#atozchallenge: Wonder of life

For RonovanWrites #Weekly #Haiku #Poetry Prompt #Challenge #102 Birth&Cheer, the two word prompts are ‘birth’ and ‘cheer’. I wrote a haiku about a new addition to the family, the happiness that follows and how it brings family members closer together.

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#atozchallenge: Value of altruism

Did you know that doing good has health benefits?

According to James Doty, director of the Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, when we care for others and engage in activities that help, it results in lowering our blood pressure and heart rate. Research actually shows that in the long term, it can help us live longer. On top of that, the good deeds we do can inspire others to do the same.

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Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201212/the-evolutionary-biology-altruism

“We’re adapted to recognise suffering and pain. For us to respond is hard-wired into our brain’s pleasure centres. After we lend a helping hand, we receive oxytocin or dopamine bursts that result in increased blood flow to our reward centres. In short, we feel good when we help,” added Doty.

For example, Peggy Callahan is a documentary producer covering social justice issues and a co-founder of two non-profit organisations that help people who are enslaved or caught in human trafficking. What she does is not easy, but it brings her happiness. Thanks to neuroscience research, she understands why.

“When you do an act of good, you get a neurotransmitter ‘drop’ in your brain that makes you happy,” Callahan said. Also, there is a multiplier effect. “Someone who witnesses that act also experiences the same thing, and remembering that act makes it happen all over again.”

She wanted to leverage on that. The result was Anonymous Good, a virtual community and website where people post stories or photos of acts of kindness they’ve carried out, observed, or received. For each act posted, website sponsors make a donation to feed the hungry, free people who are enslaved, plant a tree for cleaner air, or dig a well for clean water.

“One act of good is much more than just one act of good,” says Callahan. “It’s part of a much bigger force.” A force for good.

Sources:

This article was adapted from ‘Altruism: Individual Serving‘, which was written by Carol Hart Metzker and published in the June 2016 issue of The Rotarian. 

The source of the image featured in this article is ‘The Biology of Altruism‘, which was written by Christopher Bergland, and published in 2012 in Psychology Today. 

#atozchallenge: Up, up and away! If Walls Could Talk 1st Anniversary

The average person thinks that poetry is boring, and they also think that only poets think that poetry is interesting. I think this is no longer true in the modern age.

Perhaps in the past, poetry was the domain of the educated, literate people, who were few in the old days. With the improvements in education and the increase in literacy rates worldwide over the past few decades, poetry and prose have become much more accessible to the regular joe.

Then, there are poetry movements that bring poetry to the young, and make it accessible and approachable. Now, there are even poetry open mics (one might compare them to comedy open mic style) and poetry slams. Yes, everything is possible now. 😉

If you are curious and want to know more, you can check out If Walls Could Talk – Poetry Open Mic, which just celebrated their first anniversary last week. Incidentally, they are organising their first Poetry Slam on 25 June 2016, from 6pm to 8pm, at BlackBox, Publika. So, check out their Facebook page to find out more!

 

Retro microphone on stage
Retro microphone on stage in restaurant. Blurred background. Source: http://7-themes.com/6905520-retro-microphone.html

 

I wrote a poem in conjunction with the first anniversary of If Walls Could Talk. Hope you like it. 😀

If Walls Could Talk

If walls could talk
They would sing songs
Of joy and rejoicing
They would cry songs
Of sadness and pain

If walls could talk
They would tell tales
Of people squished against walls
And squashed against each other
Huddled in groups on the floor

If walls could talk
They would laugh at the time
The people couldn’t get
Through the door anymore
Snaking all the way down the stairs

If walls could talk
They would whisper about the time
The man in white came
With long white beard
And talented guitarist son

If walls could talk
They would wonder aloud
At all the poets and poet-wannabes
And all the poetry lovers
Who would come all the way

If walls could talk
They would talk about
All the different types of poets
Quiet and loud; serious and funny
Reserved and boisterous

