Sunday, July 30, 2006

Melbourne Winter Adventure 2006 (Episode 2)

Day 1:

I think I was the first of the lot to wake up. I'm not counting Shieny because she had to be in uni by 9. Poor thing. It's the holidays and she still has to continue with her labs. The life of us Honours students, exciting eh? Haha.. Anyways, it was a sunny day in Melbourne. The guys played some PS2 game and I called my aunt while waiting for Nic to arrive. Yup, when he came, he was like, "Wa! Fuiyoh, shit! This place is nice! Who lives here? Alan's girlfriend? She very rich one ar? Like hotel wei!" Don't know why we didn't think of taking a picture of the lobby. Baka!

The day started with us having lunch at the shop Shaun so badly wanted to go to - the one which serves the Shanghai Noodles. Of course, we had to order the fried dumplings as well. How can we not? And it was during this lunch that I found out Miow loves vinegar. Along the way, we stopped at the State Library of Victoria to have group pics. As I've seen the place before, I couldn't be bothered.

Next up, they (Miow and Nic) couldn't resist taking pics of what they saw in Central, Melbourne Central, that is. In comparison, Melb's Central is a shopping complex as well as a train station - way cooler than Sydney Central. However, credit has to be given to Sydney Central as the network or trains that is there, enormous! Melb Central has nowhere near the amount of tracks we have in Sydney. Oh, but their clock beats ours hands down, seriously.

When the city was more or less covered, we headed to St. Kilda. Thankfully, I still remember how to get there. The sky threatened to pour but we were not about to give up. We were greeted with cold, strong winds and the smell of the ocean. Shaun noted that a nearby statue was a statue of Captain Cook and the 2 boys went ahead to imitate the actions of the drinking card game to snap a pic.

We walked on and I noticed a new addition to the beach. There was a ship, or what's left of it. Read the description and then it made sense. It was put up for the Commonwealth Games in March. No wonder it wasn't there last year.

And this time around, the coffee house was open!

We could now walk onto the other side of the boardway. Last year, it was still under renovation so we couldn't go beyond the yacht docks. And while walking to the coffee house, we had visitors - 2 black, elegant (and fierce-looking) swans.

We found a patch of 'beach' right after the coffee house and we went down. The swans came right up, probably expecting a feast of some sort. Oh well, don't blame them. You know how we humans tend to offer food to animals of any kinds we see out in the wild unless there's a signboard prohibiting us with a hefty fine. One of the swans (the bigger one) came right up to Shaun! Shaun was petrified and quickly stood up. I ran away, too. Bunch of cowards, we are! Haha!

Further down the boardwalk were more descriptions of what the Japanese and Australian governments have been doing in that area. Apparently, it was home to big sea rats and penguins. We kept an eye out for rats and spotted dried starfishes on the rocks. I then heard a bustling sound coming from the rocks and I stepped back, afraid. Shaun and Miow went closer to examine in between the rocks and saw 2 pairs of eyes staring back. Whoopee, we found penguins!

We took the opportunity to take pictures of the sunrays during sunset. We stood there freezing waiting for Nic to get his angle and lighting right. Brr!!

At the end of the day, we took the train back to Clayton, where it will be our 'home' for the rest of our time in Melbourne. It was a long ride and people starting dozing off.

Miow even have video clips, which I will not post for the sake of maintaining Nic's dignity. When he found out Miow was recording him, he was wide awake and resorted to doing silly stuff, much to Audrey's horror!

We were so glad to arrive at Aud's place. I so love the smell of her room. I mean, compared to Alan's room, Aud's room smells sweet. Alan's room was, er, let's say borderline-ish. The boys actually asked for the vacuum to clean his carpet. Lots of 'eeyer!', 'wa!' and 'OMG's. I opened all the windows and had the fan turned on (in the dead of winter, mind you) to help get rid of the odour. Alan, if you're reading this, it's not an insult, ok? Take it as a reminder to clean your room before you let visitors stay.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Melbourne Winter Adventure 2006 (Episode 1)

The night we arrived in Melbourne:

We hurried for the train as we are well-known for missing out on time. When we arrived at the Domestic Terminal, it was a funny sight to see so many other passengers carrying bags of Krispy Kreme. Some of them had one bag of 3 boxes, some had 2 bags of 4 boxes. Melbournians are seriously deprived of Krispy Kreme. Sad. Auds and I were on the same flight. It was delayed but we still arrived on time. Not realizing that Alan has dinner waiting for us at Shieny's place, we went over to the International Terminal of Tullamarine Airport to have a Whopper with cheese from Hungry Jacks for dinner. We were starving! Oh, and also to kill time. Shaun, Erin and Miow were on the next in-coming flight.

