Sun sea sand

Sun sea sand

Friday, November 10, 2006

Living mantra

Keep calm
Control temper
Be nice
Appreciate others
Maintain friendships
Remember God
Cherish self (pictured right)
Eat right
Stand tall
Enjoy life

Sustainable pledges?
We'll see

Forgot two:
Go shopping
Buy shoes
Can do?
Most definitely!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

New bf for old

Dear BD,

I just wanted to tell you that I’ve got a new bf now. I know I really shouldn’t slag you off, seeing as you were faithful as my bf at one point, but really, my new bf is so much more satisfying than you ever were.

In the past of course I revered you, as I thought that you were the one and all that and hoped you’d be my bf forever. I mean yes, you picked up after me, you cleaned up my messes, you put up with all that cat hair uncomplainingly and were there when I needed you.

However, I have to say that with time, you were giving me more stress than pleasure.

I mean really, though I could take you almost everywhere with me, especially in those narrow, tight places, you could only perform for about 10 minutes before being spent, and then it took you more than eight hours to recharge your batteries. Your suction capability was good but I could never get you to apply yourself in those hard-to-reach crevices which needed so much attention.

And towards the end, you even refused to recharge your powers without me having to fiddle with your bits, which I really didn’t have the time or patience to do.

Now you’re with my sister, and though I’ve warned her about your failings, she insisted that she would be happy with you, so I hope you’re serving her well.

It took a while, of course, for me to decide on getting a new bf, and though I thought of getting one just like you, I figured I needed a better model. My new bf is bigger than you and although is at times ungainly, makes me happier. When plugged in, my new bf can go on and on all day, giving me utmost satisfaction.

You might think I’m settling for less because my new bf doesn’t have as illustrous a name as yours, and I agree up to a point, but I guess that’s just how it goes.

An Aifa vacuum cleaner can never compare to a cordless Black & Decker Dustbuster, but that’s life.
I’ll never forget you, of course, but I think I’m going to be happy with my new best friend.

Sincerely, the little devil.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Eyes on Stalks

I have a stalker. An honest-to-God stalker. No, really. I’m not being paranoid, well maybe not much.
I was a bit paranoid when I got home late the other night and opened all doors and looked into all corners of my apartment in case he was lying in wait for me. This is a bit irrational as he couldn’t really get into my third-floor unit unless he jimmied the lock on the grilled door (this would have made too much noise), stolen my keys, turned into Spiderman and scaled the wall or abseiled from the roof (not probable in his case but what I would definitely do).

However, I have not been imagining that he has been standing for minutes at a time in the compound of the Shell station in front of my apartment building looking up at my unit. I’ve caught him at it a few times, and he was there again the other night, pretending to play with a cat. I saw him as I was out on the balcony chatting with my next-door-neighbour Dave, whose balcony overlooks mine. And he was watching unabashedly all the way as I went down the three flights of stairs to my colleague’s waiting car for a late night meal, which resulted in the apartment sweep when I got back.

I know I wrote lovingly about Rangga standing outside Cinta’s house in the movie Ada Apa Dengan Cinta in my entry That Melting Feeling, but this does NOT in the least strike a sentimental chord in me. Not even close to the romanticism of Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene, either. And I know I was lamenting the lack of single men here in Brunei, but this is not my idea of an eligible male.

The thing is, he is a security guard attached to my office and the area in which my apartment is located, and some people might say he’s just “doing his rounds”. But I seriously think standing in the same place time and time again and gazing straight up at my apartment is not in his job description. It’s bordering on psychotic and an invasion of my privacy.

It started out pretty normal. I say hello to the guards once in a while as I enter or exit the office building. Then one night, going home late, it started to rain, so he offered to walk me home with an umbrella. At the stairs to my place, I tell him it’s ok, I can make it up by myself, but he insists on accompanying me “to check if everything’s all right”.
Outside my door I again had to politely but firmly thank him, saying that I was quite confident of being safe and went in. I heard him loiter for a bit outside my door, then he left.

