Showing posts from 2008

Truly, Madly, Deeply

Right: Developing Pomegranate from my Garden
You are obviously in love.

Every detailed thing that Darling does for you, you note and analyse like
a school lab frog - but I don't blame you, only to wish you receive
the love you deserve and that both of you are protected if things don't go the
way both Darling and you want.

I am sure you are in love because you lap up the good advice that Darling
gives you - like a little puppy, I must say. That is a sure sign of
the goodness of a positive relationship, in that it motivates you
further to do things that you know you want and you should, but just
require a little gentle push to actually do it!

You must be in love as well because you get all truly glad inside your
heart just to know that Darling is happy. Love, as I understand it, is
self-less, makes the lover forget his existence and willingly submerge
into the consciousness of the loved one. How well is the loved one
willing to infuse the dimension of this existence with you?

What is age and…

Sunday Outings

Alex Higgins has grown up. He tells me that he is now in Year 10 at school. Alex lives in an enclave of southern Sydney that overlooks the sea, perched up on a cliff top. I catch up with his Dad as well. Little William has brought back a tiny strawberry after a walk with his uncle and aunt, who got hitched recently, first in a Phuket Buddhist Temple, then in the registry in Parramatta and soon to beholding their reception at Chateau Carlingford.

The afternoon was getting oppresively hot and humid. We were in a green house portion of an Austrian-German restaurant in far north Sydney. The food was excellent, including my fav duck, pork knuckle, potato au gratin and the lightly batterred fish. After lunch, my group of four riding in the same car secretly diverted to the nearby Ba'hai Temple, strikingly white and laced with lattice windows with a beauty topped by its harbour lighthouse top. This is the first time in many years that I have seen the building of prayer in sunny daylight.

Highlights of the Year

Maybe I over think of what can be improved, or what needs to be done going ahead, that I unfairly forget about the existing good things in my life, especially for the past year.

The annual medical test taken bravely after a weekend of feasting for Christmas had a good outcome. Interest rates had come down in recent months at almost the same pace as banks had raised it earlier without care for their customers. I have a vibrant team synergy at work. I enjoy responding to the challenges thrown at me in surprising contexts from a few smiling hyena types who snarl only behind my back.

The car had not given problems, except for some unexplained sounds, and I thought I was winning the war against garden weeds. More rain had fallen in an apparent break of the drought where I reside. The views of the neighbouring hills, either with a clear blue sky or topped by cloud and fog, continue to provide inspiring vistas when I come out of my front door, and I can feel the ocean breeze from where the …

On a One-Horse Open Sleigh

Love works in strange ways.

Like finding the right house or the dreamed of car, it can be a logical result or just a sincere surprise when we least expect it. Logic can defy the choice, feelings arouse the instinctive and the bonding defies whatever convention that may apply to it.

Rouselavata had been trying. He had retained sufficient hope to not unnecessarily close any window of opportunity. At the same time, he had developed a workable sense of realism in whom he preferred and what could translate further into a meaningful relationship. All these may seem hypothetical and good in theory, and unless he could apply all these in one real example, it remained good only in planning and on paper.

One week it all came together. Someone turned up. Someone who could click so well with him in his interests of music, style of mingling and getting to know each other. Someone who added to stability and a heightened sense of living. Someone who made Rouselavata glow inside and made him share his n…

Joyeaux Noel

The dessert spread could have been sufficient. White Sago in Malacca sugar; steamed nine layer cake; a large Australian fruit platter that had mangoes, grapes and more; Straits Chinese cassava pudding; the white top over green in a concoction literally called 'beautiful face", accentuating its over all smoothness; freshly baked curry puffs; and longans iced in jelly cubes from Singapore. We had more choices for high tea than in the Inter-Continental Sydney.

