How should we judge a government?

"If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." - Malcolm X

In Malaysia, if you don't watch television or read newspapers, you are uninformed; but if you do, you are misinformed!

Why we should be against censorship: Publicity is the very soul of justice … it keeps the judge himself, while trying, under trial. - Jeremy Bentham

"Our government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other. " - Ronald Reagan


Government fed by the people

Government fed by the people

Career options

Career options

Prevent bullying now!

Prevent bullying now!
If you're not going to speak up, how is the world supposed to know you exist? “Orang boleh pandai setinggi langit, tapi selama ia tidak menulis, ia akan hilang di dalam masyarakat dan dari sejarah.” - Ananta Prameodya Toer (Your intellect may soar to the sky but if you do not write, you will be lost from society and to history.)

MyCen News

Monday, January 30, 2006

Changing family values

This year’s Petronas advert on tv seems to play on today’s reality against good old-fashioned family values.

I was brought up in a big family with extended families living under one roof, for most of my growing up impressionable years. I am second youngest, but felt and treated like the youngest. My baby sister died when she was only 4 years old because of kidney failure. My oldest nephew is only 5 years younger than me and his eldest son is only a month younger than my eldest! His second son married two years ago and he is a grandfather now!

Anyway, in those days, our house was a hive of activities. I can still picture my mother with endless household chores, helped by my second sister and my sisters-in-law. When my nephews and nieces were small, baby cries were common. It is a wonder how our selective memory can remember certain events that happened many years ago yet be absent-minded like forgetting a few things which we are supposed to bring.

Now, baby cries, cock crows and certain classical Chinese tunes (heard from Redifusion days) always bring back memories of my teenage days. Each time I mentioned about a certain baby cry which reminded me of a certain nephew or niece, my wife complained that I did not mention about my own children’s! The big difference or reason was nostalgia.

When traveling at night, passing by dimly lit lone village houses amid trees, reminds me of our house on a two-acre land with some rubber and fruit trees before sheds were erected for workshops. Middle of the night, wherever and whenever I could hear the hum of Land Rover vehicle passing by, it reminds me of those army vehicles passing our compound to and from Batu Cantonment, in KL.

Whenever I watched Hong Kong tv serials, which usually have many family members interacting, I am reminded of my growing up years. I am one of those so-called “dying breed” who values family relationships more than anything else. Yet, I am a failure because I find I was unable to please everybody! Every action or inaction could cause problems and elicit criticisms. I have come to the conclusion that I might as well please myself!

Many people, especially those who are so busy with their work or business, may not realise our different roles as a son, husband, father, brother and so on. To further complicate matters, we have in-laws too, which creates problem of which side to spend the Chinese New Year reunion, for instance. The choice of location of work or business and home is another point of contention.

The Petronas advert (in Hokien for a change and therefore more endearing to me) shows a group of old ladies in an old folks' home. One of them said her son is a doctor in London, a cardiologist (had difficulty pronouncing the word) who can earn 20,000 pounds sterling for one operation. Sometimes, he could manage 2 operations a day!

Old lady B was seen using her fingers to work out the amount, probably in terms of ringgit, with an impressed expression

Old lady C did not want to lose out, said her son is a lawyer in a very big firm earning lots of money.

Old lady D was quick to point out that her daughter works in a very big accounting firm, but could not remember the name. Nevertheless, she earns 450,000 ringgit a year!

Then one of them turned to old lady B and asked, “what about your son?”

She replied, “my son is coming to pick me” and continued, “quite troublesome actually, every time he wants to go sight-seeing somewhere, he will come and take me along”. Just then, a Proton Iswara Aeroback draws near and one of them asked, “who is that?”

While getting ready to go, Lady B replied, “that’s my son, he is here to pick me.”

“Where are we going today?” Lady B asked her son who is with his wife and 2 children, and he replied, “Cameron”. The other ladies were silent with envy.

So who is the lucky one then?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A visit to the brothel

3 ex-band members and an ex-bank manager had an educational tour of sorts.

