A Reflection for The Country

 

Last week my home country celebrated the 70th Independence Day. I could not particularly remember what I did on that day, it was a Monday, the  beginning of the week, and I sluggishly brought my pieces back together to work. In the morning as I was scrolling through the social media absentmindedly, posts of greetings and poems about the Independence Day poured out, wishing the country the best in its effort to progress towards a brighter future.

I sighed at the thoughts, not so much because I do not believe in a brighter future at all, but because of the reality that we are faced with presently: the fact that the 70 years that have passed are not a good enough time to make it a competitive country. This sentiment of mine might have been exacerbated by what I experienced in the country that I am currently residing: Singapore.

The week before, Singapore just celebrated its 50th National day. A special one, the golden jubilee, it was a very, very big deal. The preparation had gone a long way back, and the country had many events in store that led up to the jubilee week: SG50-related exhibitions, The SEA Games, Youth Celebrate, coordinated celebrations in schools… And on the night of the National Day, my relatives and I decided to bring our picnic basket and head to the Marina Bay Financial Center, in the hope of getting a good spot to watch the culminating firework show. The whole celebration was a display, a testimony of how much the country has become, from the little fishing village to a country admired globally. I was stunned, looking at the fireworks shooting in the air, and in my mind I was admiring the significance of that testimony.

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Glorious fireworks…

Of course making a direct comparison between the 2 countries is not very fair. Indonesia is 2600 times bigger in size than Singapore, therefore the technical difficulty in building the former is bigger by many folds. But I think you may agree with me that the smaller country has other qualities that we are lacking e.g. a more transparent public sector,  a heavy emphasis on good quality education…

Now, before anyone accuses me for being whiny and unpatriotic, let me say that my point here is NOT to denigrate my own country. In the contrary, I want to share my pensiveness and invite everyone (wherever you are) to reflect on how much this country has become after all these years, and what we can do (in our capacity) to make it better. Let’s use our talents and do our best in our work.

Here is a comic that I did on this subject (featured in Fillet Minis August issue. To read the whole 4-page mini magazine: http://issuu.com/filletmagz/docs/fillet_minis_aug_2015_issuu).
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Happy 487th Birthday, Jakarta!

Happy Birthday Jakarta!!!
This post will be in Indonesian to commemorate Jakarta’s anniversary.

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Gak terasa Jakarta ude berumur 487 tahun… Tapi di dalam tahun-tahunnya yang panjang aku cuma mengamati perkembangannya di 26 tahun terakhir. Sebelumnya, ya, cuma denger dari buku-buku sejarah apa yang terjadi di kala kota ini masih bernama Sunda Kelapa, terus Batavia, lalu Jayakarta, dan pada akhirnya Jakarta (mestinya bener.. haha).

Sebagai orang yang lahir di Jakarta (nenek juga udah lahir di sini), rasa kepunyaan terasa tinggi walaupun udah beberapa tahun tinggal di luar negeri. Walopun mengalami segala macam penyakitnya (polusi, kotor, ga tertib, MACETTT, ga menentu), toh Jakarta tetep Jakarte kite. Penentu masa depannya adalah, ya, kite-kite ini hehehe.

Aku percaya perubahan dapat diawali dengan sebuah harapan. Harapan membangkitkan rasa optimisme, rasa mencintai, rasa peduli, yang setidaknya bisa memercik sebuat api permulaan sebuah tindakan. Untuk itu aku bekerjasama dengan Koci Academy (sebuah anak organisasi Koko Cici Jakarta yang baru diluncurkan bertepatan dengan HUT Jakarta 487) mau mengajak teman-teman untuk menulis your birthday wishes for Jakarta di twitter dengan hashtag #kociacademyJKT487 atau langsung mengisinya di website http://www.kociacademy.com/wishes-for-jakarta.

Aku mau menutup post ini dengan sebuah pantun…

Eh ujan gerimis aje
Ikan teri diasinin
Eh jangan ngelamun aje
Birthday wishes ayok ditulisin…

Sekian.

Foooddd I ate

Hellow!

It has been a while since I am back from holidays in Indo, but I ‘m sure it’s not too late to share with you what I ate back at home. I am not a regular food-photo sharer,  but when I see an array of mouth-watering dishes on the table, I said to myself, I could not let them disappear without being documented.

