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. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

8 YEARSSSSSSSS .... Really???

#MeAndYouJustUs2 + 8years

Last week, when we were out with some friends, I was asked - so how many years married? And I announced that MOH and I will be celebrating our 9th anniversary this month. And then he jabbed me in the ribs and said "It's only 8 years lahhhh.". Forgive me. I was never good at math. But let me attempt the numbers again.... we're celebrating 22 years of friendship and in that 22 years, we had 3 years of dating and 8 years of being husband and wife. Yes, I got them numbers right this time 😉😉😉

Whilst we are indeed celebrating yet another additional year to our journey, I usually like to take this time to reflect on our #MeAndYouJustUs2 journey. A lot of people, especially our students, the SoyAi Boys, they see us and they think "relationship goals". News flash - relationships take effort and hardwork too.

I don't think many people know - some of the hardships that we had been through as a couple. There was a year, while we were in Cambodia that my business was doing really terribly and MOH got retrenched..... we were struggling each month trying to figure out how we would make rent, pay bills, etc. I remembered that day when he came home and we were up on the rooftop of our apartment block and he broke the news to me. "I'm getting retrenched." Just like that. And just as automatically - even though we were both relying on his salary (because my business was near closing) - I told him "It's ok. If we have rice, we would eat rice and if we had porridge, we would eat porridge." Struggling in those days were tough. Despite the hardships, one of the thing that kept us going were the children at Happy Tree, the HIV+ orphanage we volunteered at. For them, for our families and for my team, we put up brave fronts every week when we visited, still bringing them snacks and stationaries, etc. Behind them, we fought to survive. I can remember those midnight moments, in the middle of the Cambodian summer heat with no electricity and we can't sleep.... I can vividly remember the silhouette of MOH sitting up on the bed, holding the corner of the blanket with his teeth and another two corners with his hands and fanning me to sleep. I would never forget that image. New Year's eve of 2010 - we literally celebrated with white porridge at home. The thing was, I don't remember any ill-feelings. I only remembered us staying strong together.

Whatever it was, Lord Buddha was kind. We survived and we passed that hurdle, my team and I moved the business through despite being on the verge of closing and 2 years later, MOH and I moved to Myanmar. As they say - the rest is history. As a couple, we never forgot those hard times and it is also part of the reason why we live so humbly. The hardship had helped us deal with all those laughable Myanmar Moments 😅😅😅 Whilst we do get help once a week to sweep and mop the place (I can never thank Li Su enough because she's a God-sent and I'm happy to know she's doing really well too!), we still do our own other chores mostly. I really don't care if he was the Head of Marketing for Samsung or even if he was the King! He's my husband and he better iron his own clothes!!! 😝😝😝 Admittedly, I keep "recolouring" his clothes when I do the laundry. And unlike what most people think - it was NOT ON PURPOSE!!! 😛😛😛 (I swear to God, it is also not on purpose that I sometimes lock him out of the apartment and sometimes lock him in!! 😂😂😂)

Things in Myanmar started off chillax. I missed those times where things were easier and we traveled around in that cute grandmama bicycle (everytime we went uphill, MOH would tell me to get off the bike 😂😂😂) But those hard times we been through pushed us to keep working hard. We worked hard for ourselves. We worked hard for our families. We worked hard so that we can continue shining our light and helping others too. We realized too that we're not that young anymore and the time is now, to pursue our dreams and ambitions. Understanding and supporting one another in that pursuit of our individual goals is an important element in any relationships. I am thankful that MOH supports my crazy, wild ideas of saving the world. Not just support me, but he believes in me. I am a dreamer and he's a realist. It's sometimes great because he is able to provide rational thinking when I am too far up in the clouds. LOL. He always tells me "Behind every strong woman is a stronger man.". No need to remind me every time. I know that !!

Whilst we have our individual dreams and goals, we also need to understand that we need to stay on the path together. Working on a relationship is not just about understanding and supporting one another. It is a lot of give and take. Some people may think giving in, changing your habits, not doing things that upsets your other half means "losing yourself" in the process. I beg to differ. When you're in love, and you're in a relationship, giving in is a way of finding that sweet spot where two people become one together. We do have our individual characters (I am sure those who knows us can point out how very different we are!) and our individual hobbies and passion but despite all of that, our seamless unity in the art of "giving and taking" has made us one and made us whole. I guess one of the key elements would be how the two of us are introverted / anti-social and after a full day of facing people, we go home and we don't even want to talk to each other! And that's perfectly ok! And might I also add that over the years, I have finally managed to influence MOH to be more active and seems like these days - he's competing in more races than I. See what I mean by finding that spot without feeling like losing yourself? Sometimes, human beings complicate things by thinking negatively - why does giving in to another person has to be about "losing oneself" ? Remember - it can be all about finding that sweet spot to unite stronger!

