Posts filed under Friends

Mid-Autumn Festival in China

Filed in Friends

I’m here in China on what has been called one of the three major festivals in China. In Malaysia, we call it Mooncake Festival.

A new friend from Bifengxia Panda Base came by the hotel this evening to give me half a box of local kiwi fruits and two mini mooncakes because, as she said, I’m on my own and can’t eat much.

If I could, I would press the mini mooncakes the way flowers are pressed so I can preserve them. But I already have them preserved in my memory. I am very touched by this show of friendship from someone I didn’t know a year ago today.

謝謝, 小陳, from 老陳.

Mystery solved

Filed in Friends, People, Stress Busters

I’ve been wondering which keeper from Bifengxia accompanied Yang Guang and Tian Tian to Edinburgh Zoo, and now I know.

Scott with Edinburgh Zoo’s Head of Giant Pandas Alison McLean and Pambassador Jeroen Jacobs (Photo:

Scott Xie Hao is a seasoned giant panda keeper and American-born giant panda Mei Sheng’s first keeper when the black and white furball returned to Wolong in 2007. Scott worked for a while in the admin offices in Bifengxia and also spent some time in Old Wolong as part of the “re-introduction to the wild” team.

Ever since my 2008 visit to Beijing to see my adopted panda Feng Yi and the rest of the “Olympic 8″ team, I’ve been interested to know which keepers are sent to accompany pandas on loan to other zoos in China and overseas, mainly to see if I know the keepers, and also to assure myself that the pandas are in good hands.

In the case of Edinburgh Zoo, I am assured that Yang Guang and Tian Tian are in the good hands of an experienced and gentle keeper who will share his knowledge with their new keeper.

Good to see you again, Scott!

The kindness of strangers

Filed in Friends, General, Stress Busters

Let’s see … I have 296 names on my Facebook contact list. Many of them are people I’ve never met, people I would not know if we were to meet in real life unless we identify ourselves, but because of some shared interest, we are online friends.

Such shared interests include giant pandas, the singer-songwriter Janis Ian, and gadgets. Yet, when I posted a request yesterday evening, and personally sent the same request via the Facebook message system to almost 200 names on my contact list, the response has been very positive. I am overwhelmed and the phrase “the kindness of strangers” comes to mind.

The request is giant panda related. Suzanne Braden, director of Pandas International, has been shortlisted for the Animal Planet Hero of the Year 2009 award. Voting began yesterday and will continue for the next two weeks, ending on 27 September. Just to be shortlisted is an honour in itself; to win would, to use a cliche, be icing on the cake.

The award includes a US$10,000 donation to the animal welfare organisation of the winner’s choice. If she wins, Suzanne will donate it to the precious giant pandas that Pandas International, the organisation she founded back in 1999, has supported all these years.

For some reason, the contest actually allows multiple votes per person but this is limited to one vote per email address per day. I have voted three times so far, including, for some reason, twice yesterday evening and just once this evening. There was a thank you page after my vote this evening which included the following statement:

Please note that your vote is only counted once per day. Any other votes will not be included in the final tally. If you’ve already voted today, please come back in 24 hours to cast another vote.

The voting is one of three criteria to be considered by the judges and carries 25% towards the final score; the other two criteria are level of accomplishments and impact of the Nominee’s actions (40%), and inspirational value that the Nominee’s actions have had on others (35%).

Suzanne Braden’s nomination has further highlighted the plight of the giant pandas, especially in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake on 12 May 2008. To have been nominated is an honour in itself; winning the award will bring much needed funds that will go towards the on-going conservation efforts as well as the urgent replanting of bamboo destroyed in the 2008 earthquake.

If you would like to help Pandas International continue its on-going support of the giant pandas, please vote for Suzanne Braden here.

The giant pandas say Xie Xie Ni (thank you)!

Farewell to Morty

Filed in Friends

I saw Mel online this afternoon and heard from her that Morty, her Cairn Terrier, passed away 2 weeks ago.