However, he came back up and rang my doorbell! This was nearly 1am – he claimed to be bored and since my lights were still on, he thought it would be just peachy to come and hang out. I said no.

Pretty creepy, I thought, and only later, when I caught him staring from that favourite spot at the Shell station, that his earlier remark as he was sending me home made sense. He had asked me what I was doing up so late some night before that, as he saw that my lights were on. And that fit, as the only way he could ascertain if my lights were on was if he were loitering at that very spot at the petrol station.

Vain me would just shrug it off and revel in the thought that I have a stalker, but private me is very upset. I don’t like the idea of this man keeping tabs on whether I’m home, awake or asleep. And what is he standing around for anyway – waiting to get a glimpse of me if I went out on the balcony or as I walk about in my apartment if the curtains are not closed? Creepsville Central!

I’m really unsure what I should do. Some colleagues think I should take it up with his supervisor or my boss, as security guards are supposed to make me feel more secure, not less. But some think it could just make matters worse (as I said, some may just say it’s his job and dismiss my fears) and if I ignore him, he might just tire of the game and stop.

Right now, I’m keeping an eye out for him as I want to get a picture of him in his stalker dude mode. Further ideas are welcome, but what I really want to do is keep a video log of the frequency, timing and duration of his little “on duty” night watch sojourns.

Now if I can only get my hands on a good video camera...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Me a cow?

Colleague Ash was trying to introduce me to his friend the other day via instant messaging, and in the process told him about this blog.
Know what? His first comment was "Holy Cow!"
So I had Ash ask him if he was calling me a cow.

Now, I've been likened to many animals before. Bitch, pussycat (definitely a misguided person who thought this), chameleon, ox (as in stubborn as an) and ass, while I consider myself a tiger - but no one's ever called me a cow. Well, not to my face, anyway.

However, I might not mind being a cow in Europe or Japan, as, according to Jessica Williams in her book 50 Facts That Should Change The World, them heifers have it good.

The fact of the matter is that: "Every cow in the European Union is subsidised by US$2.50 a day. That's more than what 75 per cent of Africans have to live on."

She goes on to say that European cows come under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and "the Catholic aid agency CAFOD calculated that for the money the EU spends protecting its farmers, each of the EU's 21 million cows could go on a round-the-world trip once a year. The cows could touch down in London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Hanoi, Siem Reap, Brisbane, Rarotonga, Los Angeles and San Francisco - with $400 spending money to help them along. What makes this even more remarkable is that the EU's cows aren't the most heavily subsidised in the world. According to the World Bank, that prize goes to Japanese cows, which receive $7.50 every day. Presumably, when the Japanese cows join their European friends on their round-the-world trip, they fly business class."

Isn't that amazing? Now you can call me a cow all you want. I'm going on holiday - business class.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Escapism, and not by Houdini

Do you ever wonder about the one that got away?
Whether it was a 60-pound fish, a little black dress on sale, a pair of knee-length tan suede boots in a shop in Doha.. or the man that you let slip through your fingers.

I’ve been thinking about it recently. And been a tad wistful about the Ryans and the Daniels and the Sorshas that I knew.

Of course after time, most of the memories I have of them are good.

One bus trip, a scintillating conversation, innocent walks, a bicycle ride and chatting at the playground.

Making a new friend in an unfamiliar town, walking through the galleries of a museum differentiating between Astrology and Astronomy, chatting via the internet.

A friend’s wedding, a movie date and witty repartee, having nasi lemak in Pantai Dalam, exchanging notes via SMS.

These are the things I remember, and things I smile about. The connection, the ability to converse, understanding the same kind of jokes, the laughter.

It’s a form of escapism, of course. Somewhere you run to if you’re feeling a little bored or upset or lonely. It’s a lovely place where you can hide for a bit from the real world. A little place where you can ignore the whys and wherefores that the relationship didn’t work out.

