Saturday, January 31, 2009

River of the White Lily by Peter Goullart

Peter Goullart will fascinate you with his very fine and detailed description of his life in Sarawak. You will read about the accounts of several cooperatives in Sarawak and a good few chapters on the Rejang Basin itself.

I understand that there is indeed a Chinese version of this book.

Goullart came to Sarawak in a Dakota and travelled by motor launches all over Sarawak and especially the Third Divison. He loved the coffee shops of Sibu and boarded with a Chinese Association (which sounded so much like the Foochow Association).

He had his meals in Sibu with a Hailam towkay-neo. It will be a very interesting book to read for those who like history especially.

A very old version of the book (from Google images)

This is my new copy of the book by the Malaysian Heritage Series: The author's name is spelt with only one "l" (Goulart)

The book contains 17 photographs 9 of which were taken by the author himself. The others were taken by Rev. Philip S. Jones.

Cooperative Societies were not exactly successful in Sarawak. There were often sad tales of poor administration and a lot of "utang". Buying first and then paying later (when the members' rubber and pepper were sold) was never a good system.

I would like to quote him:

Page 23 - "Pochuan told me Sibu had more local "millionaires" than anyh other towns in Sarawak...the streets were choked witgh large American cars. The towkays competed with each other in vulgar display; the longer the car and the larger the fins the more "face" accrued to the owner. Pochuan assured me perhaps half jokingly that some took such a car just to cross the street...."

Page 68 - Find out why one must sit in the front in passenger launches...

Page 71 - a description of a flood in Sarikei by the author..."very soon the road in front of the coffee shop was totally covered with water to the delight of cyclists who rode furiously to and fro leaving behind miniature waves...."

Marudi visit page 144:

"The Foochow principal/headmaster (Puyot)and his wife welcomed us warmly...when clearing the land the Foochows must have been a particularly sensible and sensitive group for instead of cutting the great forest wholesale they left everywhere small groves of specialoly shady and imposing trees and spared many individual giants. Therefore their rubber gardens instead of being the usual monotonous rubber plantations seemed to blend with the original landscape and the result was very pleasing."

This book was often recommended for reading at Form Four level and above when I was a student. Today it is a great tourist souvenir. Many would like to have it as a home library collection item .

If you do manage to borrow a copy from the public libary you will be taken down memory lane especially if you are a Foochow and born in Sibu area in the 1950's.

Friday, January 30, 2009


I believe that many of us in Sibu were brought up with Bovril.

Mum believed in the power of Bovril the great beef goodness which could give all of us good protein: we had it with our porridge;we ate it with our hardboiled eggs;and when we were sick we had a broth made from Bovril.

As an easy snack we made a simple sandwich with just some Bovril spread nicely on bread which we took to school.

We all loved it.

And when I had my own children I gave them Bovril too when I was too busy to prepare other types of baby food. It was so convenient to give them porridge with Bovril when they were toothless toddlers. It was really wholesome. And even today whenever we have a porridge meal I try my best to have a bottle of Bovril on the table . Sometimes though it is not easy to buy Bovril.

I believe that all Foochow homes had a bottle of Bovril in their food safe at one time or another. I remember we were never short of Bovril when we were children. It was like a staple for all of us.

My daughters have found out that a little spoonful of Bovril in a ramen makes a healthy beef meal. They use a lot of coriander and spring onion.

A huge bottle of Bovril is still a good Foochow gift when you go to the hosptial to visit your relative who is beef tolerant and low in cholesterol.

At one time because of the mad cow disease many people stayed away from Bovril. But this scare is now safely put aside. If you read the following article you might be convinced to buy Bovril again.

If you ask me I do have a bottle in my fridge today as something to fall on.

Some extra notes on Bovril:

Made in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire and distributed by Unilever UK.

The first part of the product's name comes from Latin bos (genitive bovis) meaning "ox" or "cow". Johnston took the -vril suffix from Bulwer-Lytton's then-popular 1870 "lost race" novel The Coming Race, whose plot revolves around a powerful energy fluid named "Vril".

