Category Archives: eating with friends

Summer 2009 in pictures

1. My first Milo Dinosaur, served at D’Chillz. Made by Alden. Not bad.
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2. Kids being miniature soldiers.
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3. Stopped by Phanit’s house in Australian Village after dinner at Station. Daron, you would’ve been so proud of your student! He practices, you know…”
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4. Vanilla & lime with butterscotch topping at D’Chillz. I claim only Aaron and Sandy can do it right.
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5. Dozens of monks trickling in on Wat Po compound. Mimi and I was giggling when we saw some of them had tattoos at their backs.
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6. Trust the Thais to come up something innovative (and low-budget) like this recyclable Windex sprayer using Pepsi and Lipton Ice tea bottles.
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7. Saturday nights at Dr Pak Lee’s, playing Wii. This guy can ski like nobody’s business okay! LOL
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8. One of the six cats of the Lee’s…CUTE KAN. This is my first time of my seven years here to even be near one!
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9. Farewell potluck for Bob at the Lampadans.
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10. Bob and friends before he left for good.
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11. Had awesome green noodles with Ivonne, Onya, Teds, Jun and Fian.
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12. …wouldn’t be complete without the most awesome Thai chai yen on earth (though it’s diluted, by the time this picture was taken)
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13. Simple activity during Ivonne’s farewell dinner. Wrote messages of encouragement to Ivonne, read it to her, and make it into a star! (though most of the time, we forgot to read and we concentrated on making the papers into stars…haha)
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14. Ivonne sorting out two of her huge bags to fit 46 kgs, the max. luggage requirement of KLM.
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First experience dining at Muak Lek’s Gold Plus restaurant

You thought being in a small town for 7 years, you have experienced almost everything local.

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Like visiting the Italian restaurant/cafe Primo Posto Del Khao Yai 20 minutes away from campus.

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Or discovering the most awesome Thai cha yen EVER and green vege noodles with Thai prick pau sauce about 10 minutes away from campus.

But nope.

I have not experienced everything local, and you know what, that’s alright. In fact, it’s Awesome! Because having opportunities for new adventures/new things to explore keep my life colorful and fresh! 🙂

So yesterday evening, Julie brought me to GOLD PLUS restaurant, an endearing lovely place located outside of the highway.

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(yeah, I took this picture before going home hehe)

If you have been in Thailand long enough, you’d realize that a nice Thai restaurant usually have a nature-themed atmosphere going on. And GOLD PLUS is one of them.

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The entrance of the restaurant.

After they took down our orders, we decided to explore the place a little bit. They have a wooden stairway leading to a higher level with more tables and chairs, and another higher level where there is a private room for exclusive groups (though I find it a little dusty). Also, there’s a balcony so you could sort of see a bigger picture of the place.

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Here’s the view from the balcony. Nice ya?

Say hi to Julie! 🙂

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So that was the restaurant…and how about the food?

Whoaahh I like, I like!

We ordered four dishes, and I’ll introduce them as we go along.

Below: Hong Kong chinese noodles, and the Green Apple salad.

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The chinese noodles were lovely! Definitely had the taste of how a Chinese dish should be 🙂 And as for the Apple salad, I was actually a little surprised. I had a picture in mind, and when it came, it looked like a som-tum inspired salad.

And you know what – not only the appearance, but even the taste is som-tum inspired! I know it sounds weird but the Thai fusion combination worked! I enjoyed savoring this dish =) =) =)

The 3rd dish we had was Miso soup. The warm liquid with a touch of seaweed and toufu settled just right, especially when the weather rained a little bit and was quite windy later at night.

But I got to draw your attention at our 4th dish – the Fettuccine with…THAI GREEN CURRY.

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This (another) Thai fusion dish may sound weird, may look weird…but I tell you.

It taste sooooooo delicious! You know how you have spaghetti with basil leaves? I say this is 10x BETTER. The curry has a bit of creamish texture, which I really like and thus, gels well with the pasta. Credits to Julie for recommending this dish. I never look at Fettucine and Thai green curry the same way again.

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Price wise was good too. Our meal cost almost 500 baht. For the ambiance and the food, I’d say it’s worth it. 🙂

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A cute napkin holder. Thai people are so creative!

It was a great experience to dine at GOLD PLUS. I’d definitely come back here again! Now, I just need to learn how to ride a bike…

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The landmark from the highway that you need to spot to enter GOLD PLUS. If you’re on the highway, just stay on the left and you should spot the landmark in minutes.

The experience was even made more awesome because of good company 🙂

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Julie, I will miss you! Am so glad you came to MC. I’m sure we will cross path in the future =)

Part III: A humbling experience in Sabah

I can feel memories are slowly slipping off…so I better finish blogging about my East Malaysia trip before I forget!

At the beginning of the trip, we started with Sarawak. In the beginning, we had some rough spots – and it all started with our ‘resort’.

But superman Randy and superwoman Clare saved us and brought us to Kuching for a breath of air. We toured Kuching, ate some awesome Kuching food and return to Ayer Manis with a calmer heart.

