Dau

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. This year, I’ll be writing about people, places and events that I encountered and experienced when I left home for the first time to live in a residential college for two years. I was 18. I’ve a book in the works about those significant and tumultuous two years but I’ve still got a long way to go. I’m hoping dredging up some memories and writing about them during this Challenge will push me further towards the finish line. With that, each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet in this theme. Enjoy!

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Among all the pictures I took during the two years at college, there’s a picture of Dau ironing a long, pleated, brown skirt she planned to wear to class the following day. I also have a picture of her holding the skirt in front of her, and striking a pose. She was quite a character. I can’t quite remember why I had my camera out and how I managed to get the picture. I do remember however that after I took that candid shot, I ended up chatting with her till quite late into the night, snacking on the cake I’d brought.

I met Dau during my first week at college. We were in the same team of juniors on a treasure hunt, one of the activities that the college had organised for incoming students during Induction Week. From the moment the teams were handed the clues for the treasure hunt, Dau took charge. Our team eventually finished in the top three. That first time I met her, I was totally in awe and extremely intimidated. She was tall, lithe, athletic and had a gravitas about her. She also totally rocked a pixie cut.

She was one of the popular juniors, most of the seniors knew her and she had more than her share of secret admirers. It wasn’t enough that she was statuesque but she was also adept at Taekwondo. She was friends with most everyone and always had a smile on her face. It would’ve been easy enough to hate her except that Dau, infuriatingly,  was one of those girls that guys wanted to be with, and girls wanted to be. More than once, I wished I could be her.

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Curfew

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. This year, I’ll be writing about people, places and events that I encountered and experienced when I left home for the first time to live in a residential college for two years. I was 18. I’ve a book in the works about those significant and tumultuous two years but I’ve still got a long way to go. I’m hoping dredging up some memories and writing about them during this Challenge will push me further towards the finish line. With that, each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet in this theme. Enjoy!

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It’s 11.10 pm. Twenty more minutes to curfew.

My roommates and I had just returned from the mamak, a roadside stall, about a slow 10 minute walk away. I had my regular supper of maggi goreng (fried instant noodles) and iced coffee.

11.15 pm.

We were milling around near the guardhouse, which was at the entrance of the small gate we entered that led to our hostel block. Other students were at the phone booths, making calls to family or loved ones. There were more students queuing up behind them, clutching coins or a fully loaded phone card. I would normally call my folks on Thursday nights, to tell them what time I would be home the following day.

11.25 pm.

Some students were already trekking back to their rooms, some nodding at the guard, Pak Guard, we called him, who was standing at the gate ready to usher the rest of us stragglers in before curfew.

My roommates and I were one of the last to go through the gate that night. As we climbed up the ramp to our floor, we heard the gate clanked shut. We were locked in for the night.

 

Birthdays

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. This year, I’ll be writing about people, places and events that I encountered and experienced when I left home for the first time to live in a residential college for two years. I was 18. I’ve a book in the works about those significant and tumultuous two years but I’ve still got a long way to go. I’m hoping dredging up some memories and writing about them during this Challenge will push me further towards the finish line. With that, each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet in this theme. Enjoy!

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It was May Leen’s birthday.

Like most birthdays we’ve celebrated here in college, among the new friends from far-flung states that we’ve made, there were:

  1. A big makan-makan (dinner) with the gang
  2. A public display of embarrassment affection when the gang erupts into a raucous, slightly out of tune birthday song (on purpose)
  3.  A birthday gift and card shared by at least 15 people (we were students with a student loan, so most gifts were shared)

We were in our room, she was getting read to open her gift from the guys. It was a cassette. She loaded it into the player of Felicia’s red radio, and pressed play. Then voices came on and we heard the guys wishing her a happy birthday, followed by the sounds the strumming of a guitar. Not many of the guys knew how to play the radio so we were trying to guess who were the guitar players. Probably Pey Haw or Cheese. Then they started singing Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight and us girls sighed in almost-unison.

May Leen looked to be in tears, it was such a thoughtful gift. The fact that the guys got together and probably practiced the song before recording it, we were nothing short of amazed.

I looked at my desk and saw my birthday gift among my textbooks, a book from the Chicken Soup from the Soul series signed by maybe ten people, remembered the card that came with it, a Get Well Soon card, and wished someone recorded a song for me on a cassette.

Aaron

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. This year, I’ll be writing about people, places and events that I encountered and experienced when I left home for the first time to live in a residential college for two years. I was 18. I’ve a book in the works about those significant and tumultuous two years but I’ve still got a long way to go. I’m hoping dredging up some memories and writing about them during this Challenge will push me further towards the finish line. With that, each post this month will be associated with a letter of the alphabet in this theme. Enjoy!

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I remember driving up towards the college campus. I was in the back seat of my parent’s Pajero, clutching my backpack. I had another suitcase in the trunk of the car. It was mid-morning and I thought I’d be early but there were already many students and their family milling around the academic block, which was where we were supposed to register upon arrival.

As we drove past the academic block, looking for a spot to park in, I noticed a boy in a white dress shirt tucked into black pants. A woman, most likely his mother, was straightening his tie. The boy wore a bored and frustrated look on his face. I smiled to myself.

Later, I learnt the boy’s name was Aaron. He ended up my classmate for the next two years. I also learnt that he liked to tap his feet when he was figuring out problems and that he thought I was a strange creature.

He was my first love.

Guidelines for the New Year

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To continue (and document!) with project #40thingsat40.

To not to be too hard on myself.

To continue doing the things that feed my soul.

To remember that joy is not in things, it is in us.

To treasure time with loved ones, even when said loved ones make you want to pull out your hair.

