Hope and the outcome: Post GE14 reaction

Image source: The Coverage

I am just an ordinary Malaysian, but I am certainly proud to be one at this particular point in history.

Just days ago, our entire nation went to the polls to determine who will govern our country for the next 5 years. It had been such a highly anticipated event that it feels so surreal that it is now all over.

I am not one to write about anything even remotely related to politics, but this election season was truly an emotional and exciting one. So I am not going to pass up a chance to pen down something about it, although this is more of a personal tale and nothing more.

To be honest, having grown up in Malaysia, I had kind of reached a point of disillusionment and cynicism about the ways things are in my homeland. In recent years, things have really gotten from bad to worse on so many fronts. To me, it felt like it had reached a point where it would only just continue to go downhill from here onwards.

Over the years, I saw so many people I know migrating overseas or at least attempting to do so. Not many are proud of the country nor do they see any sort of great future to be savoured by staying here. Government policies and incentives seem to favour luring Malaysians who were overseas back home to contribute to the economy. Nobody seemed to think of rewarding those who continued to stay here. To someone like me who had never left, it felt like we were being unappreciated.

Racial and religion based politics were everywhere. Although my own friends and family were never judgmental or prejudiced in their dealings with me, there was an overarching feeling of disunity that seemed to always linger in the background. Back when I was a child, it felt a whole lot more harmonious living in a multi-racial society, and it was something that we were brought up to be proud of, for the reason that it set us apart from other nations and made us diverse and adaptable as a world citizen. But the older I got as an adult, it seemed like the very foundations we had been taught as children was being undone.

Scandal after scandal was reported in the news, and it felt like the instances of corruption would never end. This not just being within government related transactions, but across all economic sectors too. So many stories, too many unhappy endings.

There was very little faith in the public education system , and most families who could afford it would rather send their children off to study in private institutions, particularly for higher education. I am among those who graduated from a private foreign university. It was insanely expensive, but my parents believed it would be better for me to study there than at a local university.

Public safety has been a growing concern, and the general perception these days is that our streets are not safe at all. You’re not safe in your car. You’re not safe outside of your car. Even when it was a reasonable distance that you could get to by walking, I’d discourage my loved ones from doing so because so much can happen while you are out on foot. We witness robberies and burglaries in the middle of the night. A neighbour of ours was once held at knife point just outside her house while I was at home next door, unaware. I recall a conversation I had with a complete stranger on a flight back to Malaysia. He was a foreigner and was surprised to hear that in Malaysia, it’s not safe to leave your bags on the front passenger seat of the car while you are driving (robbers would smash your window to grab your belongings when your vehicle is stationary at a traffic light).

Back in the days when I was a reporter, I also had to write several news features on very grim issues such as deaths in police custody, reform of the electoral process and urban poverty. It would have likely driven me to depression if it had continued long term (the publication I worked for at that time eventually closed down).

I recall a conversation I had with a senior colleague once, on the issue of gifts and bribery. Although I was never really in the line of fire (I never did newsdesk duty except on tech stories, which were mostly not as controversial or high profile as other kinds of breaking news), I was made to understand that it was such a commonplace practice and done very openly. Money would be slipped in as part of the press kit. People would often ask to vet through drafts of a story before it got published (for which I personally had several bad experiences with regards to). Impartiality was almost virtually impossible, especially in the mainstream media.

On matters closer to home, our household income is barely enough to get by every month, especially since we had a child and I quit full time employment. We are a middle income family, but yet we are not even able to have surplus to set aside for savings. The outlook for future household expenditure did not look like it would get any better in the future.

Being a Christian also, things also felt rather bleak because Christians were often the target of divisive arguments and political agenda. We are taught as believers to expect persecution in the world because of our faith, but there are days that it felt really unfair and sad to see other fellow Christians targeted for no good reason.

These are just some of the issues I had faced as a Malaysian in recent times. And the sentiments they brought about stayed with me as I braced myself to cast my vote in our country’s 14th General Elections.