3 Malaysians recently entertained a visiting Australian (banana) and had to take him to a brothel in Brickfields in KL.

The Australian was curious because he had not been to one. His specific request was just to see a naked body of a particular race, in the presence of his local friends.

So the most savvy of the 3, started to ask a couple of the pimps who were in charge. Initially, the first pimp thought they just wanted to know the price and he explained, “Yat mei, sum sap; leong mei, ng sap and so on.” The Australian found he could not understand what he meant and was told that it means “one method” or “two methods” in terms of sex. I leave it to reader’s imagination.

When he mentioned to another pimp his specific request, the latter shouted to his counterparts, “dia mahu tengok sahaja!” (translated: they wanted to see only!) and all of them started laughing at the unusual request!

Twilight years, twilight zone, weird request.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Every cloud has a silver lining

Before Christmas, my car airconditioner could not be switched on and I took it to my local repairer. He spent more than an hour in trying to find out what was wrong with it. He could test that there was no current at certain point of the wire leading to the switch but could not understand why. Very reluctantly he had to give up. When I asked him how much, he replied, "up to you". I gave him Rm10 for the trouble.

I had to put up without aircond and it seemed alright when I was alone. I had to be apologetic when there were passengers.

One day, while driving out, the aircond suddenly turned on by itself as it was at the switched-on position. But, somehow, it could blow only hot air. Just as suddenly, it would switch off by itself. I procrastinated for a few weeks.

Today, I happened to be at a shop next to the aircond-man's. He said he was free to have a look at it even though I was just interested in gas refill. He went about dismantling covers and checking the wirings like before. Without saying anything, he went about doing it. When asked, he said it is ok now. I asked, "what about the gas?" No need, it is working now. It seems the thermostat was switched off or disconnected which accounted for the hot air. I was so surprised that I could get cold air now.

Again, I asked "how much?" and he replied, "up to you". I gave him Rm20 and he seemed happy about it, but knowing repairmen, main part of his satisfaction was being able to find the fault to an earlier problem which he had given up on.

So I am glad something positive happened to me today. I have even considered replacing the whole system which would cost a bomb. I am sure it was worth 10 times more than what I gave him. Again, something to do with living in small town, that we are able to get something for less Ringgit!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

It never rains but pours

When things go wrong for me, it really goes all the way. Murphy’s Law comes to mind.

Couple of months ago, my wife suggested that she takes our spare 14” tv and cheap vcd player to the factory for the foreign workers. She promised to replace them. She has yet to.

Couple of weeks before Christmas, she decided to go ahead with some renovations to 2 toilets, one involving an extension of about 2 feet. Imagine the noise during demolition of the wall and other structures. The dust was unbearable and all my earlier cleaning of the antiques and collectibles had to be done again.

While a workman was at it using a power drill to break the wall, lightning struck and all our sensitve fuseboards in both houses tripped. Little did I realize that for the first time, our main TV and my fairly new dvd player were zapped. Took the tv for repairs and was advised that it has been repaired partially - only good for receiving vcd/dvd and not tv transmissions. For the latter repair, it would cost an additional Rm200 or so and requires waiting for the order to arrive. For several weeks, we were without television service and I was quite surprised that I could wean myself off the news (read propaganda) and some serials. I still wonder why my spare tv was taken away just before I needed one! Murphy again?

It would have been nice to have everything ready before our two daughters and foreign guests arrived. But instead of a clean house with new bathroom fittings, they had to put up with old toilet systems and a half bath lying around the house like “Roman ruins” to quote Cheng. The 2 vintage cars which I had earlier cleaned was still covered with dust from the demolition work. Because we had to be in KL for more than a week for the grand wedding and taking the foreigners around, I just did not have the time to clean up. In fact, I was in the middle of repainting some sections of the house and fencing walls.

It took one week for me to get back to normal routine.

