Night Drive

I remember
speeding through a black night.
The headbeams don’t reach far enough, I fear.

My father’s
light hands on the wheel
anticipate every curve.

he slows a little and the car flies
over a slight rise in the road.

Later, he dips
the highbeam and fifty feet shrink to thirty.
What is it? I ask. Motorcycle.

The cyclist passes,
waves gratefully. Our light flicks up again.
I still cannot see the road beyond the beam.

My father,
he knows this road, every curve, every pothole.
We will be fine. I sit back and relax.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Broken

Saw this broken looking car in Malaysia last year. I believe it’s still in use, as the side window is down to let the hot air out, and it is squarely parked. I’m sure it rattles when it goes. How old do you think it is? Do you recognise the model?

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Wall

Quirky wall art is a recent tourist attraction in Penang island, Malaysia. Over the last 2 years, the success of the initial commissioned pieces led to more artworks sprouting up. (Won’t happen in Singapore though, the graffiti-free city, where you’re apt to be caught, fined and maybe caned.)

For more Photo Challenge: Wall posts, go here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Gone, But Not Forgotten

For this week’s photo challenge, I dug very deep into photo archives, to one of the earliest rolls of film I ever shot. The brand and model of the instant camera is lost to me now, but the photos trigger many memories – sleeping in army tents and flimsy canvas beds, washing up after meals in buckets of water, hole-in-the-ground toilets and muddy wet surrounds.

The event was the National Girl Guides Jamboree Malaysia and guides from many Asia Pacific countries were invited. The highlight was campfire night when guides dressed up in national or traditional costume and performed for all. After the Jamboree, I exchanged letters with one or two of the other guides, but we soon lost touch. Before the internet and email, it was just more difficult to keep in contact. I remember a girl from the Philippines shared how her father regularly “paddled” her, meaning hit her with a wooden paddle. She was sad when she told me this, and surprised that I wasn’t treated the same way. She had plans to go to University and succeed in life.

I cannot remember now how long the Jamboree lasted, or how most of the days passed. If not for these photos, I might not have remembered it at all.

Guides from Sabah, Malaysia in a Kadazan dance
Washing hung out to dry
The Philippine guides rehearsing their item in order not to get their ankles clipped
Teachers from South Korea in national dress

Cooking Hints

As I was about to send the daughter off, she asked me to type out some easy recipes for her. She knows basic cooking but living away from home, she found meal planning and cooking more difficult than she had anticipated.

Eating in Singapore is easy and cheap. There’s a huge variety in hawker centres and food courts, it doesn’t cost much more than doing it yourself and is very convenient. In many homes, domestic workers take over the chore of cooking. Many working women I know don’t cook and proudly declare they cannot cook.

Though Mom worked, she used to cook all our meals when we were young. I don’t know how she coped. We helped her out occasionally, if only by telling her what we wanted to eat to spare her from having to plan. As far as I can tell, Mom cooked normally until a couple of years ago when she probably gravitated to simpler dishes as forgetfulness set in. Months before her stroke, she seemed to have prepared the same one pot meal everytime I checked. Apparently, a loss of cooking skill is an early sign of dementia but being apart, I hadn’t really noticed.

For myself, I’m a rare cook, often relying on cookbooks. I consider my meals edible, and perhaps “homely”, but certainly not anything to shout about. Anyway, to help my daughter, I wrote the following email in twenty minutes flat, filled with many items I haven’t cooked in years! It is written in a shorthand offhand way, with the understanding that the reader knows cooking and just needs a bit of prompting. I hope she finds it useful, and adjusts the quantities and seasonings successfully!

1. Egg

Fried egg
Omelette – onion. Fry onion with bit of salt until softened. Add beaten egg mixed with bit of soya sauce.
Omelette – green beans
Omelette – mushroom
Omelette – any vegetable
Omelette – minced meat. Mix meat and beaten eggs, add pepper and bit of soya sauce. Fry in well-oiled and heated pan.
Steam egg – beat egg into ceramic plate/ shallow bowl. Add chicken stock and pepper. Put on rice in rice cooker.

2. Veg

Stir fry – any veg stir fry with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Fish
Fish in ceramic plate – season with salt and pepper, or teriyaki sauce. (Make own teriyaki sauce – one tablespoon each dark soy sauce, mirin, sweet rice wine). Put under grill or in toaster about 20 minutes basting every 5 mins until cooked.
Steamed fish – add one tablespoon soya sauce, slivers of old ginger, put on top of rice in rice cooker.
Asam fish – buy bottle of assam paste – follow instructions on bottle.

