English: There, here and over there. Basically, in a sense, to mean restless. A collection of thoughts, musings and ramblings...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Writing is...

Writing is like having a good talk over a cup of coffee with a friend. The best kind of friend. The friend with whom you are able to express all your thoughts and feelings.

Pour out your entire heart and soul. Without being judged. Without being interrupted mid-sentence.Without having your thoughts and ideas hi-jacked.

Writing is where you can be honest without being afraid.

Writing is 100% you


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grandma Kee (known fondly as Nenek Tawau)

Taken during Hari Raya Aidilfitri 2011

I do not know my grandmother.

She lies there, frail and all skin and bones. I approach her uncertainly. My aunt (her step daughter) asked me to help out with cleaning up grandma. Over the last few days, she has rapidly deteriorated into such a state that she could no longer sit up.

Her back hurts, she says.  I tried gently to pick her up and support her from behind as we quickly gave her a wash and changed her clothes. It is humbling to realise that one day we could be that person. The person who depends on others for what we take for granted today. We were born helpless and needing care. And one day we will return to that state as well.

I have no idea who my grandmother is. She is the grandmother who lived far away in Tawau, and who we would visit at least once a year. My mum's father and mother died when I was still young, around the age of 12. I did not know them that well either, unlike Ashley with my parents. But at least I had some connection and memories of them. My grandparents sitting in the crowd to watch me dance ballet and talk about how great it is to have a granddaughter that dances. My grandfather driving me to piano lessons. My grandmother teaching me to knit.

But I do not know this grandmother. All I know is that she comes from the Hainanese lineage, Kee. Names of her father and grandfather are immortalised as street names in Tawau. She never talked much. All I remember were the days I spent as a child at her house in front of the beach. Her, cooking the best roti prata I ever tasted. And her making me soup, because she says I like to eat it. She didn't talked much, but she laughed. And when she did talk, it was always with humour at herself.

We were never close. I never know what to say to her and now she lives in my home. I wondered what stories about herself she would tell me if she still could. But she can't.

Life is too short. And time flies without us realising it. We can only appreciate the people in our lives, however small the role they play. Because at anytime, we could say goodbye.

The 4 generations of the Aripen Family


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Untypical childhood

A chance meeting with an old classmate today had me thinking about my childhood...

I was born the youngest of 4 siblings, the age gap between me and my closest sibling is 7 years. I was left way behind - I might as well have been an only child. By the time I was 12, my sister had gotten married, and my brothers had left for college.

By far the best family photo we had when we were still kids
 Most people immediately associate the youngest, or the 'baby' of the family, as being the most spoilt. Little do they know that the youngest usually carries all the parents' hopes and dreams, where it was unfulfilled by the elder kids.

My mum often talked about how as a child, she wished that she had the chance to learn to play the piano, to dance etc etc etc. And so, because she didn't get to live her dream... guess who is the lucky person?

First my sister. She was sent to ballet classes. Didn't like it. Stop.
She was sent to learn piano. Don't like. Wrote 'DO NOT LEARN THIS' on every single page of her piano book.

So the responsibility shifted to my elder brother (the older of the twins). No, he didn't learn ballet, but he begged for piano lessons.
Barely a year later, the whole family moved for a year to Birmingham, England while my dad completed his one year postgraduate degree in Building Administration. Thus was also the end of my brother's piano dream.

Then it came to me. My mother, sensing this is her last chance for the 'perfect' child, went all out.

She fed me with veggies,did everything according to the book, and sent me for all the things as she dreamt when she was younger. I don't believe I had time to be a normal Sabahan child. Other kids played zero-point, and cards, and hide and seek. I didn't.

And me, the obedient child, did all that was set out for me. My mum sent me to ballet classes from the tender age of 6 all the way until I was 16 even though I didn't enjoy it. Her excuse is she didn't want me to have spinal surgery to correct scoliosis like my poor sister did, but I think my mum mostly did it because she wanted me to do the things that she didn't get to do and couldn't get my sister to do it.