But disaster struck my computer. Because of unknown reasons, maybe viruses, some of my files were multiplied many times. I used anti-virus and anti-spyware programs to check. While doing so, I had difficulty running my usual scanning program. It was reported that some of my programs were interlinked with each other. I must have deleted vital parts of those programs. Now my Outlook Express cannot be opened which means all my addresses and folders cannot be opened too. Even my Words program had problems for a while. My A drive cannot read my diskettes. My Winamp does not work too.

I have to use TM webmail to receive my emails and all attachments cannot be opened. I had to rely on receiving others’ mail before I know their addresses. Maybe it is time to get a notebook for a change. But first, show me the money!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Jam session

On Tuesday, got a call from Joe telling me Joseph suggested that we jam at my place. Joseph who? It was funny because I have yet to meet him and Joe said he suggested it! Told him I was about to call him for one as I have just bought a new powered mixer. He had just bought a new keyboard which uses diskette. So it was fixed for Thursday evening.

About 6 pm, got a message from Po Kuan informing me of a forum at 7.30pm. Had to decline and sent a message to her, not knowing that while the phone was in my pocket, the same message was sent 27 times. Good job PK informed me, otherwise Maxis will be making money at my expense. I always wonder what actually happened as the keypad was supposed to lock after a few seconds.

I only got to know what time to expect my guests when at 8.00pm, Joe called. When they arrived just after 9.00 pm, I had to admit that Joseph and I have not met each other before! Just realized that Joe is also short for Joseph. I seem to be dealing with many Joes which may explain the use of “Joe Public” or “Joe Blogg” as a common example of a name.

Joseph started with a few bangs on the drums and I was impressed. Later I was to discover that he plays keyboard and guitar too! So good was he in all three that we had trouble deciding which instrument he was supposed to play! Being a jack of all trade and master of none, they had no choice but to use me as drummer.

We tried out Apache and then The Young Ones. For the latter song, I played drums first, then rhythm, interchanging with Joseph. With Joe as bassist cum singer, it was a joy as in KL, we did not have a bassist and without proper PA system, we lacked the singer’s voice too!

Somehow, we still lack a rhythm guitarist. Dr. Lim was expected at 9.30pm but it was already past 10.00 pm. I called and was told he had to attend a neighbour’s funeral wake before he could come over.

With a rhythmist added on, the jam session sounded more complete and professional. We had our usual difficulty in deciding on songs suitable for everyone. My suggestions for Smoke on the water and Proud Mary were not taken because of the lack of fuzzbox and lead guitarist. Actually, Joseph wished to opt as lead guitarist but I was short of one guitar. What was also lacking were proper stands for song sheets. Even the keyboard sat on a make-do Singer sewing machine stand! Joseph complained later that it was too low and I found that my old ironing board stand could have been better for height! All these problems arose because of my low budget. It was a case of deciding whether to use the money for additional music equipment or accessories. To me, the latter is not important because we are not going for performance where equipment helps in projecting a certain image as first impression counts.

I soon realized that Joseph used to be Joe’s band member before. Their repertoire went way back to Rose, Rose, I love you and Happy Happy birthday baby by Naomi and the Boys! It was before Dr. Lim’s time but he could manage the chords easily. Dr. sang a few of his favourites like What a wonderful world and Let it be me. When I suggested Black Magic Woman, Joe came out with his diskette with pre-recorded “minus one” and it was wonderful. We ended with Joe singing with all his vocal might, House of the Rising Sun and Joseph in his elements with the keyboards. Both Dr. Lim and myself were like bystanders with our rhythm and drum beats drowned by the voice and organ music. We finished at 11.30pm and I could only imagine, much to the annoyance of my immediate neighbour! I found out the next day from Dr. Lim, who lives behind my house separated by a row of semi-dees, that his wife told him that it was louder (in my front room) than before (in my back room)! The doors and windows were opened and sound travels in a straight line. When I asked my wife who was in the house next door, she said, could hear but not loud, which proved that our double-brick wall serves well as sound-proofing material. Also, that the powered mixer was loud enough.

