Thursday, March 29, 2012

End and Ending

Lately, feeling a little down, a little off, a little gray.

There's this unshakable uneasiness coming over me, like the tides engulfing the shore, at times sweeping across gently, at times hitting down violently. Life is not exactly falling apart but it seems unsettling. Things that I once held dear, I'm losing my grip. I feel like I'm losing my grip.

I'm scrambling to hold on to it tight, as hard as I can. Most of the time, that feels like a grabbing the tiniest driftwood in the vast ocean, holding it for dear life. It is hopeful and hopeless at the same time.

But what's the point? Then I feel like letting go. But quitting is almost unbearable. Maybe it's time to let go, time to move on.

I just want it to end. But what kind of ending?

Questioning and doubting, over and over again...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Dark Side of Beijing

As much as I love Beijing, unfortunately I also encounter her dark ugly side. The utter disregard of the law, the complete disrespect to the society order and the prime example of the selfishness.

There is a Chinese saying "爱屋及乌" (ai wu ji wu), which says that if you love the house, you must also love those annoying crows on the roof. It means when you love something, you should love it entirely, embracing all its beauties as well as flaws.

But this flaws of Beijing, I can't. I despise it, wholeheartedly and unreservedly. This one I just can't let it slide.

The sign on the door says:"Fire escape route. Parking is prohibited."

The sign on the door says:"Parking of bicycles is prohibited."

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Home

"Oh Jubaaaaaa!"

Finally, I'm here. This will be my new home for at least a year to come, hopefully shorter. Juba is the capital of South Sudan, the youngest country in the world, after separating from Sudan and gaining independence in July last year. Currently there is a massive influx of people rushing into the city, the oil business people, the UN people, the NGO people, the returning from abroad South Sudanese people, the neighboring countries people and yes, the Chinese people.

As prominent as poverty, there are construction and development everywhere in the city. Digging a ditch, constructing offices, building roads and the like. All these activities with the human influx are setting the city abuzz and kicking up a storm, literally, a dust storm.

Living in this young capital is challenging and humbling at the same time. The living condition is no walk in the park. A lot of the things may be there but they do not come by easy and they certainly do not come cheap. The are a lot of people but they lack the required skills to work. There's electricity but there are frequent black outs. There's running water but there are insufficient water pressure. There's mobile phone lines but the reception is crappy. There are big cars on the road but there're a lot of crazy drivers and no traffic order. These's internet but the speed is frustratingly slow.

And then when you think you have had enough and you want to get out of here, there are flights out of here but there are a lot of delays and cancellations!

Alas there are a lot of beers but... Oh there's no but here.

It'd be exciting to witness the tremendous growth, in speed and size of of Juba in the very few coming years. Better things to come, better things to look forward to.

Oh boy, is this going to be a fun and adventurous year or what!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Overheard #22

"I know that we are guests on this planet and we should take care of it." Sophia Bush

Yeah, that's right. We are the guests. Guests should behave politely towards each other, and more importantly treat the host with utmost respect and appreciation.

Today is World Water Day. Remember to turn off the tap while you brush your teeth, not just today, but everyday! Every little bit counts!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Good Shit

Chocolate truffles, definitely by far the easiest dessert I've ever made. Hands down.

Just bring a cup of cream with a dash of vanilla extract to a simmer and pour it over some good quality chocolate. Stir to combine and put in the fridge to chill. Once chilled, roll them into bite-sizr ball and cover them with cocoa powder. Pretty much that's it.

Voila! Done.

Or... You can let your imagination and creativity run wild with it. Add a teaspoon of coffee in the truffle. Or mix in some sour dried fruit like dried cranberry. Or coat the truffles in melted chocolate and cover it with rice crispy, or crushed nuts, or both. You can have a field day with it and come up with a gazillion ways of pumping it up according to your fancy.

Oh by the way I know mine look very much like cow turds. Trust me, they are some seriously delicious silky and creamy cow turds! Yummy!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Beijing Guozijian (北京国子监)

Beijing Guozijian (北京国子监) is the imperial academy built during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasty. It was then the highest and the most prestigious learning institution, almost like the Ivy Leagues today.

Walking into Guozijian, I couldn't help it but totally impressed with the glazed facade into the compound. It was the only facade built, for buildings other than a palace or a temple. Beautifully and intricately decorated with colorful glazed tiles of emerald green and mustard yellow and carvings of dragon and flowers, it was imposing but not intimidating, like a friendly headmaster welcoming the students into the school.

On both sides of the facade, there was each a line of four-character poetic prose written by the Emperor Qian Long (乾隆). Huan Qiao Jiao Ze (圜桥教泽) on the front, praising the teaching and contribution of the Emperor benefiting the students all over.

Xue Hai Jie Guan (学海节观) on the back, equating the knowledge of the emperor as vast as the sea and the enormous turn out of student during the visit of the emperor to the academy to lecture the students.

The highest and the most prestigious learning institution, frequently visited by the emperor as a visiting professor, reading and lecturing on the Confucius teaching to the student body. Now imagine the competition and mad rush into this school!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Taste of Old Beijing

I love Beijing. The city is always abuzz with vibrant energy and never ceased to amaze me with her sights and sounds, and in my latest trip, taste!

