December 9, 2017

Of Walls Breaking and Barriers Falling Down


A few people have told me that I have "walls" around me. These invisible barriers that surround me, making me seem aloof, unapproachable, distant. When I was first told this, I was surprised. I mean, really? I begin to wonder if this was the reason I had so few friends; or that guys rarely approached me. I wondered about how these walls or barriers came to exist. Was it a result of my upbringing? Or did I develop this as I grew up, not realising that it became part of my personality?

I had always thought I was quiet; an introvert. Hence my handful of friends, my reluctance to constantly hang out...in fact, even my family has said that I'm the quiet type, a homebody.

But...1.5 years into my new job, and suddenly, I'm being told that I was never the quiet type. That I was only quiet in novel situations or around strangers. People who have known me for years now tell me that they never saw me as an introvert; quiet yes but introvert, no. In fact, I have apparently changed to being more open now; that my personality have changed and that I am now "coming out of my shell."

This comes as a surprise, a pleasant surprise; but a surprise nonetheless. In fact, to be honest, I too feel that I have changed. I guess taking the step to move on to something new (and better) must have worked its magic. While it was a really difficult decision to make and to also leave the comfort that I had, the new step proved to be much more rewarding.

I am happier. I laugh more. I have new friends (yes friends, not just colleagues. Old colleagues are now friends too). I am trying new things. I am moving forward.

The fear that I had when I decided to make the change was rational. But I guess, if I did not take that step, I would never have known the person that I could be.

Just this past week, I had dinner with my friends who were once my colleagues, and they told me that I have indeed changed. While I am still trying to figure out the wall/barrier thing, I guess just like how it unconsciously built itself around me, it is now tearing itself down.

Oh ya....I also have to accept that I am not as graceful or poised as I thought I was; and neither am I charming! Haha! My kind and truthful friends laughed when I asked them if I was graceful and charming. Then they proceeded to tell me that I am more like a giraffe, while my colleagues said I remind them of Jar Jar Binks!! Oh well...

It is the last month of December and wow....time has indeed flown by. In about 3 weeks, a whole new chapter begins. And I wonder what new adventures are in store for me....

October 29, 2017

Sights and Sounds of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)

So after the wedding of the year went off without a hitch and all the excitement died, it was time to look forward to THE trip.

Lots of WhatsApp messages were exchanged; Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet and countless travel sites were our encyclopedia on HCMC; lists were made and the excitement grew each day for a month and a half. 

Finally, September arrived and off we were to HCMC, amidst some fear that the rojak sauce and kaya that we packed would not survive the plane trip or customs. Lo and behold, our fears were unfounded. Not only did we sail through immigration (we did get some weird looks as my sister and I can pass as twins), the rojak sauce and kaya arrived intact with not a drop spilled. Clara picked us up from the airport and we had our first of many rides in the 'mai linh' taxi.             

First stop was lunch where we had Vietnamese Coffee and Pho! And I fell in love. I of course tried a slice of chillie and nearly lost my vocal chord. No one reminded me that Vietnamese chillies were killers! Lesson learned.

Day 1 was a relaxed day. After lunch, we went back to the apartment which has the fantastic view of the Saigon river. We got acquainted with our mini host Bianka, who took a while to warm up to us but after that we were inseparable. Dinner was at a fusion restaurant and nightcap was at a jazz bar where we watched one of Vietnam's most famous and successful saxophonist - Tran Manh Tuan perform. He had a residency in Las Vegas and is now back at HCMC.

The next day was touring day. We left District 2, and traveled all the way to District 9, where hidden in a village far from the city was one of the most beautiful and serene places in HCMC - the Ao Dai museum. The tour took about 2 hours after which we headed back to District 1 for lunch.

After lunch, Clara and our mini host headed back home while Vay and I toured most of the usual tourist spots. It was fun being in a foreign country, walking the streets with map in hand, almost getting lost....that night, we tapau-ed dinner but we had an adventure with our taxi as it broke down three times! Breaking down was no issue; the problem was that it broke down in the middle of the highway! We were convinced that someone was going to hit us. Thankfully, we arrived safely back home with lots of apologies from the driver. It was a rather early night as the next day was going to be spent like Indiana Jones.

Day 3 saw us speeding on the Saigon River in a speed boat headed towards Cu chi tunnels. There were 7 of us on the boat, one of which was an Australian guy who was born in Penang. Talk about a small world! The tunnels tour was fun! We had a good guide who was informative and funny, and I enjoyed the tour through the jungles, into the tunnels, drinking snake wine....

