CNY 2016

On 8 February, the Chinese year of the monkey started. I am a monkey myself, when you are familiar with the Chinese zodiac, you know that I will celebrate my 72nd birthday this year…:-). Oh, you thought it was my 60th? Don’t play play, lah!

This year I decided to join Aric in his hometown for the traditional steamboat dinner on CNY eve. He had gone to Parit Baru already a few days earlier to help his mother with the preparations. As usual there was a big crowd, dinner in two rounds.

Second round. In the right picture Aric’s mother and his older sister with her two children.

 

After the dinner it was time for the traditional Yee Sang ceremony. Yee Sang is a Teochew-style raw fish salad. Actually yee sang means “raw fish”, but the pronunciation is similar to the Chinese word for “abundance”. The ceremony is that the family members gather around the yee sang and toss the salad with their chopsticks. The higher you toss the salad, the more abundance you will get…:-)   It is a very Malaysian Chinese tradition.

On day 3 of CNY I was planning to visit a “new” waterfall between Beruas and Trong, with my waterfall friends Siang Hui, Nick and Rani. First I was thinking to stay in Parit Baru until then, but would I survive the crowd…:-)? Aric advised me that it would be better to “escape” for a few days, and come back on day 3 for the traditional family  party.

So I went to Taiping on day 1. I had booked a hotel in Taiping already, when my friend May protested, told me that the hotel was haunted and convinced me to stay with her in what she calls the “Maywarmers Lodge”. Of course Rani was welcome too. Malaysian hospitality!

By the same Malaysian hospitality I was invited for two CNY open houses…:-). I am a member of the Taiping Heritage Society and both Yeap, the president and Sharon, an active committee member, invited me as soon as they heard that I would be in Taiping.

I arrived in Taiping just in time for the open house lunch at Yeap’s residence

After the lunch I met Rani in town, he had traveled on his bike. Also Paul and Fahmi, who happened to stay in Taiping. We spent a nice afternoon together, visited the Burmese pool (really too crowded) and had a look at the ruined New Club swimming pool. We had a drink in the Lake Garden food court, before Paul and Fahmi went back to KL.

Later Rani and I had our dinner in the same food court, one of my favourites. And the next morning we had a dim sum breakfast with our hostess May.

Originally our plan was to visit Kuala Sepetang, but we felt lazy and only had a look in the afternoon at some of my “favourite” eyesore places in Taiping. I must have a  masochist streak..:-)

That evening Rani joined me to Sharon’s open house. In the picture you see Sharon’s husband, Dr Chan Ah Lak and his nephew Henry Chan, who also happens to be a friend of mine. As usual Malaysia is a small world….

May had warned us that she was giving a CNY party for her former school mates that evening, so we were a bit shy to go back to her house…:-)  Of course a picture had to be taken, but after a while we could escape to our room..:-)

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The following day we had arranged to meet Siang Hui and Nick (coming from Teluk Intan) at the entrance of the Allagar Estate, between Trong and Beruas. From there a plantation road would take us to the trail head. Siang Hui had discovered the waterfall a few years ago and baptised it Lata Hui..:-).

But what a disappointment. When we arrived at the trail head, we were stopped by an armed soldier, who told us that the region was out of bounds because of a military training. What to do? The only alternative was the Trong waterfall. We decided to go to the Upper Trong Fall, but we were not really in the mood, there were many leeches, we got lost a bit, and rather dispirited returned to the Trong Fall. A nice fall, we had our lunch there and a bath. But still a pity, we were so full of expectations.

Here is a short video of the waterfall

After our lunch, we all went our way, Rani back to Meru, Siang Hui and Nick to Teluk Intan, and I back to Parit Baru. Where I caused quite a sensation, entering the kitchen..:-)  Leeches, somebody screamed and yes, I had not checked my sandals and brought a few of these critters in the house. Immediately they were covered with salt, but I felt quite embarrassed.

It was a nice evening. With the traditional firecrackers, a lucky draw, gambling and of course lots of food. Each year Aric likes to take an “official” picture and this year had decided for a location on the road outside the house. Not easy to control a crowd, but he managed…:-)

Here is the official picture of CNY 2016. The rule this year was to wear either a blue or a yellow shirt.

