Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The tale of Azalina Eusope by darkrye.com

I drafted the post below for a different site and I am reposting it here.
 
Ok. I don't know how many of you have read this piece of fantasy like article but to the uninitiated, this is the story of a Malaysian who made it kind of big in America thanks to her heritage and of course, hard work. However, before you start to wipe those tears away or awe in the awesomeness of her rags to riches story or wonder how backward this "exotic" little south East Asian country called Malaysia is, I need you to get your facts right.
1: Mamak is not a tribe! And it is not certainly the lowest caste in Malaysia. I, and million other Malaysians are not aware that Malaysia practises caste system. We have your usual favouritism, and to some degree, discrimination perhaps, depending on your definition of the word discrimination but that is not the same as caste system. But come on, tell me one place on earth that has zero discrimination. Anyway, back to Azalina and her claim of Mamak being the poorest, denied this and that due to them being on the bottom rung of the social ladder, that is such an intriguing point for her to say. Why? One of our most brilliant prime ministers is of Mamak descent. Quite a number of the top guns in the government service and even private sectors are Mamak. To get more personal, some of my fb friends are of Mamak descent and they are very brilliant ladies and gents, and I wouldn't dare say that they are poor or not successful in life. These Malaysian India Muslims who still speak Tamil and practises certain cultural things their ancestors brought from India to Malaysia are certainly not as deprived as the authors and Azalina wanted you to think.
2. Orang Utans are natives to Borneo! Not Penang. They are endangered, protected and could not be kept as pets. Neither could elephants for that matter. The way the writer wrote about Azalina's childhood which should not be thaaaaat way back in the past made me assume that either this writer was just plain stupid, or whether this Azalina fellow is such a brilliant story teller, to be able to spin such tale that sounded like something that could have appeared in the Jungle Book.
3. We have fridges and computers in Malaysia since I was small.. It's not recent technology. I won't dwell further into this, but that's it. This article is just too much. Yes, we are very happy that you are successful in the states, we are very very proud of that too. You should have seen how it was reported by the Malaysian media. They love you Azalina! But I think you should not exaggerate so much to sell your story. You have your talent in culinary. Make full use of that instead.
It's 3am and I need to sleep. But I could not just go to sleep thinking that somewhere in this world, some naive web readers believe every single word written on this darkrye.com website.. Sigh..

 

I am copy pasting the original article for your reference. Please don't sue me for plagiarism. What you are going to read below are originally posted on http://www.darkrye.com/content/story-azalina-eusope

 

Azalina Eusope is a San Francisco street vendor who works 18 to 20 hours a day serving up delicious Malaysian dishes from her Penang style hawker stand. She spent her childhood days hanging out with an orangutan named Madu and her blind chicken. Wait. What? Is this the Malaysian norm? Come to think of it, where exactly is Malaysia? 
azalina-eusope-DARKRYEFor myself, I had no idea until I met Azalina. The Internet has so shrunk the world that other places have diminished into a vague out there that’s not here. So let’s start with your finger on Australia. Go north, halfway to mainland Asia, and then west until you hit Borneo. Malaysia, consisting of two pieces separated by the South China Sea, occupies a good chunk of northern Borneo, and Peninsular Malaysia dangles off Asia south of Thailand. You with me? Now, off the northwest side of Peninsular Malaysia, there’s an island called Penang, which also happens to be the food capital of Malaysia, known for having the best street food in Asia. Let me repeat that in italics so you can soak in the full impact of that statement: The tiny island of Penang has the best street food in ALL of Asia. And that’s where Azalina grew up.
As a result of being a part of the ancient spice route, Malaysia’s ethnic recipe consists of Chinese, Indian, Thai, Javanese and Sumatran cultural influences. Articulating Malaysia’s diversity and its impact on her, Azalina called it a “bold, spicy, delicious and rich culture of flavors that shaped the person I am today.” Though growing up and stewing in the totality of this rich variety of cultural flavors, Azalina herself is a member of the Mamak Tribe. She described the Mamak as “a lower caste subcommunity born from Indian descent and rubber tappers or anyone with dark skin.”
Azalina was raised by her “coconut rice grandmother,” so called due to her “exquisite coconut rice, flavored with tons of spices, dried fruit and fresh nuts.” Her grandmother’s workdays started at 2 a.m. and ended at 8 p.m., during which she mumbled to herself a lot. After making and packing rice in the early morning, she shooed her 10 grandchildren off to school, sold herbs, rice and curry out of a little shack, and then, with a full basket on her head, walked from village to village selling rice.

