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September 21, 2004

school bus – the ala-bhai game

During my years inside the school bus, we played a lot of weird games. Among the weirdest (and most controversial), was the ala-bhai game. If you’re from Penang, you should already know what I’m talking about.

Like I said, it’s very controversial. Some deemed it as racist… some deemed it as immoral. But hell, we kids from all ethnicity have been playing this for DECADES …. and as a kid, I believe our souls are somewhat pure and innocent, and very certainly, there were no means of ill will or racism in it. It was just a game that was created out of sheer fun and mischief.

Alright, enough of that disclaimer bullshit. Just read it at your own discretion. You can choose to laugh with me, or you can choose to leave my blog to cower at a corner and succumb to your fucked up conservative brain.

You see, Malaysia is a multi racial country. We practically have a little bit of each race from all over the world, but the major ones are Malay, Chinese and Indian … and …. the Sikhs. In Penang (or is it the whole Malaysia ?), we don’t call our Sikh friends as the Sikhs. We call them Bhai. (it’s not a derogatory term, mind you. It’s actually a slang in our colloquial conversation). Right, this is a game about them.

Before I start to explain how the game was played, let me brief you some facts about the Sikhs here. As most of you have already known, the Sikhs are known for their turbans. If you don’t know what’s a turban, then you ought to be hung and shot. A turban is a piece of cloth that was adorned on a Sikh’s head. An article of faith. You can read more about them here — the Sikh Coalition.

These turbans come in many colors and sizes. Adult Sikhs would have a full turban, and a kiddy Sikh will have a smaller version … which is called … a leer (correct me if I’m wrong). The kiddy version are somewhat a bit different, where the cloth is bunned up like a ball above their forehead.

These big and small sized turbans, are sometimes red, blue, black or white in color. I do not recall seeing any other colors but, again, I might be wrong. (smacks head for not understanding more about other race). The different sizes are merely due to individual’s way of constructing their own turban so, they’re kinda different from each other.

So, being kids, these colorful turbans would often fascinate our shallow minds. We didn’t have any idea what they’re for and we didn’t care. That’s why, we loved this game – the ala-bhai game.

How to play the ala-bhai game :
It’s simple. Basically, it’s a spot-a-Bhai game. The game can’t be started as you like… it has to be played spontaneously only when someone spots a Bhai with a turban.

1) Once the person spotted a Bhai with a turban, he would pick a buddy next to him — any buddy — and pinch that guy hard anywhere he prefers (without letting go)… and shout “ala-bhai jope !!!!”. The shout will have to be concurrent with a “jope” hand sign with the other hand. [“jope” hand sign – just make all your five fingers meet at one spot.. and you’ll have the “jope” sign]
*It’s a universal rule that we kids have agreed, that one gains an authority to pinch anyone/anywhere he likes … if he spots a turban and gestured the “jope” hand sign.

2) Then, the pincher would ask the victim “what color is the bhai ?” [referring to the color of the turban. Continue to pinch harder if victim fails to answer or incorrectly describes the color].
*Please note, the “jope” hand sign must not be dismissed yet, as it will strip off your authority to pinch.

3) After asking the first question, the pincher would then ask the second question “rugby or hockey ?” [referring to the size of the spotted turban. If it’s a full turban, the answer would be “rugby”. If it’s the kiddy leer turban, answer would be “hockey”]. Pincher would continue to pinch as hard as he can until the victim manages to get the answer correctly.

4) The game ends when the Bhai is out of vicinity, or when the victim answers all the questions correctly — whichever comes last.

So, during our prepubescent days, we’re very alert of our surroundings – because a sight of any Sikh dude would grant us an authority to pinch anyone we like. And failure to spot a Sikh would mean suffering and torment. It’s a game that involves quick reflex, endurance and concentration.

Good old days.

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August 30, 2004

school bus – meeting new friends

I used to live very far away from my school. Approximately 7 – 8 km away through the intricate city streets of Penang. So, my mom kinda arranged me to board a school bus to school everyday. And in that school bus, I grew up with kids from different ethnicity in my neighborhood, till I was about 14 years old.

I can still remember my first day of boarding the small school bus. I was only 7 years old and was in the afternoon session. The school bus looked something like a loaf of bread tilted horizontally, and it was light blue in color. On my first day, I met 2 Chinese boys – both were 3 years my senior.

The first boy, I don’t actually remember his exact name but, all the kids in that bus called him Huweweh. He was a tall and tough kid. The second one was Ronnie. (no, this is not the same BOD Ronnie). Ronnie was skinny, fair and nerdy type that was born to be bullied. I could tell back then that Huweweh was sort of like his boss or something.

On that first day on the bus, I also had my first bully experience. No I was not being bullied, but bullied the others instead. There was an Indian kid who tried to tease the way I styled my hair and I almost pummeled him – which got him real freaked.

