Monday, December 31, 2012

Gone 2012

Another year gone by so swiftly, what did I do?

Honestly, not much.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. I know that. So 2012 started off pretty well. I was pacing myself, breathing deep and striding forward fluidly while keeping focus and saving that last push for the finishing dash. Somewhere in the middle I lost it, without realizing it.

What to do then? There's no point crying over spilled milk. Or the year gone past. Let's buckle up and chin up going into 2013 without (or with just some minor) fuck up and definitely nothing tits up.

Happy new year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Simple is Good!

Majority of my vacation time, I spent at home, doing nothing. Sleeping in in the morning, reading, swimming, cooking, all the very simple stuff. The familiarity of the surrounding and the routine of the mundane and of course the no-work part have the hypnotic appeal. Literally life is easy. Possibly, the most challenging question of the day would be what's for lunch. Sticking to my championed philosophy of simplicity, I made sandwich. 

Ham and cheese (melted) on wholegrain bread.

Egg sandwich with melted cheese and sweet basil.

Simple is goooood... 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A Prayer

For a long time I've been praying for you, wisdom and love, and above all, clarity. Perhaps my prayers went unheard, or unanswered, or yet to be answered. Is this a test? I don't know.

Now I pray for myself, wisdom and love and clarity. And above all, I pray for strength, the strength not to quit, but to let go.

So help me God.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Irony

How exactly does one achieve peace and unity in a somewhat jumpy jittery country through wrestling, an ancient form of fighting which in itself is violent and brutal? Is it somewhat like the concept of fighting fire with fire? Or is it along the line of you need to spend money to make money?

Am I being cynical or am I missing the point completely?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Grilled Vegetables with Couscous

Another lazy dude meal. Slice the vegetable of your choice, mine were green cucumber, red bell pepper and purple eggplant, and grilled them with olive oil and salt and pepper. While grilling, boil water or broth and pour them over the instant couscous and set it aside for 5 minutes. Then season the couscous and fluff it up with butter and toss in the grilled vegetables.

It was supposedly a quick and healthy meal but I used like the whole block of butter to fluff up the couscous. Oh buttery yumminess

Monday, October 22, 2012

Crowd Forest

Missing to show me the place during my last trip in May (we were actually there before the place was even opened), my friend, M insisted that we go to check out the latest attraction that the amazing beautiful island nation of Singapore has to offer. 

We went into the Crowd Forest Conservatory, oh I meant the Cloud Forest Conservatory, and was immediately confronted to a gazillion of others. The visitors formed a roaring river flowing in, very much like the gushing water pouring down from the manmade waterfall inside the conservatory. The place was hopping and bobbing,  absolutely packed and noisy! 

Truth be told it was not an enjoyable experience being rounded up and herded along like cattle. Well at least the orchids were really pretty and lovely. 





It was on the news a couple of weeks later, they cleared the conservatory for Kate and Will. Oh what a bunch of suck ups!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Teacher

She is the all in one caretaker-guide-ticket booth operator of the Nyamata Catholic Church, now a genocide memorial. She collected my fee and showed me the way in.

That morning, I was the only visitor. Gingerly I went into the dimly lit church, so careful with my step that as if I would shatter the haunting silence. The sight of the piles of blood stained clothes on the pews, rows after rows, was blindingly glaring.  The air was stale and heavy, suffocating almost. I forced myself to take it in but it was too much to bear. I walked out.

I sat with her. I asked her about the memorial, about the people around and the horrific bloody killings in the church back then. She told me stories about that dark period of Rwanda, slowly and matter-of-factly. It was believed that about 10000 people, mostly ethic Tutsi were massacred in the church by the merciless and senseless swings of machetes. I froze for a moment, for such unimaginably hideous acts just happened 17 years ago. I asked her how the people in the area moving on. She smiled, then she looked away.

