Friday, 30 September 2011

Snapshots: Batik Sarong

I love taking photos of lots of things. Of people, food, the scenery, architectural details, etc., etc. Snapshots will be photos of everyday things around us, that happen in our lives; people we know, clothes we wear, food we eat, things we collect, things we love.

The first will be the common batik sarong (batik basahan) that we sometimes do not even give a second look but just wear it (i.e. if like me, you do wear one at home). This piece of cloth/clothing is something I never travel without. It is most versatile - wear it with a t-shirt to lepak (lounge) in, bring it to the beach with you as a mat to sit on, even to change out of your wet suit (by gripping it in your teeth to make a tent over your body!)

Did you know that it used to mean something, how you wear your batik sarong (BS)? I was at a USM Cultural Centre do once, and this lecturer explained that if you are a single female, then the kepala kain is worn at the back. A married woman wears it in front. Or is it the other way round? If it matters to you, then its for you to find out.

A favourite BS from Trengganu 
Kepala kain of the above BS (CNB 2011)

CNB (2011)
CNB (2011)

BS with pua kumbu design - a gift from Sarawak (CNB 2011)

Kepala kain of the above BS (CNB 2011)

CNB (2011)

CNB (2011)

Another BS from Trengganu (CNB 2011)

Kepala Kain of the above BS (CNB 2011)

Another favourite BS from Trengganu 

Kepala kain of the above BS 

CNB (2011)

CNB (2011)

Another BS with pua kumbu design 
Kepala kain fo the above BS

A BS from Kelantan (CNB 2011)

Kepala kain of the above BS (CNB 2011)

Monday, 26 September 2011

A Career & Parenthood

Back in Malaysia, I got myself reemployed at the Library of USM (Universiti Sains Malaysia), Pulau Pinang. I was also quite preggers with my second child. As the Chief Librarian said, "Better to employ a known devil (?), than a new unknown angel". Huh? Anyway I got back into career mode a.s.a.p.

I underwent orientation at all the divisions again, because after all I had been away more than six years. Then I tried to be an examplary librarian, complete with glasses (but no bun on my head). I worked in several Divisions, including the Readers Services, Referernce, and also the Media Library at the Centre for Educational Technology & Multimedia.

A section of the Media Library, CETM (CNB 2003)

The visit of the Minister of Education to the Media Library, CETM

I also tried to balance between work and family, but it was not easy. As I recall, someone said to me, "You seem to be running around like a headless chicken". Of course I was. I was driving to work, sending the kids to kindergarten, fetching them from the kindy, taking them to lunch, sending them back to afternoon classes, going back to work, fetching the kids from classes, and going home to cook and clean, etc., etc.

Did I mention kids? Yes, B and her sister. Our second daughter A was born in August 1982. I remember that she was quite a big baby because I was huge as a whale at the end of nine months. I had a near death experience soon after her birth because the attending physician was careless and left the afterbirth in my uterus. When they wheeled me into the operating theatre, I distinctly heard another doctor say, "I think we're losing her, she's going". Anyway I lived (else I would not be blogging about it here, would I?).

Little A all ready to go home from the PP Maternity Hospital (1982)

Little B, little A and me (1982)

Working at the Library meant that apart from the routine, we also had to upgrade our professional skills as librarians and update ourselves by training sessions, attending Workshops, Seminars, and Conferences. Later, after some experience and as senior librarians, we conducted the training (for both students and library staff) and delivered papers at Seminars and Conferences. I was privileged to attend, and sometimes deliver papers at seminars/conferences at national, regional, and international Conferences.

A photo session after a Senior Library Staff Meeting

Welcoming the guests at a Regional Conference organised
by the Library (1994)

It was not all work at the Library. This was our Boria
performance at the above Conference (1994)

In all I was a librarian for almost three decades. I enjoyed my library career, having started as library officer at USM, worked overseas at the Stockport Public Library and the Salford College of Technology in England, then worked at USM Library again before retiring as Deputy Chief Librarian. Meanwhile, B and A grew up (and graduated from uni), and M and I brought them up as well as we could. Que sera, sera.

Fauna in a Garden 2

More fauna in the garden at SA,SA:
A fly eating a ripe berry of the Straits rhododendron
As I was pottering about the garden in the early morning, I saw a few (fruit) flies on the 'tree of life'. I noticed that they were not too disturbed when I went up close. The berries must be really yummy food! So it was pretty easy to get this picture.

