Thursday, January 31, 2008

Chinese New Year is coming?

Chinese New Year is a week away and I'm swamped with work. Well, I suppose it is the way with many local university undergraduates. It is always during CNY that you have to hand in your assignments, sit for tests etc. Sometimes I think that it is unfair. But then again, what do we do during CNY these days anyway? The most is that we will be a little busy with relatives and friends who are visiting on the first three days. After that, it is basically back to the normal mode.

One of the things that happens as you get older is that you tend to enjoy the celebrations less. I remember that when I was younger, I get excited waaaayyy before CNY, Christmas, Hari Raya or Deepavali was due to arrive. I used to insist buying new underwear even to celebrate CNY. These days, I would even wear my old T-shirt and shorts to entertain the guests who visit my house. And as the years pass, the guests become less and less lively and enthusiastic. The situation used to be that us children running around the house, begging attention from the uncles and aunties who come and visit. We used to look forward with anticipation the arrival of the lion dance troupe and watch in a mixture of awe, excitement and fear as they set off firecrackers. We used to enjoy eating all sorts of sweet meats and mandarin oranges and drinking jugs of carbonated drinks come CNY. Of course, the children and adults alike enjoy the traditional culture of receiving and giving of ang paus. We used to receive RM 5 from an uncle and be very happy and contented with the extra money. Nowadays, children pooh-pooh at an uncle or aunty (behind their backs) when they were given RM 5 as ang pau.

Perhaps it is with the banning of firecrackers that the celebration has become a little more mundane as years go by (it is also ironic that firecrackers which were traditionally for chinese to scare the devils are no longer often set off during CNY but more during Hari Raya and Deepavali). Perhaps it is the economic downturn that never seemed to end that has dampened the feelings of everyone. Or perhaps it is just that more and more Chinese are losing the tradition as they no could no longer link themselves to the point of celebrating the coming of Spring (coz Malaysia is summer all year long?)?

Whatever it is, CNY doesn't have as much meaning to me and the younger generation, I suppose, compare to the older generation. I will not be surprised that I will one day cease to celebrate CNY as the reason for celebration becomes more remote to me in the future. I am not saying that I will be abandoning my cultural identity, it is just that I do not see the point of celebrating the coming of Spring anymore. Perhaps, the superstitious part of me would still follow the lunar calendar, but to make a big deal out of the coming of Spring? Well, maybe I will make a big deal out of it if I have a dozen kids who are eligible to receive ang paus from relatives who do not have children. Hahaha...

But then, as morbid as I may sound, I do look forward to the once a year gathering with some friends. After all, it will not be long before everyone becomes too busy with their own family to be bothered to have a gathering with their old school mates whom they hardly spoke to. :) So, guys, better set a date to meet during CNY!


We should do this again, folks!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dedicated to Melwin...:P

Hi people...Happy New Year!
Well, a lot has happened since the post about the Kedah trip. I was in Hong Kong and China and then spent Christmas in Singapore. was a fulfilling holiday! I'll upload the photographs later coz I still don't know how to use the memory card reader. Hahaha...

Anyway, here is a piece of work that we were supposed to do in class which I told Melwin I'd upload so that we can check each other's work. You might find it weird that it looks more like a blogpost than a class work. But, the lecturer did say "write it as you would a diary!". Hehe...

Before reading the article, I used to think that it was important for one to speak correct English. I cringe whenever I used to hear mispronunciation, glaring grammatical errors or what Malaysians affectionately call “Manglish”. To me, language is beautiful. I believe that every language should be used correctly and properly, and be treated with respect and admiration rather than being butchered. Where English is concerned, speaking it correctly, to me, meant that it is spoken like a prim and proper Caucasian British (isn’t it funny that the image that normally conjures when you think of a person who speaks proper English is the image of a CAUCASIAN newsreader on BBC even though they also have many newsreaders of different races?).

Reading the article has made me reflect my perception of correct English. What is “correct English” anyway? Who decides if it is correct or incorrect? Is the Malaysian form of English not correct English? To many Malaysians, flour pronounced as /fla:/ is correct and when pronounced as /flau3/ would be thought as ‘flower’ or a mispronunciation. But that is language. It changes through time and it changes with the places it is spoken in.

Thinking back, it is ironic that I (and many other Malaysians, I think) would frown upon Manglish but accept African American English, for example, as a different form of English! But then again, I would also laugh whenever I hear people faking the accent and try to speak African American English or Australian English in Malaysia. I think it makes these “posers” sound so lame and pathetic.

But I digress. Back to the point where I mentioned that it is easy to think that English “belongs” exclusively to Caucasians. It is still difficult to remove the stereotype even after so many years of use outside of Caucasian-land and when there are millions of non-Caucasian English speakers. As mentioned in the article, many second language users of English have made it their children’s first language. This is evident in many of the Malaysian Indian and Malaysian Chinese families. And this trend is also emerging in many urban Malaysian Malay families. And that is just the case in Malaysia.