azalina-eusope-DARKRYEAzalina described her “lush, green, beautiful village” as a place of “delicious memories spending time with my family surrounded by food, ritual, cultural celebration, my pets and our spice farm.” With her orangutan Madu, an inseparable sidekick, she explored the farm and hillsides, swam in clear rivers, and shared food from the same banana leaves. Madu loved playing hide and seek and spent her free time hanging out in the village with cows and elephants. She also loved banana fritters and lentil curry and never backed down from a good fight with a boa constrictor. A respected member of the family, Madu worked right alongside them, grinding and pasting spices. The blind chicken accompanied them too, pensive, no doubt bathing in the aroma of Malaysian spice.
The Mamak’s relationship to spices is original and complex. Says Azalina, “Spices are bits and pieces of who we are. They’re used in all of our cooking which brings us together in food, ritual and ceremony. Both in food and in us, spices seem to at first fight one another but in the end they marry each other.” Here, spices both participate in and transcend their normal roles in the creation of food by merging with the Mamak’s sense of themselves psychologically and spiritually.
azalina-eusope-DARK RYEOn a Mamak baby’s first birthday, they participate in their first Coming of Age Ceremony, where they confront approximately 200 spices and randomly choose one. The chosen spice then merges with their identity. “Spices,” Azalina says, “are the foundation for everyday life.” When baby Azalina reached into the multitude of spices at her own Coming of Age Ceremony, she came out clutching star anise. Reflecting on star anise’s influence on her life, she says: “I don’t easily give up. I just get back up and do it again. That’s the star anise kicking in me.”
Guided and consoled by the soul of star anise, Azalina left Malaysia when she was 15 to be a pastry chef in Singapore. Cooking took her to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Australia and Tokyo before arriving in San Francisco 10 years ago. As fluent in language as adventure, she speaks Tamil, Hindi, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Bahasa Malaysia, English, Japanese and “a little broken Arabic.”
When I asked her how common it was for a woman from her caste to escape that subcommunity and accomplish something like she’d accomplished, she answered enigmatically: “The only person that can break you is you.”
In San Francisco working as a street vendor, Azalina has successfully launched a nationally recognized Malaysian food empire. She caters, teaches cooking classes, has 12 products available for purchase at Whole Foods Market, and she even catered an event with her signature Malaysian street food for President Barack Obama. That’s quite a path for a woman who used to sleep outside with an orangutan and a blind chicken, a little girl dreaming big dreams beneath the stars, by the power of star anise, guided by spices.
 
 
If you have more free time, here's the video of an interview with her.
 
 
However, Azalina did not mention anything about Mamak as a tribe or orangutan or elephant in the video so my guess is, the author of the above article really knows how to spin his/ her story.
 
To Azalina, as I told you, proud of you, and all the best in your venture!
 

Friday, June 27, 2014

How to make friends with Malaysians?

While we are still on this topic of Malaysia, I would love to expand a little bit and include my thoughts on Malaysians and what others thought of us.

I wasn't joking when I said I really could not concentrate on my PhD work and started writing in this blog again since a few days back.  So I started googling Malaysia, Malaysians and the like.

Well what I found was rather interesting actually. Where most Malaysians consider themselves to be very outgoing and friendly, I saw that our foreign friends begged to differ in opinions. 

Basically,a lot of  the western expats including Aussies and New Zealanders (even though they are not located anywhere to our west in the traditional definition) , thought that Malaysians are aloof and very hard to make friends with.

Our Asian neighbours tend to have rather negative opinions on us too. As most Malaysians know, some Indonesians think that we are thieves who stole their culture. Some Singaporeans thought that Malaysians are hopeless and stupid. Some Japanese thought that we are a lazy nation. Too relaxed in attitude. And rather loud and boisterous. Some Philippines thought that it doesn't hurt to kidnap us, Malaysians. Some Chinese.. well you can guess after the MH370 incident... We are not popular there either. (Btw, before you start condemning me, do note that I said, some. not all... )

A few days back, Nouman Ali Khan , this guy below..