Then we traveled on a 12-hour bus ride to Miri. Due to miscommunication, we found out that we only had 1 performance instead of 2. That was a blessing in disguise because the night off gave us a chance to catch up on our sleep, rest, practice, and reorganize. We also had a chance to see a little bit of Miri. Although our accommodation was simple, we felt very much home. We were taken care so well that by the time it was time to start our program, we were energized and rejuvenated to sing! That was our best performance so far.

And now here comes the second half of the trip: SABAH aka my home state Woohoo! 🙂

But before I start with Sabah, I must not forget to tell you what happened in Miri airport (to be more precise, in the plane we were boarding).

I entered the plane, only to find Ivonne frantically running past me with a worried look.

Ivonne couldn’t find her wallet in her backpack. She checked and rechecked and still, no sign of wallet. So she ran outside the plane and into the Departure hall to check whether her wallet was at the seats that we sat earlier on. Nada.

At this point of time, I was dead worried too. How am I going to deal with this? What steps do I, the trip coordinator, take? Do I need to bring Ivonne to see a police officer? Do we report the missing wallet? But the main question that bothered me was,

Are we going to leave Miri without Ivonne’s wallet?

Even I took Ivonne’s bag and checked it several times. None. Jun said something, but I didn’t really hear him (I was too busy concentrating on locating a blue long and thick wallet).

Ivonne came back, shook her head, return to her seat and sobbed. A sort-of airport police attendant came not long after her and politely asked her questions. He was quite nice, actually…very attentive. He took down details and I gave him my phone number, my house phone number and even my mom’s number. He assured Ivonne that they will try and locate her wallet and will call me if they found her wallet.

The police attendant left. We were all trying to comfort Ivonne. Jun, who has been trying to say something (but none of us were listening) managed to capture Ivonne’s attention. He asked her to check her small handbag that she’s been carrying all along.

It was a real small Thai handbag and her wallet was thick. Ivonne didn’t look convinced but figured she might as well tried.

She looked into her bag, digged in a little, and paused. Then she looked up with an ARGH expression and later faced us.

“DON’T SAY ANYTHING”

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Yup, Ivonne found her wallet! Everyone felt so happy and relieved! 🙂 Only Ivonne knows how she really felt after she discovered her wallet =).

Back to the trip, we’ve been a team of eight. In Sabah, we had another team member who joined us and I’m glad to say that it was Julie!

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I cannot tell you how fiercely HAPPY I was when Julie joined us. As soon as she arrived, I was already on a storyteller-roll, telling her what happened on Day 1 up to then. Julie has been on similar trips before, so she knew how the experience would be like. It was good to have someone who understood the struggles we’ve been through and the awesome blessings we’ve received. Having someone who has participated in this kind of trips AND who is also a reealllly good friend of mine was a true blue blessing!

Look at the picture above again. I really adore that picture because it encapsulated the fun that I had with Julie – we were cracking up jokes and laughing at almost every opportunity. On a personal note, Julie’s presence brightened me up. Ju, I’m really glad you came along! 🙂

Okay, back to the trip!

In Sabah, we traveled from so long, so far. After we touched down KK, we stopped by my house for a good 40 minutes. After that, it was a 6-hour journey to SANDAKAN. I’ve never been to Sandakan in the 25 years of my life, so I was excited to go to a new place…in my own home state! 🙂

For lunch, we stopped by at some Chinese restaurant. The group, not done with the 3-layer-tea, ordered for it. Unfortunately, Teh C Special was not available, so they had to deal with plain ol’ Teh C.

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Past 5 in the evening, we reached our destination – Sandakan church.

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We had only little time to get ready (had to wait for the pastor for a long while because he had the key and he wasn’t there). But we managed to be on time and we performed.

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Over here, I had to speak Malay too (nobody was there to translate for me). Uhm, no my Malay wasn’t polish yet…although certain phrases like “Lagu seterusnya bertajuk…” (the next song is entitled…) were slowly coming back.

This was the church also where I introduced myself as Pegawai Komunikasi (in direct translation, it means ‘Communications officer’). If you speak Malay, you would laugh at the Malay title BECAUSE ‘Pegawai’
connotates I’m sort of a government officer…like a police officer.

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Moving on!

The next morning, Julie and I woke up early and had a morning excursion with one mission – to go downtown and find a kedai kopi (restaurant) to bring the group for breakfast.

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After a wrong turn (saw a roundabout, a highway and more trees) and a 911 call to our friend from the area, we took a right instead from the church, and about 15 minutes later, we were sort-of in town. We saw a Chinese restaurant, took a right in, pass a couple of restaurants, and finally stopped at this Malay restaurant.

The menu looked promising,

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and another factor why we decided to bring the group here was because of the AVOCADO SHAKE.

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So we went back, gathered the group, and came back to this restaurant.

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Oh man look at the kuay teow basah above. Just look at the egg gravy. This is Rae’s (it’s supposed to be a vegetarian dish).