She later told me that she used to be a teacher. Now she's working at the memorial full time as the guide, talking to visitors, the few backpackers or group of local school kids. The money is not as good but she likes it a lot. She's happier here. "Well, it's another form of teaching." She said, beaming with pride.

It sun was up high. But it was breezy. I lingered around the shady church yard listening to the leaves chiming in in the wind.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Burn 'Em Shorts

Saturday afternoon in Juba, I was at the Juba Hash House Harriers group meet up. A newbie in the group, J was saying he wasn't sure what to wear for the run. He was actually thinking of wearing longs, which is a penalty in the run and resulting in a severe punishment of chugging down a beer at the end of the run. As everyone in the group run in our shorts, I asked him why he wanted to wear longs, and it was a hot day too.

"Don't you know? I was told that only the gays wear shorts here in Juba. They are showing off their legs looking for some actions! Look around in town, no one wear shorts!" J explained. 

Come to think of it, he was right. There's no one wear shorts here, no adult Jubanite male wear shorts going about. But how would anyone think of wearing shorts as an indication of being gay? Not that there's a guideline being issued by the government to warn parents and teachers, like in Malaysia, that gays like to wear colourful tight V-necks and carry a huge handbags. 

Knowing that shorts in Juba is equivalent to V-necks in KL, what am I going to do with all my shorts? Burn 'em all?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Done

It's over. It has been dragging long enough and it's not getting anywhere. Well it does, it gets to the end.  

Suddenly the line that says your silence is a confirmation can be extremely rude and cruel.

Suddenly silence can be deafening and painful.

This too shall pass.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Surprise!

In the eyes of friends and colleagues, I'm a super health nut. They know I pump iron and yoga regularly. They've seen my lunchbox filled with wholewheat sandwich with loads of fresh vegetables and fruits. Most of them (if not all) think that I'm in a pretty enviable shape too. 

Indeed I do take care of myself pretty well. I hit the gym everyday after work, pound the park trail every Friday and log laps in the pool over the weekend as well as practice yoga twice a week. For my diet, I eat at home. I always stick to a simple, light and balanced meal. Muesli and fruit for breakfast and for dinner, normally a ham and cheese on brown bread with a lot of fresh greens. And always, a lot of fluid intake throughout the day, like 2.5 to 3L. 

So all in all I'm quite a fit guy (ahem, if I may say so), generally healthy. I must admit there were times that I felt absolutely invincible that I probably we able to live up to 126 or so. Recently I went for my annual medical checkup. When the report came back, I was somewhat expecting a clean bill on my health report. 

Surprise! Surprise!

First of all, I have a low red blood cell count. The doctor asked me if I had cut myself lately? Nope. Bleeding in the gum while brushing my teeth? Nope. Blood in the stool? Errr... Doc I don't look at my shit. Well, maybe I should. Then I asked what can I do about it. Diet? Meds? He told me there's nothing I can do about it. Just for good measure he threw in a "Don't worry you are fine!" bit. OK Doc, if you said so.

Then my 3-month blood sugar is on the high side. According to the report, my glucose control index was satisfactory control. And do not be fooled by that, considering it's just a rep up from poor control, which is the worst. Again the doctor was pretty cheerful and cool about it. He offered that since I was in Africa for the last 2 month, deprived of the sumptuous food from home, I must had been feasting like no tomorrow being home. That might have skewed the test therefore no exactly reflective. He assured me that I'm fine. While that made sense, dad was diabetic and it's in the family so I do need to watch out. 

And the biggest surprise of all, my total cholesterol in my lipid profile was right on the borderline. Say what??? Oh say it ain't so! How could that be possible. I stay away from fatty stuff (mostly) and I'm not a red meat fan. Even though there's no gym in Juba I'm still manage to exercise 4 times a week. So what's going on? I couldn't believe it. That's really threw me off the loop big time. 

