February 15, 2009

the prodigal child returns

Posted in Random Ramblings, The Thesis, Travel and Adventure at 6:20 pm by meldee

Good lord, it’s been months since I last updated. I apologise (though I’m really not sure why) for my unaccounted for absence–I’m sort of borderline ‘OhMyGod you poor fellers who still come by this blog (all two of you)’ and ‘Hufff it’s my prerogative to update/not so live with it’.

I even forgot my blog username/password, if that’s any indication of my dedication to this. In summary, I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I (will) blog when the spirit moves me, but also I’d like to get back in touch with writing (insightfully and wittily)–for my own good.

Updates, updates. As much has been happening in the last few months since that frazzled, angsty post.

In no particular order:

  1. The Thesis was submitted on time. In fact, about 10 days early. A lecturer remarked rather incredulously to me that this is possibly the first time she has seen anyone hand in their work before the deadline. Which made me smug, because I pride myself on doing things faster than your average procrastinator.
  2. The Bali conference went spiffingly! I met some really lovely people and gaped in awe during speeches of some incredibly inspiring women (and some men). I felt a sense of belonging there, though some of the ‘older’ feminists did pretty much frighten the beejezus out of me.
  3. My Australian break was fabulous. I cooked, baked, ate, lazed, read, watched a shitload of TV and went to the beach. I went camping, drove a boat (for all of two minutes), became a Mummy Koala (according to T’s second niece) and had many, many drinks of the alcoholic variety (my poor liver was out of training for so long). And oh–I got engaged! πŸ˜€
  4. So yes, though we are now engaged we have not set any date. The not being in the same country is a huge hurdle, as is the fact that many companies in Australia were not hiring and had freezed headcounts (especially for foreigners, sigh). The lack of money and work experience on my part is also a problem, albeit one that is being worked on. We have no idea when we’ll see each other again for sure (save the Skype webcamming) but I’m hoping he’ll make it up here for my graduation in September.
  5. I did not forget to apply for graduation this year. Yay, me.
  6. The Thesis (unofficial) results came back a few days ago, and it really hit me when I rang T to tell him. I got an 86 from one examiner and a 90 from another, which should give me First Class Honours as prior to getting these results I had an average of 81.5 for both the taught units. Needless to say, I was over the bloody moon and exuberantly declared that I would happily do it (the whole Honours year) all over again. Actually, on second thought–maybe not.
  7. I am currently being interviewed for a number of jobs, and chastising myself for not being ‘all’ that these companies want. I am now torn between the idea of working for a huge MNC (but I dread the idea of being a desk jockey doing things I absolutely despise) and the idea of working for a publication, which has been my lifelong dream but does not have the same sort of prestige/payroll as this particular MNC would (also, that area of writing is not exactly my forte–have been shitting myself all weekend reading everything I can get my grubby paws on and making little diagrams). But I feel I know what I want, and becoming a corporate bunny most definitely is not it. I am dizzied from the options and pros and cons.

Going for interviews also exposed me to something quite nasty which I have (usually) been quite oblivious to. The fact that when people see a relatively nice-looking young woman (who oh, happens to wear makeup and dresses and have kitsch accessories and shoes) they look at you funny. And by people, I mean middle-aged women in positions of power. I know it’s extremely catty and stereotypical, and as a quasi-feminist I should know better, but I’m just saying that it happens, and I’m certain not all middle-aged women are so inclined–I’m just speaking from experience.

Hell, I might even end up being one of them in a few years. I’m not exactly getting any younger, and I do admit to tut-tutting over the way some of my ex students were dressed/conducted themselves. I guess we all do that–judge. It’s nasty but that’s the way it is.

Anyhoo, I don’t know why but it really gets to me. And I know it shouldn’t, because I am in control of the thoughts I give energy to, but I would really love to be judged by merit and not anything else. But that’s my idealist speaking–having worked in media-esque fields I know in this industry (and in ANY industry, for that matter) it’s all about who you know and not necessarily what you know.