A fly at SA (CNB 2011)

A yellow bird on the Tamalan tree (after eating the berries of the same above tree)
Actually other types of birds also feed on these berries of  the 'tree of life' in the garden at SA. But I have not been able to 'freeze the moments' when the birds are actually on this tree. They just flit around so, so much! This particular yellow fella (though not dirty fella) was actually preening itself quite a bit, so I could actually run into the house, grab my camera, and 'freeze the moment'.

A Yellow bird at SA (CNB 2011) 

A snail in the container kitchen garden; not a welcome guest!
About a week ago I found this fella - the first time a snail has ever been sighted in my garden. I know the usual way to get rid of snails is to drop them in a pail of salted water where they'll sizzle and die, but I just couldn't do it. So I gingerly removed it from the pandan plant and put it outside. And fervently hoped that it will find its way to the lallang covered backyard of my neighbours. I have not seen it since then, so maybe it has happily found a new home. Yay!

A Snail at SA (CNB 2011)

The Snail up close (CNB 2011)


Sunday, 25 September 2011

A Persian interlude

The Iranian Islamic Revolution took place in 1979. We were, at the time, in England where M was nearly at the end of his doctoral study. When he finished it successfully, we left for his hometown in Mashhad, Iran. At the time I was preggers with our first child. Our daughter B was born in September 1980, at the same time that the Iran-Iraq war started. What a welcome to the world for her!

Mashhad, 1980

B and her Babah in Mashhad (CNB 1980)

Little B (CNB 1980)

M had to serve his previous university in Kermanshah (renamed Bakhtaran, then later reverted to its old name). So I lived in Mashhad for a while until baby B was ready to travel the very long distance between these two places. In Mashhad I lived with my mother-in-law QJ, together with 2 brothers-in-law. Here we did not really feel the signs of war. When B and I moved to Kermanshah to join M, the war had escalated and this town is that much closer to the enemy. Daily we would watch the tanks and war machinery trundle past the town to get to the war front. All our windows had to be blacked out so that the bombs would hopefully not find their targets. We would watch the 'fireworks' at night from our balconies and rooftops. It was my first (and hopefully the only) experience of living in war time.

Celebrating B's first birthday in Kermanshah (1981)

Then our daily living needs started being rationed. We were able to warm up only one room with the fuel oil ration. Food had to be bought with coupons, so also cleaning materials. There were long queues for these necessities, so baby B and I were also in these queues - for chicken (once a week), for meat (two days a week), for 'Tide' (common name for a detergent) and for roghan or cooking oil (every so often).

B in Kermanshah (CNB 1981)

At home in Kermanshah (CNB 1981)

Living in a new country, despite the war, was a pretty interesting experience for me. I  had learnt to speak a bit of the Farsi language (from a Teach Yourself  book), so I went about quite independantly doing what needed doing in our daily life. I went to the bakery (read: hot underground ovens) for our daily bread or naan - usually sanggek (baked on pebble stones) or barbari (salted); to the sabzi furushi for our vegetables; the mive furushi for our fruits; to the 'super' (market) or smaller shops for everything else. I took baby B to the doctor when necessary - like when I was too enthusiastic about introducing her to solid foods that I caused her to have diarrhoea.

A Kermanshah studio photo of me & B (1980)

After two years, the war looked like it would never end, so M and I decided that it was better for us to leave for my home country of Malaysia.

Footnote: The 1988 ceasefire between Iran and Iraq only happened after eight years of  a full scale war that resulted in a severely disrupted economy, and which saw 1,000,000 dead and 1,700,000 wounded.


Friday, 23 September 2011

My Greece

In mid-August to early September 1978, M and I went for a holiday in Greece, the birthplace of democracy, the Olympics, Kazantzakis... We flew from London to Athina (Athens) with our backpacks and travelled around in this capital city and the island of Crete using public transport.

When in Athens, the Parthenon on the Acropolis is no doubt the main attraction. So we spent some time admiring the crumbling ancient structures amidst scaffolding to preserve and conserve them.

Me and a wonder of the world - the Parthenon (MB 1978)

The Parthenon which once served as church & mosque (CNB 1978)

We wandered around at the Plaka and Monastraki Square to mingle with the summer tourist crowd and observe the Greeks at work and play. There were shoeshine men on the pavements, and plenty of tavernas with alfresco dining. We loved the food - moussaka (mince meat, aubergine & potato dish), avgolemono (egg & lemon broth), souvlaki (meat on skewers), spanakopita (spinach pie), baklava (dessert of phylo pastry,  & nuts), etc. All too soon we had to leave Athens for the island of Crete, from the port of Piraeus.

Kriti (Crete), is the biggest island in Greece. It is the island where Nikos Kazantzakis of the Zorba the Greek fame came from. We arrived in Iraklion, the capital, and immediately felt the fiery Cretan zeal for life. We also felt the summer heat in this bustling port city.

