Let’s Try …

Well, there’s hope;

  • after some years, I made some homemade Christmas card.
  • after close to a decade, I searched my room for the long lost SIM card; possibly my 4th Indian one bought in Sikim.
  • after countless of procrastination, I finally sent the beads that would make a real difference … life standards difference … as Christmas gifts.
  • after years of messing around with my career I am back to where it has always meant to be!

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It all started a few weeks before Christmas. Needless to say it was hellish with work commitments and deadlines closing in while people geared up to either ‘window dress’ year end performance or get distracted by the upcoming long vacation.

But I couldn’t ignore the invitation to actually receive a snail mail after decades of only receiving bills in the post box! And besides, the invitation was from a very dear person who started off as a stranger whom I had to be in very close proximity for a month.

Fact #1: I am not a fan of people.

Fact #2: I need space; both physical and emotional.

Fact #3: I am not big on sharing – I never needed to.

But when you are well informed and have deliberately sought out to have ‘safety in numbers’, there are some trade-offs. And all in, personalities aside – oh yes, there sure were some BIG PERSONALITIES to deal with which is well expected when you throw an assortment of people from different age groups, nationality, ethnicity, religion, social economic background without a Hollywood production running in the background orchestrating it for viewers and ratings – it was an unforgettable experience with some wonderful memories and friendships nurtured. Her, being one of them.

She is amazing. And for someone who is hard to impressed, I’ll reiterate: SHE IS AMAZING!

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They have definitely left an impression on me. They have definitely shaped my outlook somewhat.

I had plucked the courage to walk up and speak to Sam – finally after stealing side way glances at him throughout lunch preparation and lunch. Being a Samburu warrior who has a trained keen sense of his surrounding, he was kind enough not to have embarrassed me with his knowledge, but rather took on the role of my guardian and ‘sponsor’ amongst his people. This open up great photo accessibility and rich stories – some of which I would eventually pen in my travel blog.


Photos copyright pHaque

Being semi-nomadic pastoral people, I soon met at least 100 of them, from 3 neighbouring settlements some 2.5 km away from the nearest water source. My best memories was perhaps the laziest moments where I had spent the afternoons under the sparse tree playing a handmade backgammon-type game from a tree bark which I lost every single game!

My greatest regret then, was being too lazy to help tread beads which had not dawn on me its social importance and economics … until my last day.


Photos copyright pHaque

And it was then as I boarded my truck with modern day gadgets and western food and medicinal supplies that I vow to first, ship the vast amounts of beads I have hoarded over the year, and to work towards returning.

The thought of returning has been reoccurring over the last few months.

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It’s been awhile since I’ve been flying regularly to Nairobi. Not since the last two social trips I had made on my own accord.

The thought of returning has been reoccurring over the last few months. H and I have been talking about it; numerous were intense and serious with timelines and economic realities discussed.

Who would have thought that we’ll revisit the prospects of returning to our adoptive land … one that was very brief (for me at least). H’s time was longer.

What ever may come, at the least, let’s try …



Kangbashi …

It’s not food.  It’s not me cursing in some uncommon language.

It’s a place.  The BIGGEST ghost town in China to be exact … and I’m going to let the numbers do the talking …


Back in the day, I’d be the few to research to death on how to get there – the path less traveled-cum-ghost cities or abandoned places …

Like the visit to Fatehpur Sikri or Pripyat. With the latter I had received mocking childish comments like “why don’t you just stick your head into the microwave” which conjured images of Sylvia Plath‘s final moment. 

Well, not that I’ve seem images of her head being gassed in the oven, or intend to, but curiously while growing up I had imagined a charred head! and wondered wide-eyed awake in the middle of the night how did the oven get hot with the doors open and/or how did she keep her head in there when it got hotter and hotter – yes, I had insomniac tendencies as a child!

And since I’ve digressed, a little more wouldn’t help … as an adult, I wonder if suicidal tendencies is genetic, having learned that Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes son had chosen the same path … if you must know, daddy Ted took his own life and so did his second wife!!!

