Saturday, December 30, 2006

Of Slow Internet, Coffee and Old Movies.

Since the Internet connection got disrupted a couple of days ago from the earthquake in Taiwan, I've been spending quite the little time sitting in front of the computer doing who-knows-what! I mean, the connection is so slow that it takes almost forever to load my Flickr page and nearly impossible to sing in into MSN. Even if I managed to sign in, which I did for a brief moment like just now, instant messages just go 'poof' in the air, leaving the other party dazed by what I'm trying to say. But I guess the whole Internet hold up is the main cause of the chaos in most offices with working men and women running amok around cubicles, pulling their neckties and hair in frustration for taking about half an hour just to get an email sent and CEOs wailing helplessly and beating the ground at the end-year riffraff being hung up by the sudden break down of the ever so trusted Internet!

Still, I'm not convinced by the chaotic scene that mom suggested happened in her office after tonight's visit to the local Starbucks where I saw people solving online sudokus with their laptops while sipping on their latte. Starbucks was practically filled with people that for a moment, I thought they were holding a Christmas party and drinks were on the house. It had me fooled, you know, with the tinsels and Santa hats still lying around their counters where the line never seemed to have moved an inch. Frustrated, I didn't get my coffee, which is surprising, considering how many people were walking in and out of the place with cups of coffees held near to their chest. I wasn't comfortable with the crowd, I guess. Besides, there wasn't any free spaces left for me to enjoy my coffee. All the seats in the house were occupied by businessmen and sales executives, trying to sell their thing, if not, by the local after work crowd who's getting some steam off on a Friday night.

Judging from the scene at Starbucks, I assumed that the Internet must be up and running already, albeit a little slow it may be. I wasn't even bothered to check when I got home, instead, I got glued to the TV when I saw Must Love Dogs on HBO after a short glimpse of the ending part of Taxi. I've never watched it before and after reading the short info, decided to give it a shot. I mean, why not? It's a Friday night and I'm alone and a romantic movie seems to be the best remedy to cure the heart (if it was ever broken in the first place!). Not exactly a fan of either Diane Lane (whom, to me, looks a lot like Catherine Zeta Jones) or John Cusack (never got the chance to finish America's Sweetheart either!), if you ask me but it was a nice movie, nevertheless. Pretty much deals with reality as well. They've got the whole online dating thing going on. Who ever knew that online dating could be so effective in looking for the perfect one? Especially when you have your profile in, as many as, 10 websites!

After the credits, I flipped the channel over to StarMovies and caught an hour (or less) of Alien Vs. Predator. I've watched the movie before but I wasn't going to sleep yet and suddenly, the movie felt so intriguing that it became hard for me to switch channels. Must be all that corrosive green ooze, dripping saliva and freaky looking beings with tails, popping out from the human stomach that attracted me. Seems like the perfect combination for a geek like me at that time. Couldn't remember when was the last time I watched the movie that it all seemed new to me. I even screwed my face up and almost barfed when those little monsters hatched from their eggs. Or maybe it was the sheer joy of watching their heads being blown up by guns, when their ooze get splattered all over the place! Then I thought, it must be scary to be in the middle of a war between two unknown creatures that we never knew existed. Must be painful also to be scarred on the cheek with the letter 'T'! Seriously, sci-fi movies aren't my kind of thing.

And then, I managed to catch another hour of Anacondas : The Hunt For The Blood Orchid on Cinemax after the credits rolled on after AVP. I've also watched the movie before on DVD, a while back I suppose. Was slightly unsure about what's going to happen next in the movie. Not sure what it was, though, that held me back from turning the channel or switching the TV off and go to bed. Man, it felt like I was just watching it for the first time. My heart was pumping as well when the anacondas were on a hunting rampage, chasing down the next victim for dinner. And I must admit, watching the final four of the survivors, desperately searching for the way out when the got stuck in the underground cave, kind of bring back old memories of my Gua Tempurung trip about a year ago. Crawling (sometimes swimming) under sharp and possibly murderous stalactites which are an inch away from contact, submerging completely into the ice-cold water and with only a flashlight to lead the path ahead. Yeah, those were great times. Of course, mine didn't involved running breathlessly away from a flesh-eating gigantic snake!

Trust me, I'm not the kind of person who can watch a movie for over a million times no matter how good the movie could be. I just wouldn't get the thrill of knowing what's going to happen next and memorized lines. But this time, it was weird that I watched 3 movies in a night. Kind of an amazing feat, I think. At least now I know, the internet connection's much better, compared to the past few days. I can finally log in into my Flickr page (not sure about posting photos yet) and my feeds are all up and working already. Of course, don't forget to put that fact that it's not peak hours now into consideration. I'd better go get some sleep now before the sun rises. *yawns*

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

This Is Christmas To Me : Rush Hour.

It's fast, isn't it? 2 months back, I was so impatient for Christmas to get here when my speakers were blaring out Christmas carols at the beginning of October. Now, I'm left with my mouth wide agape, blinking at the dust trails torn gift wrappers Christmas has left me with, struggling to digest the fact that the day that I've been waiting for for an entire year has come and gone, and the wait begins again - another year through. I'm slowly picking my jaw up from the floor, staring blankly at the new year ahead and the most dreaded new school term. Damn it. I never thought it'd be so soon. The dust collected on the ornaments of the Christmas tree are visible, the airing of Christmas movies on HBO and Hallmark are slowly dispersing before the new calender replaces the old on my wall, the strong, howling winds of December are slowly disappearing and Christmas decorations in malls are being removed.

Christmas this year was a big blur. Everything and everyone was in a hurry. No one really had a quiet time to sit down and catch up with each other over some wine and some background music. Come to think of it, no one even sat down and had a family meal this year. Everything just seemed to happen so fast. Relatives from afar made their way back to Penang on the very last minute and were already packing their bags to go back on Boxing Day. There was so little time, you know. Our family too had caroling, on Christmas night itself, and we had to attend the Christmas day mass, already taking up most of the time needed to wait under the Christmas tree for presents with the other cousins. Oh, there weren't any presents to wait for anyway - except the wallet I got from tai yi. Mom thought it'd be nice to skip the presents this year in respect of kong kong, you know. And caroling is a very tedious job, for your information. Singing isn't really that easy when you're singing with waves roaring behind your back, in open air.

Heck, even Grace left us on Christmas day. Grace was back for a whole month (since 25th of Nov.) from her break. It was indeed nice to have her for thirty days. All the shopping spree we did together, messing around in changing rooms and rummaging through piles of clothes, hissing at other people, the time catching up on blockbusters in my room, practically staying up till dawn, and the food. Oh well, good times. Anyway, her varsity was kind of inconsiderate to be starting their classes on the 26th of December itself, making it impossible for students to get back in time for classes without missing Christmas. Penang is a 5 hour (4 or 3 hours if speeding) drive to KL. What about those living further away? I told her to skip a day of class and go back on 26th but since the arrangements couldn't go that way, she decided to cut Christmas short. So we had to send her off to her ride (Joe's aunt who had promised to give her a ride) on Christmas, which really sucks.