Gazing at the Venetian fort at Iraklion (MB 1978)

The next day we were at Hersonissos, a fishing port. We dined alfresco at the Kafeneon, where the locals were friendly and conversation was a lot of smiling and gesticulating. Alfresco was the way to go in Greece. We usually had light food and the Greek meze was good. From Hersonissos, we went to Malia where we stayed for a few days.

Fishing boats at Hersonissos (CNB 1978)

In Malia we stayed at a pension where our beds were on the rooftop! Okay... we were sleeping under the stars. There was no locker/cupboard of any kind, but the landlady Aspasia, assured us, "No klepsi, klepsi in Kriti". There were no crimes nor prisons in Crete! Malia beach was long and its waters pristine. (Crete has hundreds of excellent beaches and this is one of them).We also biked around the Malia countryside, among the olive groves and vineyards and visited the less well-known archaelogical site of the Malia Palace. 

M and bike at the Malia main street (CNB 1978)

Donkey, goat and olive trees, Malia (CNB 1978)

Biking around the Malia countryside (MB 1978)

Restored urn at the Malia Palace (CNB 1978)

From Malia we went to Agios Nikolaos, which was pretty crowded with tourists. This port city, situated at the Gulf of Mirabello, has two harbours. One, a fishing harbour, and the other an inner harbour (a lake) with many open air cafes all round. The godess Athina was supposed to have bathed in this lake. No one could  resist swimming in the turquoise blue waters of the Aegean at every turn.

From Agios Nikolaos we travelled to Kritsa Village, where we stayed overnight. This mountain village also has its fair share of tourists. There were shops selling very Greek souvenirs - shawls, sweaters, sling bags, rugs, etc., all made of wool. We met farmers and their trusty donkeys and old women in black sitting on the doorsteps of their houses. But another village, Exo Potami, was very quiet, and we seemed to be the only foreigners around there.

A farmer and his trusty donkey, Kritsa (CNB 1978)

The Panagia Kera church near Kritsa (CNB 1978)

The next day we trekked to Psychro, 2,500 ft above sea level. At the very fertile Lasithi Plateau, there were many, many simple windmills (reputedly in the thousands). Before trudging up to the cave of Zeus, we met a farmer who kindly gave us apples from his orchard. But we only peered at the entrance of the cave and never went into it. The reason? I forgot to bring our extra money, and there was a charge for cave entry. What the ...!
M and apple farmer at Psychro (CNB 1978)

We left the Lasithi Plateau and went back to Agios Nikolaos from where we made a trip to Vai Beach at the easternmost tip of Crete. Along the way we stopped at Sitia for fresh fruits (especially yummy peaches) at the market. At Vai Beach there were quite a number of topless sunbathers (Note: Topless sunbathing is not illegal in Greece). From Vai we travelled to Ierapetra, where we spent a few days. This town had a nice seafront and a Turkish quarter.

To enable us to visit the important ancient site of Minoan civilisation at Knossos, we went back to Iraklion, stopping by Ano Viannos just to look around. At Iraklion, we walked around town, just savouring the local produce at the market and shops.

M at the Morosini Fountain, Iraklion (CNB 1978)

With our pension landlady at Iraklion (MB 1978)

Knossos was very impressive, to say the least. The remains of the vast Royal Minoan Palace there are the major tourist attraction of Crete. The reconstruction of Knossos was done by the British archaelogist, Sir Arthur Evans. The lustral basin was for bathing in company. The restored storage jars/urns contained grains that fed the king and his family. These and the replicas of the frescos of the water carriers, and the Prince of Lilies (among others) afforded a glimpse of ancient palace life. 

With the Prince of the Lilies at Knossos (MB 1978)

After visiting Knossos we went on to Matala. The beach at Matala was pristine and the caves there quite a sight to behold. From Matala we went on the Agia Galini, stopping by the Mires Saturday market along the way. Agia Galini on the south coast was a pretty resort town.

At the Caves of Matala (MB 1987)

From Agia Galini we went to Rethymnon, staying here for a couple of days. This town also has a Venetian fortress and a Turkish Quarter. The fortress was built in the 1570s. It is said to be the biggest Venetian fortress to be built. Inside are remains of a church (St Catherine) and a mosque (Sultan Ibrahim), among other buildings.

Remains of the Sultan Ibrahim mosque mimbar  (CNB 1978)

From Rethymnon, we travelled back to Iraklion where we left for Piraeus, and Athens, before flying back to England. We truly enjoyed our Cretan sojourn in the summer of 1978.