Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Lao Pei

Lao Pei

Sometime ago, I spent a long time explaining to Arjun why I had to repay the loan I took from my father's CPF account to pay for four fabulously educational years in CS.

For one, it was being handled by the government and the government tends to be rather difficult to shake off. Maybe they're insecure. Ia dunno. Anyway, the constant stream of computer-generated letters would attest their efficiency.

Also, the point that the money was not really meant for me in the first place - it was for his retirement, it was for him. Sure, there were those who were lucky enough not to have to take loans. For some kids, education was part of the package, part of the deal. But we're not one of those families. He needed the money.

I've defaulted on enough loans, conveniently 'forgetting' to repay friends and colleagues, attributing it to my poor memory. Half the time its true, but the other half was because I was just too goddamn miserly and, well, just not a very nice person I guess. Mostly, I just didn't have the cash one hand.

But this was one payment I didn't intend to default upon.

So I patiently explained all this to Arjun, who didn't really get it in the end anyway, because to him - education was always part of the package. To him, it was akin to me paying back all the money they had spent on diapers.

That's not how I see it though.

I wrote to my father the other day, discussing the repayment and the loan and what to do with the mountain of letters that had accumulated over the past few months. Bonfire, anyone?

I dropped a joke - about him cancelling my loan so CPF would get off my back. I'd pay him in cash instead. I'd seen that option when I logged into the CPF page (which only loads on internet explorer, btw, so much for e-service). Waive your dependents' loan. Click?

I made it clear it was a joke - money's not really funny sometimes. After all, this was a man that I had argued with about $10 loans and about who's-paying-for-the-cat-food-this-time. I wasn't about to get into a long-distance shouting match.

And then this morning I opened my email account and read his reply to that, which very nearly left me in tears.

Let's just say, he hadn't known waiving was an option.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What could've been last-minute trip to a beach turned out to be nothing... Another time perhaps. I generally prefer to have more time to plan my beach escapades, but I ended up fantasising about sand and sea and sun than worry about if I had enough clean clothes to pack.

Anyway, all came up to nada. Ah well, at least I don't have to squeeze four days of work into tonight.

Still missing my kopitiam today. To stretch my legs out on those red plastic chairs... ah.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Just want to say that refusing to bath because the cold weather gives you an allergy-rash which is aggravated by water - this is the most bullshit thing I've ever heard.

-- i stand humbly corrected.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Time To Breathe.

There is a beautiful magpie on the tree next to where I now sit on the roof, singing its heart out. I came up here to be alone, if only for a minute, but even that seems impossible as various parties have appeared and tried to peer over my shoulder.

I'm at a loss for words, if only because there's so much I want to say. I haven't had the time to blog much these days - funny things happen when you're employed in four different jobs and try to cope without compromising on sleep.

This morning I dreamt I was in Singapore, in my estate. God knows what I was doing, but I woke up with a lingering feeling of familiarity - the way I would visit the kopitiam downstairs to buy coffee before rushing off to Emerald Hill in the morning, the way I would have my duck rice or prawn noodles before being late for 3pm shift on pix desk.

That kind of feeling is associated with a routine which I considered to be my quality alone time - a routine I haven't been able to establish here. Really, there isn't much of a routine to speak of these days. This is something I should celebrate, since I always make it a point to pick unpredictability over routine on all those time-wasting personality tests I did in the past.

I feel as if I need something. As if, everyday, I wake up and spend the day looking and searching for something. I can't find it - how could I, if I don't know what it is I'm looking for?

I loathe to say this, but I think maybe what I need is a break. A break from everything - including myself.

This is totally related to my buying 'spree' yesterday when I bought a ridiculously priced bottle of Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I read Althusser and I finally understand why I insist on my students continuing to smoke in front of me.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I want to take a week off and spend the days takiing pictures that mean nothing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bor Pian, Wa Si Arh Nei Gai

I spent ten very irrelevant minutes explaining the concept of "malu" to my students yesterday because I was determined to use that word. I eventually got them to understand the word, but I don't think they understood why they were being made to understand it.

It was just so I could joke during tutorial, "Don't worry, there are no wrong answers, you'll only malu yourself."

The 'lahs' and 'lohs' are already back, and I didn't realise I had stopped censoring my auxiliary Singlish terms till my students kept giggling at all the lahs.

You may be glad to know the above didn't take place in my English classes - although I did have to do some serious damage control when the phrase "also can" slipped out without me realising it.

Evidently, you can't take the lah out of me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Because I Really Need To Laugh Today

"And I've decided that when I make a million dollars and can afford to pay for frivolous things like diamond-studded toothpicks or battery-powered underwear that continuously warms the butt, I'm going to hire a team of good-looking men with great hair to stand outside of my shower and applaud when I get out and show them what a great job I did of shaving my legs. And they will be paid bonuses based on how much they make me believe them."

