#FreeMyLibrary

I’m troubled. You see, our library, my library, has decided to pull a couple of children’s books from its shelf.  These books “And Tango Makes Three” and “The White Swan Express” are not without controversy. They touch on blended families, gay families and single parent families.

My library decided to pull these books, not because there were factually inaccurate or that they incited hate etc. They pulled these books because a few people complained and my library eventually decided that these books weren’t “pro-family” and didn’t promote “family values”  so they’re pulling them out.  See, my library, in spite of the fact that the rest of its collection contains “contain titles with homosexual themes and [that their] collection policy does not exclude materials on alternative lifestyles*” decided that these two children’s book had to be not just banned, but pulped into nonexistence.

Just thinking about them doing this makes me upset. See I practically grew up reading books from a library. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and library was the one place I could go and escape to other worlds, meet new friends, learn about other places (real or otherwise). Pre internet days, this was the place we went to get more information, you trust a library to take you in and give you as much knowledge as you’ll take from it.

Growing up, my mom would bring me to Queenstown library, and we would spend hours reading together. This was where I got hungry with the caterpillar and fell in love with green eggs and ham. As I got older, I would go to the same library with my book geek friends. We would spend hours after school just hanging out in the library, reading. I would have to sssh my friend pam who suddenly hum while reading her trashy pink romance novels while my nose was in some violent gore filled book by Mr King.

During our dating days, prior to the closure of Orchard Library, J and I would spend hours there, usually borrowing way too many books than we could possibly read in that 3 week loan period.  It was there that we discovered our love for Ankh  Morpork and the disc on the back of a giant turtle flying through space.  After Orchard Library closed, we would wait for each other at the National Library at Bugis before having date night.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love the library. I love that it never judges you on what you borrow from it, how long you take to read something and whether you finish that book or not. Learning that they are doing this awful thing, feels like my old and trusted friend is betraying me and the bond we had.  I’m crushed. I’m disappointed.

Having them pull these books out like that, on the account that it doesn’t promote family values is personal. I grew up in a single parent household and the library has always been a safe space for me. And now, with this decision, it feels like it is denying the existence of such families, white-washing reality and saying to be a family, you must have 1 mom, 1 dad, and children. What it’s also saying is that because we’re not the norm, suddenly my family doesn’t count, it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t fit into the template, therefore access denied. Look, I love my mom and everything she’s done for me. But I’ll tell you this, it’s hard enough growing up in a single parent family without having people tell you you don’t count, you don’t exist, you’re not normal.  I’d imagine it’s even tougher for more modern families also don’t fit these community norms right now.

It feels like this:

 

The idea that they are caving to parents who can’t seem to be able to vet books in advance before their children read it is really sad and speaks volumes about the level of parenting this group is (not) doing.   Isn’t that your job as a parent? I get not wanting your child to read these books, I get that it would be very uncomfortable for some parents out there and for some, outright wrong.  But that’s the thing, it is your choice and your views and eventually how you bring up your children. I’m not saying that you must read this to your child.  I’m saying, don’t read it!  Don’t pick it up.  Just tell your child this is not suitable for him/her/them if they come across the books. I believe in the freedom of choice and that means you can choose to not read such books. Removing these books is removing that choice of reading it for other children whose parents are ok with the texts, who want to read it to their children.

I’m tired of this people using the words “Pro Family” in their bid to push their own agendas.  I’m also pro family.  My husband, me, my mom and my two silly cats are my family.  I love and take care of my family.  If that isn’t pro family than someone please tell me what is.

To say that it’s guided on community norms is worse. A library is a repository of information, it shouldn’t be guided by these norms otherwise we would only have a very limited [read: boring] collection.   Is it just because it has homosexual content? Are we forever going to be torn as a society because of this?  Cause this is way bigger than that.  It is not about being pro LGBTQ, it is about the freedom of choice (or in this case the lack of).  This is outright censorship and it pains me to know that this is happening in my library, my friend, my safe space.

The removal of books, of choice, makes me nervous and uneasy.  The idea that the books are not just going to be pulled but to be pulped sets off all sorts of warning bells for me.  It makes me wonder what next? what else are we going to remove because it doesn’t fit into the community norms. are there going to be other books? What other books are going to be next?  How are such things decided?  Just because someone objects to it?  What are the community norms?  Whose community norms?

