Category Archives: Family

Off to Europe I go!

It has finally happened. After a year of planning, I am actually visiting Europe! I’ve been in the UK for three years now, and as much as Edinburgh is gorgeous, I have also wistfully eyed the magical-seeming lands of Paris and Switzerland, and clung to the tales of seasoned travellers.

And now it’s happening. My parents and family friends have landed in Edinburgh, and in two hours we will be making our way to Glasgow, and on to London where our month-long coach tour will begin. I wonder what will happen?

Will I see Italian hunks as beefy as Scotland’s?

Will I stalk the flowers of Florence and the stems of Slovenia?

WILL I GET TO HUG A GRECIAN COLUMN?

Time will time! Seriously, I don’t know how the coach tour guides do it. After only two days of showing my parentals around Edinburgh, I am dead tired. And I hardly did anything but point them to places and utter, “This historic. This pretty. Take pictures of it.”

I don’t plan to be idle on my Europe journey, however. I’ve got my novel simmering in my netbook, and I hope to tinker with it, editing-wise, in my spare time.

(What’s that? Are those knowing snickers I hear in the background?)

Onwards and upwards!

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Filed under Books, Family, Malaysia, Novel, Triumph, Writing

Once More for the Skies, Dear Friends

Pretty in spring

I’m back. Again. Hello, anyone!

A lot can happen in six months. Or seven. I can’t believe how quickly time has passed. And when the days fly past, part of me can’t help but feel guilty on days when I’m not squeezing every drop of creative brain juice possible onto the page by the time the clock hits bedtime.

But as a friend pointed out, I need Sanity Breaks too!

I’ve needed a lot of Sanity Breaks this year.

Here is a quick summary – Good and Bad – of what’s happened/happening since February.

  • I had the most amazing time in Texas – yay!
  • I returned home safely to Edinburgh (I swear!)
  • I had one  short story published in an anthology
  • I’m halfway to editing my Malaysian urban fantasy novel (faster! *cracks whip*)
  • I’ve been frantically planning a trip to Europe this month with my parents – woo!
  • I’ve been working full-time in a clothing store since April – double yay!

Yes, after months of agonising, dread and drama, I finally chased down that most elusive quarry – a permanent full-time job in the UK. Pity it took a year before I could corner it, but better late than never, at least!

A summer view outside my window

The sad thing about it? My visa expires this year on Dec 10, and that means I must go home to Malaysia, leaving behind a gorgeous city and amazing, amazing friends. And because I’d be disappearing the whole month of October for my Europe trip, I had to resign from my job end of September. No company was going to let me beam off the planet for a month and take me back another month, only for me to disappear into the Delta Quadrant when December hits. Unless you were a Very Nice company.

It’s been an incredible experience nonetheless, these past few months, working in the clothing store. But that’s a story for another day.

The Bad News

The downside? Let’s just say I’ve had a bit of an emotional crisis. The kind that involves family, challenges your sense of identity and esteem, and bitchslaps when you choose to butt heads against walls people have built an entire lifetime. The kind of crisis that makes you want to curl in bed and give up.

I have to admit: May, June were tough months. It was hard to concentrate. I had the emotional equivalent of train wrecks stuck on Repeat in my brain. I spent months questioning who I am, what I am, what I should be.

Even now, with the Europe trip of a lifetime about to kick off in just four days…well, some days are hard.

But guess what?

I’m still here, still writing, still living and reaching for the Dream.

I am Rocky Balboa. I am Jean Grey. I am hunger and anger and joy and pain, and I am NOT giving up. Blue skies, ahoy!

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Filed under Depression, Family, Malaysia, Novel, State of Mind, Work, Writing

My 1st Role-Playing Game, or Day 20 NaNoWriMo

My first RPG. With much thanks to HMTKSteve and Acaeum for the picture!

Twenty years ago, more or less, I played a thief character in a role-playing game called Dungeons & Dragons Basic.

It was my first such game, and I was still unsure about pretending to be someone else, with statistics, in a fantasy world. The only thing I knew for sure was, I love fantasy!

My friend Freda was the game master, and between the two of us, she put my thief character through a simple adventure I can no longer remember. We were armed with nothing but sheets of paper, pencils and erasers, dice…and our imaginations.

The two things that stuck from that first game was:

1) My char’s life points were so low a single hit from an enemy could kill me.

