Sunday, August 9, 2009

Home in Penang

Penang town scene (complete with blue skies,
low buildings and a narrow road laden with
private vehicles -- in other words, one that's
a far cry
from that of Hong Kong's in so many ways!

Greetings still from Penang! As some of this blog's regular readers have already surmised, the primary reason why I've returned to my home state for a short visit is to see for myself how my mother's doing. Thus far, I have to say -- touch wood but so far, so good. In fact, my mother appears to be doing better than I dared to have hoped: not only eating well and but also fit enough to do such as go on short walks (up to four short circuits around the neighborhood as of yesterday) each evening.

One activity that she rues still being unable to do though is to drive a car. Unlike Hong Kong, private cars are what you really need to get around town in a part of the world with a much vaunted highway system but whose public transportation is neither considered reliable nor "prestigious" enough for most people to want to make use of. (I've taken to trying to count the numbers of taxis and buses I pass by whenever I travel around town but many a time, I don't spot even a single taxi or bus on a car ride from one place to another!)

The truth of the matter, though, is that whenever I return to Penang these days, I actually spend the bulk of my time back within the confines of my family home -- almost only venturing out to do such as go foraging for good food (and, to be fair, also to book stores -- as for all of it often seeming like a kampung (Malay for village) relative to Hong Kong, it actually does have a wider range of English language books on sale than "Asia's World City").

One way of looking at it is that it goes to reason that I'm a homebody in my home state. Another less cheery way to view the way things are, however, is that what with my having spent more years outside of than in Penang, there often can feel as though there's not much left for me here besides family. On a more positive note, accentuated no doubt by my parents' presence here, Penang is a place where I can go home to "chill", de-stress and relax for a bit before returning to the hustling, bustling, fast-paced Hong Kong -- whose pulsating energy usually invigorates but also can, admittedly, occasionally drive one to exhaustion!


hcpen said...

Yea feel the same way about Penang myself...i always go bck to relax and chill cos bck home, i can simply relax, and eat, and eat, and errr, eat without having to do anything..and of cos watch the wonderful cable network which Malaysia affords:-)

YTSL said...

Hi hcpen --

As it so happens, I just came back from another evening of feasting! I don't want to think how much weight I've put on in just a few days here. But, yeah, sometimes, I feel like I can't stop eating while here! ;b

OTOH, unlike you, I am *not* an Astro addict. Also, if you haven't already, do check out Penang's architectural heritage. it really is often under-appreciated!

ewaffle said...

A lovely way to define what "home", a word freighted with meaning, means to you. Even the lack of public transportation in Penang City can be a plus since it tends to keep you in your parents' neighborhood other than occasional trips in search of food--and simply spending time with one's family, eating, reading, walking around the community and other very simple pleasures can be a great vacation because it is such a marked difference from daily/weekly life.

Reading something well written about "home" makes me think of a few lines from Robert Frost's poem "Death of a Hired Man" which was assigned to first year high school students throughout the United States and may still be. I may be one of the most anthologized poems in English.

There is: "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, / They have to take you in" which in the context of the poem seems to many to be a harsh dismissal of the concept of home as a sanctuary but my reading has been the opposite. It is the kind of thing that one who is fearful, troubled or sick at heart might cling to.

The very next line, though is: "I should have called it / Something you somehow haven’t to deserve" which is a much welcoming even softer if you will manner of putting the same thing.

Great news about your mother, especially her recovering quickly. Elders sometimes can slip away but can also have amazing powers of recuperation.

Anonymous said...

That's great news about your mom, YTSL! I hope she continues her quick recovery. :)

I had the great pleasure of visiting Penang in 1993. I was lucky to be there during a Hari Wesak nighttime parade, which was truly magical. The other highlight of my trip was bicycling around the island (I did it in two days). And how can I forget the wonderful butterfly farm.

I'm afraid I didn't get to sample the wide range of Penang cuisine, since I befriended and Indian couple that ran a roti canai stand and ended up eating there most of the time.

Anyway, I definitely hope to return some day soon!

YTSL said...

Hi ewaffle --

Thanks for your comments -- and introducing me to Robert Frost's "Death of a Hired Man". Find your interpretation of the lines from it that you are quoted very interesting. All in all, you come across to me as having a most admirable outlook towards life! :)

Hi duriandave --

Fingers crossed that my mother's recovery continues in this manner. Am hoping that she can go to Hong Kong to visit once more before 2009 draws to a close!

As for your account of your one visit to Penang: I'm a fan of the butterfly farm too and have been there more times than most (though not on this current visit)! But yes, you must return -- if nothing else than to try out more foods than roti canai, good as your friends' may have been. :)

sarah bailey knight said...

Hi ytsl,

Again glad your mom's recovery goes so well.

Like your expression "foraging for good food". Here I associate the "foraging" with picking berries and edible foods that grow in the wild.
The food you "forage" for in Penang sounds much tastier.

Bengbeng said...

it is a bit sad really that i look upon Penang as a place for familiar food only. in Penang i have only a sister and she has no kids therefore after all these yrs there is not much in terms of immediate family ties left. sad really.

YTSL said...

Hi sbk --

Sometimes people in Penang talk about "hunting" for food. I figured "foraging" sounded less aggressive even while still giving the sense of how one actively chooses and goes in search of particular foods over here...! ;b

Hi Bengbeng --

What about extended family? And the memories of time spent in Penang? I find that even while I've spent so many years out of Penang, a lot of ghosts of my childhood still linger about the place... and every time I pass by the school I went to, memories of my schooldays often come rushing back. :)

ewaffle said...

Like sbk I was taken with the "foraging for food" expression although the image that jumped into mind was of Napoleon era dragoons--Prussians or Hessians perhaps--riding through a war-blasted countryside looking for livestock to plunder for their regiment.

Probably about as far from your forays--geographically, spiritually, etc--that one can imagine. :~)

Willow said...

Glad to hear mom's doing well. You too, rest up. ;)

Kailah said...

I visited Penang in August 2007.
But I was coming there from 2 months spent in a (non-touristy part of) Bali, Indonesia, so I had the opposite impression upon arriving in Penang than you had!

Granted, I'd spent a few days in KL before going to Penang. But all the same, I kept staring at all sorts of "strange" stuff--like parking meters, and cars, and public buses. ;-) Well, stuff that had become strange since I hadn't seen it for two months.

In any case, hope you keep having a nice (and relaxed) time at home. And best wishes for your mother, of course. HK certainly is a bustling place, and I agree it can often be exhausting.

YTSL said...

Hi again ewaffle --

Teeheehee at the image that the phrase "foraging for food" conjured up for you. Nothing so warlike for me but, at the same time, the activity *does* require me to be mobile -- albeit by way of a motorised vehicle!

Also, I'm not sure even imaginative you can conjure up the buying and feeding frenzy at some of the popular Penang food stalls -- and my sometimes feeling that I have to put up a fight in order to emerge with some portions of food! All in all, it really can be quite the sight!! ;D

Hi Willow --

Thanks for the good wishes. Alas, I can't rest up for much longer as it's back to work I'll have to go soon! ;S

Hi Kailah --

Thanks for sharing and good points made. In short: Yes, it really is all relative! ;b