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

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Recounts of an overprotected child

A squad of teens marched past me, sound of feet thundering the floor in unison. I sat watching them from the stall where I was munching down my breakfast of fried noodles and sausage,

My daughter's school sports day.

We are not that much different, she and I. When I was thirteen, I too was a shy and awkward teenager, and only involved in the marching squad and house decoration (back then it was a huge thing!) during school sports.

Her school is so much smaller than mine, being a private school. But still, I could feel the deja vu set in the pit of my stomach.

At 13, I had a huge crush on a boy that I met often on my dance gigs. 3 years older, I thought he was perfect. At 13 I was the shyest person that blushed at the slightest hint of a mistake, or if a cute guy passed by. At 13 my time was full of ballet classes, music classes and school. At 13, my favourite band was NKOTB. My bedroom wall was riddled with their posters and my school bag was full of their button pins. They were my obsession. At 13, my birthday present was a video games console on which I played Mario Bros.

I have comments that I am more of a sister than a mother to my daughter, and that I'm not strict. At all.

But here's why.

Never have been a perfect mother, never will be. I wasn't allowed to be a mother, and feel the real trials and tribulations of being one. Because I was overshadowed by the 'Perfect One'.

My mother.

From as long as I can remember, Mama has always been around. Hovering, is kind of how I would put it. From the time I was a toddler, my mum opened her own playschool so that I didn't have to go to any other school.

Simply because I cried on my first day at another school.

She was always there to fight my battles for me, kind of embarrassing me at various points of my life. She would barge into my room without knocking (maybe she thought I was quietly taking drugs, God knows). She doesn't seem to understand that teens need time alone to think. A teen in an emotional state is not a signal you have to barge into the rooms, sit there and wait for her to talk to you.

Mama made my decisions for me all the time. She was always there, waiting for me to fall so that she can bring me upright again, hoping maybe even. She wanted me to live her dreams, everything that she didn't get to achieve when she was my age. Like dance, or play music.

But I wasn't her. I am me, with a different set of dreams.

That played a big part in my steadfast decision to continue my studies at a college in a different city when I finished my studies at secondary school.

Perhaps it is my sheltered life that was my undoing. I was too innocent.

Today I see my daughter go through the same patterns with her grandmother, with the hovering and waiting and saying "oh, but it is just too difficult for her" or "she can't do it, because she's never done it before. I must be there". And yet she expects my daughter to be independent 'like the others'. And it doesn't cease to frustrate me, because I remember myself as the teen in that situation, 20 years ago.

I would have loved for my mum to have a little more faith in me. Even now, at the age of over 30, she still thinks it is her prerogative to tell me what I should do.

Thus, I am less than the 'good mother', because I feel that there are some things that should be learnt by the child, even if it is the hard way. It's about being independent and realising that you can't always rely on others. You made the bed, now lie in it.

But then, thinking about it, my mum was brought up in a completely different situation. And that is the world as she sees it. Born in a family of 11 siblings, she probably never had the chance to have as much attention from her parents. There was so much competition, and opportunities were less, This was probably the life she would have wanted - the lives that Ashley and I live. Completely saturated with love and attention.

I suppose that one day Ashley will write her own perspective of her busy single mother and eccentric grandmother ;-)


Why #Occupy Chong Thien Vun Park? - Opinion

Tonight I just spent another evening on #Occupy, this time on Chong Thien Vun Park, a small space located in the centre of the city. I spent hours searching for information on this person - Chong Thien Vun, but unfortunately nothing on this man turned up on Google. It was like he never existed beyond being one of Datuk Fuad Stephens' sidekicks. Most links that turned up was either about offices that are located on Jalan Chong Thien Vun in various areas of Sabah, or about some 'immoral activities' happening in Chong Thien Vun Park on Trig Hill, Sandakan.

Out of exasperation I asked my mum who he was, and I got some tearful recount from her that he was a very nice man that used to live in the house just behind our current home. His widow was my mum's history teacher at school.

Interesting.... but still that didn't answer much of who he really was.

As I couldn't find more concrete information, not even about the park (I even tried to go to the 66 memorial gallery, but it was closed, and walked through the park last night, but found no information slab) so this is what I wrote on the FB invite:-

Many of us may not be old enough to know Datuk Chong Thien Vun. But he was one of the state ministers that perished in the Double Six tragedy of 1976, and he was at that time the newly sworn in State minister of Communication and Public Works. A great (and dark) part of Sabah's rich history.

