1. I cooked my first meal since I returned to Malaysia. Grandma is staying with aunt now hence I am cooking lunches for myself. I cook vegetarian only, so I looked through the fridge and salvaged what I could find and voila~
A healthy mixture of pumpkin, carrots, garlic, shallots and kiwi fruit!
no salt, little bit of sugar, fried with little bit of oil.
tastes sour (kiwi) with some sweet (pumpkin).
I like! though I may be the only one hahaha.
2. My boxes arrived from California! All eight of them. I quickly unpacked them and within an hour, the boxes are flattened and the stuff....stuffed away into my room. My books are here! My desktop computer is here! And my bed companions are back!
RM1027...from Port Klang to ma house. The company who did my custom clearance and transport was good...if you need such service, ask me. I bagi contact. Thanks Mas for the recommendation.
Unluckily, as I was unpacking my plates and cups, I dropped the spoon/ladle that my friend gave me. SO SAD. My heart broke on the spot too. It survived the journey across the Pacific, survived the rough handling at the ports, only to be broken by the person who was waiting for its arrival. I am going to try to mend it.
3. The praying mantis in mom's bathroom hatched! We both witnessed the female laying them about a month ago on the underside of the sink.
Now her offspring have hatched, and an active lot they were. Glistening dark dark blue, forearms up with sharp sawtooth ready, these guys were cute!
Of course a bathroom ain't a proper place for 17+ praying mantises so I transferred them to our garden, just before a heavy rainstorm hit. Hopefully these guys will do well and help us suppress some pests =).
4. I asked a girl out, and she said she would call me when she's free. Hahaha. I am so excited!!
I attempt to record my highlights of 2010, with a little details to spice things up.
1. My loveliest dream was violently slashed to shreds, and then I had the worst few months of mental and emotional ordeal in my life. I look back and I still shudder at the manner in which I struggled through those months.
2. In the same few months, I wrapped up my last research season and graduated with my Ph.D which was apparently an admirable thing.
1. & 2. proved to me that I have the very useful ability of segregating work from personal issues, not letting one affect the other. This ability, much-loved by supervisors all over, also encourages me to take more hurt before saying 'No'--so it's not such a great ability really.
3. Mom attended my exit seminar which I thought I did a great job on. I have always been happy with my oral presentations, but this exit seminar was quite different. I didn't present my work in the most efficient format, opting instead to sacrifice efficiency for the purpose of showing my friends the values in failed experiments and pitfalls. My mom's attendance, and my own performance, makes Oct 6, 2010 one of the proudest days in my life, and definitely the proudest day in 2010.
My lab space of 4 years. I don't miss it. I miss the people around it.
4. For the first time, I designed and conduct a course on my own, 10 classes in total. The students and I loved it, we had fun and became friends, they learned to think and question, I learned to listen and care, and those were all that matter. Those 10 classes gave me life.
5. An unexpected visitor from Switzerland reminded me that it's a forest out there--try to look beyond one tree.
6. My research assistants taught me to treasure each person for his/her own strengths and weaknesses, personality and all. I was mistaken in jumping to conclusions, only to see my own judgment proven so wrong in a pleasant way.
7. In October, I visited Grand Canyon with mom. One childhood dream came true.
8. I bought two long-sleeve shirts for my job interviews. First time in my life!
In one simple way, 2010 was an ordeal for me. I lost that which mattered most to me, and now I know I have lost more than just that--I have lost a whole dream, a chance to be content and happy, and for a time, I lost self-confidence.
In many simple ways, 2010 gave me lots of joy and pleasant memories. My friends never left me, some even went as far as to open up their hearts so that they can peer into mine and help me. I graduated with many people celebrating this seemingly unimportant event. I made many new friends and rekindled some old friendships. My world is bigger and much more multi-dimensional now. Even that which I have lost has given me other things in return.
Without doubt, the single most important lesson, or change in my life in 2010 is that I have learned to love.
Yes, to love is innate, but so is to love with conditions, to love with considerations for one self. I think that if left to subconscious, we all love selfishly.
