bingregoryZayn Gregory

Official organ of an American Muslim in Malaysian Borneo, featuring plants, pantuns and pictures from the Malay archipelago. Oversharing since 2002.

All articles by bingregory

 

Spelling Champions of Sarawak

The biggest annual national spelling tournament in Malaysia is Spell-It-Right. Starting early in the year, several of my daughters had participated in rounds starting within the school itself and moving
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Mengapa rebung adiknya buluh

Bamboo thrusts dramatically out of the soil, clean, symmetrical, very sharp. The shoots grow fast, shooting over my head within a matter of days. Only once they have reached their final height, long
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The Years of Rice and Salt

An alternative history where all the Europeans die in the Black Death and the great civilizations of the world are Islam and China. Such an exciting premise. We follow three
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Menjelang 1 Mei

A rousing poem in Bahasa Malaysia from student of agriculture Chairil Aswad, on twitter as @schwarzenmann.  First published in E-Sastera Sajak Facebook group, 30 April 2015. Translation into Inggeris mine.
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Hari Raya 2015

Selamat Hari Raya Maaf Zahir Dan Batin Eid Mubarak from Sarawak.  May your fasting and ours be received by the Most High in His Mercy rather than by our merits, amin.
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MRE: Botok and Pulut Udang

As Ramadan winds down, I race to give credit to local foods that got me through the month. These MREs, Malaysia Ramadan Essentials, are practically complete meals in one package.
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36 hours in KL

Time for my semi-annual ritual humiliation at the Immigration Department. After 12 years here married to a Malaysian, I ought to be well on my way to Permanent Resident status.
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MRE: Ikan Masin

Sweets and savoury dishes of every sort fill the special neighbourhood markets set up for Ramadan.  While our kids binge on the colorful kuih and sugary drinks that they rarely get
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America Bombs Indonesia over Drug Deal Gone Bad … in 1832

American troops bombed and invaded Aceh in 1832, becoming the USA’s first military intervention in Asia.  The affair began with the Friendship, a trading vessel flying American colors, coming to port
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On Children

  One of my mother’s favorite poems, from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran    
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Bonsai four years on

I started messing around with bonsais four years ago.  At the time, I guessed it would take me four or five years to have something decent to show.  Four years
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Sheep, Honey and Lots of Jews

A review of The Jews of Khazaria by Kevin Alan Brook Soon after the Persian Empire fell to the Companions of Prophet Muhammad (saws), the armies of the Caliphate reached
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Crocodocious

Sometimes you don’t realize what you have in your own backyard.  I realized I have crocodiles.  Jong’s Crocodile Farm is only a short drive out of town but in 12
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Who Killed Sultan Tengah?

The story of Sultan Tengah ends abruptly. Throughout his life, Sultan Tengah was a tireless Caller to Islam and was a guest in the royal courts of three kingdoms. Returning from an odyssey of 40 years, he was assassinated by one of his own followers within the shadow of the solitary mountain that marked his domain. What clues to his murder can we find in the legend of Sultan Tengah?
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The Maqam of Sultan Tengah

Mount Santubong rises out of the South China Sea a lone mountain.  Two rivers meet the sea on either side, a narrow isthmus of land between them.  Mount Santubong has its own
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Tongkat tongkat ali

It is well known amongst Malaysians that any illness on earth can be treated by drinking the appropriate 3-in-1 instant coffee.
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Myth of the Lazy Native – Review

An anti-colonial short-course for Malaysians in one volume. The Myth of the Lazy Native was an influential book in post-colonial studies, published a year before Edward Said’s Orientalism[1]. Syed Hussein
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Lebah Kelulut

A hive for kelulut, Malaysia’s wild honey bee.  They are in the genus Trigona, where the bees are small and stingless. Not quite as efficient an operation as the box hives of Apis honeybees,
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The Souls of Black Folk – Review

By W.E.B. Dubois An old book, over a hundred years old already. Some of the essays have passed from contemporary relevance into historical record, but it is history rarely discussed,
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Commander of the Faithful: Review

By John W Kiser An enjoyable and easy introduction to an amazing life. The book is strongest in the first third, showing his upbringing and describing Algerian society in that
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Nothing Left to Say – Blues Gang

1. Another pop song in the dialect of Negeri Sembilan 2. Originally published as “What’s left to say”, I couldn’t live with it after FB fren AA suggested a far
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Tapai ubi, tapai nasi

A banana leaf wrapped and held with lidis could hold just about anything. In this case, it holds tapioca root, ubi kayu, that has … crossed over. Normally a dense, bland, starchy tuber considered poverty food or at best home cooking, it is transformed into a pillowy soft sweetness soaking in a fiery liqueur
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KL Bird Park Part 2

The Kuala Lumpur Bird Park was so big and so fun we had to go back again.  This year we were less two aunties, but we picked up seven cousins, making
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Gurindam 12 Fasal 6

by Raja Ali Haji (1808-1873)
English translation © Bin Gregory Productions

This is the gurindam of the sixth issue:

Seek you a companion
Who can be for you a medicine …
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Parang: the Malay machete

“Take the parang beneath the stairs
Use the whetstone on an edge grown dull.
That faith be kept safe in prayer
Prostrate daily five times in full.”

