Be Yourself

Both have strengths. And both have weaknesses. And neither should be boastful of its strength, lest its weakness comes to haunt at an unexpected time.

This is my response to:

“Don’t be a parrot in life. Be an eagle.
Parrots talks way too much, but can’t fly high. But an eagle is silent and has the power to touch the sky.”

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Meeting a school teacher after 47 years

Alhamdulillah. Finally I had the privilege of meeting Cikgu Rahim Abdullah, my primary school class teacher in 1971 when I was in Standard 5 at Sekolah Pusat Jerteh, Besut, Terengganu. 47 years ago. How time flies.

Cikgu Rahim is now 82 years old. Still healthy.

I was in Mersing, Johor for several days for an assignment. The next day, mid-morning, I rode the bike to Kuantan passing through Endau, Rompin, Nenasi and Pekan to meet Cikgu Rahim.

I arrived in Beserah, on the outskirts of Kuantan, just after Zohor prayer time, around 2.00 pm. I had Cikgu’s address, so I went round the taman (housing estate) looking for the house. Found it. But I did not stop. Instead I rode to the taman’s surau (musolla, small mosque), did my solats (Zohor and Asar prayers) and had some rest.

Around 3.15 pm I rode back to cikgu’s house, really hoping he was in and that I was disturbing his afternoon nap.

He was in and up. And was happy to see one of his many pupils coming for a visit.

And I was happier. Cikgu Rahim is only one of two of my primary school teachers who are still around. The others had passed away.

Meeting Cikgu Rahim was wonderful. It made my 200-kilometer 2-hour non-stop motorcycle ride from Mersing very worthwhile.

With Cikgu Rahim. 7 March 2019.
Cikgu Rahim looking at a 1971 class photo I brought along.
Cikgu Rahim next to his 1974 second-generation Toyota Corolla. Behind him was my bike.
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90-year-old flower tree

A flower on the tree.

Returning to the kampung for Raya (Eid) a few days ago, my sister Mi took a photo of this flower and asked the siblings group for its name. No one knew.

The flower tree sat next to our uncle Ayah Chik Hassan’s house, in the middle of the path to our house, further at the back of the land. Ayah Chik’s house was relatively new. It sat on a lot previously occupied by a grand chengal (a premium Malaysian hardwood) kampung house owned by Tok Nyan Putih, our great grandmother – the mother of our father’s father.

I was privileged to be living, from the time I was very small, with my grandmother Mak Pesah, whose house with my grandfather Che Abas, was on the same big plot of land as Tok Nyan Putih’s.

The tree’s leaves, with a flower and several flowers buds visible.

During Tok Nyan Putih’s time, the flower tree was near the back stairs of her house, just outside what I called a “taman larangan” (forbidden garden), a fenced garden into which only Tok Nyan entered, and sometimes I, and even that only on her invitation.

Now Tok Nyan’s house was gone and replaced by Ayah Cik’s house. And the flower tree was still there.

In our siblings group chat my youngest brother Idi shared that he had been trying for three years to cut down the flower tree, to make it easier for his light truck to pass through. But clearly he had not been successful. The flower tree still stood there proud, and flowering.

Idi further advised us not to disturb the tree, if we want to avoid being chased by a parang (machete). That added an element of mystique to the tree. Apart from its flowers’ outstanding fragrance, which was at its best, hauntingly, in early mornings.

Chempaka Telur flower bud. Looked like a coconut, hence its western name Magnolia Coco(nut).

Idi later admitted that the parang story was just an added flavor to his story haha. But the part about not able to cut down the tree was real.

I googled for the name of the flower. After lots of false leads, I made a hit. The flower name was “Chempaka Telur” and also known more specifically as “Chempaka Telur Putih”.

Mi’s daughter with the Chempaka Telur flower plucked by Ayah Chik.