The cholesterol result scared me shitless. All sorts of alarm bells ringing loud and red flags rising high. A more regimented workout plan must be put in place. So far I workout on my own in my room thrice a week, found a yoga place to practice twice a week and I run with the Hash group in Juba (Yes there's even a Hash House Harrier group in Juba) every Saturday evening. More importantly I must watch out on what I put in my body. No more sugary carbonated drinks, no more less red meat, no more high cholesterol food and more greens.

Then the restaurant at the hotel keep putting avocado in the salad. Damn I love avocado!

Oh temptations...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Eid Reflection


Last Ramadhan, I was wandering along the narrow streets of Lamu old town, a 14th century settlement with the Islamic culture still deeply rooted in the island life. The people are friendly and warm and open and generous andwelcoming, inviting me to join them for iftar by the river front, receiving me into their home on a hot Ramadhan afternoon and offering me a glass of cold water while they were fasting. 

This Eid Fitr, while you are celebrating with your family and loved ones, I wish that your reflection during Ramadhan bring you clarity, strength, wisdom and joy for the year throughout. I'll be reminiscing of the good times in Lamu and reflecting on the simple lessons of humbleness and generosity of the people Lamu taught me.


Eid Mubarak.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Patchy Addis Ababa

Flying over Addia Ababa on my way to Beijing. The patch work of a spectrum of lush green and dark blue and solid black on the ground just took my breath away. Isn't that just pretty?

Addis Ababa, patchy but not sketchy.




Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Overhead #24

"I'm here to help the poor, not to be poor." From one NGO worker to another NGO worker.


After all, everyone has bills to pay every month. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Day and Night

3.00 PM: Naama Bay, Sharm el Sheikh is deserted almost to the ghost town eeriness and quietness.

3.00 AM: Naama Bay, Sharm el Sheikh is hopping and bobbing with loud traditional Arabic music, colorful neons lights, fruity scents of shisha, mouth-watering aroma from the restaurants and endless throng of holiday makers coming out enjoying the night, as if the carnival is in town.

Indeed, what a day and night difference. And I suspect the 40 degree Centigrade temperature has got something to do with it.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Light Read

Finally I chewed down The Antelope's Strategy by Jean Hatzfeld over my last holiday. Before that I took quite a long time finishing off The Machete Season (also by the same author). The account of both the survivor and the killers in the books on the Rwandan horribly bloody episode in 1994 was extremely raw and painfully gruesome. They were both quite a heavy read, not exactly cheerful holiday reading material.

Then I moved on to The Daughter of the Killing Fields by Theary C. Seng. A memoir of the author and her family's survival during the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s in Cambodia. Well, not exactly a cheerful picker upper page turner.

It was depressing. Why was I reading such mood downer during my holiday? What the hell was wrong with me?


I don't think I could do this anymore. I don't think I would like to do this anymore.

So the moment I saw this one while browsing at the bookshop, killing time waiting for a friend, I could just hear it calling my name, begging me to bring it home. The title said all. I knew it would be a fun read. I could certainly use the change of pace and mood of my reading materials. After all I was on vacation.

Indeed I chuckled and laughed and hollered all the way through, back to back. I absolutely loved it!

Highly recommended! 5 stars! 2 thumb-ups! 10 out of 10! A must read!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Overheard #23

"I want to live a life that matters." Ken Budd.

Me too. 


But how? 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Blissfully Blue


A beautifully relaxing day spent doing nothing but laying by the pool, reading and soaking up some sun, until the moon crept up. I was on my day number-I-lost-track of my month-long holiday back home, leaving the madness of work in Juba back in Juba, and some in the email mailbox and voice mailbox. 

It was truly a blissful day, so much so that even the blue sky was incredibly soothing, remarkably stunning. 

I wondered how blue your sky was. I wish it was just as amazing if not more, and more importantly, you were enjoying your day under the blue sky.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dos and Don'ts in a Bangkok Cab

They say when in Rome, do as the Romans do. So when taking a cab ride in Bangkok, follow the Bangkok-nians' lead. Be respectful of the local ways, folks. 