Poster for Bovril, about 1900 V&A Museum no. E.163-1973
The Two Infallible Powers - The Pope & BovrilIn the year of 1870, in the war against the Prussians, Napoleon III found that his armies could not 'march on empty stomachs'. He therefore ordered one million cans of beef to feed his starving troops. The task of providing all this beef went to a Scotsman named John Lawson Johnston. Unfortunately, Britain did not have a large enough quantity of beef to meet the French people's and Napoleon III's demand, so Johnston created a product known as 'Johnston's Fluid Beef' -- later called Bovril.

By the year 1888, in excess of 3000 British pubs, grocers and chemists were beginning to sell Bovril. In 1889, the Bovril Company was formed. 1966 saw the beginnings of Bovril's instant beef stock, followed by the 'King Beef' range of instant flavours for stews, casseroles and gravy in 1971.

Bovril continued to function as a "war food" in World War I, and was frequently mentioned in the 1930 account "Not So Quiet... Stepdaughters of War" by Helen Zenna Smith (Evadne Price). As a drink mixing the beef-flavouring with hot water, it helped sustain ambulance drivers.

A thermos of "beef tea" was the favoured way to fend off the chill of winter matches for generations of Scottish and English football enthusiasts; to this day Bovril dissolved in hot water is sold in stadiums all over the United Kingdom.

Bovril was based in Argentina, and at the height of the Bovril empire, the company owned ranches in Argentina that were equivalent in size to half of England and sustaining over 1.5 million livestock.

When John Lawson Johnston died, George Lawson Johnston inherited the Bovril business. In 1929, George Lawson Johnston was recognised by the British Government and monarchy and was ennobled as Lord Luke, of Pavenham in the county of Bedford. This hereditary title passed to Ian St John Lawson Johnston in 1943 and to Arthur Charles St John Lawson Johnston in 1996. The current Lord Luke is one of the ninety hereditary peers elected to remain in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom after its 1999 reform.

Bovril holds the unusual position of having been advertised with a Pope. An advertising campaign of the early 20th Century in Britain depicted the Pope seated on his throne, bearing a mug of Bovril. The campaign slogan ran: "The Two Infallible Powers - The Pope & Bovril".

In November 2004, the manufacturers, Unilever, announced that the composition of Bovril was being changed from beef extract to a yeast extract, claiming it was to make the product suitable for vegetarians and vegans, although at the time fear of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) may have been a factor. According to Unilever, "in blind taste tests, 10% didn't notice any difference in taste, 40% preferred the original and 50% preferred the new product."

The manufacturer also hoped to increase exports (Unilever UK Export) to Asian countries such as Malaysia, a primarily Muslim country where the government was becoming restrictive regarding non-halal meat. By changing Bovril to a non-meat base, Unilever hoped to increase sales in the country, where people enjoy Bovril stirred into porridge.

The removal of beef from the recipe in 2004 was not without criticism, with many complaining that the new variant did not taste the same and had a different mouth feel[citation needed]. Beef extract was eventually re-introduced as a key Bovril ingredient in 2006, after the European Commission lifted its ban on the export of Britain's beef products - it was only at this point that the manufacturer stated explicitly that this had been the main reason for beef's removal.

Source :Wikipedia

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ox Year Thoughts - Leather Making

Perhaps you have heard of Peter Goullart?

He was in Sibu for several years in the 1950's. He was very fond of Bukit Lan and made friends with many Foochows there. He wrote a very good narrative on the Towkay Ling and the sawmill.

I read Peter Goullart's "River of the White Lily: My life in Sarawak" many years ago when I was doing a small research on the Cooperative Society of Sarawak. The book was a delightful and insightful account of his experiences as a consultant to the cooperative society in Sarawak.

Mt real experience with a Foochow cooperative was the one in my grandmother's village Ah Nang Chong. The Ha Chok Sia ( cooperative society ) was run by two men and was in a house next to my grandmother's house. I am sure this "white man" had visited it . A friend told me about his Tulai Cooperative and how he knew about Peter Goullart. I also met several people from Bukit Lan who related to me anecdotes concerning him. Perhaps Wong Meng Lei's father would have met Peter Goullart.

In retrospect I feel that all these made him a very "real personality" to me. Reading his book only made the events he wrote more aunthentic and and very interesting. It was like I was part of his book.

Nonetheless his book brought me to search for more of his other writings. And by asnd by I came across his other book "The Forgotten Kingdom" on the net. I read it with the greatest pleasure because it was like reading the prequel to his book about Sarawak!