After the tunnels tour, we were served a scrumptious lunch. We then bade farewell to our tour buddies. Vay and I headed back to District 1 for more sightseeing and also to find the elusive Book Street that we missed the day before. This was our dream street where book shops and cafes lined the street on both sides. We even managed to buy adult colouring books at a steal! Hard Rock was just opposite the road but we didnt bother about it.

That day was also Clara's 10th Wedding Anniversary and so they took us for for dinner to celebrate that and our last night in HCMC. We were supposed to have Northern Vietnamese food but as the shop was closed, we had Korean BBQ instead, finishing off with waffles for dessert. 

The night ended with us trying to pack all the stuff we bought and not be overweight.

Our trip to HCMC was short but it was a good break. I would love to go back to HCMC especially for the food and coffee. There were some places that we did not visit but I guess that is good enough a reason to return to HCMC. Northern Vietnam is also next on the list.

Let's see where next year takes us...






July 22, 2017

Maid of Honour



It all started with a picture shared in a private WhatsApp message from my cousin. The picture said, "Side by side or miles apart, we are cousins connected at heart. Will you be my bridesmaid?" The caption asked if I would be the sole maid of honour/bridesmaid. I must say, it came as a surprise...but a very PLEASANT surprise.

My cousin was going to have her wedding ceremony in Penang having gotten registered last November, and I was to serve as the maid of honour. While I was excited at the thought of being a first time maid of honour, my plans of wearing pants for the ceremony were dashed. 

While my cousin was sweet and generous enough to NOT have any pre-wedding duties nor colour theme for me, I began to worry as my mum and sis insisted that I have to wear a dress especially since I would be walking down the aisle as well! 

A 3-day weekend was spent roaming through almost ALL the malls on Penang island, and finally, after trying on more than 10 dresses and making my mum and sis walk on almost every floor of those malls we visited, we finally found a dress that was not only REAL nice and fitted me well, it was cheap too! In fact, we had seen a similar dress in a different colour which cost RM600!! 

Anyhow, once the dress was bought, I needed new shoes. Luckily, looking for the perfect pair did not take too long. The shoes however, were more expensive than the dress! 

The wedding ceremony was on a Saturday; so the bridal party met up for the first time on a Wednesday for dinner to discuss the programme, duties etc. The couple are from the US hence the really late meet up. 

Friday saw the ladies of the bridal party going for manicures and pedicures (my first!). That night, there was a party where cousins and friends hung out. I made new friends too i.e. My cousin's former school mates. Towards the end of the party, the couple decided to practice the surprise dance that they had planned for the end of the ceremony, much to the chagrin of the best man and me! But there we were, at 2am, learning and practicing dance steps to Shrek's "I'm a Believer".

Saturday - which was THE day - turned out to be quite relaxed much to everyone's surprise. I had my first make over i.e. professionally done make up and hair, wore my first dress in God knows how many years, walked down the aisle, danced in front of a crowd (although the wrong version of the song was played)...and I even got to sit at the main table! In addition to all that, I was part of the 'yam seng' group that went on stage! 

The icing on the cake was the fact that the WHOLE family was present; and the cousins finally got to wear our customised tshirts!!

I must say, this year has been a year of many firsts and it is only the 7th month of 2017! I wonder what else is in store for me. *wink*

June 24, 2017

What's been going on....

It is almost the end of June. Tomorrow it is Raya, which means the one month fasting for 
Ramadan ends. And everyone has commented that this year, Ramadan just flew by. 

In my last entry, I mentioned that it would be one year since I started my new job; and now, 
two months have almost passed since I celebrated my one-year work anniversary. 
And I must say, things are only getting better as time passes.

I am really happy where I am now. I admit that I miss my previous job and often wonder 
where I would be if I had stayed on. But when I look forward, I know that I made the right 
decision. I can feel that I have grown. 

Also, with Facebook, I am almost always kept updated with what's happening in the activist world, so I don't feel all too bad.

Now, enough about work. What I am now excited about and looking forward to is my trip to Vietnam! YES! I finally took the dive and bought the tickets. And my trusted sister is coming along (although I am still not sure if she is going willingly or because I literally 
blackmailed/guilt her into it). Nevertheless, since I got a bonus, I decided to pay for her 
tickets. That would mean that, for both her trips this year, it was all paid for i.e. she traveled 
for FREE.

We'll be traveling in September so we still have plenty of time to plan our itinerary for when we are in Vietnam. We'll be staying with Clara so I'm sure she will be of great help.

