And if I rise, we’ll rise together

For a brief moment at my cousin’s wedding yesterday, I wondered where mum was.

And then I spent the next ten minutes crying upwards and the next few hours imagining what she would look like in 2016.

Her style of hijab would have changed, that’s for sure. Back in 2004 people were still wearing those big square ones you’d have to fold yourself, and tuck in with pins. Most people wear instant shawls these days. What would she look like in an instant shawl?

Would she have put on weight, or lost some?

Changed her glasses to bifocals?

Grown more grey hair?

Would she reprimand people for greeting me with “When are you getting married?” instead of “How are you and what drives you?” Would she be unlike everyone else and be proud of me for becoming an independent, self-reliant woman? For always being true to myself? For inheriting her spunk? For my world travels?

How would she feel about being 60 years old?

Would I have pictures with her on my phone? I have zero pictures of my mum on my phone.

I found this song today at work and cried four tissues’ worth of tears at my desk. At home I watched the video again, and I found myself crying; pleading, “Don’t die. Don’t die.” Just like I did the night when we thought she was dying, and I sat at the foot of her bed, bawling into my aunt’s lap. I could plead all I wanted. She died two nights later.

Exactly one month until the 12th year. It does get easier. Sometimes it’s almost okay. But other times it really isn’t.

And you’re just gonna have to cry yourself to sleep like I will tonight.

Barcelona, I still long to hold her once more – Part 1

First stop upon arriving in Barcelona: Parc Guell. My brother from another, AX, worked there. He very kindly offered to let me stay at this dad’s apartment (his dad lives full-time in Argentina) so I needed to get the keys from him. It had been four years since we last saw each other so when I spotted him I couldn’t help but let out an excited squeal. He was taller than I remembered; his hair longer and curlier, and his face…a little weary. I guess 21-year-olds get older, too. His break was coming up and we agreed to meet at the playground. Half an hour later we were laughing on the bench, teasing each other about how much the other has aged. He passed me the keys and went back to work. I hailed a taxi to take me to the apartment, and the entire journey I was absolutely bursting with happiness that I was back in Barcelona and seeing AX again.

For a reason I could not comprehend, after paying the driver, instead of placing my travel wallet back into my messenger bag like I usually do, I decided to hold on to it. I remember thinking, I’ll put it back into my bag later. I grabbed my change, grabbed my bags, and got out. I stood on the pavement for at least three minutes as I snapped a few photos of the street.

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Finally I was ready to cross the street to the apartment and realised that I was not holding something I should have been holding: my travel wallet. I rummaged through my bags over and over to no avail. I had to concede defeat. I had, indeed, left my travel wallet in the taxi. My travel wallet that contained 500 euros, my credit card, my company credit card, my passport (!!!), and the apartment keys. I think my heart stopped.

There was a gym underneath the apartment and I ran in to ask for help. The ladies there spoke minimal English, and that was when the Spanish SIM card I had bought at the airport came in handy. Google Translate is a lifesaver! They both screamed when they read the translation of “I left my wallet in the cab” which made me feel even worse. They asked if I had gotten a receipt. No. Did I know which taxi company I used? It was yellow… But all taxis in Barcelona are yellow! FML. They called the lost-and-found number of the city of Barcelona (there’s such a thing) and related the matter to the person on the phone. They were advised that since I had no details of the taxi, unless the driver or the next passenger returned it, there were few chances of getting my stuff back. Great!

My only concern at this point was my passport. I could deal with losing everything else. Sure, losing money and credit cards would suck, but it would not have been the end of the world. Money is….whatever. Money. Replaceable. And credit cards I could cancel. But without my passport, would London allow me back in? What if they wouldn’t and I had to miss my company anniversary party? The party was the only reason I was back in Europe two months since my last trip. (My lovely boss granted my request of a couple days off before the party for a mini-vacay, hence Barcelona.) I had bought a new dress and a floral headpiece especially for the party, and now I was facing the possibility of not even being able to attend it. It was a Saturday and the Singapore consulate was closed so it wasn’t like they could help!

After a whole hour of alternating between standing at the end of the street looking out for the taxi, and standing at the reception of the gym watching the ladies make various phone calls, I decided to sit on the kerb and wait. Early on in my street-watch, I approached a guy who was adjusting his shoe and explained my problem to him. I don’t know why I did that. The gym ladies were already trying to help. I guess I needed another person to vent to. He spoke English, which made the venting more satisfying. He too made several phone calls and then he really had to go, but not before passing me 20 euros and his number – “You need to tell me what happens!” I scolded myself for being stupid and hoped and prayed. What else was there to do?

