June 19, 2008

on realisations

Posted in Friends, Malaysia, My Home, Strange Feelings, The Thesis at 9:54 am by meldee

Lever/age.

Taken with my Canon EOS Kiss, 50mm. My room.

***

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be at work.

After the mini-drama this morning when my usual computer wouldn’t log me in (there are five computers in my office, only three of which work–mine, D’s and the one behind my cubicle) because apparently the time on the computer and the main server wasn’t the same. I was growling quite ferociously because just a few hours ago I’d sworn that I’d transcribe at least one interview today.

Then I remembered to thank the computer for shitting on me (not literally lah ok) because it reminded me to be patient (yes, I’m still in my Reclaiming Zennity (wtf) phase).

So I hopped on to the computer behind me, checked emails, etc, and after a while, frustrated with the non-scrolly mouse and squinty old CRT monitor, I tried my computer again. And yayness, it works now.

So, um, my point is, um, I need to, um, recover from this morning’s, um, drama.

That’s why I’m blogging in lieu of working.

*defensively* But I will do it eventually! I, um, swear.

By the way, why on earth am I justifying myself to myself? In cyberspace at that. Jeebus.

***

So I had lunch with two friends of mine from primary school yesterday. I don’t know if they still read me regularly (heh), but if they do, holla, M and L! πŸ˜€

It’s been 10 years since we kissed our dark-blue-(sexy?)-white blouse uniformed days behind now, and of course it’s inevitable that people change. We were just updating each other over green tea and sushi, or rather, those two that see each other regularly were updating me on things that have happened lately.

Apparently M was not surprised at all that I’ve taken the path that I did. I am, and I look at myself each day with wonder. I certainly never would have guessed that the emotionally unstable, awkward, unpopular misfit kid that I was back then would turn into who I am today, though that’s not to say I’m not still a misfit kid…I reckon I disguise that fact a little better now.

We were talking about relationships, about the idea of marriage and settling down, about the phenomenon of “everyone who goes to Melbourne doesn’t want to come back, everyone who goes to the UK almost always does”, old friends, double lives, and such. The unavoidable question that came up was why I want to go back to Australia when “the country needs people like (me)”.

I guess no matter how many times I’m asked it, it always throws me a little each time. This country, every country, needs people like me. Like you. Like them. It’s unfair to assume that because some people are activists, warriors for social justice, policy makers, etc, that it’s their job to run the country and see that it doesn’t go to the dogs. It’s everyone’s responsibility, that’s why we’re citizens. That’s why we have the right to vote and question and not merely accept the status quo.

It stings that the thought even crosses the minds of people that I don’t love my country, though I know I hardly have control over what I think, what more what others do. Ah well.

On the topic of relationships, I was also asked if the cross-cultural thing was an issue. That stumped me a little. Besides the fact that T likes Vegemite and I hate the stuff (we’ve reached an amicable decision on Promite being our spread of choice), he uses funny language sometimes (as do I), and that he’s white and I’m…er, not, I never really thought of the ‘cultural differences’.

He wears jeans, I do too. He speaks English (or Australian), so do I. We know (almost) the same music and movies, we both believe in good manners, we can both hold our own in an argument but still respect each other.

And I know this may sound really obvious, but I’ve never seen him, or anyone else, as ‘that white guy’ that is so different from me. He’s just T. A person. I mean, of course we all do it, refer to someone as ‘the white boyfriend’ or ‘the Malaysian girlfriend’, but itsn’t it kind of arbitrary? It’s all just labels, words that don’t really mean anything.

Or at least they don’t really to me. But then again maybe it’s because I am such a product of M.University’s cultural critiques, etc? Have I thus lost my ‘Asian values’ and crossed over to the dark side? Am I sucking up to neo-Imperialism and turning into one of its many poster-persons?

I dunno. I really don’t. I’m not saying that I think M or L are wrong in saying what they did, or that I’m right, I’m just stating what happened and the corresponding thoughts that crossed my mind. And it struck me how just a few years ago I’d have chipped in, talking about how Western values have corrupted us all, and we’re fundamentally different because we are Asian.

But what is Westernness, or Asianness? I’m not disrespecting history or culture as in, you know, traditions, ceremonies, bla bla bla…I mean it as a whole. Isn’t it just different ways of doing similar things? Isn’t it like religion, where all paths ultimately lead to God/s? And who created these labels for things anyway, did Humankind (observe my attempts at being Politically Correct) not decide to make these distinctions? I hardly think they mulled over these things and its future implications/connotations for days/weeks/months before reaching a conclusion. Isn’t culture thus, to some extent, arbitrary?

Gasp. I think I might get burned at stake/flogged/stoned to death for heresay.

But I digress.

Anyway, like the title of today’s post says, I realised how much I’ve changed. How different things are, yet how achingly familiar. I still love my friends, and my family, and home, but I’m different now. I don’t think the way I used to, I don’t even feel the same.

Weird eh. One of those strange moments when home suddenly feels like a foreign land, and all things once-familiar feel just that much more strange.

Maybe this is a feeling that comes with age. Lever/age. Whatever.

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February 1, 2008

sign for safety/ hunting for equal footing

Posted in Friends, Happenings, Sad Stuff, Social Responsibility According to Me at 11:16 am by meldee

There’s been a lot going on lately, which while I suppose hardly counts as a valid excuse for not updating my blog regularly, is a truism. I am often drained after work, and can hardly muster the energy to go out with friends, let alone blog.

First of all, as some of you may have read, a friend of mine tragically lost his girlfriend, and many others lost a good friend who was respected and admired, in a bus crash that shouldn’t have happened.

Read more, and sign the petition to up the safety ante of especially those who take long-haul bus trips at Bus Crash No More, a blog/information centre started by friends and sympathisers of those who perished in the crash.

My heartfelt condolences go out to friends and families of the victims, and all those who have ever lost someone they knew in a road accident due to someone else’s negligence.

****

On another note, while undoubtedly not as somber, some of you may know that I am now working on a temporary basis at a women’s NGO in PJ. While I’ll admit it’s not as stuffy and stoic as I thought it would be, it’s also extremely draining due to the constant rejection I’ve been getting while making requests for sponsorship for our fund-raiser.

All I can say is, if you believe that Malaysia still has a long way to go in terms of men and women competing and being respected as equals; if you believe in the elimination of violence against women; if you believe that obscure laws that discriminate against women need to be changed; if you believe that women and families in crisis need to be helped and have someone to turn to; if you believe that education is the best long-term solution out of these issues…

Please support AWAM’s endeavours to raise funds to sustain their many services to the community. For the past 20 years, they have been behind the scenes, quietly and sometimes, not-so quietly bringing about the changes that we need and so easily take for granted.

The fund-raiser to be held is also in conjunction with International Women’s Day on March 8th, aptly themed ‘Financing for Equality’.

Find more details at the AWAM website, or alternatively, check out the Facebook Events page.

Many thanks.

xoxo

December 4, 2007

no pain no gain?

Posted in Friends, I Wonder..., Random Ramblings at 6:43 pm by meldee

It’s been an intense three days of pain. Pain seems to be a recurring theme across the last few days, which is interesting, really.

Sunday was the R.Age Self-Defense workshop in 3K Hotel Hall which I went for with Jolene. We learnt some pretty cool Aikido techniques applicable to everyday scenarios, such as if you’re getting your bag snatched, or grabbed by a guy. I love how Aikido works with the attacker’s movements (to his/her detriment, I assure you!) and by putting very little pressure on very painful points, like the wrists, elbows or neck.

Jo and I felt like two aunties there (almost everyone else came in jeans, we came for a workout -.-; plus almost everyone there was below 20) and paired up with each other to try twisting and er, shouting.Β  Good fun, though we (ok, fine, I) ended up in giggles for most of it, along with making the usual rude comments (one of the instructors was pretty shaggable-looking, until we saw his teeth up-closeish which made us both recoil with disgust).

