Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Let the celebrations begin

Yes, its that time of year. One festival after another. The second semester is always the "worst" ... endless celebrations. So lectures are always disrupted. But the university came to its senses and scheduled the mid-term one week break to coincide with the Chinese New Year (usually, mid-term would be the 8th week but next week is only the 6th week).

The traffic on the bridge is crazy. I leave my house before 7 am and it takes me one hour to get to my office. They tried to control the traffic flow after the toll plaza for one day, it was a total disaster and they gave up. I can see that the bridge contractor is furiously tarring the brand new third lane leading from the toll plaza. My guess is they are trying to get some good vibes in the press by opening up the new lane in time for the CNY mad rush. Yes, I am sure it will relief the bottle-neck, but for how long? My sense of it is that the bridge will flow nicely for a few months when the expansion is fully completed. Then it will choke up again. If it doesn't choke real soon, we don't really need the second bridge do we? And then of course the second bridge will choke up in a few years, and Penangites will whine again ... and before you know it there will be four bridges across the channel, maybe five. And Penang Island will be a haven for cars.

On the domestic front, I have declared that there shall be no sticking of new year cards or any other new year decorations on the "freshly" painted wall in the house. Got my daughter a little piffed ... yah daddy is a party pooper. But we have two red streamers (plastic) and two pineapples (plastic) hanging in the living room (no nails, no scotch tape) and a red lantern (paper) at the entrance plus the red banner (cloth, ang chai). My daughter promised not to buy plastic decorations next year.

Ah, and apart from the "traditional" jam tart (my wife's specialty), we ventured to make crispy ngaku (arrow root or arrow head). Again it was my daughter's (Jillian) initiative. She wanted to have a more festive feel. Not as difficult as we were told but my wife got knicked in the finger slicing the ngaku. Really very tasty, much nicer that potato chips but ... high cholesterol and salty.
The ngaku root, washed and dried, ready to be peeled and sliced. Comes all the way from China; a lot of food-miles there.

Brian and Jillian droppng the sliced ngaku into the hot oil. Takes about 10 minutes (less if you have a huge pot of oil). Use a paper towel to soak up the excess oil, and sprinkle some sea salt on it. Yummy.

Speaking of which, we had mee udang (prawn noodles) yesterday at my friend's house. Hassim is an old friend and colleague. He's iman at two mosques. Loves to cook. Rides a big bike. Has several cars ... and is a transportation planner. We were trying to figure out how to inspire the students to reach higher. I mentioned mee udang. Hassim offered to cook. All I have to do is pay for the prawns and ingredients. So yesterday we had our studio presentation and crit at Hassim's house followed by mee udang for lunch - two big prawns each but I noticed a kaisu student who lumped his plate with another three prawns on his second helping. Two of the Chinese students brought mandarin oranges. So it was also a CNY celebration.

Did it work (energise the students to reach for the sky)? Hmmm ...
Hassim on the left with students at his house. Work, then sustenance.

Want to know the secret of Mee Udang? Hassim's father used to sell the mee for 20 sens a plate. The father's secret recipe is baked beans. Quite simple. Heat oil in pot, fry some shallots til fragrant. Then add can of tomato paste. Blend a can of bake beans and add to pot. Add water (the soup is not thick so you can add a lot of water). Add chilly paste. Salt to taste. No MSG. Simple yah? You can add vegetables and other stuff. Add the prawns to the soup followed by the noodles when ready to eat.

The climax - kampung style.

On the other side of the World, the celebrations are coming to a climax. There is much expectation and hope. Will he lead the World to peace and prosperity and a greener planet? 70% of respondents in a survey thought he would by the end of his first term. Today's the day - the start of a new tomorrow? CNN, CNBC, Aljazeera, BBC, Australian Network even HBO is stopping everything to telecast the inauguration.

At USM, we are also embarking on a new journey - as the APEX University. The university has set up 8 Task Forces to come up with action plans to implement our APEX U agenda, to transform higher education for a sustainable tomorrow. I got roped in to work on "people-led solutions". Got any views? Want to contribute?


Anonymous said...

Saw those photos of mee udang... I remember back those time when my badge of msc students went to mee udang for lunch at teluk kumbar...

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