Official organ of an American Muslim in Malaysian Borneo, featuring plants, pantuns and pictures from the Malay archipelago. Oversharing since 2002.
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Four days after moving into my home in Kuching, I met my first biawak, lounging on my front porch. Over the last 12 years, they have been a constant presence, stalking kittens and slaughtering chickens
Kuching Modern: A Windshield Survey
over the last ten years, there have been dramatic changes in the style and appearance of the new housing stock toward a more Modern look, all the more noticeable since the city is booming
A twitter-essay on Beras Perang, unpolished, unbleached, lightly milled local long grain rice.
Beras perang tampi di nyiru,
Tumpah melukut merata-rata.
Haiwan yang garang lagi diburu,
Siapa takut semut melata?
Review: Islam and the Destiny of Man
The sensitivity and respect he shows the Christian outlook is a great example to other converts in how to come to grips with their origins. Who we were is part of who we are, and being comfortable in yourself means coming to terms with that.
“They all claimed the city for themselves in God’s name. But is it not said: Where God is, there is everything?” Nearly five hundred years of history for a city
Susu and You: Milk in Malaysia
Sam Raimi. Megan Fox. These are but a few of the Hollywood names I have a distant, tenuous, nearly imaginary, and at this point fairly pathetic connection to from my time as a child actor. Here’s another.
Raihan’s Sesungguhnya, in English
A translation of the classic nasheed Sesungguhnya by Raihan into English. Hard to believe it has been nearly 18 years since this first came out. It is merely old now,
Climbing Mount Santubong
Mount Santubong looms ahead of my morning commute every morning, as it has for a dozen years. I’ve skirted the base of the mountain countless times, on the way to Damai
You can get used to anything
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
Tongkat tongkat ali
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. Syed Hussein
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,
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,
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
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
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
KL Bird Park Part 2
by Raja Ali Haji (1808-1873)
English translation © Bin Gregory Productions
This is the gurindam of the sixth issue:
“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.
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.
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.
Landscape and Environment in Islam
“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…
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
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
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.
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