Christmas this year definitely wasn't like the previous years. I really don't know why. It definitely wasn't what I had in mind - a cozy little gathering with dad, mom, Grace, Edmund and me, at home, watching Christmas movies on HBO (or even DisneyChannel) or listening to Christmas carols, with the light dimmed, while sharing a whole box of Haagen Dazs and Famous Amos' pecan nut chocolate chip cookies with one another and just simply talking (maybe I could even get some good shots!). But who ever knew Christmas would turn out as such a blurred occasion this year, only a trail of blinking green and red light was all I can remember now. Not to mention the sadness of Grace leaving. Or was it because of kong kong's death? I felt no solemnity, though. Oh well, whatever it is that caused the rush this year, let's hope it wouldn't happen next year. Anyhow, I still have half a box of coffee flavored Haagen Dazs ice-cream left in the fridge and I don't suppose anyone will touch it, besides me.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Eve Excitement.

It's Christmas Eve, everybody and I just woke up at precisely 4 a.m., took a shower and have dressed up to attend mass on later at 7 a.m.. I don't know what it was that woke me up, though. Was it the excitement that Christmas is finally here after a whole year's worth of wait? Or was it the heat and warmth of the night that woke me up from sleep? Because I woke soaking wet and with face greasy and all. Not a pretty sight, I tell you. Or maybe it's the sheer nervousness that I still have in me, knowing that I have to read later on during mass? Hell, I've been one in the Lectors Ministry of my church for about 3 years now and I still get nervous whenever the week I'm rostered approaches. Was actually reluctant to go back to sleep, knowing it'll be an ass for mom to wake me up later at 5.30 a.m.. No harm in starting the day early, right? It's Christmas Eve and everybody is back. There'll be our annual gathering tonight at poh poh's. There'll be our caroling. We're gonna collect the turkey, later today (yeah, we're technically incapable of whipping up one ourselves!). Mom and akak are busy preparing food for tonight and tomorrow, something sweet, I assume. Oh, how merry! A long day ahead for everyone! Till then!

Friday, December 22, 2006

My Baby Loves Me Just The Way That I Am.

You know how when one grows up, they lose all their baby fat and starts looking like a twig plucked from a branch from the tree of stereotypes out there? Let's not touch about those hung-only-by-the-crotch-and-ass baggy pants and the three-striped sneakers just yet. But you do know that once puberty begins (especially for boys) they start shedding off all their chubby cheeks, extra tyres and those flabs under the arms and starts to gain the oh-so-desired slim look with protruding cheek bones and the ultimate six packs and probably a couple of toned biceps? Gee... I wished I went through my puberty like that too. Nah! My puberty consisted of a lot of eating and non-stop growing - unhealthy habits, I know, but I was never afraid of food, in general, and neither mom nor dad (or anyone else for that matter) ever came in between my and me.

Of course, there's always the disgusted look when my excess baggage is obvious and there's always the so called "advices" from so called "people who cared". In fact, they just dislike the way my shit sometimes sticks to my body and being fat is my one true obvious weakness that they can pin me down at. I've been putting up with that for about 16 years now and has practically grown numb to the snide remarks about the size of my stomach, legs and hands, by aunts and other people behind my back. It really doesn't offend me now when people tell me I should go do a marathon every day. However, I still get depressed at times, about my over-sized stomach and occasionally, my BMI results whenever I pass by the men's brief section in a supermarket, seeing all those underwear models on the boxes of Pierre Cardin or Renoma. I mean, I do have times when I feel down and depressed over the size of my body that I just wish I had someone else's body instead of mine and if I could just slice off the extra meat...

Well, I got upset all over again when I saw how good looking and slim Grace's ex-schoolmates' brothers have grown and become into. When Grace comes back to town, she always meets up with her ex-schoolmates. You know, a chat over some coffee to get the latest juices and whereabouts of other people they know. Being the little brother that I am, I'm always tailing her around. But most of the time, her appointment clashes with our shopping time that I'm usually stuck with her, drinking coffee at Starbucks or dropping by at their houses. Grace was one of the few people in her clique who had a younger brother, all about the same age as I am. So when I saw one of the brothers at the mall and the other at his home, I got worked up about my looks again. I've met these guys before, probably more than a couple of times and have witnessed the change in their looks every time we saw each other (every time our sisters met). We never talk to each other, though. Funny.

"How come your friends' brothers are all grown up and they look good at their age but not me? I'm still fat and still waiting desperately for my baby fat to shed, if it's still even considered baby fat!" I went on ahead and ask Grace in frustration. "Those aren't baby fat anymore, I tell you. Trust me, you are way past that time!" she said, pointing at my tummy, the size of a three month pregnant lady's, before she added, "I don't think that you don't look good anyway." I never expected her answer would be so comforting. It's not the fact that I'm contented with myself that my sister thinks I'm hot (she still doesn't!). It's more to the fact that she doesn't see me being fat as ugly. We have always joked about my fat, but never did she once taunt me for being the way that I am and never did she once, was ashamed of me. Same goes to the rest of the family, I guess. Grace took the liberty and shared my frustration with mom and dad later in the car.

Grace: Mom, Matt asked me how come why he still looks so fat and ugly when the rest of my friends' brothers have already started developing their six packs. I told him that he's crazy for thinking so and that I don't think he's ugly.
Mom: Of course lah! You already look good the way you are. I seriously don't think you're fat. Maybe a little over-sized for your age?
Dad: Haiya, how can you think like that? It's not the exterior that matters. It's what's in you. You have special gifts from God and talents mah and those are the things that you should really worry on.
Mom: That's right! You're gifted with such a jovial heart and cheerful smile - especially when we try our hands on new cuisines - that you make everyone around you happy and light hearted. Not to mention that sweet mouth of yours.
Dad: Such low confidence!
Mom: If you grow any thinner, I might have to spend all my dime to renew your wardrobe lo!
Grace: You wouldn't be Matt then!

I was stunned by the response the family gave me. Serious! We've never actually discussed about how I feel about myself and I guess, this time, my low self-esteem showed when I feel pressured that the family went on a raving rampage to make me feel better about myself. And you know what? I did feel great after the short pep-talk by the people who really cared. In fact, I felt loved and appreciated for the person I was inside of me - not the person I am outside. I've never felt such a rush of anxiety before that I turned red after their every sentence. No words can described how I felt at that moment. That was really true love from the family - unconditional as it came! There were other things that they said that I couldn't much remember now above all those excitement. Of course, you can also say that parents always sees the best in their own child when it comes to this, but I doubt that. I could feel that they meant they're words. Really strong.

Still, it doesn't mean that mom and dad don't give any thoughts about what I put in through my mouth and my weight. Mom and dad are always there to stop me from going overboard (not that I depend on them on this). They have always thought I'd look a tad bit better if I could transform my protruding belly into something less, well, protruding. Apart from that, they have always taken account of my health too. They aren't strict at all on this. Just the occasional whisper in the ears of the dangers of high cholesterol and diabetes, which, thankfully, I have none. And I'm certainly not a greedy fat little pig with chocolate stains all over my mouth and cheeks with both hands balancing a turkey sandwich the height of my own body in front of a table full of macaroni and cheese, a whole turkey, mashed potatoes and the likes, chewing loudly! Certainly am not!

I have learned how to love myself and my body but I still think there's room for improvement. Likewise, my family members. No matter, it is nice to know that my family loves me for the inner me and my gifts at a time so near to Christmas. After all, not everyone out there are like my little cousins (Edmund especially) who have the luxury of someone to bounce on when I lay on my back, or to rub their faces on my cushion! It's also hard for the adults to resist rubbing their hands on my excess baggage like I was the Laughing Buddha. Hugging me has also become a comfort! Sometimes I think to myself, what would life be if I was all bones ans skin? I'll definitely won't have anyone who wish they could lay their heads on my wobbly lap or tummy! Till today, I still can't find my answer. It's scary to even imagine! Either way, as I always tell myself and Grace, there's always liposuction and plastic surgery to turn to. In the mean time, I'm putting all diet programs on hold.