Next to plan is the family trip during Deepavali. The initial plan was to go to Bangkok, but 
now we're thinking of going on a cruise. Hmmm....

Oh yes....my birthday was about 3 weeks ago and I wore a legitimate bikini for the first time. I must say....I was very lucky that I recovered from my terrible sickness that afflicted me just days before my birthday. Surprisingly, the pictures came out great (if I say so myself) and 
there was no hint of my being sick despite me having a cold and cough still. Uncle Toning, 
Claire, grandma and uncle Peter came once again, just like last year.

While these are all exciting things happening, I am still struggling to accept that it is ok to 
splurge once in a while. I have not been able to save the same amount of money every 
month; although I make sure I save at least a bit. So far, there's been more expenditure than savings and I am nervous to see my bank balance at the end of the year. Oh well...I guess I just have to cross that bridge when it comes.

Till then....I'm just going to be positive and enjoy every day as it comes!

March 28, 2017

3 months into 2017

In a couple of days, March will end. That means ¼ of the year has gone by. And as cliché as it sounds, time just flew by. So what has happened since my New Year entry?

Well, not much sadly. My desktop at home has died. I’m not sure if it’s because of the power supply or the motherboard or whatever computer related problems that renders a desktop dead. Anyhow, I have decided not to get it fixed as: 1) it’s really old; 2) it was a second hand desktop; 3) I think it is high time I upgraded to a laptop. After all, it saves space and is easier to carry around. But the decision to get a laptop is a whole other story – while I have decided that it is indeed a laptop that would be purchased, the WHEN is the problem. But that deserves an entry all on its own (which I will not do). Suffice to say, the Scrooge in me is calling the shots.

Oh…before I forget, one unbelievable thing that happened in January, that I can tick off my bucket list is: I WORE A DRESS!! Yes!! No big deal to most of the female population but for me, my mum and my sis…WHOA it was as though history was made! Apart from my childhood and pinafore-wearing days, I have not worn a dress or skirt. Somehow, I’m more of a tomboy when it comes to this; adding to the fact that I have extremely thin legs and arms (read: twig-like), nope…no dresses for me. Weirdly, I don’t consider a saree or baju kurung a dress (if you get what I mean) so I have no qualms wearing those.

And so, for my company’s CNY luncheon this year, I was sort of “pressured” into wearing a Cheongsam. And oh my God…I suffered. I actually wore tights underneath the cheongsam so that I felt “secured”. Lo and behold, my discomfort and suffering sort of balanced out with the amount of praises I got (*perasan). And my mum could not wait to post my pictures on Facebook!! Hahaha!! Nevertheless, I think I’ll stick to pants for the next couple of months, until and unless there is a “dire” situation where a dress is required to be worn.

I attended another wedding in early March. So that’s one wedding done; another in July. Sighs. Not that I’m sad but weddings make me reflective. I’m not dying to get married but it is tiresome having to deflect all the questions and insinuations. Oh well…

My sister went on her maiden trip with her friends to Korea. It was a full expense-paid trip (I still can’t get over this). She got back a couple of days ago and brought back facial masks that will probably last us for months. I hope my complexion improves and I will be as glowing as those Korean girls. Lol! I’m still jealous that she went to Korea; and this is spurring me to plan my holiday in Vietnam. While the Scrooge in me is doing real well in this game of ‘thug-of-war’ (i.e. spend vs save) I’m determined to go on a holiday (or two) this year.

One change in me that I have noticed since the year started is that, I’m beginning to want to enjoy. I have always practiced the ‘save first, spend later’ philisophy and it has been good for my bank balance. However, I do feel left out, jealous, frustrated even, when I see my friends travelling, having a good time etc. And so, this year, I told myself that I would do the opposite i.e. ‘spend first, save later’. And how has it been so far? DIFFICULT! It is always at the back of my mind that I need to save; that this expenditure is not necessary; it is expensive…etc. But, I have had numerous signs, reminders, telling offs from family and friends, telling me to go and enjoy; have fun; DON’T DIE RICH and REGRETFUL.

I’ll be reaching my mid-30s soon and while there is still a long way to go, I need to start enjoying NOW. I’m at one end of the spectrum where spending is a NO-NO; and I am beginning to come to terms with having to let go of something to be able to enjoy and live life to the fullest. For the past 9 years of my working life, I have always set a target of how much I should have in my bank balance at the end of the year; and I have fulfilled this every single year. But 2017 will be different. I will continue to save as much as I can without sacrificing my enjoyment. I’m not exactly sure how I will feel at the end of the year when I see my bank balance, but that is a bridge to be crossed later.

