Rested, Yet Restless.

Her name is Tina.

“So, who are your youngest clients?” I asked, trying to strike up a conversation to ease the awkward moment.

“I’ve had clients who are around 17 years old who come.  The youngest so far is a 16-year old.”

And I thought I was waaay too young to be doing this.  The palms of her hands were really smooth, probably a result of years of experience.  Next thing I knew, she was pressing my forehead down, as though trying to sink my head into the pillow.  She turned on some electrical thing, with a faint buzzing sound, but I couldn’t see because it was dark and yes, my eyes were shut tight.  I could only pray it doesn’t do any damage.

Then, I felt a bright light hovering over me and when I opened my eyes to take a peek, I thought I was blinded.  I wonder if that’s how seeing God is like.  Tina started pressing really hard on my nose, squeezing it as if it was some kind of Play-Doh, before proceeding to the bottom of my chin and random areas of my face.

“You don’t sound like you’re local,” she asked after a long breach of silence, as my nose silently pleaded for mercy.  Turning off the light, she continued, “When you spoke English with your mom you had a very nice accent, not the fake types, but the genuine kind – like you’ve lived in overseas before.”

Thinking how to answer all that in Hokkien (our conversations are in Hokkien, by the way), I replied under the pressure of her fingertips, “That’s how I speak normally, I don’t know where that accent came from.  It’s been there since I was young.  People call me a banana because I’m poor in Chinese.”

“Oh?  So you’re pure Chinese?  Your mom and dad are locals?  I see!  And you don’t look Malaysian, more Eurasian.  And you definitely don’t look 20, I thought you were waiting for your SPM results!”

It was hard for me to smile so I just let out a chuckle.  Next she put a cloth over my face and started applying some kind of goo.  She muttered something like “mask” and so I laid still.  Mom came in not long after and they both started talking as if I wasn’t there.  You know, those “About my daughter” talks.

She started applying some massage oil on me and …

PRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Holy crap!!  Was that my finger???  My left thumb laid there lifeless as my other fingers went through the torment.  I could not frown nor open my mouth to say a thing because there’s a frigging cloth and mask over my face!!!  I felt like a tortured paralyzed person while my right arm awaited in fear.

PRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My hands went numb.  And for awhile I doubted if they were still attached to me.

She proceeded to my shoulders and commented, “My my, you’re so tensed!  So stressed!  You need to loosen up!”

Yeah do the same thing to my shoulders as you did to my fingers and I’ll so loosen up.  Detached too.

Once the mask was taken off and my face was slathered with a few more layers of something-that-I-don’t-know, I was ready to go.  Strangely, despite thinking I was going to be killed right there and then, I felt good.  Like you know, more loosened up.

Thanked Tina, made payment, and left.

And that, was Kooky’s first facial treatment.  Wow.

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A Happy Place

“We’re folding paper planes?”

“Yup.  Start with the yellow ones.”

“That’s gonna be a lot of work.”

“It’s gonna be worth it.”

***

One of the many things I’ve been busy about during the holidays was setting up a booth for a company called Out of The Box.  In case you haven’t heard of them before, this company sends students for work & travel programs all across the USA.  As much as I was interested in joining their program and hoping they might sponsor me a trip, brainstorming was fun.  The budget was tight, but that made it better because that means we had to literally think out of the box to get their money worth.

I browsed websites for ideas and such, in the end I gave up and started asking myself, “What would I want to see?  What would I want to know?”

I wanted to know that people have gone for this program before and they came back in one piece.  I wanted to know how to convince my parents to let me go.  I wanted to see those beautiful places.  I wanted to know how working in the USA is like, if there was discrimination, etc.

Out of The Box had all those answers.  It was my job to tell them.

So I printed buntings, flyers, photos, stories, all the real things that people want to know.  Stuck them up on open boxes messily, an order only youths would understand.  Let’s use boxes, I say.  And I wanted it to be happy.

So I folded paper planes.

***

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I do sometimes wonder if my client thinks I’m crazy.

Then again, the answer was obvious anyway.