Pass me that turkey breast and salad please, anyone? Oh, and the gravy too, please!

Christmas Carols.

SO what do you exactly have in mind when the traditional Christmas caroling gets mentioned? A group of friendly looking carolers, dressed warmly with cute little earmuffs, thick gloves and home-knitted sweaters, crunching the snow beneath their thick boots, as they knock on your door, before belting out glorious and wondrous all-time favorite carols compiled by themselves, without the help of any instruments, at your doorsteps, as they maintain their composure at the master of the house while singing from their books, bringing a smile to every member of the family, while withstanding the chill of the snow? Or maybe just a simple carol group consisting of a soprano, alto, tenor and bass, waltzing the streets and malls under multiple layers of winter clothing, bearing the Christmas cheer in the songs they sing, spreading the joy of Christmas to everyone they meet or greet? Sure, I do have that in mind.

Well, the closest thing we get here to snow is the ferocious wind howling in the middle of the night and the occasional thunderstorms accompanied by torrential kick-ass rain. Things really aren't what they seem to be in the movies. Caroling in my place has become sort of an overheated (literally) affair dealing with sweaty foreheads and palms, greasy faces under Santa hats, stuck-to-the-skin clothing and a being, dressed up in a Santa suit and mask that resembles nothing less than an abominable snowman! Seriously. Even if the abominable snowman wasn't in a red suit and black fishing boots, dancing horribly to the singing carolers, it still scares the shit out of little children! As far as I can register, carolers seem to be battling with the sweat, dripping down their noses, while practically panting their way through a song, gasping for air out of the tiredness from descending and ascending the bus, countless of times, visiting so many houses for that particular night. Or even worse, traveling by feet in the heat of the night, making their way across the thick bushes of Balik Pulau houses and embracing the mosquito bites only to arrive later than promised! Not exactly warm and cozy and enjoyable now, is it?

I guess it pretty much sucks. Ever since I was small, my caroling experience is basically all that. Can't remember anything to do with snow or a decently sung Christmas carol that doesn't wake the neighbors up. Not even one memory that doesn't include me hating the horrendous looking St. Nick jumping merrily like a monkey with a mask! Kind of a scary experience if you think of it? The least I can say is that growing up, I didn't really had to endure this monstrosity every single Christmas too. Oh, I can still remember that there was this one year when mom invited the carolers from church. All of us got worked up and excited while awaiting their arrival on that night but when they show up 2 hours later than expected, it got dad really pissed off and there goes the tradition of caroling. It was such a bad experience that none of us wanted to have carolers anymore thereafter and furthermore, the house really couldn't accommodate the amount of carolers!

There's also poh poh, who never fails to invite the carolers from Balik Pulau church every year to her home. She does it as a tradition and will get all of us back to her home when the carolers were to come. I mean, if none of us are there, she'd be the only one besides kong-kong, singing along with the carolers in Mandarin. I've never actually went back to poh poh's for the sake of the carolers - more for the pre-gathering with family members before Christmas. After all, the dressed-up Santa never fails to scare a younger (cousin) member of the family when distributing candies! And the amount of carolers are inexplicably large for a small town church. Plus, they don't sing in English. Poh poh invites the Mandarin speaking carolers every year, making me not understand a single word they say, besides the occasional mention of 'Christmas'. The place would be so crammed that taking pictures becomes hard also. But not this year. No carolers of any sorts (unless I "conduct" one with my cousins) because we're commemorating kong kong's death. Perhaps a silent dinner with all the family members should do.

Still, Christmas caroling in my context can mean a whole different experience when I'm one of the carolers in a uniform of a white shirt and red tie. Since we joined the choir group at church under the pursuits of Uncle G, 3 years back, we've been doing a little stint of caroling. I wouldn't actually consider ourselves carolers cause we are, in whatever way we put it, a choir and making a several visits to a couple of hotels per night isn't exactly caroling, is it? I don't how people come to know about our choir that hotels started requesting us to sing at their lobbies and restaurants for a handsome certain amount of fee that goes to the church or the choir fund itself for necessities like photocopying materials. Oh trust me, it was exciting at first but later, we find out through the hard way that it wasn't all that sparkling of a business. I mean, seeing those happy faces smiling back at us and being cheered and applauded at after every number sure brightens up the heart but...

We had to put up with demanding time requests like singing on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day itself. Family plans were jeopardized and a lot of planning has to be made around the requested time of performance. It sucks to know that all the other cousins are already gathered at poh poh's for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner (more to like supper) when we're still entertaining hotel guests. It's bad if you look at it like that but not when you think you're bringing the Christmas cheer to people who are far away from their homeland, celebrating Christmas in a whole new place. I'm alright with that. Hey, after all, Christmas time is about giving! Well, at least this year, we have only one hotel to bring our cheer to - Rasa Sayang Resort. Word has it, Uncle G refused to take up any offer from any other hotels because their offer was, the least to say, insufficient. Rasa Sayang Resort has also recently just finished their renovation making the place look as glamorous as ever! Obviously, caroling in hotels is much less than a sweaty affair!

Anyway, this year, Rasa Sayang Resort have already "booked" us on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day itself. There'll be another choir practice tonight at church - preparation for the caroling and Christmas Day mass. Yes, we're singing for mass on Christmas Day as well. See how busy it is? We've practically all gotten tired of complaining about having so little time to spend with relatives from near and far on Christmas Day already that we just go according to plan. It's been 3 years now and this would probably be the final year we're going to do this, seeing that Uncle G is leaving by New Year's. Oh well, let's not ponder about the sadder things. Christmas is approaching and the geese are getting fat there's a thousand things that still needs to be done - the turkey to collect, the house to clean, the food to prepare and all that follows. No matter, if you feel like it, drop by at Rasa Sayang Resort on Christmas Eve (7 p.m. - 8 p.m.) and on Christmas Day (8 p.m. - 9 p.m.) to watch us sing. Just a little Christmas cheer, you know. Something different from the sweaty, bland youths from your local church, leaving dirt and footsteps in your home, singing Mandarin Christmas carols!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

1 Guy, 5 Girls and 2 Rooms. (cont'd)

Pretty turned off by my surroundings by the end of the previous day, I decided that I had to at least get something out of this trip. I mean, the least they could to the place was put up a Christmas tree or play a carol or two, considering how near Christmas was then. But, no. The place was probably run by Malays who don't exactly share the same cheer with me. Oh, and the cable TV was airing The Ring at 12.00 a.m., which I fell asleep while watching. Initially, I thought that it was a petrifying and gut grabbing movie, perfect for the night, but no, even the stupid movie was disappointing. Or maybe it was because I've watched Scary Movie 3 which is a crazier version of the original The Ring, that I didn't find anything horrifying at all in the movie. Unsatisfied by everything, I decided that one way of satisfying myself was a good photoshoot.

