Saturday, November 27, 2004

Another weekend flew by

And this time round I actually managed to do something nice. Invited a friend over for dinner but alas! What was I thinking serving English food to an Englishman? It just so happened that I bought a roast joint the day before and thought that it was rather large for just two people. And since I owe him a dinner and a cheesecake anyways, I thought why not have him over for roast. Hehehe Thursday dinner roast rather than the Sunday variety ;)

After extending the invitation I of course decided that I needed to drop by at this chinaware shop which was having a 50% off sale. That in turn over left me with 1 hour to cook roast. Errkk!

Thank God for Gary Rhodes! Luckily while perusing my newly acquired Rhodes recipe book I found a recipe for a roast that required a much shorter cooking time (20 mins per 600g) rather than the normal 2-3 hrs roasting time. The main difference? To panfry all sides of the roast with butter first until brown and roast the meat at 400 oF.

It was also my first time at making gravy from scratch! Normally I would have just used Bisto! But I didn't see any being sold here. My last attempt yielded a goey mixture. I found out that the secret is in the whisking.

And then there was the matter of the carrots and the cabbage. I seldom have my roast with cabbage so I didn't exactly know what to do with it. Again found the instructions for glazed carrots and cabbage in the Rhodes book. What can I say, £10 well spent!

And its Saturday today. For lunch it will be mushroom and leek fritata with cheesecake as dessert of course!

Am I making you hungry yet?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Excuse me, do you work for the Embassy?

"Could you show us your cordless phones please?"

The salesmen proceeded to usher us into the innermost isle and showed us a selection of phone. These phone are cheap and tacky. I am not interested in those.

"But we want cordless phones, don't you have any cordless phones?"

He showed us some handsets which were large and unattractive.

"Don't you have the Siemens ones?" I asked.

"Oh Siemens. They are a lot of money," he replied.

"Well show them to us anyways," we replied. Did we say that money was a problem? Did we even mention to him what our budget was?

"Where are you from," he asked.

Aha the inevitable question. He probably thought that we were either Indonesian or Filipino labor workers.

"From Malaysia."

"Ah Malaysia, a lot of money! Mahathir is very good! Do you work for the embassy?"

We didn't want to break the man's heart to tell him that we are professionals working for a reputable financial institution. He might find it very hard to swallow, that people from the South East Asia are capable of being anything else than maids, drivers, salesmen and laborers.

"Yes we work for the Embassy."

What I find most distasteful is that these people don't bother to hide their ignorance and their racism. The minute they see my face they decide that I am probably a maid and my other half is perhaps a driver. Because it was unimaginable to them that the 4x4 could be ours.

But even the Asians themselves think the same way here which is rather sad.

At the Ferragamo boutique, I was served by a Filipino man.

"Where are you from Madam?" he asked.

"Malaysia," I answered.

"Do they have Ferragamo boutique in Malaysia?"

"Yes they do."

Should I have told him that I already have a considerable collection of Ferragamo shoes? (Even if I bought most of them from Bicester!) But that might confused him too much you see. Because it was hard for him to believe that I could even afford a pair.

And of course the one million dollar question, "Do you work for the embassy Madam?"

And its not just him.

At a household shop, we bought some Arabic tea and coffee sets. Thankfully for us there was an Indonesian salesperson working for the shop. So I could ask him questions and prices without having to refer to the calculator.

But I noticed everytime I asked the price of something dear and nice, he sounded very apologetic and continued to mention that the prices are rather high because the items came from Europe and he was more than willing to offer me alternative items from China which he says were much cheaper.

After selecting a set of Italian Murano tea and coffee cups, he had to ask us once again.

"Bapak dan ibu dari mana? Brunei?" ("Where are you from? Brunei?)


"Ooo dari Malaysia, kerja di kedutaan?" (Oh from Malaysia, do you work at the Embassy.)