This was preceded by the mains that reflected the heritage of those who sat around the table. Fresh noodles swam around a prawn-based light spicy and tasteful soup in har mee, garnished by pork cuts, chili kangkong vegetables and prawn fillets. Glutinous rice had been boiled with two different types of fillings in the servings of chang, traditionally served in the Aussie mid-winter and associated with the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival. Indian pancakes prata were eaten dipped in a robust chicken curry cooked with well cooked…

The Year That Nourished

It is still fresh in my mind - the tingling and heightened sense of what it means to enjoy what life can offer. This does not necessarily mean partaking the sensations of untried fruit or stepping into a corner of the Earth that was previously inaccessible to us, but much more. It leaves in me an inner gulp and something that remains to nurture and encourage me, a planted seed that allows me to rely upon for potential and continuing growth and a contented source of not just memory but spewing happiness.

It all begins with perhaps one may view as ordinary events, but which to me are a source of my gratitude to unexpected events. Out of the blue one afternoon, someone took the trouble, all by himself, to organise a wholesome cake to celebrate on my actual birthday in front of whole group of people. And he even sang and led a song. Earlier at lunchtime,another surprise gathering was organised at my fav on-site work cafe and this function drew attendance from people I appreciate the frien…

Irony of Some People

The person with whom we want to avoid keeps turning up round the corner. Those whom
we miss so much seem so difficult to get near and catch up with. We put our heart and soul into something we have passion about and that is diverted from us into something trivial, or a molehill made into a mountain. We treat some people nicely and they bite back with an ungratefulness that animals don't have. We place our trust into an individual and that individual utilises the same trust to get us into an unfounded allegation.

We give out of our own free will and expect nothing back - but are quickly dropped once we are of no use to some short-sighted people. At times, I feel as if I am being challenged by parties that do not have any civilised sense of behaviour - and obviously think too much of themselves. Some pretend to make a show of smiling in front of us but bring out the sharpened knives behind my back. It may be all relative. They are even better than those who show their feeling of di…

Three Fishes

Do succulent fishes taste better with the bone, or without?

Nothing is as exquisite as when one bites into a lovingly made, melting yet crunchy, piece of grilled snapper. The marinade oozes its cooked flavours into the tongue and then I feel the relish for more, as the skin blends into the rich body of the piece inside the mouth. The fresh salads seem to bask glowingly in the juices dripping from the masterpiece. There are no bones to contend with, only the enjoyment of good company and the relaxing views of the quiet waters of a small marina beside some green slopes. I thought, after all the hard work in a job, this is what I live for. Maybe not just for the fish, but the ease and humour coming from someone enjoying the meal with me.

Another day, another fish - barramundi. Served with pilaf rice and induced with what was described as Persian spices, in the menu I had expected a fillet, but what was right in front of me on my plate was this whole long fish, baked to a torrid exotic fi…


It is a movie with expectation and preceding hype from the media, word of mouth and a sense of belonging. What is the reality?

Not based on any best seller novel, but with a background of historical fact, Baz Lurhmann has tried to capture the quintessential core of what it has meant to be Australian in the portrayal on screen of three structured episodes - the harshness and beauty of surviving and adapting to the tropical Australian countryside; the circumstances faced by the stolen generation, whereby Aboriginal-blooded children were separated from their families to stay with white adoptive parents; and the impact of Darwin being bombed by Japanese planes more than sixty years ago on the heart and soul of Australian society.

The cinematography offered splendid vistas of dry and wet landscapes in all their detail and stirring of the senses. The shots of people at the city ball and of the aftermath of a city besieged evoked of both Christopher Doyle and graphic digitisation. The runnin…

A Touch of Mexican

Over twenty over guys sat decked out along two sides of a long cantina table.

It could be a night out at college, or it was a gathering of a sports team. Whatever it was, where ever they came from, there was a camaraderie buzzing with them, easy conversation from relaxed mates and the food served quickly eaten with gusto. I thought a chap looked like Beckham, another reminded me of the Miscel I know, two were obviously brothers and the joker in the crowd had a sense of showmanship and effective expression about him.