The whole time, all I had in mind was to go over to the pier and hope for a good sunrise. I don't know what was it but all I wanted was a good sunrise. Deprived of sleep from the previous night, I woke up at exactly 5.30 a.m. (I really didn't want to take any chances) the next day to make sure that I get at least one good shot for home. Grace said she would drive me to the pier but seeing that she couldn't wake up, mom was nice enough to be my escort and akak tagged along too because she couldn't really sleep well. We reached the pier at 6 a.m. and the entire place was pitch black that even the lake wasn't visible at the end of the pier. I guess I woke up too early. Mom and akak were still yawning away, while I was prancing around with my camera when the sun finally broke out. I admit it wasn't the most spectacular sunrise I've ever seen but it's by far the best I've recorded. We stayed till 7.30 a.m. before I felt satisfied to let mom and akak off the hook and proceed to breakfast.

After breakfast, we went back to our rooms and bugged ah chiu to take us (Grace,Danushya and me) to the water theme park, since he stayed for the night, too tired to hit the road after countless of hours, gambling throughout the night with sam yi, Uncle Rao, mom and poh poh. After much thought, he decided to take all of us for a visit at the Orang Utan Island and the Ecopark. There was a brief boatride required from one end of the lake to the other. There's pretty much nothing to elaborate after that. We saw some orang utans at a small reserve that doesn't resemble an island at all, took another boatride back from the place to the Ecopark (which requires a lot of walking, not recommended for old people) where we saw animals living in the natural habitat and watched a far too rehearsed Animal Show by the park rangers before we headed back to Penang after lunch. Everything was in a rush (because we needed to check out at 2p.m.) and my mood to shoot was pretty messed up. I can only register everything as a blur now. Just enjoy the photos, if it's even near enjoyable.











Monday, December 18, 2006

1 Guy, 5 Girls and 2 Rooms.

Hold that kinky thought. Let me explain. Mom got off from work last Friday with 2 free rooms at the Bukit Merah Laketown Resort (BMLR), which is a 2 hours (1 and a half if you were speeding) drive from Penang. The free rooms, were actually obtained from mom's company. They have planned a 2 days, 1night team-building for the production department at BMLR and the head of the department canceled at the final minute when everything was set to go on Saturday. So the B.O.D, pissed for getting dissed at the last moment, handed the booked facilitation to mom's department because they couldn't cancel and everything was paid for already. There were altogether 11 booked rooms and buffet meals that needs to be filled in, so mom shared it out amongst her colleagues.

What we initially had in mind - the gleaming teak furnitures, crystal clear satellite TV with the mini refrigdgerator by the side filled with cans of cokes and bars of chocolates, plus the fluffy pillows and the fit-for-two bathtub not to mention, the 24-hour rooms service (the miraculously strewn bed after you get your morning breakfast, anyone?) - didn't turn out to be all that. It was far worse. I guess you can call us foolish for even thinking that big companies would provide that sort of luxury to their workers for a lousy 2 days team-building. Grace and I even secretly hoped that we'd get the villa overlooking the lake with a breathtaking view! But... what do you know? I mean, c'mon, it's a team-building! Things are meant to be lousy. So the rooms aren't exactly what we wished for. It turned out to be something like a small bedroom which mom calls as an apartment. You know, the usual skanky rooms for one night stands, with rotting furniture and a musty smell, not forgetting the dust. We practically turned sour out of disappointment after checking in. At least there was a great sky.



It's situated pretty faraway from the water theme park that BMLR stands famous for. Neither of us even knew that sort of place existed in the compounds of BMLR. We've been there a bunch of times, but never did we know they had cheaper rooms (at about RM120 per night) catered for the not so rich also, which happens to be us at that time. I mean, we're not rich but even if we knew about that particular facility in BMLR, we wouldn't even dare check in. Why even bother paying for lame services, right? Might as well just spend a day at the water theme park and get going back to Penang. Unless, of course, it's absolutely free, which in this case it is. Damn it, I make us sound like the same old Chinese people who can never resist anything that has the word 'free' imprinted on it! Are we? Gee... I'll have to make an exception for this case, though. Mom really wanted a weekend away and this trip came up so suddenly and she thought that it might be nice for the family but it turned out to be less than the vacation we had in mind - sunbathing at the sandy beaches at the Maldives. Nah.


Well, it may not turn out as the dream holiday I thought it would be. So what? No big deal. After all, we really couldn't afford any trips to the Bahamas right now and all we had to do was play along with the situation - as bad as it can be. I discovered that the family was really accept-what's-given-and-be-thankful kind of people. It was hard at first to accept the crappiness but after a while, you get used to it and instead of sulking over the miserable trip, you look at the bright side and make the best out of it. Really positive people, aren't we? Though, one thing that wasn't a turn off was the food. I guess the company knew the importance of food during a team-building, huh? You know, it wasn't exactly straight from the The Malaysian International Gourmet Festival but it was still edible. To be frank, it was just the traditional nasi kandar in buffet style.

The first day there wasn't entirely a let down. There was so much free time that we decided to play with poker cards (not play poker!). I've never been good at poker cards and the only games I play with it are children games like Monkey, Blaugh, Heart Attack and the likes. Of course, those doesn't require any reluctant money exchange or snide remarks - just pure fun. Learned a new way to play monkey while I was there. I think it's the older version of the current Monkey that we play nowadays, a more substantial one also. It gets addictive after some time, unlike the usual one that gets me all bored after ten mintues into the game with the little kiddies. Occasionally, I do play BlackJack (it's the easiest game isn't it?) with the elder cousins during Chinese New Year, exchanging only cents and pennies and no more. Even that gets me bored after a while. Other than that, the camwhore sessions with Grace, in which, she whores for my cam, were inevitable.


See, this trip came so suddenly that none of us had any prior planning for it, which pretty much explains why we had to miss a couple of farewell parties and church duties, unwillingly. That weekend itself, we already had plans to celebrate poh poh's birthday. The entire plan deterred when this trip showed up and when mom decided to bring poh poh along, and make as if this trip was planned for her. Each room, as stated, could only fit 3 persons, so we needed six people, including mom, Grace and me. Poh poh and Danushya (yeap, she's still here and she follows everywhere poh poh goes) has filled another two places, leaving us with one blank. After Carina refused to go, mom brought akak along. Later that night, mom called sam yi up too, see if she wanted to join us for the night, and on the way, bring a cake for poh poh. They're also just a 2 hours drive away. Ah Chiu also made a trip to BMLR and stayed for the night, all crammed in two rooms.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It Got Published!


YAY!! I did it! One of my photos got published in this month's Digital Camera Magazine (DCM)! It got me totally off-guard! I never expected that it will get published after submitting it through email a couple of months back. September, I think. I mean, I was absolutely bummed when I saw October's issue, when I happily flipped it to the Hotshots section where reader's photographers gets published as soon as I saw the magazine on the shelf of MPH, even before paying for it. I gave up hope of ever seeing it published entirely when I saw November's issue and probably because of that I had my so called "photographer's block". But who would ever thought that it'll finally get published in the last issue of the year!

I was out yesterday, at town, supposedly having another photoshoot with Grace but since dad and Edmund decided to tag along at the last minute, we end up spending time at the mall, considering how Christmas-sy it has already gotten over the past few weeks. It's nice to even loiter around and peeking in through the glass windows, wasting time, when the malls are playing all-time favorite Christmas carols. Not to mention the shops, which were also decked with boughs of holly and playing carols around the clock! I picked up my copy of DCM as usual, without even the mere thought of my shot getting published.

