Friday, August 25, 2006


My dad said this to me one day:

“Hey, since you’re now bumi, why don’t you go change the company registration to bumi-status? Then we can supply to the government directly.”

Puzzled, I replied, “Since when am I bumi?”

“You’re married to Rizal mah. So your status changed to bumi, right?”

“Where got!! Just because I married a Malay doesn’t mean I’m bumi lah.”

“No meh?”

“No lah!!”

Hardly a Malaysian

Some time not too long ago, Rizal said this to me in relation to a comment on Asiaworks:

“I wish more Malays would take these courses and open their eyes and see that this country is not just about them but that there are other people and other races and other religions that live in this country as well. The Malays think the world revolves around them.”

As the days go by, I find that living in this country become less tolerable for the fact that the majority of the population believe that Malaysia = Melayu.

True, I married a Malay but he can hardly be called pure (Javanese+Chinese+Indian) even though I am pure Chinese. And if we looked closer at many of Malaysia’s citizens, they have managed to shy away from inbreeding and gone the way of mixing up their blood and making their culture even more interesting.

Therefore, how can people (the government especially) believe that Malaysia = Melayu?

“What matters isn’t the country or what the government does but the company we keep: our friends and family,” says Rizal.

True, but how do you educate the rest of the people because it’s still an issue: there aren’t many of us who think the way we do.

And what difference is it then, to move to another country and make it our own, since it doesn’t matter which country we live in? I can honestly say that I have no feelings or patriotism for Malaysia whatsoever.

It’s hard to feel grateful to a country which closes a blind eye to the brain drain to our neighboring Singapore just so that they can fill their ridiculous education quota in the local universities here. It’s difficult to drum up patriotism when opportunities are not given to the deserving and they have to look elsewhere for help. How about supplying goods to the government? We sell through bumi dealers because the company is not bumi-owned. That works out fine but some of these bumi companies just sit on their butts waiting for orders to fall in while we are busting our butts doing the work.

The Chinese will always find a way to make things work, no matter what the situation. Even with the NEP, we’ve found ways around it. We know, more than anyone that you can’t sit around waiting for that silver spoon to be passed on to you: there is no such thing. You don’t get very far in life expecting the good things to fall in your lap just like that.

I’d like to think of myself as Malaysian but there really is no reason to other than the fact that I was born in this country. I love the nature there is in this country, but even that is slowly being eroded by development.

Since globalization is the order of the day, it is with feeling that I say I am a citizen of the world.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What the husband says to me after a night away from home

“You know, actually I miss the cats more than I miss you.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Puke fest

It was a case of one-upmanship. My girl cats must be vying for ‘most bulimic cat award’.

I returned home late last night to find two dried-up piles of puke trailing from the side of my pillow to my mattress. On my freshly changed sheets. No questions on whodunit there. The only furball to plant herself firmly anywhere near my pillow is the one and only Meg. She promptly got yelled at and banished from the room while I changed the sheets, muttering and cursing under my breath.

The next morning, while trying to remain awake after my alarm had gone off, a great heaving sound greeted me. And then the retching started. Sigh…when will it ever end?

This time it was Trixie and wouldn’t you know it? She had to puke on the bathroom rug. On our WHITE bathroom rug. Which had also just been recently washed.

I am waiting to walk into more piles of dried-up puke when I get home today.

Why bother with expensive media (that malfunction) when you can get bootlegs for cheap?

I didn’t go to Cherating for the Malaysian Salsa Festival. After watching a DVD of the three-day event, I’m not so sure that I regret not going.

Sure, I missed the opportunity for attending workshops held by international instructors but I’ve got that to look forward to in the upcoming Singapore International Salsa Festival in October.

No, I don’t miss having to cringe watching one of the Malaysian salsa team performers opening the first night of performances. And frankly, I don’t miss having to duck my head and feel horrified that I am Malaysian and that these people up on stage are representing Malaysia while trying to disguise and recover from some major botched moves or trying to stay balanced on their feet after a flip. I don’t mind not having to associate myself with them because they were so ambitious they lost sight of giving a world-class performance rather than incorporate a difficult routine just to show off their salsa skills. There is little to display and be proud of when the moves are not committed to memory nor honed to perfection.

