Boom Boom !!

The end of Ramadan, the fasting month, is a religious holiday, celebrated by Muslims all over the world. In Malaysia it is called Hari Raya Aidilfitri, often shortened to Hari Raya which is Malay for Celebration Day. Traditionally all Muslims go back to their hometown (“balik kampung”), but as it is a public holiday, also non-Muslims often do the same.

This year we went back to Aric’s hometown, Parit Baru. This part of Selangor is rural and very Malay. It is a tradition that with Hari Raya, the driveways and boundaries of farmhouses are decorated with small oil lamps, very romantic and peaceful.

Another tradition, less peaceful, actually extremely noisy, is the firing of the “meriam kelapa”, which translates as”coconut cannon” Before you reach Parit Baru, you will see this, near the mosque: Meriam Kelapa These medieval looking contraptions are made of a coconut tree trunk, sawed in two halves, which are hollowed out and then tied together again. Not an easy job!

The resulting “cannon” is tilted upward, and a mixture of carbid and water is put inside the hollow trunk. Carbid (calcium carbide) reacts with water, forming acetylene which is flammable and highly explosive. The acetylene vapor is heavier than air and fills the hollow trunk. When it is ignited through a small hole at the bottom of the trunk, a major explosion occurs.

In the right picture the remains of old meriams, the left picture shows a new one.

Meriam Kelapa Old meriam

In the night we went out to see them in action. You will find these cannons  all over the place, just follow the direction where the “boom” comes from. Not far from Aric’s house we noticed men preparing three of them.

I was taking pictures when the first “shot” was fired. And almost literally shocked. I was standing quite close, the shock wave took away my breath and for some time I was worried that the shock wave had damaged my eardrum. Fortunately that was not the case. With some tissue paper in my ears, I watched the next salvo’s. It was fascinating, but also a bit frightening, like being in a war.

Here is a video, quite dark, but I hope it gives an impression. The next evening we went to another location, where they had only one cannon, but what a monster it was! Officially it is illegal to build and fire these cannons, accidents happen, and even buildings can be damaged by the shock wave. After the first shot, neighbours were complaining loudly, so the direction of the cannon was changed. This time I had put real earplugs in my ears…:-) Spectators meriam

My iPhone has a repeat option, taking pictures every 1/10th of a second. Here is a collage of several pictures (click to enlarge) Fire! What an interesting experience!

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Maaf Zahir dan Batin!

Journal 12-7-2014

From 29 May until 9 July I have been back in the Netherlands. During that period I have been so busy  that I had no time to update this blog. Here is a journal about what I have been doing. More detailed reports will follow. I arrived on Ascension day and had not much time to overcome my jet lag because two days later Yolanda, Paul’s sister, celebrated her 65th birthday with an afternoon party. Here she is showing her youngest grandchild. It was an animated party, where I met several old friends. The picture to the right shows our former music group, numerous times we have come together to play (classical) music and enjoy  the fellowship (and the food!).

Yolanda My friends

The next few days Paul and I have been done some long-distance walking, an activity we also started decades ago. We had planned to walk three days, a part of the Pelgrimspad  in the southern part of the Netherlands. But the first day I developed a few painful blisters, so we had to cut short our trip. Beautiful countryside, here is a detailed report: The Dutch Pilgrims Path

Pilgrims Path When I am back in Amsterdam, one of the first things I do is to call Inez, my long time friend and soul mate.  We had a nice dinner together in a Turkish restaurant. She is also a proud grandmother now…:-). By the way, don’t laugh at me that I am always complaining that I gain weight when back in Holland (this time it was only 2 kg) Turkish food Inez Turkish food



Aric arrived a few days later, just in time for the family gathering. My siblings and I always try to have a reunion during my visits, and this time we decided to do it in a grander way, because we had much to celebrate. My brother-in-law and I turned 70 this year, my brother Ruud 65 and my brother Pim 60, nephew Jasper 40, nephew Stefan 35, twin nephews Xander and Aswin 15. And there were several relationship celebrations. So we rented a number of bungalows in a recreation park and spent there the Whitsun weekend. Here is part of the crowd Family meetingAnd here a few more pictures

We had decided to make a trip to Norway during this visit. I had seen pictures of the Preikestolen, near Stavanger in Southern Norway and had become fascinated by this rock, rising 600 meter above the water of the Lysefjord. So we booked a flight to Stavanger and climbed this Pulpit Rock! Here we are. I can tell you that It is quite scary to get close to the edge…:-)

Preikestolen Preikestolen

As it was our first visit of Norway, we also visited a few other places, Bergen and Oslo. Traveling from Bergen to Oslo by bus, boat and train is quite spectacular, beautiful fjords, numerous waterfalls and still a lot of snow in the higher regions. Stavanger and Bergen are picturesque towns with their brightly-coloured wooden houses. In Oslo we visited the famous Vigeland park, an ice-bar and the local nude beach. Our overall impression of Norway is positive, we like to come back. But the country is really very expensive. I took about one thousand picture, here a few. Click here for a detailed report.

After we came back in Amsterdam, we took two days absolute rest, because the trip was interesting but also tiring. The last day of Aric’s visit we decided to go cultural and visit two musea. Not sure if you can call the Erotic museum and the Marijuana museum cultural, but it was fun…:-) After lunch with a pancake, we went to the beach. At 7pm it was still warm and sunny.

Although the water was still very cold (~ 16 C) I even took a bath. It happens not often that you have the beach completely for yourself…:-)! Beach Time flies, so the last two weeks of my stay were quite hectic. One day I met Nellie, my friend of 50 years, in Zwolle.  It was a real cultural visit, the Nijenhuis castle (part of the Fundatie museum) had two interesting exhibitions. We also visited the bookshop Waanders in de Broeren, I was very impressed by the way this old church had been given a new destination.

The next  weekend I did another long (20 km) walk, with two of my former students and the partner of one of them. After heavy rain at the start, the weather became sunny. From the train station of Amersfoort we took a bus to Woudenberg and then walked back to the station. I have documented the walk in an EveryTrail report

Heiligenbergerbeek wandeling

Another tradition during my stay in the Netherlands is that I visit my (only) sister and my brother in law. They live in a nice bungalow near Schagen and this time they took me around the countryside. We visited a plant nursery, specialised in unusual/exotic flowers and got a private guided tour by the friendly owner. Also a windmill, where the miller explained finally what had puzzled me for a long time: why do rotate windmills always counterclockwise! He is living in the mill and was so kind to give us permission to have a look inside. We also went to the seaside. In that particular region there are no dunes, so the hinterland has to be protected by a dyke. And the next morning we visited my brother Arie and his wife Ineke, who proudly showed us their new house in nearby Alkmaar.

Here are a few more pictures of my activities. From left to right, visiting my former vice-principal and good friend Dick, dinner with Yolanda, lunch with Edmund and Johan and dinner with my ex-student Raoul and his Thai husband Aunn.

On the last evening for my departure I had dinner with Pim and Inez in a restaurant in the northern part of Amsterdam. A pleasant surprise, we had to cross over the river by ferry to an industrial area, the restaurant was located in a former machine factory. Delicious food and very friendly service. The name of the restaurant is Hotel de Goudfazant

Then it was time to go back. The last days it had started raining, maybe the country was crying to see me leave…:-) But I was looking forward to Malaysian food and to celebrate Aric’s birthday…:-)

Rain Hokkien Mee IMG_9011