web counter The Madness of MokcikNab: May 2006
The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Friday, May 26, 2006
Eggless, Butterless Chocolate Cake

Ingredients :
About two cups of flour
Two eggs
Lots of milo
Lots of milk
Lots of Froot Loops, Coco Pops and Cap'n Crunch Peanut Butter Cereal

Method :
First, make sure your mum is not at home. Mommies thwart progress. However, you should enlist your brother and sister for help because the more, the messier.

Next, use all the eggs and butter you have in the kitchen to make blueberry muffins; or what you think are blueberry muffins, since you're not using any blueberries at all but the buah kemunting you pick from the front yard. The muffins reportedly turn out yummy, so you and your siblings savour every crumb. So happy with the results, your brother think it's a good idea to make another batch for your mummy, which everyone agrees upon.

Of course, at this point, you realise there's no more butter and only two eggs. But you think you can wing it anyway, and everything will turn out just fine. You grab a mixing bowl, and bung in two cups of flour (don't bother with the sifting). Next, add the two eggs, and combine using a table spoon. The mixture will be all lumpy, so pour in some milk to get it going. Add spoonfuls of milo to the bowl. There is no metric equivalent to "spoonfuls", sorry, so you're just going to have to go with your gut feel. Usually it's about right when your maid starts screaming.

Pour the cake mixture into a round pie dish and bake in a microwave for about half an hour. It has to be a microwave because you can't work a gas oven. When the cake sets, ask your maid to take it out for you to decorate, which is the whole point of cake baking. Sprinkle the top with all the cereal, and dust some icing sugar, and voila! a most unique and colourful chocolate cake. When your mum comes home later that evening, she will think it's as heavy as a rock and tastes like heveafil, but she would also tell you it's the prettiest, most delicious cake in the world, and that you're the best cook ever.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006
Of Java Jive and Muslim Merits

Hello, all seven of you who still read my blog : let me apologise for being increasingly erratic and horridly un-interesting in my posts.

The whole SSO family is distracted by two main clients -- a government linked VC who is desirous of re-branding and heightened visibility; and a university who, in launching their new mosque, wants us to set up an exhibition on the Muslim heritage of excellence. So you see, we actually have to do work, and work has considerably limited the time spent on things we'd rather do, namely blogging, eating and psycho-analysis; which we sometimes undertake all in one go.

Work, as well as Adam and Aiysha's impending exams, also mean that I'll have to forgo my fortnightly trip to Jakarta. My husband has repeatedly said he wished I could come over despite these responsibilities, which just goes to show that all his strictness with the kids is just a sham, because he'd sooner put sex above all other interests. Of course I miss Saiffuddin, too, but I am surprised to find that I also miss Jakarta, the city of inconvenience.

I mean, I actually yearn to be in the folds of that dusty, noisy, supremely un-navigable place. Every time I get back to KL I thank God, and I thank British imperialists and Malay conglomerates who made a bunch of money out of infrastructure, because I live in a town with wide roads, less people and a better sense of town planning. (Let's not discuss the merits of Singapore at this point) And just like Singapore, KL is swish and modern with all bells and whistles, but it is increasingly losing its soul. Jakarta, on the other hand, is a city whose heart is alive and wildly beating.

Life is hard for most people in Jakarta, and our driver once said that "Jakarta itu lebih kejam dari ibu tiri". But this adversity has made Jakarta denizens such resolute and resourceful people. In Mampang-Prapatan, where people jostle for space with huge drains and wooden factories, you see that most houses still bear the dignity and pride of its owners. Even though their abodes are roughly the size of our low cost flats, and the only front yard is a three feet opening, homes are kept meticulously clean, and usually adorned, either with plants or carvings. (Admittedly, sanitation elsewhere leaves much to be desired lah)

People living here go to work in cramped, cranky buses or mikrolets, or they'll take the rusty bajajs or post-war bimo's, or if they're in a hurry, they'll take ojeks, which means a pillion ride on a kapcai. But I often see them well-dressed for work -- women usually have coordinated shoes and handbags and I hardly see a man without a tie and a tucked in shirt. (With the exception of my husband, who dresses worse than his clerks) Despite the impossible traffic, most drivers are polite and understanding, and this is the absolute truth : I have yet to hear any commuter fling a swear word at anyone on the road.

