Sunday, May 19, 2019

7 Years in Myanmar.... What's Next?

Back in 2012-2013, we traveled in style! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

When they said time flies, it really does. And to be honest, it doesn't feel like 7 years that we've been here in Myanmar. A lot have changed since the day I landed in Yangon on a rainy day, 19th May 2012.

One thing hasn't changed and that is the power cuts. For some reason, this year, it had gotten worse again. Right now, as I am writing this blog post, I am stewing in my sweat because there's no electricity. 😫😫😫

Of recent years, I have to admit that my "zen" with Myanmar has been diminishing more and more and more. Whilst I have seen the country progress in so many other aspects - like from zero internet to 4G in a matter of a couple of years - there are also many other aspects that have remained unchanged if not worse. And this has a lot to do with the mentality and strange culture which is prevalent here in Myanmar.

Take the electricity issue for example - I was lamenting to a Myanmar friend of mine over the weekend about the power cuts as it disrupted work and it disrupted sleep. He works in hydro power, by the way. So he patiently explained to me about the cost of electricity which the government was charging the people. I can't for the life of me remember the figure he gave but long story short, the government was making huge, and like seriously huge losses with the rate they charged the people for electricity. When they wanted to increase the rate, the people protested. So now, the government just let the situation be as it is and they do this "power cut" rotation thing. And everyone is on bitch-mode. So my friend was saying - "This is the problem with the people - no solution, they protest. Solution, they protest. Then consequences, they protest."

I realized, this was exactly typical Myanmar. They are an enigma of a country, excited to move forwards, but lacked the will and the mindset change to do so. In essence, they don't really know what they want. And they don't exactly look at long term good. To put it bluntly, they are very short-sighted. Ok, I am generalizing here. There are many great Myanmar people whom I do know personally who are trying to help shape and change the nation positively. As I work a lot with the youths here, I kinda feel sorry for them. These young Myanmar millennials are all at once, caught between wanting to push forwards and bowing down to the older generation which had been the custom and culture all these while. I often have conversations with them about the prevailing issues in Myanmar and the one take-out I get from these conversations were that they "tolerate" and "bear with it" and "there's nothing they can do about it". In other words, they are accepting.

I've been teaching at Strategy First for 4 years now and recently they were upgraded to become Strategy First University. I feel a little ashamed because I am the least qualified as a lecturer. However, I do my best for the students who walked through my classroom doors because it is a commitment I had made to the school and to the founder and principal - Sayar Aung Chit Khin, a man whom I respect very much and one of those Myanmar people who are trying their utmost best to do the right thing for the people here - and that is to enable and facilitate their growth via the education platform. An exciting project is coming up in July, which will see me teaching on weekends as well, both Saturdays and Sundays, so stay tuned if you wanna know more!

7 years of coaching and mentoring the Myanmar youth and I'm also beginning to get a little jaded because I've had quite enough of their love for drama and emotions. I don't quite care anymore nor believe when they use the word "hote" and majority are what I would categorize as NATO people (No Action, Talk Only). Recently, I even took drastic measures by giving up on a team that I was coaching and mentoring. simply because I no longer find their words credible. They want to achieve their goals, but effort and time spent on achieving those goals are according to their whim and fancy. They say they are "committed" but failed terribly to understand what commitment actually meant. After having a really long think about it, I've decided that there are some people whom I will never be able to inspire nor coach or mentor. Sigh..... more fails for me on this front πŸ˜₯πŸ˜₯πŸ˜₯

But I read this article by Chatri Sityodtong, the CEO and founder of the ONE Championship brand and he said this ~ "Eliminate the bad apples. I believe in surrounding myself with good people with positive energy. People always ask me why I am slow to hire and quick to fire for my companies. I hire very slowly because I believe the culture of a company is its fuel for extraordinary achievement. A broken culture leads to low morale and poor performance. Every single hire is a critical component to the culture of a company. I fire quickly because nothing is worse than bad apples who damages the happiness of others or brings the team down or does not exemplify the shared values of the team. Likewise, in life, nothing is worse than negative, selfish, entitled people in your life. It takes strength and courage to eliminate the bad apples from your life, but it is necessary so that you can unleash your potential. Think of those people as dead weight bricks. Cut out the dead weight bricks from your life and watch your life soar." Such an apt article when I was trying to decide if I really did the right thing. I need to learn about what he said - "hire slow, fire quick" - will I stop coaching or mentoring or helping these young people? No, I won't. It is my passion and my commitment. BUT, I will from this day forward, be more choosy about the people I am going to mentor and coach because not everyone deserves my time. I'm getting rid of dead weight so that I can help those more deserving to soar. Ok, so onwards and upwards then.

Another thing about Myanmar after 7 years here is this mysterious "arr nar" culture. There isn't an English word for it, but in Cantonese, we say "mm hou yee si". After 7 years of living here, I realized they used, I'm sorry, not used, they ABUSED this "arr nar" culture to their convenience only. For me, I was brought up to understand that "arr nar" or "mm hou yee si" meant for example, when someone offered you a free class or a free gift and you accept it but you feel so "arr nar" or if you had to borrow money from someone so you feel "arr nar" or if you were sparring with your instructor and you were "arr nar" to punch him. That is "arr nar". Here, they are "arr nar" about every damn thing BUT only to their convenience though - particularly when they're asked to voice their opinions or to be honest about a mistake or to express their frustration to their team mates for not performing well, when they are unhappy, they don't want to tell you because they are "arr nar", this list could go on and on. However, when the push comes to shove, like stopping the car in the middle of the road to unload stuff, thus blocking traffic, where is the "arr nar"? Or when skipping classes without informing the coach even though they know the coach prepared for the class - then where is the "arr nar" ? And when they are unhappy, they don't want to tell it to you in your face, but they gossip behind your back then where is the "arr nar" ? I personally think that hiding behind this "arr nar" culture had set the Myanmar people back by years. πŸ˜•πŸ˜•πŸ˜•

I think the power cut and the heat has gotten to my head hence my blog is sounding a little bit bitchy at the moment 😝😝😝

I'm still with CMHL for a majority of my time on the weekdays. On top of that, I've taken on additional roles in my capacity as a consultant - so besides Marketing, I am also involved in Group Corp. Affairs and I am also consulting for one of their start-up acquisitions - The Pink Sun Media. So, that's a big chunk of my time gone for all of those. If I have to ask myself honestly though, I have enjoyed my time working here. There are very, very bad days and on those days, I've wanted to leave, but I gave WWT my commitment that I'm here to stay and I would help as much as I can within my capabilities so I take itttttt 😝😝😝 There are also days where I've wanted to throw people off the building LOL! But it had been such a journey for me to see the organization grow from 12 stores to where they are today. Daw Win Win Tint, the Group CEO and owner is another one of the Myanmar leaders that I respect a lot. I may not often see eye-to-eye with her but I like and respect that she has the Myanmar people in her heart. I just realized Sayar Aung and Daw WWT both have the same values - to upgrade the Myanmar people. #win

SoyAi under Htet Shine is doing ok and I'm relieved. The Children of Tomorrow Youth Centre is continuing the weekend classes as per usual. I don't spend as much of my time at the Youth Centre these days. I let Htet Shine manage the business and the children and whenever he requested for my support, I'm there. I know sometimes, he just needs a listening ear, to be assured that I am still there for him and he is another one of my commitment - that I will be there for him no matter what. At least I know that one front of my succession planning is solved. I know that SoyAi will continue to do the work it started out doing and I know that Htet Shine himself has a heart so big for the children that I'm not worried at all. And talk about forward planning right - he knew that every year, I would host a Pre-Thingyan Party for the children and this year, he even chased me like 2 months ahead because he said "If he needed to plan it, he needed time because he is so busy with SoyAi." Again, even some of my students or my colleagues at work do not have such kind of forward planning!! On days where I am "suffering" (LOL, so drama!) in Myanmar, this boy, this boy whom I've mentored, coached and groomed is my inspiration because..... because he was able to change all his negative pasts and moved forward with a fighting mentality and attitude. You know, from someone who couldn't wake up at 7am, he's now making his rounds, delivering tofu and soy milk before 6am, rain, shine or snow!! And he doesn't dramatize his problems or challenges. When he speaks to me, it's very matured, no bitching, just problem-solving. He has a long way to go, I know but look at how far he's come!! For me, SoyAi, the COTYC and Htet Shine are the only things I can truly be proud of, of my time here in Myanmar.