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***

I wiped my hands against my the side of my pants before receiving the final cheque.  But my eyes weren’t focused on the digits.  They were focused on my client’s face.  I think it was good.

***

“Thanks, it was fun while it lasted.”

“Impossible Things Happen Everyday” (Day Two & Three)

Day TWO, 4th January 2009

The day I became the happiest kid in the world.

Jane had to wake up earlier to go to work the next day, and probably an hour later I was woken up by a noisy bird that reminded me of a funny incident that happened in highschool – but I’ll talk about that one another day.  I wondered what I could possibly say to strike a conversation with the others in the house, but they made it pretty easy for me.  Her sister shared with me about how life in Singapore is like and told me about the few places I could go while I was there.  She was kind enough to offer to bring me to a secondhand bookshop, but it was just too bad that I couldn’t make it home on time.

Anyway, I met up with Xing Ni for lunch at Novena Square, and we did a fair bit of catching up.  I think I’ve mentioned in before in previous entries about this wonderful friend of mine – and it’s always refreshing each time we share about our personal experiences.  I was really grateful at the fact that she took time off for me, because as far as I know, she’s a really busy person.

After lunch we headed to town and I had a chance to hop from one mall to another.  I’m not a buyer, and I take joy in observing people.  Xing Ni had to leave for awhile to give tuition to someone (I told you she’s a busy person) and so I had time to see some places on my own.  I went to “That CD Shop” and spent most my time there browsing and testing albums.  I bought two CDs, one for Xing Ni, another for Jane, and then made my way to Starbucks where I got to observe more people and write my thoughts on a couple pieces of napkins.  What I observed was that Singaporeans love to walk.

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Yup, anywhere, anytime.  I was just observing from one corner where I slowly had my latte, and not one second was that spot empty.  Xing Ni once mentioned to me that a short walk lasts about 45 minutes, and I told her that in Malaysian context, any walk that lasts for more than 10 minutes is considered a long walk.  And and, Singaporean men are more well-groomed too, haha.  It was the “me time” that I was looking for – just an hour or two at one corner of a busy street, armed with a cup of coffee and pure thoughts.  I haven’t had that for the longest time.

Later on in the evening, I met up with Xing Ni again and we headed to meet her sister.  I’d say that from one glance they didn’t look too much like one another, but after a better look, yeah, there were some resemblance.  Her sister’s the same age as me, but way more matured.  Haha.  That’s Xing Ni and me in the photo below.

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We had light dinner before proceeding to Esplanade, a place that I’ve fallen in love with.  It looks a lot like the Sydney Harbour, where there were open auditoriums for live performances, and of course, the infamous “durian” which to me looked more like “cempedak”.  Xing Ni thinks they look more like the eyes of a fly.  I love how the arts is emphasized here so much — something we should really look into in this country.

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Jane arrived about a quarter before 8 – just in time for the musical.  We were really excited because we’ve been HUGE fans of Lea Salonga for the longest time!  I fell in love with Salonga’s voice the day I heard her sing as the voice of Princess Jasmine in Aladdin.  And we had FANTASTIC seats!!!  Imagine an auditorium with three levels of seating.  We didn’t go for the floor seats, but took the 1st level, FRONT row and right in the MIDDLE.  Of course a hefty price tag came with those seats, but it was ALL WORTH IT the moment Lea Salonga’s voice filled the room with the opening song.

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It felt so surreal.  To see someone whom I’ve only been seeing on TV for the past 10 years right in front of me, LIVE.  The set and costumes were more elaborated compared to Mamma Mia, and they were very very conscious with the details of the set.  The scene that amazed me most was how the pumpkin turned into a carriage, and how that carriage travelled all the way to the palace with the help of lightings — it was like a magic show right there and then.  The fairy godmother was really funny – the most dramatic of the lot – but each time Lea Salonga broke into a tune, I was grinning like an idiot and was simply… goodness, I couldn’t even really describe it.  It was like a dream come true.  It’s coming to Malaysia, and for all the musical enthusiasts out there: this is a MUST WATCH.  Jane and I were skeptical at first because it was based on a cartoon and we were wondering if they only used Lea Salonga to boost ticket sales, but we were wrong.  It was a fantastic show as a whole.  Oh, don’t bring your kids though.  They’ll probably end up confused because it’s a bit different from the Disney storyline.

