Monday, March 22, 2004

Of truths, love and friendships

What do you do when you think your friend is hitting a brick wall and going up a road of self destruction?

Do you tell them what you honestly think? Or do you give them moral support? Or do you pretend that you don’t see the inevitable and try to see the positive side of things?

Why do people often get punished for telling the truth?

Look what happened to David Kelly? He told the truth, they tried to destroy him and he killed himself.

I lost a few friends telling them the truth. Maybe that’s why I stopped. Or at least I try to present my opinion in a sugar coated casing.

For example T. Well I was young then. Just hit my early 20s. I didn’t even know myself let alone have real opinion about anything. We went to meet a friend who was about to get engaged. She was marrying her high school sweetheart. The rest of us haven’t figured out what we wanted out of life yet and she was already tying the knot. On the way back, T asked me, was there something wrong with the way she looked? Somehow when our peers get married, the rest of us left on the shelf starts examining ourselves closer. Someone should have told this to me then, when someone else ask you how they look ALWAYS give a nice positive answer. I didn’t know. I told my honest opinion and she just basically ended the friendship right there on the spot.

Shot for telling the truth.

Then there was S. She was having an infatuation with her boss. He was married with kids. She was single, available and looking. This one really stumped me. S had always had lots of boy friends and admirers. Had a few marriage proposals too. Had men who were willing to give it all to her. But she was set on her mind. She has to have this married one. I told her, you better be careful because this might go into something deeper than you thought. No. She brushed me aside. This is nothing. They got married, I was told like a week or two before she was eloping. S asked me if I would come and witness the solemnisation ceremony. I was in Hong Kong. The ceremony was to be in Australia. She had already made up her mind. I didn’t have the money for the airfare. How do I justify not flying back to visit my mum but yet being able to fly to Australia in a moment’s notice?

S had a reception at a later time. I wasn’t invited until the last minute. Someone else had told me about the reception. She got the invite much much earlier. Of course I was hurt! I even called her to ask indirectly if I was to be invited. She denied it, and send me an email invite later. What am I supposed to think?

Never point out the truth to a person in love. They shun you for it.

Now a friend has gone on a trip to visit a man in a faraway land. Since over the years I have learnt NEVER to tell the truth when someone is in love, I kept quiet.

But someone else alluded the truth to her. Is it so wrong that we are concerned for a dear friend of ours? As much as we want her to be happy we are also aware that she could be taken for a ride, to be taken advantage of by an unscrupulous man? Granted we don’t know him and haven’t met him personally. But he can’t even make the effort to come and meet her on her home soil. She is using her own hard earned money to visit him and buying him gifts and possibly for him to take advantage of her. The truthteller got shot of course.

What is it about people in love that they don’t want to hear the truth? They just see the world through those rose tinted lenses.

Love makes people do the silliest and the most unimaginable things. The rest of the world must just shut up and observe.

Good friends should just stand by to collect the broken pieces should the heart gets broken minus the “I told you so.”

Its hard but no one really wants to hear the truth. Its too real. Especially when they are in love.

What else can we do?

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Postcard from Nara

I received a postcard from Uchii-san. She wrote:

Dear Sunflora,

Thank you very much for the really lovely gifts. I was surprised when I received them. I did nothing which deserves these hearty presents. I just walked around Nara with you and enjoyed it a lot. I still remember our being chased by deer while easting baked sweet potatoes. It was a lot of fun. Sunflora, you’re amicable and lovable. I appreciate your friendship.

Best wishes,


I want to go back to Nara!!!!!

Let me tell you about Uchii-san and Nara. Uchii-san is an English goodwill guide with YMCA Nara.

Nara is a 51 minutes train ride away from Kyoto on the JR Nara line. Trains depart on platform 9 or 10 and the rapid trains depart at 50 minutes past the hour, and arrives at Nara ant 31 minutes past the hour. Fare costs JPY740.

Upon arrival in Nara, we went to the tourist information booth at the train station. If this was Europe, the tourist information at the train stations are the worst as they always make you pay for the maps. But since we were in Japan it’s a totally different story. The nice lady at the information counter, who was also from YMCA Nara asked if we wanted a goodwill guide who will show us around Nara. Her name was Uchii-san and she will be meeting us at the main tourist information centre about 15 minutes walk away. Off we go to meet her. Already then, I liked Nara.

