Monday, October 31, 2011

On daylight savings

Let me write in detail about my second experience of bizzare, Twilight Zone-ish daylight savings time change. My first experience was in Ireland four years ago, but I was mighty prepared for it. I can't remember why, I'd probably heard about it already. All I remember was, instead of the sun setting at 6pm, it was still bright at 7pm (March, turning the clock forward an hour). But the time change yesterday? Absolutely uninformed. Left me feeling like I was in a different dimension, like I was still dreaming.

Saturday night, I had a late night. I set the alarm on my smart phone (thank god it's smart) to wake me up at 10am. So I went to bed at 4am. My last few thoughts before I totally comatosed was that I'd only have a miserable 6 hours of sleep.

I woke up, rolled around a bit, turned on my PC, and went into the shower. After that, fully awake, properly dressed, all doll-ed up, I turned on Skype, hoping to call my mum. I looked at the time on my PC. 7:18pm. I looked at it again. 7:18pm. Local time in Malaysia. I got a bit confused. It must be 12:18 noon, English time. But... I woke up at 10-ish. Had I actually spent almost two hours getting ready? It didn't feel that long. I looked at my watch on my study table, it said 12:18. Impossible. I counted the hours. Insane.

I grabbed my phone, it said 11:18am. I grabbed my watch. It said 12:18pm. Why the hell was there a one-hour difference? My watch seemed to be working, it was ticking smugly. Did I happen to wake up in the middle of the night and subconsciously changed the time on my phone?

At that moment, 11:19am, I felt like a lunatic. I felt like I must have done something over the night to my phone.

Then, slow enlightenment swept over me. Daylight savings. Must be. Must.

So I Googled the time. I keyed in, "Time in England." It said 11:20am. After confirming the time, I Googled "Daylight savings change 2011 England." I held my breath as the results displayed. 30 October. I almost giggled with relief. My sanity was intact!

Elementary, dear Watson. My magnificent smart phone had changed the time by itself. And instead of a miserable 6 hours of sleep, I had in fact gained an hour and had 7 wonderful hours of sleep instead. Totally recharged, I trekked half an hour to the city center, pelted by blissful autumn rain.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

On Chinese Odyssey 2002

Almost ten years ago, I went to the cinema with my girlfriend, one of my best friends back then, to watch Chinese Odyssey 2002. And I'll never forget it.

The movie was really good, no doubt. Tony Leung and Faye Wong as the leads again, after Chungking Express. Lots of references to Wong Kar Wai's work. Simply delightful.

But what made this movie even more memorable was that we went to watch it during Valentine's Day. Two single date-less girls. When we were buying the movie tickets, the box-office cashier asked us if we wanted to buy a couple teddy bear. What the fuck. As if our Valentine's wasn't miserable enough, he had to rub it in. I'll never forget that incident. Nor the movie.

One of my favourite scenes: Tony Leung, Zhao Wei, and their gang of good-for-nothings staring agape as Ro-Man-Ti-Que introduces himself

"The most painful experience in life, however, is waiting."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stay (Faraway, So Close)

Ten years ago, I could play this song on the guitar:

Granted I could only play the chords (it wasn't that difficult, I think there were only five chords involved). Back then, I was really, really, really into U2. I wanted to marry Bono. I was a bit dejected to find out that he was already married with four kids, but I was young, and I hoped to meet and seduce the man who was The Fly.

Plus, there was a camp at the end of the year, and I wanted to impress random strangers with my five chord guitar skills. Also, my neighbour was into guitar playing as well during that stage of our lives, and we happily swapped five-chord guitar stories.

I developed callouses on my fingers, I practiced that much. I refused to ask my parents to enroll me for guitar lessons because I thought, 'Hey, Hendrix didn't go for lessons, did he?'

Then, as with most teenagers, I grew out of it. The end of the year came by, camp ended without me showing off my tragic guitar skills, and The Lord of the Rings debuted. My neighbour and I rushed out to buy the trilogy, and we swapped LOTR stories instead, heaping praise on Peter Jackson and bitching about how Tom Bombadil had been left out. Bono became a distant memory, replaced by the beautiful Orlando Bloom instead.