The Chempaka Telur tree was said to originate from southern China and Vietnam. It even went to England in year 1786, taken there by a Lady Amelia Hume. The buds were shaped more like baby coconuts, hence the English name Magnolia Coco (Coconut Magnolia).

The flowers were small and very fragrant. They usually lasted only one day and opened in the evening, with the tepals (outer petals) falling by morning.

So it turned out that the seemingly ordinary flower tree near the back stairs of my Tok Nyan Putih’s house, and now next to my Ayah Chik’s house – was an exotic flower tree, originating from thousands of kilometers away and had traveled thousands more kilometers to England over 200 years ago.

Knowing this, the next morning, Mi and I went to Ayah Chik’s house and asked him to tell us about the tree.

Ayah Chik cutting off creepers from the tree.

He said the Chempaka Telur tree was already there from the time he was very small. That made the tree easily 90 years old, or more. The tree had survived many floods over the years, some submerging it totally. It did not require any watering or special care. Just some pruning and cutting off creepers.

And he passed a remark “Ayoh Cik saye (sayang) pohon ni. Biar la dia dok (duduk) ssini (di sini)”. (Ayah Chik love this tree. Let it continue to be here).

So THIS explained why Idi faced stiff resistance when he wanted to cut down the tree for the past three years!! huhu. And after knowing the story of the 90-year-old tree, and reading about it, if I was in Ayah Chik’s place, I would have also vigorously defended the tree from being leveled to the ground. These young people, no regards for history, hehe.

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First Day in Perth, Part 2

Previously on First Day in Perth – here

At Haywin House on Irwin Street, Perth, Western Australia that evening I was informed that we were going to be taken to a Malaysian’s house. We went down to the street level, and true enough, a few cars were there waiting for us. It was a chilly evening, and I felt the biting cold despite the acrylic turtleneck sweater and denim jacket I brought from Malaysia.

We got ourselves into the cars and were driven away into the night.

I did not know exactly where we were going, to whose place or who were the people that drove the cars.

I had an uneasy feeling that we might be taken to some other place. The word kidnapped came to my mind. So I started observing landmarks around us. The most prominent landmark in Perth city that night was a big red blinking signboard on top of a tall building – LOMBARD.

So I tracked the location of the car in relation to the LOMBARD building. Just in case we needed to jump out of the car and find our way back to Haywin House in the city.

My apprehension about the trip evaporated when we arrived at the destination. It turned out to be the South Perth residence of Mr Abdul Rahman Haron, the Malaysian Consul in Perth. Mr Rahman lived at the house with his wife Ita and child son Hafiz.

Mr Rahman expected us and had prepared for us a Malaysian dinner – rice, and the normal things that came with it. What a joy. There was rice in Australia. Rice. Hope. I might yet survive the next five years in Perth after all !!!

I had earlier thought that we were simply placed at Haywin House and had to fend for ourselves. But pleasantly no, the Malaysian Consul was looking after us, as well as the senior Malaysian students who fetched us and drove the cars, and the officers from the Australian Government agency ADAB (Australian Development Assistance Bureau) who waited for us on arrival at the airport, took us to Haywin House, gave us a comprehensive briefing on life in Perth two days later, booked us into apartments in Leederville, and arranged for our placements at the Leederville Technical College.

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Rambut means hair in Malay. So rambutan is a hairy fruit. Makes sense 🙂

There is no original English word for it. So rambutan is also rambutan in English.

The rambutan is native to the Malay-Indonesian region, and other regions of tropical Southeast Asia. It is closely related to several other edible tropical fruits including the lychee and longan (*1).

To people of Malaysia, Thailand, the Phillippines, Vietnam, Borneo, and other countries of this region, the rambutan is a relatively common fruit the same way an apple is common to many people in cooler climates (*2).

This is a present day rambutan. Sweet, lekang and juicy without dripping.

When I was little and living with my grandparents and young uncles and aunt in Terengganu, Malaysia, rambutan seasons were always joyful times.

