Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tasting the Chicken Rice in Johor Bahru

Last Friday, for the first time I took a cab from Singapore to Johor Bahru. Not all taxis in Singapore have license to drive to Malaysia. Only one official cab company in Bugis has this service and when you call the office, you've got to make appointment with the drivers personally. Yes, when you call the operator (if they answer), they'll give you the mobile phone numbers of a driver. If a driver is available, he would pick you up and if he's not, he might refer you to his other driver colleagues. I never knew that networking with cab drivers would be very critical to get me to JB.

It took me five to six drivers to call to finally got one driver available to drive me to Johor Bahru that Friday night. There was long and unimaginable car and people queue in Woodlands immigration. Lucky, my driver knew a shortcut to pass the immigration that not so many people would check - go to the immigration counters intended for lorries. But, the drawback is that these lorry counters don't open every day. If they happen to be closed, you'd need to make a turn all the way to the usual Woodlands immigration checkpoint and queue again. When my driver realised the lorry counters were openened, he kept on telling me "You are lucky! You are so lucky they open today". I just smiled.

Woodlands's lorry immigration on Friday Night.

Anyway, after about one and a half hour on the road, finally he dropped me in Kotaraya Terminal/Taxi Stand, the farthest point where taxi driver from Singapore can reach in Johor Bahru. The whole single trip to JB cost me S$ 50 (payment by cash only).

After waiting at the Kotaraya Taxi Stand for about 15 minutes, I finally saw my boyfriend who was lost in the city before getting to this Kotaraya Terminal. Johor Bahru and Kotaraya were totally new battle fields for him. Lucky once more, the driver patiently waited for me in that terminal until my boyfriend showed up. Not being so discriminative here but, Malaysia's safety is highly questionable, especially for young chinese women.

Dinner time - we needed a nearby place to fill our empty stomachs. Somewhere fast and near that terminal before heading back to Seremban. We found this area with many Chinses food stalls stretch called Medan Selera Meldrom Walk.

Medan Selera Meldrom Walk, JB.

Eating Char Siew Fan with maximum security: Keep your valuables with you wherever you are in JB. Keep your backpack on your shoulders even when you are eating and tie your laptop bag's sling around your feet so people won't snatch it.

After dinner, we still got a long drive to home. That's how we usually spend our Friday Night. Dating on the road.

Sunday Morning Exercise

All I want on Saturday and Sunday is just sleep. Prolonged sleep. The latter the better. However, this law does not apply for my boyfriend - on Saturday he has to work half-day. Hence, I cannot oversleep so much on Saturday morning as I usually accompany him to his office on Saturday.

On Sunday morning, he'd try to wake me up early and presses his luck on having outdoor morning sports with me. Most of the time, he fails on this. I am just a lazy pig on weekends, by choice. Once I wake up, it's already time for family Sunday breakfast. No more chance for the so called healthy Sunday excercise.

This morning, after trying for more or less one hour, he'd finally made me jump out of my bed - for a morning exercise. Since I don't heart running at all and am more keen on cycling and swimming for sports, he made his family's old bicycle ready for me, right from his house's warehouse (even before I really opened my eyes). This being said, I could not escape anymore from the Sunday sport he planned. "Make some sweats!", he said. This morning's target was running around the block. He circled the block with his feet and I circled with his bike, side by side. We did two rounds.

Photo session: Just acting to be running.

Me and his bike in front of his house: Bit too low for me.

After two rounds: Sweating athlete and sleepy girl.

Showing off the cycling skill

Showing off the 'jumping' move but I could not captured the 'jumping' shots on camera.

Exersise, exercise!

Words of Wisdom from Coca Cola

A friend forwarded this valuable reminder to those who tend to be overworked in these hectic days of life. It was in my mailbox for about one month until I noticed it last Friday.

30 Second Speech by Bryan Dyson - Former CEO of Coca Cola

Bryan Dyson.

"Imagine a life is a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. They are Work, Family, Health, Friends and Family, and you're keeping all of these in the air.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, you will bounce back. But the other four balls - Family, Health, Friends and Spirit - are made of glass. If you drop one of these; they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for it."

Work efficiently during office hours and leave on time. Give the required time to your family, friend and have a proper rest. Value has a value only if its value is valued.