Finally, come March 31st, I will have officially been in my “new” job for one year. While I feel like I have learned a lot, I also know that there is more to come. But I have a good, encouraging boss, helpful colleagues, and wonderful family and friends. I’m positive the next ¾ of 2017 will be fantastic!

p.s. I’ve suddenly become addicted (again) to Korean dramas!   

January 1, 2017

The Year That Was 2016


And so another year has come and gone. And we sit at the beginning of a whole new journey. At least, that is what I would like to think. For many of us, although it is a new year, we’ll probably just continue doing the same old boring routine of work work work. Despite promising ourselves at every year end/new year that we will do something different, two months later, we find every reason and excuse for our failure.

But I digress. This entry is to reflect on the year that was 2016. A year that was filled with:

Ø  Brave Decisions for I left my old job without having the security of a new one; my  first task of 2016 was to tender my resignation
Ø  Bold Choices as I chose or rather I listened to my parents’ advice and took a job that I wasn’t too keen on; and I don’t regret it one bit!
Ø  Making New Friends - this was courtesy of my new job
Ø  Growing Up – I would say this is and always will be part of my life but by making the brave decision and bold choice, I grew up quite a bit;
Ø  Learning – This is an extension of the growing up part for when I left my job and was searching for a new one, I learned many things about myself. And when I finally started my new job, it was a whole new learning process.
Ø  Celebrating Marriages and Births – There were FOUR unions this year (four of my cousins begun the next stage of their lives); and there were also births!! One of my cousin’s who got married is expecting; while a couple friend of mine had their first kid!!
Ø  Mourning Lost Loved Ones – while the past year had mostly been positive, but like a heartbeat monitor, certain downs were peppered throughout the year. At my last count, 10 family members and close friends left the world last year. That makes it one almost every month. And while I was not close to some of them, nevertheless, the passing of a friend’s loved ones or relative does indeed affect me in some way, as it is a reminder that despite everything, good things come to an end.

2016 was a good year for me. I worked longer hours than I did in my last job and yet, I was ok with it. I started working with a different bunch of personalities and offiice politics (to which I am still learning how to adapt, cope and work my way through it sanely); I made friends; my family got a new car (huge plus point!!); and overall, there was this certain kind of satisfaction and happiness within me.

Perhaps the change of job was something that I needed. 8 years in an NGO; working on human rights; traveling and researching….I guess it does take its toll. I miss the activism; I miss the traveling; I miss the passion the people had for the job.

I am still in contact with my ex-colleagues in Germany and Philippines who keep me updated on the case that I was working on. I still get to go back to Berlin every year though I missed it this year.

Nevertheless, 2016 was a new year for me. A change. A new me.


Now onward I go in 2017. 

March 28, 2016

The perspicacious Warsan Shire and Michael Jackson



later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere.

- excerpt from “what they did yesterday afternoon” by Warsan Shire

Nine lines. These nine lines perfectly encapsulate all that is going on in the world today. When I came upon these nine lines on a friend’s FB profile, it struck a chord within me. It just hit me. I kept re-reading the lines because it’s just so right. The WHOLE WORLD is indeed hurting EVERYWHERE.

To me, the words are profoundly haunting. I know that some people will call me crazy when I say that I feel the words; but just as how some people connect so deeply and emotionally with a song and its lyrics, similarly, I too sometimes become intensely absorbed in a book (or its character) or a piece of writing.

With the tragedies and catastrophes that the world has endured and will no doubt, continue to endure, I cannot help but envisage a time when, if the world was asked where it hurt, the answer would be “nowhere my child, for I am at peace.”

And while wait for that to one day happen…I shall continue to ask the same questions that MJ asked in the Earth Song:

What about sunrise
What about rain
What about all the things
That you said we were to gain...
What about killing fields
Is there a time
What about all the things
That you said was yours and mine...
Did you ever stop to notice
All the blood we've shed before
Did you ever stop to notice
The crying Earth the weeping shores?

What have we done to the world
Look what we've done
What about all the peace
That you pledge your only son...
What about flowering fields
Is there a time
What about all the dreams
That you said was yours and mine...
Did you ever stop to notice
All the children dead from war
Did you ever stop to notice
The crying Earth the weeping shores


--

Of Walls Breaking and Barriers Falling Down

A few people have told me that I have "walls" around me. These invisible barriers that surround me, making me seem aloof, unappr...