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That’s Jane, Lea and me!  Lol!  We wanted to look for the dressing room or the backdoor where they would exit but we were given off limits.  Hahaha!  So we had to settle for the poster.  Lea, if you’re reading this, you owe your biggest fans a photo! It was Xing Ni and her sister’s first time to a live musical, and we are now gearing up for the next : CATS!  Anyone interested?

After the show we popped to the nearest 7-Eleven, got ourselves a drink and sat by the many seats provided along the busy streets and had a little chat.  It was like the perfect moment.  I’m not a tourist kind of person, I don’t mind not visiting famous commercialized places, I’d prefer a meaningful time with my friends anywhere at all, especially at places where you get to feel the country for what it is, just like standing at the roadside and let the world move by you.  By the way, their 7-Eleven has almost everything, from soft toys to wrapped, cooked eggs.  A bit fascinating yet sad at the same time.  People don’t know how to cook eggs already???

We took a bus home, and though the journey was a little quiet, we knew that each of us were just trying to digest the night.  The magical moments that happened in the theatre sure came home with us and lingered on longer than we thought.

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Day THREE, 5th January 2009

Jane brought me to the Arts Museum, where we had our chance to view works by Korean artists and several local ones.  I can’t say that I appreciate modern art as much as the real enthusiasts do, but I had a good time there trying to look in other people’s point of view and I must say that I did manage to apply certain angles into a few works of my own.  I just hope it didn’t bore Jane though.  Haha.

After that Jane introduced Ayam Penyek to me for lunch.  An Indonesian cuisine, the sambal was awesome!  Really spicy but really good!  I think my dad and bro will love it if they have the chance to try it.  It was the time where we really got to talk and catch up with one another.  It’s funny – we didn’t have a congested conversation like most first-time friends would have due to all the excitement, but it just felt like we’ve known each other for a long time and could somehow tell what we were thinking.

We strolled in one of the many malls once more, and I bought myself a musical DVD to add to my collection. There were so many to choose from that I had a hard time to decide which one to get!  This is what I love about Singapore: its resources to the arts scene despite the fast-climbing corporate & technology scene.  They have this balance that I like.  But it’s not one place I would like to stay, though I wouldn’t mind going there once in a while as a getaway.

Oh yeah, one thing about the MRT was that they had this constant reminder to report any suspicious looking people on the train.  Which was really funny because there were so many dynamic characters in Singapore (by dynamic I mean extreme fashion senses) that everyone does look…outstanding.  Lol.

Jane sent me off to the station for me to catch a bus to go over to JB to meet my parents who were staying with my dad’s good friend.  Xing Ni, just when you thought she couldn’t be any sweeter, came over too to say goodbye.  We exchanged hugs and the next thing I knew, I was on the bus.

*******

Personal thoughts

This trip has definitely gave me the refreshment I need.  A bit short, just 3 days, but it was enough to keep me yearning for more.  I found myself missing Jane and Xing Ni not long after I’ve reached home, but at the same time, I was very grateful for these special people who have sacrificed their time for me.

I may have complained about stress at work, and how my peers seem to have it boring and easy during the break, but I can now say that I no longer envy them.  I think it’s because I was so busy during my hols that each time I do get a real break, I appreciate it even more.  I met three incredible women on this trip, including the one on stage, and what a way, I say, to start this new year.

I don’t expect a smooth ride, but that doesn’t matter anymore.  Because as of yesterday, I found strength within the people in my life – and the good God that I believe in.

That’s all I need.

“Impossible Things Happen Everyday.” (Day One)

That’s what Fairy Godmother said.  Let me enlighten you with my journal jottings of my Singapore trip.  I need to dissect it part by part because too much has happened over the past 3 days.

