Make Malaysia beautiful again

On this rainy day here in Japan, I sit back to reflect on the happenings back in Malaysia, my home country. Today is May 13 2018. On this day in 1969, a racial riot broke out, pitting the two major races of Malays and Chinese against each other. I was 11 eleven years old, and fortunately, for our family living in the northern rural state of Kedah, the riots did not affect us in any substantial manner. Up to this day, the Malaysian government has not had the courage to declassify the details of the killings that transpired on that day.

Many writers have suggested that the principal instigators were people from UMNO, the major political party then. This tragedy plunged the nation into emergency rule, and consequently, the introduction of wide-ranging policies that were racially lopsided to the so-called Bumiputra segment of the population. This political party rode on the support of the rural population (predominantly Malays) to rule Malaysia for six decades, uninterrupted.

I am turning 60 on my next birthday, and I had never dreamed that I could see such a day in my lifetime. In the 14th General Election on May 9 2018, Malaysians came together to send a clear message by voting out this political party along with its other racially based political partners in the Barisan Nasional coalition.

For too long, Malaysians had tolerated their corruptible antics in enriching themselves, their authoritarian manner in stifling criticism, and for too long, they had played the racial sentiments of the citizens to hold on to and prolong their power. Their hold on power depended on their claim to protect and to fight for the benefit of the Bumiputra segment of the population. In return, the Bumiputra population voted them back to power for every election. Until 9 May 2018.

Like many of my fellow citizens, I am much appreciative to the many (opposition) politicians who fought extremely hard to win this battle. The folks from DAP, PKR, Amanah, and Bersatu who form the Pakatan Harapan coalition have my deepest respect in this regard.

Of these people, Dr. Mahathir deserves special mention. I went to the same secondary school as he did in Alor Setar, Kedah. However, like many of my fellow citizens, I am not so much of a fan of his. I have personally met him only once, years ago, when he came to receive his Honorary Doctorate degree from Waseda University, Japan. I greeted him and asked if I could take a picture with him. He nodded.

He is the individual who largely put Malaysia into the current mess. He was Prime Minister for over 2 decades of that 60-year rule. He did some good things for the Malaysian economy, but many writers would argue that he was just fortunate to be prime minister during a time when Malaysia was flushed with money. However, he entrenched money politics through a system of political patronage. He ruled with an iron fist by installing repressive laws. He encouraged the Islamization of the country and made use of racial politics to divide and rule. He undermined the independence of the courts to his favor. And more.

Still, like many citizens, we rooted for him this time. We believed he is a changed man, and is determined to correct his past mistakes. Now that we have kicked out the corrupt regime, we look forward to and expect him and the new government to put Malaysia back on the right path.

My personal view is that, this government will perform. This government gives us hope for a better Malaysia. I say, we would want them to make Malaysia a beautiful nation again. And if they ever fall into the horrible ways of the previous regime, I am sure Malaysians will not think twice to exercise their newfound power to vote them out. I believe Malaysians are no longer in the mood for monkey tricks by politicians.

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New toys (truck & bicycle)…

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Recently got myself a new toy…  a Suzuki ‘Carry’ mini truck…
Manual transmission, four wheel drive, power steering, power windows… nice…
As before, I use this truck to carry wood from the hills for our wood stove…

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This meant that I had to say goodbye to my old truck, the Daihatsu ‘Hijet’…
It was still working well though…
By this time, this truck could have found a new life perhaps in some other country…

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Also bought myself a new bicycle some months ago…
Use this to commute to the university, for work…
Distance is about 20 kilometers per way…

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Think this is what is called a ‘cross-bike’…
Slim tires, no gear whatsoever…
Maker is Miyata, and the model is called ‘Freedom’…

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…

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…

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