After a short detour at the local supermarket, we found Uchii-san. And off we go. I have to say that I was uncertain about this goodwill guide idea at first. Having lived in London, I have learnt about the dark side of human nature. Nothing is free. Everybody, either mind their own business and if they approach you, they are either tourists or want something from you. But hey, this is Japan. It is a different story. We exchanged some pleasantries, and started on our day trip in Nara.

Our lovely guide, Uchii-san lives in Nara with her family. She moved there because her husband works in Nara. She has children and has a normal day job. Except that day, on her day off, she doubles up as a goodwill guide. How cool is that?

Having Uchii–san showing us around, opened to me some doors to the Japanese culture specifically to that in Nara which otherwise I wouldn’t have known if I was walking with a guide book. For example she told us about the story of the temple that has its back against the pond. You see a princess had committed suicide in the lake and that angered the God in the temple and so he turned his back against the lake.
She also told us about the hanging monkeys outside the houses in Nara. The number of hanging monkeys outside the house denotes the number of people in the household!

The incident of being chased by deer which Uchii-san alluded in the postcard happened on our way to the Kofukuji Temple. As we crossed the road, we saw a lady selling the Imoyaki. Imoyaki is a local delicacy, sweet potatoes baked in a charcoal oven. Uchii-san asked if we wanted any, and we thought why not, we may not have the opportunity to try later. Since she was already giving us her time, I wanted to pay for the Imoyaki but since Uchii-san regards herself as our host, she prefers to buy the Imoyaki for us to try! We hassled a little but since I don’t even know how much to hand out to the seller, Uchii-san paid for our Imoyaki and I thanked her for it.

So now that we have the Imoyaki, we had to find a place to sit down and eat it. In Nara deer are allowed to roam freely in the parks. Uchii-san told us its because the deer was the messenger of God (I forgot the whole long story but will find out and tell you later) and since the people of Nara are grateful for the deer, they are allowed to roam freely there.

So we sat a few steps away from the main path. It was rather peaceful. Then suddenly a whole herd of deer came after a lady. She had just finished feeding them and guess what!! They are still hungry. They saw me and Uchii-san with our imoyakis and decided they wanted some too! Rebecca at that time had ran across the road to get some drinks from the vending machine. So she was spared from the deer chasing incident. And boy I can tell you that the deers are pretty persistent. But as much as I wanted to feed the poor pretty things, I think the Imoyaki was a pretty penny and I didn’t want to waste any on the deers that should be eating grass! We quickly walk towards the temple grounds hoping to shake the deers away. I held my imoyaki as high up as possible away from the noses of the deer. But alas, I finally gave up and kept the rest of my Imoyaki in my bag.

Will try to tell you more about Nara and my trip to Japan. In the meantime, let me enjoy my moochi and my ocha.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Of Bitches and Superheroes

I was reading Dina Zaman’s blog dated 19th March,2004, Another Divorce. Somehow that set me thinking. Why are we women so bitchy? I suppose some men are bitchy too, but what is it that makes us Bitchy? The term bitchy itself has a female connotation to it. A bitch afterall is a female dog. Is being bitchy a learnt response or is it a genetic predisposition? My travels have shown to me that it is not culture specific, so far anyways.

What is it about us women that we are unkind to another especially divorced woman? Perhaps its our own insecurities. And perhaps its related to the “hero syndrome” that our men have.

Let me tell you about my friend W. He is tall, good looking, charming and in general very, very presentable. The sort you can bring anywhere really. Of course he is an incorrigible flirt. Part of the package really. He is married, to a wife whom I respected and they have lovely lovely kids. Their marriage was something I really looked up to. Both have very successful careers, both are independent and I thought that they had the most understanding relationship that I know of. Then he told me he had an affair. My world crumbled!

W, you see, has what I diagnosed as a Superhero Syndrome. Perhaps its something to do with watching lots of those American Action heroes movies, perhaps at the end of the day, our men would like to be some women’s knight in shining armour. Its a result of our sedentry modern lifestyles.