The Mobile Soup Movement that I started in 2015 with MOH a.k.a. Da Tiger, a.k.a Sayar Richard is still on-going every month and we still give out 100 - 150 care packages a month to those in need. A lot of media had interviewed me about this, but I don't know why because I am not asking for donations nor help. They asked me what's my purpose in doing this. I don't have much of a justification except that I feel there are people who needed this and both of us will do the best that we can within our capabilities. We both have enough to cover our basic needs and even our wants so I believe very much that we can share. Whilst we're not asking for any donations or help, I do call for volunteers every month to come help pick up the packages to be distributed to those whom they felt would need some dry ration or toiletries to help tide them through for awhile. The current state of the USD - Kyats isn't exactly helping the situation though but we manage anyway.

Being in Myanmar is a real lesson in patience and trust me, patience is not my middle name. Right now, the power is still out and it's 4 hours and counting. My battery is almost running flat so I'm gonna hasten my writing πŸ˜•πŸ˜•πŸ˜•πŸ˜• There will definitely be a need for some zen-like mentality and the power of positive-thinking to get through some of the strange things that goes on here. Last night, while I was about to go to bed, the power got cut off again. Believe me when I said I used up all my energy to zen-out while stewing in my sweat. I even tried telling myself "Don't think about the heat, Eileen. Just close your eyes, relax.... all is good. All is good. All is good." πŸ˜“πŸ˜“πŸ˜“ Then there was one time where they completely closed off the road leading to our apartment because they were doing cement work for whatever reasons and we couldn't drive through and we couldn't walk through. I was like "What were they thinking???" And when you asked the Burmese people why did they do that, they will be "arr nar" and they will just grin at you. Which in all honesty, makes me wanna smack them instead. Anyway, with our grocery shopping bags and all, we had to literally scale through walls and makeshift ladders to get back to our apartment block. I mean, .... *speechless*. But instead of you know, chucking a ball about it, MOH and I just laughed and we joked about why it happened the way it happened. (trust me, we could come up with a million of these jokes on a daily basis after 7 years living here!!!)

I can literally feel my time and patience running out. Every morning, I wake up, telling myself to expect the unexpected and to zen out. But within 5 minutes of driving through from my place to wherever I was going, I am ready to kill someone. Where I live, I love it a lot because on my right is the jungle and 10 steps to the left is where I do my MMA training with one of Myanmar's MMA champions - Sayar Phoe Thaw. I am actually thankful for the MMA classes because it helps me deal with my pent-up anger and stress πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ Like seriously, I drive through the roads and there'll be aunties gossiping in the middle of the road and they literally couldn't care less that a car was trying to get past. I don't really wanna honk and I tell myself "Stay calm, Eileen, stay calm." but every so often, I would blast that honk like there was no tomorrow. I hate to admit it but seeing them jump out of their skin gives me some joy 😝😝😝 Or the taxi driver who refuses to budge from the one-car lane even though I am the one who had reached the end of the lane first. Or the people at work, or the students I mentor who feel they are "entitled" to things or their "arr nar" excuses or "hote" and NATO with you. It's all very taxing. Now do you see why I need to manage my anger issues and punch some bags? LMAO !!!! In fact, on weekends, the both of us choose to hibernate in our 'cave'. Don't even wanna talk to anyone at all. That's how draining things are sometimes.

I question myself a lot these days - "What The Hell Am I Doing Here?" But see, here's the thing and I am not sure if it's the Universe trying to screw around with me or what. Every time I have these despairing feeling that my time is up in Myanmar or I am overstaying my welcome here in this country that I fell in love with 7 years ago, there will be something or someone or a situation that would tell me "Maybe another day, Eileen." It could be that 'side-ka' (trishaw) dude who gave me an understanding smile after I had safely maneuvered past the gossiping aunties. Or that taxi driver who actually reversed and gave me way even though it was his right of way. Or that security guard at the pool who offered to share his lunch with me because he saw me training so hard. Or it could be Htet Shine making another win for SoyAi. It could simply just be meeting new people who has the same mindset and mentality as me - like those guys who train at the MMA gym next door to me - they come from nothing and this is all they've got so they make no excuses, no matter how tough life is for them. Or it could be seeing a student excel and grow another level up, people I mentor and coach who came out of their shell and did things they would never usually do (like traveling alone 😜😜😜) Small wins by some of the teams I coached. Or the security guard at my apartment block who couldn't stand the state of my dirty car and washed it for me. Or it could be Li-Su my once-a-week help who sometimes treats me with my favourite fruits when she knows that I am going a bit cuckoo with stress. It's truly bizzare because it happens every time I questioned my stay here in Myanmar. I am seriously not kidding. Truly bizzare. So, I choose, despite having a bad day, to always start my day on a positive note. Most of the time, the both of us are quite zen with the strange and enigmatic Myanmar (right now, not so much for me because it's been 6 hours dealing with the heat and I've had no respite from the heat the whole day!😭😭😭) - like you know, really instead of losing it with things, we try to make light of a situation. Like instead of raging on the road, we joked about how we should equip our car with betelnut shooters and paintballs and rotten eggs. I would be so gangsta on the road if my car did that - like every time someone annoyed me on the road - press a button and rotten eggs shoot out at them. That'll be cool don't ya think? πŸ‘ΏπŸ‘ΏπŸ‘Ώ

I attended a seminar on Myanmar's state of economy leading up to next year's General Elections and Uncle Serge Pun, another one of Myanmar's respected business leader was on the panel. He said Myanmar needed an "enlightened government". I chuckled at all his witty and bold remarks and agreed with all that he said. But I think Myanmar also needed "enlightened people"!

I realized this country is still full of hope. As sorry as the situation may be and as scary as the situation may be - there is so much hope for this beautiful country. As such, I shall continue the work that I do here and try my further best to empower the next generation so that they can positively shape this nation here. Everyday is a learning but when has learning ever stopped? I will continue to inspire and as well as be inspired and I will count my blessings everyday for the great opportunity of being here and meeting so many beautiful Myanmar people.

p/s : But for right now, on the anniversary of my 7th year in Myanmar, I hope the power comes back soon. Meanwhile - here are some photos of our earlier times in Myanmar - most of these situations hasn't changed at all 😜😜😜

Hotel Shwe Gone Dine - a place I stayed in for about 3 weeks when
I first arrived in Myanmar - together with MOH

Me cleaning our first apartment and I'm so not pleased

This be how the workers climbed. They were often
ill-prepared when they came for work - no tools, no
ladder, so they have to make 3 trips to get 1 job done.
Time management optimization fail. Still happens today.

Mattress moving skills = next level
This was our first move back in 2012

MOH doing a DIY  hanger for us. Skills also next level LOL

We made curtains out of bedsheets at our 2nd apartment.
Now in our 6th apartment, we gave up on curtains LOLOL!!

This was how we used to roll back then! LOL! And he would
usually ask me to get off if the road was inclining LOLOL!!

We used to get invited a lot to the hta ma net cooking which
was very communal. I had enjoyed them very much and also
loved eating the hta ma net. However, in the last 3 years, no
more invitations! Also don't see so much of this going on
anymore too!

