Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas in Khartoum

I took this shot of the Sudanese kids, sneaking away from their footy match or practice, looking at us hauling our baskets and plastic bags and coolers down the banks, lsearching for a spot for our barbecue picnic at a sandy beachy spit on Tuti Island on the Nile.

I like the tree branches and twigs set against the sky, the morning sun splashing on the tree trunk, the dune and of course the kids.

I'm happy I'm seeing more of Khartoum, in a different light.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Reflections

It's that time of the year again. It's Christmas! How careless and stupid are we (Opps! I mean am I) letting the year slip through the fingers like sand, disperse into the air with the wind. What have you done with your year this year?

One wise man, or a bumper sticker said that the only constant in life is change. Indeed 2010 for me is a series of changes, major ones in fact. The biggest change happened at work. I was move into a new role with a new team covering new scope back in April. It was more of a managerial gig, something not entirely new but definitely more intense. I was swamped with quite a fair bit of management reporting, workshops, traveling, KPIs and another big bunch of abbreviations. The words on the streets and the office corridors have that I was doing a pretty swell job. (Ahem!) I suppose I can be good at it and I can like it, but I'm not sure if I want it. It's not really my cup of tea. I'm a coffee guy. This short managerial stint made it clear to me. Nonetheless I enjoyed the wonderful opportunity to learn and grow.

Then came the super major move: I was transferred to Khartoum, Sudan. It had been brewing for awhile. The good news, or was it the bad news, finally came early October, that I should be reporting for duty in Khartoum on Oct 1st! It was a hectic time at work then so I only landed in Africa a month later. Another round of new: new place, new environment, new people, new culture, new language, new routine, new work, new role, new (and bigger) responsibility and new (and slightly fatter) paycheck. 2 months in here I'm still settling in, learning as plentiful and as fast as I can while enjoying as much as Khartoum has to offer. The job is managerial in nature but with a heavy focus on technical stuff. I'm walking a fine line trying to balance the management work and the technical tasks. Well, every so often I do tip the scale a little. (OK, maybe a lot.)

Then I bought my own place. Oh finally! Finally I did so, and probably paying too much money for that. But the truth is I was a bit sick of searching and desperate. The location is convenient and the place was nicely done up. I can just haul in my suitcase and move straight in. I always wanted hardwood floor for my pad but this once has Italian tiles instead. Well I'll learn to love them tiles. The rest of the place was done up pretty much to the way I'd get it done anyway. So it saves me the hustle of going through renovation. Mortgage approved and my ass now belongs to the bank. This is the biggest financial commitment of mine to date. It's both exciting and daunting at the same time, if that's even possible, or I'm just delirious.

With the apartment sorted, the pressure, especially from mom is mounting ever so quickly to settle down. That's just next to impossible. Sometime as I go to bed at night I do wish to have someone to share my life but then I wake up confronting the reality that no one take pity on me as yet. Is there something wrong with me? I'm indeed quite a mess at the relationship department, need to have that sorted.

In fact I'm a relationship-challenged person. I'm having trouble maintaining my relationship with my family, the very people who have known me for 34 years and love me unconditionally. Over the years I find the gap between mom and I is widening. Talking to her is so much challenging these days. I just can't figure out why, and that sadden me a great deal. Our mom-son love is overwhelmed by the fact that we both are just as strong-minded, determined and opinionated, just plain stubborn. We just end up agreeing to disagree. Then there's the clash of personality with my bother. Oh that's just awful.

This is something I need work on-being accommodative and appreciating others' perspective. If we still can't see eye-to-eye, at least I should response with a smiley face. That reminds me of BD from my office in KL. He always have this grin stitched on his face and I never saw him raised his voice once for the 8 years I worked with him. No matter how grim the situation is or how irrational the management's request is or how incompetent the colleague is or how bleak the outcome is, he never complained or even uttered a word with the faintest hint negativity, let alone bitch. He just smiles and moves on with it. That's a skill I want to master.