2) The memory of my thief stepping on a log to cross a river, only for this ‘log’ to actually be a crocodile chomping for my leg!

It’s an old chestnut now, this classic trap. But ahh, those were wild and exciting days, this idea that I could explore imaginary worlds and take on the role of a character who wasn’t this shy, introverted, damaged girl.

For reasons that remain unclear to me, Freda wandered away, and I was desperate to play it again. I played gamebooks, highly enjoyable solo adventures but it wasn’t the same. I needed people. I need…a party of fellow adventurers.

Trouble was, I was in Malaysia. And NO ONE knew what this Ar-Pee-Gee thing was. I resorted, then, to desperate measures: I recruited family members.

Actually, ‘recruited’ is too mild a word. I shanghaied them. Cajoled. Poked and bullied my mystified brother and cousins  into a room where somehow we sat down with a minimum of chaos and played. I wanted to be a player instead of the storyteller, but I had no choice. I had to be the gamemaster. I had the rules, and it was me who ran the show.

Little did I know it, but that was my first exposure to public speaking. I remember stammering, nervous shuffling through sheets of paper, my voice quavering while desperately describing scenarios that would hold the interest of arguably one of the toughest audiences of all.

We had some fun times, I recall, with my finest moment involving a monstrous cyclops and a mirror and my brother and cousins resorting to hilarious ways of bringing it down. I smile at the memory, but I still wanted someone else to run the show.

My Latest Adventure

Some would say I’m now on the greatest adventure of all – having given up a cushy job to fly halfway across the world to this exotic land of Scotland. I’m dirt poor, but exceedingly happy. For one thing, I’ve found a new gaming group, and good friends to play with.

The game is Anima, an anime-inspired RPG. I play yet another thief character named Sevren Gale, who has some minor, ahem, people issues and is somewhat attached to his crow companion, Kai.

Its been ages since I played with a group, and it shows. And I’m no longer quite the girl I was before. Each time I play, however, I get practice expressing myself in a storytelling format. And really, anything that can make you do that, and open your mind to worlds of wonder and possibility, doesn’t deserve the label of a mere game for “children or geeks”.

(I am, however, unashamedly geek).

For those interested, here’s a brief extract from a session report:

Sevren forgets the lord’s name as soon as he hears it. He’s too busy staring at the man’s damn house – a thousand slum families could probably fit into the place.

As usual, he lets Ya’el do the talking while Sevren sits, trying to decide if it was worth making off with the silverware. Their employer – ugh, what was his name? Sevren decides to call him Lord High and Mighty – was telling them about how his daughter had been kidnapped. Just when Sevren’s thinking this was going to be a rescue mission, Lord High and Mighty adds his daughter was returned unharmed after he’d paid her ransom.

“But,” LHM says, seething, “I want those bastards who kidnapped her to pay. Honour must be satisfied!”

That’s when Sevren looks up from scratching Kai’s feathers. “Wait a minute. You’re telling me the kidnappers gave her back, alive, and you want us to go after them? You already paid them. They fulfilled their part of the bargain.”

LHM booms something about justice and honour and all that shlock, and Sevren has to pull Ya’el to one side.

“Something is not right here,” Sevren hisses to her. “What is a nobleman of his rank doing recruiting for people in a seedy tavern? He has people to do that sort of thing for him. The guild of fighters, for instance. Something is fishy here.”

Ya’el argues with him (she seems to want to do this stupid job for some reason) and Sevren argues right back. In the end, the thief agrees to go along with LHM’s revenge mission. Mostly because enough money was offered for it to go right into Sevren’s head.

The next thing he knew, LHM was taking about some Orin Doom person who led the group of bandits that kidnapped the girl. Sevren definitely got the idea that two people were not going to take on that band in their fortress.

“We need to outsource,” Ya’el says to him.

LHM next jabbers about something interesting. An air ship known as a Zeppelin was going to make its maiden voyage from Holdfast to Daal, where from there their merry band could make their way to the bandits’ hideout.

“I will get you passage on that voyage,” the lord says.

Sevren sighs happily. Kai would like that.

NaNoWriMo Word Count

33828 / 50000 words. 68% done!

To recap: my mission this month of November – to do NaNoWriMo by day, my other Malaysian novel by night, and blog about something vaguely interesting every day of November. So far I am surviving!

