Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

It has been a bit more than a month ago when we had an exclusive all-girl weekend getaway. It was meant to be a fun-filled and stress-free weekend for 7 girls for a getaway with great food, quality bonding, lots of laughs and just having the best time ever. Oooops… forgot baby Z, the only XY-chromosome in our girly group! 😀

On 5th Nov, I have posted Part 1 of our weekend getaway to (O)Porto, the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon. By the way, Portugal’s famous port wine is named for Porto, and Portugal, is one of the world’s most beautiful countries! 

Oh dear, it has been 3 weeks since, and Part 2 was still not out … hmmmm

I’m sure the girls were wondering, and I was right. Last week I met up with X for lunch and here’s our conversation:

X (curious): When is part 2 of our trip going to be ready, or have you decided to stop…?

D: Definitely not stopping. In the pipeline … 😉

X: Ha ha …. I thought you have decided to stop !

D (smiling): Nope, am collating the photos first and that’s one big hold-up! The App I’m using jumbled up my photos and they are not in chronological order anymore and mind you, I have more than 10k photos on my iPhone! Argghhh …

X: My condolences to you, then …

D (grinning): Humph! 

Pre-Mortem 

With the majority of us working and/or travelling, AO volunteered to do a research on Porto a week before our ETD. She had BIG plans for us 7 girls and her baby. It sounded just too good, but was it doable? The main point of discussion was whether Duoro Valley was a go or no go in our Weekend getaway. Places of interests and links were attached in an email for us to revert with our feedback.

While X and G had replied, here was my feedback –

Hi ya’ll !

Hey AO, a massive thanks for the great research, indeed. Well done, charbor! I was re-reading your message and noted that getting to the villages would take at least 2.5 hours. That means to and from the villages would take 5 hours and that’s just the travel part and not taking into account the actual time spent there. We would easily lose three-quarters of a day just to get there and back. It’s a pity because I would love to visit the breathtaking Duoro Valley, but due to time pressure (short weekend et al), with a heavy heart, I’ll give this visit a miss. I’m sure Porto city has a lot to offer especially so when it’s a first time for most of us. Oh by the way, I just checked the weather forecast and it’s not looking great, It’ll be 17 to 18 deg C with 60% to 70% chance of rain!!! Hope the forecast is wrong ! So it looks like X, G and I are saying “no” to Duoro Valley. Not sure about C, O and AM. Anyway, since you and AM will be staying a day longer, hence, am assuming you girls will be going on Sunday, if we’re not going in a group, right?. And if you’re going, don’t forget to share your experience with us after the trip, k? 

Cheers and counting down to our Porto trip!!

D

So the road trip plan to Duoro Valley was dumped, as C and O were also not keen, due to time constraints. That meant, AO and AM, the last girls to leave Porto, would be going on Sunday, right?

Erm … afraid not… 

Just a day or two before our departure, AO, the littlest, but feistiest girl in our group (Lolz!) decided a last minute change in plan, i.e. to go on with the trip to Duoro Valley, with or without the group not on Sunday but on the day of our ETA in Porto! The reason for the change in schedule was because of …

 …This !!!

Sunday, 23rd Oct was to be the bleakest of all days. Cold and wet at 14 deg C! Driving along the winding roads to Duoro Valley under a heavy downpour would appear to be too dangerous, so it would definitely be a no go on Sunday to Duoro Valley … BUT… feisty AO was determined to make that trip!

Now the question(s): Did AO go to Duoro Valley or not and if she did, who came along? 

I left the office at almost 9 pm the evening before the trip. I was absolutely knackered and dog-tired; hence I was 100% looking forward to an easy and stress-free weekend with the girls and a baby …

Bem-vindo ao porto! Welcome to Porto!

We left Brussels Airport at 10:50 and arrived at Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport at 12:20. As soon as we touched down, our group had to split into two! Yup, the trip to Duoro Valley was decided at the last minute and AO managed to ‘lure’ a victim and who izzit?

The group that left to Duoro Valley took a rented car whilst the group that headed straight for the city took the Metro. Before we said our temporary goodbyes, we wanted everyone to meet for dinner together. We suggested and agreed to meet at the hotel lobby around 7pm, all 7 girls and a baby!

Did we make it? That’s the question … 😉

By the way, it was C who volunteered to accompany AO and baby Z and she was happy to be the ‘chauffeur’ for the entire journey up the wine growing valley of Duoro

The 5 of us had initially wanted to take a taxi from the airport to the hotel. We queued on the taxi stand, but it was just hopeless because there were 5 of us. The cabbie allowed max 4 passengers per trip. A minivan-type taxi would be perfect but they didn’t appear very often, so we changed our strategy and went for the Metro instead. 

The journey to the city centre took about 35 minutes and a single fare was Eur 1.80. For the first time, we needed to buy the Andante ticket which included the 0.60 cent rechargeable Andante card

Taking the metro is by far the cheapest and quickest way to get to the city but I remembered well we had to wait for about 40 minutes for the metro train to start moving. We had lost precious time playing the waiting game .. 

Porto Trindade Hotel

Trindade station is the 15th stop from the airport. The hotel was not an obvious find as the sign was virtually non-existent. We had to cross the road from the Metro and walked uphill all the way to the hotel while at the same time, dragging our luggage. It was probably a blessing in disguise that AO and baby Z didn’t have to go through the gruelling walk that afternoon. 

Goodness gracious!  It was almost 3 pm and we had not had our lunch. Before we checked in our rooms, X asked the receptionist where we could eat the famous Porto signature dish, francesinha. Without a smile on his face, he gave us the name of the restaurant (Café Santiago) and to remember the landmark “Coliseu do Porto“. The restaurant’s just opposite the theatre which is a local landmark and a leading venue for music and cultural events in Porto. Oh-Kay… with a landmark in mind, we shouldn’t get lost, right? 

If I remembered well, I didn’t recall we being greeted by a friendly receptionist. I would describe the staff as professional rather than friendly, except for one super friendly barman, whom we got acquainted with that evening when we redeemed our welcome drink at the bar. He was very helpful and went the extra mile to give us tips on places to visit during our stay in Porto.

When we checked-in into our rooms, we had only 10 minutes to orientate ourselves in our respective room, after which we had  to gather at the lobby and left the hotel in search for that mysterious francesinha

It was not an easy peasy search for that specific Café because we still had to acquaint and orientate ourselves with the city and her surroundings. 