Ee-lane had organised this outing into the land of burritos, thick pizza crusts, nachos, lettuce, lamb and chicken fillings and attentive waiters. The master of the laid back restaurant was traditional and came out to ask about the food and service -is everything all right? The waiters kept their cheerfulness despite a busy night and even if no sangrias or Margarita's had been ordered. My group favoured the quasiladdas, so tasty with the soft and aromatic fillings prov…

A Touch of Chinatown

Starting with the brunch of yum cha and finishing up with a ten-course home cooked banquet, the day had been celebrated with touches of Chinatown, in a country that partly shares the same time zone as East Asia and in a city that has seen radical demographic transformations in the past twenty years when compared to its previous two hundred.

Zilvers, located on an upper floor in a complex near the old Sydney Custom House and across the relatively new tram tracks of the Capitol Theatre complex, was already chock-a-block at 11am on a Sunday morning. The usual variety of steamed, fried and braised dishes, savoury, sweet, sour and more, came steaming hot or ice cold atop trolleys pushed between round tables of varying seating numbers. For some unexplained reason, the train of yum cha offerings stopped coming and then resumed with the same old tried ones instead of new ones to keep the palates of customers going. My table of four decided that that it was not worth being stuck playing the ol…

The Sense of Just Being

We work smart and we play hard. Then we long for a time out with no structure, no deadlines, no compulsion and no limitations.

The day begun with passing rainy showers with the occasional lightning. I could hear rumblings from the sky, and felt the heavy weight of humidity hanging there, undecided and restless. Never mind, what a good opportunity to have a lazy start on a Saturday morning.

When I had enough of being in a state of neither full sleep nor an awakened state, I made the coffee and got mesmerised by the on-going and live reporting on telly from two different cities in southern Asia. Travellers frantic on getting out of a city airport that had been occupied by protesters in their thousands. Hotel guests trapped in the rooms they checked in a few nights ago but only now had been released by police and the army. What has the world come to?

I lazed around the lounge reading for leisure, instead of some required purpose. The skies still looked dark and uneasy outside. I loved l…

A Touch of Lisboa

It had been a rainy and windy morning. The leaden skies threatened to colour our inner selves, but with a touch of spice, a touch of laughter and a touch of custard, that Sunday turned out to be any thing other than cloudy.

In an unassuming suburb of inner city Sydney, I was brought down memory lane. Joyce, Charmaine and I may have started with dessert at breakfast, but we continued to see familiar things from our past to enrich the culinary journey and tour of things essentially Portuguese. Tarts with caramel (pasteis nata) in La Patisserie sat side by side with ricotta creations and other well crafted pastries. I could feel a bright and light sense of homeliness created in this bakery. Fernando insisted on a hands-on demonstration of pressing the thin dough in little flat cups. He showed his innate love of his role in the kitchen through his humorous interaction with each of us, When he chatted, even in a group, it was as if he was talking only to you.

There were passing showers bu…

The Most Relaxing State

Researchers and scientists have tried to study and analyse it. They may even have tried to replicate it. However, this is not a matter for sequential breakdown or controlled experiments. This is more of a case of a personal dimension, a moment of not the meeting of the stars and the moon in the heavens, but the alignment of the right physical, psychological and physiological elements in a hallmark moment belonging to the inner soul.

Many strive for this state - when both body and mind are caught up in a feeling of content. This may arise strangely enough after we have been put through much pressure and challenge, and on overcoming them, we glide into another world inside ourselves, when the frailties and temporariness of external things are of mere relative unimportance, and our whole internal navigation and sensory system suddenly bask in the realisation of the true dimension and purpose of existence.

Lounging on a sofa, after a week of my adrenalin rushing for both the right and wro…


The first Tuesday of November. Besides the requests for raising funds to help fight prostate cancer and depression in men, in the midst of all the busy routine at work, three things happened. Three remarkable events.