The woman? A very pretty not so young thing. Fresh out of a marriage. Finalizing her divorce. She was lonely, she needed guidance and help and W came to her rescue. Being all alone again, for some, is not an easy thing. He spends a lot of time on the phone with her, they meet for coffee, for lunch, for dinner and then apparently they fell in love. A case of one lonely heart and an overactive crotch. A lethal combination.

So ask me why again we women are bitchy to a divorcee? Because we fear that she will now take our men away! The ones we have carefully selected, house trained, thrown away our careers and looks for by having his kids. And most of all we fear the men in our lives, especially those we have at our disposal, overcame by his superhero syndrome and decides to rescue the recently divorced damsel in distress who happens to be lonely and possibly is open to new options. Him.

Men, at no matter what age, are still little boys who want to be pampered and spoilt, with aspirations to be superheroes. Who do you think buy all the comic books and watch the action movies? Those in the age group of 11 to 20? Try 20 to 55.

After or even during a hard day at the office, they sometimes want to swoop away to save all the damsels in distress. A bit like Superman really. Or Spiderman even! And Batman too! I blame it on all of them! Putting ideas in our sons/fathers/brothers/husbands heads!

So perhaps, if we women rally around the recently divorced, providing her with all the support we can give then there wouldn’t be too many opportunities for our men to be superheroes to these recently single beings?

But then there is the question of sex. What do we do?

Pastry Watch

I approached the bakery section in Marks and Spencer, uncertain what I would pick from the array of pastry available. A toffee cookie? A croissant?

An elderly lady has been hogging the shelves on the left hand corner for awhile. I wonder what's there. As I approached her, I noticed that she has been going through each plastic container with such efficiency. From the top left hand corner, down and then to the right bottom corner. What is she doing? Is she cleaning the plastic compartments?

Then with a swift action, she swoop and put something in her mouth. She stood there chewing, as her hands efficiently proceeded to the next compartment.

She is eating the crumbs!

And I freaked out!

I didn't know if I should be alarmed, concerned, embarrassed or upset. I quickly moved away

I told my companion what I saw and he lamented how pitiful the lady was. Could she not afford to buy herself any food that she is there to eat the crumbs?

I went back to have another look. She was well dressed, in a dark green skirt and a maroon top. But she was very thin and wrinkled with perfectly combed hair.

Perhaps I'd have to go again another day to see if she does it everyday.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I was in shock yesterday. M told me that she and P had split up. He moved out in January. My first thought was, oh your poor kids! The younger one is hardly two and the older just started pre-school. I asked her if she was feeling alright, she said she was and she said she was already meeting someone new. I said goodbye still confused.

I attended their wedding. It was beautiful, in the church, and they knelt in front of the altar with the two kids. Yes, they already had two kids together before deciding to tie the knot. My Asian friends found this a surprise. But hey this is the UK. Having children outside the wedlock is not a big deal. The wedding was less than a year ago! Last Spring! She just told me before Christmas that they didn't have the time to select the wedding pictures they wanted from the photographer. She was just telling me that they are thinking of moving to a bigger place perhaps this Spring as the kids were getting bigger and the place was getting much to small for all of them. Then WHAM! This news. I bet they didn't finish paying for the wedding yet. She told me that they had to remortgage the house to get a loan to pay for the wedding and buy the new car.

I do wonder what happened but I am too polite to ask. Her new boyfriend was around yesterday which is why she didn't invite me in. I saw his car in the driveway. Well I didn't want to be a nosy neighbor (in truth I am) but its hard not to notice things like a new car in the driveway in s small apartment unit like ours. I guess she had to tell me about the split because they haven't put in the money for the building kitty.

Why I was shocked? Well because I thought they are a beautiful family. He is good looking, a law enforcement officer, and she very fit looking, a homemaker. She looks after their two most beautiful children ever! But you never know what goes behind closed door I guess. I guess this drives my belief that children does not necessary make the relationship work. Well you see, I was told as a matter of factly that I should have children pretty quickly after my marriage to make sure the husband loves the family more and gives him less reason to stray away outside the home. HUH??? But mind you, a lot of my friends myself believe in it. One of them will be having her wedding in September and she is worried now in March that she may not have kids fast enough! Another stole another woman's husband just so that she can marry him and have his kids.