And look at mine:

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Haiyah, it was so dissappointing! For a kuay teow basah dish, what’s really important is the kuah/gravy itself. There should be egg straining in the gravy (similar like the previous dish). So I REALLY did not enjoy my noodles. Not only was the gravy all dead wrong, it was quite bland. Eurghh, so dissappointing! *Don’t worry Adventist friends, I took out the prawns.

Anyway after food, we went back to the church, packed our stuff to our van, and travelled to our next destination – ULU DUSUN.

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Ulu Dusun is one of the top memorable places we’ve had in our trip.

Way before the trip started, we knew there were places where we would literally sleep on the floor. Ulu Dusun was one of those places and the group was prepared to use the sleeping bags that was solicited by a kind friend earlier in the trip. However a call in the morning by the district pastor completely surprised me:

“…we have changed your place of stay. Instead of the church, we are putting you in a resort nearby…”

What?

Frankly speaking, I was a tad doubtful. Resort? The last thing I wanted to do was raise the expectations of my members, and later be dissappointed by it (and thus, more complaints about what IS a resort, etc). Julie knew, so both of us kept quiet during our journey to Ulu Dusun.

And when we arrived at JS Riadah Resort, the group was completely taken surprised.

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It was an actual resort. Sure, not like the kind with a swimming pool, but it has comfortable rooms with private bathrooms is air-conditioned. And a TV. And a restaurant conveniently located right outside of our rooms. It was more than perfect!

I found out later from Julie that the church sponsored our stay at the resort. I went, What? A similar experience we had in our marketing trip was in 2007 when someone mysteriously sponsored our classy guestrooms at the Union in Singapore.

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Again, I was completely humbled by human generosity again. The church is apparently very excited about us coming and they wanted us to be comfortable. Wow. Julie and I said our thanks to the pastor and told the rest about what just happened. They were also humbled too.

With great hospitality we’ve received, we were more than ready to visit the church whom have reached out to us even before seeing us.

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See how overexcited I am? 🙂 If you look at the pictures from the previous blog entries, you can actually trace a progression of my facial expression. The trip was definitely getting better, less stress :).

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There were also church members who traveled about 50 kms to hear us sing. Unfortunately, they came late, only to arrived at our second last song.

When we knew about this, I immediately rounded up the members, and we sung them an acapella upbeat number in the potluck hall.

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They were delighted! To see their reactions – we probably wouldn’t mind continuing singing. This was also the church who prepared two big combined tables, JUST FOR US. We were completely blown away!

Ulu Dusun not only redeemed the title ‘resort’ – they were living testaments on human generosity. Bless their hearts.

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The entry on Ulu Dusun is incomplete without mentioning the awesomelicious MEE GORENG MAMAK. Oh it was SO GOOD! If you ever go to JS Riadah, do me a favor and try Mee Goreng Mamak. It’s seriously so delicious!

Our next stop was Telupid. It was raining this time, so by the time we got out of the van to get into our place, it was muddy and wet. Some of them were tired and managed to catch some eye rest.

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The place where we stayed to the church where we were performing was about 15 minutes. We got there on time and began the program. The audience absolutely loved Dalam Yesus, a Malay song. Imagine when I said:

“…so we’ve sung a Malay song, a Thai song, English songs…what do you think is the next language we are going to sing in?”
“Dusun!”
“Dusun? Okay we try ah.”

They were very excited and sang Mulong Pia along with us. If you want to grab the locals’ attention, I completely recommend finding and learning a song in their language! It was absolutely a joy to sing in my supposedly-mother tongue and seeing the smiles on congregation’s face. 🙂

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This was also the church where Julie and I slept on the floor. Luckily we had a mat and sleeping bags to sleep on!

Something exciting also happened that night. It was Matthew’s birthday on Saturday, so we tried to stay up until midnight to give him a birthday shower – literally. But we were getting sleepy so we decided to make it an hour earlier. Jun managed to get Matthew to be outside of the house to see the “Milky Way” (we can’t believe he actually fall for it!), while the rest of us were already set with our mineral water bottles and talcum powder (that’s me, that’s me!). The second he stood out, he was showered and Ivonne chased Matthew on the compound with her water bottle. Hahahaha it was a funny sight! We tried our best to control our laughter and noise movements (the pastor’s house was right next to us!) – we even sung Happy Birthday at the level of a whisper. Here’s a picture to commemorate the event:

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The next morning, we traveled another 2 hours to Ranau. On our way to Ranau, we were blessed to see this beautiful view:

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Hello, Mount Kinabalu!

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At Ranau, we had to make readjustments to our program on the spot. Unlike our previous experience in Sarawak, this time we were more prepared. And I was less frantic compared the first time we were presented with sudden last-minute changes.

I found out later after the trip that it is actually expected to be suddenly given the ‘opportunity’ to give a sermon, a talk, a this and a that. It’s NORMAL. Even though this is not my first trip, I did not remember this norm AT ALL. Perhaps maybe before I was just a participant (not the organizer) and we have faculty with us, so perhaps THEY took care of the sermon, etc. Anyway, I’ve learn BIG from this – whenever you visit a church, it is normal and expected that you are prepared to give a talk. So the best way is to prepare BEFOREHAND…a sermonette, a devotion, etc.