Community chit-chat with the local neighbours.
This was December 2012

Had my first hair cut in Myanmar at Tony Tun Tun.
Still having my hair cuts at Tony Tun Tun 7 years later.
Ma Moe is the best!

We loved Myanmar so much, we even took
wedding portraits in Myanmar costumes!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

My Last One Standing...

Selfie Filters with Ah Por πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
Another CNY celebration with the family had come and gone. I’m thankful for yet another CNY with Ah Por. Every year, as I leave home with a heavy heart, I worry that this might be the last CNY with her. Her health – mental, emotional and physical – has deteriorated so quickly in the last 2 years. She’s my last grandparent standing and frankly, I’m not yet prepared to let her go.

The last 2 years had been the most difficult because I’ve watched a feisty, witty old lady turn into a bitter and unhappy person. I did managed to get some good moments with her, but more often than not, the conversations I have with her seem to be very negative that I don’t really have much conversations with her anymore. Most heart-breaking for me is her desperation with money. She used to tell me “Don’t be greedy. Just earn enough to keep food on your table. The most important is your health and happiness.” The last 2 years, she had been singing a different tune. She’s been telling me “The most important thing is money!” Every conversation is about how poor she was and how poor everyone in the family was. Whatever money given to her by her children and grandchildren, she refused to let the money out of her sight. This CNY, I helped kept her money in her cupboard. Numerous times a day, despite being too frail to walk properly, she would wobble to her room, open the cupboard and recount that all her money was still there. She’s even suspicious that there could be family members who might steal her money. It’s so heart-breaking and frustrating for me to see that. There was no talking sense into her and in the end, I kept the money in my room instead just to stop her from walking and risk her falling down.

On the last morning of my trip back to the village, I lost my temper at her 😩😩😩
  I've never lost my temper so terribly with her before 😭😭😭

Well, she puts up at an old folks’ home run by a mother-daughter duo – an arrangement made by Ah Por’s children. To be honest, right from the very first time I met these two, I already didn’t have a very good feeling about them. I found them overly-fake and pretentious. But because Ah Por was under their care, I kept my tongue and I even faked my friendliness and apple polished them till high heavens. Sometimes, I used gifts as bribe – in fact, I even bought them a refrigerator! To me, they were just conniving, cheating liars. Once, I arrived at 10-ish morning to pick Ah Por and they just woke up. Which caretaker of a Home wakes up at 10am??  This trip, when I arrived at the Home to pick Ah Por up, the place was like a bloody pigsty. Fine. I closed an eye to it. They kept saying they were busy, busy, busy. Anyway, when I was going to give Ah Por her usual medication that evening upon getting back to the village, there was no medication to be seen. When I asked Ah Por about it, she told me that they had not taken her to the general hospital to get the medication for a couple of months already. This was alarm bells for me. Cos they told me they always took her for the appointments. While back for the whole week, I watched how frail and wobbly Ah Por was so I never quite left her sight and I showered her daily. One day, while showering her, Ah Por asked me, “So, who would shower me when you go back to Myanmar?” So I told her that the caretakers will shower her like they always do. And she told me that they don’t shower her at all. My heart sank. If I left Ah Por back in that Home, she will definitely have a fall. I was stressing out on what to do about this issue. Since, you know, being an Asian family, I’m of the “younger generation” and therefore, don’t exactly have a say in what needs to be done. Whatever decision I made prior had always been over-ridden. Meanwhile, Ah Por had also been telling me about how little food she has to eat at that Home, but when I bought biscuits and coffee for her to take back to the Home, she said no because the caretakers would steal them, and worse of all, how they kept stealing her money when she went to shower. I know some may say Ah Por is a little forgetful and Ah Por may be telling tales of imagination, but at this point, I choose to believe her.

So happened, during the reunion lunch, I asked my cousin brother who lived nearby the Home on what was going on. And his information confirmed my suspicions that those two caretakers were conniving, cheating liars. I don’t really want to get into the details of what sort of bad characters they were but there was no way in hell I was going to send Ah Por back there. I picked her up, so I had to drop her back off, you see. Anyway, so  my cousin brother helped me look for another home. He had previously recommended another Home when the family was about to make a decision but you see – he was of the “younger generation” and therefore only  meant to be seen not heard πŸ˜•πŸ˜•πŸ˜• Anyway, he managed to get a slot in another Home and helped me make the arrangements to check Ah Por in there. But not before making me swear not to say it was him who told me all these information because he was afraid of getting into trouble. (and here I am, regaling this tale on a public space! LOL). So, that was that. I made the decision this time. I was gonna put Ah Por into a new and better home. I wasn’t bothered about how much extra the new Home was going to cost. I wanted extra pair of eyes to watch her and care for her.

Now, on the day when we were about to leave to send Ah Por to the new Home, she kicked up a fuss. She refused to go. She heard rumours that the place cost a bomb and she didn’t want to go. She wobbled to her room and refused to move. I was running late (cos I had to return the rental car that evening), I was stressed out about the situation, I was frustrated, I was emotional that it was my last day for CNY with Ah Por and when she behaved that way, I just lost it. In the end, she relented.  But she kept on and on repeating in the car that I conned her into going to the new Home. I just didn’t know what to do. At that said moment, I had wanted to crash the car into a wall. I was that devastated 😭😭😭
 Anyhow, I got her to the new Home. I looked at the place, I met the owners, I checked her in and I saw to all the arrangements including shower time and night time. My priority was that she doesn’t fall again. The place seemed nicer, bigger and more professionally ran. Still, I hated knowing that Ah Por was unhappy with this decision. But I managed to talk to her better before I left and told her that we could just try out the new place. And if she’s really not happy and not comfortable, we’d move her back to the old Home. She felt better. And I gave her a hug before bidding her farewell. And I promised to call her.

We could say, or we could ask “Why is she behaving so selfishly? Why can't she not make the younger people worried about her” but if I were to think about it – aren’t we the selfish ones? I forced her to go to the new Home because I wanted my peace of mind. I can’t be there physically to take care of her and so I thought this was the best decision for her well-being. I’m thinking about this and I’m just torn apart. I gave her no choice. I just forced her to accept my decision. And here’s the kicker – my aunty called, a bit agitated as to why didn’t I discuss this with her first because to what she heard, the new Home that I just checked Ah Por into has a history of abuse cases and there had been deaths. So you can imagine, how I am feeling now, on a flight back to Yangon, thinking – “What the fuck did I just do???” I can’t rely on family to take care of this issue properly. It's like expecting the old and wobbly to take care of the old and wobbly. It's a disaster waiting to happen! Because her children are themselves old, unwell, retired with little income coming in and furthermore, Ah Por’s situation had been the cause of many family quarrels and unhappiness. I didn’t want anymore family quarrels or misunderstanding so I chose to take this upon myself. And I think I screwed up! 😭😭😭
 How will I forgive myself if anything happened to Ah Por?

Maybe some of you may ask why am I taking things so emotionally about all of these. Maybe I should start by saying that in the first place, I have a very strong exterior, but I have the softest of hearts particularly for old people. When they are old and unable and life is draining away bit by bit from them, don’t you think that is when they need more smiles? More love? More care?

Secondly, I have a history of “unfinished businesses” that haunt me till this very day. Which is the reason why I still can’t truly let go of the passing of my three other grandparents.

The first was with my late Kung Kung. He suffered a stroke and then had liver cancer. A week before he passed away, I remember I was in his room, and was trying to chat with him about his job as a journalist with Sin Chew Jit Poh. He couldn’t speak very cohesively due to the stroke, so as a 16-yr-old, I tried to ask yes or no questions. I had wanted to pursue a career in journalism you see. Then some relatives came to visit and I was shoo-ed out of the room. I never had a chance to finish the conversation with my Kung Kung. In fact, the night when he was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, the adults conveniently left the kids behind. I didn’t care, I called for a taxi and together with my brother, we went to see him at the hospital. Only to be shoo-ed away by the adults again (this “to be seen and not heard” practise has got to stop somehow). We were told to return the next morning. I sat in front of the altar and prayed and prayed that night to be able to see Kung Kung again. I didn’t make it to see Kung Kung one last time. It was also then that I stopped praying altogether. I only started praying again after I got married.