Happy trails!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Almost Orgasm

After a 10-hour journey from Juba to Khartoum via Nairobi (It's only a 2-hour Juba-Khartoum direct flight but that's no longer available due to the strain between the 2 countries), I was dead beat. Moreover I was hungry as it was almost 9pm. Literally I was famish when I got into my apartment unit in Khartoum that I could eat a whole cow, even though beef is not exactly my favorite choice of meat.

Ransacking the fridge, I found a pack of something tugged quietly at the back of the freezer. I fished it out. Oh what an immense feeling of total bliss and joy that swept over me. Dare I say, it was almost orgasmic. Almost! It was not food that I found. I found my true love. 

I found bacon!

I fried them up, the whole pack, all the 120g of it. Then happily stuffed my face silly with the crispy, salty and the oh-so-good greasy yumminess. 

Orgasmic!

Almost.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Weird Combo Pizza

Most of the time, the local cuisine of a far flung place can be an acquired taste to say the least. But once in a while we put something seemingly weird and foreign in our mouth while squeezing our nose and squirming our face and tensing our body, just to end up with the amazing burst of flavors and textures rocking our numbed, dormant hibernated tastebuds. And we would be going back for second in a heart beat.

This is a pizza, very popular in Khartoum. The pizza dough in a shape of a boat filled with mozzarella cheese and baked till the dough is crusty golden and the cheese is bubbly melted. Then generous amount of honey is splashed on to the pizza until spillage occurs. Or the intended effect was to have the boat is floating on a sea of honey? Anyway, it's then return into the oven for a quick heat up and voila, the aptly name mozzarella honey pizza is ready. 

"Honey on a pizza?! Are you crazy?!" 

Yup, I hear ya. Yes it's basically a sweet and savory pizza, more sweet actually. But trust me, it tastes so so so good! The gooey savory mozzarella with a tinge of cheesy sourness adds another depth of flavor. Strangely, it complements the sweetness of the honey just wonderfully. The scent of the honey is intoxicating. The sweetness of the natural honey is subtle and not overpowering. One just can't stop at just a slice of this crazily yumminess. Well it's hard to resist something sweet even if you have not got a sweet tooth, right?

Mozzarella honey pizza, oh suddenly I miss Khartoum! I think I'd take a crack at it making it at home one day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mom's Orchid

Mom used to say she never lifted a finger for any sort of work when she was a girl, house work, school work or even work work. She had always had it easy and breezy, having a time of her life. But all changed when she married dad. 

She cooked and cleaned for a household of 11 (My grandparents, 4 uncles and 3 aunts). When we the kids came along, she took care of us. She also worked selling cookwares and Tupperware products. Then grandpa fell ill, she took care of him. When dad was frail, she took care of him. 

Last October dad passed on. Now mom is living on her own back home. She is taking care of the house and herself. And she is taking care of the plants in the front, and backyard. There are more and more plants now. Papaya tree, sugar cane plants, sour sop trees, lemongrass bush and a whole front porch of flowers like hibiscus, lily and orchid. 

On my recent trip home, I saw the orchid blossoming beautifully. There wasn't a whole stalk of them, just 2 lovely saturated purple flowers, bright and crisp. Well, mom has been spending a lot of time and effort gardening and it shows. They were very pretty and I was thrilled looking at the flowers. Orchid is one of those plants that is resilient and strong, surviving with the bare minimum. 

Looking at the flowers in the morning on my return to KL, I just thought that that's my mom, resilient and strong, and making wonderful thing happens in the challenging conditions. It also a comforting sign of hope, that mom is walking out of the gloomy gray of dad's passing and welcoming wonderful splash of colors back into her days.


Slowly but surely.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mother

I met her at CED/Little Hearts orphanage in Phnom Penh, while I was volunteering there a few years ago. Her name is Pech Sopheap. I called her Madam Sopheap. She lives at the orphanage with her deaf and mute daughter. Madam Sopheap works as the cook there for a measly wage every month.