A good lesson to indeed.

After Ranau, we continued another 2 hours journey, which is our last destination – Tamparuli!

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While waiting for pastor for a ride to another guestroom.

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Tamparuli is the district where Sabah Mission is located and where Sabah Adventist Secondary School (SASS), one of our two Adventist schools, is situated. This is also Julie, Daron, and Lorena’s school. Aww. 🙂

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This is the Pioneer Memorial Church, the church where we performed.

After potluck, with the help of Julie and Nathan (and joined by my family and Lorena), we brought the whole group to Secret Recipe, Warisan Square in KK. My sister helped to reserved the second floor for the whole group (plis ok plis!). It was Matthew’s birthday, so we wanted to make it extra special. It was so special that he didn’t know a birthday cake has already been prepared with his name on it.

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Deanna’s favorite chocolate mud cake from Secret Recipe.

Another surprise was that my name and Julie’s were also written on the cake (we’re April babies!) too. Awww. 🙂 It’s nice to be surprised once in a while (I still prefer being the organizer behind the scene…hihihih).

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At that point, I was truly enjoying myself in the trip. I had good company and I had a great experience. What more could a girl ask for? 🙂

Thankfully, I was able to go home that night and spend a few hours with my family. We had an early flight the next morning, so before entering the departure hall, we managed to take a group photo.

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This entry has over 30 photos! So I’m writing my overall reflection the next blog entry.

Part II: A humbling experience in Miri

This is a continuation of my trip to Sabah and Sarawak in April.

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The 12-hour bus ride was actually alright. Except for the occasional bumps, it was a pretty smooth ride. I think whenever you have to travel long, it’s a good idea to travel at night and arrive in the morning – that way, you’ll sleep most of the time.

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Miri was absolutely a great treat for us! The day before, I spoke with the pastor’s wife and apparently, there was another…wait for it…MIScommunication. We thought that we were going to do two performances at two different places in Miri. “Eh, but we only have one church. You’re only doing one program, on Tuesday night. We’ve informed the members already.” Nonetheless, I took this as a good thing BECAUSE it meant that
a) we were able to catch up on our sleep/rest more (we were still exhausted from our recent events)
b) have more time to practice, prepare and refine our program

We’ve been performing every night since we landed, and having the night “off” would really helped the dynamics of our group.

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Our alumni Pastor Joggery and his family lives right next to the church (we girls stayed at the Primary class, the boys in the Cradle Roll class). They took care of us so well – accommodating us with food, more food, extension cords, always asking us “Is there anything else you need?” We were also able to do some laundry too.

Just when I thought I was humbled enough by my experience, God decided to do more.

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Pastor Joggery and Aunty Nancy, a really awesome-hip-and-friendly church member, brought all of us out for a Miri sight-seeing in the evening. Similar like Kuching, I did not suggest anything at all — I really thought we were just going to stay at the church compound, practice and play UNO. Because really, we wouldn’t have complain.

But they brought us out. To this place WHICH I FORGOT THE NAME – but it’s a park with this really loonnnggg and modern suspension bridge and I was just jumping up and down, running through and through like a little kid on the bridge. It rained a little then a little bit more…but we couldn’t care less. After the park, they brought us out to Boulevard, a nearby mall for an hour. Some of us got to buy some stuff, make some name stickers and ate waffles. I had waffles. 🙂 We returned home (yes, HOME :)), had dinner prepared by Aunty Dorothy, and then it was bed time. Finally I was able to sleep properly for the first time since we traveled. It felt good.

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The next day presented me a cultural issue that some members were facing even during the beginning of the trip, so I decided to address it. There were a few occasion when someone requested/mentioned something in front of our host and I was internally embarrassed.

For example, let’s say…if someone said, “So are we going out to a mall today?” right in front of me and the host. In Malaysian culture, you wouldn’t want to do that because you don’t want to impose the host. Let’s say, what if the host has different plans, like bringing you for a nature walk on a local national park or something. Now the host have to make changes to his/her plan to accommodate you. This is especially not ideal when the host is the one making plans to bring you out (as in, you are not paying for the trip).

There’s also this culture of ‘losing face’ – the host wouldn’t want to ‘lose face’ because he/she is not able to bring you out to the place you want to go…and also doesn’t want you to ‘lose face’ because you’re embarrassed that your request was declined.

But anyway, during the address moment, I learned that I jumped into conclusions way too fast. When someone suggests something, say, “Are we going to have lunch now?”, I concluded that they want to eat like RIGHT NOW and this frustrates me, especially if this is said in front of a host. HOWEVER I was told that that’s not what they meant – actually, they’re just asking a question and that’s that. No lunch, no problemo. Just asking. I’m glad for that realization because it really opened my mind and how I need to “chill”.

* Don’t jump into conclusions. Clarify whenever possible.

Anyway, our hosts so far have been so nice and hospitable when that ‘occasions’ happen. Maybe this whole imposing thing is no longer a Malaysian culture (I blame my absence of 7 years away from Malaysia made me stuck into a time-warp). It was good to address this, and it was decided that I must inform them directly (don’t beat around the bush) whenever that happens. OKAY.