Unfortunately now I feel about 61 instead of 21 as all my joints ache—my knees, elbows, oof. Dragging my sorry ass up the stairs was an effort and a half. That night, I headed to Anna (from AWAM’s WWRP) and Brendan’s place in Jln. Raja Chulan (RM2500/month for rental, madness! But they have a POOL!) with Malati and Seetha who both live in Subang, for Anna & Brendan’s going away party. Great fun, heaps of food (we did it potluck) and lots of scintillating conversation πŸ˜‰

Yesterday, hm, pain manifested itself in terms of wallet-aches as I drove to Amcorp to buy Tim’s dad’s camera, but forgot that the shop’s closed on Mondays, so I went shopping.

There’s this awesome bookstore there, BookXcess, where they sell awesome new surplus titles for REALLY cheap. I swear, you can get bestsellers and Really New Stuff (paperback) for around RM17.90-RM24.90! I was in there for almost two hours. The store’s ambiance is pretty nice,Β  lovely warm orange walls and wood flooring, and best of all they were playing those lovely old old Christmas carols πŸ™‚ It really got me in a shopping mood so I bought a couple of books for gifts (belated birthdays and possibly Christmas prezzies!) and was literally bouncing down the escalators as happily as my stiff joints would allow me.

The evening was followed by a movie (Enchanted! Bwahahaha what a pisser it was!), drinks and ice cream with my favourite girls (who are home at the moment, don’t the rest of you get huffy! You know I love yous ;)) Chien, Jo and Mun Teng.

I found Enchanted hilarious how satirically it banged the shit out of Disney movies, though it is one itself. Though it was quite predictable, the acting was pretty decent (for a kid/chick flick!) and some of the dialogue was quite funny, really. I was in stitches as Giselle and Robert go dancing through the park with a whole entourage of random people behind them singing! It’s an ironic fairytale, and I can’t say I’ve seen too many of those in my day πŸ˜‰

Today, now, ugh. ULTIMATE PAIN. I’m gritting my teeth now thinking about it.

Chien’s mum was lovely to get me a 2-week free trial to True Fitness in Taipan, and I tagged along with Chien and her sisters for yoga after seeing their mum for my second HPV vaccine injection (the first one hurt like a mofo, this second one wasn’t too bad). Unfortunately, Chien and I didn’t quite realise it was an intermediate/advanced Astanga Vinyasa yoga class, so it was pretty hardcore for a relative noob like me!

I mean I’ve done yoga before (very very very basic stuff, and nowehere near the warp speed at which the instructor was going), and did pilates when I was in Australia, but this was major ouch-stuff. All that contorting and stretching, my goodness! I used to do gymnastics in primary school (so I’m relatively o-k flexibility wise on a good day—in fact my ‘alternative’ sleeping positions are with one leg curled under me and the other one out straight, or while I sit cross-legged, bent forward at the waist into my pillow)Β  but this was Seriously Hard Shit.

I’m talking bizarre balancing, strenuous stretches and terrible twists! I am so going to feel this tomorrow -.- But call me a bully for punishment, I’m going back tomorrow, for the beginner’s class though πŸ˜› I’d almost forgotten how awesome it feels to have a good stretch, and that horrid burn in your muscles that you know is actually good for you.

On the subject of pain, anyone know where’s good for a Brazilian wax? πŸ˜› I know there’s the place of the moment, Strip, along Jalan Telawi in Bangsar. I’ve also come across places (in the course of my research, ahem) like Nail Studio in Midvalley, Rupini’s also along Telawi, Glitters in One Utama and some place in Times Square.

I’d like to say money is not an option (actually, it really isn’t, considering who’s buying me my wax, bwahahaha) but I suppose one must be careful even with luxuries. I want hygiene and privacy too, dammit. If I’m going to have to pay (or rather, if money is changing hands) to have my privates assaulted with hot wax causing me much pain (actually I think I have quite a high pain threshold, excepting for yoga), I might as well suffer in a dignified silence in a clean place.

Suggestions, comments or views on any of my painful practices of late?

I suppose I really am a masochist, I’m even setting myself up for more abuse by asking this πŸ˜›

November 25, 2007

finding a voice

Posted in Friends, Happenings, Malaysia, My Home, Snapshots at 6:27 pm by meldee

I’ve barely been home an hour from the AWAM WWRP5 Workshop in Armada Hotel in PJ, and let me say (gloat, rather), I have never had so much fun, or been so pampered, or felt such an incredible connection with people before—that is, until the last time I said such a thing, which was probably my World Vision Trip (see Permalinks by the side :P).

This is it la, folks. My raison d’etre. I have found my kindred spirits and I am almost bouncing off the walls in glee and unadulterated excitement in having had such a mindblowing experience. Digression: My friends who signed The Book published by AWAM, Young Women Speak Out, said I have a lot of energy. A lot of energy meh?! It’s only about 5 cups of coffee!

Anyhoo, briefly. The 4-day, 3-night live-in workshop, generously funded by the European Union required 20 (15 participants, 5 facilitators/trainers) almost complete strangers united in better understanding human rights and women’s rights issues in this country, to live, eat and sleep together. Write together. Grow together. We talked about things like the Malaysian media, representation of women in the media, sexuality and rights and responsibilities, especially within the context of the Federal Constitution.

Dry and boring, you might think? Hell no, I’d yell! The speakers were all lovely and fiercely intelligent and smart (yes, I felt about 5 inches big at times) and I guess we all walked away with something new that we’d hopefully carry on with us. Now I know why so many people (er, well, ok, just two) have said that the WWRP is one of the funnest things, like, ever! Think about it right, a room full of smart, witty, incredibly driven and compassionate young women who are beautiful inside and out—chuck in a mix of sleep deprivation, caffeine and alcohol, and there you have it, the recipe for fun fun fun! πŸ˜€

One of the specific skills we learned was how to write Letters to the Editor—an extremely empowering thing to do (apparently!). It was really quite humbling for me, especially since I’ve been writing and working in social justice issues on/off for the past few months, to realise that there’s still heaps out there I don’t know and still have ages to go.

Apparently I also looked really sad at certain points of the discussions/forums; something I guess I do is wear my heart on my sleeve. Social justice issues are a big part of me and always have been I guess, though I suspect I often very unfairly expect others to also feel the same passion I do which is not very good, to say the least!

But I shall save all this termitty-terms for my actual write up (which I shall link after I write it and it—fingers crossed—gets published in R.Age) and yibber on instead about the fun times. Mainly because I am still running on about 4 cups of coffee (feral stuff it is, I don’t care. As long as it’s got caffeine, I shall consume it! I am utterly not discerning this way) and am excited. And pissed off that my mum’s camera pictures didn’t turn out too good. Maybe because I forgot to set them to high resolution (dammit, you’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now!), or because the lighting was not good.

This is why I need my giant phallic DSLR.

Ahem, excuses excuses. Anyhow, I will upload pictures, not too many though as both Flickr and Dropshots have shat themselves over the volume of photos I’ve uploaded *sniffs haughtily*. And I refuse to pay for space ya, mainly because I have no credit card. But if anyone wants to fund my upgrading, please do so la ok I won’t say no πŸ˜€

BUT I HAD SO MUCH FUN. *runs around chasing imaginary tail* I met new people, recognised old friends, formed new ties with people over so many different things and I am SO EXCITED at the idea of working with them in the future.