To truly love is to love without shame, to love without seeking returns, to love indiscriminately, to love to best of one's ability.
My dream was broken because I didn't know how to love.
I spent months trying to mend the situation, yet it was doomed because my fundamentals were heading the wrong way.
Jay taught me some love, my parents demonstrated it to me, my friends showed me theirs--there are flaws in these people, but I see those flaws and I began to understand how they love me.
Close to Christmas, I pick up a book in a bookstore as I was shopping for Christmas gift: Leo Buscaglia's "Loving, Learning, and Living". Coincidentally (or not, could be kismet), that book summarized the lessons I learned in 2010.
Love yourself, make yourself the best version of what you love, always seek to improve yourself. Give your true self to others, do it without shame, and because you are always seeking to improve yourself, you will always be giving your best to others.
I had lunch with my friend from college yesterday. Before our lunch, she broke the news to me--she married just three months ago. Ha! I believe all of the girls whom I have ever liked will eventually tie the knot before I do.
We had lunch at this new restaurant in Damansara Uptown called "Fat Spoon". The name tells you nothing, except that perhaps you shouldn't expect to come out skinny?
My first time there, I was pleasantly surprised by the deco. The theme of the restaurant was something along the lines of "grandmother's memories...excellent recipes... " (something, or not, like that). Tables were either made from round marble tops or wood that says 'old' instead of 'polished'. Lighting was just bright enough, making use of the large window. Wall colors were light, complemented nicely by the ample amount of wood and bricks in the deco.
Most interesting was perhaps the irregular combination of chairs. They seemed to just pack up a bunch of chairs from different houses and save on the cost of buying a matching set. It works though, to the point that my friend said she wanted their chairs.
What I liked best was their menu, literally. I like their menu design, though I also liked what was on the menu.
The first page of their menu. On the left you also see my one and only (thus favourite) sunglasses.
Their menus were old Key-Reading Books (the Ladybird, Peter and Jane series) onto which they paste their list of food and drinks. I was debating if this is more of innovative or vandalism...but I decided on the former.
Addition to the menus are written on the chalk board.
They serve a mix of Chinese and Malay dishes, even Nyonya cuisine. I ordered their classic Claypot Loh Shu Fun. It was okay. Quite nice actually, though after trying it, I personally prefer the non-claypot style. Matter of personal taste.
I ordered the Loh Shu Fun (RM8.90) and a glass of Iced Cincau (~RM3.50) for a total of RM13.40. Uptown restaurant with air-con and such a different deco, this price is acceptable lah.
the main reason I made this blog, and named it "Life is a series of pictures", was because I no longer wanted to write a blog that's ridden with complaints, of heartbreaks, of disappointments and anguish.
I didn't want a blog, a public portal, to be my outlet for negative emotions.
So I thought that by framing every post around pictures, I can safely avoid the 'ARGH !@##^%&$^" trap.
That's because I am still not good at capturing candid shots of people doing sad things, like littering, swearing, fighting, breaking up, starving etc.
No sad pictures = no sad post.
So far, so good.
Yet it doesn't mean that I have no negative emotions since the beginning of this blog. In fact, as some of you know, these past 6 months were definitely the most turbulent (emotionally) period of my life thus far. The joy ascended heaven, the pain breached hell. (Wah...a bit too dramatic!).
Steering away from the blog, my diary has once again claimed the attention it enjoyed without reserve years ago. When I started blogging a few years back, it took over the role of my diaries. However, because blogs are public, private affairs had to be ambiguous, hiding the punches and needles of how I actually felt at the time. On the other hand, my diaries are...a no hold-back, no stone unturned question and answer session with me and myself.
I love reading what I wrote a week ago, half a year ago, three years ago, 10 years ago... Memories faded, but those words stayed, and I can't pretend that I didn't write them.
My diaries (having changed quite a few over the years) recorded most of my heartaches and very little joy. When I was happy, I had no time to record them. That's okay--I tend to remember the happy moments anyway; it's the darker days that I need to recall to remind myself that 'hey, it wasn't all that rosy, it was pretty ugly at times too.'
Reading my diaries, I realised that I have indeed grown up, I have matured. (Phew~).
