August 16, 2010

"Gwai Cheet"

It is that time of the year again … the 7th lunar month of the Chinese calendar and just around the corner is what the Chinese called “gwai cheet” meaning ghost festival in Cantonese. And according to popular believe, during this period, the hell gates opened and all the “gwais” (ghosts & ghouls) will be out roaming everywhere. It is party time for those unearthly beings on the 14th day of the 7th lunar month.

Those who believe that the unearthly beings do exist will avoid going out and try not to stay out late if they have to leave their homes, worried that they might bump into “lar char yeh” (dirty "things”) during this period. As if these people are not already scared enough, various TV channels will be showing horror “gwai” movies to frighten them at home. Radio channels will also be telling all sorts of ghost stories. And as usual, people will add more scary tales to hype it up.

Here is one I heard just last week … a couple of my trekking buddies were trekking a popular hill in Klang Valley (I am not going to specify which hill, you can guess all you want ok?). And as they were about to cross a bridge they saw a lone woman near the bridge. She did not look spooky at all, just normal looking. She asked one of my friends … “hor em hor yee tai ngor kor kiu” (can you bring me across the bridge). At first it did not strike my friend that there is anything odd. But when they crossed the bridge, the woman, who was following behind then said “em koi sai, lei they ng sai tang ngor lah” (thank you, you guys don’t have to wait for me). It was at this precise moment it dawn upon my friend that she seems to talk in slow motion. Then it struck his mind that it is the 7th lunar month period and may be, just maybe there is something spooky. That thought sent him a chilling feeling. He dare not look back, just waved and immediately increased his speed trekking out of the forest. It was only after coming out of the forest he felt relieved. Anyway, I don’t think it is anything spooky but just because it is the 7th Chinese lunar month, our minds sometimes pulled a fast one on us.

I won’t purposely avoid anything during this period. Whether these “gwais” really exist or not, I am not going to argue about it. I believe in the saying “ping yat putt cho kuai sum see, sam karng how moon yar put keng” … loosely translated, it means if you did not harm anyone, you don’t have to worried about your doors being knocked at midnight.

Talking about the “gwai” word, I find it a bit inconsiderate that generally the Chinese in Malaysia (not sure about elsewhere) call themselves as “torng yan” in Cantonese … “torng” meaning Chinese and “yan” meaning human or people. But when calling other races, for some unknown selfish reasons, the other races are inconsiderately tagged with “gwai” instead. I am sure most Chinese will know what I am talking about. I strongly feel that this is inappropriate and those who are consciously or unconsciously doing it should stop ... we are all “yan”.

August 02, 2010

Of porcupines, bezoar stones and a tarred lung

The last time I met my ex-colleague, he asked me “Hey Shiek, you trekked a lot of jungles right?” I said “Yes, why?” He then asked “Have you come across porcupines?” I thought why a sudden interest in porcupines, so I asked him “Why? Can eat arr? “No lah” he said. “But some porcupines have some sort of stones in them … they are called the bezoar stones” he added. “Huh? “What stone?” I asked curiously. He then showed me a brochure which contains pictures of a type of stone that supposedly have great medicinal value. It is called “hao zhu zhao” (mandarin) or bezoar stone in English. It was the first time I heard about the bezoar stone.

He then told me that many “lou sais” (big bosses) and “yau cheen lous” (rich people) are now paying thousands of dollars to buy these stones. Some Chinese medicine shops are selling it at RM1000 for just half a gram. Wow, must be some sort of wonder stone. Later I found out that bezoar is a mass of food, usually from consuming grass and herbs, found trapped in an animal’s stomach system and is historically used in Chinese traditional medicine.

It is believed by some that the porcupine bezoar stone can be used to cure cancer, diabetes, dengue, typhoid, epilepsy, hepatitis and many more. Really? Then why the hell all those scientists are still searching everywhere for a cancer cure … hey, search no further, we have plenty of porcupines in Malaysia! Porcupine bezoar stone can cure deadly diseases? Naaaah! I tell you what … I am not convinced at all until it is scientifically proven. Whether it really has fantastic healing abilities or it is just a simple gall stone, it is up to you to believe. If it really works for you … great, I wish you a speedy recovery.

The irony is that many rich bosses are paying thousands of dollars for the stones hoping that they will cure them of their various health problems. Why the irony? First, these rich “lou sais” spend thousands on their excessively lifestyles. Believe me, I have seen so many of them wasting away their perfect health due to their over indulging habits. And when their well being began to deteriorate attracting a host of health problems, they then spend thousands on strange stuffs like the porcupine bezoar stone hoping to find some sort of miracle to solve their problems. Actually they are hoping for an easy way to buy back their health with money.

Hey, it is none of my business what people do with their money and their well being right? Look, I am also talking about myself. Many years ago I too wasted away my health. Not that I am a "yau cheen lou" but I over indulged in a poor man’s luxury … cigarettes! I smoked away one of my lungs. Those days I was doing three large packs of cigarettes a day and over the years, my lungs were smoked hard and brittle. One fine day out of the blue, one of my lungs decided to collapse and I ended up in the ER. Looking at the x-ray the doctor said “Tak nampak apa apa lah” (can’t see anything) and I said “Macam tu baik lah” (like that it is ok then, thinking that there is nothing wrong). Then he said “Tak nampak sebab semua sudah hitam lah” (cannot see anything because the lung was all black … probably full of tar).

An immediate thoracic surgery was arranged to fix the tarred lung that was punctured in five places. I was wheeled into the operation theatre on a cold stainless steel trolley (just like dead bodies being pushed in some CSI episodes). And just before they put the mask on me, I saw the “tunnel with a light at the end” and before I have time to figure out whether it is really a light at the end or a bloody on-coming train … everything went black.

I woke up with tubes all over me. Terribly in pain but was glad my good thoracic surgeon pulled me out of the tunnel. I realised I was in ICU, hooked up on a machine that was making an irritating “teet, teet, teet” sound. Though irritating but I know this sound means everything is OK … was really worried that it may just go “teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet” (then you won’t be reading this). While recovering in the hospital, my doctor took me to see a small girl and said to me “Shiek, this girl was born with a defective lung … she have no choice but to suffer but you were born with perfect lungs and yet you chose to smoked it away”.

I smoked away one of my lungs and now I do not have 100% capacity of it. I have to live with that for the rest of my life. I will not be able to do a lot of things that a person with a healthy lung can do. No matter how much I exercise or how many mountains I trek, I cannot bring back my health. Nor can I spend thousands to buy some miracle stones to cure it. I regretted it deeply.