Personally I feel that it is important for me to get to know my spouse first before having any kids together. Children, in my opinion, does not make a relationship. They could be a product of the relationship, but they should not be the reason for the couple to stay together. And how would you know you want to grow old together when you don't know each other? How do you know what your spouse is like as an individual person, before he/she wears the shoes of a father/mother if straight into the relationship you have kids? Having children people tell me is a life changing experience, thus isn't it fair to get to know the person before the change and then reacquiant again after the change?

A friend once told me, I think too much. Perhaps I do. If the journey of life is like a travel journey then I really would like to read the map, buy a lonelyplanet book and read a little about the places I am about to go. Doesn't mean that I have it all mapped up, but at least I know the general direction I am heading, and if I get lost, I have a general idea where I am lost in. Control freak? Perhaps. But more importantly, I would like to make an informed choice. Even if the choice is between a rock and a hard place, at least I know the merits of both and thus make the decision to choose based on what I know. So at least at the end of the day I have no regrets. At least if anything goes wrong, I know deep in my heart that I made my choices based on the information I have and not because I didn't do my research or look into the issue enough.

But oh well, life I think its about making choices at cross roads. And everyone should have the liberty to make the choice that they think is good for them. To me there is not such thing as a right or wrong choice, but rather a good and bad choice. How you make yours, is up to you.

Monday, March 15, 2004

I just came back from Bahrain. How much did I see? Not much really. Well actually I was trying to pace myself. I think we will probably will be spending more time there in the future. It’s the place to get “sane” or as someone says “to restore a sense of normalcy.”

Not since the first time I arrived in Canada, alone at age 21, did I experience such a huge culture shock. I remember that day still, I stayed alone at the hostel bed, looking out at the window. It was a rainy day. I was hungry and took a walk to the food court. Boy there was lots of white people! Never seen so many white people in my life! Duhh I was in Canada after all! What was I thinking? I could not bring myself to order food at the food court and sit amongst so many white people so I just bought 3 Reese Peanut butter cups from the vending machine and had them for dinner. Those gave me the runs.

Anyways I am digressing. The first thing I noticed upon arrival in Bahrain was that people stare! We went to Seef Mall. Which was a very nice Mall indeed. They had Debenhams and Marks & Spencer’s. I could be back in Bromley! Except of course its bright and sunny, the men were wearing white robes and the women decked in black, from top to bottom. Some had only their eyes showing, others none at all.

I was hungry so we went to the food court. It was crowded since it was lunch hour. If only I get a penny for every minute I get stared at. I did look down at myself quite a few times! I didn’t forget my bra surely? All I was wearing was jeans and T shirts. But the men were practically undressing me with their eyes! I never felt so violated! And the women stare too! I found out afterwards that they do that a lot … S.T.A.R.E.

We went to the Manama Souk the following day. Its at the Gateway to Bahrain. Boy it was crowded, with MEN! But somehow that souk reminded me so much of the market place I went in Mumbai. Perhaps the sheer number of Indian looking men? And they were in droves! Even most of the shopkeepers were Indian looking. I could have been back in Mumbai if I didn’t know any better.

We weren’t there to buy anything actually. Just to look at the wares on sale. Blankets. Plastic toys. Arab men dress garb. Arab women dresses. Gold. Silver. Yes I did buy myself an Abaya. I guess I am mentally preparing myself for the move after all. Mind you after all that staring at Seef Mall yesterday I think an abaya is a must! Even if they aren’t making it compulsory for me to wear it, I would wear it just so that I won’t stick out like a sore thumb. I guess when in Rome, do what the Romans do.

Of course technically I didn’t have to buy the abaya with the nice flower beadings that cost 19 Bahraini Dinar. But well I wanted something that at least I feel good in, and not feel like a walking in a black mosquito net.

Will write more about my thoughts about Bahrain and the gulf later.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

I am feeling restless again. I guess its hard for my body to adapt back to the slow paced mundane lifestyle that I have at home. I took the long route to the post office. Past the playing field, into the park, up the hill until I reached Churchill Theater. But something is different today. The whole pedestrian area was closed off. I wonder why. I did find out later that it was possibly a bomb hoax. I don't think its even funny any more. Is this what life is defined for the future, the constant threat that some deranged person will rip your life out of you? Then again perhaps Nature has a way of balancing itself. We are living longer afterall, perhaps that's why some people get deranged and threaten to kill off others. Or am I just plain cynical.