Morty and Mel

I met him when I visited Mel two years ago. He left such an impression on me that I wrote a post about him here.

He will be missed.

My favourite day of the month

Filed in Friends, People

That would be the last Saturday of the month, what I like to call my literary Saturday. That’s when I attend two literary events back-to-back – the MPH Breakfast Club for LitBloggers in the morning, and Readings at Seksan’s in the afternoon. It’s a good thing they are held in the same neighbourhood, Bangsar, and within walking distance, too.

Yesterday was the last Saturday of the month (and the last Saturday of the year), but I had to make do with just one of the two events, the afternoon at Seksan’s, as MPH had its last Breakfast Club meeting of the year last month. But the Seksan’s readings more than made up for it as it turned out to be the best readings of the year – well, at least for me.

Readings, a birth child of Bernice Chauly lovingly fostered by Sharon Bakar (to borrow Sharon’s description), has always sought to give a voice to both published and yet-to-be-published writers. Yesterday’s event was no different. There was a good mix of fiction and non-fiction, and poetry, too, read by their writers, both published and soon-to-be-published. There was Dina Zaman, Patrick Teoh, Awang Goneng, M K Ajay and “bad boy” Amir Hafizi.

I attended most, if not all, of this year’s Readings (beginning from February), enough for me to be called a regular. I try to help out in whatever way, even if it was just setting out the chairs, trying to open a bottle of wine, or taking the used glasses to the sink for the guys (yes, guys) to wash. Yesterday, I helped with a rather important task, plugging a two-pin plug into a three-pin socket, important because otherwise, there would’ve been no sound system. But I digress …

I’ve enjoyed every one of the Readings attended, I always come away feeling rejuvenated and positive that there’s a future for the Malaysian literary scene. I’d even been invited to read, but chickened out at the last minute, but well, that’s just me.

Mostly, I just enjoy being there, being part of the crowd. Yesterday’s crowd was probably the biggest for the whole year, very special because family and friends of Awang Goneng, author of Growing Up in Trengganu, came especially to see him and hear him read. It was like a family reunion … a Trengganu family reunion! It was all the more special for the presence of Awang Goneng’s other half, Kak Teh. I’d first met Kak Teh at the launch of Dina’s book I Am Muslim in March. When I saw Kak Teh yesterday, I apologised for leaving a silly comment on her blog. In the comment, I’d offered to go around the bookstores to help check on how the book is doing and to take pictures, too. The comment was silly because it showed that I’d not read her blog carefully to know that both of them were back in Malaysia for the book’s launch! Duh, Chet.

Yesterday’s Readings was special for a couple of other reasons.

For one, I’d started my literary “participation” this year listening to Dina Zaman read (among other readers, including Kam Raslan and Tan Twan Eng, at the Night of the Living Text in February), and ended it listening to her read at yesterday’s Readings at Seksan’s.

For another, yesterday’s Readings featured someone from my youth, someone who started as my favourite deejay and went on to become a good friend, even a former boss, and probably the only person who still calls me by my other name – Patrick Teoh. No, no, that’s not what he calls me; Patrick Teoh is the someone from my youth, in fact, the voice of my youth, from the days when he was a deejay on Rediffusion, that’s how far back we go. I call him the Voice of Malaysia, altho he insisted the Voice of Malaysia is someone else, but that’s what he’ll always be to me. I’m sure, after yesterday, he’s won himself a new legion of fans among the young ‘uns who might have heard of him but never heard him for themselves.

This morning, when I checked my email, I found that I’d been tagged in a couple of photos by both Sharon and Dina. Dina’s photo shows what I do best …

This is what I do best in life, too – I’m an onlooker (on-looker?), a spectator, an observer. I like the last description (observer) best. Hopefully, in the new year (my 50th year, if anyone is interested), I will do more than observe.

Here’s to a great new year ahead to you and yours.