The guitar collected dust, and the strings fell apart. It's actually still there in my old room, ten years later, the relic of a more carefree past.

Monday, October 24, 2011

On rice

"Master or worker, in China or Malaya, a Chinese needs his rice. Fortified with a bellyful of rice, he is prepared for any contingency."
-Yeap Joo Kim, Moon Over Malaya

How true is that, we southern people of the rice culture. We see a person who is weak, unable to perform their duties, and we say "Aiyah, never eat rice meh."

Although nutritionists and know-it-alls would say that energy comes not from rice (which is actually just grain after grain of carb) but from meats and fruits and whatnot, deprive me of rice and I WILL turn into a skeleton. You know why?

Because without rice, I am unable to eat the accompanying dishes, e.g. sweet and sour chicken, pork ribs cooked in sweet sauce, steamed herbal chicken, baby kailan sauteed with oyster sauce, waxed duck, and etc. Fact.

Also, I used to be able to down four bowls of rice in one sitting, and I actually still am able to; however, all that food goes straight to my happy belly and ends up being stored as bouncing, delightful fat. Fact.

Friday, October 21, 2011

If only farts were as minimally embarrassing as burps

Yes, this might be disgusting.

I had a flatulent day yesterday, and because it was a full day of classes, what could one do but to keep it in? I have yet to master the skill of farting silently, see, and I was afraid of miscalculating and letting it out loudly instead. I was afraid of being the butt (no pun intended) of all jokes for the rest of the year. So I kept it in. For roughly 7 hours, I kept it in. We only had very short breaks every hour or so, and I took those opportunities to 'go for a walk' to try to relieve myself. Nothing came out. Not a squeak. Maybe I was over-pressuring myself.

So by the time classes were done, because of all that gas inside, I had developed a tummy ache as well. Plus the cold walk back home, suffice to say, it felt like an eternity in hell.

Over dinner, I had a thought. If farts were like burps, and strangers would just maybe glance at you if you burped out loud in public as opposed to holding their bellies from all the laughter, I suppose I would be a much happier person.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Alright, I need to buy me a donkey

"Hee-haw, I'm your friendly grocery-carrying mule"

When you don't have a car, you're living alone, you're buying a shit load of groceries, and you don't exactly live around the corner of Sainsbury's or the city centre, you've got a bit of a problem.

I don't know how people do it. Probably they're not as ambitious as me as to carry 40kg worth of food and amenities. My wrists are still shaking from the trauma earlier this afternoon, me lugging five bags full of heavy groceries, trying to catch a bus home, being told by the driver that I'm on the wrong damn side of the road (I waited at that exact same bus stop two weeks ago dammit!), getting off the bus sheepishly and running across the street to the right bus stop. People here probably make several trips to the grocer's. Probably they're fit, they have muscular, hairy arms. Perhaps they have a partner willing enough to be their mule.

More often than not, I see parents hand in hand with their reluctant toddlers, while their prams are cunningly laden with their grocery bags. Maybe I need to get me a pram, but a donkey's much more fun. You get to prod it with a stick. It would probably sound like Eddie Murphy, and it could sing me lullabies to sleep. Maybe in time I'll turn into a big, green ogre. My tummy's halfway there already anyhow.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Minor observations

(Regarding the title: Yeah I went through The Oatmeal again today)

Most people already know this, but I'm still fascinated. You know how we shuffle cards, we do it with the deck facing down in our hands, and we take the bottom and stack it on top, really quickly and very pro-like (unless you're a child playing cards for the first time). People here, they do it with the cards sideways, and sort of just jumble it all up. Pretty strange. A bit inconvenient for me, I tend to spray cards everywhere when I try it their way.

Another thing is (it's rather hard for me to get over this), is that Europeans tend to eat their rice with their forks. How do they get everything onto a fork? They do like to make things difficult. Here have you a spoon, which scoops up your rice like a pelicang does a fish, yet you pick the fork. It's like cutting a steak with your spoon, for me. Works, with 6x the effort.