 

Nano and Tokyo

Nano

nano-2017-participant-facebook-coverIt’s November, which means NaNoWriMo.

It’s Day 7, which means I should’ve written approximately 11, 667 words.

However…I’ve only managed a little under 3, 000 words so far, and I’m trying not to stress myself out due to my low word count.  In 2012 and 2013, I managed to hit the 50, 000-word mark by the end of November and since then haven’t been able to commit to the challenge. Throughout November during those years, I blogged nearly daily here in an effort to keep myself accountable and I have to say that it helped!

This year I’m visiting a story idea that’s been percolating within me, which is part-memoir, part-murder mystery, tentatively titled “The Way We Were”. Today’s NaNoWriMo pep talk is all about being okay with wherever you are, as long as you keep moving forward, which is timely advice indeed.

Tokyo

Also, I’ll be travelling in a couple of days to one of my favourite cities in the world – Tokyo. In order to keep up with NaNoWriMo (crossing my fingers) during my trip, my iPad is making the trip too, and for the first few days, I’ll have to use the touch screen keyboard (ugh) to write before I hunt down a bluetooth keyboard in Tokyo’s Electric Town Akihabara (still crossing my fingers). I also plan on blogging about my trip (something I’ve always wanted to do on my other trips!) and am contemplating setting up another blog which will house my Tokyo Travel-centric posts. Alternatively, I may post here initially and then migrate the posts to a separate blog.

Now, I’m off to write! And pack!

Thing 4: Paua

40thingsat40When I hear the word paua, this is what comes to mind – a gloriously shiny, multi-hued, mainly blues and greens, shell which is often used to make decorative ornaments or jewelry. In fact, I have a earring or two made from this unique resource.

So, when my sister’s mother-in-law asked me if I wanted to try grilled paua, I immediately replied “Yes!”

And so, that night, after an 8-hour drive from Auckland to Wellington, I enjoyed my first taste of lightly grilled paua with a squeeze of lemon. So, what did I think? Yum, tastes just like chicken!

Note: I forgot to take a picture of the delicious grilled paua because it was already late at night and I was hangry. I have to say that it tastes better than it looks though. 

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NOT the grilled paua that I had

Thing 3: 253/ 251 Steps

40thingsat40When we arrived at the lighthouse, I looked up at the seemingly neverending wooden steps built into the cliff side and wondered to myself “Am I really going to do this?”

The stairs were steep, it looked like they were at a 30 degree angle, and oh there were so many of them! I was worried that I’d be winded halfway up and then get stuck on the steps, and emergency services would have to be called in. After all, I’d just completed an unplanned one hour hike at the Putangirua Pinnacles.

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The vertigo-inducing climb to the Cape Palliser lighthouse

Eventually though, I got out of the car and mumbled to myself “If I don’t do this, I’ll regret it the second I’m on the plane on the way back home.” So, off I went. Despite the fact that my legs were already feeling wobbly.

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253? Or 251?

The official website for the Cape Pallier lighthouse stated that there are 253 steps but the signboard at the bottom of the steps declared something different. Someone had scratched out “253” and wrote “251” instead. I intended to count the steps as I made my way up but with the steepness of the stairs and breathlessness that assailed me, I stopped at 27, so the actual number of steps will remain a mystery to me!

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Success!!!

It must’ve taken probably 10 minutes for me to reach the top, only because I stopped many times and whenever there were folks heading down and past me, I gripped the handrail with all my might, refusing to move. I had this vision in my head that if I continued upwards while they past me, Bernoulli’s principle would be in effect and I’d be blown off the stairs! Though my counting abilities failed me, my imagination was working more than fine!

Of course, after catching my breath and enjoying the view around me, it was time to leave which means going down the perilous wooden steps which either numbered 253 or 251. I said a little prayer that I wouldn’t fall head over heels as I looked at the journey downwards that awaited me. Eeeeeeeek!!!

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Why aren’t there handrails on BOTH sides???!!! Why???

 

Reflections from a sort-of A to Z Challenge survivor

survivor-atoz2b255b2017255d2bv1I had every intention of completing my posts ahead of time despite the fact that I would be off on a holiday for two weeks in April. However, those intentions turned out to be pipe dreams.

Nevertheless, when I realised that I’d be posting according to my own schedule and not the planned schedule for the challenge, I tried not to panic and reminded myself that this challenge is not meant to add stress to my life.

So, I plodded on, and was happy (and not anxious) at posting some letters many days later. One of my motivations to keep going was that I really liked my theme this year – Malaysiana! I was happy to write about the culture, food and other interesting facts about the country I live in. It was equally awesome to read the comments!

So, post A to Z, I want to catch up on blogs that I’ve missed from the folks that did this year’s challenge! Also, I’ve been toying with the idea of perhaps doing a post focused on Malaysiana perhaps once a week so we’ll see how that pans out!

Zoo Negara

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Malaysiana

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The Vienna Zoo was opened in 1752.

The London Zoo, or as it was known then, “Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society of London”, began operations in 1826.

Compared to these zoos in Europe, Malaysia’s Zoo Negara or National Zoo, is relatively young, opening its doors only in 1963.

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I have to confess, the last time I went to the Zoo Negara, was in primary school as part of a school trip so I unfortunately cannot describe its current state (which I hope has improved!). One of the biggest zoo news recently, well in 2015, was the birth of a baby Giant Panda named Nuan Nuan at the Giant Panda Conservation Centre.

I’d actually like to take a close look at this baby and I’d probably have to do it soon since according to Malaysia’s agreement with China, Nuan Nuan has to be returned to China when she turns two.