After the session, we went to a Chinese restaurant nearby to have a drink and supper. Joseph asked where I bought the mixer.He thought that the price was very reasonable indeed and appeared to be interested in buying one for himself. With that, it was a good buy for me and goodbyes for the night.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Slow serving waiters and fast vanishing wines

At the recent wedding reception of a relative at a top 5-star hotel in KL, my wife and I were given the task of looking after alcoholic drinks.

Hostess dated and signed on all red wine bottles sent few days earlier. We brought along a few bottles of expensive brandy and whisky. The person in charge went through their procedure of listing all the bottles and my wife counter-signed it.

During the long drawn dinner, as was usual with Chinese weddings, but more so because we have an eloquent MC with many jokes and tales to tell, we realised that the drinks were slow in being served. My wife and I took turns to hurry them, yet without much success.

The hotel policy requires drinks to be served by their waiters and if they were being slow, we very much felt like breaking their rules and start serving them ourselves. But uppermost on my mind was the happy occasion which should not have been spoilt by relatively petty issues.

The reason for the slow service was evident once the dinner was over. As soon as I walked towards the waiters, the person in charge immediately told me, gesturing to the empty bottles, that all the drinks have been finished. The dinner was held in a banquet hall with doors closed and the drinks counter was outside the hall. So it was almost impossible for us to really know what was happening outside without going out there every few minutes.

My wife and I felt a sense of disbelief and helplessness at being so easily hoodwinked by the waiters. She actually went through each and every bottle and checked to ensure they were all empty. When questioned about the many glasses filled with drinks, the waiter said they were all mixed with water and meant for the band members.

Looking back, now that I know the modus operandi, it would require someone not known to be in charge, to really keep an eye on them. All the markings on the bottles were of no use if they were ready with their own containers. Without proof, we cannot check anything more than the empty bottles. I noticed an employee with a walkie-talkie who presumbly must be a supervisor or in charge of security. What if he was in collusion with the waiters, actually informing them each time one of us was about to go out and check?

The detective in me would very much like to expose them with pictures, at someone else's function next time, given half the chance!

Fishy tales

Having proven that I could rear gold fish and different species of guppies without using a pump, I decided that I should try using one for a change.

It was nice to see a clear tankful of fishes for a change. Paul advised me on how to clean some river sand for the base which should improve its ecology. Bit by bit, various items were added, including some shells which Cheng had collected from Langkawi.

All went well for a couple of weeks. Last night, I had a look at the aquarium and found it strange. What happened to the nice red ones and those Mickey-Mouse-tailed ones which Clem got from Tambun? Altogether I must have some 20 guppies, yet I could only see one left! My immediate thought was the kingfisher but how? I had a wooden cover, though with big holes, it would have taken a very bold kingfisher to fish one at a time without being able to get into the water!

Then I thought about the pump. Before Paul left, I told him how I discover a couple of guppies, dead, stuck to the mesh where water is being sucked in for filtration. To my horrow, it was fully covered with the little fishes, some disintegrated, which explained why the water seemed to have stopped gushing out from the filter.

It took me a while to find other dead fishes among the sand and marbles and crevices. Though they are only fishes, I felt sad that I did not take precaution since I noticed the first two. I have yet to figure out how to overcome this problem other than leaving out guppies in this tank with a pump.

I also felt Clem would have been disappointed too if she knew about this.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Tonto's ecstatic cry

An attractive woman from New York was driving through a remote part of Arizona when her car broke down. An Indian on horseback came along, and offered her a ride to a nearby town.

She climbed up behind him on the horse and they rode off. The ride was uneventful, except that every few minutes the Indian would let out a "Y-e-e-e-e-h-a-a-a-a!", so loud that it echoed from the surrounding hills.

When they arrived in town, he let her off at the local service station, yelled one final "Y-e-e-e-e-h-a-a-a-a!" and rode off.

"What did you do to get that Indian so excited?" asked the service station attendant."

