Weekly Photo Challenge: Object

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After being away for a while, I am not sure this is the best WPC comeback for me, for as much as I have tried, it’s just impossible to make a picture of an uncooked pig’s leg any artistic, or even less unattractive. I’m sorry for presenting you the raw stuff this week – my entry – a pig’s leg, unprocessed.

As Cheri correctly pointed out, photographs tell stories, so do museums. This piece of exhibit was on display in the Singapore Pranakan Museum, unfolding the wedding ritual of Pranakan Chinese, along with many other interesting objects.

For your information my dear reader, Pranakan means ‘descendants of…’, and in a multicultural society like Malaysia or Singapore, it indicates one’s ancestry roots and cultural background.

Back to the object itself, pigs have always been important sacrifices in Chinese religious life, they would be offered to various gods and goddesses on numerous occasions. In this circumstance, a pig leg is part of the gifts to the bride’s family from the groom’s, acknowledging they were receiving a virginal bride, a status was crucial to a girl’s reputation and her family’s.

By the way, the bride’s family would cut off a small piece of the pig’s leg and return of the rest to the groom’s family, a gesture of being courteous and also hoping the new family would look after their beloved daughter.

I was equally surprised and amused by this piece of knowledge, I hope you would find it interesting too.

Wish you all a nice week ahead! x

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Community

This is a rather late entry, however I’m glad I still have the opportunity to share with you what have caught my eye, and mind.

Recently I visited Singapore Biennale – If the World Changed. Among many inspiring exhibits, I found this one suits the theme of the week the best.

The title of the exhibit is ‘Waiting Room’. I am going to quote the visit guide: “Waiting Room echoes the many episodes of ‘waiting’ faced by transgender persons, such as waiting for a family’s acceptance, for the legalization of official personal documents, and for confirmation of and acceptance into regular employment. The installation is constructed to mimic a typical clinic, presenting an all-too-familiar journey in the lives if transgender persons as they undergo various phases of constructive surgery, before what is considered the defining procedure: gender reassignment surgery. The chairs, pamphlets and posters are imprinted with drawings and messages, appealing for public openness and understanding while sharing the complexities of the situations faced by the community.”

Thank you Shieko Reto.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit

Usually when I saw the subject of Weekly Photo Challenge I knew immediately which photo I would submit, but this time I was stumped. There are a few things make up my daily routine, however, capturing them in a photograph is not easy. I was thinking about it when I wondered down streets in Singapore (by the way, exploring a city on foot is a habit of mine when I travel), a sign caught my attention – ‘red dot design museum’, without thinking twice I entered the eye catching building (and popping in museums on trips is another hard-to-break habit of mine), it was there that I found inspiration for this week’s challenge.

For those don’t know me, I’m obsessed with packing things in to containers, I have a bag in my handbag for daily essentials – keys, wallet, notepad, pens, and phones, etc. I have a pouch for coins, another pouch for cosmetics, and another for chargers, wires, and earphones. The same applies for work and home: everything has a container – all remote controls go to one basket, all magazines go to another, DVDs would be packed in boxes, stationeries are in various holders, paper in folders…. Even for those things usually strewed around, I would find another box to be their home…

My life is packed in various containers, whether it’s a box, a basket, a case, or – Tupperware.

Yes, Tupperware. The ubiquitous colorful plastic containers, that organizes my life, your life, and every other family’s life, is my answer to this week’s photo challenge.

Wish you all a good week ahead.

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You May Be Better Off Without Me But I Won’t Be…

They say expat life is like living in bubbles, it’s not a real life, it’s a cruise ship life, sailing through an exotic land of language, culture, diet, sartorial choices, and many other foreign trivial excitements… you name it. Most of the time it is a nice life, at least on the material front, it is a life that usually either more affordable than the one back home, or it’s better. You get to meet different people, all nationalities, all ethnicities, all level of educations, in short – all walks of life. You see them in restaurants, bars, pubs, chambers balls, charity functions, and family fun fairs. Until one day, one day you receive a notice from the corporate headquarter about a re-assignment, the cruise is over; until one day, one day your trailing spouse fed up with packing and unpacking, moving and relocating, and decided to go home, the bubble bursts… then you are hit by the harsh realities of the real life, a life where people do feel sad, helpless, powerless, and useless, where you say as many goodbyes as hellos.

