I’m so mad I’m getting old, it makes me reckless

My head’s been all over the place since I got back. You know, jetlag + general post-holiday blues + extremely intense personal stuff I can never talk about here, and always, always, always interspersed with the fiercest longing for my mother. Yes, that old thing. It never ends.

Turns out there is a huge difference between feeling ready to go home and actually being home. The first time I took the bus I finally noticed and was surprised by how green the trees were. I’d grown accustomed to seeing red leaves and golden leaves; evergreen leaves, even though I’ve been surrounded by them my entire life, suddenly seemed…wrong. Abhorrent, even. They signalled home. Real life that is made up of bills, frizzy hair, and other such problems. Problems I was able to ignore for as long as I was away that I suddenly had to face and tackle.

As rainy and dreary and bone-chilling Dublin got at times, it was Dublin, Ireland, not – ugh – Singapore.

For one thing, I always had great hair in Ireland.

Three weeks on – and today is exactly three months since the day I landed in Belfast, too – I am still in turmoil. The jetlag and the post-Ireland blues are gone, but the other stuff is still very much causing chaos to what could have been a quiet, peaceful existence. That’s what makes me furious. It’s not even my issue, but because there is only one person on the entire planet it could ever affect, it’s my cross to bear and the burden I have to carry. I could be almost happy, if not for this. I mourn for what could have been every single day.

What has helped to keep me relatively sane and zen is going back to basics, and when one is a Muslim, going back to basics means to submit, prostrate, and supplicate. Say what you want about praying or religion but time and again I’ve discovered that when I’m at my absolute lowest, it is the only thing I can rely on.

And also of course my amazing aunt and uncle who offer unconditional support even though they have four children of their own. My aunt is like my surrogate mum. Not quite like the real thing, not in the slightest, not for a second, never, ever. But it is the closest to what I imagine having an adult relationship with one’s mother is like. Her mother died when she was 19 and her mother was 48, too. So she knows what it’s like and what she’s doing for me.

Today being the 24th of November reminds me that there is exactly one month left for me to be a twenty-something. Can’t believe my twenties are over. I’m not ready to enter a new decade of life. I don’t know that I lived my twenties well. I squandered it on useless things, useless people. I have a lot of stamps in my passport but I’m nowhere I thought I would be in the year I turn 30. It’s a scary thought, that I might have wasted my youth.

I think I need a sunrise, I’m tired of the sunset

One week on and…I feel better now about going home. The weather here in Dublin has been ultra gloomy and it looks to stay that way until I leave. Back home we get thunderstorms that last for an hour and then it stops and the sun comes out and the birds start chirping again. I miss that. Here the rain drags on and on and on and I’m always wet and cold and in danger of slipping.

I’ve done what I needed to do. I will miss the fall foliage, but I’m ready to go.

Wait for me to come home

Remember when I had two and a half months of Ireland ahead of me? Well, I am now down to the last two weeks. You’d think I would know where the time has gone – I’ve been in the thick of it after all. While I do know how I’ve been living the last two months, I am shocked that it has taken up two months. Surely I just got here last week, two weeks ago at most?

I knew right from the beginning it would be hard to leave. But lately fall has fallen and there is a chill in the air like never before and everywhere I go I step in golden leaves and I love my gorgeous woolen scarf which I only just started wearing and especially the last few days have been nothing but blissful and I cannot, I cannot bear the thought of having to get on that plane.

Heaven can’t help me now

It’s one thing to make a bad decision whilst inebriated – be it on alcohol, drugs or emotion (genuine or otherwise). But to make a bad decision fully sober and conscious is quite another. It would be a while before I can look at myself in the mirror without wanting to throw up.

I tackle, we tussle, and oh my days we’re rolling

Today marks exactly a month since I’ve been in Ireland.

Today is also Eid-al-Adha – the very first one I have ever spent not at home with family.

Honestly? I’m not homesick yet. I miss Malay food, oh yes. I have had dreams about it; phantom smells are almost a constant. But I don’t yearn for home home. I have slept on many different beds since I got here and they have been varying degrees of comfort…but I still don’t miss my own bed yet. Maybe it’ll come, maybe it won’t.

So a little recap on my life in Ireland thus far. The Hozier concert exactly a month ago was, needless to say, phenomenal. It was wonderful to see Andrew and his crew again. I swear he can do no wrong.

The part of Belfast where the troubles occurred made me depressed, but the city part was surprisingly nice. I made a friend through Couchsurfing and she took me out for a day. I also went to a play one night (random, I know) and got to talking with three girls who were also watching the play. Talking to strangers is my jam.

I attempted to couchsurf in Dublin for two nights. But the host’s home turned out to be filthy as all hell and I only stayed for one. I didn’t even bother changing out of my clothes or brushing my teeth (!). It was pointless being clean if everything around me was filthy. I had to scramble to find a place for the next night. That wasn’t cool.

