Saturday, July 29, 2017

Short Social Fiction: Adventures of Tupi 6

(Day 23)

The time Tupi spent in Bali is finally coming to an end. Tupi met many new friends and visited a lot of different areas in Bali. Christopher is one of his new friends. Christopher has been volunteering for many organizations, and most of them in constructing and building for marginalized communities.

"So Christopher, since you have been to so many trips before, is this trip considered normal?" Tupi asked.

"What do you mean?" Christopher asked.

"You know, this feels like a tour. We did not even do much in the village..." 

"Well, we paid for the filter, taught the kids English. Without us, they would not have clean water."

"Why were we here for 10 days when it took 2 days for the water tower to be built. Will it even last long?" 

"Well, we did pay for contractors to come prepare the location before we come, that is why things are much faster. Sometime we have to do most of the work. I think the water tower and filter looks good. Anyway, we are not the one using, so why bother?"

Tupi paused for a while and said "Why does it feel like a tour?"

"I don't think people who come want to suffer. It has to be enjoyable and since we are in the country, why not sight see and learn more about the community?"

Christopher was right. It was an enjoyable vacation, and certainly Tupi did not sign up to suffer. Everything was paid for, and although the bulk of the money went to visiting the various sites and possibly accommodations and meals, there would not be a water filter if it were not for the group.

"I think this is kind of fun." Tupi said. "I'd like to do more, and Christopher, if you have some that are more challenging, please call me, maybe I'd like to come along as well."

They arrived at the airport and it was a rather uneventful flight back. Tupi smiled, he has done something good and it felt good.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Short Social Fiction: Adventures of Tupi 5

(Day 15)

After the drinking and party the night before, the group met up for breakfast again and left for the village. Everyone looked tired and the bus ride to the village was quiet. Some of the volunteers had to run classes for the students and Tupi went to the water tank. The contractors were already fitting the pipes and within the hour, the water tank was starting to be filled up.

Tupi helped with the installation of the filters and was impressed that the filters seemed relatively well made. As they put up the filters and run the pipes through, there was a cracking sound and the cement base of the water tank started to crack.

"Is this normal?" Tupi asked.

"Don't worry, we will put another layer..." One of the construction worker said.

"Isn't this the foundation?" Tupi asked.

"This is just top... its ok..." The man said.

The construction workers connected the pipes to the filters and the filters were active. The first bit of water was allowed to flow out and Tupi could already see the clear water and was very excited that he contributed to this.

The construction workers then added another layer of cement to cover the cracks. Tupi was a little concerned that they were covering up the proof of an unstable base but from years of corporate training, speaking up was something he suppressed to stay in corporate Singapore. 


After allowing the water to run through the pipes for 15 minutes, the guide came by and looked at the project and chatted with the workers. Tupi sat under the tree and enjoyed the breeze. Soon it was lunch time and everyone given a glass of filtered water. Tupi felt accomplished as the water was clear and free from smells. 

The bell rang and the school had the recess and all the kids came out and ran to meet everyone at the water filter. The kids queued up to drink and they seemed very satisfied with the water and the ecstacy on their faces when they drank the water was indeed priceless. This moment made the whole trip worth it. 

Tupi took out his camera and took some photos of the new filter and the children in the school. Michael came by and took a photo of a kid bring Tupi a cup of water. The task was over -- mission complete. 

Over the next few hours, the group visited the popular tourist spots and they had a nice seafood dinner. When Tupi returned to his bed late night, he was tired but happy. He felt he has accomplished something and this experience will stay with him forever.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Short Social Fiction: Adventures of Tupi 4

(Day 14)

Tupi got up the next morning feeling rather tired. Perhaps his enthusiasm has waned a little, Michael went and got his shower first while Tupi laid in bed feeling a little restless and unmotivated. His throat was dry and he needed to pee.

After Michael was done, Tupi went into the shower and cleaned himself. The water was hot for a while but it became cold again as the hot water tank ran out of hot water. It was uncomfortable but somehow Tupi did not care enough and continued his shower.

At breakfast, Tupi was rather quiet. Tupi did not attempt to make any small talk or get to know anyone. There was a large spread at the breakfast buffet -- there was a western part with potatoes, toast and eggs, and a Muslim side with coconut rice, fried fish, Otar, Ikan Billis (Fried Anchovies) and sambal sauce.


Tupi had Nasi Lemak for breakfast. The rice was perfectly made, with a strong fragrant of Pandan leaves and coconut milk, the sambal sauce was perfect, great texture and consistency, giving it the right kick. The right breakfast really did brighten the mood for Tupi. With a cup of bandung (Rose Syrup + Carnation Milk Drink ) Tupi felt ready to face his challenges for the day.

At 8:30am, the group leader gathered everyone as the chartered bus arrived brought them to the village. Along the road, there were power lines and electricity. The roads were relatively bumpy with potholes and there was no sidewalks. On the side of the road, some children were chasing chickens around and there were some bulls on the farms.

Tupi arrived at a primary school. It was about 9am, so all the kids were in class. The group was given a tour of the school, and it was not much different from Tupi's old school. This school has running water and electricity. As Tupi walked by the classes, the kids in neat school uniforms looked at him as he walked by. The school still uses the old projection monitor and transparencies. Tupi smiled as he remembered using that to do a presentation when he was in school.