If walls could talk
They would talk about the night
Gaslight Café was the most
Happening place
In Damansara Heights

Khor Hui Min
10 June 2016

Read another article I wrote about the If Walls Could Talk First Anniversary:
Thursday poetry reading with A. Samad Said

 

 

 

 

#atozchallenge: Thursday poetry reading with A. Samad Said

If Walls Could Talk – Poetry Open Mic celebrated its first anniversary last Thursday, 9 June 2016, with a big ‘1’ shaped cake, and poetry readings by a bunch of passionate Malaysian poets, among which was our famous Malaysian Literary Laureate a.k.a. Sasterawan Negara, A. Samad Said, fondly known as Pak Samad.

The founder and organiser of If Walls Could Talk, Melizarani, said over 200 people clicked on ‘Going’, so you all better come early, because Gaslight Cafe can only fit 120. So, we did!

There are many kinds of poets – quiet, and reserved, loud and boisterous, entertaining and funny, serious and thought-provoking, plus some rapper dudes too. At the first anniversary, we saw the whole range of them, and listened and watched them.

The show of the year

Music is a form of poetry, a poetry of sound, and the show was aptly opened by Az Samad, the very talented guitarist of international acclaim, who also happens to be A. Samad Said’s son. His fingers moved deftly and fluidly. Every note was as it should be, and everybody enjoyed his performance.

As the evening progressed, we saw and heard many poets, from the very young Team DemiGods, to the veteran writer Dato’ Dr. M. SHANmughalingam, and everything in between, but a common theme emerged. Poets individually and collectively expressed their belief in unity in diversity. No matter what was our skin colour, hair colour, eye colour, mother tongue – they felt that these were only surface deep. We are all human, and we should not let our differences divide us. I thought it was a positive movement that I also agreed with.

Hidup Bersama (Living Together)

The star of the night was A. Samad Said, and people came far and wide to see him. I got there really really to book a seat, because there were only a few chairs, and the rest of the people had to sit on the floor. They trickled in at first, but kept on coming, and the people on the floor had to squish together to let more people come in, until finally, there was no longer any sitting, squatting or standing room at all. So, the people at the door, and the people queuing on the stairs, all the way from the top floor to the ground floor, had to be There were definitely more that 200 people were there in Gaslight Cafe on 9 June 2016, maybe even more than 300!

You can see A. Samad Said’s reading of his popular poem Hidup Bersama, accompanied by Az Samad on the guitar, by clicking on the following videos, which were recorded using mobile phone by Amy Yu.

 

Here is his poem:

HIDUP BERSAMA
By A. Samad Said

Kita sudah sampai di lereng amat indah, di bawah pelangi,
dalam ufuk yang masih mencabar;
dan kita ikhlas berjanji untuk bermaruah,
tenang dalam segala uji cabar dan debar.
Kita mencari hanya yang tulen dan jati,
sekata hidup, mengerti dan berbudi.

Kita wajar mendaki lagi kerana puncak
yang jauh. Dalam gelora dan taufan
tak tercalar tekad kita kerana kemerdekaan
mengasuh kita bersuara dalam sopan,
yakin menyanggah musuh, tulus menambah kawan,
inti tunggak dan menara kebahagian.

Kita datang bersama anak-anak yang sedia menyanyi –
sihat, teguh, bertekad dan berani.
Mengelilingi tasik, mendaki gunung,
kita mengajar mereka berjiwa besar dan berbakti.
Tanah air akan indah, megah dan bermaruah
jika kita sentiasa mensyukuri anugerah Allah;
dan bumi akan subur, makmur dan mewah
jika kita bekerja dan berikrar hidup bersama.

Tanah air memberi banyak, mesra mendakap kita;
kemerdekaan mendorong kita berdiri dan berbakti.
Dan kita sudah sampai di lereng indah, pasti tetap mendaki juga,
menyanggah musuh, menambah kawan tanpa jenuh, khuatir, juga tanpa rawan.
Dan dalam alaf baru semangat kita wajar padu,
berjalan kita atas nama tanah air dan bangsa –
bangga kerana merdeka, megah kerana bahagia.