My second week was more exciting than the first. On Monday, my shower got clogged up so I couldn't shower the entire day. I basically donned a cap whenever I went around because my hair was monstrous. On Tuesday, my flatmate had some friends over and we drank and smoked the night away. I retired early, at 4am. They were up till 5:30. Oh, and by the way, if ever you visit me, steer clear of the kitchen sofa. A boy puked all over it. Nasty stuff.

Yesterday, because of the late night before, I woke up at noon and decided to just chill the day away, with a lot of writing done at night. Today, we had a guest speaker during class who totally sold her books to me. I'm on the brink of going to and just look for them. I will do that if W.H. Smith doesn't have her.

I took the bus home after class, which made things 70% less scary. There's still a relatively dark area I have to traverse before I get to the bright lights of the entrance, but I guess I could always run through it. It'd take me 30 seconds as opposed to the 5-minute run the week before. Through the woods. I guess it was what one of the boys told me about last Tuesday, about a serial rapist going around campus. The rapist is an Albanian guy, by the way. At least that was what the boy told me. Wonder how he knew.

So tomorrow, I shall take the 12:15 train to Reading to visit my sister and enjoy her bathroom, which, unlike mine, you don't have to bump your elbows on the wall with every move. Also looking forward to the nice 46" TV.

Monday, October 10, 2011


I spent the weekend in Reading with my sister and her husband, and I tell you, there's something in the water because I just felt like sleeping the entire time I was there. I really wanted to finish watching Eddie Izzard, but goddamn I fell asleep in front of the TV. The same goes for my dad and my mum when they're there too, apparently. We all just pig out. Maybe it was the jetlag, but I feel extremely rested now after all that good sleep.

Sis and brother-in-law (BIL) took me shopping for my necessities, and now I'm equipped with a water filter. Don't have to worry about kidney stones anymore from all that tap water.

I also ate a damn lot of rice (because the rice I cooked last Wednesday turned into porridge). Now, I'm also equipped with a rice cooker, so no more worries about that. I also have enough toilet paper to last me till the end of the month, or longer, I hope.

Well-fed and well-rested, I'm ready to begin the week. Time to catch up on all those assignments and readings!

Day 04.2

I heard my flatmate at the kitchen, so I decided to pop out and tell her that I'd be away for the weekend. After some conversation, I asked her if she wanted a beer, and she did, good girl. I found out that she's actually Bulgarian who studied in Paris. Then, because we aren't allowed to smoke in the dining area, she invited me over to her room for a smoke. There, we chit-chatted a bit, me, her and her boyfriend.

And I tell you, for a room inhabited by two, it was pretty damn clean. Compared to this:

Bless my mess. Then, they came over to my room where we talked a bit more, and we went back to their room to talk even more. I had lost track of the time, and rather stoned, I retired back to my blissfully messy cell and slept.

I'm glad I made good friends with her and her boyfriend, they're pretty neat.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Day 04.1

And I had the shitass scariest walk back home from class.

Class took up the entire afternoon and evening. It was very enjoyable, I had to write my imagination off. And imagine me trying to read out loud with an English accent so that everybody else could understand. That's one thing to work on.

Anyhow, we had an established writer give us a workshop in the evening. Her name is Bernadine Evaristo, and from the sound of it (I didn't get a chance to read her works because I arrived late and had no time to source for her books), she's incredible. And I learnt a lot about writing characters.

By the time we were done, it was 9pm. I managed to make a few acquaintances, but me being too shy, I didn't ask if anyone was going back to my hall. So, I took the 10 minute trek back home.

I'd been on the path several times now, but all the time during the day. On that narrow path, one side is a high wall which separates the houses, and on the other is a sort of organic-y vegetable farm. It's really lovely during the daytime, the air is fresh and there's the sound of rustling leaves. Many students use that path as well. But at night, it's the perfect scene for a horror movie. It's disturbingly quiet, nobody uses it, it's lit with dim, orange lights, and the goddamn streetlights are the energy-saving ones. The sort that turn off by themselves if nobody is nearby.

And I ran all the way back home, this little piggy did. All the time, I kept on turning back, half-expecting the hound of the Baskervilles to be on my heels.