Moving on!

Our place of stay was so convenient – the piano and stage is within a few steps away. We were able to get used to the stage, practice our songs and discuss our program schedule. We also took the time to make a mock praise and worship song list IN CASE we were going to come across a church without a piano. We were more confident of our program that night and for our future programs. We were more organized than ever! 🙂

We planned on staying at the church compound the whole day. But Pastor Joggery then said “Okay, we’re bringing you out at 2 pm”. Whoa, what? I almost wanted to say Pastor, are you sure you want to take us out? Aren’t we bothering you enough? Oh wow, this is really too much goodness I can handle!

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Pastor Joggery and Aunty Nancy’s husband brought us to Canada Hill. Absolutely a place to visit whenever you’re in MIRI. A gorgeous view of Miri and the ocean can be seen from Canada Hill. This place also houses the Petroleum Museum (interactive, fun and colorful museum), so you get historical information on how petroleum was first discovered at Miri and all that.

They also brought us to City Fan (Taman Kipas).

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Such a beautiful park (why don’t we have this in KK!?!?!). Anyway. There’s one section of the park that took our interest – the healing stones. Apparently, it was the first time for the group to see this, so they really took a kick of walking all over the stones, lying on them and even had a small race.

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Cool, huh?

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By this time, everyone has tried the healing stones…except me (because I know it’s painful!). Jun (in picture) really wanted me to try the stones. “C’mon Deanna…it’s a little painful at first but you’ll feel really good after you get off the stones. It’ll help you to be less stressed!” Hahahahaha.

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Jun’s right – it does feel good to walk or lie (I prefer this!) on the stones.

We got back to the church in the evening and we saw a beautiful rays of light coming out from a sun setting.

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I forgot how beautiful the views you get from the church. The sky was changing colors every minute. It was a nice way to end the day…or before we start our program!

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Since we began our trip, our program at Miri was the best. We sounded good, we mingled with the students, and they were interested to know more about our degree programs. The fellowship was fantastic too – although it’s a small church, but the church members really make you feel welcome. We even celebrated one of young teenagers’ birthday. Imagine before the potluck started, the pastor said:

“Okay everyone. We have some rules and regulations. First of all, we start from this side (left) of the table and then right through this other side (right). Second, DON’T MEDITATE UPON THE FOOD. Take and then move on okay. Third, visitors first!”

I know it doesn’t make much impact from reading this, but I tell ya – everyone was laughing so hard, especially when it came to the meditate part. One of the youngsters I spoke with said that they have a really cool pastor. This is a church where everyone feels homey. And we feel the same way too.

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In Miri, I was again given the privilege to experience people’s genuine hospitality. It made me hope again in human kindness and I’m glad to find it in Miri :).

Next top, SABAH woohoo! (PART III)

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Queen Elizabeth Hospital – the place where I was born at.

PART I: A humbling experience in East Malaysia, April 2009

For the past few years, there were many experiences that humbled me – and I was given that opportunity again in my recent trip to Sabah & Sarawak during Songkran break.

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I was part of the Mission College group to perform and to promote the college at churches in different districts in Sabah and Sarawak. One distinct difference compared the previous trips I’ve joined is that instead of a group of 22 – we were 8.

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LR: Jun, Raenelle, Ivonne, Stuti (called “Kini), me, Marlise. Front is Matthew and Gabby (known as “Jojie”, pronounced as juji).

Even before boarding the plane, we’ve already had misadventures:
1. The van didn’t come on time to pick us up. Because the driver thought we we’re leaving THE NEXT DAY.
2. Marlise didn’t get half of my SMS…which had the change of time (4 hours earlier). She finished her grading at 10 pm and we were supposed to leave at 11:30 pm.
3. I didn’t get the money bank into my account earlier. So in my mind, I was thinking “How on earth am I going to feed this people? How am I going to pay the van rent? How am I going to give ‘appreciation’ to churches who accommodate us?” etc etc etc. I was really worried.

But then these “mis-ses” were resolved later on:
1. After persistent knocking on my neighbor (which I made the van bookings with), she called the driver and the driver came about 20 minutes later.
2. Marlise was already packed. But I felt bad that she was “robbed” 4 hours less time to spend with her hubby.
3. Before entering the immigration, I tried the ATM again. And the money was banked in. PHEW, huge sigh of relief!

When we got to Kuching, I had to go to the main town to change money. So the group went ahead to the resort, which we understood as our place of stay in Serian area for 3 nights. We were then told that our accommodation was changed to a “house in Ayer Manis”.

“Is there a nearby place where we can walk to buy breakfast?”
“Uhm no. I think you better buy breakfast when you’re in town.”

After getting excellent money exchange rate and breakfast worth RM78.40 (canned sardines, baked beans, bread, more bread, Maggi mee curry, etc), it was my turn to go to Ayer Manis. After about maybe an hour drive, we enter into a small pathway that fit one vehicle. Grassy hills and 1 or 2 houses far from each other were spotted. Then we came to a slope and when we reached there, I got out and looked at the house.

