Friday, March 19, 2010

Hot Air Balloons Adventure

Didn't we just have the grandest evening ever!

Several days ago, a friend had asked me to join her at the 2nd Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2010 this evening, after work. It would be my first Hot Air Balloons experience! I'd been pretty excited about it, but the past two days had been so hectic, involving so much of running up and down and to and fro, I was exhausted beyond reasons. I almost gave up my chance to see the balloons in the last minute. Almost.

Since we planned to head on home directly afterwards, we each drove our cars. As we got nearer to the place, the traffic got heavier. There were so many cars it was almost like a regular KL after-work jam. A little further on, we could see the brightly-coloured balloons in the distance - inflated, struggling against their tethers, impatient to soar into the darkening sky. We crawled on, along with countless other cars. Many were parked illegally on the roadside, but we knew there'd be more appropriate parking available once we got nearer, so we persevered in that painfully slow-moving traffic. Soon, we saw the open fields turned into parking areas for visitors. We turned into one of these.

There were so many cars it took us quite a while just to get into the field itself. Then, there were so many cars parked in it I was at first really doubtful of actually getting a space to park. However, we were so trapped in the stream of cars slowly snaking through the rows and rows of parked ones, turning back wasn't an option. So, on we went. A quarter of an hour, maybe more, later, we saw a big open space, occupied only by a few cars, right ahead of us. We drove towards it eagerly.

Just as I'd gone enough to be able to back into what looked like a good parking spot, I felt my car tyres lose their hold on the grass. I stepped a little harder on the accelerator, heard a long, sickening screech, and to my horror, saw the splatter of muddy water across my windows. I couldn't back my car at all. I tried to go forward but the car couldn't move much. It took me a while to realise my car was stuck quite fast. We had driven into the soggy part of the field. It rained earlier and that part of the field with overgrown grass was like a completely-soaked sponge. My friend and I got down from our cars. Both were immobile. A guy came to us and told us that ahead of us, a couple more cars were stuck too. There we were, standing nearly ankle-deep in the middle of a grassy, watery field... speechless and helpless. We watched a group of guys grapple like buffaloes in the mud to dislodge a little Kancil; we saw one man showered with black mud from shoulders to legs; we stared at a separate group struggle with a huge MPV which was stuck behind ours. It was hilarious, to say from the positive point of view. We decided to make the best out of our dire situation, and took some photos of our immobilized vehicles to commemorate it:

Meanwhile, the path ahead gradually cleared, as the group of youths successfully freed the other cars, and a few other parked ones moved away. A couple of the guys came to help give mine a push and a finally, we were on our way once again. We drove straight to the dryer and safer part of the field and parked. On foot, we were a little disoriented at first - it was dark, and we had lost sight of the balloons. We walked a little, asked for directions, walked a little more, looked around, walked a little faster.....

And there we were! Finally, we were there! We couldn't see anything that remotely resembled a hot air balloon. Where were the balloons? Were we at the right spot? A teenager was tying up some ropes or strings - I wasn't paying attention - and we asked him where the hot air balloons were.


We looked around - nothing.

"They flew away."

They flew away? All the balloons had flown, and they will be landing elsewhere, and none will return for the rest of the night?! Come back tomorrow?! No kidding! We drove all the way, braved heavy traffic and huge crowds, got stuck and then freed, and our balloons had flown away?! And what's worse - they're not coming back tonight!

Oh well, to say from the positive point of view, the crowd was dispersing and we managed to get a (mostly) unobstructed photograph of the main stage's nice backdrop to prove that we really were there:

And there was the bazaar:

And a nice Putrajaya night-view:

My FIRST Hot Air Balloons experience was missing the whole lot of them. Not bad.

Monday, March 15, 2010

In Eager Anticipation

The first incident happened exactly a week ago (read about it). We are all such Internet-dependent creatures that we can almost reliably determine one's usual well-being by one's being online at the usual times, on the usual days. This consistency is such that when I went away for a 4-day vacation (and was therefore, offline) without informing the world, I got frantic messages awaiting me when I got home. "Are you OK? I didn't see you online and couldn't call you!" It happened on more than one occasion of vacation.

So, reader, you would understand why, when (then, 37-, and now) 38-week pregnant Mee Mee did not appear online by nearly 10am last Monday, I raised alarm. Yes, so I messaged Bee Ree and made her panic as well. So I sent a message to Mee Mee's mobile; so I messaged Teofu several times till he replied. No, she wasn't in labour; just the regular check-up.

The second incident took place last week too - one or two days after the first. When she did not appear online by the time she usually does, I messaged Bee Ree again. She advised me to stay cool. I tried, but was utterly unable to fight the urge to message Teofu. Before the hour was over, I'd done it again. And no, the baby wasn't on the way to greet the world; just that her car's battery went flat and she had to get someone to fix it before she could get to work.

This morning, at a little past 10am, I noticed her absence amongst the online regulars. Perhaps it was due to other things weighing on my mind, but it didn't occur to me to panic right there and then. At 11am, Teofu messaged me: "No, she not yet beranak!"

I hadn't even asked...

Yes, I know I ought to be ashamed. I need to calm down. Calm down, calm down.........

beranak = give birth

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Prostitutes and Suckling Pigs

We were discussing men's seemingly uncontrollable addiction to flings with women not their own. We were talking about how common it is that men have the insatiable need to flirt and/or sleep with whoever they could cajole, or coerce, or pay into giving in. What we cannot determine is the reason. For the still single, we could understand, but for those with girlfriends or wives, we could not.

It is the abundant demand that drives the supply, said one, with regards to prostitution. "It is like sharks' fin..."

"This mere mention of sharks' fin is going to exasperate neil" said the other one. She said I'll wonder why I can resist sharks' fin, but men cannot resist prostitutes.

Well, yes, I agreed. Perhaps, I said, that prostitutes are to men like the crispy roasted suckling pig is to me - I can't resist suckling pigs either. They're so tasty!

"I don't think prostitutes are as tasty," one said. "What a wrong analogy!"

"Then what is a better?" asked the other one.

"Men just love to have fun. Sleeping with a woman not the wife gives them excitement."

I said I think it's the engaging in the "forbidden" that gives them that unsurpassed fun factor. "It's like stealing that mango in Melaka! Wait till it's dark, creep up to the tree, reach out to the biggest fruit, then pluck and run! Now compare that to simply buying a mango..."

Yes, she said, stealing mangoes is exciting. I smelled sarcasm. She went on, "But you don't get AIDS from stealing mangoes; you don't get offspring from stealing mangoes; and you don't wreck marriages by stealing mangoes."


"Though I still think mango-stealing is fun :P"

"Fine. It's like if you eat home-cooked food everyday, once in a while you'd want KFC..."

"So what if I want KFC everyday? Does that mean I always prefer men outside?"

"Yeah, and you don't care about your escalating cholesterol level."

OK, I get it. I need to stop giving bad analogies.