Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Just one of those days

It's one of those lazy, hazy, crazy days of su-u-u-mmer. Except that it is always summer here. Sometimes, it rains. But that's about it.

I get up late, stretch and look out the window at swaying coconut trees. Ahhh, a slight breeze. I listen carefully and there they are, the tinkle of Mom's chimes.

"Jenneeeeee...come down, have your breakfast," Mom hollers.

"Yeah, yeah," I mumble as I make my way to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Was up late last night watching M*A*S*H. Second season. Have I told you I simply love M*A*S*H? Wish Hawkeye Pierce was real. I would so love to have a roll in the hay with him. But of course, they never show him doing anything but kissing:

"Was she good?"

"My lips may never walk again."

Then it's breakfast, after which I get onto the Net and play a few rounds of Spider Solitaire. (Bath? Who needs a bath?) Then I check my mail - some replies, some motivational stuff...I skim through it all.

Nothing demands my undivided attention. Not even my book-du-jour. Or rather, my several books-du-jour. I dip in and out. Slippery as an eel. Lazy as a trout. That's me.

Mom decides to lose her temper sometime during noon. I have been at the computer for two hours, while she has been rushing about, cleaning house, cooking the dogs' good, then cooking our food, and she starts yelping at me.

My eyes still glued to the computer, I brush her off. The bullets turn to dew. Nothing can rile me up today. Nothing. I bask in the glow of my inertia...

A body at rest tends to stay at rest
A body in motion tends to stay in motion
Reebok...the physics behind the physiques

Of course, I eventually get off my keister. We go to collect the dogs' licences. Do Mom's passport. She is coming with me to Australia for graduation. But we do everything in slow motion.

It's Malaysia. It's hot. It's just one of those days...

Saturday, February 25, 2006

In the midst of this darkness

Take comfort. It is not as bad as you may think. This too shall pass. And you will emerge from this stronger. As you have always done though you don't see it. Your life has not been a waste.

The love that you think doesn't exist is there. It is real. All that effort you put in, which you think disappeared into some proverbial black hole is accumulating and something, something is hurtling towards you.

Sometimes things look black and dreary. Sometimes you see the shadow cast by the candle.

But the shadow isn't real.

The candle is.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Paris, in the moonlight

"Would you like to have a coffee mademoiselle?" he asked in French, this tiny, dried-up old man, a friendly satyr, leering at her.

She stepped around him and continued walking, taking in the bubble of voices, the fairy lights, the cafe chairs facing outwards as the Parisians people-watched thoughtfully. He followed her and repeated the question. This time, she turned, shrugged and said slowly:

"I'm sorry, I don't speak French."

"Oh English," he seemed even happier. "Would you like to have a coffee?"

He looked repellent - small and huddled and so old. There was a wise, cunning air about him - someone it was better not to mess with. Is this what happened to you in Paris? Did old men come up to you when you're walking along the Champs Elysee and offer to buy you coffee? Maybe. Maybe this was part of the French experience she had been promising herself. Anyway, what could she lose - having coffee in one of these excruciating cafes, the smell of the beans, the taste of pink on her tongue.

She smiled and nodded. "Where shall we go?"

"Oh wonderful madam. Are you new to Paris? Then we should go to St Germain du Pres. The Champs Elysee is for tourists."

Well, if you're going in for new experiences...his tiny car was parked nearby. They got in, belted up and he kept up a lively chatter. It was almost like the jitterbug, except that he did not need answers - he was content to dance alone.

"There, that cafe, that's where Sartre and De Beauvoir used to go. You see that restaurant? That was where Picasso dined when he was a poor artist. He paid for his meals in art. Can you imagine?"

Stories, stories, rolled off his tongue like caramel. She felt herself relaxing. He was so very genteel, well-informed, courteous - that was the difference between the French and the rest of the world, this old world charm. He was at home here on the cobbled pavements and he smelled of Paris - that elusive scent she had been trying to capture - like a rose-scented wine.

They settled on a 14th century cafe. He told her that this is where Napoleon used to come. He led her in and they had a Chardonnay while waiting for a table.