I wanted to take a picture of my diaries for this post, but I decided not to. I think they would rather remain unseen haha.
Before I returned home, my GRAND plan was something like the following:
1. Apply for jobs at local universities
2. Hope they need me to start sometime after July 2011
3. Teach in CHKL starting January 2011 ....OR
3. Travel to south India or Mongolia sometime before June 2011
4. Learn a long list of things...like R, Inkscape, Tamil, Bharatanatyam
5. Complete a sewing project I have in mind
6. Read that excellent book on parasites, since parasite-host ecology is one of my latent (and strong) interests
7. Read Jim Collin's Built to Last and Michael Porter's On Competition
8. Train myself to think in 'business-mode'
BUT most of all, I thought that I owe myself a break.
A break from research, from anything that I have been doing in the past eight years.
No ecology, no science.
I wanted to take a break, and use the break to explore other dimensions that I have ignored.
Like art, business, traveling.
YET the reality is that my time is limited, and I #1-#8 are often conflicting among themselves.
Money and time. Always money and time, the limiting factors?
Or, are they?
Perhaps it's not money or time.
It's just me and my incapability to prioritize 'exploration of other dimensions' before the expected path of 'graduate-job-get steady-bla bla bla'.
I realise that there is a certain amount of courage and wisdom needed to cast aside the urge to jump straight onto the career wagon.
Have I this courage and wisdom?
I keep on telling myself (literally every night before I sleep) that I should relax and give myself the chance to backpack for months, or to at least forget about jobs first. I try to convince myself that not working for a few months isn't such a terrible thing, that it's okay for me to stop working and just learn new and very different things that are apparently career-unrelated.
And then I wake up every day to check emails from recruiters, to check property listings (hahaha), to check if the pandi kuti is doing fine, if there are other job opportunities out there that I have missed...
What I haven't done is to do tourism research on south India, on Mongolia.
What I haven't done is to call up the Temple of Fine Arts and enquire about their Bharatanatyam classes.
I feel sorry for the adventurous me.
I guess I am after all, not a spontaneous person.
I calculate, I plan, I forecast and I act.
Want me to go backpacking without first securing a job down the line?
Very boring ar me, my character I mean.
Decreasing my market value on the 'singles' market.
Eh...then again...no woh.
I went skydiving alone. but tandem lah.
I borrowed my friend's car, drove to the airfield alone, and jumped.
My backpacking trips also I planned to go alone one.
Macam tu kalau spontaneous pun (and I am sure I will...actually I get very spontaneous once I am traveling), I don't have to consider my travel mates.
I can't even tell if this is a rant or a reminder to myself.
Anyway, life is a series of pictures. Today's pictures reflect my current stage in life too.
This madam was crawling on the window pane beside my desk. I looked at her and asked "oi, you know you are in the wrong place?"
She's off to a new and challenging start, just like me. Her wings have dropped, that means she's mated and ready to build a new ant colony.
It's going to be very tough for her, starting out alone and having to care for her brood with just her six legs and a pair of mandibles (hahaha). So I helped her by transporting her from the window pane to our garden.
I hope she does well.
I hope I do well too.
Oh, she's an ant by the way. Very fierce one too...when I picked her up she flared her mandibles at my fingers :).
I like this pic very much. Taken from one of the doors of 龙山寺 (LongShan Temple) in 鹿港，台湾 (LuGang, Taiwan)。
Why I like it?
I like the colours, the tones. I like the shape of the door-ring.
I like the pale yellow brick wall. I like the peeling red paint on the door.
Most of all, I like how this picture makes me feel.
On my desktop, all my icons and shortcuts are on the left, i.e., on the pale bricks.
Thus I can see the red door clearly on the right.
Whenever I turn on my laptop, I look at the red door, at the extending wall,
and I see a door opening up for me.
It seems as if I had knocked, I pushed, and the door opened.
Kitty* is telling me "Here, come in. I welcome you."
And then, it seems, that everything just opens up for me.
*:my laptop's name is Kitty. All my computers are Kitty. Not for that cat without a mouth, but for the airplane built by the Wright brothers.