Avenida dos Aliados

From our hotel, we started at the monumental central avenue, Avenida dos Aliados, aka Porto’s ‘reception room’ right in the heart of the city.

It’s a lively avenue during the day, but what a pity the skies were quite grey and it was quite chilly that afternoon as well. The avenue would have been a great place for a relaxing promenade, but of course we did not miss a photo opportunity next to the statue of D. Pedro IV on a horse. He was a symbol of courage and affection for the people of Porto. Behind us in the distance was the City Hall of Porto, situated at the top of Aliados Avenue, at the heart of downtown.


We could not dilly-dally too long there as time was the essence. In hindsight, it’s unfortunate that our group was splitted into two. We came as one and we should have stayed as one. With two splitted groups, timing became a challenge. We hadn’t the clue if C, AO and baby Z had the rented car and/ or if they had started the journey direction Duoro. We could only hope and pray that the 2 girls and a baby were danger-free and fine. Therefore, the only right way to do was to respect our agreed timeline prior to our going separate ways. 

And by the way, we still have not found the landmark the hotel receptionist was directing us to, so we walked and we walked and we walked …

The Quest For Francesinha 

In order not to have too many people doing the same thing, G and X were the map readers or navigators.  Girls being girls, little arguments and banterings were the norm. One said north, the other said south. So we walked and walked and walked until we came to Porto’s lively shopping street, Rua Santa Catarina. Part of the street is closed to traffic, making it a mostly-pedestrianised shopping street. Well of course we did not stop there to shop (not yet) BUT we had a closed glimpse of the most renowned “Harry Potter‘s” Café Majestic.  

Harry Potter

Yup! Will talk about that in a bit, because the priority quest then was to monitor the landmark, Coliseu do Porto and our francesinha !!!!

And we finally found the landmark!!!

Yay!!


Café Santiago 

If this café was recommended by staff at our hotel, then it must be good. It was full house when we arrived, so it’s a good sign that it must be more than good 😉

We had to wait for a vacant table. What made it more difficult was we were with 5 people. First of all, 5 is an odd number and 5 were too many to get a table in a packed café, so we waited …

We finally got a table meant for 4, so we had to squeeze one of the girls. When the waiter brought the menu card to us, I goggled at the photos of the menu. Only 2 shades of colours: yellow/brown and orange! Where are the greens? Reds? Purples? Whites?


I suddenly felt constipated gawking at the photos. To be honest, that’s not my kind of food, but, hey we walked more than 10,000 steps just to experience a typical Porto dish, so game on!

Francesinha is one of the most typical dishes in Porto. It’s a type of sandwich (toasted bread) stuffed with different layers of meats (cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage, beef steak) and covered with cheeses and then oven-grilled until the cheeses just slightly melted. The sandwich sits on a spicy tomato-beer sauce, which secret recipe will never be revealed… well, that did not bother me, because I would not be craving for francesinha in a long while …

We ordered 3 different items on the menu and shared those amongst the 5 of us. We had to be careful not to eat too much as we promised to meet for dinner, all 7 girls and a baby that evening.

By the way, I was glad I got to try the infamous francesinha. For me, it’s once bitten, twice shy. Don’t get me wrong, it was a tasty dish, but it was way too heavy for my liking. I think the other girls shared the same sentiment as I did, right charbors? 😉

São Bento Railway Station

After the heavy late ‘lunch’ of francesinha, we were in dire need of more walks. Our next stop was worth the stop. It was a railway station but it was not just an ordinary one. São Bento is the oldest and is claimed to be the most beautiful railway station with its 20,000 dazzling blue-and-white Moorish tile panels, known as azulejos. The painted tiles on the walls illustrate the evolution of transport in the area, as well as depicting scenes of the history of Portugal. 

Oh by the way, we were lucky to be entertained by the local military orchestra that afternoon 😀



Churches and Cathedrals 

It’s amazing to see how many churches and cathedrals in quite close proximity with each other in the centre of the city. We have probably been to most of the churches, which looked amazing on the façade as well as the interior. 

It was good to have those peaceful and silent moments once in a while after the fast pacings and stresses of the day to recharge our batteries 😉


Birthday Girl

The clock ticked and we were wondering about AO, C and baby Z. Before we headed back to our hotel, we stopped at a pastry shop in the hope of buying a cake for birthday girl, AO, as a surprise, however, the cake shop ran out of cakes. Instead, we agreed unanimously to go for 7 mini cakes (mix of chocolate, passion fruits, raspberries and mangos) at a Specialty Cake Shop on the way back to our hotel. 

Two weeks before our departure to Porto, 6 girls were discussing about giving AO a birthday surprise. In a way, it was good that AO was not around when we planned the small do later in one of our rooms. 

Going back to the hotel was more civilised as we had internet connection and free wifi. X and AO were in contact with one another to get more information about their ETA at the hotel. 

When the 2 girls and the baby finally arrived, the 7 mini cakes were lighted from the candles which G brought with her, and we sang the birthday song in unison while greeting the birthday girl. 

Happy (belated) birthday, AO


2 Girls And A Baby

We were glad to see C, AO and baby Z again after 6 hours or so of separation. Surely there were lots of stories to tell. If not, then what happened in Duoro remained in Duoro 😉

And most certainly the 2 girls managed to know each other a bit more, too. What those 2 girls had gone through were completely different than what the 5 of us had experienced that afternoon. It’s like the clash of 5 ‘city’ girls vs 2 ‘country’ lasses. Lol

However, when C shared with us some of the photos, we could see why the Duoro Valley is called the enchanted valley with her magical landscapes. There’s no wonder why this cultural landscape is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO

While the 5 ‘city’ girls had their tastes of francesinha, the 2 ‘country’ lasses had a go with Portugal’s most renowned pastry, pastel de nata (Portuguese egg tart pastry). C, with the golden heart, bought some grapes and a bottle of local Duoro red wine that she would later share with us. Obrigada, C!


Full Quorum Dinner @ Restaurant Antunes

Like Café Santiago, Restaurant Antunes was recommended by staff at our hotel. According to the receptionist, the restaurant served local Portuguese cuisines, hence, were not to be missed. Booking was essential, so the hotel staff made a reservation for us. 

The restaurant’s located behind the Metro Station (across from our hotel). It didn’t look much from the street, however, when we got inside, it was packed to full capacity as the locals patronise the restaurant daily. 