Ballet requires so much discipline. Is it possible to enjoy a class where the teacher was continuously screaming for us to 'keep the turnout', 'point feet' and so on... (by the way, my daughter and my niece took up ballet only for a short while, but stopped after complaining that teacher screams. Huh..) Nevertheless, I stayed long enough to earn my Grade 6 qualification. Then at 16 I dashed my mum's hopes of me ever becoming a prima ballerina because I decided to quit and take up taekwondo instead. Which she thought would turn me into a stomping hulk of a girl.

Aside from ballet, I also went for piano classes from the age of 7. I quite enjoyed it, and only discontinued when I decided to further my studies at Sunway College.

Dancing was my life. At the age of 9, we heard about tap dancing lessons being taught in KK. I am a fan of Annie (the musical about a red-haired orphaned kid), so I was very very willing to go for lessons. Now this, was something I enjoyed very much. And this was also when I started performing regularly on stage. Tap dance is rare, and heavily sought for in those days.My first tap dancing performance was at Tshung Tsin school hall, and there were only two of us - myself and a girl named Debbie Teo.

For years, I kept every single costume I ever wore in my performances. The tap dancing classes didn't last long, as the teacher had to return back to her home country England. That was when I started taking modern dance and other types of dance lessons (ballroom dancing, latin, etc) at the Likas Sports Complex.

Through that, at the age of 12, I was already performing in the then popular discotheque called Tiffany. In my head I can still see myself  dancing the routine to Michael Jackson's Dangerous. Most of the performances we did were held at Shangri-la Tanjung Aru Resort's grand ballroom.

Performances were quite frequent, and usually I would get about RM20-50 for each. It was good pocket money.

The Sabrina you see every day is quiet, shy. But the moment I am on stage, a different me comes out. When I look back now, wow, I had an interesting childhood. Not a typical childhood at all.

Do I miss dancing? Yes I do. I am still looking for my dance partner ;-) Interested parties, please sign up!


Friday, March 23, 2012

Thoughts of Labuan

Labuan, the Pearl of South China Sea was my home for 4 years.

My family history can be traced back from the moment my great grandfather Kee Abdullah @ Kee Kim Swee (born to a Hainanese father, and Dusun Tutong mother) studied in Labuan.

This is the island where my great grandmother - a housekeeper to a colonial mansion, now Tiara Labuan, met and married a red-haired Scottish man named Morris Oakford.

This is also the island where my mother was born, in a small kampung named Kampung Lajau and spent a large part of her childhood.

So you see, I have a lot of attachments to this tiny little town, so it is no wonder that I felt so at home here.

I have some of the fondest memories of Labuan. It is there that I purchased my first car - a black Toyota Vios, at a price that could rival the Perodua Myvi back home. It is also there that I bought my first home - a small 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1 study apartment.

Life was simple. Weekdays were spent in the office, and being home meant long hours spent in front of the tv or laptop. Weekends were spent grocery shopping, cleaning house and cooking. And maybe if time was ample enough, then I would embark on small DIY projects. Or if I was lonely, I'd call my colleague, and we'd spent hours just exploring the other side of the island, eating chicken wings freshly roasted at a stall, as the gentle breeze from the sea caresses our hair.

To some, this is paradise. Exotic.

Life is beautiful. But I left.


A few reasons. To be closer to family. To have more interesting things injected into my every day life. To find some eye candy, as I am a woman with needs too (I'm sorry to say that Labuan nightlife is only for the men... way too sleazy).

But there were other reasons as well. A friend asked me about my opinion on the development of Labuan. I believe that I could write an entire essay about my disappointment.

Sure, in a way Labuan developed well under the Federal government since 1984, bringing into it foreign investors and turning it into a business hub, which I am sure some Labuan folk are grateful for. But looking at the developments over the last few years, it would seem as if some certain parties wants Labuan to die a slow and painful death.