I just find it a bit sad, that’s all.

I should dash now–there’s a barbecue going on at a dear friend’s place as a send-off for her to go to Australia to pursue further study, and I’m sicketty sick sick–a detour to the doctor’s is needed before I rock up at her door and possibly render everyone else there sniffly and coughy.

On the note of infectious diseases–whoever drank my Black Label and Coke last night, if you catch my cold serves you bloody right. Effing freeloaders.

Right, I promise to try harder for my next entry and actually have a structure/form of some sort.

If I remember that I have a blog. Heh.

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October 16, 2008

on see-sawing

Posted in Happenings, Random Ramblings, The Thesis, Travel and Adventure, Uni at 4:14 pm by meldee

It’s been a mad few days; and ones that I will possibly look back on in a few weeks and smile wryly at. Until then, I’m floundering in a pit of frazzled-ness.

Take this morning for instance.

Was supposed to send my grandmother to the bus stop for her to catch her express bus to Melaka. I thought she said 8pm, so I was rushing to get her there by 7.30. When we got there, poor thing gives me a doleful look and says, ‘It’s only an hour I have to wait’.

Her bus was due at 8.30am.

After driving off, I felt so bad I wanted to turn around and wait with her, but it took me 20 minutes to wait at the traffic light to make the U-turn so I decided not to. It took me about 50 minutes to crawl the measly 5km to uni after that.

Got to uni, and BLOODY security guard at the staff carpark stops me and demands to see my card. There’s only one guard who does this to me, always the same feller. I pressed my card up to my window (it displays the card validity period and faculty) and he shooed me away.

There was a car behind me and I was still wracked with guilt from depositing my poor gran off so early (plus my window rosak. Proton car, what’s new) so I just reversed and drove all the way in to the construction area to park.

By the way, this guard only picks on me. I swear to God. In the time that it took me to walk from my car to the end of the path, he’d let in four other cars (two with P stickers!) without so much as a ‘STOP! SHOW ME YOUR ID!’.

I was eyeballing him furiously from behind my bug-eye sunnies and he was actually eyeballing me back! At the end of the pathway I pulled out my ID and waved it very violently at him to say ‘I HAVE MY BLOODY ID YOU STUPID COW!’

Then I got stopped at the main gates. By the nice lady security guard who sees me everyday.

Who also asked me for my ID. (Bloody hell).

Turns out she was walkie-talkieing with the feller who denied me entry and she eyeballed my card.

‘But your card expires in two weeks,’ she said, confused. ‘I know!’ I wailed. ‘This is the last week of my class and I always park there but he didn’t let me in! He always picks on me!’

Grimacing sympathetically, she walkie-talkies back to the guard. ‘Her staff ID expires on October 31st 2008. Today is not the 31st, it is the 16th.’

Apparently the fat bastard thought this month was what, NOVEMBER?! Bloody eejut. He then apologised and asked me to go back so I could repark my car. Huff. Fat chance.

Anyway.

Rest of the day was spent tutoring (for four hours, oh la la), giving a talk (I am totally creeped out that my name has been splashed on all the uni computer desktops)…in which I got to talk to a cute guy (ho hum!), and now, waiting for my effing virus scan to be completed because the effing uni laptop gave me a nasty something-or-other.

On the agenda is another talk to attend in the evening, working on my slides for my presentation tomorrow, and then starting to read feedback from one of my supervisors on one of my chapters.

And, oh, work on my conference paper.

Yuppo, will be going to (get this) BALI to present my very first (international, eek!) conference paper! All expenses paid, which I am quite smug about. I said I’d blog about it only when I got it, so it looks like my visualisation has actually been pretty effective.

It’s basically a young women’s leadership forum and dealing with the future of feminisms in Asia, so I will be one of possibly hundreds of presenters. I am both terrified and thrilled, and I know it’s a wonderful opportunity, but still.