4. Tofu
Steamed tofu – put in ceramic bowl, add one teaspoon soya sauce, one tablespoon oyster sauce, spring onion etc, put on top of rice in rice cooker

5. Pork
Slice pork thinly, season with cornflour, 1 tablespoon dark soya sauce, 1 teaspoon soya sauce. Stirfry with ginger strips.

6. Beef for pasta
Dice one onion and 3 cloves garlic. Fry until soft. Add minced beef and fry until brown, keep stirring. Add one can/ one bottle pasta sauce, bring to boil.

Boil pasta according to packet instructions.
Eat with salad.

7. Claypot chicken rice in rice cooker.
Soak four black mushrooms until soft, slice up. Slice one chinese sausage.
Season chicken pieces with oyster sauce, dark soya sauce, pepper.
Wash rice and put in rice cooker. When rice starts boiling, put chicken, mushroom and sausage on top. When cooked, stir well before eating.
Eat with sliced cucumber.

8. Simple meals without cooking or with minimal cooking.

Chicken sandwiches – buy cooked chicken. Add tomato, cucumber, lettuce.
Fried egg sandwich.

9. Fried rice.
Warm old rice from fridge in microwave.
Chop up leftover meat/chinese sausage/ luncheon meat. For greens use diced long beans, frozen peas/ carrots. Beat one egg.
Prepare one table spoon dark soya sauce, one teaspoon soya sauce.
Fry vege with/without garlic. Add bit of salt if veg is not salted. Add meat and stir till well-heated up.
Add rice and stir in sauces, when rice is heated, add beaten egg, stirring well all the time.

10. Shopping list

Oyster sauce
Dark soy sauce
Light soy sauce
White pepper
Cooking oil.
Teriyaki sauce.
Pasta sauce.


Tomatoes, cucumber.
Yogurt, Milk, Ice cream
Jam, Nutella, Butter

Dry pasta
Chinese mushroom
Chinese sausage

Fish steaks
Boneless chicken thigh
Minced beef – just before cooking
Salad – eat soon

What’s happening now

I haven’t been posting of late.. and feeling a little guilty over it. When I first started writing this blog, there was so much I needed to get out of my system. Thankfully now I have unloaded much of my pent-up feelings and thoughts, and the urge to write has abated somewhat. I’m thankful for that, because I had been spending quite a lot of time writing and reading here. But I miss blogging and want to get back into the rhythm of writing regularly again. Keeping my fingers crossed that I do!

Mom is well since coming back from the visit to sibling. She is happy and cheerful and volunteers a lot more conversation. And we have even more good news – after months of waiting, there is an opening at the dementia daycare center we wanted, and she had been there for a couple of sessions already. This center is different from the others we had seen, because it is focused on stimulating activities targeted at individuals with early dementia. Activities include reminiscence, reading, watching TV and games such as mahjong. Reading newspapers is followed by discussions that all can participate in, and I think mom really needs the affirmation she gets at these sessions.

There were a couple of other centers we checked out earlier which were not suitable at all. The people there looked as though they had advanced dementia, and the environment was noisy with little conversation. Mom was right to reject those places. I do hope she stays with the new center and continues to improve.

As much as mom has improved in conversation, and participating more actively in what is going on, I also sense that she is digging her heels in to deny what is happening to her. She is eager to read, and demonstrate she can still read. Watching the London Olympics, she exclaims, “Japan and Korea. The score is fifteen fifteen. Aiyoh so close. What a match.” A minute later, she says, “Eh? The score is eighteen sixteen now. How do they count the points?”

Ah yes, the Olympics have been a fixture for me! I have never enjoyed watching sports so much – visually it has been such a pleasure with the excellent camera work and beauty of so many of the venues, especially canoeing. I enjoyed watching swimming, diving, gymnastics, synchronised swimming, athletics, volleyball. Everytime I came home I would find mom watching dull boring news, and so I would promptly change the channel to the sports channel for the rest of the night.

Here’s a picture of a sportswoman from Malaysia who won an unexpected bronze medal. Malaysia is proud that she is “home-grown” although her coach is hired from China.

Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GettyImages
Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GettyImages