I wasn't even bothered to open it until I was in the car, on the way to pick mom up from work for a quick bite, when Grace wanted to read the magazine out of boredom. I removed the plastic and Edmund took the magazine from me, creating a colorful wave as he flipped over the pages, admiring the pictures. I snatched the magazine from his hand, afraid that he might cause bended edges (I hate dog ears on my books!) and just turned the pages dully. I've always been a fan of Hotshots, even though when my photo doesn't get published, it's still nice to see the work of some local photographers (especially if the photographer was from Penang!). So when I got a glimpse of my own face in the pages and the unmistakable favorite shot of mine of a red daisy, I went berserk in the car!

I practically screamed my head off in the car when I turned back the pages and stopped at page 76! Edmund was just screaming because I was screaming while Grace was screaming with me after I showed her the page when I passed the magazine to mom in the co-driver's seat. I was hugging Grace, letting it all out and was still screaming at the top pf my lungs, hardly able to believe that it was actually happening. I usually get my copy of DCM at the beginning of every month and I'm considering that I've got this month's pretty late. Then things just appear to be a blur after that. My heart was beating its way out of my chest and my throat was aching when I finally got settled down and took another good look at the page! It was really a moment for me cause the entire family was there when I got to know and that happens to be the best thing I could ask for, sharing the joy!

I couldn't help but realize that this was entirely my personal effort and I should be proud of it - which I totally am! Maybe no one pays much attention to the Hotshots section but I really don't mind. Dad asked me, "So, are you going to get paid?" before mom shot a frown at him and I explained it wasn't about payment or anything - just the pure fact of sharing my work with the rest of the world (who cares) is really more than enough for me. Hey, I'm not making any of this up. It happens to be how I think. If people appreciate it, then I have to be really grateful. And no, this is not about my excitement over my face appearing on a glossy page of a magazine. The self shot was a requirement with any submissions anyway and I'd rather not have any pictures of my appear. I'd prefer being the man behind the picture!

Still, it's entirely up to you to say that this is just a small matter and I'm just exaggerating things. The fact is, this IS a big deal for me and I'm really really glad that it got published. After all, how many times can a photography enthusiast get his work published in a prestigious photography magazine, right? The shot was one of my personal favorites from the many shots I get from my evening trips down my neighbors yards and lawns. I guess all that mosquito bites paid off now. I'm definitely not blowing my own trumpet here (or at least I don't intend to). This is just one of the few achievements in my life so far that I needed a record of it! You know, an encouragement of some sort. Anyway, I got another extra copy of DCM - one for safekeeping purposes while the other is for display purposes only. Oh, let me be proud for a while!

I'm taking this as my early Christmas present from Santa God - He couldn't have surprised me more!

A short reality check : I'm still writing at really crazy hours. Christmas is approaching fast and a lot of preparations are being carried out. I have barely got the time to even mess around with Photoshop anymore. Christmas parties are popping out from the ground like daisies and caroling with the church choir is starting this Sunday at Rasa Sayang Hotel. I'm spending most of my days out from home, running errands with dad or Grace or spending quality time with the family that it's hard for me to sit and write at all, or even edit photos for that matter.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Photography Woes, Not!

For one moment, I thought I was having, as described by PinkFrog, a photographer's block. I was beginning to be unable to spot any interesting subjects around for me to shoot. I've gotten bored with my same old shots of same old flowers at my neighbor's yard - well, hardly any flowers left to shoot nowadays since one of those neighbors with elegant yards filled with blossoming flowers almost everyday fled without any notice, grabbing her pots of daisies with her as she speeds off in her car. Judging by red paint splashed over her windows and doors, I'm thinking she was running away from her debts. Well, that's one lousy excuse for me to get down with my camera again.

Even when there was any subject to shoot, I didn't have the thrill that I usually had anymore when I look at the picture through the viewfinder. You know, the adrenaline rush, the satisfaction, the euphoria of achieving a shot that you want... it didn't come. I guesses I was just too shrouded by rules and the likes - more to the technical side of photography. Couldn't take a decent shot without thinking twice about the composition, the color, the setting of the camera, the lighting and etc.. All I did was blame the elements when I had a bad photoshoot, especially when shooting in low light conditions. It really turned me off and for that, I just decide not to even bring out the camera. It was stuck in my room for about a couple of weeks then.

But who'd ever know, a trip to somewhere, someplace new and fresh could get me over the photographer's block I feared wouldn't go away. Because of this trip, I'm kind of busy now (since Monday) editing the pictures that I got that I've been away from blogging. I mean, this whole trip has gotten me reading all sorts of tutorials and experimenting with all my shots. They're great, I tell you. Err... the tutorials, I mean. I don't usually edit my shots all the way down - only the occasional saturation, brightness, contrast and levels - but I decided to use the photos this time to go further and explore the many wonders of Adobe Photoshop! The shots I got from this trip just looks like they're perfect for further photo manipulation and I'm taking this opportunity to learn.

Don't worry, I haven't swayed from photography to hardcore photo manipulation and I certainly don't plan to do so. The only shots I play with are mostly those cam-whoring shots done with Grace, which really helps me with modeling photography (which I've always admired!). I mean, she's no model but it does help me to know what to expect when shooting portraits and now, I'm giving her a digital cosmetic surgery! I managed to make her face and neck look 50% thinner and removed the blemishes from her face! I have fun experimenting with Photoshop, don't you? That's not all. This whole experimenting-with-photoshop thing just leads me to editing older photos that I neglected over the past couple of weeks.

So now, I'm loaded with tonnes of pictures to edit and play with, which could be very time consuming and tiring to the eyes! Still, I'm not letting the cat out of the bag about this sudden trip (I'll explain all when the shots are ready!). I'm going to finish meddling with the shots before writing about it here. This whole trip wasn't a total waste (filled with a lot of cam-whoring and nothing else) but in fact, I got a very decent photoshoot which managed to sweep me of my feet and give me the feeling I longed for with every look through the viewfinder! And it doesn't end here. Tomorrow (practically 4 hours from now) Grace and I would be going downtown to have another photoshoot. Well, she'll only be driving me around. I'm not telling what it's going to be yet but I hope the shoot will turn out like what I have in mind (something Christmas-sy!). The photos just don't stop coming!

PS: This whole post was just an excuse to explain my absence for the past couple of days. Hey, I'm not lazing around watching re-runs of TRL the whole day! I'm editing my shots, which is equivalent to writing here. At least I can be assured that I don't have photographer's block now! =)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Open My Eyes

Sheridan - Open My Eyes
All I want

Is written on my face
Your bound to find something
And all your words
Held me into place
With nothing but lies

Another time
I might of watched the things I said
But I can't see
Somebody

Open my eyes
For a little while little while
Make me forget
All the things i see
Till then Till then
Don't know what is happening
Till then don't know
Don't care what I'm seeing
Standing still until I go blind
Won't you open my eyes

Don't mind me
You know my inside out
Thats the way that you left me
But you won't find me
Begging for some chance
To have you burn me again

Another time
I might of wasted all my words
to make you see
Somebody

Open My Eyes
For a little while little while
Make me forget
All the things I see
Till then Till then
Don't know what is happening
Till then don't know
Don't care what I'm seeing
Standing still until I go blind
Won't you open my eyes

Another time
I might of watched the words
Another place
You might of left me here for dead
Another time
Somebody

Open My Eyes
For a little while little while
Make me forget
All the things I see
Till then Till then
Don't know what is happening
Till then don't know
Don't care what I'm seeing
Standing still until I go blind
Standing still until I go blind
Wont you open my eyes

Open My Eyes
For a little while little while
Make me forget
All the things I see
Till then Till then
Don't know what is happening
Till then don't know
Don't care what I'm seeing
Standing still until I go blind
Won't you open my eyes


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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Popping The Pimple.

