Category Archives: family

Well, I’ll be……


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A joyous announcement to the big, wide world,

Celebrating the birth of a bouncing baby girl,

My niece made her debut  on the 26th of January

Two days shy of the Rooster and still a Monkey

Her beautiful name is Sofia but pronounced Safia

So wonderfully appropriate, like the “sa” in sapphire

Shining brightly of joy, love and hope realised

Know that  you are now and forever cherished

And while in your mother’s arms you snuggle,

I suddenly realised that I’m a Monkey’s uncle!

Dearest Sofia,

As you get to know me, you’ll get to appreciate my off kilter humor…… I hope.

Love,

Uncle ‘Tiger’ Squirrel

Monkey Go – Rooster Crow


Image result for monkey rooster zodiac

Chinese New Year is on the 28th of January.  On that day, we say goodbye to the Year of the Monkey and greet the Year of the Rooster.

I am sure that for most of us, last year has been a bit of a shocker. The monkeys have really been up to their monkey business.

One hopes that the Rooster will crow in a better year and so that is my new year wish for all of us.  May it be the break of dawn after a dark night.  May it be a return to sunnier times.

There is an additional point of interest for me this year as my sister-in-law is expecting her first child, a daughter.  Her due date is 26th of January.  If she is on time or early then, the baby would be a Monkey according to the Chinese Zodiac but just a couple of days later and the child will be a Rooster.  With no track record (being her first child), the bookmakers are refusing to offer odds.

What do you think? Monkey or Rooster.  Either way, I pity the child cause we all know Tiger is best, Squirrel is ‘best’-er and Tiger Squirrels are the super ‘best’-est!

The Dragon, the Bear,the Squirrel in the Middle


Chinese New Year celebrations which last 15 days came to an end on Monday.  For many Chinese, it has been a time for family reunions when family members will travel from their far flung locations to start the festivities with a reunion dinner on the New Year’s eve; not dissimilar to the Thanksgiving tradition of the family gathering for the turkey dinner in the USA.

As far as family reunion dinners, this year’s one was quite novel and special for two reasons.  First of all, this is the first time Mrs. LGS undertook the task of cooking the entire feast by herself – a historic event in itself.  However, this year’s festival will also be remembered for being an East meets West summit.

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My brother-in-law was the reason for this summit.  He recently and relatively suddenly married a tall, ex-model, Russian beauty (represented in the illustration above as the Russian femme fatale, Natasha).  She certainly stand out in a crowd and at least a head above everyone in my family (represented by average “meh” type grey squirrel, Rocky).

Please note that my new sister-in-law is great.  She is like Natasha only in that she is a head turner and not that she is an evil follower of the Fearless leader (for the few readers who have no idea what I am talking about, you may want to educate yourself at Bullwinkle Toon Zone )

My  brother in law’s mum (speaks Chinese and a little bit of English) flew in from Australia where she currently resides for the reunion dinner.  Sitting opposite her at the dining table and meeting up with the rest of the family for the first time was my BIL’s new Mother in law who flew in from Russia and speaks Russian and Tatar but almost no English.

I think BIL was definitely nervous of this meeting of the two cultures and had asked my wife and I to stand by to separate any hostile combatants.  However, after a slow start because every  conversation required Natasha to translate from English to Russian for her mum and from Russian to English and Chinese for the rest of us. There was also a bit of checking out the other side going on as the two mothers looked out for the interest of their children.

But, I am happy to report that the barriers did not take long to come down and we did not enter a period of Cold War but in fact the cagey maneuvering gave way quickly to very warm relations.  I cannot confirm or deny that some contraband vodka was involved.

Before too long, the two mothers were able to communicate through their own newly invented sign language.  Protocol dictated that the following night, we would sit down to a feast cooked and prepared by our Russian mother and  then the kitchen would be handed over to our Chinese mother for the  state dinner the following night.  If only Russia and USA could get on so well!

Anyway, I also had to play tour guide for my new Russian family members, bringing them to see the sights of Kuala Lumpur like the Petronas Twin Towers.  Every where we went, my Russian SIL had a very noticeable impact on the locals.  Typically, you would hear their jaws drop open and then they would comment on her stunning tall model looks, which kind of made me feel good about being with her ………. that’s until I hear them express surprise at the short dumpy “meh” loser escorting her!

Anyway, that’s how I spent my 15 days of New Year.  Hmmm.  I wonder if my new Russian branch of the family tree could link me to the Russian mafia.  Maybe they could help me with some slacked jaw and loose tongue locals that “dishonored” me! At least, get them to cough up a couple of bags of nuts.

