Monday, July 24, 2006

First Day Back to Melbourne

I'm back in Melbourne and feeling completely weirded out. There shouldn't be a culture shock, especially since I have only been gone for a year, but somehow i feel the impact. It's like my life turned upside down on me. It's a strange case of familiar foreign-ness. I know this place. I lived here before. But yet, i feel so lost in the crowd. So many familiar faces, yet I don't know what happened in their lives for the last one year. The is just so much overwhelming feelings in me. I look around expecting to see my old Upenn friends, but I don't. It's all just very strange. Life is just not the routine I got use to in Singapore or US. But its good that I realise its just an adjustment phase I need.

Today was first day of school. Had class. Got my bank, textbooks, insurance, subject classes, transportation etc all down and ready to go, especially since everything expired on me. Bumped into alot alot of old friends, and made a new one at my internship interview. Had prata. Bought some basic necessities. All good for a first day with the aching sense of deja vu. We'll see. But one thing for sure..its good to meet bob again!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

And Again, to the Airport

I'm 15 minutes to leaving my house and heading for the airport to fly back to Melbourne. My stomach has been in a state of excited flux for the last two days. Farewell from my workplace was wonderful yesterday, had Thai lunch with the technology team, had a round of drinks with the whole office at 5pm where we laughed about me getting white bush body wash as a present (think dodgy) and finally beer and lychee margarita at Alley Bar with the tech team again.

When I first came back to Singapore, I was grumpy and sulky about being home. I had major major adjustment issues after being away from it all for a year. But this trip back has been godsend. If the US taught me independence and opened my eyes to the world, Singapore taught me humility and brought me back to my roots and to grounded reality. I made new friends, I learned how to salsa and I faced the unexpected at work: me, techphob, doing research on RFID, smart cards, chip makers, server systems and biomedical science. I learned something I would otherwise never have dared ventured in, and I emerged a more rounded person. I learned through my friends that entering the workforce is not the end of my social life, and explored a totally different facet of myself.

So now, here I am, saying goodbye to another country, and being in a state of transit again till I hit Melbourne, where someone awaits me anxiously, to settle down once and for all.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

There are some things money can't buy.

Like perfect weather for a farewell BBQ.
Fighter jets doing formations above your garden as you prepare the BBQ.
Fireworks going off in the night sky above us as we had dinner, because it was the National Day Previews.
A group of crazy us, dancing in the drive way around a porcelain duck.
Screaming 20 something year olds playing with sparklers lit by glowing BBQ ambers.
More screaming 20 something year olds playing apples to apples.

Most importantly, a fabulous group of friends and a beautiful farewell party.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

All in a Day's Work

After going to the toilet and falling asleep on the toilet bowl, its only 4:47. Argh. I’m so tempted to call a client and speak like a homie. “Man we are so ass out here we ain't got no kinda funds coming through man. So stop spittin' that booty-cheddar and be real with me son or you aint’ going nowhere.”

Or I could call them up and ask if this is the headquarters of the KKK and ask to join.

Hannah taught me a new one yesterday. I could call them and say “This is your husband’s parole officer. Has he been near any young boys lately?”

I can feel boredom making little pit holes in my brain.

My ideal office has a 2 day work day, a dress code of PJs and furry slippers, a candy floss machine on every floor and slow moving clowns to entertain

Today is one of those exasperating long days at work. It’s 4:19 now. It’s like every one hour you look at your clock and it says 4:20. Three hours later you look back and it says 4:21.

We entertained ourselves by marching like mickey mouse every time my colleague’s irritatingly chirpy ringtone sounds. Ok it isn’t we. It’s just me. I marched like Mickey Mouse and then bumped into my HR director who told me I had nice glasses. She believed I wore them to the office today because they were new, and not because I had tired eyes, although I did try to convince her that was the case and hinted I needed another sickie.

We spend the rest of our time talking about someone’s mega ring-pop diamond ring. It is so big it could replace the office hole puncher. The owner can also double up as a traffic police when the traffic lights spoil. Or a lighthouse. Or a ear piecer. If she punches you, your eyes could get knocked out by the diamond. She would be good to have around when you are lost in the desert. Can help send SOS signals. Oh whao, after typing so much, it’s only 4:28. Sheesh. I shall go steal more cookies from the pantry.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Mouth - The Root of All Evil

Today is just one of those days you lose friends.

Thank you to all those who made this moment possible.

At least we all learn a few lessons here.

If you have an issue with someone, talk to the person about it, not about that person.
The whole, I-tell-you-don’t-tell-anyone thing is suicide.
People don’t tell the truth. They tell stories.
And I am going to get out of this loop once and for all.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

They Just Won't Stop Talking in Singapore

Ah, with our lack of space in Singapore, whenever Singaporeans need to have fun, we cross the causeway. Just arrived back from Malaysia. It felt soooooo good to have no signboard, or flashing words, or intercom telling me to "When using the escalators, please hold on to the handrails." Or "If you see any suspicious articles, please call 999." Or "Please mind the platform gap." Or "Please Smile". In four languages.

Here, no one tells me to stay clear of dropping coconuts. Or stay clear of closing doors. Or that it will take me 4 minutes to reach Clementi.