"This school has over 400 kids." The guide said as they arrive at the central quadrangle in the school. "Most of them come from this village but some do take a bus from the surrounding villages to attend. We keep the class size to under 40 kids and we have very good teachers here."

"My class has 44 students when I was in school in Singapore" Tupi muttered. "They have better quality education here..."

"Your task today is to help put together this water tower. The water pump will pump water up and it will be filtered by these filters when you turn on the taps here." The guide said. "I don't need all of you here, some who want to so English lessons with the kids can join the story secession over there."

Tupi was ready for the water tower. As he went to the toilet, he saw the flushing water with a light tint. "They have water, but it is not clean..." Tupi said and there was suddenly a black out. Tupi went back to the ground and there were some people trying to start the generators at the back of the school. "Are blackouts common?" Tupi asked and one of the men cranking the generator nodded.

Tupi spent the day in the hot sun helping to erect the water tower. the foundation was already built by construction workers and several people were needed to help with the pulley system to put it up. As the tank was getting installed on top of the tower, the guide returned to explain how the water filter works.

"The water is pumped up to the main tanks. The main tank has a chlorine mixer to kill bacteria, and the water is then coming through the filters which have sand and rocks to filter out particles and eventually comes out these pipes." The guide explains while everyone nodded.

Tupi looked at the finished water filter system. The tank on top was very big and the filter tank was much smaller. The cement base looks like just a thin layer of cement and there was already a slight depression when the water tank was installed, even before the water was in the tank.

"Is this structure stable?" Tupi asked the guide.

"Not complete yet. We need to put another layer and finish up before we put water." The guide said and Tupi nodded.

The group washed up. There was several clean towels, clean water and refreshments for everyone. "Have you built something like this before?" Tupi asked another volunteer beside him.

"Yup, been to a few trips... very meaningful." The man said.

"So this is pretty much it?" Tupi asked. "The tower is up... I mean they finish off something else, but our part is done?"

"Yup, great job guys..." The man said.

Tupi expected a lot more. The whole activity was underwhelming. There were contractors building for the most part and all he did was to erect the structure.

The school was surrounded by a lush rain forest. The sunlight filtering through the leaves make interesting patterns on the ground and the cool breeze blowing on Tupi's face is very relaxing. Tupi's whiskers twitched as he closed his eyes and enjoyed the moment. He felt calm, relaxed and away from all the previous job stress he had, then again, he is currently unemployed.

Just sitting under the tree was an experience Tupi had not felt for a long time, and he appreciated the much needed break. Then a familiar scent fills the air. It comes from the houses nearby and the sweet scent of coconut milk reminds him of the Nasi Lemak he ate for breakfast.


Nasi Lemak takes a long time to prepare. It may look like a simple dish, but to make good Nasi Lemak, it should be made with good ingredients, giving it good texture, color, flavor and quality.

The difference between a good Nasi Lemak and an exceptionally marvelous Nasi Lemak lies in the use of pandan leaves. It gives the whole dish a fragrant flavor which many restaurants can't even have nowadays.

The other main ingredient of nasi lemak is dried anchovies, also known as ikan bilis. These little salted fish are used in the sambal. As sambal is of the essence when making Nasi Lemak, a weak sambal or one that is too thick can easily spoil the dish.

Nasi Lemak (4 servings)

Ingredients for Coconut Rice:

2 cups coconut milk (in 2 separate cups)
2 cups water
2 Pandan leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 (1/2 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups long grain rice, rinsed and drained

1. Wash and drain rice.
2. Place rice, sugar, salt into rice cooker.
3. Add 1 cup of coconut milk and 2 cups of water and turn on the rice cooker.
4. Add the Pandan leaves and fresh ginger
5. When mixture is about to boil, add the remaining cup of coconut milk and stir.

Ingredients for Sambal Ikan Billis

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 shallots, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chili paste
1 tablespoon of belacan (prawn paste)
1 (4 ounce) package white anchovies (Ikan Billis), washed salt to taste
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup tamarind juice
1 cup raw peanuts


1. Blend shallots and garlic.
2. Fry anchovies in the oil in low heat until they turn golden brown. Strain and set aside.
3. Add some oil in wok and fry the belacan in low heat until it releases flavor.
4. Add chili paste and sliced onion to fry -- stir well.
5. Add in the fried anchovies and stir.
6. Add  tamarind juice
7. Season with salt and sugar.
8. Fry up the raw peanuts, coat them in oil and fry them till they are golden brown.
9. You can add then to the sambal ikan billis or served them separate on the side.

Other Ingredients:

4 eggs
1 cucumber
4 Ikan Kuning (Nasi Lemak Fish)


1. Fry up with eggs sunny side up.
2. Deep fry the fish until it is golden brown and crispy.
2. Slice up the cucumber

Plate the rice, put the sambal ikan billis on the side and add the fried egg and fried fish along with cucumber.

It is also common to add a fried chicken, fried hot dogs and fried luncheon meat on the side.