BY THE WAY, TODAY IS INTERNATIONAL WHITE RIBBON DAY*! (*see previous post, or Google it, dammit) The NGOs in Malaysia will be organising 16 Days of Activism (again, Google this, as I myself have yet to) starting today and ending on December 10th, International Human Rights Day. Again, please remember to wear a white ribbon, guys! Do your bit to raise public awareness for the elimination of all forms of violence against women πŸ™‚

There’s gonna be a peaceful march on December 9th at 7am from Sogo in honour of international human rights—I’ll keep you guys updated ok because I am super excited πŸ˜€

I think I really need to cut down on my caffeine intake by the way. I am practically buzzing. Now! For picca-tures *beams*


A room with a view! Sarah, my roomie and I, quietly discovered on our last night that not all the rooms were the size of ours (and Shazana and Jee Wan’s—heh!) with our bathtub, sofa, two writing tables and ample space! I regret not taking photos of my room now so I can gloat πŸ˜› Anyway this is a view of the Federal Highwa, Amcorp Mall, and KL in the horizon.

We basically had about 12 sessions, usually from 9am-10pm (I know), but we were (extremely) well-fed and the hours went by really quick for most of the part. 3.5 days of intensive and intense (and at other times, not so) discussion on current affairs, activism and social justice. Nyummy πŸ˜€


Gayathry from the Centre for Independent Journalism gave us a talk on the Malaysian media. Most sobering, and very very provoking. At least for me it was.


To wake us up at one point, we were divided into two groups and had to spell ‘Mississippi’ with our bums in unison! This was a hoot, especially since my bum has gone on a sabbatical and hasn’t quite come home yet. But, aw, look how happy we are πŸ˜€ L-R: Anna, me, Meena, Chian Yi, Apsara.


Our ‘Social Session’ on the second night, which involved playing funny-silly games like Big Fish, Small Fish, Truth or Dare and Charades πŸ˜€ Things are so fun when the people you’re with are not stuffy and stuffier!


In most cultures, purple is the colour of homosexuality; in Malaysia it is apparently the colour of the feminist movement. Woo hoo, I say! Also, this book, edited by Alina Rastam (an incredible role model I am now gawping up at) is one of AWAM’s babies. You (yes you, my faithful reader!) should get your hands on it as it is filled with writings and poetry from wonderful writers and friends of mine, namely Dahlia, Pramila, Vizla, Tze Yeng and Yi Xing, at the very high risk of name-dropping and coming across as a snob.

Also, observe the two chocolate thingamajigs! THEY ARE AWESOME *salivates*. Crunchy crumbly pastry with a rich, moist chocolate filling, lightly dusted with sugar *dies and goes to chocolate heaven*.


Eva Diva, my Orientation Week Buddy (whom I fled from, poor thing, as I already knew the campus at Sunway) and now my fellow booty-shaker every other Saturday with the WAO CCC kids.


Group pic! πŸ˜€

On our last night (yesterday), the session ended at about 10. As the previous two nights we hadn’t done the usual sit-around-yakking-all-night thing, we decided it was about ruddy time πŸ˜‰ After being chased out of the conference room, we headed to the in-house bar/pub type thing in the hotel—whereby we were eyeballed and ogled by Dirty Old Men (yeeeccchh) and subject to moldy music sang by a group of scantily-clad girls o_O After we discovered the beers were RM18, we decided ‘screw this’ and decided to buy our own drinks from Kiosk and head up to someone’s room and talk all night πŸ˜›

It was the funniest thing, crossing the bridge and streets. Being a large group of females walking around PJ at close to 12am, we were subject to many looks, of course—but we were hollering and scampering around, “Watch out people, feminists crossing the road!” We didn’t mean to be pains, of course, we were just in high spirits you understand, later to be high on spirits, which was in fact just me, really πŸ˜›


I am such a closet alkie. Remember what I said in a previous post about not drinking anytime soon? Ha-bloody-ha. Anyway here I am with Malati, Jee Wan, Chian Yi (and her lemon juice), Alicia (and her Root Beer), Eva and Seetha. Who is actually from SMKSU too, and one of the founding members of the Interact Club! *marvels* She left school in ’97 though, meaning we never met as I only started at SU in ’99 πŸ˜‰


I think people on that floor must have hated us. First, when taking a photo, we yelled ‘breasts!’. For this one, it was ‘vagina!’ πŸ˜› Others who came later told us it was ok if they forgot the room number, as we were laughing loudly enough to guide them from the point where they exited the elevator πŸ™‚


We are women, hear us roar!


Anna, an intern at CIJ as part of her degree program in Canada, and me. By this time, I was buzzing quite high as I had had four drinks, including some Cointreau+Apple Juice earlier, and the remainders of Jee Wan’s green apple wine cooler.

Whee!


Before we left, we took more photos in the dining area, in our lovely yellow shirts! πŸ˜€ The colour of freedom of the media! And assembly! And sovereignty! And God-knows what else! I love what it says on the front though, “Speak. Write. Fight. For Women’s Right”. So empowering πŸ™‚

And that concludes it for my brief photo-entry; I smell grilled lamb downstairs and I am about to pass out from exhaustion. I’ll most def blog more later on, especially more insightful entries than this fluff *looks at self disdainfully*, but take this as a teaser for more, and better, things to come.

In terms of writing, but of course πŸ˜‰

P/S: Have yet to find out about Hindraf Rally. Am glad the BERSIH one has set a precedent of sorts to the media not totally blacking out on coverage of these issues. Bravo.

November 3, 2007

singkawang sojourn day 3 & 4

Posted in Friends, Happenings, Kids, Snapshots, Social Responsibility According to Me, Travel and Adventure at 12:47 pm by meldee

Imma back for Part II. Am going to take my time doing this, as I need to conserve energy and witty quips for my other Singkawang/WV write-ups, and I need lunch (and coffeeeeeeeee) and want to run over to the Child Care Centre in PJ with some party dresses of my little cousin Celine in time for Deepavali so in case the older girls haven’t got any new dresses yet, these might do πŸ™‚

Day Three began with breakfast. We had traditional Dayak food (as most of them are Dayak), cucur and…somethinglikelemang. And coffee. Man, these people like their sugar! I had two cups because after the tossing and turning, I needed the caffeine fuel to keep me going. But it turns out that that wasn’t breakfast, that was just an appetiser! Real breakfast consisted rice, more fried chicken, more pork, fresh cucumber slices (damn sweet!) and bamboo shoot kerabu. We were stuffed!

After breakfast, the lot of us jumped back into the 4WDs for the village of Sibale where we visited one of Kalimantan’s most renowned elementary schools. This place, Sekolah Dasar Subsidi Sibale, is different from the others, so we were told, because of the school spirit there, and attitudes towards learning. It has 167 students with many others on the waiting list, and is a private school of sorts because they get no government assistance.


The kids there welcomed us with another dance! We were then invited to sit in their classrooms πŸ™‚


Yeah baby I was there!


There is something almost Communist-like about this photo, haha! But they’re not, I assure you. They were just lining up for a special assembly where we handed out more exercise books.Β  The kids then sang their school song for us, the bridge of which is stuck in my head: “ohh…I love Sibale..”

After sweltering in the sun accompanied by frantic fanning, we took off for the area of Sabau to the small sub-village of Tawang. About 7km from the town (if one could call it that) of Samantalan, we had to disembark from our comfy air-conditioned vehicles and trade them for motorbikes as the roads were BAD. Thank goodness it hadn’t rained, because we’d have gotten stuck in the red clay! I was really excited about getting on a bike again as the last time I did I was probably about 9 years old, and I was riding around Melaka with my late grandfather. I had the offer to go with Tim’s Stepdad Grant on his Ducati when I was in Bega but it never manifested 😦  Nevermind, next time.


Anggoro and I! Lemme just say it was an Experience, riding along these roads at a rather fast pace with no helmet, the hot sun beating down on you…it was about a 2km bumpy-lumpy-umpy ride, one of those which my Gran would remark: “Kalau pregnant memang tu baby sudah terkeluar!” (“If you were pregnant the baby would’ve come out already!”). You can see already from this photo how baked I am πŸ™‚


Another welcoming committee!


