Friday, November 26, 2010


I used to practice yoga regularly, 3-times-a-week regularly. It's such a good means to improve my flexibility and balance, as well as a great and easy way to relax. God, I love that savasana pose.

A recent job relocation moved me to a mysterious and exotic land of Africa, Sudan to be exact. After here for almost a month, everything, or most of the things have been settling in slowly. We are approaching winter here. But with the sun blasting through the forever cloudless sky, daytime temperature can easily climb up to the mid-30s. So winter my ass! The heat and the dryness are getting under my skin quite a bit, literally cracking them open. If it's not for the moisturizer, I'd be a walking cured meat. But I'm getting used to the weather.

But that are all physical. How flexible am I mentally? My values, ethics, mindset and perspectives? How much can I stretch? Or bend?

Time is meaningless here. Work is never delivered by due date. Wait, due date? What's that? Is it edible? Sweet like the Sudanese dates? 5 minutes can actually be an hour. So if you want something done on time, simply do it yourself or you need to bark at them the deadline, then send them 6 reminder emails, follow up by calling them daily until the submission date and pray hard things you asked for get done. Good for you if things get done. But done rightly or wrongly, that's another story.

In order to get things done correctly (hopefully), there is a skeletal framework of a process. Great! But everyone is following it so mechanically, rigidly and religiously that a slight change, however valid and logical and not to mention necessary is deemed a cardinal sin, which may get you a public lashing or stoning to death. OK, I'm over exaggerating. But hundreds of thousands of dollars spent based suspicion and gut feeling and "experience" written in broken English on a few pieces of paper. Factual information, sensitivity analysis, model stimulation, analog inferences? Yeah, whatever.

In the end it's the modus of operandi here. It's not right, and it's not wrong too. It's acceptable. Well it's easier to move mountains or part sea than to change a society norm. It takes times, A LOT of times to change, to progress. It's a different land and different culture. I'm in their land and their culture. So I can't be always right and I can't be that arrogant to have them change for me, even though they totally should.

Be flexible. If you can't beat them, join them.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Shopping List

The news of my relocation to Sudan spread. Congratulatory messages, well wishes and farewell notes from colleagues and friends, came. Then there were some odd ball requests too.

WA was among the first few getting the sniff of my movement. "Handbags! I want handbags. I want you to get me handbags from the duty free shops at the airport. You must help me! MUST!" She said. Then she spit out a long list of names like Anya, Fendi, Hermes, Aigner and so on until she noticed my face went blank, and maybe a bit of cross eyes too. She stopped and pondered for a moment. "You know what, I'll just bring you to the stores at the mall and teach you everything and anything about handbags. Then you'll know what I want and you can get the right handbag." WA announced. "Make sure you give me your email address there so I can email you my list." She added.

"Oh you have got to get me kharouf (lamb). Kharouf there is so delicious and tender and most important of all it does not have the overpowering overwhelming gamy smell." Z said to me knowing my relocation to Sudan. "And don't you worry, they'll pack the meat nicely and neatly. No mess." She assured me, reading my mind of the bloody messiness bringing raw meat on a 10-hour flight. In fact she's right, the kharouf here is absolutely to-die-for. The meat is all that she said, tender and juicy, sans the pungent scent. It must be the water here. And she's also right about the packaging too, I was told by my colleagues here one can request for the freshly slaughtered meat be packed air-tight.

"Hey I heard. Congratulations." F said to me. But before I could utter the thank you. She asked me to get her the mango juice. Yes mango juice, all the way from Sudan. "They sell it on the street. Fresh fruit juice, all kinds and they don't add water or sugar. I like mango juice. You can get them in a bottle, like a mineral water bottle. I had them when I was there visiting my husband, you remember he was stationed there for a couple of years last time. And I brought a few bottle back here too. So I know it can be done" She went on saying. Well, it's true. Fruit juices here are fantastically pure and thick, so thick that the straw stays vertical when you plunk into the juice. I've tried strawberry juice, grape fruit juice and of course, mango juice, all as equally great.

"Look for this one kind of dates." YH told me. "They are dried and you need to soak them in water. Then they turn soft and fluffy and sweet. One of the bosses brought me some before on his trip there once. They are really really tasty, but i don't know what they are called." Now that's really helpful, isn't it? I actually love dates but how do I get my hands on these magically amazing dates.

I saw H at the gym a couple of days before I left. He came by to say goodbye. H shook my hand and wished my the best of luck. Then he pull me in for a man hug, and whispered to my ear:"If you happen to come across my friends Benson & Hedges at the duty free shops in the airport, get me a carton, will you?"

"How do you fly to Sudan? Are you transiting in Dubai airport?" N asked me. I nodded. "I was transiting at Dubai airport once and there's this little shop in the airport selling all kind of spices." She continued, knowing that I like to cook. "I got some saffron there, really cheap. You can get a tiny little jar for less than 50 bucks." Yeah, but where is the shop? What's the name of the shop? Seriously, Dubai international airport is a jungle. And I'm wondering if N was just being helpful telling me this little piece of somewhat incomplete but intriguing information or she was hinting me to get the some saffron, still.

"What can you get in Sudan? Anything special?" YM asked me. "Nothing really. Maybe coffee, freshly ground Sudanese coffee." I told her. "Nah, we can get them from Starbucks here." She said. Yeah, I was doing the Tiger Woods fist pumping thing in my head.

Well landing here, getting to know this place a bit better, there are something to get here. Victorianox Swiss Army knives are cheap here. There are original, not the knock-offs. Some branded kitchenware such as Corning-ware and Doulton stainless steel cook wares. I'll be moving to my own apartment soon so I'm building my own shopping list to stock my kitchen.

Just one little problem, I need to find the shop in town.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Caps Anyone?

I wonder if I can get a thinking one? Oh, what the heck, make it two. Brain cells quitting on me lately. I need all the help I can get.

Street of Phnom Penh.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Overherad #14

"He's so laid back that he's practically horizontal!"

I just love the British satirical sense of humor, sarcastic and caustic yet eloquently refined.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Help Me Understand

Why do people like to take pictures of themselves in the mirror with a phone camera in a public toilet (public as in toilet in a gym or a bar)?

Why do some people actually notch it up, taking pictures of themselves in the mirror with a phone camera in a public toilet (public as in toilet in a gym or a bar), half naked (flexing the guns while sucking the gut in)?

Why do some people actually push it further,taking pictures of themselves in the mirror with a phone camera in a public toilet (public as in toilet in a gym or a bar), half naked (flexing the guns while sucking the gut in), and then put them on the internet for the world to see (and laugh)?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Magic Power

It sounds cliche, lame even: you don't know how much you miss and appreciate something (or someone) until you lose it. The constant bombardment of the big city life excitement numbs our senses to savour the simplest thing. Along the way in our quest for the next level of thrill, we take things for granted, consciously and unconsciously.

Recently I was relocated to Africa. Things that were accessible to me previously in a snap of the fingers now are challenging, to say the least to obtain. Case in point, peanut butter-nutella-banana sandwich never tasted so good before. That was the highlight of my week. And, I got milk yesterday. So last night, I was so very looking forward to my banana cereal breakfast this morning.

The magical power of the simplest thing in life, treasure it.