Thursday, April 30, 2009

On My Honour I Promise...

The doorbell rang. I looked out and saw 2 Boy Scouts.

Instinct told me it's job week and they are out to do the odd jobs. 'Hold on! Coming!' I shouted out from my bedroom window. I let them in.

I was glad to see Adam and Sanjeeva. In all these years I've hardly had contact with Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. It brings back so many cherished memories of the young school days when I diligently dressed in my Girl Guide uniform for the meetings. Also, graduated to being a Land Ranger as I grew older.

Sad to say I do not have any photos of myself in my guiding uniform. Perhaps my friends will have. We plan to have a class reunion sometime soon. Still remember the well starched deep blue skirt and top uniform. Around the campfire we sang fun songs like 'Ging Gang Goolie Goolie' and 'Shoo Fly!'

Like my fellow Girl Guides, we held our 3 fingered salute and recited our pledge as fervently as we could:

On My Honour I promise to do my best. To do my duty to God and the country. To help other people at all times. To obey the Guide laws.

And when the meeting ended, it was time to sing taps:

Day is done. Gone the sun. From the hills. From the sky. Safely rest. God is nigh.

Thinking back, there were so many ideals for me /us to embrace. I looked forward to singing taps for the simple message it conveys.

Anyone of you out there belonged to the Boy Scout/Girl Guide movement ? Or for that matter a uniform organisation like the Boys Brigade? Happy memories!

Nothing beats the camaraderie and mutual understanding that the Girl Guide instils in us. As I watched Adam and Sanjeeva going about their task, they were working well side by side each other. One corner of my garden had some litter and needed raking. They did just that . Soon there was a pile of dried brown leaves.

Adam and Sanjeeva are lower secondary boys from the Victoria Institution. And they belong to the Lion patrol. I asked them a few things about their patrol. This job week has an urgent need at hand. Whatever these boys and their fellow scouts collect will go towards building a new club house. Due to a short circuit, their old wooden club house burned down.

I remember washing cars, sweeping compounds and helping my godma to make kueh. That was my kind of job week. These boys are ready to make job week fruitful.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

In The Azanin Dance Garden (Laman Tari Azanin)

Nothing that was to happen on Wednesday morning thwarted our trip to the Azanin Dance Garden.'

The members of the MCG ( Malaysian Culture Group) gathered to car pool for this exciting outing to Hulu Langat To cut a long story short, we got lost in the concrete jungle of Cheras etc. Finally we got a taxi to lead us there. 3 cars followed the 'leader'. Some who navigated better got there first waited patiently for us to arrive.

We were warmly greeted by 2 dance members of Suasana Cultural Centre and Datin Azanin Dato Ahmad herself . First we had to cross a swing bridge over the clear Langat river. Then the lush garden took our breath away. Heliconias! Costus! And so many other plants looking absolutely brilliant in the mid morning sun

Datin Azanin, dancer- choreographer showed us the way to the Balai - Rumah Ibu where many musical instruments and artefacts are kept. Then , down some stone steps to cross a well- manicured lawn to the Balai Tari.

The members of the MCG gathered and chatted over a quick cup of tea/coffee with a platter of local kueh delicacies . Then, Datin Azanin formally welcomed and introduced herself and her dancers.

'Art is my passion . Art is absorbing and feeling ...' she enthused. She talked about her world of dance and work that has encompassed her life. Our ears pricked to absorb the passion she felt in her work and achievements.

Passion requires the patience, tenacity and the sweat to put her ideas together. Datin Azanin's work requires solid research and documentation to keep the rich cultural heritage in general of the region and specifically the performing arts of Malaysia alive.

Single- handedly, since 1980 she has pursued her dream; hence the birth of the Suasana Cultural Centre . This speaks volumes for her determination. Because she breathes and lives dance and the performing arts, she is a key figure to keep traditional heritage alive.

To our delight, she showed us some dance movements of the royal courts . Also, she talked about the shadow puppet ( wayang kulit) and the silat ( Malay art of self defence) , the makyong theatre, and the royal court dances accompanied by the classical music.

Some 'brave' ladies joined the dance demo. Fingers quivered and twirled, legs well positioned, bodies gently swayed. I was busy snapping some lovely movements.

In the short time spent together , Datin Azanin awakened our senses , raw as they may be. Speaking for myself! Really, a visit isn't enough to soak it all in.

Her reputation has garnered her acclaim from an international audience from countries like USA, Australia, Germany, Singapore and admirers far flung.

What's more, it's comforting to know she's mesmerising the young ones under her tutelage.

So, in the Azanin Dance Garden, cultural heritage has every good chance to live and thrive.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

' THE Sea Is Where The Fishes Stay.