The Chong Thien Vun park (named in his honor) is a little stretch of greenery nestled right in the centre of the city, just beside the High Court and the now abandoned State Library building. Very important buildings for public use.

And now it seems that money has yet again won over public interest.

In 2011, the Kota Kinabalu Local Planning Committee had put up a ‘Revival Town Planning’ for the public to view and object. In spite of objections made, the plan had marked the land where the former State Library, High Court and Kota Kinabalu Health Clinic currently stands to be gazetted into a commercial area. (Meaning possibly more shopping malls!)

The Kota Kinabalu Library was relocated to Suria Sabah, due to declarations that the existing building was unsafe and that it would make way for the extension of the court house. Which was proven to be not true, as it was later announced that the court house would be relocated to Bukit Punai instead.

Just imagine what will most likely happen to the park, if the surrounding areas are made into yet another shopping mall?

KK people, are you just going to sit back and just let them take public land for private interests? Come and lets reclaim what is rightfully ours

At least 20-30 of us turned up tonight, and we each told our story on why we are supporting this cause. Reasons include the irreplaceable sentimental value of the places, the loss of access to what is supposed to be public property, and that the Red Square (as the park is fondly named in the past by skateboarders) is the last bit of space left that didn't require permits for its use. If it is turned into a shopping lot, then it means that we have to spend money, i.e. sit in a cafe with a drink, to be there. Everything costs money.

Then came my turn to speak up, and I surprise myself with the amount of force in my voice, and strong emotion as to why I strongly oppose the gazetting of the lands for commercial use. Maybe deep down inside, I am just really an angry person waiting to be unleashed, who knows...

First off, I didn't even know about the existence of Chong Thien Vun park until the day before Bersih 3.0 when I unexpectedly stumbled upon it during a walk. I still remember that day - I walked from my office in Warisan Square to HSBC Bank to bank in some monies to a creditor. I decided to walk because of the difficulty of finding a parking spot in town, and also because I wanted to conserve fuel and it was the best way to keep fit while helping Mother Earth *wink*.

It just so happened on that day that I wanted to see what was happening at the Padang Merdeka - a number of trucks arrived, chock-full of men in uniform and red helmets, and what a racket there was. I walked on the opposite road next to the former State library, and that is when I chanced upon a little stage in the middle of an open space. Very curious, I thought.

That happened to be the venue we all converged the next day before continuing our march to Padang Merdeka.

While the park itself doesn't hold much sentimental value for me, the former State library does. I still remember how I used to go there a lot as a child, and how I would wait for my mum to pick me up after I called, using one of those payphones of old. I was aghast when I found that the library was closed, and a small branch opened in Suria Sabah, while a bigger one is opened near the State Archives.

Not that I am knocking off having a library in a mall where lots of kids frequent (and where they can easily make an excuse about going to a library when in fact they are going to the cinema...) but I just went there a couple of days back to look for a finance book and found stuff which I can only describe politely as being completely 'light-weight' reading.

Undeterred, I decided to visit the bigger library and was appalled, after visiting the Galeri Petrosains, to find that NONE of the books can be borrowed or taken out of the building. What sort of library is this??

Before I go any further with my rant, let me list out my reasons why I oppose having YET another mall built in the centre of the city (and sacrificing public amenities):

1. We seriously DON'T need another shopping mall when a lot of existing malls and buildings are not fully utilised. Just take a walk around in Warisan Square, or Megalong, or even 1Borneo!

2. Our people are not as rich as KL peeps. Seriously, with our low salaries and high costs of living, who has money to spend? New shops open and close down in a blink of an eye. There's so many sellers and not enough buyers. Our malls are quiet on most days, unlike KL malls.

3. Buildings meant for the public should remain in the middle of the city. I noted that the big library where most of the intellectual books and study spaces were located, does not have easy access by public transportation. Which mean those are amenities for the rich? But if they're rich, can't they afford to buy books instead? And sip expensive drinks while reading at Coffee Bean.

4. More commercial lots mean even less parking space to accommodate the crowds in the middle of the city. And sacrificing the revenues of the existing mum & pop stores. Our people. Not big faceless corporations.

