Saturday, June 11, 2016

ipoh: family

Gong Gong’s eldest brother had nine children of whom eight are in Malaysia.

This trip, the kids met Numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6.

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* Ah Seng (#6) and Ah Fong (#3) flanking Gong Gong

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* Ah Thim (#5), Ah Seng (#6), Ah Yew (#4) and KK at Concubine Lane, where the towkays used to stow their mistresses

That would be Ah Fong, Ah Yew, Ah Thim and Ah Seng.

By now, it's a fact of life for them that I have a huge, flourishing family tree while KK’s is a withered bush.

They also understand that it’s not because his isn’t flourishing, it’s because he’s cut off all the branches. Till this day, I try every year to persuade him to go up to Segamat at Christmas with his folks (we only did it once 12 years ago), so the kids can see their only surviving great-grandmother, but he refuses to. He says, “It’s very boring lah.”

But how can connecting with your family be boring?

In Ipoh, my cousins make special trips from wherever they are based, in various parts of Malaysia, to say hello to Gong Gong.

Thim’s house, which he generously insists we stay in for two nights, is the central point for all of activity.

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* One squeaky clean room for us all

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* In Thim's toilet, the kids have discovered and love the old-fashioned way of bathing - scooping (cold) water from the trough and squealing

In between meals, the kids hang out at home, a two-storey terrace with a nearby lake. They play badminton (we brought the rackets up), play with the neighbourhood cats, try to figure out mahjong (no go), play Uno, play on the piano, sight-read music books in the house, and get to know their Malaysian family.

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* Kids playing in the foreground, adults chatting in the background

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* Mahjong, which Gong Gong is eventually drawn into playing

#6, Uncle Seng, makes a particularly strong impression because he's loud, he's brash (he coos "I LOVE YOOOOO! willy nilly) and he's hilarious. He had the kids literally rolling all over the floor, unable to catch their breath, way past their bedtime one night when he played his (beer) belly like a drum.

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* Girls with Uncle Seng

KK will never forget this man, too, because Seng (who calls KK Ah Biao) force-fed him copious amounts of beer. Until I had to secretly help him drink.

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Family also means anything goes. Teng is a driving-phobe who despite obtaining his licence refuses to get behind the wheel of a car. Thim happened to have a 30-year-old manual Datsun lying around, and Teng was effectively shanghai-ed into practising his driving around the lake. He did fine.

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* The 30-year-old Datsun, which Thim has kept in great shape. Old things do last long. He most recently "cut and pasted" a door from another car when the original door was damaged. 

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* Teng with "driving instructor" Thim

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* The window opener which confounded Day. He's never seen one and had no idea what it was for

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* Us with Thim's family

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