I’ve forgotten all the arguments, the fights, the sulks. All best left behind for the sweet memories of the good times that we had.
Because don’t stories about “the one that got away” often get embellished with each retelling? – “the fish was huge, surely more than a metre long”; “that shirt would have fit me perfectly”; “he was the nicest, handsomest, most perfect guy I had ever met”.

But I don’t dwell on it too much, because I know, things that are meant to be would have been, and things that didn’t wasn’t meant to.

If it were meant to be, the Ryans of the world would not have gone to France to study and there meet the woman of his dreams. If it were meant to be, the Daniels of the world wouldn’t have migrated to Australia to set up a business and there meet the woman he recently married. And if it were meant to be, the Sorshas of the world would not have met a girl just after we called it quits, and within a year was married with a child on the way.

It was not meant to be. But that doesn’t mean we can’t think a little about the ones that got away, and smile.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Di Dalam Kegelapan Ku Mencari

Telah lama aku berada di dalam kegelapan.
Kelam dan kedinginan telah menjadi lumrah hidupku.

Lalu di kala aku berselubung mencari jawapan, muncul seseorang yang menerangi kegelapan dan membawa kehangatan.

“Pasanglah lampu,” katanya. “Dah tu, kalau sejuk, tutup air-cond tu, membazir duit je.”

Aku akur. Dan hilanglah kegelapan dan kedinginan itu.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ten Years On

Ten years ago, I left Malaysia for a two-year stint in the UK to further my studies.
Ten years on, I am again starting a two-year stint in a foreign country, this time for work.
But funnily enough, 10 years on, my baby brother is about to undertake his own adventure in the UK, having earned his stripes to complete the second and third year of his undergraduate degree at Nottingham University.

Earlier this year, when I applied for this overseas job, I wondered if things weren’t happening in a 10-year cycle for a reason. I felt confident that I would get the job and that it was time again for me to leave the country as I did in 1996.

Was it a coincidence that although I had switched jobs four times since I got back and started working, the opportunity to work abroad never came up, only to fall into my lap at this particular time? I was barely a year into my new job then - a good one where I was making enough for a comfortable lifestyle; I had a car, a rental condo in Pantai Hillpark, enough money to go diving or holiday every few months. It was a good job, but it was just time to move on and up. I felt it in my bones.

And now, as the 10-year cycle goes, baby bro is all grown up, and moving into a world where he will stand on his own two feet, rise or fall on his own account, learn more about the world and his place in the whole scheme of things. No Dad to call to pick him up during college holidays, no (step) Mum to cook him dinner and call him down from his hours in front of the computer downloading “stuff” (it’s alright, I know he loves his Manga and all that Japanese cartoon stuff, as does my elder sis).

We were never close. Mum died when he was just four (I was 15), which marked the beginning of a life apart for me. That year, the last family vacation was around my birthday, when we met up with Mum who had a working trip in Terengganu. They were staying at the Primula Hotel on Batu Buruk beach. I rode a horse on my own on the beach. Baby bro doesn’t remember this. And he doesn’t remember our mother.
There is a picture of the family taken in March of that year, probably the last we took before she died. It was her birthday, and she was opening her present with us sitting posed around her (as normal family pictures are composed). I’ll post the picture some day, I don’t have it now with me. There are also some pictures of me holding baby bro, but not many, as I was never really maternal and never really got on with him. If he notices a scar on his forehead at the edge of his hairline, it was probably when I was rough with him and he hit his head at the edge of the stairs (*grin* sorry, baby bro).

The last family celebration was probably my elder sister’s birthday in September. Then Mum died in October. The family took a vacation in December of that year. Dad, sis, bro and I went to Penang, then a bit later took a cousin and a young uncle to Cameron Highlands to use up Mum’s holiday time-share scheme. I don’t remember much, except for memory flashes when I look at the photos. The wind in my hair on the Penang ferry, walking on the grounds of Strawberry Park in Cameron Highlands, splashing about at the waterfall.