Of course, life is not all a bed of roses ya. It is so easy to take things for granted. To take each other for granted just because things are done out of habit. That's perhaps when we need to take a step back, reflect and see if there's any way we can get better. I once watched this movie circa 2001, "The Mexican" and in there was a line of question : "When 2 people love each other, when is enough, enough?" Sometimes, when things get out of hand, I like to think about this question for a bit. I don't know what answers other people might have and I sure as hell do not know what MOH's answer would be, but I know my own answer to that question. 😌😌😌

I'm reading a line off MOH's vows that are tattooed on my thighs (you know, that tattoo spot is like one of the most evil, yet smartest thing he's done in this marriage because it is a "fly-stopper". Full stop. 😏😏😏) Anyway, that line of his vows says :

"I commit to the miracle of making each day work and I promise to live a life that will honour the vows I made." 

Key take-out : "Make each day work". My understanding : "Make Each Day Count". 

Here's to many more of making each day count with pranks and annoying one another and laughing together and continuously finding that sweet spot. 😘😘😘

Here we are in Vicchio, Tuscany! #iFellInLoveWithVicchio
St George Castle, Lisbon, Portugal
This is mostly us - fun and funny. Here fooling around in Florence, Italy 
That sweet spot was my dream trip to Italy and his dream trip to Portugal all in one 😍

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Myanmar..... 5th Year and Lovin' It

You won't believe this was the bridge back in
Yankin when we first moved to Myanmar 2012
Everytime I begin writing on my blog, I start by cleaning out the cobwebs. This is totally unbecoming of a supposed "writer" 😝

Wow.... Myanmar, 5th Year. I'm going through the 6th rainy season - and you know what - after the 4th year - the indoor waterfalls and dampness don't get to me anymore. LOL. I'm seasoned and conditioned. Just 2 days ago, I went home after a long, long day and found the apartment flooding. I literally went "Oh. Water." I was too tired to even bother drying it up. LMFAO. When your energy is spent trying to empower the people of Myanmar, you don't let small stuff like these get to you. Or at least you close your eyes to it (and close the door to the room that was flooding 😝)

I am still with CM and for reasons still unknown to me, DBW gave me yet another increment. In a way, I guess, it's her way of appreciating me for helping her build up her team. I've been with the team for 5 years now and I do kinda feel my job is almost done with them.  I mean, wow. Just wow for me when I look back at the level of the team 5 years ago to where they are now, they've done well. Not as fast I would've loved but they're halfway there. And really, it is quite possible for them to continue growing without me. But perhaps DBW has other plans for me. I'm not sure. I still only go in as a consultant 3 times a week. It wasn't easy the last 5 years. It was a lot of (and I mean really A LOT OF) bang-head-on-wall and boo-boos and screaming (word has it that the whole Shin Saw Pu road can hear my voice) and I knew that it worked also because the team never gave up on me either. As hard as I pushed was as hard as they tried. Attitude. You can never teach that no matter what. I'd like to write a bit more about my relationship with DBW here. It's a bit of a funny one really. We don't talk much to each other - since the day I started working. I only have lunch with her once a year. When she needs me to look into certain projects she calls on me. We don't always see eye to eye, of course. But yet, despite all of that, there's an openness between us. And the level of trust I think really speaks for itself. We have nothing signed in black & white between us. Enough said. We had a bit of a heart-to-heart talk last year and I appreciate her wanting me to stay. For me, it's just the team. I love them to bits. But if I ever learnt anything from my SoyAi experience - it is that if I am continuously there, there will be certain growth level which they will not be able to go to. So, let's see when my day is done here. I'm also consulting for NEXlabs, a tech enterprise as well as a couple of other start-ups and agencies. Working with one of Forbes #30Under30 CEO had been fun. Really. 😉 Considering I'm a tech idiot and he's a tech-God. LOL. Though I am a little overwhelmed because I don't have enough time slots to take on more. I keep wanting to do more. MOH suggested that I start contemplating a training school.... hmmm..... can my plate get any bigger??

The SoyAi Boyz are mostly on their own now. I don't see them everyday and only occasionally when the situation calls for it. I spent 2 years trying to make a difference with this project. It's now their turn. They're also managing the children, their daily needs as well as the weekend classes and the Youth Centre in general. I've also roped in some of my students to come teach at the Youth Centre and they're really loved by the kids. I'm really so thankful for their passion and dedication. You know, some may say I've shrugged my responsibility to the Youth Centre and the kids. People can say whatever they want. But considering the fact that Myanmar isn't my home country, I need to suss out a legacy plan. I have to keep empowering and INSPIRING Myanmar people to do good and that way, at least I know that when the day comes for me to leave, I know there'll be people still carrying out the good.

