Nasi Kerabu: A Bus Ride Follow Up

13 May 2016 | Hisham | | Family Pics, Food

During our bus trip over the mountains the other week, Ain made friends with a fellow traveller, a Kelantanese who lived in Perlis. She had a nasi kerabu restaurant in Kangar.

That only meant one thing: we had to check it out.

Where is Irfan's eyeline headed, anyway?

They only open in the mornings.

Better than any McDonald's

When we were in Kelantan we were disappointed were unable to visit our favourite nasi kerabu restaurant there. It was a stroke of luck that we discovered one here in Perlis that sells delicious nasi kerabu comparable to the restaurant in Kelantan!

We foresee many weekend breakfasts at this place.


The New Cousin Celebration

03 May 2016 | Hisham | | Family Pics

I haven't met Baby Rania since she was born, so after that bus trip over the spine of Malaysia we finally arrived in Pasir Mas for her aqiqah ceremony where I finally got to meet her.


She is quite a photogenic lady, she is.


Bus Ride to Pasir Mas

02 May 2016 | Hisham | | Family Pics

We had an inaugural journey from here to Pasir Mas by bus. This meant I did not have to focus on driving over a long distance for the first time in a thousand years.

This also meant I was free to take photos out the window as we trundled along the roads. It was a great experience. I have never taken an interstate bus since the nineties, in the days when I travelled from Terengganu to Sitiawan (or Kuala Lumpur) by bus every five or six days.

As the vehicle barreled southward from the bus station, I was amazed by the ameneties available in the double decked transport vehicle. The seats were much more comfortable compared to the bus seats of old. Leg room were aplenty. And even better, we could recharge our phones at the power sockets.

But enough about the bus, on to the pictures.

We're in the bus

There were numerous signposts along the way. Presumably they help drivers find their way around the country without driving over a canyon and into a swift-running river.

After picking up passengers in Jitra

Sometimes, airplanes fail to heed warning and attempt to drive on roads, perhaps because land travel appear exciting to them because grass on the other side and all that.

Needs moar submersibles

I try to spy on cars that appear to drive backwards in relation to my window. This old couple appear to be quiet the attentive drivers. I can determine no way to jump onto this vehicle to attempt to infiltrate it.

Peeking next door

Amanjaya Mall looks nice. But I have never been inside it. Upon request, the WELCOME TO SUNGAI PETANI signpost sidled up to us to pose for a photo. It did not even ask for money.

It's not a mall if it doesn't have MPH or Kino

We then turned from our southbound course and headed east towards the mountains. But there were still many, many miles to go before we come close to the mountains. One of our waypoints en route, is Kuala Ketil - a town which is a nexus for the road network of the area.


Splitting the Party

06 April 2016 | Hisham | | Family Pics, Food

The evening after the Spell-It-Right competition, we travelled to Alor Setar where Ain and Cik Su who came visiting would be heading to Kuala Lumpur to reunite with Tok Bah and Tok Ma, and also to see little Rania.

Oh no not another airport

It was sad when Irfan and I were the only two occupants in the car heading home. Perhaps I thought we would continue the adventures of Jax Hunt when Ain was away.

Books are sold under the canopies

But in the meantime there were places to go. For example the Perlis Book Carnival was taking place at the Kangar Public Library. Irfan and I just had to go visit despite the abnormal midday heat. There were food stalls and even an inflatable pool for children. Irfan was much too big for it.

Also, a Milo ais!

We bought a couple of books. Irfan bought Darkmouth, a YA fantasy novel by Shane Hegarty which he digested quickly over the coming days. I bought a trio of Buku Fixi titles namely Kampung, Pakar and Hikayat Raja Babi. Before we left the book fair, I thought I heard the distant roll of thunder.


Boy Spells More Words

03 April 2016 | Hisham | | Family Pics

It has been more than a month since it last rained. The skies have been blue all day for weeks. I would gladly enjoy the view of the blue sky if it were not for the soaring heat.

And it came to pass Irfan was selected to attend another Spell-It-Right competition in Kangar. He was apprehensive in joining company of English spellers for his school, but in the end he decided to jump in feet first.

Not this bunting again

We braved the searing solar radiation to drive toward the hotel where the event was being held. And sear us it did. We thought we could take refuge in the hotel lobby, but for some reason it was still stifling hot within. Either the air conditioning was unable to overcome the heat radiating from hundreds of schoolchildren or the air conditioning was borked.

