Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Scaring My Hubby

Last night I slept in the spare room as I am still unwell and didn't want to disturb KS with my coughs. At 3am, I was awoken by squealing rats from the back lane of my house. For some reason, I rushed to the master bedroom where KS just so happened to be up taking a pee, I started asking him in panic if he has seen the "box". I was wildly gesturing, eyes wide and bloodshot, my fingers splayed showing him the size of the "box".

KS panicked and asked me, "What thing? You mean the cat? She's downstairs!" when I vehemently said, "No, no, not the cat. There's 5 of them." I paused and suddenly it sunk in that we do not have any other pets. So I just turned away and said, "Never mind. It's ok." and walked back to the other room to continue my sleep.

KS stood outside the door in total bewilderment and kept asking what it was and I kept asking him to forget it. Then, as I lay down, I realized I was actually asking him if our 5 Mogwai were safe since I heard the squealing. I laughed and went to explain to him.

Picture taken off the net
As you can imagine, KS was lying wide eyed and wondering what on earth happened. So he was mighty glad I wasn't:
a. Possessed
b. Suddenly sleepwalking
c. Going insane

Over the weekend, I was humming the song to this old Apple IIe game I used to love to play called Gremlins. I posted it here some time back and spoke to quite a few people of my era, yet no one else seems to recall this game other than the usual Lode Runner, Pac Man etc. So I did a quick search on Google to find out if anyone else remembered it. Hence, it must have stuck somewhere at the back of my mind.

He's not letting me off this one in a hurry.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Like Dominoes

Towards the end of our trip to China, one of us got ill, runny nose, sore throat and cough. We thought nothing of it. After all, there were 27 of us and well, getting a runny nose etc is fairly common.

Until we all got back. The next two days, at least 6 of us (from Perth to Melaka to Masjid Tanah to PJ) also started having the same symptoms. No fever but you feel lethargic. After that wave hit, I think (and hope!) I'm the last one to get this super bug.

Bleearrrgghhhh.... stuffed and runny nose causing a mental block. Meds doesn't seem to work. Maybe I'll go back tomorrow to ask for a stronger dose.

Monday, June 20, 2011

China - The Expected

Here are some shots of China which I kind of expected to see.

I was expecting to answer nature's call in nature itself, amongst the bushes but thank goodness, I didn't have to encounter that. My umbrella was used for rain instead of shielding myself as I had expected. However, I did come across those famous doorless toilets and I am glad to say somehow, I just didn't quite feel like going when I was faced with such a toilet.

One strange thing about the toilets in China is that there's a waste paper basket in each stall. Basically, you are supposed to throw your used toilet paper into these baskets. So, imagine if you will, as you squat over the toilet with the basket fairly close to your face, your eyes will be drawn to it's contents and you will automatically hold your breath as it would be less than a few feet away from your nostril.

Then of course, there is their famous Engrish. There were so many, from labelling watermelon as matermelon or honey melon as hamimelon, I didn't bother to take so many photos but here are a few:
At the 6-star hotel we stayed in Mei Zhou. An unexpected feeling!
Still at the same hotel, sign beside a bridge.
At another hotel where they were hosting the Koreans who were there for the Subaru Cup. Notice how they tried to change the spelling.
Another thing I noticed was that there is no Ground floor. The basement is called "-1"

In the city of Mei Zhou, there were two lions flanking the entrances of some businesses. Facing them, the one on the right would have it's mouth open while the other one has it's mouth closed. Our guide explained the open mouth was to bring in the money while the closed mouth was to keep it in. Didn't manage to take a photo of this.

And finally, I encountered people who would get their kids to urinate on cement or tiled floors or a pillar at the airport right in front of everyone, despite having a toilet or some bushes nearby. So these are the sort of things I've been warned about and that I have witnessed.


Actually, I remember one thing good about the toilets in China. Some had pedals to activate the flush, which I thought was brilliant since most folks "geli" to touch the lever/button to flush.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

China - Family Matters

As explained in my previous post, our recent trip to China was to witness the opening ceremony of the refurbished ancestral home in Mei Zhou. Relatives from Indonesia, Malaysia and of course, China, gathered on the 12th and 13th of June 2011 to officiate the ceremony.

Planned by the Chinese relatives and funded mainly by the Indonesian relatives, the whole affair was officiated in a very grand manner. Firstly,  a large bus, a mini bus and  two cars ferrying relatives were led by an outrider from Mei Zhou town into the village, which was about a 30-45 minutes drive.

As we approached the village, you can imagine the convoy attracted a lot of attention but that was nothing compared to what we were going to experience next. Upon arrival, the roads were immediately blocked on both sides to allow us to alight and cross the road in safety. Even an ambulance had to stop until we were safely ushered into the smaller road.

And when I say ushered, I mean with two lion dances, a band lined up along both sides of the road, a gun firing vehicle and exploding firecrackers.
The band, the lion dances and the gun firing vehicle on the far right.
Closer look at the "guns"
Here's a video captured while we tried to gather everyone to walk along the lane towards the home. My jaw just dropped from the sheer magnitude of this. Felt like we were superstars!