Oh and the art of small-talk. Suggestions anyone?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Silent Night

Christmas this year sort of snuck up on me. Before I knew it, it was only five sleeps to the day. Religiously, I do not celebrate Christmas. Back home, I might go out with friends for a couple of pints and a little merry making. Here in Sudan, a predominantly Moslem society, Christmas is merely another day. There is not the faintest hint of festivity in the air.

So this is Christmas eve, the holy silent night. I stay home by myself, with a scratchy throat, slight throbbing headache, drinking bucket load of ginseng tea in hope of holding back a week-old nagging onset of feverish flu-ish cold.

And a frustratingly excruciating tooth-ache.

Oh joy to the world!

Merry Christmas to me.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Glimpse of Khartoum

Taking photographs is a big thing here in Khartoum, or generally in Sudan. A big not-to-do thing. The cops will be hot on your tails out of nowhere in no time seeing you shooting buildings or bridges in town. It's deemed as spying and a security threat to the nation. Remember: jail time. Jail time in a Sudanese slammer!

So here are shots I took through a window on a bus going through town.

Sandy shoulder of the road, everywhere.

These earth wares dot along the street, holding water. Drink at your own risk.

There is a constant feel of messiness, disrepair and of course dusty-ness in the air.

Constructions are everywhere, progressing and suspended alike.

Quiet street. Public buses are quite popular here. Reliability and punctuality unknown.

Kharouf (Lamb) grazing in town. Why are they not making a run for freedom? For life?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Closest To Baking

Almost 2 months here in Africa, I haven't been cooking much, let alone baking. There is an oven in the kitchen but then there are other baking utensils missing and some of the ingredients are hard to come by here. So there you go, that's my excuse.

The only thing I did here closest to baking is French toast. I had made them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's simple and quick, just lightly beat an egg and add milk and sugar. Dip the bread in the mixture and fry it in a knob butter till golden brown on both sides. I poshed mine up (or trying to) by sprinkling sugar on top of the bread and fried the bread to get to sugar caramelized. It adds a bit of smokiness from the charred bits and a wee light crunch on the bite and a tad more sweetness.
It's kind of my little sweet treat, my sweet escape from the monotony here.

I miss baking.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Tree

5 more sleeps to Christmas. I just realized that.

I heard that they had their tree all done up for this year. I remember the day we decorated the Christmas tree, with the Everyone just so eager to hang the little simple craft work ornaments we made or drape the colorful paper chain onto the tree. We had such a blast decorating, so much laughter and so much mucking around.

That was their first Christmas tree, and boy was I glad and thankful that they shared it with me!

Merry Christmas kids. I miss you lot to bits.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday List

My new assignment in Africa comes with a little perk. It comes in the form of 70/20 arrangement, whereby I would stay and work in Khartoum for 70 days-the on rotation, then go away for holiday for 20 days-the off rotation. So roughly I get 80 days off a year.

Yay! That's a lot of days off.

But hold on a second.

Life in Khartoum is quite dry, just like the weather here. There's not much to do here, for entertainment and leisure, no where to go for a pint after work. (Or I haven't find them as yet.) Working and living in Khartoum for 70 consecutive days can drive one pretty close to the edge, if not off it.

This is my first on rotation. It is coming up to my 60th day here soon. These days all I can think about is my off days. I'm actually making a list of where I'm heading off and what I'm going to do.

I want to go some where beachy. So I'm really looking forward for some island hopping and diving in the picturesque islands along the east coast. The last time I wet diving, it was almost 6 years ago!

Then I think it'd be fun getting back to Phnom Penh, going to the Little Hearts, the orphanage I volunteered last year, hanging out with the kids. And of course, drinking myself silly with the 50 cents a pint beer.

I have a friend in Bangkok that I can bunk in for a week or so. Maybe I'll fly up to Bangkok, not for the shopping, but for a week long of massages: traditional Thai massage, aroma oil massage, foot reflexology massage and yes the naughty ones too.

