Monday, August 30, 2010

Silly Little Things Make Me Happy

The lady introduced herself and explained that she would begin her floral arrangement demo shortly. Being somewhat interested in arranging, I went towards the stage area. It'd only started so there were just a few of us there. She said her name again, and explained the reason she repeated it was that she would be asking some questions during the demo, and would give goodies to audience members who could answer. At first, that didn't get much extra enthusiasm from the few around there.

Presently, while working on her first arrangement of artificial orchids in a transparent bowl, she asked the very predictable first question, which was what her name was. For a moment, there was silence, and then, an aunty awkwardly raised her hand and answered it. She was given a floral arrangement booklet and a little packet of what she called "flower food". I thought it was some sort of fertilizer for flowering plants.

As she continued working, she asked a couple more questions and gave out more goodies. More people came by and those there got more eager. She finished with the orchids, put them aside, told the crowd they could take photos of it later if they wished, and began her next piece. She was going to show us how she'd tie a simple hand-bouquet using a spiral sth sth method (wasn't listening that hard). She picked up a handful of roses from a pail she kept next to her work-table. There were audible audible gasps of admiration from all who were watching.

She kept talking as she worked. I could feel the other aunties' increased eagerness to claim the work-in-progress we're all feasting our eyes on. Yes, of course I wanted it too. I didn't need any other reason than it was pretty. It was pretty and I wanted it.

She asked her question and hands shot up, mine included. I was sure she couldn't tell who raised her hand first (I use "her" for though I can't be absolutely certain, I don't think any men were crazy enough to do the same) She stared for a few seconds at all the gleaming faces before her, and decide I was the one. I got the answer, and I got the bouquet and a cute lil' packet of "flower food", and along with 'em, applause from the others. It was pretty!

It being handed to me sparked off so much desperation from the crowd that certain individuals began displaying distasteful behaviour. She went on with her demo. She was talking about representing Malaysia in a floral expo in Japan. A girl next to me turned to me, bent unreasonably close for a stranger, and asked "Where was the exhibition?"

I was taken aback by her suddenness and rudeness. I gave her a half-frown "What?" She turned her attention back to the stage, completely ignoring my reply. A little while later, she turned to me again and repeated her question, just as rudely.

"Japan," I answered, giving her a full-blown frown that she didn't at all register, and proceeded to take a step away from where she was standing. By then, the lady on stage had started working on a huge bunch of hydrangeas. She made known that she would give the completed bouquet away too. That girl next to me wanted it so much she practically looked as if she was ready to pounce on anyone who dared stand in her way. She stepped right up to my side and rubbing my shoulder, said "You help me, OK?"

No, not OK, I thought. Firstly, I didn't even know her. Secondly, I know she want it badly, but so did everyone else standing there. I can't help feeling she ought to just do the same as the rest of us - enjoy the demo and if she knew the answer to the question, raise her hand like a civilized person would. If she got it, she got it; if she didn't, was the world going to end? I gave her a half-hearted smile. I admit, I wouldn't have minded "helping" her, if she was at least more polite. As the bouquet grew more beautiful, she grew more desperate. "You must help me, OK?" she repeated twice or thrice more. I took two more steps away from her, but she somehow managed to knock her arm against mind when she raised it even before a question was actually asked. I don't think she answered the question correctly, or at all, but the lady said she'd give her the bouquet anyway.

Had quite enough, I thought. I walked away at that instance; for a moment I felt the strong urge to go into a pharmacy, get the strongest hand sanitizer I could find, and rub it all over my shoulder and arm which she touched!

Pardon my digression in this otherwise-positive post. Freaky girl aside, I felt delighted, gleeful, and very much like the way I did during the cupcake incident. It was really a trivial little thing, but it made me so happy! The pruned stems were exposed so the blooms would probably not last the day, but they made me happy! As it was then, I walked around the mall holding the lovely bouquet, getting stares and sometimes, smiles from strangers, feeling the weirdness and reeling in it. However, unlike the cupcake time, no one actually stopped me to ask where I got it. I suppose they only wondered what this fella did that was so bad that he had to buy her flowers. Since I did not get to repay the lady's generosity then, here goes - click here for the company's website.