Some time in the first quarter of the next year, I went to boarding school. Dad remarried that August. Suffice to say, I never got on well with Step-mum, and never really went home. I didn’t get parental support, emotionally or financially, and I learnt to be independent.

And when I left for the UK 10 years ago, I didn’t feel like the parents were particularly proud that this stubborn obstinate spitfire rebel of a girl had managed to do particularly well for herself but were just basking in the bragging rights that “my daughter is going overseas to study”, something my elder sis had denied them. And when I returned without a degree (something to do with the rebel without a cause), their bragging rights were taken away for eight years until now. Of course, I doubt he sees it that way.

We hold different ideals.

Baby bro grew up with the only mother he remembers, and left behind the one he forgot. He grew up with the two sisters Dad and Step-mum later adopted, and hardly spoke to the two sisters who had left him behind. What was there to say, right? Our memories were different from his, our thoughts ran on separate tracks; ours where our father had failed us, his where Dad was a constant presence. Ours where our Mum had gone, his where mother was still around. Where was the middle ground? The rift was always there between us.

But as baby bro is about to spread his wings much farther afield than ever before, in a world where such differing memories matter none, I offer him my sisterly advice:

- Bring a good coat, the first chill of Autumn as you arrive at the airport can catch you unawares. It might be exciting to feel the cold wind, but being sick in the first week of your new life is no fun at all.

- Take the credit card they’re offering but don’t spend foolishly.

- A small rice cooker is a useful tool for cooking almost anything from plain rice to soup, broth, nasi ayam and nasi kandar (once you get the recipe).

- A whole chicken cuts up into about 14 medium-sized pieces and can feed you for a week (you don’t need a chopper either, a good pair of “kitchen” scissors can work wonders to cut up chicken bones).

- Buy in bulk if you are sure you can finish off the produce before it expires, especially fresh milk and bread. Vegetables and stuff are very cheap. Be smart when buying but don’t skimp on food just to save a few bob. Eat well.

- Study hard during term time, take a proper break when the holidays come. It was the other way round for me – I hated going to class and tried to crash-study before exams…it never works.

- Hang around other Malaysian students to alleviate missing home, but open your eyes and mind to other faces, other races. It’s so exciting to be in the middle of the melting pot that is university. I’ve maintained longer friendships with foreigners I was hanging with than with Malaysian uni mates.

- Enjoy your first snowfall - go out and make a snowman, even if the snow is the wrong kind. Lay on the ground and make snow angels. Find a bin liner, a small slope and go sledding, no matter what other people say. Throw snowballs.

- Travel - the farthest you can go, the most you can see. Join a club where you can go somewhere every weekend (for me it was rock climbing – absolutely marvellous!), save money for longer holidays. Visit friends at universities in other towns and cities. Go to London to see the Queen. Go to Europe. Backpack. Take a bus. Go slow, don’t rush. Take pictures, take it all in, take time to see the world. Student passes are the most wonderful thing since sliced bread. Buy me souvenirs *grin*. Would you believe that I bought you presents during my travels? I bought you an eraser in Paris (you were then aged 12, I think, and had a liking for erasers), but I never had the chance to give it to you. I kept it in the little paper bag it was wrapped in, in a box of keepsakes, until this year, when I finally gave it to charity.

- Get a job for the holidays if you can (but make it legal). Better still if you can mix work with pleasure. I worked at a hotel on Gurnsey Island, where we did the breakfast shift and housekeeping till noon, then had the afternoon off, to come back at 6pm for the dinner shift. Days were spent lounging about, going to town or at the beach. One of the guests at the hotel was an army officer once stationed in “Malaya”. He still remembered Malay words, and a snippet of an old song that I had hardly ever heard.

- And finally: study smart, get your degree but don’t stress. I came back without one and felt disadvantaged for a bit (lower pay in a certificate-oriented Malaysia), but it won’t necessarily get you that far. Your experiences, your skill and your strengths will get you further if you know how to use them. Make your own luck. Enjoy yourself.

