13th blog anniversary: Walking the hills in autumn of 2017

Yeap, 28th October marks the 13th anniversary of my blogging activities…
The updates are less frequent compared to earlier days, but I plan to continue blogging as long as I can…

Had been enjoying early morning walks in the hills for the past few months…
The views, the fresh air, the encounters with wild life are just some of the little joys that greet me on each and every occasion…

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Autumn is the time when the paddy grains begin to ripen…
Several families living in the hamlet adjacent to where I live, are part-time paddy farmers…

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Like the vegetable plots in my garden, the paddy fields are susceptible to raids by wild boars…
The paddy farmers use iron netting to fence up their fields to prevent the boars from coming in…

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Wild boars have this un-welcomed tendency to wreck extensive damage to crops…
As a hobbyist-gardener, I have had my fair share of experiences with them…
Autumn is the hunting/trapping season for boars…
On one of my walks, I came across one boar that walked into a trap…

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The undulating terrain offers a perfect scene for photo-shooting…

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Along-side the paddy fields, the villagers grow other crops like yam, sweet potatoes, okra…

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The ripening paddy grains in one of the fields…

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I find the harvesters to be somewhat ‘cute’ looking…
Compared to the machines we have in Kedah, Malaysia (my hometown), they are quite tiny…
But I guess they are well suited to work in the small terraced fields…

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This bright spot in the grass attracted my attention as I was heading back in one of those walks…
A farmer must have found out that he/she had produced too much for consumption…

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Home-made Shakuhachi stand

This is the latest addition to the list of home-made ‘masterpieces’.

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As in all previous creations, recycled materials are used as much as possible.

When recycled materials are not in hand, I look to the nearby forests for bamboo.

This stand holds three flutes.

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The one in the middle is actually a Taiwanese flute, called Nan Xiao.

Historically speaking, the Nan Xiao is somewhat like an elder brother to the Shakuhachi.

The one I have is eight-holed, tuned to G.

It is relatively easier to handle, and softer in sound volume compared to the Shakuhachi.

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The Shakuhachi on the left is Kinko-ryu style, while the one on the right is Tozan-ryu style.

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I love playing all of them very much.

Coming back to the masterpiece story, I believe this is the only one in the world that is designed the way it is…  no?

Chopping wood in January 2017

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Winter is the season to ‘hibernate’, even for trees…
The cold makes the trees less active, and subsequently, there is less need to draw up water to feed their trunks…
Less water equals less weight, which means, this is right time to fell the trees…

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On this occasion, we were very fortunate to be asked by a lady living nearby, to help her cut the trees in her property…
I looked at the trees, and mumbled ‘oh my, these are oak’…
They are super solid, heavy to carry, and they are one of the best wood for the stove…

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Come evening, my sweeto-haato lights up the wood stove…
She uses the stove-top for cooking as well…
And wooh, the ambiance… and the warmth emitting from the stove… heavenly…

Shakuhachi sessions 2016…

Besides gardening, the other activity that brings me immense joy is playing the Shakuhachi… (for more Shakuhachi episodes, see these links:  https://kedahanmalaysian.wordpress.com/tag/shakuhachi/).
The year 2016 saw me performing in four events, all solo…

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This was at the Welcome Banquet of an international seminar we had at Gadja Mada University at Jogjakarta in September 2016…

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The hall was really nice and I could hear the echo of the Shakuhachi as I played…

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Bengawan Solo, of course, was one of the songs I played, in addition to another Indonesian song and Japanese song…

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Meanwhile, a bunch of international students at our university wanted to try their hand at playing the flute…

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We meet up once a week during lunch time to play at the main square of the campus… many students and staff members come by to look and stare…

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I teach them the foundations of blowing… and the basics of the doremi scale…

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It is not an easy instrument to play… not easy to get the sound out…

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But I think they are enjoying the experience…

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At home, I enjoy playing the Shakuhachi almost every night before I hit the sack…
It soothes the mind, nourishes the soul… and hopefully, not too much of a torture for our neighbors… 😉

A walk in the rain through three hamlets

September is a lovely month, more so because of its rain…
One weekend, I decided to see what is in store for my photo shoots…

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The above shot is the hamlet where I live…
My house is actually more to the right side of the shot, and out of range…
The island in the back is reputed to be owned by some famous personality…

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I source most of my bamboo, including the edible bamboo shoots from this bush…
Many bamboo-bush owners are too happy to see people cutting their bamboo as these plants are getting to be rather invasive…

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A little short of one kilometer away lies this picturesque hamlet…
I pass by this place each time I commute to work…
The islands at the back are uninhabited, and are favored fishing grounds for sport fishermen…

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Biologically, these are banana trees…
But not the kind found in Malaysia (my home country)…
Their fruits are really tiny, much like the size of the little finger of adults…
In Okinawa, I think the fiber is used to make clothes…

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Further deeper into the hills, the air is fresh…
Where wild animals and birds roam quite freely…

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Roads are well paved…
And up we go…

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On the downturn, was greeted by this misty scene…
This spot is about two kilometers from our place…

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A few steps forward, the view opened up to the Japan Inland Sea, shrouded in mist…

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And the house with the red roof comes into perspective…
This is the hamlet where I stay, shot from the hills above…

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There is one segment of the journey where fallen leaves are aplenty…

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And the Guardian Gods provide safety and comfort…

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Further down the path, Sumiyoshi Shrine awaits…

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The third hamlet comes into view, with patches of pumpkin and sunflowers…

Yangshou in March 2016

Had this urge to visit China in March 2016…
The aims were to look around, and to perhaps enroll in a language school to study Mandarin…
Decided on Yangshou, a small city nearby Guilin…
Ended up spending about two weeks there…
Mornings were for learning the basics of Tai Chi…
While in the afternoons, the language school beckoned…

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Rented a bicycle throughout the time there…
Cycled around the vicinity during much of my free time…
And was constantly awed by the beauty of the scenery…

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Was lucky to come across this man walking along the road…
Could only wonder what he was carrying as my Mandarin was and is still bad…

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I stayed at the Tai Chi School and had a room with a view of the village…
Jima Village is a small community with old houses inhibited by mainly farming families…

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Cycling along the Li River was a real joy…
Was able to see the villagers going about their daily lives…

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Took this shot of neighboring village…
The backdrop hills are a reason enough for me to think of a return trip in the future…

The man chops wood, and cooks too…

Once in a while, the lady of the house takes a few days off to travel…
Leaving the man of the house to fend for himself…

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Winter is quite a lovely season in Japan, except for the cold… 🙂
Being a Malaysian born in the warm waters, my systems have yet to fully adapt to the cold…
Even after all these years of continuous residence…

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Anyway, winter season almost always equals ‘chopping wood’ season…
An activity that I cherish doing, as it ‘makes me feel like a man’ to be able to handle the chain saw and the chopping axe… 🙂

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Can you believe it?
I set the camera, pushed the shutter, ran over, picked up the axe, and clicked it went…

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And yes, the man cooks too… albeit sometimes…
Here, I have used some vegetables from my garden…
Winged beans, pumpkin, tomato… on top of some conger eel and tofu…

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For seasoning, I had the opportunity to use the Thai sweet and mildly hot sauce given to me as a gift from a friend at Chiang Mai…
The taste? Not too bad…

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