The first was the announcement of another decrease in the Australian interbank interest rates. This was the third time in a row that offered potential relief to borrowers and mortgage debtors in costs after a long period of gradual but relentless increase in the price of getting funds to own a home. The one in October exceeded speculation and expectations by seeing a drop of one percent - and now another 0.75% was reduced. The world and the country was heading towards economic recession. There is prediction of a drastic increase in the jobless rate whilst inflation seems to be still strong in a nation of just 21 million. Yet Australians collectively poured around AUD51million in gambling bets for the sole Flemington horse race known as the Melbourne Cup.

The second was th…

Across the Adriatic

Nuance, taste and texture. How flavours are combined to enhance the overall sensations of sit-down dining. Add the ambiance and the mood. And one may then have a truly relaxing meal.

On the Friday evening of Halloween this year, the three of us had Italian. Eu-gene and Sheridan had come up from Melbourne, and it was a good opportunity to catch up. Al dente spaghetti that were infused with the light yet wholesome savoury feel when mixed with fresh vongole juices. Top up with well marinated tender lamb cutlets that were not fatty but just lean right. For starters, we had thin crust pizza from a stone oven. For dolci, we finished off with hazelnut gelato and two types of biscotti. The crowd built up behind us with a crescendo of easy chatter. Haberfield has its regulars, even after the delis and specialist pastry shops closed, and even if Leichhardt beckoned with its more intense night life not far away.

The next day we decided to spend the afternoon mainly in Sydney's north shore, m…

Moving On

It dawned that the need for accumulation was a fallacy. The more one gains, he thought, the more one has to lose.

A rising surge of good feeling swept through as he looked at the papers shredded or thrown away in heaps. It was symbolic of the loss he felt inside, the loss of his sincere trust in certain others who manipulated or used him like a paper doll. Funny that such people can misplace his extended hand of friendship to them. Sad and disappointing, but in the end, for them. The physical disposal was also reflected in electronic deletion. He did not understand why certain individuals around the place were deluding themselves creating imagined needs and ordering others to duplicate things in so many dimensions, as if paranoid that these duplicates would be required in the future - or is it that these individuals actually had nothing of value to contribute and had to make a semblance of activity and importance around their wrapped minds?

It was not that amazing that so many things ke…


There they were, each in a seemingly cocooned world, all as if choreographed to a tilting perfection. Each person twirled and expressed in individualistic style, some were coached, others imagined on their own and yet there were some who moved in synchronised style, not just physically but in spirit. You could see that a few took a break after a short stint, while in contrast, some could not stop, and only did when there was a lack of space.

Most telling was how one reacted when there was an unintentional fall. The younger ones took all this more in their stride, and the older novices tended to be less sure of how to pick one's self up. More interesting was how a learner looked up to the mentor and watched in earnestness the graciousness of the teacher's moves. Even more rewarding was how the instructors had this satisfaction in their faces when they realised that their proteges had moved on to another stage of their passion. Maybe it takes more than just stirring interest to …

A Magical Moment

The round full moon focused its mellow intensity on to my living room. The garden solar-powered lights complemented the unavoidable spotlight from the springtime star-dotted night sky. The lawn was lit in a light hearted sheen that seemed to nurture the green grass rather than apparently burn down on them.

This was a magical moment, something we all know requires the perfect alignment - and maybe coincidence - of the stars, wind and time. On Sunday, after coming out from Joel Aden's birthday party, my Forrester indicated it was thirty-three degrees Celsius outside on a shiny torrid afternoon in Sydney's north-west. The mileage showed a chalk-up of 33,333 kilometres - an incredible hallmark moment when I happened to glance at this synchronisation of numbers. You may say that we don't plan such things, we set in motion a chain and sequence of events, usage and preparation to then by chance arrive at a remarkable observation.

I had been trying for a week to pay some minor tr…

Alcohol Not So Anonymous

It is easier to locate an outlet selling alcohol in Australia than one serving salads, offering gymnasium facilities or a place offering positive help in community matters.