When I read these words, I immediately thought of keep this 'speech' in my blog. It is so true and real. Work is just endless but the other parts of your life have limits. Once, I read a case whereby a supermarket worker died due to overwork. This is just so unfortunate and could have been prevented.

Have you heard stories of your friends, relatives or even strangers from TV whom children cannot really 'recognize' their parents, usually their Dads in most of the case? Dad goes to work before the children wake up and come back to home when they are asleep at night. Sometimes he also goes missing on weekends, likely for work. Even when they see him at home, not so much converstation built simply because they hardly spend time together. This scenario happens for years. By the time the Dad retires and can have his own moments, his children know him as just someone in the family. Not so much emotional strings attached overtime. Money will not be that much meaningful to him anymore by then, I think.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Snippets from Sandakan

A couple weeks ago, my boyfriend took me to Sandakan, the second largest city in Sabah with his family members. It was indeed a unique eco-tourism spot, home to many protected animals and rain forests. A great place to get in touch with nature and of course, the seafood galore.

We indeed took lots of pictures together. In the jungle. On the river. On the road. In a bridge. In a cave. In a beach. Anywhere possible.

Here's the chronicle:

Just landed.

We drove around the city with private van.
 The men took turn driving.

Sightseeing at Anne Keith House.
Seafood Dinner.
Yes, that's a shark and we didn't feast on that.
Nice seafood dinner.
Giant crabs on the table.
At Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center.
Taking a walk at the Forest Reserve for close-up Orang Utan meet and greet.
The family portrait at Sepilok.
At the Gomantong Cave.
This is where the bats live: Look nice but super smelly.
The cave's view further behind.

Cruising the Kinabatangan River.

Live monkey entertainment during the cruise.
At the Puu Jih Temple.
Water village at Kampung Buli Sim-Sim.
Last place of interest to visit: Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Some other mementos:

Given his hobby and talent as an amateur photographer, I always love my boyfriend's many ideas in taking photos. These eye-shots and inked leaf were his idea. I was just enhancing the results with Scrapblog. It turned out looks pretty good.

Sepilok Orang Utan Centre.

We had our first river cruise together. About 2 hours cruise under the burning sun along the second largest river bank in Sabah and witnessed the wildlife surrounding it.

Sukau Kinabatangan River Cruise.

Sandakan trip was indeed an adventurous trip, especially for a big family with small kids. It was fun though. I learned a lot, especially about monkeys.

I remember I had to run a conference in KL we landed to LCCT from Sabah past midnight. We arrived to Ritz Carlton Hotel in KL at 4am after we dropped our luggage at Seremban home. Running a conference after a long trip and a mere four hours sleep was quite something. My feet barely touched the ground for the whole day.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Short Happy Moments with Chocolates

Wise words from Chocolate lovers:
" I probably have a little every day, because I think it makes you feel good when you get some."
CNN Food, February 14, 1996

It is no more a new rocket science for public that eating chocolates causes the brain to release endorphins, a chemical that makes us feel good. Chocolate is a natural analgesic or painkiller. Chocolate is also known as a Mother Nature's gift that blessed with serotonin, a brain chemical that makes us feel relaxed. We consume chocolate in times of stress, anxiety and so on.

According to an old article from CNN Food on Chocolates, researchers have said that chocolate contains substances that might mimic the effects of marijuana, boosting the pleasure you get from eating the stuff. It is something much, much, much milder than a high.

Needless to say, this research result is tally with my chocolate-and-stress relationship in my real life. In times of stress at work, quite often I let chocolates take control. I purposely buy some or get some of chocolate balls from my colleagues, if any, and let them melt in my mouth. I am happier for a few seconds to a couple of minutes.

My boyfriend and I are both chocolate lovers. He likes any type of chocolates while I, quite often, prefer milk chocolate with fruits and nuts. Recently, we have developed a habit of keeping stock of this particular sweet food craving at his home, either chocolate button candies, milk chocolate balls, Ferrero Rocher varieties or any brand of chocolate bars from Supermarkets. We slowly eat pieces of chocolates when we chat, work on some personal papers, browse the internet, watch DVDs or any time during our chilling sessions, be it at his home, on the road or in his office.