But this time, with a garland of fluvvers! *heart* Ugh, my hair’s growing longer again and losing its shape already, bah!


The two main WV projects here was the clean water to every house, and this study hall sort of thing where the village kids could study, learn nature appreciation, dance, play games, etc πŸ™‚ Most of the kids were barefoot here, which was kind of sad. There were also lots of farm animals wandering around aimlessly and pooping all over the place; one of the leaders told me they’ve been asking the government for the longest time about getting funding, or materials to build fences for the animals because it’s so unhygienic for the kids to be wandering and playing around fecal matter :/


The kids singing while others watched on.

After watching more performances, more speeches, and another huuuuuge lunch (where somebody mentioned there was dog meat if we wanted it, eeps!) it started to rain so we needed to take our leave before the roads got worse. So some of us squeezed into Pak Tom’s jeep while the others had to rough it in the rain on bikes (which I am very jealous about because I wanted to ride the motorbike in the rain! Hmmf!).


More cucur and somethinglikelemang, served with hot diluted condensed milk as appetisers.


It’s a miracle I managed this photo at all! The ride was about 10 squillion times more bumpy in the jeep! That’s (clockwise) Siew Ling, Su, Su Ting and me. And the bumpy-lumpy-umpy road.

After this, it was a huge sigh of relief to be back in the 4WDs on proper (this is highly debatable, but everything is relative) roads. One thing I should mention about the roads, they’re all full of potholes and are not done properly, at some stretches even the bridges are makeshift ones—our driver told us it’s because of the rife corruption among government officials. Hmm, sounds familiar…

Anyway we headed back to Singkawang, another close-to-2-hour drive. Hurrah!Most of us passed out for close to 2 hours after rejuvenating showers. Mmm, nice clean bed…


Group shot on the steps of the hotel foyer while waiting to go for dinner.

Singkawang is known for being the ‘Hong Kong of Indonesia’. It’s population is almost 70% Chinese, so you can imagine the overabundance of Chinese eateries. Combined with yowling sounds of bad karaoke and tacky CNY decorations that are never taken down, it was just like being in parts of Ipoh or JB! There are lots of Hakka people here, my kinsmen, yeaaaah.


It was Phoebe’s birthday the next day so we had an early birthday celebration for her with cake! After that was a short drive around the town (it’s actually pretty big!) before heading back to the hotel to pack, bum around, and get more shut eye.

The next morning, after breakfast (and extremely crunchy fried noodles, gaah), we headed over to the WV Singkawang office for a de-briefing session.


That’s Pak Tom talking, and explaining to us how the families for to-be-sponsored children are selected. It’s all very democratic, apparently talks go on for as long as 5 days. All the villagers are gathered and separated into groups where they begin to discuss whether each and every one of the families in the village qualify as impoverished, poor, moderate, or well-to-do. They are also given a list of criteria, of what qualifies as impoverished, etc. Each village has their own standards, so it’s all relative. I was extremely happy at this πŸ™‚ We then each had to give a short speech on our feelings and thoughts, and a few of us had tears in our eyes as we spoke of what we’ve seen. Sadly for me, I didn’t understand most of it as it was in Mandarin, so I had to go with the short translations that came whispered my way.


After that, we very very very quickly made a stop at some places to buy goodies (and in my case, coffee, wahahaha!) before commencing our 3-hour drive to Pontianak to catch our flight back to Jakarta, then home. That’s our driver, Mas Hendrik (I think) doing the thumbs-up sign unwittingly as I snapped this photo πŸ™‚ The coffee smelt yum! They ground it freshly before sealing them up. I bought a kilo of it πŸ˜€

Most of us slept in the car again. Haha.


After about an hour and a half of driving, we stopped off at Sungei Pinyu for lunch at another Chinese restaurant where we had fried noodles and pig’s insides *cringe*. I mean, the fried noodles weren’t bad, but I gingerly picked out the liver, intestines and huge chunks of pork lard. Gaah. I am so not Chinese ok.

We got to the airport just in the nick of time! We didn’t have to wait at all, just check in, have a quick toilet break, pay airport tax (Rp 25,000 – about RM10) and a compulsory donation of Rp 5, 000 (to which I indignantly exclaimed “It can’t be a compulsory donation, this is more like extortion!”) before we were allowed to go through. Oh wells, it’s only RM2 -_-”Β  But still, it’s the principle of the whole thing, no?


There’s always time for a photo! Me and Jia Xiang a.k.a Fatino having our celeb-plane-boarding moment.

A quick flight later and we were back in Jakarta! We said our goodbyes to Imelda *sobs* and proceeded to hunt for dinner, waste time, etc before our 8.20pm flight. Which was brought forward to 8.15pm. Which was then promptly delayed to 9pm.

I couldn’t find my Krispy Kremes 😦 So we had A&W for dinner instead. I kept to my word, no more fried chicken! I had a rather yukky fish burger instead. Digress: if they have beef, chicken and fish burgers, how come no one has duck burgers? I mean, I don’t like duck, but I’m sure others do. Why why? And also, why do they call them hamburgers if they’re not made from ham? Were hamburgers created in Hamburg the way sandwiches were created by the Earl of Sandwich?


While waiting for our shuttle bus to take us to the international terminal, Siew Ling and I wailed and scratched furiously at our assortment of bites. Here we are with our saviour, Mopiko! *three cheers* Now that I’m home, I’ve applied Calamine Lotion to my bites, so I look like a leper -_-” Yes, verrrrrrrry sexy.

Phew! Thus ends my 56k Killer post. Apologies if it isn’t as wordy as yesterday’s, but I’m sitting in a mighty uncomfortable position on my bed (mattresses, more like) and I’m dying for coffee. So I shall end this here, and add more notes, entries, etc as I go along. I will permalink these entries on my sidebar (if I can ruddy figure out how, bah—should be a breeze though) to enable easy access πŸ™‚

In summary, how I found my trip though? Amazing. I was touched by the warmth and gentleness of the people, how readily they opened their hearts and homes to us. I was touched by them taking the time to put so much effort into planning our welcome ceremonies, meals, accomodation and all round comfort. I went there thinking I could teach the youth there a thing or two (me being highly successful and all, ahem), but it turned out the other way round.

They taught me how to be humble, how to be thankful for what I have and will have by virtue of my position of birth in the economic strata. They taught me good humour, to look at things with continuing wonder because life is something to be marveled at. They reminded me to hold on to my dreams and pursue them diligently, because they have it so much harder and yet their drive to succeed is almost as great as mine, if not greater.

This trip was a blessing. I say this without pomp and ceremony, and without further elaboration because in retrospect, too many things and epiphanies occurred for me to properly, cogently word it. So….yeah πŸ™‚

I’m very very happy, and would love to go back there again.

Prepared with mosquito nettings, Ridsect, and a sleeping bag.

November 2, 2007

singkawang sojourn day 1 & 2

Posted in Friends, Happenings, Kids, Snapshots, Social Responsibility According to Me, Travel and Adventure at 7:33 pm by meldee

So I’m back, huzzah! Back home, back on Facebook (gaaaah!), back online *strokes modem affectionately*…back to being worked up about the same old small things like my TAC requests from BOTH my online banking accounts not showing up, which is horrible because I have absolutely NO CREDIT left on my phone. Bah humbug!

But this isn’t about banking, though my banking stories could possibly entail a whole new entry in itself. I am quite fascinated with banking; it’s a strange fixation not even I understand.

This is about me finally going off on a mini-break, humanitarian trip, and journey of self discovery of sorts to Western Kalimantan, around the Pontianak region. And let me just say, 4 days sure as monkeybottoms was not enough!

