Chocolate macarons

Child abductors, a parent’s worst nightmare


L-R: Christopher, Alexander and cousin Tiffany, then aged 5, frolicking with Daddy in 1-Utama.

A long time ago, I wrote in Inspirations that the most beautiful word in the world is Home. I have not changed since. Home is still that one most fundamental element in life. To some it means a safe haven. To another it may mean a dream house. To most Home is family and loved ones.

It is therefore with great sympathy this morning that I read the story of Li Qifang and his wife, Pu Caiju who lost their 4 year old son to child trafficking, a growing problem in China. After 2 years of heartbreaking search they finally had a breakthrough and located him 2,000 km away from home but just as they were on the verge of bringing their son home, he disappeared. Absolutely heartrending story. The mother is still keeping her child’s toys safe for when he comes home.

On a similar note, here is a most riveting account of the life of a stolen child, Huang Xiu Xiu.

I remember how each time we were on holiday in Malaysia I would get awfully paranoid about keeping a close watch on my kids. One day, when the kids were 5, I was busy setting up an outdoor bbq stove when Christopher came running to me with a stricken look on his face, “Mummy, Alexander is lost!!!”

Alexander had been coming out of our apartment with his aunt and a few other family members when a lift door accidentally closed on him. Though it happened in the relatively secure confines of a condo block in Gohtong, we just about panicked and spreading out, we searched frantically on all 18 floors. Daddy and Auntie LY finally found him alone and frightened outside the lift on one of the upper floors. At the sight of his Daddy, the poor frightened child burst into tears and howled in his father’s arms.

Vietnamese, indulgence without guilt


Ubiquitous accompaniments : bean sprouts, basil and nuoc mam

How many times have you lamented, “Why is it that if it tastes good, it’s gotta be evil?” I do that all the time. It either gives you pimples (well, in younger days it did ok ;)) or it makes you fat.

Well, somehow the Vietnamese got it just right. Absolutely delicious, yet light and healthy. Unlike Chinese who almost never eat fresh salad, a bowl of Vietnamese noodles always comes with a large, healthy portion of salad, notably fresh bean sprouts which accompany almost everything.

After eating spring rolls the Vietnamese way, we have never looked back since. Try wrapping spring rolls with fresh lettuce, a sprig of mint, a slice of fresh cucumber and dip into a small bowl of nuoc mam sauce, and you too will be hooked once and for all. Nuoc mam is just a mixture of water, fish sauce, garlic, sugar, lime juice and fresh chilli. Spring rolls eaten this way is much healthier than the Chinese way, and immeasurably more delicious.

I had Banh Thit Nuong for lunch today at our favourite Vietnamese eatery Yen Linh. This is a popular Vietnamese noodle of rice vermicelli which is served atop a liberal serving of fresh bean sprouts, lettuce, cucumber, mint and topped with that most delectable of Vietnamese cuisine, chargrilled lemon grass beef.


Banh Thit Nuong

I am willing to wager they don’t do it any better than this, not even in Hanoi :P

Hygiene across cultural frontiers


Rydges Carlton, Melbourne

After a trip to the toilet this morning I was reminded of a conversation I once had during Taylor’s College days, a memory that still stands vivid today.

We were talking about toilet habits. Know that this was in 1982, a time in Malaysia where bidets and toilet hoses were not common. Susanna, my vivacious Chinese friend was appalled to learn that none of her peers in our close knit group lived up to her own standards of hygiene by washing their behinds after a stint, big or small, in the toilet.

YUCKS !!! Soooooooooooo dirtyyyyy….. !!!

She exclaimed, revulsion written into every offended facial line scrunched up in outright disgust.


Carlton Crest, Sydney

Doubtless, trends have changed since then. Every new home in Malaysia now comes with a hose, for personal hygiene usage, next to every toilet bowl. Malaysians must surely deserve the world record for the world’s freshest smelling back end :P

Human beings are such creatures of habit. We get so used to doing this our way that we cringe at the thought of doing it other people’s way. And this thought was what amused me when I thought about the idiosyncrasies and contradictions of culture.

Let’s not talk about the Japanese. Hygiene has been hard coded into their genetic lineage since their early Samurai days.

Asian cities and villages are in the main, a disgrace. Dirty and unkempt, with uncovered monsoon drains, open air garbage dumps and disgusting perpetually wet public toilets, one would think that Asians are a people with unhygienic habits.