He glints, this fascinating man, winking in and out of the picture. He seems to grow - but maybe that's just the wine. They are seated. They order fish. His voice continues to trickle - like champagne - light, effervescent, bubbly - and still he seems to be growing, elongating. His skin, so smooth, so shiny. His tongue flickering in that red, red mouth.

He reaches over the table and touches her hand. She inhales. His skin is so cold, so bright, so smooth. His scales are so beautiful. He slithers across the table and covers her mouth. She finds him coiled around her body and still that voice trickles on as his tongue flickers in her ear. She is starting to fall. She lets go and keeps on falling. The cobra dances in circles on the black marble floor, waiting to catch her - its bright unblinking eyes, devouring her honey-coloured flesh. She smiles lazily. This feels so good.

I can't wait to get that snake inside me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


You know you're broken. You know that. You didn't come with a warranty. They can't send you back. But somehow it's as if God slipped up and left out some parts. Or put in parts that weren't supposed to be there. Parts that make you feel too much.

And sometimes the misery slams you against a wall and you know you're gonna crack right open. But your skin holds together. That is the miracle of skin. It doesn't crack under pressure unless you help it to.

To be broken is to know that nothing is right and nothing will ever be right again. You know what I'm talking about. You know that you can look at a Van Gogh and just want to curl up into a ball on the floor and scream silently. You know that however much you cut yourself, you can't bleed it away. Or dull it with wine. Or sky-coloured pills.

And nobody understands. Nobody will EVER understand. Remember that. And just keep on shattering. When God finally arrives to sweep up the pieces, maybe you can ask why.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Slithery Way

I first met Nick at one of those networking events - you know, the kind where the 10-year old dotcommers swirl around clinking champagne glasses and telling each other how they'll be the Next Big Thing. I danced around them, picking up cards and story ideas as I'd just started a dotcom page in my staid old economy newspaper and I needed some fodder for stories.

Nick was older, much older than the wide-eyed, 'I'll change the world tomorrow' whippersnappers and spoke in that particularly grating tone of voice that implied age and experience. Frankly, I preferred the boys, with their starry-eyed idealism. He was ugly and old in comparison but he seemed to have a good story. All about how he had come up with THE alternative to franchises.

So I called him up the next day, made an appointment and wrote the article. And that was that. Or so I thought.

Nick called me later and thought I should interview one of his clients, the first to buy into his particularly unique brand of franchising. Fine. We newspapers. We like new stuff.

Wrote that story. The client in particular, Syed, who ran a halal pizza business, decided that we were now best friends. Over the next few weeks Syed pestered me on a daily basis, about editing his press kit. Pro bono. But of course. He wanted to launch his product, and he wasn't so certain about the quality of his press release:

"Hey babe, can you look it over, tell me if there are any mistakes. Thanks, I owe you one." Babe?

Normally, I am happy to do a little editing for friends. But I was very very busy at the time. What with setting up the page and trying to find interesting news to fill it with every day (you try servicing a full broadsheet page every day), setting up the interviews, writing the stories, planning the pictures, graphics, looking in on the page layout, trying to create a new readership, I hardly slept during those months. I averaged two interviews a day, before rushing back to write a (hopefully) thought-provoking article, and then hang around and bug the sub-editors, until the page was laid out to my satisfaction. I didn't have the time.

But Syed kept calling. Maybe he had done one of those motivational courses for life insurance salesmen. I should have said no. This was harrassment. Instead, I took the path of least resistance. He sent me the press release in question and I couldn't download it. The file was infected. So that was that. I took to not answering my phone (we didn't have caller ID back then, but I used my answering service as a secretary, screening my calls). The press launch came and went. That was the end of that. Or so I thought.

A year later, both Nick and Syed started harrassing me. Again. This time they had a big launch they wanted me to cover. Which was all fine and dandy, except that it was on a Friday and we didn't publish a paper on Saturday. Which meant that by the time it came out in our paper, it would be old news. I told them so and politely declined. They called. Again. And again. And again. This time I stood firm. After all, they had coverage from all the other major papers. We were not going to carry old news.

