Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Scenes of Malaysian Life

Morning: Me asleep. Fast asleep. Haze still going strong. Can hardly breathe outside. Dogs not too happy.

11am: Persistent knocking on door. Mom arrives. Sits on Jackie's bed and starts to talk. And talk. And talk. Then electricity goes off.


In the news: The haze. Forest fires. More horrific road accidents. It always happens during the festive season. A motorcyclist was hit by a car. As he lay groaning on the road, an SUV came up and swept him off in its undercarriage. Villagers pursued trying to get SUV to stop. The driver was afraid of being subjected to mob justice. So he went on for 2km till he got to the police station. Motorcyclist was dead by then. Festive fare, this. Turn the pages, more of the same, more of the same.

"Oh to be on the PLUS highway, now that Deepavali and Hari Raya's here....lalalala"

noon: Mom calls LLN. Cannot get through. Gets sick of being on hold, so she calls her friend Halimah and they both gossip about Symbiosis, this Malay drama (yes Jack, she has stooped to that and what's more she enjoys it as much as Days Of Our Lives).

"Aiya electricity went offlar Halimah, so I may miss today's episode. So anyway, what happens ah?"

No, Halimah is not clairvoyant. She's simply watched it before.

"You mean he has AIDS? Oh my God! But, but, but he was a model, right? A kept man? Who was keeping him? And that Datuk is the bad guy right? I had a feeling. So quiet but you can see he's not a good character..."

After this intense discussion, Mom tries for the LLN again. This time she gets through. They obviously have a sophisticated caller ID system which enables the girl on the other end to not only tell Mom her name, but her address as well.

Elliot (the dog) is barking all this while. The air is punctuated with "Shut up Elliot!" and then Mom goes out to see what the matter is. Oh, the LLN guys were here all along. They are fixing the problem. Ahh the sweet scent of smoke in the air.

The haze, always the haze, you can't get away from the haze.

Me: "Why don't they cloud seed over here? They cloud seed in KL and see, we get rain there and it clears the air..."

Mom: (Silence)

Me: MOM! Why don't they cloud seed! The idiots! (I am grumpy cos it's hot and I can't turn on the fan and I can't watch tv and I can't play on the computer).

Mom starts to fan me with her Japanese fan. I giggle. I suggested that she fan me as a joke, but she obviously thinks it will cool me down.

She tells me that the squirrels living outside are bold pieces. It's bad enough they rifle the cempedak (jackfruit) and ciku trees so she doesn't get any fruit, but they stole into the house yesterday and attacked the dogs' food as well.

"But at least they don't pelt me with rambutans, haha."

"Who did they throw rambutans at?"


Mom laughs hysterically. I laugh hysterically.

"Hey Mom...oh never mind."


"I was going to ask you to give those poor LLN guys some water...but they are fasting right? No water..."

And then the fan comes on. The LLN have triumphed. Oh happy day calloo callay. I can now go on the computer while Mom watches her show.

Ahhhhhhhhh....it's the little things in life.


jacky said...


Jenn said...

See Jack, I told you he was heavy!

nike said...

how's mahathir ? how abt . anwar ? is he free now /

Jackie's Garden said...

Oh my gosh, Jenn - you tell good stories! I felt like I was right there listening to your mama. I think I'd like her! Glad you got at the computer again. LOL

Jenn said...

Hallo Nike, welcome to my blog. Mahathir is fine, thanks for asking. I'll tell him you said hi and send your best love and kisses. He will be so pleased. Anwar is out of jail. Got out a year or two ago. Last I heard he was cavorting around John Hopkins. Or he may be back campaigning. Me, I never read the papers. So I couldn't tell.

Jackie's Garden: Thank you, thank you, thank you. *bows modestly* Yeah, you probably would like my Mom. She is terribly cuddly.

QuillDancer said...

Jenn, great story. I love the glimpses of your life. You share them with such flare and humor.

Grey Shades said...

Its always the little things in life! :)

Anonymous said...

Every time I click onto your site, I get another glimpse of what's familiar and so far away. Rambutans - my goodness - how long have I not heard that fruit mentioned!

And I agree with Jackie's Garden - your stories are so vivid! :)

Jenn said...