I know many people like to document their gastronomical experiences in photographs that adorn the nooks and crannies of the Instagram world, but what you are about to see is a bit  different because, firstly, there will be no filter, no special lighting, nor effects done on the photos. Everything is au naturel, true to the time and place at which one particular shot was taken (what a way to justify poor photo-taking skills haha). Secondly, some of the food was home-cooked, so the palate presentation might not be top-notched. The taste, however, was a totally different matter.

So here’s the first one:

Mie Kangkung

Mie Kangkung

Yes, this is supposed to be a noodle with kangkung and some minced meat, sprinkled with fried onion (I just realized there isn’t any of the vegetable seen in the bowl). May be it was hidden below the noodle, I can’t remember. The soup was very tasty and rich with flavor. The white krupuk that absorbed some of the soup and became half soggy was perfect to accompany the main dish (krupuk makes a good accompaniment to almost all food). This was cooked by the chef at home who I call Ma’e. I did not ask for her permission to post her photo here but I’m sure she wouldn’t mind :p By the way the mie kangkung was her first attempt of making that, and the taste surpassed many other mie kangkungs around. Thumbs up!

Ma'e the wonderful cook

Ma’e the chef caught in action

Next we have:

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Locupan

I am not really sure how to spell the name of this type of rice-flour noodle (as it is a Chinese or a dialect term), but we phonetically call it as ‘locupan’. It is like noodle with a more slimy and chewy texture and is usually cooked the way people do with other types of noodle. So the one I ate was done like mie ayam (chicken noodle). The locupan was topped by tasty minced chicken meat and served with generous boiled cut vegetable. My grandmother made this one. She is a master chef: her culinary skills are honed through years of experience and equipped with acute tasting sense (my words can’t possibly do justice to her cooking expertise).

Next.

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1. White rice 2. Soto Betawi 3. Emping with sweet soy sauce 4. Sambal

Soto betawi is a type of gravy with coconut milk and beef. This is a really tasty dish, the one that can add to your cholesterol level but you can’t help but to drink the soup to the last sip. Some lime juice squeezed into the soup makes the soup a bit sour and serves to heighten appetite. Soto is not complete without the presence of emping (a kind of chips made of melinjo nuts). My family has a soft spot for this chip, and we always eat it with sweet soya sauce. And not to forget, the must-have red sambal. The dinner left my tongue dancing in ecstasy. This was cooked by Ma’e too.

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Siomay

As you might have known, siomay is usually items made of fish cake, eaten with peanut sauce. This was the siomay that I bought from a regular siomay peddler around my grandma’s house area. The ingredients seen here are: 1. White tofu, 2. Fish cake, I guess, 3. Bittergourd, 4. Pig skin (this item is rather unusual), 5. Potato, 6. The  thick, luscious, nutty, peanut sauce combined with (again) sweet soya sauce. Yum.

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So this is another set of dishes we ate for lunch. A simple one, but really delicious too. 1. Sayur asem (literally translated to ‘sour vegetable’). Perhaps it is like the Indonesian version of tom yum, except that it can be made not spicy. 2. Tempe goreng (fried tempe). Tempe is fermented soya bean cake and fried tempe goes along well with sayur asem and fried chicken. 3. Stir-fried vegetable. 4. Stir-fried Taiwanese sausage. 5. Omelette. 6. Left-over spaghetti sauce:D

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This is a closer look of the sayur asem. The essential ingredients are corn, long beans, ground nuts, jackfruit, squash. Slurpy.

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Heart-shaped dong zhi

I also had some cultural exposure with mum by having a session of making these glutinuous rice balls for winter solstice festival that fell on 21 Dec. I tried to be creative by making other shapes:)

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Ta-da

Some colourings were added into the dough and the balls were then boiled in sweet broth. Making this turned out to be pretty easy, even for a cooking noob like me.

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‘Over Size Chocolate Chip’

I didn’t bake this but I found it in one of the Christmas goodie bags my family received. The cookie was oversized, just as the title, an was the biggest cookie I’d ever laid my hand on. It was bigger than a regular Subway cookie, but it was harder than that. I ate most of it ha ha…

One day, I went with two of my old friends for lunch at a French restaurant called Cacaote that is located in South Jakarta. After having a hard time deciding what to eat (because almost everything looked good – and expensive lol). I ordered lobster risotto and when it came what struck me first was the seemingly small portion of the food (I eat quite a lot). But we concluded that was because the plate was too gigantic because at the end of lunch we were quite full and did not venture for the French desserts that they had there (eclairs, macarons and whatnots).