The lobby crowd

There were three sessions: one for the primary students and the secondary schoolkids were split into two separate session. Naturally, Irfan's school was assigned to the third session. So we waited in the heat. It was sweltering within.

Teammates melting

So for a time most of the students hung out at the steps leading up to the hotel's main entrance, scaring away potential hotel customers with their constant staring into their phones. Soon, but not soon enough, Irfan's team was called into the ballroom where the written spelling competition was held.

Let's make like a banana and split

Irfan exited the ballroom about an hour later and we all shared a banana split at the hotel restaurant.


Like Flying Polyps But Not Really

04 March 2016 | Hisham | | Family Pics, Recent News


It was back in early October after Raya Haji vacation when I began to fall ill with fever, coughs and sniffles. I blew my nose at work and sprayed the toilet at the office with a bowl full of blood. That never happened before. I thought that such amount of blood should not be outside of any human body.

The pain was strong and constant. It speared up into the right eye and down into the right side of the mouth. The smell of blood from my nose and mouth was incessant. (My review of Andy Weir's novel The Martian might have been written when I was right in the middle of it as evident from the last paragraph.)

One quick visit to a clinic near home, and a doctor diagnosed just a nosebleed perhaps because of my vigorous nose blowing over the days. A second visit later in the week, and I was referred to the ENT Specialist Clinic at Hospital Tuanku Fauziah.

Endoscopy turned up one nasal polyps. A scheduled CT scan a week later discovered a second polyps. This was escalation. But by this time, I had expectorated a mass of blood and mucus (see end of entry) which had suddenly neutralised whatever that triggered the pain. A steroid spray was bestowed unto me to keep the polyps from flaring up again.

The removal of the polyps one way or another was then scheduled for early March.


It was now early March, and after 43 years of avoiding it, I finally had to be hospitalised for a major surgery.

I was to undergo a functional endoscopic sinus surgery, followed by a septoplasty - apparently I have a deviated septum and no one noticed over the years.

No Scrubs jokes here - I never watched Scrubs

Atok and Opah visited from Sitiawan to ensure Irfan would be okay at home and ready for school while Ain took care of me overnight in the hospital ward. So on the first day, I registered and I was assigned to a bed. It was a nice bed, but it had no inlaid diagnostic scanners, no automatic expert systems to inject me the right drugs at the right time, no wireless connection so I could access and read whatever medical data it has on me.

Apparently I was expected to just lie on the bed.

But I can't drive this hospital bed around

I had neighbours in nearby beds and later than afternoon Irfan visited me after school along with Ain, Opah and Atok. In the meantime, I spent my time reading the last half of Abbadon's Gate. That evening, after Atok, Opah and Irfan had returned home, it was just Ain and I.

Hospital food was awesome!

Hospital food here was not too bad. I would say I found it somewhat tasty. Who said hospital food was unpalatable? I hope that they had minimised exposure to the Phoebe protomolecules in the food, or my next x-ray scan will be quite mutagenically interesting.


Rainy Dinner by the Sea

12 February 2016 | Hisham | | Family Pics

We cannot afford a lot. Most of our resources are currently being used to our debts collected while living in Kuala Lumpur below the poverty line. I even think twice refueling the car.

But one of my responsibilities is to ensure the family have fun. For many years, even when we were living back at the Tenth Floor, we all take pleasure in a good drive. We tell jokes, chide each other, sing along with the radio, make funny observations and try our best to make each other laugh. And we do. Laugh that is. It seems as if we laugh more here than we did back there.

Weekends are when we take a drive somewhere. Sometimes when we drive somewhere, the time is just right for a meal. So we found ourselves by the sea in Kuala Perlis one dark, cloudy Friday afternoon after work as light began to ebb away not just under the horizon but behind thick clouds.

Storm clouds closed in and it began to rain. The rain turned into a heavy torrent as we ordered our mee goreng.

Water wound its way around pebbles and detritus on the sand below us at our table under the umbrella. Once in a while the wind pushed part of the umbrella to splash the rainwater that was collecting on it onto the ground.

Soon, a grey curtain over the sea had covered our view of Langkawi Island which we have never visited since moving here; not even a day trip from the jetty here.

