“Panda Ambassadors” in Malaysia

LAST MONTH, TWO giant pandas from China arrived in Malaysia and made the National Zoo their new home (see article “Pandas arrive in Zoo Negara).

The furry pair, Fu Wa (male) and Feng Yi (female) are on a 10-year loan to the country to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China – Malaysia this year. They are expected to be renamed soon. [On June 25th, the PM renamed the pair Xing Xing (Prosperity) and Liang Liang (Pretty)]

Treated as its national  treasures, China has extended this “panda diplomacy” to other countries, including the United States, which received its first panda pair back in 1972 after President Nixon’s historic visit to China. The  giant pandas were placed in the National Zoo in Washington DC; the female Ling-Ling lived till 1992 while the male Hsing-Hsing died in November 1999. I recall my sister and niece visited us in DC that November and we’d gone to the National Zoo but didn’t get to see Hsing Hsing who was already sick at that time.  He was eventually euthanised on 28th November 1999. The pair had bore 5 cubs but none survived.

My first encounter with the black and white endangered species was in their homeland of Chengdu, Sichuan province, China with my parents in 1996; and subsequently in Hong Kong’s Ocean Park between 2009-2010.

First encounter with pandas in Chengdu, Sichuan, which has a Panda Breeding Research Center. Besides Sichuan, pandas are also found in Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. 

First encounter with pandas in Chengdu, Sichuan, which has a Panda Breeding Research Center. Besides Sichuan, pandas are also found in Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

One of Big M’s numerous encounters with pandas in Ocean Park, Hong Kong, between 2009 and 2010. (19 Oct 2009)

One of Big M’s numerous encounters with pandas in Ocean Park, Hong Kong, between 2009 and 2010. (19 Oct 2009)

Little Em’s first encounter with a panda… ok, she knows it’s not a real one. (8 Jun 2010)

Little Em’s first encounter with a panda… ok, she knows it’s not a real one. (8 Jun 2010)

Where are the pandas? Oh a mere panda mascot and panda soft toys.

Where are the pandas? Oh a mere panda mascot and panda soft toys.

Finally! Arrived at the “Giant Panda Adventure” and Little Em fell asleep! But the furry bear was too great to miss, so I woke her up to see the real thing.

Finally! Arrived at the “Giant Panda Adventure” and Little Em fell asleep! But the furry bear was too great to miss, so I woke her up to see the real thing. (8 Jun 2010)

Paid the pandas another visit in the same month in Ocean Park. (30 Jun 2010)

Paid the pandas another visit in the same month in Ocean Park. (30 Jun 2010)

The girls’ prior visit to Ocean Park in January 2010.

The girls’ prior visit to Ocean Park in January 2010.

And here's a panda in Ghana! “Pandy” which Little Em brought home from HK, had travelled with us, nicely tucked away in her handbag, to our new home in Accra. (April 2014)

And here’s a panda in Ghana! “Pandy” which Little Em brought home from HK, had travelled with us, nicely tucked away in her handbag, to our new home in Accra. (April 2014)

 

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In Memory of Friends

EVERY TIME I look at old photographs of friends/acquaintances/colleagues, I often wonder where they are and what they are doing now.

Thanks to the internet and social media, I have been able to find some online, read updates about them and also re-connect with a few.

In my recent search for acquaintances of CWA whom I made while in Washington DC more than a decade ago, I learnt sadly that two had passed on.

Mrs. Sharon Arneaud was the wife of the former Ambassador of Trinidad & Tobago to the US. Online news reported that she was involved in a boating accident while on vacation on Gasparee Island back home on 19th September 2009. She was 64. I have had some privileged moments with Sharon who was the CWA President in 2000 and I was involved in the committee as the membership secretary.

Lady Sheila Butler was the wife of the former Ambassador of Bahamas to the US. She passed away due to illness on 20th August 2013. She was 69.

May they rest in peace.

(LEFT photo) CWA Meeting on 14 Sep 1999 hosted at the Australian Residence… (L-R) Datin Kamilah Abdullah of Brunei; Mrs Kathy Harrington of Australia and Lady Sheila of Bahamas; (RIGHT photo) CWA Bazaar on 30 October 1999 held at the New Zealand Embassy… (L-R) Lady Gloria Blackman of Barbados, Mrs Joanna Masirewa of Fiji, Mrs Margaret Bernal of Jamaica, Mrs Sharon Arneaud and Lady Sheila Butler.

(LEFT photo) CWA Meeting on 14 Sep 1999 hosted at the Australian Residence… (L-R) Datin Kamilah Abdullah of Brunei; Mrs Kathy Harrington of Australia and Lady Sheila of Bahamas; (RIGHT photo) CWA Bazaar on 30 October 1999 held at the New Zealand Embassy… (L-R) Lady Gloria Blackman of Barbados, Mrs Joanna Masirewa of Fiji, Mrs Margaret Bernal of Jamaica, Mrs Sharon Arneaud and Lady Sheila Butler.

(LEFT photo) CWA Meeting on 24 Oct 2000 hosted by Bangladesh Ambassador’s wife Mrs Khaleda Shehabuddin at her Residence… (L-R) Mrs Wendy Bockhorst-Heng of Singapore, Mrs Khaleda, Mrs Sharon Arneaud and Mrs Yvonne Saliba of Malta; (RIGHT photo) A farewell lunch on 11 Nov 2000 hosted by Mrs Sharon Arneaud at her Residence for Lady Gloria Blackman… (L-R) Mrs Margaret Bernal of Jamaica, a guest, the hostess Sharon, a guest with her grandchild, another guest, Lady Gloria and Mrs Joanie Barclay of New Zealand.