Of course, there's the shopping, where every mall is a Sungei Wang ten times over. I once bought like, four sets of brand-name lingerie (and by that I mean with garters and stockings and the works) for under fifty ringgit at ITC Ambassador. One simple rule when going bargain hunting in Jakarta - if it says "ITC" (that's eee-tay-say in Indonspeak) in front, leave your husband in the car and go in with lots of money. You'll need every single rupiah, and a husband exhorting moderation and common sense, will just be a nuisance.

But if you ask me the things that I miss the most in Jakarta -- I'd say it's their arts and music; and their food. Oh I miss their food : nasi timbel with lots of ulam and fried sambal terasi, keredok, the sinful es teler, which includes pieces of avocado and buah kabung swimming in sweet coconut milk, and anything from Monami, a cake shop selling traditional kuehs and other pastries. A juice counter near my husband's office makes the best avocado shake in the world : ripe buttery slices of avocado blended in milk and palm sugar, absolutely heavenly and does no justice to your hips. God, I even miss simple things like fried bakwan, which is essentially fried cekodok, but there's the bakwan sold by a nice-looking mas back in Senen which has just the right amount of carrots and taugeh and dried shrimp. Besides, he has a smile for every one and packs his confection in home-made paper bags.

For arts and culture and music, Jakarta is nonpareil, at least when compared to Malaysia or Singapore. For someone who loves the prevalently popular Indo-pop, Jakarta radio is mother-lode. My dial hovers between I-Radio, Radio Kayumanis, Muslim FM, Female Radio and Hardrock FM Jakarta. You can hear live music for free, at food courts in any mall, although my favourites are at Pasar Festival, where on Friday evenings you can hear Ireng Maulana and Friends entertain you with jazz while you negotiate your ayam khalasan; and centre court in Atrium Plaza, where they hold school-band competitions on weekends. Once I was impressed by a band of sixteen year olds who gave a punk twist to the theme song from Crayon Sinchan. And they were cute, too. But the best example of free music in Jakarta must have been the day Dewa 19 promoted the release of their Republik Cinta album by playing in the street, on the back of a moving trailer ala the Beatles and U2, bringing traffic to a virtual standstill on the main arteries of Gatot Subroto and Sudirman. Now that's an album launch.

But if you like, there are endless places where you can pay to listen, but I haven't tried those yet -- I'd like to visit Planet Hollywood and Score! in Cilandak Town Square, and a jazz club in Aston Semanggi the next time I go. And I'd probably also check out a small open air place in Kemang, which gives new bands space to perform every Wednesday, although personally I hate Kemang.

There are concerts almost every weekend, some of them cheap and massive, like the ones they hold in Ancol beach, where people like Slank and Radja and Searius and Cokelat perform, but you go only at the risk of getting your head introduced to the broken end of an empty bottle. Or you can go to the respectable ones at Balai Sarbini, Erasmus Huis or JCC, which has seen the likes of people like Bob James and Lee Ritenour. The last notable concert, which I missed, was of the Tiga Diva -- a powerhouse performance combining Kris Dayanti, TT DJ and Ruth Sahanaya. They have the hugely anticipated Java Jazz Festival every year, and they have the Jakarta International Film Festival. And occasionaly, they come up with gems like a concert of drummers from different bands coming together, or the one which I desperately wanted to watch : Bass Heroes, a bareng fest of 13 bassists, including Thomas from Gigi, Rindran from Padi and Adam from Sheila on Seven.

And then, there's Taman Ismail Marzuki, which is like a one-stop centre for arts and culture : a cinema, a makan place and a performing hall all in one location.

The last time I was in Jakarta, I went to Taman Ismail Marzuki to see Calonarang, a dance theatre, which combined elements of Java and Bali dances, namely the bedaya and the legong. The performance was a testimony to the friendship between two doyennes -- Retno Maruti and Bulantrisna Djelantik, who combined the principles of two different dances to tell the story of Calonarang, and it was nothing like I've seen before. I felt like I was standing before a vast civilization, some of which formed the seat of my own culture, and I knew so little of its vastness.

