Mung Beans for Breakfast: An Impetus to Eating Well

This childhood-inspired dish refocuses Mung beans as the star of the dish and ditches other interrupting tapioca and colorful jellies. More importantly, it silences the artificially amplified sweetness, shifting it from a high glycemic-index desert to a healthful morning fuel.  As a result of sharing this thought,  I hope that this recipe can inspire you to look past sugar and sweetness as the only way to satiate your cravings and view food ingredients for what they truly are to experience the joy of eating and elevate your appreciation for the raw ingredients we have available to us. After all, we are nothing without them.

For the past month or so, oatmeal has been my go-to for breakfast. Using oat as the star of the dish, I dress and  mingle it with different ingredients such as coconut oil, avocado, almonds, Chia seeds, Goji berries, blueberries to give myself what I deem to be nutritious and flavorful to my taste without relying on maple syrup or sugar as a carrot on a stick to make myself look forward to breakfast. However, just as how you cannot eat egg and toast every morning, the recipe can lose its luster over time despite all its conspicuous health benefits. For this reason, I have been exploring new ingredients to excite my morning and simultaneously prime my body and mind for the day ahead. One of these is Mung bean.

If you are anything like me: come from an Asian heritage, conditioned to view ingredients or certain foods to be cooked in certain ways and eaten only at a certain time of the day as a way to pay your food and body respect, you have probably only used Mung beans (sprout form) in noodle soup or eaten them post-dinner to calm your sweet tooth before wrapping up the night. This new breakfast idea can give you an “aha!” revelation.

This recipe is so simple to make with so few ingredients that I encourage you to try it out for yourself. You only need Mung beans, vanilla extract, and raw honey to start with.

1. First, boil water in a pot.

2. Add in your store-bought Mung beans. Cook until beans are softened; you can prod around with a spoon to gauge the texture. Take note of the water level as you are cooking. Add some water to the pot to avoid burning the beans. Once you have your Mung beans cooked into a consistency to your liking, you can set the pot aside and let cool for a few minutes.

3. Drop in a few droplets of vanilla extract and a few tablespoons of raw honey and stir until honey is all dissolved.

5. (Optional) Finally, add and subtract spices to flavor that suits you. Spices I like to include are: cinnamon, cacao powder, and cardamon. Sometimes, I also include a squeeze of orange, Goji berries, and shredded coconuts.

6. Enjoy as a new breakfast.

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Figure 1.  Mung Beans and Azuki Beans breakfast

If you’d like to be creative with it, you can also cook Mung beans along with Azuki beans as shown above. If you choose to combine the two, I recommend cooking Azuki beans 5 minutes prior to adding Mung beans as Azuki takes longer to cook.

 

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Christ Towers Jr. School: A Fundraising Campaign for Ugandan Rural Pupils

Your donations will fuel many projects around the school from as basic as increasing hygiene around the campus to cultivating next generation leaders, giving every child a chance to lift himself/herself and those around out of poverty. Richard and Sylvia Kent’s efforts have proverbially (and to some extent literally) given local children “a shot at life”. You can help uphold this spirit in the distant, and I encourage you to do so.
For more information and to donate: https://www.givinggrid.com/zjlcnv/

If you believe in doing good, I’d like you to center your attention on this short post of mine. Yes, I am asking for money; I am asking you for donations that will result in the greater good for Ugandan children.

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Figure 1. School ground-1 (before)
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Figure 2. School ground-2 (before)

Promised to be a sustainable ground for physical and cognitive development, Christ Towers Junior School (CTJS) strives to supplement its pupils with education and food at low-cost to realize its vision: “A rural population fully empowered, reformed and liberated from the ills of poverty and illiteracy through education.”

It all began with Richard and Sylvia Kent, both of whom started Christ Towers Juniors School (CTJS) as a day care center that aimed to support local women of shopkeepers and farmers. Due to its success, demand, and support by the local women, CTJS has expanded to include primary education in addition to its nursery.

Having survived its infancy in the past four years and graduated 184 children, CTJS is now ready to take on more responsibilities; it has recently transitioned from a non-profit to a small company in its attempt to expand further in order to accommodate more local children. Some of anticipated challenges are:

  1. The biggest challenge ahead of us is the high increasing student population realized annually, mainly caused by parents who keep expressing willingness to leave their children with us to continue educating them until primary seven level.
  2. Lack of enough space to accommodate all the admitted children and Lack of enough playing space and suitable scholastic materials for all children.
  3. Having limited number of school requirements and failure to meet the costs of maintaining enough members of the Teaching and support staff.
  4. High costs experienced in renting the school buildings, purchasing welfare items for the children plus cost of necessary utilities and other related charges.
  5. Lack of Medical Care Unit and Nurse who keeps checking on children daily health status, prevention of diseases and attending common emergency health problems.
  6. Lack of transport vehicles to fetch and return children from distance areas.