Our plastic container's filled with chocolate buttons and balls.

New found old fling bought in Sandakan: Milo Chocolate Bar - A little too sweet for our taste but it brings back old sweet time memories.

Unknown brand of Fruit and Nut Chocolate Bar from Random Supermarket accompanied by a glass of hot Milo.

Another key to best consume chocolate is moderation. Having chocolate cravings under stressed is indeed a body chemistry that you can't control but we try to eat it in moderation. Just a bite or two at a time, it is good enough to make the world stop for a while and feel happier. Savor them in moderation, surefire, it won't do much harm on your teeth and waist. 

"Life is like a box of chocolates - You never know what you're going to get."
Forrest Gump in "Forrest Gump" (1994) 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Effective Way to Kill the Time during A Boring Conference

Last week, I was running a 2-day Conference in KL. There was a replacement speaker who was delivering a pretty dry material at the Conference on the Day 2's morning. She presented a five-slides power point presentation and literally read her Boss's speech typed in a piece of paper.

This is one of the responses of the delegates when the presentation delivered was way too boring for them to listen.

Enjoying the morning newspaper at the back seats during the Conference proceeding.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Souvenirs from Down Under

Today was my first day coming back to work after my Sabah and KL trip. After the long journey (five hours waiting at the LCCT airport plus one hour flight back to Singapore) from running a conference in KL last night, I was only able to show up to the office at around 12pm with massive headache and sleepiness.

Despite my bad mood today, someone in the office has really cheered my day. Iris Tan has come back from her short trip to Perth and did not forget me. She brought me few cute stuff from there.

2 Golden Boronia Nougats, 'Christine' name plate and a post card

 I really love this name plate!

The message written on the postcard

Here's what Iris wrote on the back of the postcard:

Hi Christine,

Hope you enjoyed your holiday. Just a small gift I bought from Perth. Hope you like it. Cheers!


Iris Tan is always so dear to me. I should have bought her something from my Sandakan trip last weekend! I'm so remorseful now.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Strawberry Generation

A couple weeks ago, Iris Tan and I were engaged in an informal after-hour chat with my immediate supervisor in his office. At one point, he mentioned that he is now is having a hard time managing a bunch of staff coming from strawberry generation. People who cannot take pressure. People with strawberry's qualities. They look admirable from outside but they are true enough to be fragile. Strawberry looks nice and sweet but it easily bursts when you squeeze.

After this discussion, my producer fellows and I often crack jokes on this 'strawberry generation' label on our foreheads and question why senior folks in our organization have labeled us this way. Don't they realize that employees, notably known as the strawberry generation, need personal life to live other than being stuck in the office, working straight for 10-12 hours a day? Don't they realize that we, the strawberry generation, have put our maximum efforts to accommodate the sky-high workload put on single body's shoulders and meet the absurd deadlines set? Don't they realize that their working systems and expectations have constantly haunted and alerted our mind (even when we sleep at night) almost 24/7, 365 days a year (since applying annual leave is proven to be very stressful)?

Apparently this 'Strawberry Generation' term is originally from Taiwan. It is used to describe Taiwanese born in 1980s (between 1981 and 1991) raised in a generally wealthy family, hence, are unable to bear pressure, less able to withstand pressure or do hard work. According to Wikipedia, this happens as this generation is grown up from a protected environment like strawberries which are grown in greenhouses. This generation is known unable to bear the harsh realities of the real 'working' world and quite often to be immature. In short, they can't work.

Do we, Generation Y, really burst that fast and easily?

To me, all of these statement and categorization are really subjective. People's ability to take pressures are personal. It all depends on the current working situation and working pressures that someone faces. People's characters vary beyond AA to ZZ. Moreover, people have limit and to some extent, getting frustrated and stress once in a while is still considered normal.

Older generation cannot simply label Generation Y with 'Strawberry' chop on their foreheads. There are high-performing and hardworking youths, though maybe in shorter supply these days. However, I think not all Baby Boomers or Generation X are successful or hardworking either. I still notice people coming from older generation slack at work. They also get frustrated over work sometimes. They quit their jobs too when they cannot take the pressure any longer.