Well... he came to Malaysia to give some lectures on Al-Quran. While still in Malaysia he updated his status saying "Malaysia is beautiful, Malaysians are awesome". Of course Malaysians were elated to be praised by a public figure like Nouman Ali Khan, one of the most influential young Quran and Arabic scholars in the world.  But, the amount of comments by other muslims from different countries, drenched with hatred, prejudice, generalizing Malaysians, especially Malaysian muslims, putting us down, trampling our good name and so on increased in just a few hours after he updated his status. 

It made me realized you know, how the world look at us actually.. 

Perhaps there were some truth in what everybody said about us. From the westerners to fellow Asians to brothers and sisters in Islam. 

But then, perhaps there were just too many bloody idiots armed with a keyboard who are sitting in front of the screen, who has never even been to Malaysia, have never even made friends with a single Malaysian, who had too much time on their hands and were not cultured enough to think that being polite does not hurt. Or putting a blanket statement on a nation is a very idiotic thing to do.. Or people who believed everything they read online.. and started to deduce this and that about us Malaysians just by reading yahoo news.. you know... 

I don't know.

What I do know is, there are good people and bad people everywhere. So pin-pointing Malaysia as bad or Malaysians as lousy only shows the mentality of the speaker. 

Do you really want to know how to make friends with Malaysians? Well, here's the big 'secret'. Be nice to us.  Actually, if you don't know it yet.. it's universal. Be nice to people. That's how you make friends. 

Hope that helps ;)






Thursday, June 26, 2014

Malaysian, and proud

Don't let our freedom to roam the world be destroyed by your freedom to practise stupidity or lopsided political agenda!



Taken from movehub.com. 

World Passport Power

I'm fat, I know. But I don't need you to tell me so.

It's a fact girls and boys. Yes, I never try to hide from the fact that I am fat. In medical term, obese. Oh yes, obese because my BMI is way over where it is supposed to be. I know my facts..I learned about healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, nutrition and what have you in dental school, and from professor Google.... but still.. I am what I am.
 
Living in Japan is tough for woman. Especially woman with weight problems.  Everyone here is soooo skinny. Except for their national warriors, the sumo wrestlers of course.. but other than that.. fuh... Even my daughter who is just in 2nd grade always talk about how she has to control her diet because her friend told her that her legs and arms are rather thick. She is not what I would say a fat child. She is 135 cm, and weighs 31 kg. Perfectly normal for a kid her age. But no... people have to say what they wanted to say.. *sigh*.
 
So full these people are with their weight issues (even though in my humble opinion, it is not an issue at all), you can see the booming of these slimming centres and weight loss supplements. This did not only affect the girls but guys as well..
 
By the way, there are two people in my lab who always talk about other people's weight. These two are very very very skinny. But they kept on saying, especially the female that they need to watch what they eat or they will end up being fat like our professor. And they will laugh at how the professor is fat, has short legs and so on. Is the professor fat and has short legs? Well, she is not skinny. But she definitely is not fat. As for having short legs. I think half of the Japanese population has kind of proportionally shorter legs. Its's genetic perhaps..but it's not something that you should laugh about.
 
Sometimes these two would joke about how the professor is wealthy, and being fat is a sign of wealth. And then they would look at me and snigger.. And the female would say, ah..Naa, you must be very rich then...Well... Not Funny. I just laughed along though. I assume that these two are just so stressed out working under the professor that they found this joking about her could actually lighten their burden. Ah well.. Certainly not something someone around 50 years old would do.. right? Now I have to cross my fingers that they don't read this blog. Hahaha...
 
And I know it already! It's obvious. I have a mirror.. a full lenght mirror at home so I can see how fat I am now. You telling me that I am fat is not going to help me or do me any good other than hurt my already sensitive soul. Ouch.
 
Well, did I tell you, a few years back I lost almost 30 kilos.. yes.. 30 kilos (Americans, you do the conversion to pounds yourself) because I was so bored and had nothing much to aim for in life. So I made it a point to go on a diet. Oh boy.. I only ate very little, sometimes no rice at all a day. I took lots of salad and lean meat like turkey breasts, and white meat instead of red meat. I stopped all kind of sugary drinks. I only had ice cream once a month maybe..I also sweat a lot during sauna sessions..... It was crazy tough.. I didn't like the process a bit.. But..
 