Wah. With the current workload. Plus there’s a wedding this weekend! Gah.

I’m quite literally see-sawing up and down and mood-swinging like a maniac, because there have been so many things coming up this month. I am so relieved that tomorrow is officially the last day of the semester, and that all this madness should settle by next week.

Big sigh. Apologies for being a Rambly Pants but I’m done now. Expect to hear nothing of me for the next few weeks. It feels like at times like these I am too busy to even breathe.

August 5, 2008

where am i?

Posted in Happenings, The Thesis, Travel and Adventure, Uni at 12:00 pm by meldee

Here, there, God-knows where.

Canon EOS Kiss, M.University Cultural Night 2008.

***

So I’ve been away…don’t know how many have noticed, indeed, how many still stop on by as part of their blog-skipping routine. It’s four weeks into the semester and things are starting to go blah again, as they inevitably do. Have been feeling scattered and uneasy, and the pressure is mounting (as is the pile of work).

I’ve decided to firmly knuckle down this week before I head up North for an eating holiday with a Dahling. 2,000 words is the goal–how feasible this is remains yet unseen.

It has come to my attention that I have a blogstalker. While that in itself is hardly something to be shocked or horrified over, given the very nature of the Internet itself, the whole notion of stalking in general scares the bejeezus out of me. I never understood why some people do it, or comprehended the compulsive nature of it. I suppose I’m being quite contrary as I have stalked a few blogs in my time (now mostly fashion-oriented ones) but I hate it when online activity spills into my offline life.

So BlogStalker, stalk my blog all you want but please don’t give me meaningful looks in public. Good grief, the very thought of it… it’s enough to make me want to pee in my pants with fright.

I am perfectly aware that I am rabbitting on quite incomprehensibly.

For anyone who cares, indeed, I assume not many would, I am about 7,000 words into my thesis. This means I’m about a third done? Unfortunately, not much of this 7,000 words make any sense; it’s still a montage of dispersed arguments and disparate thoughts. Now I know why I was discouraged from tutoring, alas my pride required me to do it just to prove a point (and to earn money).

***

I have a new pet rock. I kid you not. I carry it in my pocket (starting today, seeing as how I got it yesterday) so consider yourselves warned, would-be-assailants, I have a pet rock and I’m not afraid to use it.

Listening to Yann Tiersen’s soundtrack for Amelie always makes me smile. I’ve been listening to it for the past..oh, four hours? It’s on repeat; it almost always is. Perfect for mood music (mood to do work, that is).

I am obsessing over my hair. Again. My Aries is fascinated with it and so I can hardly help myself.

Three months to Australia. The visa and return ticket have yet to be sorted, though. I’m not migrating there yet, so you can stop asking me polite questions or fretting that I may not return. I fully intend on bringing The Boy home with me again though and letting him experience Chinese New Year on the home turf.

Wanderlust’s hitting hard lately. The more I know I need to stay in, the further away I want to flee. Let’s hope the trip North this weekend and the sojourn down South at the end of September to visit a dear old friend will keep me motivated, and satiated.

Books on photography and vintage RM10 skirts have been one of my sources of joy lately. As have the long whispered conversations with The Boy, though I hope his Internet connection gets sussed out soon because my phone credit is depleting like that *snaps fingers*.

I want to crawl into some seaweed and stay there for a good while.

May 30, 2008

enough!

Posted in Random Ramblings, The Thesis, Travel and Adventure, Uni at 9:33 am by meldee

It’s the last day of the semester, and I finally feel I can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s been a fun 13 weeks (for most of the part, I think I flew off the handle somewhere between Weeks 6-10, which are the usual killer periods) but I can’t wait to just bloody go on break.

And (yes, I’m whining here) it’s not even a real break, but a pseudo one. I’m in early on a Friday (tis eerily quiet about the 6th floor today, most of the lecturers take it off for fieldwork/research day) to try and force myself to knock out at least a couple thousand words on my 60% assignment (which is due in two weeks…groan) and work a bit more on my Introduction for The Thesis (I’m about 1,200 words in, but I’m deeply dissatisfied as everything sounds like utter rubbish).