Anak-anak kita bakal datang tangkas dan berilmu; dan kita, dalam sejarah,
bakal syahdu dan bangga, kerana awan yang indah, lapis pelangi lebih mesra,
wajah diri dan inti peribadi kita tunjang bagi kehidupan dan kemerdekaan bangsa
yang sentiasa sedia belajar mengerti dan tekun hidup bersama.

 

Here is the nice YouTube version of Hidup Bersama:

 

All in all, it was a great night, and everybody got cake! 🙂

Read another article I wrote about the If Walls Could Talk First Anniversary:
Up, up and away! If Walls Could Talk First Anniversary

 

 

#atozchallenge: Seen Hock Yeen Confucius Temple, Chemor

Hidden in the quiet town of Chemor, Perak is a gem of a temple. Set up by a schoolteacher, the Confucius Temple of Seen Hock Yeen is well-known for bringing luck to students who are going to sit for exams. However, it is also a place for one to dispel bad luck in other areas of life, as well as to make wishes.

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The entrance seems commonplace among temples, until you go into the temple grounds hidden inside. The pond, bridges and temple buildings all come together to create a most serene and beautiful landscape.

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I would like to point out that this is the only temple where my photos turned out more beautiful than the view that my eyes feasted upon, and that is unusual indeed.

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First-time visitors should come to the temple on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday, because that is when the tour groups from Perak, Selangor, and even as far north as Kedah and Perlis come to visit the blessed temple. When the tour groups visit, there will be guided tours led by the temple volunteers, with detailed explanations provided about the temple’s history.

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If you are in luck, as we were, the founder of the temple herself will provide the opening introduction about the temple’s background and lead the first prayers for your personal well-being and that of your loved ones as well.

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Visitors will be led to each deity or temple building, and guided on how to perform their prayers or share their wishes with their favourite deity, step by step. Confucius, being a famous sage who was highly respected in China, has been elevated to the status of a prominent deity here. Visitors also pay homage to the Goddess of Mercy and Buddha.

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Goddess of Mercy

At one point, there is a bridge to cross to dispel calamities, where one must remain quiet, and only look to the left. Of course, one should not look back or turn around too!

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The special bridge

The temple also collects donations for the needy all year around, especially single mothers who have to take care of their young children. This was the first temple I have come across that focused on helping single mothers, which is very good of the founder and volunteers.

The twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac are also featured here, in the form of twelve golden statues, and people were encouraged to pet their corresponding Zodiac animal, from head to tail, for good luck. 😉

There was even a bunch of cute little puppies, and the children were delighted to see them.

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The highlight of the visit to the temple was the sudden appearance of a pretty rainbow near the pond, and I had the good fortune of taking multiple photos of it. In the warm light of the period before sunset, it was the most lovely view I have seen in Malaysia in 2016. 😀

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The rainbow we saw right before leaving the temple
How to get there (according to Blog with Yan)
Coming from Penang:
  1. After passing through the Kuala Kangsar and Changkat Jering tunnel, you will come to the former Jelapang toll gate.
  2. Here, turn left towards Chemor.
  3. Go straight for about 10 km until you reach Chemor town.
  4. Turn left and drive for about 0.5 km until you come to the first traffic light.
  5. Turn left. When you reach the KTM overhead bridge, immediately turn left after the KTM overhead bridge.
  6. Go straight for about 3 km. You will see the temple on your right.

Coming from Ipoh: 

  1. Heading to Sg Siput, when you reach Chemor town, turn right when you see a railway bridge in front of you.
  2. Drive for about 2 km.

