On the road again

Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Greetings from HCMC, Vietnam! Well, just the airport this time around. I’m on transit awaiting the flight that will take me to Tokyo. Woohoo! God-willing, I will get to Tokyo after a 6-hour ish flight…

…and promptly proceed to freeze. GKM is there now and she says she’s cold enough to be buying more warm clothes. GKM is a New Yorker. Which means I’m screwed. I did bring my new thick-as-whoa coat though; hopefully along with the three other layers I’ll be wearing underneath I will be sufficiently warm.

Gah. The wifi here keeps going in and out. I’d better publish this before it goes out again. Will say hello from Japan…maybe. :)

We’ll be dancing once again and the pain will end

It’s the last day of January, and I’m finally panicking about letting this month go without an update!

I am terrible at writing about my travels anymore, but here’s a sneak peek: the climb up the 2,799 m tall Ijen volcano from my Indonesian trip took a harrowing 2 hours and 40 minutes. I almost gave up a few times. I don’t particularly enjoy climbing; it tires me out and being tired is not very pleasant, is it? I just like the view from the top and the fact that I can say I did it. Which is why I keep finding myself climbing mountains whenever I go on holiday despite being close to tears the whole time.

My friend S’s mother – the same S I went to Cambodia with in 2012 and whose father passed away the day we landed back in Singapore – passed away on the eve of my birthday. I had already been thinking of cutting my trip short (for reasons I may or may not expatiate on some other time), and it just served to reinforce my decision. I took the first flight out on my 29th birthday.

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Yes, the birthday I had intended to spend on a beach in Lombok. I didn’t care about my birthday too much, just that my friend’s mother was dead. I’ve been there before, I know how hard it is. I wanted to be there for her. I flew the same route home as those unfortunate people on AirAsia just four days before they did. My flight was blessed with clear blue skies and I remember feeling thankful for it. But the entire journey saw me sobbing quietly in my seat. I could not stop thinking about my own mother.

There was a lot of crying on my birthday. Naturally.

Fell sick on NYE, which lasted a few days into the new year. Let’s just say there were a lot of bathroom trips and mild dehydration. My two Indo travel partners got sick with the same thing so we reckoned it was food poisoning. Thanks, Indonesia!

New Year’s Day came and went. Three days later, one year ago, my cousin F officially died. I dealt with that also with tears.

It’s been an insanely trying month at work. People were stressed out and bursting into tears left, right and centre – me included. There was one day when I’d already had my second cry by 10am. A colleague whom I’ve always liked and respected noticed how miserable I looked and took me out for coffee even though he was on a deadline. The next day I found out he hadn’t gone home that night in order to meet his deadline. I got him a latte and a sandwich for breakfast that he grin-ate in two minutes flat. Another colleague, after another tear-filled day, brought cut fruits to my desk. I nearly gave him a kiss on his cheek. Later I initiated a very difficult conversation with someone that went surprisingly well. There was an apology and a reassurance that it would never happen again. I think they really meant it.

We launched our new website and my big crazy face is on the team page under a shortened version of my name. I told an exaggerated story about not wanting to be discovered by a former stalker. But the truth is there are just several people from my past who do not need to know anything about me. Everyone bought it and sought to protect my online identity. I feel bad for lying but unfortunately in this case it was necessary.

My NYC friend GKM is currently thawing in Dubai and will make her way to Singapore next Friday. I am immensely excited about this. I haven’t seen her since Paris in November 2013. (I’m sorry if that sounds obnoxious – it’s just a fact.) She’s staying for five days. That’s the longest I will have ever hosted anyone. We’re going to have a boss time.

And then we’re going to Tokyo together! I’ve mentioned my Japan trip before. I just didn’t say it would be with her. I hope it all goes well. I just want to stuff my belly with sushi and sashimi and be happy.

Real conversations that took place between my CEO and me today

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Him: I just realised that you are one of the few people in this company who are not friends with me on Facebook. Therefore…*sends me a friend request*
Me: *turns to look at him* I verbally decline your friend request.
Him: You’re mean.

2.