And I suppose this is where my fascination with Jakarta, and Indonesia as a whole begins : it holds so much knowledge, so many clues about the my own origins, like it is the source from which springs my stream of consciousness. I see myself in the faces of so many people, and I am sometimes surprised by how so many of my husband's colleagues who correctly guess at my ancestry in Indragiri. Everyone already assumes my husband's Acehnese heritage, you can't miss the dark complexion, the broad forehead, the aquiline nose and the quick temper. I see elements of Terengganu words in the Indonesian language, and I am delighted by the similarity in food -- they too, have pulut lepa and temosa ikan, and keropok they call pempek, although the recipe is much watered down. This is where the art of songket weaving originates, before those skills are brought to our peninsular by Sumatran princesses who marry into the royal house of Terengganu (hence, the touch of Indragiri in me) So much of what we are, was born there.

There, lie stories about Bukit Si-guntang, and Demang Lebar Daun and Tun Sri Lanang, and Melayu-Jambi and Melayu Riau, and Paramesvara and Sri Tri Buana. Across the straits there is the romance of ancient kingdoms like Mataram-Demak and Majapahit, and epics like Loro Jonggrang or even Diponegoro. I am going to drown in the sea of antiquity, and I can't wait to explore every cave.

Post Script : There are many things that does annoy me in Jakarta, as there are things that I cherish about KL, or particularly PJ. Foremost among these is the availability of internet -- here there's wireless connection virtually every where. You still have to pay for the web at a Starbucks in Jakarta, and even then the connection is achingly slow. So hurray for Malaysia.


Saturday, May 06, 2006
I Don't Appreciate Getting Scolded Through A Blog, But Hey, I Won't Kill The Messenger

You've heard me before : my husband 's company is being painfully slow in disbursing the funds necessary for the whole family to move to Jakarta. At the moment, my stubborn-and trying-to-prove-a-point husband lives in what Indonesians call a "paviliun", a ground level flatlet, in a borrough that makes Kerinchi Dalam look positively like Park Avenue. Among his neighbours are two goats and a cow, the first things he sees in the morning when he goes out for his daily walk. In his route he will pass by ramshackle houses no bigger than my bedroom, wooden sundry shops and a kilang tempe that still uses chopped branches as fuel.

(Before anyone thinks the company he works for is being unnecessarily cruel, let me say that my husband could move in to Hilton if he wanted to; and is in fact doing so next week, presumably after having made the point)

Saiffuddin came back to KL during the Labour Day weekend, and for the first time, we see some positive steps being taken. Before this all enquiries had been met with the stock answer : "Err, tak tahu lah". My husband's immediate superior and usual saviour is in Sudan and hasn't seen his own wife for months; and noting that he is in an obviously worse boat, we thought it unfair to go running to him. We had sent some HR guy in the company invoices, like months ago, and apparently he never opened them. Thankfully, the guy's boss is way more responsible, and we're grateful that he has pushed things along.

The kids and I are anxious to join Saiffuddin in Jakarta, that goes without saying. I'm sick of being a single mother, and my children, particularly the youngest, miss him acutely. But worse than having to deal with our emotional well-being, is having to work within the ambit of uncertainty. We have a calling visa that we haven't picked up from the Indonesian Embassy because we're not sure of our departure date. Aiysha's classmates and teachers had to rescind their farewell cards -- I had planned for the children to stop their schooling in Malaysia after the first term exams, but now it looks like they'll have to sit for the second as well. My friends at work are tentative about including me in their plans because no one knows how long I can stick around. And now it would seem I have inconvenienced two sisters, and annoyed my mum.

My mother has been travelling halfway across the world, and then some, since mid-March. She spent more than a month attending to my youngest sister who had her first child in Seattle, came home for about five days, and then took two flights and a road-trip to Al-Khobar, where another sister just gave birth for the fourth time. In the meantime, the only sister left, the one still living in my mother's house, has just completed renovating her own home, and is in the middle of decorating madness. In a stroke of brilliant timing, my sister and her husband decided not to continue their maid's permit, although with good reason, since the girl has been dating a slightly off-kilter divorced neighbour, and lying through her teeth all the while.