Ling: Thanks. You know rambutans? Oh my goodness! Does that mean you were once in this part of the world?

Just Tom said...

Wow. Rambutan. How I remember Rambutan and everybody saying "Aiya!" all the time. And all of the different festivals ad things that my parents drug me to (heck, I lived there when Thaipusan (sp?) was still legal and I went to that every year-- talk about traumatizing a kid). but they were over-educated Peace Corps people, my folks, everything was educational and cultural. Do they still have that snake temple with all of the incense doped Pit vipers?

what a lot of strange childhood memories I have and you just brought them all back!

I love your blog!

Oh, and Tom's Challenge #5 is up over at mine so drop on by and give it a whack if you have time.

I'd love to hear how you ended up in Malaysia sometime-- or maybe you were born there. Most of my family members have made it back there as a kind of pilgrimage but I haven't been back since 1972. I'm sure a lot has changed in 34 years.

Anyway, thanks for the entertainment!

Peace, Tom

Jenn said...

Quilly: Thanks. You're sweet.

Grey: You betcha. Like your potato curry. Or re-reading your favourite book.

Just Tom: Thaipusam is not banned. It's terribly sacred and people make requests, take vows that they will carry the kavadi (yes, that's the part that traumatised you as a kid, probably. They have to fast and abstain from a whole variety of things for a year in order to prepare for it. And they go into a trance while it is actually taking place, so they don't feel anything. I don't think I have ever seen it (you know how it is when you live in a country - you seldom go for these things). As for the snake temple, yeah, it's still there and I give it a wide berth, being phobic about snakes. Although I do go for tea at the Belmont Hotel on Penang Hill (there are green vipers hanging off the trellis just above your head and every time a leaf falls I jump and upset the tea things, but anyway)...

As to how I ended up in this lovely land of smoke and legend - way way back - OK not so way back, maybe in the 1920s, my two grandfathers decided to sail across the sea and seek their fortunes...they came here. Then they went back to India, found wives there, and came back again. And their children (my parents) were born here. So I am second generation. Being truly Malaysian I say lar a lot. Also aiya. And I drive like a maniac. And I get together with friends for teh tarek at the mamak stalls. And I sing "balik kampung" during the Hari Raya season.

Will check out your challenge.

A thinker said...

Eeee. Heat and no electricity. Sounds like no fun. Although I tell you I'd rather we had that than a Northeast winter which is coming up!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Southeast Asia. :)

Just Tom said...

I think "lar" as you put it is what I always thought of as "lah." Something added on to the end of a word or phrase,lah? When we got back to the States, my brother, Larry, painted a wall mural featuring, across the entire wall of his room in foot high letters, "Larry-Lah."

I had thought that Thaipusan was outlawed from something my parents had told me when they sailed the South Pacific and Southeast asia and returned to Malaysia after retiring. (They wrote a book about their journeys that's available on Amazon.com if you're interested)

We lived in Georgetown, right on the beach for a year. Great memories of Penang. I have some other traumatic memories of the other side of the peninsula. Ever been to Taman Negara? They made me sleep in a blind in a tree and look for tigers. I was 8.

Jenn said...

A thinker: Having gone through three very mild winters in Perth (OK, although the first one was mild, I was living in a house without heat and it was colder inside than outside and my kidneys used to shrink and it was all very painful and uncomfortable) I would have to agree with you. I am not a fan of winter. Give me autumn and spring. Warm thoughts for winter.

Ling: Wow. You were? And since you say Southeast Asia rather than Malaysia, you must have grown up in one of our fine neighbours....I would say north. I would say series of islands...I would say mahal kita yah...

Just Tom: Yeah, lah is actually spelt lah. Only my family (OK my two sisters and I) spell it lar. Because that is how we pronounce it. I wonder what that incident was. Anyways, Thaipusam is still going strong. What's really funny is that people arrive here from India and don't know what it is. What is your parents' book called? I am especially interested in texts written around that time...

As for Taman Negara...I have never been there nor do I intend to go. Because I know I will get lost in the jungle and consumed alive by wild animals or kidnapped by ghosts...

goldennib said...

I like it when the electricity goes out. We are usually miserable for a while in the beginning but then end up having fun and it ends too soon.

Sounds like you ended up having fun, too.