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Filed under Books, Family, Fantasy, Gamebooks, Malaysia, Novel, Photography, Role-Playing Game, State of Mind, Triumph, Writing

My ‘Boyfriend’, or Day 10 NaNoWriMo

Friday again, and that means it’s back to my restaurant night job, something I look forward to with utter rapture, I can tell you. Let’s see if the kitchen staff continue to give me grief.

On the plus side, I notice the restaurant people have stopped asking me whether I have a boyfriend. This was months after a ploy of mine that involved, ahem, borrowing a colleague from my temporary job, and asking (okay, begging) him to pretend to be my boyfriend.

That’s right, we had a ‘pretend’ date in the same restaurant I work. Horrible, I know, but I actually enjoyed dinner with the boy, who was charming and very sporting about the plan.

Anyway since then, the restaurant people have stopped nagging me about my relationship status, which is a relief. Before that they tried to set me up with someone, something that has already happened to me twice!

I know they mean well, but I swear, it’s like there’s something genetically ingrained in the Chinese people to find out whether you’ve been grafted by the hip to anyone yet.

Once I had a Malaysian colleague who expressed surprise that I didn’t plan to marry anytime soon. Shaking her head, she cited how the Bible said that we should “go forth and multiply”, adding that women even have a duty to bear children.

I can’t remember what I replied, but one thing I do feel strongly about:

  • I don’t need to be married for my life to be complete.
  • I don’t need to have a partner to be content or even happy – although I do admit it can get lonely around Christmas or Chinese New Year. But isn’t that what parents, siblings and friends are for?
  • I feel I am still getting to know myself. And I can barely look after myself, kitchen disasters notwithstanding. How can I be expected to care for another human being?
  • Selfish as it is, I’m enjoying my privacy and independence too much to give it all up, and yeah, people knowingly say someday I’ll meet that someone I would be willing to make the Ultimate Sacrifice for. But until then I am having too much fun!

Man, I don’t how I suddenly ended up ranting about singlehood. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Christmas is coming around, and I’m feeling a little melancholy. I know this is my ‘fault’, but at least I can feel thankful I have so many friends to take the place of where partner and children would be!

Some years ago, I decided to have a serious talk with my parents.

I asked them if it was all right I didn’t marry yet. After all, I was the only daughter in a (mostly) Chinese family, and I was already about 26 or 28. In Malaysia, much of the older generation still expects you to marry around a certain age, and there’s bound to be pressure when the next social gathering comes along and the relatives cheerfully ask you when is that big day.

But my mom said: “As long as you’re happy, we’re happy.”

I don’t know if they realise it, but my parents have given me the greatest gift of all. They’ve given me love and support, but most of all they have given me the freedom to choose how I wish to live my life.

Perhaps someday God will direct me to someone I’ll live the rest of my life with. Until then I can only humbly enjoy this gift of happiness.

Speaking of happiness…

Report Card

Arghhh! Still on massive Skyrim envy, torturing myself with every video game review I do not quite read. A friend installed the game a few hours ago, and I can only vainly listen to snippets of non-quite-but-verging-on spoilers.

Tackled more of the NaNoWriMo yesterday! And 600 more words of Malaysian Dark. I must finish my Malaysian novel! I am aiming for December to finish first draft.

10am. Must sleeeeeeep.

17330 / 50000 words. 35% done!

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Filed under Books, Computer Games, Family, Fantasy, Malaysia, Novel, Photography, Skyrim, State of Mind, Triumph, Work

My Ode to Spam, or Day 9 NaNoWriMo

Couldn’t make my word count yesterday. I was so sleepy I could only achieve some 300 words last night.

I swear, it had something to do with the fact that firstly, I slept the day before at 10.30am (my fault), only to be awakened two hours later by the gorgeous, maddening smell somewhere of frying spam.

Yes, Spam.

Malaysians also call it luncheon meat. But apparently according to my friend Alison, luncheon meat in Scotland is more luxurious, whereas spam is just “things with gristle in them”. Euw.

I have such fond memories of spam! I used to fry luncheon meat with tobasco sauce, front and back, then make a sandwich with mustard and more tobasco sauce. The fumes of cooking tobasco sauce would smack into your face like a freight train of chilli shipments. A spam sandwich is seriously awesome with butter, but luncheon meat is juicy even without. Mmmmmn.