So my baby bro is about to go and slay the world…I say let the world beware.

And I hope, 10 years from now, baby bro will look back at this time of his life and say:
“I didn’t miss a thing.”

Monday, July 31, 2006

Technologica gone amok

Such is the advanced technological world we live in today, that I haven’t written a letter in probably a decade.
A “letter” here of course being in longhand, preferably using a fountain pen for class, with the meticulously dotted i’s and crossed t’s on proper “stationery”, which means paper, not just stuff we get from the office supply cupboard and take home.
A letter here does not mean email, nor memos, certainly not text messages or instant messages surrepstitiously answered while we do our “work”.

I have a letter to my best-friend-in-secondary-school that I started in late June still sitting on my desk to be finished, put in an envelop and stamped.

And why did I start this letter?

Was it to rekindle a bygone era where we bought cheap stationery printed with flowers or cute little kittens on which we sent little notes to each other even though we met each other every day in class?
Was it for practice so that I wouldn’t lose my ability to use my hand in case one day all the computers break down and I’m forced to *gasp* write something in longhand?
Or was it because I am attempting to swim against the current of modernity and bring back the ettiquette of the thoughtfully-considered written word?

Well, if you really must know, it’s because I lost her email address and telephone number and there’s no other way to contact her.

Such indeed, is the advanced technological world we live in today that this next scenario, in which I took part most recently, could ever take place.

I had been happily incommunicado since I lost my handphone about four months ago. But lately, being in a foreign land with lesser means of communication has taken a toll – I missed my friends, specifically the ability to just turn around at work and whisper gossipy things about the resident psycho; I missed late night conversations about how the day went and hearing soothing words that would wash away all the angst for a fresh new day tomorrow; I missed the instantaneous acknowledgement that you are hearing what I’m saying instead of wondering if the email went through and if I had not written something which did not quite “sound” as I had meant it.

So I got myself a handphone, and the rest of the story went like this:

This girlfriend had been bugging me to get a phone. So the next time she emailed me, I sent her a short reply by email, saying that I had a phone, but that I didn’t have enough credit to call out or to receive calls (as I’m on roaming, I’d have to pay for incoming calls).

Then she sends me an SMS on my new phone.

This is followed by an email that she had sent me the SMS.

I SMS her back.

Then I send her an email to say that I indeed received her SMS and had sent her a text reply.

She sends me an SMS to say that we should chat.

I email her and suggest we should meet up on messenger.

She sends me her messenger username by SMS.

I add her as a friend on my messenger.

Then I send her an email to tell her that I’ve added her on messenger. At the same time, I suggest she try to call me to see if the call-in deduction would kick in.

She calls me but we can’t chat long. The deduction kicks in and I run out credit.

She sends me an SMS to get back on messenger.

I send her an SMS reply with my messenger ID. She puts me on her list.

We start instant messaging.

She gets cut off several times.

She sends me an SMS that she was cut off.

She also sends me an email telling me that the messenger is not working too well. I send an email reply to try using another system.

In a little while, we try instant messaging again. It doesn’t work.

I send her an SMS to say that I never received any word through the messenger.

She sends me an email to say that she’s getting off work.

I email my goodbyes.

Convoluted process it was, with four types of communication technology – the call, the SMS, the email and instant messaging.

But you know what? Even with all that, or because of all that, we didn’t really have a chance to chat!

Do you think I should start writing her a letter?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

That Melting Feeling

Help! I'm so in love with an ideal. With a dream. With a celluloid creation of the cutest guy with a sensitive artistic soul and a heart just waiting for love. A good-looking bod doesn't hurt, either.

Help me. I can't keep watching the same CD, playing my favourite bits over and over again. But I can't sleep thinking how hard a heart must pound out of a love thought lost then was re-found.

Young love though it be, love is still the feeling that keeps us going, that makes us stand outside our beloved's house with a look of intense love, which makes us rush to the airport to apologise before he goes, to admit that we were wrong and to confess "I don't want to lose you".