If we must take care of the sea, then the fishes will be happy.' captions young artist Tan Tiun Qi, 4 yrs. of a glorious undersea world.

Happy Earth Day everyone!

To celebrate Earth Day, here's a glimpse of pictures of some young artists. They adorn the desktop calendar of BDO Blader Malaysia ( Audit.Advisory.Tax). A charity project in aid of Shelter , home for children.

Recycle Can Help Save The Earth by Oh Vivien, 11 yrs

I Love Animals by Kong Xin Tian, 4 yrs

Children's art never fails to captivate me. It's their unique expressions, the strokes, the shapes, the colours, the thoughts - in fact all of what a child can express, it comes untainted.

Picasso says of children's drawings at an art exhibition ,' When I was their age, I could draw like Raphael but it took me a long time to draw like them.'

Water is very good for everyone. Save the rainwater for fishes, for drinking, for painting, for cooking. My sister is washing her face and I am painting! by Lai Zhen Wee, 7 yrs

In art, the children have a powerful voice, unknown to them. They just create and and their inner thoughts surface. They transcend cultural barriers and they speak of the world they want.

The trees are very happy. The children trees are playing. They are having a party. There are drinks like coffee, apple juice and milo by Julie Yeap Shan Ting, 6 yrs

Poem by Anna Eliasson, 10 years, Sweden

I hear birds sing

I see the sun glowing on the water

The branches move a little

I think everything is nice

Why do you have to destroy what's so beautiful?

Monday, April 20, 2009

BELUM ... Land Before Time

An article in the New Straits Times focusing on the 'birds and trees' in BELUM tweaked my memory.

We were there three years ago. An overnight getaway. Not forgotten, only stored in the recesses of my mind.

We drove there from Taiping, a journey of about 4 hours . Headed north to Grik. Past Grik to the prime tropical rainforest of Belum -Temenggor.

Over 130 million years old, older than the Congo and the Amazon rainforests, about 4 times the size of Singapore island, the tropical rainforest beckoned. Just wondrous to know that it is home to big animals like the Malaysian tiger, tapir, sunbear, gibbon, elephant and the Sumatran rhino.

Our stay was at the Pulau Banding Resort. Pulau Banding is a man made lake located within the majestic Temenggor lake. The resort is literally at the doorstep of BELUM.

Our room overlooked the lake. It was serene with the mountains in the backdrop. In the morning, the mist covered and hovered low and cooled the air. The morning air was punctuated by the calls of birds and ? monkeys

On the boat ride in the reserve, the marine police came by. Just checking. Ok, everything's in order.

We followed our guide , looking for the world famous rafflesia. He found it and we were estatic! Hasten to add, it was in BUD.

Just our luck. Viewing it expertly, our guide said, ' Stay 3 more days and you'll see it in bloom.' We had to contend with the pictures we see. This unique parasitic plant draws curious thousands . Nevertheless, coming up close to the bud was like striking gold.

'It takes about 9 months to reach full bloom. Come back for the smell!' he joked. Well, it stinks to high heaven!! And that's no joke.

We stopped by an Orang Asli ( local indigenous) village. They were welcoming and showed their prowess with the blowpipe.

My sis-in-law in new company

We came by an island and hopped off. There a group of men were having their buddy time out, away from the city. One was strumming the guitar and crooning away. An owl perched on a platform sat quite motionless and his sharp eyes surely were keeping an eye on us. Another man proudly showed us their catch of the fishes in their ice box.

In the waters of the lake are the kelah and the tioman, the popular catch. One man had his own rafters and he fished from there.

Choose your adrenaline kind of adventure - birding, fishing, camping, trekking, boating, dipping in/near waterfalls - the call of the untouched BELUM is too strong to resist.

Friday, April 17, 2009

To L A ... To The Eyes Of The World

What prompts me to invite you to this post?

This is IT:

In an interview, artist , Ahmad Fuad Osman : 'He ( Obama) is the face of hope and the future. Even halfway around the world, here in Malaysia, Obama fever is contagious.'

In the New Straits Times, Monday 13 April, a picture by Amirudin Sahib with the title, A Picture Of Hope, Infected by Obama fever' caught my attention. And here's the picture. A dramatic, exciting piece, I must say. Look closely, Obama is on the small camera screen :))

So me and my sis-in-law, Vicki visiting from Australia, went to view the exhibition Matahati ke Matadunia at Galeri Chandan, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur. We were early birds as the staff was rolling out the carpet and keeping the place clean.

The lady told us enthusiastically that the exhibition will be making its debut in LA and then a tour of the United States and Europe.