Then it struck me that this was what I needed. To huddle with the family with the pitter patter of rain above us and the cold winds gusting through us. This reminded me of my childhood, of me growing up and thinking that life is not ever fully comfortable, but for every single moment you just have to be grateful for the people around you. I am grateful that they are there with me.

Then we paid, got wet even more running for the car, drove through even heavier downpour (which required me to stop for a while) and discovered that back at home, surprisingly it had not rained at all.

We all looked at the sky and went, "Huh."


Another New Year Reunion

08 February 2016 | Hisham | | ACS Memories, Family Pics

This year we returned to Sitiawan for Chinese New Year because Teik Sing and family are back home from abroad! The last time we met was over two years ago when they visited us at the Tenth Floor, when Ezra was still a baby!

We met at the biggest shopping mall in Sitiawan, which in itself still causes cognitive dissonance with me because Sitiawan had no malls when I lived here and we had to travel far and away for me to reach any mall.

In any case, full complement of our families including Ivy met up in the afternoon. We occupied two tables at Secret Recipe to talk and stuff! Teik Sing and Michelle gave us a really well-sculpted NCC-1701-D USS Enterprise as a gift. I also received a drawing of BB-8 by Ashley, who is turning out to be an excellent artist! We gave Lat's Kampung Boy and Town Boy - as well a Malay language version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (maybe Teik Sing and Michelle can read and explain the words to them some day) - to the kids.

They had some stories to tell of their Malaysian vacation what with their detour to Krabi and all!

We checked out the cineplex at the mall and planned to watch the new film Ola Bola together later that evening.

Before Ola Bola, Atok and Opah took us out to dinner at a restaurant we have never been to before, which was set up in their house's yard with lots of plants and flowers.

Ola Bola was excellent. It was a quadrilingual movie. They should make more quadrilingual movies. The film was a pastiche of the Malaysian football scene in the late 70s and early 80s, but it was more than just a sports movie. It was about people of different races surmounting their troubles to finally work together in unity, and ultimately rallying the peoples of the entire country together. Something the current sports scene lacks. Sufficed to say that for the first time in forever, I saw a film that was truly a Malaysian film.

I hope Irfan learned something from it.

It was quite a refreshing time catching up with the Tings. We spent another 45 minutes chatting at the 24-hour biriyani restaurant beside the mall until we were tired and we had to go home. I felt some sadness as I had no idea when we might meet again.

On Sunday, Ain and Irfan examined the orchids at Opah's arboretum. I mostly did a number of translation work that was pending which I found in the unit's email account. I was under no obligation to do them, but I thought, why not?

After dinner, we found ourselves staring and chuckling at the antics of over a dozen hamsters through the window of a closed pet shop.

It was Chinese New Year the next day. Another old school mate - Gnana - came to visit with his son. We talked of old things, but mostly we talked of new things. I was gratified that I managed to see a couple of old friends during the long celebratory weekend.

Early the next morning, an hour before daybreak, we bade goodbye to Atok and Opah left for Perlis.


Celebrating One Anniversary and One Birthday

29 January 2016 | Hisham | | Family Pics

The twenty-ninth of each year brings about both the birthday of Sila and the anniversary of our parents. She has always quipped that she was Atok and Opah's third anniversary present.

Atok and Opah were on site in Perlis on this day, so we thought we would go celebrate at the restaurant where we celebrated Ain's birthday not two weeks earlier.

This time I took a photo of Ain's burger, which was enormous. Atok ordered a burger too while Opah had a chicken chop.

I wish Sila, Vin, Yaya and Rafiq were here to celebrate with us. I really miss them, having last seen them recede into the distance at the airport almost six years ago on a very dark day.

Happy anniversary Atok and Opah and happy birthday to Sila, Adik the Elder! May all of you be blessed with laughter and contentment.


A KL Incursion into the Caves

25 January 2016 | Hisham | | Family Pics

Then all too suddenly, we were visited upon by relatives from back in the Klang Valley, specifically Irfan's cousins Aiman and Zara and their family. It was the first time they visited Perlis.

As per the standard operating procedure, we took them around the state - the smallest in the country - starting with the bustling, tourist-filled bazaars of Padang Besar. Zara bought new a toy there.  Ain brought them to her vendors of choice.