We’ve eaten spam with anything! Chopped into cubes for fried rice, fried it with eggs… heck, some creative people have even made sushi out of it. How wonderful is that?

I would so eat that.

Inspired, I shall now compose my ode – well, more like haiku since poetry is not my thing – to SPAM.

Oh Spam how sinful

you sing, hot with buttered bread 

and cholesterol.

Grieving for Skyrim

Tomorrow, 11.11.11, Skyrim releases into the world, and I can only weep. I have literally waited months and months for this video game that would make up for Dragon Age 2 as the ultimate computer RPG.

But come tomorrow, I won’t be one of those bloodthirsty fans getting it, simply because I can’t afford it yet.

Again Skyrim joins the long list – Dragon Age 2, Fallout New Vegas, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Mass Effect 2 and Witcher 2 – of video games I am waiting patiently to play. Like a piranha waiting for that fat tourist who’s just prematurely peeled off his foot scab to dip toes into the Amazon river.

Not only is Skyrim ridiculously expensive at launch time, but I’ve told myself I will only allow myself to play the games when I’ve finished the Malaysian novel. And I’m so close! I can sense blood in the water!

Let’s see, which will I play first… Ooh, decisions, decisions.. Probably Fallout New Vegas, first, at least until the price for Skyrim drops.

Skyrimmmmm.

Right. Should get back to the writing. Ahem, carry on.

14374 / 50000 words. 29% done!

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Filed under Books, Computer Games, Deus Ex, Dragon Age, Fallout, Family, Fantasy, Food, Malaysia, Mass Effect, Novel, Procrastination, Skyrim, State of Mind, Witcher, Writing

A Tree Hit my Brother, or Malaysia at her ‘best’

Last week, my brother told me a story that left me unsure whether to smirk at him or shake my head at human nature.

First of all, he casually announces on Skype: “Don’t tell Mum and Dad yet, but I had a road accident.”

As someone who’s suffered the ordeal of three accidents myself (two of them were not my fault!), naturally I sat up with, “What? What happened? Are you hurt? Tell!”

Thank God he seemed all right save for slight whiplash, and after making sure he’d had it checked I started bombarding him with questions like the former nosy journalist I was. I had to egg him for answers, because my bro was being thick-headedly evasive.

“A tree hit me,” he drawled. At first he implied a tree had fallen across the road. And that he was alone.

Turns out he was just being a male too sheepish to admit he’d been driving a car with a group of friends, and they were listening and laughing at this catchy song named Black and Yellow (Warning: Known to Cause Embarassing Motor Accidents) for about 30 seconds when my bro Mart suddenly noticed he’d left the brake lock on. He couldn’t brake when he needed, and not wanting to collide into the other cars, he went over a curb, hoping the gravel there would slow his vehicle.

Not really. What did stop the car was the big mother-effing tree that embraced him like the arms of Mama Nature. He was too shocked to do anything, like, swerve.

-WHAMKERUNCH-

The hood was completely totalled, and what made my bro – a Christian church youth counseller – feel especially bad was that one of the young people in the back hit his head after forgetting to belt up. Apparently the teen even blacked out a bit, and afterwards went on Facebook to change his profile picture to a badge declaring the words ‘Wear Your Seat Belt!’.

But thankfully, no one was seriously hurt.

“Oh it’s not over yet,” my bro wearily added.

The Vultures

As is always the case in Malaysia when you have an accident, the roaming towtruck drivers magically swooped in on the scene, offering to pull the vehicle for a discreet price to be worked out with the insurance people. My bro however had already called his dealer who would send their own towtruck. The street towtruck drivers however persisted, rattling off in Chinese, a language my brother doesn’t understand. When pestered, he claims he held up a hand to firmly but politely tell them in English he did not need their services.

One driver however took offense and started mocking him, thinking he was being snobbish. “Ohhhhh, like that one ah, ah you? Like that one, ah?” my bro mimicked for me, to my amusement.

The guy kept heckling my bro until the police arrived. The cops spent time directing traffic along and by their presence, shutting up the hecklers. My distressed bro was so grateful he later approached the policemen to thank them, only to be startled when they casually asked him for a little “contribution” for their hard work.

Unsurprised, I asked Mart what did he do.