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Cacaote’s Lobster Risotto with passion fruit tea

The risotto was delicious, but some parts of the burnt lobster got stuck to the sticky rice, and it was hard to separate them from the rice. The passion fruit tea was good and refreshing. My friend ordered chicken tequila and ended up drunk (haha jk!). The other had duck confit (I ‘m not sure what is that).

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Another lunch. 1. Papaya leaves cooked with anchovies. 2. Cut up potatoes cooked with sweet soya sauce. 3. Fried tofu. 4. Fried dory fish. This time round everything looked rather dry, as the papaya leave did not have any soup in it. But I don’t mind my food being dry.

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This photo was taken at Piscator, a restaurant with seafood buffet. I went there with my family for a new year lunch, and there was a wide range of food served there. They had a seafood station where we could pick we would like to eat and gave it to the staff to either grill, stir-fry, or make soup. The photo above is the example of that. There were 1. Beef. 2. Prawns. 3. Oyster satay (?). 4. Fish, I guess. 5. A variety of clams. 6. Yoghurt.  At the other end of the restaurant there was a station with an array of sushis, sashimis and already cooked dishes that we could help ourselves to while our orders were being processed. The desserts were nice too as they had waffles and ice cream, and (of course) yoghurt, among many other.
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No, I didn’t buy this sugar, but I included it here as it is interesting and got me into thinking, what did the sugar company expect when they put that cartoon icon on its packaging? Are they targeting a new generation of young moms who will buy this brand just because of the character? By the way the price of this is almost the same as the sugar sold in dull, boring packaging. Seriously, Hello Kitty has invaded every aspect of our lives.

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So we went to another mall on another day and my mom caught a glimpse of a restaurant called ‘Miitem’ (literally means black noodle) which sells black noodle (duh) which is made of noodle dough mixed with squid ink. According to her, she saw this unusual delicacy reviewed in one of TV programs and from then on was interested to try (it was just she did not know where to find it). So when she saw this restaurant, she became very excited and made a decisive call to eat dinner there. Number 1 is black aglio olio and I ate that, it was quite good. 2. Fried black noodle. 3. Black cwie mie (something like chicken noodle). 4. It was just the chicken soup that came with the cwie mie, served in a cup. 5. Black ifu mie (crispy noodle). Overall it was quite good, though I guess we preferred eating them with the original type of noodles they were supposed to be. So my mum curiosity has been satisfied since then.

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Fried Dory Fish with Salted Egg Paste

So my sister has had a new found hobby of cooking, especially after she moved out of the house and had her own kitchen. So one day when she was back at home, she brought ingredients along with her to cook fried dory fish with salted egg paste. The photo above is the result of what she thought as a rather failed experiment. However, we, as the consumers, enjoyed it very well 🙂

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A Cute Ladybird Spongecake

I have to admit that I bought this cake on an impulse because of its cute look (They also had polka dot pattern which I firstly took because I thought ladybird was too childish for me. But my mum advised me to take the ladybird one as she knew that I would like that more). But we were shopping at this famous bakery in Bandung when I saw this so I was not so worried about the taste, it had to be good.  What’s so good about it? When I opened the packaging as we got hungry on our journey back to Jakarta, the sweet smell of the sponge cake escaped and teases our nose. The texture was soft, and there was something different about this cake from the normal sponge cake: it had a vanilla filling in the centre…  I’ve gotta buy some ladybirds again if I go back there.

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This is the last photo of food that I have here. 1. Taiwanese sausage. 2. Tofu and potato cooked in I don’t know how to describe. 3. Stir-fried cabbage. 4. Green chili. 5. Siewmay and all that sorts. 6. Salted fish. Again, very appetising and good.

So that’s all for the food for now (I am getting tired and running out of descriptive words to write). And I hope by doing this I could do my part to promote local dishes, and show appreciation for people who have cooked them:) Ciao.

2014

This might be kind of late to post anything related to the new year. But, anyway, happy new year 2014 everyone!