Day in day out, she cooks for the 40 odd kids, preparing them 3 meals every day, simple fare but warm and hearty. Madam Sopheap would ensure the little ones get fed properly and the older kids clean their plates. Like a broken record, she always yells at the big boys and girls to eat before they head out for their part time jobs in town. Madam Sopheap doesn't speak a word of English. Me, I don't speak a word of Khmer. Sometimes she would yell at me too, in Khmer, for not eating enough! Of course, sheepishly I smiled at her, and then piled up my plate, ate more, as ordered.

Yes, she yells! Thundering loud! Sometimes she even pulls out her rattan whip to ensure the little ones wipe their plates spotless.  That's the way she knows how to show her love for the kids, and for me, a very orientally mother.

In the orphanage, Madam Sopheap is indeed the mother to all the kids. She works from sun up to sun down putting food on the table, ensures them kids a full stomach everyday. Working tirelessly and selflessly for the kids, loving them unconditionally, isn't that what all the mothers do?


Madam Sopheap, hope you had a lovely Mothers' Day. May your day be filled with love. And the kids are not giving you too much trouble.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fish Balls Soup

On the lunch buffet at the hotel restaurant today, there was chicken stew, some African style chicken stew. Chunky white meat with vegetable in a clear white broth. I took some to go with my rice. 

A closer look at the stew when I was seated revealed that it was actually a fish stew. My first bite into the chunky fillet, it was flaky and tender. And then the taste and scent was unmistakeable, fishy and salty. That instantly triggered my longing for the fish balls soup from home. Big round fish balls, smelling just as fishy and salty floating in a bowl of piping hot clear white broth. 

I remember mom used to bring us kids all out in town on weekends for shopping and fun. At the end of the day, we'd packed onto a rickshaw with our shopping bags and exhausted bodies heading to the hawker stalls under the giant big trees in town center for dinner. The simple yet delicious fish ball soup was a staple on the table. That was one of the highlights of my day. Maybe my week!

And suddenly I was 5 again, squatting at the front of the rickshaw carriage, looking forward to the fish balls soup dinner at the end of the day out in town with mom. 

Oh ma, happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

36

Gosh, 36! With the new crew cut 'do, I look no more than 25! Hahahaha... Well today it's my day, so humor me.

At 36, I'm blessed. Physically I'm blessed with this youthful good look (the jury is still out there on good look, but youthful is definitely a popular opinion.) and good health and (most of the time) a sound mind. I'm grateful to have my family's support in (most of) the decisions I make no matter how stupid or crazy they are, and (most of) my family still love me! How cool is that!? I have (a small circle of) friends. They are real, not the FB kind. It's the quality, not quantity. They would smack (literally) some good sense into me when I'm being an giant jack ass, hurry over to my rescue with a simple phone call, stab me only at the front (usually in the face) and drive across the city late in the night just for a beer with me (and they are the one buying). Workwise I have a somewhat enjoyable (or is it tolerable?) job in some far flung corner of Africa. Paychecks are fat enough (of course it could be fatter) for a 30 something. I have my own pad in the city and i just bought a car too! Life is good (most of the time). I cannot and should not bitch about it, really.

But there are something amiss. 

Life is bigger than me. There should be, no, there must be a greater purpose in life for everyone, not just personal achievement and fulfillment. I believe we are here to serve a greater good. It's time to give back. Living in Juba has its challenges and it's frustrating sometimes. OK, most of the time. But the poverty surrounding me also reminds me to be grateful and humble. I want to get involved with some NGOs here and volunteer my time and/or energy, preferably something to do with education, for I believe education is the best cure for everything. I have this crazy idea. It's super duper ambitious but I'm actually looking at building a school here. With my supposedly big fat paycheck I hope I can work out something or collaborate with some organizations to make this happen. It'd be a long arduous climb not nothing in life comes easy isn't it? 