Oh boy, it was 8 pm and the francesinha and the mini birthday cake were not fully digested in my tummy and there we were, dining again! I ordered for a fish menu (grilled hake with baked potatoes … yes, boring …) and so did C, G, O and AM whilst X and AO eyed for the roasted pork shank. 

And guess what? THE star of the evening was actually the roasted pork shank, the iconic Pernil de Porco, which was the house specialty. It was unlike anything I have ever seen. The pork shank was HUGE, man!  It was actually very good, 100 times better than my tasteless hake 😦

Good choice, X and AO (Y)

We ordered sardines as starter, which were excellent and we also enjoyed the couvert. I’m glad we were recommended Restaurant Antunes because for me, it was a Portuguese eating experience. The service was fast and excellent even though the waiter spoke limited English. Somehow we managed to understand and communicate with no problem 😀

If I were to go to Restaurant Antunes again, I would go there with an empty stomach and order their Pernil de Porco

Good thing that there’s someone in our group who’s a meat eater, so we could see what’s on each other’s plate. The culprit will know who I am referring to here 😉

After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and went straight to the bar to redeem our welcome drink. I had their red Port Wine. What else ?! 😀

I think we must have hit the sack at almost 1 am. It was going to be another long day the next day …

Mercado do Bolhão (Porto’s Colorful Market)

After a stuffed and almost dog-tired day the day before, we gathered at the hotel lobby at 9.30 am (after a scrumptious buffet brekkie with a fair choice of cold and warm dishes). AO and baby Z missed the headcount that morning as AO had to return the 24-hour rented car that brought the 2 girls and a baby to Duoro Valley. While waiting for AO, the 6 of us walked to the nearby Trindade Church to have a peaceful and quiet moment. 

When we got out of the church, G, the ‘navigator’ and timekeeper, shepherded us to Mercado do Bolhão, which is considered to be Porto’s most colourful market located in the heart of the city. The exuberant market is found in a 2-tier, rather old building. The market opens daily from 7am until 5pm except Saturday when the traders called it a day at 1pm. Sunday is a day of rest.

The Bolhão market is not a very big market, unlike the markets I have been to in the Provence (South of France). Nevertheless, it has its own charm as everything traded at the market was locally produced from fresh fruits, breads to household items. 

All of us bought some souvenirs to remind us of our stay in Porto. AM was, undoubtedly, the happiest girl on the planet as she bought oodles of fridge magnets to add on to her colossal collection of magnets. Lol


We adjourned to a Café in the marketplace spotted by G, of course 😉

In less than 30 minutes, AO and baby Z joined us. And we were full quorum again …

Now off we strode to the meeting point of the Yellow Bus!

Hurry girls ….!!!

Yellow Bus Hop-On-Hop-Off (HOHO)

A week before our ETD from Brussels to Porto, AO volunteered to order 7 HOHO Porto Vintage tickets online for us. It’s cheaper buying online at Eur 11.70 per tix as opposed to Eur 13 buying at location. 

Our tickets were valid for a day and we could HOHO in Porto as many times we wanted anywhere along the Porto bus tour routes, which were either the Purple or the Orange route/ line. The Porto Vintage included free access with wine tasting to Espaço Porto Cruz, which, unfortunately we did not use, due to a few non-drinkers in our group plus time constraints. 

By the way, we were supposed to take the Purple Line that morning with the aim to go to Matosinhos, but somehow, we boarded the wrong line, the Orange route. 

Wrong line or not, I thought that was a blessing in disguise. To be honest, I’m not a sea person so I did not mind missing the trip to Matosinhos, although one or two girls might be disappointed… Well, we knew when travelling in a group of 7 double X-chromosomes, there’re bound to be some ‘negotiable’ contretemps. Anywhow, Matosinhos was the less recommended place than the other side of the riverbank, Vila Nova de Gaia, or simply Gaia by the friendly barman at our hotel. That, I remembered 😉

For me, I know I would be back to Porto and I could visit all the places I have missed. It’s not the end of the world 😉

Ribeira and Porto River Bank

It was 12.30 pm and the stop at Ribeira was just perfect. Excellent timing for our midday lunch. 

The old town, centered at Ribeira, was built on the hills overlooking the Douro River. I absolutely adore the long promenade along the Duoro riverbank. In fact, the site is listed as World Heritage protected by UNESCO, and represents the famous postcard image of the city. 

The Cais da Ribeira (the Quay of Ribeira) is the soul of Porto, where one can climb aboard one of the many typical boats and take a mini cruise down the river. We had thought of taking a cruise but had to quit the idea because of time pressure. 

I loved the look of the charming pastel houses stacked like blocks of Lego and the narrow medieval streets and seedy alleyways, and of course the spellbinding Dom Luis Bridge. 


We found a nice restaurant on a hilly slope but with 7 and a half people, finding a table was almost near to impossible in a touristic area if pre-booking was not done. Anyway we waited like predators 😀

C double-checked with the waiter and he promised to set up a table for us as soon as a group of people left. 

When we finally got a table after waiting for some 15 to 20 minutes, everyone sighed with relief.

Phew

After the more than positive review of the sardines we had at Restaurant Antunes, we ordered them again as our starter. They were so moreish and finger lickin’ good 🙂

Before the Porto trip, I have heard a lot about Bacalhau (dried and salted cod) dishes, which are common in Portugal, but have never tried it. Out of curiosity, 5 girls went for the house specialty bacalhau dish, recommended by the waiter. AO went for the squid dish with tomato rice and X, for the pan-fried salmon. 

The verdict? 

I would rather have 20 sardines on my plate than that one piece of bloody hard, chewy and salty cod fish! I was totally disappointed, and so were some of the girls…

In hindsight, I should have ordered that salmon 😦  Drooling …! 

X, I want you as my personal food advisor. Lol!


On the other side of the riverbank, I saw the famous Sandeman Porto Wine Cellars, which wine I have used in my cooking or just drink it as apéritif. Too bad, we did not do the wine tasting tour. Well, I’m even more determined now to return to Porto 😉

Palácio da Bolsa

After the amazing time we had at Ribeira and the riverbank, we took a walk to Palácio da Bolsa, literally translated as Stock Exchange Palace.