I spent the new year’s eve with simplicity – staying at home and watching the new year’s programmes on TV. I don’t have  a grand tradition when it comes to celebrating new year.  Mum – who usually will be knocked out way before midnight – looked unusually alert in the living room. And despite the fact her mood that night was grumpy (because of the zillions mosquitoes that were up and about), she stayed on to wait to catch a glimpse of his son on TV.

My brother who has recently been crowned the brother of Jakarta was supposedly involved in the new year parade in the city. So my mum’s sacrifice did not go in vain. At around 15 minutes before 00.00, when the Governor Jokowi and the King of Dangdut Rhoma Irama took the stage to sing a duet, he was there too, enjoying some exposure.

He is in red

He is in red

So that’s the highlight of the night. I was busy documenting every second, taking picture whenever his face popped out, because, hey, it is not everyday that somebody that you know can be on TV. Hee.

Soon the second day of the new year we started the morning with going round the breakfast table saying our achievements of the past year and our aspirations for this new year. My sister took down all the points we said. We are going to have them reviewed at the end of the year as an act of accountability.

Looking back I remember there were times in which things were looking unsure and bleak, but now those things are better and I thank God for them. So this serves as a reminder for the future days to come that… that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. We learn through experiences that there is always a reason behind everything that happens and befalls upon us.

What are your resolutions?

Cheers for the new year!

abbie8

Chill Cat

So I had already wanted to write this blog before this interesting news about Miley Cyrus singing with a giant cat as a backdrop came up recently. How apt. Never in my life I had ever thought that I could draw a similarity between her and me.

This is the censored picture hehe:)

This is a more censored version of the picture hehe:)

OK, this is what I want to write about. Recently I made a giant cat. And its name is Chill Cat. And this blog will chronicle the making of this cat.

In one of the classes that I attended, each student was supposed to come up with an artwork to be exhibited. This was rather stressing since the last time I exhibited (my final year project in uni), I had a few months or so to prepare. And now we only had one month or so, not mentioning that the first few weeks could not be used to start making the artwork due to the piles and piles of other assignments to do. Nevertheless, I could still start planning early, and was thinking along the line of what I always liked to do so far… things like comics, cartoons and what-nots. I had a little chat with my teacher, the famous sculpture artist Tang Da Wu… He didn’t object my initial intention of having a 2D work (he is so awesome, he respects the thoughts that you put into your artwork), but he said it would be good if I used this chance to explore the area of 3D sculpting and stuff (which I thought, was an awesome thing as I could get to learn from the master himself).

So in a fine afternoon a few days later I was struck with an  idea of having a garden with an animal sculpture lazing around the compound in my school. The premise was simple: that will serve as a reminder of how people need to chill and stuff in a place where students feel so stressed with examinations. And I proposed to him and he agreed. So that’s how it got started. And I naturally gravitated to choosing a cat as the character perhaps because I did something like this before:

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This is Chill Cat’s predecessor in 2D moving form.

So I felt so satisfied about the fact that I cleared the first stage which was thinking about what to make. The questions remained like how on earth am I going to make it? I knew zero about this thing?! But since Da Wu was so confident about me – the absolute newbie – making this thing, I felt very secured too. I made a miniature wire frame of a cat for a start.

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Then time flew by and came the week before the exhibition. The crazy thing was I even had a notion to go back home during this weekend. Looking back, if I had ever gone back home, Chill Cat would not have been around… it would have just stayed a notion, an idea, disappearing quickly as the wind blows… ok.

First thing, I made the structure using wire, a very thick one. I combined some not so thick one because the thick one needed more strength to bend. But using a thinner wire was wrong (read it carefully: THIS WAS WRONG!), because later on I learned the importance of having a robust wire frame so as to make the structure not sink in when we apply the plaster. I ended up having to make more reinforcement from bamboo sticks to get the structure holding up.

The head in progress

The head in progress

The whole thing in progress

The whole thing in progress and my yellow bag making a cameo. Look at how big the pliers are!

After the frame was somewhat there, I covered it with wire mesh. This was a painful process (literally!), because there were billions (ok, this is too many) of the wire ends which poked and poked.

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Before long, I have already gotten a lot of scratches from making this cat.