Anyways, I was just going to say that someone has beaten me to Kangbashi – read his blog and view the photos here – and strangely this year, I have no zest, will, desire to travel!

Sure, I still research and plan – I must. I derive more joy doing this than actually filling up visa forms and immigration cards. And I most definitely prefer my bed 8/10 times to a hotel’s … though some hotels are super cool until I realise the hole it had caused in my pocket!

Nonetheless, I thought this place – this Kangbashi, Ordos … outpost/ abandoned city (of once great glory?) in the remote part of Mongolia – should be made known to my friends and readers who may be inspired to go.


over the hill

Now, that phrase can be rather misleading.

And this is something I had come to learn last November 2013 as I made my way by foot from the junction of South Terrace and South Street where the free Fremantle Blue CAT bus service had let me off (bus stop #7) towards the Challenger Institute of Technology.

Stopping every 500 metres or so, I was greeted with the same response, “over the hill. To your right, across the oval”.

Well, what would have been helpful was if I had been told that it’s a BIG hill – somehow the art of describing how strenuous and challenging the different hills one has to encounter on foot is something only the residents of San Francisco has it refined to the ‘t’.

What’s interesting is my mother has over the course of 5 years or so been trying to make the ‘perfect’ San Francisco sourdough bread.

Having left the ‘brick’ stage some time back with the help of online forums, countless of hours spent on YouTube videos, and many, many guinea pigs who has been or lived in San Francisco as testers, the phase of inconsistent results of ‘blisters’, ‘open crumbs’ and ‘ears’ continues to haunt her.

This resulted first with amassing a collection of sourdough or levain publications by the “who’s of who” of baking, followed by stalking self-proclaimed local artisan bakers, to eventually combing farmers markets of Europe and begging strange Swiss, Italian and French men covered in powdery white substances to Pilates professional moonlighting as organic artisan bakers for private lessons.

Almost giving up hope, a lovely Australian man – Derek – responded to her email queries, agreeing to provide her with some lessons one fine day.

The respond was timely with a last minute visit I had planned for after receiving news of an old family friend who is terminally ill in Perth.

Needless to say our laborious hike up South Street was well worth the visit and the very fact that we had traveled all the way from Kuala Lumpur gave us not only automatic access to the Challenger Institute of Technology premises after hours but an escorted tour around by the security personnel on duty.

Derek on first impression was unassuming and friendly.

While waiting for the rest of the ‘friends and family’ who would be joining the baking session that evening, I went about taking the roots off some onions that would be used later, while he went about answering my mothers ‘technical’ questions.

With the party ensemble at the agreed upon time, class started with Derek explaining the lesson plan for the night and put a batch of flour, sourdough starter and other base ingredients for the white bread with tumeric, feta and onion sourdough; one of three breads that we would make that evening, into a larger mixing bowl.

As the dough was getting a good workout in the industrial sized stand mixer, Derek produced loaves of risen 50% wholemeal with home brewed stout and torrified wheat that he had made earlier in the day, and went about describing the technique of slashing. Once we had all had our rounds of slashing 2 to 3 loaves each, Derek went about preparing the loaves with a glaze before baking them.

Between sips of the left over home brewed stout, the feta cubes and diced onions were folded into the tumeric dough over three intervals of stretch and bench rests before being shaped and dropped into foil tins that allows easy transportation, as they were to be baked on our own the next day.

With drinks drained very quickly from the plastic cups, Derek then got us busy with a quick rise white bread with black sesame which were eventually shaped into numerous shapes and sprinkled with not only black sesame but white sesame and poppy seeds.

Smelling of earthy fresh baked bread, we returned to the hotel renewed with energy and hope.

Here’s a BIG thanks to Derek for his generosity and kindness.

But more importantly for showing that when it comes to sourdough, you can’t seem to be over-the-hill – it takes little strength and effort, and it can be one of the most forgiving bread to make.