My grandfather and grandmother had several rambutan trees in the plot of land behind our house. When a season was good, the green rambutan trees turned red, and the branches sagged, heavy with fruits.

We had four varieties of rambutans – Che Embong, Perak, Rakyat and Gula Batu.

Che Embong was very good. Its dry flesh readily part (“lekang”) from the seeds. Sweet but not overly so.

The rambutans I got today from the neighborhood Sunday farmers’ market. Very nice.

Perak was also sweet and lekang. But it had lots more juice. Opening the skin, if not careful, the sweet juice would spill onto one’s shirt.

Rakyat was much smaller in size compared to Che Embong and Perak. Some were lekang and some were not.

Gula Batu was relatively harder to get. The color of a ripe fruit was yellow compared to red for Che Embong, Perak and Rakyat. But it was the sweetest of all. I believe that was why it got the name Gula Batu, Rock Sugar.

Searching the web for additional information on rambutans, I was pleasantly surprised to see a page explaining how to eat a rambutan 🙂 (*3)

That was good education. Some time ago I saw a video clip of a US talk show, where there was a durian on the table, and one of hosts was explaining how to eat the thorny and scary fruit. The first thing he did was use a machete to cut the durian into two, seeds and all, before plucking out the mangled pulp (flesh). Clearly no one there knew how to open a durian properly LOL 🙂

*1 Wiki
*3 Wikihow

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Desert Melodies

Subhanallah. This and other old “irama padang pasir” (desert melodies) had been playing at the back of my mind for many years now. The instrumental music used to be played over RTM radio in the 1960s, several minutes before “buka puasa” (Ramadhan breaking of fast) when I was a kid living with my grandparents, uncles and auntie in Jerteh, Terengganu.

Tonight, I had an inspiration to search YouTube, using keywords “irama padang pasir instrumental”. One of the results caught my eye – “InstrumentalArabLama”, a collection of 22 videos for which the uploader on Jul 16, 2009 wrote:

“Kelembutan alunan musik yang mententeramkan jiwa dan perasaan kita. Irama musik arab yg asyik sekali…….Dari Album Arabian Night conducted by Sir Ron Goodwin”

(Soft musical tunes that soothe our mind and soul. Mesmerizing Arabian musical melodies…From the Arabian Night album conducted by Sir Ron Goodwin)

I would like to share “Ron Goodwin’s Old Beirut“. The other tunes are also highly recommended – Return To Paradise, Arabian Night, Bazaar, Wedding Dance, Farewell To Lebanon, Journey To Damascus.

I trust my school and hostel friends and many here would also find the tunes soothing, enjoyable and bring back gigabytes of memories.

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Tiles, Cement, Milk

After 20 years, four of the wall tiles in my home kitchen were loose. Something needed to be done. The fastest way was to do it myself. But I had never DIY’d tiles before. And wall tiles were more challenging. My main worry – would the tiles stay fixed to the wall, 90 degrees vertical, defying gravity?

I did what I usually do in facing unknowns – search for information, as much as possible. Nowadays it is very easy. Information on the fingertips. All one needs is a data plan, or wifi.

After the search I felt more confident. At a neighborhood hardware shop I saw a bag of cement, not the normal portland cement but one more suitable for my job – Tile Fix. That was encouraging.

The shop assistant, noticing that I was intently reading instructions on the Tile Fix bag, offered me a tip – “Bang, untuk lebih lekat, campur ni dengan susu” (Bro, to make this more sticky, mix it with milk). Huh? Milk? No kidding! “Susu ni la, bang” (THIS milk, bro).

He showed be a bottle of the milk – Latex Admix. “A synthetic latex-based cement modifier admixer and bonding agent to improve cement hydration, adhesion, workability, durability, bonding strength, and reduces drying shrinkages and water permeability”. O, this was not a normal cow’s milk then, heheh.

