Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June weddings

June is the month for weddings and invitations in my letter box prove this.

The popularity of June weddings is a global phenomenon.

According to Lesley-Ann Graham, author of WeddingTrix.com, June weddings trace their roots to ancient Rome "when couples would marry in June in observance of Juno, the goddess of marriage". It was thought that the goddess would give her blessing to each married pair.

But there are also "practical reasons for getting married in June" such as nice weather and school breaks.

June weddings are also fashionable in Malaysia where schools take a short break in June and the half-term holiday allows Malaysian parents to plan for their older children's weddings with a lot less hassle than holding them during non-vacation time.

Wedding invitations inundated my mail box this month but I could only attend one. Most painfully, I could not be present at Koh Soo Ling's wedding reception. Soo Ling, if you recall, writes for New Sunday Times and Learning Curve, an education pull-out of the New Sunday Times.

I took the photos below at the Malay wedding ceremony of Fatin and Fattah in Ipoh, Perak. Fatin is my friend's daughter. I am sorry I did not take a picture of the bride and groom; the pair disappeared as soon as the reception ended.

I love the colour combination of this wedding cake.

The baker has an eye for detail.

The traditional bunga telor, a gift for guests, faces extinction if substitutes such as sweets and books continue to gain acceptance. I hope not. Long live the bunga telor.

Shamsiah Daud, mother of the bride, strikes a pose in the bridal chamber.

Songket material turns the bride's costume into an elegant wedding outfit.

A room in Shamsiah's house was turned into a bridal chamber for the newly-wed.

The love seat is for the couple to sit during the bersanding ceremony. 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Kuching: It's good to be back!

I am thrilled to be back in Kuching, Sarawak. Journalist Jehan Mohd and I are in the city to cover the RHB New Straits Times Spell-It-Right Challenge over the next few days. The last time I visited the city was in 2008, also to report on the spelling contest with Jehan. This family of cats, a symbol of the city, looks cosy together. I decided to join other visitors in taking a picture of these animals.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Koh Soo Ling: Letter perfect love

I will not be able to attend my friend's wedding because I will be in Kuching, Sarawak on the day of the reception. When duty calls, ...

That is so sad. I will make it up to you Koh Soo Ling, who is pictured here with husband Michael Howard.

Soo Ling has found happiness with a wonderful Irish man who loves her with an intensity that makes her heart flutter.

She will begin a new life in Ireland and the prospect of living in the countryside fills her with excitement.

She will love her man, take care of him, cook and bake for him, take part in community life and write, write and write. 

Yes, Soo Ling will continue to write for New Sunday Times and she promises to share her activities with readers in Malaysia.

Theirs is not a whirlwind romance. They started as pen pals, two teenagers who were eager to learn about foreign cultures.

Pen pal relationships are so mysterious. Some write to their friends abroad for only a short time; others continue to swap letters and gifts in their old age.

Yet others arrange to meet face-to-face and this sometimes leads to serious commitments including marriage.


The pen pal relationship between Soo Ling and Mike  went on for seven years (1970s-1980s). She was the window to the Far East for him. 

The picture below (right) shows Mike at the post office in Batu Pahat where Soo Ling posted her first letter to her Irish pen pal.

They met up once in the early 1980s when she went to London for a holiday (see picture above). He flew from Ireland to London to see her and to visit his uncle.

The exchanges stopped when he got married.

By a curious twist of fate they reconnected in June 2008 when Soo Ling decided to seek him out.

She knew his son was named after him and googled junior's name. Ten possible links came up on the first page.

She hit on one that looked very probable. Where was  Mike at that moment?

He was in the garden; his son brought out his laptop to show his dad.

Senior could not contain his joy. He was ecstatic about the discovery.

Mike was going through a reflective period at the time; he was trying to make sense of his world, his wife had passed away. But Soo Ling was unaware of this aspect of Mike's life at the time.

Her sudden appearance online was "a breadth of fresh air". He asked his son to reply (he was not computer savvy then) to his long-lost pen pal via email. Later Mike wrote a five page letter via snail mail saying "how happy and thankful he was" that Soo Ling had "sought him out and found him".


The rest, as they say, is history. 

Ireland's Own, a family magazine, paid tribute to the pen pals by publishing an article about their reunion. The picture above shows Mike, Soo Ling and the owner of the store where Mike buys the magazine from.

Soo Ling tells me that she is "so happy because God is looking out for us". 

"It is like a miracle. We've been given a second chance and it was totally unplanned. It's a beautiful friendship, simple and honest."

Mike has learnt many new things from the reunion such as acquiring computer skills, wearing bright shirts, tasting sambal belachan and durians while Soo Ling has understood the meaning of rest and recognised the scent of flowers.

Soo Ling will be leaving Malaysia for Ireland a week after the wedding and I miss her already.



Pictures courtesy of Mr and Mrs Micheal Howard.




Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

Cakes are a must at social gatherings and this yellow delight is a delicious creation of sponge, cream and hazelnut. Places where European influence is strong have always been the hub of cakes. Malaysia is no exception and western-style cakes have been adopted and adapted on a grand scale. The world's first cake traces its history back to ancient Egypt.
  
Cakes are regarded as treats and party planners recognise their ceremonial importance at social events. This cake was served at a recent gathering, which was held on the eve of Father's Day, to celebrate my brother's graduation day.


This leftover chunk is so tempting. Who should have it? It seems only fair that the host, my sister, should keep it. This is a really great cake. Thanks are due to the party sponsors -- Elene and Achid.

Many are treating their dads to lunch today.

Others are spending time with their fathers in search of that special bonding session.

Yet others are holding prayer gatherings to remember their old men who have passed on.

Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever -- Author Unknown.

Happy Father's Day!