And it is the Ox year that make me go back again to the two photos (he put 16 precious ones) in The Forgotten Kingdom .

His photos are truly remarkable even in our present day scenario. I hope you will read his books and enjoy the old black and white photos. They are indeed rare finds.

Leather tanning and leather making in China under the guidance of Peter Goullart

Peter Goullart on horseback. He later came to Sarawak to serve the early cooperative movement in the 50's.

At the beginning this year my pastor (in reference to tithing)has referred to the Ox as an animal that has given much more than any other animals to God - while alive. And we should be like this animal - all giving.

Peter Goullart has provided us some interesting knowledge about leather making in the cooperatives he initiated in China. How quaint it is for us to be able to know something about leather making in those by gone years!! So thanks to a man who put his knowledge in writing we are able to "inherit" his vast experience.


The world loves the ox from ancient times. It has been our beast of burden and a animal which supplies us food. Our creator has indeed created a wonderful animal to be at our disposal. This year of the ox is a good time for us to pay tribute to this special animal.

Malaysian's tourist attraction and a national treasure : a lovely bullock cart as commemorated in a RM2 stamp.

From a newspaper in Baltimore : You can even bring your own ox cart to the beach !!

An ox-mill in India.

The ox cart in Africa - a common labourer animal.

The ox has always been the most important animal in the farming life of China. This is a typical scene in Sichuan.

As the year begins it is good for us to start reflecting on the value of the Ox in human history and lives.

(All photos downloaded from Google Images . I have tied to reach the owners. However this is a personal blog and I am not writing for a commercial purpose)

Bloggers' Meet in Sibu

This is a great photo showing the camaraderie of Sibu/Miri/Sarikei bloggers who managed to meet just before Chinese New Year 2009.

These are warm hearted friends who have commented on my various articles from time to time. In a way they are my blogosphere support group. One of the greatest thing I gain from them is the occasional sharing of photos. My heartfelt thanks to them.

May cyberfriendship reign over us!!

This photo is courtesy of James Wong of Miri.

LUNAR NEW YEAR Reunion Dinner

I am writing this to show members of the family who were not with us at the reunion dinner. We miss you and we hope that you will make it one year in the future. Though distance separates us you were all in our thoughts when we ate the dinner!! Just enjoy the pictures.

Our family reunion dinner was held at a Foochow owned Country Court Restaurant in Kuching for eight of us and at the head of the table was our beloved matriarch. Not every member of the family was present as many were overseas at the time of the celebration. Though the restaurant was very crowded (we sat almost back to back) the service provided by the local Iban and Bidayuh waitresses and waiters and the Foochow owners was really good. There were two sessions of dinner guests : 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. We took the earlier session as most Foochows like to eat early.

The first dish was the five combination dish consisting of stir fried sharks'fins in egg omelette . There were ten steamed siew mai too. The third item was salad pickled jelly fish placed in a bowl in the middle. The deep fried roll was very nice. The fifth item was braised meat balls. Quite a good starter.

This was followed by a very refreshing fried noodles served in a very nice egg and seeafood sauce.

This is the sharks' fin soup which was not really up to the mark. My mother was not impressed as it was not of the right consistency. The taste was there but she won't recommend it to any one. Personally I am against the eating of shark's fin on any occasion. Fins are fins and they are cartilages so they do not have any particular flavour on their own. Some folks are known to pay up to RM1500 for a bowl!!

The steamed cod was lovely. Every Chinese must have a dish of fish to usher in "good luck" as "have fish" sounds like "have good luck". We must never forget to include fish in our reunion dinner menu. Cod has become very popular lately as the choice fish for our dinners. Because we are not Cantonese so we do not have "Yee Sang" a kind of combination dish with all the auspicious representatives of blessings for the Chinese new year.

This is the duck and chicken combination dish which was impressive and melt in the mouth delicious. Highly recommendable.

This is the sea cucumber braised with different kinds of mushroom to the right softness and the combination of flavours was really memorable. Excellent ! Compliments to the chef.