At ten minutes in, I saw a taxi pull up at the top of the street. The driver got out and I thought he looked familiar. I bolted upright and walked towards him. And then I started running. It was him. It was the driver of the taxi I had been waiting for. “It’s you!” I shouted. “It’s me!” he replied. He said some French passengers he had picked up after me found my wallet. (“You’re lucky it wasn’t Spanish people who found it!” Haha.) He had to open my wallet to try and identify me but assured me that he took nothing. It took him a while to recall where he had dropped me off. He had driven all the way from the centre of town to drive back to me so he asked me to pay him for the journey. I gladly did just that plus some extra. He was kind of a dick during my taxi ride, and he was still a dick when he was asking me to pay him, but I was too grateful to care. He began to soften and cautioned me to be more careful, and he even gave me his number in case I needed help during my stay.

I hurried back into the gym with the good news and the lady at the reception kept exclaiming, “Gracias a Dios!” Gracias a Dios, indeed. The other lady had finished her shift and left, so this lady called her with the update. She was so happy for me. I couldn’t believe how invested these people were! It was amazing. I got into the apartment and had to sit down without moving for a while. Too much excitement already and I had only been in Barcelona for four hours!

I waited too long to move again and my 14 + 2 hours of flying + 1 hour and some of stress caught up with me. I had zero energy left. AX was working late, and shoe guy had gone out of town. Going out? Too much effort. I decided to order takeaway (you gotta love those Deliveroo types) and ate my dinner on the balcony. Yes, I stayed in on my first night in Barcelona. Just kill me, please. Sometime later I fell asleep at 9pm while the sun was still out. When I woke up again it was 11pm and dark outside. I switched off the lights and continued sleeping until the morning.

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My first day in Barcelona was a bust.

And it hurts with every heartbeat

How good is this song, seriously? I re-discovered it yesterday thanks to Spotify (so much love for Spotify!) and the last two minutes when she keeps repeating “and it hurts with every heartbeat” I echoed her – over and over – the whole damn day…both yesterday and today. Yes, I’ve been an annoying colleague to have. But not for much longer. I’ll get over this song tomorrow.

Last week I went to a salon to restock on Aveda products (their curl line is the only thing that my hair semi-listens to) and the lady who rung me up suggested I straighten my hair “so it would be more manageable”. I’ve heard that so many times I couldn’t even be arsed to respond with words. I just smiled and let her finish her spiel. Boring people always want you to be boring like them.

Speaking of boring, can someone tell me what the hell is up with the ‘painted on eyebrows’ trend? Suddenly everyone is walking around with these really dark, bloody rectangles above their eyes! They’re not just filling them in with eyebrow pencil! I swear the brows on these women are painted on! And not even freehand so they have a chance to look somewhat natural! No, there must be rectangle stencils that people are putting over their eyebrows and colouring in using a paintbrush! Is it supposed to look good cuz it ain’t! Don’t you feel stupid having to wipe off your eyebrows at the end of the day? Cuz I would! Stop it!!!

Summertime and the livin’s easy

This morning it hit me, that when my colleague said “foresight” she really meant to say “oversight”. And because she used it in a question and my answer was in the affirmative, like a fool I replied, “Yes, it was a foresight.” Gahhh. This happened two weeks ago, by the way. It took me two weeks to finally realise my blunder. What the hell, man. She makes mistakes like that all the time but it’s forgivable because she’s Belgian, i.e. not a native English speaker. Me, I have no excuse. Yeah, I’m not exactly a native English speaker either, but I’m me. Ugh. So I’m nursing a shame hangover right now that is probably going to last a few days. I hate making mistakes when it comes to the English language. I’m not perfect but I want to be, dammit.

Last Friday, 22nd July marked one year since I left ex-job. Absolutely mental how fast time flies. It’s hard to believe all the drama and madness leading up to my resignation was more than a year ago. 85% of the people who worked there with me have since either left the company, or were made to leave. The company isn’t doing very well and news of a flailing business and high employee turnover have made a number of local tech magazines. My ex-colleague and friend, SK – who was fired a few months ago – are revelling in the schadenfreude like the jerks that we are. This time one year ago I was deep in FOMO lurking on ex-colleagues’ FBs and wishing I were there. Ha! So glad I left when I left.

