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Friday, December 28, 2012

Melaka, Batu Berendam: Childhood memories of kampung life

The old house as I remember it

Melaka, Batu Berendam: Childhood memories of kampung life
by Wan Chwee Seng 

They paused to listen, ears straining.
 From somewhere in the distance they heard the unsettling sound _ the ominous and relentless drone of approaching planes.
As two black specks appeared in the distant sky, the bigger children were hurriedly rounded up, the little ones scooped into adult’s arms and the babies snatched from their cradles. 
They scurried, in a flurry of excitement, toward the air-raid shelter, a long rectangular trench, sited at the right side of the house and obscured from view by a clump of banana trees. 
Moments later, loud explosions were heard and they learned that the nearby railway godown and the Batu Berendam airport had been bombed by B52 bombers.  
I cannot remember much about the whole incident which  was related  by mother , but I did remember seeing the  planes, perhaps my earliest recollection of the war when we stayed at our grandpa’s kampung house, in Batu Berendam Melaka .

Before the outbreak of World War II, father was  working as a clerk in Kuala Pilah , but when  news about the impending Japanese invasion reached him we were all despatched to our grandpa’s house.
 The house was a wooden structure with palm-thatched roof and  a floor of hard-beaten earth that gleamed like polished cement. A dirt track flanked by towering coconut trees, fruit trees and lallang ran from the house to the main road. To the left of the track, just before the main road, was a pond: the remain of an abandoned tin mine.
 The three other wooden houses in the  neighbourhood  belonged to our close relatives: two granduncles(kukong) and a grand auntie (kimpoh). 

When the War ended we all moved back to Kuala Pilah and it was only during the long school holidays that we returned for  brief visits. 
 Then in the mid-fifties, father passed away, and  while waiting to move into our own house  which was still under construction we stayed in our grandpa‘s house. After the relatively easy life in Kuala Pilah where we had electricity and tap water, adjusting to kampung life was quite an experience for us. 
We had to learn how to draw water from the well and  carry it to the house. My siblings and I found out that, with the aid of a long pole,  it required two of us to carry a  water-filled kerosene tin to the house. About a quarter of the water would  spill out from the tin long  before we even reached the house. The lush grass that lined the dirt path bore testimony to our generous contribution. Meanwhile we watched with envy as our more experience  cousin could   carry effortlessly two big pails, suspended from each end of a long pole slung across the shoulder, without  spilling the water.  We learned that to prevent the spill all we had to do was to place a yam leaf on the surface of the water.
Carrying water from a well

In spite of the little inconveniences and shortcomings we found that life in the kampung was  carefree, full of fun and there were lots of things waiting to be discovered.
I remember following my cousin, Eng Kim to the bushes behind the house where we searched for edible wild berries such as buah pelandok and buah kemunting.
The edible berries

 Once we stumbled upon some eggs under a wild rhododendron bush (senduduk) and my savvy country cousin said they were the eggs of the nightjar. The find became a closely guarded secret for the two of us.
A nightjar nesting under a rhododendron bush

 We also saw a flock of green pigeons alighting on the branch of a tree and I was told that to snare them the hunters would smear glue on the branches where the pigeons roost. As we picked our way through the dense vegetation we found ourselves on the bank of a pond and Eng Kim pointed out to me the nesting holes of the kingfishers.
Green pigeons and a kingfisher on a langsat tree

The pond was also the place where my cousins Alan, Fook and Swee  had their swimming lessons and I was told Swee nearly drowned while learning to swim in its deceptively placid water. A guava tree at the edge of the pond with branches that droop into the water provided them with a convenient 'diving board'. 
I  used to follow my cousins  when they went fishing for carps and catfish at the nearby pond.  I learned from them how to dig for earthworms and how to thread the worm to the hook. Sometimes, they would hunt for frogs among the tall grass which they used as live baits when they went fishing for snakehead fish ( ikan haruan).
Without electricity night descended fast on the village. In the tranquility and stillness of the night we studied and talked in low whisper under the pale glow of the flickering oil lamps. 
 However, when there was a full moon, we would sit with Grandpa  on the small front porch while he regaled us with classical Chinese stories and tales of his travels.
 I remember one moonlit night we even played rounders under the pallid light of the moon with my brother and sisters, cousins and our young auntie, Yeoh Neo. Our ball was an unripe pomelo  and our bat  a branch of a tree. The silence of the night would often be broken by our boisterous shouts and the jovial voice and spontaneous laughter of our auntie. 
The road leading to the kampung house

Today, as I drive along the road of a housing estate leading to my parents' house,  it brings back fond memories of my childhood days as  the road was once the playground of my youth. In fact, mother told us grandpa once owned the land where the housing estate stands, but had to sell it to pay for his medical expenses.
Grandpa's house hemmed in by retaining walls and tall buildings

My grandpa's house, now a brick building,  still stands in the old spot, but the fruit trees and towering coconut trees have been replaced by retaining walls and tall buildings that looked down on it like some unwelcome custodians. 
Now, as I look at kids playing computer games in the comfort of the living room, I think about those carefree childhood days in the kampung when we spent a great deal of our time outdoor: playing, exploring, discovering, learning and enjoying the beauty of nature.