Second was my late Ah Kung. When I was working in Malaysia, I went back to the village quite often to see my Ah Kung and Ah Por and brought them out for dinner. On one of the visits back, it was raining rather heavily during dinner time. So instead of struggling with the storm, I went out to pack food back for Ah Kung. I even still remember which stall I got it from – it was the economy rice stall next to the temple. Got back and I prepared the meal for Ah Kung to eat. Just that, I was not aware that one of the vegetable dishes I got for Ah Kung had chillies in it. Ah Kung coughed and choked so badly from the spiciness that he ended up not being able to finish the rest of the rice and dishes. He only had two spoons of his dinner. I left the next morning thinking I would see him again and have a complete meal with him. And again, second time unfinished business – Ah Kung passed away before I could make my next trip back to the village. In my head, my last dinner with him was not finished. In fact, I screwed up such an easy thing as to getting the wrong vegetable dish for him! It was my fault. 😭😭😭

Third, was my Por Por. She had been unwell for many years and her health was deteriorating too during her last few years. She was wheelchair-bound. I regretted that I had always thought to take her for a trip and I never made that happen. At those times, I was struggling still with finances and my business and work, but taking her for a road trip was one of my top things to do. I remembered I had an event in Phuket on the morning that she fell ill. She was in the car cos my parents were taking her to the hospital and I was going to jump into my colleague’s car to get to the airport. I gave her a hug while she was still in the car and I told her “Por Por, I will come back to see you, ok?” And she said “Ok!” And she passed away while I was midway through my event in Phuket. I didn’t get to come back to see her. It broke my heart.

So there – the knots in my heart for the last many, many, years, living with these “unfinished business”. My grandparents had dotted upon me from when I was born till the day they held their last breath. I had no favourites – I loved them all the same and dearly but I was pretty sure I was their favourite grandchild. It traumatizes me as I watch the people I love around me grow older and older with each passing year. And my arse luck with “unfinished business” never fails to haunt me every so often. There are nights where I can’t sleep because my mind would accidentally find itself wandering back to these moments and I would wish I had a second chance with all of them. So I try my best with those who are still around, and I want to make sure everyone is happy and well. I would give generously to my family and never calculate again about it. I wanted the best for my parents and I would give them the best. I don’t want to go to bed angry and a lot of times, when it comes to my loved ones, I would choose to let it be. Because I do not want to regret anything later.

But this situation with my Ah Por is now driving me quite crazy and stressed up – I am tired and emotionally drained. If I really screwed up this time, I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself. My parents have planned a trip in the next few days to check on Ah Por and the Home. And now, all I can do is pray. I hope my prayers are heard this time 😭😭😭

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Celebrating our 9th Year as You & Me, Just Us Two....

This #FitCouple πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—
When they say time flies, it really flies. I don't know what happened to those years when we were just young and dumb teenagers, constantly banging our heads in the wall and making stupid mistakes and laughing at our errors.

And in a blink of an eye, MOH and I are celebrating 23 years of friendship, and of that, 9 years married. NINE years!!!! 😱😱😱 I can't believe it! We survived 9 years together without killing each other!! LMAO !!!

As most of you may already know, I write an anniversary blog post every year to commemorate our journey. And in case you don't already know - it's still a "Me & You, Just Us Two" journey. I usually take this annual ritual as a time to reflect on our relationship and perhaps just wonder in amazement at how far we've come.

I know a lot of the youngsters in Myanmar hashtag us as #RSGoals.... but I always tell them that what works for us may not work for them and every relationship will have its own highs and lows. Last year, I already talked about our lows as a couple (here), what we been through to be where we are today. We've made our mistakes as a couple, we're still learning and everything. But above all, we're stronger together.

People ask us if we fight. Of course we fight! We have our "5min-fights". LOL. I guess, the older we get, the more we want less drama. What are these 5-min fights? It would be stuff like these :

Me : Why do you ALWAYS drive like a moron???? You know I don't like it!! 😑😑😑
MOH : I KNOW what I am doing! I can see!!
Me : No you dunno! And your eyes were on the phone!! I would tell your Mother!!!!
............ long silence. We arrive at destination. And that's done, like nothing happened. LOLOL.

Me : Would you hurry up??? I don't like to be late for gym!! You take so long to get ready!!
MOH : Why do you have to scold me first thing in the morning??? I don't like it!!
........... long silence. Arrive at gym. Workout starts and that's done, like nothing happened. LOLOL.

MOH : Did you see the shirt and the pants on the kitchen floor?
Me : Yes. I dunno what were they doing there...
MOH : For you to wash!
Me : Why couldn't you have placed it in the washing machine????
MOH : Cos I tot you would see it!
Me : You wash by hand yourself. I have already done the washing load! I don't care! Simply put!
.......... long silence. Kisses me bye bye to work and that's done. Comes home from work, clothes still on floor and he takes them and puts them in the washing machine. LMFAO.

MOH : It's too spicy! I can't take it! Next time, if it is so spicy, I won't eat!
Me : If you complain this and that, next time, you cook your own dinner! I'm not cooking for you!!!
MOH : Ok. Fine.
........... go to sleep, next day, same conversation from him : "What's for dinner?" 😏😏😏

Of cos this list can go on, and on. I'm laughing as I recall these...... πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†
I guess, I can recall two recent fights that had lasted more than 5mins....... hmmm.... one was when we had to move apartment (yet again) back in 2017. I usually get quite stressed out when it's moving day cos the marathon unpacking is quite taxing. I can't even remember what started it, prolly cos he was on the phone and not helping out much. And he actually sent me away! Like "You get out of the way first, you go to the gym or whatever and I'll call you once the move is done!!!" I wanted to smack him one. First of all, he won't get it done the way I need it done. So being away would not have helped the situation. What a moron! And he actually raised his voice at me!!! 😭😭😭 Another time was when I had a digital talk going and again, I usually get pretty worked up when I have a public presentation..... he picked the wrong time to clean out the drawers and I was like "Are you kidding me??? I'm gonna be late!!" He actually told me he didn't want to go with me after that. And I was like "Fine!!!" Wanted to punch him cos - at said moment, I thought he was being very unsupportive. What a moron! 😠😠😠 Ok, just so we're clear, he came with me anyway. LOL!

So, yeah, we do fight. But we try not to prolong the fight because, let's put it this way.... in a tiny apartment, there's just the two of us. If we're angry with each other, can you imagine how "stuffy" the place gets? Plus we always wanted a home built on laughter not one where there's always a cold war going on. So there. So simple.

But just so y'all know, I've discovered or rather realized something...... the older MOH gets, the more impatient he has become. Wow, I don't think I am yet prepared for the grumpy old man that I'll be facing in the future..... 😳😳😳 Well, I'll be the grumpy old woman and we can compete who is grumpier. LOL!

Aside from that, work has been taking front row seats with us and these days, this is what we do even on weekends - we stay indoors. We just want to hide from the world in our tiny apartment. And we don't even need to be talking to each other inside the apartment. We'd be doing our own thing. But we're both just hiding and unwinding. And at times like these, where I really am too lazy to even open my mouth to talk, I am grateful that my life partner is an anti-social introvert like me. People find this strange.... "Why won't you have dinner with us??" It's really not that we don't like their company, but if we both do not get our breathing space from human beings, a lot of people might die during the week! And weddings..... lololol...... there are some wedding invitations in which I wouldn't think twice about skipping. But there are also some weddings where I would love to go, except a thousand other guests will also be there and I'm really not keen to make small talks on the weekends. It tires me greatly. Sometimes, we would attend the wedding for 15mins, max 30mins and we'd make an excuse to leave. I'm sorry guys, but this is just us. Not because we are not happy with your celebration of love or anything like that. Don't get us wrong, ya!