There are plans for doing good work on the education front back home in Malaysia. I got ideas from my big boss on helping in some small scale educational sponsorship like sponsoring flight tickets for some poor oversea students or supplies for schools in the rural areas. In addition, I definitely would do my bit for the Chinese primary schools, like contributing towards the utilities bills. Hopefully I have enough dollars to stretch as far as possible. Oh one more, Little Hearts in Phnom Penh will always have a special place in my heart. So, it's also on my wish list to continue volunteer there and visit the kids whenever I can. Miss them kids loads. 

In the end, if I can't do it myself, I'll get help, get help from most of the family who still love me and the small circle of friends I keep. Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho said it well:"If you want something really hard, the universe would actually conspire to help you." Let alone friends and family, the whole universe!

Still, there are something amiss. 

Well, more like someone, someone to share this life with. This one I really need the help from the whole universe.

Anyway, happy birthday to me!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Just Fudge It

I got into Mombassa around 6 am from Nairobi after an overnighter bus ride. Then around 8, I hopped on to a bus, old, slow, rickety, cramped, smelly and without AC, for another 6 torturously long hours on a dusty and bumpy road heading to Lamu. All the way I was exhausted, sweaty, sleepy and empty stomached. 

This was the packet sugary milk fudge that I bought through the window of the bus from the local ladies swamping the bus when it stopped for the umpteenth times along the way dropping and picking up more passengers. Well that was lunch. 

When I finally made it to the island of Lamu, instead of sorting out my hotel for the night, I dashed straight to the airline office to book my flight out. I was not going to take another 6 hours of the bus ride. Then I went to the rooftop restaurant/bar next door for a beer. While seeping my beer I managed to arrange for a 3d2n sailing trip on a dhow boat. Then I had another beer and then found a hotel, which was  just below the bar.

While you are on the road, sometimes it's good to just fuck it. Or just fudge it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

428 Afterthought

It was around 9am in the morning of Apr 28 here in Juba, 2pm at home in Malaysia. Many of my fellow countrymen were all donned in yellow, taking it to the street demanding for a change for the better for our beloved country. Here in Juba, my 2 colleagues and I, coincidentally all wearing red, were having breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Yeah, we were so wearing the wrong color for the day. I guess we did not get the memo. Anyway we were following the beat by beat accounts of the rally in KL on Facebook and Twitter. 

For the following days, I was reading various comments and blog postings as well as looking at the photos of the rally online. A few aerial shots of the massive turn out at various places really caught my attention. Those were the people gathering at various meeting points before marching towards Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) for the sit-down protest. To me, the photos were powerful, sea of yellow packing the streets, peacefully and orderly, ready to voice out our dissatisfaction, ask for change. It was all calm. And then the march started and we all knew what happened next. 

It got me thinking a little.

What if everyone just sit down there and then on the streets at the meeting points, for the sit-down protest? Would that not be effective enough? There'd still be hundreds of thousands (as claimed by various quarters) of people in yellow sitting down at various locations in town, in protest of the severely corrupted system in our country. Is that not good enough? Like I said, from the aerial shots, they were powerful. 

I couldn't be any more certain than the next person to say that the rally might turn out differently if people sit down just at those different meeting points. But at that moment, it was serenely calm. If we could just sit down there and then, do we still need to march to the already heavily barricaded square for the sit-down? 

At the end of the day, there are many ways to skin a cat. And of course, things are always easier or making more sense in hindsight. 

But I'm sure of one thing, the quest for change for the better must not stop, should not stop and will never be stopped. 

Go yellow!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Those Afternoons, Those Games

I bummed into this bunch of kids while wandering in the maze of Lamu, Kenya.

