Thursday, May 29, 2008

Its not even 10 pm and I'm already slightly drunk.

This is not good folks. I usually refrain from writing anything when I'm under the influence, because I tend to spout rubbish and end up having long debates with myself the next day about my principles regarding deleting already-posted blog content.

Finally watched Juno. Which reminds me, that I was supposed to get my hands on the SATC movie today. Totally forgot. Juno's not as great as everyone made it out to be - I much prefer Ellen Page in Hard Candy, which I really loved. And it almost seemed that Ellen was playing the exact same character. She has that odd immature sensibility about her that she can't shake off.

I did come across a photo of Boyzone posing almost naked except for not-so-discreetly-placed top hats.

I feel like I've been back for months, and its only been a week. This is not going to work out, dudes. And I refer to, oh, everything.

I found out that a person I used to know recently became a father. And a completely unfair statement came to my head, "Did he feel like he had to do this?" Because I've heard, on more than one occasion, people saying things like: "I have to get married next year." and "I've got to find a wife."

Statements were uttered in Singapore. If uttered here - I wouldn't even blink. A friend here is getting married at the end of the year. He's 26, and he said that he just wanted to settle down. I scoffed at this, until he explain what he was looking for in a marraige, and I had to hold back bitter, bitter tears because if such guys exist, then it means karma isn't through with me yet because she's keeping them all away from me.

Which makes me feel very strange, contradictory feelings -- because on the one hand, I'm not too keen about being tied down when making my life's decisions, and trust me I have had to give this some thought some time back, but on the other hand, yes yes I do want all that bullshit with that cherry on top.

And then that scene in Juno, when she looks at her father with that look, and asks him if its possible for two people to love each other forever, I just couldn't stand it. And I was thinking, yeah, let's see how he answers this one.

UPDATE!!! It's 11.30pm and I am fully drunk. As in, really, completely, bona fide drunk. Ask me questions! I'll answer 'em all!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fingers crossed that today will be better than yesterday.

So the computer apparently crashed and all the work I had done yesterday was for naught. The work involves tedious, tiny, little subbing changes made to over 50 pages of a magazine that I thought I would be able to wrap up today. And no, we did not keep the previous copies where we had marked out the changes.

Plus my previous blog post disappeared amidst some internet hullabaloo.

And I have a mud streak across my new skirt, and ripped a hole in it too.

And today is the fourth day in a row that I had to cook dinner for myself at midnight. Do you know how difficult and irritating it is to have to cook quietly so as to not wake up the roommate sleeping in the living room? When you're tired, you're really not in the mood to tip-toe around. And metal pots and pans make clanging noises - that's their nature, that's what they do.

And I realised the guy I was semi-flirting with has a paunch. I don't mind paunches - but only if you're older than me.

By the way, I realised I lost 5 kg when I finally weighed myself in Singapore. Want to lose weight? Eat one meal a day.

All things considered, this wouldn't be a very good day for me. But Smirnoff is hard at work and making it a lot better.

But I did discover there is such a thing as a jigsaw puzzle development manager. I haven't thought of jigsaw puzzles in a long time.

I'm not really very bummed out, it all just sounds worse than it really is.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Because sometimes you just have to laugh at it, you know?

Report: Women Increasingly Choosing Dead-End Careers Over Dead-End Relationships

COLLEGE PARK, MD—According to a report published Monday in The Journal Of Gender Studies, many American women are bucking centuries of traditional gender roles by placing stunted, emotionally unfulfilling relationships on hold in order to pursue mind-numbing careers devoid of any upward mobility.

The study, which surveyed a cross-section of 477 female recent college graduates, found that young women were 23 percent more likely than any previous generation to seek dissatisfaction in the professional world rather than in empty romantic partnerships. Dr. Gillian Detweiller, a professor of women's studies at the University of Maryland and coauthor of the report, said that the data suggests a cultural sea change in how women choose to experience lifelong disappointment.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

And of course

no one could recognise me at work today.

The Welcome Back

As I struggled to load up my backpack after it emerged from the X-ray machines, the man next to me was told, rather rudely, that his pineapple juice was going to be confiscated.

She gestured towards the plastic container, and told him NO in a rather irritated manner. I suppose she was irritated that he did not know about the infamous no-liquids-allowed-on-the-plane rule. I mean, everyone knows about it.

He did not quite understand what she was saying, and did not understand why his rather benign bottle was being taken away from him. He turned to me, uttering "pani, pani", as if to explain it was only a drink.

Exasperated that he was still not getting her point, she unceremoniously shoved the plastic bag and its contents into the rubbish bin. He got her point, and walked towards the gate looking rather unhappy.