And here are the firecrackers. Illegal, but hey, this is Malaysia!

Gong Xi Fa Cai

My artistic sister

When you have been following my blog, you may have noticed that I have a nice family. See for example my recent report Family Gathering A disorderly bunch, my late parents called us lovingly. Here we are, in chronological order.

Only one sister, Lous, how she must have suffered in the past with five brothers..:-). During her working life she has been a teacher and counselor like me. But with an artistic streak which I completely lack 🙁

When I am back in the Netherlands, it has become a nice routine to visit her and her husband Arend in their  bungalow in Valkkoog, north of Alkmaar. During my last visit I took pictures of a number of her creations. Judge for yourself.

As you see, she is using a large number of different techniques. I am proud of her.

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Family gathering

When I am back in the Netherlands, we always try to organise a family gathering. This time on 18 April, one day after my 71st birthday. First we met in the family house at the Conradstraat, where we grew up and where my youngest brother and his family are now living.

Conradstraat

Conradstraat

It was a beautiful day, so we decided to take a walk through our hometown and see how much had changed..:-). Here are the six Stuivers, as we call ourselves. A stuiver was the popular name for a 5 cent coin, before the Euro was introduced.

The Stuivers

With the perfect weather, our native village (now a town) looked very attractive with quite a few historical buildings still standing and well-conserved. For Dutch readers of this blog, our Reformed Church is the Gereformeerde Kerk, the other one is the Hervormde Kerk. In English they are both “Reformed” and it would take many pages to explain the difference..:-)

Of course also a lot of renovation has been going on. The modern town hall (2003) has an eye-catching architecture. Next to the railway station a bike storage facility has been constructed in the form of a green apple :-).There is modern sculpture and some of the new residences look quite special

We had booked for our dinner in Casa Havana, a buffet restaurant inside  Avifauna This bird park was opened in 1950(!) as the first dedicated bird park in the world. We have been here regularly in our youth, but for me if was the first time in many decades to revisit the park. Before our dinner we had a stroll through the park. Of course birds in cages, like the hornbills and the flamingoes, but many also roaming free. Very nice, we should have come earlier, as the dinner was waiting for us…:-)

The buffet restaurant turned out to be a popular, crowded and quite noisy venue. A table had been reserved for us and we had a very friendly waitress. Starting wih a welcome cocktail, free flow of wine and beer, a large variety of food, even port with the cheese! Value for money.

“Shall I take a picture of your group”, the motherly waitress asked me. Here is the result

The family

The problem with buffet restaurants is that my stomach is not big enough..:-( Here is what I managed to consume (hm, actually there was such a variety of starters that I had two plates).

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After the dinner we walked back to our cars. Spring is a few weeks late this year, so many trees still were barren. It gave the pollard willows (knotwilgen) an almost magical appearance

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Before going home, we had a farewell drink in the family house. A very nice and satisfactory reunion!

In the Conradstraat

Journal 2-1-2015

December is not a very suitable month for waterfall trips. It is the season of the East monsoon, with lots of rain not only in the Eastern states, but all over the country. Not advisable to visit remote falls with a lot of river trekking. Early December I had visited the nearby Kanching Falls, we were back just before the rain started..:-)

Kanching

One week later I visited another waterfall with Janine, Edwin, Paul and Fahmy. I had been there before with my friend Eddie Yap, who has “discovered’ this pristine and unspoiled fall. He wants to keep it that way, I promised him to keep the location secret. We started early to avoid rain and we were lucky, the weather was splendid.

When at home, I spend much of my time with my computer, actually I must try not to get addicted (hey, you are already, some of my friends will tell me). Recently my computer chair broke down, I bought a new one in IKEA. Quite easy to assemble it…:-)

Chair

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My friend Chuan has recently discovered the hobby of bird photography and is a fast learner. One of his pictures, a heron in flight, is very nice and I had promised him that, after some editing, I would have this picture printed and framed. Here I am handing over the result, during a lunch in our favourite Black and White stall. The other picture is taken at the house of my friends Joseph and Beatrice. Christmas Caroling, very enjoyable even for a non-believer like me…:-)