The encouraged lifestyle reeks of alcohol - advertising media, sports celebrations, commercial office functions and social cocktails. The largest supermarket chain places its liquor outlets near the checkout. Accessory products and services support and facilitate their consumption, from motor car portable fridges to the compulsory bar at the local clubs. It is implied that one has alcoholic drinks before settling into any dinner - formal, casual or spontaneous. Wine is introduced as a posh feature, consolidated in family and other occasions and any possibility of upscaling in taste to somthing more hard is officially sanctioned once one turns eighteen years of age.

Who is to take responsibility when faced with the dire consequences of excessive alcohol consumption? Does letting go mean recklessly escaping into an o…

My Old Neighbourhood: Section 17

This was the world of university days, when relief meant getting away from the books, assignments and lecture routine.

Neat rows of houses were lined up along grid roads in what was a typical housing estate. There was a green lung of a square green,which I still associate with Simon, Stephen and Kuan Hong sitting there on its edge, after an early dinner and before the equatorial sunset. There was the cinema quarter, surrounded by terraced shophouses, motorbike parking spots and push-bike hawkers. Road 6 does not seem to have changed, still exuding the presence of student rooms, walls bleached by the strong sun and upper floor balconies choked with items that could not be stored inside. However the cinema is gone, replaced by a mixed goods supermarket.

I wonder about the youngsters who grew up in the other rooms while I took one facing the road. I think about the mixed rice dishes which was sold at a price that I cannot even get a Coke can for these days. How regimented our student liv…

What If

What would my typical weekend day be like if I had chosen to stay away from Australia?

I imagine a morning in Singapore. As I feel the rising humidity after dawn, I walk amongst shaded trees to the hawkers centre to relish my favourite breakfast of kaya toast, half boiled eggs and coffee. Then it's down to the MRT or the hardly used car to visit a particular suburb. I reach my destination in under half an hour. Most likely I cannot resist dropping by a shopping area even if I have nothing in mind to purchase. I soon get caught up with display, ambiance and salesmanship.

I imagine an afternoon in Penang. The art of the brunch, afternoon tea or gathering with mates to stay away from the midday sun has reached a happy state here. We sit beneath sight of swaying coconut trees and glaring sea views to partake in Straits Chinese delicacies and to get waited upon by Burmese or Bangladeshi staff. We immerse ourselves in musings about dear friends, past and present. More likely I would lov…

Strange Days

The heater just would not turn on. I checked all the related options, timer, temperature options and electrical charge prevention buttons. Still the gadget would not turn on. Then the house telephone stopped working. There was no live line. You may expect this in Zimbabwe, but in Australia, it would be fair to think it was unusual, or may be not. I thought the connection to my kitchen phone was just unintentionally pulled off. No, it was not.

The bathroom heater lamp had one of its outlets blown off. I noticed all the bedroom ceiling lights had dimmed. The showerhead was leaking and so were the taps at the kitchen sink. The tap covers for the shower area and vanity cabinet began to fall apart in one form or another.

Maybe an alien spacecraft had flown over my house, causing all these unexpected defects in its wave. Or more realistically it was just simple wear and tear. However I could not help noticing the uncanny timing, the sense of it all happening all at the same, perhaps coordi…

Where Does The Buck Stop?

In the news read today, it was declared that Australian airport check-in staff now face 'air passenger rage", when confronted in disagreements over things like excess luggage weight, varying ticket entitlements due to a complicated pricing structure and impatience. ON another reference, a national airline blamed maintenance staff for the increasing occurrence of problems inflight delays and technical glitches of operating aircraft.

I was initially amused that the two problems were portrayed as obviously "not my fault, but always others". Ground check-in staff pointed their fingers at paying passengers and corporate management blamed their staff. I searched hard for a mention of possibly sharing the many facets of the two problems together by shareholders, management, operational staff members and customers. There is no team spirit in commercial Australia these days, underlined by a preoccupation with perpetuating the problems instead of focusing on workable solution…

A House in Goulburn

Lucia huddled on the rocking chair, warmed up and content. Outside the window it was as grey as the foggy cloudy overlay of the sky in June. The fireplace was not working but messed up with soot. Not that she cared. She had woken up with the radio station alarm announcing a hearty welcome to a day starting at minus five degrees.
Dawn was the best time, a quiet time without care, schedules and chores wating to be paid attention to. The steam of a freshly prepared coffee or oats boiling on the stove symbolised cosiness.