The address
Kuil Seen Hock Yeen
1 1/2 km, Railway Station Road,
Kampung Cik Zainal Tambahan 1,
31200 Chemor,
Perak, Malaysia

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The sunset we witnessed right before boarding our tour bus to depart for dinner

I think the temple is a lovely place, and I will be back! 🙂

#atozchallenge: Revving up the nation’s driving force

The 2nd Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Human Capital Summit was organised to bring together senior representatives from the government, business sector, academia and training providers to discuss the key issues facing human capital development in Malaysia, with the intention of charting the way forward for the nation.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the summit on 25 May 2016 at Sunway Putra Hotel Kuala Lumpur. It was an interesting and eye-opening experience for me, and it provided valuable insights into the state of human capital and the mismatch between human capital demand and the supply provided by the institutions of higher learning.

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Supply vs. Demand

As the day progressed and respected speakers took to the stage one by one to share their knowledge and observations, a marked trend emerged. Firstly, parents, teachers and school counsellors all prioritised professional qualifications such as medical and engineering degrees, and pushed students and their own children towards achieving success in professions which they thought were superior, until there is now a surplus of degree holders, but a significant shortage in skilled and technical specialisations. So, what sort of human capital do we actually need?

“Annually, 100,000 youth do not enrol in any tertiary programme after SPM. Not even certificate courses,” said Associate Professor Elajsolan Mohan, President of the National Association of Private Educational Institutions (NAPEI) during the CEO panel discussion. “To compound the issue, career counsellors in schools are not updated about the prime areas of human capital demand.”

He added, “The top area of demand is currently the manufacturing sector. There is a real and growing demand for Technical and Vocational Education (TVET) graduates.”

The graduate unemployment statistics he presented drove the point home. Among fresh graduates (with degrees), 31% are now unemployed, of which 43% are from the Arts and Social Sciences. Meanwhile, 25% were from Technical, 20% from Science, 4% from Education, and 8% from ICT.

Top 15 job sectors that are most sought after by applicants in Malaysia since 2011

 

RANKING BY YEAR
(By Average Applicants)

SECTOR

2011

2012

2013

Government/NGO

1

1

1

Oil & Gas

3

2

2

Engineering/Industrial Services

4

4

3

Financial & Banking

2

3

4

Agriculture/Aquaculture

6

6

5

FMCG

5

5

6

Education

7

8

7

Call Centre/BPO

8

7

8

Logistics

9

9

9

Manufacturing – SemiCon

14

10

10

Manufacturing – E&E

15

12

11

Others

12

13

12

Biotech/Healthcare

10

11

13

Manufacturing – Production

13

14

14

Construction

11

15

15

(Source: Associate Professor Elajsolan Mohan’s slides)

 

Top 15 job sectors in Malaysia since 2011

RANKING

SECTOR

1

Manufacturing – Production

2

Construction

3

ICT

4

Financial & Banking

5

Wholesale & Retail

6

Hospitality

7

Consulting

8

Biotech/Healthcare

9

Manufacturing – E&E

10

Others

11

Human Resources/RF

12

Oil & Gas

13

Education

14

Printing/Arts

15

FMCG

(Source: Associate Professor Elajsolan Mohan’s slides)

Mohan also shared with us what employers are saying about graduates these days:

  1. 68% of graduates are asking for unrealistic salaries
  • With 30% asking for a whopping starting salary of RM6,500 (no wonder they are unemployed!)
  1. 59% exhibit poor attitude or character
  2. 64% do not have a good level of English
  3. 60% lacked communication skills

“Employers also felt that fresh graduates lacked adaptability, multitasking ability and decision-making skills,” he added. So, university students and fresh graduates have to take note to improve on these important areas to raise their level of employability.

What can be done?

“The universities are not supposed to produce 100% employable graduates,” said Mr. Tay Kay Luan, Chief Executive of the Asian Institute of Chartered Bankers, who provided a realistic viewpoint.

“A workable approach is the 70:20:10 rule, which is 70% effective learning on the job, 20% coaching and mentoring, and 10% training and certification,” Mr. Tay explained. Created by three researchers and authors working with the Centre for Creative Leadership in the 1980s, the 70:20:10 model for learning and development is a common proven formula within the training profession.