Since I don't shave my legs, I'm having some difficulty thinking of an equally significant act which I would like a group of men with nice hair to applaud me for, but I reckon it'll likely be a toss between how I always keep the sink clean and how I've managed to keep my hair frizz-free all through this humid, weird winter.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Chronological Breakdown of Significant Occuring Events Before and Slightly After the Advent of the Chinese Lunar New Year

  • 6 pm -- Get on a rickshaw after a phonecall to parents in the middle of some backlane.
  • 6.30 pm -- Arrive at supermarket.
  • 6.34 pm -- Curse and cry over the price of longans. Settle for mandarin oranges instead.
  • 6.45 pm -- Regret the lack of menu planning. Extreme confusion ensues.
  • 6.50 pm -- Shrimp or Chicken? Chicken or Shrimp?
  • 6.51 pm -- Gets both shrimp and chicken.
  • 7.00 pm -- Shakes head as hands reaches for a sorry-looking packet of yucky bean sprouts. Cultural influence via osmosis possible: Theory Proven.
  • 7.10 pm -- Call for help to carry bags home.
  • 7.12 pm -- Incessant pacing up and down the aisles increases confusion. Again regret the lack of menu planning.
  • 7.20 pm -- Five minutes spent deciding between cheese-filled and regular chicken nuggets.
  • 7.26 pm -- Hit the checkout lane. Bill comes to roughly 900 takas. Glad to feed four with 20 bucks.
  • 7.40 pm -- Arrive home.
  • 7.41 pm -- Homesickness sets in. Decides to lock door to indulge in sadness.
  • 7.42 pm -- Chinese disco music from 881 soundtrack fills room.
  • 7.45 pm -- Emerge from room feeling much better.
  • 8.45 pm -- Collapse on the floor, utterly exhausted.
  • 8.49 pm -- Engage roommates in a lesson in Buan Lak (Blackjack). Eager to win money.
  • 8. 50 pm -- Rice Wine drinking commences.
  • 8.54 pm -- Gambling commences. Jessica feels the CNY spirit at last. Bets start at 5 taka.
  • 9.15 pm -- Bets go up to 50 taka.
  • 9.17 pm -- Jessica washes hands for the third time to rid herself of bad luck.
  • 9.20 pm -- Roommates marvel at how easy it is to win money off the banker.
  • 9.21 pm -- Jessica washes face AND hands.
  • 9.22 pm -- Heartfelt regret at taking an extra card.
  • 9.26 pm -- Jessica is down by 200 taka.
  • 9.27 pm -- A new banker takes over.
  • 9.30 pm -- Bets go up over 100 taka. Jessica resists dipping into cash reserves.
  • 11.30 pm -- Rice wine supply exhausted.
  • 11.50 pm -- Group decides dinner is way overdue. Eating commences amidst gambling.
  • 12.40 am -- Jessica has recovered most of her losses.
  • 1.30 am -- Some roommates decide to sleep. Gambling continues with only two participants.
  • 1.35 am -- Bets go up to 500 taka.
  • 1.45 am -- Jessica glad that pay day is near.
  • 1.50 am -- Losses sustained become unbearable. Jessica resists converting numbers into Singapore dollars.
  • 1.52 am -- Launch of argument regarding the ethics of keeping money won from gambling.
  • 1.54 am -- Jessica loses argument. Rent money will have to wait.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Taking a minute to just breath and say that I really wish I didn't have to be so stressed on CNY eve. So much to do so much to do.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Like Robert Capa, Only No One Died


Would like to credit the author of the quote above - but I can't. Well, I can. But I won't.

Am pretty exhausted today after a particular event the day before that involved me spring cleaning the house (just in time too) TWICE. I'm just glad its over.

Had a tour of the new campus today. Just a stone's throw down the road, but very new and very spacious and smells of paint. Classes start tomorrow. Should rightly be in panic mode, but I suppose that'll set in later.

There are six books on my desk - none of which I've read before. I am effed.

The collaboration between my the two institutions I work for was briefly mentioned in the meeting today. Everything sounds very promising and exciting, and given a couple of years there's just so much we can do together. There are a lot of things I've realised I've missed (such as reading thick books about stuff I forget about a year later) and I just sat there and wondered how I landed in academia.

I always take on too much on my plate - and I've always assumed I like things this way. Mixed and varied and stretching myself all over the place. But for the first time today, I thought of dropping everything else and giving myself fully to this one thing. I feel frustrated I can't spend all of my resources on this, its something I thoroughly enjoy, even if I don't have the results to show for it. For once I would like to be able to spend an entire day reading and researching.

Ah well. Just goes to show Jess really doesn't know what she wants, does she?

Saturday, February 02, 2008


Ashura came and left and I haven't had the time to edit anything other than the one above. The whole fire breathing thing got quite tiring after a while because it was basically just guys spitting into the fire, and few could do it with the finesse it requires. Plus was tired of getting the kerosene+spit mix over me and my camera. I'm not smart, but I am pretty sure it would suck to burst into flames.

Had a couple of hands grabbing and groping when the crowd got too packed. These cowards only come out when they know its difficult for you to figure out which one of the 10 guys surrounding you grabbed your ass. I didn't care. I looked one in the eye and contemplated bashing his face in with my camera, but I didn't care enough to do it. It always happens in such festivals and only in huge crowds, and never anywhere else.

Some of the Australian girls had it worse in the crowds, and even those seasoned and older were rather shaken after the experience. At least no one tried to rip my shirt open and put their hands down my pants.

The thing that usually happens is that I always find a young and eager local who's more than willing to act as my guide and protector. Most of the people take care of me anyway, always pushing me to the front of crowds so I can have the best view to shoot. Everyone wants to be in the picture. My camera opens up some pathways even as it closes others. I'm not worried.