OK, back from Penang! Yesterday we picked Ray up and drove bravely on. Took us about four and a half hours, and we made a stop at Ong Cheng Huat in Sungai Dua for lunch around 2.30. They deep-fry spring chickens there, you see, and it's delicious. It's also hard to find unless you know what you're looking for, because it's in a slip road and actually behind some residential houses in an industrial area.
We then went to find my Auntie Mimi in her nursing home. She's worse than the last time I visited; this time she practically did not recognize me. It's kind of sad situation; it's an understaffed institution and I feel everyone's sitting around waiting to die or something. There're no activities, nothing to give the residents any mental stimulation. My aunt is the kind of person who needs a lot of mental stimulation, and without it, her dementia has become a lot worse. She's also losing threads of memory that she never lost before, like who her brothers are, how many kids they had. She thought I was her sister (which I take to be a sign of how much weight I've gained) and forgot she had a niece, much less two
. When I said goodbye, she practically waved me off, already tired of me questioning her, and I just had... this terrible terrible feeling inside. I tried to hug her but she was in no mood for it.
Anyway, we went to an aunt's house to stay. She's currently out of the country, attending her youngest daughter's graduation, but her mom was there, my Sook Poh as we call her. We hung out in the living room chatting with her the best we could: she speaks Cantonese and Penang Hokkien (and of course understands some English and Malay). Ray speaks a bit of Penang Hokkien, and Roy and I stumbled with Cantonese and English the best we could. It's the first time Ray's met her, too. We had dinner with Uncle Jimmy, wandered around for apung.
Sook Poh was shocked to hear we were only staying for one night. She'd given me a set of keys with an autogate controller with the full expectation that we were hanging out for much longer, sigh.
I didn't sleep well, had to pee, and then had a nightmare about yelling at my mom who had come to WisCon and was going around asking me intrusive questions about my friends, IN THE SAFER SPACE no less, after which it was a lot of being worried about something terrible happening (in the vein of her harassing my friends and triggering them in some way). Ray getting up for morning prayers got me out of the dream, thank goodness.
Roy had trouble getting out of bed, but we were on the road by around 8.30am. (Sook Poh looked so sad as we left. Sigh.) We hit up some food first , then went to Mount Erskine to find the columbarium where our grandparents' ashes are kept.
Roy and I found Grandpa and Grandma fairly easily, so Ray got her first ever look at our grandparents' ashes. They died before she was born (I have 9 years on her; she's the youngest of my generational cohort) and she'd never been (partly because her dad died when she was really young too, so her mom doesn't really know where the ashes are). What with the family trying to keep track of the family tree lately, I thought it'd be nice to make sure she got to see the place at least.
We had a lot of time, and our last stop, Ai Linn Boh's coffee shop, didn't open until noon, so we headed downtown to Armenian St and saw Hock Teik Cheng Sin temple (and the preparations for the Tua Peh Kong festival) (he's a local prosperity deity), the Khoo Kongsi (they have a very impressive family court that's practically a tiny town), the Nyonya beading shop I've been meaning to go to for years (40 years of beading, and he makes the shoes from scratch. It was super awesome; he showed us works in progress, past examples, some of his process. It was so terrific), and another nearby shop that the beading guy told us to go to because the lady there gives classes (she wasn't in, but her brother was and called her for us, and he has kids on the US side of the pond too). Grown-ups are so great.
We hung out in a hipster cafe for a bit, where I learned about the Depressed Cake Shop
which is a festival program to raise awareness of mental illness. The Wifi at the hipster cafe was kind of shit, but Ti Kuan Yin tea is pretty nice. My brother had a lamb harissa which was pretty delish.
(Somewhere in the midst of this were exhortations from my dad to buy some fruits for my Auntie Mimi so Roy had taken off to buy some oranges.)
Around 11.30am, we headed out to Tanjung Tokong to find Ai Linn Boh. I called Uncle Jimmy to let him know that we were on the way, and also to ask which dialect she speaks (the night before, he offered to call her to let her know that we were coming). She runs, with her son and new daughter-in-law (I missed the wedding because I was in Singapore), a coffee shop, one of those affairs in a canteen area by a housing estate. They sell kaya toast and various beverages. They also make their own kaya, every morning. Just as we were settling in, Roy asked me which one she was, because the last time he saw her was years and years ago, and I was like, "she's the one on the phone, she must be, because she's now looking at us, quick, wave, I bet that's Uncle Jimmy on the phone."
So, that was cool! She was very pleased to see us too. We waved at our newly-married cousin. Uncle Jimmy came by. We got three servings of toast with butter and kaya (they now serve three types of bread so it was imperative that we tried one of each) AND two half-boiled eggs each. We were so wired on sugar for a while and I am still crashing.
There was also a box with a couple of horseshoe crabs flailing about in it which was both fascinating and freaky. Roy bought them for RM8 and we went to a nearby beach (I never knew that the coffee shop was literally 20 meters away from a beach) to set them free.
(Somewhere in the middle of this, we told Uncle Jimmy of the plan to stop by the nursing home once more to drop off the oranges Roy bought, and he sighed a long-suffering sigh, told us about the time he brought her fruits: "she wouldn't eat them AT ALL. And then she wouldn't let anyone take them away! So they basically rotted the whole time." So we changed our mind and headed straight home, super late.)
The way home was pretty uneventful; a couple of pit stops, a prayer stop. I fell asleep early on and my head was tilted back, so I pretty much snorted myself awake, which was kind of an awful sensation. (I put the back down and put my feet up and that helped a lot with the dozing.)
On the way down from Penang, there's a stop at Gunung Tempurung, which has a drain leading to a tiny river. In the drain, there tends to be a whole flock of butterflies. Not just ANY butterflies, though! These are Rajah Brooke's Birdwing Butterflies
, which are about 2 - 3 inches wide with a glorious black and green wingspan (and red bodies) (they're a sexy butterfly). So, that was pretty cool. I'd glad I got to catch them; the day was kind of rainy.
We got to Shah Alam by around 8pm to drop Ray off, and Dad had cooked fried fish (pomfret, fuck yeah) so yeah, we got home in good time.
The oranges were delicious, my brother and I agree that they are sweet, but my parents think they are sour, and we have no idea what accounts for this.