Shieny's unit is swanky, I tell you! Beats Nic's new place hands down. She lives on the 25th (if I remember correctly) floor but the lift makes it feel like nothing. Takes the lift less than one minute to reach up there. She has a great view of the Crown Casino and you get to see those fire eruptions every hour! Spectacular! I know I've already had dinner but Alan's cooking is something you can never resist no matter what. Miow was so impressed with Alan's cooking, he more or less licked everything clean. Well, almost everything. To me, it was like bak kut teh but in kimchi soup. And the half-cooked eggs... *melt*... super yummy!

That night, we slept in the living room. Shaun and Erin slept on one sofabed, Auds had her 'own' sofabed all to herself, Miow and I slept on the floor. Miow froze as he slept with no protection. As you all know, Melbourne is way colder than Sydney so sleeping without a blankie or heater is inviting death. I snuggled nicely in my sleeping bag, occasionally waking up to frown at the snoring orchestra performance by Shaun and Miow.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Audrey in Sydney (Episode 2)

Day 3:

Lunch was this

and was shared between all of us

at where else? The Sydney Fish Market, of course! Oh, Auds and I shared a serving of lobster, too. Exquisito mucho!

We saw Nic's new place for the very first time today and it's a good place (when the doors and lifts are working, that is). Jona, Auds, Shaun and I then headed over to Bondi to try the infamous Fried Mars Bar Sern Li was telling us about during lunch. And also because Bondi is another must-see place when you're in Sydney. If you look at the signboard in the pic below, you'd notice that there are quite a few things that you are not allowed to do or bring to the beach. Sheesh... and don't Auds and Jona look sweet together? Aw....

We went climbing over the rocks to watch how some people were fishing. We also enjoyed the big splashes of waves that went up at least 6 feet high. Something very embarrassing happened to Auds but I'm keeping mum. You wanna know? Go ask her yourself. And so the day ended with...

Day 4:

Shaun wanted Auds to see his main campus and assured her that she will like the place. I mean, who won't? It's the oldest uni in Aus so off we went and Auds couldn't stop taking pics. The Main Quadrangle exudes charm and it's Harry Potter-ish features make everyone go 'ooh' and 'aah'.

Darling Harbour was our next stop but Darling Harbour is not much fun, really. I mean, we're not kids so we can't actually see the fun there but it was something we had to tick off our itinerary. Auds took pics of the city skyline, which I will not be posting here as we know what a city looks like and almost all cities look the same.

Days 5 & 6:

We spent the day bumming around. I had to finish off as much of my essay so days 5 and 6 we 'bumming-the-house' days. On Day 6, we had visitors from Adelaide and Perth over for dinner at Borelli's. So we had people from everywhere! Nic, Miow, Shaun, Erin and myself are Sydneysiders, Auds is a Melbournian, Josh came up from Adelaide, Kevin is from Perth and his sis came over from Subang for a holiday. A mini reunion sort of thing, just that it's also with newly introduced people. After dinner, we came home and they played a few rounds of poker.

I later served dessert, which was a chocolate mud cake Auds and I baked earlier in the day. I served it with strawberry and Bulla vanilla ice-cream! Yum! Too bad I didn't take a picture of what I made. And when Nic lost all his chips, he resorted to doing silly stuff like taking pictures of this:

Day 7:

We frantically packed our bags and made sure everything was unplugged, all windows and doors tightly closed. I had to check and re-check that I brought everything necessary should I manage to arrange for an interview. And at 5:00pm, we started walking towards the station to catch the train to the Domestic Terminal to board our flight to Melbourne. And so it was tonight that our Melbourne Winter Adventure started.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Audrey in Sydney (Episode 1)

Day 1:

I followed Shaun to his practical exam in uni and waited for him to finish so that we could head over to the domestic terminal together to welcome Auds to Sydney. She gave us the wrong time (or I remembered the wrong time) so we actually waited for more than an hour for her and we were worried she got kidnapped or something. She is small enough to fit into a luggage bag, I reckon.

