This might seem like an unusual mission to have, but something I’ve wanted to do before leaving KL is to eat as much crab as possible, in one seating.

Assisting me in completing this mission is my Aunty Lily and her daughter, my cousin Liyana. Other family members were present for support but opted for the more civilised dishes that involved cutlery.

We rolled up our sleeves and ordered 6 crabs – salted egg crab, chilli pepper crab and butter crab, to which I turned to Lily and asked – ‘Are you sure this will be enough?’

Lili – ‘Yes’ followed by the more acceptable ‘we can always order more’.

Now I’m an expert crab eater – I’m fast, thorough, and choose the best parts first. But sitting next to my Aunty Lily is a whole new crab eating experience – It’s competition.

Not only is Lily fast and thorough like me, but she seems to have what I can only describe as a psychic ability to grab at the same pieces of crab that I want BEFORE I have had a chance to put my thoughts into action. Lily knows intuitively when the lazy susan has brought the crab platters in arm’s length of where she is seated and can instinctively reach for crab claws without even needing to look at what she is aiming for! Lily is able to multi-task better than anyone I’ve ever seen – holding humorous conversation, while still being able to eat politely, and simultaneously keeping her work area meticulously clean of anything edible, while sweeping all inedible waste to one tidy area.

Liyana to Lily while we were still eating –‘Ma, I need to go to the toilet, move your chair so I can get past’

Without skipping a chew or using any extremities, Aunty Lily propels her body and her chair, closer to the dining table in one swift movement, then looks at me while still working away on a crab leg, and threatens in a light tone ‘This is how I roll’

Needless to say, the pressure to perform was intense.

I put my all into being a worthy opponent and managed to tuck away more than 1 whole crab, but my Aunty Lily was the clear crab eating champion.

T, being a good sport – ‘You can have the rest of my coke if you want?’ lifted what I expected to be half a can of coke, only to find that it had already been emptied.

My Aunty Lily looked at me and smiled, cheekily. I should have known..

Yum Cha KL – Very stupid indeed.

We arrive at Hong Tee’s Tim Sum (Yum Cha/Dim Sum) restaurant – HUNGRY. I’m joined by my cousin Sheba and her family (husband Ian, and 6 year-old daughter Tia), My grandmother (Popo) and Sheba’s friend Camelia arrives 10 minutes later.

I’ve never eaten yum cha with my Malaysian family before but I’m delighted to report that they eat yum cha just like me. Hard, fast, and without regard for anyone else. There was no messing around, and there were no boundaries, especially when it came to something as trivial as quantity. Within seconds there were 12 dishes on our table, then within 15 minutes when Camelia joined us, we had ordered another 12 dishes, and ate these extra plates as if nothing had happened prior to her arrival.

The food was delicious, though I wouldn’t say outstanding or better than yum cha’s I’ve been to in Sydney (go Hung Cheung in Marrickville). Major differences are that there were no western alternatives; like the marinated lamb cutlets that they serve in Crows Nest yum cha, or the mango ice-cream pancake, though they didn’t have my favourite chinese desert either, Tofu fa – a boiled curd (tofu) in sweet syrup. Which I admit doesn’t sound appetizing, but it is.. trust me.

During our yum cha session my Popo was saying something to Camelia about me. Camelia is Chinese and understands Cantonese. I waited patiently and expectantly for them to finish so Camelia could translate into English.

Camelia, sympathetically – ‘My grandmother says the same thing about me in public’

T – ‘Why? What did she say?’

Camelia – ‘Cheong (low tone), it means stupid.’

T – ‘oh (surprised), I heard her say ‘Ho cheong’?

Camelia – ‘Ho means ‘very’, so ‘very stupid’.’

I know my gran would have only called me ‘Ho cheong’ in the most endearing way possible, and for my 84-year-old chinese gran to be able to remember more English words than I could remember Chinese, or even Bahasa, it was pretty embarrassing on my part. Luckily, both my gran and I blame my parents for not keeping a bilingual household in Australia – What a ‘cheong’ decision it was for parents who could speak up to 4 languages to only teach their children english – Ho Cheong!

Funny family

My uncle Tharuwat is a funny character, he’s always had this humorous way of looking at life, the universe, and everything.