I saw no words or warning signs. No one was telling me what I already know, or treating me like a preschooler. It was refreshing to have to watch where I'm walking or I might end up in a pothole.

Plus I got to eat the dark sauce wanton mee and malaysian kfc, which is always good.

Monday, July 03, 2006

I Love Americans, I Hate American-Centricity

From Matt’s blog.....

“Thailand is one of the worst places for the tourist shuffle. There’s an endless army of young guys chasing after you, desperately trying to get you in one of their tuk-tuks (a clever hybrid between taxi and go-kart). They shadow you at a distance of about two paces, stepping into your path whenever they can and muttering stuff to get your attention. The only thing I’ve found that helps even a little bit is yelling at them.

I can't really lodge this as a complaint, but no one speaks a word of English here. It'd be nice if the British had colonized this place at some point, or the US had decided to fight a war here, but no such luck."

I have been reading this guy's blog about his travels around the world. While I comment him for his free spirit, I can't but feel pissed off at his typically ethnocentric and arrogant American comments.

He goes on to complain about how he has to stand up for two minutes before a movie to pay tribute to the Thai king and what a dumb idea it is. He calls being a Bangkok "being stuck in a festering sewer with perverts and morons"

Ok I am making an awful generalization here. There are awesome, kind hearted, friendly, accepting Americans. I have met so many wonderful Americans in my travels to America and around, and many of them are still my friends till today.

BUT, I have also met some others who have a strange case of culture-phobia everywhere they go. They set American culture, values and lifestyle as the yardstick for every single country they visit, and then get upset when it doesn't match up. If that is your mindset, then why the hell do you even bother to travel? Why don't you just stay at home in America where everyone speaks english, you can chew gum and spit without getting fined and there is no death penalty for trafficking drugs?

A few things I noticed about American travellers, and yes once again, I'm generalizing.

1) They expect everyone in other countries to speak English and get very upset when they don't .
2) Sentences always start with "In America..........." followed by "..... I don't understand why they don't do it here"

Examples that i have heard:

"In America our shops open 24 hours, I don't understand why they don't in Australia"
"In America we can say what ever we want, I don't understand why they can't in Singapore"
"In America, we all speak english. I don't understand why they can't in Asia"

The worst I've heard was:
"In America we use miles and Fahrenheit, and we drive on the right side which is the correct side, and spell color without a U, I don't understand why they don't in the rest of the world. You guys are like SOOOOO weird."

My standard response is: Why don't you just stay in America and stop whining to me?

They tell me about the awful human rights abuse that is happening in my country, that capital punishment is such an Asian thing, and that I am not part of the free world. I have been told so many times regarding so many issues that " Your country is in the wrong and America is right because America is always right. "

My country is not the one with the guantanamo prison issues.
My country is not the one who many was it..civilians in Iraq.
My country wasn't the one that invaded and then lost the war in Vietnam.
My country isn't the one that refused to sign the Kyoto protocol.
My country isn't the one who has MNCs indulging in child labour in developing country.

So my country isn't perfect. But please take the log out of your eyes before you attempt to remove the speck in mine. So we whipped one of your citizens for vandalizing repeatedly. Seriously how does that match up? I am not pissed off at the fact that America wants to "free" everyone in the world from the clutches of oppression by raining some bombs down, I am pissed off at how hypocritical that statement is. And the whole thing about the people in singapore being molly-coodled my their government and internally absorbing all sorts of propaganda our government spits out, I am not denying that it is the case here. But i haven't seen more propaganda in my life than when i was in America. Everything, every holiday, every news, every monument is a cause for American patriotism. So the Thais pay tribute to their king, don't the Americans sing the anthem before/after every football game. It's clearly double standards here.

You want to know what is freedom.

Freedom is being able to walk in and out of places without having to subject my bag and myself to security checks all the time.

Freedom is not about owning a gun. Freedom is knowing that your neighbour most probably does not own one.

Freedom is being able to drink when I'm 18 not having to sneak in alcohol everywhere i go even when I am in college. Between alcohol and chewing gum, I'll take alcohol any day.

Freedom is being able to read the world map and identify where most of the major countries are. That includes being able to recognize places like Japan and Australia.

Freedom is including non-american newspapers in your daily reading diet so for goodness sake you don't tell me "I don't understand why people would ever hate americans, we are godsend. We are the best. We are helping people all the time. They just want to find someone to blame." Or worst still “You mean there are people out there that hate Americans?”

Freedom is knowing at least two other countries' leaders besides George W. Bush. This includes knowing who is Tony Blair or Koizumi and not telling me "I don't see why any American needs to know any other leaders in the world. We are the biggest and most powerful nation, so it should be that other people know our president"

Freedom is releasing yourself from your stuck-up American-centric opinion on the world and looking at everything non-american as second class or as not the “real deal”.

Freedom is unbiased knowledge, and admitting that you lack that unbiased knowledge.

I still love Americans, I love their enthusiasm and forever positive attitude. Their efficiency and their friendly nature. And I am sure there are Singaporeans, Australians, Malaysians, Canadians, Thais etc that behave like that too. I behave like that too sometimes. But I am just reliterating what I have seen and heard while traveling, and it irks me out big time. And today just happens to be one of those days. So yes kudos for releasing a "How to behave guide" to Americans when they travel. I would like to get my hands on a copy some day.