Our visit to the Palace was probably one of the most memorable and flattering moments. 7 girls and a baby were standing at the cashier counter waiting to pay the entrance tickets and guided tour. Guess what? The friendly Portuguese girl thought we were students and charged us student rate which had a 50% discount! Wow! That’s amazing innit … we looked like students *feeling flattered*

When the 40-minute tour started, we met the girl again. She was our bi-lingual guide who spoke in both Portuguese and English.  

I’m not sure about the rest of the girls, but I wasn’t really paying attention to the guide’s stories.

I was busy taking photos, of the floors, ceilings, walls, doors, pillars and what have you. I could see there’s a great mix of architectural styles and decorative arts and the highlight of the Palace was undoubtedly, the Arab Room. I felt as if I was transported into One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. The room is decorated in exotic Moorish Revival style. It was breathtakingly spectacular with all the golds and glitters! Simply Wow!


Porto Cathedral (Se Catedral)

After the Arabian Nights’ tour, the girls were debating to either climb the 240 steps of the 75.6 metres high Torre dos Clérigos (Clérigos‘ tall bell Tower) adjacent to Igreja dos Clérigos (Church of the Clergymen) or climbed a few steps up to Porto Cathedral. 

We agreed to go for the latter, as some of the girls were showing signs of exhaustion. Porto is a very hilly city, by the way. Which reminded me of Rome.

With Romanesque roots, the Porto Cathedral has undergone many changes throughout the centuries. What’s lovely from the square in front of the Cathedral was the panoramic views of the city. There you could view in a distance the Torre dos Clérigos, which we had to forego, most unfortunately…


Livraria Lello – Finding Harry Potter in Porto

We did not climb the Clérigos‘ tall bell Tower, but we definitely walked across the plaza to the most enchanting bookstore in the world, the Livraria Lello Porto. Does it remind you of a scene in a Harry Potter movie? 

Did you know that this spellbinding and unique bookstore inspired the Harry Potter’s library in Hogwarts?

Did you know that J.K Rowling lived in Porto teaching English in the early 1990s and that rumor has it that her inspiration to write Harry Potter began at Livraria Lello?

I did not, until I entered the bookstore. Wow!!

It’s not a big bookstore but the stunning interior and the exquisite swirling stairway with its red-carpeted steps and banisters, impressive mouldings and wooden walls did not prevent tourists from taking non-stop photos. It’s simply dreamy and eye-catching!

Oh by the way, there’s an entrance fee of Eur 3 which is fully redeemable if you buy a book. I bought 2 books, not Harry Potter. Ha ha ha …


Remember Café Majestic which I linked to Harry Potter earlier in this post? 

J. K. Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone while spending countless hours in local cafés, one of which was Café Majestic along the lively and busy Rua de Santa Catarina.

Ponte de Dom Luís I (The Dom Luís I Bridge)

It had been a very, very long day for all of us: walking, a bit of shopping, window shopping, sightseeing, eating, more walkings, etc. Poor baby Z  was in dire need of a nappy change, hence, AO and baby Z returned to the hotel whilst the 6 of us adjourned for coffee/tea at a nearby Café in the vicinity of the magnificent bookstore. 

And then, it started to rain! 

We had planned to meet for dinner on the other side of Duoro River, all 7 of us and a baby. In order for the 6 of us to get to the other side of the riverbank, we had to crossover walking the double-decked metal arch bridge, the Dom Luis I bridge, that spans the Douro River between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. 

Due to time constraints, 6 very headstrong girls braved the heavy downpour and walked the bridge’s top deck from Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. It was a 5 km walk. None of us thought of stopping or thinking of giving up and going back to the hotel. We just walked on wearing the skimpiest and most lightweight disposable ponchos. Only G and AM had umbrellas with them. I could feel my shoes ‘flooded’ with water. It was an uncomfortable feeling; wet and squidgy, and my pants from knee down were totally drenched. So was my hair. I just hoped not to get sick, that’s all.

And we walked on and on and on …

It was a blessing in disguise (again) for AO and baby Z. It would definitely not be a comfortable walk for both mama and baby, that’s for sure.

 

The night scenes of the bridge and the views of the Duoro River dividing Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia were breathtakingly magnificent. 

By the way, Porto’s iconic bridge was completed in 1886 by a student of Gustave Eiffel, best known for the world-famous Eiffel Tower in Paris.

After the seemingly long and unending walk to the other side of the bridge, we were not famished but we just wanted to sit down in a dry place and enjoy some light and fresh seafood.

We found a lively seafood restaurant, Duoro Velho


AO and baby Z uber’d their way comfortably from the hotel to meet us at the restaurant. It was good to see them again and gorgeous baby Z slept through the entire evening at the restaurant closed to his mama’s chest swaddled in his baby carrier.

We spoiled ourselves rotten, stuffed with barbecued seafood and chicken dishes; our last meal together in Porto. Oh by the way, the sardines were huge and not as nice as the tiny ones we had at Restaurant Antunes and Ribeira

We had probably spent a good deal of time at the restaurant because I could feel my pants gotten drier as well as my hair, except for my feet and shoes!  Couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel, though. 

With 7 of us, we took 2 taxis, while AO did a test check on prices of the one uber’d and the other normal. AO, baby Z, X and D uber’d their way back to the hotel in one cab paying a total of Eur 3.80 which was almost 50% cheaper than the normal taxi taken by G, C, AM and O.

Good to know (Y)

Pyjama Party @ Room 702

It was good to be back in the hotel, or to be more precise, my hotel room.  I’m sure the other girls felt the same way. It has been a while and my room was so immaculate, meaning the presence of housekeeping was there. Brilliant!

C invited us for a nightcap of one of Duoro’s local red wines which she got while spending time at the wine growing valley of Duoro on the first day with AO and baby Z

It was a good wine. Thanks heaps, C! Thanks for sharing the wine with us. Hugs xxx


No worries, no one was tipsy. There was only one bottle and 7 glasses of whom 2 had to decline the offer for obvious reasons 😉

The evening was still young and we played a ‘game’ initiated by C.

And the game went like this …


Nah …. what happened in Room 702 remained in Room 702…

Hint: We got to know each other (even) better  and thanks heaps, O, for sharing with us the ‘scary’ story 😉

And for the … Erm … sorry, my lips are sealed . Shhhh…!!!

It was our last night in Porto together, all 7 girls and a baby, and we hit the sack at 2 am in the morning !