CWA Meeting on 7 Nov 2000 hosted by Australian Ambassador’s wife Mrs Deborah Thawley at her Residence … (LEFT photo, L-R) The hostess Deborah, Mrs Louisette Mendouga of Cameroon holding Baby M, a guest and Mrs Sharon Arneaud.

CWA Meeting on 12 Dec 2000 hosted by Malta Ambassador’s wife, Mrs Yvonne Saliba at her Residence. This was my final meeting with Sharon, seen here holding Baby M.

CWA Meeting on 12 Dec 2000 hosted by Malta Ambassador’s wife, Mrs Yvonne Saliba at her Residence. This was my final meeting with Sharon, seen here holding Baby M.

JFK’s Passing… 50 Years Later

TODAY MARKS THE 50th anniversary of the death of US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Popularly known as JFK, he served as the 35th President from January 1961 till 22nd November 1963 when he was fatally shot in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas, with his wife Jacqueline beside him. He was 46. A state funeral was held in Washington DC on 25th November and he was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Visited the gravesite of JFK in Arlington National Cemetery, VA on 10 Sept 1999 (the only other US President buried there is William Howard Taft who died in 1930). At the head of the grave is the Eternal Flame which was created at the proposal of Mrs. Kennedy. She was buried next to him in 1994.

Visited the gravesite of JFK in Arlington National Cemetery, VA on 10 Sept 1999 (the only other US President buried there is William Howard Taft who died in 1930). At the head of the grave is the Eternal Flame which was created at the proposal of Mrs. Kennedy. She was buried next to him in 1994.

JFK’s famous quote is also immortalised here: “And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” Visible from here is the Washington Monument.

JFK’s famous quote is also immortalised here: “And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” Visible from here is the Washington Monument.

Related Post: A Visit To The Cemetery (link)

Iwo Jima and Tugu Negara

WHEN I FIRST saw the Iwo Jima War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia 1998, it instantly reminded me of our own Tugu Negara (National Monument). Little wonder, because I learnt later that both the monuments were done by the same sculptor, Felix de Weldon, an Austrian.

Officially known as the Marine Corps War Memorial, the monument of five US Marines raising a flag was sculpted in 1954 based on a photograph taken by American photographer Joe Rosenthal on 23rd February 1945 during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. The photograph named “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in that year of 1945.

When Malaysia’s first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman visited the US in 1960, he was reportedly inspired by the Iwo Jima War Memorial and met with Felix to design a similar monument. Our National Monument was officially unveiled on 8th February 1966. The bronze monument depicts a group of soldiers with one holding the Malaysian flag, to commemorate our fallen soldiers during the Japanese occupation in WWII and the Malayan Emergency.

(L) My first visit to the Iwo Jima War Memorial in Arlington VA which was just a short drive from our home then, 7 Jun 1998; (R) With relatives on 16 April 2000.

(L) My first visit to the Iwo Jima War Memorial in Arlington VA which was just a short drive from our home then, 7 Jun 1998; (R) With relatives on 16 April 2000.

It is here that one gets the best spot to see three of Washington’s landmarks together – Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and Capitol Hill. (16 April 2000)

A zoomed-in view of the three landmarks together. (16 April 2000)

We brought our daughter there on 18 Nov 2000 for a picture, because I had one taken at our own Tugu Negara as a child.

We brought our daughter there on 18 Nov 2000 for a picture, because I had one taken at our own Tugu Negara as a child.

Family at Tugu Negara, 15 October 1969.

Family at Tugu Negara, 15 October 1969.

Re-visited the National Monument with delegates of the “Youths For Peace” conference, organised by University of Malaya in 1990… (L) Group picture with the delegates; (R) With Cambodia’s delegate Marina. (3 Jun 1990)

Re-visited the National Monument with delegates of the “Youths For Peace” conference, organised by University of Malaya in 1990… (L) Group picture with the delegates; (R) With Cambodia’s delegate Marina. (3 Jun 1990)

Fall in DC

AS MUCH AS I love winter and snow, generally there wasn’t much snow in Washington DC to gloat about (unlike in Moscow, Russia), except when a snowstorm hit DC (link) on 9th March 1999 and 25th January 2000.

So the next best season for me when in DC was fall and its foliage. The vibrant change of leaf colours – to shades of yellow, orange and even bright red – was a sight to behold. The transformation typically occurs towards the end of October into November.

Shenandoah National Park (link) in Virginia is a scenic place to view the fall foliage, but closer to home – a short drive around DC and VA – there were ample places to experience the wonders, splendors and colours of nature.

Rock Creek Park in Washington DC, 1 Nov 1998.

Rock Creek Park in Washington DC, 1 Nov 1998.

Rock Creek Park, DC with family on 13 Nov 1999 and 2 Nov 2000.

Rock Creek Park, DC with family on 13 Nov 1999 and 2 Nov 2000.

(L) Rock Creek Park, DC on 13 Nov 1999; (R) A bright red tree spotted near Potomac Mills, Woodbridge, VA in Nov 1999.

(L) Rock Creek Park, DC on 13 Nov 1999; (R) A bright red tree spotted near Potomac Mills, Woodbridge, VA in Nov 1999.

Outside a friend’s home in McLean, Virginia, 27 Oct 1999.

Outside a friend’s home in McLean, Virginia, 27 Oct 1999.

(Top) A place close to home in Arlington, Virginia, 1 Nov 1999; (Bottom) At the same site, with the snow thawing, 26 Jan 2000.

Our final fall at the National Mall, Washington DC, 3 Nov 2000.

Come to think of it, spring in DC with its cherry blossoms (link) was nice too 🙂