In response to the Daily Post’s Daily Prompt: Ancient
I stood on the exposed terrace of the Aerial Temple, contemplating the crumbled sandstone steps in front of me. Though I was on the second level, away from the crowd walking the grounds, faint tourist chatter still managed to reach me. The guide had explained that kings of long ago used to climb these steps which led to a room with walls made of gold. Whether or not the gold tower room existed out of legend would remain a mystery because from my vantage point, there were only sandstone columns at the top. The steps were steep and there were no handrails. The only way to reach the top was to crawl up the broken steps on all fours. The early afternoon heat warmed my skin as I pondered the climb. I squared my shoulders, secured my rucksack across my body, popped a refreshing mint into my mouth and gripped the first step with my hand. Bits of sandstone broke away. The cool January wind whipped my hair around my head, lightly flicking my face. I took a quick peek behind me and immediately regretted my action. I swayed a little and gripped the steps harder. Several minutes passed and I finally pulled myself up the last one. The scent of sandalwood assailed me. Was there someone else here? I peered around a fallen column adorned with carvings of demons and deities and saw an old woman who was on her knees, clutching incense sticks. She turned her gap-filled smile my way. So this was where the legendary Snake Princess lived.
In response to the Daily Post’s Daily Prompt: Jump
It’s Day 6 of our New Zealand trip and we’re in Lake Taupo (toe-paw) which is approximately one and a half hours drive from Rotorua. Well, closer to two hours since the maximum speed limit in New Zealand seems to be 100 km/hr and every time I went up to 110 km/hr, Emily (our GPS) started to ping wildly.
The sign entering the Lake Taupo area proudly proclaimed it to be the ‘Rainbow Trout Capital of the Universe’. Reading the travel brochures, I also learnt that Lake Taupo is actually the crater of an ancient volcano. Though that was an interesting tit-bit, the primary reason for my being in Taupo was because it’s the home of Taupo Bungy.
Little Sis told me, “If you’re going to New Zealand, you have to go bungy jumping, or else what’s the point? It’s where bungy was born!!” How do I argue with that? And so that’s how I found myself standing on a weighing scale getting my weight checked before I voluntarily threw myself off a wooden platform 47 metres above the gushing river below.
“Ok, your weight is 48 kg. You’re good to go,” said the guy behind the counter, his eyes hidden behind matrix-esque sunnies.
“48? Oh, I thought I was 46 kg, must be the mussels,” I said more to myself than to matrix-sunnies guy.
He slipped the receipt into a tag with a lanyard and told me to hang it around my neck, took my left hand and wrote in bold with a flat-tipped marker (not permanent, I later sighed in relief), “48”. Ugh, my weight, for all the world to see. The world being everyone at the bungy centre.
“Erm, so what do I do now?” I asked when actually, what I really wanted was for someone to take my hand and lead me to where I was supposed to go to next. After all, I was on the verge (pun intended) of doing something that my life insurance agent should never be told about as I was pretty sure that if she did, my monthly premium would go up exponentially.
“Head over to the cantilevered bridge over there and queue up and wait for your turn,” he explained slowly in case this Asian person could not understand English. “Have a good jump!” he added as an afterthought.
And so, I walked over and waited my turn. In front of me was a Japanese lady. She looked as zen as can be, standing there admiring the view so I thought why not ask her, “Is this your 1st time?”
“No, it’s my 14th.”
“Wow, so, what advice do you have for me? It’s my first time.”
“Just relax, at first you’ll be nervous. I’m always nervous before I jump. But after you jump, no problem!” She assured me.
“Okay…thanks. No problem.” My nerves went into overdrive.
I saw the bungy guys call her when it was her turn and as she sat down on the bench, they strapped the cable around her feet, giving her instructions which I was attempting my best to listen to even though I knew they’ll be giving me the same instructions later. I suppose if I heard it twice, the information would be burned into my brain. When she stood on the ledge, I was extremely nervous (on her behalf) and cringed a little when the bungy master counted down and then I heard her scream as she jumped. Yikes.
I laid my hand on my heart and sure enough, it was beating quadruple-time, as if I’d run full speed for 15 mins around the park in front of my house. Then, it was my turn.
I sat down and as the bungy master strapped the cable on, she asked, “How are you today?” No point in trying to be suave so I replied, “Super-nervous!” And after that she gave me a litany of instructions that’s a blur to me now and next I knew…
…I was at the edge of the platform looking down at the Waikato River.