Come September 2018 in fact, even our Saturdays would be taken away since I would have new projects to embark on and MOH is also going to be facilitating for the Center for Executive Education Southeast Asia Executive Leadership Programme (Yup, we are a tiny apartment of Sayar and Sayarma)..... so our "special time" would be something we cling on to even more!

These days, we've both also been very active in our sports training. Ever since his knee operation, MOH had been rather determined to heal and not being able to play football anymore, he turned his focus and attention on triathlon. I am somewhat annoyed by this, to be honest. During my peak, he was that fat, lazy tiger who refused to workout. When I was still uninjured and in top form, he was having his coffee waiting for me while I was racing away. (sometimes, he'd miss me at the finish line even!! πŸ˜‘πŸ˜‘πŸ˜‘) But now that I am injured and can't go the distances anymore, he's showing off with his long distances and races after races and his speed. Back in the day, he won't even be able to smell my smoke. Actually, he still hasn't been able to beat any of my records in terms of timing. So there, that's my sourpuss coming out 😝😝😝 Ah, but well, I am very supportive. I always do remember the times even though he was never interested in triathlons, he was always there with me for my competitions. I guess, now, it's my turn. We did do one race together back in 2016 (where I was faster than him hahahahaha and he refused to believe it!) and upon his encouragement, I did the Bangkok Triathlon recently. But my legs are never the same again and sometimes, it gets worrying - what if I lose mobility? What would he do? How would we cope? Sigh.......

I suppose, maybe cos of that, and because it's that "age" (uuurgh).... we're also talking about future plans..... what happens with a couple that has no kids? What's our retirement plan looking like? I guess, in this aspect, I am a more live-in-the-moment person (not that I don't have plans, I do), but MOH is even planning out our "no income days" and how that would pan out.

I believe every couple goes through different life stages. Looking back, I guess, MOH and myself have been through the  struggling phase as young adults trying to build a future for ourselves, we've been through the changes in our careers, passion, ambitions, we've adjusted with the different needs at different stages of our lives...... we've seen each other through our own highs and lows..... we change and we adapt ourselves accordingly to each other's changes, because at the end of the day, whilst we function individually, we still want to be in sync on this journey.

There will be many more fights, many more new things learn about each other and more understanding required to adapt and change (it's like the Waterfall vs Agile method - do, measure, optimize, repeat LOLOLOL) but so long as we keep our hands on each other and build each other stronger, and understand that whilst we each walk our own paths, we're walking on the same journey.

To MOH, my best friend, we've come a long way and there's still a lot more grounds to cover. I'll gladly walk this through together with you even if you became a grumpy old man (I would just molest your cute tushie, you know that I love that view. Hope it won't be too saggy by then 😈😈😈) Here's to our 9th year and wishing for endless laughing moments with you! (even if it means I have to make those laughing moments happen - you better sleep with your eyes opened πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜)

Below - pix of my favourite tush... I mean, person πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„

Thursday, May 17, 2018

GE14 : Hope... A Necessity For Healing

A news coverage of my birth in The Malay Mail
Can I become a true 'anak Malaysia'? 
Congratulations Malaysia Baru! The past week was exciting indeed and in general, hope permeates the very air that we breathe.

Before I continue on, I'd like to say that I didn't return home to vote. But to those of you who made sweeping statements about those who didn't vote and therefore should not share the triumph and jubilation of the rest of the nation, well, all I can say is - here's my finger (and not the one with the indelible ink). Sure, you're entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to my rights. Don't pretend to judge me when you don't know me.

Done. We move on.

Hope is an essential ingredient for everyone to to keep facing challenges that life throws at us. Hope is what keeps us motivated to fight on, to believe. And the historical win of Pakatan Harapan (meaning the Coalition of Hope) last week renewed the hope for Malaysians. The epic "against all odds" win gave way to a new Malaysian 'high'. Suddenly, the skies were bluer, the air fresher and everything that was impossible was suddenly possible. I myself was using the "Malaysian Win" as a way of motivating my teams here in Myanmar when we were faced with impossible or daunting tasks. Not once. 4 times in the past week. "Hey - if Malaysia can change the government, then anything is possible!" πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€

I woke up on 100518 to a new Malaysia (despite being banned from sleeping by my BFFs in a group chat just in case I jinxed the results LOLOL!!). The first order of the day was to inform my late grandma and both my grandpas. Ah Kung, Kung Kung, Por Por - can you believe it? The opposition won. Kita menang! I do wish you guys were here to witness this historical moment. My late Kung Kung who was a journalist with Sin Chew Jit Poh would've loved being right there in the heart of this historical news story - perhaps, learning how to do a LIVE video 😜😜😜 My Por Por would've been ecstatic too. She was 5 months pregnant when May 13 happened and being rescued by Chinese triad gangsters to hideout in the jungle was an ordeal she would never forget.

I come from a very strong "opposition" family, both maternal and paternal. From the youngest to the oldest. Needless to say, being pro-government overnight was very strange indeed. I did a little small interview asking how some of my family felt about this euphoric win.

My Papa - the biggest, most gung-ho opposition supporter ever, at 73, had this to say : "Right from the first time I voted, till GE14, I had always voted for the opposition. After GE14, the next day, had to wait till late into the night before there was a confirmation for a change of government. And this morning, I woke up for the 1st time feeling Hey, I am no longer anti-government! I am pro-government!". He waited a long time for this. A close friend of his actually said - he wasn't just happy. He was ecstatic! For the first time ever, he was sharing national patriotic anthems on FB!!

My Mama, was never all that vocal about politics, but the last 15 yrs of deteriorating state under the tyranny of that frog face, had got her extremely annoyed with the government. She had this to say when I asked her how she felt about the win : "Felt happy and relieved. I am an admirer of Tun M from those days. Yes, he may be corrupted too, but he brought changes for the good of Malaysia. At 92yrs of age, he should retire and enjoy life, but he did all he can to get things right for the country. His strategies were all well planned to lead to the downfall of BN and the corrupted leaders."

My Ah Yee was even funnier. She said "Of course I am happy! I was so happy when they announced that I couldn't sleep the whole night!" She was also so happy that she forgot to send a message to my late Por Por and Kung Kung πŸ™πŸ™πŸ™

My bro, a man of few words and definitely not even the wee bit interested in politics but went out this time for the ceramahs, said "Of course happy lah! Don't tell me sad meh?" πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜

MOH, also a man of few words, went home to cast his vote. And when I asked him how he felt about the win, he said "Now there is hope." 

As for me, a Myanmar friend did ask me, "Are you happy about the win?" My answer was, of course I am. I am very happy. But my happiness fell short of jubilation. It all felt quite strange as well. Strange because it was Dr. M, whom I grew up detesting. The one who helped implement the race-based policies put in place by the then 3rd PM of Malaysia - Tun Hussein Onn. It was for these race-based policies that I felt I was robbed of my government scholarship despite being a straight-A student.

61 years of race-based divisions, of being made to feel like an immigrant residing in other people's land had taken its toll. Let me put it this way, many of us were affected and we were affected at different levels. To each, their own, yeah.