What about driving up the east coast? Long open road along the beach and through the quaint fishing villages. Driving with windows down, feeling the refreshing sea breeze, smelling the salty air, stopping along the beach, taking pictures.

Reading about street food in Penang island has me toying with the idea of steering up north for a foodie trip, stuffing myself silly and getting fat. Penang is renowned for the street food delights in the region. Yummy! Char kuey tiao, asam laksa, rojak here I come!

I'm back to somewhere beachy. A week up in an island in southern Thailand, reading a book, getting some sun, drinking beer, swimming in the ocean and lounging on the beach, generally doing nothing. Maybe just look up a nudist resort and spend a week there.

Now now hold right there. Nudist resort?!

See what Khartoum has done to me!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Wire Brush

I have dry hair. I always do, as long as I can remember. Dry, and coarse, and hard, and thick. I still recall my family, my mom, my siblings, my aunts and my grandma describing me having wire brush hair when I was a kid.

In fact, I still do.

Truth be told, I tried applying olive oil to my hair, using different shampoos and conditioners on my hair, to soften my mane. But wire brush remained wire brush. That was as far as I would go. So I gave up. I have learned to love and live with my wire brush hair. At least I still have a full head of hair, and still black.

Because of the wire brush, it's almost pointless to style my hair, unless I spend hours lathering up my hair with copious amount of hair gel and wax and whatever form holding hair product. So imagine how ecstatic I was when some hair styling guru came up with this just-roll-out-of-bed-messy hair look. It takes no time in the morning.

But lately my hair is getting drier and coarser, since I arrived in Africa. I have no idea why. Perhaps it's the hard water in Africa, or maybe it's the arid desert air, or possibly the exposure to the dust every time I go outside or very likely the combination of all of the above.

Well, it seems that the wire brush is getting rusty.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Flexibility

I used to practice yoga regularly, 3-times-a-week regularly. It's such a good means to improve my flexibility and balance, as well as a great and easy way to relax. God, I love that savasana pose.

A recent job relocation moved me to a mysterious and exotic land of Africa, Sudan to be exact. After here for almost a month, everything, or most of the things have been settling in slowly. We are approaching winter here. But with the sun blasting through the forever cloudless sky, daytime temperature can easily climb up to the mid-30s. So winter my ass! The heat and the dryness are getting under my skin quite a bit, literally cracking them open. If it's not for the moisturizer, I'd be a walking cured meat. But I'm getting used to the weather.

But that are all physical. How flexible am I mentally? My values, ethics, mindset and perspectives? How much can I stretch? Or bend?

Time is meaningless here. Work is never delivered by due date. Wait, due date? What's that? Is it edible? Sweet like the Sudanese dates? 5 minutes can actually be an hour. So if you want something done on time, simply do it yourself or you need to bark at them the deadline, then send them 6 reminder emails, follow up by calling them daily until the submission date and pray hard things you asked for get done. Good for you if things get done. But done rightly or wrongly, that's another story.

In order to get things done correctly (hopefully), there is a skeletal framework of a process. Great! But everyone is following it so mechanically, rigidly and religiously that a slight change, however valid and logical and not to mention necessary is deemed a cardinal sin, which may get you a public lashing or stoning to death. OK, I'm over exaggerating. But hundreds of thousands of dollars spent based suspicion and gut feeling and "experience" written in broken English on a few pieces of paper. Factual information, sensitivity analysis, model stimulation, analog inferences? Yeah, whatever.

In the end it's the modus of operandi here. It's not right, and it's not wrong too. It's acceptable. Well it's easier to move mountains or part sea than to change a society norm. It takes times, A LOT of times to change, to progress. It's a different land and different culture. I'm in their land and their culture. So I can't be always right and I can't be that arrogant to have them change for me, even though they totally should.