As all the diners in the restaurant moaned and groaned with so much food already in their stomachs we were served this huge plate of prawns cooked in caramelised butter!! The whiff sent us reeling and the taste was heavenly. We stuffed a few too many prawns into our already bursting stomach!! In fact we were saying that only the prawns were enough as our meal. But a reunion dinner had to make its run of so many dishes until every one said in unison "Too much!!" to be auspicious and blessed.

To end the dinner the restaurant served us this fruit cocktail filled with lots of ice. Nostalgic by then I began to think of the days when my third uncle had to buy huge ice blocks from the ice factory in Sibu for the final dessert dish. How we all washed our Chinese porcelain spoons in the glass of F and N orange or grape to get ready to dip into the communal bowl and savour the wonderful "foreign" peaches and longans!! What memories!! What joy!!

We finished our dinner by six thirty as the food was served punctually and in fact a little too quickly.

We did have a good welcome at the entrance. And as we left we felt that we could have given some tip to the banquet staff who were so charming and helpful. It was not at all easy to serve diners in such a crowded condition. But as we were given the check/bill and we were standing in a long and pushy queue we had to make a quick exit.

We went to the Spring to walk off a full Chinese Reunion Dinner stomach.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bamboo Thoughts

While most Chinese buy some decorative bamboo to usher in the Chinese New Year my thoughts are of my father and our times in Brooke Drive when we had different kinds of bamboo in our garden. My grandfather actually grew many bamboo bushes to produce bamboo shoots in Sungei Merah. But my father was slightly more aesthetic in nature. His interest was more inclined towards landscaping.

But he had many uses of bamboo being the resourceful person he was.

This photo really reminds me of my father. He would trim his hedge on his own with his garden scissors. He was a tall man and therefore could cut the top off very evenly. He had such patience.

This kind of bamboo hedge is rare today because of security issues. We had this kind of hedge all around our house in Brooke Drive Sibu. Throughout the years we lived there our house was never broken into by thieves. I must say we had truly a zero crime rate then.

This was the kind of bamboo we had in front of our main door. Said to be able to ward of bad luck.

The bamboo leaves. We would pick the small undeveloped needle like leaves in the early morning. The dew was also collected and put into a small bowl. Those were the days when we did not know the word pollution. So the whole bowl of bamboo needles and dew drops were steamed with rock sugar for us children to cleanse our kidney and get rid of our "heat".

Thursday, January 22, 2009

ox year

An interesting Ox Year Poem from a dear friend.....

The Ox is Coming

With a squeak it will exit,
And make room for the next IT.
Charge, IT does, promising wealth
*MooOoo*... IT croons, promising health.

In spite of this year's downturn,
there's still some money to burn.
IT brings cheers to you and me,
fills my heart and yours with glee.

But what of the little mouse?
Any paw prints in your house?
It came, bearing aplenty,
joy, warmth and prosperity.

Let us be grateful for that
adversary of the cat.

As we all welcome the ox,
sweet kam for you in a box.

So take out all your ox clocks,
Anticipating tick-tocks.
Faces light up, looking gay
and wreath in smiles the whole day.

Though ends this couplet of mine
There's promise in this year's sign.

'Happy Niu Year' I wish you
May your every dream come true.

(CO and SSP, 23 January 2009)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Father's Old Ladder

Each Chinese New Year my father would take out his old wooden ladder and clean up the house. Dusting the old rafters with his homemade bamboo brush he would happily tell us to be careful and not to look up in case we get dust in our eyes.
Those were the days when no one knew about safety eye glasses! He would also tie an old rag on a broom and get rid of dirt and dust in little crevices. His humble offering of help to my mother endeared him to all of us and I believe especially my mother who was heavily burdend with looking after 7 children without any help except a washerwoman.

It was customary to use bamboo to get rid of cobwebs and dust in the old days. So my father would cut a few lengths of small bamboo and tie them up to make a kind of broom to clean the ceiling and other higher parts of house. I thought it was very creative of him to be able to make suck a broom. As bamboo was plentiful around Sibu he would also get long poles and bring them back in his Land Rover. The smaller bamboo was cut from our garden which had a lovely bamboo hedge. This kind of small bamboo hedge can no longer be found in Sibu.