And I must confess, I was a little shocked.

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I stood in front of the house, looking into the living room. My group has already laid out mattresses on the floor. Only the fan in that room was working. Some of them were standing, some sitting down. Some smiled, some tired and some…well it wasn’t hard to guess what they were feeling. After much investigation and getting stories from various sources, apparently there were some slight ‘miscommunication’ (a word that I now refrained from using unless there is absolute necessity) that happened along the lines – people thought we were extreeeeeeeemely low in budget and thus in one sense, the locals were trying their best to help us minimize our budget. In fact, they were worried about us. When I looked into that perspective, then by all means, they were doing everything beyond right.

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But of course in reality, we were not extremely low in budget. I was handling the finance and trust me, we were alright.

Anyhow, as a group leader, I had to pull myself together (even though I was emotionally unrest). We were going to have our first performance that night and I felt that it was my responsibility to calm them down and bring the group together.

We’ve traveled so long – since Thursday midnight and reached Ayer Manis about Friday evening and the exhaustion that everyone were experiencing and the current circumstances were not going to be helpful.

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A million things run into my head and a member mentioned that this picture illustrated my default position throughout the trip – always busy doing something, thinking, worrying, stressing.

For some reason, even though we’ve made a program schedule (ie our song list) ahead of time, we still had to modify it on the spot. In addition to the initial vespers and divine service we were taking, we were told to take over Sabbath School as well. Our songs were prepared for just one program – and to have different programs happening in one church, we just can’t sing the songs thrice at the same church. Instead of going to my members, I decided to take it all in me — maybe I can give a devotion? How are we going to kill time in Sabbath School? Maybe sing song praise and worship songs? Are the members going to be up for it? What if I ask them to do testimonials? That’s like forcing, no? Argh, what am I going to do?!

So not only was I the trip coordinator and finance ‘controller’, I had to also plan on the program itself (ie arrangement of songs, song selection) and that really imposed a lot of stress on me.

It didn’t help with some of the complaints I had to face later in Ayer Manis and I was almost losing it. But I held it in (seriously, there is no one to blame – if you were placed in an uncomfortable situation, you would want to vent too and I understood this). After everyone slept, I stayed up and did some finance.

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In the process of fitting into the Rusa, our mode of transport within Serian area.

My heart was heavy on Sabbath morning. It was heavy when we were traveling to the church. It got even heavier when we arrived at the church. No program, nothing. What were we going to do? I thought so much the night before, but I must have slept off in the process of thinking because of exhaustion. That very morning, Jojie, Kini and I walked to the pastor’s house to get breakfast and I had no time to think because I was busy talking to the pastor and to them as well. I was juggling between two sides of me – bubbly, active and friendly me and the worried, stressed me. I had to because I felt there was a need for me to be a good example as well, and I want to be a good example. When unexpected circumstances come to us, we must act and I act fast. You can say I was more interested in solving problems instead of just going around in circles.

The few minutes we had before our time to take over Sabbath School, I really felt my heart was going to give in. I asked the church pastor if we could use the mother’s room, and I gestured the members to come with me. There were two young teenagers (our target group) in the room but I did not want to send them out. Time was running out. I gestured the group again in a circle.

“I know things have not been running smoothly as how we want it to be. But whatever we’ve experienced for these past few hours has proved to us that this trip is going to be filled with expected and unexpected things, which required us to be spontaneous and creative on the spot…”

I mumbled on and suddenly, I broke into tears. And I cried.

I told them that as much as I try my best to assume a lot of responsibilities that I can so that they don’t have to do extra work; the truth is, I needed them as well to help me pull off things that I’m also not comfortable. But I have to and I am willing to do because I see there is a need to.

“I can do a testimonial”
“Yeah me too”
“Hey we can sing some of the songs that we used to sing in chapel”
“Okay I’m going to write the songs. So what’s the first song?”

Five minutes. It was five minutes for us to figure out the basic structure of our SS program. Then we were on.

63Jun sharing his testimonial about coming to MC while Uncle Julius waits for translation.

*I’ve learned that it’s important for me, especially me, to not take all the stress. I have a tendency to do this because I do not want to impose last-minute stress on other people (can be seen as a selfless act, but really it was just detrimental to my well being). Instead, I should share it with my members. I might be surprised the ideas they bring, the help they can contribute to make the program even better. Breaking down in front of them allowed me to see their sincerity to help and their capabilities (I’ll explain this further down in the entry).

62See the lady in red on your left? That’s Claire. Please remember her, because she’s an important figure in what I’m going to tell next.

When we were outside shaking hands with the members, a lady in red came up to me and said, “Ah you don’t remember me is it.” I looked at her. I did notice her from stage and felt she was familiar.

“Claire!”

I knew Claire through Aunty Ritha. Claire used to visit MC a few times and I’ve hung out with her once. She’s such a loud (I say this with love!) and friendly person that you’d immediately feel like you’ve known her for ages. We stood one corner and spoke — I was just glad to let my Manglish run like water when speaking with her, oh such joy! She called up Terry, one of our alumni and let me speak with him. Then she called up Randy, another alumni and a good friend and it was nice to hear his voice after so long. Little did I know she and Randy were planning something that would really just brought me down to my knees.

