Saturday, April 26, 2008

I have a stiff neck which has only gotten progressively worse over the last two nights. It hurts like FUCK and I suspect it may have cramped up last night but I think in my haze of pain I was to confused to realise it was just a cramp and not a monster inside giving my tendons a good wring.

But I just suddenly imagined Jill singing Ace of Base's Don't Turn Around just to mock me and I laughed till my neck hurt.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Race to Nowhere

It just seems to me, as things get more and more uncertain, the only thing that has remained constant is our continual participation in the marathon of happiness. The reasons for running change, the route becomes slightly complicated and it starts getting really difficult choosing between the forks in the road. Sometimes you stop and think, waaaaaaait a minute I think I took the wrong detour back there.

But still, we keep on pounding on. I'd like to think I'm always headed in the right direction, but hey, who knows about these things. Lately, I suspect I've been running in circles because the sights and scenery looks rather familiar. Didn't I twist my ankle on this stupid rock before? Yeah, I think I've been here.

This whole post is gonna read like a cheap lift off one of those inspirational posters.

And the only reason I thought of the above is because I'm trying desparately to find a source of constancy in a life that's becoming rather "off-track".

I spent some time thinking about how I handle problems, and the answer is - not well. This has become all too apparent because I've had an opportunity to engage in compare-and-contrast. As a person who's had to deal with very little 'problems', I am really ill-equipped for hardballs. In comparison, a person who's had to deal with being broke and finding a place to sleep on the streets has the tendency to say FUCK IT to most hardballs.

OR it could just be that I'm just really useless and no amount of 'life experience' is able to toughen me up.

And yes, the uncertainties that continue to swirl and there's very little that I can speak about with confidence. Everything I say seems like something I might wanna retract in the future. Well, one thing I think I may have learnt - Don't get too comfortable. There's always some asshole out there that's gonna ruin it for you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Out on the Town

It just took me two hours to whittle down the number of unread emails from 93 to 16. Not bad. This is what happens when you don't check your email for a day and a half.

Went 'clubbing' last night, a term which I use very loosely because the songs being performed by the in-house Filipino band included songs from Celine Dion and Whitney Houston, and that one about how "sometimes love just ain't enough". I had increasing difficulty stifling my giggles as time went by, because things just get funnier by the beer, doesn't it?

I didn't plan to end up at the hotel's bar, but I suppose I didn't really have much of a choice yesterday as the streets overflowed with the entire population of Dhaka. It was the Bangla New Year, and the jam was horrendous.

So I ended up being the only foreign girl in a bar filled with mostly men - both local and foreign hotel guests - and a smattering of local women. Three of them, to be exact. Were not difficult to miss because they took turns to dance solo, all of which were decked out in gold jewellery and red saris, much to the delight of the audience. But man, those girls had balls. Not just any kind of dancing too, but full-out Hindi movieisque dance moves.

And, as expected, I had to deal with questions. Literally was asking to be picked up, sitting at a bar by myself, and I suppose this is be the only place in the whole world where I would have to fend off men. Women seeking male validation would be very happy in a place like this.

And in the end, I did end up at a table with two of them. It's difficult to explain why I was so much more amenable to this pair. The most shameless reason is because they were the most attractive. Jess was not looking for intelligent debate that day. But also because they were shameless too. There was no attempt to get to know me better, no forced displays of intelligence masked in long-winded and faux philosophical questions ("So really, how did your life bring you here?), or emphasis of wealth ("I have a very nice house in Singapore.") All they said was, "Come and join us! We're trying to get drunk!"

And I did. My judgment proved correct, and I had a fine time with two people who, like me, were only looking for some laughter and frivolity.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I know I already blogged today, but I'm just too exhausted and wanted to spend some minutes up on the rooftop by myself to catch the last few minutes of dusk.

The weather's been quite punishing, which exacerbates the power failures that have been happening with increasing regularity. Haven't been getting enough sleep, and waking up earlier than usual - which is a good thing, and I should be doing this more often - but the end result of the fatigue and heat... well I'm just exhausted.

The Indian visa application was a disaster. It's a long and boring story, but after two failed trips and too much bureaucracy to face, and I decided to give up the attempt. Would normally be feeling guilty for doing so, but in this case, I think I can safely say that I really did try my best.