The lovely bamboo hedge would provide us a nice cooling soup. My mum used to take the tips of the bamboo and steam them in a little water with a small piece of rock sugar. I remember this little bowl of nourishment which helped our bodies to cool down. After the bamboo hedge was taken down for redevelopment we sort of outgrew this "dish". We never knew then about Pandas eating bamboo leaves in China. Hence we kids were probably the panda children of Sibu being often fed on bamboo leaves and bamboo shoots!! May be I will write another article on this later.

How I miss having a father doing dutiful housework like that. Even though it was only once a year.

All these years I continue to believe that a father's roles are definite. These are the duties he has to carry out as a father and as a husband or as a son and as a brother. Some men just do not have any idea of what a husband's duties are!! It is sad when that occurs. My son has just created his insightful wish list of what he thinks a father/husband should do. I think he is going on the right track.

I wish for this new year and many new years to follow that all my lady friends and relatives would be able to meet their good matches/future spouses who know what to do as a father/husband.

All fathers must train their sons to prepare for their roles as heads of the family. This is like present day leadership training courses in which men learn what their job descriptions are like - accountability - trustworthiness- hardwork - faithfulness- etc. When fathers pass on their skills to their sons they have indeed fulfilled some of their duties as men of the society.

Actually this was an evening scene which propelled me to look for a photo of an old ladder.

A new hydraulic crane ladder helps a man hang a bright red Chinese lantern to get ready for the Spring Festival in Miri. Upon reflection today fathers are so fortunate in that they are assisted by many different technologies to help them fulfil or play their roles.

Aftermath of Flash Flood - Cleanup

Every fence in the neighbourhood has something drying.

The sofa shows the water level. Will have to get a new set as it is smelly and muddy.

This is only part of the mud from the construction site left by the two - hour flash flood.

The tell-tale flash flood level mark. The neighbour has lots of plastic bags and styrofoam packets stuck to the fence.

this is a computer bag all soaked up in the cupboard. Note the muddy water.

This is a beloved living room Iban rattan (lampit) mat. It needs a careful wash to get rid of the mud and muddy smell. Have to pray for the sun to shine.

All the bags from the store room need to be washed and sun dried.

Neighbour's carpet drying in the sun - dark clouds looming above so the photo is rather poor.

Flashback from friends and neighours:

"Ten o'clock at X place - the water rose to drain level. I thought it was quite safe and prepared to sleep. By midnight like the dam broke the water was in the house. I was so shocked and started to shake. My husband went about trying to collect things. But it was hopeless."

"Suddenly all in the neighbourhood experienced a blackout and the water from the drain with plastic bags and rubbish all swirled into the compound."

"All watched with horror the flash flood water getting into the living room at ground level. Everything which could float in the living areas floated. The water could not be stopped. It was like a dam breaking!"

"At about two the water level went down to one inch. Suddenly."

"Then cleaning started. By four this morning my bones were breaking."

"This was a flash flood - once in twenty five years according to the owners and tenants in the neighbourhood. "

"The water pump broke and the service men have not arrived yet (Noon)."

"Early this morning I could not reach my neighbour (living alone) by handphone. She did not answer her phone. I asked another friend to call her. No answer too. So I thought she had been electrocuted in her apartment. But finally she answered her phone. She had been so exhausted and overwhelmed that finally by morning she had collapsed into her bed which was the only dry place in the apartment!!"

"I probably lost about RM5000. Luckily I do not have a piano. All my books and files are completely written off! My relatives helped me clean up. The place became live-able at about 5 p.m. Most of the things are still wet including the sofa of course."

Will it happen again?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

20th January 2009

20th January 2009 will go down in history as a remarkable day when the First African American becomes its 44th President. It was a gargantuan step for a nation to take.

Billions not millions according to CNN newscaster Becky Anderson rejoiced for Barrack Obama not only in the US but throughout the European countries especially.

CNN captured the full story of the unauguration and I congratulated some American friends on Barrack Obama's inauguration . They too were in their living rooms watching their TV. Capitol Hill was too crowded and too cold.

I would like to share Obama’s Inaugural Speech in Full Transcript with my students who may like to read and discuss with me. We have been looking at some good speeches for public speaking and Toastmasters' assingments recently.