Right before lunch potluck, Claire pulled me to a corner.

“Randy said if you all want, he can come up to the church you’re performing tonight and bring you guys down to his place. You can stay at his apartment – a bit cram-cram lah (we’ll have to squeeze in, in other words). Then tomorrow morning, he and I will bring you guys tour-tour a bit lah in Kuching then can have a van send you back to Ayer Manis in the afternoon just in time before your next performance. If all eight of you want, he can also ask his brother to come up too to pick you guys up.”

I blinked my eyes. What?

“You serious? All the way from Kuching? That’s like an hour drive!”
“Haiyah you think he so slow one meh?! Like biasa only one I tell you”

I quickly pitched the ideas to my members. All were very excited and said their yesses. We were going to Kuching that night!

And boy did we.

61They say if you’ve never taken a picture with this particular Kuching statue, you’ve never been to Kuching.

In two cars, all 10 of us went down to Kuching. The members were excited to do a little sight-seeing. While driving, Randy and I were just teasing each other in Manglish – man it was so good to just see, hear and talk to him. For those of us who were in his car, he also gave a tour on the spot, pointing out names and buildings and roads and trees and cemeteries on our left and right.

I thought we were going straight to his place, but noooo :). He and his brother, Danny brought us out for supper at this open-air place surrounded by hawkers stalls. We had kuay teow with eggs, mutton satay and tom yum fish. Oh, and the group had their first taste of Teh C Special (3-layer tea) and they’ve loved it since. After supper, Danny and him brought us out a for a car ride in Kuching city (we stopped by lots of cat statues and took pictures).

Upon approaching Randy’s place, he said, “Okay my place is quite small, so hope you guys don’t mind being sardines for the night.”

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We felt immediately at home at Randy’s. (That’s Randy on the far right, trying to fold the inflatable sleeping bag)

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I was still awake at 2 am. I was really tired, but I couldn’t sleep. Rae couldn’t sleep either and we ended up talking until past 3 am. She confessed that she knew that along the way, we would’ve to sleep on floors, etc but she didn’t expected it to happen so fast (it didn’t help when we are disappointed by our expectations aka resort…another word I dislike). I told her that it was completely fine the way how some of us reacted the first night, because it was really a shock. We both agree that it was good that this spontaneous-Kuching plan happened because it calmed everyone down. And it taught us a thing or two to appreciate things. And it sure did.

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Picture taken in Randy’s neighborhood. Whaddduppp!

(in advance, sorry for the miscorrelation of text and pictures)

The next morning, Randy had the day planned for us. We were going to have breakfast at his shop (YES he has a restaurant! AND the food is so good that you mussttttt visit Century Court if you ever go to Kuching!), then Claire and him will bring us to Kuching waterfront and Indian street.

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Randy has a passion for food (he cooks too!) and it caught up with the rest of the group. Whenever we stopped by for food, they’d ask “So what’s good here?” Chewah, pandai2 dorang ni!

Sarawak curry laksa. I’ve never had one, and I TELL YA – I LOVE IT! The taste is so distinct, yumm.

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We had Teh C Special (3 Layer tea). Basically, the layers are comprised of brown sugar, peppermint and condensed milk (if I’m not mistaken!). Oohhh so good!

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My dish was Kolo mee and Teh Tarik. Kolo mee, as I understood, is a KUCHING dish. Randy totally recommended me to try kolo mee in Kuching instead of other parts of Sarawak. It was reaalllly good! 🙂 I tell you, my mood improved so much in Kuching. I mean, good food, good company? A sureway to make Deanna happy! 🙂 (Do you realized there were no smilies in the previous paragraphs until this paragraph?)

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A group photo to commemorate our awesome breakfast in Kuching (whadduuppp!). If you must know, Danny is the one with spectacles, Claire with the red shirt, Randy right behind of Marlise and that Ah Ko behind me is uhm the person who cooked kuay teow. Hihihihi he pandai-pandai masuk the gambar tau! 🙂

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52Along the Kuching waterfront (see picture above), there were historical inscriptions of Sarawak on the ground. Argh, why can’t we have this in KK?!

By the way, I thought I should mention this – all the pictures you see in this blog – are not mine. They belong to my members. So they took pictures during the sightseeing – an Iban person playing a traditional instrument, the court house, Indian street, local delicacies, etc. But I’m lazy to put it up here, sorry. I was more of a food person (and making sure everyone headed towards the same direction, nobody’s missing, etc).

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We also ABC or shaved ice dessert. I’m not really a fan of ABC though, but still! At least I’ve tried Kuching’s ABC (they use brown beans in their dessert, it’s a local distinct!). During our food galore, Claire shared with me places that she would eat for certain food. For example for the ABC that we had, she whispered, “You know, I would go to the uncle ovvvvvvvver there for ABC. The brown beans there are so soft and it has a different texture than the one we’re eating.” Man Claire, CLAIRE reminds me a little of my mom – whenever I go back home, if there was a certain kind of food I wanted to eat, she would say “Oh we have to go this and this place to have that food, don’t eat here. Not delicious one.” When you’re in Malaysia, TASTE the food. Don’t shop (shop in Bangkok!). TASTE the food!