When I was a tad bit younger, probably still going through puberty, I seriously had no idea when people told me to apply egg white on my face, hoping that it'd be able to help with my facial condition, they meant to apply the egg white WITH facial cotton! Who would've known! No wonder all my feeble attempts to apply solely the egg white all over my face and later waiting patiently for it to dry, hoping that it'd be able to tear off like a piece of mask of some sort, failed! I only knew that the tearing-it-out-like-a-piece-of-mask effect only happened when you apply the egg white onto the facial cotton (the ones that comes in square shapes) and stick it onto your face before waiting for it to dry up and harden, when I had one of my distant cousins came up to me and suggested the same treatment for my face after being, practically, horrified by the condition of my face, when we met during a relative's wedding!

I guess I kind of got bored with all that failed attempts of egg white treatment that I was skeptical when she told me her procedures for home facial treatment that might help with my ailing face. Wasn't even convinced until she mentioned the cottons that got me wide-eyed. Well, for starters, I had to separate the egg white from the egg itself, which I happen to be not so good at. The whole process, which consists of a facial mask and later followed by moisturising with cut up pieces of cucumber and a thorough wash, probably takes up about an hour! And she added with a persuasive tone that it had to be done everyday! Now who would find an extra free hour a day - excluding the preparation time with the eggs and the cucumber - just to apply some unproven facial recipe? Not that I didn't try it though!

Seriously, it never occurred to that the condition of my face was getting worse by the year. I mean, it all started from blackhead to pimples and the next thing I know, I've got a scarred face like the surface of a moon - with all the holes, yes. Mind you, it has gotten so serious that it could even be a topic of discussion in family gatherings where I'd be the center of attention and multiple questions and blatant advices will be shot at me, which I always fail to adhere to. "Aiyah, don't always touch your face with your fingers lah," I'll usually hear one of my aunts cry in disdain over the table. I guess I couldn't complain much cause I pretty much brought this on to myself. All the years of pinching and pressing those stubborn pimples and blackheads is certainly catching up with me now. Still, no regrets or remorse or whatsoever as I do get the kick out of seeing those "poisonous" sebums being forced out from my skin (and sometimes splattering all over the mirror!)!

As it happens, my acne problem doesn't stop at the face. I have it all around my upper back and upper front body, right to my upper arms. Protruding fresh red dots and tiny blackheads have always been there since puberty. No matter how much (and different) zit cream or traditional herbs I apply on my acnes, they never seem to go away. All the creams I've ever used before either doesn't work or requires a lifetime subscription to it. To make things worse, I've always been obligated to either scratch or press them out. And sometimes, I don't even know if its safe to call them zits or acnes, when they get huge, looks almost swollen and emits a disgusting smell and grows at odd places like my eyebrows or my upper bum. Elbows too, at times. It's scary to see these things manifest in me that I'm always keen to extract them from my body, leaving scars of pleasures satisfaction. I really can't help it, you know. I guess I fit the bill, fat and pimply. Mom says it's an inherited thing and her theory is that we have toxic in our blood.

Apparently, dad suffers the same problem. Only that he's old and he has passed his time of popping the pimple. You know, there's an old Chinese saying that leaving plates unclean (especially when it comes to rice) could determine that one will get a husband/wife with a scarred-from-pimple-marks face. Of course, the saying was used to make children clean up their plates and has nothing to do with your husband/wife in the future (at least, I don't believe). Well, dad is the exact kind of person those old wives tales were referring too. In Hokkien dialect it's called "moh peng". I never understood why dad had such a rough face which was constantly secreting oil and I never saw it as weird also. I supposed I never compared him to the dads over the picket fence with a million dollar smile, waving goodbye to their children in the magazines. If it's anything worth, I love dad for the way he is and I couldn't possibly expect anything more from him. Ok... maybe a little bit extra allowance?

Dad also has weird growths all over his face, especially the back of his neck, earlobes and back of his ears. Like mine, it secretes a horrible and nauseating stench. I really don't know what it's called (after I gave up labeling them acne, zits and pimples for the look nothing alike) but they look just like little bumps forming at the surface of the skin, which could be pretty disgusting. I think dad couldn't stand the ones that has been with him for quite some time that he decided to go under the knife a week ago. That, was his appointment and he just got them cut off yesterday and currently has four small bandages at different parts of his face after spending one night at the hospital after the surgery. Obviously not a life-threatening surgery to get everyone worked up. After all, dad did went under the knife for the same reason, about 7 years back, on his chest (really odd places this thing grows!).

Well, inherited or not, I know I've got them and it's just a matter of time before mine becomes like dad's. But frankly, I've never been afraid that it'll turn out like dad's seeing that these days, pills and creams aren't that hard to get, compared to the 60's when there's no Amway or the likes, shoving pamphlets and brochures into your mailboxes or hanging banners all over the street! But that is if I had the cash to spend it on my face, which I don't. Can't even afford a facial treatment, damn it! I mean, mom strongly disagrees with artificial treatment and has so far been refusing my every request for a trip to the dermatologist or for purchasing any creams and pills, and only believes that if I stopped my habit of popping my pimples, things would get better. Oh well, that's mom. As far as I'm concerned, I don't think I'll ever stop the poppin' it!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Letter From Jesus.

Dear loved ones,

As you well know, we are getting closer to my birthday. Every year there is a celebration in my honor and I think that this year the celebration will be repeated. During this time there are many people shopping for gifts, there are many radio announcements, TV commercials, and in every part of the world everyone is talking that my birthday is getting closer and closer.

It is really very nice to know, that at least once a year, some people think of me. As you know, the celebration of my birthday began many years ago. At first people seemed to understand and be thankful of all that I did for them, but in these times, no one seems to know the reason for the celebration. Family and friends get together and have a lot of fun, but they don't know the meaning of the celebration.

I remember that last year there was a great feast in my honor. The dinner table was full of delicious foods, pastries, fruits, assorted nuts and chocolates. The decorations were exquisite and there were many, many beautifully wrapped gifts. But, do you want to know something? I wasn't invited. I was the guest of honor and they didn't remember to send me an invitation. The party was for me, but when that great day came, I was left outside, they closed the door in my face .... and I wanted to be with them and share their table.

In truth, that didn't surprise me because in the last few years all close their doors to me. Since I wasn't invited, I decided to enter the party without making any noise. I went in and stood in a corner. They were all drinking; there were some who were drunk and telling jokes and laughing at everything. They were having a grand time. To top it all, this big fat man all dressed in red wearing a long white beard entered the room yelling Ho-Ho-Ho! He seemed drunk. He sat on the sofa and all the children ran to him, saying: "Santa Claus, Santa Claus" .. as if the party were in his honor!

At 12 Midnight all the people began to hug each other; I extended my arms waiting for someone to hug me and ... do you know ... no one hugged me. Suddenly they all began to share gifts. They opened them one by one with great expectation. When all had been opened, I looked to see if, maybe, there was one for me.

What would you feel if on your birthday everybody shared gifts and you did not get one? I then understood that I was unwanted at that party and quietly left.