Who watches the watchmen?

 

*their words not mine, and let’s ignore the problematic heteronormativity for now.


4000 steps to Heaven’s View

Nepal Trip Day 3, Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 1

We slept very well that night, well we did, Jenny got woken up by a bunch of noisy tourists who were leaving early in the morning.  HAHHAHA.. That’s two nights in a row now. After breakfast, we took a 90 min drive to Nayapul.. and then we started our trek for real (or so we thought).  DSC02112DSC02111

It turns out, the first bit of the trek was to Birethanti which is not considered part of the trek. And there we were thinking, this isn’t too bad.  HAHAH.  Little did we know, the trek only begins at Birethanti after you’ve checked in with the tourism office.  DSC02124DSC02113

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The real beginning bit of our trek looked like something out of the Lord of the Rings set.  It felt like we were walking in the shire in Middle Earth.  I couldn’t help humming the shire theme as we walked here.  DSC02146DSC02159

Unfortunately Jenny’s shoe fell apart while we were walking and we had to wait for our porters to catch up to grab our repair kit out of the bags they were carrying. Au Chew Travel Tip: Always bring a shoe repair kit with things like super glue and duct tape on these trips.

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Then it was time for lunch.  Jet had mixed fried noodles, I had mixed fried rice Jenny has chicken fried rice and the boys had dhal bat..They were telling us that they eat dhal bat for every meal (excluding breakfast) and we couldn’t figure out how they didn’t get bored eating the same thing over and over again.  We would soon come to understand this.

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This is quite amazing, the place we had lunch had a school nearby, but the houses were nowhere in sight.  Lama explained that the kids had to walk up and down the trails that we’ve been walking to get to school and back home, EVERY DAY.  We were gobsmacked.

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Lama told us at our nightly after dinner briefing that we’d face 4000 steps on this trail and after lunch we soon found out he wasn’t kidding.. It was steps after steps after steps! and very steep too! I had to stop so many times, it was embarrassing and when we got overtaken by some local old ladies, I just wanted to crawl into the ground and stay there.

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About mid way up the stairs, the mules / donkeys we had seen earlier had caught up with us.  Lama had warned us earlier that if we were to see donkeys / mules / horses etc, always hug the wall or at least walk on the inner side of the trail.  People have been pushed off by them and it’s a long way down.  The good thing about donkeys / mules / horses is there you’ll always hear them coming cause the owners always put bells on them.  The bad thing is, it’s really noisy when you’ve got a herd of them near you!! DSC02222

So with this herd of mules, we decided to try to stay in front of them, and that worked for a while but soon, they started walking with us which wasn’t great cause the path is quite narrow.  We decided to let them pass first, but we soon realise walking behind them wasn’t a good idea either.  The mules will find any opportunity to stop and eat.  Walking behind them means we have to wait for them to graze or their herder to hurry them along.  And because they keep eating.. well, what goes in, must come out.  YEAH.  THE SMELL OF FRESH MULE POOP IS NOT SOMETHING I’D EVER NEED TO SMELL AGAIN. OMG.  Not to mention we now had to watch every step so we didn’t walk onto it.

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Lama explained that as it was already the tail end of the climbing season, quite a number of the locals that live along the trek had gone back down to the towns etc and would only return when the climbing season reopened.  This explained a number of closed hospital / medical center and guest houses along the way.  One of the strange sights we saw along the way was a closed church with the words Merry Xmas on the window.

Somewhere around this point of this climb I was so hungry that I could not go on.  We were told we were going to reach the guest house soon (like 10 mins) but I was so exhausted that I was like no just give me food now.  Jet took out my snack pack which contained my trusted Jacob’s crackers and Toblerone chocolate.   Once I had some food in me, I felt revived and got my second wind.    Au Chew Travel Tip: Always have your snack pack with you and eat when you’re hungry!   DSC02234

When we got to this 10 min away guest house (located in Uleri), we were told they didn’t have any space!! I was so glad I had my chocolate earlier.  We were also quite thankful not to have stayed there as it was full of noisy tourists with kids.