To cheer myself up, I’m making a shopping list (I swear I have a latent Virgo in here somewhere, nothing about disorganised Pisces, or impetuous Aries, or flighty Saggi have anything on list-making, which is something I love though not to the same extent Miss Venn-Diagram Pet does) of things to buy in Bangkok.

Ironically, more than half of them are requests from family (my aunt requested 10 pairs of velveteen flip-flops. Now, really, why?!) who’ve asked for everything from shoes to hair products to leather flowers (believe me, I’m as bemused as you are). Didn’t they just go to Bangkok like, last month? Hmm.

Not to say I mind a whole lot, it’s just that I’m traveling with my Dad and brother, and I know for a fact I will get no mercy from them with my luggage. I forsee me juggling my duffel bag (to be checked in), backpack, dorky passport pouch (I despise these things with a vengeance, however I am more concerned with the safety of my passport and moulah and gadgetry rather than how much like a DVD seller I look) and camera bag, running for a bus or something, while those two prance on ahead.

Dad wants to cover his ass, so he’s already declared repeatedly that they’re not checking in anything, and if I want to carry “so much rubbish” I can carry it by myself. Huff. Very well for you to say, Papa Song, you don’t need to worry about carrying shampoo (given how he is borderline balding) or deodorant, or tweezers or razors to prevent hairy ‘pits. I can’t bloody carry on all that stuff!

Ooh, does anyone know if I’d be able to carry on my camera tripod though? I’m flying AirAsia, and am worried it might get dented or bashed up mercilessly, though I guess I can buffer it with my clothes. My check in luggage is ridiculously light at the moment. Dad’s already scoffing at me, saying that we’re going to do outdoorsy stuff (like whitewater rafting, oooooooh! Something I’ve always, always wanted to do before I died!) and not going for a fashion show.

Bah, men.

***

I’m really beginning to be sick to death of The Thesis.

I’m tired of explaining myself (already) and am sorely tempted to just do a half-assed job of it so I can actually reclaim my life instead of spending weekends in uni being miserably unproductive and subjecting myself to the godawful cafeteria food (because I’m too lazy to walk to Medan/Rock Cafe–good God, what a lameass name!–and I hate the catcalls and up-down looks from the mechanics in the workshops).

But on another level I know I’ve already programmed myself such, and being the bloody overachiever I am, I know I will not be content until I get First Class. I will bloody spend nights here if I have to! Kiasu kan! Sigh, what to do.

I feel like I’m a set of overused rechargable batteries. I wear out quickly, get recharged and am on Power Mode and super-cheery for a few days (I was crazyhyper the other day after Cuppacakes with Eva—I was asking all the lecturers if they could do cartwheels/handstands, and made futile attempts in the office with The Office Mate looking amusedly on) but then I begin to shudder to a halt. It’s times like these (now) when I lie, drained, in bed, having a Family Guy marathon and turning off the lights by 10.30pm.

I’ve had enough of this shit, really, but I know I have no choice but to go on :/ I just wish I had a longer-term solution, and one I would not get bored of so easily.

Damn my goldfish attention span.

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!

June 11, 2007

crikey!

Posted in Travel and Adventure at 2:13 pm by meldee

You know the saying ‘quitters never win and winners never quit’? And the follow up to it that says ‘but those who never win and never quit are idiots’? Yes, well, never let it be said that I’m an idiot.

Today I had an Adventure.

It was in the name of work, i.e. an internship (for ‘fun’, because that’s what losers like me do), I was up by 6:30am all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (proverbially speaking, not literally), Cheryl my classmate came to get me from the USJ3 bus stop at 7:30am to embark upon our Great Adventure to KL in the Name of Work Experience at a local NGO in Titiwangsa.