Perhaps to them, only the Malaysians with money here are the officials from the Embassy. But we are at fault because we let them reinforce those prejudice. But we are private people who don't necessarily like telling people unknown to us where we live, what we do and who we are. By saying yes, we are just saying MYOB.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Still on London time

I woke up at noon this morning. So much for "life as normal." I missed yesterday's kick boxing class and today's potluck morning. Hey it would only be 9 am in London! My normal wake up time.

I am slowly bringing back my heart and soul here.

Have been holed up in the villa for the past two days. Did take a 5 mins walk to the minimart to get milk. Of course I was almost immediately reminded where I was when a fellow resident stared at my navel as I walked out of the shop.

Not many navels here to stare at you see. Unlike London when you can see 3 navels a minute.

Note to self, back to more conservative clothes. Even the ladies will stare here.


What makes one group of men decide that some things are OK for the society while some other things are not? And how is it that these men who decide have access to those materials and have the power to prevent others from getting access to those materials?

The censorship here in my opinion is somewhat excessive. Just walk around some shops and you see women being blackened out of box packaging. I remember going to Marks and Spencer here to find that the boxes here have been pasted with large white stickers, the picture of the model wearing the bra has been blocked out.

But what baffles me is that (like my magazine) these bra boxes are meant for the use of ladies. Why is there a need to censor them? Could it be that perhaps they were worried that the salesmen who handled these boxes upon seeing the scantily clad box cover decides that he needs to relieve himself right there? Or worse still, walk around with a hard on while working simply because they saw these images? Are the men here so weak?


My social diary has started. Will be going to another embassy do today. What irks me a little bit is that I would have to be on my very best behavior amongst the dignitaries. Its such an adult function, everyone so formal, so polite, so smiley.

I think I aged by 5 years just as I landed here.

From Arab News:

Bride Punches Guest for Taking Pictures

TAIF, 22 November 2004 — A bride jumped from her chair when she spotted one of the guests taking a photo of her using her cell phone camera, Al-Jazirah newspaper reported. The bride was sitting quietly next to the groom on the stage when she spotted one of the guests taking a photo of her. She jumped at the guest and pulled her hair and punched her in the face. The guests were cheering the fight as the bride took the cell phone and smashed it in front of the crowd.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Descent into darkness

As the plane descends, readying itself for landing, I caught a glimpse of the terrain below. It feels like we are descending into darkness. Into an unfriendly, dark place.

It is time. Time for me to shed all my colourful clothes and engulf myself into the darkness as well. Black is the only colour we women are allowed to be seen in public. If the women came into the plane wearing colourful clothes, they arrived in black from top to bottom.

We are all alike. If they would have it, we would all be faceless, voiceless and mindless.

Immigration was much faster this time because I was not a woman traveling alone.

But they saw my magazines through the X-ray. My magazine that show that woman could be any colour and in any clothes they want to be. Of course its the scantily clad ones that caught their eyes. Two were taken away from me!

We were walking ourselves into the net.

It was very difficult coming back this time round. I would have thought that it would be easier because I had more friends here, and I am more settled in.

But it isn't. Not after London. Not after all the freedom I had, roaming the streets alone, going to any place I liked without being harassed, stared at, discriminated against. Not after the movies and the West End shows. Not after the endless numbers of bookstores with all sorts of books in the world, all uncensored, all banned books available.

Till next time London. I look forward to the next time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Counting the days

Its a weird feeling really, I still have a few days to go yet before we go back but just the realisation that the flight back draws closer makes me feel a little blue.

But why go back if it makes me so unhappy? Will ponder more about that question later.

Worked on the garden yesterday. All my plants were complaining from my lack of care. My rose bush is plagued by rust. Weeds were and are still everywhere. The lawn needs some mowing and dried leaves everywhere. It is Autumn afterall. It was freezing cold two days ago. I guess its the best way to remind me what the winter is like in London. Freezing cold wind but no snow. I do miss the winter. Even the overcrowded streets of London gets a little bit empty with the onset of the cold weather.

Do I really want to go back?