Yet, in more ways than one, Asians are fastidiously clean and meticulous in a way that could only be incomprehensible to others. Another obvious example is their universal insistence on keeping separate, (dirty) shoes to be worn outside the home and (clean) slippers that may be worn inside. A source of cultural confusion and another exotic habit incomprehensible to the Westerner :)

You know the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank adverts in the National Geographic mag ? Don’t you just love them? But of course, they stick to subject mattersmore socially acceptable than toilet habits haha :P


The throne in my castle

IVF and the rights of the yet-to-be fetus

Eight years after our marriage, the boys were born. They were not IVF babies although it took us 2 years of trying before they were conceived. I was then 32 and Andrew 42. Andrew looked and in truth was healthier and fitter than any young man 20 years his junior. Therefore at no time during my pregnancy nor the early years thereafter was there any hint of guilt that perhaps, just perhaps it might be unfair to the kids, and therefore selfish on our parts, that we had delayed parenthood for so long.

Then a health crisis struck when the kids were aged 6, wee babies in just Year 1 Primary. Their daddy aged 49, was diagnosed with colon cancer. Surgery and chemotherapy followed. During those harrowing six months, I began to feel the ugly pain of conscience for the first time. I felt that we had done any unjustice to our kids. It is hardly uncommon for major health problems to strike once you are 50 and over. Why did we not see this before? It is hardly fair to the kids. Thankfully we have put all that behind us now ** touch wood **.
Several years ago, there was a debate here in Oz about the rights of lesbian couples to state-funded IVF services. At no stage was there any talk of the rights of the unborn child yet-to-be fetus.

Today, yet again, I read about a blind and diabetic 62 year old woman, Janis Wulf, giving birth through IVF in California, USA.

There are legislation galore protecting the rights of the unborn fetus in the arena of stem cell research despite the enormous benefits to humankind of such research. Yet ironically there does not appear to be much concern for the rights of the yet to be fetus in the liberal availability of IVF services.

It is ludicrous to think that something that does not yet exist, the unformed fetus, warrants no consideration in the making of IVF ethical guidelines.

Is IVF all about money? Does this mean that anyone who can afford private IVF clinics has a right to IVF? It  appears that in the real world, money talks.  IVF clinics need to survive. To survive they need dosh.  Any dosh.

The Caucasian social gene

My sister was miffed when my Tai Gu, Dad’s eldest sister made the following comments on my 3 month old nephew, Daniel.

Soh soh geh. Mm hiao gan yin geh. Mat gai yin du oi eh.

Translated, that means, “Silly baby. Cannot discern strange faces from familiar ones. Likes everyone, stranger or family alike.”

Though socially inappropirate, that remark is an apt reflection of how shy and introverted Asian babies (and children) are, in general. My kids, though born and bred in Australia, are no different.

Caucasian children are amazingly social.

Their babies smile, coo and gurgle happily to strange but friendly faces and no one would even bat an eyelid.
In Australia, I have on several occasions have had little children, whom I’ve met only for the first time, take me by the hand and lead me to their rooms so they could proudly show off their treasures to me. Totally spontaneous and unprompted.

Tonight, at dinner in Cafe Primo, I was reminded of this when suddenly a little head popped up next to me while we were seated and dining. I looked down and saw this little imp with cheeky, twinkling eyes and a big friendly grin. I said hi. He stretched out his hand and pointed his little finger at Christopher and said,

I know this boy. He goes to my school. (Then he pointed at Alexander) I know this boy too. He also goes to my school. I have seen him three times and (looking at Christopher) I have seen him once.

We smiled at each other, highly amused. Then I introduced the family to him and he talked a bit about himself. He is from the Family Unit’s Reception level at Rose Park Primary. That means he must be about 5 years old.

Whereabouts on the chromosomes is this social gene, so prevalent in the Caucasian gene pool? :P

Que sera sera

Christopher:

Mummy, do you know what I want to be when I grow up? A long long time ago I first wanted to be a fireman.

Mummy:

Oh yes, I remember. After the Margaret Ives visit to the fire station, you wanted to be a fireman. And when you were in Year 1 you wanted to become a writer.

Christopher:

Hehehe yep! And then I wanted to be a scientist. And now I want to be the Prime Minister of Australia!

Mummy:

And so can you! You are born in Australia, there is nothing to stop you from being so!

Christopher:

(after some serious reconsideration)…. mmm, maybe that would be too ambitious.

Mummy:

There’s no such thing as ‘too ambitious’. You can be anything you want to be.

Christopher:

Actually, now I want to be a doctor when I grow up!

 

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