So this means I have no plans for the upcoming Bangla New Year. The last time I was here, I wore a sari and went out to some park to hang out. I am NOT doing it again this year. I find myself rejecting the notion of beauty as held by the general female population of this country. I haven't yet really thought about this, so it still feels like a knee-jerk reaction on my part.

Objectification of women occurs in all cultures, and some would argue its even worse in the West, but there is a uniformity about it here that unsettles me. Women objectify themselves, that is not something I can deny or argue about coherently, but at the very least, in the West, there is still a form of self expression in that objectification. What 'type' of beauty would you like to assume? Here, the eyeliner is piled on in the same fashion, the jewellery of different design but worn with the same effect, and of course, a sari is a sari.

It's all very futile anyway since regardless of self-expression or no, the end results are the same, but that's the distinction I will offer if I am asked to articulate my uneasiness.

And of course, I would not dare to go further to belittle women here who do conform to this culture's notion of beauty. It doesn't require a rejection of culture to assert your rights, but I suppose there is so physical evidence of this assertion, I end up being too presumptuous about things.


Another factor is the obligation for such conformity. A woman who does not conform as such is regarded as a misfit by her own peers. I don't know what the men think, but all negative comments I have ever received regarding my physical appearance all comes from women. This could be, of course, because the men are too polite/shy/conservative to say as much, but it also seems like they don't expect it of me since I am a foreigner. And if they don't, then why do the women?

One Big Chey.

My father asked me last night, via sms, if I knew about "a big protest in dhaka about giving more rights to women?"

I had been devoid of news that day, so No, I did not hear about it.

Imagine my skepticism when he replied in detail about "5,000 male muslims clashed with police after friday prayers."

Waaaaaaaait a minute. Males protesting for women's rights? Was this history in the making? Had I missed out on a historical moment in Bangladesh's woman's rights movement? Wow, these people can certainly surprise you.

Logged on this morning, eager for more.

Ah. Reality, it seems, is a lot less complicated, and a lot less surprising.

Dozens injured in Bangladesh protest of women's rights policy

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Dozens of hard-line Muslims were injured in Bangladesh on Friday in clashes with police during a demonstration against a new policy advocating more rights for women, a police official said.


Emphasis in text totally, completely, my own.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday.

Misinformation led me to wander around the streets of Gulshan rather aimlessly at 10am on my one-and-only day off.

Felt slightly helpless, being too far from the house to consider crawling back into bed, but there's a fresh charm on the streets every Friday. When empty, they can be rather enjoyable to walk upon.

Gulshan's considered one of the posher districts in Dhaka, along with Banani and satellite towns Uttara and Baridhara. Should check with my geography about this, but this is how my head understands it as of now.

Nevertheless, I had a difficult time convincing my Mom this was so when she was here. Posher? How so? Admittedly, the buildings are no shinier, the pavements as broken as anywhere else in Dhaka. Its not an Orchard Road in that sense. But if you sit and wait a little longer, you'll see the bigger cars, the foreigners, the beggars who are more insistent and more professional in their insistence. The rickshaw wallahs here are not shy to ask for prices that their Dhanmondi counterparts would baulk at.

And why shouldn't they inflate ten taka to a hundred? The embassies and high commissions are here, filled with diplomats and their private drivers. The car boutiques are here, their shiny glass windows helpless against the onslaught of Dhaka dust. The newfangled restaurants with fancy decor. Of course, most of the wealth is away from the main road and in the backlanes - the private apartments, sprawling bungalows. The roads seem wider here, could it be to accommodate the larger size of cars here?

Still, my Mom was unconvinced.

And so I walked from the Indian High Comm, walking past a KFC, and then a Pizza Hut. Went to check out a bookshop, which didn't have much, and then past an A&W to hit the centre of Gulshan-1. All three fastfood outlets occupy a two-storey building by itself.

Rickshaw ride down to search for another bookshop I recalled seeing (a plan had long since formed in my mind, and it involved newspapers and a cuppa breakfast coffee), got lost for a bit but eventually ended up at Words 'n Pages.

Bought the IHT (135Tk, if anyone's interested) and a Chinese-English dictionary just 'cos i felt like it. Yesterday I couldn't remember how to write 来至, and I wept in shame for an hour.

Then, off to hunt for a place at which to enjoy the paper and an unscheduled breakfast. Failed miserably. There are probably places that do serve breakfast fodder, but I just didn't know where they were. And I don't even have high standards for these things - my favourite breakfast in Singapore takes place at the kopitiam downstairs upon red plastic stools and in front of a bowl of steaming prawn noodles.