"Nothing. I merely sat behind him on the horse, put my arms around his waist, and held onto the saddle horn so I wouldn't fall off," the woman answered.

"Lady," the attendant said, "Indians don't use saddles!"

Friday, January 13, 2006

Paul's quote?

W A T E R

I had VODKA with WATER
I felt DRUNK
I had WHISKY with WATER
I felt DRUNK
I had RUM with WATER
I felt DRUNK
I SWEAR I'LL NEVER DRINK water....!

This could easily have been said by our guest from UK, Paul Tulip.
But I got it from BH who has been kind enough to send me lots of emails with interesting tales, jokes and quotes. Thanks BH!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

One up for pessimists

My wife is an incredible optimist and I am just the opposite. My elder daughter, Cheng, takes after her in this respect. I have had given in to them on many occasions just so that she could enjoy life to the fullest.

I remembered how I delayed making a decision on whether Cheng should go to Japan for one year under the Rotary International Students Exchange Programme, by leaving it to the panel of selectors. Her notable feat in Japan was to skip levels 4 and 3 and went straight into taking and passing level 2 in Japanese, against the advice of her teacher!

After her first year in the university in UK, she went to Mexico for 3 months, with permission to skip Elementary level and managed to pass her Intermediate level Spanish on her return.

Imagine my fears about her 18-hour bus ride, an illegal cross the border to Guatemala and had a dip in a pond and stories about the general lawlessness in Mexico and images of Clint Eastwood’s earlier western films.

Last summer she attended a 2-week course on Politics, organized by the Consortium for Political Research European Summer University at Grenoble, France, as well as work in a farm run by grass-smoking remnants of the hippies. After that she crossed 5 borders to meet her boyfriend in Bosnia. She had great difficulties with some immigration officials at certain borders, especially those who have never seen a Malaysian passport before.

Her recent holiday back in Malaysia was timed to coincide with her cousin’s wedding. I had my worries when she went to Langkawi with her sister and 2 cousins and a friend. All 5 of them are girls and I had to pretend that I was alright with it. Only after their return was I told that the ferry which they were on, crashed against the pier which did not have the usual old tyres to cushion the effect, and some of those sitting in the first two rows of seats were injured by the broken pieces of glass from the damaged windows.

Even the start of the journey was fraught with anxieties. The tickets showed coach supposed to leave station in Ipoh at 3 am. We actually left our house just past 1 am and picked her cousin in Ipoh en route to the station. We had some drinks while waiting. When we checked at the counter, we were told that there was an accident involving a truck at Slim River and that there will be a long delay due to the obstruction.

Just before 5 am, we were told by a man in charge that they had to take a bus to Butterworth and then catch another bus to Kuala Perlis. Fortunately, just minutes later, the counter clerk who went with that man to the main road, came back frantically, telling them to quickly board the coach. It seems the new driver did not know how to enter the station. Anyway, it was a good though anxious start. Most obvious was my daughter’s friend, Ooi, who was earlier full of enthusiasm and chatting merrily, went sullen and quiet when told of the long delay and possible cancellation of the trip.

The evening of the 10th January, we had our home-cooked dinner and the two girls did their last-minute serious packing. It was more like last hours of packing as we did not leave the house until after 11.30 pm! My wife intended to take a bus the next day to join us on our trip to KLIA. But she was persuaded by my younger daughter, Nee, to come along. So with 6 of us (including a cousin, Diane) and a boot full of luggage, we left for KL. I looked at the rear-view mirror and it was an endearing sight to see Nee cuddled by her mum like a baby, both of them dozing.

After entering NSE at Gopeng, we went past the scene of previous landslides near Gua Tempurung. We traveled some 13 kilometres and I remembered distinctly a Toyota Estima which flashed its headlights and went past in a whisk. Soon after, I heard coarse grinding noise from the car and thought it was the engine. I quickly turned the car to the emergency lane and switched on the hazard lights. I told my son to check the tyres and what I dreaded came true: tyre puncture late at night, on the NSE where there were no street lights. In a way we were fortunate that the road was sloping upwards but now and again we could see cars and trucks zooming past. Unpleasant thoughts of those fatal accidents which we used to read in the papers and seen on television, crossed my mind.