Daniel Bernbeck, the Executive Director of the Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was invited to provide some advice because Germany was well-respected as a developed nation where industries flourished.

“Originally, what is Germany today was a collection of small kingdoms, and they all did things differently. Even until today, 80% of Germany still consists of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs),” said Bernbeck, providing some historical information. “To standardise everything, guilds and chambers of industry were set up. They, in turn, set the standards, and ensured the commitment to the standards was upheld.”

Bernbeck further elaborated, “The onus is on private companies in industries, and TVET training is provided by the companies themselves. Students spend two days in classes and three days working as apprentices in the company every week. They are fruitfully employed, are paid for work done, and have a three-year apprenticeship contract. Now, the latest trend is to move the classroom into the company itself, because education cannot keep up with the developments in industry fast enough.”

However, when asked how Malaysia can emulate the successful free education of Germany, Bernbeck gave a candid response. “Germany’s free education is funded by taxes. High income earners can pay up to as much as 53% in taxes.” Gasps of surprise were heard from the audience.

The future of tertiary education

The way forwarded in education was summarised well by Prof. Dr. Ahmad Rafi Mohamed Eshaq, President of Multimedia University, in the final panel discussion, which consisted of representatives from institutions of higher learning. He shared the drivers of change (university of the future) published by Ernst & Young:

  1. Digital technologies is the way forward – blended learning, with a mixture of traditional and digital tools
  2. Integration with industry
  3. Global mobility
  4. Contestability of markets and funding
  5. Democratisation of knowledge and access

Finally, Prof. Wahid Razally, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of University Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia, highlighted that TVET instructors as well as graduates needed to be provided ample avenues for their continual growth and development in institutions of higher learning.

“TVET graduates can work in a company for 20 years and remain exactly the same. Universities should provide higher TVET courses to offer the chance for them to upgrade and develop themselves further, even to Master or PhD level,” said Prof. Wahid Razally.

It was a thought-provoking day, and it was hoped that participants took back new knowledge and fresh insights to their companies and organisations, to better inform them of the actual trends in the nation’s human capital developments, and how to address the significant mismatch between demand and supply.

Note:

A shorter version of this article was published in Lakeviews Issue #48. Lakeviews is the bulletin of the Rotary Club of Lake Gardens, District 3300.

Citation: Khor Hui Min (2016). Revving up the nation’s driving force. Lakeviews Issue #48. Kuala Lumpur: Rotary Club of Lake Gardens (District 3300).

#atozchallenge: Quirky Hin Bus Depot

Across the road from the shiny modern Hotel NEO+ Penang, lies the unassuming and run-down Hin Bus Depot. Definitely looking like it has seen better days, one would think that it was abandoned and left to fall apart. However, on closer inspection, there was actually a cafe visible in there. Out of curiosity, we had to go in to check it out, didn’t we?

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Hin Bus Depot (black section on the right is a modern cafe)

Any first-time visitors are in for a surprise. Once an abandoned bus depot, it has been converted into an art space, and there is a pop-up market happening every Sunday from 11am till 5pm as well. Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic held his first solo art exhibition here in 2014, and his larger than life murals have turned the abandoned bus depot into another world altogether.

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Ernest Zacharevic – Art is Rubbish/Rubbish is Art (2014)

Ernest combines fine art techniques with a passion for creating art in the outdoors, and is interested in the interaction of murals and the urban landscape. His artwork results from a spontaneous response to the environment, the community and culture.

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Exposed walls become large canvases for artistic expression
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Walls covered in murals
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Mural by Ernest (2014)
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Mural by Ernest (2014)

The Hin Bus Depot is continually evolving, and more artists will be leaving their mark there soon, promising more exhibitions in the months to come.

