... and oh so true

Friday, December 30, 2005

Freaking out with bananas and grapes

My earliest experiences with dance were at home, years before Lindy Hop classes at Tras Street or Salsa sessions at Orchard Guild House. They happened at our flat in Laguna Park, which was the favourite venue for my maternal aunts and uncles during the durian season. Their collective decision had apparently little to do with consumption of the stinking, heaty fruit, but with the live entertainment that was on hand.

I don’t remember this with any clarity, but there is pre-PhotoShop photographic evidence and thus must be true. All it took was a flick of the record player's ON switch and I would bust out, kitted out in my floor length, cap-sleeved light blue nightie and shaking my 6 year old booty for all that it was worth. My most beloved hits were Le Freak's Freak Out and Boney M's Brown Girls in the Ring –Tra la la la la.

Daren and I often performed as a duo and we had taken great pains to devise a sequence of moves that we proudly called our Banana Dance. This was a somewhat high investment routine as it involved four of the aforementioned fruit, ripe, one in each hand. It was a King Kong crossed with Beatles groupie arm-swinging dance, with a little hip-jiggling and a most gripping finale, the driving of our tiny thumbs through the bananas.

A related performance, the Grape Dance, had the large seedless grapes wedged between our molars, ready to be squeezed and squirted onto each other –when we performed on our own- or on the audience. That practice was quickly banned by our parents because our relatives didn’t quite relish being covered in sweetish, murky kidspit.

Guess it wasn't their idea of good, clean fun.

She came in shining armour

Puberty is a trying time for most girls. Mine however exacted its heaviest toll on Esther Seo, who was then -and remains- one of my closest friends.

The onset of my period when I was 15 presented me with a special gift - an uncanny proclivity for fainting, the uncanny thing being that Esther was nearly always the only person around when my lights went out. Nevermind the inconvenience of the situation, forget the embarrassment of a public scene – like a shot in the dark, the responsibility for my safety and security were thrust upon her with little to no advance warning.

Like the time when we were tending to our groups vegetable patch, located behind the canteen –more precisely, behind the roti prata stall run the very friendly and rotund Uncle and Aunty- which boasted an eclectic selection of wiry sweet potato creepers and ribbon-thin lettuce leaves, neither being potential material for salad pageants.

It was close to the end of recess time that afternoon and most girls had assembled in the basketball court, in preparation for the group march back to class with the attendant class prefect. There was no time to dawdle, so I simply stated the obvious to Esther, a second or two before keeling over,

"I think I'm going to faint ..."

I awoke up in the sick room, none the worse for the wear –no loamy soil in my hair- and as an unexpected treat, discovered that I had missed a dreaded Physics class or two. Unfortunately Esthers heroic custodianship didn’t her bring similar perks.

Then there was the time when the illustrious Michael Jackson was coming to town and Esther and I were in line for tickets at Specialist Centre. Some 15 minutes into our wait, I excused myself to go to the toilet. While in the ladies, that by then all-too-familiar feeling of light headedness staged a comeback and my consciousness lasted long enough for a plea of help to be uttered to someone in the next cubicle. Jane Doe would have ostensibly been happier tending to her own business, but then kindly fetched my dear guardian from the madding queue.

So Annie are you ok
Annie are you ok
Are you ok Annie

Immortalised in copper

Real art endures the ravages of time. My one and only copper tooling masterpiece resides in the ground floor washroom of my parents' home in Singapore. I had all but forgotten it, had Karen McGregor not passed a comment when she visited 58 Grove Drive in September,

"Alicia, don’t tell me that that’s the copper tooling from primary school!"

I held my tongue. To confess would be an admission of supreme uncoolness, as a willing captive to the salad –and by now long gone- days of youth. To say nothing would be to deny the toil that my eleven year old fingers had suffered, for the sake of art.

While my primary school classmates had sagely chosen designs which either captured the zeitgeist of teenagehood or with much more personal relevance – Janelle for instance, immortalised her name in italicised Comic Sans in the burnished 1 foot by 1.5 foot copper sheet – I was somehow intrigued by the Gaugain-esque option of topless Balinese ladies ferrying baskets of fish to the market. Topless being the operative word … the flaccid, goggle-eyed fish were of peripheral interest to me.