The house was solid brick. There is a comfort about countryside houses, Lucia thought. One that brought back memories of simpler times. One that fitted with the harsh climes and beautiful sceneries not matched in most capital city locations. She could see the bare branches of several trees outside the window, and the trellis pattern provided a sense of stark perspective. She could smell the wood of the house and feel the roughness of the open brick. She felt the house…

Windy Cold

A throbbing pain on the left side of the forehead. Persistently.

Like moss embedded on to a branch or a wall, it seemed inextricably hopeless to get rid of it. It's like often bumping into the very individuals whom you subconsciously try to or hope to avoid. By chance or design, these very same persons have to turn up, to confuse, to destabilise and to create mischief.

The conspiracy of silence makes it inadvertently worse. Actual suffering of pain is supposed to be accompanied by perceptions of gain, but only in theory. I finally understand that silence can be deafening, when it is applied in a discriminate manner, to surprise when one least expects it.

Biting cold can be overwhelming, but when supported by the wind, the chill permeates.
When mixed with a sense of helplessness, one gulps for air, hopefully only in a figurative sense. It still feels real, like the rush for air from below a raging watery surface. There is truly a psychological and physiological urge to be freed.

I look …

Somewhere Somehow

On a winter's day in August, I found myself back in the same lolly, preserve and soap shops that formed part of the cottage tourism of Berrima in the NSW Southern Highlands.

This time around, Mui Na was window shopping with me. Mui Na was on the last leg of her six week chill out around the eastern seaboard of the Australian continent, having been to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in the preceding weeks. She had caught up with our other university classmates, Chao Chin and Kwi Wah. The nights had been cool, and when the winds blew, temperatures had plummeted in varying extent. This was a far cry from the equatorial climate of our campus days.

We had a leisurely lunch at a cafe of her choice. Berrima is a a one-main street village, and the sun shone with blue skies over the cool air. It offered a casualness that thrived on familiarity and a lack of a sense of time. Maybe it epitomised what Mui Na wanted on this holiday, with no schedule and just flowing with spontaneous conversatio…

My Old Neighbourhood: Bennelong

Today's Telegraph Mirror recounted how a twenty year old Macquarie University student was hit by another young fellow with a skateboard in the small hours of the night in the main campus. Epping rail station has been transformed into a glittery version of its old self. Couples buy dinner in reasonably priced packs in the Carlingford Asian Village upon coming back from work - and do not have to cook anymore. The main thoroughfare of Epping Road is more choked with traffic than ever before during weekday and weekend rush hours. Higher density housing have cropped up beside the six-lane road. Prices of groceries in Eastwood are apparently a better bargain than Cabramatta and Flemington, the other competing suburbs of similar fare.

As the nineties began, I loved walking in the mornings to the then unassuming rail station just two streets away in Epping. I had my first taste of autumn biting winds standing on the platform. I cooked dinner amazed at the stillness and darkness of the roa…

A Kind of Hush

I had thought it had been a kind of rush for the whole day....and night. Such feelings were however mixed with doses of satisfaction and inner contentment, more of a kind of food for the soul.

It commenced with just food, partaking of vegetarian wraps with the Hindu worshippers on a mid-Sunday morning. The meal may have been simple, but the communal communion was sweet and embracing. Two little Indian boys sitting at a nearby canteen table were engaged in a banter of conversation in all innocence as childhood can bestow. The nearby temple was full of people engaged in ceremonies for an important holy day. Having grown up comfortable with this culture, to me, it was also food for the soul, even just as an observer. One of my fellow visitors, Phylis, remarked that it reminded her of elements of Jewish prayer. It struck me there and then that the world' religions can be somehow related, and that there is this invisible but strong bond of a string that connects to all things holy. The…

Calming and Magical

For just a rare hour and a half, I was engrossed in a captivating conversation with someone I felt so comfortable with. Someone I can trust, relax with and respect. And open my heart to.

