Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Busy week behind me

Last week was a particularly pre-occupied week for me. Had so much things to do on a personal level that I had almost no energy left at the end of every day.

For example, the whole of Monday morning was spent on a trip to Balik Pulau. No, it wasn't to enjoy the local food there particularly but rather, to catch up with a cousin who wanted to have wills written for herself and her husband. We travelled to the other side of the island (that is, "balik pulau"), got their wills signed and then proceeded to lunch at a coffee shop called the Kim Seng Kopitiam, not too far away from the Prince of Wales Island International School. I was told that the laksa here was the original McCoy that was sold at the coffee shop beside the old wet market in Balik Pulau town. The owners shifted their operations here about a year and a half ago and their vacated stall in town was subsequently taken over by a completely unrelated new operator. The occasional visitors and tourists would not be aware of this change but I am now. So thanks to my cousin for bringing us to partake in the original Balik Pulau laksa. I enjoyed it. Very much.

Tuesday morning was spent at The Top, one of Penang's newest tourist attractions. The Top was located at, where else, but the top of KOMTAR Tower in downtown George Town. For the month of April, The Top was offering a special discounted price of RM38 for Penangites to visit the 65th and 68th floors of the tower block. To my pleasant surprise, my entry fee was even cheaper at RM28 as a senior citizen. I'll elaborate more on this visit in a separate story.

On my way out from The Top, I bumped into a friend who invited my wife and I to a potato food fiesta that would be held on Wednesday. Be prepared to come hungry, he had warned us, because there'll be food, food and more food until the end of the event. So that was were I was on Wednesday when I went alone -- my wife, unfortunately, could not join me as she had another function to attend -- to the US Potato Food Fiesta at The Top. Again, this occasion calls for another separate story to do justice to it.

Before I go on further, perhaps I should also add that Wednesday was tempered with the sobering news that one of my old school pals, one that I had been friends with for some 55 years had died in a motor accident in the wee hours of the morning. Md Noor s/o Mohideen Pakeer was travelling with his son when another car crashed into theirs in Bridge Street (now known as Jalan CY Choy) and overturning it. My poor 62-year-old friend, a very unassuming nasi kandar businessman, died on the spot. His funeral was on the same day and I felt so awful that I couldn't attend. Rest in peace, my friend, rest in peace.

We had known one another since Standard Two schooldays at the Westlands School in Victoria Green Road, Penang, From Westlands school, we proceeded together to Penang Free School. In the last 10 years or so, I began reconnecting with him, visiting him at his nasi kandar shop in Tamil Street which was beside the Chowrasta market in Penang Road. The last time I saw him was in mid-January this year. I saw him at his shop. He offered me his nasi kandar but I had declined as I was full. But over a glass of cold drinks, he would tell me again of his son at the University of Limerick. You could see the pride in his eyes every time he spoke of his son's achievements, attained without accepting any help from the Malaysian government. Everything his son achieved was by dint of personal hard work and nothing else. Md Noor was immensely proud of that.

Thursday brought me further back to normality. time for my visit to the General Hospital in Penang for my scheduled check-up at the out-patient eye clinic. I've always been forcing myself to the eye clinic every time because I really don't like the medical officers putting all sorts of eyedrops on my eyes to dilate the pupils. Always, this leaves me in discomfort because I find myself unable to drive after every session. And thus, I've to trouble my wife to follow me to the hospital just in case that I'm unable to drive. There was one particular bad session maybe one and a half years ago when my brother-in-law had to drop her off at the clinic after hours because I just couldn't see.

Anyway, when I arrived for last Thursday's session with the MOs, I discovered that the clinic had been temporarily relocated to another block some distance away because the hospital wanted to renovate the old premises. Unfortunately, the move brought on new problems for the clinic because the temporary premises was so much smaller, meaning less seats while waiting to be seen. And then it was a long walk back to the pharmacy to collect my medication. I had arrived at the hospital at about 8.30 am but we left at almost 1 pm. Four hours of waiting (patiently) and twiddling with the mobile to while away the time. Hopefully by my next visit in six months time, the eye clinic would have moved back to their old, refurbished premises.

Friday. My time last Friday was reserved for the Swee Cheok Tong. Myself, together with two others from the Quah Kongsi, had planned a visit to Bagan Serai in Perak for some time now, in order to meet with some other Quah clansmen living there but somehow, the trip only materialised last week. I would not want to disclose the objective of our trip but I can say that it was fruitful enough and if we, the Quah Kongsi, want to follow up on the matter, there'll be a lot of work that must be done. Are we up to it? I hope so.

At least, Saturday was relatively easier for me although I still had to spend time making a tray of my special mango-flavoured agar-agar jelly for my wife's mini-reunion with her own school friends. They were treating themselves with an overnight stay at someone's house in Tanjong Bungah, all nine of them, away from their respective husbands. (I don't know who were more relieved to be rid of their spouses even temporarily...the wives or the husbands. As for me, I whoopied through the night with a bowl of my favourite ginger paste chicken rice from the Old Town White Coffee restaurant in Bukit Mertajam.) I heard from her later that the jelly went down very well with her friends.

Then finally on Sunday morning, I rushed over to the island for the annual general meeting of The Old Frees' Association. Sat through the whole meeting and brought up an issue of my own at the very end of the meeting. I requested the chairman, who was also the association's president, to quickly respond to the school on a request for financial assistance to send a group of three pupils to Los Angeles where they would be participating in the prestigious INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) competition in May as representatives from Malaysia. the boys' project, S.A.L.T. (Saponin Anti-Larvae Treatment), had won the Gold Award during the state-level Science Innovation Competition in 2016. The boys emerged Champion and brought back the Penang State Director of Education Department’s Challenge Trophy for the second consecutive year. During the national-level Science and Technology Competition in November 2016 in Langkawi, the Free School emerged as the first Runner up in the Team category. They were now seeking sponsorship to defray some of the costs of their participation. I really hope, after having raised this at the AGM, the OFA management committee will respond fast as the competition is just 12 days away.

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