malaysia part 1: cheng beng

so i’m about a week and a half into my holiday in malaysia so i have some catching up to do. so, the first installment is about the reason why i’m here in the first place.

cheng beng sat24 march 2007

Cheng Beng is the Chinese all souls’ day and is the reason mum and i are here at this time of year. it can be celebrated a few weeks either side of the actual day (i think it is either 1 or 5 april) and we chose to do it early. all the family who could attend attended. we got up early to leave at just after 7am to avoid the heat, and drove in convoy to the cemetary where Por Por is buried. There were lots of us, although Kung Kung stayed at home.

The tombstone was very nice, as it was like a large bed (so raised from ground level) with writing at the front and kid of like an altar to put joss sticks and offerings. Firstly, the food was laid out – fruit, roast meat, cakes, wine (although this got knocked over and the bottle smshed by accident). There was also some fake bank notes laid out on the grave.

Uncle Tin then handed out 6 (i think – should have written this earlier) joss sticks each, and we filed along to the altar area in turn to prey or talk to Por Por and place our joss sticks in the pot. After this, we did the same with the paper items we were going to burn for her. I had a pair of paper shoes for her, and there were shirts and cosmetics also – all made of card.

These were added to the pile of gold and silver (coloured rolled paper), and then travellers cheques and hell bank notes (“why Hell Bank?” Uncle Tin queried, “as she won’t be able to spend them…”) were also added and then set fire to in order to send them to Por Por. She is certainly rich, it was a big pile!

Although it was a sad occasion it was also happy in a way as there were so many people there for her, everyone putting on a brave face. I am happy that I was there, evebn though it was not all that easy.

We then took the food away (otherwise the monkeys would take it) and went across the road to where Uncle Yoke’s ashes are. The same process took place for him, although instead of a gravestone, his urn is in a kind of cabinet (along with a packet of cigarettes and a lighter) alongside rows and rows of others. Many people prey and give offerings to their relatives’ neighbours so that they have good company.

We burnt Uncle’s paper offerings outside. He had lots more mod cons than Por Por – air con, dvd player, plasma tv, wok & pots and pans, gas cannister for cooking – and less money. Sing Sing was there and I think he bought a lot of these things for his dad.

We then went to see great aunties and uncles; these visits were a lot easier and a bit of a gradual wind-down from the first two.

At one cemetary, we saw monkeys stealing buns form various graves. One even took one in its mouth, and another in its hand!

After, we went back to the house and various people spoke to Kung Kung about it, including Uncle Meng and Nana. He told me that I should write it all down in a diary – which I am doing here (mainly cos I forgot my actual notebook/diary).

We also ate the food that was on offer and just sat aoround and talked. I talked to my little cousin Tissue who is 3 and she is very good a counting in English, and very cute but I think rather naughty.

Later in the afternoon, Uncle Meng and I went to a wine tasting with some of his friends. They arranged it with the shop as they know each other well. We had 3 Aussie wines (Kallesky, Wolf Blass Black Label and Platinum Label) and a Californian (Chateau St Jean? – a Bordeaux blend). I wasn’t that impressed to be honest, the Kallesky was to alcoholy (14 % i think) for my liking although as the cheapest most people preferred it as value for money). The Cally wine was fine but a bit boring. I liked the black label a lot, but it needed a few years on it as i think it was a 2002 or a 2004. The platinum label was wasted on us as we had too much to drink by that point!

An interestng experience though, as Uncle Meng and his friends knew what they were talking about so we s pent almost the whole 3 hours discussing the wines and not much else. Later on Uncle Meng was sick because he had too much!! Understandable, considering the difficult morning he had.

Mum and Fun Khoon and his girlfrind arrived at about 5.30pm (I think) and joined us for a glass. Then we went for dinner with the whole family, which was very nice except I was on the kids table!

Better go now, have been online for ages. xxx

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