Huweweh and Ronnie were quite impressed with my toughness, and we quickly became very close friends on the first day itself. No we’re not gay. It was a guy thing and they sort of like recruiting new badass members to be able to stand up against the myriad numbers of Indian kids inside the school bus.

We chatted a lot and they shared a lot of their past experiences with me. How they constantly got into fights with those Indian kids, shits like that. Then they mentioned of a very influential name – tonghai (a name which I found hard to register into my 7 year old brain). Both Huweweh and Ronnie kinda admired this guy for some reasons.

He was being portrayed like a god and they kept telling me how tall this guy was and how he managed to whack the Indian kids and flung them around like ragdolls (it was rumored that he could take a few Indian kids single handedly without problem)..

Cool ! When can I meet this guy? – I said, still couldn’t register his name. Huweweh told me tonghai wasn’t in the school bus because he was in year 2 (8 years old) and was in the morning session (we’re in the afternoon). So, I would have to wait 2 more years before I get to meet him (because I will be in year 2 the next year, session conflict). Well, fine. Our paths will soon cross – I thought.

A couple weeks later, when we were waiting for our bus below our residential flats, suddenly, Huweweh and Ronnie ran frantically towards the edge of the traffic. They jumped up and down in a very excited manner and shouted “tonghai !!!! tonghai !!!! ” … while waving excitedly to someone across the road. Yeah, it was the great tonghai himself – I saw him jumping up and down across the road waving back at Huweweh and Ronnie. He just got home from school (the time when we afternoon boys was going to school)

Not wanting to miss the chance to meet the great guy, I did the jump and wave thing like the 2 of them. But I faced a problem. I could not exactly remember his name tonghai. So, I did the next logical thing – instead of shouting his name, I shouted “Kau Sai !!!” (which means, dog poo in hokkien). “Kau Sai !!! Kau Sai !!!” I shouted and waved. (that’s because I thought they were yelling ‘kau sai’)

It kinda startled both Huweweh and Ronnie. They stopped to look at me with this absolute agitation.
“Hey ! His name is not kau sai… it’s tonghai, ok?” Huweweh exclaimed.
“Whatever man. It rhymes, and sounded almost the same. He’s not going to be able to tell the difference.” and I continued to shout Kau Sai while waving.

tonghai, being so far from us, of course could not tell that I was calling him DOG POO from across the street. If he could, I would been turned into a meatball. Instead, he excitedly waved back. That dumbfuck didn’t even know me… hahah.. goddamn it. That was how I met another friend – tonghai.

*I had plenty of insane adventures inside the school bus till I was 14. I will write more about the experience under the title “school bus – [something]”.

michaelooi  | escapades  | Comments Off
February 4, 2018

bitter memories : tour bus incident

I introduced a favorite TV show of mine to my daughter Regine, Malcolm In The Middle. She enjoyed it very much needless to say, and the show sparked many interesting conversations between us. She asked if I have ever known kids like those rascals in Malcolm’s family who could be so impervious to consequences just for the sake of doing what they think is fun. It reminded me of myself when I was a kid, the escapades I had with my cousins around the Greenlane neighborhood… and the wretched things we did. I told her all about it (much to her bewilderment).

One of it was what we’d refer to as ‘the tour bus incident’. It happened when I was around 8 years old. I was with 2 of my cousins called Kelv and Dobby (both are brothers). If you remember the name Kelv, then you’re right – it is the same guy I’ve written about 14 years ago. Dobby was the guy I wrote about here. Kelv was 9 and Dobby was 6 back then.

My mom would go to my grandma’s house for mahjong regularly in the 80’s, and because Kelv/Dobby lived with my grandma, we got to spend a lot of time together during weekends. We’d go around the Greenlane neighborhood to terrorize stray cats, vandalize properties around the church, and whatnots. But one of our absolute favorite thing to do, was to climb into a locked school nearby and had the place all to ourselves. One day, while we were doing that, Kelv noticed that there was a tour bus parked outside the school compound that belonged to one of the tour companies nearby. So he did what he thought was the coolest thing – he broke into the bus. We followed his lead.

Well, it wasn’t exactly ‘breaking’ because the door was unlock so, he was just entering. And you know how exciting it was for us kids to be in a bus without adult supervision. We’d climb onto the driver’s seat in turns and fiddle with all the controls available. I don’t exactly remember what we did inside but, I remember us liberating a stack of tour stickers – you know, those big round stickers that are used by tour companies to tag their tourist clients – from the driver’s compartment, and pasted them all over the bus interiors. What’s worse, we used the stickers on the school’s gate, then on the nearby walls, and everything else we could stick on.

