Sunday, 29 June 2008

Phe Phe's in the kitchen

We called our grandma Phe Phe, in Karen. Whenever someone came to our place and looked for her we said, Phe Phe was in the kitchen. She would be there and nowhere else in the house, cooking all day. The visitors went straight to the kitchen where Phe Phe received her guests. While they talked, about the Mother’s Union activities or family matters, they had very sweet coffee and if it was lunch or dinner time, the guest would have a pot-luck meal and packed something of Phe Phe’s home-made food.

It is a wonderful thing to think about Phe Phe now, 3 years after she left for the Heavenly Home. A widower with six children and with many grandchildren, undoubtedly, she had a very hard life. Her husband left no valuable properties, as he himself did not have much. However, like any mother, Phe Phe tried to give the best for her children and the grandchildren throughout her life.

Phe Phe was always protective, expressive and was there for us in our happy and sad times. She laughed, cried, exalted and discouraged with us in our highs and lows, with all her heart and soul. As she always loved to stay in the kitchen, that was the place where she spent her day and only when she went to bed she came out from the kitchen. We all couldn’t understand her well why she loved her kitchen so much, cooked all day and washed the dishes until her hands got wrinkly skin.

I am now 30, married but no children yet. I tend to spend my free time in my little kitchen. Although I don’t need to cook for the whole day like Phe Phe, I kind of love to stay in the kitchen; thinking about my family, praying for them, writing or reading and sometimes crying and smiling. I started to understand Phe Phe more why she was in the kitchen the whole day.

It is a place to rest while cooking, a meeting place with friends, a quiet place for prayer, and a reserved place to cry while you cook for your loved ones with your love recipes. Phe Phe sold home-made food such as potato chips, curry powder, balachaung, mango pickle which all were loved and craved for by many people. Some people thought Phe Phe put extra material or chemical in her food to made such tasty food but Phe Phe didn’t put anything unnatural. I now realise that she simply made her food with pure and clean heart and finally covered with her love and interest for her customers. She did her best and God did the rest.

Sunday morning

I love Sundays. It’s a day of rest. I take a bus to go to town around 11:20 a.m. At the second bus stop I look forward to see uncle Ben (I gave him the name Ben as he is big). He is there! with his Sunday papers. The seat behind the driver is Uncle Ben’s. He will not sit if that seat is taken. Instead, he will stand, as he gets down at the next stop. The bus driver waits for him as he steps down and I expect two old ladies to turn up at that stop.

There is one more this Sunday. So three of them greet everyone on the bus as they get on and to Uncle Ben who gets down. The three ladies are going to a Praise & Worship service. They seem to be coming from different places because they are updating each other with recent local events as they read from the newspapers.

This morning, I have not seen the crazy woman. She used to be on the same bus on Sundays with me. I said crazy because she always tries to distract the drivers by talking to them and standing near the drivers. She says, “it’s very nice to meet you, where do you live, etc’. She does the same thing whenever I see her on the bus on Sundays. The gentleman driver has to bear her nuisance while trying to drive safely.

Whenever I take 11:20 bus on Sunday, I somehow expect to see uncle Ben and the old ladies. They seem to live alone and yet busy with their daily routines. Although I do not know all of them in person I feel attached to them. If I do not see one of them I tend to think if he/she has fallen ill, and if so, is anyone looking after them etc. Seeing them on Sunday, doing their routine jobs make me feel assured. I can’t explain that feeling but I simply feel at peace and happy. They are old and yet independent and occupied. They seem to be lonely but are always mixing around with their surroundings. I actually learnt something from them. You don’t need to feel sorry for what you’ve been through but be happy and content with what you have. That’s how we all should live everyday!

Everybody gets down at the city centre bus stop. Some people go to church, some to work and some just to wonder around the city. As for me, as I’ve seen the old ladies and uncle Ben, this Sunday is a normal one for me and I hope the next Sunday is the same too. May God Bless all grandmas and grandpas.

My brother Paul is getting married

Paul is my no.2 brother, 3rd in my siblings. He is the most resemblance to our father according to many people, the look, the behaviour as well as the brain. He was a chubby child, with round eyes and a happy face. We had a picture taken together when he was as young as 6 months old. I looked tense and was trying to hold Paul while he was smiling mischievously. He used to be a mischievous and playful boy who has the guts to confront and never afraid to speak up his mind. In fact, he is the boldest among 5 of us.

Mother was always proud of Paul for his resemblance to our father and naturally, she adored him. She might say that she didn’t like the way Paul acted or said but her face showed that she was surprised, thinking; how could he be so similar to our father. I think Paul also looks like our paternal grandmother, Daw Saw Hlaing. She was a typical Burmese from the upper Burma, often spoke abruptly and didn’t practise sweet talk but spoke as she felt. He may remember that once he had thrown a nail clipper at her and we didn’t have any clue why he did that to her.