I watched the recording of the opening act with a growing sense of dread. If the Lazyboy could have ensconced me further in its plush leather arms, I would have sunken all the way in and never surfaced. The face-paint was gaudy, the costumes were not well-designed (big strips of cloth flying around at the seams of the pants don’t count for sexy) and the moves were all but shocking. The choreography was too ambitious, forgoing perfection and well-timed execution for ambition. The team started out shaky at best, and deteriorated rapidly from their first foot forward. The timing and coordination looked sketchy and somewhere towards the last third of the performance, the mainstage couple botched up in a major way and could not recover from their mistake. They looked totally off compared to the other two couples flanking them. Not only that, the performers looked like they had run out of steam! Somewhere from the middle of the routine, I could tell that they were losing their energy and their stamina. That became glaringly evident towards the end and right at the finale of the routine where the men went on bended knee so that their partners could flip forward and onto the backs of the men. The main couple were the most glaringly lacking: the woman all but flopped onto the back of her partner (I swear if I was there, I would have heard an audible sigh of relief escape from her after the execution of that move) and when he flipped her over to land on her feet, she very nearly landed in a heap when she stumbled, lost her balance and her footing from sheer exhaustion.

All I could think was, “I’m so glad that I’m not there to witness the performance first hand. It’s so sad that this is the state of our salsa standards.”

As I watched on, I realized that the same names and the same faces from the Malaysian salsa scene kept appearing and reappearing. Was it me or just my imagination? Just how many times do I have to see the same team and the same faces perform again and again? Watching the procession of Malaysian performers, it would seem we have a dearth of different performers and different styles. Which is entirely untrue. And mind-boggling when you consider one of the biggest schools in KL wasn’t on the performer’s list.

Slip into the mix a repertoire fit for the bedroom, a so-called exotic dance. Scantily-clad in panties or rather, panty-like bottoms, transparent white top with colourful bikini bras for visual interest, the girls were all but performing a striptease to the audience. Hardly salsa. I heard the drool from the front row VIPs could have watered the entire grounds of Cherating.

To cap it all off, the DVD produced was of such poor quality that we could not view the remaining half of the performances. That would amount to at least another 10 performances. And when Sam told me how much he had to pay for the DVD, I swear his neighbours from five floors below and five floors above as well as all around his apartment unit were jolted out of their bedtime slumber by my indignant exclamations (it was past midnight on the first night of the working week).

It started off casually enough:

“Did you say you paid RM1.50 for the DVD?”

“You paid HOW MUCH for the DVD??!!!!!”



“Why couldn’t they have not sold it right after the festival but instead spend some time on it to edit it properly and then sell a good copy??!!”




“You should just pay me some money and I’ll go down to JB and get you some good quality pirated stuff.”

“RM150 FOR THIS CRAP???!!!!”


Heaven help the rest of the world when I am in nutcase mode.

After having to sit through the sheer agony of watching some of the performances (not all the performances were that bad, the international acts were a pleasant distraction from the majority of the local performances), it was a somewhat fitting end to the whole indignity of the night.

RM150 for a shoddy recording of a world-class event short of painful.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Proof that my cats actually have a better life than me. Required activities of the day: eat, sleep, play, look cute.

Note: That used to be my reading chair, and the key phrase here is used to be.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Living with gas

Grumble, grumble, rumble, grrrr…

I can no longer ignore my stomach’s protests these days. I never used to but I got careless recently. What a surefire way for my body to tell me that I’m not doing right by it. That or it’s telling me I’m really not in my teens or even twenties anymore and that I’d better give it some TLC or it’ll go on a strike.

One day of curling up in bed, wondering if an alien is going to come bursting out of my sotmach and I think I’ve learned my lesson. Mom reminds me daily that I should have NO COFFEE, no tea, skip the dairy products, be sure I have snacks with me everywhere I go, and to EAT REGULARLY if I don’t want to end up like her, battling stomach ulcers for five years.