I copy a few of my responses (or rather, I aired my frustrations) to my friend's question on Facebook here:-

  • Sabrina Melisa Aripen Well... a few disappointing things happened to me throughout my 4 years of living in Labuan. 1 - Airfare became ridiculously expensive. And lots of flight cancellations. When I first came to Labuan, it cost less than RM100 to fly either way. By the time I left Labuan, it costs over RM200, sometimes up to RM300 for a one way ticket! Then it becomes unattractive to visit Labuan
    Yesterday at 13:44 ·  ·  1

  • Sabrina Melisa Aripen Second, the deterioration of ferry connections between the island and the mainland. Ferry malar rosak saja. And you know what happened when suggestions of another ferry company to service the folk of Labuan. Honestly, I felt like photostating the dictionary with the word 'monopoly' on it and giving to the relevant people. Because they obviously don't know what the word means.
    Yesterday at 13:46 ·  ·  1

  • Sabrina Melisa Aripen There should be more attractive means of transport to connect Labuan to mainland. Not speedboats. Proper passenger ferries to Menumbok, with maybe nice services... like a proper cafe... high class sikit lah! and Menumbok jetty also needs to be improved

  • Sabrina Melisa Aripen Other things... Labuan development seems to be ok lah. But pity lah, so much spent on a huge airport, but so few flights. Labuan needs to be accessible in order for it to develop more. Bring in more people = more $$$

  • Sabrina Melisa Aripen Hotels quite expensive for a small place like Labuan. And some are not properly maintained.

  • Sabrina Melisa Aripen I am not so updated anymore with the offshore trust services in Labuan. Do they still allow marketing offices to be established in KL? Seriously, some people obviously wants to kill Labuan. Because that is the main attraction of foreign investors to the island.
    Yesterday at 13:56 ·  ·  1

  • Sabrina Melisa Aripen Labuan has much tourism potential, to be honest. It is possible, but you need the right people to market it.

The ferry issue was again touched on last year, in November, about introducing 2 new ferry operators. It lasted about a week, then died down again. It is either, the MP doesn't actually live on this side of the planet, or he really doesn't care. And the issue about offshore trust services? True, as confirmed by another friend, with the addition of Johor as well.

If the people of Labuan don't take a stand, I am afraid, that Labuan is facing a certain death.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

What would I like to do to change the world?

If I was given the power to do anything for the greater good of the world, I would choose to create an antidote for greed.

Evil doesn't exist by itself. But greed is the root of all evil.

Think about it. When some evil deed is done, we always ask why. There always has to be a reason. Mostly it has to do with money, power and fame.

For example, aside from pure hate and discrimination, why did Hitler try to wipe out an entire race's existence on earth?

No one is born inherently evil, without a cause.

Think about the problems faced by mankind today, and the root of these problems. Why does deforestation happen? What about war?

Man by nature, will never settle for just 'enough'. They will always want more, even if what they already have is more than what they can live comfortably on.

Makes me wonder about the existence of international corporations. Do they do business purely for the love and enjoyment of what they do? Or because of the big bucks?

Greed ensures that even if you already live in a house big enough for a family of 10, when there's only 2 of you, it is not enough. Neither is a good reliable car that takes you from point A to B. Or enough food to fill up your tummy and those you care about.

There is always something bigger and better out there. The elusive dream.

And the end result is?

Less time with family. Stress. Unhappiness. Burning of bridges. All the money in the world still can't buy happiness.

Greed breeds dishonesty. Some would do anything and everything to get ahead. Greed also breeds negative feelings of suspicion and jealousy. Because you always want to be number 1.

Solution? Simple - Gratitude.

Think of the word and how do you feel? Being grateful for even small the things of life brings us pleasure. Gratitude is incompatible with stress, anger, hate and all other negative things.

Therefore, gratitude is the root of all that is good!

Just food for thought on a Thursday morning ;-)


My Personal Namecard

I just designed this today! Just a bit dissatisfied that I don't have my own anymore since switching jobs, and my JCI card just doesn't do it anymore. (Ashley would hate it, because it's PINK! Haha!)

I used the same image as per Sana.Sini.Situ's FB fanpage, because it is so me. The globe, the binoculars and book reflects the wandering spirit in me - ever questioning, ever exploring with a do-or-die attitude to life.

I wanted a card that is a 'one-size-fits-all' so that I don't have to hold multiple cards. So I listed my affiliations at the back. And what a loooooong list it is.

I can't help but think something is still missing.

What do you think of my card?


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

KK Food Fest - closing ceremony cocktail

Battling a sea of endless cars, I finally made it to 1Borneo! A little late, after 6pm, but the girl at the reception counter assured me that they have only just finished with the speeches.