Yikes! I’m going to go all that way??? It felt like I was going to hyper-ventilate. My ears were beginning to buzz and through the buzzing spimd, I heard the bungy master remind me to put my hands out and after she counted to three, I should lean forward and let gravity do the rest. At that moment, I thought gravity was evil.
I heard her start the countdown – one, two, three… and like an automaton (I’m pretty sure it was just my body responding automatically as my brain had temporarily shut down to protect me from this crazy thing I was nano-seconds away from), my body obediently had its hands out and I leant forward and even at the nano-nano-second before my feet left the platform to meet the air, the motto I read at the Taupo Bungy hut flashed through my mind – Why live on the edge, when you can jump off it? Stupid motto, was what I thought as well.
With that thought, my entire body already in the air, I opened my mouth and screamed and flew…and hoped that the bungy guys got the cable measurement correct.
In response to the Daily Post’s Daily Prompt: Perplexed
He was perplexed.
There was the old go-to needle and thread. There was also the hole puncher. Not forgetting the stapler. But his hand hovered over the paperclip. Paperclip it is, he thought. Got to sharpen it first though.
He picked up the metallic paperclip and used a sandpaper to taper the ends until it was sharp, capable of puncturing through most anything. Finally satisfied, he turned to the woman on the chair at the far end of the room. She was bound by her hands and legs with rope as tight as could be. She tried to wiggle free but the knots were securely fasten. This wasn’t his first rodeo. Tears spilt down her cheeks. Tape over her mouth.
He smirked as he approached her, modified paperclip in hand. “Now, let’s see about keeping that mouth shut, shall we?”
In response to the Daily Post’s Daily prompt: Elegant
She brushed lint off his dinner jacket and adjusted the tie that she’d picked out for him, it was cerulean and matched his eyes. She smoothed his hair off his face and gave him a tender smile. Pressing her cheek to his temple, she whispered, “I just want someone who will never stop choosing me.” She got up and left him seated on the bench in the park where they’d had their first date, when she knew that he’d be her forever after.
Fifteen minutes later, the law enforcement officers arrived after responding to an anonymous tip. They immediately spotted him on the bench, dressed to the nines with a silver letter opener sticking out from his chest. As they went about securing the scene of the crime, they all agreed that he was the most elegant-looking corpse they’d ever seen.
In response to the Daily Post’s Daily Prompt: Cake
Cake No. 1
It was my 19th birthday. I was sitting on my bed; silently counting the minutes till I turn 19; an age that I thought was practically ancient at the time. One of my roommates had gone out of the room; she did it so stealthily that I didn’t even know she wasn’t there until I looked around and found her gone. Another roommate was sitting at her desk not doing much of anything while the third was on her bed across the room from mine. She kept looking up at me from her add maths textbook, then at our roommate who was idling at her desk, then at the door, and finally back at me. Something was up, I just wasn’t sure what it was.
It was 12 midnight when the idling roommate sprang up from her desk and skipped to the door. I thought it odd at the time because I didn’t hear a knock at the door. The lights went out suddenly and I was just about to say, “Hey…” when the door swung open and Ninja Roommate, came in with a cake with all 19 candles lit, which made the cake look like it was on fire. Behind my Ninja Roommate were the rest of the girls and they were singing Happy Birthday as they walked towards me. I felt tears well in my eyes as I leaned down to blow out all the candles. So many candles. The girls and I ate cake and yakked. They also tried to shove my face into the cake. Cheeky.
Cake No. 2
It’s the evening of my birthday, and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum brought me out for dinner at a Chinese coffeeshop on the way to our ‘favourite’ supermarket, Warta. Then after, they led me back to one of the classrooms in the academic block and this time, the guys had arranged a little get together where another cake was waiting. Yay! Cake! Predictably enough, I had another close encounter with the cake. Not much cake was eaten as everyone decided to get in on the action and smear everyone else with cake. Unfortunately, no photographic evidence exists of that messy activity. Darn.
Cake No. 3
It’s nearing the end of my 19th birthday. I returned to the hostel and found cake No. 3 waiting. I squealed in delight, beyond delirious to have so many cakes in one day. My squeals soon turned into groans as I was faced with the dilemma of eating yet another cake. I looked at the cake and at my stomach and thought Nope, I don’t think anymore cake can fit in me tonight. In the end though, I cut the tiniest slice of cake ever known to mankind, had a taste and sent the cake on a tour of as many rooms as possible. Cake for everyone!
I went to sleep that night – happy, full of cake, 19.
Or otherwise known as ‘I Should’ve Gone to the Supermarket the Day Before Like I Planned Instead of Procrastinating‘
I love supermarkets and grocery shopping. I find it calming to systematically peruse each aisle looking for the items on my list. For me, it’s an activity that helps me find my zen.