I did not really check the "flower food" out till later; it turned out to be something that one can put into the water one puts flowers in, to make them last longer.

My most recent batch of roses lasted almost 2 weeks in that little vase, filled only with plain tap water, which I changed every day. The next time I get my hands on fresh ones, I'd be sure give 'em this "flower food" and see how much longer they will last.

Till the next time, then!

Friday, August 27, 2010


You said -

I know you can do it. You've always been the smarter one of us.

I never thought of it that way. I have been around long enough and seen enough of the depth and breadth of intelligence to be aware that I am not really that smart; I'm sure you know it too, but that never changed the way you thought of me.

I marvel at how much confidence you have in me, and how much you believe in my abilities and determination. You never once stop believing in me even when I have stopped believing in myself. You are sure I have the strength to overcome all challenges and adversity even when I feel I am all drained-out. You are constant and unwavering in your love and support for me. You have always stood by me despite my eccentricity, excessive use of sarcasm and inclination to give in to the horrifying temper I never seem to be able to completely rid myself of.

I realise how lucky I am, and I am grateful I had you in my life all these years. I am doubly grateful knowing I will still, and always have you with me hereafter.

You'll have me too. Oh, and I'm sorry about the time I rode so closely to the row of parked cars, and caused your knees to knock into one of them which caused you to fall off my bicycle onto the road...

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Reader, if you knew beforehand that I, like (I believe) so many others, suffer from a fear of heights, you would wonder why I chose to get addicted to wall-climbing. Well, for the record, one doesn't choose one's addiction. One can choose to stop being addicted, but one definitely doesn't choose to get addicted in the first place. Perhaps one of the reasons I enjoy climbing is the same as that for my love for martial arts - it is as much an art as it is a sport - and there are no balls and no running involved. I can't do any sports with balls and I can't run. Actually, I do not expect that to make sense to anyone.

So, I have always had a fear of heights - for as far back as I can remember. Ever since I was a little girl, if ever I was in a high place and chanced to look down, my head would swirl, my legs turn wobbly and my heart race. The time I had to get across the canopy walkway at FRIM, I held tightly to the ropes on both sides, held my breath, and staggered all the way. The times my bestfriend and I took the cable car - once at Genting, and once to Sentosa Island in Singapore - we held tightly on to each other and closed our eyes. When I was in college, I once was reckless enough to try to conquer this fear by sitting on the balcony wall of my third-floor apartment, legs hanging down on the outside. What a stupid and futile idea it turned out. It was great for storm-watching, though, for while focusing on bolts of lighting in all their brilliance and magnificence in the darkened sky, I'd not be looking down, or remembering how high I was from the ground. However, even if I wasn't stopped by a grumpy, scolding security guard after several "attempts", I doubt it'd have helped me overcome my phobia.

I started off at the relatively-low bouldering walls - perhaps just about three times my height. Even that I always kept as close to the thickly-padded ground as I could, traversing the walls from end-to-end most of the time. When I have to climb upwards, either for attempting a route or attempting to get numb to the height, I make it a point not to look down. Once I'd reach the topmost rock, usually at the completion of a route, my hands would be trembling - I know not from exertion or nervousness. From there, I'd always try to climb down a little before letting go. It's been now several months of climbing and falling off, and I still feel no more immune to the height as when I first started. Perhaps I am better, perhaps I am not as scared, perhaps... but I do not feel it.

Such then, was I really ready to attempt to climb top-rope? The walls were high and very intimidating. But, if I do not try without being sure that I was ready, how would I ever know if I was ready? Would I then, ever be ready? After all, I'd be safely strapped in a harness, tied securely to a rope, and held on to by a trustworthy belayer, so why not? I was confident I could do it if I could do it without looking down.

I do not quite remember my first top-rope climb. A friendly and generous fellow climber offered to belay us, and we climbed without following a specific route. The second time we did, we had the Expert of the expert climbers belaying and guiding us. We managed a 5c route, followed by a 6a. I didn't know how I managed - for it was impossible not to look downwards at all. We'd have to be looking at where we're stepping, in the least. I guess hanging on to the holds, figuring how to get to the next one, actually getting to it, fighting the fatigue and striving to complete the route did occupy the mind enough to take if off its fear. If that wasn't enough, the sense of achievement at having completed a route was undoubtedly intoxicating.

