#AtoZChallenge: P

pomelo1P is for Pomelo.

It’s been a while since I had pomelo. A whole fruit is waiting for me at a friend’s place and I am actually excited!

When I was little, the highlight of having pomelo was the hat my father made out of the skin. I would wear it for maybe one minute, but the fun was anticipating the hat!



#AtoZChallenge: O



O is for Orange.

If you want to know some trivia about me, the only way I can stand to ingest an orange is as an orange, i.e. the fruit. I despise orange-flavoured anything, be it cake or chocolate or milk. I can’t even stand drinking fresh orange juice.

I do like the colour orange though.

oranges3And Oranges by John McPhee is the most wonderful book about oranges and other citrus fruit.

It’s full of the most fascinating information you didn’t know you wanted to know about oranges. I still have not got over the fact that …

Citrus does not come true from seed. What this means is: If you plant an orange seed, a grapefruit might come up. If you plant a seed of that grapefruit, you might get a bitter lemon. To get oranges, specifically, you have to graft the orange to the rootstock of some other citrus tree. Sweet Florida oranges are grown primarily from bitter orange and sour lemon root.

oranges2When I was growing up, my mother used to buy green-skinned oranges and I wonder why I don’t see them anymore. Have we stopped importing them? I believe the variety we used to get was from Thailand. I preferred them to the Mandarins we eat during the Chinese new year, or the thick-skinned Californian oranges1variety that Malaysians tend to eat quartered, tearing the flesh off the skin with our teeth. Malaysians call these thick-skinned oranges Sunkist because this was the company Malaysia used to import them from. It’s like people (of a certain age?) calling all hot tubs Jacuzzis and all toothpastes Colgate.


#AtoZChallenge: N

N is for Nun.

Apart from being Roman Catholic (lapsed in faith, but culturally, still pretty much), I attended two convent schools, from age five to seventeen, so I am very familiar with nuns.


I loved the nuns at the two schools (Canossian Convent and the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus). They were kind to us — so different from the nuns who taught my friends in Ireland and England. My friends have only bad experiences and I wonder why the stark contrast in conduct. Even our most feared nun, the Reverend Mother Wihelmina [above] at Canossian Convent, was simply stern and strict, but never mean and cruel, unlike those known to my friends.

And yes, I wanted to be a nun, before I knew about vocation, and chastity, poverty and obedience. Well, chastity and poverty don’t look too impossible, but I could never be obedient!

I am still drawn to the idea of a cloistered life. The routine and silence attract me, probably because my life can be noisy and chaotic. And I have always liked uniforms. They make life much easier. However, in reality, I am much too lazy and selfish to be a good nun. And I like talking way too much to be a nun in a contemplative order that observes hours and hours of silence and prayer.

I love books (fiction and non-fiction) about nuns and I am working on a novel in which the protagonist thinks she might take the veil. These are my favourite nun novels:


I even have a nun doll. Here she is on one of my bookshelves. My kids don’t like her, but I love Mother Superior John Clare.



#AtoZChallenge: M

M is for Motherhood.

Being a mother is complicated. Not every mother feels the same about being a mother. Not every woman becomes a mother for the same reasons or undergoes the same process/journey to arrive at motherhood.

I can only speak for myself when I say I feel ambivalent about being a mother and that I had children for several bad reasons, which I won’t go into as they hardly matter now, after the fact.

Regrets? I don’t believe in them if it means dwelling on what ifs and feeling sorry for oneself, but I don’t mind saying that I do not find motherhood at all easy. Of course there are things about it that I have enjoyed and do enjoy, but there a great many days when I think quite seriously about chucking in the whole thing and just disappearing.

Of course, as I am (essentially), the sensible, responsible type, I won’t disappear. I will grin and bear it because I chose it. And it will be OK. It will be.



#AtoZChallenge: L


L is for Li or Lee.

That’s my surname. The Chinese character is  李 and it’s also a common family name in Korea (Lee, Yi, or Rhee) and Vietnam (Ly).

It was apparently derived from ‘Dali‘, or ‘great judge’, the title for the Minister of Law during the Xia dynasty. At that point the character used for the name was 理, and it’s unclear when it changed to 李.

There is a popular tale that when Li Zheng (理征), a minister of the late Shang dynasty, was wrongly executed by the emperor, his widow and son fled and survived their exile by eating plums. Thus, the son, in remembrance of the ordeal and gratitude to the fruit, changed the way his family name was written to 李, which means ‘plum’ or ‘plum tree’ and is a homophone of the original character for the name, 理. (理 means rationality, reason, judge and truth, which I rather prefer to plum or plum tree.)

Apparently, there are other Li or Lee surnames in China that are not the Li/Lee that is my name. Here is the whole list:

  • Lǐ 李 (3rd tone), the 2nd most common surname in China, shared by 100 million people worldwide. The character also means “plum”. Commonly spelled as Lee in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and overseas Chinese communities. In Vietnam, it is spelled as “Lý”.
  • Lǐ 理 (3rd tone), the original form of Lǐ 李, now rare. The character also means “reason” or “judge”.
  • Lí 黎 (2nd tone), the 84th most common surname in China. “Lai” or “Lye” in Cantonese. The character also means “dark”.
  • Lì 栗 (4th tone), the 249th most common surname in China. “Leut” in Cantonese. The character also means “chestnut”.
  • Lì 利 (4th tone), the 299th most common surname in China. The character also means “sharp”, “benefit”, “profit”, or “interest”.
  • Lì 厲/厉 (4th tone). “Lai” in Cantonese. The character also means “strict” or “severe”.
  • Lì 酈/郦 (4th tone). “Lik” in Cantonese. The character is exclusively used in proper names and has no other meaning.
  • Lì 莉 (4th tone), a rare surname of the Hui people. The character also means “jasmine”.

You can learn more about the Chinese surname 李 at its wiki page.