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30 mins later, we finally reached our lodge (located in Banthanti) and saw some crazy people playing volley ball.  Strangely the first thing we heard was a Singaporean accent in the midst of all yelling.. Loo and behold we meet a Singaporean couple staying there.  We also met a Japanese girl travelling alone and a motley crew of Ang mohs from various parts of Europe.  I love the name of our lodge Heaven View Guest house! I think it’s quite apt.

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volley ball

As Lama put it, we deserved a hot shower after that crazy hike. He also managed to get us rooms with attached toilets (not showers) with is a real bonus on these treks. As it was quite late, the clouds had already descended so there wasn’t much of a view.  But the rooms were really nice.DSC02245 DSC02247DSC02248DSC02249

After a nice hot steaming shower, it was time for dinner, Jet and I had dhal bat with chicken.  Jenny had dhal bat with vege and we ordered a portion of sukuthi to share. While waiting for the food we snuck into the kitchen to see them prepare and they allowed us to take a photo.

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The Ang Mohs sat next to us during dinner and we found out they were trekking without a guide and all 4 of them had different trip lengths.  The Ang Mohs then tried to play citadel.  Well one of them tried to teach the other 3 how to play and took so long to explain it that I think they eventually gave up.  They asked if we wanted to play as well but after listening to the instructions the first time, we decided not to.

Then Lama came over to give us our nightly briefing for the next day’s trek, we realised we had climbed about 1000m vertically today.  We started at Birenthanti which is approx 1100m above sea level and heaven view which is at Banthanti is approx 2200m above sea level.  During our briefing, you could see the Ang Mohs perk up and one of them started asking Lama a bunch of questions. It was around this time I think they gave up playing Citadel and we decided it was time for bed!


OH in the Au-Chew household

*random movie sounds*

D: What’s that you’re watching..

J: *silence*

D: YOU’RE WATCHING STAR TREK AREN’T YOU!! NOT ALLOWED NOT ALLOWED!! *stands in front of the TV*

J: but you’re not watching it! I am!

D: NO STAR TREK ALLOWED IN THIS HOUSE

J: why? they’re both the same. They’re both about space travel in the future

D: *proceeds to hit J* NOT THE SAME!! star wars happened LONG LONG AGO IN A GALAXY FAR FAR AWAY!! *continues hitting J*

J: let me watch

D:NO! *stands in front of the tv until the movie is stopped!*

Just another day in the Au-Chew (star trek free) home


K City to Pokhara

The Au Chews went to Nepal in end April – early May 2013.  This is day 2 of our Nepal adventure!

Despite being extremely tired, we all slept badly on our first night in Nepal.  It started with some annoying guests who came back at 1 am then there were the dogs and more dogs and then the birds (yes BIRDS!!). All of us gave up and woke up at 5 am although we still had one more hour to sleep.  We (esp Jenny) would soon learn that this would be a regular occurrence).

Breakfast was a giant box of bread and croissants which we packed along with us and then it was time to get onto the bus to Pokhara.  TZ and Lama came to pick us up and brought us to the tour bus street? it wasn’t exactly a bus station and more like a bunch of tour buses parked along a road.  The tricky thing is to make sure you get on the right bus.  AU CHEW TRAVEL TIP: Most tour buses to Pokhara leave at 7am so getting there early is important.DSC02011

  While waiting for the bus to set off, we saw lots of hawkers walking up and down the street selling bread, fruits and even hot tea.  One of the guys was selling berries and I was so tempted to go down and grab some cause they looked so good.  Then Jet reminded me about the incredible dust on the street and how the berries were likely to be coated in them as well.  With no place to rinse them, I gave up on the idea.  DSC02010

It was an 7plus / 8 hour uneventful bus ride with some break stops in between. Seeing how we had such great sleep the night before, most of us quickly knocked out on the bus. 

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As we moved further away from Kathmandu, the scenery got greener.

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About one hour away from Pokhara, it started to rain heavily, and then it HAILED! That was a pretty amazing sight.  Little did we know (again!) that is was a sign of things to come.  Thankfully it stopped by the time we reached Pokhara and all we got was the nice cool after rain effect. 