There's no perfect person nor employee in this world. Work-life balance is indeed one of the basic human needs that people must not ignore. At the end of the day, money can't really buy you a proper life when you've gone mad.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I Miss You

Recently I've been kind of addicted to Avril Lavigne's When You're Gone. The lyrics just strike me hard everytime I hear the song, especially when lonely feeling on some blue days floods my soul. The song is not about breaking up, instead this is more like the expression of massive loneliness and the accompanying empty feeling when you are apart from your loved one. Speaking of which, this is obviously one of the LDR challenges that I need to overcome every now and then.

When You're Gone
Avril Lavigne

I always needed time on my own
I never thought I'd need you there when I cry
And the days feel like years when I'm alone
And the bed where you lie is made up on your side

When you walk away I count the steps that you take
Do you see how much I need you right now

When you're gone
The pieces of my heart are missing you
When you're gone
The face I came to know is missing too
When you're gone
The words I need to hear to always get me through the day and make it ok
I miss you

I've never felt this way before
Everything that I do reminds me of you
And the clothes you left, they lie on the floor
And they smell just like you, I love the things that you do

When you walk away I count the steps that you take
Do you see how much I need you right now

When you're gone
The pieces of my heart are missing you
When you're gone
The face I came to know is missing too
When you're gone
The words I need to hear to always get me through the day and make it ok
I miss you

We were made for each other
Out here forever
I know we were, yeah
All I ever wanted was for you to know
Everything I'd do, I'd give my heart and soul
I can hardly breathe I need to feel you here with me, yeah

When you're gone
The pieces of my heart are missing you
When you're gone
The face I came to know is missing too
When you're gone
The words I need to hear to always get me through the day and make it ok
I miss you

I've read lots of articles how to make LDR works. All the survival guides from setting the common vision with your partner, ensuring there's enough communication between you two, until trusting your partner out there. But, I tell you, when miles, states and ocean separate you and your loved one - trying to thrive on the missing feeling is just a TOUGH business. I miss my boy everyday. But he always reminds me to enjoy the missing feeling and enjoy the process.

走一步, 看一步.

I'm hanging there!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Frog Legs Kung Pao in Seremban

Last Friday evening, my boyfriend asked me over Ping!, "What do you want for dinner when you reach here? I am struggling with your dinner now. Chinese, Malay or Western food?"

At first, I said "Anything".

In the end, the big fat frog legs kung pao and salted vegetables from a restaurant in Seremban that my boyfriend introduced me few months ago suddenly haunted me. I quickly told him about this and he was so happy that I finally made a decision on dinner menu as usually deciding 'what to eat later?' can be quite a painful and time consuming experience.

About an hour after I touched down in KLIA, I finally met the ones that I've been dreaming of since I left Singapore.

Frog Legs Kung Pao (RM 7.50),  Salted Vegetables/Ham Choi (RM 2) and 
Teochew style Tofu mixed with Eggs (RM 2).

 17RM Friday Night Dinner.

My weekend host: First time seeing him in a formal office shirt.

On Saturday afternoon, I was accompanying my boyfriend sending honeydews he bought from Kluang to his pals. After he passed the honeydew to the second destination, his car was hit by a car in a very narrow street when he was parking his car in front of his friend's house. We both were pretty shocked with the bumping feeling. Not long, for the first time in my entire life, I was involved in a car racing, chasing for the mad driver who shook my boy's car. I have been watching this kind of chasing episodes from TV for the longest time but never ever expected I would be really involved in a similar scene in the real life. 

Chasing the mad driver.

The suspect.

After few minutes trying to chase the suspect's car, we finally came closer to the suspect's car and found out that the driver was a woman and she was carrying four other women in that car. At first we thought, she was a hooker or something from the way she dressed. My boyfriend made lots of screaming and gave light signals to make her pull over. The woman kept on acting dumb, was still busy on the phone when driving and ignored all the honks and light signals. 