I am a Merdeka Baby. Being government school teachers, my parents towed the line in imparting patriotism in us growing up. We used to fly the Jalur Gemilang at our house for the whole week of Merdeka, and I pretended the whole nation was celebrating Merdeka with me for it was my birthday 😝😝😝 I even used to fly one on my car - you know that small flag you can attach to your car. But time and time again, these race-based agendas were thrown my way. That overtime, we all stopped flying that flag. I removed that flag from my car too. I never felt like an "anak Malaysia". Come Merdeka Day - it was simply MY BIRTHDAY. Period. And in the last 15 years, things just escalated from bad to worse. I cannot for the life of me get this statement out of my head : "We will bathe this dagger in the blood of the Chinese!!" Anyone care to remember this? (to be fair, there has been a lot of "true, not true" debate over this statement) and again, in 2007, as reported by Reuters, : 'One delegate was reportedly to have said by the Singapore Straits Times "UMNO is willing to risk lives and bathe in blood to defend the race and religion. Don't play with fire. If they mess with our rights, we will mess with theirs." I did not know what I did to deserve supposed leaders saying brainless things like that or playing up the racial cards over and over again. What rights are they talking about? Am I not a citizen of Malaysia? Was I not born on this land? Why am I not considered an 'anak Malaysia'?? Whilst part of my brains knew it was a brainless act by some scumbags, another part of me reacted emotionally towards those type of statements. "Apa lagi Cina mau?" (What more do the Chinese want?) Nothing very much, really. Just to earn my honest 3 meals a day, based on my capabilities, abilities and fairness. That's all. 

I packed my bags and expanded my business to Cambodia and now reside in Myanmar. It's 10 years now since I left Malaysia. I've had enough of being reminded over and over again that I have no rights in my own birth land.

Even business-wise, the many government projects that bypassed us because we were just a small Chinese business. The ultimate embarrassment I recall would be 2010 - when the Chinese government, in cooperation with Japan, invited our wedding association to attend a convention in China to promote Malaysia as a destination for weddings. Our association had worked on building international networks for years prior. Zero support from our tourism ministry despite our numerous calls, pleas and proposals. But not to let slip this chance, us two girls, the President and the Vice-President forked out the money ourselves and flew over. To our horror - every other Asian country sent big teams. Even Myanmar at that time had a contingent of 26 people! And the best part was, each country had to put up a performance to showcase their culture. Guess what? There we were, 2 idiots representing Malaysia armed only with a video CD and we did the bloody fashion catwalk by ourselves on stage!! My President was in a Kebaya and I was in a modern Cheongsam. Oh, I remember very well indeed. Even the emcee in his introduction of us said "We have two very brave ladies from Malaysia who will be performing on their own....." For pride, we did the job and even earned praises from the other contingent. We did not let Malaysia down. But despite us joking about this experience, I was bitterly disappointed. And after that, I refused to partake in any other projects that has anything to do with the government. It was a personal thing. My business partners still carried on where necessary.

Yeah, you can call me bitter or whatever. Like I said, everyone is affected in different ways and at different levels.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the company and friends of muhibbah Malaysia and in fact, here's something quite cute - the row of house that I grew up in was really muhibbah indeed. On our left a Malay neighbour and our right an Indian family. In fact, when I was a kid, I used to go over to my neighbour's house and we would play masak-masak. I never hated the people. I only hated the government. I would often lament to my Malay friends about this predicament and the ills of race-based agendas and policies. You can imagine the irony of my Papa or MOH suddenly being so enthusiastic about patriotic anthems whereas I was the one who knew every single line, verse and chorus to songs like 'Setia' and 'Sejahtera Malaysia'. In fact, MOH was caught off guard when I proved to him that I knew the lyrics by heart - despite all those years. 

With these years and years of raced-based policies and agendas ingrained in me, I knew I myself needed to heal. When Dr. M revealed his cabinet and I saw LGE as the Finance Minister - the first thought that went into my head was : "Oh! A Chinese minister!" before I caught myself. I knew this mentality and this thinking had to go. And bless LGE for speaking up and declaring that he wasn't Chinese. He is Malaysian. We need leaders to walk the talk, and help guide us through the healing process. Just as much as race-based policies have brainwashed the likes of me to think race-first, we can well be brainwashed to think Malaysian-first. Perhaps, an essential move would be to get rid of race-based parties. Parties should represent Malaysians. Not races.

Strange as it was, for the first time, I watched LIVE the swearing-in of Dr. M for it was definitely a moment in history. There was a small tingling within. That tingling was a sense of hope. I am not so bold as to speak for everyone, but I am sure we will all be healing at different stages. For now, with the couple of promises that Pakatan Harapan had delivered in just one week (Zero GST and Anwar's full pardon), I prefer to focus on hope. The hope for a better Malaysia. The hope for a great Malaysia. The hope for a united and stronger Malaysia. The hope for an assimilated Malaysia. And for me - the hope to feel "demi negara, yang tercinta, dicurahkan bakti penuh setia...." as an anak Malaysia should feel. MOH said this to me, "Everyone that is working together with Dr. M now had once been sent to jail by him before. If they can let all of that go and look towards the greater good, then ...." Yes, I get his point. Like I said, we had all been affected at different levels. But there's really something to be said about people who are really able to forgive and forget for the greater good. My total respect to these leaders. (note to self : no conspiracy theories, Eileen. Just believe. Just hope) 

But for now, while we all go through the uphill healing process (at least for me), the biggest joy I am deriving from this monumental win is the fact that I am now able to take as many jibes as I can on that frog face and ugly hippo. As Zan Azlee very aptly put it in his article - "It's hard to be gracious towards BN. It has been too long and we have been through too much." I am now having so much joy when I actually call the frog face, FROG FACE. Sorry, not sorry. When I curse at him, I'm so pleased. Previously, when I took jibes, it only angered me further because every swear word you hurled at his pix, you only see that arrogant smirk smiling back. This time, I have so much joy in poking fun at them simply because this time, this time, it is so satisfying to know that they are done for. No more embarrassing PM for us. I may not have liked Dr. M but I never hated him. This frog and the hippo, I literally hated! I cannot forgive the racial slurs he dished out during his arrogant tenure and of course, the numbers of kills and murders that had been please #TangkapFrog!!!

As for Dr. M - he is the new leader of the new Malaysia. Much as I despised him before, I have to respect his calculated move. Well, after all, it takes a mentor to destroy his protege, eh? I'm waiting for the 'crouching tiger, hidden dragon moves'.  I know miracles cannot happen overnight and through what little I know of him in the days where I deplored him, he loves the country. He is a man of great pride and he keeps his house clean, as in don't embarrass him in public yeah (anyone recalls the time when Paul Keating, then OZ's PM called Mahathir a "recalcitrant"? LOL! On a more scary note - remember those times when one had to whisper when talking bad about the government? That's cleaning house too πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜). And I know enough, and perhaps at this stage, matured enough to know that miracles cannot take place overnight. 100-days may not be enough time to cover a gaping hole bigger than Singapore. I am sure all Malaysians understand and will be willing to give time for this full healing of the nation to take place.

Meanwhile - do enjoy this extremely funny comic of Malaysian politics by Bro, Don't Like That La Bro(Thanks guys for responding so promptly to my ask!) When I came across this comic, I knew this would be exactly how my dear 90-yr old Ah Por felt. She doesn't really understand the dramas and furors that went down for GE14. I told her the opposition finally won. I told her there was a new government. But she was confused as to "Eh - how come it is still Mahathir?" πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜† I am so happy she lived to see this day. 

A really funny depiction of our historical win.
Image Credit : Bro, Don't Like That La Bro

Thursday, April 26, 2018

May 9th : A Nation Goes To War Against A Blatantly Recalcitrant Government

So, I was back in Malaysia last week for the Myanmar Water Festival break and I could literally feel the elections fever in the air. And then a friend sent this wickedly funny photo to a group chat (I don't even know who to credit for the original image but thank you to this netizen for the creativity!) and whilst I am laughing at his or her sense of humour, I am also left pondering about my own decision of "Jom Balik Undi".