They were playing on the porch, some sort of local checkers. The board was drawn on the floor with chalk. The pieces were pebbles picked from the street, invariably differentiated by their sizes, big or small. A simple game it may be but it was also quite furious, as they were moving forcefully, arguing heatedly at a disputed move and chuckling heartily after a win. The kids were having a whale of a time, in the sunny afternoon.

I can still hear their cheerful laughters roaring, crisp and loud, contented and very much infectious.

It was a simple rustic game but brought so much laughters and joy to their days. Do you remember how those laughters also once filled our afternoons when we were kids playing hopscotch, marbles, tic-tac-toe, snake and ladder, jumpsies?

Oh they challenged me to a game. Guess who won?

Friday, April 06, 2012

What?

What you looking at?
Photo of a Masai zebra, taken at Masai Mara, Kenya.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Rain in Juba

April.

The change of season is upon the city. It rained, and rained and rained in the city today. The burning heat and blinding brightness from the sun is washed away with the drops of rain. Washing away along with it the choking dustiness that perpetually hanging heavy in the air.

What a welcoming change! Cleansing. Refreshing.

Unfortunately, not dousing away the smog in my mind. I'm know the breeze will blow it away, the downpour will clean it up. Hopefully, soon. I'm looking forward to the arc of rainbow and the gentle sunshine after the storm.

More rain is still to fall. Yeah, I'm leaving all the muddles be, and pushing them aside. I'm just going to listen to the rain for now.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

End and Ending

Lately, feeling a little down, a little off, a little gray.

There's this unshakable uneasiness coming over me, like the tides engulfing the shore, at times sweeping across gently, at times hitting down violently. Life is not exactly falling apart but it seems unsettling. Things that I once held dear, I'm losing my grip. I feel like I'm losing my grip.

I'm scrambling to hold on to it tight, as hard as I can. Most of the time, that feels like a grabbing the tiniest driftwood in the vast ocean, holding it for dear life. It is hopeful and hopeless at the same time.

But what's the point? Then I feel like letting go. But quitting is almost unbearable. Maybe it's time to let go, time to move on.

I just want it to end. But what kind of ending?

Questioning and doubting, over and over again...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Dark Side of Beijing

As much as I love Beijing, unfortunately I also encounter her dark ugly side. The utter disregard of the law, the complete disrespect to the society order and the prime example of the selfishness.

There is a Chinese saying "爱屋及乌" (ai wu ji wu), which says that if you love the house, you must also love those annoying crows on the roof. It means when you love something, you should love it entirely, embracing all its beauties as well as flaws.

But this flaws of Beijing, I can't. I despise it, wholeheartedly and unreservedly. This one I just can't let it slide.

The sign on the door says:"Fire escape route. Parking is prohibited."

The sign on the door says:"Parking of bicycles is prohibited."

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Home

"Oh Jubaaaaaa!"

Finally, I'm here. This will be my new home for at least a year to come, hopefully shorter. Juba is the capital of South Sudan, the youngest country in the world, after separating from Sudan and gaining independence in July last year. Currently there is a massive influx of people rushing into the city, the oil business people, the UN people, the NGO people, the returning from abroad South Sudanese people, the neighboring countries people and yes, the Chinese people.

As prominent as poverty, there are construction and development everywhere in the city. Digging a ditch, constructing offices, building roads and the like. All these activities with the human influx are setting the city abuzz and kicking up a storm, literally, a dust storm.

Living in this young capital is challenging and humbling at the same time. The living condition is no walk in the park. A lot of the things may be there but they do not come by easy and they certainly do not come cheap. The are a lot of people but they lack the required skills to work. There's electricity but there are frequent black outs. There's running water but there are insufficient water pressure. There's mobile phone lines but the reception is crappy. There are big cars on the road but there're a lot of crazy drivers and no traffic order. These's internet but the speed is frustratingly slow.

And then when you think you have had enough and you want to get out of here, there are flights out of here but there are a lot of delays and cancellations!

Alas there are a lot of beers but... Oh there's no but here.