Be flexible. If you can't beat them, join them.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Shopping List

The news of my relocation to Sudan spread. Congratulatory messages, well wishes and farewell notes from colleagues and friends, came. Then there were some odd ball requests too.

WA was among the first few getting the sniff of my movement. "Handbags! I want handbags. I want you to get me handbags from the duty free shops at the airport. You must help me! MUST!" She said. Then she spit out a long list of names like Anya, Fendi, Hermes, Aigner and so on until she noticed my face went blank, and maybe a bit of cross eyes too. She stopped and pondered for a moment. "You know what, I'll just bring you to the stores at the mall and teach you everything and anything about handbags. Then you'll know what I want and you can get the right handbag." WA announced. "Make sure you give me your email address there so I can email you my list." She added.

"Oh you have got to get me kharouf (lamb). Kharouf there is so delicious and tender and most important of all it does not have the overpowering overwhelming gamy smell." Z said to me knowing my relocation to Sudan. "And don't you worry, they'll pack the meat nicely and neatly. No mess." She assured me, reading my mind of the bloody messiness bringing raw meat on a 10-hour flight. In fact she's right, the kharouf here is absolutely to-die-for. The meat is all that she said, tender and juicy, sans the pungent scent. It must be the water here. And she's also right about the packaging too, I was told by my colleagues here one can request for the freshly slaughtered meat be packed air-tight.

"Hey I heard. Congratulations." F said to me. But before I could utter the thank you. She asked me to get her the mango juice. Yes mango juice, all the way from Sudan. "They sell it on the street. Fresh fruit juice, all kinds and they don't add water or sugar. I like mango juice. You can get them in a bottle, like a mineral water bottle. I had them when I was there visiting my husband, you remember he was stationed there for a couple of years last time. And I brought a few bottle back here too. So I know it can be done" She went on saying. Well, it's true. Fruit juices here are fantastically pure and thick, so thick that the straw stays vertical when you plunk into the juice. I've tried strawberry juice, grape fruit juice and of course, mango juice, all as equally great.

"Look for this one kind of dates." YH told me. "They are dried and you need to soak them in water. Then they turn soft and fluffy and sweet. One of the bosses brought me some before on his trip there once. They are really really tasty, but i don't know what they are called." Now that's really helpful, isn't it? I actually love dates but how do I get my hands on these magically amazing dates.

I saw H at the gym a couple of days before I left. He came by to say goodbye. H shook my hand and wished my the best of luck. Then he pull me in for a man hug, and whispered to my ear:"If you happen to come across my friends Benson & Hedges at the duty free shops in the airport, get me a carton, will you?"

"How do you fly to Sudan? Are you transiting in Dubai airport?" N asked me. I nodded. "I was transiting at Dubai airport once and there's this little shop in the airport selling all kind of spices." She continued, knowing that I like to cook. "I got some saffron there, really cheap. You can get a tiny little jar for less than 50 bucks." Yeah, but where is the shop? What's the name of the shop? Seriously, Dubai international airport is a jungle. And I'm wondering if N was just being helpful telling me this little piece of somewhat incomplete but intriguing information or she was hinting me to get the some saffron, still.

"What can you get in Sudan? Anything special?" YM asked me. "Nothing really. Maybe coffee, freshly ground Sudanese coffee." I told her. "Nah, we can get them from Starbucks here." She said. Yeah, I was doing the Tiger Woods fist pumping thing in my head.

Well landing here, getting to know this place a bit better, there are something to get here. Victorianox Swiss Army knives are cheap here. There are original, not the knock-offs. Some branded kitchenware such as Corning-ware and Doulton stainless steel cook wares. I'll be moving to my own apartment soon so I'm building my own shopping list to stock my kitchen.

Just one little problem, I need to find the shop in town.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Caps Anyone?

I wonder if I can get a thinking one? Oh, what the heck, make it two. Brain cells quitting on me lately. I need all the help I can get.

Street of Phnom Penh.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Overherad #14

"He's so laid back that he's practically horizontal!"