Yesterday though, my experience at the supermarket was furthest from calm.
I’d done my systematic combing of the aisles and got everything I needed for dinner, I was ready to go. I chose the checkout line that seemed to be moving the fastest and waited my turn. While I unloaded my ingredients for dinner onto the conveyor belt, I heard my name being called. I looked up and two checkout lines away was Aileen. I hadn’t seen her in ages! I can’t even remember the last time I saw her. These days we ‘kept in touch’ only via Facebook and even then, all I did was ‘like’ her cat-related posts.
I gave Aileen a half-hearted wave as I took out the last item from my basket for the cashier to scan, hoping she’ll return a half-hearted wave too and stay in her checkout line. Unfortunately, my luck has never been great because Aileen rushed on over to the checkout line I was in where we exchanged an awkward side-hug.
“What a surprise!” I exclaimed, injecting as much joy as I could into my greeting. I don’t like bumping into people I know at supermarkets and so far, she’s the first person I know that I’ve bumped into after all these years of shopping there. “What are you doing here?” I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“I hardly come here,” she revealed, “but I found out that this is the only supermarket now that stocks the one and only cat litter that my cat will use.”
“Oh, really?” I replied absentmindedly as I handed my credit card to the cashier. I collected my bag of groceries and moved out of the line. Aileen came with me.
“We were just talking about you last night!!!”
“We?” I stopped and faced her, confused.
“Yeah! Felicia and I!”
“You and Felicia?” Yes, I was beginning to sound like a parrot.
“Yes, last night, during Aaron’s wedding dinner. Felicia and I sat next to one another and we were talking about you!”
Aaron’s wedding dinner??? Okay, I was not liking where this conversation was going. I desperately needed to not hear anything else about this topic but I didn’t want to let her see that I was bothered by it so nonchalantly I said, “I’m surprised that I came up in conversation at all, I don’t meet any of the old gang anymore.” I stepped back hoping she’ll get the hint that I needed to go.
“Oh, we were just talking about all our friends in general, where they were, what they were doing now. Alfred was there too, with his wife and two kids but they sat at a different table. And Tat Mun flew back just for the dinner!”
In my head, I was screaming Why is she telling me all this??? But before I could stop myself, I asked “Where was the dinner?” I gave myself a mental smack.
“Oh, somewhere in KL, near Imbi. It was mostly his Singaporean friends who attended. There was just a few of us there.” I looked at my watch, pretended to be shocked at the time eventhough the time didn’t register with me and said to Aileen “Hey, it was nice to bump into you but I really have to go.” I felt no guilt about lying but I didn’t want to hear any more because I could feel my heart started to race and I was feeling very annoyed at myself for being here when I could’ve avoided this entire useless conversation had I gone to the supermarket the day before as planned.
“Oh, okay, I think I have your number,” she took out her phone and scrolled through her address book. I was already at least three feet away from her, ready to dash to the parking lot. “Here it is! I’ll give you a missed call!”
“Yes, I can feel my phone vibrating.” I didn’t bother taking the phone out of my bag and I couldn’t feel if it was vibrating or not because I didn’t care. “Keep in touch!” With a quick wave, I ran away from her.
I reached my car, got into it, rested my head on the steering wheel and took several deep breaths. I truly didn’t expect the day to turn out the way it did. I wish I could un-know what I just found out. Un-learn the fact that every year, on September 3rd, he’ll be celebrating his wedding anniversary. I wished (again and again) that I’d gone to the supermarket yesterday. I looked at my bags of groceries and thought that perhaps I should learn to find my zen in online grocery shopping from now on.
In response to the Daily Prompt’s Daily Post: Fierce
The sea was fierce the day we made the attempt but we were on a schedule. “Moderate waves with fairly frequent white horses,” the Offshore Installation Manager told us, “My guys will monitor the sea conditions. If it gets worse, I’ll instruct the boat to turn back.”
It was early morning, we stepped onto the transfer basket, our bags and safety helmets secured in the designated space in the centre. We clutched the ropes tightly, positioning ourselves on opposite sides for stabilisation. The bosun’s walkie-talkie crackled. He lifted it to his ear and gave us the thumbs up. The crane lifted us up above the platform, swung us out gently so that we hovered for a minute above the South China Sea. My hair tied into a ponytail was whipping back and forth. The smell of exhaust fumes from the crane seemed out of place here, far out at sea. The both of us looked across to one another and grinned as we savoured the view. Then we were lowered, the basket swaying slightly, to the tug boat waiting below which was bobbing a little too much for my liking.
