Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ching Ming and Earth Hour

Saturday, 28th March 2009.

Two events marked the dawn of another weekend, one age old and tradition bound, the other modern, new and urgent: Ching Ming and Earth Hour. :)

Having did my bit of shopping the night before, I descended from my upstairs bedroom to discover that my grandmother had defrosted the chicken breasts from the fridge. She had awoke earlier in the morning, preparing her much anticipated nasi kunyit and curry chicken for lunch. She doesn't cook very often nowadays with age catching up, but when she does, her nyonya inspired dishes become very much in demand within (and sometimes without) the family! :)

With the kitchen cleared, I proceeded to reprise my culinary skills long neglected since I was studying in the US. Back then it was a matter of survival and economics to cook, now it is merely an occasional indulgence. For the Earth Hour Potluck party that is to be held at Linus's place tonight, I would be cooking one of my signature dishes: Curry Chicken (too) ;).

Different from my grandmother's concoction with respect to the amount of spices used (a lot more kayu manis and cloves), the addition of onions, tomatoes and eschewing the use of curry leaves, it's rather hard to pinpoint which catergory of curry would it fall other, whether 'Indian' or 'Chinese'.

After spending about 2 hours in the kitchen trying my best not to cause a fire, and with generous inputs and advice from grandma, the curry is ready. And not a moment too soon because it is time for lunch. :)

It was pass noon when the entire family gathered for an afternoon feast prepared by grandma. By 2:30pm in the afternoon, it is time for us to visit my grandfather who now 'resides' at Fairey Park Columbarium in Meru.
This is the 2nd anniversary of our Cheng Ming visits to pay our respects to him. The roads were of course busy on the way to the cemetary but fortunately the threatening afternoon rain and hot weather had reduced the number of the people that were really at the cemetary that day.

Still, there was enough to completely fill the parking bays directly in front of the columbarium and my family had to park our cars a little bit further down the hill. We did however drop all the passengers at the columbarium before the drivers (me being one of them) proceeded to look for parking. It wasn't such a hard task and soon I was with my family in front of the niche containing my grandfather's ashes.
We made our food offerings and prayers to grandfather, my mother also drawing us to recite the mantra to 'transfer our merits to the departed'. We hope that with our merits transfered that he may be able to be find a better rebirth in the next life.

Of course, while he awaited rebirth, we have to make sure that his current state is as blissful and as comfortable as possible. First though, we have to make sure his 'friends' and 'neighbours' are appeased. ;) To do this, we lighted joss-sticks and offered one stick for every vertical row of niches surrounding his part of the columbarium. Along the way, I couldn't help reading the names of the departed, the clans with which they belong, their date of birth and time of death, reveling at the long lifes of some and feeling a tinge of sadness as I look onto the faces of those whose lives ended way too soon. Needless to say, being acutely aware of your mortality is one obvious experience you will get from being here.

The burning of paper offerings is next on the itinerary. The morning throng had already filled the burning pits with their offerings and it was overflowing with ash. Perhaps there were some that were a little bit impatient while waiting their turn and so, there were also piles of ash on the nearby road as well.
My father, mother and myself chose a spot in the burning pit that is relatively clear of people. The wind was blowing very strongly and the weather cloudy, good for burning offerings in the open. Once we have finished, we headed back into the columbarium, saying our goodbyes to grandfather before heading back home.

When I arrived, it was time to prepare for the next event: Earth Hour at Linus's house.

Quickly taking a shower to wash off any remnants of ash and sweat, I then gathered my pot of curry chicken and loaded it into my car. Leaving the house at 6:30pm, I arrived at Linus's place at 7:10pm, discovering Audrey and Valerie already in the house. Linus, the host was out to church and wouldn't be coming until well into Earth Hour which is between 8:30pm to 9:30pm.

Chris's and Aurelius's arrival heralded the time to commence our pot luck dinner. With Valerie's fried mee hoon. Audrey's bacon rolls and my own chicken curry we chowed down, supplemented of course by Chris's, Aurelius's and Yee Wei's contribution of a bucket of KFC. Aaron provided two boxes of pizzas while Dennis supplied the drinks and needless to say, Linus supplied the venue.

Kok Kin came slightly before Earth Hour with a bottle of Jim Bean; somewhat of a loaded gun, but welcomed nonetheless. ;)

As 8:30pm arrived, it was time to switch off the lights and light the candles.

With only 7 people present, we couldn't really play 'werewolves' so we started off with 'Taboo' instead. After initial hiccups, the game went on smoothly until Linus's arrival with his currently still 'friend'. ;) He wanted to join our game of 'Taboo' but having his hands full with oily chicken and chili sauce didn't really encourage Valerie to hand him a card.

We sort of 'extended' Earth Hour pass 9:30pm because we felt the candlelight presented an ideal atmosphere to play 'werewolves'.

When Yee Wei, Dennis, Timmy and Henry arrived much later, the game went into full swing. The game became more interesting with the introduction of a new character 'Cupid'. ;)

Having the power to make two players into a 'couple', Cupid then reverts to a normal villager/citizen after that. The two couples however, were to have their 'fates' locked. Knowing each other's identities, the two of them will die if any one of them is killed off (either by the werewolves, witch or villagers). Also, there is no restriction to having a villager be 'coupled' with a wolf, invoking cheeky cries of 'beastiality'. ;)

Down the road, Yee Wei displayed his 'clubbing' skills, taking advantage of the Jim Bean and pouring drinks to Valerie and Audrey with the rather obvious sinister objective of trying to get the girls drunk! :) He succeeded somewhat with Valerie who also subsequently influenced Aaron to join her. Kok Kin bored the brunt of the assault and as the clock struck midnight, was soon sprawled on the floor dozing off in alcoholic dreams (but not before trying to rouse the whole neighbourhood with his loud voice).
We finally ended our 'werewolves' session around 3:30am in the morning, the alcoholic haze somewhat dissipated enough for those afflicted to drive home.

Overall, a successful event. Now... for Cambodia! :) Until next time, "Don't Drink and Drive!"

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