Life is a series of pictures.
This post has one picture of numbers that tell of a possible window into my future.
Talking to HsingLing yesterday inspired in a new way.
Buying a house.
I should start ASAP.
If she can do it, I can too!
She's not the only inspiration of course, but when she told me that she owns her own place now, it was a wake-up call.
So, my imaginary but possible budget:
Given that the current government salary scale for a senior lecturer (DS51) is RM6000+, I shouldn't be considered dreaming.
It's more of...is RM1000/month for the car viable? I don't know.
I am confident of spending within RM1000/month for my food and misc. expenses. That would mean that I have to cook and eat home almost all the time. Well, that's nothing new to me.
This numbers were made assuming that I live alone and independent, without any dependents. Marriage expenses are not included and neither are expenses for my parents and grandparent.
I never wanted a big, everyone is invited kind of wedding. If my imaginary wife wants that, she can pay for it HAHAHAHAHHAHAA.
If I start paying for a house at age 28, have no kids until I turn 30, that would mean that I have two years to save up a sum of money to buffer for the birth of my children...that is if I even do get married before that.
I just made quick browse online of houses/apartments for sale in the PJ area. No house I would consider is priced below RM300,000, only apartments are available for that price range. So I guess I would have to start with an apartment, and if things improve for me, I will move into a small house.
OF COURSE, this is only but one of many possible directions that my life can go.
For example, I may finally decide to be a monk, and those numbers would be wiped off the slate.
After spending four years in Montreal and another four in Davis, I am finally back home. For good, it seems. That's the plan, but I can't say for sure until I get a job. So far I have nothing settled yet, though I have sent my emails out to the right people (I hope). In any case, I don't expect to be working before Jan 2011.
Let's hope my brave decision of giving up my 2-year postdoctoral position in Davis doesn't turn out to be a foolhardy one.
So far, I have experienced some pretty good service from the Malaysian sales sector. I must say that I was surprised by their professional and good attitude. Some of them looked like they were still in college and just finished high school, while the rest looked like my age.
Parking still remain a double, even triple affair in my area. Quite skilled, and no consideration for others.
Chatted with my opposite neighbour for the first time in 15 years. Felt good.
Learning Tamil from a private tutor would cost me a bomb. So it's just audio CD and Astro Tamil channels for now.
It has been cloudy with breaks of sunlight. Rains are intermittent. Temperatures float around 30C. Evaporating vapour from the hot tar roads drive everyone nuts. Sweat can't dry off our skins, so everyone stays sticky. So far I haven't smelled anyone smelly, but I haven't taken RapidKL bus yet.
Every trip I took to Uptown costed me RM20. Money washes away like the rain here.
The Inspira sedan (similar to Mitsubishi Lancer) costs RM79,000. Compared to my meager savings from the US, I should look at a Kelisa. Of course, I don't plan to buy a car anytime soon, at all.
I finally saw my niece. I can't describe my joy at seeing her, but it seems that lately I am an expert at masking my emotions. I am also hesitant to carry her, since I am afraid of hurting her with my clumsiness. The rest of the family however, are absolutely revolving around this new member. Adults fight over carrying her. Hahaha. Everyone has an opinion about how to best take care of the baby, and everyone is adamant that he/she is correct.
And now, some images:
Our beloved dog of 10 years, Bowie. He reacts only to food and if you play with him. I have been away for years and he treated me as if I never left. No extra excitement at all. Time to cast him out. HAHAHAHHA.
My garden and the common bumblebee.
Flowers in my garden.
Butterfly and flowers in my garden.
More flowers. I really like this flower actually.
First breakfast since my return. From left going clockwise: Durian puff, roti canai, tea, fish curry sauce. The Durian puff is heavenly. I can't praise it enough. You can buy it from O! Papa bakery chain in Malaysia.
Nasi lemak biasa, with peanuts and cucumber. The reddish sauce is called 'sambal', a sweet, spicy sauce that matches nasi lemak like Beckham matches Victoria. Sexy. This dish is one of my all-time favourite, and if I were to get obese over a dish, it would be this. Durian is my obese fruit of choice.