In fact, just thinking of polling day itself brought anxieties of its own. So much precautionary information was being circulated online. It was helpful, of course, but it was worrying nonetheless. We were told time and again that certain parties would be up to dirty tricks, hence we had to be careful about the way events unfolded as we cast our votes.

Make sure certain polling clerks don’t have writing instruments and voice it out if they do and are seen writing things down. Pay attention to your ballot papers. Do they have smudges, marks that shouldn’t be there? Is there a stamp at the corner of the paper? Ensure that the candidate names and parties are correct. Do everything you can so yours will not become a spoiled vote. There are cheaters out there.

As my husband aptly pointed out on that day, these are not things we should have to worry about as voters. But in Malaysia, it is of concern.

So I went to vote on 9th May feeling extremely sombre and devoid of all hope. I didn’t really believe what I did would make a difference. I dared not dream of change or anything promising coming out of the elections. To be honest, I felt defeated. Like it didn’t matter what we did, because it would not alter the outcome.

But somehow, between the time that I had dropped my ballot papers into their respective boxes and the moment the final results were announced, I got caught up in the excitement of the moment and the promising turn of events that followed one after another.

It was breathtaking and nothing short of a miracle. It was hilarious and strangely comforting too, seeing the Prime Minister we grew up with back at the helm. And satisfying to have that glimmer of hope again, that chance that justice will finally be served and past wrongs might actually be made right at last.

I am glad I stayed in Malaysia and grateful that I could witness this momentous occasion that will certainly be a highlight in the history books that are to be written about our beloved nation. I am also thankful for all our local warriors, who in one arena or another paved the way for the change we experienced in GE14.

Life hasn’t always been kind to us over here. But there is hope. As I once used to profess, while we live, there is yet hope.

I look forward to a better Malaysia moving forward.

Fleeting

Dinner is due and there’s still things left to be done in the kitchen. But I feel compelled to write, even if just a bit.

Today has been such a mixed bag of emotions. Jamie and I went to visit another potential preschool today. It didn’t go too badly, but the experience made me realise how much growing up is expected of children these days, even while they are still at a tender age.

It is marvellous to be able to witness a child capable of so much at so early on in their life, but is it necessary? Are we in fact curbing their freedom to just be a child and savour the world as-is by demanding that they are able to meet supposedly age appropriate abilities? How does it feel for a child who isn’t able to comply at the time it is expected of them?

The other thought that occurred to me today is how limited my time alone with Jamie every day is becoming. For what seemed like an eternity, it felt like things would remain the way they are now for a long time more to come, but the reality is these days of being at home with me 24/7 will end soon. Surely there will be exciting times ahead thereafter, just that I wonder have I done enough to equip him for this upcoming next phase.

Here is the startling realisation I have come to after having been at home with Jamie for just about three years: It’s not necessarily enough to just be at home with your child. Being available and being physically present are two different things. I regret to say that often times, I am only one of those two things and not both. It is a sad sort of feeling when you become aware of this. I still have no useful enough remedy to overcome this problem.

It’s true what they say that we have such a short time with our kids before they move on in life. I already feel the weight of this reality. I can only hope that my husband and I are preparing Jamie well enough for whatever is ahead of him despite the limitations we have in terms of time, money and other resources.

Because essentially, I guess that’s what parenting is about: Helping them find their feet and equipping them to be able to handle whatever life throws their way. Building resilience. Shaping character. Leaving them with enough strength to go on, even when the time comes that we can no longer accompany them.

Insights and idiocy

Parenting has its fair share of online content these days.

Everyone and their dog has advice to dish out, promising you a better outcome for this or that issue you are facing with your child.

Then there are those who craft these almost poetic, contemplative pieces that seek to motivate you and inspire you and move you to tears as you reflect on your role as a parent or on the specific details of your child’s life as paralleled in their writing.

Not forgetting too those comedically relayed tales, guaranteed to elicit at least a chuckle, if not belly deep outbursts due to how uncannily similar its depiction is to something you experience on a regular basis.

So much has been said, but sometimes it feels like it’s the shiny, polished version. In retrospect, I often think of particular topics I’d wished someone would have addressed in order to have made it a little smoother of a transition for me into the various phases of parenting that I have experienced so far.

