Thursday, 8 February 2018

Thieves amongst the civil servants

One of my old friends took a flight out from Penang to Kuala Lumpur this afternoon, enroute to England with his family. I know him very, very well; having known him since our primary schooldays at the Westlands Primary School. My friend is very frank and outspoken, and never once would I ever doubt his words. Today, while passing through the Immigration checkpoint (but I believe it is the Customs that are manning the scanners at the airport, isn't it?) at the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas, he encountered a very unpleasant experience. Here is his story to his old school mates:
It beggars belief! I was about to lose my Tumi case (nice), skilfully snatched away by immigration officers at Penang Airport’s departure.
I had accidentally stored a power bank in my checked-in luggage. After being in departure, I was asked to go back to check-in and retrieve it. And on my way back, I let the Tumi bag go through the Immigration scanner. I was held back (to delay) by another officer, who ordered me back twice, again through the scanner.
When I got back to retrieve my other stuff, i.e. my belt, passport case, phone etc, I couldn’t find the Tumi bag!
The officers all looked blank - ahead of me was a European man who was putting his belt back. He looked at the female officer who was watching the screen, pointed openly to her that she was the one who took the Tumi bag. She gestured negative, but he continued, persisted in fact, and said that another officer from the adjacent aisle then came over to her and took the bag away. All quite fast.
I then looked over and spoke loudly: "Who took my Tumi!"
Then another officer at the other aisle lifted the bag up in the air and gave to me.
I then thanked the European who winked at me, his back facing them. He said he saw it all. It was very slick, he whispered and walked off. I stood there and stared at all of them.
Isabelle, my daughter them pulled me away to catch our flight to KL. Hey, it just happened, I would have preferred dinner with you guys! Really, thieves amongst Civil servants! Be careful indeed.
Yes, be very careful indeed! Thieves amongst the civil servants. Who would have thought?

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Seeing in the New Year

I stirred from my bed at five o'clock this morning. Reason was because today is the start of the new Chinese luni-solar calendar, and I wanted to be up and about when the sun supposedly crossed the 315th degree celestial longitude into a new solar term at 5.30am. We term this occurrence as Li Chun (立春) or Jip Chun in Penang Baba Hokkien-speak.

Half-an-hour for me to get myself wide awake, but enough time for me to prepare a new piece of decorative red paper with the Chinese character 春 (Chun) for sticking onto the family rice bucket. I would also fill up the bucket to the brim with a new packet of rice to signify abundance. There's nothing religious about this practice at all. It's all very cultural and traditional.

Anyway, as I was mentioning earlier, Jip Chun signifies the start of a new year according to the luni-solar calendar. This is why many households here practice putting up red banner cloths across their main doorway on this day which is 12 days before the Chinese New Year festivities actually start on 16 Feb 2018.

As for me, I do not follow this trend as I would prefer to put up the red banner only after I have made my annual worship and offerings to my ancestors before the old year creeps out. This year, the worship will fall on 11th February. I shall carry out the worship in the morning and only then in the afternoon, will I be putting up the red banner.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

A review of Let the Aisles Proclaim

My book, as reviewed by Areca Books last year. 

Let the Aisles Proclaim can be ordered from the Areca Books and Gerakbudaya bookshops in Pitt Street, George Town, Penang or directly from The Old Frees' Association in Northam Road, Penang.
Product Description
Let the Aisles Proclaim commemorates the once-in-a-lifetime Bicentenary celebrations of the Penang Free School (PFS). The title was taken from one of the most recognisable lines of the PFS Rally, which was composed in time for the Sesquicentenary celebrations in 1966.
“More than being a chronological documentation of the history of Penang Free School, Let the Aisles Proclaim pays fitting tribute to the men and women who have passed through the portal of the Penang Free School and the institutions that are closely connected to the School itself. Let the Aisles Proclaim is also about the School’s long traditions and proud heritage, and bears testimony to our competitive spirit. We take inspiration from the successes of Old Frees and apply them to the Frees of the present. This book, therefore, commemorates our once-in-a-lifetime Bicentenary celebrations. Penang Free School has thriven through 200 years and we, the members of Society who have passed and will pass through the School, are confident that she will still progress through the next 100 years.” ― Dato’ Haji Abdul Rafique bin Abdul Karim, the Chairman of both the Penang Free School Board of Governors and Bicentenary Committee    ​
In the last 100 years or so, there had been various attempts by Penang Free School to document her long and rich past. While these early attempts did provide brief accounts of the Free School’s progress and achievements since its establishment in 1816, the finer details of the School were often overlooked in the effort to compress the rich history into a form concise enough to be appropriate as an overview. As a result, many of the historical details were lost or forgotten with the passage of time.When the Bicentenary Committee first decided on a long-term literary project to chart a more comprehensive history of the oldest English school in South East Asia, as a commemoration of Penang Free School’s 200th anniversary in 2016, the onerous task fell on the book’s author, Mr. Quah Seng Sun, to dig deeply into the past and take a fresh look at the School’s long history. Let the Aisles Proclaim, the story of the first 200 years of the Penang Free School, is the culmination of at least an 18-month work. The author’s love for his Alma Mater shows in the efforts that he had put into this diligent research. Although this is probably the most ambitious essay ever written to date about Penang Free School, the complete history can still never be told fully. But for the Old Frees of either gender, the present generation of Free School pupils, the local historians and heritage conservationists and any reader with a more than casual interest in the school’s history, this tome represents the new point of reference for all future works.
About the author: Quah Seng Sun studied at Penang Free School from 1966 to 1972. After a short spell as a newspaper journalist in his home state, which sparked his life-long interest in writing, he worked in the banking industry for 24 years and then in an Internet-based recruitment company. After his retirement, he returned to his passion of freelance writing.