Madam Wong, our severely victimised Primary 4 Chinese teacher, was unwittingly reincarnated as our Primary 5 Art teacher. During her rounds in class, while checking on our progress with the etching of images onto the copper sheets, she nodded approvingly at the artists-in-the-making, but discreetly cast her gaze away from my risqué and scandalous endeavour.

When we graduated to the tooling stage of creating the 3D effect however, Mdm Wong's righteous aesthetic sense outweighed her guarded modesty and she intervened to rescue my figures from twiggy forms and lopsided breasts. She was especially fervent about the nipple detailing, which I had apparently mangled with my oversized and overly blunt wooden shaping tool. She used a far more precise instrument for this delicate procedure, the nurturing nib of a ball point pen.

So Karen, yes, that is my handiwork which has cunningly slipped itself into the cardboard boxes each time my family has moved. And it would only be fair to attribute its enduring charm and biological accuracy to the Wong who made it all right.

A foil to Paddington

Weighing in at a solid 40+ kilos, James the Rottweiler is at least 3 kg heftier than Ste's grandmother Ida. James is pet to the Ratschillers -Ste's relatives- though I would go so far as to say that the family belongs to It. They are captives in their own home. For you see, James is the most frighteningly flatulent dog on the planet. King Pong does not even begin to describe the nefarious, olfactory-scorching emissions from this roving monster's behind.

Unlike the more whimsical and rounded bouquet that one might forgive from a dog of this breeding –perhaps farts vaguely reminiscent of healthy, DRY canine chow- James' blast came like a bat out of hell, stinking the bejesus out of us while we sat round the crackling fireplace. There was no layering, no gradation … nowhere to hide from the merciless wall of gaseous turd, which plunged its tentacles down our shell-shocked nostrils.


A jet black head rose from its paws and two large, languid eyes gazed over. Sweet victory flickered for a split second in an animal mind.

"Ventilation … gag … gag ..." was what went through ours.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Back in London and off to Heathrow in 15 mins!

As an addendum to yesterday's post and a testament to the efficacy and ingenuity of fast food advertising, does anyone remember mustering up the courage (and taking a deep breath) to mutter - Twoallbeefpattyspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonionsonasesemeseedbun - in under 20 seconds? Oh the lengths we would go to for a concessionary meal.

In the spirit of the commercialised Christmas season, "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony ..."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Quickie from Athens

Apologies for the silence on my end! Stefan and I have been in Athens since last Thursday and this is our last morning here at the Students and Travellers' Inn on Kydathineon Street, in the Plaka. Many thanks to everyone for your comments (to Divordurum and IceBlueOrb for your posts), which have kept things more current.

Ok, the internet cafe counter says that I have 6 minutes to go, so I'll make this quick. In line with all the soppy sentimental stuff that the soon-to-be 30 year olds have been sharing (I am firmly in the same age bracket and militant 30-something camp as Karen McGregor) ...

I usually tune into Heart 106.2 in London. They have a programme called Time Tunnel, which plays a series of hits from the past and callers ring in to guess the year the songs were released. Early last week, when the opening chords of a particular song were played, my eyes glazed over, hair stood on end ... and every other physical manifestation of nostalgia took root.

"First time, first love, oh what feeling is this
Electricity flows, like the very first kiss
Like a break in the clouds
And the first ray of sun
You can feel it inside
Something new has begun ..."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Where is everybody?!?

Where is everyone?! What's this, a blog without a post in WEEKS!!!!! Divordurum, ok, you're getting on a plane soon, but that's only in at least 2 days!!!! and, Alicia, where is you, owner of soaunty?!

So never mind, thought it is apt for me to contribute my first post to this nice blog. Like Divordurom, I turn 30 in less than a day. Quite super, and quite nice, being the youngest in the group :P

In Singapore, when you turn 30, they send you a notice that politely informs you to update your identity card. Got mine last week, and just today, realised I've misplaced that piece of paper. Die. Will they send me reminder or do I get thrown in jail (apparently it's an offence to not update)? I couldn't even find the deadline on that slip of paper - of what use is that.Never mind.