We brought her home, which she nicknamed our mansion. Haha, she's another victim of our 3-flight staircase. More casualties next month! But she thinks that it's good as it helps burn that little bit more fat. Haha.. What did we do? Nothing much, as far as I can remember (Auds, if you're reading this, please remind me of what we did!). We slept really late because I was making her guess which Disney cartoon my songs were from. Lousy la you, Auds, you could only recognise songs from Aladdin and the Lion King, sigh.

Day 2:

We said that we'd get up earlier to catch a Sydney Explorer bus. In the end, we did not because I only managed to get up at around 10. Sigh, such a let down. So, we looked at our plan again and set out to have lunch at Pancakes on the Rocks and then explore the areas around there for the day. We took the train to Circular Quay and Auds started snapping away! The Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, the seagulls, everything! Unfortunately, we couldn't wait to attack the food that forgotten to take pictures of them! Gluttons! She ended up taking a picture of the menu.

We walked about in the Rocks Arcade. Auds bought a purple ducky candle. Auds has a thing for purple. As it was drizzling, we decided to look at things that had a roof above. We went into the Rocks Discovery Museum, which does not require an entrance fee but it is up to you to donate a gold coin or two. Very interesting place and super hi-tech! You come out of the place having a better understanding of how the Rocks became what it is today. We then went upstairs to the Information Centre and that is where we bought some souvenirs for ourselves. I bought myself a Buddy Bear t-shirt and 2 Buddy Bear postcards. Auds also bought 2 postcards and a World Cup edition of a Buddy Bear figurine. She bought the Spain one - no prizes for guessing which team she supports. We picked up brochures and asked about the Ghost Tour. If you do a Google search on it, you'd even be able to look at video clips of this tour. Spookiness to the max!

We headed outdoors when the rain let up. Walked down Argyle Lane and Auds took a picture of Biggles. Now, I don't know the significance of Biggles but I DID READ THE PLAQUE! I just don't remember what I read...

Anyways, we looked around for a way to get onto the Harbour Bridge because we wanted to do the Pylon Climb. I mean, instead of paying 200 buckeroos to climb the Bridge, I'd rather pay $8 to climb the Pylon to see the same view. And the view, I'd have to say is absolutely breathtaking. The 200 steps did not deter us one bit. Come on, 200 steps only ok. It's not like Batu Caves. Er, how many steps does Batu Caves have ah?

We headed back to Circular Quay and along the way, we chanced upon a shop selling buttons. All sorts of buttons! Big, small, tiny, huge, exotic, cute, ugly, shiny, dull, you name it! I bought Auds a pack of 8 doggie buttons as a birthday present. I wonder if she's already framed them up...

I took her to Customs House to have a look at the' underground model' of the Sydney CBD. Oh, and also to rest our feet for a while. Of course, when you are in Sydney, the Opera House is a must. To the Sydneysiders. They resemble sails of a ship. To me (and my mum and grandma), they resemble cockle shells. Along the way, I pointed out the different tiles that signified the Quay's past shorelines.

We walked over to the Botanical Gardens as I wanted her to see the flying foxes sleeping high up in the trees. I then told her the joke of what Shaun misheard his dad said. Uncle said, "They look very vicious". But, Shaun misheard and reacted this way: "Huh? What? You think they are delicious??!!!??!" Yup, left all of us in stitches.

We stopped in Woolloomoolloo for hotdogs and we attempted the very steep and long staircase that leads up to King Cross. Xin Wen then called to confirm that we could join her for dinner. And she also said the Jona would be joining us, much to Auds' delight. We walked all the way from King Cross back to Pitt Street. It was a VERY long walk but well worth it. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant nearby and then headed over to Starbucks for some coffee.