My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and co-operation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labour, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and travelled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and ploughed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favours only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the spectre of a warming planet. We will not apologise for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the fire-fighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have travelled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people: “Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Source: The Inquisitr
All content and source © 2008 The Inquisitr

Saturday, January 17, 2009

mei hua or plum blossoms

The florist shops are often the first places for a Chinese mother to go to before Chinese New Year.

This huge red plum blossom arrangement costs a bomb. It welcomes you at the Cinta Florist Shop in Mega Tower Miri. The Foochow lady owner allowed me to take a photo of it. Later I told her I was not going to buy it but I have a photo of it and that was enough. Well she gave me a smile.

This has been my plum blossom arrangement at home for the last 18 years. Very simple and now very old I need to throw it out after the new year as I have promised my children. At least they have made me happy for quite a while. I used to have about 5 branches but slowly the flowers dropped off over the years and these are all I have this year. Plastic flowers from Hong Kong actually became a craze after Li Ka Shing the most brilliant Chinese entrepreneur in the world became the owner of the Cheong Kong Company. His factory manufactured plastic flowers which were so real that they became much sought after in Asia and in other parts of the world. So we should be very thankful to this exceptional entrepreneur especially for the plastic plum blossoms in our living room.

This is my blue and white porcelain with plum blossom motif.

Lovely white plum blossoms.

What do plum blossoms remind you of? What thoughts do you have when you see them? I have plenty of thoughts in my head.

Plum blossoms are lovely on Chinese new year cards and ang pow envelopes. They just remind us of Spring and cheerfulness (even though when we were younger we did not have any idea what spring was like in China). They announce the coming of spring and happiness. And they remind me that the earth is once again alive and goodness can only come out of nature.

If you remember Titoni watches are also called Mei Hua Brand watches. Many Foochow brides wore a Titoni watch on their wedding day in the 60's and 70's. I am wondering whether I could find a Titoni watch that I like and buy one for my next big birthday! The Foochows really value this brand. So I often wonder whether it is the plum blossom which is very relevant to the Chinese that says it all or the true quality of the watch. Politicians often talk about branding these days.

A very infamous name in Chinese is the Mei Poison which is the pseudonym for venereal disease. People referred to this sickness in whispers behind doors when I was a child. Today I am glad we talk openly about STD in classrooms and in public workshops. I am not sure how many people today refer STD as Plum Blossom Sickness.

This new year as in the past few years I will just send images of plum blossoms to all my friends and loved ones for a change. But it is a first for me to write about it in my blog.

Magazines and Bookstores

I have been a voracious reader all my life.

At the end of each year I have to make a decision whether to continue subscribing to my women's magazines which have gradually become ultra expensive. But then like a bad habit at the beginning of the year I will wait eagerly to receive the first edition of the new year! I really need that magazine fix!! I think I will have a bad cold turkey withdrawal syndrome if I have to stop subscribing to my women's magazines this year.

Today I have the opportunity to reflect on the several magazines which have helped me through thick and thin. Through good times and bad times. And perhaps I have to make an assessment on whether I should continue to subscribe or not as a pensioner. But then of course I can always read the magazine on-line. But it is not the same. Print media is still the way to go.

Woman's Day is a cheerful and sensible magazine. A magazine like this has been definitely helpful. In the early days of Siku women did not have counsellors and helpful centres to help them in any way. So women's magazines help them solve their problems in one way or another or to add to their knowledge.

The Ladies Home Journal is another helpful magazine which offers many features including topics on marriage and even lovely stories about pets and animals. It introduces me to new books and new ideas.

I get LHJ from a local bookstore where the girls recognise me over the years and at one time even the then manager of the bookstore would come out to greet his customers with a great smile. However as times become harder and harder and our society goes into recession customer service is probably going downhill or may be as a senior citizen I am not enjoying better service now. Or have I become more "difficult"? But I would rather think that I am a very gracious customer with good communication skills. (LOL) May be I am just an old timer who lives in another world of great old style

Good Housekeeping is a good companion for me. There are a lot of up to date articles and this is one magazine which helps me to think well. It provides a balanced view of the world. I am glad that I have been reading it all these years.

Actually I started my life as a "woman warrior" from the time I picked up my first issue of Woman and Home in Sibu when it was made available by the Rejang Bookstore.

The shortage of good English books and magazines could be due to many reasons - lack of readership and the dominance of mother tongues like Chinese and Malay. But personally I believe it is also the outlook and leadership of a society that determines what bookstores carry.