Here's what's nice about turning/being 30, for me:

Being more settled. Chalking up a couple more years experience on my little CV. Making more $ than in my 20s - relatively speaking. Being a bit more adventurous - wearing more colours! Having the wisdom of age, but possessing still, the innocence of youth (borrowing a line from Divodurum (whats this mean anyways, Latin right???)). Having my own flat (been in RV for slightly over a year). Caring less about what other people think. Learning to show more care to the ones I actually love. Realising time is precious and finite and to treasure the moments and live more in the present. Realising time is precious and finite and that there is an urgent need to seriously plan to retire young.

and.....having a puppy!! (I've had my Boy since I was 29.5 years)

Merry Christmas and Happy 2006 dear friends!!!

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Age of Innocence

Yesterday I was waylaid by the lovely intentions of Alicia, Ste, Julie, Ramesh (and a host of people) as they literally thrust a chocolate cake in my face (alas, not Lana!). It's usually a delightful surprise, but when the top is littered with wax overflowing from quite a massive number of candles, embarrassment was the immediate reaction. But I remain grateful for such a sweet and thoughtful gesture.

It's been a very long time since I celebrated my birthday in a public arena - my birthday usually comprises gentle relexation and DVD watching. Why have my 'celebrations' evolved in this fashion? Is it a refusal to face ageing? Perhaps. Or perhaps it is the avoidance of reminders of mortality? Or perhaps it becomes a day where self-reflection is paramount.

Ever so often, and even more so on my birthday, I reflect on life, the universe and everything. I usually find no answers, but more and more questions. What happened to the young, innocent soul who has succumbed to cynicism and the mind-numbing influences of the world. Do I even vaguely resemble who I wanted to be one year ago, let alone a few years ago? And what has caused my ideals to change? It's a tough world out there, and sometimes one just needs the time and space to plan an offensive.

I'm not sure that it's age per se that is the issue. Despite the vicissitudes of life, the only certainty is that with each passing day, we are one step closer to facing our mortality. That's the issue. Are we prepared if the day is tomorrow; if we so choose, can we say we lived a meaningful life?

Well, judging from the events of yesterday and the continuous events through most of my life, I am blessed by exceptional friends who have given meaning to my life. For some strange reason, they cope with my somewhat strange inclinations towards dead languages, tennis court swearing and fermented grape juice. And speaking of grape juice... you'll be amused to hear that I was carded whilst paying for a few bottles at Sainsbury's this morning!

Friday, December 09, 2005

It was a dance so groovy, they named it twice. It rivalled the slightly inelegant Chicken Dance which we honoured every Children's Day. Looking back now, it was possibly the most insipid routine on Planet Earth. What was It?

Enter the Chinese Indian Malay Others-Chinese Indian Malay Others, popularised in its catchy abbreviated form, CIMO CIMO (ingeniously pronounced see-moh see-moh). Now THAT'S some rustic, home-brewed culture for you.

We were hapless 15 year old RI boys and RGS girls, exiled to NAYTI camp by the powers-that-were for some leadership-building and experiential learning. My own motives were far more banal - to have fun and to meet boys (though I realised shortly after the gates closed behind me that THOSE boys weren't really the kinds I'd wanted to know).

On the programme were mind-numbingly boring lectures on subjects better left forgotten. The first of the (only two) saving graces of the week was listening to our fellow coursemates' presentations.

There is one that I remember with particular fascination. Dear Michelle, who was making bold strides ahead in the use of literary devices, titillated us with a most sobering talk on "Trust is like an egg". I wasn't completely in the know about the motivations for it, but remain adamant that there was some intrigue amiss, as she had gone through some lengths to procure a real chicken egg as symbol of vanitas .

The second positive sliver was that enigmatic, race-transcending, foot-stompting, truly marketable skill that I strove to master. With a shuffle of the right foot, swung back and forth, stamp right, stamp left ... and over again ... it has surely served me well.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Return to Academia

I'm not quite sure how easy it is to return to academia after having been away for a while. I think quite difficult. My hat's off to Alicia.

I'm supposed to be studying for an exam on Saturday. Obviously procrastination has taken hold, and I've spent most of this week finding ways to avoid work. Unfortunately none of the ways have been creative: falling asleep with the open book, sorting out bank accounts, going out for drinks, and generally pretending that I can study it all on Friday night.