For those who don’t know this, Pontianak is a vampire of sorts in Malay folklore that comes about when pregnant women die in childbirth—they come back to haunt and terrorise other pregnant women at night, wooo~ as Suet would say. But this was Pontianak the town, and it is located near/on the Equator πŸ™‚ So at 12 noon, nobody has a shadow! How cool.

I’ll just give a quick summary of travel details before you fall asleep on me, I’ll explain more as I add photos πŸ™‚ You better damn right hope my bandwidth hasn’t been exceeded for this month! (note: Gaaaah. Gaaaaah. Dropshots is still being a royal pain, have gone back to Flickr. This one also limited. Rawr!)

The Malaysian World Vision (henceforth known as WV) Malaysia entourage consisted myself, two WV staff (Susan and Su Hsien—yes, another one! Haha what a coincidence), two other youths (Jia Xiang and Stephen, both from JB), a journalist from a local Chinese travel mag (Siew Ling, my new friend *heart*) as well as a local celebrity (and supposedly some sort of icon in the Chinese-speaking world, which I am undoubtedly excluded from—she’s a DJ, presenter and singer too) , Phoebe, and her assistant Su Ting.

Everyone spoke Mandarin except me -_-” Thankfully I also have the ability to tune out almost immediately should conversations commence in said language, unless everyone’s pointing at me and laughing whereby I would then proceed to either very aggressively demand to know what is being said, ignore them even more, or sulk.

Anyway.

From KL’s LCCT, we took a flight to Jakarta where we met Imelda from the World Vision Indonesia Jakarta office who was to also accompany us on our trip. From there, we caught another flight to Pontianak (flights from KL-Kuching-Pontianak were too few and far between). From Pontianak, it was a bumpy, crazy 3 hour drive to Singkawang which was our homebase for this trip. Honestly, in the heavy rain, the driver was going at 80km/h around bends and bumps, and they have no seatbelts in the back seat (believe me, I kept reaching behind frantically for it!)—they also have a strange system with their indicators and their honking. Want to overtake, honk. Vehichle in front (car, bike, pedestrian) going too slow, honk. Going round bends at top speed, honk. See someone you know? honk.

Malaysian drivers seem really considerate and gentle in comparison, which is really saying something. Heh.

Anyhoo, you with me so far? Ok.


Our transit at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport. On the shuttle bus I saw a Krispy Kremes and let out a little yelp—Su Hsien (who studied in Perth) asked me why and when I breathed “Krispy Kremes!” she literally grabbed my arm and with wide-eyes exclaimed “Where?!” but it was closed, and we couldn’t find it again after. Sob. Anyhoo, I loved the giant chandeliers they had—and the wood carvings and all that! So pretty!


After that was the Supadio Airport in Pontianak—this place was a madhouse. Indonesia has a strange Smoke-Anywhere policy—you can even smoke in non-smoking areas, go figure.


Because of all the smoke and people, the three of us escaped outside to—you guessed it, more smoke. That’s Siew Ling, the journalist (I later found out she’s also a Pisces, has had similar relationship troubles to my good self and is same blood-type B! Plus I totally want her job ok! She’s been to Japan, Sydney, all sorts of places! Only problem is, me no speaking/writing Chinese) from Let’s Travel, me (I deflate in heat) and Su Hsien, who works in Publicity and Communications in WV Malaysia.

After the crazybumpyscary ride to Singkawang, we arrived at the Mahkota Hotel. I’m not sure if it’s a chain of which there is a branch in Melaka which I stayed at over Chinese New Year this year, but I was honestly expecting something no frills, no fuss, even a little bit dodgy. So when I saw this, I was pleasantly surprised—and felt guilty. Was I not supposed to be experiencing poverty and destitution?!


The dining area where they had live performances every night which consisted of a few people yowling and dancing to musty old English songs like ‘I Beg Your Pardon (I Never Promised You a Rose Garden)’, etc. Thankfully I blotted the sound out by watching StarMovies and HBO πŸ˜€


The reception area. There was Pak Tom and Feliki (sp?) from WV Singkawang there to look after us, and Susan from WV Malaysia in the centre. I had the least luggage of all—which frankly made me quite worried when I saw that even the guys had bigger luggage than mine o_O


After a full day of travel, we headed out for dinner. Su Hsien has a sponsored child, Rita, who traveled three hours that day to meet her. Su Hsien had a load of stuff for her; maths books, pencils, etc—I chipped in a balloon from a packet that my dad told me to bring along and give to the kids along the way. I was initially quite skeptical but when the balloons went down like a ton of bricks with the kindergarten kids especially, I regretted not bringing more.

Anyhow, this was a picture of us at dinner. Clockwise: Su Hsien, Rita’s teacher (I forget her name), Su Ting (Phoebe’s assistant), Phoebe, me (bah!), Stephen, Jia Xiang, Siew Ling, Imelda, Pak Tom, Anggoro, Susan and Rita. Rita’s 8 and she’s really really tiny! My brother looks like Godzilla in comparison to her. She was also really shy. Dinner was great—I’ve also discovered another tendency among the people we visited, to always, always, have fried chicken. I’m swearing off fried chicken for a month, at least.


Day #2 of our visit, kicked off with breakfast in the hotel! I had way too much coffee (as usual) and as the result was remarkably bubbly at the ungodly hour of 6-something in the morning. The sun rises really early there, and they’re one hour behind Peninsula Malaysia time. With Stephen, Jia Xiang and Su Hsien, taken using the timer *beams*.

Before we headed off to the villages,we stopped by the WV Singkawang office to pick up some stuff—exercise books and clean water, etc for the children and us.


Check out that beautiful shade of blue sky *marvels*.


Myself and the guys. Though there was a slightly bigger communication challenge between myself and Jia Xiang, conversing with Stephen wasn’t as bad because he’s in his third year doing Biotech at UCSI. Jia Xiang is still doing the Chinese school equivalent of Sixth Form in Batu Pahat. They’re both really incredibly jovial and high-spirited and made the trip that much more fun, as I am quite boring around strangers.


The WV Malaysia entourage and Rita, Su Hsien’s sponsored child. You can learn more about sponsoring a child here. Mind you, I said sponsor, not adopt. When you sponsor a child you don’t just give them money, it goes to a pool that benefits the entire community your child lives in. It could go towards building a new school, a new well, pipes and materials, and training teachers so that your child has a better shot at a brighter future.

You know the saying about giving a man a fish a day to feed himself, compared to spending a day teaching him how to fish? Or something like that? Yeah, that’s what WV does. I personally really like the idea of teaching the communities self-sufficiency as opposed to the spoonfeeding most governments and some charities do.

The first village we went to was called Sijankung, about an hour’s drive away, where we visited a kindergarten jointly funded by the church and WV for children aged 3-5. It was literally, four rooms in a row. It makes our schools here look so…pompous.


The kids were so good! Though they gave us a naturally curious once-over, they remained fully attentive to their study. Apparently they’re quite used to visitors, and love love love taking photos. In kindy they learn the basics of reading, writing and ‘rithmatic, as well as 10 core moral values to help ease the transition into elementary school.


The kids. Awww…look at their lickly iddy widdy uniforms *spasms with delight*. We were celebrities of sorts there, really, because the mothers kept insisting on taking photos with us πŸ™‚ One of the mothers I talked to kept gushing over how good WV has been in helping them out, especially with her having 10 kids (gasp). She was really lovely *warmfuzzyfeelings*. I hope I’m that good natured especially if I have 10 kids! LOL.


Me and the kids’ outdoor-learning classroom.


The next kindy on the visit list was the one at Sagatani where all the kids wore bright pink! So cute! There was an adorable little boy there that absolutely stole my heart with his twinkling eyes and gap-toothed grin.


Their headmistress, Ibu Yenni (in purple) giving a mini-speech before the kids started singing and dancing for us.