While my wife and son started walking along the road looking for Plus’s emergency phone, I remembered that our ticket carries a toll-free number and with luck, my handphone showed strong signals. I quickly called and a man answered asking which particular spot we were at, which was 310.6. I asked how soon can we expect the Ronda truck and was told within half an hour. It was after 40 minutes of waiting in the dark that we saw the welcome sight of a truck with flashing beacons but on the other side of the highway!

One of the 2 men immediately said that it was a dangerous spot and I could not agree more. So with safety in mind, one of them used his red-coloured luminous baton to wave at passing vehicles to take note of the stalled vehicle. The other man initially used a portable 2-ton jack but realized it was too low for a 4-wheel drive vehicle. By then, we had cleared the boot of all the luggage and took out the spare wheel and my son took out the car’s jack for him. We could tell that the man was really worried about his safety while changing the tyre. In the meantime, the other man started telling me about accidents that took place nearby. There was one case of a man who did something incredibly hazardous by changing tyre at the fast lane and paid for it with his life. Then another case of four persons who got killed by a vehicle while changing a tyre. There were also cases of robbery by people who pretended to offer help. He even believed that if alone, some spirits might come out from the dark forest and create trouble.

Looking back, I was pleased that we made the right decision of waiting for help instead of doing it ourselves, as the chances of accident happening were very high indeed, knowing how our drivers behave on the road.

More important was the fact that the flight was scheduled for the following night at 11.15pm. I cannot imagine how I would have felt if we did the optimist’s way by allowing just enough time to go to KLIA direct from our hometown.

While having dinner at Lake Club hosted by my sister-in-law, who happens to be my children’s godmother, I was glad that it was Cheng who reminded me that it was time to leave. When asked why, she said after what happened last night, she wouldn’t want to risk it.

So it was the usual long goodbyes that took easily 5 minutes before we rushed to the carpark and headed for KLIA. We left behind the two couples from UK, a brother-in-law and family from Australia, hostess and sister, my son and his cousins to continue with dinner and chat.

There were signs showing KLIA via Seremban highway but I took the route I was familiar with, ie. via Jalan Duta! Main reason was I knew my way, instead of looking for signs while driving to get out of KL, and also the thought of traffic jams near Midvalley.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Throwing caution to the wind

One of the places which we took our visitors from UK to, is Kuala Gula, very much off the beaten track.

Few weeks earlier, we went to check it out and got details of hours suitable for watching birds and fireflies.

The recommended time for taking a slow boat ride to the river estuary surrounded by mangrove swamps, was after 4 pm. We were introduced to a tour guide, Choo, who was incredibly friendly, so much so, I was shocked when my wife actually handed Rm250.00 (for 10 persons) straightaway before even having sight of the boat! Soon after, a Malay fishermen brought some crabs and Choo told us that he used to be his worker and recommended that we buy from him. To check the weight of the crabs, the two of them walked away and I was getting worried that if Choo were to be a conman, my wife would look incredibly stupid for being so trusting!

Anyway, luck was with us and Choo kept to his promise. Ten minutes later, his boatman came with the boat. We were given life jackets to put on. He gave instructions to go slow so that we can enjoy ourselves. It was a smooth ride and the boatman knew when to switch off the engine when we were near some exciting birds like egrets, herons and storks. We could see an eagle or two circling overhead looking for prey. We spotted a few monitor lizards in the muddy waters, with their heads sticking out like snakes.

We were told that we could try our hands at trapping crabs. The boatman threw in 5 cages and Alex did the honours for the last one. On our way back after more than 2 hours, Alex and Paul were given the chance to pull up the traps. The first trap got 2 crabs which got us all excited and raised our expectations. It was followed by 1 each for the next 2 traps and nothing for the rest. Upon reaching the pier, Choo suggested that we throw back the 3 small crabs and take the larger one for cooking with the rest which we have bought earlier.