Strolling along the street late in the morning I stumbled upon a lot of empty porcelain jars in front of some shops and roadside stalls. I asked around, found out that those were the local yogurt. To be exact, it's called old Beijing yogurt! I'm so used to yogurt being associated with the Western food so learning about old Beijing yogurt really was such a surprise!

How does it taste? I made it my mission early the next morning scavenging the streets nearby my hotel for those little jars of yogurt. Came up yogurt-less after asking and searching in the convenient store, the fruit stall, the florist, the restaurant. Finally the noodles stall lady told me to try in the wet market. After more asking around the vegetable lady and the meat butcher, I found it!

Two little cup size porcelain jars sealed with a piece of paper tightened around the brim with a rubber band. Inside, the creamy milky goodness of yogurt, silky smooth and feather light, no lumps no curds. The taste was absolutely delightful, the zingy sourness from the milk and faint sweetness after taste of the honey, very refreshing in the morning. Oh and the light scent of the honey was almost intoxicating too. It's healthy and tasted great, definitely the breakfast for the champion!

And have I mentioned that they were dirt cheap? One yuan a jar! Three yuans if you have them taken away, two for the deposit of the jar.

Yeah, I'm taking them jars home as my souvenirs from Beijing, a lovely taste of old Beijing.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pray and Learn

Today, while Japan is mourning the loss of lives from the horrific episode a year ago, and still rebuilding after the Fukoshima nuclear meltdown, and still recovering from the terrible aftermath, the Malaysian government is still stubbornly pigheaded, insisting to proceed with permitting the operation of Lynas rare-earth refinery plant in Kuantan.

Let us pray for peace for those departed and strength for the people of Japan. While we are at it, let us also pray for wisdom for the idiotic powers that be in Malaysia.

Smarten up, you dim wit!

Save Malaysia, Stop Lynas!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Beijing Sweetness

This is Bingtang Hulu (冰糖葫芦), a very popular sweet treat along the Beijing street during the winter time. Traditionally, it is done by dipping skewers of hawthorn in sugar caramel and let that cooled and frozen in the wintery air. Now they also come in other fruits such as grapes, tangerines, strawberries and black dates.

I stumbled upon this Beijing sweetie coming out of the subway station heading to Jingshan Park. I bought a strawberry bingtang hulu. I took a huge chunks of the strawberry with the frozen caramel, it lodged in my throat and almost choked me to death! I guess I've bitten more than I could chew.

But OMG! It was super duper delicious!

Being lethal aside, the sweetness from the caramel balanced nicely with the sourness of the strawberry, shocking my tastebuds with the tangy zing then soothing them with the gentle sweetness. So that's was amazing, so amazing. Then the crunchiness of the frozen caramel contrasted incredibly with the juicy soft texture of the fruit. Yummy!

That near death experience certainly will never deter me from getting more of this lovely sweet treat. Well in fact I can't get enough of it.

I already googled online on how to make them at home!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Record Time Fusili

I haven't been cooking for quite sometime. It'd be nice making something new and quick and tasty and warm for dinner for the weekend here in Khartoum. So I made the lazy man meal, pasta! Oh, all done in a record time of 12 minutes!

While the fusilli boiling in the pot and bacon strips frying in the pan, a couple of button mushrooms and garlic were sliced. As the bacons got crispy, out they came from the pan and in the garlic and mushroom sizzling in the rendered bacon fat. Then sprinkle of pepper, dash of OJ and balsamic vinegar added. By then the pasta was drained and ready to be returned into the sauce for a quick swirl and then on to the plate. Crispy bacons roughly chopped and sprinkled over the pasta.

Voila, chow time!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Build them bridges well. Don't burn them down. There are just too many crocodiles in the river.

Note: Photos of bridges spanning across the Nile in Khartoum, Sudan.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

City Center

"I'm back!"

I exclaimed (in my heart) giddily, after climbing up hill in the middle Jingshan Park (景山公园). I was feeling a bit like Rocky jogging up the Philadelphia Art Museum steps, but without the jogging lightly on the spot at the top and the fist pumping in the air. There were just too many tourists around.

The park is located to the north of the Forbidden City in Beijing, a little oasis in the heart of the city. This hill in the middle of the park was actually man-made, erected from the accumulation of the soil dug from the Forbidden City itself. Five intricately decorated pagodas were constructed on top of the hill, each poetically named. The picture above is the center and the biggest of the five pagodas, name Pagodas of the Eternal Spring (万春亭). Emperors during the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasty were said to order various beautiful trees they've seen elsewhere to be uprooted and replanted in the park, for landscaping. The park used to be the playground for the emperors to admire the beauty of his palace, now it's opened to public to enjoy a little peace and quiet of green space in the middle of the bustling city.

Atop the hill it offers the splendid vista of the Forbidden City and the Beijing skyline and cityscape. Unfortunately it was a cold and hazy and gloomy wintery day during my visit. While the sweeping view of the Forbidden City was nonetheless impressive, but the same couldn't be said about the cityscape. It was a blur into the horizon.