I was meant to stay for two months in the B&B in Western Ireland, right? I didn’t. Workaway dictates that the max number of hours a Workawayer works in a week is 25 hours. Well, instead I was working five hours a day, seven days a week. So 35 hours a week. After the first week I decided that I couldn’t be fucked with like that. I plotted my escape and wrote to multiple hosts – most of whom didn’t need help anymore. I was so scared I would need to cut my trip short. If I didn’t find a new host there was no way I could fund this trip myself for two months. But someone did write back and she asked me to come. So I left the B&B – just 10 days after I came.

My new host agreed to let me come only 10 days later so I could travel. I headed to Galway for a few days, where my fellow Airbnb guest was a madcap middle-aged English lady. We hung out together a lot and she made me laugh the whole time.

Next was Killarney, where my fellow Airbnb guest was a retired American who offered to take me along on his drive to Dingle. I was planning on joining a tour for that trip but instead saved not just on the bus tour but lunch and dinner. Woohoo for free stuff!

And then finally, an item on my bucket list – Skellig Michael. I have never mentioned it before but it’s been a dream of mine to visit since I read about it on a travel blog one year ago. I was nervous – it’s only 600 steps to the top with no handrail, after all. And I’m the sort of person who will trip on air. But no, I made it, with pictures to prove it. My legs ached for days afterwards but it was worth it.

DSC09267The next day I did the Bray Head Loop Walk, all 7km (4.4 miles) of it. The views were magnificent, and there wasn’t a single soul at the top save for the cows. I exercised the self-timer function of my camera and looked totally silly running and posing in order to outrun the self-timer. But the cows didn’t seem to care. Coming down, I was struggling a bit on a steep part and prayed no one saw me. I was embarrassed. But someone did see me and asked if I needed help. She held her arms out to me, I took them, and we proceeded to spend the rest of the day together having lunch and going to another attraction I hadn’t heard of before and now we’re FB friends. I highly endorse talking to strangers.

braySince then I’ve been at my new host’s in Waterford, in the south of Ireland where it’s supposedly warmer than the rest of Ireland. Lies. True it doesn’t rain as much (so far) but it’s still cold as far as I’m concerned. My body has acclimatised to the weather a tad, but not enough. This body was made for hot and humid. (I still complain in hot and humid, but hey.)

Anyway, I’m an au pair to three kids here. Sort of but not really? Cuz the mum stays home. She just needs an extra pair of hands. And she really does. She doesn’t know how to control her children. It drives me crazy. A lot of crap the children do will not fly in my household. I made the oldest kid put his toys away today and he asked me why he needed to do that. I’ll bet he has never been made to clean up. I know the dad does it when he comes home from work. I also made him put his plate in the sink when he was done eating. Totally new concept for him but very basic in my (and most Asians’) household. He’s a good kid. He did it all. And long may it last.

I don’t know how long I’ll stay here. Supposed to be a month but I might get bored. The parents are really kind. I work just a couple of hours a day plus weekends are always off. Plus they want to pay me €50 a week. Now who am I to say no to that? But the kids are a handful when the mum is around. The mess they create is incredible and she doesn’t even try to teach the kids to clean up. I am learning what not to do from her, for if/when my time comes.

So yeah, we’ll see. I am enjoying my freedom of choice. Life should always be like this.


You see her when you close your eyes
Maybe one day you’ll understand why

It feels different this year. Not just because it’s the eleventh now and no longer the tenth. But because I’m abroad and not at home. I feel even further away from her than ever before. As if being apart for eleven years couldn’t make me feel far away enough.

You see her when you fall asleep
But never to touch and never to keep

I pray every day that she is at peace. I pray every day that she is rewarded in the afterlife for going through the pain she felt. I will never be okay that my mother is dead. But if her being dead means that she stopped feeling pain, then I can try live with it.

I love her too much.

Whether with or without you

I leave for Ireland tomorrow night (or later today, since it’s past 1am now) and I spent most of today packing and unpacking and packing again – the whole time gripped by anxiety.

I’ll admit it. Despite the many, many flights I’ve taken, I am still a nervous flier. It’s the length of the journey. Thirteen hours is way too long to be up in the air, okay?

I’m just praying for sleep. I can usually sleep for nine to ten hours on a 13-hour flight and I’m hoping this flight will be no different. My seat is at the very back so hopefully I’ll be immune to crying babies. With any luck my seatmate is the non-snorey type too.

Besides the flight, I am also anxious about the time I’ll be over there instead of here. I don’t doubt that this trip, this sabbatical, will be nothing but good for me. I mean, I can’t even imagine how this trip will change me for the better. It’s just that…I’m actually doing it. I’m taking the leap. I know I’ll be fine but I can’t help but be a little nervous for me…