You don't ask for it. There are no expectations. Then it all fallls into place - the vibes, the flow and the synergy. It is so reinvigorating. My conversational companion takes the lead by talking about something exciting to make me change dimensions and to embrace a more nurturing dimension. I let go of my imposed inhibitions and my caution learnt the hard way in some unfriendly places, now seemingly so far away. I can feel my whole self liberated like cold water doused on a hot day, or letting my senses glow in the warmth of enjoying the company of someone I instinctively feel so calm with. I cross the threshold into the dimension of what I know is happiness - so difficult to define but I am so sure I am in.

I enthusiastically follow the lead offered to me. I offer mine back and we then exchange…

The Wind

Slight branches with leafy brushes were strewn almost everywhere on both sides of the road. There was a sense of pandemonium and yet at the same time, a feeling of cleansing. The howl of the gushing air overhead underlined the dynamics of whatever caused the swirling and twirling of atmospheric forces. Things that stood in the way were showered with debris, or were buried by fallen things. Both Nature's creations and human artifacts were affected, if they had not not been secured properly.

I was up on a mountain road, eagerly dashing to hope to see someone. At times it may have seemed futile, for the winds from the heavens roared, as if to tease me and make it difficult. Overhead, the skies moved at frightening speed, with dark clouds changing their positions in a furious and obvious agitated dimension.It was an impeding storm, but up on the twists and turns of sloping roads, I could see the potential havoc thrown at the plains below. I had to see someone, whether or not it was san…

Contradictory Reality

A supermarket chain offers you petrol discounts at its associated network of stations, provided you buy more liquor from them. Does it mean we get to drive more for our petrol expense budget, only after getting more alcohol?

Binge drinking is currently perceived as a serious problem amongst Aussie youth. It should not come as a surprise to anyone in the community. Liquor store outlets are as accessible as fast food retail chains, are easier to get into by car than gyms and fitness shops and are often adjuncts to family-orientated grocery supermarkets. Sporting events are liberally littered with intense alcohol-related advertising and promotions - try finding big time salad and fitness banners in sporting venues. The urge to fulfill high levels of alcohol consumption cannot be left to market pricing alone. Chilling out after exams or having life's celebrations mean the compulsory dosage of drinking - and let's not worry about having food during the same social occasion.


Wintry Windsor

An American visitor remarked that it suggested to her of a small town in Oklahoma. The wind was bitingly chilly, but people moved about in a purposeful manner all rugged up, especially in the central pedestrian mall which happened to host a craft market. The outer approaches to the suburb heralded farming country, and I was not surprised that we saw signs of trucks, tractors and other agricultural machinery - real sized or in the displayed craft - as a possible main stay of the economy. Welcome to Windsor, New South Wales.

It was not the best of weather we had to put up with that middling Sunday in June.

However, there was a crispiness in the air in Windsor that afternoon, which made the camellias, hibiscus and other blooms even more of a sight. We were fortunate to come across a couple displaying their rather healthy nursery plants for sale - and I could not resist obtaining their parsley, mint and succulent jade. Hand painted plates, wooden receptacles and household knick knacks in ot…

A Place in Our Hearts

1230am, middle of a long weekend. I was taking another route back to Wollongong after a long day in the Sydney suburbs. The Hungry Jacks joint beside the road jolted my memory - that was where Dule first arranged for me to pick him up when we first went out after work. The Cabramatta Golf Club was across diagonally at the set of lights. The surroundings to me were like flat plains, but the Cumnberland Highway was undulating and meandering. These suburbs were like in middle America, but we were far removed from that. Two Olympics ago, through Dule, I had learnt to appreciate life growing up in Sydney's sprawling residential corridors.