At one point, my boyfriend was just so fed up and reported the car to the police officer over the phone. Right before he spilled the plate number to the officer on the other line, she finally pulled over. Once we parked the car, she burst like crazy trying to explain that she was in calling her relative asking for direction as she was on her way to a wedding. She was just super panic trying to apologize and explain what happened. Since I don't really speak Mandarin, I just nodded and nodded, and let my boyfriend handle her and her gang. All I could remember was her strong creepy perfume smell, glitters all over her face and hair plus her outmatching outfit: dark brown dress, black shawl, black stocking and multi-purpose sponge sandals (for a wedding?!).

Lucky, the car was left unscratched. My boyfriend let her and her entourage from village go away. What a drama cum action episodes for a Saturday.

Today, Sunday afternoon, I got the mood to take photos together when my boy was busy doing his filing. It wouldn't be big issues to mess him up for a while, I thought. So as usual, I made him do our self-photo session which we usually do anywhere, anytime.

Thanks to the pinch, my pimple on my nose is getting dry but still pretty obvious.

We both need a haircut.

So, this is the end of my visit this weekend. Happy times do fly real fast. I was longing for Friday night but Sunday evening always comes a little to fast. Not a little actually, Sunday always come very fast. I, again, am missing my boy for another week.

Lunch/Dinner: RM 6.60 Thai Style Pattaya Fried Rice from KLIA Foodcourt.

Thai fried rice with Papadam! You bet! The sellers were Indians.

I am back to Singapore again now. Another stressful routines are waiting for me. Oh, life!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Reminiscence of Another Morbid Incident

After reading the sad love story in China and shared this story with other fellow producers yesterday, my closest producer in the office (geographically and emotionally), Iris Tan, suddenly brought, again, of the story of one of his then speakers who also had a tragic experience a little more than a year ago, up.

After talking about this for a while, we both ended up wondering - How is the husband doing now?

It was a late November 2008. That morning, when I reached the office, I told a story that I read in the newspaper early on to Iris Tan. It was about a 28-year-old  Singaporean lady who was held captive at the Oberoi Trident Hotel in Mumbai by some terrorists. She was due to deliver a presentation there and in the end, was shot to death instead. She was the first terrorists Singaporean victim ever.

Then, Iris Tan, who sits right in front of my cubicle, suddenly said "Oh yeah, I met her before at one of the conferences few months back. Her husband was one of my speakers for my Legal Counsel Conference. It's so creepy right? At one time, I met her and now she is dead." I replied, "Huh? You did, really?".

"Yes, I even exchanged emails with her a couple of times as her husband wanted to bring her along as his guest at my Conference. I can show you my email exchanges with her." "Oh my God, how was she? Was she a nice lady?" "Yes, yes, she was a very bubbly person. So poor thing, huh?"

Next thing we know, we found out that her husband has now moved on from the law firm where she found him.

When I read this story right after this tragedy happened back in November 2008, I was rather shocked and sad learning that this young woman, Ms. Lo Hwei Yen, who flew to Mumbai to deliver a speech on legal issues in maritime industry had to end her life like this. All the chronicles of the story was really heart-breaking and unbelievable.

I think, now and then, all Singaporeans and those who live in Singapore were really touched and concerned about the stories of this young woman. How she informed her husband and closest friends on her last few final hours of her life via text messages about her condition under captive and how much she loved them. How she told them that she needed the Singaporean government's and police's help as soon as possible. How in the end, she was shot in the head and her husband flew all the way to Mumbai only to find his wife's lifeless body. How her husband described that her loved ones immediately went nuts when they found out that this lady was one of the captives held. How they described that there were 150 miscalls found in her cellphone when her handbag was finally returned to her husband in the morgue. How her husband described that his world has shattered once she, his entire life, was one of the dead victims. And most importantly, how her husband coped with her passing after wards.

This story was more touching and the impacts were felt so real to Iris Tan and me than ever as we both were somehow indirectly linked to them professionally through the Conference industry. We develop the kind of the conferences that both of them spoke on.

I did not know them nor have met them personally but Iris Tan did. In fact, the reality that Iris Tan knew them even made this horror story more real and heart-felt to me. It's just weird to notice how the industry we both dwell in works. You meet lots of people, almost on monthly basis. Mostly strangers you do not even know at all and those whom you maybe just recognize from the media. When something bitter happens to one of them, you immediately get the shock too. You give them extra sympathy as you  feel that you know them, though technically you do not really know them.