Representing Bloggers in Borneo, it was only fairly recently that I attended the press conference and later on to enjoy learning to make sushi through one of the fringe events

After 2 weeks of wining, dining and experiencing culinary adventures during the fringe events... the KK Food Fest closes with a small and intimate by-invitation-only Closing Cocktail event at La Fuente, 1Borneo. The event was designed as a networking event and as a gesture of gratitude from the organisers for the support of the KK Food Fest's participants, sponsors, advertisers, invited guests and members of the media.

The Closing Cocktail was attended by none other than Sabah's Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment - Datuk Masidi Manjun.

The Closing Cocktail also doubled as an Awards Presentation, serving as an avenue to present the nine KK Food Fest Awards. The KK Food Fest Awards started as the People's Choice Awards at the first edition of the event in 2011, where winners were based on votes registered on KKFoodFest.com

"We didn't expect our participating restaurants to take the awards as seriously as they did," says Elson Kho, the KK Food Fest's Organiser. "The 2011 awards were extremely competitive! It's good to know that the restaurants really value the awards as honours that represent food quality and service excellence. We've decided to bring the occasion back, only with a little twist. This time we've sent out anonymous judges to secretly scrutinise our participants."

This year, the awards splits the final decision on winning restaurants among 3 secret judges as well as online votes cast by the general public.

"We felt that this step was necessary to make things more fair overall, since we've observed issues with online voting in other projects," continues Elson. "For example, public votes on Facebook can be very easily faked by users who have created multiple accounts. This is why we've divided the votes between those made online and the scores given by our judges."

The judges themselves are each equipped with experience in various capacities in the area of food and beverage. The first is a chef and educator with over 20 years of experience in the kitchen, who also currently runs a thriving academy aimed at teaching children and other students to properly develop skills in cooking.

The second judge is a prominent food blogger based in Kota Kinabalu, a talented chef who frequently flies around the world on food trips and has also received extensive local media coverage.

The third judge is the editor in chief of a local print magazine who regularly works as a food critic and previously held positions in hospitality management, where they worked closely with talented chefs in the food and beverage departments of various hotels and resorts.

Criteria for judging covers a wide range of factors that detail a restaurant's ratings in a variety of area, such as: the food and Festival Menus in terms of presentation, preparation and overall quality; the excellence of its service and attentiveness of its staff; hygienic conditions and atmosphere; and other aspects of restaurant environment and operation.

Let's congratulate the winners!

Best Restaurant:(Bistro) Lava Restro Bar
Best Restaurant:(Cafe) Yu Cafe
Best Restaurant:(Hotel) Nagisa Japanese Restaurant @ Hyatt Regency Kinabalu
Best Restaurant:(Restaurant) Party Play Lifestyle cafe

Best Festival Menu:(Bistro) La Fuente
Best Festival Menu:(Cafe) J's Kitchen & Cafe
Best Festival Menu:(Hotel) Peppino @ Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa
Best Festival Menu:(Restaurant) Sushi Tei

Best Fringe Event: Winecellars
Vino Da Tutto Pasto Italiano (Italian Wine Dinner)

The KK Food Fest Awards' nine winners each received a certification of their victory in the form of framed awards ideal for display in their individual establishments, as proof of the fact that they do, indeed, represent the very best and brightest of the festival.

And that wraps the KK Food Festival 2012! Keep following KKFoodFest.com or "like" the official fan page at fb.com/KKFoodFest for regular information on local restaurants and promotions, as well as to keep updated on what to expect for KK Food Fest 2013!

Until then... bon appetit!

One of the anonymous judges

Another one of the anonymous judges


Kk Food Fest - at English Tea House, Perdana Park

Last Friday night, I decided to treat my daughter to something special... since it was the end of school holidays.

And since I just had one more stamp (just 1 more!!) to complete my Stamp and Win form for KK Food Fest restaurant category, we chose to go to the English Tea House. 

We could have chosen any other restaurant, but the picture on the advert looks... interesting. White foam and all.