Chuan Christmas Caroling

The weekend before Christmas I went to Sabak Bernam, to attend the wedding dinner of one of Aric’s cousins. It was a big event, more than 70 tables (that is the way the size of a Chinese wedding dinner is counted, one table is for ten people). Among the more than 700 guests there was one Kwai Loh (me) and one Indian (brother in law of the groom).  This time no pictures of the food (which was nice), the cutting of the cake, the uncorking of the champagne bottle, the yam seng singing. Just a few pictures of me…:-)

On Christmas Day we went to KLCC with Aei Ling, Aric’s older sister. Because her husband died recently, she and her kids will in general not visit family and friends during the mourning period of 100 days.  Therefore they did not attend the wedding dinner. We walked around in KLCC, crowded with everybody in Xmas mood;  later we had a nice dinner together.

A few days later there was a big family gathering in Damansara Mutiara, near to where we live. Everybody was supposed to bring some food, I had prepared eggs stuffed with salmon and cucumber. They liked it…:-). It was a pleasant meeting, Aric is a very popular uncle with the many kids around.

Here is the official picture

Family gathering

New Year’s Eve we stayed at home, as usual. This time we had decided to prepare a gastronomic dinner for the two of us, with Aric and I each preparing 5 dishes. We started with the first course at 7 pm and finished just before midnight. Big fun. Here is what we prepared.

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From left to right and top to bottom:

1. Pork Liver Pâté  2. Avocado with prawns 3. Shiitake Soup 4. Scallops with vinaigrette
5. Salmon with herbs from the oven 6. Tomato stuffed with macaroni, olives and cheese
7. Salad 8. Cheese 9. Ricotta with strawberry coulis 10 Ice cream with warm berries

Wines: Merlot, Chardonnay, Sake and Monbazillac. We also had a bottle of champagne but we decided to keep it for another occasion. Don’t worry, we did not get drunk.

Wine

Because of the severe flooding in several states (more than 200.000 people evacuated!), the government had decided to cancel the traditional firework celebrations. Usually we watch the fireworks from our balcony, this time it was a quiet countdown.

Happy New Year

Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year

Have you ever wondered why Christmas is celebrated on 25 December, and why the New Year starts on 1 January? Most probably because both events are close to the Winter Solstice on 21 or 22 December. A huge amount of information can be found on the Internet.

Winter Solstice

Because the Earth axis is tilted, the Sun is not always above the equator, but moves between the northern Tropic of Cancer and the southern Tropic of Capricorn.

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This causes the seasons and the variability of the day length. When the Sun is above one of the Tropics, he “stands still” before moving back. This are the Solstices (latin: the sun stands still).

In Roman times after the Winter Solstice there was the celebration of the birthday of the Invincible Sun God (Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) on 25 December. The day length was increasing and the Sun was growing stronger

 Christmas

The birthday and even the birth year of the historical Jesus are unknown. Probably in spring, 1BC or 4BC, a lot of theories exist. In the beginning it was not considered an important event and In the first centuries of Christianity his birthday was not even celebrated. Only when emperor Constantine (306-337) adopted the Christian religion, it was decided to let the Dies Natalis of Jesus coincide with the birthday of the Sun God on December 25.  Below are two coins from Roman times. Left with the Sun God, right with Christ.

Sol InvictusChrist

One reason for choosing this date may have been to make it easier for the “pagan”  Romans to convert to Christianity. There are other theories, for example that the date was chosen, nine months after the supposed conception in March..:-)

New Year

Choosing a date for the beginning of a new year is completely arbitrary from an astronomical point of view. Therefore  there have been numerous conventions throughout the ages. The original Roman calendar started with the March equinox, had 10 months and ended in December. September, October, November and December still have (latin) 7, 8, 9 and 10 in their names.The winter days between December and March were unnamed. Only later two more months were introduced, January and February. January was named after the god Janus, who had two faces, one looking forward, the other one looking backward. Why the beginning of the year was moved from the equinox to the (winter) solstice? Possibly related to the big year-end party of the Saturnalia, held in December. Quite a wild party!

saturnalia

The Saturnalia were a kind of festival of light, again related to the winter solstice. Gift giving, banqueting caroling, candles. Many elements can be found back in the present Christmas and New Year celebrations…:-;

The Roman calendar has been refined several times, by including leap days, and as Gregorian Calendar is now accepted all over the world. Even in Malaysia, where the three ethnic groups have also their own calendar. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, so the Islamic New Year (1st day of the month Muharram) moves 11-12 days earlier each year on the Gregorian calendar.

