We have just returned from visiting my grandmother in Kuala Kangsar, Perak. At first Mama Sarah and I were quite reluctant to make the 8 hour journey to Perak from Terengganu - especially considering Sarah and Amar who are both still slowly adjusting to the different climate and culture in Malaysia and imagine being with them on an 8 hour journey in a car, with vomiting and tantrums. In the end though, we agreed to go - it was Eid after all, and it was a once in a year's opportunity to visit grandmother (plus, the chance to take pictures of Perak was just too tempting!).
In the end, the supposed 8-hour journey turned out to be a 14-hour journey! We made a detour to Kota Bharu, Kelantan to visit my brother Afar and his wife Nani, and Nani's parents. Except for the traffic jam traveling out of Kelantan, we didn't regret visiting Nani's family at all - the food was excellent and they were full of hospitality.
The traffic jam on the roads out of Kelantan, though, was a nightmare. Cars "queued" for miles and miles - err, kilometres and kilometres. And by "queued" I meant, some cars took the left "lane" (i.e safety lane) to cut other cars - one car caught in the act in the picture above (hope that's not your car Hiyoshi!)
In the end, we made it to Kuala Kangsar at 1:11 in the morning. Seeing my grandmother, and family in Perak though made the journey worthwhile.
We were treated with a hearty breakfast the day after - lemang, apam, karipap and lots of food I couldn't even name. The food in Perak tastes unique compared to other parts of Malaysia and if you don't believe me you have to go there yourself!
Above is our "Kampung" (the literal meaning of kampung is "village" but kampung also implies the place we go to during Eid, normally our parents' or grandparents' house) in Sayong. In the picture is my parents, my sister and my brothers Azim and Adan. The only one in my family not in the picture is my brother Afar - who was in Kota Bharu with his inlaws. What's interesting about the picture above was, I was browsing old photos of my father when he was our age and found a picture of him and his brother - taken of the exact spot of the picture above (in black and white, of course). Maybe I should do "then-and-now" comparison eh?
It was great getting to meet my cousins again. It had been 11 years since I last met my cousins and the last time I had seen them one was still a baby! In fact, I had never yet met the two boys - the one in green and the one red, above - until our visit to Perak. Now they are all grown up, it's strange.
Above is my cousin Nabil - he's around 6 years old (I think). He's very funny. The first day we arrived he was showing Amar and Sarah around the grounds including the chicken cages! A funny moment was when they caught a dried-up, dead "cicak' (like a tiny lizard, resident of all Malay houses). Nabil was holding the dead cicak by its tail and showing everyone and later stored the cicak in a glass jar to show everyone. For the sake of hygiene when Nabil wasn't around I threw away the lizard and replaced it with a butterfly instead. The next day Nabil took a look at the butterfly in the jar and shouted to his mom, "Mum, mum look! The cicak has turned into a butterfly!!!" - much to all our laughter, even till today.
Another funny moment was with my niece Naufal, pictured above. His hair was getting long but he threw a tantrum everytime my father wanted to cut his hair. He would run away even at the little sight of a pair of scissors. Desperate times call for desperate measures, in the end my father resorted to cutting Naufal's hair while he was sleeping (pictured below). My father would cut one side, and once he finished, would turn Naufal - still sound asleep - to cut another. Halfway though, Naufal woke up crying - so the project had to be abandoned. The next morning, we all laughed to see Naufal's unfinished and thus lop-sided hair cut (unfortunately, not pictured). No permanent harm done though, as my father succeeded in finishing his work that morning. I'm not sure what he said, or how he bribed Naufal to get him to agree. Perhaps it was our laughter at seeing Naufal's hair that got him to agree?
That morning, we continued our Eid celebration at my Aunt's house (above, and below). Some of you working at Bank Negara may recognise her, but we call her "Auntie Gie". She played a role in Mama Sarah and I getting married so Mama Sarah and I see her as quite special. As with all my family from Perak - she loves cats and below is one of her favourite.
That night, my father and I went around Kuala Kangsar for a shot of photography (forgive the pun). My father is quite into photography and has a (film) SLR. He was marvelling the benefits of digital SLR photography; like immediately being able to view images after capture, and changing ISO on the fly. These shots were the results of our experiments that night:
The Sultan Iskandar bridge - not that far from our Kampung in Kuala Kangsar.
The traffic near the Ubudiah Mosque.