English Tea House is an offshoot of the original English Tea House located at Sandakan on the grounds of the Agnes Keith house (the author who wrote 'The Land Below The Wind' & 'Three Came Home'. Google, if you don't know who she is!)

When I think of 'English Tea House', I think - prim & proper, scones with tea, fine dining... Having said that, I have been to both the original location, and the branch at Jesselton Point, and have noted that perhaps the prices are a little bit on the high side. But I absolutely love scones! 

My mouth is watering as I write. Thinking about scones. Yum yum...

Sure, prices are high. But it is a treat, meaning a once-in-a-while sort of thing. So....

The new location of English Tea House is now at Perdana Park. I noticed that the one at Jesselton Point has closed. 

Perdana Park is located at Tanjung Aru, and is famous for its musical water fountains. Cars parked there are charged at RM1 per entry, and most evenings, the parking lot is quite full. Especially during the school holidays.

WARNING: I have a few grouses about my experiences here.

And when I grouse about something, it ain't pretty...

When we arrived at the English Tea House, the restaurant was notably empty. Well, it is pricier than the rest of the food outlets, so it is to be expected.

We were then informed that the restaurant only serves a set menu, which is for the KK Food Fest, but you are free to pick any item individually. The full set costs RM48.50 consisting of a starter, mains and dessert.

The menu sets out a choice of three items for each. I chose to start with the ginger and pumpkin soup, followed by the shephard's pie and chocolate volcano with vanilla lava to finish off. 

The menu was a bit confusing though. I only realised at the end of the dinner (being presented with a heavier price to pay) that some items cost RM10 more! I thought the RM10 meant it cost only RM10 :-/ I wish the waitress had been a bit more active and engaging when taking our order that evening, and took more care to inform us about the differences in pricing.

I was also a bit disappointed, because the advertisement had said something about 'ultra-sensorial', and I just didn't see it in the food choices here. Then I read a bit more on the short information, and the chef has chosen the dishes based on his favourites as a child in England. Makes sense then, the choices of shephard's pie, fish and chips, brownies... I can imagine enjoying those dishes when I was small.

One major grouse I have with the whole set-up is the lack of credit card facilities. For a restaurant that is about 'fine dining' and costing RM48.50 per person, I would expect that this would be readily in place. Not everyone carries so much cash around. So I had to leave Ashley at the restaurant first while I went to search for an ATM machine.

The fact that the location of this restaurant is considerably far from ATM services really turns me off. I had to drive to find the nearest ATM, which was either at Tanjung Aru Plaza or Terminal 2 KKIA, neither of each are within walking distance. And to make matters worse... by the time I got back to Perdana Park, there was a long long long line of cars queuing up to get in! So, I am NOT happy by the time I got back to the restaurant and sat down to have my dinner.

Soup was cold by the time I arrived back at the restaurant. I like the curry-tinged flavour in the soup, and the extra crunch of the croutons, but I am not happy enough to give a rave review.

This is where grouse number 2 came in. As a restaurant that is associated with fine dining, or at least a level higher than your typical kopitiam, I would expect to be given a soup spoon. Rather than using the same spoon for both the entrees and the mains.

Shephard's pie. Ashley said it was very good because she loves the rich tomato based sauce. For me, it is just normal and acceptable. Presentation is so-so. Dish is accompanied by rocket lettuce, sprinkled with vinaigrette sauce. I would say the portion is a little small, compared to what I have received from previous orders.

Drinks are pretty reasonably priced
The chocolate volcano is pretty much a chocolate mouse, with some strawberry coloured foam oozing out from the top. I wouldn't say 'WOW', but it was good.

And it is also the dish that cost RM10 extra than the others...

What the desert looks like cut-up.
The restaurant from the outside

We finished our dinner that evening with a short walk around the park and enjoying the musical water fountain.

Sorry if the write-up is a bit lack-luster.... but that is how I feel after that experience.

English Tea House starts operating daily from 3pm onwards until 10pm


Monday, March 19, 2012

Raising RM6,500 for SPCA KK and hoping to gain more!

'May I know who is shaving?' enquired the young man from SNIPS College of Creative Art & Design.

'Oh, it's that lady over there in the green shirt, then that lady over there with the dog wearing a grey t-shirt... ummm... that lady wearing back t-shirt with picture of cat and dog... and that guy there,' I replied nonchalantly.