“Who wants something special?!” The kids all reacting joyfully, but none more so than my little boy (look carefully, he’s the one with the huge grin and is up on one arm elevating himself above his peers). They had to answer really simple questions like “which animal has a trunk/long neck?” and they got sweets, pencils, and balloons (from me).

I love ickle kiddies. There’s just something about them that’s so full of awe at the world that we adults are so weary of and jaded about that’s breathtaking in its naivete. I reckon we can all learn something from them.

After two kindergartens, we upped it a level and proceeded to the village of Sibaju for lunch and to see the kids at the elementary school. While the two kindergartens had clean running water, Sibaju didn’t. The community here was so excited about WV coming in to help with building them a school and getting clean water to each home that they actually gave their land to build the school! Here we also met two other sponsored children, Santo (sponsored by local artiste Michael Wong) and Orisius (sponsored by Lite FM DJ Non). The kids were lovely, they welcomed us with huge smiles, enthusiastic greetings and a traditional dance.


They’re camera-lovers! They found every way to entertain us to ensure photo-taking πŸ˜‰ Here a boy on stilts tottered around for me while his friends crowded around to get their 15 seconds of fame;)


Phoebe and the kids. She even taught them the “ke ren lai, kan papa” song. If my phonetic-ising of it is wrong, shaddap I don’t care, as long as you get the picture.


Me and the tiny dancers πŸ˜‰ The girl at the far left of this photo and in the centre were amazing dancers. You couldn’t take your eyes off them! They had amazing grace and rhythm, and it was a pleasure to watch πŸ™‚ Of course, when the lot of us got dragged up there to emulate their dance moves, guess which two-left-footed numbskull ended up massacring the steps -_-“


We also had fresh corn for a lunch appetiser! Believe it or not my pale-as corn beat Su’s orange one in terms of taste and texture hands down, hah! We were also making (lame) jokes about how it’s not the person that chooses the corn, but the corn that chooses the person (yalah okwe are very lame, go away).


I love this shot! As we sat down to lunch in their tiny seating area of sorts a little girl was peeking up at me talking to some of the other people, and I snapped this picture of her. Needless to say shortly after she was very rudely pushed to one side by her bigger peers also trying to pan-cute for me. Sorry guys! πŸ˜›


I don’t remember his name but this boy (aged 13, with one eye :|) followed me into a classroom and wrote this down on the blackboard for me πŸ™‚


Naughty naughty! This bubbly cheerful little girl skipped school that day because she heard visitors were coming to this school, so she popped by to say hello and amuse us with her stilt-walking antics πŸ™‚


As guests of honour, we got to give out exercise books and pens sponsored by WV Indonesia to the kids! It was an extreeeeeeemely hot day, mind you, so discount how I look like.


Me and Siew Ling, and the yummiest lunch ever! There was sambal belacan, bamboo shoots, fucuk and potatoes, and pork with onions, nyum nyum. I don’t know how they made it but lemme tell ya, it was damned good! It was so good I’ve even decided that it’s on par with my grandma’s cooking, which is really Saying Something.

After our lunch, we went to the homes of Santos and Orisius to give them gifts from their sponsor fathers.


The girls. The kids all followed us to his house cause they wanted to see what would go on. Orisius’ sister is seriously so emaciated, I think she’s about 10-12 and she has to do the cooking and cleaning sometimes. They live in a tiny two room wooden hut with no electricity and running water, and no furniture at all. His father left his mother when she was 7 months pregnant with her youngest child, so she has three kids to take care of and the barest minimum income to cover it. Sigh. She couldn’t have been more than 35 years old, but she looked so utterly worn out and defeated that it made her look twice her age.

I honestly cannot imagine living under such conditions, and to do so with three kids depending on you, no husband and no outside, good grief.


I distracted myself with taking a photo of this giant-piant spider (as opposed to eensy-weensy). Izuan, any idea what this species is?:)


Their kitchen. Observe the peaceful puppy and kitten! Also, try to imagine cooking for your family of four, day in day out, under such conditions.


Village kids (and Imelda in the stripey top) seeing what they could see (me, in between scratching viciously at the horrid insect bites and slapping away at Aedes mozzies).

After this house, we had to trek about another 15 minutes to the house of Orisius, who is Non’s sponsored child.


That’s Su with Orisius (in yellow) and his parents in the background. Mind you, while this house looks a lot better than Santos’ (they had electricity, a TV and VCR player), their family has 8 kids, of which Orisius is the second-youngest of. His parents work as farmers and tap rubber, and have to walk three hours each way in a day to get to work. His mum Marina was telling us, the only reason why their house looks ‘nice’ in comparison to others was because a few years back, when they reared pigs, they sold the lot and built the house. But they don’t have toilets or pipe water, and all the pigs died because of disease, so their burden is at times too heavy at times that they can only afford to let 5 of their 8 children go to school.


Me being a jakun with their last giant pig. I didn’t dare get too close because it looked so fierce! It was so fat, too! Imagine if anything had happened, the headlines: ‘Death by Pig’?! *shudder* That’s like Hannibal. I’m kind of afraid of actual pigs (but not of eating their meat, har har!) after reading Hannibal.

After this, we headed over to the village of Sendoreng where we would spent the night, interact with the youth there and sit in on a discussion/open forum between WV and the village elders (all male, needless to say).


One of the village elders had very kindly let us bunk at his place. We were told we wouldn’t need to bring anything cause it would all be ‘taken care of’…little did we know what awaited us…


Ta-daaaaah! Our room, to be shared between me, Su, Susan and Siew Ling. That was it, folks—a few mats on the floor. No pillows, no bedsheets, no blankets, no mosquito netting (to our chagrin at 4am when each of us were fighting a losing battle with them vicious jungle mozzies). We gave the boys our single tatty mattress because their room looked like…urm, a haunted room in a haunted house. It had cracks in the floorboard and all, so the lads stayed up till about 3am chatting and looking at the stars until they totally crashed at about 4am.

Meanwhile us four became blood donors—I had no pillow or blanket (Susan came prepared with hers, hmmf!) so had to roll up a few of my clothes as a pillow, bummed socks off Siew Ling and used my hoodie as a blanket of sorts, reverting it and using the hood to cover my face because those damned mozzies wouldn’t leave me alone! Gaaaaaah! They even flew into my ears! We woke up the next morning ragged and exhausted, but thankfully we all were good-spirited about it πŸ™‚ That night has been nicknamed ‘The Night of 1001 Sleeping Positions’, of which I probably contributed to about half of. I was sleeping kneeling down in yoga positions!


Heh, anyway, the rest of the house. They had a little pool and an alcove of sorts that had an image of Mother Mary inside, which I found incredibly beautiful. Close-ups later (as in, another entry).


The youths of the village, who were the raison d’etre of Jia Xiang’s and my presence on the trip. They were lovely—shy at first, then after a while they got warmed up. The girl in the solid baby blue shirt, Magdalena, has an amazing voice that can totally transfix you. She sang an Indonesian song at my request. My request, because Jia Xiang (who gave himself the Indonesian name ‘Fatino’, LOL, because of the difficulty in pronouncing his name) were divided into groups and we had to show them pictures of our lives here, and talk about our experiences and interact with them—we were talking about ambitions and hers was to be a singer, so I asked her to sing something for me.

When she did, it blew me away. I told her shakily how she’d better not let go of this dream and to hold it close to her heart because it might someday come true—I dunno why but something tells me she will succeed. She’s 18, and is the only one among the group of about 20 of them who can speak passable English. I hope she gets the chances she deserves, she and all her friends.


The next morning (ragged, sleep deprived, sore and blood-drained) with the wonderful people who took good care of us in Sendoreng *heart*.