But what's worse is that the text for the exam is fairly skimpy - about 100 pages. And yet each time I attempt to read chapter 1 (yes, I didn't make it very far), I find new things that I'm sure I've read before. I'm not sure how we actually managed to learn things when we were at school or university.

So Alicia, can you please share with us your studying secrets. I'll need it for the imminent re-take.

Breaking All Etiquette and Language Rules

I’m not quite sure what blog etiquette is. Embarrassingly enough, it has only just occurred to me that perhaps visitors to other people’s blog-sites should only write comments rather than try to usurp the entire site for one’s self-serving purposes.

Anyhow, until the blog police ram down my door…

Was at Latin class yesterday evening, and the horrors of school days came flooding back. I found myself at the whiteboard, armed with only a marker, praying that it wouldn’t work so that no one could see the nonsense that was about to appear on the board. Unfortunately, the ink flowed, as did the nonsense, and I found myself using my non-writing hand to great effect – ahh… the eraser. The evening could not end fast enough, and the hour-and-a-half dragged on like no tomorrow. Who knew that saying that words were ‘male’ or ‘female’ is incorrect; the correct terminology obviously being ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. But the two glasses of red wine post-class did help to ease the pain.

So I have now sworn to spend my Xmas vacation revising the Latin conjugations and declensions. What an absolute delight.

Bonam fortunam to all those who try new languages. It may not be technically new, but keep up the lessons, Alicia.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

One measure of big dog please - I'm returning to my roots

So after 10 years of skivving classes and flunking exams (oral and written) in Singapore, I finally repented and enrolled myself in a Chinese language refresher course -Level 4 Fast Track- at the university's Language Centre last month. That change of heart has probably caused violent twitching in Mdm Wong's eyes (she was our primary school Mandarin teacher whom we once drove to tears with our indifference towards the Mother Tongue).

I can't admit to having reformed entirely, especially after this evening's lesson. Gao laoshi (Teacher Gao) guides us through reading, listening, speaking and writing exercises for 2 hours every Wednesday. Today we came across a particular chenyu (idiom) -dan qiang pi ma- which metaphorically describes tackling a task single-handedly or going into a situation alone, with the implication of having little support behind oneself [geez, isn't it great how I actually SOUND like an English to Chinese zidian (dictionary)].

Laoshi proceeded to define each word in the phrase and emphasised that pi is the term of measurement for a ma (horse), ie. yi pi ma = 1 horse.

"Now it's all well and good that a specific Chinese character evolved through the centuries for sole reference to our equine friends," I thought to myself. "But there has GOT to be more mileage in it!" And so I probed. Sensing an unruly streak of curiosity about, Laoshi's already narrow eyes creased a little more when she saw my hand shoot up.

"Laoshi, when else can pi be used?" I cast her the earnest look of a knowledge-hungry student.

A pause.

"Yi pi luo tuo."

I sniggered - I couldn't help it! With due respect to camels and other largish ungulates, I just didn't see the utility of committing the damn character to memory. There HAD to be some innate logic to it. The Chinese were sensible folks after all ... and how many horses and camels would one cross paths with in a lifetime? The word must, logically speaking, be as effectively applied to somewhat similar creatures, at the very least. So I gave it another stab.

"Na ... yi pi da gou ne?"

Oh, if looks could kill ...

First Time Caller, Long Time Listener

The title is a lie.

It's gone past 3.30 in the morning. What sociopath would still be up at this hour, pounding furiously at the keyboard? Well, one who is afraid of the wrath of Alicia. But a promise is a promise. I curse the company firewall that prevents the accessing of blogs during the normal witching hours because it violates the Company's principles. Erm... that's like Nike saying that they respect human rights because their office building in New York is non-smoking (as per legislation), but carry on utilising the untapped human resources in third world countries to their extreme advantage. Anyhow, that's just a long-winded way of saying that in fact, I am a mere First Time Caller, First Time Listener. And like any human being, the blame lies with someone else!

As I scrolled through the various posts, what strikes me most is my inability to remember anything that happened more than two days ago. Yet another lie... that would be one day ago. I find it amazing how people can pick the purest of memories from their brains. Perhaps it is because I have lived such a non-exciting life, that nothing is worth remembering, or is it because my subconscious has purposely suppressed the memories? I guess I will never know... So maybe, just maybe, the truth has been told. I am a long time listener, but I just don't remember.