I just love the British satirical sense of humor, sarcastic and caustic yet eloquently refined.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Help Me Understand

Why do people like to take pictures of themselves in the mirror with a phone camera in a public toilet (public as in toilet in a gym or a bar)?

Why do some people actually notch it up, taking pictures of themselves in the mirror with a phone camera in a public toilet (public as in toilet in a gym or a bar), half naked (flexing the guns while sucking the gut in)?

Why do some people actually push it further,taking pictures of themselves in the mirror with a phone camera in a public toilet (public as in toilet in a gym or a bar), half naked (flexing the guns while sucking the gut in), and then put them on the internet for the world to see (and laugh)?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Magic Power

It sounds cliche, lame even: you don't know how much you miss and appreciate something (or someone) until you lose it. The constant bombardment of the big city life excitement numbs our senses to savour the simplest thing. Along the way in our quest for the next level of thrill, we take things for granted, consciously and unconsciously.

Recently I was relocated to Africa. Things that were accessible to me previously in a snap of the fingers now are challenging, to say the least to obtain. Case in point, peanut butter-nutella-banana sandwich never tasted so good before. That was the highlight of my week. And, I got milk yesterday. So last night, I was so very looking forward to my banana cereal breakfast this morning.

The magical power of the simplest thing in life, treasure it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Picker-upper

It has been hectic over the last couple of weeks and more havoc over the few weeks to come. In light of the craziness of work and life and other stuff, I made these, blueberries cream cheese muffins. I went online and picked up the simplest recipe and got on with it the kitchen. They turned out alright. They set my heart aloft with the lightness of joy looking at them fluffing up in oven.

Baking makes me happy. I needed that picker-upper.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Twisted

Fish and chips with a twist. Fish was first dusted with flour, then dipped in a lightly beaten egg and finally covered with homemade bread crumbs, loaded with dried herbs and grated cheese. Baked in the oven instead of deep fried, to cut down the fat. Oh, I cheated a little, the potato wedges were store-bought, which were back together with the fish. While the fish and wedges were enjoying their sauna, a mayo-based dipping sauce was whipped up with mayonnaise, mustard and finely chopped onion.

Let's eat!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What is Art?

What is art?

"Art is not just something you hang on the wall." Kids from the Hall

That is certainly true, as I wandered along the streets around Pudu area today to check out the Moon Walk Pudu Art Festival, marveling at the few art installations, enjoying the stories and the glorious bygone days of this unique community.

The artist reconstructed the recently demolished 115 year-old Pudu Jail entrance facade and the once world longest mural, using name cards. It put the spotlight on the heritage buildings preservation effort, or the lack of thereof, while at the same time highlighting the once thriving printing industry in the area. It's sort of a tribute to the contribution of those in the industry to the development of Pudu.
This one serves to wish the community all the best in her future. It resembles the bai jia yi (garment of hundred families) or bai jia bei (blankets of hundred families) custom of the Chinese community of which when a newborn is one month-old or 100 day-old, friends and family will each present a piece of palm-size cloth to the mother. The mother will then use them to sew into a piece of garment or a quilt for the baby. Babies wearing the garment or using the quilt are believed to be healthy and of course, very much loved. Some of the cloth strips were obtained from the community and the locals were asked to help out in tying the cloth strips, as a message of love to the Pudu community.
Another interesting installation which also involved the participation of the the local is wrapping of the trunks and branches of a few very old trees in the area with t-shirts and garments, some donated by the locals. The artist was exploring the interaction between the community and the environment along with the change of time. Therefore the work was asking us, with time, what was left? What was lost?
So what is art? More importantly, what does art do? I saw them telling stories about a community, about life. They silently remind us to treasure our history and tradition and encourage us to take time to discover or rediscover our community. These simple yet meaningful installations bring people into a community, bring community to her people and new folks, ultimately bring people together.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Overheard #13

"And, yes, I am a Malaysian first and Malay next. Does any bigot have a problem with that?"