I'm still teaching at Strategy First. Which has been really fun because I get to observe the behaviour of different walks of working adult lives. Watch their attitudes, observe their hunger in learning, see their passion in making a difference for their beloved country. There's a huge mixture in the classes and I know some will go very far and some won't. Again - you can never teach attitude. What I can do is only keep reminding them that positive attitude and the grit to swim above all the shit will take them as far as they want to go. It is still up to them. It's the same coaching fitness classes actually. Those who want it will be there every week, consistently, gritting through the shaking pain from the 100th squat. I like to see attitude. I like to see people struggling but yet they don't give up. That motivates me to try even harder - not only for myself, but for them too. That motivates me to bring my A-Game. Over and over again.

Myanmar by far has changed in the short span of 5 years. Who would've ever thought that Hard Rock Cafe would be in Yangon? When I first arrived in 2012, my choices of eating out was rather limited. But these days, there's so many choices, we don't know what the hell to do. And then there's Uber. There's Grab. Back in the day, I had Flintstone taxis with wipers that don't work in the rain. LOL. The buses are air-conditioned now. I remember taking the buses back then - boy oh boy. It was tough. !! This rapid change has kinda got to me though. You start seeing a bit more of the ugly. You start seeing a bit more of the selfish. You start seeing a bit more of the dishonesty and distrust. Not a day goes by that I don't wish for things to be like 2012 again - despite all the inconveniences (water and electricity being a huge part - but this hasn't changed much). Yet, things were a lot simpler and no one was out to get you - at all. On good days, I get to see the simple kindness on the streets, the honesty of a poor security guard returning a diamond ring to the customer and I think - there's still hope. All is not lost. I pray Myanmar is able to preserve this....  then on the opposite side of things, there are the 1st world foreigners who come in, thinking this, this is their pot of gold. They sit there in their high seat and complain about the heat, the weather, the power cuts, the people, the supermarkets,.... if all you do is complain and bitch - go home. I was discussing with DBW actually - who by the way has a great, great love for the people of her country, about how it should be a priority KPI for all foreign-hires to upgrade the skills of the locals. If you're too busy complaining and you got no time upgrading lives and making a difference - go home. C'mon. Get off your ass, get off that high seat and go make a difference. A lot, and I mean a lot of foreigners do and some of them have really great projects empowering the people of Myanmar. Get involved! Spread love. Spread kindness. I have SoyAi and The Children of Tomorrow Youth Centre and Women4Women and a Mobile Soup Kitchen Project if anyone's looking to volunteer their time 😍😍😍God knows, I need help.

Sometimes, when Yangon seems despairing because of the rapid development and "invasion".... I like traveling to far-flung places within the country where you still get to experience the simple and honest kindness that the people of Myanmar offer. This is what's golden about you, Myanmar. Not your shwe nan dars and not your shwe whatever else. It is your shwe kindness. Please, please do preserve this. And let kindness be how the country move forwards.

You have been good to me and MOH for 5 years despite all the #MyanmarMoments. Oh, I know all those moments so damn well. The annual rental nightmare (YES - stay tuned for this as we embark on YET ANOTHER move this year!!!!), the no water for 3 days situation, the power cuts in the middle of the night during summer, the strange alien mold, the way strange lines are drawn into the road to manage traffic, the human-operated fairies wheel, the handyman who comes to your home without his tools, the list goes on. But despite all that, you stole my heart. You did. I hope to be able to continue to do good by you and your people.

Thank You Myanmar for 5 f***in' awesome years!! 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Reflecting on 2016..... #BringItOn2017

My first tri after a 3-yr hiatus! I was paparazzi ready yo! 
Can you believe it? It's the last day of 2016! Can you believe it? I just cleaned out the cobwebs from my blog - AGAIN! 😛😛

Some may be bidding farewell to 2016 on a high, some may be bidding farewell to 2016 on a low. But one thing for sure, we will carry forward with us memories from the last year with us moving ahead.

I usually like to take the time to reflect on what I had done in the year and where I would or should be headed for in the coming year.

2016 had certainly flown past, all at once, I feel in a daze - like FML - it's the last day - what had I done that made a difference this year? But upon reflection, I did a lot actually.

Let's just say, work-wise, I've increased my hours, my days - MOH loves going around telling people that my full-time job is working part-time. I am still consulting for CMHL although I had expressed my wish to leave.... I am consulting for a couple of other start-ups, I am still teaching at Strategy First, I am still teaching my fit classes at 2 gyms here in Yangon... basically, all my available time-slots are taken up. Yet - I am still trying to carve out more time slots to accommodate more stuff that I want to do. That has always been my habit - I like my plate full. Not because I'm not focused, but simply because staying idle makes me feel rather useless. Why not take on a full-time job? Noooooo... I'm enjoying part-timing too much and it works out because I am able to pursue all my passion projects!