After a year and 30 kilos lighter, I really felt and looked good. I was still in the overweight zone, but it was such a major change, every one who saw me were so surprised and did not even realize that I still had a few more kilos to shed. But... but... the sad thing was..the glory of looking and feeling great was not meant to last. I got pregnant with my second child and I just lost to temptations. And now I am back to square one.  Only God knows how frustrating it is..I still dream of losing weight .. but all my efforts to go on diet only lasted around 3 to 4 weeks... What can I say, I just love food!  :)
 
Anyway, I think I would love to start a weight loss progamme again before I graduate in 2015. Hopefully within the next one year, I can lose a few kilos to look good in graduation pics. Pray for me. Send heartwarming thoughts and comments!
 
 
 

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Your English is difficult to understand. Maybe because you are Malaysian"

Yes. I got that A LOT. But surprisingly all those comments were from non native English speakers or those who do not speak English that well. Nevertheless, they really damaged my self-confidence.

Am I that bad? Gee, I don't know. I wish I can tell whether I am good or not. I have never set foot in a country where the national language is English. And the native speakers that I know, I can only count them with my right hand. 

There was the late Kevin Cleary, American professor, who taught English in my university.

Mr McKenzie, another American who taught us English when I was in first and second year in Dental school.

Mr Nuttall, another English teacher from my University year. He's British though.

And of course, Bobby Thompson, who came to Japan to do his internship at Yoshida company. He was supposed to check English translations done by Yoshida staff but went back with a larger tummy courtesy of Japanese hospitality.

Mr McKenzie kept on praising my English every time he saw me. In one of his homework, he asked us to record ourselves reading poems. So mesmerized he was by my recitation, heh, he asked my permission to send the recording to the author (which was his mom actually). Apparently, I was the first Malaysian he knew and he was so amazed to know that Malaysian spoke English so well.

After half a year, Mr Nuttall and Mr McKenzie excused me from their classes because they said that my level was too high for the classes they were teaching. Mind you, I was not that great, but in Japan, they started learning English when they were in junior high. So what they learned in the first year of college was equivalent to what I learned in secondary school in Malaysia.

Kevin (as everyone here affectionately called him) used to tell me several times that he did not feel like speaking to a non-native when he was talking to me. He also told me that my pronunciation was good. May his soul rest in peace. He passed away recently due to heart problem.

As for Bobby, I still remember when I first spoke to him. Well, we were at a party.. sort of... It was rather silly because we were supposed to watch the famous Tsumida gawa fireworks display in summer 2012 but the old guy who was supposed to book a good spot (read: a spot with good view of the firework) somehow managed to book a spot with zero view. Yes, zero view of the fireworks. We could only hear the crackling sounds. But there was absolutely nothing to see from our spot. Nothing, So we ended up eating and drinking while entertaining ourselves to the sound of the most well known fireworks display in Tokyo. And Bobby being the blonde guy from America who spoke almost zero Japanese caught the attention of every one in our group. They were all like waiting in line to speak to him. He was definitely treated like a celebrity that night. Little did I know that he actually did not understand more than half of the conversation that night. He later told me that he just smiled and replied 'Yeah...' here and there..to everything said to him. Ah, so young and so polite... You've got to love that boy.

I was 'enjoying' the sound of the fireworks when I saw he was having difficulties trying to get the direction to the nearest public toilet from one of our friends. So I went up to him and offered my help. His first reaction was, " You speak English!" Well, I told him, the guy who was trying to explain where the toilet was to him also spoke English. To which he laughed and added "But you speak English like you have been speaking English for the rest of your life". Coming from a native, I took that as a compliment. And that really made me happy. So happy that I still remember it in detail. I doubt Bobby remembers what he said though. Anyway, just a trivia on Bobby, his sister used to represent the states for fencing. Cool, huh?

I am not writing this to brag about how all the native English speakers I knew praised my English ability. But I am here to highlight how most of the time people judge your language ability from your appearance. Especially people who know very little about the language. That is why I can never win a job offer for teaching English in Japan if my competitors are blonde and blue eyed. Even if they sound like Hitler when they speak English. 

Ah well, it's annoying but, I don't really care.. I don't teach English for a living anyway.