The Hindu and Chinese calendars are lunisolar. The length of a month is determined by the moon. So also here the New Year shifts 11-12 days to an earlier date every year. To keep the New Year in the same interval of the solar year, leap months are introduced every now and then. A more detailed explanation of the Chinese Calendar (and other calendars) can be found on my website

So the Chinese festivals (there are many) have no fixed date on the Gregorian Calendar. In 2014 the Chinese New Year was celebrated on 31 January, in 2015 it will fall on 19 February. Not moving to an earlier date, but to a later one. Because the present year is a leap year, it has an extra month…:-)!

There are two exceptions, where Chinese festivals follow the solar calendar. One is the Cheng Beng festival, the festival of tombs, when Chinese honour their ancestors. It falls always on the 15th day after the Spring equinox, 4 or 5 April.

And the second one? The Winter Solstice! It is called the Dongzhi festival and it is celebrated in the family with prayers for the ancestors. Traditionally it is the time of the year the family prepares Tang Yuan, glutinous rice balls that symbolise reunion and togetherness.

This year we celebrated it with Aric’s family. Everybody helped to prepare the balls which later were put for a few minutes in boiling water.

Preparing

the balls

On the day of the Winter Solstice (this year 22 December) they are served with sweet syrup

finished
Happy Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year!

Journal 17-10-2013

The last three weeks, after Aric went back to Malaysia, I have been busy with many social and cultural activities. I started with visits to my GP, my cardiologist, my diabetician, my ophthalmologist and my dentist….:-)  Everything is under control.

My dentist used a new torture contraption, which made me look like a breedbekkikker (wide-mouthed frog, rana ore lato, can only be found in the Netherlands, lol).

Breedbekkikker

I visited two more musea and went to two concerts. In the Concertgebouw I listened to Maria Pires, playing Beethoven. She got an ovational applause which she rightly deserved. With a friend I went to the Gauguin, Bonnard & Denis exhibition in the Amsterdam Hermitage museum. A bit disappointing, although the museum itself is worth a visit. Another concert was given in the impressive Neo-Gothic Dominicus church in Amsterdam. My friend Yolanda sings in a choir, they performed works by Bach and Mozart. Beautiful music, especially the Bach cantata Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir . With another friend I went to an exhibition of Hundertwasser  in the Cobra museum in Amstelveen.


The Hundertwasser exhibition was a pleasant surprise. I knew him only as an architect (here is is picture I took of the Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna, 6 years ago), but first he became famous as a painter, in the 1950’s. Here are some of his paintings. Both from these paintings and his buildings it is clear that he did not like straight lines, he called them devil’s tools..:-)

When I am back in the Netherlands, it has become a tradition to have dinner with Yolanda in a  ‘fine dining’ restaurant. This time we went to restaurant Vandemarkt and had a delicious dinner there. The presentation of the food makes it almost a work of art.The reason that in the picture the main course looks messy, is that I could not control myself, I started eating before I thought about taking a picture…:-)

vandemarkt food

Yolanda

Another tradition during my stay in the Netherlands is a reunion with my siblings. This time it took place at my sisters place. My brother Ruud could not be there because he just had had a hip replacement operation, but in these days, with webcams and skype, he still was able to join virtually…:-)

Just before coming back to Malaysia I went to Groningen to meet Ruud and his loved ones. He was already able to walk in the garden with his crutches and could point out to Jur where the walnuts were hanging. I stayed overnight and met his two sons, my favourite nephews.

Harvesting walnuts

Two nephews

 

 

I also met many friends, former students, ex-colleagues etc. Often for a drink and food, so not surprisingly I gained weight again, will have to work hard to slim down. The weather remained nice and warm with often spectacular sunsets.

It was only during the last few days of my stay in the Netherlands that the weather became autumn-like, with some heavy rain and lower temperatures. But altogether I have been very fortunate, the weather gods must love me. On  my way to Schiphol airport I finally could take a picture of the trees near my apartment in autumn colors.