Every year it gets worse. People only remember to eat and drink, the gifts, the parties and nobody remembers me. I would like this Christmas that you allow me to enter into your life. I would like that you recognize the fact that almost two thousand years ago I came to this world to give my life for you, on the cross, to save you. Today, I only want that you believe this with all your heart.

I want to share something with you. As many didn't invite me to their party, I will have my own celebration, a grandiose party that no one has ever imagined, a spectacular party.

I'm still making the final arrangements. Today I am sending out many invitations and there is an invitation for you. I want to know if you wish to attend and I will make a reservation for you and write your name with golden letters in my great guest book. Only those on the guest list will be invited to the party. Those who don't answer the invite, will be left outside.

Be prepared because when all is ready you will be part of my great party.

See you soon.

I Love you!

Jesus

P.S. Please share this message with your loved ones, before Christmas


You know, I've never been a fan of chainletters or chainmails since at the very beginning when I got my first email (maxwell_da_dracula@hotmail.com). It just didn't worked for me. I realized I needed something more substantial than a mere few words of, "If you don't forward this message to at least 100 people, you'll have bad luck for the rest of your life yada yada yada...," to get me into believing such hocus pocus. I used to have the free time to forward those emails to people on my contact list but I've never believed in it. Though, I must admit, I do have a certain liking towards emails that contain grotesque images of car crashes, operations and the likes. Even the ones containing images of a little girl dressed in black, floating in the middle of the hallway do get me hyped up in certain ways (a little creepy too!). And also the occasional email of weird and funny images!

And I must admit, in spite of all those neverending junk chainletters, there are some really neat ones that have true (or so called "true". I mean, who knows, right?) love stories, true survival stories, religion related matters, safety precautions and etc.. The authenticity of these emails are, of course, questionable, but there are few that really deals with the matters of the heart or ones that's really happening in society and it might be good to let more people to know. I've never been bothered to actually extract anything from the emails that I received to blog about in here, considering how many thousands of people might have already read the thing but this time, I decided to share this email that I got from mom. Yea, she's basically the one forwarding emails like these - like the white woman on the plane being a racist and the spider beneath the toilet seat that's been killing women or the poisonous sugar cane water and loads more. And no, this has got nothing to do with my Christmas fever!

When I read this, all nicely colored according to paragraphs in my Yahoo! inbox, it really struck me that this was indeed true - that celebrating Christmas over the years, we have kind of left Jesus out. Yea, as Catholics, we all do attend mass on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day itself but during the slaughtering of turkey, the undecisive mind of us when we see so many food laid out on the table, the opening of the presents and the singing of Christmas carols, we do somehow forgot to invite Jesus into our homes and and our hearts. Which is kind of sad, in fact. I felt guilty in so many ways when I finished this email that I decided I had to at least share it here. Still, no one knows if Jesus actually written the letter and to whoever that wrote it (or Jesus), thank you for doing so. Or maybe they're right - Jesus do have email, after all! Either way, I'm going to try my best have to make a place for Jesus this Christmas - literally and figuratively, I suppose. You should too!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Tree Trimmings.

Feeling depressed that the malls have already gotten their Christmas decorations up before I do, I decided that I couldn't wait any longer to put up my own tree! Being the brother that I am, I somehow did promised Edmund that we'll put up the tree together again this year. I even promised him that Grace would be with us this year to trim the tree, after receiving one of her emails, telling me to wait for her! And being the annoying little bugger that he is, he just wouldn't quit bursting into my room every two minutes, to make me go out into the living room to initiate putting up the tree when I was IM-ing with Edward. I told him we'll have the tree before December and I can see that he did marked my words!

Ever since poh poh's here, recuperating from her operation on her appendix, kai ma and Carina has also been coming to our house alot. Probably due to the loneliness from the fact that Adrian is still at Australia and Uncle's (kai ma's husband, Adrian and Carina's dad, my godpa) working in Johor Bahru. They happened to be here and being me, I couldn't help but ask Carina to come join in the fun of hanging fake acorns and tinsels all over the tree. Of course, with her presence, she did add in the fun and joy and luaghter. She even got in the boat with Grace to condemn my Bing Crosby's Christmas CD, claiming that it was downright boring and dull. Damn it, they prefer some Jingle Bell Rock-ing tune that they can shake their humps to!

The tree that we have is merely a 3 ft tall tree and it certainly wouldn't take long to finish putting up the star on the top! It never occured to us to get a bigger tree, seeing the limited space the house has to offer before the renovation! Small and compact was the way to go! Heck, I used to be the only one at home who seems to be waiting anxiously for Christmas the past years, resulting me in being the only one, literally, throwing baubles of different sizes and colors at the poor little tree! I certainly didn't think twice about color-coordination and the likes when it comes to trees (hey, I was young and decoration magazines were a far cry then!). Not that I have alot to work with anyway. Surprisingly, these people that I was working with made the entire session lasted for about an hour!

Grace and I was debating, whether to put up the tree or to wait till we get a bigger one that suits the house. Dad did mention about a new tree this year but we thought we could still live with the one we got. Edmund's constant whining and rushing got us looking for something to make the tree look higher than 3 ft. Even kai ma was joining in the hunt for a stool or something to rest the tree on to make it look taller. We managed to use one of the round, exquisite, complete with flower carvings and a marble surface, dining table chairs and covered it with a white cloth before putting the tree on. After that, it got Edmund scurrying over to the tree with a candy cane and a string attached to it while Carina rummages through the box for something nicer!

I admit, I didn't really contribute alot in decorating the tree this time. Partly because of the size of the tree that didn't require alot of cooks to spoil the soup. But mainly because I had my camera with me the whole time, recording all the cherishable moments. Certainly no picturesque moments (like carrying Edmund over my shoulder to put the star on) or postcard images to work with but I figured that the entire process of doing it was much more fun than I could remember and that it required me to enjoy the and live the moment, rather than to look for moments to capture like an undercover journalist! Of course, I had to work with an ISO of 400 and above to get my images without flash, which pretty much explains the noise and blur in my images. The lights at home are considered lowlight and using flash would be too harsh. I haven't even figured out a way to build my own diffuser yet!

Watching Edmund, Grace and Carina putting up most of the decoration while I stood aside to look at it like a judge and occasionally shifting some ornaments was a real joy. Poh poh and kai ma just sat the couch and watch us, smiling all the way. The way Carina clapped her hands together in excitement after giving some final touch-ups to certain parts of the tree, the way Edmund asks Grace or me in his innocent little voice after puttin up a reindeer, "Like that can ar?" and the way Grace yells, "There!" with both her arms outstretched after feeling satsified with her work was enough to get the spirit going! Simple pleasures in life, I tell you.

Edmund and Grace were skeptical about our decoration, constantly complaining about how mouldy they look. I mean, it's been probably a decade or two since these ornaments exist in our house! I never had a problem with it. After all, it's going to be only a month before the new term start and these will be packed into the box again till next year! What's the point of even complaining, right? I was secretly hoping for new decorations too but I'll be patient till I get the new 5 ft tree, which will probably be next year or the year after next! Come to think of it, I'm thankful enough to even have a tree to put up this year. Think about the other unfortunate people in other parts of the world who are probably spending their Christmas on the streets, the victims of war and natural disasters, ill-stricken people and etc.. Gee, I really shouldn't be complaining!