I watched as his face changed to an expression of shock and surprise, that most of the shavees for the Shave to Save Campaign in aid of SPCA KK are in fact ladies. Brave souls. For I cannot imagine myself doing the same.

So, my own contribution to the welfare of animals in KK, is to be the organiser of the first ever Shave to Save Campaign in aid of SPCA KK. While the running of the campaign had resulted in some stress, some heart-break for me, at the end of the day, it is not about me. It's never about gaining popularity, or fame. It's not about how 'well' or 'how great' YOU organised an event. Because then, all this becomes meaningless. It is about an organisation that needs help. And that really helped me along the way.

While we fell short of the RM20k goal, I hope that the campaign had at least started a wave of awareness of SPCA KK's existence. A number of press coverage and articles were done, a couple of radio interviews...it may have helped to at least widen our support base.

Money, hopefully, will keep pouring in even though the campaign ended. And with the amount of press that attended yesterday, there is hope for better publicity on our appeal for funding. I was quite surprised with the unexpected turnout.

Nothing would have been possible without the 4 shavees plus the 2 that decided to join in, as well as the volunteers.

What can I say, philanthropy is my passion. And I realised one thing yesterday during a discussion over lunch:

True charity is CHARITY WITHOUT BORDERS or at least it should be...


(Read more about the campaign here in an earlier blogpost Shave To Save campaign in aid of SPCA KK)


KK Food Fest - at Fish & Co, Warisan Square

Fish & Co's Festival menu offering ...

The real deal (looks almost exactly the same as in the magazine ad!), sorry for the poor quality of picture though

Quintessentially a British dish, fish & chips has come a long way since its humble beginnings sold on the streets of London, wrapped piping hot in a sheet of newspaper, and sprinkled with salt and vinegar. It was the stock meal for the working class in Great Britain since the late 1800's, and has since then spread to all 4 corners of the globe.

The mention of this dish brings fond memories of my childhood. One of my favourites to order whenever I was out for dinner with the family. 

Come to Fish & Co., and you will be spoilt for choice with the various types of Fish & Chips they have available on menu. Manhattan, New York, and even Malaysia! Each comes with its own speciality. For example Malaysian Fish & Chips has sambal smothered over the fish crisply fried in batter. 

But of course, aside from the usual array of fish & chip selections, Fish & Co also caters for those who are hankering over other types of seafood, including mussels, calamari, shrimp, etc. They even included a few chicken dishes in their repertoire for those who aren't into seafood, but perhaps joining seafood lovers for a dinner.

Fish & Co is a Malaysian franchise. This particular restaurant that we went to is located in Warisan Square, a shopping mall located in the vicinity of Kota Kinabalu city. Though a bit more quiet than the neighbouring mall Centrepoint Sabah, it has sufficient parking space on either buildings for patrons to come and dine at the many food outlets located there. 

But the biggest problem is the traffic, while getting here. We (Ryan, Wendy and I) had planned on watching a movie at 7.20pm that evening. I didn't have a problem with traffic, since I work within the same building as Fish & Co, but for Ryan and Wendy, who were coming from Segama area, had to endure bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic to get here. 

Wanting to complete my KK Food Fest stamp and win form, I chose to order their Festival menu set. Seafood Delight, as the dish is called, is a selection of grilled tiger prawns smothered in peri-peri sauce, grilled salmon with teriyaki sauce, deep-fried fish fingers and calamari, mussels in garlic lemon butter sauce, accompanied by a side of homemade coleslaw and tartar sauce.

Priced at RM25, it is a dish that is meant to be shared among 2 people, but can also be enjoyed by just 1 person. I wasn't confident that this one dish could satisfy 2 people, especially if one of them is a big eater, like most men are, so I chose to order one more dish - a fish (not sure what?) and salmon combination.

Taste-wise, I am not too fussed about the selection of seafood on the dish. Nothing was bad. I quite like the taste, but it wasn't exceptional. It was just normal, as Ryan said. The fish fingers were great, salmon could have been a bit thicker and juicier. 