Major distraction

So, almost one year back I declared that I will write more. I wanted to write more. That definitely was and still is  the truth. But I have to say, I blame all sort of distractions that have been doing their best distracting me from writing masterpieces *feel free to puke* here on this blog. I don't want to call my family a distraction but time spent with them, as precious as it may have been, definitely limited my time to write. And as for my current goal is to get a Ph.D before October 2015, working towards it also contributed to the absence of quality time to just sit down and pen (keyboard? ) my thoughts. Ok, guys, I can hear you.. yes, I should know my priorities. Just in case you did not get it.. I do know my priorities. hence the lack of posts in all my blogs combined. 

Just so that you know, they (the lady who holds the power and her two side kicks, well mainly it was the lady's decision) finally allowed me to submit one paper after one whole bloody year of rewriting. Bear in mind girls and boys before you start hitting the keyboard to congratulate me..It was just submitted. Not even accepted yet. My time is running short. But.. lets just have faith shall we. 

Actually, I am supposed to continue with my second paper but at times like this, why must my freaky brain reverts to its old self and start dreaming of silly, yes seriously silly things! Did I tell you I used to dream, weird dreams. Of people I never really cared about while I was wide awake. When I was young, I remember dreaming of pillion riding a bike with Luke Perry. Luke who? Well, he was much adored by my friends when we were teenagers. I didn't really fancy him but since everyone around me were talking about him, how they wish he was their boyfriend and what not.. ah.. you know, when a group of teenage girls in an all girls boarding school whose only source of male entertainment were either the very few male teachers and staff we had in school .. Lack of testosterone in our life made us rather pathetic in other teenagers eyes maybe. I remember a friend even had a crush on the gardener! He was not that good looking to begin with. Yes. sad... but true..that was life, growing up in an all girls environment... haha. 

Back to my freaky brain, dreaming of silly dreams. Well, two nights back, I woke up with a start. Nah.. not really.. I just wanted to use that phrase. I first learned the phrase reading my classmate's Juya's English homework when we were in secondary school. And it sounded rather cool to me.. Woke up with a start. heh. There, another distraction. I am digressing again... Focus! 

Well, this time, the guy who appeared in my dream was a member of Japanese boy band.. well. I wouldn't really describe them as boy band  because number one, they are not boys. The youngest is 30 years old!  As for band, well, they don't really play instruments, they dance, and sing.. but basically they are more well known as dancers or performers as per description of themselves on wikipedia. 

I didn't even know his name before this stupid dream but there he was, all smiles, looking so sweet with nice teeth and dimple on his right cheek. And I didn't even remember what he was doing in my dream. I only remember I had this tingling feeling of when someone you really adore, noticed you for the first time, when I woke up in the morning. And for the past two days, I have spent my precious time googling his information, beginning with his name, both in Japanese and English. I only roughly remembered he was with the popular dance group. That's all I had for a start..Well, the more I learned about him, the more I think I am infatuated. Not only he's talented as a performer, he has the sweet look with that sweet, sweet dimple, rather tall for a Japanese at 180 cm, he has the kind of voice I like, and boy, he's such an artist. It's not the artist that just sing and dance type of artist but the artist who can draw and do amazing piece with their hands. He's apparently very good in Japanese calligraphy. The only drawback is perhaps he's 7 years younger than me.. Ok. Now you can laugh your heads off..What am I thinking? It should never matter because

1. The probability of him coming across this post is like one in a gazillion..

2. Even if he read this, the probability of him wanting to see who the silly author is, is another one in a gazillion.

3. Even if by miracle he stumbled upon and by another divine intervention, he wished to see me in person.. what's the point? I am but a married auntie.. hahaha

4. It was just a stupid dream man.


Well, as G William Domhoff suggest, dreams most likely serve no real purposes. He distracted me from my job. He took my time and made me google himself after the dream. But, he gave me a warm fuzzy and happy feeling that morning. So for that, I thank you, Takahiro :)



If you want to know more about Takahiro and Exile, google :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

iPhone blogging

Yeay! I can now blog while on the move! Lovely... Though it took me days to figure out how to get my post published via this app.. It still is lovelier than not having the chance to write things down when I wanted to.. Wait for more to come! Hopefully .. :)