Oh my. Vitagen. Childhood. USA has Milo, Maggi and what not, but no Vitagen, right?
My grandma with her great-granddaughter.
From left: My dad, my brother-in-law, my mom. Center of attention: my niece on the sofa.
For three days (Nov 3-5), we (mom, my sister, her friend, and me) left Taipei city and spent our time in the TaiZhong area. For the first night, we stayed in QingJingNongChang, a recreational area in highlands of Central Taiwan.
At first I imagined our QingJingNongChang trip to be a 'farm-visit' trip since "NongChang" means "farm". Yet that wasn't the case. Although there were many farms in the area, the main tourism attractions were scenic spots overlooking mountains and valleys, and a meadow called QingQingCaoYuan青青草原where sheep graze.
And of course...we didn't even go into the QingQingCaoYuan part because mom and I didn't want to. Hahaha. It was already 30 minutes before they closed for the day, and so we decided to take the other trails, called GuanShan Trail 观山步道 and BuBuGaoSheng Trail 步步高升步道.
Along GuanShan Trail, there were meadows for sheep grazing but the sheep have retired for the day. There were also other spots for picture taking, including a blue windmill....
Mom and I weren't too interested in these, particularly since we interacted with alpacas in Portland, so we finished the trail relatively quickly. The only thing that garnered attention were the random piles of sheep dung (I think sheep) on the path :).
Wooden horses. I thought they looked kind of cute.
On the BuBuGaoSheng Trail:
Almost sunset. The mountainous trait of Taiwan is something that I haven't experienced before and something which I like very much. There are mountains after mountains, all shrouded in fog and clouds. I really like the different shades of blue on the mountains as they spread away.
499 steps. The trail is called BuBuGaoSheng, literally 'rising with every step'. Know why? =)
The best catch of the day for me, a whole horde of Nephila maculata spiders. Here's some info on them off the Internet . These spiders are found throughout Asia, though this is the first time I have seen one. Shame on me. According to the board next to the trail, these spiders are the largest found in Taiwan. The website linked above said that these spiders make very strong and sticky web that can even stop birds in mid-flight! Mom were brave enough to find more for me in the bushes, though we both had to move cautiously to avoid destroying the spiders' web.
Look at them!
On the morning of Nov 4, we woke up around 4am to join a guided tour to Mt. HeHuan. The original itinerary included star-gazing, sunrise and various scenic spots between QingJingNongChang and Mt.HeHuan. Unfortunately, it was very cloudy with drizzling rain so we couldn't see the stars. Fortunately however, we drove all the way up to ~3200 meter above sea level, rose above the clouds and thus we were able to witness sunrise.
Mom was all wrapped up! The guide provided jackets for everyone, so mom had 3 layers of jacket on. Behind her you see the sign for Mt. HeHuan and the 3158 meters above sea level.
On the way down from Mt.HeHuan back to QingJingNongChang, we stopped at several scenic spots.
I forgot the name of this tree species, but it's some sort of pine. The guide said that these trees are older than 1600 years!
Here you see the mountains, the clouds, and the people.
We left QingJingNongChang around 10am and headed towards TaiZhong. On the way, we stopped at ZhongTaiChan Temple 中台禅寺。 I can only say it's HUGE. We spent most of our time there in the art exhibition that showcased Buddhism carvings and drawings. There was a special exhibition of Chinese calligraphy inscribed onto stone 石碑文。 I really liked the exhibition because the Buddhism art was very beautiful, and the calligraphy was just as awesome. Lots of history learned too.
Yeah, it's HUGE.
We reached TaiZhong sometime in the evening and stayed at a hotel just next to FengJia University and FengJia Night Market, apparently the largest in Taiwan.
The sign for the "Taiwan FengJia Night Market".
Night markets are certainly a major tourist attraction of Taiwan, and it is also a significant part of Taiwanese culture I think. Night markets are bustling with all sorts of commercial activities, with vendors selling everything from snacks to clothes to electronics to Chinese herbs. I was too full from dinner that night otherwise I would have bought some of those mouth-watering snacks too!