My sister is a lovely girl, I love her to bits; she is one of those people who truly has a big heart, but she was never meant to do domestic work. That's why I made sure she married a surgeon. In an earlier life, she is used to waking up no earlier than eleven, and now maid-less, she has to launder her own clothes, keep the house clean and pick after her own baby. It doesn't help that she holds a job that is panic personified -- that of a an assignment editor hyphenate producer for a prime time news bulletin. (Why this TV station should put those two posts in one person is beyond me; and should be a rant reserved for another entry).

The problem, though, is this : before my mother left for Al-Khobar, I asked her if the kids and I could stay in her house for two weeks in May because we had promised to rent out our own home to my two staff, Shazwan and Ian, whose apartment lease ended in April. We had thought that by early May my husband would have sorted the children's schooling in Jakarta, and that we'd be able to move to our Menteng abode by the middle of the month. I had thought by then I would have sent a notice to Cikgu Latifah that the children will no longer be at school here. But I was wrong, there is no such certainty. And as it so happens, Shazwan had the foresight to have their lease extended. So there was no longer a need for me to tumpang at my mother's.

I had not realised my mother and sister had relied so much on me moving, a request which somehow had morphed into a promise according to my mom, and now I'm a bad Muslim for not keeping my word. My mother worries about this sister incessantly, and to be honest I'm a little miffed because now I feel that my mother had only agreed to me moving in more out of concern for my sister than charity for my family.

I am truly sorry she's having a bad time, but the upshot is this : if I move to my mom's house, my children will have a harder time going to school, and Saiffuddin is absolutely adamant that they still go until we're sure about the transfer to Jakarta. It will mean Adam might not be able to attend co-curricular activities, or he might have to stay back if he insists on attending. Admittedly, my not having a driving licence is part of the problem, but that could be worked out by other means. The move will be an upheaval for my children -- no more friends, no more football matches in the evening, no more noisy bus rides. Worse, there's no telling how long we'll have to menumpang -- it could be two weeks or two months. I'd rather do the waiting in my own living room, but if my mother insists and Elisa once again nags me about getting nagged, I might have to bundle the kids over, despite any protest from Saiffuddin. And I'll do it before Mother's Day.

But in the meantime, I've thought of a fair compromise; and to sesiapa berkenaan I hope my mom will feel relieved to hear it : I'll tell my sister she can drop her baby and laundry at my house on her way to work, and that she can borrow Kak Ti every Saturday to clean the house. Oh, we'll do the ironing too, if she wants. But beyond that I am sure she is capable of holding her own.

I'm so sorry to be so selfish, and I'm really selfish for my kids -- strangely they like living in their own house. Is it bad that I'm more concerned about an eleven year old, an eight year old and a six year old, rather than worry about a thirty year old, who has said herself she can take care of everything?


Friday, May 05, 2006
Cop Out Entry : Sweet, Sweet Sin

This is one of my favourite songs -- it's a little dated, but I still wait for it to come on the radio whenever I go down to Jakarta. The words are so honest, I think. I also think a few of my friends would find them so apt.

It's funny, don't you think? No matter how old we are, no matter how pragmatic, sensible, or callous we think we've become along the way, given the right combination of love (or infatuation) and bewitching individual, we're achingly juvenile. Then we do things like post song lyrics on our blog. That is, if we can't write poetry.



Ku lupakan semua aturan
Ku hilangkan suara yang berbisik
Yang selalu menyuruhku
Untuk tinggalkan kamu
Hanya hati yang ku andalkan
Dan ku coba melawan arus
Namun saat bersamamu
Masalahku hilang terbang melayang

Kau adalah kesalahan yang terindah
buatku marah
tapi juga menikmati
Kau adalah dosa termanis yang menggodaku
Saat ku butuh
rasakan sedikit cinta

Kembalilah kau padanya
Hanya itu jalan satu-satunya
Karena semakin lama
Ku inginkan lebih

You can listen to this song (and quite a few other Indon hits) here. Ownernya lucu juga sih!