Done talking the talk, now walking the talk, walking tall, walking proud.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

好在窗帘把外面的夜空遮得很紧...

Good thing that the curtains cover the night sky outside completely.

Once I wrote that on a night when I was missing home. I was lonely and miserable. I was afraid to look at the night sky, as I was afraid to look at the moon, which would make me long for home even more. So I was thankful that the curtain was down, so that I couldn't look out.

This is the night of the Mid Autumn festival. The Chinese believe that it's the time that the moon appears to be the brightest and the roundest and therefore most beautiful in the year. We will reunite with family, friends, those we love, and those dear to us, celebrating the moment. For those far apart, we look at the moon on this auspicious night and we have those far away in our thoughts.

Though the curtain is drawn tonight, I do not look out onto the night sky for the moon. For I know the moon is there, and I'm thinking of someone dear to me afar.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On This Day

Take time to remember those who fallen on this day with love, peace and tolerance. Honor them by opening our hearts, minds and hands to embrace the diversity of cultures and people in our lives.

They maybe fallen, but definitely not forgotten.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Door Slamming

There's a saying that when God closes a door on you, He also opens another one for you. An end is actually a beginning of something, hopefully something better. Remember, there's always light at the end of the tunnel. Dwelling on the setbacks or failures will not achieve anything meaningful. Asking a bunch of what-if questions over and over again will not change a thing. In the end, it's futile. It is just draining, physically and emotionally, sucking you into the dark abyss of self-doubt and depression.

But what if God does not close the door properly. What do you do? Do you still trying to get through that door, squeezing pass that crack of an opening?

I wish He would just slam the door shut on me, in my face, to my nose, then lock it tight. Oh, shut all the windows too.

How I wish.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Italian Job

The beauty of the Italian cuisine, to me at least, is that it can be as meticulous and fancy or as simple and easy (read lazy) as you wish. For this one, I just rendered the fat from the bacon bits and ham rind then later sauteed the garlic and mushroom before putting in the rigatoni (cooked as per the package instruction) for a quick toss. There it was a simple and rustic Italian fare: rigatoni with garlic and sliced mushrooms swimming in lovely salty aromatic pork fat from bacon bits and ham rind.

Yes, more porky fattiness.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Happy Birthday Queen Sirikit

The Thai devotion and love for their royal family, especially the King and the Queen is truly amazing. The Thai, being oriental, maybe shy on public display of affection, but that is certainly not the case for their admiration for their royal family. It is in fact borderline fanatical (and I do not mean it in a bad way).

In the cinema, everyone stands up for a song singing praise to the King prior to the movie showing. Everyone would just stands up for it. I experienced that first hand during my last trip to Bangkok. I was joking to my Thai friend telling him what if I just sit still, since I’m just a foreigner. He politely, but sternly advised me to get up for the song, or else he would beat me up himself.

On the street there are billboards, big and small, but normally big, put up with well wishes and pleading allegiance for the King’s reign. There are office buildings, government or private, with the murals of the King. The Thais have the yellow wristbands, similar to the Livestrong wristband, but theirs with the inscription "We Love the King" or "Long Live the King" professing their love to the King. In the age of Facebook, there are many fan pages devoted to the King. But the King is not doing well recently. There are praying ceremonies organized all over the country, seeking the divine intervention for the King's situation.

In every shop and household, they religiously fly the nations’ flag, along with the yellow flag with the King’s emblem. From my observation, what is interesting to me that there was not a damaged or tattered flags. They actually replace it promptly if they notice any wear and tear due to the exposure to the element.

And they even move their Mothers' Day celebration to Aug 12, on the Queen's birthday, as they regard the Queen as the mother of all Thai. Again, the light blue flags with the Queen's emblem were seen everywhere. Of course billboards with birthday greetings all over the city. Pictures of her, at various stages of her life such that showcasing her youthfulness riding a horse, her regal beauty during her wedding, her happy moments with the royal family, her care for her people at different functions, were all at display along the street. There were even shrines set up at the shopping malls, offices and airports. The Queen indeed has a very special place the hearts of her people. I saw the shrine at the airport, I just have to stop and snap a couple of pictures.

