Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Big Yellow Taxi

So far I’ve written about mostly about how I, a Klang Valley guy am adjusting to my new life in Jeli, a rural area and apart from feeling a little lonely from time to time, I can safely say that I am doing okay. Not great, but could be a lot worse. However, today I want to tell you about one aspect of my new life that I am having troubles adjusting to; the food.
It’s not that their taste is too dissimilar to mine. Even before I moved to Kelantan I used to eat lunch at a nasi campur restaurant owned by a Kelantanese because the budu there was really good. Like pour-it-on-my-nasi-for-kuah good. And tomyam every other night. It’s just that there is very little variety here on account that there are not as many stalls and restaurants here as I’d like. And they tend to offer the same menu. Nasi campur, nasi kerabu, and tomyam. It’s not that I want fancy stuff that is easily available in the cities. Like I told you, I am a man with simple tastes. But there’s only so many times a man can subsist on tomyam in one week, don’t you think so? Even nasi ayam is hard to find here. And it took me three months to find roti canai (in the Jeli town). 
When I was still living in my hometown, I rarely ate fast food. Maybe once a month, once a week was the most often I guess. And there is no fast food joint here in Jeli. You know the old cliché that you never know what you have till it’s gone? That’s how it is with me now. I’ll be sitting at home doing nothing, then I’d get hungry, and ask myself “What am I going to eat?” Then Bam! I’d get a hankering for some Jewish goodness and shed a single hungry, manly tear because the nearest fast food, a Pizza Hut and a KFC is in Tanah Merah. If I am really desperate I’ll hop into my car and drive all the way there, if not I’ll just find some nasi campur, and hum ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ to myself while eating.
At least I can still find fast food if I’m up for a long drive. If my stomach suddenly acts up by reminding me of Bubba Gump or Friday’s, maaaannnn it’s gonna be a long and lonely night. I’d have to literally placate it. “There, there, Papa’ll take you to dinner there when we go balik kampung, okay sweetie? Now finish up this nasi”. And when I do go back to my hometown, oh it’s balas dendam mode indeed. There was this time back home, I ate everything I saw, not necessarily out of hunger, but out of the idea that I didn’t want to miss them when I’m back in Jeli, and later I had to drive back to Jeli with a stomach ache. Whoops.
I am a picky eater in the way that I don’t like to eat the same things too often, I guess, and it got to a point where I only ate proper meals once a day, especially when I didn’t have a fridge to keep easy-to-cook perishable food items like patties and fries. It also got to a point where I lost a lot of weight, and I wasn’t a big guy in any way to begin with. Friends back home would ask why I was so thin when I saw them, even one of my aunts was so worried that she even called me on the phone once just to remind me to eat more regularly.
But if you are concerned about me, don’t. I appreciate it, but don’t rush to the post office with a care package just yet. I have a fridge now, so I can cook if I don’t feel like eating out, and I am eating more regularly. 
That’s about it for now, I’ll write again sometime soon. I hope you guys are doing well, and also eating well. Think of me when you’re eating that steak and drinking that Long Island Tea. Cheers!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Provincial Life

Hello there fellow readers. It’s been awhile. Been preoccupied with work and stuff. So today I want to share with you what Jeli is about. I mean the title of this blog has the name Jeli in it, but I rarely talk about Jeli and prefer to yak about my personal experience instead. Ah, the ‘Me’ syndrome. The curse of today’s younger generation, yours truly included. So today I want to write about the places in Jeli, where to get the basic necessities, pay for bills and the likes. I know, I know, all this information can be easily googled up within seconds, but do you know of another of our generation’s syndrome? The reluctance to google information up while on the net. So shut up and bear with me, you whino.