I think one of the biggest "wins" for me in 2016 was stepping back a bit on the SoyAi project and watching the boys fly. Sure, they've stumbled a bit, we've all stumbled a bit at the start of the new arrangement but they've had more wins this year compared to 2 years ago when we first started. 2017 will be the 3rd year that the project is running. Every time I see a win for the boys, my heart swells with pride. I cannot even describe the feeling and the emotions I went thru pulling them up this mountain when we first took that jump. But seeing them try, seeing them fly made it all worth it. I pray everyday that they continue moving forwards and continue flying and they will in turn make a difference in their country and for the people of Myanmar. 💓💓💓💓

This year also saw me being more involved with the ASEAN Women Entrepreneur Network and through the network, I've also launched another passion project - this time tackling a really large issue - sexual abuse and domestic violence against women. Sometimes, I don't know why I have this thing about wanting to save the world. This is a huge issue to tackle and frankly, I don't even know where to begin. To change mindsets as well know it is one of the hardest thing to do at the start. I've put together a team of superwomen to make sure the "Women 4 Women" project takes off in 2017 as we look at all possible angles on tackling the cultural and societal stigma surrounding this issue. May the force be with us. 💪💪💪

6 months ago, together with MOH, we also launched the Mobile Soup Movement here in Yangon. It's just a bit of money coming out from our monthly income to go into preparing 100 care packages each month to be distributed to the needy. I've always felt very blessed to have more than I need in my life. And the one thing I cannot stand is to see people hungry. So, I hope that this small, humble gesture would make a difference to people who need them care packages. No matter how small a difference, I hope it brings some cheer somehow. Well, at least this is motivation enough to keep me working hard and earning my keeps! ✌✌

On the business front - the humble spa I opened with my local partners have expanded to one more branch and moving forward, we hope to expand further. 2017 would also see me potentially starting another new business venture here in Myanmar and I know me and my other local partners have been really, really tardy about working on this one, but you know - it's really time to make it happen! You can all stay tuned to know what's brewing, eh?

I also launched my first non-fiction book in 2016! Together with my partner who co-authored the book with me, it was a 2-year project and to see it come alive was a really, really big deal. Being one of the pioneers in the event and wedding industry in Malaysia, this book sums it up for us in a lot of way. I would like to say a humble, humble thank you to my partner / co-author who really pushed for everything to happen when I lost hope. Partnerships need to be like that - you need to know your partner's got your back and you know damn well you've got theirs. With the book, it is also time to consider retiring from the industry while I am on a high. I always knew there was a time limit to this career. Don't get me wrong, I still have a lot of passion for MARCOMs, events, branding, etc. But when it comes to event - unfortunately, age does play a huge role. You can't run back-to-back events and survive 72 hours without sleep just on adrenaline 😩😩😩

On the fit-front, I competed in my first triathlon again after a 3-year hiatus and I still came up in the Top 10 - which was more than I could ask for considering my multiple injuries. I suffered a crazy swollen tissue problem in February of 2016 and I haven't done a single 21km since.... I have now worked back to a 10km run but my time is really slow. I also have sciatica, knee problems and tennis elbow to top it all off. It is a bit sad for me, but I still keep training and keep pushing everyday. MOH on the other hand, having recovered from his knee surgery last year is suddenly all into triathlons and will be competing almost every month! 😑😑

I didn't get any holidays in this year to go anywhere except 2 weeks ago when I went to Loikaw, north of Myanmar for a really short trip upon MOH's insistence. And boy, did I not regret it. The people there were super-friendly, super nice, the weather was delicious at 13 degrees, making my morning runs extra awesome. I have never seen fresh - so fresh at the fresh wet market! I was just super-delighted! Yangon can get to you at times you know, with the traffic and the crowd and the stifling weather. Every time I travel to a different part of Myanmar and meet new people and new culture, I renew my love for this country. There is so much good and kindness here and not to mention, so much beauty too. I really don't know when I will have to bid farewell to this place but for now, I am calling it my home. 💕💕💕

Personally, I continue to coach as many young and hopeful minds here in Myanmar through what I do. I always tell my charges that my doors are always open. Reach out whenever they need. And I will try my best if not we will try together. My methods are generally rather unorthodox and it ain't really for those with a weak stomach. Well, those with weak stomachs would run far away from me, that's for sure! 😁😁😁

What are my plans for 2017 exactly? Actually, I have no plans! LOL. I lived by this all of 2016 :

"When you get, GIVE. When you learn, TEACH." I will continue doing the same for 2017 and strive to do it better. As I grow older, I realized more and more how true it is that it is not so much in the planning and targets but it is really all about the journey. The words you live by and you practice and the difference you make while you journey through this thing called life.