The crabs were divided into 3 lots for different ways of cooking: first lot fried with meehoon, second lot with curry leaves and third with sweet and sour sauce. It was really delicious. Together with a few other dishes, we could not finish the crabs. The leftovers were packed for Jeff who did not join us.

After the meal, it was dark and suitable for watching fireflies. Choo told us that it would cost Rm5 each. We were told to follow him and his mate on a motorcycle. The road led to an oil palm estate. The oil palms were on our right and a canal was on our left. Further to the left were some trees.

Though the boat trip went smoothly, I had misgivings about the way he led us to the dark and lonely plantation. As soon as we arrived at the recommended spot, we were told to switch off our headlamps and shut the doors of the 2 cars too. This, he explained, was to encourage the fireflies to come near and show their lights. He and his mate showed us the way further in using their torchlights and then switched them off too. I was getting really worried. It had all the signs of leading us to a staged robbery! Perhaps it was my too imaginative or cynical mind but thank goodness, I was wrong.

We were excited to see a tree on the left lit with fireflies, just like a Christmas tree! Some fireflies were coming to us from the estate too. Some of us caught a firefly each to have a closer look at this wonder of nature. We were told that we did not get to see more because of the drizzle. Anyway, we got to see what we intended for the trip and Choo made some easy money for the evening.

I still maintain that we should not have handed him the money before the boat trip.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Entente Cordiale

Paul, my new British friend from UK, on a holiday in Malaysia for the first time, likes to say that he needs beer not because of its alcohol but because he needs liquid.

Liquids, as in alcohol and as water in rain, have helped Entente Cordiale among Britain, Malaysia, Australia and Korea at the Korean dinner hosted by Dr. Joe’s in-laws.

Before dinner, we were under the impression that all guests have to be in formal attire. I was joking with Helen that she should go in her bikinis as most Malaysians see them scantily dressed in our hot weather and probably think that that is their traditional wear. Just before getting ready, one of us confirmed with Dr. Isabelle that we could go in casual wear.

During the wedding buffet lunch at Joe’s place, at the wedding registration ceremony and wedding dinner at Mandarin Oriental, Dr. Lee had given us the impression that he is always serious. A man of few words and seldom smiled, we thought it was because he used to be a Professor in a leading Korean university and is used to maintaining a stiff image.

Many of us had no idea where is Derby Park where the Korean restaurant is. Even now, I cannot even recall the name of the restaurant.

As driver of 2 visiting British couples, I had the responsibility of making sure they reach there on time. I was told it was behind and between Nikko Hotel and Citibank. Having missed that particular road, I had no choice but to turn into the road leading to KLCC and Mandarin Oriental. It was then raining heavily and the traffic was inching its way. It was after passing MO and into Jalan Pinang that I saw an MPV driven by Mohammed. I was doubly relieved that we were not alone if indeed we were late, and also I had someone to lead the way! As we were almost there, even having lost sight of the vehicle, we could see the entrance to the building where I dropped off the passengers and headed straight to the basement car park.

When I was about to reach the lift, I saw a group of familiar Korean faces and was pleasantly surprised to see the host family all drenched and laughing out loud. One of them told me that they were caught in the rain while walking from The Ascott apartments!

What a difference a heavy downpour made to the mood of the evening! Every now and again, one of the Koreans would burst out laughing in their drenched state. All the formalities and seriousness which we had expected, seemed to have been washed away by the rain.

It was a really good start to the evening’s event. Another uncle of Joe was with me, sitting with the host family. The British couples had with them a Korean, Mr. Park. It was their idea of mingling the guests. Toasts were exchanged and later endless toasts with the slightest excuse, until one by one, the so-called heroes fell. Some had to be helped to the cars. Earlier, I was criticized by Joe’s mum, for not being sporting enough, but being a driver for the night, I had my responsibilities.