 

 

Royal Blood


All through history, dictators have seen it fit to demonstrate their right to rule by showing that they have inherited that right.   Hence more than 300 years after the collapse of the Roman Empire, in the year 800, the Frankish king Charlemange lay claim to his right to rule much of Western Europe by getting the pope to name him emperor of the Holy Roman Empire; thereby asserting his right to rule by associating himself with the Roman Empire.  Hitler’s Nazis linked their divine right to rule and oppress to their being descendents of the superior Aryan race.

As you know, I have been plotting to conquer the world and rule as absolute dictator for sometime now.  However, I still sense some resistance to this idea.  Perhaps it is timely to share with you about my lineage and therefore my inherent right to be king,,,,or emperor ……or supreme leader.

On my mother’s side of the family, we are Peranakan or Baba-Nyonya.  This is the name given to the descendents of Chinese that came to Peninsula Malaya between the 15th and 17th centuries.  At that time, Malaya was an important part of the seafaring trade routes between China and the west.  These Chinese immigrants came and intermarried with the local population and developed a rich and unique culture which was an amalgamation of all the different influences at this cultural crossroads.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ladies in the middle are wearing Kebaya and the gentleman Batik – traditional wear of the Peranakan. (Picture by LGS)

Now, the very first wave of Chinese immigrants was in the 15th Century.  At that time, the Kingdom of Melaka was very rich and powerful and controlled the Straits of Melaka which was a vital passage and a natural choke point for the ships plying between China and India.   To strengthen ties and secure the trade route, the Ming Emperor in China sent Princess Hang Li Po to Melaka to be married to the Sultan of Melaka.  Of course, she was accompanied by her royal companions and servants.

Tada! I therefore contend that I must be a descendent of Royal blood – from Princess Hang Li Po or one of her royal companions.

Please ignore my wife who insists that Princess Hang Li Po’s companions were all eunuchs.  It simply can’t be true.

Please also ignore my cousin once removed who claims to have done some family tree research and found that our family is descendent from Chinese pirates from the 17th century .  Now, granted that Johnny Depp has made pirates kinda cool but I still would rather be royalty than rogue.  Once I am in power and in the tradition of great dictators, I shall remove my cousin further.

I hope that you are now totally awed by my right to rule.  I shall share more about the very rich and unique Peranakan culture in future posts.

 

Year of the Horse


This is the Year of the Horse!   Now I am a Tiger (yes – that’s right – a tiger squirrel!  I have a picture of just such a creature HERE on this blog).  My year was in 2010 and I think we can say that us Tigers gave you a good year.  You are welcome.

My wife is actually a Snake.  Her kind gave us last year.  It wasn’t a particularly bad sort of year but let’s face it …..it wasn’t a Tiger year.

Now for those who hold stock in traditional Chinese astrology, they say that a Tiger – Snake romantic pairing is not an auspicious one and the relationship will not work well.  Perhaps for that reason, when we were first dating, my wife told me that she was actually a Rabbit.  Sometimes when someone asks about her Chinese astrological sign, she will still say that she is a Rabbit.  To set the record straight, I tell that person that “this Rabbit speaks with forked tongue!”

So this is the Year of the Horse!  Yes, well, I don’t know much about horses but I will gladly share my general ignorance with all of you dear readers.

First, my sister is a Horse.  Enough said.  I dare not say more.  She can kick like a ……

Second, the word for horse in Chinese is “Ma” and is often one of the first words that they teach how to write when you are trying to learn Chinese.  This is probably because it clearly shows the pictographic nature of many Chinese characters.  The earliest character for “Ma” really resembled a picture representation for a horse and it evolved into the present day character. (see below)

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The evolution of the Chinese character for the word horse. Source: Tan Huay Peng, What’s in a Chinese Character.

Third, I  actually had the privilege of seeing the Przewalski’s horse roaming wild in Mongolia (see post).  The Pzewalski’s Horse is considered the only remaining truly wild horse in the world. Woohoo!  Perhaps an ancestor of the horses I saw was the inspiration or model for that very first Chinese character for “Ma”.

Rubbing It's Behind on the Rough Rock
Rubbing It’s Behind on the Rough Rock (photo by LGS)

Fourth, when I was a wee lad, the only horse I knew was the “Hoss” on TV.  For me , he was the “Hoss”.

"Hoss" Cartwright (the one in front) of TV's Bonanza fame.
“Hoss” Cartwright (the one in front) of TV’s Bonanza fame.

