Monday, September 23, 2013

Home Cooking

One fantastic part of Brian's job is getting to know the numerous visiting faculty coming to teach sessions at PUGSOM. Last week, I met David and Karen, in from Sydney. (Prior to Sydney, David and Karen lived in Baltimore and their three sons went to Park! This, of course, gave me license to drag Karen around a giant mall looking at inexpensive articles of clothing and paint to make a cheetah costume for Violet's school project...) This was David and Karen's second tour of duty at PUGSOM and Karen was keen to visit a few of her favorite places, including LaZat, Malaysian Home Cooking Classes. Karen organized a Roti Cani and Dhal class at LaZat. Finding out about the class the day before, I gladly joined in the fun. I can't speak highly enough of the class. If you are planning a visit to us, be ready, I'm taking you to a class at LaZat. 

We started out the day by meeting Sue at the TTDI Wet Market. Wet markets sell meat such as fish and chicken, whereas dry markets sell mostly fruits, veggies and some household goods. TTDI is a neighborhood not far from us. Sue took us on a guided shopping tour of the market, highlighting the stands from which she purchased the food for class. We saw the grinding of coconuts for fresh coconut milk ("you live in Malaysia, you must use fresh coconut milk. Never, ever from a can!"). We also met Rosie, the paste lady. Tell Rosie your plan for dinner and she scoops out pastes of various spices and seasonings, also with garlic, onion, ginger, etc. She throws in the fresh curry leaves and coconut milk. You have all you need to add to some meat and dinner is ready to cook. Sue's fantastic and enthusiastic tour led us up and down the aisles where she explained the use of Malaysian fruits and vegetables foreign to us (in the picture she's holding a banana blossom. I finally found out how to buy and eat these giant beans I've seen at every market. We also saw, but did not smell fermented durian). She also instructed us on how to order chicken and helped me pick out some red snapper for dinner (I also had Rosie make up a delightful paste for the fish!).

The fresh coconut guy.
Rosie - the paste lady dishing up pastes for our dinner.

My fish, before the fishmonger cleaned it.
The fishmonger doing his thing. I had a lot of trouble explaining that I didn't want a fish head.
In the end I took it...
After the market, we took a short ride over to LaZat's new location in a beautiful, traditional Malaysian house. It was a great ride. Once we were off the main road the drive felt rural, complete with slowing down to give way to goats. Then slowing down to give way to chickens. The cooking space at this location is set in lush greenery, all open air cooking. As it was just me and Karen in the class, Saadahsa took over as our instructor and ran a wonderfully informal and hands on class. We started by making a dough for the roti cani. Then we worked on the dhal and a banana coconut dessert. Going back to the roti cani was the most fun. Saadahsa skillfully demonstrated tossing the roti, then she gave us a plastic plate to try out the technique. We graduated from the plate to a dish towel and finally to the dough. Super fun. And when all was cooked, it was so tasty.

In other schooling this week, I've added a couple pictures from Tyler's class. He did a family painting, complete with belly buttons. He also made his name in play dough. We've received preliminary feedback that his math skills are excellent and they are working to develop challenging math assignments for him. His reading is 'emerging' - and that will be an area the teachers work with him on. He received his first reader and the readers switch out every Monday and Thursday. He's adjusting very, very well.

Violet is having a slower adjustment. While her reading is excellent, she feels behind on her writing and spelling. Her teacher and I have assured her that children are on all different levels in many skills and the goal is to advance her in all areas - not to compete with the other students. She's starting to understand that, but it's difficult. We're doing extra work with spelling at home. (Ha, ha, ha - yes - I, the worst speller alive - am working on spelling with her!!) Socially, it's been a challenge as well. Of the twelve girls in Violet's class, two groups of three girls each share a common home language and they and their families' are quite good friends. They seem like really nice kids, but that's a social circle that will be difficult for Violet to break into. She's also the only new girl in her class. Her teacher assures me that Violet's been doing great in school and she never would have guessed that Violet feels herself as struggling. But it's very hard to see Violet, who is usually so happy and confident, having breakdown moments at home. That said, Friday was better than Thursday. And today was better than Friday. Give it a month and I'm confident she'll be settled in. Plus, she's got a big cross country race on October 6th to think about. On Saturday, Brian took Violet on her first training run. They ran almost a mile at a nice and easy pace. At the end, Violet asked if she could run a little faster. Brian said sure and he tried to keep up and couldn't. Probably too much roti the night before.

Fortunately, I've met a few nice families and we're starting to schedule some playtime outside school. One family we've become friends with is from the Netherlands, but most recently arriving from Paris. You would never believe that their children just learned English a year and a half ago! We had them over for a delightful playdate on Friday. Tyler and J are in the same class and Violet and A are in the same year, but different classes.

Below are a few more pictures from the week. Enjoy!

Moon cake festival in our apartment building, complete with a lantern walk.
Violet on the lantern walk with kids from our building.
Violet and I joined Isabel and Nico and the visiting faculty at the Art Expo Malaysia 2013.
Violet's favorite art piece? Bob Marley out of magazine cut outs (titled "One Love").
She asked that I post a picture of this.

Tyler on a playdate with a child from the next building over.
"Superhero pose" (while mum snaps a picture) transcends all cultural barriers.
On Sunday, Brian went to see the Killers in KL. They were awesome. Brian did feel a little old when they did a cover of "I Think We're Alone Now", originally by Tommy James and the Shondells, but made immortal in the 1980s by Tiffany. When Brandon Flowers held the mic towards the crowd to sing the chorus, Nicole and Brian were the only ones belting out the words!  Seriously, the only ones...

Brian and Nicole
And Grandpa Bulldog, this one's for you. I snapped a pic of this sign in downtown KL. Can you believe Tokyo Disney is 30 years old? It opened April 15th, 1983. When did we go? 1984?

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