there caught a stingray and promptly bbq-ed it. Lovely.

Perhaps at this point I'm merely curious but it's something I'd want to do before I die, amongst my growing list.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Batman Begins

"No handphones, cameras or any recording device allowed into the halls" barked the announcer at last night's special Batman Begins preview. There were well over a thousand people at Mid Valley and I was amongst the throng, squeezing into the crowd to queue for inspection before being allowed into the hall. Metal detectors were used, our bags pried open for careful scrutiny much to my embarrassment since I then discovered I had credit card slips crumpled and stuffed in various corners of my handbag.

Then after the ordeal of being checked, two guards marched up to the top of the cinema and stationed there for the entire time the movie, walking up and down the aisle to check if we were recording the movie. Wow! Talk about tight security!

Anyways, the movie was great. I enjoyed it since I didn't have any expectations. Christian Bale was quite good in his role and I liked Liam Neeson, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman in theirs too. Then there is this kinda new actor called Cillian Murphy, pretty boy but which makes him look a little crazed.

However, upon asking KS what he thought of it, he said "Total waste of my time!". He had been following the development of this movie and had expected to more. Oh well, one man's meat...

Monday, June 13, 2005


Yesterday the two cleaning ladies came 15 mins before the appointed time at 9am and I was still in bed. The moment KS noticed they were there at the gate, I groaned and pulled myself off the bed and cleaned the pile of reading materials beside each side of the bed. Yup, I was experiencing cleaning-before-the-cleaning-lady-comes.

They gasped at my collection of dust and fallen hair which carpeted the rooms and I weakly defended it was "because of the neighbour who was still under renovation". They'd know the true story by next week coz not that much dust can accumulate if I had been cleaning. But hey, like KS says, if we could clean the house up once a week on our own, we wouldn't have hired them, would we?

So after a few bouts of clucking in disbelief "Very dusty ah...", I squirmed my way downstairs while they tackled upstairs. I say tackled meaning they really put full force in cleaning up the place in a jiffy. Voila! In mere two hours, they had swept, mopped, dusted, cleaned all bathrooms everywhere. Our feet loved the smooth surface without having to go to the bathroom to wash off the blackness every half hour.

I commented how lovely it was to go to bed without wending my way through the various pathways our reading materials had lined. Climbing onto the bed, I picked up the newspapers and promptly dropped it to my side of the bed. KS just shook his head and sighed.

A Unique Wedding

On Saturday we attended KS's colleague's wedding at a very strange hour, from 5 to 7pm. It was held at the roof of a building, beside the pool and bar. A most unusual wedding, I must say but it was certainly different from any others that I've been to.

For once, I felt what I wore suited the occasion as I had on a spaghetti strap knee length dress which was cooling enough for the heat (although I still perspired until my seat was wet). The food was good too as I had been longing for roti jala for some time now. A fusion of spicy lobster, smoked fish aka sashimi style, spaghetti, fried koay teow, prawn salad, lamb slices...

The place was mulling with celebrities, if only I could point them out. The movers and shakers of the writing world on this side of the nation were also there, again, if only I knew who they were. Just loads of people but we mananged to find KS's colleagues to hang out with, which was pretty cool.

The bride looked really good, as she's quite hippy in her sense of dressing. Her hair was worn long with a gorgeous flower tucked behind her ear, perfectly matching her orange sequined dress and flowy skirt. Very bold.

Alas, I couldn't figure out which one the groom was until KS pointed out to me as the one standing beside her. He was dressed in a white shirt and black pants and blended in with the hordes of people who wore the same. A simple man with few spoken words. What a perfect match!

All in all, it was a great wedding, something I won't forget in a long time.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Jan's 21st Birthday

Today is my sister's 21st birthday! Yup, the baby of the family is now a legal adult.

We sent her a bunch of helium balloons together with some flowers in a basket plus a little bear and a small box of chocolates. Her colleagues were so excited, taking photos with the gift, so funny.

Tonight we're taking her to Chili's. Oh dang, which reminds me I haven't made reservations!

Can you believe Chili's don't take no reservations? I really hope there WILL be seats for us when we get there tonight.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Somehow when my cell leader is not around,things are much quieter, less people talk and I get more tense in trying to get everyone to participate. It usually ends up with sleepy eyed folks leaving the place.

I really don't know what I should do to change this. My character is such that I am not a sanguine, in fact, I'm an absolute phlegmatic.

You know what's worse? The cell is getting so big that I feel it's about time to multiply aka split. And yours truly will have to take on one cell for sure! I'M NOT READY!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Reality Bites

Lately I have encountered a couple of guys who are chasing money and their career ladders. Already I am told they earn quite a fair bit, like almost 5 times my salary supposedly and yet they hunger and thirst for more then dolefully say, "But if I take on the new job, that will mean less time for the family".

I was really upset about this. Already it is difficult to raise children in this environment and already, the effect of an absent father is apparent in most societies yet here we are, going in the same direction and pouring our souls into a company that will replace you with a snap of a finger should you die while in service. Look, if you say your priority is in your family, then your actions MUST mirror what you say.