I’d just also like to say that insofar as I am grateful to be sponsored this trip, my judgment hasn’t been (completely) clouded over in gratitude, etc—but I really, really, really do admire the work that WV does. Especially the fieldwork: the meeting with village elders, sourcing materials, getting to know the people and children—it’s really draining and tiring, and I imagine, quite disheartening at times when it doesn’t work out.

And I find it swell that even though this is a Christian organisation, they in no way tried to make myself (or the other non-Christian travelers) feel uncomfortable with conversion-speak and whatnot—it just goes to show really that at the end of the day, religion is just a personal choice, a vessel if you like, by which we each become good, useful human beings. Of course there were the obligatory pre-meal prayers, but I understand completely that it was a show of thanks for the food (amen!) and companionship; I’m all for being grateful for this (esp. the food).

But what I like best about their work is that they don’t just give the people that need it the money; they equip them with actual skills and knowledge, like saving (and banking, woots!), teamwork in building the kindergartens, wells and community areas, and of course, child protection rights. Which is amazing, because not even here in Malaysia where we view ourselves as ‘advanced’ and ‘civilised’ do we actively educate our children in their rights. In fact, some of us are even told by our own parents that we have no rights *ahem*. But that’s an old story—I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy because of WV’s actions.

Because there is no excuse for abusing children; not culture, not “Oh I’m Sorry I Lost My Temper”, not financial problems, nothing. As Pak Tom put it, the money just serves as a catalyst to get things going; sadly as much as we try to disassociate ourselves from it, money does make the world go round. BUT it’s not the only thing; there are also the core values I found myself reminded of during this trip: comradeship, love, altruism and the sheer might and power of the human spirit and heart.

Will continue this post tomorrow πŸ™‚ More pictures then!

October 21, 2007

sunday anecdotes

Posted in D'oh!, Friends, Happenings at 11:37 pm by meldee

So I headed over to Izuan’s by my lonesome today for his Raya Open House (more like, Open Mansion, tcah!) as Zhen Yao and Kathia regrettably had other stuff to do. I was pretty much all geared up to go adventuring into the wilderness of Shah Alam, and was determined to go alone.

And I found it! Yay πŸ™‚

Anyway, there, amidst the of insecurity/awe driving down the roads and gawping dumbly at the positively palatial proportions of some of the properties (oooh, alliteration!), I was looking forward to the food, but of course πŸ™‚ Met a few people from uni there, Shazeea, Cze Wien, Desmond, Daleel, Taha…and some of Izuan’s friends, of course.

Among the topics of discussion were of course, our Can-or-Not up in space, and among the uni lot, some of the stuff that went on in the new council’s meeting which I absolutely howled my head off at.

We were talking about making contraceptives readily/easily available to young women in the Wom*n’s Room next semester, provided they use itΒ  properly, and with their own prior knowledge (disclaimer: I am not encouraging premarital sex, I am encouraging educated decisions on matters including and especially sexual intercourse). The discussion turned to other forms of contraception such as the birth control pill (not the student’s place to decide—these have to be prescribed by a medical practitioner!), female condoms, etc—

while reiterating the fact that we are not advocating sex per se, but safe sex. And at this point someone piped up, “Well, I have a solution—we should just take the money and buy vibrators, that way there are no STD/pregnancy scares and everybody will be happy”.

I received some mighty strange looks from all the middle-aged folk around us, LOL.

Another hilarious thing, Shazeea, who gave Taha and Daleel lifts to Izuan’s from Sunway, had to leave early, so I offered to drop them back seeing as how I’m only a little over 5km away. Mind you, these two guys, are heaps tall. As in, I reckon Taha’s well over 6ft, and Daleel’s taller than him. Fitting them in the car, Taha had to sit in front with the seat all the way back, and Daleel had to go in the back seat sideways.

I was tickled at this; I must have been the least likely candidate for a carjacking/assault *choi, touch wood* with these two guys in my car! Needless to say, BSM* (car’s name, will not spell it out in case someone takes offense to me stating the obvious with regards to Proton’s (sheer lack of) quality) was straining heavily—it helped not that I got us a little lost on the way back, and ended up in Batu Tiga!

The drive back, was needless to say, highly entertaining πŸ™‚

All in all, a good weekend. Saturday was spent in the final MUSA Council Meeting (from 10am-4pm!), cleaning up the Elections Committee office (sob, goodbye, old friend!), embarking on another mini-adventure to send Yee Hou home in Kelana Jaya, and then doing yoga with the kids at the childcare centre! Total wipeout.

Bring on the final week of my undergraduate year, yeah baby!

October 18, 2007

bookheaven

Posted in Friends, Reads at 7:31 pm by meldee

Yessssss.

Just found out my library card is valid till the end of summer school, huzzah! I forsee many many trips to the library over these holidays. *rubs hands in glee*

I know, I am such a dork. I even have the picture (on my phone, though, boo—can’t find the bluetooth on my computer to switch on so I can’t transfer it to show you) to sorta prove it—me in Ethan’s sexayy specs, or me in sexayy Ethan’s specs, either way you put it.

I really am thrilled though, because this means I can read as many books as I like and not pay for it, because technically, I have, by way of library fees. Books here are not cheap—and for a lit lover like myself it can put a strain on one’s pocket. So I’m using this opportunity to take out as many books as possible—comprising, mostly, for now, Booker/Nobel Lit/Whitbread Award winners.

It has always been my fantasy to be able to walk into any bookstore I like and buy whatever books I wanted without having to think twice about the cost. *sigh* Someday, someday.

Anyhoo.

I’ve already read, finished and returned Vernon God Little (abso-fucken-lutely hilarious!) and am currently savouring the deliciousness of Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. From what I’ve read so far, Ishiguro’s prose is like hot scones with melted butter on top—a delicious indulgence that of course, is terribly British. All prim and proper, if you please. I like. Vernon God Little, by contrast, was about as redneck as you could have it—a boy detained (and on the run) from charges for murders he did not commit in the barbecue sauce centre of America. It was incredibly satirical, and quite witty—and of course I appreciated the colourful words he Pierre used to invoke images of more…provocative…things.

My holiday reading list (because I want feedback, recommendations, etc):

1. The Impressionist, Hari Kunzru

2. Incognito Street: How Travel Made Me a Writer, Barbara Sjoholm

3. An Artist of the Floating World, Kazuo Ishiguro (yes I’m on a rampage)

4. The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

5. The Buddha of Suburbia, Hanif Kureishi

6. Shopaholic & Baby, Sophie Kinsella

Don’t laugh ok, especially at the last one! For your information I used to be quite the chick lit chick before I turned into a quasi-book snob, and old habits die hard. But sad to say for chick lit I usually switch off la, because plots are usually overdetermined and characters can be quite blah.

But for those who want postmodern chick lit, I highly recommend Cecelia Ahern’s A Place Called Here. I reckon it merges the genres quite well, and you can spot all the recurring themes, imagery, etc. I want to write like Ms. Ahern, I really do.

/edit

In typical me-style I’ve already finished Shopaholic & Baby. Get it out of my system quick, you know? While there were the requisite laugh-out-loud moments, I’ve decided for the life of me why would anyone consciously create such a stupid character. Of course Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) may be lovable in her ditzy own way, but honestly, at times her sheer stupidity makes me want to knock her over the head with a cudgel.

That’s it, no more chick lit la. Unless of course I decide to do my dissertation on chick lit (any passable Malaysian/Asian chick lit for me to massacre and analyse to death? Please don’t even bring up that annoying chick May Zhee—something with a little more substance, please), which would require me to devour many chick lit books in the name of research.

I can’t stand these stupid, vapid, vacuous portrayals of women so frivolously caught up in the world of consumerism, sex, and patriarchal ideologies. But it’s sad because not many people (myself included at times) want to really soak up strong, independent, ballsy women.