The time came for us to leave for Ayer Manis. Instead of renting a van, Randy and Claire drove all of us…FROM KUCHING…to Ayer Manis. On top of that, they also helped us bring our luggage to the church we were performing that night, because we planned to go straight to the bus station after our program for our 12-hour bus trip to Miri (yes, our trip is full of adventures!).

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When Randy and Claire were preparing to leave, I was sad. I felt like saying “No don’t go! I don’t think I can handle the things on my own.” Marlise lovingly refer them as our Superman and Superwoman. I’d like to think so too. They saved us, literally. On a personal note, they saved me. I was out of my wits, I was tired, I was emotionally drained and Claire happened to be in the church that we were at because there was a meeting that she was requested to attend that afternoon. Wow.

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In Kuching, not only Randy and Claire sacrificed their time, but they also paid for our food (except breakfast at Century Court…THAT I insist to pay). I was thinking of all the things that they did for us…I mean even some simple like oil for picking us up from Serian to Kuching, then sending us again from Kuching to Serian? The little local delicacies Randy picked up in Indian street and gave to everyone, because he wanted us to experience the Kuching taste? I shouldn’t forget this next one – Ivonne developed some kind of allergy after potluck, and it was Claire who brought us to her cousin’s clinic downtown. Oh boy. What I was most impressed was that Randy and Claire initiate this whole Kuching excursion thing…without me suggesting anything. I didn’t expect the phone call on that Sabbath afternoon to be more than just a ‘hello’. This was such an sincere act and I am just so humbled…so humbled and so blessed by them.

*This experience reminded me to be as hospitable as much as I can be; whether is it to my friends or to people that I’ve just met.

As I’ve said to them and to everyone else in the group, “We have made new friends. And we’re renewed friendships.”

After Randy and Claire left, I was met with a surprise – Ferrian!

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Ferrian is the eldest son of Brian Scott, who is one of our alumni. When Brian was studying at MC, Ferrian was still a small boy…I don’t know, 3? 4 years old? And he’s such a darling – he could sing Thai songs like “Pra Ong Song Som Kuan” and also contemporary Christian praise and worship songs…then. He was also the life of the Malaysian potlucks then too.

“So Ferrian, how old is your brother?”
“Which one?”
“Hah? What do you mean ‘which one’?”
“I have two brothers. One (I forgot) and the other (I forgot, I was stunned).”
(blinks eyes)

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Kini talking to prospective students after our program.

It was also starting at this church where our group felt like we were more certain of our program. Of course, we were caught by surprised by the absence of the piano and except for 2 songs, we really needed the piano. So we sung praise and worship songs again, similar to what we did during Sabbath School and I showed the video of the College. Then came mingling time with interested students. Great!

Oh but at one point during the program, I had to speak Malay. That was horrible for me because I speak horrible Malay! You really lose what you don’t use.

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Us in the bus. This was the next morning. Throughout the night, we were sleeping.

The church members sent us to the bus station. One of them helped me purchased the tickets a day before, which helped me a lot because I was able to go to Kuching without worrying about buying the tickets. At 10 pm, the bus came and we boarded. And we were on our way to Miri, a 12-hour bus ride.

This is just PART I (Oh boy, I haven’t finished writing about Sarawak yet! Yet alone Sabah haha. More adventures to share!

My Sabbath lunch

My Sabbath lunch was different this time around.

Three dishes for lunch

Three dishes for lunch

Because I invited three friends over!

Nini, Baybra and Bob leaning against my bed. I'm staying in a studio apartment (you know, where your living room is your dining room, your laundry room, your place to sleep, your kitchen, etc)

Nini, Baybra and Bob leaning against my bed. I

Now let’s take a closer look at each dish:

Broccoli with mushroom stock, baby corn and big onions

Dish #1: Broccoli, mushroom stock, baby corn and big onions with black pepper sauce

Vege meat with tomatoes and big onions

Dish #2: Vegetarian BBQ meat with tomatoes and big onions

) Reminds me of home.

Dish #3: Maggi Mi Asam Laksa (boiled by Bob). This was an unexpected yet lovely addition! 🙂 Reminds me of home.

My plate looks like this:

The lauk with brown rice.

The lauk with brown rice.

Our lunch was spent watching Animal Planet, chatting with each other and a little Wii (shhh). I’ve been meaning to invite these particular circle of friends to my house for a long time, but I never get around it because my cooking was still in the works. Wait, I mean I’m still learning how to cook (definitely an amateur) but at least, I’m a little bit more confident now and at least there are 2 dishes that I can cook and it is edible, haha. It was wonderful to eat with people…what more, friends. I was feeling a little down in the morning and thus, this small yet meaningful lunch cheered me up. I’m definitely looking forward to invite more friends for makan session or in Adventist terms, fellowship.