Beyond Eternal Love: Till Death Do Us Part

Yesterday, Friday late afternoon, I was on a terrible bad mood after spending a rough grilling time and unnecessary interrogation inside my immediate Boss's room with my administrator colleague. After I came back to my seat, I was really struggling with my mood to continue work and obviously busy scrolling the mouse's pointer up and down on my computer screen for no serious reason.

At about 15.30, I suddenly received an email from an Indonesian delegate whom I met at the Facilities Management Conference once I ran in Singapore last year. A fellow Indonesian delegate who is still in touch with me once in a while via cyber network. He sent a forwarded story written in Bahasa Indonesia.

Its first line says: Very touching. So, I continued reading.

Subject: Upacara Pernikahan Sekaligus Pemakaman Istrinya

Mungkin ini bisa dibilang cinta sejati. Zhuang Huagui (26 tahun) berencana menikah pada tanggal 4 Februari 2010. Tapi, tanggal 28 Januari 2010, calon istrinya, Hua Zhao'e meninggal karena ditusuk oleh perampok rumahnya. Akhirnya pria ini memutuskan untuk tetap mengadakan upacara pernikahan, lalu dilanjutkan dengan upacara penguburan Hua Zhao'e. Zhuang tak pernah menyangka calon istrinya harus pergi meninggalkannya secepat ini. Zhuang memegang foto istrinya sambil menyambut orang-orang yang menghadiri upacara itu. Ia mengundang seluruh keluarga dari kedua pihak. Pengantin baru terbujur kaku di dalam peti mati, ia mengenakan gaun pengantin yang sudah disiapkan sejak lama. Setelah upacara pernikahan selesai, ia segera menyiapkan upacara pemakaman istrinya.

Pesan: Coba bayangkan orang yang kita sayang. Orang tua kita, pasangan kita, suami/istri kita, anak-anak kita, sahabat kita, mereka bisa dipanggil Tuhan kapan saja tanpa kita duga. Jadi, selagi masih ada kesempatan, nyatakanlah kasih sayangmu kepada mereka. Katakan betapa kau sangat mengasihi mereka, betapa mereka sangat berharga buat hidupmu. Lakukan yang terbaik untuk mereka selama mereka masih hidup. Karena kalau kita berdiri di pemakaman mereka, semua sudah terlambat. Tangisan penyesalan tidak akan pernah bisa mengembalikan mereka.

Once I finished reading this, I was so broken hearted. I was curious and felt compelled to find out more about the story and if possible to see the photos as well, if any. I found them. They were even more touching and sad. Creepy and beyond imagination. I quickly shared the link of the photos I found  to my fellow producers and my Indonesian delegate.

Fujian Man Held Wedding at His Wife's Funeral

26-year-old Zhuang Huagui and 21-year-old Hu Zhao'e originally planned to get married on February 4th, but on January 28th, Hu Zhao'e was stabbed to death by two break-in thieves. The deeply passionate groom held a special wedding at a funeral parlor for his deceased wife.

Zhuang and Hu's pre wedding photo.

Groom-to-be cries at the special funeral.

February 4th, 2010: At a funeral parlor in Hangzhou, Fujian, Zhuang Huagui tightly holds his wife's hand.

Zhuang carefully wipes his wife's crystal coffin.
 The groom decided to hold wedding ceremony with his deceased wife at the funeral parlor and inviting families from both parties to act as witnesses.

Zhuang holds his wife's wedding photo in front of the funeral parlor to welcome guests coming to the wedding.

The new bride lies in her wedding dress in her crystal coffin.

The groom completes his vows on the original planned wedding date with his wife lying in the crystal coffin.

The groom changes his clothes and takes part at his wife's funeral.

After his wedding ceremony was over, Zhuang immediately arranged his wife's funeral ceremony.

This is indeed another true love story from China worth sharing. A real scarce human material in today's planet earth. 

As for those who kill their human fellows, I wonder what would happen if this exact incident is imposed to them personally. Didn't they know that when they stabbed this poor woman to death, they also 'stabbed' her loved ones to death as well? Don't they know that when they take the life of someone, they also take the lives of many other people who are related to the victim? 

Oh well, as someone has mentioned to me: This world isn't round anymore.