Maybe this identification of gaps in parental discussion is a cue for me to add my own thoughts to the World Wide Mix of Parental Confusion. Perhaps it will bring Parental Clarity. Or I could just be disillusioned in thinking I am any wiser than the next Mum.

Isolation

For some reason, I feel lonely today.

Perhaps it’s to do with having to constantly interact with my almost three year old son’s imaginary friends. Or the fact that out of the blue, a few different friends have decided to dub March as Meet Up Month, calling for reunions and catch up sessions.

Nothing wrong with all these things, I suppose. On brighter days, those may actually be considered good things. Funny things. Treasures to cherish.

But today, for some reason, I feel like I want something else. I want space. I want time. I want the liberty to do things I like. Not that it needs to be for long, or that I need a retreat away from everyone. I suppose I just need that metaphoric quiet spot I used own. That cloud from which to sit upon and dangle my feet, where I can watch the world pass by and think my own thoughts. Be comfy in my own sea of emotions.

I am a melancholic. I guess try as I might, I cannot run from that reality. And when there’s too much noise, too much talking, too many things that vie for my attention that I cannot hear myself think, I feel uneasy. I don’t feel like myself.

Funny that I should be admitting this to you, my random reader and friend. But that seems to be what life is coming to. A senseless bunch of events, strung together like beads on a string. And someday, when the space on the string runs out, its time to complete the loop and say goodbye.

(Okay, next I write, I promise cheerier things. TTFN!)

Countdown to Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year!

Being Malaysian Chinese carries along with it so many things that make up who I am. As much of a banana* that I am, so many aspects of the Chinese culture have seeped into my life. For instance, the kind of food we eat, the way we relate to our elders, etc.

Add to that the labels and expectations that are attached to being Malaysian AND Chinese, and then there is a whole added layer to what makes up my personality.

Anyway, the predominant thought over here at this moment is that I am not 100% proud of the heritage that we inherit by being Chinese (although only in part by now, since my ancestors have been on Malaysian soil for a good few generations by now), but this is who I am and I guess there must have been a reason for God to have fashioned this background that I have been born into.

This little video here, in some ways, says a lot. Never mind that it’s not about Malaysian Chinese in particular, it still reflects a lot on how the Chinese culture and mentality affects those of us who are born into this ethnicity. Notably, it speaks a lot about Chinese parenting in general: That emotionally distant, tough kind of love, the emphasis on studying hard, that inclination towards mathematics and numbers and money, that dedication to work, and sense of duty towards providing for the family.

Chinese New Year is mostly a family centred celebration. So all these things come up. All these family traditions, histories, imperfections… It is, to me, happiness tainted with a large dose of reality. The realisation that there will always be some family member that is alienated. Another who is indifferent. Yet another who tries too hard to unite everyone. All these things.

The angpaus. The hierarchy of family positions and titles. That emphasis on money. Those seemingly eternal debts: be they financial, emotional or all sorts of other in-between stuff. The polite small talk to mask the years of stories, sometimes buried out of convenience.

Hope I haven’t dampened the cheeriness of your Chinese New Year. These are just my musings. I love my parents. I like certain aspects of my Chinese heritage.I just hope to break the mould and be that bit different somehow.

Not to be that stingy, uncaring, crude person that the world might expect of me because I am inevitably Chinese. (Let’s leave the Malaysian bit for another post, another story – that too has a long list of things to be said about which is not worth delving into right now).

What’s your CNY reunion like this year? Mine’s alright, but a part of me always feels it could still be way better.

* A local slang which is used to describe a person who is Chinese but yet cannot speak/write in any of the Chinese dialects proficiently.

Cookery chat

This would not be a Malaysian blog if there was no talk of food.

Food is such a big thing for us over here. It is a means for survival, yes, but it is also a cornerstone of family life, a meeting point for friends, a catalyst for romance and many other things. We love eating out as much as we love our homemade creations.

The variety of food we consume here in Malaysia also speaks volumes about who we are as a community and the collective culture that we adopt in our daily lives.

So it’s only fitting that I should write more about this delicious aspect of my life.