On board Biman Bangladesh, it was chaos. There were no air stewards/stewardesses around to help the passengers figure out how to load their stuff into the overhead bins. The man who lost his pineapple juice spent a fair amount of time bumbling around. I felt like I was on a train bound for Kolkata.

Two air stewards appeared, looking rather hassled and I guessed the plane was short-staffed. I did spy an air stewardess ahead in extremely-empty the business class section, though.

I didn't remember my last flight on Biman being as messy as this.

Midway through the flight, a man emerged from the toilet smelling of cigarette smoke. He tried to return to his seat, only to get yelled at by an air stewardess that happened to be passing by. I couldn't help but laugh.

After the stop in Bangkok, the air steward asked me to "follow him". Turns out he was bumping me up to first class. I struggled for a moment while deciding whether or not to accept his offer. Privileges for the foreigner? Or was it because I was the only female sitting amidst almost 200 men? I didn't have any problems sitting where I was, no one was harassing me. I had managed to convince them that I spoke fluent Bangla, and those nearby turned to me for help when filling up the immigration forms. "Sister? Give me your pen."

Even the guy next to me only asked me a couple of questions before leaving me alone.

Well, I took the offer anyway. So much for my principles.

For all its flaws, there are certain things about Bangladesh's airport that kicks ass. Like the fact that I could get out of customs to draw money from the ATM, and then happily walk back through it to buy stuff from the dismal duty free shop. And like how the guys at the duty free shop accepted my takas even though they were allowed to. "If anybody ask tell them you pay in US dollar ok?"

Waiting for my luggage by the belts, I heard a voice call out. "Sister!" I looked up to see the guy I had lent my pen to. He waved it at me, as if happy to have located me again after having lost me to first-class. He threw it across the belt and I caught it with my right hand. Cheers for me, ha.

Queuing for the final scan, the man next to me was visibly upset at the number of people trying to cut the queue from all over the place. He tried his best to restore order, but no one listened. "Very bad people," he said, tsk-tsking along with me.

I played hardball while trying to get a cab. I turned down the first couple of offers (400tk), and stuck to my price. Just as I thought I was going to have to cave (surprisingly few cabs that day), a nondescript white car pulled up and offered my my asking price. This really pissed off the first cab driver that had been hanging around waiting for me to cave. All the others had not betrayed the 'brotherhood of drivers' and refused to slash their prices. This one was probably not a member.

So I just looked sheepish and rather apologetic as the driver hurriedly loaded my luggage into the car, all the while arguing with the other guy. What to do? I really felt quite bad about it.

It turns out that paying 100 tk less means you get a car without working wipers. Was not a good day to rain. My driver was going so slowly, even the CNGs overtook us. I didn't mind. If you can't see the road, you're free to go as slowly as you pleased.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Whirlwind

The best news today: I finally cracked my neck after three weeks of not being able to do so.

Hooray? Hooray!

Unfortunately: The entire Mambo collection which I though I had successfully copied into my laptop has disappeared! No more midnight Bananarama for me.


The trip back was good, but was much too short. Too many people I could not meet, too many things I did not get to do.

As I savoured my last pint at the Harry's bar inside T1, I felt such longing to stay. The comforts of Singapore never quite hit as hard as it did then. And I was leaving all this behind? For what? I used to think that the people who called me 'crazy' for doing this was rather naive, but maybe they were speaking from this very perspective.

Still, as much I enjoy having them, I am fine living without all the extra perks. I guess I'm good at making do. The peripherals aren't the things that make me happy, although they do help a lot when you have to pretend that you are.

But it does feel good to know that I have a place to go back to, under any circumstances. I have an escape route. And just knowing that makes everything a lot more bearable.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Who'd have thought

that the thing to kick me out of my inertia regarding African photographers would be coming back to Singapore and reading half of What is the What?

Can't talk about emotions, because too confusing to be penned down. Shall instead, make the observation that my legs are seriously heavily scarred. Relatively, anyway. Never noticed it this way until seen under Singaporean sunlight. Wait. My legs haven't seen sunlight in a while.

Doesn't help the cats gave a rousing "welcome". Welcome back willingly-bared-flesh!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Refuelling

Yes I've blogged today already (while invigilating, no less), but perhaps something should be said on the eve of my temporary return to the land of coffeeshops and kopitiams.

I realise that I've had this blog for nearly four years. Reading past entries still make me cringe and want to hit the delete button, but I suppose cringing is a sign of non-recognition, which is in turn a sign of change?

Four is really such a small number. It hardly means anything, really. But browsing through the old archives, I can hardly fathom how many inconsequential words I have typed. The chronicles of my life, organised by the month.