I stopped running once I saw another person, and by the time I reached my hall, I was half out of breath and my mind was a circus. There was this guy waiting outside the door, and he was asking me if I could scan him in. The problem was, he looked exactly like an Italian guy I knew, which sort scared more bejesus out of me. My first thought was, would that Italian guy stalk me all the way here? Then, at a closer look, he was slightly different, more Arabian than Mediterranean.

So here I am, same and sound, typing away. Next week, I will either use the bus, or the long route home.


Well, day four didn't quite end that way. Let's continue to day 04.2

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 03

Well I finally met my housemate, during what could be one of the worst first impressions ever. I was cooking Bak Kut Teh. To those who aren't familiar with this dish, it's one of the heaviest herbal-smelling dishes I know. In a nutshell, it stinks. It stinks like a Chinese medicinal shop rolled into one small pot of blackish stew.

So there I was, trying to ensure that my rice doesn't turn into broth, one hand stirring the pot and one eye on the evil looking stew. She walks in with her boyfriend and I damn near peed my pants. See, I thought that I would be staying alone, despite the stalk of dried-up celery in the fridge and other miscellaneous foodstuff. I had been having suspicions that my housemate was actually decomposing in her room, due to the undone dishes in the sink (as though the killer left in a hurry). And here she was, walking in the front door. I hope that the stench of my stew didn't scare her off too much.

She's French, she smokes, and she drinks. Good girl.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 02

So far, I've met more nice people than not-so-nice people. I went to open my bank account today and the bank manager was a Malaysian lady who promised to invite me over when she made sambal. I'll hold her on to that, and if she doesn't call me up, I'll know where to find her,

Then, I went to the library, after three years. Libraries are pretty much the same everywhere. Pretend silence, droning of turning pages, stilted footsteps, and the regular annoying loud person on the phone somewhere far off. I wanted to check out two books, but because it was my first time there, an elderly lady helped me to use the self-check-out counter. Same damn thing they used in USM. It was nice of her anyway.

Which makes the count of people I spoke to at length today (minus cashiers, bus drivers, and mum via Skype) at two. And so, I begin my hermithood. Till Friday, anyhow. Then, I think I will make my sister's ears vomit from all the suppressed talk.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Day 01

Twice I've flown alone long haul, twice I've sat next to pleasant elderly couples. God bless pleasant elderly couples, they make travelling... rather like being mothered. The previous elderly couple back during my 2007 escapade kept those MAS peanuts for me. Very sweet.

This time round, I was sat next to an elderly Australian couple, en-route to visit their daughter in London. Elderly lady and I spoke of our favourite writers (she spoke a bit about a book called The Slap, which from her summary had very interesting content albeit a rather boring cover). Then, due to the flight delay and my worrying over the taxi service actually picking me up, they volunteered to stay behind to ensure that I got transported to Oxford. For a couple of strangers, they really impressed me.

Not only that, elderly lady (I really, really, really suck at remembering names) helped save me from the muck called customs. The customs officer was gearing up to dismantle my carefully taped box when she, with all her elderly lady power, stood up for me, saying that I was a student, and I was under her temporary supervision. Customs officer meekly backed down from that awesomeness.

I managed to call my taxi driver, and he said that had almost arrived to get me, so I told the elderly couple that they didn't need to bother with me anymore, when elderly lady told me the most touching thing of the day. She said, "No! Of course we'll wait with you. I would have done the same if you were my daughter!" This, from total strangers. God bless sweet, pleasant elderly couples.

Then, I befriended my taxi driver. He was an Indian-Muslim who had spent, I quote, 'A great many years in the country.' He loved cricket, football (only international matches), and recently, snooker and pool. He used to be a bouncer but decided to venture into the ferrying business. Had not stepped into a gym for more than 10 years. I gauged his age to be about 36. Lovely fellow.

Next, thank god for sisters and their husbands to be there for you. Despite jetlag, they drove to see me, a good hour away from them, just to help me find my way about town, helping me to buy my groceries, and then treating me to a nice Chinese dinner. The life.