We stayed at Hotel Meera in Pokhara.  Like our other hotel, it was nice and clean, spacious with our own bathrooms.  I don’t know what Jenny is doing here.. or why she is doing it, I blame the long bus journey.

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DSC02049These Buddhist prayer wheels can be found all around Nepal and we saw them mainly at entrances of buildings.  We knew it was good luck to spin these wheels when walking past them (and Jet was really enthusiastic about it) what we didn’t realise was that like most things in Nepal, you only spin it on the right side and with your right hand, not with the left! When La Ma explained it to us much later, we all had a *facepalm* moment. DOH!

We had some R&R time before meeting La Ma for a short walk about and dinner.  No surprizes what we did! Shopping!! It started to rain again so we ducked into a cafe for a snack.  Notice the shopping bags next to Jenny!

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Then it was time to head back to meet La Ma and our porters.  La Ma introduced us to one of our porters of the trip Chandra (the other guy, Dil couldn’t make it) and then it was off to see a bit of the touristy sights and DINNER!

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Lama brought us to see Phewa lake which had a temple in the middle of it which you can rent boats to get to. There were a few options for boat rental including rowing there yourself (!!). As it had started to drizzle again, we went off to get some dinner!.

Lama brought us to his aunty ‘s shop got some authentic local food. Ladies and Gents, consider this a public service announcement.  FISHTAIL MOMO RESTAURANT IS POKHARA’S HIDDEN GEM. YOU MUST GO THERE IF YOU ARE EVER IN POKHARA.

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We started with some Gorkha brand beer with some roasted soy nuts,

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Followed by buffalo mo mos,

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Sukuthi – smoked buffalo cooked with spices.  I still dream of this dish!!

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Buff chilli and chow mien.

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I don’t know why we don’t have any photos of the chow mien but it looks and tastes like our fried noodles.  Au Chew Travel Tip: Pokhara rations the use of electricity in town by having  scheduled power shut downs everyday.  Your hotel should have the schedule available at the front desk.  This is important so you know what time the street lights will go out etc.  That day, the power shutdown was from 6pm to 9pm so we had a romantic dinner by candle light.

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Mouse Temperature Raw Food

If you’re a raw feeder like me, you’ll know that a lot of forums recommend feeding the food at mouse temp rather than cold from the fridge.  Here’s how I do it.

The meat!

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into a metal bowl

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Hot water into another bowl

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Meat bowl over hot water.  I add tap water into the metal bowl so that the meat warms up evenly, remember we want to warm up the meat not cook it.  Also, notice someone is lurking underneath.

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Cut the meat

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let the meat warm up in the water.. I use my fingers to test how warm everything is.

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transfer meat into food bowl

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don’t forget the water / gravy

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Ready to serve!

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One hungry customer is waiting for his food

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Still waiting

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Dinner is served!

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And this is why we have a placemat

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A satisfied customer!

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The Au-Chews roast some pork belly!!

ok this is another really overdue post.. but in March this year, I decided to attempt roasting some sio ak (pork belly).  I can’t remember why I wanted to (this is why i need to blog about it when it is still fresh) but i think it was just on whim really. So after scouring the internet for a few recipes, I used the recipe from Noobcook which is my usual go to recipe site.  The woman who writes the site always manages to make seemingly complicated recipes so simple to follow.  Like seriously, other sio bak recipes have so many steps it just makes a noob like me afraid to try. 

The only thing i would do different from this recipe is to get THIS torture device to prick the skin rather than use a satay stick. This is much faster.. 20130825_180318

Check out the photos of the yummy sio bak!!

THE SIO BAK after marinating and air drying in the fridge overnight

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No ramekin? any porcelain bowl will do too! 20130331_123018

After the first 30 mins.. the skin has started to soften

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90 mins later.. LOOK AT THE CRACKLED SKIN!! YUMZ

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Let the meat rest before slicing it.

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LUNCH WITH SOUP AND VEGES!!