I am not just thankful for a blessed 2016. I am thankful each and everyday that I am surrounded by love from so many facets of my life - especially from MOH and my family. Their love and support has held me up as high as I am today. For that, I am so, so, so grateful. Their love and belief in me makes me continuously wake up to strap on my combat boots and battle it out another day. I am thankful too that their lives have been filled with so much joys and laughter. Not kidding - each and everyday, I am grateful for this.

Life will always have its ups and down. Life will also always have the moments where you want to smile and laugh at every little thing. Life will have moments where you want to stick your middle finger up at everything and everyone (particularly the drivers in Yangon!) I don't claim to know what life will throw at me. I don't even claim to be prepared. I just pray everyday that I find peace, tenacity, faith, courage and wisdom. And I pray too that no matter what, I will always look for the good.

With that, I wish all of my loved ones, friends near and far, people I hold dear in my heart that you will too always look for the good and you are all always, always in my prayers.

Have a bangin' one y'all! #BringItOn2017 😎😎😎😎😎

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

7 Years And The Pranks Continue.... LOL

Sithu Ye Yint and Win Lae Yee :D 
7 years married + 3 years dating..... Geez, 10 years??? Bored much? LOL. As like every year since the first year we got married, I write a small piece to celebrate "You and Me, Just Us Two" :) 

Recently, a magazine interviewed me and fielded this question :

To what degree do you owe your success to your husband? He seems to be very supportive on your endeavours. 

Hmmmm..... first of all, I don't owe my success to him. Second of all, he's supportive because he doesn't wanna a) sleep on the couch or b) be locked out of the apartment
LMFAO !!!!

Oyyyy.... I'm still recovering from laughter at my own statement above. LOL. Ok, ok.... let's get serious and I'm a answer that in full honesty, bare-nakedly.

The answer really is that I don't owe him my success. Because I am not "successful" or at least I don't see myself that way. I get by. But he is without a shred of doubt, my pillar of strength. I have been really happy to pursue a lot of my passion projects over the last one year plus. From my social work to my fitness pursuits to my lecturing, right down to my additional consultation work. And he's the man behind all of that. Let's just say - he gave me little nudges for things he knew I was passionate about but wasn't so sure about committing.

Last November, I completed my Fitness Instructor Training (guess who signed me up for this?) and then my coach asked me to go for my Crossfit L-1 Trainer certification as well. Jeez, there were exams and all, ok! When we went to Bangkok to get my exams and certification done, MOH booked us into a nice studio apartment place where there was a kitchen and living room and all that. And I was like "isn't that a bit OTT for just a weekend??" and he went - "but there's space for you to do your last minute revisions and we can prepare a healthy breakfast for you in the morning!" and he proceeds to show me the space enthusiastically.

You see - 10 years together now, that's how he is. He's not about being passionate or romantic in the movie sense and there's no flowers or diamonds and stuff (simply put, I hate those stuff as presents!!) but he's more of an action-oriented guy. When he does things like these, it shows me without needing to tell me that despite his poker-face, his absolutely crazy busy schedule, he's got my back. And isn't that what love is about? Or when he goes away on trips and comes back with KT Tape for me or a pack of kick-ass chilli or a few packets of healthy nuts for me. Doesn't that show that he knows what makes me tick? And that to me, is really all awesomely romantic. And now that I think about it - quite hilarious. KT Tape?? Really?? LOL. Let's not forget the blink-blink lights for me to go running at 4am in the morning!! (Since I don't listen to his nagging, I guess the next best thing is keeping me safe LMAO!!)

Things have been getting busier and busier for both of us in Myanmar. We're pursuing passions and ambitions and to be honest, sometimes, we don't even have time to talk to each other that much. Given both our anti-social nature, most nights after a long day of work and seeing people, we basically don't really wanna talk. We just wanna sit around quietly, watching some bad TV to unwind. Like I said in previous years' anniversary posts, we didn't get to this stage overnight. But over time, we just understood each other better and the transition and shifting responsibilities, focus, etc were actually quite smooth. I think we've even reached a new height in our relationship where just our presence is enough to help us get over some of those crazy Myanmar moments. The most recent one being a 2-day no water situation at our new apartment. We didn't even bitch about it. We looked at one another, we had that FML look but we smiled and we just survived as we needed to. It was actually quite surreal and funny. Of course it was a SHITTY situation to be in with no water to even brush your teeth. But I don't know where this new zen came from! LOL. Just a sense that - ah, he's/she's here. We're in this together and that's cool.