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Zodiac (2015) by Thomas Powell of England. Thomas is a fine art graduate from Loughborough University.
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Urban Exchange (2015) by Sabek. Sabek is a street artist based in Madrid, Spain. 
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Urban Exchange (2015) by Hiroyasu Tsuri (aka TWOONE) from Japan. In 2004, Hiroyasu started to spread his recognisable animal character painting all over Melbourne’s walls. His paintings often depict animal-headed human characters.
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Painting without a name done on a door
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Decorated pillar
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Art indoors
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Urban Exchange newsletter distributed at Hin Bus Depot
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Tavern in the Park @ Hin Bus Depot
Venue name: Hin Bus Depot Art Centre
Contact:
Address: 31A Jalan Gurdwara
Penang
10300
Opening hours: Daily, 12noon-8pm

#atozchallenge: Poring Hot Spring

I went to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah in April 2016, and while on a day tour of Kundasang and Kinabalu Park, I visited Poring Hot Spring. It is part of Kinabalu Park, and there are quite a lot of things going on in there. I was not expecting to find a modern swimming pool, complete with water slide in there, but there it was. 😉  Besides that, they have a butterfly garden, canopy walk, Kipungit Waterfall, Bat Cave, Langanan Waterfall, and a restaurant.

Located 40 km slightly northeast from the Kinabalu Park HQ, Poring Hot Spring is located in the lowlands, while the Park HQ is located in the higlands. Very popular among the locals, Poring Hot Springs is a place where visitors soak away their soreness and aches in the spring’s hot sulphuric minerals, which is deemed to have healing properties.

One can easily spend a day at Poring Hot Springs, and it is a suitable place for the whole family. Here are some photos I took there:

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Yup, there’s a modern swimming pool and a pool with a water slide at Poring Hot Springs

The individual hot spring tubs look very clean and nice. Just turn on the taps and hot water from the hot spring will collect in your personal little dunking tub. You can submerge your whole body in the hot water, or you can just soak your feet.

The walk up to the canopy walk was an uphill hike. The path was well-maintained and clean, and ‘steps’ were fashioned from the natural contours of the earth. The canopy walk itself was well-maintained and clean too, and there was a nice view.

 

Other articles I wrote about Sabah:

 

#atozchallenge: One day at the market

Happy Labour Day! 🙂

This morning, I engaged in a bit of street photography at the SPPK Market in Ipoh. I did a walkabout and snapped photos fast to capture the essence of the moment in the peak hours of the market’s operations, which was a bit hard to do because my bulky camera was sort of obvious and people tend to notice it.

My favourite stall of the day was the dumpling stall, because the dumplings were photogenic. 😉

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Dumpling stall
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The dumplings were made fresh at the stall, with sengkuang filling
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Dumplings with sengkuang filling, waiting to be steamed

Here are some snapshots from the other market stalls:

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Cake stall
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Noodle stall
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Glutinous rice dumpling and nyonya kuih stall
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Potato stall
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Fruit stall
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Vegetable stall
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Stall selling dried condiments and other dried foodstuff
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Vegetable stall
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Stall selling buns and snacks
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Fruit stall
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Three types of mangoes
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Beancurd stall
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Dried seafood stall, selling dried anchovies and cuttlefish
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Vegetable stall
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Lady selling fishballs right outside the market entrance
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Man promoting a kitchen appliance – a sort of chopper device
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At a stall selling floor mats outside the market
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At a vegetable stall
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At a fish stall. The man asked me why I did not take his photo. 😉
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IMG_0474a At a plant stall outside the market

 

#atozchallenge: New short story published

I am delighted to announce that the third short story I have ever written, entitled LOST AND FOUND, was selected for publication in the May 2016 issue of Eastlit. Interestingly, my short story was categorised as creative non-fiction. Hope you enjoy reading it.

Eastlit May 2016 Cover Picture: Apocalypse by Graham Lawrence. Cover design by Graham Lawrence. Copyright photographer, Eastlit and Graham Lawrence.

Launched on October 26th 2012, Eastlit is an electronic English Literature Journal focused on creative writing, English literature and art specifically from or connected to East and South East Asia.

Eastlit Contents May 2016.png

You can read my short story by clicking here. You can also click on the following screenshot to read it:

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