The next day, Paul told us how Mr. Park poured a Korean drink into Paul’s cup and he drank it. Then he gestured to Paul with the bottle and Paul misunderstood him and poured the drink into his own cup again and Park shook his head. Later, my son, who had worked with a Korean company before, explained that Paul was supposed to pour into Park’s cup in return.

Towards the end of the evening, it was a sight to behold. Both families of the newly-weds and guests were like old friends, embracing each other and taking digital pictures for later viewing as well as for the album.

Thanks to liquids, the evening’s event was a great success: entente cordiale among new relatives and friends, and countries like Britain, Malaysia, Korea and Australia.

Look East, but not for English

When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.

- from a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The day I lost my identity

I attended funeral wake of the mother of a close family friend of my wife, Ms. Wong. I was given instructions to contribute on behalf of my brothers-in-law since they were out of town.

I was with one of my wife’s sisters, who was also given instructions to do the necessary on behalf of her sisters who were unable to attend.

Ms. Wong, ever helpful and efficient, started to write our names out. I could not believe it when she wrote for me, Mr. Lee S___ P___! I have tolerated friends or relatives of my wife, who unintentionally called me Mr. Lee, but Ms. Wong has known me for almost 30 years and I think her mistake was a result of my living in the shadow of my wife for far too long.

Ms. Wong used to be a nurse cum PA of the late Dr. Tan Chee Khoon. Her sister's son, Alun Yun, is a well known model and up and coming film star. His latest film is considered a sequel to Sepet. Close friends and relatives know him better as "the postman" which I think must have been his first acting experience in an advertising clip.

Dr Joe's Wedding

The past week in KL had been most hectic for me.

The star event was Joe’s wedding on December 26. Joe is the elder son of one of my wife’s sisters. The marriage of two doctors who were course-mates in the University of New South Wales, Australia, was more interesting as Isabel is Korean.

The wedding was celebrated over 3 days: Home-cooked lunch and catered Buffet dinner on Christmas Day, being Wedding Eve; catered Buffet lunch and Dinner at a restaurant in a 5-star hotel on Wedding Day; followed by Korean Dinner at a Korean restaurant hosted by the bride’s parents.

On top of these functions at which our presence were required, we have 2 couples from UK who were invited for the event, whom we have to play hosts to. In addition, we have my brother-in-law and family who are related to the Chinese couple and therefore are part of the “tour group”.

I acted as driver on call and it was fortunate for me that the traffic situation was favourable during those public holidays. My main complaint was having to deal with security guards at the entrances of condominiums. I was ever grateful for the usefulness of the handphone though sometimes, I wish I could not be contacted! My close friend, KC has called me Dr. Kildare for being on call most of the time! Being on call meant I cannot commit myself to any arrangement with him or another ex-classmate, Ken, from Sydney who happened to be on holiday.

Fortunately, Ken stayed in PJ Hilton and had a spare bed which he had kindly offered to me during the few days. PJ Hilton is just across the Federal Highway from the condominium where the guests from UK stayed, and my son’s house in Section 14. So we had the odd situation of a driver living in Hilton with nice buffet breakfast thrown in!

For the British couple, Paul and Helen, this is their first visit to Malaysia. They have played hosts to our two daughters in UK and we are trying to organize some interesting places to take them to.

Paul plays the guitar and enjoys jam sessions. With Ken as pianist and me as guitarist as well, we tried a few songs. Then Paul and I went to KC’s home studio to jam too. But the main problem, as usual, was trying to choose songs familiar to all. Paul hates Beatles’ songs and was unfamiliar with Shadows’. We were unfamiliar with some Irish or British songs which he suggested. So we gave up any idea of jamming on that wedding day. In fact, there must have been about 10 guitarists who were present during lunch. All three acoustic guitars were lying idle. Wonder if presence of electric guitars would have made any difference. I would have been more disappointed if I took the trouble to arrange and nobody touched them.

They are presently spending a few days in Singapore and will be heading to Fraser’s Hill before coming to Perak where we will play hosts.