Perhaps it didn't feel right accepting charity belaying all the time, perhaps a climber isn't quite complete without having learned all the different aspects of climbing... and so he persuaded the Expert, ever generous with his knowledge and ever willing to impart it, to teach us the proper techniques of belaying. So there we were that day, knocking ourselves out at the top-roping walls. I climbed four routes that day - more than I'd ever done previously.

I finally realized that my issue with heights isn't really a deterrent to my scaling up a wall. Each time, it was when I've reached the top that I was suddenly seized by panic, knowing I would then be lowered down. It was the going down sensation that I find very scary. I'd cling on so tightly to the rope that if it could complain, it certainly would. I'd steal downward glances and get more anxious each time, for the ground always seemed still so far away. Yes, the descent always felt like it would go on forever. I can't be sure now, but I think I might even have had held my breath all the way down.

After several climbing and belaying exercises, we did our final route for that day. It was one of the two on the speed-climbing wall which was 20 or 25 meters high - I can't recall exactly.

Mr Expert, our coach for the day, said he would be the belayer for both of us, for a reason he would only tell after we'd climbed. Right, that was a situation where it wasn't wise to go with "ladies first" so I let him take the first turn. The route was "easy" in that there was only one along the trail, so the mind didn't need to constantly figure out the next hold. It was at the same time challenging for the holds were spaced quite apart, and it was a very long climb to the top. He managed it elegantly, in his great form and endurance, without stopping to rest or falling off. Once the route was completed, Mr Expert revealed what he wanted us to experience - he released the rope such that he was lowered at an alarming speed. Yes, our macho fellow climber, Mr Guitarist Extraordinaire, was so taken by surprised that an unintended squeal escaped his lips. We needed to experience, and possibly get used to, the "feeling of falling", Mr Expert Coach said.

Then, it was my turn. Going up wasn't too hard, considering the holds were rather big. For me and my extreme lack of height, though, some parts were really quite a stretch, and by the time I was two-thirds up the wall, my arms were so ready to give out. However, with support and lots of encouragement from Mr Expert Coach, I made it to the top. The moment I got both hands to the final hold, I panicked with tenfold intensity at the prospect of having to experience the "fall-like" going down. I actually turned my face downwards, called and begged him not to lower me at high-speed. I was so paralysed with fear of the impending descent I froze in my harness. I was still hanging onto the rock with both my hands, as if I was hanging on for dear life.

I knew I had to let go - well, apart from hearing voices from below telling me to let go - I knew I had to let go or I'll be stuck there. So I let go, and grabbed the rope. Then, I started falling. I knew I wasn't really falling, but it was the closest thing, and it was endless! I was aware I had curled my body and closed my eyes, and was squealing all the way down. One part of me, perhaps the little part still sane and sensible, was aware that someone was laughing, and quite loudly too. By the time I reached the floor, I was so shaken I couldn't stand. I crumbled down in a heap. The sane, sensible part then registered laughing, cheering and applause. I appreciate the encouragement from the regulars, but at the time, was totally unable to react to it. In fact, I was too incoherent to even speak when I was spoken to - for a while. And I was trembling such that I couldn't undo the figure-of-8 knot that kept the rope fastened to my harness.

Now, thinking back - it was all pretty awesome, really! I wish I hadn't embarrassed myself being that scared, but it was a truly eye-opening experience, to say the least. I can't tell if I would become less scared with more training, but there is always hope!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Long Day Ahead

It was yet early. It was cool, the air was fresh, the sun's rays warm. Balancing folder, book and materials on my arm, I stepped out. The corridor was bright and bare. The walls, though not much past a decade old, looked wan and worn. There were scattered pools of water on the floor below where the ceiling leaked. At the part of a pillar where ran a constant trickle of water from one of the many leaks, green moss grew. Occasionally, the drip of droplets broke the morning stillness.