The plastering was done for the whole weekend. My life was dedicated for the cat for the whole weekend. My teacher came down everyday to help. I readied myself by bringing a lot of food and the sore throat medicine, as I was unfortunately stricken by another blow of sore throat.

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Pampering a sore throat with sashimi really helped a lot.

I learned how to make a mix of plaster. I did not count how many basket of plaster I made for the whole process but I think the number could easily fetch to 50 baskets (yet I am still far from pro). Working with plaster, especially for a newbie, like me was very tricky. One thing about the mixture of plaster and water is… you can’t stir it because you will spoil the structure formed in the mixture. So to get rid of the existing lumps, you have to gently push them down and crush them against the base of the container.

And then not mentioning the ideal thickness when you start dipping the cloth into the plaster mixture to be applied onto the wire frame. Too thin a mixture will make it splashing everywhere (poor shoes). The best will be when it is like a dough. But at this point of time we have to work fast because it will harden very fast from that point onwards. I should admit I wasted a lot of plaster for not working fast enough or not having the right approximation of the amount that I needed at one point of time. This photo below was the initial stage of putting the plaster cloth. Look at the amount of bamboo reinforcements and the strings of rope that were tied around to keep the shape as much as possible.

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Getting covered... At this point of time I could already breathe much easier. At least the shape was there.

Getting covered… At this point of time I could already breathe much easier. Seeing Chill Cat gaining its flesh and skin was very relieving. Look at the mess I made in the studio. Much thanks for the understanding of the lab technician.

(I have to omit describing a lot of details to avoid a long-winded story)

Really I learned a lot from this process. The good thing about this was that… I did not feel scared after all… The security that I got from the fact that I was just a beginner trying out, having a few friends working around me and the assurance of having an experienced person who would always be there to help really made me chill. As chill as the chill cat. This is not like me. I used to be so stressed and so depressed. I guess this was one of the most important takeaways from this process.

Me working with the master.

Me working with the master

Even though the whole structure was covered, this was still long from completion. Since the shape was rather distorted (due to the problem with the wire frame as explained earlier) and the surface was not so smooth, some patching had to be done. We also moved the cat to the site to see if it blended with the  surrounding (that was a really heavy thing to do. I got a backache from that).

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Chill Cat in the environment

At the end my teacher suggested having the sculpture at the end of the staircase as to make that more obvious to anyone, as opposed to having it laying around at the side. This was a diversion from the initial idea as I was thinking of having it chilling on a green patch of grass at first. During the crit session someone commented that putting it there was very apt because a cat would just be lying in the middle of your way without caring of anyone around it.

Afterwards we brought Chill Cat back to the studio to add the necessary details on its face. The shades, the nose, the bumps on its face. I should admit I did not do much here. I was too scared that I would ruin the finished smooth surface that my teacher could achieve.

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Stopping for a picture. In the middle of shaping the shades for Chill Cat.

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Smiling in its sleep

So we did the remaining work to smoothen the surface out. And I thought the journey was still long because I still needed to colour it. But at the end I decided not to. This was based on a more practical reason, but during the crit session, somebody said that it was more apt to leave it white as the environment already had a lot of colors and giving it colors would make it distracting (or something of that sort). I also felt that leaving it white made it less gimmicky and mascoty.

Monday came (the exhibition opened on the next day), and I was still doing the surface smoothing as it took me longer than expected. People had moved their works to the gallery and I was left behind in the studio. I had no idea when I would be able to end. There was still much rough surface I needed to cover. So my teacher came and told me, “let’s move it to the site at 8 pm.” (It was 7pm). So I worked for another hour and when the clock struck 8, I stopped, looked at it and felt satisfied that my work was done (despite the fact that there was so much more that could be done). So here is an interesting concept: there is no finish line in making a work. One has to take the liberty to put a limit to what is considered as done.

So the exhibition opened. I heard a few remarks that that cat looked like Garfield (which I just realized. Lucky I did not paint it, because I was thinking to paint it orange)

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Sunbathing

Looking back to the time I was not even sure how to make a sculpture and looking at the big white monument in front of me  was like a dream come true… And seeing how people and my classmates took picture along side Chill Cat with the same pose was also like a dream come true, because that was how I imagined people would interact with it (although they had to be instructed to do so haha).