It'd be exciting to witness the tremendous growth, in speed and size of of Juba in the very few coming years. Better things to come, better things to look forward to.

Oh boy, is this going to be a fun and adventurous year or what!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Overheard #22

"I know that we are guests on this planet and we should take care of it." Sophia Bush

Yeah, that's right. We are the guests. Guests should behave politely towards each other, and more importantly treat the host with utmost respect and appreciation.

Today is World Water Day. Remember to turn off the tap while you brush your teeth, not just today, but everyday! Every little bit counts!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Good Shit

Chocolate truffles, definitely by far the easiest dessert I've ever made. Hands down.

Just bring a cup of cream with a dash of vanilla extract to a simmer and pour it over some good quality chocolate. Stir to combine and put in the fridge to chill. Once chilled, roll them into bite-sizr ball and cover them with cocoa powder. Pretty much that's it.

Voila! Done.

Or... You can let your imagination and creativity run wild with it. Add a teaspoon of coffee in the truffle. Or mix in some sour dried fruit like dried cranberry. Or coat the truffles in melted chocolate and cover it with rice crispy, or crushed nuts, or both. You can have a field day with it and come up with a gazillion ways of pumping it up according to your fancy.

Oh by the way I know mine look very much like cow turds. Trust me, they are some seriously delicious silky and creamy cow turds! Yummy!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Beijing Guozijian (北京国子监)

Beijing Guozijian (北京国子监) is the imperial academy built during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasty. It was then the highest and the most prestigious learning institution, almost like the Ivy Leagues today.

Walking into Guozijian, I couldn't help it but totally impressed with the glazed facade into the compound. It was the only facade built, for buildings other than a palace or a temple. Beautifully and intricately decorated with colorful glazed tiles of emerald green and mustard yellow and carvings of dragon and flowers, it was imposing but not intimidating, like a friendly headmaster welcoming the students into the school.

On both sides of the facade, there was each a line of four-character poetic prose written by the Emperor Qian Long (乾隆). Huan Qiao Jiao Ze (圜桥教泽) on the front, praising the teaching and contribution of the Emperor benefiting the students all over.

Xue Hai Jie Guan (学海节观) on the back, equating the knowledge of the emperor as vast as the sea and the enormous turn out of student during the visit of the emperor to the academy to lecture the students.

The highest and the most prestigious learning institution, frequently visited by the emperor as a visiting professor, reading and lecturing on the Confucius teaching to the student body. Now imagine the competition and mad rush into this school!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Taste of Old Beijing

I love Beijing. The city is always abuzz with vibrant energy and never ceased to amaze me with her sights and sounds, and in my latest trip, taste!

Strolling along the street late in the morning I stumbled upon a lot of empty porcelain jars in front of some shops and roadside stalls. I asked around, found out that those were the local yogurt. To be exact, it's called old Beijing yogurt! I'm so used to yogurt being associated with the Western food so learning about old Beijing yogurt really was such a surprise!

How does it taste? I made it my mission early the next morning scavenging the streets nearby my hotel for those little jars of yogurt. Came up yogurt-less after asking and searching in the convenient store, the fruit stall, the florist, the restaurant. Finally the noodles stall lady told me to try in the wet market. After more asking around the vegetable lady and the meat butcher, I found it!

Two little cup size porcelain jars sealed with a piece of paper tightened around the brim with a rubber band. Inside, the creamy milky goodness of yogurt, silky smooth and feather light, no lumps no curds. The taste was absolutely delightful, the zingy sourness from the milk and faint sweetness after taste of the honey, very refreshing in the morning. Oh and the light scent of the honey was almost intoxicating too. It's healthy and tasted great, definitely the breakfast for the champion!

And have I mentioned that they were dirt cheap? One yuan a jar! Three yuans if you have them taken away, two for the deposit of the jar.

Yeah, I'm taking them jars home as my souvenirs from Beijing, a lovely taste of old Beijing.