Three days without my morning coffee and the third day I’m a zombie. I need my additives. I had Nando’s last night before I realized halfway through the meal that the Garlic Peri-Peri Sauce is actually spicy. And then the stomach started a little protest rally and I quickly downed my strawberry smoothie to coat the spiciness before I realized that the smoothie has yogurt in it. What can I eat???!!!!

I’m hoping things start looking up by the end of the month because I am looking forward to getting a half gallon of Baskin Robbins by the 29th. Yes, it’s a three-day 31% fiesta. If that doesn’t motivate me to get better real fast, I’m not sure what will.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Making a difference

It's amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. It doesn't matter if you are academically trained to do it or if you had no knowledge to start with in the first place. What matters is that you have the desire for action. If you feel you can or need to change your current situation, all it takes is for you to figure out how much of a change you want to make. Then go ahead and make it.

In life there are many examples of people who have made changes in ways that were unimaginable or who started out with small steps that turned out phenomenally big. Take Gandhi, Martin Luther King, that pakcik in Terengganu who's doing his bit for the turtles. One doesn't have to study wildlife biology to go out there and make a difference. We are not helpless. We just THINK we are. The important thing is: we go out there and MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

And that's where people of action, great people, differ from the norm. The norm just sit around, reading about the news, and then lamenting the fact that they never studied how to save the world or how to save the turtles or how to make a difference when all around them atrocious things are being done that they can't do anything about. The people who make a difference go ahead and make that difference even if they started out not knowing how. They make a difference because it matters. They make a difference because they can. They make a difference because they want to. And they want to bad enough that they would do whatever it takes to make that difference.

One doesn't have to give it all up like Gandhi did. Don't have to be like Mother Teresa either. You may get there in your lifetime, if you want it bad enough or if you're passionate enough. It's a matter of how much of a difference you want to make and how much that passion means to you. If helping out at a turtle sanctuary somewhere off the east coast of Malaysia once a year doesn't seem like a big enough difference, go and do it twice, three times a year. Or better yet, get involved in the planning and the organizing of such an effort. Or put in some time at other volunteer organizations.

There's always a way. But you have to give up something else in your life in order to put in enough time to make that difference that you want to. Maybe you have to give up your reading time, or you need to cut down on other leisure activities. In the end it doesn't matter what else you're giving up because you're doing what you're passionate about and what matters to you. If you're passionate about dancing, go and dance! If you're passionate about saving pandas, go and save the pandas! If writing means so much to you, write!

What good is there in sitting around, lamenting and complaining about what you can't do about the state of the world? While you're sitting around feeling sorry for yourself and the world at large, a difference can be made if you actually just went out there and did something about it. Nothing is fair in life, what you decide is fair for yourself is what matters. What you do to make it fair is what matters. Just because life isn't fair doesn't mean we can't do anything about it if we want to.

We can't save everyone or everything but we can do our bit to help. Rizal signed up as a WWF donor just yesterday. It doesn't cost much, just RM30 a month for as long as he wants to. Now, some may say that that's just giving away money and that's not really helping. Well here's the thing: every little bit helps. Even though we're just drops in the ocean, it's the drops that make up the ocean. And if Rizal should decide that donating money is not enough to help the animals, what's to stop him from volunteering more of his time at organizations like WWF? Nothing. It's a matter of whether he wants to spend that time at WWF rather than RPG-ing.

Some people have taken it all the way: given up their jobs to devote their time and effort in their passion for saving animals, or following their passions, for that matter. It takes an extraordinary individual to sacrifice the material comforts and all that is familiar in order to make that leap. I for one am for material comforts. I have no qualms volunteering once a year or helping out here and there. I see myself making that difference even though it's only in these small ways. For now, that's enough for me. That's the difference I'm making and even though it's not much, it's better than nothing. I've stopped eating shark's fin soup. I recycle as much as I can and my next step to helping the earth and the animals is probably to spread more awareness about how finite our resources are and that this earth is ours to share. Being the top of the evolutionary chain gives us the responisibility and the care of those who are below.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Even though there are still atrocities enacted upon those who share our earth, I believe there are just as many people who care. There are those who care enough to do something about it rather than sit around moaning and lamenting that they can't do anything about it.