Then there's the heavy-duty stuff that I did take for granted which was his "duty" so to speak - like carrying the really heavy groceries up seven floors of a bloody walk-up apartment, refilling the 20 litre drinking water bottle at home - you know, the 'man stuff' but then in April, he got his ACL operation and all of a sudden, I realized, shit, I have to do the heavy duty around the place now. I trained harder at the gym with my powerlifts :D :D :D BUT, I'm happy to inform that he's now up and about and have resumed his duties. LOL.

Because we have no kids, we entertain each other most of the time. All those pranks, hiding each other's stuff, hiding behind doors, and now that the new apartment has a doorbell and a peep-hole it adds on to our lists of "creative pranks to do" to annoy the hell out of the other person. That keeps us young at heart (and on our toes too!) and being able to laugh at our own silliness helps take us through those Myanmar moments, you know.

Contrary to what people may assume simply because I'm such a "strong" character (loud, more like), he actually wears the pants in the relationship and there are moments where I know he's mad and ok... I'm gonna go hide for awhile...... LMAO. True situation ya. Unbelievable but true. Think about it. It actually takes someone THAT MUCH STRONGER to deal with a character like mine. And we try to steer clear of talking about work, you know. We do have better things to talk about and sometimes we do debate about ideas and brands and stuff like that. I knew about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 launch through his PR Agency who invited me. Go figure. :P

He recently got a fridge magnet and out of all the fridge magnets to choose from with creative and quirky quotes, he chose a simple one that said "Bless This Home With Love and Laughter Always". LOL. I'm like - how boring. But it tells me what he values in our marriage and that's awesome because that's what I value too.

So, to my best friend and the best man a girl could ask for - Happy 7 years .... I'm sitting here, reminiscing all those crazy shit we've been through.....  the time in Cambodia when I had food poisoning and I was so ill and in so much pain you offered to go get me a "happy ciggie" because we lived upstairs of Happy Pizza (till today, I don't know where that came from!! LMFAO!!), the time in Cambodia when we had no power for the entire night and you sat up all night fanning me with the blanket and we laughed and cried at our miserable situation, the time you got retrenched and we were sitting up at the rooftop of our Cambodia apartment and I said - it doesn't matter if we're poor, we'll weather it out together. And we did. Even in Myanmar, the power cuts and water rationing issues still followed us around, LOL but as usual, we weathered it out together. The time we had a waterfall and indoor swimming pool situation in our apartment in Myanmar and you said you'd go slap the landlord... and oh, oh.... remember the time the landlady didn't open the door for you because she said you were going to rape her (OMFG - LMFAO!!!!) ..... We have so many crazy hilarious shit situations to reminisce about and we got through them all - you and me, just us two.

No matter what Love, we'll weather it out together and I know we've got each other's backs. #StrongerTogether

Love You and here's to many more years to come!!


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Myanmar, oh Myanmar... 4 years and counting!

Some soon-to-be students for UTS Sydney who did massive research
work about me and wanted to speak to me in person to know what
motivates me in life. Well, life itself motivates me. Inspiring others
motives me. Love motivates me :) What else would one need?
 On this exact day, I'm marking my 4th year in the Golden Land. I can't believe I lasted through the storms, the power cuts, the internet breakdowns and the excruciating heat :) BUT, I'm a third-world country survivor and lover. Of course I lasted :)

I didn't even think that I would have the time to do my annual anniversary blogpost to mark my "X year in Myanmar". Really, MOH says my full-time job is working part-time! LMAO.

This year, well, this year I got seriously whacked-out busy. I would've thought that letting go of the SoyAi Boys so that they can now start flying on their own would mean I would have a lot more free time in my hands to pursue other passion projects. Well, guess what? Passion projects take up time!!
Sooooo...... what have I been getting myself into after SoyAi?

Well, I say "after SoyAi like I don't care about them anymore but you know, the boys will always be like my brothers and I will always be there for them. I just know that they needed this opportunity to soar. And they are flying. I am so, so, so proud of them. All those hardwork, the crying, the heartbreaks, the screaming, the banging of my head of the walls, the crazy has all finally started bearing small tiny fruits. The boys have truly proven that people CAN TURN THEIR LIVES around. The most recent moment of proudness - was regarding their Youth Centre lease. Previously, they would tell me "Ma Eileen, rental contract finish in June." Full Stop. But last week, they said the same thing, but they added, "But we have a plan!" And they went on elaborating their well thought-out plan. I was impressed. I was thoroughly impressed and seriously - if someone had told me earlier that letting go of them would be the fastest way for them to grow, I would've done it way earlier. I still see the other kids every weekends and spend some time with them. But it's really a little harder now because the caretakers keep changing them. This would be a whole new blog just to explain :/