I suppose the worst thing is that I am still saying the same things, complaining about the same personal flaws and faults. I still have no faith in most people. I was out of it for a while but I'm a cynic again. I'm learning to live with my flaws, and I think that is a better way in which to get rid of them - rather than disowning them right from the start.

I don't think I will have nostalgic longings for Bangladesh if and when I return for good. I'm not too sure how to explain why, but maybe my nostalgia was just some weird love for exoticism that I refused to acknowledge. Sometimes I think I've had enough, I want to have my wanton mee and iced tea (how sad to draw the line at food, eh?), but then I look back at all my half-accomplished projects and half-fucked efforts at making a meaning out my life - and I think, I just can't quit. Not now.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

OhsweetmotherofGod

Which part of "DO NOT TALK WHEN YOU ARE IN A FINAL EXAM" does (a select few participants in) this class not comprehend?

I almost (ok I think I did) lose my temper at a student who 'got lost' on the way back to the bathroom, only to come scampering out of the next door computer lab when he heard me slide the classroom door open.

Oh you have got to be kidding me.

I should not be allowed to invigilate exams. I'm way too anal-retentive and come from a guilty background which makes me extremely suspect of every snide look and weird seat shuffle.

This is total karma payback for being a smartass bitch who would walk into exam halls 15 minutes late and snicker while exhaling in loud whispers. And that episode when I was 14 during which I actually openly and very very not discreetly exchanged math test papers with my classmate next to me just to compare - after promising each other that we wouldn't change answers.

Believe it or not, we weren't cheating. We were good friends, had finished quickly with lotsa time to spare, and for some reason I can't recall, just wanted to compare. I think we were either both very confident or the test was a small and inconsequential affair. Anyway the teacher went nuts and didn't believe a word we said.

I remember feeling so maligned and indignant. Haven't felt maligned in a long time ('cos people are usually right now)!

Shall do nothing regarding today's episodes, because they'll get their own karma payback in due time.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

THE PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE

Slightly slow, but just watched the Obama dancing clip.

Ellen DeGeneres: "You're the best dancer so far, of the presidential nominees."

Barack Obama: "It's a low bar."

Writing with the blinkers on.



An AFP report as read off ST dated May 7:
Palm oil wiping out key orang utan habitat

INDONESIA - ONE of the biggest populations of wild orang utans on Borneo will be extinct in three years without drastic measures to stop the expansion of palm oil plantations, conservationists said Wednesday.



I guess I am disappointed there was no mention of the rather obvious link to biofuels, the illegal logging industry, and the fact that just two weeks ago Greenpeace activists dressed as orang utans scaled the Unilever building in London to address this point. I mean, this has been talked about as far back as two years ago off Mongabay.com (and a year ago off the Times and Guardian).


Why is oil palm replacing tropical rainforests?
Why are biofuels fueling deforestation?
April 25, 2006

Recently much has been made about the conversion of Asia’s biodiverse rainforests for oil-palm cultivation. Environmental organizations have warned that by eating foods that use palm oil as an ingredient, Western consumers are directly fueling the destruction of orangutan habitat and sensitive ecosystems.


I know I speak presumptuously because, hey, what the hell do I know about the work processes in a wire agency. But if they can always throw in a line in (most) Singapore-related articles about her nanny-state tendencies, couldn't hurt to have a standard line for such things too, yeah?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Has It Come Down To This?

I have a love/hate relationship with ST's Forum pages because sometimes the letters they print make me go a bit crazy with anger, and somehow seeing it PRINTED makes it worse because its real and validated.

May I treat you, my lovely friends who do not read this particular section of ST, to the wise musings of a certain Ellouisa Chen:

It's Singapore, serve us in English first, please

WHY IS it these days that whenever I step into a retail boutique, I am greeted by the sales assistants in Mandarin instead of English?

They then follow me around the shop, promoting their products to me in Mandarin.

I find this shocking in Singapore, a country where we are trying to emphasise world-class service standards.

This is not to say that speaking in Mandarin equals mediocre service.

But it seems to me that gone are the days when storekeepers would converse with customers in English in Singapore, a cosmopolitan country with many foreigners who live, work or visit.

Sales staff recruited from overseas should be given to understand that they must serve customers in English first for two reasons. Firstly, because it's more professional. Secondly, not all customers understand Mandarin and sales staff should not assume that Chinese customers are as eloquent in Mandarin as they are.

Retailers should look into this problem and ensure that their frontline staff master at least the rudiments of English.

Singapore is gearing to host top international events like the world's first Formula One night race and the first Youth Olympics.