After a few minor parking-related woes, we finally got squished on the KTM to KL Sentral where we would need to get a Monorail to Titiwangsa. Sounds pretty straightforward right?

It also sounds pretty cost-efficient, but we will be inclined to disagree. Including parking charges, a round trip per day would set us back a little more than RM10 each–a day, I reiterate. Also, factor in human congestion, mud and grime and ick from yesterday’s heavy rains, dodgy foreign workers (why aren’t they referred to as ‘expatriates’ either?), slow trains, long queues….and a fairly simple journey takes just short of two hours.

We could have gone to Seremban and back.

Arriving at Titiwangsa, we got lost for half-an-hour. Wandering about on foot, trying desperately to ring the office to get directions (by then it was about 9:15)–no answer. We finally took a stab and wandered down some path, ending up near the Tawakal Hospital, which was where our NGO office was supposed to be near.

And lemme tell ya, for two relatively sheltered private university city chicks, we were not liking what we were seeing. The area was kinda dodgy as :/ Plus the fact that Cheryl is Caucasian, we were kind of getting eyeballed a lot! After locating the office (with a really really miniscule sign overhead) and braving a swarm of mosquitoes, we entered the office to find….

…that we were not expected, the person who was supposed to brief us and orientate us was not there. The other interns had their laptops and were doing research (and were actually there as part of work experience, while the two of us were there for FUN! Trust me, whatever traces of fun there was had long dissipated). And we were told to study these books we were given because we were to be examined o_O

After almost an hour of sitting around and trying desperately to convey to the person there that we were having second thoughts (i.e. backing out), we finally got the message across amid a flood of apologies. Man, it was like breaking up with someone who Just. Doesn’t. Get. It.

And on the trek back from the office to the Monorail, we were harassed by–POLICE OFFICERS. Who wound down their windows and made catcalls at us.

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Honestly, I think our parents are really appreciative–the very people who are supposed to be keeping the city and its denizens safe are out there harassing their children like common….assholes! Raaaaah!

Call us quitters (call ME a quitter, I can take it), but 5 hours of commuting each day, RM10 in transport alone, plus a 15 minute walk along a relatively deserted street with RM3,000+ laptops and dodgy shady characters (including the policemen!) is more than reason enough for me to decide to back out of an internship in the name of fun work experience.

Moral of the story, kids: do your research before promising your body, mind and soul to a work place. Any work place.Β  I’m not discouraging people from working, especially not an NGOs which desperately need manpower, but sometimes, you gotta put the individual (i.e. yourself) above humanity (i.e. everyone else) because honestly you will not be much use to anyone if you’re exhausted, drained and annoyed–or worse still, dead.

I reckon I have an extremely unhealthy dose of paranoia in my bloodstream. Thank you, Mum and Dad.

June 7, 2007

melbourne, i miss

Posted in Friends, Travel and Adventure at 2:49 pm by meldee

I’ve finished one exam; the next paper I have is on the 26th, how shitty is that! Better spaced out though, I suppose…work on Monday.

Can’t help but think back to the last time I sat for exams, in the awful 5-titted dome, a.k.a. The Binishell (has it gone yet? Someone tell me!) in MUGC. How cold it was, the nasty blonde short woman-invigilator and her awful scowly face (Tim hates her deeply, LOL), the echoes, the bits of sponges that would once in a while land on my desk, or on my head…heh.

I miss the cry of the kookaburras as I wake up and peek out my window to gauge the weather for the day (and also what I could/should wear :P), try to poke Tim awake (never worked) before heading outside to make coffee and toast.

I miss walking along Swanston, Elizabeth, Collins, Bourke, Flinders St. in the CBD with the girls. Going for Vietnamese beef noodles in Mekong, bargain shopping along Bridge Road, pigging out at Max Brenner. Taking the trams, walking along Southbank, shivering in the chill. Watching the hourly fire show. Taking in the lights along the casino.