5. Why don't we start appreciating our buildings? Restore more, tear down less. A lot friendlier to the environment too.

We Sabahans have lost so much! We've lost rights to our own produce - petroleum, our rights to our own land, and jobs in agencies which are supposed to be governed by our own people, among others.

Isn't it time we spoke up?

(Points stated above are the personal opinions of the writer only)


Friday, July 27, 2012

Ramadan is not just about food

It's that time of year again, when the air is filled with smoky smells of barbecue chicken wings, stalls galore dotting every corner of town, with colourful 'kueh' or sweet delicacies and savoury dishes aplenty on offer. It's almost a food fest, but that would be totally in the wrong spirit.

The month of Ramadan is here again, where Muslims all over the world pay their respects through abstaining from food and drink from the moment the sun rises to the moment the sun sets down the horizon. It is meant to be a time of moderation, but that is often forgotten as hotels hike up their buffet prices for the ravenous crowd.

Yes, it is times like these that we realise just how much food dictates our lives, as we sit and watch while people pile the food like mountains on their plates in their conquest to ensure 'value for money'. It's not supposed to be an excuse for gluttony. We're not having breakfast, lunch AND dinner in one sitting. (to be honest, I've started to get sick of food, and thinking about it, by now....)

But what it really is, is definitely a time for family and friends, as we make time to all sit down together and enjoy our meals.

I love this time of the year. Honestly. There is a feeling in the air that can't be described in words.

I'll say frankly that I'm not religious, but spiritual. But I fast every Ramadan because I want to, and not because I'm told to do it. And I can do it because I've done it since I was 6 or 7, and I do it every single year (except when I was pregnant) because it actually makes me feel good! At peace.

It's times like this that makes me realise that it really just is a case of mind over matter. We CAN choose to not let food get too much headspace, let only good words pass our lips and think of all good intentions. Yes, because the act of kindness, unselfishness and humbleness are all part and parcel of what Ramadan is about. It is not just about the food.

I don't always understand why everything seems to come to a complete stop just because it is Ramadan. Having no food for a whole day doesn't mean you're weak from hunger and that everything else must stop. It shouldn't work that way. Life is supposed to go on as normal, with the extra challenge. We are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

And as the person who loves challenges... I happily accept!

While I look forward to when life is back to normal again, I am enjoying the present. It is afterall, just one month out of twelve.

Happy Fasting!


Friday, July 6, 2012

Freeing the voice within

The silence of the night was broken by the sound of the back door slamming shut, followed by the squealing sound of a car being started up, the roar of the car engine as it pulls out of the garage.

I sat in the darkness,  heaving a sigh of relief as the sound fades into the distance. The days seem so bleak, and there seem to be no way out of this.

Earlier that day, I was berated in public for not answering his numerous calls while I was at work. It was all for pointless reasons, like he was checking up on me 24-7. When I came home, I found my collection of books torn, my favourite painting smashed to pieces.

"You deserve it, you slut!!!" he screamed at me, pushing me aside forcefully. I clung to the wall for support.

Days like this has become the norm. When I chose to speak what was on my mind, he'd ridiculed me and made me feel stupid. When we argued, he'd force me to sit in the car while he drove fast to some town far away while he shouted at me like a raving maniac. And he'd force me to do things I didn't want, like I am some sort of doll that he bought and owned. The more I didn't want, the more satisfaction he gathered from my discomfort.

He was the King, because he was a man. Whatever it was, I am just the bitch who should listen to the master.

I felt suffocated and hopeless.

All those tantrums were his ways of making me bow under his pressure and become submissive. A lifeless and emotionless robot who did only what was told.

Being a woman is not easy. Especially in a society where gender roles are specified. There are unseen boundaries, that deal a stinging emotional blow where you overstep.

A man misbehaves - it's a woman's fault. "Maybe you were disobedient", "Maybe you didn't give 'it' to him" are excuses heard. While he shouts "MAYBE IF YOU WERE HERE TO DO THE LAUNDRY!" and smashes your mobile phone.

Maybe, maybe and more maybes to excuse him, instead of pin-pointing directly the perpetrator of violence.

Every excuse given for his behavior was like a stab straight to the heart. People do not understand. Many abused women continue to stay on because they think by being a 'peacemaker' every thing will work out fine. They get sucked into the cycle of violence, where one day everything is all sunshine and roses, and stormy the next. If they 'behave' maybe it will remain all sunshine and roses forever.