The basket landed on the boat with a soft thud and I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding. When we stepped off the basket and onto the deck of the tug boat, I asked her why she was grinning earlier while we dangled probably twenty stories above the rough water. I licked salt water from my lips while she re-arranged her tudung which had gone askew. “I looked at you, and then thought to myself how in the heck I ended up here!” She exclaimed, laughing. I joined her in laughter, nudged her shoulder and told her I was thinking the same thing.
Then we sat back, held tight and let the wind snatch away our fears and worries that day.
List 2 things you have to be happy about? I’m beyond happy that it rained cats and dogs this morning. Yesterday was a hazy day; the air quality had reached unhealthy levels and you could smell smoke in the air. I was almost certain that the rest of the week would pass in a haze so when I heard heavy rainfall and howling winds early this morning (and also because I’m a pluviophile), I smiled all the way to work. I’m also happy because tomorrow is a public holiday to mark Malaysia’s 59th year of independence. Who doesn’t love a mid-week holiday!
If you could take a photograph, paint a picture or write a story of any place in the world, what and where would it be? I’d love to go to Hawaii and photograph everything and everyone I can there🙂
Should children be seen and not heard? In between.
List at least five of your favorite first names. Asher, Margaret, the French version of my name – Amelie, Samantha, Christopher.
Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? From last week, I’m grateful that I finally decided that I’m not happy in this job and cannot continue to be unhappy every single day. It was tough to get to that stage because it feels like I’ve given up but friends have assured me that getting out of a toxic workplace is not giving up🙂 For the week ahead, I’m looking forward to starting an online creative writing class and (virtually) being among like-minded folks and sharing our little writing creations!
Shout out to Cee for coming up with the Share Your World questions!
We entered my Uncle’s house. The Uncle who’d just passed away the previous evening. My father’s sister-in-law saw us and immediately went to my father, clutched his shoulders and wailed. My mother and I excused ourselves as we walked pass the relatives who were already there, sitting cross-legged, on the kasah that was scattered on the floor of the living room. We sat in a corner of the room furthest away from my Uncle’s body.
I’d gone back to Kuching that weekend to spend time with Auntie Jenny and Uncle Steve, who’d come all the way from England. The possibility that I’d be on the way to Simunjan, a 2.5 hour drive away, that hot and sultry Saturday morning with my parents, was unplanned for. Truthfully, I was reluctant to go. I didn’t know my father’s relatives and the customs. I was afraid that I’d accidentally say or do something inappropriate. After mulling it a bit, I decided not to worry about it though because surely everyone would be busy planning for the funeral and I’d just be another face in the crowd.
Unfortunately, despite trying my hardest to be unobtrusive, relatives descended upon me mainly because…
…of my tattoos. You would think that coming from an ethnic group that prides itself on its tattoos that having them would be commonplace. Apparently not among this group of Ibans. Except for me, no one else had visible tattoos. I kept catching the older relatives glance not too discreetly at my tattoo-adorned wrists and ankles. The younger relatives were just outright staring as they sat on the wooden benches chain-smoking.
…I barely speak the language. Growing up, I learnt the native language my mother spoke, not my father’s. The only thing I knew how to say in my father’s native language is makai (eat), ngirup (drink), jalai (walk) and aku enda mereti (I don’t understand). Thankfully, Iban and Bahasa Malaysia have similar words so when one of the relatives spoke to me in Iban, I tried to catch any Bahasa Malaysia-sounding words and extrapolate the conversation from there. Even then, the relatives tended to speak to me three or four at a time and this made following any conversation difficult. In the end, I smiled and replied au (yes). I had some weird looks when I kept repeating au, but I was overwhelmed.
…I am still unmarried. My relatives (and even strangers, unfortunately) love asking about my marital status. I didn’t think this question would even come up though since it was a wake and the last thing anyone should be talking about is who is married and who isn’t. I was wrong. Again. A grandaunt asked my father how many children he has and was I the oldest, youngest or middle child. She then asked him if I was married and when he replied that I was bujang (single), that’s when my ears perked up. She followed up with asking if my younger siblings were married and when he responded in the affirmative, her eyes widened with surprise (I suppose). This discussion between the grandaunt and my father attracted the attention of the other relatives and the word bujang kept coming up. I inched away from them as stealthily as possible and went outside where no one was talking about my state of singlehood (I hope).
Maybe next time, at another gathering of relatives, I’ll cover up my tattoos and get a quickie marriage so that the relatives will notice someone else instead.