I miss the independence, theΒ  not having to acount for my shenanigans to anyone…bwaa!

Melbourne. End of this year. Make my dream come true! Give me more writing jobs so I can save up πŸ˜€

Anyone need a freelance writer? I work fast and cheap πŸ˜€

May 30, 2007

the melody travelfiles

Posted in Malaysia, My Home, Random Ramblings, Travel and Adventure at 10:05 am by meldee

So I’ve found a new goal to motivate myself to save money, ergo, not shop. I have decided (my epiphany hit me this morning while I was brushing my teeth, as some of the best realisations come–when you least expect them) to travel.

Honestly, screw studying some more, I beh tahan the idea of being stuck in uni for the next two years. While I know I have the results *flutters eyelashes*, I am honestly very sick of studying. Study so hard also for who? Myself? Obviously, but I want to go out and live a bit first, not be a loser adult stuck with some lameass curfew. My mother? Most definately, she’s the academically-driven one in the family who will not stop till we all have to refer to her as Dr. Mum.

I just want to take a month or two off, and travel cheaply.

Alone.

Not very smart right? But I am kind ofΒ  wanting to do this.

I was just telling my dad this morning how one of the girls at the Summit Rock Climbing Gym went to Everest Base Camp alone. Can meh? I said. Why not? said he.Β  I know they’re all like a big community up there.

I want to go can ah? Alone? I ventured. Go lah! he snorted.Β  Anywhere in the world….? I snuck him a glance with a cheeky grin.

Needless to say i think he means anywhere but Australia. Pfft.

I know it’s wishful thinking but if I were allowed to travel come year end, I really want to go to:

  1. AUSTRALIA! (hee hee hee hee hee)
  2. India (hello, Aanchal in Bombay!)
  3. A Buddhist pilgrimage to the eight sites: Lumbini (been there, but spent too little time for my own liking), Buddhagaya, Sarnath, Kusinara, Savatthi, Sankasia, Rajagaha and Vesali. All except the first are in India, so I suppose this falls under #2. A spiritual pilgrimage, oh wowee.
  4. Vietnam
  5. Portugal (hello Joana in Barreiro!)
  6. Santiago de Compostela in Spain–yes, Coelho’s influence.
  7. The Vatican City in Rome
  8. Greece (I want to see the Oracle at Delphi!)
  9. Chile and the Easter Islands
  10. Israel? Haha maybe this one a bit the cari maut la, but I’m seriously interested in going.

So there! My top ten places I simply must go to. Observe how I did not insert posh European cities. That one I’m saving for my honeymoon (hahaha nolah, actually I’d much rather go and bum around on some isolated beach resort in a tropical paradise like the Caribbean)–I’d secretly really love to go to Europe again and soak up the culture, but expensive lah!

Though I suppose this being Visit Malaysia Year I should be encouraging foreigners and bloghoppers to Visit Malaysia, Truly Asia. We have it all, from good food to cheap shopping to more good food, beaches, some of the oldest rainforests in the world, the highest peak in South East Asia…actually a more viable thing for me to do would be to have a cross country roadtrip, no?

Food for thought. We could drive up to Ipoh and eat our way up to Penang, drop by Sg. Petani and bunk with Jolene, go all the way up to Bukit Kayu Hitam, stop by in Perlis and…err….I dunno, what does Perlis have? Then drive to the East Coast and gorge ourselves silly on seafood and budu (never tried it!) and keropok lekor and all that… stay in Taman Negara for a few nights then go to Kuantan (I really like Kuantan for some reason), check out Tioman or all the rest of the little islands and national parks, drive down to JB and maybe Singapore, head over to Melaka, The Ninth State and then to KL (must spend a night there like a tourist!) then back to good old Subang!

ZOMG I’m getting excited now. Who wants to come roadtripping with me? At least two or three weeks la…one or two nights at each place.

Brilliant idea, no? That way I can be ‘home’ and not truly home πŸ˜€