We had a field day with the stickers and eventually, it ended when we reached home, back to my grandma’s house. But one mistake that we did not think much about out of sheer excitement, was the trail of stickers we left all the way from the tour bus kind of made it easy for us to get caught. The bus driver who eventually found his bus got broken into and full of stickers, was fuming mad and he’d followed the stickers all the way to my grandma’s house like it was the yellow brick road to the emerald city. And before long, he was at my grandma’s front door knocking on the door (I had gone home then). Boy my cousins had it so bad with their parents, especially Kelv, being the eldest and responsible for the whole thing. He got his ass handed to him by his dad. I got away scot free because I did not live there, so… it became a story of dumbassery that I’d remember for the rest of my life. (yep, we felt bad for Kelv).

Coincidentally, I ran into Dobby when I was having dinner with my daughter 2 days after telling this take to her. I brought the incident into discussion, and Dobby started to laugh like a jackass. Then he reminded me of another incident that involved a fire and a fire engine… which would be a story for another day…

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June 12, 2017

Bali, Indonesia – Itinerary and planning (1 week)

I’ve always wanted to visit Bali all my life… and it was my destination for this year’s mid year break. I chose Bali and the first week of June to be there for some strategic reasons – it was the dry season, meaning, there will be little to no rain at all. Blue sky is my shit. Secondly, it was the week before the Indonesian school holidays start so, less chance of running into hyper screaming kids. Did the trip last week and everything fell spot on according to plan. Following would be the itinerary for those of you who is looking for an idea for Bali (after the disclaimer):

Disclaimer:
– Bali is a mountainous region and has unpredictable weather. This itinerary was planned in June to minimize the chance of seeing rainy days… and even that, we did encounter 1 rainy day. If you plan this in any other season, the weather may ruin your shit so, plan well.
– Bali has a relatively short daylight in June (or whole year long, I’ve no fucking idea). It starts to get dark at about 6pm and the sun starts to set between that time till 6.30pm before it gets completely dark. If you plan on a hike, might be a good idea to get a flashlight.
– This is an itinerary post, I’ll do a separate post for what I think about the places I’ve visited. (link)
– This was planned based on 3 pax – my wife, my 11-yo daughter, and myself. If you’re planning for a group of more than 4, this probably won’t work for you.
– The main objective is sightseeing, to visit temples and places of interest. To save myself a lot of extra planning and maximize my time there, I secured the service of a ‘supir’ (a driver cum guide) with my own itinerary. We did some discussion through emails prior coming up with the plan, and the plan is flexible across the days. Again, this won’t work for you if you have a small child in your group (that little shit is not going to be pleased visiting so many goddamn temples, believe me)
– If you have a heart problem or is goddamn old, this itinerary probably won’t work for you.
– If you have motion sickness, this itinerary is going to be your nightmare (long car rides, boat rides)
– If your religion prohibits you from visiting buildings or monuments of other religious faith, this won’t work for you too.
– If your vanity prohibits you from getting a lot of sun or if you’re sensitive to the sun, this won’t work for you.

Read the rest of this entry »

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February 22, 2011

school means headache

My daughter is about to register for her primary education soon. I can’t help but notice, how fast the time has passed by. So fast that it actually scares the crap out of me. I mean, it wasn’t really that long ago when I was still romping around with my slightly insane friends, and met my wife after that. And now it’s time for my daughter to register for her primary education *nganga*

And I am shuddering at the thought of having to adjust/arrange my schedule to accommodate my daughter’s welfare of having a school life. It used to be so easy when I was a kid, but not anymore. Everything’s so damn different now, and so damn complex.

When I was a kid, my mom would just accompany me to the school for the first time, and that’s about it. I can remember vividly, how my mom grabbed me tight at my arms, looked at me straight in the eyes, shook me violently while saying “Remember! Look for the little blue bus! If you miss the bus, you don’t come home to me. You walk to the goddamn school!”. I was only 7 and the message was pretty damn clear – look out for the small blue bus with funny headlights (some old models from the 50’s), or walk to the school, which was located 7 – 8 kilometers away (I actually kinda achieved that feat a couple years after that…). I was like a maintenance free battery. My mom would give me 20 cents (my daily pocket money), and I would go about by myself the whole day without a problem. I hauled my own fucking school bag, and I didn’t need no tuition. Period.

What about now? I don’t know how that kind of arrangement’s even possible now. I know my daughter. She’d require a lot of attention from us. Even if she doesn’t, we’ll still be obligated to provide her an overwhelming level of attention. My wife’s already talking about some ‘after school care’ now, which I reckon costs enough to pay for the installment of a small family car. Sooner or later, it’s going to be cellphone because it is so fucking unsafe out there. And then the taekwondo lesson I’ve been wanting her to learn – that’s for her to whoop back if anyone wants to bully her. Piano. Something something. So many more. All these will become part of our lives, which we haven’t got much left… *shakes head*

Now why can’t schools provide package deals like fast food restaurants? Transport, study and care – all in one combo package. I’ll pay. It’ll be so much easier for most of us.

michaelooi  | rantings  | 6 Comments