The journey down two flights of stairs was without encounters. The steps, perhaps not quite wide enough, perhaps sometimes slippery, proved a precarious path for someone like me. Spots of discolouration and permanent stains visible here and there on them. The pale beige railing, scratched and chipped in places, showed patches of the darker shade of the layer of paint beneath. Out of the corner of my eyes, I caught a glimpse of a friendly face at a distance. He saw me too. I was thankful for the sweet, dazzling smile he gave, for it somewhat lifted a little off the impending gloom of that day.

Stepping into the corridor of the other wing, I felt intensely the stark difference in temperature. In that early hour, there were few about; the fully-blasting air-conditioner combined with low lighting made a very bleak picture, tinged in a bluish hue. Apart from the low hum of cold air blowing out of the vents, it was hushed; my heels made distinct clacks with each step I took. The first room I passed, I saw just one person - the one who would be teaching. There, in the semi-darkness, he sat - how forlorn and pitiful, I thought. How deplorable times have become, that he who made it on time sat alone in an empty room, accompanied only by the unoccupied chairs, waiting for those upon whom he would impart knowledge.

I passed two more rooms to mine - it's just as empty. I stepped in, and hoped the wait would not drain too much of my patience, for the longest day of my week had just started.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Need You Now

By Lady Antebellum, in Simlish!

Pisha plurba mimmlers
Scabbled ooba rowza flobe
Reek-a furba flozark
Yaka feenip oonamobe

Immawumba eefle eeba kloosha mibe
Fromeena kappa laza tibe

Yassa quirler appa wub
Ya mala nobe
Emma neeba zow
Sibby ooba kaw
Bidda loxaw kidrow
Emma neeba zow
Yema da nooha yakadooba wow
washa neeba zow

Amooda shaba wixie
Kasta lukimazy doe
washa vooka swimpling
nimba wavoo dinza foe

Immawumba eefle eeba kloosha mibe
Fromeena kappa laza tibe

yassa quirler appa wub
Ya malippa drelk
emma neeba zow
Sibby ooba kaw
Bidda loxaw kidrow
Emma neeba zow
Yema da nooha yakadooba wow
washa neeba zow

issa drabba hulkin fleena timbadal

yassa quirler appa wub
Ya mala nobe
emma neeba zow
Sibby ooba kaw
baya malippa drelk
Emma neeba zow
Yema da nooha yakadooba wow
washa neeba zow

washa neeba zow

Oh nooboo wa neeba zow!

Reader, do you know that I've always said "bye bye" to my roomees in Simlish ever since we got addicted to The Sims ages ago?

We should so learn to sing this one!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Name is Aram

The first story I'd read of this brilliant collection of stories was The Circus. I loved (and still love) it - it tells of how the young boy Aram and his friend ran off to the circus whenever it came to town, despite being punished for it afterwards, every time. The writing style is all at once casual, bluntly comical, and very affecting. I read it out of an anthology, and had, ever since, wanted to get my hands on the book itself.

For years I scoured - the bookstores in the days sans Internet shopping; the online bookstores in later times - I never saw it physically on any shelves, and it was out of stock for the longest time on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I managed to get a William Saroyan anthology at Kinokuniya, but not his (arguably) most famous work.

After a while, I stopped looking - but I never forgot this book, or how much I wanted it. Some months ago, I did a search for it out of the blue, and to my delight, it was in stock at Amazon! Finally - I found the book I'd wanted for more than a decade. It took its time making its way to me, but there it was, at last, in my hands.

Did I devour its pages immediately? Did I not wait a single minute to read and reread my favourite story until I could memorize the very phrases that made me chuckle? No, reader, I did not. For reasons I do not expect anyone to understand or accept, I saved it - like some treasure to be savoured slowly, word by word, page by page. Yes, I took my time with the book.

It was by the time I reached the tenth story, that I noticed, to my utter horror, that almost the entire story was missing. It was then too late to have the book returned.

A total of eight pages were simply not there. Need I describe how I felt? Aghast, infuriated, bewildered, stupefied... and regretful - why did I not check the book when first I got it?! But then again, who actually checks newly-purchased books for completeness of pages? It was devastating!

Well, alright - "devastating" was exaggerating it a little. To be fair, I was rather upset for a day or two. Just a day or two. I could always order another copy of the book, I figured. Surely it wouldn't take as much effort as it did so many years ago, and surely the cost is justified by the sheer passion I have for it, I reasoned. There is no need to be miserable. I could buy another copy.