Your donations will fuel many projects around the school from as basic as increasing hygiene around the campus to cultivating next generation leaders, giving every child a chance to lift himself/herself and those around out of poverty. Richard and Sylvia Kent’s efforts have proverbially (and to some extent literally) given local children “a shot at life”. You can help uphold this spirit in the distant, and I encourage you to do so.
For more information and to donate: https://www.givinggrid.com/zjlcnv/

Disclaimer: there are not any crowdfunding websites that participate in Uganda at the time of this writing. As the volunteer and manager of this fundraising campaign, I will see to its end. The amount collected will be first deposited to my bank account, after which will be transferred directly to bank account of Christ Towers Jr.’s account. Hence, your donation will not qualify for tax-deductible. 

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Figure 3. School ground-1 (present day)
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Figure 4. School ground-2 (present day)

Baking: An Excuse to Write

However richer and tastier butter can embellish a dish, the thought of unnecessarily ingesting extra fat turns my stomach. Surely, this American favorite also comes with vitamin E and A. Nevertheless, unless I am able to find a type of butter whose food label is more honest than “Natural Flavors” or to afford the premium quality butter whose source comes from a grass-fed cow, it doesn’t seem like I can be convinced to voluntarily stock this ingredient inside my fridge. This is why I was excited when I finally came across a banana bread recipe that ditches the butter while locking fingers with my all-time favorite flavor in the form of flour: coconut flour.

I found the recipe on this website:
https://detoxinista.com/best-ever-coconut-flour-banana-bread/
But I didn’t follow the instructions to the tee; kitchen is the only place I can conduct chemistry without having to rely on class A glass wares and more importantly, one should be free to just mix and stir inside one’s own kitchen. Moreover, I decided to add in a few ingredients to venture a little. Altogether, please put your hands for “Banana Coconut Bread Ginger Bread”.

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Figure 1. Ingredients;  ginger and sesame (not included)

In the end, I got what I cooked. The aroma of vanilla and coconut permeated the kitchen. The sweetness of banana and cinnamon grappling with the piquancy of ginger for dominance reached a deadlock that had to be resolved by my craving, creating a satisfying taste from reconciling the opposing flavors. In the end, an attempt at this personalized Banana Coconut Ginger bread didn’t end in vain.

P.S. The flavor profile was exciting, but the consistency of the bread was still lacking. The bread was not as moist as a normal Banana bread; I might have put in a tad too much coconut flour.

Coincidence, or More?

In Fall 2016, while volunteering in a joint Primary and Middle school in northeastern Thailand, I turned to horoscope for some leisure reading and (honestly also for) some spiritual guidance. More importantly, I wanted to see how accurate the piece of writing reflected in my life so far as 2016 was no more than a quarter of a year away from ending. I remember going through synopsis of my birth sign and nodding to some claims while wishing some predictions had been true. My eyes then led me to my lucky numbers of 2016. It was a string of integers. I cannot recall what all the numbers were. However, “1” and “5” were among them and have left an impression on me until today.

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Figure 1. One of my favorite classes at Nonghoipang Witthaya School. They graduated in 2017 and moved on into high school.

As my final days at Nonghoibang Witthaya School drew to a close, a few endearing teachers whom I got to partner with handed me their school official football (soccer) jersey as a gift. I accepted with a bittersweet smile and started ruffling through the vinyl cover to throw on this new gear as a way to show how appreciative I was, not just of the gift, but also of our time together. And guess what…I was player “15”.

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Figure 2. Football (Soccer) jersey with my supposed lucky number. >.<

Sometimes, two events of this sort are just too coincidental to just label them as coincidence.

This past Friday on 032318, it happened that I had to stay late at work in order to read over a friend’s internship application personal statement. I didn’t finish until around 7:30 pm. Since I already lost then sunlight and had not made any solid plans for that evening, I decided to drop by Grocery Outlet for some food, continue on home, and cooked. As I took a turn opposite to the route I normally went on, I saw a figure standing in the divider of the traffic, waving. A few cars in front of me dismissed the hitchhiker. Thinking that the straightaway stretched for more than 2 miles and that it would not be troublesome for me assuming I was also going the same direction, I pulled over and gestured for the hitchhiker to come over.