Sigh. They need to realise that the family unit is the core of a nation and if we don't build this foundation right, what is to become of our furture nation?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


After buying the original VCD months ago (I stress "original" because Malaysians are famous for buying pirated stuff), we finally watched Sepet, the local movie loaded with local nuances and humour.

I felt it was targeted towards the Chinese because we understand all the languages spoken there, Cantonese, Hokkien and Malay. Plus, it sort of lashed out against the discrimination we Chinese get eg. "Orked scored 5As and she got a scholarship" "Oh really? Ah Loong scored 7As" and obviously no scholarship.

Some parts were a bit slow but it gave a relaxed feel towards the whole show. However, I really disliked the ending as it just didn't quite fit in. And if you want to think about it, it's waaay too soppy to end it like that.

My 2 sen worth.

Kuching - in the Works

In a couple of weeks, I'll be heading off to Kuching for a company trip. This will be the first time I'll be setting foot there (the first time was when we landed in the airport for a couple of minutes then headed off to Perth 2 years ago).

Since my boss doesn't allow me and my colleague to go together, we had to pair off with our lunch gang from other departments. Of course, the best thing would be that we ALL go in one single trip but due to unforseen circumstances, we were separated to different weekends.

So today at lunch, I hear the other pair who are going before me discuss their holiday plans. One plans to sit in the hotel curled up with a good book while the other wants to paint the town red and she won't go alone! It's quite hilarious to see what will happen during the trip.

Will keep you posted.

Bad Advertisement / True Picture?

Today's Star paper had this ad in full colour for Celcom, showing a little girl blowing her candles off her birthday cake while her mother holds a cell phone with a picture of daddy clapping on the screen. That is absolutely sad.

Gone are the days when Dads would take the effort to make sure he would be home to celebrate their children's birthday instead of via electronic means. It just painted a sad picture of what we have evolved into, with our priorities all screwed up. The worst thing is, that it's absolutely true in this day and age.

Monday, June 06, 2005


Having stomach pains in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I tossed and turned in bed and decided to stare with unblinking wide eyes at KS. After a couple of seconds, his eyes opened from a slit to a wide-eyed shock. He got such fright!

At least I wasn't the only one to toss and turn after that. Ah, the power of a stare.

Fish Curry

Last Saturday, KS and I decided to stay home and "clean" up the house. I tackled the portion filled with my stuff from PJ (yup, it's still lying there in the living room) while he cleared the spare room to the store room and kitchen.

Quietly passing time, I sifted through all my old stuff, pausing to read cards, look at photos when suddenly there was a yell from the kitchen. Hurriedly getting up, I shouted back "What?!" when it hit me, the waft of the most putrid gas I'd ever inhaled.

Stunned for half a second, I rushed in to see KS gagging while holding a large pot over the sink. I looked at the pot and knew just what it was.

You see, two (2) weeks ago, my sis came over and cooked fish curry in that pot.

We often leave pots on the stove after cleaning them so it wasn't out of place and neither did it stink. We had to take it out to the garden in the open air, pour the contents into a plastic bag and filled the pot with water. The maggots frantically jumped around trying to escape but they somehow drowned in the end. The pot cover was also crawling with them with this strange tomato-like seeds stuck on the cover. The water just wouldn't flush it away.

We won't be eating fish curry anytime soon.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Glutton Square

Last weekend, I happened to go to PJ Old Town and was crossing the pedestrian bridge from the bus stop when I saw it - the Glutton Square. A flood of memories came back, transporting me back to the time when I was hardly a todler.

My parents used to frequent it when we were still staying in PJ. The hokkien mee there was one of the best, according to my dad. Even when we shifted to Alor Star, we would make our way to this place all the way from KL when we visited my grandparents.

I still remember the acrid smells of the morning market (where we parked our car), as the cracked cement floors pooled murky liquid from meats and fish, butchered there in the morning. Some sections had trampled vegetables lining the floor as we tip-toed our way through the market and into the square.

And the reason why we stopped eating there was that it started getting expensive plus the standard started to fall. So to the dismay of my parents, they had to sadly give Glutton Square a miss and unearth another place where we could eat good hokkien mee.

And so, seeing the place nearly brought tears to my eyes, for the long ago held memories that I never knew existed somewhere tucked in my mind.

We now have several places where we eat hokkien mee as a family around PJ whenever Mum and Dad comes down. Times to treasure, indeed.

2 Pants

On Monday, after my morning shower, I attempted to slip on my office trousers and found that the button was straining and threatening to explode the seams that are feebly holding it together. So I had to take them off and wear my hipsters from Dorothy Perkins which, thank God, fitted (snugly).

I realised I could do two things:
1. Execise frantically and hope the lower part of my body will comply to the strains I will put it through.
2. Shop for new clothes.

Guess which one I decided on.

So there I was, paying up for my new Dorothy Perkins pants, feeling guilty for being fat and spending. Then there came an sms from a friend who excitedly told me she just bought a new pair of jeans because she has lost weight!

Perhaps option 1 is no longer going to be avoided. I will exercise this weekend, I WILL. Right after I bake cheese cookies.