Flashbacks, Malaysia, Simplify

Laam Zam & See Hum

This morning, I completed a sewing project which I took on a few weeks ago. My objective was to turn the torn guest room comforter into a bolster (laam zam in Cantonese). I do not have need for a laam zam, nor any sort of pillows, with the exception of my baby pillow; but it sure was satisfying to be able to re-purpose an old item and turned it into something new, with the use of a sewing machine and some planning… 🙂

This evening, I have cockles (see hum in Cantonese) for dinner. According to Wikipedia, this bivalve is eaten all over the world. I was mildly amused that Wikipedia mentioned cockles in its Cantonese name but not in Mandarin. Maybe it is more of a Southern Chinese thing? I remember the older generation boiling and consuming cockles (blood cockles) as late evening snacks, but never saw it as a dish at the dinner table. My last memories of see hum before this evening’s dinner was of my college years in West Malaysia. Roaming the streets of Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur and Pulau Pinang with friends, in search of the best Char kway teow.

Business & Being Creative, Malaysia


My parents are now registered onto an online platform, which will allow for remote management of their life insurance policies. Technology. Advancement. More work for the customer, and a definite reduction of human interactions and services. This is the future of things and no one can escape from it…

Belgium, Flashbacks, Human Nature, Malaysia

Stand Up

One of my favourite Flemish columnists wrote about a bus ride he took not too long ago. Aside from the usual rants about smart phones, headphones and how distanced we are towards each other; he wrote about not giving up his seat for an older woman who seemed to be his mother’s age. He stayed seated and looked away instead, out of fear that he might offend the woman with his action. And maybe embarrassing himself? Maar allez…

I only know of a public bus system when I went to upper secondary school in Kota Kinabalu. The buses were often packed with young people going to school or work. I do not recall having to, or seeing anyone giving up their seats for anyone else, simply because such occasions did not occur during my time there.

Many years ago in Kortrijk, I was accompanying a pregnant friend to the hospital. When an old lady boarded the full bus, I stood up and gestured her to my seat. The woman sat down without much ado, as I continued talking to my friend. For someone who thinks too much, most of the time, that instance was not it. It was a no-brainer, no big deal, just a miniscule act of decency.

Business & Being Creative, Malaysia

In Order…

How does one take care of matters that is across oceans and continents? How does one make sure things are in order in a different time zone and will remain so?

For me, the best way is to dedicate a few hours a week to look into these matters. Keep the communication lines open with trusted contacts in the other time zones.

One step at a time, one thing at a time. Before you know it, a property is sold, your life insurance is paid, the money is transferred, your dormant post box revived, and so on and so forth.

Belgium, Business & Being Creative, Flashbacks, Food & Drinks, Malaysia, Numbers

Wo Hup

Sliced bread may be frozen for up to six months. The four loaves of bread that I bought today may not last that long, but it is good to know that D and I have till December to consume them.

Today is the last day of business for Francky and Magy. The end of an era. Because the couple are those behind-the-scene people, this city and most of its occupants may not feel the pain of their quiet departure any time soon. By next week or so, people will start wondering what is the matter with their fresh bread…

When I was young, I know of only one bakery in Lahad Datu. My father and our Italian Austrian priest were amongst Wo Hup’s loyal customers. I did not know that there were other (lesser) bakeries in town until the fateful day when Wo Hup burned down. The baker tried to bake his bread in a different location using a different oven, but it was never the same any more. The end of an era.

I wished Magy and Francky a bright future and all the best. The end of an era can mean a beginning of a wonderful phase. You never know, these days.

It has been raining the entire day today. I remember Wo Hup, and the sadness that was linked to the loss of good bread. I tried to recall the taste and smell of those wonderful white bread I had when I was a child, but that was too long ago.

An end of an era, and the beginning of many explorations and experiments in my bread purchasing future.

Flashbacks, Malaysia, Numbers

The Quiet Years

From end-1995 to mid-2000, I was back home in Lahad Datu. Things I have done in this period do not go on a résumé. Yet, I feel the need to list them here:

  • Successfully launched my youngest brother off to college, and then later to university in the US. I did the research, the calculations, the preparations, the planning. I wrote his university application letter for goodness sake, and flew with him to the US!
  • Both my parents reached retirement age. I was there to assist them with their claims to their retirement funds. My father’s retirement fund was solely from his teaching career. My mother’s retirement was from her 20 years as a teacher and partly from her life insurance career, which she continued.
  • For my mother’s insurance business, I helped in renovating the Lahad Datu office, set up a new one in Kota Kinabalu, and have a home-office built beneath the living room.
  • I planned a solo US-trip for my father to meet up with my sister who was then in San Francisco and my brother who was still in university in Kalamazoo. He had the experience and time of his life!
  • Gifted properties were formally and legally transferred to the rightful owners. We then went into small-scaled oil palm planting and development. I recalled driving to a weighing station to collect a cheque for sales of oil palm seedlings?!
  • I had a wisdom tooth removed, by my childhood dentist. I survived LD style dental brutality!
  • Planted trees along a busy street.
  • Because I worked for my mother as an administrator, I had to help manage a secretary, a handful of death claims, a lot of accident claims, and tons of paperwork.
  • Spent some good and memorable time with church members and friends, some sadly no longer amongst the living. Cancer is a bitch!
  • Then there are plenty of things I no longer remember…
  • My last big act was planning my getaway from Lahad Datu, to begin the next chapter of my life.

Five and a half years of accomplishments that were quietly executed. Deeds that were easily forgotten due to their lack of glamour. When you lived in cities like San Francisco and Las Vegas, people do not bother to know what happened to you when you lived in hell holes.

I have no regrets spending half a decade back in Lahad Datu. No one forced me to stay. They were years well-spent and well-lived.

Business & Being Creative, Malaysia, Numbers

Employee Provident Fund

In Malaysia, the EPF (also common known as KWSP or Kumpulan Wang Simpanan Pekerja) is a social security institution formed according to the Laws of Malaysia, Employees Provident Fund Act 1991 (Act 452) which provides retirement benefits for member through the mandatory contribution from two parties: a portion of an employee’s salary and employer’s contribution on behalf of their workers. ~3E Accounting

2021 EPF dividend has been declared at 6.10%. One of the highest percentage in the duration of five years. Not bad for a developing country, which has to endure a global pandemic.

Belgium, Flashbacks, Malaysia

Power Outage

What the heck?!

There was a 30-minute power outage, and now I have to reprogram all the digital clocks in the house. Half an hour of no electricity meant no radio, no buzzing sound from the boiler, the refrigerator, the freezer and every other electrical appliances we tend not to think of all the time. So freakishly quiet…

This reminds me of the serious blackouts I used to experience in Lahad Datu. Day-long power outages meant that refrigerated perishable food had to be cooked and consumed quickly. No lights, no televisions, no radios, no fans! And in the later years, no computers and air conditioning. But blackouts then were never quiet. There were always the animals, the insects, people conversing amongst each other, and my parents scolding me for messing with the candles or oil lamps.

Flashbacks, Malaysia, Numbers

Nineteen & Thirty

I left my home town, Lahad Datu, when I was nineteen years old to pursue higher education. It was not a pleasant experience but it was necessary.

After returning from the United States and spending half a decade living and working back in Lahad Datu, I took leave again at age thirty. My second departure was less painful. And at the back of my mind, I was aware that I will most probably never return home to stay.