So, I debated getting a waffle at A&W, but eventually decided that was compromising too much with my notion of what breakfast should be like.

The two kids followed me for a block. The older sister chanting her demands for money, the little one, who looks like he just learned to walk, chanted after her, gurgling and messing up the phrases, but trying to imitate as best he could. I felt sick.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I am so excited I'm almost giddy.

Would very much like to SHOUT THIS but shall not jinx it. Best to follow TYM's silence-till-success method, since it worked.

AHHH!!!!!

Monday, April 07, 2008

"Oh definitive article, how I've missed you."

Working when no one else is has its perks - enough bandwidth to feed a cow, and enough to start watching The Daily Show online again.

Which would then mean I'm not really working... but if you knew about the TDS-cold turkey I had to go through , you'd totally understand.

Am doing the coffee-with-news thing, although the morning is almost gone, but, hey, guesmrbs what, I have no qualms about ignoring the clock to suit my routine.

Highlights thus far include hearing Jon say "bet the muthafucking ranch" and "just like Christmas morning, or so I've been told."

Oh Jewish fake newscaster, how I've missed the irreverence.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

This morning involved a lot of deep breathing and application of anger management tactics.

Shall shut up and just post pictures.


Buddha

Robed

Zen

Storm

Friday, April 04, 2008

Confession

I blushed when Ricky Gervais called Jon Stewart 'handsome'.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Item #83475 on List of Things I Did Not Know!

The things you come across when you type the wrong stuff into Google's search bar.

GREY GOO

Grey goo is a hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario involving molecular nanotechnology in which out-of-control self-replicating robots consume all living matter on Earth while building more of themselves.

The term was first used by molecular nanotechnology pioneer Eric Drexler in his book Engines of Creation (1986):

Imagine such a replicator floating in a bottle of chemicals, making copies of itself....the first replicator assembles a copy in one thousand seconds, the two replicators then build two more in the next thousand seconds, the four build another four, and the eight build another eight. At the end of ten hours, there are not thirty-six new replicators, but over 68 billion. In less than a day, they would weigh a ton; in less than two days, they would outweigh the Earth; in another four hours, they would exceed the mass of the Sun and all the planets combined - if the bottle of chemicals hadn't run dry long before.


Awesome.

If you had asked me, I'd have only thought of that flour paste that goes into orh luah. It's the only grey-colured goo I can think of. That and other inappropriately rude items which don't quite deserve elaboration. My sense of intelligence seriously undermined right now. By this episode, and also because I just had to check the dictionary for the spelling of the word 'perseverance'. That's a toughie, that is.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Just wanted to say that I would’ve gladly participated in the uber-Hip Earth Hour if the power companies here weren't already one step ahead of the rest of the world and doing it on our behalves. Plus what’s this joke about doing it for an hour on one day? Where’s the sincerity in that? Every two days, or daily – that’s more like it. And why stop at one hour at night, when you can do it several times in the day too?

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Nora Ephron's latest up on Huffington (calling for Hillary to exit) made my already-perfect morning all the more perfect. Just 'cos it was a pleasure to read.

"But now that we're down to two contenders, it's turned into an unending last episode of Survivor. They're eating rats and they're frying bugs, and they're frying rats and they're eating bugs; no one is ever going to get off the island and I can't take it any more."


For some reason, I like that she used the word 'unending' intead of 'neverending'.

The morning's been perfect because I'm in a really good mood today. Better than I've felt in the last couple of weeks. Not too sure why, though. Probably has something to do with the rejuvenating effect of having a week off all work, and having the mothership dock for a week.

The first night she was here, she proceeded to scrub down the toilet which I had already scrubbed in anticipation of her disapproval. But then, by the end of the week, I was complaining that the room needed a good sweep, and she simply dismissed it with a "Do it after I leave, lah." Now, if that ain't progress, I don't know what is.

Also, the internet is somewhat hooked up at home. The bandwidth and connection speed is terrible, but still, something is better than nothing.

There's something terribly calming and precious about the act of having a cup of coffee in the morning as you slowly scan through the news. This morning, for the first time in half a year, I finally had a chance to savour that serenity. The Things Which Can Calm Jess list is regrettably short, though I believe the sight of a sleeping cat and Valium are items number 2 and 7 respectively.

Ha. Through rambling, I've unearthed the real reason behind my previously inexplicably good mood.