I will end this post with a picture of my new watch. It is a Pebble watch, synchronised with my iPhone. It gives a warning when a SMS or email has arrived and you can choose between many different displays of the time.

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Amsterdam, Alkmaar, Schagen (28-30)-8

The next two weeks we will be traveling across Europe. Preparing for the trip today, so not much time for blogging..:-) Just a short resume of the last few days, detailed posts will follow later.

After enjoying the beach, it was time for Amsterdam again. First we had a look at the iconic film museum, located at the opposite side of the IJ. Then we continued our mission, looking for the originals of the Delft Blue miniature houses.

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We took pictures of thirteen houses this time and had apple pie in cafe Winkel, reputedly the best apple pie you can buy in Amsterdam. We walked a lot again, would have been easier if we had used a horse-drawn chart..:-)

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The next morning we had to wait first for the courier service to deliver the International Driving License that Aric had forgotten to take with him. After that we took the train to Alkmaar, where a big fun fair was taking place.

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We found a few more houses, before we continued our trip to Schagen, where my sister is living. Beautiful weather, lots of brambles in the garden, delicious.

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We had a barbecue in the garden. The next morning we walked in the countryside, we saw many cows, sheep and horses.

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After a light lunch we visited one of the many windmills. Although they are not needed anymore to pump the water out of the polders, they are still in mint condition, and very impressive. The main event for this day was to make a boat trip in one of the polders. Holland is really water-land, so many small canals and waterways.

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We ended the day with a dinner, prepared by my sister, in the smallest house of the village Schermerhorn. In bygone days ten(!) people were living in this house. Now it is a nice museum

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In the next days I will try to write short updates about what we are doing.

The beach and Haarlem 27-8

As the weather was still perfect, we decided to go to the beach. In Zandvoort, half an hour by train from Amsterdam Central. It is a popular beach resort. A few weeks ago there has been a Sand Sculpture Festival.

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Although the main season is over, there were still many tourists. After enjoying a plate of “Kibbeling” (fried cod pieces) we started our walk.

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And a long walk irt was, because our destination was the nudist beach. They are common in the Netherlands, but often some distance away from the madding crowd…:-)

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We had time enough to visit Haarlem on our way back. And have a beer…:-)

Back in Amsterdam we went to Pim and Nanda for a delicious mussel dinner!

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Amsterdam 25-8

The coming weeks I will try to post regularly on my blog, a bit like a diary.

On the day after my arrival, the weather was still splendid, my youngest brother Otto came to visit me and we agreed that it would be a perfect occasion for a walk.

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We went to Amstelveen, where I have been teaching for many years. The school buildings will be demolished soon, as a new school has been built nearby, and I wanted to take some nostalgic pictures.

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Not far from my school there is a nature reserve with a small lake. During my teaching years, I often passed this park on my way home. Here is a map with our walk indicated in green.

walk

It was a very pleasant walk. Usually I am back in the Netherlands during spring. Now, with autumn approaching there are different kinds of flowers. It is still a bit too early for wild blackberries, but we found a few already. A very surprising find was a freshwater lobster crossing the path. Never have seen it before in the Netherlands.

On our way back we passed the new school buildings. I enjoyed my teaching job, but I am very happy that I am retired now…:-)

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After my brother went back home, I had dinner with my good friend Inez. We know each other for more than 30 years, and each time I come back to Holland, she is one of the first friends I visit…:-) And not only because she is a good cook. We had a glass of wine on her balcony first

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Anniversaries

On April 14 it was fifteen years ago that Aric and I met for the first time. And on April 17 it was my 69th birthday. As  Aric would be diving in Sabah on that date, we decided to celebrate both anniversaries a week earlier, in the Eastern & Oriental hotel in Georgetown. The E&O is one of the grand hotels of South East Asia, established in 1885, a few years earlier than the equally famous Raffles hotel in Singapore.

E&O hotelE&O suite

We had booked a suite, of course not cheap, but we enjoyed the luxury…:-). We spent most of the time in our suite, went only out for food. Aric had an app on his iPhone that made it possible to take several pictures and then combine them into one. Here is the interesting result

Two times us

A detailed report with many more pictures can be found here: Fifteen Years. Back home, on the eve of my birthday and before Aric left for Sabah, we had the traditional birthday cake.

Birthday cake