I could. I haven't, as yet, but I could...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

For Reasons Unfathomable

It was past 2am and I was still awake. I was looking for my black ink pen. It wasn't amongst my organized pile of mess on my coffee table. It wasn't amongst the unorganized stash of stationery in the drawer. It wasn't amongst any of the messes on any horizontal surfaces I could think of. Where could it be?

It'd been a long day, I was tired, and I was about to go to sleep. I just wanted to pen a few words before I did, and I noticed my black ink pen wasn't next to the blue one where they should be. So where was it? I remember I used it to write dates and stuff in the new books I got last week. Or was it the week before? Or was it two weeks before? It wasn't where the books were. I can't recall if I put it back. So, where was it?

It was past 2am and I ought to be in bed. I was aware that it was just a pen, and I have many others. I was aware that I misplace things all the time, and they usually turn up the moment I stopped looking for them. Yes, I was aware. So, where was it? Where was it?!

No, I'm not obsessed with a missing a pen. I'm not obsessed with proof-reading and editing a post countless times before and after publishing. I'm not obsessed with having every little thing my way and my way only. I'm not crazy. A little out of my mind, perhaps. Just a little.

Now, excuse me while I wrap those new books. Nobody - myself included - are allowed to read them before they are properly wrapped. Of course, nobody but me can wrap my books because nobody can do it the way I want it done...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Are You A Musician?

I wish I could say yes. I do. Alas, it wouldn't be the truth if I did. I can't create, write or arrange music. Heck, I can't even perform music decently on any instrument. Sure, they say the voice is also an instrument, and most of those who'd heard me sing would say I sing rather well; I think, though, the judges at the only singing competition I'd ever been in would disagree.

I guess I could say, like I always do, that I'd never been formally trained in music. Technically though, that's not completely true. When I was a little girl, I had several years' piano lessons.

My first teacher was a family friend. I was her very first student. I don't know how she did it, being so young and inexperienced that she was then, but she was amazingly patient and taught me very well. I lost her, however, when my family moved away from that town. The second teacher I had taught piano for a living, and made it so, extremely obviously. My third piano teacher was better than the second, though not much. She taught without passion, and frowned upon questions. I didn't like that at all. It was 5 or 6 years since my first lesson, when I stopped going for them (... and started writing my first "book"). I was somewhere between Grade 4 and 5, I think. Right now, I'd place myself at Grade -1.

I don't know how I fared as a music student - though I guess I must not have excelled, for I don't recall having garnered any praises from my teachers, nor admiration of family members and friends. The only thing I remember, is how my teachers always reprimanded me for banging too hard on their piano keys. I remember I learned The Blue Danube (an arranged-for-children version, of course) while with my second teacher, and once, when visiting, played it for my first teacher. She hid a smile while I was at it, and when I was done, told me that the beautiful waltz was meant for ladies in elegant ball gowns to dance to, not for stomping elephants. I was a little indignant; had I known then, how my final teacher would put it (= "STOP pounding on my NEW piano!!!"), I'd have appreciated the humour and sugar-coating a lot more.

I'd previously written a very brief note on getting my guitar (= here). Well, the Guitar Society was offering lessons at the time, and I thought - well, why not? I ended up going for 2 lessons in the span of a year, and only managed to learn ONE complete song (the easiest of them all, of course) before the poor thing was confined to its god-forsaken corner for years.

If it wasn't for my joining YKLS last year (and also being somewhat obsessed with Jason Mraz), and thus rekindling my yearning to play the instrument, it would still be in its solitary confinement.

So, yes, I can play a miserable couple of songs miserably on my miserable guitar; I can read a little music (though hardly enough to manage sight-singing); I believe I can play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the piano...

But no, I am not a musician. I love music and would love to do more musically, but unfortunately, I am unworthy to be termed a musician. As yet.

And no, I couldn't tell you where you could get a decent guitar. I couldn't tell you where you could get affordable lessons. I couldn't tell if there are teachers who teach with patience and passion. Still, I wish you all the best in your quest.

Now, I should stop writing and go practice some...