Anyhoo..... now that the Boys are flying, I've started seriously getting into the coaching thing. I'm coaching everything.... LOL Well, first I'm lecturing at Strategy First Institute - the most established and reputable education centre in Myanmar especially for working professionals. I lecture for the ICM / CIM Diploma subjects : Advertising, Integrated Media and Digital Marketing. Then, I'm also starting my absolute passion - coaching fitness classes :) I mean, I have invested money in the certifications you know! Time to get my ROIs LOL !! For both of these, I do have so much fun doing it but you know, there are certain responsibilities that come with coaching and let's put it this way, the lecture notes don't exactly prepare themselves :P Both my parents were teachers and as such, they're really large shoes to fill. That's why, I don't even qualify as a teacher. Only just a coach :) 2 things I place importance on : "Know What You Don't Know" and "Teach To Inspire". 

I'm happiest when I actually see my students improving..... whether it is in the academic or fitness, it doesn't matter. I just get joy to see them get better. I hope I can continue inspiring them to go get the moon. Cos you know right, if you want the moon, you better bloody go get it yourself :P

Other than that, I am still consulting for CM. I did express my wishes to leave earlier this year and the decision was that DBW would have a think about it. Then just over the weekend, I opened my pay packet and found that I was actually given an increment instead. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. What to doooooooooo???? I did speak about wanting additional days off just so I could pursue other consultation work that I would also enjoy. We shall see. But whilst I'm still with CM, I would definitely do my best in every area that I am looking at - including areas I am not - like training people. I suppose, this is a passion more than a responsibility. I wanna make sure people are given the right platforms to surge forwards in their lives. Not always easy. Sometimes I'm talking to the wall. But really, if 1 out of 10 moves up, I think I've done something. Right???

Recently, I also started doing Digital PR consulting for one of the awesome tech start-ups in Myanmar - called Nexlabs whose CEO was named one of the Forbes #30Under30 list. It's quite a change because I get to have so much fun with the digital content.  Like seriously a lot of fun. You'd have to follow Nexlabs FB pages and Instagram pages to see :)

Social work wise, I still haven't given up on starting or looking to volunteer my time on a project that serves to empower women. I've been working with the Boys for so long. I wanna help girls too. I did started chatting with a group that helps abused women and ex-trafficking victims but they were located really too far away. Bums. If anyone out there hear of anything, please let me know!

Meanwhile, I have a flight to catch as I have been invited to attend the Asean Women Social Entreprise Forum in Bangkok. This would be interesting and the SoyAi Boys have packed me a whole bagful of SoyAi Cookies (their proud new product) to bring along with me. We'll see :) I hope I don't finish them before the forum starts!

Myanmar has seen a transition of power from their first real democratic elections. The new opposition government has officially taken over and started administrating. What the results will become is still yet to be seen but everyone can feel the hope in the air. Well, to be honest, I'm so jealous cos this is something Malaysia have yet to achieve - for the opposition team to win. But again, a whole new other story here for another time.

So, Myanmar........ oh Myanmar. I have really grown to love you but truly hate some of the really horrible Myanmar moments like the power cuts because it is excruciatingly hot particularly this year. I hate the traffic. I hate the slow-ass internet. But you know what, we learn to find our way around it - including lecturing in the dark!! Wooots!! What can you do right? You either cry or you chug along and try to get things done as planned :P Even simple stuff like washing your hair (everytime!! :P)

I'm rooting for you, Myanmar. Here's to another awesome year ahead for you and I :)

Below - sharing some of the highlights of the first half of my 2016 in Myanmar :)
I was invited to speak at the Strategy First Forum on Leading Change
in the Digital Era of Myanmar. This pix - from one of my students. LOL

My awesome fit class at Real Fitness Myanmar

Me training the Marketing Team at CMHL.... It's a big team because
CMHL is growing. It's a long road ahead. I'm committed to help 

This is at our Youth Centre for the Pre-Thingyan Party
and this was the day we saw both my passion worlds come together
Students and The Kids :) 

Here with the top celeb in Myanmar - Sai Sai at the One FC 2016

Here at the STEPS Social Enterprise Idea Competition. They wanted
to hear about SoyAi and wanted the founder to speak though I preferred the
SoyAi Boys talk. Well, in the end, we all had to speak! LOL

Told you, no matter what, I will always be there for the Boys.
Here, they needed some help urgently so they came looking for me
at the office..... LOL. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Was a Boomshakalaka 2015... Booyah 2016 !!!