I was just in awe, totally impressed.

Happy birthday, Your Majesty Queen Sirikit.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Undecided

Just back from a short break from neighboring country up north. I'm still not sure if that was a short and sweet one away from work. Short? Most definitely. Sweet? Undecided still.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Welcome to Malaysia

Yesterday, 20 Afghan illegal immigrants fled the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Immigration Detention Depot en masse, again! This is the second exodus this year. In March this year, 12 Afghans and 4 Burmese nationals escaped from the depot by cutting through the fence.

Welcome to Malaysia.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Week Night Big Meal

Normally, I don't cook on week nights. It's normally late when I get home from work. In addition I don't think it's healthy to have a big high carb meal for dinner. Most of all, it's just too much work.

I did not know what came over me last Wednesday, I just got it on and cooked this one pot rice dish. Couldn't come up with a name yet. Everything diced: onion, garlics, shitake mushrooms, Chinese sausage, dried scallops, dried oyster and bell pepper. Sauteed them in that order with oyster sauce and soy sauce and pepper. Rice added in for a quick toss before transferring the mix into the rice cooker. Water added accordingly for cooking the rice. When it came to a boil, a handful each of goji berries and corn were mixed in and cooked until rice was done.

That night I chow down 2 mountainous plate of the rice. It was around 9 at night when I finally started eating.

I woke up still feeling full the next morning.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

World Peace

On Jul 27, 1953, the cease fire was signed ending the arm conflict in the Korean Peninsular. Today, it is the 57th Korean War Armistice anniversary.

South Korea is kicking off a military exercise with the United States of America in the Sea of Japan.

North Korea countered with a threat of "physical response", possibly to deploy its nuclear weapons in a "retaliatory sacred war".

Yay, world peace!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Day Will Come

I can't really pin it down to why I'm so looking forward to stay home this weekend, doing my usual weekend routine of baking and pool time and grocery run and laundry and t.v.

I think I am a home body. Or I'm getting old. Or both. Well, that is really not a bad thing, isn't it?

I'm still going full force on my house-hunting mode. There's a condo I really like. In fact I love it. I found myself renovating and decorating the place in my head during the viewing. I saw myself living in that place already. It got all the boxes checked, except the price box. Damn!

Well I strongly believe that the day will come when I get my dream pad. Just hope that the day would come soon.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

National Favorite

Nasi lemak, is perhaps one of the most iconic Malaysian food. The spiciness of the sambal nicely balanced by the rich sweetness of the coconut milk infused rice and the refreshing cucumber slices, while the crunch of the fried anchovies and toasted peanuts goes well with the soft firmness of the hard-boiled egg. Such a wonderful combination of taste and texture and fragrance! With all the nutrient groups lumped in, nasi lemak is quite a balanced meal too. It's definitely ranked among the highest, if not the highest favored Malaysian fare. We just love it, and we can have this for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea-breaks or even supper, in the same day!

So I made nasi lemak last weekend, the whole she-bang. All the way, from the sambal to the fried anchovies and the toasted peanuts. OK, maybe not all the way, I did skipped the coconut milk rice. I started cooking around 6:00 PM and begun eating at 10:00 PM. That was definitely too much work for a meal! (Cleaning up excluded)

Note to self: Just buy them next time.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Things We Do for Love

My twin nephew A and J turn 5 today. I cooped myself in the kitchen and slaved the whole day baking them this brownie cheesecake with chocolate ganache and berries topping. Originally I planned to make them brownie. Then I remember they love cheesecake. So why not combine the both. But my oh my it was a lot of work: brownie batter, cheesecake batter, then the chocolate ganache and cream cheese frosting, one after another. The things we do for those we love.