In case you are clueless what it is we eat here in Malaysia, the above image is a general representation of what an average meal would look like in Malaysia. Sure, we have our noodles and roti and other fare, but in terms of staple diet, it usually comes down to rice. Or nasi, as it is called in Bahasa Malaysia.

The other two dishes you see in this photo are stir fried long beans (left) and stir fried chicken in Moroccan seasoning (right).

Stir frying is a common technique used in Chinese cooking. And since we are Malaysian Chinese, it is no exception in our household.

The great thing about stir fried dishes is that they are quick to whip up and require a very small amount of cooking oil. Cooking typically begins by heating the oil (normally about 1 tablespoon of it) and then adding in chopped garlic, shallots or onions into the mix, letting it sizzle for a moment before other ingredients are added to the pan. The order of ingredients that are thrown is would probably be decided based on which one would require a longer cooking time, eg mushrooms would go in earlier, and things like spring onions (which can be even eaten raw) are put in last. Both veggie and meat dishes can be prepared with the stir fry method.

The cooking time is short, but preparing the ingredients needed for a stir fry dish can sometimes be quite time consuming, especially if there are many different parts to put together. For instance, there would usually be a sauce mixture, meat might need to be marinated a bit earlier, and each additional ingredient would need to be chopped separately before being combined into the pan or wok later on.

Another frequent feature of Chinese meals is soup. This is usually clear soup, not the creamy kind you tend to see on a Western menu. The best tasting Chinese soups are double boiled and are left to cook for hours so it is more flavourful. These methods rarely take place in our home. The fact that a bowl of soup could be prepared at all is already something to be thankful for. My husband isn’t too fond of Chinese style soups, so that makes me even less motivated to make soup. I love it though, and if time permitted, I’d ensure there was one at the table each time we dined.

In our home, we also have an oven, 2 slow cookers and an air fryer to depend on for preparing our main meals. Other ancillary appliances include a blender, food processor, bread machine and sandwich maker.

The air fryer was the latest addition to the kitchen arsenal and it is serving us well. Tell me, who doesn’t like fried chicken after all?

Besides the Chinese dishes, we also often cook Indian curries and sometimes also try out Malay dishes like rendang or assam pedas. We also love Western food, so every week there is usually at least one meal of this nature. Examples of stuff we have whipped up in the past include shepherd’s pie, pasta, pizza and sandwiches.

Oh, and breakfast menu is normally simpler fare as compared to lunch and dinner. Bread or cereal is often what we resort to. Sometimes we’d have pancakes, muffins or steamed Chinese sponge cake too. I’m hoping to incorporate more options into the list of breakfast choices. In particular, some roti and pau and maybe some kuih and rice or pasta options too. But that might take awhile to work out, since it needs some prior planning and food preparation.

With our son around, we have also been making efforts to vary the items on our diet as much as we can afford to. So we have at least two types of meat every week, with chicken being the staple as it is the cheapest option available.

Fresh fruits are also served up on a daily basis in our home. I usually serve them over breakfast. But on lazier or less organised days, they creep into the lunch or tea time menu instead. Sometimes, they would be made into juice instead. But since this involves using the blender, that means more cleaning up so it isn’t as often as I’d like it to be.

I guess I shouldn’t cram too much information and stories into just ONE post. I’ll share more about our kitchen capers in subsequent posts.

I’d love to hear about what your daily meals are like though. Especially if you’re residing somewhere other than these Malaysian shores. Drop me a comment if you can 🙂

Chill

People over here in the Klang Valley are going nuts over the unusually cold weather. Calling it “winter” and such. 

Yes, folks. Aren’t we a cute lot? Winter = -°C and not 23°C or thereabouts. But that’s as good as it gets here. 

We live in the tropics so it rarely gets this cold. 

This feels more like it does in the highlands, which is where you will likely find many of us when we’re holidaying locally. Hehe. 

I love rain and I love cooler climates/weather. So I’m fine with this current setup. 

But as MetMalaysia has duly noted, these chilly days are numbered. It’ll be back to being sticky, sweaty and itchy again after Sunday. 

Sigh. If only this cold spell would last forever.