Gardening in the tropics is a constant battle against the jungle. Being properly armed means carrying a machete. From Brazil to the Congo to the island of Borneo, farmers wield some form of long, sturdy knife for slashing and hacking back the relentless encroaching green. The Malaysian machete is the parang.
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Review: The Moor’s Account

By Laila Lalami. A conquistador leads a party of 600 into present-day Florida.  A decade later, four men from the expedition emerge in Mexico: three Spainards and a black Muslim.
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Review: Getting Filthy Rich

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia promises not to waste your time like the pompous gasbags of “foreign” literature such as Salman Rushdie. OK, Hamid doesn’t mention Rushdie by name, but I know that’s who he meant.
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Landscape and Environment in Islam

The Islamic Information Center of Kuching hosts the radio show IIC Speaks every Friday mornings on RedFM 91.9 at 11.30am. I was honored to appear on the show last month
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Man Papaya

“As large as papaya, as small as keranji,
Break a branch and the fruit falls down
A face so lovely with manners so ugly
Is like rain falling murky and brown”
Growing papaya, or betik, from seed is easy enough – sow them on loose soil straight from the fruit and they’ll come up without trouble. The tough part is figuring out if your tree is a boy or a girl…
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Gurindam 12 Fasal 5

by Raja Ali Haji (1808-1873) Gurindam Dua Belas is a 19th century Malay poem written in rhyming couplets with free meter. It has 12 parts, each dealing with a different pasal, or
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Lemang Kukuih

Hari Raya Eidil Fitri without lemang is like thanksgiving without a turkey. Tag along as Hajjah Maznah makes a batch of superb steamed lemang from scratch.
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Hari Raya 2014

Selamat Hari Raya Eidilfitri, Maaf Zahir dan Batin from all of us to all of you.
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Me and Megan Fox

Megan Fox and I share a tragic intertwined destiny.
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Duit Pisang

house needs people to live.  Empty, a house slowly decays.  In the humid tropics, it decays with a startling quickness.  Mak moved out of my wife’s childhood home, temporarily, to
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Jean-Luc Nassy-LeMac

Geddit? Geddit?   Photo from Flickr by Avlxyz of Greedy Gourmets.
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Memory


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Review: The Way of Sufi Chivalry

  Translated by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak Not about martial codes, but more of a guidebook on proper etiquette (adab) in Islam. The biggest focus was on the virtue of generosity.
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Review: Midnight’s Children

 by Salman Rushdie Could the Booker Prize have gone to a novel that treats three generations of an extended family but remains emotionally dead-flat aside from twin swellings of self-pity
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Review: Ottoman Age of Exploration

By Giancarlo Casale. The Ottomans were very active throughout the Indian Ocean world during the 1500s despite having no access to or knowledge of the area at the beginning of
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Daun Inai

Daun inai banyak getahnya, Ambil segenggam pewarna kuku, Wahai adik abang bertanya, Apa obat penawar rindu. Thick with sap run the henna’s leaves Take some in hand your nails for
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Gurindam not dead: Gadis Jolobu

Nobody studies the old Gurindams anymore //
Better ask somebody, don’t act like you know …
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Review: Going Postal

By Mark Ames Why do they hate America? Because there is a lot there to hate, says Mark Ames. Going Postal connects a lot of far-flung points to show the
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Illegal Business

… Controls America. Proof emerging that the DEA cooperated with the Sinaloa Cartel to allow drugs into the US in exchange for intelligence against other cartels.  Which has got to
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Batang jati kangkung

Kangkung, Ipomea aquatica, is a crawling vegetable with hollow stems, allowing it to float on the water, from whence it gets the name water spinach. There’s no relation – in
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Three Pipers: Lada, Sirih, Kaduk

Black pepper is the quintessential spice of the Spice Route, the ancient trade routes across the Indian Ocean that have brought merchants and travelers to the Nusantara since antiquity. Pepper
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American Nations: Review

Colin Woodward traces the origins of settlement in the United States to demonstrate that American attitudes, values and politics are highly regional and perpetuate over time. This basis for this
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Knowledge of Self

Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005) told me where white people come from. We like to think we know who we are, and indeed many things about ourselves we can easily define:
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Awal Muharram

The first day of the Islamic New Year is a national holiday in Malaysia, but it usually passes unremarked. This year, the State Mosque decided to host a day of
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Gurindam 12 Fasal 4

The 12 Gurindam of Raja Ali Haji ___________________________ This is the Gurindam of the fourth issue: Ini gurindam pasal yang keempat: The heart over the body rules all; if it
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Guidance and Error

Driving through the city last month, I was nearly out of gas. With a 2 and a half hour daily commute, it happens a lot and I tend to ride
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