Many Commonwealth countries such as Singapore and South Africa have a majority of English speaking citizens. If these non-Caucasians who hardly spoke any other languages at all are not considered native speakers of English just because of their skin colour, then the issue is definitely RACISM.

Before I pursue on that very controversial issue, let me share another point that was made in the article which made me think: the importance of English 50 years from now. Even though many have predicted that Mandarin may become the most widely spoken language, I feel that it is unlikely. My reason is that having met Chinese nationals of different levels, the impression that I was given is that English is a high-class language that they have to strive to learn. Actually, the impression that I got was that anything Western is to be strived for. Hence, the possibility is that Mandarin would never be more popular than English because the Chinese themselves do not appreciate the language much and are willing to give up Mandarin and speak English so as to be more “high-classed”. Imagine, if my grim prediction is true, by 2050, English will probably be the main language spoken in China and many languages including Mandarin will be almost extinct! And of course, by English, I also meant the variations – Manglish, Singlish and maybe Chinglish (China-English) – and the “evolved” English.

Well, I may be too critical in my judgement. Whatever-LAH. Hah. I’ve used a Manglish term in my writing of a semi-formal assignment and it didn’t kill me. And I actually think that it makes it more friendly and distinctly Malaysian. :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kedah - Day 5

Day 5 of Kedah trip started with all of us moaning about being tired. But there was not a moment to be wasted! Early in the morning that day, we set out for Penang! And it was the first time for me that Penang meant that we were travelling south!! But before can we forget breakfast? Hehe..and breakfast was northern style prawn mee!

Northern style Prawn Mee which is very different from what you find in KL.
Our first stop in Penang was the obligatory Snake Temple which has lost its charm from many years ago. There were a few small snakes in the temple whose owners were trying to get us to take photographs for a charge of RM 25! Cut throat o! There wasn't much of a scenery to take photos there too. So, after using the toilet and going one round, we left to find the famous Penang Cendol in one of the alleyways. It tastes special because they add a bit of Tuak in it. DE-LICIOUS!

Very good Cendol!

What is a trip to Penang without having the famous Char Koay Teow. We had to wait for almost 45 minutes for the famous Char Koay Teow even though not many were there. But...our expectations must be too high coz it was not as good as we expected it to be.

Waiting for the Char Kuay Teow took so long that it made the stuffed us sleepy!

Then, we went to Kek Lok Si temple. Much has been improved since the last I went with my schoolmates back in '96. There is even a cablecar-elevator thingy now!


In the elevator-cable car thing.

After Kek Lok Si temple, we went to eat Asam Laksa! It was good but I think the one that my mom makes is better. :P

The famous Asam Laksa.

By then, the sky has turned slightly dark. So, off we went to Gurney Plaza for a walk before setting out to Gurney Drive to eat again. I was actually a little disappointed with the lack of good food that day. The only delicious food we had there was fried chicken skin. The others were mediocre.

With a full belly, we went for a walk along Gurney Drive.

Aduh! Sakit kepala!

And after that, we headed back to Kedah.

On the ferry to get back to the mainland.

Tired. But still want to gamble. Hahaha...

Friday, January 04, 2008

Kedah - Day 4

Day four in Kedah was still in Langkawi. This time, we woke up early in the morning and went on the island hopping package we signed up for. First up was to Pulau Bunting, where we stopped for an hour at the freshwater lake in the middle of the island. We decided to go "cycling" in the water. Brian and I were so heavy that we had to paddle two times harder than the others to go the same distance. :D

Before setting off for our island hopping trip.

Beautiful lake in Pulau Bunting which we paddled on.

The others reached the jetty way before us and went in for a dip.

Continued our island hopping looking at eagle-feeding area. It was a very awe-inspiring sight.

Eagles coming in to feed.

We ended the island hopping trip at the Bras Basah beach. The water was so shallow that you can actually walk to the nearest island! And the water was crystal clear too!

Reluctantly we had to end our island hopping and head back to the hotel to check out. Alas! we had an adventure when we realised that the van keys were lost!! Haha...just kidding, we just sat around at a stall and waited for the man to come with the replacement keys. Back to the hotel for a quick shower and off we went to the Mahsuri's Museum. That I thought was another rather sad gimmick to cheat tourists of their money. It wasn't very bad, just that it needed more attractions.

Then, it was time for us to leave the island for the mainland. By then, we were famished and quite tired. We practically wolfed down our dinner prepared by MeiJu's grandmother atMeiJu's house when we reached at around ten that night. But then again, what was a little starvation when you are with your friends enjoying yourself?