The duty-free store at the Thai border is also a tourist favourite. Just as it was 25 years ago, I still wished Padang Besar had a decent book store, but I guess visitors here are more concerned with getting a good deal for wares rather than books. In any case, Zara got to ride in a duty-free shopping cart.

The standard operating procedure ensured that we next visited Gua Kelam, where they appeared to have fixed the lights that had been broken in our last visit. There was even a camera crew from some TV studio in the caves. 

Breaking through to the far end of the cave, we came to the picnic and camp ground, but seeing that it's way past noon we figured this would be a very brief stop to enjoy the greenery before we headed back through the cave. A video of the walk back to the car park can be viewed here!

Much later in the afternoon we went to Kuala Perlis to watch the sunset. Irfan and Aiman watched mudskippers and poked at crab holes in the low tide.

The weekend went by fast and they had to drive back to Pulau Pinang to catch a flight home the following day. We hope they would stay longer so we could do more activities together here in Perlis.


A Birthday Dinner Appeared Out of Nowhere

22 January 2016 | Hisham | | Family Pics

What words can I write that would do justice in wishing a happy birthday to a woman who has always been on my side through it all and still can smile and laugh with me?

We found a new place to eat if we need to celebrate stuff

Probably nothing, except Happy Birthday.

You can't go wrong with chicken

And sorry I forgot to take a photo of your burger. LOL! It's as yummy as Irfan's chicken chop up there.


Lighting the Bike

18 January 2016 | Hisham | | Family Pics

Once upon a time, I marvelled at Irfan's then-newfound abilities to reach a light switch.

These days he's repairing the bicycle Atok bought for him last year all on his own. Here we see him attempting to remove his bike's forward and rear lights which he had purchased and installed himself during the weekend. He even bought and installed the batteries for his lights himself.

He even went to the bike shop alone to replace his seat, as 14-year-olds normally do.

Maybe someday he'll even repair communication satellites! I think he's getting older by the second. Snif.


Irfan Goes To An Exhibition

09 January 2016 | Hisham | | Family Pics

Irfan was selected to attend a school exhibition at a prestigious school in Satun, Thailand. 

That's my old jacket. We can't afford another

With a group of 12 other students (all of which are fifth formers), he set out with his convoy from school early Wednesday morning.

Irfan is a visually recognisable blob

He participated in a spelling bee and helped man his school's exhibition booth where they demonstrated various science experiments.

The delegation from his school

Before he returned on Friday, the group also visited Pak Bara.

International Irfan at the beach

Irfan returned home at the end of the day where he had stories of his adventures to tell.


Yet Another Cousin Arrives

24 December 2015 | Hisham | | Family Pics, Recent News

After our inaugural viewing of Star Wars The Force Awakens in Alor Setar, Cikma - who was very far along her pregnancy - was admitted to hospital for blood pressure that went through the roof. So first thing the next morning Ain and Irfan travelled to KL by bus to aid Cikma.

But before their bus cruised into the city, young Rania Sumayyah was decantered into this world. Both mother and infant were healthy upon her arrival.

Aunt and cousin, eh? Thankfully it's not Shub-Niggurath

Welcome to this universe, Baby Rania!

I missed The Force Awakens premiere? That's just nuts

Of course, Irfan is happy because he gets to meet with his cousins!

Irfan, Zara and Aiman go nuts at the hospital! No not really...

A Second Move

05 December 2015 | Hisham | | Family Pics

Last December we moved 500 hundred kilometres to new house. This week a year later, we moved again but this time it was only about 2 klicks down the road. It was gratifying that we did not need to cross state lines for the move.

Thanks to some friends, before I went to my course in Kuala Lumpur we secured a house at a residential estate right beside Irfan's school. We had scoped this area out for months to no avail, until now. Our previous house was nice and comfortable, and the landlord was a great person. We were surrounded by greens there, but I still hoped for a house where Irfan could actually walk to school.

Our former landlord helped with the move by introducing us to some movers. Most of my stuff are still in moving boxes for over a year because we had to place to unpack them out to.

Now I live in a house with a gate! Swanky!

Atok and Opah were present for the move, and we bought the movers lunch.

I have not lived in a taman since Taman Kektus a million lifetimes ago. The effort to make the house comfortable fell to Ain's hands because most of the day I had to be at work, and she did a great job at the cost of her adenosine triphosphates.