The artists aim to raise funds for the organisers , LA -based gallery DCA Fine Art and the House of Matahati - to groom budding artists in Malaysia and America.

What did we see?

Hah! you already know by now, I'm not an art critic! Just appreciating art. However I was glad to see eye-catching pieces by Bayu Utoma Radjikin. Talked with him at an exhibition at PACE gallery a few months ago.

Well, there's this group of buddies who form Matahati art group in 1989. They were course mates at Universiti Teknologi Mara - Ahmad Shukri Mohamed, Bayu Utomo Radjikin, Hamir Soib and Masnoor Ramli Mahmud and Ahmad Fuad Osman .

`Their names carry weight in local art circle, renowned for their postmodern pieces depicting Malaysian culture intertwined with elements of war and economic recession' - NST write -up.

Just glimpses here. Catch the exhibition which ends on 25 April. To LA!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


We struck Tin + Antimony + Copper = PEWTER today! Everything was about pewter and it's beginnings in then Malaya till now.

In an impressive showroom in Setapak Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, we accompanied our guests (new relatives from the UK), around the Royal Selangor Pewter Visitor Centre under Vivien, our guide.

At the reception area, Vivien pointed our attention to a gigantic pewter tankard standing solid and huge beside a pool in the grounds. The size of it all made its way to the Guinness Book Of Records in 1987. I thought it was suitably located. Any excess, the beer ( imagine it, ok?) can flow into the pool and presto! A beer swim, anyone??

Weight: 1557 kg. Height: 1987 mm. Girth: 1693mm

Once up the escalator, our attention was immediately brought to a picture of the founder, Yong Koon. Bespectacled, sporting a short beard and dressed in a Mandarin collar, he looks down on the many thousands who have come to know his story. His hard working pioneering legacy began in 1885 and still lives on.

Very interesting artefacts were nicely explained as we wove our way in the visitor showroom.

Luckily we did not have to read tons of info because there were none. Guides were at hand to do just that. And the kids happily listened and played around.

Of course we couldn't resist trying our hand at holding the hammer to knock the pewter giving it its famous 'hammered' look. All of us were 'fired' by Vivien, our guide!!

Perfection belongs to the master craftsman. In this case, a lady who has worked over 40 years at this. 'A small pewter takes 700 knocks to look beautiful and she does it in a mere 15 minutes.' Vivien explained.

We soaked in the different processes - casting, filing, hammering, polishing. Fascinating! And such fun for all too! In the Chamber Of Chimes, The Giant Weighing Scale, Hall Of Frames, standing next to the Petronas Twin Towers - all of 7,062 pewter tankards, lifting the Singapore Formula One Race replica trophy.

The tour ended after an hour. Didn't get the chance to try The School Of Hard Knocks'. It was also fully booked. For a nominal fee, get your fingers busy for about an hour to create a pewter dish using traditional tools and methods. Take it home and it'll be definitely a great keepsake.

Dylan bought a coin off the money tree ( 'pohon pitis") and happily wore it on his neck.

Well, time to rest and enjoy tea and cakes at the smart cafe in the premises.

Really proud of our very own Selangor Pewter. Let you in a little secret. There's always a gift of Selangor Pewter for friends /relatives overseas whenever I travel:))

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Yesterday was my weekend storytime with kids. I had 2 sessions, one at the MBPJ Library and the other at Times The Book Shop , Pavilion, KL. That kept me and the kids busy

After a telling of a Slovenian folk tale, 'How The Sun Was Brought Back To The Sky', the kids made a paper plate sun. Cool looking sun - with sunshades too! Who's feeling the heat?

Kids love to make things and it's rather easy to get them going especially when one leaves them room for creativity. So, give them space to create and they are happy souls.

Once their fingers and mind work, it's the child at his best. It's never difficult to find something to praise their artwork. It works wonders too.

I can see the instant sparkle of delight on their faces. The shyness begins to fade. There's a new confidence in their art, whatever the adults may say. And they go off with the proud craft in their hands.

Today, a little boy was so happy with his paper plate sun. He swung round and round, arms outstretched, holding the sun in his hand and singing. Was it the grouchy sun turned happy? He was in a world of his own!

In another session, there were chicks to make, sitting snugly in a nest. For the chick - a body, head and wing put together elicited cheerful 'cheep! cheep!' How did the kids make the nest? It was a nice tangle of crepe paper. Just gluing them on a half size paper plate did the trick. The finishing touch for them were the eggs.

'How many do I put in?' one asked, eyeing the colourful cut outs. My reply, ' As many as you like!' He picked his favourite colours , glued them joyfully and there were at least 4. A happy soul.