Day ONE, 3rd January 2009

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The fast-paced lifestyle of Singapore certainly did not help my racing heart.  Barely catching my breath, Xing Ni brought me to Hope Singapore to join their evening youth service.  I met a lot of familiar faces there, especially my brothers and sisters whom I met during the Redang retreat.  It was a very nice service – there were more than 200 students there and everyone was warm and friendly. Throughout the session I was just really grateful for God’s assurance and presence among the huge crowd.

After the service I joined a group of them for dinner at the modern food court-style Kopitiam, followed by drinks and games at Mr Tea.  I must say that, from that short meeting, I could sense the difference between Singaporean youths and our local ones here.  They (Singaporeans) are more verbal and inquisitive – while our local youths are a bit more laidback, and not so keen on voicing our thoughts.  But of course, I almost choked on my way-too-sweet Mocha Java when I heard that a couple of them were going home to study for a semester that hasn’t started.  Other than that, they’re a bunch of pretty normal kids.

After that pleasant short sharing (and exchanging Facebook contacts) moment, Xing Ni and I strolled along Orchard Road, as she briefly explained the places that we went to (cathedrals, nightspots, the only bridge or something like that, the art museum, etc).  As excited as I was, my tummy was also filled with butterflies because that night, I was going to meet one very special person for the very first time.

Almost one and a half years of friendship that started with blogging, Jane and I finally met face-to-face.  I can’t begin to describe the special friendship that we have, because it’s rather unbelievable really.  Each time I think about it, it never ceases to amaze me.

Jane and I “met” some time back in July 2007.  From exchanging comments to online chatting about almost anything at all, we felt like we’ve known each other forever.  We share similar taste in music, our point of views in life, yet at the same time we differ just enough to keep each other grounded.

So there she was, standing right in front of me, and I think we were both very glad to know that we are as we described ourselves to be.  No middle-aged dirty old conmen and stuff.  I think I was a lil bit more relieved because I was the one who was going to spend the next two nights at her place!

I guess it was a little awkward at first, especially when I met her siblings and flatmates – but it was like reliving a story.  For the months that we’ve been chatting, I could only picture the things that she has decribed to me in words.  But on that day itself — everything came to life.

We did some catching up before we both went to sleep, but I think the both of us didn’t really go to bed as soon as we thought we would as we were still suffering from the post-excitement of it all.

Just as I thought Day One was exciting enough, Day Two and Three got better.  Find out in the next post, because as of now, I’m really tired and I need to sleep.

Mamma Mia! Here I Go Again!

I wrote a review about the Mamma Mia movie some time back, but last night… for the first time in 20 years, I got to see a LIVE MUSICAL all the way from West End!  (For those who don’t know, West End is the equivalent – and perhaps classier – version of the American Broadway)

You see, I’m a HUUUUUUGGGEEEE fan of musicals, to an extent where I’d buy imported CDs, DVDs and even email my favourite West End/Broadway singer – wishfully thinking they’d actually reply (but they didn’t).  One of the things on my bucket list would be watching a live musical, the whole up-close thing.

So last night, was a dream come true.

You see, one of the things about a musical that facinates me is talent.  The talent to write.  The talent to produce.  And the talent to perform.  To qualify to perform, you need to know how to sing AND dance.  Because on stage, everything is done LIVE.  No lip synching or expressionless-stiff-as-a-motherboard performances.  And you can’t choose either one.  You have to know BOTH.  And the background music is done live too.  No minus-ones.  Live band, or an orchestra, depending on the scale of the show.  In Dewan Budaya, the band was just below the stage, and the drummer, who had an entire room to himself, certainly seemed to be enjoying himself hitting the drums away!

Perhaps it’s my first live musical so I didn’t put too high of an expectation towards last night’s show.  But it was really good.  Just like how West End should be.  Every movement was choreographed professionally and their timing were perfect.  As for sound, their voices blew me away, especially when they sang and danced together to “Mamma Mia!” and “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)”.  There was some parts where the acoustics were slightly inconsistent, but it’s not really a big deal.