And these are the people that make the difference. These are the people who really care.

What too much gas can do to you

I thought I was going to die. Or at the very least, that my stomach was going to explode. A couple of months going without breakfast and irregular meal patterns resulted in my cringing on the bed, curling up in a fetal position trying to survive the waves of pain wrecking my stomach.

I called my mother. She said the symptoms sounded like gastric. She should know, she battled gastric and stomach ulcers for five years. I lay around the couch and the bed for a few hours more. I texted Rizal. He said I could be pregnant. I messaged back, saying that was unlikely since the pain is at the stomach, not abdominal area. If I’m having pains, it could be an ectopic pregnancy and I don’t want my fallopian tubes to explode. I lay around some more. Then I went to the doctor. He put the stethoscope on my stomach. “can’t you hear all that gas?” he asks me. Hello, if I could, I wouldn’t need to go consult you? “So it’s not gastric?” I asked. “It’s gastric,” he said.

Now I have to eat frequent small meals, avoid oily, sour and spicy food and milk. I have to eat breakfast and skip the coffee. I have to make sure I’ve got something to munch on or snack on with me all the time. So that means food in the car, food in the office, food at home. At the very least, I have to drink water. I have to eat on time and regularly. And not get stressed out too much.

I have my work cut out for me. I’ll have to find snacks that don’t go to rot after too short a period; I’m sick of throwing things out from the fridge or from the pantry. The most recent throwaway was a packet of Japanese rice which we never got around to cooking. Weevils were having a party in that packet.

I hope cookies and biscuits last longer.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Putting my iPod to good use

Merv noted one day that I hardly used my iPod. I agreed, and he solved my problem with crappy radio songs in the car by getting for me that converter thing that you can hook up to your iPod, latch onto an FM station on the radio and presto! your collection on your iPod is all you need to put up with in you car, not irritating DJs nor crappy songs.

That device has transformed my mornings driving to work and the times that I spend in the car. Instead of cursing the radio DJs and their apparent lack of taste in music, I now curse my radio because it searches for radio stations and automatically stops when it gets a valid signal. I just can't seem to do a manual search, so it's no mean feat trying to latch onto an unoccupied frequency. The device works less than perfectly: the reach is less than what was advertised on the box and the overall sound quality is lacking. If the frequency gets stronger when I'm driving, the radio station latches on and overides my iPod. Somteimes it sounds like Switchfoot is trying to drown out Mawi, unsuccessfully. My iPod sounds like it's been broadcast over radio, but that's exactly what it's doing: broadcasting over the airwaves. I can't complain; I'm too simple-minded to bother about these things at the moment because I can now actually choose what I want to listen to without having to rip out anything from the existing audio setup in the car and pay RM3000 in the process. What did I expect from a RM150 device? I'm happy for now.

We've got a hodge podge of songs in that iPod; we've got stuff from Belle & Sebastian to Warrant to Pavarotti to Ruben Gonzalez to Klaus Badelt. So it stands to reason that, with my penchant for variety, my iPod is set on Shuffle most of the time. Half the time, my finger is on the forward icon because the iPod is spewing out Natascha Atlas when I really want to listen to Audioslave. However, I leave the shuffle setting on because I like not knowing what to expect; I like that the next song could be a piano lullaby from Hikare Oe or an eardrum blaster from Metallica. Either way, if I don't feel like it, I can always hit the forward button.

Among Rizal's and my collection of over 1,000 songs, my favourite of the lot belong to Peter Pan, an Indonesian band. I've been listening to their music more often than not when driving. I'd downloaded their music and uploaded them to the iPod. I don't remember why I don't have their albums like I do Sheila On 7, another Indonesian band.

The quality of the downloaded tunes leaves much to be desired and not wanting to have to listen to the substandard quality that I now have on my iPod, I bought two of their albums at Borders today: Bintang Di Syurga and Taman Langit. And then I realised that the iTunes on Rizal's PC is shot. It's not working and has not been working in the last couple of days. And that he's had problems reinstalling it because of something to do with Quicktime. It doesn't sound like something he can fix right away.