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Eid Mubarak

its Eid today. Wishing everyone Eid mubarak.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The West End

One of the things that I missed most when not living in London is te ability to watch a West End show. Of course I had to watch one yesterday. At half price of course! I have been a loyal customer of the TKTS. Well who wouldn't be when I got the second row tickets for £22.50 which would otherwise cost £40!

The Solid Gold Cadillac, starring Patricia Routlegde and Roy Hudd, about corporate greed in which fat cats reward themselves with the cream of all the company. The play could be slow at times but it sure was interesting to see Patricia Routledge and Roy Hudd on stage.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Back in the UK

Its amazing to be back to grey old London. I was practically skipping my way out of the plane into the airport. My husband remarked that he didn't realized that I liked London so much. But we have gone through a lot here and there is a Malay saying that goes, "Tempat jatuh lagikan di kenang." (You'll remember the place where you fell.)

Its also comforting to be able to hear my upstairs neighbours again. The flat above my bedroom and living room is occupied by N and her two children. Apparently N has a new boyfriend now. Its been less than a year that her ex hubby left her and she has had 2 boy friends since. But who is counting?

Of course I immediately went to M&S and Waitrose. This is sad really but I did miss the M&S ready to microwave meals! And I also wanted the GU chocolate mousse from Waitrose and of course the Gurnsey and Jersey milk! (The checkout lady once remarked that this is the champagne of milk!)

Its been grey for the past 2 days. And a little bit rainy of course. And cold.

But I love the fact that I can go out and walk to the High Street anytime I want.

And no one was staring at me because I was walking alone.

I was not harassed. No bearded man tried to greet me with "Hello sister."

I tell ya, the first afternoon I arrived I was behaving like a country bumkin! We just sat at a bench in the Mall and looked at people! Girls walking by in groups wearing hipsters and showing off thair navels (yes even in winter). Families walked together, couples, women and men of course.

I almost thought that there are some in the previous city I was in who made it their life mission to remove joy from the city! Everyone has a scowl there! You can't smile really lest it would be misunderstood and will get you in trouble!

But alas, smell of freedom is wet and damp.

I am so glad to be home!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

My trip to KL

Due to unforseen circumstance, I had to fly to KL on a very short notice. In time to celebrate the beginning of Ramadhan there.

I have to say that I LOVE the pasar Ramadhans! You see, eating places owned by a Muslim are not allowed to open before 3 pm. Thus many chose to open a stall at the Pasar Ramadhan (Fasting month market.) There are others who took the whole month off to operate a stall in one of these markets. Apparently the profit is lucrative.

And I so wanted to eat a lot more things! But I'd have to say I religiously bought fried and wet popiah everyday. Fresh coconut juice. Managed to try amongst other things; tepung pelita, mee rojak, laksa, yong tau foo, ayam perchik, pecal, pucuk paku, kuay teow goreng, sotong bakar, sup tulang, air tebu and Chicken rice from the Chicken Rice Shoppe.

Of course there was more that I wanted to eat but there wasn't time. It was the fasting month after all.

And then I realised how much I missed KL. So much has changed since the past year. And especially Bangi! Bangi has become a booming Malay town. Lots of new housing estates and rows and rows of new shop houses.

I met just a few friends. Friends who were kind enough to show up (Thanks so much Leen!) and friends who we willing to meet up at a short notice.

Did some shopping although not enough. Found buying myself new Baju Kurungs and batik kaftans, things which I was not too thrilled about before. Perhaps its the sign of my age? Or just the environment I am thrusted in since I moved here.

Met up with Danny Bong of course and spent a day or so in KLCC. Had my usual facial and my eye brows trimmed. Hubby remarked that I am leading such a Datinesqued lifestyle. But hey to my defence I only get to do all this once a year!

Did managed to squeeze in Reflexology session while waiting for my hair to be done.

On the whole the trip back was a bitter sweet experience. Made me realize that I should appreciate those that matter. C'est la vie.