During his teen time Paul tried not to do anything that would prevent the growth of his height. One instance is that while we put the tub on our heads for fetching water, he raised the tub above his head as high as possible, trying not to touch his head so that it would not affect his growth of height. He probably did the right thing and now he is taller than us. In his High school, Paul chose the Arts subjects instead of the popular Science subjects.

This reflected his personality; desire to excel, aspire to be outstanding in an unconventional way and embrace the unforeseen challenges. As always, he followed his heart and achieved his dream; he was one of the top students in the country when he passed his High school exams. After graduating from the Yangon University with B.A (English) Paul surprised all of us again; he planned to study Theology. His talented image continued to outshine and he was one of the best students again.

His graduation day was a memorable and emotional one where proud Phe Phe (our maternal grandma) took a picture with his brightly dressed grandson. It was the one and only graduation ceremony of her grandchildren Phe Phe attended as Paul was the first grandchild to get graduated.

Paul’s attitude of being self-dependent changed when he went to America for his further studies. He realised how much he values the love and warmth of the family. Our Mother’s death has also deeply affected him as he had planned so much in his mind for our mother’s well-being. I am pretty confident that Mother would have sensed his mind and appreciated. After her death, he has transformed as a very mature grown-up gentleman. Without anyone telling him he took the responsibility to look after the 2 younger brothers who were vulnerable and naive.

He went back to Burma after his 1-year Master degree studies and again, he passed with first class degree. He looks like our father in appearance and also is the one who follows our father’s footsteps, which always made our mother proud.

Paul met his fiancee at MIT where she also was a fellow student. I think only God can choose the best life partner for you. Now they are getting married. I wish I could attend the wedding and I very much love and like to be present and be proud and happy as a sister. At this moment, I can only wish since I still can’t figure it out how this miracle could happen. If it does not happen, I should be contented just to see the photos of my brother and sister-in-law!

I work at the card shop

Today my first customer is an elderly lady. She bought a card to cheer up somebody. How I envy her; trying to lift somebody's spirit, so caring and kind? Business seems good today. In spite of the rain, I have more customers than other mornings.

A couple is happy and satisfied that they get 4 cards and cost them only $5. The man praises the woman and she says, 'of course I look at the codes'. (A smart customer!) Another customer comes in and asks if we have any cards for somebody who has just passed the exam. I take him to the section where all the congratulations cards are. He then picks 2 cards, a congratulations and a good luck, and asks me which one. He cannot read. I pick the congratulations card for him and it is cheaper than the good luck card. (A lucky customer!)

Almost every customer who comes to my shop is considerate and concern about other people and that is why they take time looking for a suitable card. Sometimes it is not very easy to do that and many people leave with nothing. Most of my customers also take seriously of packing their presents in detail, with a bag or a box, with a pretty wrapping paper or a tissue paper, then a tag and/or tied it with a ribbon or a bow. Needless to say all are very pretty and costly. I am very impressed with their kind gesture, especially when men come and buy the cards.

Then I see someone whom I know comes in with her lovely grandson. She tells me about a dreadful accident. While listening, I make all sorts of exclamations and remarks on the subject that I am told. I wish everyone who comes in and goes out of my card shop has a peaceful and pleasant day and a safe journey on their way back home.

It is 30 minutes to close the shop. More customers tend to come in at this particular time. A card for a Mum, an adult humour card, a wedding congratulation and a thank you card are sold. As the last minute call is announced, I rush to clean and re-arrange the cards for the next day!

Friday, 27 June 2008


My first camping experience! in so-called hill walking. On Saturday, we went for a walk on the mountains. I was not very fit as I was out of breath and extremely exhausted but the breathtaking view at the top made it all worthwhile. Away from the noisy traffic, arrogant people and other pressure, I had a peaceful weekend. It was not a rough camping but comfortable and yet simple. We slept in a tent, on the ground, near a beautiful stream. The sound of water was like a stress-release therapy and made me fall asleep quickly. The next day, after having an organic cooked breakfast, I wandered around at the mill's bric-a-brac shop and got an evening bag (with 20p) and 2 books (with 2.50). The whole afternoon, under the sun, I lied on the grass, by the stream, with a book and had several dreams.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Day 1

It's amazing what the Internet can do nowadays. I am really looking forward to start blogging. The weather was also very nice so I decided to have dinner in the garden. We enjoyed the food as well as the sunshine. After dinner, I picked a few jasmines and lavender for bath. At 9pm, a Panorama program showed a piece on Primark which made me think about my clothes-buying habit. I sorted out my wardrobe, and relieved to find out that not all of them were from Primark. I chose a few tops for giving away. Positive action: no more new clothes for at least 1 month.