The news was a buzz about the string of bombs that went off in Iraq and Pakistan. The Shias were celebrating a Shia festival in Baghdad and Karbala when the bombs went off. 271 was reportedly killed. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was named as the mastermind. Hearing this news and watching the chaos on BBC did affected me a little bit. What have we become as humans in this world? Is it that impossible for us to just sit back and get along? As it is, there is a huge rift between the Palestinians and the Jews. Now apparently the various factions in Iraq are pitted to fight against each other. And the Muslims, they are killing each other too? BBC reported that an Iranian pilgrim was beaten to a pulp by the Iraqis. Perhaps I do not understand the psyche of these people but can our world get any worse?

Is there kindness left in this world? Are we just by driven by greed for power and world domination? Can't we just try to get along? Is it really that hard?

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

2nd March 2004

I have just returned from a last minute trip to Japan. Just lately I have just been bitten by a bug to be on the move again. To refresh my mind and have the ability to see things a new again. I was plagued by depression the week before my trip. Perhaps I just had a very low, low after my backpacking trip to Europe. Perhaps its just the uncertainty about my next move to the Middle East. Perhaps its my reluctance to move on.

I have been living in London for the past 2 years. Must say it has been the longest place I have lived in for the past 6 years. I was beginning to form roots here. The people at the bank know me. The checkout ladies at Marks & Spencer recognize me. My garden is the reflection of the work that I have done. My daffodils bloomed, my roses preparing for Spring and my freesias are waiting for the signs of Spring. I never knew that I had green fingers. I never knew that I was capable of making things grow. I love my backyard!

My flat is my first home for the last 6 years. Before that I lived in various rented apartments and hotel rooms. But its in Bromley that I found my home. I can tell you exactly where I got the paint for each room. Or why each color was chosen. Or the incident of buying the couch from DFS. I haven't gone round to test the fireplace either. I know I will miss this place so much! Much more than the other places I stayed at. I was beginning to have roots here and its more difficult for me to uproot this time.

Why move then you may ask? I realize more than anything else that everything is transient in this world. Life is about constant change. And I know what I do best is adapting. I was beginning to become lazy. I was beginning to see things with the same filters. I needed to move on, in order to get a new filter to see the world.

Amazingly I only managed to do the real things I wanted to do in London in the past year. Managed to travel more, saw more plays in the West End. I had a hard time in the first year. Perhaps it was because it was so hard for me to adjust in the first year, now 2 years on since I have managed to adapt to myself here, I am finding it much harder to leave. Or perhaps I am getting too old.


I never knew I would be someone who would be so affected by age. I remember a long time ago when I was 8, thinking to myself, how does it feel like being an adult? To be able to do anything and everything that I wanted. To have the ability to see beyond the places that are familiar to me. My first break was to Canada at the age of 21. I had never traveled alone before. I didn't really have any idea how it was going to be like or whom I will meet. All I had with me was the burning desire to experience more than what my parents ever did! But then I was young, naive and trusting. My 20s were marked with all sorts of questions about me. Who am I? What am I made of? What am I capable of?

But alas now I have reached the landmark age of 30! One month before I officially turned 30 I found my first white hair!! Boy I was depressed! My body was physically changing, leaving me behind. I was ready to be the BIG THREE ZERO yet. Through my late 20s I felt that I was still 25. So I always just labeled myself as 20 something. But that era came to and end! I am now in my third decade.

At 31, I realized I am a more confident person. I now know what I want and what I don't want. I know that I am attractive (something which for the longest time I wasn't sure of.) But I cannot say the same about my body. IF I could just sleep anywhere before, my body now craves for comfortable beds. My face calls for regular facials. My hair requires regular treatments. And I am no longer as strong, fast and invincible that I thought I was before.

So here I am, as I turn 31 this year! Ready to tell the world! Yes I am 31!! [Thank god people still think I am 20 something. Or perhaps they were just being kind to me!]