The Rejang Bookstore's owner is a Nanyang University graduate and he obviously had his leaning towards eastern culture and eastern books. In his endeavour to perpectuate the Chinese culture he does not necessarily carry many English books. However he did sell W and H for a long long time until he found it too expensive to bring it to his news stand. I stopped reading the magazine for a while but recently I manage to pick up one or two from here and there. It is a delight to read this magazine which has great values and articles with great common sense. I wish to think that it has impacted me in many ways as a thinking woman. Reading a magazine like W and H only brings Marshall Mcluhan's "the world is a global village" to ring more true today than in the 1960's. (McLuhan also prophesized the demise of the print media in his writing.)

Upon reflection I would like to say that a library and even a bookshop sales girl can help a child to enjoy reading for the rest of her life.

I would like to thank the first library teacher I had in my life Miss Rebecca Reyes who taught me how to locate books and appreciate books (she got us to "wrap" books with transparent plastic book covers in the school library for long hours!)

A proud business woman or man owner of a bookstore could just put a child off from a life or adventure and even happiness through books and magazines.

What a difference a person can make to a child! Here's a New Year toast to more Miss Rebecca Reyes in the world!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Kacangma - Sarawak's Special Chicken Dish

During my confinement after my second daughter was born a good friend from Kuching came to visit and she taught me how to cook and eat kacangma. the kacangma was really helpful and I regained my strength and recovered from after birth lethargy
within a week. My mother a very traditional Foochow was also very impressed.

Since that time I have been cooking kacangma chicken with passion.

The common medicinal name for kacangma is Chinese motherwort or yimouchao. The scientific name is leonurus sibiricus/cardiaca of which I think there are several varieties.

I hope my photos will help you cook this wonderful Sarawak dish. WE normally use a free range or kampung chicken of about 3 kg for a good family feast.

(Note: Do avoid calling the chicken LXXX chicken because it is not politically correct. For those from West Malaysia and even some Sarwak town people please avoid using the L word to refer to the ethnic people of Sarawak. Use their proper names. It is not educated and it is very derogatory.)

This is a packet of Sarawak kacangma which is available in supermarkets all over Malaysia and selected stores (e.g. Chinese Traditiohal Medical outlets) overseas. If you are cooking one whole chicken you need one normal packet of kacangma. Dry roast it in a pan and then blend in a food processor. Some kacangma is sold in a beer l litre bottle. I would suggest using only half a bottle for one chicken. Some people use a third of it only.

Pound the ginger (l kg) using the traditional mortar and pestle called lesung.

This is how you squeeze the pounded ginger using a plastic colander. Save the ginger juice for later.

Heat up a kuali with two table spoons of sesame oil . Add the pounded ginger (squeezed dry of the juice which will be added later). When well fried add the chicken pieces. Stir fry until the meat is almost cooked through. Add some salt if you like.

Place the blended toasted Kacangma on top of the chicken and top up the dish with half a bottle of white wine/arack/tuak/Foochow red wine/sake. Add the ginger juice and mix all the ingredients well. The wine and the ginger juice should just cover the chicken. The fluid from the chicken would provide more soup later. It is the soup that is heavenly.

Steam the chicken over a strong fire for about one hour for best taste. I do not use a typical Chinese steamer. This wok is good because it has a glass lid and I can monitor the cooking and the water in the wok.

This dish is enough for the whole family . Fried bitter gourd and perhaps another leafy vegetables like kai lan would be complementary to this dish. If you need to serve dessert after this a nice apple pie would be just right. Or even a shanghai pan cake. Do not serve any cooling dessert which may reduce the effectiveness of the kacangma if you are taking the soup for a special medicinal purpose of heating up your system.

The new mother in confinement is usually given one whole kacangma chicken per day for about two weeks. However I was told in many traditional Chinese families a new mother even had her kacangma in bed as movement was taboo the first week . But how much kacangma is eaten by the new mother is really up to the prescription of the grandmothers or even the new mother herself.

Enjoy with hot rice!!

(^ I was reminded to add this : Not everyone likes kacangma in Sarawak. It is definitely an acquired taste like cheese or pate. However all the races in Sarawak do appreciate this dish.)


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