One of my very close friends is about to say goodbye for the second time this month to someone he holds dearly to his heart. Two weeks ago he saw his wife off at airport and this weekend will be his dog… For a lot of reasons, parting with the latter is more heart wrenching…

Not an animal lover myself but I have seen him with the dog, like the scenes in those heartwarming human-animal pictures, he and his dog brought the best side of each other. Seeing him depressed about the dog’s forthcoming departure, knowing I may cross the line of getting involved in his domestic affairs, I said – “keep him”.

Obviously my friend can’t. He has a long list of reasons why the dog has to travel thousands of miles away to another country it has never been before. Altogether, “he’s better off to leave than be with me”, my friend said, sad.

Selfless love is at the forefront of my mind, yet I was stunned. I realized how much I don’t like the sound of that sentence.

I don’t know about most of you, but in my opinion there are only few years in our lives that we really get to live for ourselves: When we were young we lived off our parents’ dreams and strived to make them proud; when we get old enough or matured, we then take on the responsibilities for raising children, taking care of parents, providing for the loved ones; later the years when we grow old, slowly, but inevitably… we do our best not to trouble anyone else in the family, or friends -we prefer to go away quietly, dignified.

It may be just about everyone’s life but it actually is more acutely true for expats. Here when you are half the world away from family and friends, where your life is not all about drinking campaigns at Sunday brunches in five star hotels like everyone thought was; where the newly established friendship or companionship could be transient; where you can only follow the weekend footy through online streaming; mom’s comforting meal is literally a distant yearning when falling ill… doesn’t it make you want to be selfish just for once?

Keep the dog, he may be as happy afar as he’s here with you, but he won’t be better off without you, however for sure, you will be much happier with him staying.

Keep the dog, for heaven’s sake.

I may have crossed the line again. I know.

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THE LIEBSTER AWARD

I was nominated for THE LIEBSTER AWARD a couple of weeks ago by Ritu KT (thank you Ritu), sorry that I have taken some time to complete the ritual. To my defense I was caught up in work for two hectic weeks, followed by a few days of traveling in Bhutan.

As I have answered 11 questions in Ritu’s blogs, it seems the next thing I should do is to display 11 facts of me, I must apologize in advance that nothing about me is actually too interesting…

1. I like to eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations in coffee shops and imagine their life stories.
2. I follow the plots of the books I read. I can’t help it.
3. I’m a shopaholic
4. I envy those who speaks fluent Japanese and Cantonese
5. I don’t follow news in general unless it’s about the place I am about to visit soon.
6. I am terrible with numbers, ever since high school I had never passed math exams.
7. I only want to live to 60.
8. I want to learn dance and boxing
9. I laugh a lot, I wish I didn’t so I would have less wrinkles around my eyes, but again this is something I can’t help.
10. I paint my nails then peel off the enamels to distress
11. Although raised as an atheist, I am curious about all forms of religions.

Now it’s my turn to ask 11 questions:
1. What is the quality that you feel most proud of yourself?
2. If you choose to have one superpower, what will it be?
3. If the story of “Indecent Proposal” ever happens to you, what would you do?
4. What is your most embarrassing moment?
5. Is there anything you can’t do anymore but you wish you could? What is it?
6. What is the title of the last book you read?
7. What is the first adjective you would think of when anyone asks you about China?
8. What is your favorite sport?
9. What do you want to ask if you ever meet a great fortuneteller?
10. What is your biggest superstitious?
11. What do you do when you have some “ME time”?

The latest I learnt is that I am supposed to pass on the award, so here I’d like to give it to Eastraveller, whose posts I really enjoyed a lot.

However if any of you find this Q&A game interesting, please do feel free to join by leaving a comment to answer the questions, and post your own facts and questions in your own blog. It took me a while to think about 11 facts about myself and even longer for the questions, so please do not hesitate to play along, this could be fun!

The last but not the least, I want to say that it has been great fun to be able to share the what I see with people near and far, and to learn from your experiences.

Something Odd About Weddings

I don’t go to weddings if I can help, because I don’t like to be questioned by distant relatives and acquaintances about my choices of life. I once told my mother that I would prepare a list of “FAQs” for her to distribute at these occasions so both of us can be spared from feeling awkward.