We sat at Tier 3, the cheapest seats, but surprisingly, the view was great.  Sam Carmichael of the live musical definitely sang much better than the Pierce Brosnan version.  And if you thought those 2 old ladies (Rosie and Tanya) were funny in the movie, they’ll definitely blow your minds off in the live production.  When Rosie sang “Take a Chance On Me”, I couldn’t help but laugh away.

I couldn’t snap any photos, as we were prohibited to do so, but I didn’t want to waste the time snapping photos away even if I could.  I just want to focus entirely on the music and performance.  That’s what we paid for.

Oh!  At the end of the show, the audience got up to dance and sing along to the songs!  It was really cool to see almost the entire hall moving and shaking away, especially the adults because these were songs they grew up to.

Amidst all the work and deadlines, it feels great to take a good break like this.  My mom, aunt and cousin were with us, so company was awesome.

Mamma Mia will be here until the 1st of January, so hurry!  Get your tickets and thank them for the music!!!

I can’t wait to catch Cinderella in Singapore this January!  Lea Salonga, here I come!!!

Island Retreat: Redang

Looks like you’ve made it to the second round of photos.  Before I carry on with the photos of the blue skies and clear waters, let me introduce the people who went on the trip with us – so that you can pretend like you know them when you encounter them in the later photos.

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Oh, and let me introduce to you Aldred Ling.  He’s got this big-big-canggih camera that makes mine look tiny and some of the photos that you will see later on are taken by him.  It’s not hard to differentiate, really – his photos have the ‘professional feeling’ in them.  Haha!  His photos will have the tag ‘courtesy of Aldred Ling’ under the labels.  But of course, this photo of him is *ahem* sneakily taken by yours truly.

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So, as a continuation from the prologue, we finally reached the gorgeous island.

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We stayed at the Pelangi Beach Resort.  We were the last (and only) batch of customers there before they close up for the monsoon.  The rooms are basic, but they’re good enough as they are air-conditioned and there’s water heater.  Speaking of which, water in Redang is salty – even the drinking water, and even when you shower.  Not extremely salty like the sea, but it has that little hint of saltiness in them.

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As I got off the island I was beaming with joy.  It felt so good to know that there is a place in this country that is unpolluted!  Can you see the different shades of blue in the water?

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When I told my friends that I was going to Redang in October, they thought I was mad.  They think that I’d most probably spend most of the time indoors as it was supposed to be the monsoon season already.  But you know what the amazing thing was?  Each time we were out snorkelling, having our beach service or anything at all outdoors – it was sunny all the way!  Only when we were indoors that it started to rain a little.  Is God’s timing perfect or what?

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It was so hard to choose them photos cos there were so many!  Stay tuned for the next part, and I assure you it’s going to be awesome because we are going under the sea!!!

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Previous entry:

Click here to Prologue

Island Retreat: Prologue

Finally, the connection is better!  I’ll break down the Redang episode into a few parts, cos I don’t want to flood one entire entry with too much to load at once.

This is Island Retreat: Prologue.  It means the photos of our journey before we got to the island.  If you are expecting all the blue ocean Redang photos, then they’ll be in the next post – but hey, the journey matters too, right?

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We departed at around 11pm from uni.  And reached the jetty around.. 7am.

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Then Yen Pinng told Jave and I that there’s a nice view at the end of the road from the jetty.  And she was right.  Behold:

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One of our heroic drivers, Kuo Chun, stole some snooze while waiting for our Singaporean and PJ counterparts.

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And of course, waiting can be fun. 🙂

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And then they arrived!  It was so good to see them again, and just as much to meet new friends.

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Some kids were hanging around the jetty – so I can’t help but snap some photos of em.

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Despite being sleep-deprived and tired from the long journey, everyone was really eager to start our Redang retreat.  Just to brief you in a bit, this retreat involved three Hope church branches:  Hope Ipoh, Hope Petaling Jaya and Hope Singapore.  Just as one of our Singaporean friends put it, “There’s hope everywhere!”  LOL.

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Stay tuned for Island Retreat: Redang.  These photos are quite brief – enough to tell the story – will upload more on Facebook when I have time.

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Next entry:

Click here for Island Retreat: Redang