It doesn't. There are always things that will 'spark off' his abusive behaviour. The list just goes on and on.

Besides, how long can you stand to be treated the lowest of the low?

My heart longs for love. The kind of love where I am appreciated for being me. A love that comforts and makes me feel protected. The kind of love where there is mutual respect and trust - where I am happy. And most of all FREE.

The worst part of the emotional and physical abuse rollercoaster, is the feeling that no one is on your side. Being a woman in a patriarchal society means you have no business being a person of your own right. I had to deal with people, even those close to me, turning against me. It is a lonely and silent journey. Silent because you feel no one is listening.

They tell me I should go back to my husband, citing all kinds of nonsense Syariah Laws, saying I will be charged for so and so. Some are too wary to be of any real help, preferring to play no role at all. People in certain departments to help battered women pretend to be helpful, but they are actually looking for distressed women who are easy prey. 

I wanted someone to give me the strength I need to keep moving. I want to be told that 'you are doing the right thing'. I want someone to be there to give me guidance. Someone to tell me that I am not alone. Someone who will be there to listen to all that I have to say.

Faced with so much fear of the unknown and insecurity, I bailed.

Finding the courage to free the voice, and strength within, was a long process. I am looking back as I am giving myself a second chance to do what I need to do. It wasn't easy then.

And it still isn't easy now. My body feels like lead as I try to take my first steps towards freedom.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Life is about taking chances

I could hear the rain as it pattered down the roof of the dark, quiet building where I sat, thankful just to have found a shelter to rest for the night. Having arrived on a much delayed flight from Sydney to Gold Coast airport, bus services had stopped for the night, thus causing me to rethink my route plan back to my cosy rented room in Robertson.

It was already past midnight, hailing a taxi to get to the train station would cost me twice the usual fare. And cost a hole in my pocket. So, my best option would be to wait it out until the first bus makes its rounds in the morning, which is around 6 a.m. Easy-peasy.

So here I am in a public toilet building in Coolangatta, waiting for the rain to stop, and trying to get as much sleep as possible meanwhile on the hard wooded bench. A much better option than waiting outside a 24 hour convenience store and getting wet. And thinking it's so lucky that public toilets in Australia are clean and are not accompanied by the stink that toilets do back home.

By 4 a.m. the rain stopped and the morning sun started to come up. I never thought a sunrise so beautiful as the warm rays of sunlight came streaming through the high window. I packed my bag and walked out of the building to see the beach in the early morning light, waves lapping up on shore. A peaceful feeling envelops me as I gazed over the gorgeous view, realising that I survived a night out here completely alone, in a place I barely know. A perfect ending to my almost completely solo trip to Sydney after attending scuba diving school in Coffs Harbour. My last leg of exploring Down Under before I return home to Malaysia.

It is an uplifting feeling. A feeling of complete independence.

Back in those days, I would probably pack up in a moment's notice and just relocate myself anywhere in the world. If I could, I wanted to hold a permanent residence to Australia, even if it meant living in Darwin for 2 years. Or get a working holiday visa in New Zealand and spend six months to a year exploring all the cities on the North and South islands. Heck, I even spent 4 years finding a life in the quiet little island of Labuan. I don't think I really gave much thought much about it when the decision was made to accept a job offer there.

These days I think I am a lot less 'gung-ho' about relocating. I got upset instead of excited when I got a marriage proposal which involved me shifting North to a place with so little sunshine (hey, I LOVE the sun! And islands, and beaches, and sea.....) and unfamiliar language. I think I'll die... Maybe not physically die, but I think my spirit will die. Withered away like a plant in absence of the sun.

And now I have an almost firm offer of a job in Brunei. Same island, but new sights, new territory, new rules. I've been there on a holiday a few years ago, but the memory seems to be a little fuzzy. What's life like in Brunei? I don't really know. The biggest tip I got was that it is income-tax free.

It may mean more money, less expenses for me. But it also means moving away from family, from friends, and the comfortable niche I've built for myself here. My passions are here, and over there, it's back to scratch. What if I hated it there?

And it boils back down to my dream. Of a nice house, a large open kitchen included, with sunlight streaming through tall glass windows. And my own version of Prince Charming, if that is even remotely possible. (No no no... not Brunei Prince, ewww!)

Where does that fit in?

But life is about taking chances, aye?

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