I can count with one hand the number of weddings I have been to (exclude the ones my parents forced me to when I was a lot younger…). The first three were weddings of my best friends, and I emceed two for not having to give a big fat red envelope with a wad of cash (sorry for being stingy but I didn’t have much to spare then…). The fourth one  I was obliged to go, and the fifth one – that’s ultimately the most exciting one, no family interrogations, no judgment, just colors, music, mixed with exotic traditions, moreover, the fun! I enjoyed it so much that I had forgotten my limited tolerance of alcoholic beverage; I was the most inebriated girl in the north hemisphere… Ever since then I realized maybe I do like weddings, as long as there are no distant relatives of mine.

Well, here I am in my beloved India, and it is the wedding season again in the holy land. so I thought it may just be a seasonable moment to share with you all an interesting article I read in Times of India a while ago, my mother-in-law loved it a lot when I messaged her the bits and pieces, I hope you’d enjoy too …

Bengali weddings:  women from the bride’s family rise at the break of dawn and arrange a plate of aarti complete with sweets, twigs and incense, and go over to invite the Ganges to the wedding of their daughter. The holy river is believed to bless the girl in her future life. 

Bihari weddings: This could be a rather curious post-wedding ritual performed by any groom’s-side-of-the-family on bringing the bride home. Here an eager, expectant bride suddenly finds herself grappling with a huge earthen pot set on her head by her mother-in-law. Without losing time, few more pots are added to the pile while she is expected to bow down and touch the elders’ feet. As the dramatic scene is played out, all and sundry gather to see how many pots the new bride actually balances, which is ostensibly an indicator of her skills at striking a balance in the family.

Tribal wedding in UP: Sarsaul, a small town in Kanpur district has given a new dimension to wedding hospitality. In keeping with the tradition, the baaratis here are not greeted with flowers and rose water spray, instead tomatoes and potatoes are hurled at them followed by a round of choicest abuses. Your sides might hurt imaging such a welcome, but the tradition takes root in the belief that a relationship that doesn’t begin on a not-so-happy note always culminates in love.

Rabha weddings in Assam: The weddings of the Rabha tribes of Assam is an aesthetic affair. Performed as per Gandharva marriage tradition, the ceremony involves a simple exchange of garlands – no pheras around the fire, and a lavish feast to round it up with. An extremely patriarchal ritual, the newly wed on their first day together at the boy’s family home is expected to give a hand in cooking the afternoon meal and serve only to the male, elderly members of the family. For the rest, food is served in subsequent batches by the helpers.

Kumaoni weddings: The use of flags in the marriage ceremony sets Himachali weddings apart. Traditionally, a white flag called ‘Nishan’ leads the marriage procession representing the bridegroom, followed by drummers, pipers and a white palanquin carrying the groom. The last man of the procession carries another flag, of red colour, representing the bride. When the marriage party returns from the girl’s home after completing all ceremonies, the red flag takes the lead followed by a red palanquin of the bride, succeeded by the white palanquin of the groom, and the white flag at the tail end of the procession.

Tamil Brahmin weddings: At an Iyer wedding, just as the groom is about to step into the mandapam for the actual wedding ceremony, he has a change of mind and decides to pursue ‘sanyaasam’ (asceticism). An age-old Brahmin tradition ‘Kasi Yaatrai’ this, the bride’s father too plays his part of a distressed father by reaching out to the groom and convincing him to take up ‘Grahastham’ (family life) with his daughter who would in turn support him in his spiritual pursuit. Umbrella, Bhagwad Gita, hand fan and sandals are the props used by the bride’s father to win his would-be-son-in-law back.

My personal favorite is the Bihari pot balancing act, I wonder how long does the bride have to practice?

Coincidently this morning when I was browsing on a website, I found an article introducing odd wedding rituals around the world, here are the few abstracts.

Korea: In Korea, after the wedding ceremony, the Groom’s friends take off his shoes, tie his ankles together and beat the soles of his feet with dried Corvina-a type of fish! Apparently this will make the groom stronger for his wedding night.

 Finland: In some Finnish weddings the Bride’s mother in law or godmother places a china plate on the Bride’s head before the happy couple performs the first dance. When the plate falls, the pieces are collected and counted by the guests. The number of pieces determines how many children the newlyweds will have.

Ethiopia: On the day of an Ethiopian wedding the Groom and 3 or 4 of his ‘best men’ go to the Bride’s house. There, the entrance to the house will be blocked by the Bride’s family and friends. The Groom and his best men must sing strongly in order to ‘force’ their way into the house. Once inside the first best man sprays the house with perfume.