Happy birthday boys.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hitting the Wall

Hitting the wall, at work. I'm not that fit to run a marathon yet, though I'd really love to. Well, that's another story. Anyway this wall at work came in the form of an email from a fellow colleague from another team. I've spent a solid day going through his field data, looking for opportunities for some quick and cheap production enhancement. Then I had one of his team's engineer over for a sit-down and hammering out an implementation plan. We were making good headway and we were excited about it.

Then came that email. Yup, we hit the wall, head on. Disappointed, yes. Discourage, yes. Furious, no. I'm not even annoyed the slightest bit that my work was down the drain. What kept me wondering was that he bitched because he thinks my team is not helping his team. But when I did help, he didn't want them, citing operation constraint. Oh whatever.

Hey, c'est la vie. Life goes on.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Weekend with the Kids

This is Tou. He's a quiet boy but very eager to learn, especially English. And of course his English improves significantly from the last time I saw him in December last year. Way to go Tou!

Her name is Vann Thai. A very sweet, cheerful and helpful little girl. She's always smiling. She was a little ill over the weekend, down with flu. Get well soon.

He is Daro, among the youngest one in the orphanage. He was showing me his new toy. "Tiger, not lion." He told me.

His name is Hongha. He always has a joyful smile on his face. He keeps calling me:"Moon... Moon..." I keep correcting him:"It's Boon." He'd grin happily, and then say: "Moon..."

His name is Chhang. That was not tears on his cheek, he just gulped down a huge glass of soya milk, their weekly sweet treat.

This is Sambo. I took a few shots of him but there wasn't a smile on his face. Showing him his sad face and trying to crack a smile out of him. He did smile for me, then later telling me he had a sore throat. Poor boy.

His name is Dimand. He is a bright and resourceful boy. I saw him making a kite from scrap plastic bags and thin twigs. A quick learner but a wee bit mischievous. Well, boys will be boys.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

It's Here!

"It's here! It's here!"

I was getting all excited and jittery reading the email from the bookstore informing me that the cookbook I had ordered was ready for pick up. Since my attempt on banana bread haven't been exactly successful, I want to take on the banana bread in the book. Then there's a whole section on cheesecake, especially the baked ones which is my kind of thing and would definitely love to try.

Well, a lot of baking in the coming weekends.

Woohoo!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Scary Symptoms

Five months into the year 2010, natural disasters have been wrecking havoc around the world in an unprecedented and catastrophic scale. The raging volcano eruptions in Iceland, Guatemala and Ecuador spewing ashes and turning the sky grey. The violent earthquake in Haiti, Chile, China and Indonesia shattering homes and lives, leaving us agape with the aftermath. The torrent flood in Central European countries such as Poland, Austria and Czech Republic, as well as southeastern Australia, sweeping away lives and livelihood.

Some say that our planet Earth is getting sick. These are the symptoms. Time is ticking away so quickly that it calls for actions right here right now, before it's too late. I'm wondering, if these are just merely symptoms, how would it be when our planet Earth is really coming down sick with something. Can you even begin to imagine?

I don't think I can, and I don't think I want to. I believe neither do you.

So please do our part, no matter how smaller that is, and go green for our only planet Earth.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wesak

There is a Buddha in us, pure and sacred and virtuous and honest and kind. We used to listen to him and those were the happy days. We were free and contented. Somehow, for whatever reasons, we drifted apart. Our inner Buddha retreated and we let him. We thought we no longer needed him. We thought we would be OK without him, since we have other fun things and cool stuff. But the truth is, we are not OK. We are becoming hollow and sad and lost.

So on this sacred day, look hard within, search deep inside to awaken your inner Buddha. Listen to your inner Buddha and discover the joy of Buddha, the joy of life once again.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

2 Days at the Beach

Just got back into town, after spending 2 days in a beach side town,
WORKING!!!
*Photo taken in Koh Tunsai (Rabbit Island), off coast southern Cambodia.