Saturday, 23 October 2010

Home is where the heart is.

For some, an 8-hour flight can be quite a daunting challenge, more so if it's on AirAsia. Highly notorious as it is famous, the low-cost airline is now making travelling, especially for Asians, a less pricey affair. A caveat: with cheaper prices come cheap seats (them seats were hard as bricks, indeed).

But I didn't see it as a challenge. I saw it as a necessary measure to get to my destination. Being with my RM throughout the journey made it so much easier. Especially 8 hours on me delicate tush.

Coming home from Melbourne after spending four days of unpredictable weather (I adore the cold), rows upon rows of sumptuous fresh food (chicken souvlaki!) and experiencing the niceness of the people to stiflingly hot-like-hell weather, unappetising fare that's about as fresh as last month's socks topped with the cream of the crop of the most inept customer service really got on my nerves. People here just don't know how to treat their customers. But the thing I took away from the trip was something I thought I'd never say:

Melbourne's my kind of place.

For the longest time, I've always had an aversion to Australia. This stemmed from the fact that I grew up hearing horror stories of constant racism and oppression of Asians. Things have changed a whole lot as Asians are no longer perceived as the enemy. Maybe there are a few quarters that bear a grudge but things are looking better for Asians in Australia, especially Melbourne. It is said that Melbourne is cultural capital of Australia and also the most family oriented. I find it not surprising that Asians strive here and strive pretty good from what I can see. Yet, there wasn't any air of discontent, not even a whiff of it.

Over there, people saw each other as people, not by race.

Everywhere, Asians can be seen, even in little housing areas outside of the city. It's the sign of the times, folks. Heck, minutes upon reaching the CBD (Central Business District), I swear I heard a couple of Malaysian colloquialisms. It has to be said that Asians with a predilection for hairstyles that resemble certain poisonous fungi coupled with silly clothing will bring their motherland's culture wherever they are (blond(e) makes Asians look like cheap products, by the way). It is a microcosm that is unhealthy, to be honest. It's the same everywhere; I see Koreans and Chinese here thinking it's their homeland albeit with browner folks. These are privileged people yet their only concern is what am I going to eat this kimchi I got from grandma with. I would miss my hometown, no denying there, but to be in another person's country and replicating everything back home is rude, tantamount to insult even.

But not all are as myopic or close-minded as the above. The people of various ethnicities have a vice-like grip on their roots, akin to the most stubborn of barnacles, yet, they embrace their adopted homeland's generosity and warmth wholeheartedly, without question or fuss. It's something that is truly remarkable. These people were not told to do so, they just knew what needed to be done and they did it. I really felt the warmth of the people as my welfare was taken care of with genuine feelings. Back home after just one day, I had derisive looks from my country's ethnic majority just because I was the only one of my race at the train station. And these were from teenagers. Teenagers that have no clue as to what their actions will lead them to. I pity them for they have no future that is of any consequence. Their attitude towards me has left me questioning the government's efforts in promoting racial harmony.

How come I felt more welcomed in a country that's a couple of thousand miles from my own? 

Now that the country I call home is not what it seems, I'm beginning to wonder, where do I belong? I know it's with family but does the location matter? I've mentioned that we are way off the pace set by Singapore, what more countries like Australia? When RM's friends asked how is Malaysia, I had an extremely tough time trying to come up with something profound, something pertinent, but all I could muster from a tiny rictus of my mouth and said, "Well, we have KLCC." Can you imagine the quiet shame I endured by mentioning the former tallest building in the world as the thing to see when one is in Malaysia? When people visit a country, it should always be about the country's history and its natural offerings, never its artificial attributes.

Going to Melbourne has made me realise how much I am of an outsider in my own country. What with the direction it is taking, it angers and saddens me that in 2010 we are still so far behind in a lot of things. It is a pity that while others have moved forward we are still in a quagmire of our own doing. We may think we are advanced but we are not. We are so wrong.

Crime is still rampant here. I mentioned in my last post that I walked in a park at 3PM and saw families? Well, I walked in a park with 2 other girls. At night. No other soul could be seen. I felt safe and not once did I think my safety or of the two girls were at stake. How can I raise my family here knowing I can't even go to the damn park for fear of thieves and murderers lurking behind some bush. Shops closed at 5PM and while it gave me and RM a culture shock, when we found out that reason was so that people can spend more time with their families, I thought to myself, this is incredible. While it's a bit of a hassle if need new undies at 6PM but putting family above others is something I can only dream about. Malaysia giving such flexibility? Pfft. Not going to happen. It's like saying the races will get equal opportunity.

Dream on, Malaysians!

I hope and pray that one day that we can achieve what others have but it may not happen in my lifetime. I thought I'd never say this but spending the rest of my life in Melbourne or somewhere else for that matter doesn't seem to scare me anymore.

Damn, I really do miss the chicken souvlaki.   

This is Chris, signing off.