One of my favourite quotes from Uncle Tharuwat was many years ago, when I was complaining about being short, and he said to me ‘Why do you want to be tall? When you’re short people look down at you and say “Oh, how cute, you’re so little”. When you’re tall people look at you scared and shout “Run there’s a giant!”‘

If you meet his daughter, my cousin Meleng, you’ll see that she too has been successfully raised with the funny goggles on, as demonstrated in an outing to the supermarket the other day in the company of my grandmother, cousin Liyana, Aunty Lily, her baby girl Ezzuryne, and Aunty Mary (Melengs mother). After a cruisy day of food and supermarket shopping, as we all piled into the car out of the hot sun, Meleng looked at us sharply from the front passengers seat and said in a tone which I considered quite calm ‘Hey, have you forgotten something? My daughter is still outside!’.

Surprised, we all turned to see a tiny 5 year-old Ezzuryne, sitting near the driver’s side of the car, waiting patiently in the baby seat of the supermarket trolley. Outside of the car

In a response that would have shocked most families, we all burst out laughing – including Meleng. My Aunty Mary, who had been in charge of the trolley, and Ezzuryne, gracefully and quickly rejoined her grand-daughter with the rest of the women sitting comfortably in the car. (Oops, no biggie..)

I have to say, no matter what I do with this side of my family, even when it’s just boring old supermarket shopping, it always leaves me with a smile on my face.

Hari Raya Haji – Tips on how not to take an underwater photo

Hari Rya Haji in Malaysia is the Festival of the pilgrimage – The pilgrimage being the journey that each muslim needs to make to Mecca once in their lifetime – During this time, cows are sacrificed in the mosque, and the meat given to the people – Poor cows 😦

This years Hari Raya Haji, my family in Malaysia opted for the more western style celebration of pasta by the pool, and I found this the perfect opportunity to test out my waterproof Olympus.

Tips on how not to take an underwater photo.
Remember, everything is enlarged underwater, well that’s what I thought until I saw a picture of my cousin in law (Ian) with his daughter (my niece Tia) and they looked completely normal if not more gorgeous! Where as all my photo’s became X-rated. (anything already large became MASSIVE..)

1) Use a small person, or child, to cover your body – This way the otherwise porn shot becomes one for the family album.

2) Do not hold your breath in your mouth – Try to relax and smile without a mouth full of oxygen. Unless of course what you’re going for is the bloated ‘I can’t believe I’m underwater’, robot being short-circuited look.

3) Your typical sexy land pose does not look good underwater – But is much more humorous! Being underwater posing rookies, each time a photo was taken, it was followed by howls of laughter, then a reassuring ‘you don’t really look like that’, followed by more can’t breath, tears streaming down face, hands slapping the water ‘look at you!’ laughter.

4) When doing the ‘lets take a photo of all three of us jumping in the pool’ action shot – Make sure the heaviest jump is slightly delayed from the lightest – otherwise you might miss the heavies completely as demonstrated in this photo which had 3 of us jumping in the pool at EXACTLY the same time.

Personally, I think the photo’s came out purrfectly and made for a memorable happy Hari Raya Haji!

Big thanks to my cousin Liyana for being a good sport 🙂

Steps to make a morning flight from KL to Singapore more challenging.

– Drink heavily the night before, get pissed and talk nonsense PASSIONATELY while standing over everyone in an authoritative manner.

– Wake up after only 4 hours sleep, still in clothes from the night before, aware that something has died in mouth. Have a little spew. Pack bag with undies and passport. Then just before running out the door remember important articles like clothing, phone and wallet.

– Fight off intense nausea in the 60 minute car ride to the airport. Have plastic bag ready incase an uncontrollable urge of regurgitation occurs.

– Continue to fight off intense nausea waiting in the 30 minute Tiger Airways flight check-in queue. Deep lemaze breathing in-between loud periodic sighs whilst wishing for death helps pass the time.

– Quickly shovel down a lasagna (cheesy hang-over food) in an attempt to curb reflux during flight.

– Run into duty-free shop to grab a bottle of Bombay sapphire and Smirnoff Vodka. Argue with duty free sales agent over why it’s prohibited to sell alcohol and ciggies to people flying from Malaysia into Singapore. (Fail).

– Pass out cold for 1 hour flight. Try not to let the electric eel like nerve twitches freak out the person sitting next to me.

– Land in Singapore determined to buy duty-free alcohol. Confidently walk into Singaporean duty-free shop and ask for Gin and Vodka, whip out Aussie passport and say that I have ‘just arrived from OZ’. Cashier then asks for boarding pass. EPIC FAIL. Walk away.

– See friends waiting in the arrival hall and, in sheer excitement, bypass customs. Get yelled at by customs agent. Bag is scrutinised extra long in the customs scanner. Pray to god that there’s nothing in bag. Bag is cleared. WIN!