I'll have to content myself with listening to Peter Pan on the PC at home and putting up with the downloaded versions in the car. For the moment, I can kiss goodbye to my plans of blasting my favourite Peter Pan tune, Ku Katakan Dengan Indah in the car. Well, like I mentioned, I still have the downloaded version. In this case, a mediocre tune is better than none at all. Or putting up with the commercial junk on the radio.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The cat's in the bag

We found the perpetrator who left the note in our mailbox.

We had a long, revealing conversation and the confrontation was not unpleasant,  thanks to Rizal.

I was right: our cats are innocent.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

There are cowards amongst us

Rizal brought in the mail from our postbox last night. We found this among our assortment of bills:

Dear Neighbour,

The cat that you keep frequently littering of faeces and urine (which very unhygienic and smelly!) in my house compound.

I hope that you keep your cats within your house compound ONLY and never allow it to run loose beyond your house compound.

(Typos and mis-spellings are writer’s own. Note unedited.)

  1. My neighbour is obviously not dear to me and a coward as he/she doesn’t even have the courage or decency to write down their unit number or name so that I can contact them.

  2. The only reason they know we have cats is because I let them out in the common backyard garden only on weekends for a few hours and I can be heard calling for them to come back after they’ve had their short run outside. And the reason I’m out there calling is because my cats are like dogs: they generally come back when they’re called.

  3. Our cats DO NOT gallivant outside on weekdays. Even some weekends when we’re not home, I do not let them out.

  4. I can bet any amount of money that they have no idea how many cats I have or what they look like.

  5. There are numerous other neighbours with cats who roam free on a daily basis. I know because I’ve seen these cats and they’ve also left little paw marks on the walls of my car porch. I think they’re cute.

  6. I have not had any “presents” or “offerings” made to me by the cats who have free run of the outdoors, even though my little back garden has little grass and some ground that cats may hide their “gifts” in. So I don’t know how true said neighbour’s claim is.

  7. Trixie and Pixel prefer the grass and bushes outside in the backyard to other neighbours’ backyards. Pixel is too fat and dumb to climb up fences and into backyards. I find our cats crouched and hiding under bushes outside in the common back garden more often than not.

I will not confine our cats to our own compound because they only have the two days in the weekends to gallivant. And only a few hours at that. The backyard is a common area and my cats are free to roam there. The only worry I have is what non-cat or non-animal lovers may do to our beloved pets should they catch them wandering into their backyards. I’ve heard horror tales of nastiness people show animals, especially cats: boiling water thrown at them, even hot oil, cats being whacked with sticks or other objects, etc.

My only hope is that these people are reborn as cats or some other stray in their next life and receive the same treatment that they mete out to animals.

My project tonight will be to try to locate the coward who wrote the note and confront this ball-less idiot and clear the air. I’ll start with our immediate neighbours and work outwards. And it has to be someone living in a ground unit with a backyard. The writing looks like it may belong to a woman. If the note doesn’t belong to a neighbour on our row, it would belong to one of the neighbours whose backyard faces mine. They would be the ones who hear me calling out to my cats in the back.

All I really want to do is confront the coward who wrote me the note. And point out to that person that the neighbourhood has a plethora of people who own cats. And find out if they slipped a note into all these people’s postboxes.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Who put a lawnmower in my bed?!

Lying flat on my back in bed, I think, “I really should have gone to bed before him.”

Next to me Rizal is snoring a mile a minute, sounding for all the world like the lawnmower my parents used to drag around the garden.

It doesn’t matter how many times I poke him in the ribs or slap his arm. Neither does it matter in which direction he faces or whether he’s lying on his back or side. The incessant droning doesn’t stop.

I tear off, roll and stuff tissue paper in both my ears. It still sounds like I’ve got front row seats to a chainsaw log cutting contest. And so I pass the night in fitful slumber, waking up every hour or so, nudging, poking or slapping Rizal’s arm in the futile hopes that getting him to move or change his sleeping position would at least buy me five minutes of peaceful slumber.

No such chance. I’m destined to be lulled to sleep by the sounds of an 18-wheeler zooming down the highway.

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