The perils of mispronunication

This week I learned that the words for ‘late’ and ‘sodomy’ in Bahasa are practically indistinguishable to the non-native speaker.  So, it’s a good idea for all foreigners to be extremely punctual, thus  avoiding the danger of accidentally confessing to a crime and ending up with a twenty-year prison sentence.

And then I had an alarming conversation with a waiter this weekend, when I was trying to pay for the meal I’d just eaten.


I tried to remember the name of the Indonesian dish I’d ordered, and decided that it was called Penet.

‘Penis?’ asked the waiter.

‘No!’ I said, fairy confident that penis had not been one of the options on the menu.  ‘Penet, defininitely penet.’

‘OK.  Penis.  I go check.’  And he promptly disappeared.

I decided it would be far easier to go to the till and pay directly, where the very helpful cashier told me that the dish was actually called Penyet … not too far from my attempt at pronunciation, I felt.

Having paid, I was just about to leave, when the original waiter came rushing out of the kitchen calling ‘Madam, Madam’ and holding a bowl up in front of him with both hands, as though it contained some sort of sacrificial offering.

Oh no, I thought, surely this isn’t a freshly severed phallus, foraged from one of the kitchen staff?

He stopped in front of me and held out the bowl reverentially.  I looked down apprehensively … and have never been so relieved to see a bowl of peanuts in my life.


please follow and like us:)

Popping up to Penang

I’ve learnt that when chums visit you have to stop lolling around on the sofa and go off and do a bit of sightseeing.  So when Caroline came to stay, once we’d exhausted the possibilities KL has to offer, we popped up to Penang for a couple of days.

We found the most wonderful cake shop in the whole world –

and this was only half of their selection!

In Singapore celebrities get orchids named after them, but in Penang internationally renowned cake-eaters are honoured in a much more fitting way  –


We went to see the beautiful Blue Mansion which was built in the Nineteenth Century by Cheong Fatt Tze – popularly referred to in his time as the Rockefeller of the East –

We were told that he started life as a dirt-poor Chinese immigrant, working as a water carrier, but was fortunate enough to marry the boss’s daughter, and his father-in-law then bankrolled his business ventures.  This sounded about as likely as a Downton Abbey storyline to me – especially since the guide told us that Cheong’s only interest in his own daughters was the alliances he could make by marrying them off to his associates.

But he did own a house that was recognised as being Feng Shui Perfect by the experts.  They came and did a feng shui survey of the property, using this …

… which is a feng shui compass.  Seeing how archaic it looks, and thinking that it must be similar to reading runes or consulting the oracle at Delphi, I googled it to see how people would have used it – only to learn that there is a feng shui compass app that you can download onto your phone …  not quite so archaic, after all.

Travelling with an artist, I have learnt to wait patiently while artistic photographs are taken, both indoors –

and outdoors –

and to admire all sorts of artistic creations, including …

… a cappuccino in the shape of a rabbit.

And to have beautiful batik creations drying on the clothes rack –


I did try to join in, by sketching a self-portrait on the tablecloth with the kiddies’ crayons –

– but it didn’t get the recognition I felt it deserved.

Oh well, I shall go back to the cake-eating, as that’s what I really do best.





please follow and like us:)

We are not amused …

Malaysians are outraged.

Why? You might ask – they’re pretty placid people on the whole.

Well, there’s a general election coming up, and the ruling party has been busy changing the electoral boundaries to ensure that there’s a majority of Muslims in every catchment area, so that the National Party gets back into power.

The same party has been in power, in one form or another, since Malaysia gained  independence in the 1950s.  The current prime minister, who is also the finance minister, is the son of one of the previous prime ministers, and has been PM since 2009.  The country is ready for a change, but he’s doing everything he can to make sure they don’t get one.

So is this why Malaysians are outraged?  No, it isn’t.

Malaysians are outraged because a contestant on Master Chef was criticised for not making crispy rendang – everyone is talking about it. Even Najib, the Prime Minister, has been tweeting about it –

– and you’d think he’d have more important things to think about in the run-up to an election.  But perhaps currying favour is at the top of his agenda …

Ikea has jumped on the bandwagon this week –

And even my local coffee shop had a sign on the wall –

Oh, well – my father was very fond of saying that people get the government they deserve.  So perhaps it’s fitting that the Malaysians have a Prime Minister who’s more concerned with chicken rendang than with corruption.

please follow and like us:)

Releasing my inner Miss Trunchbull

I do love being unkind to children … I think that must be why I decided to go into teaching in the first place.  This was my April Fools’ Day prank –

I stuck this notice on the door and then hid, along with the first three children who’d arrived to class.  They hid under the tables, but I felt that it would be slightly undignified for me to be seen scrambling out from underneath a table, so I hid in a corner.

We then waited for anxious faces to peer around the door, wondering what on earth was going on, so that we could shout ‘April Fool!’ and laugh at them. A thoroughly enjoyable experience, managing to disguise mean-spirited mocking as cultural enrichment.

One boy brought along the timetable for his boxing tournament this weekend –

and I was interested to see that, even when you’re beating seven kinds of crap out of someone, you still stop halfway through and pray.  Presumably you either pray for victory or for mercy, depending on the way the fight’s going.

My other big moment this week was an appearance as a retired French supermodel in a 1970’s murder mystery –

and I have to say that I really nailed that role –

disappointingly, I didn’t turn out to be the murderer, but I did manage to murder a few vowels along the way, with my utterly convincing, thick French accent.


please follow and like us:)