Me: Would you tell me to fuck off if I…
Him: (interrupts) Fuck off.
Me: (totally unfazed) If I asked you to pay half of my mobile phone bill because I’m always having to make work-related phone calls on my personal phone? (We don’t have a landline.)
Him: Okay.

Yeah, we are weirdly this comfortable with each other…

Sometimes things don’t come full circle

Well, if you’re like me, you cry over it a bit. It’s just inevitable. Then you contemplate, make lists in your head and on paper, check your bank balance…

And buy a plane ticket to Tokyo.

That’s right. God-willing, come February, over my highly coveted 4-day Chinese New Year weekend + the following week, I will find myself on sushi and sashimi land. And you best believe I would eat all of it.

So sometimes things don’t come full circle. Draw a new line.

Water races down the waterfall

I have finally stopped listening to Hozier long enough to listen to one of the other two albums I downloaded recently – Damien Rice’s My Favourite Faded Fantasy. Just like Hozier’s album, there isn’t a single bad song on this album. Not a one. Damien Rice is BACK.

These two are currently taking turns being on replay. You’ve got to be in the right (read: blah) mood to listen to them though, or it’s got to be raining outside, which it is every day these days. They are depressing as hell, a la all the songs Rachael Yamagata has ever written.

Last weekend I went, for the first time in my life, to a karaoke bar with some friends. It was a riot. One of my friends was able to pull the high notes to Sia and David Guetta’s ‘Titanium’. Crazy! Me, I’m better at the lower notes. They all said I killed at Rihanna’s ‘Stay’. Well, course I did. I’ve had so much practice singing that song.

I work a lot. Who knew I could be such a workaholic? I certainly didn’t! I’m up for a raise come January but I don’t know how much for, so I want to make myself look as good as possible, hoping that the pay rise will commensurate with my level of gung ho-ness. Heh.

We’re playing Secret Santa. Seeing as I’m in charge of operations, yeah, it was me who came up with the idea. I think it’s okay because I’m not associating religion with it. Who’s even associating X’mas with it? Santa is Santa and Secret Santa is fun! I used DrawNames and today we were assigned our recipient. I got a guy whose wishlist states:

1) Surprise me
2) Video games

Really? The price limit is $20. What video game can I get for $20? He’s so annoying. Maybe I’ll get him a $20 voucher to an Apple store. He stole my Macbook charger from underneath my desk and when I found out I just about had a conniption fit. (As an aside, I used the phrase ‘conniption fit’ in an email to the team recently and it was him who told me to “ease up on the SAT words”. He had to look up ‘conniption’ in the dictionary. Ha! I was so proud of myself.) Though when I found out that someone else had stolen his charger, I was sorry I got so mad. Hehe. Macbook chargers are like $100 apiece though. Not like my $20 would help that much. We’ll see.

I wonder who got me and what they will get for me! Here’s my very specific wishlist, because I know what I want and I’m helpful like that:

1) A book called Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth (the tv show is SO GOOD!)
2) Gift card for a coffee shop (anywhere but Starbucks)
3) Gift card for Sephora
4) The best chef’s knife $20 can buy
5) A nonstick doughnut pan
6) Any brand earphones (not earbuds) with a mic
7) Voucher for Cold Storage (only my favourite supermarket because it carries all the fancy imported shit I love)

My Indonesian vacation is less than a month away. I’ve decided that I will not go snorkelling after all, which is silly considering we are going to Lombok. But I’ve not yet reached a stage where I can face my aquaphobia. Maybe one day. In the meantime I’ll just see the photos and listen to the stories, I guess.

It’s a crime that she’s not around most of the time

The other night I had a dream about my cousin F. He died in January, three months shy of his 25th birthday. I ran into him someplace, and immediately asked to kiss his cheek. He didn’t hesitate. He let me kiss his cheek. He was an adult in the dream; I never would kiss his cheek in real life and he never would have let me. Dreams though, eh?

I’ve been dreaming of him lately. I’ve been thinking about him a lot, maybe that’s why. Recently, after a hard day at work, I basically got home and wept for him for hours. When I’m having a hard day, all the things I’ve ever been sad about come to the surface. I’m perpetually sad about mum, so mum always comes up first. Since he died, cousin F has been coming up second.