So Vietnam happened in late May, followed closely by Barcelona and London. I should probably talk about it before I forget the stories. I’m sure I’ve already forgotten some. This weekend, I shall make an attempt. It would be tragic to forget the little details of my travels. I will say this right now though –

I had previously visited Europe in all the seasons except for summer. My logic was why should I feel hot in Europe when I can feel hot for free in my own country? But you guys, I discovered that not having to faff around with four layers of clothing and jacket and scarf and boots is SO liberating. It was so warm in Barcelona I didn’t take out my emergency jacket even once. It was so nice walking around in the warm sunshine and feeling NOT cold. It was so nice that the sun stayed out for so long that your day just stretches and stretches and you can get so much done. Unlike in the autumn or winter when the sun is gone by 4 or 5pm and so is your energy, all of a sudden. And not to mention you now have to worry about it being pitch black when it’s only bloody 6pm and you’re not even hungry for dinner yet. Ireland, I’m talking about you! I totally understand now why you Northern Hemisphere folks love to travel in the summer. I feel cheated now thinking about the rainy, six hours of sunlight March day that I had in Venice; by the shiver in my spine in Paris, Rome, Sicily… I stand corrected and I solemnly swear that my next vacation in Europe, God-willing, is going to be next summer!

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3rd Ramadan

For iftar (breaking of the fast) dad fried up some frozen epok-epok (Malay-style curry puffs) that he’d bought. I knew it wouldn’t taste good. I haven’t had legit good epok-epok since…well, I’ll tell you later. And if they’re frozen? Even worse.

I expected it to taste horrible so didn’t bother to make a comment. But dad did. “Those epok-epok were terrible, weren’t they? The potato curry was sweet?! Who makes sweet curry?!”

I decided to chime in with the honest-to-God truth – “No one can beat mum’s epok-epok. I have not had good epok-epok since mum died.” Dad said, “Yes. Hers were the best ever.”

One of my aunts tried to replicate mum’s recipe a few years ago and nervously asked me to judge it, knowing full well I know my epok-epok, having eaten mum’s my whole life and that I probably would not like it. And I didn’t. It wasn’t bad. It was better than most other people’s, but it was nowhere close to mum’s. She knew that, so she wasn’t hurt or anything. But since then whenever she makes them she never calls me over.🙂

Yesterday my cousin A#2, who is eleven weeks pregnant, went for a checkup. At night she told me all about it, and then lamented, “If your mum were still here, I’m sure she would be so happy. I’m sure when the baby is born she would give him or her ‘kiss 1 and kiss 2’.”

See, my mum loved children, and she doted on her nieces and nephews. (She was especially close to A#2, which is why she is forever coming to me with her thoughts on my mum. I like it. It makes me feel less alone.) She liked to kiss their cheeks and before kissing each cheek she would proclaim, “Kiss 1/kiss 2!”

My cousin made me cry at 11:45pm and I told her so. She was sorry, but she was crying too.

This is the thirteenth Ramadan without her and it has not gotten easier.

60

18/05. It is my mum’s birthday. She would have turned 60 today, except that she won’t because she died in 2004.

1805 is also the password to my phone. Because I try to include any semblance of her in my life. Because what better set of numbers could there be?

I won’t lie – when I was thinking earlier this month about mum’s birthday, I had to use a calculator to count her age. When you haven’t celebrated your mum’s birthday for 11 years, you don’t have a need to remember her age. The brain automatically forgets. Every year I have to calculate because I can never remember.

This is the second milestone birthday she’s missed. We‘ve missed. I often wonder what she would have been like at this age. If her cancer wasn’t terminal. If she never got cancer at all. I would have a mother. How different would my life be.

Every time you have to go, shut my eyes and you know

*waves* Hi. I’m alive.

Work is going well. Found my groove and I’m pretty happy. My colleagues are quite vapid and not funny but what can you do. As long as they are nice-ish and the boss is not a dick, I shouldn’t complain, amirite.

So I found myself in London in mid-March for my induction programme. They fly in newbies from all the overseas offices every three months for this. The induction programme is an intense 2-day programme where every department head presents on the work they do for the company. I only listened when the department(s) I either belonged to or had interacted with or will interact with, spoke. Otherwise I just daydreamed about what I was going to do in the evening! Nevertheless it was cool meeting IRL people I had only communicated with online.

I made the mistake of making friends with this chick from the New York office who ended up ignoring me throughout our planned “London at night” outing when she invited someone from the London office to show us around. It would have been fine as he is a local and all, except she was flirting with him all night, calling him handsome and praising every goddamn thing he said. Curiously, she only mentioned her boyfriend when this guy was out of earshot. It was sickening. When I was entering the tube to return to our hotel, I turned around and she was nowhere behind me. She was probably photographing something or other in the station but didn’t have the courtesy to tell me. (London guy had gone into the opposite tube at this point so I knew she wasn’t with him.) So wtf did I do? I entered the tube and the tube left without her. Ain’t nobody got time for disrespectful bitches. I never saw her again as we all flew out the next day, so whatever.