You see, with the elections suddenly being announced out of the blue (well, at least to me) and of all things, they scheduled it on a Wednesday which means any chance of just taking off for the weekend is gone, and this being right after I had taken extended leave for CNY, for Cheng Beng and then for the Water Festival, I just didn't want to be making another trip so close to the last. I know I can. But I don't want to. I guess, much to the disappointment of many other fellow Malaysians. Well, actually, I would've gone back had Ah Por said she wanted to cast her vote because then I would take her (and that would mean I still wouldn't be able to cast my vote), but she said she's too old to vote so she doesn't want to travel back and forth. Done deal, so that's that.

Somehow, I was a little taken aback during my last trip in Malaysia because everyone was talking politics! Even the aunties walking around at the park for their morning exercise!! I've literally had people I do not know asking me to "Please come back to vote!" or "You must come back to vote!" There's even an FB Page called "Jom Balik Undi" where I saw the netizens organizing car pooling and pick-up services in order to get the people down to the ballot boxes. What was even more intriguing was MNCs offering their services in order to get the people down in droves to the ballot boxes.

Here's an article in South China Morning Post : "Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Hits Political Turbulence With Offer To Malaysian Voters" (personal POV is that - it's a commercial biz, and when there's an opportunity to build relationship with the customers - why not. I don't see why the idiot government need to slam them for it? #FacePalm) 

and another article in Channel News Asia : "Go Home To Vote : Malaysians, Companies Offer To Help Fellow Citizens Travel Home To Cast Ballots" 

and not to mention Air Asia's "Fly Home To Vote" Promotion

Well done, Malaysians and beyond for this cry of unity. At first, after reading all these battle cries from citizens of all walks of life unite to go to war with the a**-hole PM, I felt guilty and felt I needed to apologize for my own decision of not going home to vote. But on hindsight, I don't think I owe anyone an apology for my decision. It is after all, my rights and I can so choose to exercise my right to vote or not to exercise my right to vote.

I guess, work absence reasons aside, a big part of me has been feeling utmostly desensitized after the GE 13 in 2013. I was very gung-ho back then for the change (mostly just wanted Malaysia to be rid of brainless clowns running the country) and even attended quite a number of ceramahs including the great one where everyone turned out in black at the Kelana Jaya Stadium. Bright and early on voting day 2013, I casted my first ever vote with such high hopes in my chest that when I wake up, there'll be a new government. Well, you all know what happened lah. The a**-hole still ruled and even asked the Chinese "Apa lagi Cina mau?" (What more do the Chinese want?). Hopes dashed, I flew home to Myanmar with a crushed heart. I unfollowed every political page from Malaysia and stopped following the Malaysian politics. I tossed and turned for a couple of weeks before I even wrote my thoughts about : GE 13 : The Tsunami Aftermath

Of course, it's social media. One cannot totally unfollow news unless you consider staying off social media completely. I still come across articles of the Malaysian government's utmost stupidity every now and then and I'm usually both angered and baffled by how rock-bottom stupid can they really get? Like, even if I used the word "stupidest", it doesn't do their stupidity any justice!! I seriously cannot imagine at all their blatant ..... blatant..... brainlessness. I've always joked that they should hire me as their PR Consultant. I mean, here - look at what a Minister said about statutory rape : 

I mean, reading that, don't you really want to question where does the brainless stupidity come from? #EpicFail. I actually cannot believe there are publishers who compiled their stupidity into reading materials, but hey - these are very entertaining contents indeed. For those who need a good laugh for the day - you can click on these links here and here by Vulcan Post πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†

Anyway, sorry I got derailed. Yes, so back to me not coming home to vote. I guess I'm not so into politics. From what I had understood about the new delineation (yet another blatantly bad PR move by the moronic incumbent government), the area where I am due to vote is considered 'safe' - as in, my vote doesn't count in this "numbers game" which will be mainly what the GE 14 is about due to the incumbent government's cheating methods. I mean, seriously, apparently he only needs 20% majority to win 😑😑😑 (Did Najib Just Pocket The Malaysian Election?) Anyway, I've always hated that 'Dunno What Jip' (this is how my dear Ah Por calls this a**-hole 😁😁😁) and his government. He is one of the most embarrassing PM ever and has driven the country to rock bottom. To be honest, sometimes to avoid having awkward conversations with taxi drivers or strangers while I live abroad in Myanmar, when they ask me where am I from, I would say something like "Mongolia" or the likes 😝😝😝 Especially that time when that moronic brainless fool insulted The Lady #FacePalm1000Times

Whilst Malaysia is my place of birth, I cannot say that I am all that patriotic despite being born on Merdeka Day. Yes, I call Malaysia my home because that's where my family is at. I go home and it's because I go 'home' to them. I also call Myanmar my home now that I live here. It's my home because I too have family here - my husband, that is. And the children I volunteer for. And the SoyAi Boys. And my students. I used to call Cambodia my home too. And Vietnam. And so on, so forth. I am not a particularly "rooted" sort of person if you know what I mean. In fact, at any given trip back to Malaysia, I also stay from "home" to "home" - from my husband's to my parents' to the village. I'm like a gypsy 😨😨😨 When I am abroad, I do not have cravings for Malaysian food. In fact, I actually go out of my way avoiding Malaysian food. When I am back in Malaysia, of course, I would want to eat all the Malaysian favourites, etc. I don't know why there's just this button in me that's missing. There was a girl who posted this statement on FB all the way from Berlin :  "I've never felt wanted by Malaysia. Yet I still stubbornly call it home." I have friends who have migrated to other countries and are even permanent residents who still have really deeply embedded emotions for Malaysia. I can't say the same. Don't get me wrong. I don't hate Malaysia. The country is beautiful. The people - well, you can see how united Malaysians can get when they indeed do need to go to war. The people are warm and friendly and one of the reasons I don't crave Malaysian food outside of Malaysia is because it just doesn't taste authentic. There are many beautiful spots in the country (only problem is the very brainless government do not know how to drive and grow tourism in Malaysia - simply because it is just corrupted to the core). But I dunno, I think the years of the government's stupidity and sidelining policies have taken its toll I suppose. Who knows. Maybe I have to wait for more years to come by. Maybe it'll take me another journey of self-discovery before I find myself embracing my roots.

But for now, I will just cheer Malaysians on from the sidelines. Yes, like many of you, I do want to see that Dunno What Jip sentenced to jail for the pilferage of Malaysia's good. I want to see him being brought to the stand. But I won't be casting my vote. I'll be praying from all the way over here. And when you go to vote, I will be singing this song for all of yous :

"I'm not afraid
To take a stand
Come take my hand
We'll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm,
Just letting you know that, you're not alone
Holler if you feel like you've been down the same road."

#Eminem ☝☝☝

Monday, February 19, 2018

What Happens When You Grow Old?

A mirror selfie with Ah Por - our first!
It's CNY Day 4. This year, I've taken a longer leave to spend a longer time with my family. To be more specific, with Ah Por. I guess, this has to be the first time in all these years that I've stayed for a week during the CNY.

Since I was a kid, CNY had been the all important festival and I looked forward to it every single year, missing it only once when I went abroad to study. I never quite grew out of it, despite my worse teenage rebellious drama years (where I wore black on Day 1 just to annoy the hell out of everyone) Oh gawd!! I must be such a nightmare back then!!! LMAO 😁😁😁

Anyway, whilst it's been a happy CNY with the family and even my mother-in-law came over, there had been some pretty not-so-good-news just when I arrived back to the village as well. One of it happens to be the deteriorating state of my Ah Por. Before I write further, I want to say that my biggest problem is my attachment to people and things. And I'm emotional AF.