 Borneo-Tidong: The Tidong people can be found in Sabah, Malaysia and East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Newlyweds in this tribe are not allowed to go to the toilet for 72 hours. They are put into isolation and watched by their families. They are allowed small amounts of food and water. If they cheat, it is believed they will bring bad luck, like the death of their child.

China-Tujia: The Tujia people from Central China are the 6th largest ethnic minority in China. A month before her wedding the Bride cries for about an hour. Ten days later, her mother joins in. Another ten days later the Bride’s grandmothers, aunts and sisters also join in. This is called the Crying Song, unsurprisingly.

Carry on reading if you are not bored yet, I can tell you a few episodes of my own wedding.  Unlike the other brides, my only duty for the wedding was to get dresses of my own and the flower girls. The rest was all taken care of by my husband.

I ordered a white Chinese dress which confused the tailor in great deal, because in China, red is for weddings and the white is for funerals. Red is the symbol of joy – and what is more joyous than a wedding?

My wedding took place in South Africa; obviously it is too far to apply the Chinese color restrictions. Days before the wedding, I thought my dress may crease in suitcase so I took it out and hung it in the room; my sister-in-law panicked,  she told me the groom is not supposed to see the wedding dress before the day else it would bring bad luck… thank heavens the-groom-to-be was out for a party. The dress then had to settle in the back of a teenage girl’s wardrobe.

On the wedding day the photographer came to ask for my garter for a photo – I had no idea I need one – why on the earth someone wants a piece of bride’s underwear? It turned out there was no single adult male at our wedding, so I was relieved no one would be grumpy about no garter to catch.

The following day I found a silver sixpence in the envelope my mother-in-law gave me before the ceremony, only then I realized I was supposed to have that coin in my left shoe when walking down the aisle to attract fortune and success to marriage… until today I have no heart to tell her I missed it completely… I would not be able to manage it with open toe high heels anyway…

Apart from all these mishaps it was still a beautiful day, I will always remember the old lady decorated the whole reception with orchids to symbolize my oriental heritage.

When the world is so big it is impossible to know all traditions and customs of all cultures, “odd” and “bizarre” are subjective when the practices are foreign to our own, however if we look through the facade of “strangeness”, all the rituals across the globe are aiming for the same goal – a happily married life with balance, harmony, and abundance. I see weddings throughout of the world are great fun fairs, draped in traditions and customs, pinned with high hopes and happy thoughts. Regardless how marriages turned out years later, weddings are always one of the most unforgettable events of any married couple.

If you are like me, avoiding weddings just to shrink from distant relatives and acquaintances, maybe crash a wedding of total strangers will be a good fun. After all, it is the wedding season!

p.s.: If you ever did crash a wedding, please do let me how it went…

To read more about Oddball Indian Wedding Rituals, visit http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/relationships/man-woman/Oddball-Indian-wedding-rituals/articleshow/11682353.cms

To read the full story of Weird Weddings, visit http://www.shfamily.com/articles/2012/07/28/weird-wedding-customs/   ImageImageImage

Chinese New Year – a fortnight of celebrations

My Malaysian friend posted on her facebook page why she loved Chinese New Year – “… it’s colourful, it’s loud…” when red is the dominate colour throughout the country, when the deafening firecrackers hiss into sky,  it’s not possible for any living soul not to know Chinese New Year is here.

If you are like me, awaken by chuffing fireworks in these early mornings, maybe you also want to know what all this is about?

New Year’s Eve:  Legend has it that there was an evil spirit called “XI” in ancient times, Xi was scared of loud sound, hence people played Imagedrums and set fireworks off to keep Xi away.  In Chinese, the new year eve is called “Chu Xi”, literally it means “get rid of Xi”.

Oh, remember to clean your house on this day, it is very important, why? You will soon find out…

Day 1: On this day, there is one thing you definitely should not touch – sweeper, else it would sweep away all the good luck and fortune, even bring in the star of bad luck. If due to certain circumstances you have to sweep floor, please do remember to sweep from outside to inside so as to keep the good fortune in your house. On this day, you are not supposed to throw away garbage either.

Day 2: Married daughters are expected to visit their maiden families on the second day of the new year, with husbands and children. One the way home, daughters should bring alongbiscuits and candies, for mothers to give away to neighbors – the sweet thoughts of the girl for her families and childhood friends.