Once the stranger in the gray hoody reached the passenger side of my car, I called for him to open the door. “Hey, where are you trying go?”, I asked. I didn’t get a word back apart from a blank stare. He then took a minute and tried his best to mutter “downtown”. I then realized this hitchhiker was not a common hitchhiker.
“Do you speak chinese?”
blank stare…
“Korean?”
blank stare…
“Japanese?”
Finally there was some life in him. And as soon as I told him I could speak a little Japanese. The man let out a deep relief; he felt he had been saved.

With my broken Japanese, I was able to make Masayuki-kun feel at ease and learn that he was trying to reach a Bart station to get to downtown San Francisco. Because there was not a convenient Bart station close to where I was heading. We worked out an agreement that he had to come with me to the supermarket first before I could drop him off at the station.

And then started my night as a Japanese hitchhiker rescuer. =)

My weekend did not end with just Masayuki-kun.

This morning, I felt the need to use the bathroom as I was finishing up work at Starbucks. There was no line for the bathroom. And out of the blue, I decided that I was just gonna hold it until I got to Trader Joe’s. I packed my stuff, felt accomplished for what I had completed this morning, and walked out the cafe. As I was pacing towards Trader Joe’s, an art shop caught my eye. Despite being in dire need of the bathroom, I took a detour and spent some time in the art shop. Unknowingly, browsing the shop erased the thought I had to urinate. I spent more than 10 minutes inside the shop, longer than what I had planned.

Finally, I made my way to Trader Joe’s. I still didn’t walk straight into the restroom as soon as I reached there. Instead, I picked up some spinach, frozen veggie burritos, a butternut squash, dilly-dallied around the aisles, and at the checkout, a bar of 72% dark chocolate. At that very moment, because there was a line of people ahead of me and I caught the word “Restroom” as my head turned rightward towards the the back end of the shop, I finally recalled I had to use the bathroom. And the biological urge to remove waste resumed. And it became urgent.

I paced towards the toilet. One bathroom was in use, and a man just came out of another. A woman behind me then kindly asked me if she could use it first. I made way for her. Soon after, a lady exited the occuppied room and held the door for me. I left her with a “thank you” and proceeded to take my turn. I did my business and as I reached for toilet paper to dry my hand, I saw a phone sitting right on top of the dispenser. what do you know.

And then started another rescue mission: phone and its owner reunification.

It was a rather interesting weekend for me as you can see. Getting off work late on a Friday night turned into a hangout with (and of course a rescue mission of) a foreign hitchhiker. Delaying my biological needs of the restroom turned into saving a woman from a trouble that could have costed her time, money, and emotion. As I am sitting writing this entry, I am still amazed at how the timing of each event put me in a position to make a decision that could have either costed people on the other side sizable distress or saved their day. Masayuki-kun told me that night that he had spent over 3 hours walking from the airport to get to Oyster Point (approx 5 miles apart), where he was waving for attention. The happiness in his attitude after realizing that he had finally received help at the setting sun made me feel pleased with myself for having pulled over for a stranger. The same goes to the reaction of the woman who left her phone inside the bathroom. I am glad to be in a position that allowed me to show others that humanity still exists. This is because I know that through this both Masayuki-kun and the woman will be enocouraged to do good for others whom they will encounter in the future, coincidentally.

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Figure 3. Gift from Masayuki. I told him I wanted to hike Mt. Fuji. Before he got on the train, he handed me this as a thank you gift.  It’s of Mt. Fuji. What another coincidence!

P.S. I am still hesitant to accept it as a coincidence in the case of meeting Masyuki-Kun. This was because, on top of everything that occurred that Friday, I sent Masayuki-Kun on Bart train using a Bart ticket that I had purchased months ago but remained unused, and wedged inside my phone case. But it could be anything. Everything happens for a reason.

If you are reading this, Masayuki, thank you for your Fuji yama handkerchief. I am glad I got your endorsement on In-N-Out burger.

 

An Inspirational Hackman

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Figure 1. Tuk-Tuk (n.) a chariot drawn by a motorbike.

When offered a chance to move up and become something more, some may not think twice and sign and date. However, at least for this 41 years old tuk-tuk taxi driver, Sophun Sam did not hesitate in his choosing when offered up-front the opportunity to supervise a Japanese restaurant with the opportunity of becoming more than just a branch Manager. He knows what he wants. And he’s willing to invest in driving customers from dawn to dusk instead.

I was puzzled as Sam told me while his friend, the person who made him the offer sitting 2 feet away, was speaking to his other Japanese friend.