Really, I guess, there are some things that I myself am trying to understand, and I'm trying to be as honest as possible with myself too. But my Ah Por have been growing increasingly depressed over the last few years and she's lost her feisty self. The one who is quick and witty with her remarks and comebacks. That strong woman who scolded me and asked me to stand aside as she lifted 2 pails of water just like that while I struggled with one and spilled water everywhere (back in the day, we had to go fetch water from the river because no water from the government pipes). The one who always, always told me that no matter what, the most important thing is your health and your happiness. The money is meaningless without those 2 elements.

In place, is a bitter woman, who is telling me that no matter what, the most important thing is to be rich. "If I am rich, do you think everyone will leave me alone and not care about me??! Do you think they will scold me and speak to me so loudly??" The problem is, I come from a family who communicates terribly - in other words, they don't communicate. And when they do, they don't communicate well. We were never brought up to express ourselves or our feelings (as for me - I think it's just the writer and dreamer in me that got all these out). And worse of all - I come from a family who is quick-tempered (That's right. Where do you think I got THAT from 😝😝😝) It's a family who believes that scolding is a sign of love.

To be honest, I'm in tears writing this because I'm in a dilemma. Ah Por is 92 years old. She is being difficult. BUT, can you imagine or not? She won't listen because she's been doing all those prayer stuff, climb up, climb down, carrying pails of water, boiling soup for as long as she could till she fell and broke her legs. To tell her, "Haiya!!! No need to do anymore lahhh!" is just causing her to feel really uneasy. She wants to clean the altar. We scream at her "STOP!!!!! Can you sit down or not???!!!" because for us, we don't want her to fall and she will really not be able to walk then. Then what happens? She's forgetful, but she can't eat outside food because it is not the taste she is used to. She tries to cook and she forgets to turn off the stove and we all know how that ends. So again, we scream and say "AHHHHHH can you just NOT COOK????!! Just eat whatever is prepared for you!!" When we take her out to eat, she can't finish her soup noodle because she eats very little now. And she wants to pack the remaining back and we say "Aiyooo !! How can you eat that when you pack it back???!!!" For her, it's wasteful. For us, it's not good for her to eat that. Just the other night, she told me to move the josstick holder onto a chair. I said no need, we can leave it on the table as it is shaded. She refused to sleep because the thing was just not done as per her request. Fearing that she would go and do it by herself and risk a fall, I did it anyway. I went to shower, I came out and there she was, struggling to move the chair, all because I did not put it at a right angle. I just got so mad because I already did it. Why would she do it and what happens if she fell? I was just beyond mad. I knew that it was all of these behaviours of hers that was driving everyone else mad and not wanting to take care of her or see her much.

I've tried to reason with her. But a 92 year-old woman who raised a family almost single-handedly although she can't even read a single alphabet will always be right. There's no reasoning with her. Because of that, she's become an annoyance to everyone. If I have to use the word, it will be "burden". Because she's being difficult.

And because of this "difficulty" and she feels everyone is abandoning her, she's turned into a kid trying to get attention. She's unhappy. To draw out a smile or a laugh from her these days is difficult. She's playing the pity card and I know it works on me. As I only have one grandma left. Wednesday, when I leave, I would leave with such a heavy heart, afraid that this is the last CNY I will get with her. So I try my best to cheer her up and have conversations with her and all that. But it's difficult because all she talks about to me is "no money, no money, no money". And I get annoyed. Our family is not rich. We've never been rich. This had never been an issue before. I really don't understand why she is so hung-up about the money now. She hides her money everywhere and she keeps counting and recounting her money. I'm beyond crazy looking at that. I just feel a big stab in my heart. Why, Ah Por? Why? We are all taking care of you the best that we can. But I also know that part of her "no money" complains also stem from the fact that out of her 6 children, 5 are no longer working. Everyone is over 65 years old!!! In her 92-year-old simple mind, not working = no income. If so, how to be taking care of her? Doctors are not cheap these days.

On the other side of things, are her children and grandchildren. We all have our shit to do and get to. Everyone has their own lives and stuff to do. To rush to buy her a meal and then rush back off to work only to hear her say she doesn't want to eat that is also a crazy thing to happen, isn't it? Or to have driven her to the clinic and sent her home and driven all the 45-min way back only to get a phone call to say she wants to go to the clinic again is also absolute madness isn't it? I got it easy since I'm not around. Once, I took her out to eat, and we were already in the restaurant and I had already ordered the food. She said she didn't want to eat those food. So, I asked her what she wanted to eat? She said chicken rice. I ran across to buy her chicken rice and came back and she said she doesn't like chicken rice. I really didn't know what to do. When she asks you to do something, no matter how ridiculous, you better do it right there and then, like switching off the refrigerator even though you still have something cooling in the fridge and you try to tell her that. Otherwise, she will go and try to tip toe on her bad legs and switch it off and she will be struggling and losing balance. And we don't understand her and she doesn't understand us. Nobody wants to understand each other's feelings. There's a huge-ass generation gap, made worse by one being uneducated and old-fashioned and the others being educated and equally stubborn. Everyone is right.

This CNY, I find myself missing my Ah Por alot. The one who was witty with all those feisty comebacks. No matter how much I sat down to try to provoke her or disturb her, she will still go on about how so and so's children takes care of their parents by giving their parents x amount of money each month. I used to tuck her into bed and we would chat and laugh before good night. The past year and more, she has been shooing me off because she said it's not good luck to be so close to someone who is going to die. Or else, she would talk about the so and so's children and the no money situation again and I just do not want to listen to that. I did managed to get some laughs out of her, but just fleeting moments. Like, she just removed her dentures and I am asking her to smile. That was cute. We shared a laugh together and I'm holding my camera ready to take her pix and she said I can stand there and wait all night she will not open her mouth to smile.

I want this woman back. I don't want to remember her as the bitter, unhappy Ah Por that she is right now.

Her situation has made me think about a lot of things. What happens when we all grow old and become a little more "unable"? I spoke to my sailor-man cousin uncle and turned out his Mom was exactly the same. More friends of friends' moms were almost similar, if not worse (think about packing the food back and the Mom throws it into the sink because she's not yet hungry, why force her to eat now??) Maybe it's a cycle - from a baby to teen, to adult, to old person and then back to a kid. And what happens when the people we once worshiped as heroes and heroines become this, this,... sad little "unable" bundle? What happens when the Mama you used to rely on who could find anything, and I mean anything in the house can no longer even button her own blouse? What about the Papa who drove you in and out and was your bodyguard at banks cannot even walk anymore? What happens when they become a bitter, unhappy kid because of whatever the situation may be? We all think we would age gracefully, we hope to age gracefully. My gawd, I sprained my ankle for three weeks and couldn't get to do things I loved doing so I was bitching like a MOFO. I was driving MOH up the walls. How strong are our spirit when we face situations like that, like as simple as growing old and unable?

Is money going to solve all of these problems? Would it have been any easier AND happier if we had money to afford first-class facilities to take care of the old folks when they become "unable"? Would the issue of convenience be solved? When we don't want Ah Por to fall and really be not able to walk, is it because we don't want the extra worry / stress / burden (cos obviously it's easier taking care of someone who can still hobble around and bathe herself as opposed to someone who is bed-ridden?) I don't get it. I just always thought things were just as simple as the old people just want to see their loved ones more often since they too know their days are numbered. I didn't think anything beyond that. Don't get me wrong. As much as I can, I would give my family the world. I will never stinge on them. But it also all has to be within my means, right? We hate when the old folks scold and nag. One day, we might go home and there will be no one to nag and scold us. But then again, we also don't want the parting memories to be full of scolding and nagging.

Don't mind me. I am just ranting. I guess, nothing a good night's sleep and a good morning run won't settle.

But for now, I pray, as I have always prayed since my maternal grandpa passed away, that everyone will outlive me. My prayers are not answered fully since I've had to bid farewell to my paternal grandpa and later, my maternal grandma as well. Still, one can keep praying.

And that is the whole problem with me. Attached and I can't let go either.