Blue-Black: The Winning Colour!

Sunday, 23rd Oct. 5 girls were flying back to Brussels.

Strange but true, 5 girls met that morning at the buffet breakfast wearing, uncannily, the same colour tops. Blue! And – honestly – it wasn’t  pre-planned.

That colour was to become the magic moment of the day!


X‘s son, DJC is a professional footballer playing for one of Belgium’s First Division Pro League decorated clubs, Club Brugge that dons the  Blue-Black home kit. 

And even stranger and truer, the team had a match while we were flying that afternoon, against one of their major rivals, Anderlecht. 

And the result? 2 – 1 for Club Brugge. Awesome! 

The Last 2 Girls And A Baby

The girls said their goodbyes at the hotel, leaving 2 girls and a baby behind. 

It was a lovely Sunday day and Matosinhos was explored and the girls’ boxes were ticked.

And I made sure to buy a port wine at the airport. It was a 20-year old Tawny Port. One of the finests 😀

Goodbye Porto, see you next time!

The 5 girls parted ways at Brussels airport only to be reunited for quick lunches at work weeks.

And life goes on as usual …

Carpe Diem, girls! 

Cheers!

The word Gawai in Iban means festival. The Dayaks are the indigenous native people of Sarawak and Kalimantan.

The Dayaks in Sarawak are made up of 3 groups of native ethnics, Iban (formerly known as Sea Dayak), Bidayuh (known as Land Dayak) and the Orang Ulu (literally translated as rural dwellers/ people), comprising Kelabit, Kayan, Kenyah, Lun Bawang, Penan, Bisaya etc.

Interestingly, Melanau does not fall under the category of “Dayak” although the Melanau are considered to be among the earliest settlers in Sarawak. Originally, the Melanau call themselves a-likou meaning “people of the river” or sea-faring people. Legend has it that the name Melanau was given by the Malays of Brunei to the inhabitants of the coastal swamp flats and riverbanks of central Sarawak which signifies “coast-dweller”.  

1st June – Ritual Greeting Day

When I was in school, my friends used to send me the ubiquitous greeting of “Selamat Hari Gawai” every 1st of June. I thanked them for their wishes and greeting but was very curious why we (my family) never celebrated Gawai Dayak. One day I asked my late Dad the question. He said Melanaus do not celebrate Gawai but Kaul Festival. Unfortunately, the Kaul Festival is not widely known by non- Melanaus as it is not celebrated on the state level but more so locally only in Mukah on the right bank of the river estuary. The festival is celebrated in the third week of the month of April.

Demographically, Ibans form the majority of the population of Sarawak with 29%, followed by Chinese with 24% and Malays with 23%. The rest are made up of Bidayuh, Melanau, Orang Ulu and others.

With Iban being the most populous native ethnic group of Dayak people in Sarawak, the Gawai greeting is recited in the Iban language. 


Selamat Ari Gawai Dayak. Gayu Guru Gerai Nyama
i which means Happy Dayak Festival. May you have long life, good health and prosperity.

Oh by the way, the Gawai festival is a symbol of unity, hope and aspiration for the Dayak community. It is a day of Thanksgiving which marks the end of a bountiful harvest and ushering the new year with a new farming season of bountiful goodness.

Shopping malls in Kuching are beautifully decorated to symbolise the meaning of Gawai Dayak. Here’re photos  taken by my older brother. Thanks bro G!   
 

Simple Food of the Jungle

Honestly speaking, the local dishes are very pure, simple and straightforward. One of my favourites is this simple dish, the Sarawak jungle fern aka Midin. I will never be able to cook this dish in Belgium, for obvious reason due to non-availability of that special flora.

  
During my student days, I learnt to cook rice and chicken in logs or cylindrical tubes of bamboo from my Iban college-mates. I am glad this traditional cooking method is retained to this day!

Manok Pansoh meaning Chicken cooked in Bamboo  
Very simple ingredients are used in “Pansoh” cooking method. The typical ingredients in “Manok Pansoh” are Chicken, water, shallots, lemongrass, ginger (optional) and salt. Tapioca leaves are used to seal the top cavity of the bamboo and are then cooked over an open fire. 

In veneration of the simplicity of the cooking method and the ingredients used by the local people of Sarawak, I cooked a very simple dish today in the comfort of my own kitchen. No bamboo. No open fire. Just reliving good memories and sharing them with you.

Simple Warm Barley Salad   

Ingredients

  • 250g barley
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • One bunch of fresh dhill
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly milled black pepper 

Method

Cook the barley in stock water for 10 minutes. Add finely diced carrots and fresh dhill. Season with coarse sea salt and black pepper. And that’s it! 

To all my friends and relatives  celebrating the Gawai Dayak, “Selamat Ari Gawai Dayak. Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai, Chelap Lindap Lantang Senang Nguan Menua!” Or Happy Gawai Dayak Day. (Wishing you) long life, health and comfort, no problems, no hardship and a prosperous life! 

 

1st and 2nd June are Public Holidays in Sarawak. Enjoy the “ngabang” … But watch your limit on the “tuak“!😜
Cheers!

Following my last post, The MasterChef in X, C and A… thanks girls 😀, I received some requests from readers to post the beef rendang recipe.

Mmmm….what timely moment, I thought. Actually I had wanted to write about this some months back, but due to my somewhat busy schedule the last 8 months, I had to shove a multitude of things aside. That does not mean that I’m less busy now, but I’m trying to clear as many of my backlogged stories and pictures as possible 😀

Slowly but surely, eh?

Gentle reminder

I was watching Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey on BBC Two one evening.  In one of the episodes in his ambitious journey to South East Asia, he concocted several visually stunning well known and less known recipes of the Far East.  During his visit to Malaysia, he asked the locals if they were to name a favourite dish, what it would be, the majority of them said, “Beef Rendang”. That was a gentle reminder for me to include this classic dish inspired by the most fragrant ingredients in one of our Sunday lunches.

Festive Dish

Rendang is a popular festive dish in most parts of South East Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and the southern parts of the Philippines and Thailand). It is originated from the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesia.