/end editΒ 

***

To commemorate our final day of class, Temme, Kathia, both Cheryls, Ethan and I sat around for almost a good 6 hours (aye, 6 hours!) gas-bagging in the cafeteria. Meaning to say we talked. About everything and nothing, which often make for the most fun conversations ever.

It evokes a sense of nostalgia, because this is it; the end of our undergraduate year. Kathia’s going off to China, Cheryl Yab’s wanting to work in Singapore, Cheryl Dunn wants to abscond the country (smart girl), Tems will be around but working, Ethan will be here one more semester and me? I still don’t know yet for sure where I’m going, but this is sort of like the end of an era, you know? The fin de siecle.

Has it really been three years? My God, time has just whizzed by.

From being wet-nosed first years who hadn’t a clue about discourse or semiotics and ideology, to jaded third years who are constantly bemoaning the stupidity, passivity and general dead jellyfish-ness of some of our juniors. I know it’s been said a million times before but university life really has been the best years of my life (“so far“, sniffs the Homer in my head). The combination of really being exposed to new things (some radical, some not so), taking on responsibilities, coming into one’s own…I feel a little wistful that I kind of studied most of it away, though I guess it will pay off in the end.

And it’s not like I haven’t been without friends. I’ve met amazing people, been taught mind-boggling things, seen more than I thought I would. *gets all misty-eyed*.

Ramblings aside, cheers to you, my friends, classmates and countrypersons (I’m being politically correct here). It has been, in short, fabulous, dahling.

October 9, 2007

writing life

Posted in Friends at 7:05 pm by meldee

Reading Temme’s blog in tribute of our Writing class (Writing Techniques last semester and Writing Experiments this semester), it made me feel a little wistful. I mean, sure, racking one’s brains for good writing fodder for outrageously weighted assignments at godforsaken hours (like 3pm after 4 hours’ worth of class in a row, ugh!) is not an easy feat. But being in a class of this size (only 15 of us!) and being able to break boundaries in terms of language and ideas, it’s mindblowing.

I guess I never properly appreciated the freedom this class has given me. It’s been such a wonderful year of learning, how to develop myself as a writer and a person. I’ve learned so much from Sharon and my classmates and have been utterly blown away by their creativity and talent—and of course, hard work. I’m worn out and weary from the pileup of work and emotional turbulences but it’s good, if you know what I mean?

Plus, there are bragging rights being in this class—we really do get along famously, classes are often something we look forward to because Sharon always tries to make things interesting for us, even once holding our class, outside the classroom! Expletives are fully accepted, strange things talked about that would have any Freudian analyst in a headspin, we are transported into really another universe outside this banal container of academia.

I love Writing/writing πŸ™‚

Befitting of our last class, we had to put on performances of our prose/poetry. It was incredibly amazing, some of the things they did, and the amount of passion and intensity. I feel terrible for laughing and being all airheaded but I was thinking of the Cake that Never Came 😦

Pictures, mine suck. I really do need a new camera, one with more functions and a less wonky camera cable—mine’s falling apart and the wiring’s poking out. The one on Tems’ blog are fantabulous so I’m gonna steal some of them off her flickr site—thanks babe! πŸ™‚


Claudia’s performance. I was supposed to be a rape victim who had to give Tasha, my father/rapist a blowjob. At this point I collapsed into giggles. -_-” I’m such a prude.


Tems’ performance was intense. Raw emotion and shock, man.


Cheryl Yab’s silence was more powerful than any amount of screaming.


Mine πŸ˜‰ I didn’t have a plain white unfitted bedsheet so I had to use my normal one. I only have one bedsheet, by the way. damn sad right? At least it’s high count cotton so I’m happy.


Max.


Tems got a really good candid shot of me, and amazingly I don’t look entirely spastic! Huzzah!


I love Temme’s shot of Claudia’s hands.


Aron who was videoing the whole session!


Fellow writers! Max, Pei Wei, Ethan, Joanne, Cheryl Dunn, Kathia, a very spastically exuberant me, Clauds, Tash and Cheryl Yab. Missing are Kathleen (who was sitting on the sides due to her injuries), Aron (who was filming), Tems (obviously, taking the photo), Mindy (facilitating her session in the background) and Divya (possibly unwell).

More photos on Tem’s site, go see if you’re desperately kepoh.

Another quick uni-related update:

1. Had class run by Academic Crush today! *twinkletoes* Think me and group must have seriously bewildered him because while we were supposed to talk about sport/spectacle we ended up discussing (very loudly) if balls (yes, testicles) can be lopsided.Eyes and breasts can be lopsided, why not testicles? Any feedback on this one?

2. Have received conditional offer from RMIT in Melbourne to enrol in their Masters program. Am crossing my fingers, toes, eyes, etc that it will turn into a full offer with hopefully, a scholarship chucked in the mix although I know how terrifically hard it is, especially for Masters by coursework. Bah.


I miss Tim. And my long hair. But since I miss my long hair so much I’m gonna go cut it again.

October 6, 2007

“the erection was massive!”

Posted in Friends, Happenings, Kids at 9:25 pm by meldee

…and I quote Yee Hou’s MSN display name πŸ˜›

No, I haven’t gone all smutty on you, tough luck. This is in reference to the MUSA General ELections; for weeks prior to this Yee Hou, my fellow Assistant Returning Officer went around proclaiming happily, “Harroo, we are Yee Hou and Merody from the Erections Committee!”, clearly bagging the shit out of a certain type of accent.

But yeah! At long last, it’s over—official results will be out on Monday but most of us already knew who won πŸ˜‰ And rightly so. I know I am supposed to remain unprejudiced and fair as well as equitable (and I was!) by remaining impartial but lemme tell ya I’m breathing a huge sigh of relief the results turned out the way they did πŸ˜‰

The polling throughout the week and the climax of the event–the vote counting (which went on till 11pm Friday!) was really interesting though, and I learned a valuable lesson:Β  do. not. have. too. much. sugar. because. then. i. cannot. sit. still.

I was leaping around the function room, pretty much, due to a high of sugars and carbohydrates. Bad bad bad.

The end of this does, however, also signify the beginning of week 12—I have 2 more weeks of being an undergraduate before I will and can be declared unemployed! 4 more assignments to plod through, ugh! At least with the elections (erections, haha!) out of the way I should be able to really sit down and concentrate on my work—hah!

Have been feeling very gloomy as of late. Heaps of things have been going on, and I think it’s really beginning to take a toll on me. Today at my session with the kids at the childcare centre I snapped at a little boy who’d been harassing one of the younger kids, and it upset him so much he crawled under the table and refused to come out.

It really broke my heart and I feel terrible because I didn’t mean to; I get narky with my own little cousins and snap at them too, but they get over it because they know me. I just wasn’t mindful enough to remember that these kids are special and they don’t know me well; they need to be treated with extra extra extra love and care and tenderness because of what they’ve been through.

I feel rotten 😦 Working with kids isn’t as easy as I thought, and it really makes me wonder at the amount of thought and maturity it really requires to bring a child into this world. And how sensitive they are—they pick up vibes and absorb moods really quickly. It made me more aware that there will never be adult solutions to children’s problems. You can’t reason and apologize profusely to a child and expect that to soothe rough words or conduct in the heat of the moment when you raise your voice or hit them, accidentally or otherwise; all the child knows is that you’ve done that, and no amount of apology or placating can heal their tender little hearts.

It may seem like a small incident, but to me this was an epiphany of sorts, and brought on some self-realisation. And questions, of course. Always, questions.

Too often and too hastily we think only of good things if we were to have children, like them achieving all sorts of wonderful things and being the best child ever; but there are always the what-ifs—what if they have a disability, either physically or mentally? What if in the course of their young life, they are subject to abuse from a person in authority? What if they turn out completely unlike what you expected? Could you still love them as unconditionally as you would if they were ‘perfect’?

Simple questions, with not-so simple answers. Or answers, simple or otherwise, at all.

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