Saturday, March 22, 2014

Article: Speak with Confidence

In the next few weeks, my students will be busy putting finishing touches to their with individual oral presentations: doing research, adding details, working on their visual aids and of course, rehearsing their speeches…

I hope that they have downloaded and read the article “Speak with Confidence” (pdf) I wrote for the Star newspaper. In this last article before the column “Mind Our English” was discontinued, I provided an overview of all the steps involved in preparing for an oral presentation:
 i) gathering information,
 ii) organizing ideas - read "How to Kick-Start Your Writing",
 iii) choosing visual aids, which may include multimedia technology,
 iv) how to rehearse for the big day and
 v) having a back-up plan.

The students have proposed topics, fine tuned their ideas, exchanged ideas with their course mates and are raring to go!

Since I have been given sneak peeks and soundbites of their actual presentations, I am most definitely looking forward to their oral presentations next week :D
Believe in yourself: you can do it!!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

A refreshing experience at the Penang Butterfly Farm

Even if I am not a Penangite, it gives me great joy in getting to know this little island each time we play "tourist guide" to family and friends from out of town.

After a culturally-enriching visit to the Blue Mansion, we then drove down to Teluk Bahang to "The Tropical World's 1st Butterfly and Insect Sanctuary". A "sanctuary" sounds so much better than a "farm" although they do provide butterfly and insect breeding services, which are an important aspect in the Farm's efforts towards butterfly conservation.

Welcome to Paradise...

I love nature but I'm also afraid of getting too close to nature.

For someone who's never had any pets and who doesn't like zoos, stepping into Penang Butterfly Farm (after we paid the entrance fee) felt like I was stepping into the Garden of Paradise  because see lush greenery all around you, hear the sounds of crickets chirping and water flowing and see these pretty butterflies happily perching on the flowers, with not a care or a fear in the world. Sigh.

Paper Kite / Rice Paper (Idea leuconoe)

After the heat and dust from the roads, I was immediately enveloped in a calm and tranquil atmosphere the minute we stepped into the sanctuary.

I believe we even went, "Ahh..." Imagine what it'd be like if you brought kids. I bet they'd be dumbstruck and spellbound too.

The feeling of being so close to "nature" is so strong that I just wanted to tread gently and quietly around the place so as not to scare these beautiful creatures:

The Clipper (Parthenos sylvia)?

I was lucky I could snap photos of these beautiful butterflies in as natural a setting as possible. It's pretty amazing seeing so many butterflies fluttering all around you or happily sipping nectar - it's different from reading about them from a science textbook or watching them on National Geographic.

Anyway, you don't have to be like a paparazzi photographer to catch glimpses of the butterflies because slices of sweet pineapple or nectar-filled hibiscus are placed on wire trays to attract the fluttering butterflies so you will get to see them:

The flora...

Besides butterflies, I also enjoyed looking at the various creeper plants all around. I love the looks of these creeper plants - they remind me of the seaweed you see in Disney cartoons like "The Little Mermaid".

Wouldn't mind having some at our home as a potted hanging plants. The fronds swayed languidly whenever a gentle breeze finds its way into the the enclosed sanctuary...

I think these are called "birds of paradise"? If you drive along the strip of hotels at Batu Ferringhi beach, you'd be able to see an orange version of these flowers.

In terms of flowers, I only managed to see these purple orchids:

My mother-in-law is an amazing gardener, who is fantastic at cross-breeding various types of orchids. I believe she will be quite disappointed with the selection of orchids on display here.

Pitcher plants. 

When I was a child, I remember trying to find as many types of pitcher plants on my way up to Penang Hill on the cable car.

In Bahasa Melayu or Bahasa Malaysia (Malay), pitcher plants are called periuk kera or "monkey's pots".

As a sanctuary, the Penang Butterfly Farm doesn't have labels tacked onto the trees identifying each individual species.

I think that's a good move because I hate the thought of signboards hammered onto the poor trees.

The other fauna...

While the ladies took great joy in looking at the butterflies, the flowers and the plants, the men were rather quiet. Weak in the presence of beauty? ;-)

As we made our way around the Farm to the outer corner near to the souvenir center, we found the "dark side" of the Penang Butterfly farm where the creepy crawlies lurked.

A pincer beetle?


Ugh, all the hairs on my arms stood on end when I approached this dark, damp section. I furtively took this photo (testing out the zoom function) and scampered away.

I thought it was kind of freaky that the scorpions were just placed in a cement vat with chicken wire as its lid. Won't they crawl out??? Aren't they poisonous?

You can bet I didn't stick around to find out!!!

I understand that all living creatures have their place in the ecosystem but still, I can't seem to shake off my fear of them. I'm the worst candidate for Fear Factor, I don't even think of joining - in fact, I switch channels if it's ever on air :S

The tour ended on a sweet note for Melody too when a moth settled itself comfortably on her running shoes! Many of the visitors were delighted too when they stood still and a butterfly or two rested on various parts of their bodies. :D

The souvenir center

"Where there's life, there's death..."
After such a wonderful experience with the live butterflies fluttering all around you in wild abandon, it's pretty hard to look at these dead mounted butterflies in the souvenir shop on the way out.

When I was 10 or 11 years old, our school organized a field trip to the Butterfly Farm and I remember a friend giving me a set of bookmarks laminated with the dead butterflies.

I love bookmarks but I definitely didn't like looking at dead butterflies when I'm reading or even the thought of having them crimped in between the pages of my book!