I do wish Betty kitty could have made it to the new house with us.


Lost in Translation

30 November 2015 | Hisham | | Family Pics, Recent News

We had two weeks to spend in Kuala Lumpur because of my course. Let's get the unpleasantness out of the way first: I had the flu for two days in the first week, then three in the second. It was unpleasant not just because I felt like a popsicle all day but also because it was expensive, but I did not miss a day of class.

During the weekend that marked the midpoint of our adventure in KL, we spend the night at Kak Nor's house where Irfan played to his heart's content with his cousins! On Sunday, I went to continue the Modesty Blazing Star Wars Edge of the Empire campaign, picking up where we left off 14 months ago when I still lived in the city.

Ain and Irfan bought a Corellian VCX-100 freighter which I put to good use during the game earlier.


So the intensive translation course was pretty outstanding. Not only was it informative and useful to my work but the other attendees were all amazing people from various backgrounds, all coming together to learn the tricks of the translation trade. The instructors were practising translators with a truckload of information which they could recall at will.

The building we were in can see all the way to Taman Seri Rampai.


Set Course For The City

20 November 2015 | Hisham | | Family Pics, Recent News

And so it was that the workplace booked me on a two week course. The course was to be held back in Kuala Lumpur. You know the city: Irfan's kampung. We drove southbound and spent the night in Sitiawan before continuing on to Kuala Lumpur after a breakfast with Irfan's Atok and Opah.

We stopped at Sekinchan at a restaurant where lunch was to be had on what appeared to be a kotatsu. A novel thing, and it helped that the food was delicious.

We arrived in the city and headed for Cikma's place where we rendezvoused with every sibling of Ain (and their family) where Irfan was reunited with his cousin Aiman once more.

Then after, we headed for the building where the course was held way across town from Cikma's place. Ain had discovered that the place had accomodations for course attendees and they were affordable. Because of a communication mix up among the staff there, we had to wait for someone to let us in through the inner security door which leads to the lift lobby.

But all was resolved soon. 

The best part about the accomodations is that it came with a library! There were loads of books that were translated from Malay to English and vice versa. I was soon to discover that I had not one iota of time to read any of the books because of the course workload.

I really wanted to buy that Epic of Hang Tuah book, which was translated from Hikayat Hang Tuah, but in the end I had to spend on other books. So we will return some day for the Epic of Hang Tuah

The room we were assigned to was very comfortable as the boy is glad to demonstrate for us in the photo below. I found the air conditioning unbearably cold though.


Tsuro Picnic

16 October 2015 | Hisham | | Board and Card Games, Family Pics

Once upon a time, earlier today, Irfan came up with the idea of setting up a mat out in the yard so he and other neighbourhood kids can play board games outdoors.

A Tsuro picnic

Later, there were even sandwiches and apple juice!

With food and drinks!

Here's hoping the boardgaming will help Irfan and the other children to improve their social and language skills as they interact with one another.

Perhaps someday there will be RPG picnics?


15th Anniversary Pizza

15 October 2015 | Hisham | | Family Pics, Food, Recent News

Fifteen years since we that day Ain and I got married. We've had a number of anniversaries over the fifteen years. Fifteen years of juking and barrel rolling and Tallon rolling and drop kick Koiogran turn just to stay out of reach of blaster bolts from the rear. Sometimes, we would get it and it would hurt because it would mean I failed to keep my family from hurt and harm. Most of the time, we would pull through by the skin of our teeth.


This was the first year we celebrate our anniversary without anyone attempting to acquire a target lock on us. It was amazing. I felt like it was the first time I managed to get the ship out of the asteroid field and away from the savage squad of pursuing fighters. We were able to spend some on pizza without worrying about the cost killing us like before.

We spent the evening at Shala Pizza.

I got a little Pizza Supreme pan, while Ain got a burger. I did not get enough pictures because the phone ran out of juice.

Irfan had the one slathered with the BBQ sauce.

Even with the last 15 years of running on spit and chicken wire, with oil dripping from the ceiling and everything one step from breaking down into scrap, we kept on fighting the good fight. And we don't plan on stopping to. I would never have come this far if it were not for Ain at my side.

Love you forever, Ain.


Eid Mubarak from Sitiawan

24 September 2015 | Hisham | | Family Pics

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha from us in Sitiawan.

Rassum frassum haze...