Fifth and final point; lovely button mushrooms (yum yum) are grown on horse dung (not so yum yum) and that’s no bullshit!

And that brings to and end all that I know about horses.  Must go now……head feels ….kinda…….empty…..

Squirrel’s Secret Spot 15: Korea – Hahoe Style


My nephew’s wife (would that be my niece-in-law?) is a lovely Korean girl.  So I guess it was just a matter of time that there was a family vacation to Korea to get to know the culture better and that is what we did last September.

We did make a trip to Gangnam to witness the Gangnam Style made famous by Psy ( the ladies wanted to do some shopping)  but for me, it was just a cityscape like you could find almost anywhere in the world and filled with overpriced designer goods.  So the real Gangnam like the Gangnam Style video just left me cold.

Instead, the highlight of the trip for me was our visit to Andong Hahoe Village.  This UNESCO World Heritage site is a snapshot of Korean life that has remained relatively unchanged since the Joseon Dynasty at around the 16th Century.

Hahoe Village is beautifully located within a bend of the tranquil Nakdong River with beautiful sandy beaches and the imposing Buyongdae Cliff on the opposite bank.  It’s name actually means “Village that is enveloped by water”.

Its buildings represent the architecture of the 16th Century and the Confucianism philosophy ascendent at that time.  Indeed the village was suppose to be an incubator of intellectuals and court officials of the Joseon Dynasty.

However, what really makes this special is that the place (unlike many) has not been put on for tourists – it is still very much a real, working, living village with the villagers still living a mostly traditional life.  A real time capsule with insight to the Korean psyche.

The villagers still work the land.  Paddy fields, vegetable gardens, and orchards are found both in and around the village.  Traditional crafts like mask making are still practiced and traditional costumes are still worn especially at weekends.

I loved the place.  Hope you will enjoy the photos (all photos by LGS).

Oh, and the beef bbq Korean style in Andong is mucho delicious. A must try.

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My Name is LGS and I am a Hoarder


I recently had to move house and into a small apartment.  Even though the move is temporary, I was forced to get rid of a lot of stuff which I had accumulated over the last half century due to space constraints of my temporary abode.  It wasn’t easy.  I also had to get rid of a lot of things that my late mother had collected over an even longer period.   We filled one dumpster with rubbish and donated stuff for re-use or recycling to a charity organisation working with disabled people.  The donated stuff required one 3 ton lorry and one 5 ton lorry to be shipped away (that’s about 50 cubic m).

The problem is that both my mother and I are hoarders.  A lot of my mother’s stuff includes presents from friends which she received, never used but still she kept for decades.  For example, there were a number of serving trays – never used but already corroded by time.  She also had a large haul of alcohol – again gifts – enough to stock a bar which is strange as neither she or my late father drank hard liquor.  But some of the stuff was of her own doing; for example, she had washed, cleaned and kept all the cough syrup bottles that the family had received from the doctors over the years.  That was quite a collection.

Of course, I am my mother’s son and a hoarder too.  I remember when I was about 10 years old, I emptied out my sock drawer and labelled it as the “Scavenger Chest”.  Any odd thing that I thought might be of some use someday I would collect and keep in the drawer.  It could be a safety pin, silver foil from chewing gum wrappers, wooden ice-cream sticks or even Styrofoam packing beads.  I also collected books.  Strangely, my mother always tried to discourage my collecting and hoarding habits.  She cleared my “Scavenger Chest” a few times.  When I was away studying, she donated my Nat Geo magazines, my James Herriot books and my Peanuts and B.C. comics collection to relatives.  I still feel a little bitterness against those relatives that benefited.

Anyway, I had to confront my collection and ruthlessly throw out a lot of things.  For example, I had dutifully kept all my University notes and books for 30 years.  After all, you never know when you will find you have the need to refer to them.  The truth is that I have only referred to it twice in the 30 years.  Yet they occupied one whole cupboard.  Time to get rid of them.  Out went my tea towel collection which had not seen the light of day for twenty years and showing signs of insect activity.   I also had a large collection of “souvenirs” which I received over the years for participating as a speaker at various conferences.  These souvenirs are generally large but pretty much hideous and useless.  Most of them were just paperweights emblazoned with some awful corporate logo.

But I still couldn’t bring myself to throw all the personal letters that I had collected from as far back as 30 years ago.  I have lost touch with some of those who wrote the letters but I remember them all fondly and do not intend to wait another 30 years before I read them again.

My name is LGS and I am a partly reformed hoarder but what do you expect from a squirrel.