There were large helium balloons, an air pumped gateway, flags erected, lanterns, huge supply of firecrackers, 1-hour fireworks for three nights (you know, the kind that shoots high up into the sky and explodes into different patterns. It lasted for an hour on the first night. We didn't stay long enough to time the second night.), abundance of food...

Firecracker content from one box
There were at least 6 spots where the firecrackers were set off. This was the supply for one spot.
How one spot looked like after the firecrackers
Food being prepared on the spot. Health officials actually came by to check !
Food preparation for 150 tables for lunch on Day 2
The hour-long fireworks display

Besides the ceremony of placing the ancestral tablets into the prayer hall, the days were spent visiting relatives like an extended Chinese New Year celebration, eating, giving speeches and entertainment.

Speech by the Indonesian counterpart
Speech by the Malaysian counterpart
A portion of the Malaysian group
Some Chinese and Malaysian relatives
The whole Malaysian contingent
Since I could only speak English, I spoke to some grand nephews and nieces (yup) from Indonesia. KS belongs to the 23rd generation while these guys are from the 25th generation. They are about the same age as us and some of them already have kids. They had to call the 2 year old baby in our Malaysian group as Uncle. Looks like we have a lot of catching up to do.

The four guys standing are KS grand nephews

It was great being able to connect with them and hopefully we'll keep in touch.

On the second night, a stage was erected and there was an entertainment show organized with singing, dancing, some traditional, some modern. The entire village showed up.
Our Malaysian clan was well represented by nephew Yueh Ren who performed two traditional songs and gained fans that night. He's performed in South Korea too and some other parts of the region, by the way, so he's no novice! 
The Indonesians gamely went up and performed a Mandarin song. 
This is roughly the layout of the house:

The semi-circle rooms at the back is built upon a hill to prevent invasions so the height of the structure hugs the hill. Sorry for the comparison but it kind of reminds me of the Chinese graveyard, which is the best way I know how to describe it. The semi-circle pond in front is a feng shui thing for every Hakka home.

There were many long hours in between so we amused ourselves with jumping shots as usual.

New recruit! Yueh Ren joined in the fun. After jumping, an amused man came up to us and asked if this was our first time here. Another lady then came up and offered us some food.
And another new recruit, KS cousin :)

We certainly had a lot of fun this trip!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

China - Touristy Stuff

We recently had the opportunity to visit KS ancestral village in Mei Zhou, China to attend the opening ceremony of the newly restored ancestral home. The home was derelict and in shambles, a decision was made by the relatives to repair and restore the place. The main portion that needed immediate attention was the the prayer hall which contained the ancestors prayer tablets (used for ancestral worship). However, although there is no one staying at the house any more, it was decided that the entire home be upgraded and so the task of repairing the place started a couple of years ago.

So when the place was completed, relatives from Indonesia and Malaysia were invited to attend the opening ceremony which was nothing short of grand. We had an amazing 27-28 relatives from Indonesia and 27-28 relatives from Malaysia who attended this event.

When we reached Guang Zhou, we whisked off on a coach for 2 hours to this place called He Yuan, where a dinosaur egg was found floating along the river years ago. There, we visited an 800 year old Hakka village where people still stay and live like the olden days.

The lanes were laid with smooth stones which were worn down over the centuries that I couldn't resist but walk bare feet.

After that, we were taken to see what used to be the tallest fountain in er... Asia? China? I can't remember. Instead, I spotted this structure which reminded me of the boat in Spirited Away.

The next day, the coach took another 4 hours to get to Mei Zhou where we met up with relatives from China for lunch and then the Indonesians for dinner. In between, we visited an old temple and also another historical place about this person who helped with some uprising. Sorry. Everything was in Mandarin, and the English translations took longer for me to understand so I gave up. All I know was that this guy came to Ipoh to get funds to help with his cause.

After that, we had the ceremony which I will blog about in a separate post.

The last few days were spent shopping and visiting more historical places like a lake which had some story of a man who dreamt of his dead wife visiting him while completely soaked until he built a bridge for her to cross the lake, the very well maintained Opium War museum (if that is what it's called) and the riverbank where the canons which were used to fight against the um, British? Crap. As you can see, my blog entry will be full of inaccuracies. (Wait! KS has done research and gotten the correct names for the places we visited! Yay!)

A really tall bridge near where the canons are located
A horizontal tree growing across the lake at Su Embankment

Gateway to the Lake
Opium War Museum
We also had to be taken to the shop that sells medicine and jade, one of the government requirements for all tours to China. Ushered into a room, we were given displays of unique selling presentations, from frightening guests by looking at them and saying, "I can tell from your face you have problems with your kidneys" to "My wife finally just gave birth to a boy after having 7 girls, so I want to celebrate by giving you a piece of jade as a token of blessings". 

Room view of the Pearl River in Guang Zhou on our last night
Our tour guide, Xiao Qu, and the bus driver who was too shy to take this photo, with the bus.
All in all, I enjoyed myself being in the company of KS relatives. However, if I were to ever go back to China for another tour, I would join one that has an English speaking guide because I probably only got 10% of what was explained. Translations went from Mandarin to Cantonese (which I also struggle with) and occasionally into English until we shifted places to sit near KS mum. Only then was I less embarrassed to keep asking what the guide was saying.