Listen to Isla Grant sings " Childhood memories "

 Daniel O'Donnell : "Home is where the heart is".

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Melaka to Jogjakarta


  Melaka to Jogjakarta
   By C S Wan

“ Anyone else want to go to Borobudur?” 

My niece’s voice drifted from the kitchen to the living room where I was seated with my wife and sisters.
The word conjured image of a towering Buddhist monument  with its six square platforms and three circular platforms.

 ‘Not for me’, I thought.

As for my niece and her cousins, there should not be any problem. They had been climbing quite steep slope at an early age.

Kecik-kecik dah pandeh panjat

What about the other ’empek, engku, engcim, and engkim, who were joining the trip?  My initial doubt was quickly dispelled when I thought about  the long practice and preparation they had made before the trip: line dancing, dieting, walking, ’urut’; the tongkat, koyop etc. I was confident they would make it to the top. 

While the ‘younsters’ sat back and relax my three nieces: Joon, Adeline and Lisa were busy making arrangement for the trip. 

A few weeks before the trip I received an email from Joon.
‘Are you sure you don’t want to join the Wan family for the Jogs. trip? It is is still not too late to change your mind, I have booked a 20 seater micro bus _ plenty of space.’
They had chosen the right date, the right time and the right number of people. I was not going to spoil the party, so I kept my silence.

So, on 12-12-12 at 12pm , eleven of them took a flight from the LCCT Internatinal Airport, Kuala Lumpur to Jogjakarta where Joon was waiting for them; exactly 12 members in the party.

The trip as recounted by Siew Leng.

Joon waited for us at the Jogjakarta airport with a 20-seater micro bus to take the 12 of us to the hotel. 

"Apa nombor bas?"
"Eh, sini tak jual empat ekor."

The view on the way to the hotel.

Nampak macam Simpang Empat, Alor Gajah.

"Buah apa ini?"
"Inilah buah salak pondoh."

                                        "Wah, berat juga!"

                                           "Bu, manis atau masam?"
                              " Boleh tahan."

After the long trip, we wait for lunch to be served.

"Dah lapar, tapi terpaksa senyum for the camera woman."

"Tak perlu bayar,"

"Semua dah masuk akaun buku tiga lima, kemudian baru bayar."

" Tengok banyak lagi wang rupiah!"

"Tak 'pa lah , boleh pergi casino."

                   Checking into the Manohara Hotel. 
                   " Mana paspot, gua?"



                   At the Manohara Hotel garden

A video show on Borobudur was screened at night

and this was followed with a dance performance.

No, we did not perform. Posing saja with the gamelan.

All dressed up for the climb up Borobudur monument.
Eh, bukan nak gaya.
 Tourists are obliged to wear the batik sarong as a mark of respect for the holy place.

   Banjaran gunung masih diselimuti kabus tipis.

It is before seven in the morning and the distant mountains are still shrouded in mist.

                   Our group, looking rather tense, standing stiffly
                    in front of the Borobudur monument.

                   "All hands on the hips."
                    "Ah, like that more sexy."

                   We are just following our tour
      guide instructions.

                           ' Pakeh dark glasses, tiang pun tak nampak'

                  " Nak rehat dulu sebelum panjat"

                 Statue of Buddha silhouetted against the light
                    of dawn

                   Paying homage to Buddha

                   Tired, but we made it to the top.
                    Lutut sakit sikit.

  At the Istana Batik Ratna Hotel

   One of the lanes near Malioboro Street

    The facade of the Purawisata where we watched

  the Ramayana ballet

  The beautiful and colourful Ramayana ballet. 
    The performance was preceded with music that sounded like
    'Are you sleeping brother John, brother John' Hehe!
       The rather haunting and soothing music can lull one to sleep.
     'My mommy tidur through the performance'

All eyes on the food.
                     "Sup apa tu?"

                   "Jangan pandang sini. Cepatlah makan, nanti lauk 

                    At the Kraton ( Sultan's Palace)

                   In the compound of the kraton

               Traditional Javanese architecture in the kraton.

Visit to the prambanan Hindu temples complex.
Originally there were 240 temples, but now there are only about twenty temples. The May 2006 Java earthquake damaged some of the remaining temples. 

                    After the hike to the temples.
                   "Dah lapeh ni."
                    "Tunggulah sekejap."

                   One of the many trishaws that can be seen on 
                the street of Jogjakarta.
                   Joon: "Can be scary, when you are seated in front and you see the on-coming cars rushing past you."

                   Kereta kuda lebih selamat.  Slow and

After the hike semua boleh relaks dan senyum

 A huge thanks to Joon, Adeline and Lisa for their
                    time and effort in making this trip a truly 
                     enjoyable and memorable one.

Notes: This piece is  specially written for the members of the group, families and friends. Other readers are welcome to share
the story. My apology to the non-peranakan speakers who may find difficulty in understanding the peranakan words in the text. 
This piece is written in good faith. No offence intended. 
Hope you enjoy the story and the slideshow.