By the way, if you are planning a dinner for friends and are looking for a hassle-free but yet tasteful dish, beef rendang is the answer. Never cook your rendang on the day you are inviting guests to your house.  The rendang will taste much superior with the intense fragrant sipping through and coating the meat the day after. That’s why I mentioned “hassle-free” on the day of the planned dinner, so you can just about “goyang kaki” (literally meant “to be idle”) on D-day by just heating and platting up the rendang 😀

The Food of Malaysia

I will take you through the culinary journey of a good beef rendang recipe, which has been tried and tested.  No instant boemboes, just The Real McCoy, all fresh or at least, nearly fresh ingredients…

I got this recipe from Periplus World Cookbooks “The Food of Malaysia” Authentic Recipes from the Crossroads of Asia, with some changes and adaption here and there.

Ingredients

1 kg topside beef, cubed (I used the cubed carbonades for making Flemish beef stew)

6 cm cinnamon sticks

4 cloves

8 star anise

4 cardammom pods

500 ml coconut milk

2 tsp tamarind juice (please use concentrated tamarind juice)

Few kaffir lime leaves, very finely sliced

4 Tbsp kerisik (this is one of the secret elements to good tasting rendang)

2 turmeric leaves (daun kunyit), very finely sliced – another secret ingredient

1.5 tsp sugar (I used brown sugar)

Cooking oil

Salt to taste

Spice paste

4 shallots

4 cm galangal

4 cm fresh turmeric root

8 lemon grass (4 blended and 4 bruised/ crushed)

4 cloves garlic

4 cm ginger

20 dried chillies, soaked in hot water

The visual effects –

The ingredients you will need, kerisik, samples of  the turmeric leaves and the plant. The turmeric leaves are often not readily available in most Asian stores. This is one of the secret ingredients to an authentic beef rendang. If you can’t find these leaves, use plenty of kaffir lime leaves.

How to make the real kerisik: Dry roast 600 g grated fresh coconut in a pan, with no oil, stirring constantly until golden brown. Let the coconut cool, and then grind finely until the oil is released.

If you can’t get grated fresh coconut, like me, use desiccated coconut and process the same way as the grated fresh coconut.

Method

Clean, peel and chop the spice paste ingredients, then puree in a blender until really fine.

Heat the oil; add the blended spice paste, cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise and cardommom pods. Sautee for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add the beef, coconut milk and tamarind juice.  Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until the meat is almost cooked.

Add the finely sliced kaffir lime leaves, turmeric leaves, kerisik, brown sugar and salt. Lower the heat and simmer until the meat is really tender and the gravy has dried up. Do check the meat every now and then that it does not burn or stick to the bottom of the pan too much. For the amount of beef I was using, the cooking time was in the region of 3 hours, at the least.

Comfort Food

I like my rendang with steamed rice and some homemade acar, or something tangy, like chutney on the side, or simply, cut cucumbers.

This is what I called, Comfort Food on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Mmmmm….. YUMMY!

I hope you will try this out.

Enjoy the rest of the week.

Cheers!

An English lady colleague was walking around her other colleagues’ desks looking for ‘something’.  While everyone else was either busy on the phone or was engrossed in his/her work, an American colleague (a guy) seemed to be her only ‘prey’.   

The English lady came up to the American guy and said, “Do you have a rubber that I can borrow, please?

Oh my God! You should have seen how the American colleague blushed! He was dumbstruck.  Speechless.  Dumbfounded.

“Er…..” that’s all he could say.

Then there was a sudden burst of laughter.  And the penny dropped and it dropped so hard on the American.  Right, a rubber for an English person is simply an eraser, while a rubber for an American is a slang for condom.  LOL!!

And mind you this was NOT a joke. It really happened!

This incident prompted me to write this week’s article 😀

“I had eggplant last night”.  Say what? Eggplant, you know the large plump, oblong, glossy, usually purple-skinned vegetable? Oh I see… you meant aubergine, right?  No lah, it must be brinjal laaa…..

Whatever it is, eggplant or aubergine or brinjal, they look and taste the same (almost)! Only the sizes, lengths and sometimes the colours may differ. An eggplant, or aubergine or brinjal is one of the main vegetables in dishes such as moussaka,  ratatouille or brinjal (vegetable) curry.  But the Thai aubergine or eggplant is really something else. Sorry, but I still have to get used to the awkward, bitter taste of that little whitish green “aubergine or eggplant”.  It tastes worlds apart from the aubergine or eggplant or brinjal I’m used to. Not sure why the Thais called them aubergine or eggplant, though? Anyone?

The first time I made guacamole, I realised I was referring to an “Americanized” recipe.  Why? Because one of the ingredients called for fresh cilantro leaves.  If you don’t already know, cilantro leaves are almost exactly the same as coriander leaves!

British Malaya  and  Malaysian Borneo were group of colonies of Great Britain, so it was and is only logical that the inhabitants embraced the British English language.  If you have read my post “To lah, or not to lah?” (posted 23rd Apr, 2010), I mentioned a Manglish word, “gostan”.  This word is derived from the English word “To go astern” or simply, to reverse (a vehicle). And “gohead” is derived from “To go ahead” or to proceed or continue.

Malaysians are champions in mimicking foreign words and phrases. Just like chameleons. It must be the “confused” system of English language taught in the schools.  Whao! Hold your horses my dear teachers! 😉  Let me finish. I’m not blowing the whistle on anyone personally, but face the truth. We have, or rather, had teachers graduated from the UK, the USA, Canada, NZ, OZ (Australia), India, S’pore and the result of these?  Why, of course, a mouthful of jumbled English pronunciations and spellings! LOL!

Here are some classic examples of English, but not quite English and yet is English.  Er….confused? Can’t blame you 😀

You’re a hard case. Good on ya, mate” (You are a joker. Congratulations, well done), beamed a teacher who graduated from New Zealand.

Where are you? Away with the pixies again?” (Are you daydreaming again?), yelled another who just came back from Australia.

Excuse me?” (I beg your pardon?), began a US graduate.

“Blimey! You’re bloody right” (Oh geez! You are absolutely right/ correct), bellowed a teacher who received her ‘square hat’ (degree or diploma) from the UK.

If you don’t put tempo in your work, you will not go to Univ” (If you are not putting any effort/ motivation in your work, you will not be able to go to the University), advised a teacher who just came back from New Delhi.

I see you’re wicked at your job, eh?” (I noticed that you are really amazing at what you are doing), insisted a Canadian grad.

Class, have you by heart your A to Z of kiasu philosophy yet?” reminded a Singapore graduate teacher.

By the way, here’s the philosophy taken from the website Asianjoke.com/Singapore.