I never wrote about it then. In fact, I only mentioned his death two months later on this blog. But the second time I visited him in the hospital – after we all knew that his parents had come to a decision to turn off his ventilator the next day – when everyone had said their last goodbyes to him and left, I, too, tried to leave. Only I couldn’t bring myself to. I knew that the next time I saw him would be at his funeral. I held his cold hand in my hand and sobbed until I shook. Until all I could see was my own tears. I had only ever cried that way for mum.

His brother gripped my hand. His mother – Aunt Y, the aunt I hadn’t spoken to in five years – hugged me and kissed me on my cheek. “I haven’t kissed you in years.” I didn’t speak for a very long time. I just cried and cried. When I eventually did speak, the words came out garbled. I had to say it twice. “I remember when he used to sit on mum’s lap.” Aunt Y smiled. “Your mother loved him dearly. I’ll bet you he’s already on her lap right now.” It doesn’t work that way, but the things we say to comfort ourselves…

Cousin F was very affectionate with my mother. Whenever we gathered at my grandmother’s, he always ended up sitting on my mother’s lap. Aunt Y would nag him to get off of her, that he was too old, but my mum would defend him and say, “I don’t mind! He’s so light anyway.”

At age 13, cousin F was diagnosed with a benign tumour on his pituitary gland. The pituitary gland makes very different hormones, one of them being the growth hormone. As a result he stopped growing in height at about five feet, and he couldn’t put on weight. My mum didn’t mind her 15-year-old nephew sitting on her lap because she could barely feel him.

When cousin F was a little kid, he was obsessed with toy buses. His favourite one was a red double-decker one, I remember. He would push it around the house, making up stories as he went along. One time he even included the toilet on his ‘route’. At the time my grandma was still living in her old flat with a squat toilet. Everyone went ballistic on him because he could have fallen into the hole. It was so funny. He never did it again.

As I sobbed I only saw those two images in my mind. Him as a little kid, pushing his toy bus around the house, and him as a teenager, sitting on my mother’s lap. How could that little kid I grew up with be lying in a hospital bed, connected to a dozen tubes, pale, cold, and barely alive? How did we get here? He was robbed of a normal teenhood and a normal adulthood and now, at age 24 years and nine months, he was going to die? How was that fair?

Ten months on and I still ask why. Hell, ten years on since mum died and I still ask why. It doesn’t get me anywhere. It’s not meant to. It’s just human. For some reason these things happened and I will feel the repercussions forever. So I do.

Chocolate Waffles

For years I waffled on getting a waffle maker (see what I did there?). Reason being, a waffle maker is a unitasker. I didn’t need more clutter in my kitchen. The desire to own one would come and go and I always managed to suppress it. That is, until a few weeks ago, when I found myself suddenly thinking about owning a waffle maker, and I continued thinking about it like it was my job. I started googling and I found a cheap one that’s more than a waffle maker. It’s also a panini press and a sandwich maker. A panini press! How could I not?!

So now I am the proud owner of a waffle maker/panini press/sandwich maker. I have yet to try the panini press and sandwich maker bits, but the waffle maker has been used twice and it’s pretty solid. I only wish it would beep at me when the waffles are cooked instead of the light simply turning green. I’m busy in the kitchen, you know. I can’t always be watching it. But I digress.

Let’s talk about waffles. What kind do you like? And more importantly, how do you eat your waffles? (Real!) maple syrup and butter is the way I go.

Sadly though, today’s waffles did not get to bathe in maple syrup. I’d run out and so had the supermarket. Luckily these chocolate waffles are good enough on their own!

Chocolate Waffles

The recipe comes from Gale Gand’s Brunch, kindly shared by Will It Waffle. I like that they are not overly sweet. You know I’m not a fan of sugary stuff. The centres are so fluffy thanks to the egg whites that are whipped stiff.

The rogue non-chocolate waffle is from last week’s batter using a recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. The recipe also calls for a separation of the eggs and super stiff egg whites. Waffles with crispy edges and fluffy centres? What more could you ask from a waffle? This is a recipe to use forever and ever, amen!

I love my waffle maker.

Edit: At jennanolten‘s request, here is a pic of my magic machine!

magic