When asked whether it was due to the pay differential, Sam admitted that ferrying customers might not earn him as much as overseeing a restaurant for his Japanese friend. On top of the pay–which could do his wife and children a great favor–a shop Manager may also be more stable as a day to day occupation and give his family a peace of mind with regard to the safety nature of his current work and might also safeguard him and his family against the negative societal views associated with being a Tuk-Tuk driver.

“Being a hackman is not an easy task. I need to be at my peak”, said Sam “otherwise, I would not be able to carry out my 12-15 hr work each day. Every morning, I wake up at 4am to jog around the round-about of the Central Market to freshen up for the day.” The moment his children have been dropped off at school, the chase begins.

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Figure 2. Sam Sophun, an over 10 years experienced Tuk Tuk driver in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

In Phnom Penh, it’s impossible to get the approximate counts of how many tuk-tuk taxi or motorbike taxi drivers there are. There is not an official census for this line of work. Any one who owns a tuk-tuk or a motorbike can become a makeshift taxi driver and start earning conveniently without having to register with any authority units. Union also does not exist; every man jumps on the opportunity to earn when he sees fit.

For Sam and others, getting passengers can also be a hit or miss. Sometimes, an overlooked wave by the passenger as they ride pass means a net for the next driver. Some can also be so focused on picking up the client that he would dismiss the red light and ease through the flowing wave of motorists to get to his client. I cringed as I saw this happening right before my eyes.

Luckily for Sam, with more than 10 years of riding experience, he has mastered the game. On top of picking up customers along the streets, Sam also has his own working website and Tripadvisor page to get him more traffic from out-country  visitors. According to Sam, ferrying foreign tourists and visitors can earn him a more promising fare; this comes in the form of tips earned by his charisma and easy-going nature, which are not much valued by local clients.

Some frequent visitors who have been chauffeured by Sam, apart from continually patronizing his service when visiting Cambodia, do not hesitate to lend a hand in getting him more business. For instance, his current website and tripadvisor account were all created for him by one of his regular customers from Sweden who he now casually refers to as friend. In fact, his Japanese friend whom I just mentioned is also a frequent foreign client of his. Sam has also been invited to accompany him to Laos.

This was probably the reason why Sam enjoys his work even though if his win and loss is up to the stroke of luck, I thought. The evolving friendships between him and his customers thrive on his ferrying and accompanying his customers to their destinations. And to throttle down might consequently downshift their friendships.

But finally, I got to hear Sam’s own explanation as to why he chose running a taxi instead of a restaurant for his friend.

“My children need me,” explained Sam, “I am making an investment in my children; I can still come home at the right time and be with my children if I choose to be a hack man. It is true that the costs of living are taxing on me. The primary cost is school tuition. Every three months, I have to stow $420 dollars for their tuition costs. Some of my driver companions have commented that I should put the money to a more practical use such as moving into a bigger space and enjoying the income with my family instead. But for me, I don’t care if our family merely ‘gets by’. I want my children to go to good schools. And I want to have time for my children especially when they are stuck on their homework. I want to be by them as they are growing. And when they are all grown up, they will have the confidence and the skills they obtained from their father to carry out their lives independently. I pull the weight by their side so they’ll know how to in their adulthood.”

God helps man who helps himself.
Keep fighting, Sophun!

Sam Sophun’s website:
http://tourphnompenh.com/
Sam Sophun’s tripadvisor:
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g293940-d11910971-Reviews-Sophun_Tuk_tuk_and_Van-Phnom_Penh.html

I Spent 25 Minutes, Standing Still, in A Mental Ward

This post is to capture what took place at another mental ward in Selangor, Malaysia that I also visited along with the one on which I wrote a blog. Read here. No pictures were taken at this second site because I deemed it moral not to do so.

My first impression of the ward was that it was aesthetically appealing and equipped with ample security systems to monitor and prevent the admittees from wandering off-site.

This second establishment that we visited (I, together with Mr. Tan and his wife) right off the bat earned our assumption as a better-off ward than the first one I had mentioned. Hence, I did not offer to do anything for the center. But just like the first center, I asked to be in the ward where the mentally impaired children were staying. And in there, I spent 25 minutes in complete stillness and silence.

Here are the events I quickly jotted down after my 25 minutes inside the ward, where the mentally impaired children were roaming freely:

One boy wouldn’t stop talking to himself. He was very impassioned in his speech. But he was talking to no one.

One girl came close to me such that there was only a few inches of space between us. She stared into my eyes and kept humming. She waved her arms left and right and slowly rested them on my forearm, and was seemingly curious who i was. She returned again and again.