Back home I started work. Removed the loose tiles. Chiseled out the cement underneath. Very hard, sweaty, noisy and dusty work. And cleaned the tiles many, many times. Then came the time to mix the Tile Fix cement with its milk and water. The first round, the mixture was horrible. Looked like a runny paste. Then I added more cement, and more, until the mix became thick and looked like it won’t flow down the wall.

Then using a makeshift trowel, I scooped a small amount of the mix and pasted it on the bare wall. Pressed and smoothed it. And surprise, the paste stuck to the wall and did not fall down! I covered the area for one tile with the paste, and then put the tile on. The online tutorials I read told me to tap the tile. I used a hard rubber mallet to tap the tile, making it even with its neighbors.

Then more tile cement paste for the other tiles.

Then it was done. The tutes said I needed to wait for 24 hours before grouting, i.e. filling the inter-tile spaces with white cement. But I could not wait.

After all was done, it looked alright. It is now nearly three days after the DIY. The tiles still looked OK.

Now I do not fear broken or loose tiles any more, hehe.

And now I know that tiles, cement and milk go well together 🙂

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A more civilized age…

1987. My first personal office. When Office had not yet been invented. When Windows 2.0 was virtually unknown. When the blinking cursor of DOS ruled much of the personal computer world. 10 years after Star Wars: A New Hope. 30 years ago.

The desktop was glass lined and unlike computer desktops, did not require any electrical power. It only had a landline phone, desk calendars, a diary, and papers. Real papers.

No personal computers. No laptops. No mobile phones. No smartphones. No tablets. No Facebook. No WhatsApp. No Twitter. No Instagram. No Google. No internet. No phone cameras.

It was the age when android was still a humanoid robot and not yet become a smartphone OS software.

Looking back, I felt like it was the age of lightsabers – “Your father’s lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon… for a more civilized age.
— Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Hope (1977).

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Ready For Adventure

The new Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A40 rear tire.

The new Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A40 rear tire. With a new drive chain.

Several days ago, during a service visit to a usual bike shop I was told that the rear tire was about to “go”. So I asked the shop owner his recommendation. “For this bike and you, this one”. Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A40. “Good and long lasting”. I said OK.

This was my third tire replacement. The first was replacing the stock Dunlop Sportmax, at 16,000 km, with a Metzeler Tourance EXP. This lasted 37,000 km, when I replaced it with a Metzeler Tourance NEXT. The EXP was no longer produced and NEXT was its replacement.

After some 170 kilometers' ride in drizzly weather.

After some 170 kilometers’ ride in drizzly weather.

But the NEXT lasted only 19,500 km. Hopefully this Battlax Adventure A40 can match the Tourance EXP’s endurance.

Adventure tire for a commuter rider, huhu...

Adventure tire for a commuter rider, huhu…

With the side luggage boxes and the bold-threaded rear tire, the bike did look like it could take the rider to an adventure.

With the side luggage boxes and the bold-threaded rear tire, the bike did look like it could take the rider to an adventure.





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A Tale of Three Cards. The Sequel.

Card 1 and Card 2 – case closed.

Card 3. Now this one made me angry.

Today, 3:43 PM. Has been waiting for 5 weeks for the temporary PIN to come via snail mail. On 29 January I phoned the bank’s card center, explained what I wanted, and was promised that the PIN would arrive in 2 weeks. Now 5 weeks later still no PIN.

Thinking that the bank’s official facebook page would be faster, and trusting the statement in the Messenger dialog box that the bank “typically replies instantly”, I sent a message.

More than 6 hours later, still no reply.

I phoned the bank’s call center again. And the agent weakly responded “it should have arrived”. Wrong response. I retorted “It should, but it did NOT, that’s why I’m making this call”.

Long story short, the agent said another PIN will be sent. And it will take 2 weeks! The irate customer had been waiting for 3 weeks MORE than the promised 2-week duration, and you are treating this as business as usual?

He asked the customer is it urgent to get the PIN? Another wrong question. Do you want the card cut into two? Of course it is urgent.

He got the drift and said he’ll request urgent action.


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