Always must win Never mind what they think
Borrow but never return Outdo everyone you know
Cheap is good Pay only when necessary
Don’t trust anyone Quit while you are ahead
Everything also must grab! Rushing and pushing wins the race
Free! Free! Free! Sample are always welcome
Grab first talk later Take but don’t give
Help yourself to everything Unless it’s free forget it
I first, I want, I everything Vow to be number one
Jump queue Winner takes it ALL! ALL! ALL!
Keep coming back for more Yell if necessary to get what you want
Look for discount Zebras are kiasu because they want to
Must not lose face be both black and white at the same time

People, be warned when you say the word “fanny” when in NZ. It’s not the same as bottom!

Now what is porridge to you?  Malaysians, be warned! The English porridge is oatmeal (you know, from Quaker Oats?), and nothing to do with rice (bubur or Congee).

Football or Soccer?

Mum or Mom?

Biscuits or Cookies?

Garden or Yard?

Luggage or Baggage?

Autumn or Fall?

Boot or Trunk?

Chips or French (ahem…Belgian) Fries?

Petrol or Gasoline?

Return ticket or Round trip?

Saloon or Sedan?

Sweets or Candy?

Underground or Subway?

Caretaker or Janitor?

Flat or Apartment?

Lift or Elevator?

Realise or Realize?

A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. English is English is English is English. These verbal bickerings have been going on since time immemorial between using American English or British English or Malaysian English or whatever English. Bah!

I rest my case!

By the way, here’s a song to remind us that whatever or however we say the word(s), To-MAY-to, To-MAH-to, these are nothing but unimportant differences.

Happy listening!

Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off!

Things have come to a pretty pass,
Our romance is growing flat,
For you like this and the other
While I go for this and that.
Goodness knows what the end will be;
Oh, I don’t know where I’m at…
It looks as if we two will never be one,
Something must be done.

(refrain)
You say eether and I say eyether,
You say neether and I say nyther;
Eether, eyether, neether, nyther,
Let’s call the whole thing off!
You like potayto and I like potahto,
You like tomayto and I like tomahto;
Potayto, potahto, tomayto, tomahto!
Let’s call the whole thing off!
But oh! If we call the whole thing off,
Then we must part.
And oh! If we ever part,
Then that might break my heart!
So, if you like pajamas and I like pajahmas,
I’ll wear pajamas and give up pajahmas.
For we know we need each other,
So we better call the calling off off.
Let’s call the whole thing off!

You say laughter and I say lawfter,
You say after and I say awfter;
Laughter, lawfter, after, awfter,
Let’s call the whole thing off!
You like vanilla and I like vanella,
You, sa’s’parilla and I sa’s’parella;
Vanilla, vanella, Choc’late, strawb’ry!
Let’s call the whole thing off!
But oh! If we call the whole thing off,
Then we must part.
And oh! If we ever part,
Then that might break my heart!
So, if you go for oysters and I go for ersters
I’ll order oysters and cancel the ersters.
For we know we need each other,
So we better call the calling off off!
Let’s call the whole thing off

Have a fantastic week ahead!  See you soon!

Cheers!

To lah, or not to lah?

Posted: April 23, 2010 in Culture, Family, Lifestyle
 

That is the question 😀

Lah is perhaps, the most renowned bastardised form of English word in Malaysian English.  Any ang moh ( literally translated as red head referring to a caucasian) who have lived in or worked in or visited Malaysia or Singapore will recognise this word immediately, which is a kind of a suffix, but not quite, because lah is not an affix to the end of a word, such as -ing, -s, -ness. Although, “lah” is used, or more so, spoken at the end of a word or sentence, it is simply an expression (“Yah lah” or “No lah“) or a way to put emphasis on a word (“Terror lah you ni” meaning someone who is looking or doing great in an adventurous way, or simply put, a dare-devil) or used to affirm a statement (“Don be so suku lah” or Don’t be such an idiot!)

My ang moh colleagues who have (ever) been posted to Malaysia for work, would more often than not, made sure that they ended up with a “lah” when starting (and ending) a conversation with me.  Funny, eh?  But it just came naturally, after knowing that I came from Malaysia 😀 ! “No lah, I din feel so sia-soi wan lah” (No, I was NOT humiliated or felt disgraced or ashamed at all). Infact I was quite amused. Indeed, “lah” is THE most reminiscent of all  Manglish (Mangled English) or Malglish (Malaysian English) word used outside Malaysia ;-).  I don’t think “lah” has been dictionarised.  Try googling for “lah” and you end up with “la” which takes you to the 6th note of any major scale.  Remember the song “Do-Re-Mi” from the acclaimed musical film, The Sound of Music ? Even Fräulein Maria (played by Julie Andrews) could not find a proper definition of the word “la” when teaching the musical notes to the Von Trapp children. In the song, “la” is simply, “a note to follow Sol or Sew in this case“.  The rest of the notes were defined with meaningful words which are dictionarised: Doe, Ray, Me, Far, Sew, La (bingo! the odd one out), Tea and back to Doe.  As with the “la” in the song, “Do-Re-Mi”, the manglish “lah” has no legitimate meaning at all.  My DH and both my boys, especially, tend to use the “lah” quite sparingly sometimes  😀 .  I once asked my older son what “lah” meant to him. And this was his answer.  “If you have a “lah” after a word or sentence, it brings the word or sentence to life, making it more cheerful”.  Then he said, playfully, “Yes lah, la la la la lah”  Not one “lah” but 6 “lah’s” and he was in seventh heaven! Hmmmm… I never thought of that.  So, do I care about them ending a word or sentence with a “lah“?  “No lah, y shud I k ar?” If it makes them delirious saying it, I’m thrilled!   With my younger son, this was his reply, “Mama, because you say lah, I follow you lah“. LOL!  He’s darn right, the cheeky little devil ;-). Oh dear, I have to be very careful in what I say…  Godverdomme, “lah” is not even a four letter word. Mind my language there, my Flemish-/Dutch-speaking friends 🙂 . “Lah” is probably one of the coolest and wittiest things to say. Yep, Malaysia’s very own trademark.  So, get real, man. We should all know our roots.  Malaysia is a multi-racial country and the result of this is the birth of Bahasa Rojak,”, an English-based creole language consisting of words originating from English,  Malay, Hokkien, Foochow, Hakka, Henghua, Teochew, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tamil, Eurasian , Melanau, Iban, Kadazan-Dusun, Bisaya, Bajau, Kedayan, Bidayuh, Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Murut, Lun Bawang, Penan, and the list goes on and on and on! 