The day ended very late for us. We took the 11:15pm express back home. We slept very well that night.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Missing you, missing me

For many, the opportunity to study abroad is one not to be missed. By the 2nd or 3rd year abroad, homesickness would be almost non-existent, as is the case for many of my friends (most of them guys). But for me, it's the opposite. The longer I spend away from home, the more I have the urge to finish up with my studies and head back home.

I miss my family the most. My parents, although nicer to talk to over the phone, I miss being with them physically. It just isn't the same. Yes, we do get into occasional head-butting sessions, especially mum and I but hey, that's how we bond. And with my bro, what can I say? Yes, we don't think alike but having him around has it's 'soothing' effects. And oh, he's very handy when it comes to fixing stuff around the house - that is when he's in the mood.

I miss my car. Haha, yes, peculiar. But no other car drives as well as my faithful Toyota. Now that dad has another car in the house, I think I would end up driving the Merc instead. But no!! I want the Toyota. Aih, better not complain so much. Some people can't even afford a car let alone drive one. So yes, shaddup...

I miss my friends so, so much! Jeunn, Rick, Weng, Ai Ling, Yin Lee, Yeow, Pet and Jon, I so want to catch up with you guys! If you ask Shaun, my phone bill has gone through the roof a few times now. Emails don't work for me - not personal enough. The hardest to reach is Jon. Work, work, work, to the extent that phone calls are ignored! And he doesn't reply text messages! Very frustrating I have to admit but when I finally give up, a message comes through on MSN Messenger from him. It's like he has this 6th sense or some psychic power to help him 'work his magic' on me.

Oh, and I so miss the kids! By the time I get back, they'd be bigger, taller and heavier! Oh, and they'd be cheekier, definitely! I hope they won't make me teach them a dance in one week like they did last year!

It's the end of July now. I need to work terribly hard for the next 3 months and then I would be able to enjoy myself to the max! Can't wait!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Big first step

I finally managed to pick up the phone and dial his house number. My voice was quivering, my hands were shaking. Argh! Why did it feel as if I was professing my love?!?!? Terrible feeling, really.

Has he forgiven me? Does he still not regard me as his friend? How should I react if he answers cold, short replies?

As it was still during the World Cup frenzy, our conversation was short. But, it was comforting. I've finally managed to patch things up with him. Sometimes, it's not about who's right and who's wrong. It's not about who should make the first move. To me, it doesn't matter. Pride has little effect in my judgements. It's the friendship that I treasure most. We've been friends for close to 15 years now and I'm not about to let an argument create a hiatus. It can leave a big bruise on our friendship but certainly not cut it to an end.

It was his birthday last weekend. I called again. He sounded happy that I called, or at least I thought he sounded happy. It made me feel really good inside. No awkwardness, no cold pauses, no tokenistic remarks.

I'm glad that I made that first move. It may not have been my move to make but hey, he's my friend. A friend that I don't want to lose, a friend whom I've grown up and have become very attached to. Without him, going back to Desa would not be the same. And it doesn't matter what he thinks of me. What matters is that I care for him and I feel happy doing so.

Welcome back, friend!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

New treasures

Along with Yew Huoi came 2 new additions to my small CD collection:

Wa!! I mean, of course the excitement has died down since but still, WA! I finally have my hands on Gary Chaw's new album and not rely on downloaded versions of his songs. I'm a law-abiding person - try not to download as many songs as I possibly can, especially when the artistes involved are fellow Malaysian - notice the 'Original' sticker on the corner of his CD cover. And yes, I agree with Auds, his voice is awesome. Versatile, emotional, transparent. I especially like his version of Jasmine Flower. Where do all these ideas come from? For someone who has not gone through proper vocal training and who taught himself to play the piano, I salute him to the max! I mean, I can't even do what he's doing and I freaking have training! Aih, no talent, so sad...