Simply put, the populated areas, and the places I frequent in my daily routines in the district of Jeli lies alongside the Jeli – Gerik road. I am starting my directions from Gerik because whenever I go back to Jeli from my hometown, I prefer taking the PLUS highway, exiting the highway at the Kuala Kangsar exit, and from there straight on to Gerik. I would suggest taking the same route if you are interested in visiting Jeli, or Kelantan for that matter. Driving along PLUS is breezy, and the traffic on the subsequent federal roads is not awfully heavy. The alternative route through Temerloh – Kuala Lipis – Gua Musang is too taxing for my liking with the narrow winding roads, busy traffic, and you will spend a lot of time having to travel behind slow-moving lorries without being able to overtake them safely. Starting from the town of Gerik in Perak, travel east along the road, crossing over the lake of Belum, and the Titiwangsa range (a really picturesque drive too, if I may add) for about two hours before entering the district of Jeli and essentially the state of Kelantan. Then if you were to continue along the road for about 30km, you will get to a T-junction with the right turn taking you to the Jeli town. Now this is where the action is, so to speak. There’s the Jeli district police headquarters (IPD), the Jeli hospital, bus station, district council, Petronas (which also moonlights as the local supermarket of sorts), Shell, Muamalat and Agro banks, post office, grocery stores, keymaker’s and the other places you frequent for your basic needs. Whereas for me, I rarely go into the Jeli town myself as I can do most of these things in my neighbourhood and it is a little out of my way.

But back onto the Jeli – Gerik road. The town is only a small part of the district, and as I’ve mentioned, one that I rarely frequent at that. Keep travelling east for another 5km or so, and you will find the Jeli campus of Universiti Malaysia Kelantan on your right. Hard to miss. This is one of the three campuses of this university, with the other two in Kota Bharu and Bachok. And just a little further down the road is the Jeli Inn and R&R, on both sides of the road where I also send my laundry. The laundry’s service is quite good, in that if I send my clothes before 11am, I might be able to get them back on the same day, on my way back from work in the evening. And there are also some food stalls and grocers at the R&R, which I stop by from time to time for cigarettes, and also to chat with the really friendly dude who mans the counter. I wish more shopkeepers are as friendly as he is. And just beyond the R&R is the Jeli MRSM.

If you go further on, you will see the many kampungs lining the sides of the road; I only remember the names of Kg Gemang and Kg Dabong. After about 5 more km, you will see on your left a relatively big hardware store; Mustapha dan Anak-anak, owned by a rather financially successful Jeli clan with other business interests as well. In fact, one of their younger family members is my former boarding school mate and he and his father were the ones who helped me get in touch with my current landlord when I first got here, and for that I am grateful. It’s quite amusing to note that that friend of mine has been away from Jeli since he was 13 and now works in Klang Valley whereas I have moved the opposite direction. And a few hundred metres down the road is a rather innocuous looking river with a rather sinister name; Sg Satan. I assure you, there’s nothing sinister looking about this narrow river, but for some strange reason I keep picturing a bunch of black-metal fans turning up here from time to time for their pilgrimage, and Harian Metro, Mastika and Bacaria reporters surreptitiously following not too far behind. I haven’t encountered any dismembered black goat carcasses, though. At least not yet.

One of the biggest kampungs in the area; Kg Ayer Lanas lies one kilometre down the road, to its right. Here you will find a Pasar Tani right by the junction, a few more grocery shops further inside the neighbourhood, with one being owned by the aforementioned Mustapha clan, another post office and a police station. If you continue east along the road, you will find the neighbouring town of Bukit Bunga (5 km from Ayer Lanas), then a junction (20 km) that takes you to the border towns of Rantau Panjang and Golok which is also the shorter route to Kota Bharu from Jeli. The town of Tanah Merah lies 30 km down the road.

That’s about all there is with the places in Jeli that I frequent almost daily. You can find what you need if you know where to look, and I am a man of simple tastes. I mean I don’t even have a TV. Although it bothers me that I still haven’t found a mechanic nearby. One of my worst nightmares? My car breaking down. So hit me up when you’re in town or just passing by. I’ll show you around the place.