Another boy sat upright against the wall and wouldn’t stop jerking against the wall. Thump! Thump! Thump! But no one knew what the reason behind his doing was and no one tried to stop him from possibly hurting his own back.

Two kids, one lying flat and dormant, another lying normal to him and rested his head on his stomach and rolling his entire body back and forth while blowing raspberry. The dormant boy stayed the way he was

One boy would not cease intruding on Mr Tan’s wife, taking hold of her arm, leading her to the back of the room. After once, Mr. Tan’s wife hesitated. After approaching her a few more times, she had no choice but to leave the room.

One kid, in shorts, shirtless, was walking about aimlessly. It does not take a genius to perceive the damages his underlying conditions have done to his mental state and bodily figure.

A few boys would every so often slip their hands into their pants and shorts and rub their genitals.

Some were able to communicate with the wardens and joined them in folding clothes.

Another boy would always be lingering around me. He looked the most unaffected; none of his facial or bodily figure was ravaged by any of developmental disorders that had others. He was so intrigued by my watch. When he pressed the buttons and the watch beeped, he gave it the attention of the world.

I later learned that this boy was autistic; he was one of the few that did not deserve to be amassed in such a space….This last boy  was one of the remarkable that could possibly gain his social and life skills to mingle with the rest of his generation.

Over a month after, I still think about his gleaming eyes when he stared at the watch with his undeterring excitement. It reminds me of how a learning process should be and how a pursuer for an answer should be as relentless and focused to the degree as that boy had displayed.

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Figure 1. the watch that fascinated the young boy in the ward.  Picture taken inside a coffee shop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After witnessing the ward and conditions of the admittees, I have a strong belief that things could definitely be done to improve the quality of life for each individual in there.

I spent 25 minutes in there, and although I am not diagnosed with any of mental disorders (hopefully never), I could feel my consciousness and will-to-live slowly being extorted from me just by standing in there. An already impaired mind, deprived of its own command of its actions and will, being trapped in such a place will only have its essence further unwilfully drained from it.

It’s true to acknowledge the void you have and seek help. This is most-often heard in relation to those feeling depressed. But from whom to seek is also a factor that could determine recovery or deterioration. In the case of this mental ward, it will do the patients more good by re-designing its care programs to make them more individualized or condition-oriented; a Down-syndrome child may need assistance round the clock in aspects of taking care of oneself and managing his/her hyperactivity, but this program may not be necessary for a child of autistic conditions. Instead, a program to teach him/her to become the master of his/her own concentration and the application of this special attention may be crucial in determining recovery or deterioration.

There is a popular euphemism that associates with mental conditions, in that they are a form of gifts. And it is true. Many famous figures including Albert Einstein and Issac Newton also lived with autism of one form or another. And they grew up to be remembered, but by having developed in the right conditions. In other words, although autism may be a gift, it needs the right set of hands to untie the ribbons to unwrap the true capacities that are trapped within.

Although autism may be a gift, it needs the right set of hands to untie the ribbons to unwrap the true capacities that are trapped within.

YS Charity Foundation: A Developmental Disability Center for Financially Challenged Families in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

Seeing the developmental disability centers was my motive to travel to Malaysia.

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Figure 1. My visit to the center with the help of my newly-made friend in Malaysia

With the help of a couchsurfing.com friend, Mr. Tan, I was able to visit two developmental disability centers in Petaling Jaya, and one of which I got a chance to help the center reach out its resources to those who may benefit.

YS Charity Foundation is a new establishment that had been opened for only 3 months at the time of my visit (Jan 2017) but was already caring for 10+ individuals.

The admittees at this center were diagnosed with various mental disorders: ADHD, autism, depression, and Down Syndrome just to name a few. And all of them come from families that were not capable of nursing them 24/7.

After getting to spend some time to learn about the patients, I made a promise to the overseer of the center to assist him and his team in fundraising and gathering help from medical professionals by a  video about his center. Within my one hour visit, I called on the help of my action-cam Kodak SP1 and recorded footage for this narrative below.

To learn more about how you can contribute to the cause, or if you are personally a medical professional that is specialized in psychiatry, please click 

Credits:
I would like to thank Mr. Tan from couchsurfing for taking the time to ferry me to the centers and including me in his annual family’s charity event. Beyond that, he also assisted me in my subtitle translation.
I would also like to thank YS Charity Foundation for allowing me to take part in improving the quality of life of each admittee at the center.
I would also like to thank NCH Software for making its video editing tool: Videopad available at no cost.

Please support this ongoing fundraising in Uganda: 
https://wordpress.com/post/reflectandreemit.wordpress.com/997