“I pretended not to hear them and walked away,” he said.

Then the dealer’s Insurance Dude arrived, and he accompanied my bro to the police station to lodge a report. Before they went in however, Insurance Dude turned to my brother to say, “Oh by the way, this accident involves a 300 ringgit fine.” A whopping sum equivalent to US$100 or GBP£60. “But if you want, I can arrange to reduce it to 200, no problem.”

Mart, however, was sceptical. He hadn’t asked for a reduction, and what was the reason for it? My bro said No, that’s okay, he was in the wrong and he will pay the summons/fine.

Not the End of the Story

My bro's patented 'What the heck are you doing?' look. He says this to me a lot for some reason.

So Mart goes in to lodge the police report where they ask him the usual questions of how the accident could have possibly happened etc.

Everything squared, the cop turned to my bro to say, “Oh, by the way, if you want I can reduce the summons to 150 ringgit, no problem.”

That’s when Mart, telling me this on Skype chat, scrunches up his face to ask me, “Is there something going on in the air here!?”

A little background: The Malaysian government, promising to crack down on corruption and address the bruised reputation of the police force, have been running a series of anti-rasuah (bribery) campaigns. They spent money on anti-corruption commercials. Vowed to revamp the Anti-Corruption Agency (which has since changed his name some years ago). They’ve tokenly charged a couple of people for giving and receiving bribes, and sometimes hauled in some high-ranking blokes in government agencies for corruption – although rarely the Big Fish, one might notice. All to deter what is often seen as the Number One Problem in Malaysia.

To put this into perspective, in the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index, Malaysia ranked 56 out of some 178 countries – beating Cuba, Rwanda, Italy, Romania, Brazil and Greece, but losing to nations like  Saudi Arabia, Poland, South Korea, China and the US and UK.

For a while, Malaysian policemen were even required to wear ‘I am Anti-Bribe’ badges on their uniforms. Judging by the various accounts going around, this didn’t stop irony-loving cops from asking for “contributions” from motorists anyway. If these accounts were mistaken, there does  seem to be an awful lot of these stories going around.

But sad to say, it’s fairly common for cops to stop a motorist further down the road for, say, speeding, and for the motorist to agree and pay something to “make the problem go away”. It happens so often it just doesn’t surprise me any more.

The Answer

In any case, my bro was firmly against bribery and had the sinking feeling the policeman was going to take a cut somewhere from that “150 ringgit, no problem”. He tried to say No.

Naturally the cop asked why.

“This isn’t bribery, don’t worry!” the cop insisted in Malay. “This is how it’s done. It’s all legal. You don’t have to worry.”

I asked my bro what did he do. He was alone in a police station, in shock, whip lashed, battered, bewildered, a new father anxious to return to his baby and wife. He wasn’t exactly earning that much with his salary either.

He finally let the cop have his way.

“I wasn’t sure what to do,” he sighed. He sounded ashamed of himself.

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Filed under Family, Malaysia

Must. Not. Panic.

After a Skype chat conversation with my parents, I was fighting to breathe normally. They love me, I know they do, and I knew they were being practical. And they are right. They are not getting any younger. And I needed to earn rent money.

The message hit harder because I was feeling good yesterday, optimistic. I’d just submitted a short story somewhere, to possibly be performed in public. I was finishing a first draft. I was getting there. I knew I was.

I felt a bit better after submitting another application to Pizza Hut and KFC (I have a weakness for fried chicken ;P) and contacting Nando’s, with the manager kindly telling me to submit a CV at their restaurant. A farm I’d emailed a few days ago got back to me saying there were no vacancies, but would keep my details – I thought it was very nice of them to respond. The other day, I’d sent 12 applications to a sandwich bar.

Later I looked up street fundraising, and stared at the list of requirements if I wanted to apply:

Can I strike an instant rapport with people? Can I turn hesitation into action, reluctance into commitment? Can I take rejection on the chin, support my team mates, handle all weathers and put my message across convincingly? Well, can I? If it’s a resounding “Yes, Yes, Yes!” just fill in our–

Breathe.

Okay, get it together.  You can do this.

Make a list. Do it in order of priority.

Keep writing.

Update: KFC rejected me! Argh! I will never have fried chicken again! Boo hiss! …Mmm. Chicken nuggets…

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Filed under Depression, Family, Work, Writing