In old Malaya, English was the language of the administration, while Malay was spoken as the lingua franca of the street. Just imagine this: a Hokkien Ah Pek trying to strike a conversation with a Malay Pak Cik .  I would imagine them ending up saying something like this: “Lu tau ar, wa gostan gua punya motor and gua punya motor masok lalam longkang. Mata mali and gua kena saman. Alamak, how ar?” Try to decipher this one yourself. Maybe you are on your way to becoming a true Malaysian. LOL !

I believe I can vouch for being a living proof of one who grew up listening to and using the Rojak language.  With my colourful background of Melanau, Teochew, Hokkien, Hakka, Dusun, and Bidayuh, I was used to the most disfigured form of the English language.  Here’s one: “Sori laaa. Debei naseng aku gi shopping ari tok bor. So bladi juak wan” (Sorry, I have no mood going shopping today. It is bloody hot).  For the record, there were 6 different dialects/languages consolidated in that statement: English, Melanau, Bahasa Malaysia, Sarawak Malay, Iban, and Hokkien !! How polluted can that be? Let’s face it.  This is putting Malaysia on our lips and in our heart.  Living as ONE Malaysia! Why can’t Belgium learn from Malaysia? The unending crisis on the issue of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde, (BHV) has really gone overboard. Imagine a ship in that situation.  We all know that the ship will SINK! Wake up Belgium!  Instead of splitting up the electoral districts of BHV into Flemish speaking and French speaking, would it not be better to integrate? Speak one language? Hello? I, for one, will be the first to vote for the Brussels dialect as the lingua franca of BHV. Period! 🙂

By the way, Malglish is a street language.  It’s hip-hop, ridiculous, hysterical, amusing, absurd all rolled into one. Let us also not forget the soul, the honesty, the simplicity and the magnetised impact it has on all Malaysians as this is one language that brings us together! Cheers to One Malaysia (a sum total of all races)! Sure can wan 😀

Have a nice day!

I’m sure you remember this word. I’m sure ALL of us remember this word from the song in “Mary Poppins” (1964).  It was the craziest yet coolest sounding word I had ever heard as a child. What a mouthful, but it was music to my ears.  Loved saying it and still do 🙂  I’m proud to say that my boys can say this word rather fluently.  This is something to brag about (I think), because English is not even their mother tongue! Then again, is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious an English word? It does sound English-ish, no? I think it means something to say when you don’t know what to say. That was what Mary Poppins was trying to explain in her song.  When trying to express oneself, it’s frankly quite absurd, to leaf through lengthy lexicons to find the perfect word. A little spontaneity keeps conversation keen; You need to find a way to say, precisely what you mean…Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” Yeah, go on…. say, it. I promise you, you will feel good!  Yes, I always feel good when I hear that certain verve in a word, foreign, yet funny and cleverly coined.   

I remember as a child, reading a book entitled, “The boy with the longest name”.  Believe you me, I can still remember his name. Can you say this after me?  Tikitikitembonosoremboumamuchigamagamamuchi. Guess what, he had a brother and his name was simply, “Chang”. Sorry, Chang, I’m going for Tikitikitembonosoremboumamuchigamagamamuchi. LOL!   

I always got excited when one of my brothers came home from a Boy Scout Campfire. He would sing gobbledygook scouting songs, which were hocus-pocus to me. Probably one of the most gibberish songs that I could remember was this one (written by Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout Movement) :  

Ging gang goolie, goolie, goolie, goolie, watcha,   

Ging gang goo, Ging gang goo.   

Ging gang goolie, goolie, goolie, goolie, watcha,   

Ging gang goo, Ging gang goo.   

Heyla, oh heyla shayla,   

Heyla shayla, heyla ho.   

Heyla, oh heyla shayla,   

Heyla shayla, heyla ho.   

Shally-wally, shally-wally   

Shally-wally, shally-wally   

Oompah, oompah, oompah   

Then I remember my brother doing the haka, which sounded something like this :  Boom bala kacha, boom bala kacha, boom bala kachi kala ka dish bom ba and then Adee jee, adee jee, ah ooh ah, bing bong bah, ra ra ra!  I was mesmeric! Spellbounded!  

And of course, there was uncle John.  He was, perhaps, the funniest uncle I have known. He could coin mumbo-jumbo words. I remember hearing him sang absurd sounding songs.  Yep, they were all foreign to me. As years passed by, and I married a Flemish- (Dutch-) speaking man, I understood now that one of  the songs my uncle used to sing when I was a child was a Dutch song! It was called, Lang zal hij/zij leven.  A song sung for a birthday celebrant. (Note: “hij” is male and “zij” is female). The lyrics as follows (for a male birthday celebrant)…  

Lang zal hij leven,
Lang zal hij leven,
Lang zal hij leven in de gloria,
In de gloria, in de gloria!   

Hieperderpiep, hoera!
Hieperderpiep, hoera!
Hieperderpiep, hoera!  

When I was in Kuching in 2004 and met uncle John, he was ecstactic when he heard my then 3 year old son sang “Lang zal hij leven“. Guess what, they are now the best of buddies :-D. Music has a way of lifting us out of ordinary existence into the extraordinary. Music or any nonsensical sounding, abracadabra words for that matter can bring people closer.  Wait til you hear this one: Wadekootdelootdesootwadesootdelootdekootananahassantaskelebatkeleboot. Who else, but only uncle John made that word up.  And thanks to you, uncle John, I am “doomed” with carrying on your work.  Here’s one from me to my boys:  Acheekaleekabongchengtay! And from my boys to me: Hottentottententententoonstelling!  

 By the way, Hakuna matata…. and have a great weekend! See ya! 😉

I was thinking for quite a while about an intro-caption to start with.  Going straight to the point with a topic in mind, or….? Hmmm…  not so fast, I thought.  For heaven’s sake, I’m a novice in this world of blogging, so I guess I will start with this….”Hello World!” 🙂

By the way, I’m starting this blog as a point of (re-)connection with my family and friends from near and far, whom I have lost contact with in an “abrupt” manner.  So, please, do bookmark my blog if you want to know how the world is treating me 😉 .  See ya !