I thought that maybe I was in a time warp. A holiday night, and I passed by two sets of police patrols checking for breath analyser tests. Most of the drivers still on the streets were Gen Y. Things have not changed much on such evenings when Dule was still working in Sydney. I saw the miniature Sydney Harbour Bridge facade of an overhead pedestrian b…

Two Gems in the Meadow

I pass by them most days and yet have not fully realized their shine.

Just a twenty minute walk from my house north of the Wollongong cbd is the Jam Shop Cafe. It has red coloured wooden tables outside on the pavement, and more seats inside, but more importantly it is reminiscent of a Parisian scene with a touch of NSW Southern Highland countryside charm. It has an eye for detail, in the way it has delightful surprises on its shelves and walls, and in unexpected corners. The shiny red radio seems out of step with souvenirs from an enchanted past. Standing out in this cornucopia are Julia's home made and lovingly crafted preserves and jams, which are the anchor of this ambient cafe's offerings. Julia has a delightful boisterous personality and whose passion for her cooking shines through her offered menu selections. Add to all these is a view straight towards the hills of Mount Pleasant and Mount Ousley.

I was introduced to this gem of a place by Wendy - and we had a light lunc…

Simply Shanghai

Dumplings with hot tasty soup inside. Some were as big as an apple, others were delicate as blossom flowers. Some had crispy bottom crusts, others had a tiny square of green underbase.

It was not a cold night for late autumn in Sydney's Ashfield, a suburb on the south-west outskirts of the Sydney CBD.The current demographics still retain the significant presence of mainland Chinese, which started from the mid-nineties onwards, but now also has Indian grocery outlets sitting side by side with the Greek fruit wholesalers and an icon of Australian residential life, the local club (in this case, the Wests). Retail shops like newsagents and food suppliers are open late even on a weeknight. Young Caucasian Aussies were buying fresh fish after work, or gathered together to sample northern Chinese food. A strip along Liverpool Road has all the main regional cuisines of China represented, from Beijing to Hong Kong.

Five of us had gathered for a casual mid-week dinner in a Shanghai styled res…

Your Graduation Day

Dear Tze Yin,
With utmost grace, you walked the stage
towards the Chancellor, tall and smiling
He capped the mortar board over you, like over the hedge
and you remained unfazed and beaming

The marquee in the morning covered a maze
of delightful hearts content in having achieved
Jazz musicians, teachers and parents ablaze
with the magic of the occasion, real and perceived

With the band boys of Auckland Grammar marching ahead
you strolled down Queen Street in casual splendour
With friends and family alike in a slow parade
you took the real steps to the world of commercial wonder

The cameras captured your smile on the large screens overhead
when you did the roll of honour walking inside Auckland Town Hall
Your red dress under the Cambridge-inspired graduation gown said
with elegance and beauty that you were having a ball!

In Albert Park, I sensed the camaraderie of your mates
on this special day for campus life and career ahead
A sunny day for all meaningful to gather, when all is done a…

Return to New Zealand

I expected frosty nights and moist gardens. I got them. I looked forward to the sparkling moon crescent hanging over low lying long white clouds. I saw and immersed myself in their display. I relished in the long sloping roads of Auckland that led from craters to bays. I got to travel along them. I recalled the glowworms hanging from cave ceilings in South Island, and this time, I was reminded of them by the luminous glow provided by gnat larvae in Waitomo in North Island. My inner soul from a previous trip remembered hot chocolate, intense ice cream and tender lamb cuts, and I got to relish them again. The sulphur and steam at Rotorua are exactly as a London friend, Sue Dickinson, described them.

At the same time, I am amazed this time by the variety of cosmopolitan food offerings in downtown and suburban Auckland. I stopped counting after having two modern Kiwi eatouts, three Hong Kong meals, one Korean lunch, two Vietnamese food gatherings and two Malaysian cafe eating sessions. The…

Convocation Smiles

Big Day for niece Tze Yin and Shaun on her honours graduation day, 5 May 2008

Gathering at Albert Park in downtown Auckland, after completing the walk from the campus of University of Auckland

Arriving at the University of Auckland Business School

(Images form the collection of Yong Tze Yin, May 2008)