P.S. I've never used so much of never in a post. Never.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

I'll be seeing you later, mate.

The skin on my face still resembles an albino rabbit's bum. Pink. Beads of sweat trickle down the side of my face where only a day ago I was trying to find a thicker jacket to fight against the cold of morning. Hands feel clammy as I type this. Funny, two days ago I couldn't feel the fingers attached to them when I was out in the city, on a chilly, windy, rainy afternoon. When I walk out I smell cat poo and rubbish. I miss the cool breeze, the crisp zephyr, its freshness a welcome sensation.

I hate to say this, and I really do hate it, but I miss Melbourne.

4 days in the capital of Victoria, whilst an absolute drain on the bank account, was a fulfilling and rewarding experience. Not to mention it was also a much deserved break from the gruelling hours at torture work. Even a week would barely cover the city's offerings but me and RM did our darndest best to canvas the surroundings, from main roads to little lanes with their hole in the wall restaurants. As each turn becomes more familiar the more enchanting it became. Collins Street with its sibling, the aptly named, Little Collins Street, charmed us with their modern and chic boutiques, the solemn-looking Victorian era buildings providing a certain majestic quality to proceedings. We were thoroughly enamoured with Degraves St and its busy yet quaint eateries that were packed to the brim with hungry patrons. 

Love immediately befell onto Queen Victoria Market. Remember that dank, constantly foetid wet market that you hated going to but you needed lamb for your roast? You won't find it here. Clean is an understatement. Fresh doesn't even cut it. The meats and seafood were so fresh that any fresher you had to kill it yourself. Walk on over to the other side and you'll find yourself in the gourmet section where cheeses and sausages of any flavour are sold. African spices mingled with the aromatics of coffee and tea perfumed the air. Want a taste of the food? Just ask and you'll get a morsel with genuine smiles unlike here where if you asked to try a tiny piece of food you'll be met with a smile that wants to poison you and leave you with gangrene on your ears. 

Melbourne Zoo was all right as it rained the entire duration we were there. Wait, it rained the entire day. For the first time, I felt what it means to be cold. I did not show it but it was there. I'm finding zoos to be sad institutions where animals are no longer free to be. When you see a bear going in circles you know it isn't right. However, zoos are a necessary evil as it's the one place where children will be exposed to the plight of the animals. If 1 out of 100000 manages to see this truth then it's good enough. And, folks, if you don't see gorillas in the open then just head to the food preparation area and sure enough you'll be greeted by one. A ginormous silverback sitting at the edge of the room, staring at you like some insignificant fly. Melbourne Aquarium was a lacklustre jaunt that had penguins crapping all over the artificial snow and seeing giant stingrays.

The picture doesn't do this handsome fellow any justice. It was really freaking huge.
Have I forgotten about the food? Of course not, mate! We tried as much to not repeat a cuisine and we somewhat succeeded. Gourmet sandwiches here in Malaysia represent our best offerings with choice selections of fillings. Over there they're just sandwiches. But they taste fantastic. RM had the best lamb souvlaki ever. Greek baklava while gorgeous to look at was hellish to eat as it was the sweetest thing I've ever eaten. We had Korean barbecue that had the best-tasting beef and pork you could find anywhere. Here's a tip: never order Japanese food cooked by Hong Kong people at place called Monkey Bar near the Melbourne Aquarium. I also had the best Italian food, eating Papa Gino's pizza. It was so good the old man beside us had his carbonara dribbling all over his face.

Green tea. And larvae?
Albert Park is where I think I would spend a lot of time if I were there. The park was simply amazing, be it for jogging or taking your family out for a stroll. The thing I loved the most was that people were out in the park most of the time on Sunday. Can you imagine going to the park in KL at 3pm? You'd be baked alive and not to mention you and your family would be a target of thieves. This goes to show the forward thinking of the Australian government and its respective states handling of their own areas. 

It was sad when we were packing our things. Even though we were there only 4 days it was the most satisfying 4 days of 2010. We will never forget how the people and their kindness* they showed to the two of us. This was our first trip and it's certainly not the last.

G'day, mate!

This is Chris, signing off.

* - Thanks be to the old woman who gave us 5AUSD for tram ride to the zoo. Bless her soul.

P.S. This is just the holiday recap of the trip. Please check back soon as I'll be writing about my real thoughts of the trip.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

You're the top dog. So stop acting like a pussy.

Being a leader is a thankless responsibility.

When things go well, everyone's happy. When shit hits the fan, the shit hits the leader (and, possibly, the fan if the shit is heavy enough). The leader is the first in and the last out. While the rest of the team get to go back right on the dot, the leader stays back and makes sure things are running fine. It's a thankless responsibility, all right, but people respect you when you say you're the one in charge.

Or do they?

Respect is never given, it is always earned. This is a never truer statement when it comes to being a leader. I will only be impressed if the person has really done something remarkable. If one climbs up the ladder the conventional way, good for them. But if one uses kiss ass tactics by being a sycophant then do you deserve respect?