Honestly, I prefer to pay an entrance fee, buy picture postcards or a book featuring the various species of butterflies if the proceeds would go towards running the Penang Butterfly Farm or the conservation of the natural habitats in which butterflies live in. That's just me.

I really enjoyed our tour of the Penang Butterfly Farm in 2004 and I hope that the place is as beautiful as I remembered it. The website states that:
"In order to make PBF very attractive to get wider patronage, many side-attractions have been created. These include: a big fish pond (about 1/3 of the flight area) with 70 over very big fresh water fishes made up of more than 20 species; other individual displays of invertebrates, reptiles, snakes, ducks, turtles and tortoises, free-flying seed-feeding birds inside the main flight area; adjacent to the flight area are a Hide and Seek garden with camouflaged insects, a little zoo of many more big live invertebrates housed in individual cases; an Insect Museum and a Gift-shop. More recently, PBF has expanded its operation to encompass an Education and Resource centre."
As the Farm organizes "pre-arranged school programs, organized workshop, private field trips and hands-on activities for all enthusiasts" it's worth checking the place out if you are a teacher.

If we ever visit the Penang Butterfly Farm again, we would go in the morning to catch the new species emerging from the live pupae on display!

Visiting Hours
Monday - Friday 9.00AM - 5.30PM ( Last Entry at 5.00PM )
Weekend & Public Holidays 9.00AM - 6.00PM ( Last Entry at 5.30PM )

Open 365 days all year round except half-day on Chinese New Year Eve.

Admission Rates
Adult RM27.00
Children (4 - 12 years old) RM15.00

*MYKAD Holder RM18.00
*MYKID Holder RM10.00

Penang Butterfly Farm
830 Jalan Teluk Bahang, 11050 Penang, Malaysia
+60 4-885 1253 ‎

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A day at Permai Beach, Santubong, Sarawak

I've been reviewing piles and piles (nearly 200, actually!) of resumes, job application letters, e-mails and reports that I've temporarily developed logophobia.

Shall I share with you the photos I took of a day we spent at a beach, which is about 45 minutes drive out of Kuching (Cat City) in Sarawak?

We'd arrived there at about 10 am and parked the car in the designated guest parking lot provided by the Permai Beach Rainforest Resort, which maintains the beach.

Paid RM5 each at the counter below. Kids below 12 and senior citizens are entitled to a 50% discount.

After paying the entrance fee, we took a short 5 minute walk along this jungle path:

Even though the weather was getting warm, the trees shielded us from the heat. Ahh...the wonder of trees.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What is nasi lemak? 甚么是 "nasi lemak"?

I was onboard a Malaysia Airlines flight and the stewardess was going around asking the passengers:
"What would you like for lunch, Sir/Ma'am? We have chicken noodle and nasi lemak."
There were quite a number of travelers from China and I could hear them whispering among themselves:
"甚么是 "nasi lemak"?"

Since not every one of the flight crew could speak Mandarin, I decided to practise my Mandarin and introduce the mainland Chinese to our Malaysian delicacy:

Me: "你 会 吃 吗?"
Chinese man: "还可以."
Me: "好. "Nasi lemak" 是米饭 (mǐ fàn) 配
  • 亁 鱼 炒 辣椒, 洋葱 ("dried fish sautéd with chillies and onions" - I didn't know the exact term here!),
  • 鸡蛋 (jī dàn),
  • 花生 (huā shēng),
  • 黄瓜 (huáng guā).
那个饭配很香 (nà gè mǐ fàn hěn xiāng) - 蒸 椰子 (zhēng yē zi???), 你 可以 试 一次吧? (try it once?)"
Chinese man (smiling with kids showing interest): "好的! 好的!"

Phew! I was famished by the time I finished that sentence in Chinese ;-)

Here's a photo of Malaysian nasi lemak - nope, it's not the Malaysia Airlines version, which had disappeared quickly down my tummy.

What's in "nasi lemak"?

At its basic level, nasi lemak consists of:

  1. Rice steamed with coconut milk and screwpine leaves (pandanus leaves) - very fattening and of course, high in cholesterol, which makes it a cause for concern among parents whose children take breakfast or lunch at school (The Star reported that nasi lemak will not be taken off the menu in schools);
  2. Sambal - the essence or raison d'être for nasi lemak. A basic sambal is dried anchovies sautéd with chillies and onions;
  3. Hard-boiled egg - slices or a whole egg depending on the generosity of the nasi lemak vendor!
  4. Slices of cucumber
  5. Deep-fried anchovies and groundnuts - some nasi lemak fans see these as essential although it's optional for me.
Mmm-mmm! And that's what nasi lemak is all about. A superbly simple dish that any Malaysian abroad worth his/her sambal will crave for haha.

The nasi lemak pictured above is what Malaysians would call a "nasi lemak special" because it has an extra e.g. a piece of chilli chicken. Other extras could be chilli squid, chilli beef or even a whole deep-fried fish.

Note that this plate of nasi lemak is not authentic because I got a slice of deep-fried egg, which is not the norm.

Furthermore, the nasi lemak cost me RM17.20!!! Oh well, I was a desperately homesick puppy tucking into her first plate of nasi lemak at KLIA after being away from home for a long time. Beggars can't be choosers, right?

Of course, nobody makes nasi lemak better than the neighbourhood makcik - you'd pay about RM5-7 for a delicious meal and even praise her to the skies for it. Let me see if I can do some free publicity for her, eh? ;-)

Bon Appétit!