Finally exit the airport into the arms of my good friends Ms J, Mr T, and Little Lil 🙂

Friendly & helpful people – Learning how to make roti canai

We were sitting in the mamak stall, (a Tamil Muslim cafe style restaurant) in Old Town, Petaling Jaya, when I spontaneously thought that perhaps, if I asked nicely, the lovely people in this restaurant could teach me to make one of my favourite local dishes – Roti Canai

T, hailing down one of the staff that looked like he would be someone of authority – ‘Hi! Would you be able to teach me to make roti canai?’ (direct, I know)

Raj – ‘Sorry Miss that won’t be possible’

T, most brilliant smile – ‘Well, then would we be able to come by when you are preparing and cooking the roti canai and watch? (nods),‘and if you can give us the recipe and show us how you make it?’ (same question, different phrasing)

Raj, smiling – ‘Sure, that is no problem, when would you like to come by?’

My cousin Sheba and I arrived at the mamak stall the next afternoon during non-peak time, armed with pens, notepads, a video camera and a flash camera, looking like we were documenting footage for the Discovery Food Channel.

I wont go into the detail, but in the next few hours we were privately informed of secret ingredients and cooking techniques that were key to the fluffy success of this local delicacy!

Here’s a hint – I have a new respect for SPRITE. The drink, not the fairy, elf or pixie.

Lesson – If you don’t ask, you don’t get. And sometimes something as simple as a smile and a good attitude will get you exactly what you want.

Marriage isn’t like playing with sand – It’s til death!

The women in my family are built strong, with a wicked sense of humour, and to be honest most of us have inherited a less than favourable attitude towards men (as partners).

My grandmother, Popo, has never asked me about marriage. At 30, at a time when my friends and family are expecting me to tie the knot any second now, my own gran has not once put any kind of pressure on me and instead speaks to the opposite effect.

Popo – ‘Men are trouble. Its very hard to find a good man, very hard. You don’t have to get married, just save your money. Marriage isn’t like playing with sand you know, you don’t play around, it’s til DEATH!’

With stern words like these being passed down from my grandmother, to my mother, to myself, it’s no wonder I became a slight commitment phobe.

I ask Popo if she regrets getting married to Pak, she replies no, of course she loved him (my grandfather Pak passed away a couple of years ago), however it was not easy being married to a Muslim man who had been divorced once before, and had taken a second wife briefly. Plus dealing with all the other mischief that men get up to. But he loved children, and her favourite time in life was when things were good with her husband and her 7 children. (my mother had been the eldest)

My mother once told me the story of when I was born, that she had purposely told my father that I was a boy. She watched him get all excited and tell everyone in the neighborhood that he had just had another son, and then when he was done, she laughed and told him that I was actually a girl. My father got mad at her practical joke, but my mother found this hilarious. She loved telling me this story, and her face lit up at the memory.

Strong, with a quirky, wacky sense of humour.

The one with the monkey – Family Road Trip

A family road trip was in order and the destination was Pangkor Island, a laid back underdeveloped beachy paradise where we could escape from the men in our family (no offense!) and have some quality girl time. The women in attendance being my grandmother (Popo), my aunty Lily, my cousin Liyana, cousin Sheba and her daughter Tia.

After a kayaking and snorkeling adventure with Liyana, I was happy to collapse onto the sand, on our beach towels which lay under the shade of a large leafy tree, and doze off while everyone else played in the water

I wake to the sensation of someone caressing my head, and thinking it must be Liyana playing with my hair, I lie there peacefully … until I see Liyana still swimming in the water!

Surprised, I spin around and come face to face with a monkey!

T – ‘Aaaaaargh!’

Monkey – ‘Aaaaa Aaa Aaaa!’

Our mirrored stunned expressions were inches apart, and the monkey had one hand in my grandmothers handbag which I had been using as a pillow. Startled, the monkey snarls. I grab my grans bag and surprisingly start making my own ‘Oooh oooh oooh!‘ noises while waving a cap in its face. This beast was not intimidated by my primitive vocals or feeble wave of a flimsy hat – it had teeth and confidence.

My family comes running out of the ocean yelling at the monkey, who must have felt the vibrations and took off up the closest tree. It sat on the branch above us just out of reach.

In attack mode, the most nasty colourful filth was flying out of my 84 year-old grandmothers mouth as she cussed her bag snatcher to rot in hell (in Chinese). Being a tough old broad, she whips out an empty water bottle and hurls it in the animals direction. Somehow this results in the bottle landing way (way!) to the left of her instead of slighty ahead where the thief casually sat on its branch.