But we need to take into account that dinner at Fish & Co is on the more affordable end of the scale compared to the other Festival restaurants in the same category. But as a whole, the location and food still rates well for good conversations and meet-ups.

In summary, I would give this experience a 6 out of 10. Not a place to take someone out on a date if your intention is to impress, but a good place to meet friends, or take the family out for dinner.

Fish & Co is open daily from 11am - 10pm. They can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/Fish-CoKotaKinabalu


Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Evolution

The evolution I am referring to here is about mobile phones.

Last Sunday I was sitting down and having a nice breakfast with my dad and daughter when the topic of mobile phones came up. You see, one of my nephews is having a birthday coming up real soon, and his birthday wishlist included a new mobile phone.

"Get a cheap one! Nothing more than RM200"

Granddads and Grandmas don't understand. What phone can you get for RM200 these days? 2 years ago, I'd probably be very happy and satisfied with a RM200 mobile phone, but since then, the Android operating system has spoilt me tremendously. Perhaps forever.

For example, my HTC phone is dying a slow death due to an unfortunate event last October. Even though I did manage to rescue it (read my blog entry on it: A birthday to remember), it just started failing in many small, but different ways. Sensing that my smartphone's days are numbered, I started searching for a replacement desperately.

Settle for a RM200 phone?? Na-ah! Are you nuts?? Just the idea of going back to non-Google, non-Facebook, non-Latitude, non-Whatsapp phones gives me the heebie-jeebies.

In the end, after going back and forth to different telecommunications providers, I settled with one that gave me a free Samsung Galaxy Y for a 2 year contract. Anything! Anything to keep me online 24-7. A true addict. I couldn't afford another expensive phone at the moment, so a free smartphone (however simple it is) that runs on Android is freakin' AWESOME!

My nephew has yet to step into this world of high-tech madness, so maybe he would be fine with a RM200 Nokia phone. Just not me.

To think that I myself used to love and crave Nokia phones. Wow! Feels like a whole lifetime ago. Not that long ago that we settled for green / orange neon lit up screens, boring digital designs and beeping noises, and oohhed and aaahhhed over 'True Tones' and 'Colour Screens'.

So, back to the breakfast conversation.... we had a fun time recollecting those days of old and telling a Gen-Y kid about life without the benefits of mobile phones. Which actually wasn't that long ago? This Gen-Y girl has already her own Blackberry, thanks to a lucky draw I won during Breeze Anniversary party. When I was her age, there was actually something called payphones, and we used it when we needed to call our parents to come pick us up from school.

10 sen for a 3 minute call. 10 sen was very precious.

Well, I remember that people used to be a lot more reliable. When we make an appointment we stick to it. We set a date, time and place in advance. No last minute SMS to say 'I'm running late' or 'On the way'.

My dad said that back when he was at uni in New Zealand, there was only one phone in the entire area. And to use the phone, you had to rotate a handle to keep the conversation going. Can you imagine?

In my head I still remember the rotary dial phone that my parents used to keep inside their bedroom when I was still a child. It was so heavy. Only later on, push button phones replaced the rotary dial phones.

We laughed as we recalled the first 'mobile' phone that we had - a big boxed thing that my dad kept in his Land Cruiser, that we were so proud of. And just for fun, we would call the house from inside the garage. That would have been around 20 years ago.

And when my dad retired at the age of 55, he was given an Ericsson phone, the smallest mobile phone at the time, but with an antenna sticking out the top.

Antenna. Things that are no longer visible on today's mobile phones.

At that time, a mobile phone could easily be priced at RM15,000 - RM20,000. Absolute madness.

And who could forget their first ever mobile phone? I can't. The first mobile phone I ever had was when I was in my first year away to college. A Motorola. It was big enough to throw at someone and actually hurt them. But heck, I was proud of it!

And since then, there were smaller phones. Flip phones, colourful phones, ringtones that you have to compose (yep! There were actual guidebooks for setting your ringtone!).

And now, looking at what we have now, it's hard to believe there was actually a time when we weren't constantly connected. Long distance relationships become more of a possibility.

Miss someone? Text or call them. Skype. Email. Whatsapp. GTalk.

We've gone so far, in such a short time. It's amazing.

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