Surely, we should not subject visitors to a mediocre level of service or allow them to think that our level of communication is so limited.

Ellouisa Chen (Miss)


I wouldn't recommend reading through the following 350++ comments this post received, nothing really very constuctive, but some stuff was funny (someone called her "Lousy Chen" and another wrote. "greet also complaint, never greet also complaint, greet in Chinese also complaint."

Monday, May 05, 2008

Losing Perspective

The last two weeks have been utter hell for me.

I just needed to say that and get it off my chest. The worst thing about feeling this way in a country like Bangladesh is that you are constantly reminded about how pathetic your sorrows are in comparison to others. You feel bad? Oh poor foreigner with a roof over her head. You don't know bad.

Yes, I have had to cope with more shit in the last two weeks than I have ever had to deal with in my entire life. Is Jess exaggerating again? No, i am not. Yes, I am having that alcohol craving again. Yes, I am back on sleeping pills. So what?

Two weeks ago, I waited for a friend outside a spanking new supermarket. A woman and her son was walking around the perimeter of the entrance. She had just been told by the security guard to please stay behind this line, do not come in and harass our customers.

She had her hand on his shoulder, a boy not older than 12. There was something very wrong with his right eye, and it looked like he was going blind. I can't imagine he could see anything out of that eye. He looked exhausted, but still quietly stood in front of his mother as she went round talking to people.

They were not beggars.

She came up to me, and pointed at her son, and I had heard this routine before. She needed money to pay his medical bills. I gave her some money and reassured the security guard that had gallantly come forward to rescue me from this pestering woman.

I tried to speak to her, but I could barely make out what she was saying. She was not tired at all, even though I suspect she has been doing this all day. Desperation can be such a source of energy.

She pulled out proof, the medical bills tucked away in her son's shirt pocket. I couldn't concentrate at deciphering the scribbles. I kept thinking, do I really want to read this? If I really looked at this, if I really understood what was happening to her, I would not be able to walk away. What are you doing Jess? You are giving her false hope.

And so I didn't read it. I gave the paper back to her. I saw the sum, though. I don't remember the number anymore, but I remembered thinking there was no way she was going to raise that amount by standing outside a supermarket asking exiting customers for loose change.

In my seven months here, I have been taken home by a rickshaw wallah with one leg, and another with only one hand. On both occassions I did not notice the missing limb until I was already seated and moving along the road. They had both found their own ways to manoeuvre through Dhaka's chaotic traffic.

I tried to strike up a conversation with both of them, just to find out what had happened. The one with only one arm lost the other in an electrical accident when he was 8. When we reached my house, I gave him an amount slightly higher than what I usually give. He looked at me with such disdain. I could almost imagine him saying, "You've got to be kidding me." I gave him more.

My colleague recently started a second job selling electrical appliances. The new job starts at 5.30pm, and he ends work in my office at 5pm. He earns based on commission. He can no longer support his family with one job. He has two sets of parents, siblings and a wife to feed. With the price of rice being what it is, he had no other choice. The same amount only buys half of what they used to get. The rent already takes up more than half of his salary.

Poor foreigner, feeling sorry for herself.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Jess Lost Her Voice

Not too sure what happened, but I could feel it creeping up after the second coffee in the middle of Friday's pre-World Press Freedom Day conference.

And after too much mingling and a good solid hour and a half of talking/yelling at students - its now ALL gone. I have a tendency to TALK TOO LOUDLY. Oh, you knew that? Sorry. Just saying.

This means that unless my voice comes back by tomorrow morning, I'm going to have to cancel classes AGAIN. This is incredible. The number of classes I've had to postpone and cancel because of cyclone/twistedfoot/serious flu/mothershiplanded/power failures. I have apologised to my students a million times. I think I'm going to have to give them all As just so they don't give me a shitty evaluation. Joke.

I didn't say a word during the two-day journalism session, but it was just great to be listening to all this again. I didn't even fall asleep once. Miracles happen! I've always enjoyed the company of (most) journalists, even those that made have crossed over into academia.

Check out Cobrapost.com. It's like an Indian version of the Drudge Report. Very interesting. I have a natural aversion to sensational-format television and reports, because of its negative associations with the American versions that tend to create spectacles out of absolutely nothing. The louder the sound, the emptier the story.

But although there's a lot of the same visual elements in Cobrapost.com, their stories almost warrant the trumpeting and fireworks.

I was thinking about something that Shahidul wrote. "To stay neutral is to stay aloof. We stand on the side of the oppressed." Perhaps, objectivity is a luxury that journalists in this country cannot afford.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

For The Last Time, I DON'T KNOW.