And yes, VK, I love die you! Oh, and I hate die both the Malaysian and Australian postage systems! (Excuse my usage of Manglish). If you look closely at Michael's CD cover, you will notice that there is a black scribble. That scribble is in fact his autograph! Yup, yup! VK got it for me! I was a tad disappointed as I had expected more than 5 songs in the album. Even with the 5 songs, most were old songs which Michael wrote for other singers. His new song, Commitment, is sadly, a chip off the old block - sounds very similar to Fairytale. Even the chord progressions and style. I do like the song which lyrics were written by Angelica Lee, though. And I think it's this song which is used in the advertisements to promote the Visit Malaysia 2007 campaign in Taiwan. But, all songs bear the signature of Michael - simple, honest, clean and crisp. Like what Miow said, Michael's songs are the only Mandarin songs that I can sing without guessing or looking up for hanyupinying. Yes, it totally sucks to not be able to read and write Mandarin like mum.

I wonder if Fish Leong would have released a new album by the time I get home...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

My friend Yew Huoi

First name, Yew Huoi. Last name, Ng. But, there are people who know him as Leonard.

His age, you ask. Same as mine. Perhaps 2 months older than I am.

Where on Earth did I get to know him? Ah, now, that's where the thinking comes in. You see, Rick was in the Boys' Brigade (BB). For those of you who don't know what that is, please head over to my brother's blog and you'll get a gist of it. In short, it's like the Scouts, just that the founder of Scouts was a BB boy himself. I hope this is right, otherwise, please feel free to correct me. And then, my brother became a BB boy. Somewhere along those lines, I was introduced to Yew Huoi, as he was also a BB boy. I've forgotten if he was Rick's or my bro's friend but that doesn't matter anymore.

While I was in Desa 2, he was in Desa 1. We seldom saw each other and the only times that we did were through BB and prefect functions (my bro was a prefect, too and a vice head for that matter). When I decided to give Form 6 a go, I had to familiarise myself with a new surrounding as my school only goes up until Form 5. So, it was at Desa 1 that I spent 2 miserable weeks before entering CPU. Guessed? Yup, for 2 weeks I was his classmate. He sort of scared me a little as he was this really perfect guy and was a 'don't-mess-with-me-or-you'll-suffer-the-consequences' kind of person.

Of late, I found out that he's best friends with Su Ee, our head prefect back in school. Odd. But it's really NOMB. He contacted me via Friendster to inform me of his visit to the Down Under and NZ and was asking a favour - a place to stay while in Sydney. Being the kind (ahem!) person that I am, of course I graciously offered. They (he, his younger sister Corvy and his mum, Ivy) slept in my room. I moved the sofabed into the room so 3 made the room cozy (and warm) enough for nice winter nights.

I brought them around, of course. We went to Pancakes on the Rocks

and Borelli's. Aunty Ivy was kind enough to treat us to dinner at Borelli's. She was even nice enough to help me clean the house! Goodness!

Yew Huoi had the privilege of watching me do my last minute preparation for my presentation. It's amazing how I seem to come up with the best ideas at the very last minute but no, please do not follow in my footsteps. I am NOT a good role model.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Shaun's family

Last month was an extremely busy and packed (literally) month with many assignments due, presentations and visitors from home. There were 2 days when there were 3 families in my house. Mind you, I live on a third-floor unit in suburban Epping. No lifts. Stairs all the way up. There are three rooms - bedrooms and a master bedroom with an ensuite. That room belongs to Shaun as he has a double bed. As for me, my room is the nearest to the living room. Erin's room is right inside.

Erin and I had our rooms to ourselves. Shaun had to share his room with his parens, who slept on a queen-sized air mattress on the floor. Quite comfy, that mattress. Uncle SF and family slept in the hall with their electric blankets. There are 6 of them in that family - Uncle, Aunt, Darryl, Calvin, Beatrice and Anton. The four, or should I say, three (I don't count Darryl as a kid anymore) monkeys made the house really noisy. Beatrice was constantly in my room going through my collection of picture books. The 2 younger boys were occupied with the PS2. Aunty Gaik and Uncle SF were busy organizing stuff for their move over, so I was left with the kids most of the time.

Unfortunately, they came at a time when I had my Literature Review and Philosophy assignment due. I was extremely busy already and needing to babysit 3 kids was certainly challenging. Nevertheless, I took everything in my stride and tried my best. Emma was worried that I would lose my cool on my work so she wanted me to take a break and not worry too much. I tell you, Emma is THE best research supervisor anyone can ask for. I'm so going to cook my sweet and sour fish for her when she gets back from Bangkok.