Liyana, with a scowl on her face, stomps up to the tree with a rolled-up straw mat, and in an attempt to scare the bandit away, slams it hard against the trunk.

Unmoved, this cheeky monkey gave us the response that you would only dream to one day bestow upon that guy or girl you’ve always disliked – He spread his legs wide, granted us full view of his privates, then gave his balls a rebellious and satisfying scratch.

Unsure of how to retaliate without spilling blood, we decide to let the monkey have it’s day, and walked away laughing.

Burn baby burn – Karaoke night!

Being a Karaoke whore, I was excited to spend my cousin Liyana’s 17th birthday bash at a KL Karaoke bar.

The karaoke buffet – Having only ever had liquid meals with my karaoke, I couldn’t work out the logistics behind eating solid foods and singing at the same time. But if you don’t mind the occasional, loud, open-mouthed belch in the middle of your ‘I Will Survive’ rendition, it works!

Smoking – Is still allowed in the karaoke booths. Not the best for the lungs, but an awesome excuse for pitch problems. * Squeak, cough cough, can’t breathe… next song*

Song choice is everything – When no-one else in the room knows Bohemian Rhapsody, you know you’re with the wrong crowd.

I selected this Queen classic thinking it was a great way to get everyone up and singing in comradery – God was I wrong.

As I courageously rocked out to this quirky number solo, belting out the falsetto and baritone ‘Galileo’ sections like a schizophrenic on speed, broadway style, I’ll never forget how quickly faces can turn from pity to horror. And back to pity again.

Take my advice, with this Malaysian bunch, lyrics like ‘ Mama, just killed a man. Put a gun against his head pulled my trigger now he’s dead‘ was NOT a crowd pleaser. And head banging ain’t so cool when you’re the only one banging it at 3am in the morning.

‘anyway the wind blows…’

2 tales of romance – The story of Popo & Pak vs Special K & Mr Man

Scene 1
My girlfriend in her 30’s, lets just call her Special K, was telling me about this guy she met on an internet dating site. Let’s call him Mr Man.

Special k – ‘We went on a date. He’s really funny and we had a good time, and when it was time to go home we were both so drunk that we decided to Dial-a-Driver, it’s this new awesome driver service that’s catered towards drunks who don’t want to leave their car out. Anyway, so while the drivers driving my car home, I’m in the passenger seat and Mr Man’s sitting behind, I get really sick and start throwing up in my car! The driver has to pull over for me and I’m spewing and apologising to him at the same time, while Mr Man’s in the back seat laughing and yelling ‘why are you saying sorry to him for – IT’S YOUR CAR!’

A week later I’m skyping with Special K and I ask how things are going with Mr Man.

Special K –‘ aah, I don’t think I’m going to see him anymore’

T – ‘why?’

Special K – ‘ Erm.. I find him gross’

T, laughing –‘Let me get this straight, you went on a fun date, you VOMIT in front of him, and you find HIM gross?’ claps hands laughing..

Scene 2
I’ve been recording my grandmothers memories of her childhood, her marriage to my grandfather, and of my mother.

I ask my 84 year-old grandmother (Popo) how she and grandfather (Pak) met and got married.

Popo, in Chinese but translated by my cousin Sheba –‘I was working as a hostess in this lounge in Johor (Malaysia), and Pak used to come in everyday and order a Milo. For 2 years he would just come in an order a Milo from me. Then he started giving me lifts home from work (did he court you, take you on a date?) no, just lifts home. I used to date a lot of Chinese boys who would take me to the movies, I wasn’t interested in getting married so every week I would say I wasn’t interested in someone and go to the movies with someone else. After 5 years of giving me lifts home, Pak asked me to marry him and I said yes. All my friends couldn’t understand why, he was Malay, and I had never been interested in getting married’

T –‘Did your mother have any issues with you marrying a muslim man?’

Popo – ‘No, my mother said as long as he can look after you and is a good man, religion doesn’t matter.’

T – ‘So what made Pak special from the rest?’

Popo – ‘ … I don’t remember’

T – ‘So even though you were being chased by all these Chinese men who were actually courting you, you said yes to the one who never took you out, and was of a different religion?’

Popo – ‘Yes’

I knew I probably wasn’t getting the whole story, but I could kinda believe that my grandmother would choose my grandfather simply because he was handy. He was after all the man who provided her with transport for 5 years! However, I was pleased to learn that after the wedding, the movies and dinners did eventualy come.

Now, when I compare the 2 stories, one from the 1940’s set in a Muslim country, and the other a modern-day tale from a western society, I cant help but ask ‘are we being too picky?’

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