A graveyard near the Ubudiah mosque. In the background, people were shooting fireworks but unfortunately they didn't shoot one any time I released the shutter. I actually wanted a different angle -- with a grave on the foreground and this building as the background (i.e I wanted to stand infront of a grave to make a picture) but my father STRONGLY asked me not to. A pity!!!
Above is the Ubudiah mosque. My father and I experimented with "painting with light" meaning, while taking this picture with a 30 second exposure, I walked around the scene while firing my flash gun - the result we wanted was for the trees in the foreground to be lighted. Cool eh?
This photo was taken by my father - one of the few pictures of just our family of four. In fact, it's probably our ONLY Eid picture. Even though in the picture Mama Sarah and I appear to be smiling, the truth is, at that time Sarah and Amar were both squirming, crying and thrashing. My father really got the timing right with the picture - everyone appeared smiling except Amar - who could be seen frowning at Sarah.
Mama Sarah and my sister Nurul.
In the end, it was a great visit to Perak and worth the 14 hour journey we had to endure despite all the vomiting. It was great getting to meet my grandmother, aunties and uncles as well as cousins. Perak is a wonderful place with unique architecture and uniquely delicious food. It was almost a pity that we had to make the journey back to Terengganu.
We were lucky though, as the journey back to Terengganu went without a hitch - and the traffic had much improved. On the way, we stopped by Penarik Beach (which is around 30-40 minutes from my parent's house in Terengganu) and below are our pictures there:
A mosque near the beach
Amar enjoying the sand
Amar making a sand-angel.
Before I finish this post, I have oneee last story to add, and it's quite a weird one.
You remember I was telling about reaching Kuala Kangsar really late - at around 1 am? Well, that meant that we were on the Grik-Jeli motorway really late at night. Everyone has their horror stories passing that secluded and remote motorway - and now we do too.
Well, that night while passing the hills (it was around 11pm) we did feel something was wrong. My father was telling stories of how a lecturer friend and his wife saw "pontianak" (sort of a female ghost or spirit, typically described as having long, black hair, pale face and wearing white) flying around their car & peeking into their windshield. At that time, my brother who was driving in his own car was telling us over the walkie-talkie how his car felt "heavy". Of course I discarded any notion of ghosts hitching on his car -- we were driving over hills, and his car only has a 1.5 litre engine. We did ask Nurul, who could apparently see these things, if there was anything and she snapped back over the walkie-talkie, "don't even ask!!!"
The next morning, Sarah behaved weird. From around 11 a.m she couldn't stop crying. My thoughts at that time was - of course she's crying, she's tired from the 14-hour journey. As we were visiting our relatives' houses - she kept on crying and crying non-stop. She kept on asking, "Nak susu mama, nak susu mama, nak susu mama..." (loosely translated as, "I want breast milk") non-stop. Now, at first I thought it was really funny for Sarah to want breast milk, and I was making fun of Mama Sarah to just give it to her. Gradually, it became strange. Since Sarah HAS NEVER EVER before (and since) asked for breast milk - never ever, ever. Another strange thing was that Sarah was fixed and adamant on getting breast milk. She kept on crying and crying and the only words she uttered was "nak susu mama, nak susu mama" for hours.
Not getting what she wanted, she progressively became more and more aggressive. At first she was clawing at Mama Sarah's dress and was trying to force herself under Mama Sarah's dress (that's why I was laughing). I didn't realise what was happening until Mama Sarah looked at me and said, "this is not Sarah". Towards the end, Sarah became extremely aggressive. She was clawing at Mama Sarah's hijab, clawing at her dress, strangling Mama Sarah's neck, and thrashing - her crying became worse and hoarser. Her features became strange and distorted - her eyes were ... evil. Her lips were grimaced and her fingers clawed. I've never seen her like that ever. Once, she jumped a metre - with fingers clawed - to strangle Mama Sarah and we started to suspect Sarah had been possessed.
Mama Sarah and my mum read passages from the Quran, we sprinkled Sarah with water that we read the Quran. Within 10 minutes Sarah became her normal self (after crying for breast milk for hours and hours).
She was completely her normal self - smiling, talking to others and to this day, she has never mentioned or asked for breast milk again. In fact, the difference was shocking - suddenly we had our daughter back. It was as if she returned back from somewhere.
That time, we asked Nurul what she saw that followed us while we were passing the hills. Her reply was, "It was a baby ...".
Above is my only picture of when Sarah was in possessed state. This was around 30 minutes since everything began. Notice she was crying, and her left hand was trying to get into Mama Sarah's dress. During the few hours while she was possessed she said nothing else but "Nak susu mama" and didn't stop crying.