Having Shaun's family over made me miss my family. I made frequent telephone calls home (and I still do) to 'complain' or to report my situation here. My parents are like my friends when I'm over here. Once I arrive home, that's a different story but we still are friends in many ways.

Through observing Shaun's family, his uncle's family and my friend's family, I learnt to appreciate my family more and to realize that every family have different opinions and priorities. Also, I asked the question of what draws different families to each other? How do different families live in harmony? What does it take? Why do parents treat different children differently?

Thank you for that short visit. It has provided me much fun and insight. Also, I would especially like to thank Uncle SF and Aunty Gaik for helping me with something very special.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

They lied to me in school

By Petra Gimbad

My flatmate and I were watching Oprah, who asked: "What is missing from your life?" Often, she said, the answer lies in our ability to love ourselves. This is true. Without vicious intent, our family draws painful awareness to ourselves when we step wrongly; society constantly tells us who and what we should be. There is little acceptance for one trying to discover oneself. The only approval that we are free to receive in public before reaching adulthood is praise for academic ability. It was only when I studied overseas that I discovered that the Malaysian habit of freely comparing the number of A's so-and-so's son or daughter achieved was not a global phenomenon.

Few friends were allowed to experiment with what they liked and were barred from pursing what they truly wanted, yet they were expected to make the right career choices at 18 that would make everyone happy. It is tragic when one crosses one's teens without ample scope to discover what one loves, particularly in a society that prides itself for its pragmatism. Study your math and science not because you love it, but because it will feed you; learn the piano to be "cultured", it looks good on your CV; avoid volunteer work because it is dirty, there is no point in doing work unless there is money involved. We read to be "smart", not for love of knowledge. Practical choices must be made, yes, but surely there is room for doing things we love too?

The friends with whom I shared my schooldays are now in their early 20s, and many of them are lost. It was easy at 18 to predict the choices most of us would make: top students aimed for medical school, the boys applied to engineering schools, those lacking in confidence did accounting. There was the occasional computer science student and biomedical science student. Parents twisted and wheedled: "You want to help the world? Be a doctor." "You're so good at language and writing, look - be a lawyer, not a journalist."

I asked a friend who graduated cum laude about her passion and what she wanted to do with her life. "Hee hee," she giggled. "Uh, I like to shop? And do stuff with my boyfriend?"

There is not much help for the jaded in university. We were assured constantly: "Oh, theory is always boring. That's accounting. Just stick with it. Wait till you get into the real world - that's when the fun starts." Perhaps, but friends who have graduated seem to lead the exact same lives we led in college or secondary school; but instead of waiting for the bell to ring, they wait for 5pm. They still mamak with the same friends - different faces sometimes, but essentially the same characters. Their conversations sound similar - gossip about everyone's personal lives, the latest girl (different name, same person) and the newest mobile phone (usual Nokia of increasing hideousness). Underlying it all is a restlessness which drives constant complaining and the urge to pick apart everyone but themselves.

And how they cling! Breakups are painful, but they are worse for those who have relied on their partner to provide all companionship, reassurance and fulfillment. Too many are caught in stranglehold relationships because of what they lack, which may include a truly fulfilling career, a family they can really talk to and friends who actually challenge them to be all they can be while accepting them for who they are. Many are crippled by the lie that you need someone else to complete who you are, without realising that each one of us is a whole person fully capable of providing for his or her needs. The thought that we are responsible for our happiness seems to frighten us or meet disbelief. We don't trust ourselves capable of this because we do not know our worth.

Societal norms all too often impose limitations on the people we are expected to become, influencing how we will allow ourselves to grow for the rest of our lives. It is so easy to lose the unique voice each one of us was gifted and neglect our soul's potential as a result.

Nobody wants to be a pauper. Still, I am now more firmly convinced than ever that being successful in terms of prestige and money does not make finding happiness any easier.

Petra likes feminism, social justice, and working on the online magazine, Vox. She is a law student in her spare time. Comments: