Reflections from a sort-of A to Z Challenge survivor

survivor-atoz2b255b2017255d2bv1I had every intention of completing my posts ahead of time despite the fact that I would be off on a holiday for two weeks in April. However, those intentions turned out to be pipe dreams.

Nevertheless, when I realised that I’d be posting according to my own schedule and not the planned schedule for the challenge, I tried not to panic and reminded myself that this challenge is not meant to add stress to my life.

So, I plodded on, and was happy (and not anxious) at posting some letters many days later. One of my motivations to keep going was that I really liked my theme this year – Malaysiana! I was happy to write about the culture, food and other interesting facts about the country I live in. It was equally awesome to read the comments!

So, post A to Z, I want to catch up on blogs that I’ve missed from the folks that did this year’s challenge! Also, I’ve been toying with the idea of perhaps doing a post focused on Malaysiana perhaps once a week so we’ll see how that pans out!

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Zoo Negara

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Malaysiana

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The Vienna Zoo was opened in 1752.

The London Zoo, or as it was known then, “Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society of London”, began operations in 1826.

Compared to these zoos in Europe, Malaysia’s Zoo Negara or National Zoo, is relatively young, opening its doors only in 1963.

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I have to confess, the last time I went to the Zoo Negara, was in primary school as part of a school trip so I unfortunately cannot describe its current state (which I hope has improved!). One of the biggest zoo news recently, well in 2015, was the birth of a baby Giant Panda named Nuan Nuan at the Giant Panda Conservation Centre.

I’d actually like to take a close look at this baby and I’d probably have to do it soon since according to Malaysia’s agreement with China, Nuan Nuan has to be returned to China when she turns two.

Yang Di-Pertuan Agong

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Malaysiana

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The 24th of April, 2017 was the installation of Malaysia’s 15th Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, who’s the sultan of the state of Kelantan.

Yang Di-Pertuan Agong is a title referring to the monarch and the head of state of Malaysia. This position is rotated among the sultans and other heads of states in Malaysia, every 5 years.

The Yang Di-Pertuan Agong is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Being the country’s supreme head, he is also tasked with appointing the Prime Minister, the ministers and deputy ministers and the attorney-general.

The current Agong, Sultan Muhammad V, who at 47, is the youngest monarch appointed since Malaysia’s independence in 1957.

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eXotic Malaysian Facts

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Malaysiana

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Three eXotic facts about Malaysia you might find interesting (or not) :

#1. We call our elders uncle or auntie – Being called uncle or auntie by someone who is younger than you are but not someone you’re related to, is how we show respect to our elders. When I was younger, folks I interacted with at the grocery store or post office, would call me Kak (sister). This is also a form of respect. However, in recent years, no one has called me Kak and instead, I’m now auntie 😦

#2. All Malaysians have an identity card (IC) – It’s a rite of passage that every 12 year old get their identity card (IC). Each IC has a unique identifying number (like a social security number), full name, photo, current residential address and gender (in case you can’t tell from the picture, I suppose). The IC also comes with a chip. Our IC is more important than our driver’s licence, we need it to open bank accounts, apply for a passport and most government transactions. There’s been a rumour that information from our driver’s licence would be merged with our IC so that we wouldn’t have to carry both photo IDs. So far, it’s remained that – a rumour.

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#3. Where’s the pork? If you visit Malaysia and decide to go grocery shopping, be prepared to not find pork in the meat section. That’s because in our supermarkets, there is a non-halal section, which is normally somewhere in the back of the store and this is where all the pork, pork products and products without the halal certification, is secreted away. This section would also have their own cash register, so you pay for your non-halal products there before you pay for the rest of your groceries at the regular cash registers before exiting. Alcohol is also found in this section.

White Rajahs

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Malaysiana

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Sir_James_Brooke_(1847)_by_Francis_Grant
Source: Wikipedia Commons

Sarawak, my home state, was once a Kingdom and its ruler was Sir James Brooke, the first White Rajah, who ruled from 1842 until his death in 1868.

He was conferred as Rajah after he helped to quell a rebellion among the Sea Dayaks in Lundu, and from what I’ve read, it seemed that it was a situation that he fell into totally by accident!

During his rule, Rajah Brooke, accomplished a great many things, among them he dealt with the practice of head-hunting and also suppressed piracy in the region.

Just recently though, I learnt that the Brooke Gallery was opened in Fort Margherita, Sarawak on September 26th, 2016 by Jason Brooke, a descendant of Sir James Brooke. Interesting fact: If the Brooke Dynasty still ruled in Sarawak, Jason Brooke would’ve been second in line to the title of Rajah of Sarawak.

Village

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Malaysiana

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Villages abound in Malaysia. One of the more well-known villages that we have is Kampung Baru or New Village, which is situated in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Due to its prime location, developers have been wooing residents of the Malay enclave, however elders in the village have resisted. So far.

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Source: http://www.skyscrapercity.com

I’ve never been to Kampung Baru but I’ve only driven past it on the myriad highways that surround this village established in the 1900s. Friends who have, tell me that it’s a typical Malay village, wooden houses and all.

And apparently, this humble village, which began as a pastoral community way back when, is now a food hub as well. Guess I better plan a trip there soon!

Ulam

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Malaysiana

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If I didn’t have any access to pictures and was asked to describe what an ulam (oo-lam) is, I’d say that it’s a platter of raw vegetables (cucumber sticks, a variety of herbs, grilled eggplant, etc…) with a spicy chili and shrimp paste dip or sambal belacan.

However, I do have access to pictures so I’ll just show you what an ulam is –

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Source: Asian Food Channel

In Malaysia, there are about 120 types of plants that can be used in an ulam. These plants can either be eaten raw, blanched or grilled lightly. Each region in the country has their own way of serving ulam and also the dip it’s served with. Besides sambal belacan, ulam can also be served with a durian-based dip called tempoyak.

Ingredients of an ulam can also be used to make a rice dish called, what else, nasi ulam (ulam rice). Interested to give it a try? Here’s a recipe – Malaysian Mixed Herb Rice.

Note: Though April is over 😦 I’m committed to completing the rest of the posts in this theme mainly because it’s been educational for me to write about it! And also, I don’t like to leave things unfinished! For the few of you who’re still hanging around reading my belated A to Z Challenge posts, thank you! Once I’m done with all my posts, I’ve every intention to visit fellow A-to-Z-ers and read their fine posts!

Tuak

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Malaysiana

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Tuak (too-wak) is a popular Iban rice wine made from glutinous rice and homemade yeast. It’s normally made for Gawai or the Harvest Festival, held every year on the 1st of June. Traditionally, it’s not commercially made, rather each household would make their own based on a family recipe handed down through generations.

5e5df9a1adad00364c69cd7810c809d6If you visit any longhouse in Sarawak, it’s traditional to be served tuak as a welcome drink. However, be ready, there’ll be several people holding out the glasses as tuak to welcome you, not just one. And as a guest, you’re obliged to drink every glass offered.

 Recently, my sister in New Zealand tried to make her own batch of tuak and I’m happy to report that it almost tastes as authentic as the tuak our mother makes. The difference was the yeast she used and that she replaced glutinous rice with sushi rice.

If you’re ever in this part of the world, go ahead and give tuak a try!

Sarong

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Malaysiana

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When you hear the word sarong, this is probably what you imagine –

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Fancy sarong wrap

However, here in Malaysia, this is what we refer to when we hear the word sarong –

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How to wear a sarong

When I was younger, I remember my dad going around the house in the evenings, wearing a sarong and a white t-shirt. At the time, the sarong was also his pyjamas. Depending on the weather, he’d either keep the white t-shirt on, or just go shirtless.

s-l225It’s perfectly acceptable to wear a sarong and a t-shirt while out and about in the neighbourhood. Muslim men wear them on the way to the mosque for prayers too, so it’s not an unusual sight. I’ve even seen sarongs being worn by ladies in the neighbourhood as they sweep up the leaves from their front yard. I’ve even worn a sarong to sleep before but stopped because I kept getting tangled up in the cloth!

The motif on the sarong that men wear are typically plain and checkered while the motif on the sarong women wear have flowers and other details plucked from nature.

Have you ever worn a sarong?

Roti Man

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Malaysiana

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Roti translates into bread. And like newspapers, we can get our bread delivered to our house via our roti man.

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The not-so ubiquitous roti man

The roti man would deliver bread to homes and hang them on the gates. If you didn’t want any bread that day or for the next few days, you hang a sign outside your gate “No bread today!”

These days though, not many homes get their bread from the roti man, preferring instead to just head to the shops to get their own. Despite the decreasing popularity of the roti man delivering bread to homes, he’s not in danger of being extinct anytime soon. Nowadays, roti man 2.0 goes to schools or home renovation sites to sell bread and everything else that hangs on the back of his motorcycle.