Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Going back

Written Monday, 28 January

My heart gives a twinge as I catch my first glimpse of a beige ribbon winding through the lush green, green, green. I love Perth, but we have had a hot summer, and I am so tired of brown dry heat and dead grass.

I thought I had forgotten most of my life here but it all comes flooding back: school girl crushes, humid Sports Days, going to school in a white cotton blouse and black skirt. A deep breath fills my throat. This is the land of my childhood.

I wonder if my brother feels the same. I look over and he is as transfixed by the land below as I am.

We fly lower as we near the city and there are so many house scarring the green. Progress, development, the erosion of my childhood places.

As we go through Customs, I am pleased to find I remember the words for "clothes", "books", "lemons", "meat" (the contents of our cargo, and don't look at me, my mother packed the last two). However, I end up having to say "Christmas tree" for "Christmas tree" (again, see the previous sentence).

The air is humid and the smell of satay being cooked over hot coals wafts over to us. Birds make a constant cacophony in the trees next to the airport. It sounds like a thousand hungry nestlings have hatched at the same time. Mum remembers aloud that when she was little and playing in the fields after school, how they used to see flocks and flocks of birds filling the sky, several times a day, but not so much now.

We are still waiting outside the airport--I can't understand why the departure area is air-conditioned but the arrival lounge isn't--I suppose they don't want to encourage people to loiter. The national anthem plays on a television in front of rows of metal and plastic seats. I can still remember all the words and I mouth the the final four lines along to the music.

"Hey!" shouts my youngest aunt, who has approached from behind us. I hug her and she tries to lift me off the ground, while gleefully saying, "Woohoo! Woohoo!"

Another aunt is waiting for us in a large white van and slides through the traffic with the finesse of a Formula One driver. We hit the highway and I peer across to see what speed we're going at. The needle is too far down and the steering wheel blocks my view. Hm, perhaps I don't want to know.

We arrive at the night market. It is 7.30 and bustling with people buying cooked food for dinner, or the makings of dinner: vegetables, sweet potatoes, yams, at least five different types of bananas, small piles of durians that make my mouth water, fish cooked in banana leaves. And my favourite part of dinner:


A man and his colleague sit on what looks like the displaced back seat of a car. There are piles of small yellow fruit in front of him. Langsat. You squeeze the top between your thumb and forefinger, and then eat the sweet, translucent, white segments inside.

My mother and Auntie P taste some and then debate loudly on whether they should buy the lot.
"Can you make them cheaper so we'll buy them all?" Auntie P asks the vendor in a mixture of English and Malay.
"Why?" replies the man in charge.
"So you can go home early and watch the football!"
He shakes his head. "There's no football on tonight."

We buy the rest anyway. His weighing scales break while they are weighing the plastic bags of fruit and my mother and aunt start giggling in the same cheeky hyuk-hyuk kind of way, that reminds me that they are sisters. The man's colleague says that these scales are very kambang, or "obnoxious", as if they have a life of their own.

My parents seem so much more comfortable here. Relaxed. Bold. Native. I wonder what parts of themselves they've sacrificed, to migrate to Australia with us.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Oh crudler, I've just remembered a nasty thing about me + travel to tropical climes.

I am a mosquito magnet.

Proof: last night at MFC's, we spent the same four hours in the same room and while he remained unscathed*, I acquired twelve mosquito bites that swelled into the size of fifty cent coins.

That's three bites per limb, people. And I needed two of those limbs to scratch myself with.

The itching was so bad it took me ages to fall asleep (even after MFC kindly sprayed some Stingoes on me). I wonder if Stingoes gives you hallucinations , because I dreamt I was wandering through a carnie house with motion activated holograms. As I entered one room, a full-sized Darth Vader appeared, swinging his light saber at me. I shrieked and ran away.

Anyway, time to go to the supermarket and stock up on every item in this list.

* I think they got close enough to be hit by the beer fumes emanating from his pores and then just passed out.

Excitement in the hen house!

In November I was asked if I would like to participate in a very exciting project, and today I had my first face-to-face meeting to discuss it in more detail.

I'm really glad I followed #10 of Phil's Rules: never go into a meeting without a calendar, pen and paper--I felt very prepared and professional. Thanks, juliness!

Without giving too much away, I think you'll like the result, because it means the snarkery here that you've come to know (and love--you do love it, right?) will get a new lease on life.

So keep an eye on this blog, and keep that finger poised above the mouse to bookmark the page when it comes!


In other news, on Monday I'll be going overseas with my parents and my brother to visit the home folks for a couple of weeks.

(MFC is beside himself with glee, he's calculated that with four of us travelling, and all of us teetotallers, this means 9 litres of duty-free alcomahol for his cocktail collection.)

The visit is for a dry and official reason that I won't bore you with, but happily coincides with Chinese New Year. I'll get to see the cousins I grew up with, and my crazy aunts who live next door to each other and probably use binoculars from their balconies to spy on each other (I wish I was joking). Hopefully I'll even get to visit my old school and take a photo to show you (if it's still there)--it has a moat with waterlilies in it and looks like a Chinese temple.

I'll try to blog as much as I can, but if I don't, see you in February!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Another update

Aw, your awesome comments really made my day, but seriously, guys, there's no need to put on the black hat and veil yet.

Think of this as an evolution from a private ranting site to something a little more thoughtful. (Although, as I've said before, I'm still not sure if I'm going to have a longer hiatus from this blog or simply make it private.)

You're very welcome to visit me here if you miss me.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Holla holla holla!

Evening all (if it is, indeed, evening where you are),

I know I've been absent for a while. Lots of stuff going on: a distance learning course I'm throwing myself into, new paths that may mean I have to move my writing to a more mature (oh no!) and responsible (gasp!) level. Which means cutting down on the rants and the goss, even though they are, like, the very most fun part.

So this blog may be a quiet for a little while longer until I decide what to do with it. I may still keep it for chronicling personal stuff, and I may even change it to a private blog that people have to log in to, so that the show can go on.

In the meantime, I have been doing some stuff on my other site, so please drop by if you'd like to say hello.