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The Au-Chews go climb a mountain

we're taking the hobbits to IsengardSo sometime last year, we (read: Jet) decided to go Nepal for a trek.  yes just like that we decided to do it.  Our friend Jenny who was also keen to go, told us it would be fun.. FUN! we just needed to train a little bit before we went (read: go climb bt timah hill or walk from bt timah to and back every week for the months leading to the trip –____-). So on 27th April 2013, after about 6 months of “training”, it was time to fly to the land of the yaks and mountains.

The trip started with us flying into Kathmandu in the early afternoon. First impression: OMG it’s so hot!!.. And dusty too! Met Jenny’s friend, Tenzeng (who was also the owner of the treking company we had booked with) outside the airport and he brought us to check into the guest house.  We stayed at International Guest House and it was super nice and clean!

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While waiting for the hotel porter to bring up our bags, we realised we forgot to do one important thing.  WE DIDNT HAVE ANY LOCAL CURRENCY ON US.  We ended up giving him 5 usd as a tip –_____-.  Lesson one of the day: always change money first!!

We had some R&R time before meeting TZ and our guide in the evening so we quickly went out to change money (HA!) and do some shopping at the touristy district Thamel.  The shopping expedition did not start off too well as we were harassed by a local when we were at the money changers. He wanted a “commission” for “bringing” us to a money changer even though we walked in to the outlet ourselves. Jet told him to bugger off but he continued to follow us. At this time, Jenny showed her dark side and gave him a stern warning, telling him that if he kept it up we were going to go back to the money changer and demand a refund. He left us alone after that.  Lesson two of the day: never piss off Jenny, esp when she’s on holiday!

We wandered into a bookshop cause Jen and Jenny both wanted to get postcards.  Jenny was sending two back to her friend so I decided to do the same.. sent one the Mom since her’s was the only address I could remember. haha.

We continued walking along the touristy shopping district as Jenny and Jet were also looking for some trekking pants. After going to a few shops, it dawned on me that the two of them did not know the exchange rate even though they had just changed money earlier on.  So basically they were going around asking how much this and that were without any clue how much the shop keepers wanted to charge them.  -_________-.  And when they attempted to calculate the rate, they both got it wrong cause according to them, the shop keepers were selling a pair of pants for 680 sgd.

Luckily the shop keeper realized what they were doing and told us he would help us check the papers for the rate.  At the same time, I decided to calculate the rate myself and realised the rate was 1sgd to 68 rup.. Jet’s calculation was the opposite.. And he works in a bank! Then it dawned in us how cheap things were. One “genuine” North Face pants was about 20sgd. I also found a shop that had dresses in lovely prints like Desigual.. Guess who went mad in there. Lesson three of the day: calculate the bloody exchange rate before going shopping. SIGH you’d think this was our first time travelling anywhere ever.. SERIOUSLY.

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Fresh Chicken Anyone?

Then it was back to the hotel to wash up and meet our guide, Lama and TZ.  Guide is very young and good looking! asked Jet if I could do a one for one exchange. Cause he was also clearly as cute and young like the guide. He wasn’t too impressed with my idea.

Lama had a climbing competition at the Astrek Climbing Wall before dinner so we went along to cheer him on.  The climbing wall is housed at the Belgium Consulate and there’s even a cafe there as well.  OMG those people are mad crazy. The way they went up the wall, you think they had all been bitten by a radioactive spider or something.  The climbing community also had a very island life / carefree feel to them.  It felt like I was back the dive shops in Tioman.. Then it was time for dinner!!

\i think this guy stayed like that for quite some time

i mean seriously.. WTH

Dinner was fantastic! We had a traditional Nepali meal Dhal bhat (which literally means rice and lentil / bean curry) but with all the bells and whistles.  it even came with a cultural performance during dinner. Dinner started with an appetizer sample set consisting of a really spicy chicken dish, millet rice, mo mos (dumpings), pickles and nuts.

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the dhal bhat consisted of Aloo Gobi, chicken curry, wild boar, spinach.and of course rice with dhal! It was really yummy. DSC01996And I think I liked the wild boar the most.. Wild boar fat is damn nice..mmm. They also had is drink a shot of raksi which is some potent liquor that tastes like vodka and sake. that is supposed to keep you warm in a cold night. We also had some local beer which made Jenny and Jet very happy. HAHHA


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