The night itself was a crazy turn of events - as crazy as drinking sparkling juice after puttin up the tree. The sparkling juice was bought for this special occasion, actually. We got it off from the supermarket for only RM5.90 on our last grocery shopping trip. Seeing that I can never handle alcohol well (pathetic, I know) and it'd be Edmund that's joining us, we went away with the sparkling juice. I didn't even chill it before drinking, making them all have to resort to having ice cubes in their sparkling juice instead. Even had a little 'Cheers' session after that. The other reason for buying the sparkling juice is that we were going to try it out and later buy it for this Christmas so that the adults could have their own sessions and we cousins could have our own, though some might favor alcohol, I'll stay on my side of non-drinking!

You might've noticed by now that there's no sign of mom or dad in all those pic. They were at a BEC meeting duscussing about the Christmas part they are going to hold for the children this year! From what mom said, the party's going to be held at the pool and we'd be having a pot luck session, with games and balloons and stuff. I'm not much of a fan of kiddy parties nowadays, especially when musical chairs seems to be the most anticipated game and a scrawny old looking clown is the highlight of the event, but nevertheless, more opportunities for photographs I suppose and anything for Christmas! You bet, I prefer those sophisticated cocktail parties where suits are considered casual wear and champagne being served as the orimary drink, complete with jazz music in the background! Oooh, that'd be fun!

Anyway, according to Grace, the tree looked so much nicer this year than the years before, right after I finished encircling the lights around the tree! I said, "No doubt, because you were involved and Carina was here!" Seriously, I couldn't recall the last time that girl helped us put up the tree, what else, volunteer? And I've never seen Carina so excited with glittery objects before - especially when there are string attached to it, making it perefect to hang around the ears! This is also the first year where the ornaments are hung with prior consideration and not all the ornaments in the box were used - unlike the times when I took charge, just thinking of emptying the box and finishing with the lights! Err... maybe I could still use a little more decoration tips, don't you think? Oh, I just can't wait for Christmas!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christmas At The Mall.

Being the good housewife house-child that I've been for the entire month of November, I treated myself with a trip out to the mall with Edward yesterday. I'm not going to say anything about it because I'm sure his gonna blog about it soon (and post pictures as well!) and I'll just link it up here when he does. I have to mention though, I had a really good time with Casino Royale and lunch (and the inevitable roam at the mall) with him!

Anyway, entering the mall yesterday, after a whole month of wifely duties, I must say I was excited! What else when greeted at the main entrance, where dad dropped me, by extravagant Christmas decorations! My heart was practically jumping in amazement to see how fast the mall's creative team have decorated the place so beautifully and festively! Think of - a water fountain as the center piece, complete with a statue in the middle with flowing water and a place to sit around the fountain, a huge Christmas tree decorated with lovely green ornaments and lights, topped with a fairy (or cupid angel, I'm not sure), suspended in mid-air, and surrounded by many other smaller trees amongst old-fashioned lamp posts as the main attraction to greet shoppers! Though I don't really agree to the excessive usage of green elements, it still looks authentic to me.

After a while of good gaping at the piece they have put together, I headed to cold storage, looking for some breath mints or a can of drink since I arrived earlier than planned. Instead of seeing the usual domestic household items decked obstructively, behind the cashiers for I-have-too-much-money-and-time housewives to buy them, it was replaced by boxes of candy canes, chocolates and Christmas baubles, all wrapped up i
n green and red packages, arranged neatly and uniquely according to the festive mood, waiting for the next shopper to pick them up! Venturing further into the place, it's hard to miss the fact that there was a couple shopping for Christmas trees, laid out at the intersection of multiple rows of lanes of diary products and the likes.

Plastic Christmas trees, to be exact, from 3ft till 6ft tall, decked in their boxes with price tags on them. Certainly not the likes of picking out the perfect and shopping for a real tree in the cold snow before having them delivered to our already deco
rated houses complete with a warm fire but it still gives it that tinge of reality in the world we're living in. I have no qualms about it. After all, I've been using the same old plastic tree, stashed away in the storeroom after every Christmas till the next year for almost 5 years now! Anyway, to the left and right of the stack of boxes hung countless of packages of Christmas decorations (items), ranging from mock wreaths and candy canes to electrical lights and the shining star to add into the glorious touch to the tree!

Darn, I was so tempted to get one of those shiny, glittery ornaments to add into my collection, if not the glowing plastic star to put on my tree this year, considering how worn out the current tree ornaments that I own look like now! Kind of disappointing when I don't have the extra cash to spare and I could only tell myself that getting anything as near as a box of chocolates for myself this Christmas would be counted as unnecessary spending, if not, causing a big hole through my pocket. Yes, I am that broke and I'm not complaining about it! So all I had to do was to look away and walk away, after a few moments worth of imagining how beautiful the tree would look this year with that added star! There goes my Christmas wishlist and probably, no Christmas shopping this year. Pfft, Christmas shopping is overrated anyway!

Things got a little better when I heard them playing instrumental Christmas carols in their P.A. system! It was kind of unexpected to me - kind of surprising too! Apparently, I'm not the only who's in a rush waiting impatiently for Santa Christmas to come! Honestly, I thought I was insane to be listening to Christmas carols at the beginning of November (or maybe October?) but I don't feel that strange anymore now that I know the public's been receiving the celebration well too, or maybe a little bit too early. I suppose as Malaysians, we're pretty used to the four celebrations all jammed up in close proximity that when Hari Raya was over this year, there's nothing else to look forward to celebrating other tha
n Christmas! Come to think of it, the whole mall and the shops in it are all playing Christmas carols and graced with mini Christmas trees or other seasonal elements! Isn't it a good time for business? Best time of the year, they say!

Seeing how the malls (possibly non-Catholics and non-believer of Christ) are awaiting the Christmas cheer, it really ticks me off that I haven't even got my own tree up yet! The Christmas carols are a sure thing but the tree is not up yet! How could this happen?! To top that, I haven't been doing any prior preparations to welcome the celebration also. No wreaths, no mistletoe, no stockings on the walls! OMG! This is a crisis! Haven't even received any Christmas cards yet, unlike yesteryears. At this time, usually,
cards filled with love and warmth come pouring in from the people who care and also, from people who don't care! Seriously, cards with images of sparkling diamonds, filled with brochures of promotions on the newest edition of rings and bracelets from Habib Jewels or tempting end year sales promotion from GAMA? Blame mom for having so many cards!

Damn it, I've got to start preparing! There're still so many cookie recipes I haven't tried out yet! And there's the spring cleaning that needs to be carried out and the house decorations (the tree is not considered decoration!) and the shopping for
presents (for family members, not for myself!) and so much more! Have I mentioned choir and caroling to various hotels? I'm still unsure if akak's going to come back tomorrow! I mean if she doesn't, my plans for this Christmas will be undoubtedly be affected, one way or another. Christmas sounds nice and easy but no one knows the trouble behind it all. Well, not exactly trouble, but the work behind it all. Oh well, I guess this is what makes Christmas, Christmas! Well, at least I have a little Christmas mood going on on my desktop (not to mention my playlist!).

Gee... I wish I could prepare a meal like that for Christmas...

PS: I can see Edward (if not, anyone reading this) rubbing his forehead, frowning at my Christmas rants by now. I mean, he's always giving me that weird look (somewhere between a frown, a scowl and a sigh) when I get all excited about Christmas! Anyway, this is what happened yesterday.