And to experience the most wonderful feeling when we blurt out "Saya sayang bangat sama kamu" to see him take a deep breath and without hesitation reply "Saya juga sayang sama kamu. Sayang sekali."

And then the movie ends and I'm in tears.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Farewell To An Old Life

I’ve left behind my life
I’ve left Malaysia of my birth
I’ve left my friends, my cat, my car, my house
And I’ve left behind my love

I actually know I’m being pathetic to grieve over a heart that’s been broken for a long time, but mourn I must for the “final” the-end to the two-year tragedy which I called my love life.
It’s the final the-end because I tried to bring the curtains to a close several times, but like Sly’s Rocky, there was always a sequel, and adhering to the rule of sequels, mine were always bad.

I was not for him. He was not for me. Yet, the emptiness of my soul cried out for any kind of salve. Soothing in the short term but detrimental in the long haul, I grabbed whatever crumbs of affection came my way and talked myself into love. When the blinders were taken away, I resisted the unencumbered view. When he went further away for work, it was the perfect opportunity to call it quits, but nevertheless, I struggled to hold on.

In my case, it was true that absence made the heart grow fonder. I missed him with every fibre of my being. My heart did not understand my head’s clamour for closure and to open my eyes to the truth. He was not that into me. Not in the least. And I blinded myself to the things I had started to dislike about him.

As much as I abhorred his penchant for lying and how he treated me, I retained a love for him beyond rhyme or reason. I loved his hands -- big, strong and rough-looking but gentle enough to deal with computers and their parts, around which he worked. I loved his hair, especially the floppy part which fell over his forehead just as it was drying. I loved his face, his lopsided smile, the light that fell and highlighted his hazel eyes. I loved the milk-chocolate smoothness of the skin on his back, I loved the way his jeans hugged his butt, I loved his athleticism and skill in games, his singing voice.
I wanted to be his saviour, helping him realise his dreams. I wanted to be part of his family, to have a closeness with his mother and siblings the way I couldn’t have with mine. I wanted to be everything to him that I had dreamed someone would be to me. Even knowing that he never wanted this in return.

And as I got ready to leave my home for work in a foreign country, I identified most with Keith Urban’s song But You’ll Think of Me, specifically the chorus, which goes:

Take your records, take your freedom
Take your memories I don't need 'em
Take your space and take your reasons
But you'll think of me
Take your cat and leave my sweater
'Cause we have nothing left to weather
In fact I'll feel a whole lot better
But you'll think of me, you'll think of me

The thing is, I can’t even console myself that it’s me singing those words. They are eminently in his domain. Aside from the first expression of surprise that I was going away, my leaving hardly affects his life.

Thus I took my records (CDs) and my freedom.
And I take the memories with me – memories for which he never had any use. Where I had committed to my grey cells and my heart almost each touch and word, he’d constantly turn in surprise if I’d quote what he had said a year previously.
All those memories are mine alone: the peck on my cheek as I was getting on an elevator that made me want to both cry and grin like an idiot; sitting with him on a deserted island jetty enjoying the breeze.

He never had an affinity for my cat, but I did love his shirts. A favourite was a jersey he wore while playing futsal, which I then took to wearing in bed. That I returned to him.

Now I've left all that behind, with a last longing glance as he walked away into the night on the last day we were together. He turned to look back, gave me a lopsided smile, then it was over.

It's liberating and definitely sad, because I know he'll feel a whole lot better, but some days, I know for sure I would still think of him.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Just A Bit Of Me

Hello dear blog,

I like to start as if we were already dear friends, not two strangers who met in a chatroom... eh, wait a minute... that sounds suspiciously like what Kathleen Kelly wrote to Joe Fox in the opening to You've Got Mail.
So now I have a blog, my first online everyone-can-actually-read-it-not-just-my-nosy-elder-sister diary-like kind of writing.
Welcome to my world.