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Joy was discovering a Bread Ahead outlet 15 minutes from my hotel so I could get my doughnut fix without having to go to Borough Market. (CBA because too far.) I honestly started having dreams about those doughnuts the moment I found out I was going to London. So I was practically shaking with glee. One time I bought some close to lunchtime and was able to expense them because the company pays for lunch.

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I also got to catch up with my London-based Galway (Ireland) Airbnb flatmate, whom I got along like mad with when we met last September. We sat outside of Spitalfields Market for seven hours just gabbing and I laughed till I cried. She’s hilarious without even trying. I love her.

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My adventures on this trip included getting asked out by a waiter from Honest Burgers and by a shopowner on Portobello Road. I never felt more attractive. But neither one took place as I wound up getting stood up by the waiter and I stood up the shopowner. Haaa.

After London I trained it to Germany. The Brussels attacks occurred a few days before that so it was chaotic at St Pancras and then understandably at Brussels Central Station. I took this really shitty photo of military trucks that were outside of the station. It was all I could manage as security was yelling at people, “NO PHOTOGRAPHY!” So I nervous-snapped.

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Germany was…hmmmm. Maybe it was just that part of Germany though. Yeah, Stuttgart was a bit blah. But I got to hang out with SV – always a good thing – and I was brutally reminded that German food is mostly porky so I can’t move there ever. Spätzle is great though. Naturally I had the bland German version when I was there but I brought some home and I make it so delicious with butter and ground beef and caramelised onions and balsamic vinegar. Come on, Germans.

We went to some castle outside of Stuttgart and it rained the entire time. It got so cold I swear my face became frozen. Along the way SV turned me to the greatest invention ever – car seat heaters. Ahhh. Having warm butt checks when it’s freezing out is divine.

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me

There’s not much to do in Stuttgart so for shits and giggles SV took me to a pig museum. Seriously, it’s called Schweine-Museum and it’s a museum of pig artefacts. No real pigs – that’s why it was safe for me to go.

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The sun finally came out on my last day. Typical.

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Verdict on Germany: Germans are (surprisingly) very friendly and the Autobahn is mental. 10/10 will go again.

Work is sending me to London again next month. This time because we’re celebrating its 10th anniversary. Yes, they’re flying all its overseas employees to London for a party. I know, right? Don’t you want to work for my company now? Heh.

It will be Ramadan though, and I’m sad that I will lose a couple of days of fasting whilst on the flights to and fro. One is officially exempt from fasting while travelling, especially for a legit reason like being on the plane due to work, but I might not be able to fast even while on the ground. It might be too hard because coming from Singapore where the times for dawn and dusk stay the same throughout the year, the 4am dawn and 9pm dusk (because it’s summer) might be a bit too taxing for someone who has never done it before. Doesn’t mean I won’t try though.

You might be wondering why I’m sad about not fasting. Isn’t fasting difficult? If I were you, I’d be looking for every possible excuse not to fast, someone said to me. Let me explain: fasting in Ramadan is one of the pillars of Islam, so if you’re a Muslim and you don’t fast for no good reason, you’re not a Muslim. Secondly, being able to fast is a privilege. One of the legit reasons for being excused from fasting is being ill. (Being diabetic falls in that category). If you are able to fast, it means you are healthy! Now isn’t that a blessing? So why would you not fast if you can?

Anyway, but of course I have to make it extra hard for myself because I am – once again – using the opportunity to do a bit of travelling. This wanderlust; it’s incurable. I am flying out a few days before the London ceremony to re-do a city I did four years ago on my first real solo trip. I don’t think I did it justice, plus I miss my friend-bro, AX.

Yaaas. Here’s one of the ways I didn’t do it justice: I didn’t visit Parc Güell. I mean, who goes to Barcelona and doesn’t visit Parc Güell? I have no good explanation, just that I was an idiot. AX now works at Parc Güell too, so I get free entrance to the paid area. Woo!

But yeah, will I be able to fast while I’m gallivanting around town in the hot summer sun? Stay tuned to find out.

So that’s June. Next Saturday I am going to Hanoi for a week. Leisure trip, not business. I was supposed to go last August but cancelled it because I decided to spend three months in Ireland instead. Halong Bay and halal pho, here I come!

In the meantime…I mopped the floor earlier this evening as I do every Sunday, then immediately forgot I’d just mopped the floor, so I walked quickly – not gingerly as one should on a slippery floor – and because no good deeds go unpunished (especially mine), I slipped and fell…on my hands. And now my arms are achy, as are my back and neck. Lovely way to cap the weekend, don’t you think?