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So (referring to the start of the blog), do you see the similarity?

That’s all! Oh, and as to its whereabouts, Chill Cat is resting at one of  the sculpture garden at Goodman Arts Centre, courtesy of Tang Da Wu.

Cheese Sandwich

I can’t believe myself I am writing about making food again, because this is an activity that I rarely do. So this time round I would like to introduce you to a very easy method of making a cheese sandwich. But this is NO ordinary cheese sandwich where you just put a slice of cheese in between two toast bread. No. This sandwich is special because of the bread. I used Focaccia bread for this, and this bread has a smell of pizzas because, I would guess, of the olive oil, paprika, oregano and rosemary spices added to it. With the absence of cheese I could eat the bread just like that (and imagine I am munching a slice of pizza). This menu is absolutely a way healthier choice compared to instant noodle to appease our late night hunger.

So this is a sample of the bread:

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So what I did was cutting the bread in a size that is just nice to put a slice of cheese in. It ended up to be a just nice size to fit the bread into the microwave-safe container.

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The next step will be of course to slice open the bread and put the cheese slice in.

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So now, put the container in the microwave and heat it with medium-high temperature for about two minutes. Voila! Here is the result (big photo to show the temptation of the oozing cheese):

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What is good about it is also that the  bread becomes very warm and fluffy, like just like it has just come out from the oven. So yap, that’s the cheese sandwich.

Sick

I have been generally healthy all the time. Having never taken time off from school because of falling sick is something that I usually boast about 😛

But last Friday night my throat felt uncomfortable. It might be due to many things such as eating too much fried food, not having enough time to sleep, feeling worried about piling assignments… etc.  The night was very torturous as I started sneezing continuously which worsened the sore throat. Watery mucus kept flowing like waterfall, I kept pulling tissues from the box and throwing tissue balls on the floor. I think I could have used fifty sheets of tissue by the end of my sickness period.

Saturday morning, the sore throat developed into an established phase, fever and head ache started creeping in, which was very bad because I had to go to school for the whole day T_T After school I decided to drop by a supermarket to buy a cough syrup because I ran out of one. I grabbed a bottle of legendary Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa (you can search on this brand, chances are you have seen it before), because it was the cheapest and first of all is tasty *thumbs up* (Disclaimer! This is not an advertisement, I am not the brand ambassador of this syrup! heehee)

My nose was at night was once again like a water fall at night and I kept sneezing. But the syrup helped appease the burning sensation quite a bit.

The next day I brought the syrup with me to school (yep, the activity was still on until Sunday). In the morning when i woke up, my throat miraculously felt fine but i still wanted to drink the syrup to make sure the recovery process was completed. And at one point of time, I opened the syrup instruction and saw a pleasant surprise inside (which brings me to the main purpose of involving this syrup in the story):

Syrup CartoonA enchanting series of cartoon strips in the instructions! And what’s more fascinating is the variety of cases for which this medicine claims to be useful for: (from top left)

1. Prevent loss of voice in people whose voice is their livelihood. (hahaha so specific)

2. Dryness of throat resulting from late-night to over-night.

3. Get rid of coughs and colds more quickly. (I fell under this category)

4. Ensure the benefils (sic) of an undisturbed night’s sleep.

5. Dryness of the skin caused by lung infections. (this does not really explain the picture haha!)

6. Debititating (sic) coughing, and breathlessness in the elderly.

7. Soreness and dryness of the throat. (I fell under this category too)

8. Irritability caused by coughing and difficulty in breathing.

9. Prevent ill effects of coughing in young and old.

10. Prevent expectoration in children. (I learned a new vocabulary here. You might think expectoration has something to do with expecting or expecto patronum, but the word actually means the action of ejecting phlegm or mucus from the throat or lungs by coughing, hawking or spitting – wikipedia)

11. Effects of excessive smoking and drinking.

12. Sleeplessness caused by coughing.

It was just very unexpected to find this colorful cartoon in a box of a serious-looking Chinese medicine. The sense of innocence felt from reading this was very delightful. I felt entertained and a little bit better just by reading that:)

Thank God, I am back to my healthy self now, being more conscious about health and refraining as much as possible from eating fried food (at least for the time being. Ooops I already succumbed to the temptation of shaker fries a few days ago :P).