Day 3: In rural China, this day is called “Chi Gou Ri”, it’s a day to worship ancestors. Mythology has it that Chi Gou was an ill-tempered god in charge of summer in the South, an encounterwith him usually was not pleasant at all, hence on the third day of the new year, it will be wise to stay at home with your family.

Also on this day, there is a series of DON’Ts – no floorsweeping, no fire making, no taking water from wells (by the way, the wells would have been sealed off since the new year’s eve anyway). Any family resides near a well will burn joss sticks in the morning, remove the red seal on the well, and lay vegetables around it, that’s why the third day of the new year isalso called “Kai Jing Ri” – a day of well re-opening. In some places, people collect dusts in dustpans, then leave the pan at the fork of a road, together with a broken sweeper – farewell to poverty.

Day 4: The day to welcome gods.  According to ancient mythology, all gods return to the world on the 4th day of the new year. However, as it is Fortune God’s birthday on the 5th day, to secure a good position in his good book, the welcome reception would start a day earlier, it is “receiving the fortune god”. Don’tbe surprised if you see sheep and carp on a sacrifice table – in Chinese language, “Yang” (sheep) also means good business, and “Yu” (fish) brings “abundance”.

Day 5: The chuffing fireworks continue from the night before, to celebrate birthday of Fortune God.

It is also a day to break poverties –  and lack of financial meansis not the only form of ill fate –  here’s the list of “big 5” to be broken on this day:

Poverty of intelligence

Poverty of knowledge

Poverty of inspiration

Poverty of finance

Poverty of friends

Firecrackers would be set off from inside the house to the outside – bye bye bad luck!

Ah – today, you finally can clean house again, thoroughly! And that garbage? Throw, throw, throw it away!!

On this day, you are supposed to get up early and work hard, the harder the better, although it may be slow, isn’t it the surest way to build up wealth?

Day 6: Day of Business Re-Opening. Be prepared for more firecrackers on the first day of going back to work!

Day 7: Legend goes goddess Nv Wa created human on the 7thday, no way fireworks will be missing on this occasion! By the way, just for your information, she created rooster, dog, pig, sheep, ox, and horse in the first 6 days.

Day 8: The day of Grain – if you are visiting friends and families in countryside, please don’t be offended if the host serves you half cooked food on this day – it’s a gentle reminder – not to waste food; it’s also a form of paying respect to hardworking farmers.

On this day, people will also worship stars by lighting up candles either at home or in temples. In the flickering candle lights, the elders would advise the youth no wrong doings even when alone, because the stars above are always watching…  say “Xing Xi”(good night stars) to your family after candles are out,  turn on the lights, and of course, set firecrackers off again!

Day 9: Another birthday celebration – the Jade Emperor, the boss of universe in Taoism mythology. What would you expect? Yes, more fireworks!

Temples will be busy again with devoted worshipers presenting sacrifices, burning incense, and praying for a peaceful year ahead.

Day 10: It is God of Stone’s birthday. No moving of anything made of stone on this day, i.e., a grinder, else it’ll bring a lean year to the growing crops.

Day 11: “Zi Xu Ri” – a day for father-in-laws to treat son-in-laws. After ten days of celebration, there must be plenty of food available in every household,  son-in-laws, come help!

Day 12: A day of choosing lanterns. Getting ready for the festive of lanterns, go find the one you like.  Works will begin in streets on this day to prepare for the lantern festive too.

Day 13: Lighting up lanterns. In countryside, married girls will invite mothers to meals, and in the evening, hays to be burnt and how embers glowed would disclose many puzzling questions, if you knew how to read…

Day 14: It is probably the least ceremonious day of the whole celebration, a day to chill and relax.

Day 15: The 15th day of the new year, Lantern Festival, full moon… this day marks the climax and also the end of the new year celebration. Streets are lit with bright, colourful lanterns, people go out with families and friends, appreciating the beautifully designed lanterns, visiting flower markets, and what’s more? Fireworks!

Like every other traditional Chinese festival, a specific food must be eaten on this day – Tang Yuan, or “Yuan Xiao”, depends on where you are, it could well be prepared in any sort of way of cooking, with any sort of stuffing – red bean, mashed dates, sugar, dried rose petals, with meat, without meat…, whether the Tang Yuans are steamed, deep fried, boiled, all means one thing – a harmonious year with a reunited family.

On that note, wish you all a prosperous year of golden snake!