This photo best describe Myanmar with
the men-operated Ferris Wheel. You know
the risks, but you get up for a ride of your life
and then you go again. Booyah! 
Another year!! Egad!! Where did all the time go? And wait, once again, lemme dust out these cobwebs from my blog... Very unbecoming of a writer to have cobwebs on her blog page. Tsk. Tsk.

2015 had been another blessed year. It was bang full, packed up to the brim with work, new projects, the Youth Centre, the SoyAi Boys, more work, bang-head-on-wall, lots of training, fight camps, travels, new experiences, a spa venture, ASEAN Impact Challenge, more travels, eCommerce (my biggest yuck of the year), more training, new training programmes, teaching, more teaching, lots of food, more head-banging, new friends and even a Crossfit certification. Was that a boomshakalaka year or what? :D

It may not all have been peachy, bed-of-roses but if I had to count my blessings, I'd say it was yet another awesome year. So many great new experiences, both on the work front and on the personal front. Sometimes, it's funny how when we're going through the shit, and we wanna throw in the towel, but we grit our teeth and bear with it just one more try (and then one more try... Ok, and just one more!!) - much like the pain you get from doing 100 burpees and you say "I can't anymore!!!" But you push till you hit your 100th and you go "Booyah!! I did it!! I. OWN. YOU."
That pretty much sums up 2015 for me. Upon reflection, I've actually learnt much more from going through the shit than I would've, had I brought out the white flag. Plus, I'm not a giver-upper. I may go all yucks on that eComm project, but I ain't gonna quit till it is launched!! Actually, work had been pretty tough this year and the crazy salary increment had created a lot more stress for me which made work life a lot less enjoyable. What do people say about money being evil and all again? But you know what? Just....just one more try!! And I'm still officially a part-time consultant. I've the best job in the world! :)

Moving forwards.... Hello 2016! I think it's safe to say that my plate will continue to be packed full to the brim cos that's how I like it. There'll be a few major changes though... And the first being me stepping down and away from the SoyAi project. As many of you know, the SoyAi Boys were recently in Malaysia participating in the ASEAN Impact Challenge and watching them stand up in front of the judges, competing against financial analysts, investment bankers, tech developers, in English, in a PPT file they prepared. It was definitely the proudest, proudest moment for me. Can you imagine that once upon a time, they didn't even know how to switch on a computer? And their English language was limited to "Hi, how are you, I'm fine, Thank You." Just, booyah again! And I knew then, it's really, really time for me to let go. I've brought them this far, this high. How high they will now fly depends solely on them. They are no longer boys. It will be hard of course. But I cannot always be there to hold their hands and cushion their fall. When they made their moving on plans without me, I was a little saddened. Geez. But it'll be harder I assume, to watch them fall and the only thing to do is pray they'll get up stronger - all by themselves. So good luck Boys!! You can do it!! As the trend goes : "May The Force Be With You." (#notafan :P)

Well, I'm going to take my time looking at the possibility of another project. This time, I'm hoping to empower marginalized women. So we'll see. Meanwhile, life as a lecturer will officially begin for me as I take on a teaching position at one of the colleges for industry professionals here in Yangon. This should be fun! Ten years ago, if someone were to tell me I'd be teaching someday, like my Mama and Papa, I'd be ROFL-ing. !! Who knew right?

Not only am I gonna be teaching advertising and digital marketing, I've also taken on a fitness class at the gym as well. This definitely is a lot more fun and I've already started on this one. Glad that I've yet to kill anyone LOL and the members who come for the class have that "Just.One.More!!!" booyah factor too :) All those time and money invested in my certifications, now is time to earn back them moolahs for it, man! So, coming up in 2016, I will be taking on more fitness classes and help people get lean and mean, like moi :)

I'm not one to make NY Resolutions. This is what happens with them :

2016 Resolutions :
1) Wear more dresses LMAO!! No man. Just no. I'll wear happy anytime.

2) Train less. Sleep more. You've gotta be kidding me, right? Might as well say "be grumpy all da time" :P

3) Be a better wife. Say whaaaat?? I'm already fabulous as a wife :P Duh.

4) Talk softer in the office. My voice is naturally loud. I don't need a mic.

Just scratch all that.

In 2016, I'm gonna work hard, I'm gonna try hard (I will still bitch though, don't get me wrong!) and I'm gonna balance it all out with my passion projects (think fitness, races, empowerment of marginalized groups). And I will live only by one rule :

"When you get, GIVE. When you learn, TEACH." ~ Maya Angelou
(was from that inspirational speech by the mayor of Hawaii)

So, to all my loved ones and friends - may 2016 be as boomshakalaka for all of yous and remember, always #LOOK4THEGOOD :)