Though, never kissing ass to go up the ladder is about as rare as finding a sober Lindsay Lohan. Deep down, there is always an ulterior motive; you want an increment, an improved job title (to impress your classmates), to be given choice pickings when it comes to work. There is also always an element of wanting to appease your leader; kind of an implicit I scratch your back, you give me bonus deal. You hope to gain their trust so that you can get a promotion and get the heck out of there to become a leader at another place. If you're contented with how things are going then more power to you. I am not one to rest on my laurels (I don't even know where they're at). I want to be the boss and I believe I have what it takes. After being led by leaders with distinctive styles of leadership, I can safely say I will try as much to not fall into the typical leader pitfalls. But that's a pipe dream. When you're a leader of a team, you have to appease your team and your superior. Therein lies problems, awaiting to be unravelled, to test your resolve. Do well, you win, onto the next battle. Fuck up, the entire office will know about it.

Sounds like mad fun, right?

There comes a time when the best offense is more offense. Certain leaders will employ the I-go-above-you-by-going-to-your-leader's-head tactic. This tells me one thing, you have no balls (also applies to women because a vagina doesn't exactly equate to braveness*). Non-confrontational behaviour in leaders is wimpy. When someone impugns your capabilities and that of your team, you don't back down and say sorry (I know sorry is cheap but don't use it to cheapen yourself), you rip their faces apart. Show them that that you're no pushover. Of course, if your team did commit an irrefutably bad snafu then by all means rip their faces instead. Worse is when people start pointing their chubby fingers, demand for an explanation, yet when it's presented to them they don't accept it. So what do you do, top dog? Do you back down, become a pussy or do you do the right thing?

A leader does not smile when his authority is being undermined, he gets up and rises to the challenge.

Boss, if you're reading this, this isn't meant for you.

This is Chris, signing off.

P.S. Don't you just hate it when someone who is odious, contemptible and you know isn't right for the job, gets the job?

* - Or, does it?

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Daddy, where did I come from? Ebay.

What will you tell your children when they want to know, you know, where or how they were manufactured*? Do you answer them truthfully ("well, it was on a rather hot night, so...") or do you look at them sternly (to cover up your inability to explain) and tell them it's bed time? Or if you're balls are in a knot, go ask mommy. 

Sex has never been talked about so freely than ever before these days. TV shows in the past would just insinuate sex. There'll be lots of raised eyebrows, maybe a chorus or a simple bridge of public outcry. But now things are more liberal, some shows are full-blown (I am going to pun when I don't intend to pun) to the point of showing nearly everything. Edgy programming? A sign of the times? Or a ploy to draw in the ratings? Whatever it is, it's making sex seem as ordinary as Manchester United drawing games when they should've won easily. Don't get me wrong, it's still taboo but no one shields their eyes away whenever there's a kissing scene. In fact, censorship of kissing scenes is viewed as archaic, such scenes snipped by old men who pop Viagra every so often for, you know, health.

Growing up, I discovered marriage, babies and sex all by myself. All of that came from, ironically, from watching TV and movies. It never shocked me that I didn't come via a packaged deal carried by near extinct storks. When I found out that babies came as a result of some ahem action it just settled in me. Many of my peers went through the same, I'm sure of it. I guess my time didn't necessitate the talk because we were allowed to grow up and find things out ourselves. It also helped that information wasn't exactly readily available as certain things required the usage of a library or the legendary media format, VHS. But things have changed. A whole friggin' lot more. It surprises me that my little cousins know so many things including them topics but are nonchalant about it, almost not caring about it, preferring to blast aliens on the PS3. Good for me, I don't want to explain the meaning of holes and prevention to them when I'm buying them ice cream.

Sex education, to me, should be done by the parents because our tutors will deliver the subject in a robotic manner, failing to understand that it should be dealt with, pardon the pun, by injecting life, to proceedings. At what age is it appropriate? There is no such thing. There's only ever an appropriate time. When your child exudes intelligence then there's your cue. Just don't do it before an episode of Desperate Housewives. Also, children tend to believe what the tutors tell them and when you try to explain things they'll snort, that's not what Mr. Contraceptive said. What tutors should do is to compliment proceedings by further explaining it in a more scientific way. Leave the human aspects (read: horny tendencies) to the parents. It's also a good tool to freak out the children and stop them, for the time being, of delving head on into, you know, stuff.

Sex education doesn't have to be dirty. I think it's very important that parents speak to their children and be open about it (not spread eagle, no). A child's curiosity knows no bounds. So don't be surprised or feign shock when it happens because what are you, stupid? You and the missus did do some pretty hot stuff on a rather hot night.  


This is Chris, signing off.

* - This the iPod generation, you think they will know words like conceived?

P.S. If you're wondering what I would do? I'll make some tea, get the children all comfy and tucked, then tell them what I found out when I was their age. "You see, there are birds and there are bees..."