Finally Nick said he would be setting up a signing ceremony just for me. There would be stuff there that had not been mentioned in the press conference. Please would I come? Please??????

Sighing, I capitulated. Once more. Why did I not suspect it then?

Anyway we did the story - you buy pizza, you get free broadband. They claimed to be building a "4G" network around the country. This was at a time when there wasn't even 3G in Malaysia.

We even carried it on our front page, it seemed so quirky.

A few months later, I learned that the company had folded and both Nick and Syed had run away with plenty of money from small businessmen who had forked out between RM5,000 to RM30,000 for so-called franchises. The gruesome twosome had used the articles that had appeared in all the newspapers to give them a veneer of respectability while they picked the pockets of these poor sods.

It came to light when the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) came a-calling. Now, all companies in Malaysia are required to make EPF contributions for their employees. They deduct their employees salaries, and the company contributes a percentage as well. It goes towards a form of old age pension. One employee of this progressive company had decided to buy a computer. Under one of EPF's schemes, you can pay for your computer with the money saved in your EPF fund. Shock, horror! He found that although his salary had been deducted faithfully every month, he had no EPF account.

So when EPF came a-calling, the edifice of a bona fide business collapsed. Syed and Nick escaped through the backdoor and were, in the words of numerous fairy tales, "never heard of again."

So why do I bring this up now, you ask? I should have said, never heard of again. Until now.

I just received an email forwarded to me, from the boss of my former newspaper. Nick, now in Australia, is anxious to get in touch with me. In his email, he told the editor that I had done several "funding" stories for him way back when, and he was anxious to get me to write for him again.

I blanched at the email. The gall, the gall, the Promethean gall! Since there has been a spate of stories about foreign businessmen coming over and conning the pants of our local gullibles, I called the police headquarters to see if I could pass on Nick's name to someone in authority. I thought, if he had gulled all those businessmen before, there would surely be a file on him.

Here of course, I came face to face with Malaysian bureaucracy and incompetence. After explaining in detail what I wanted to a frankly bored, and barely literate receptionist/phone operator, I was transferred to an extension. The phone in question rang interminably. Then I hung up.

I want the wheels of justice to grind him "exceeding small". I want this guy to pay for what's he's done.

But it seems that the way of the conman is smooth and slippery. When things get hot he manages to slither away. And then he slithers right back.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A little something on the side

I wrote to Sheldon out of the blue, asking if he would like to come have a cup of coffee with me. He had taken the semester off, and from my own experience during the inter-semester breaks where I would get progressively more depressed, self medicating with red wine...

Days I sleep off nights of red wine
Nights I go out of my mind...

...I figured he could use some companionship right about now. He wrote back joyfully accepting.

"How did you know?"

"Oh I go pretty crazy when I have all this time on my hands. I figured you'd be going crazy too..."

"Yes. I was incredibly depressed. Took all that time off to write and then there were a hundred niggling little things that came up so I couldn't work. And then, I was not in the mood, frankly."

"You know what Julia Cameron says...writing is like any other job. It's not about being in the mood. It's about sitting down and doing it." (Fine advice from someone who always needs to be in the mood to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard!)

"Ye-e-e-s," he said doubtfully, his eyes shadowed. The coffee (or rather the non-fat milk he opted for) loosened his tongue. Things were not going well with his wife. They had drifted so far apart. Living separate lives. Nothing in common anymore. And the worst of it, she didn't know there was anything wrong.

"You ever thought of telling her?"

He smiled ruefully. Sheldon is English. Very much so. "No. That's not how it is with us. When I do choose to say something, there will be no going back. Then I'll pack up and leave."

Sheldon sighed as his eyes took on a faraway look. He was gazing out at the undulating landscape of more than 30 years of marriage. Craters lately, but there had once been lush rolling hills, green and verdant. There had been shy spring flowers, gaudy summer blossoms. There had been love.

"Every day, I think of leaving her. Every day. I stay for what was, rather than what is."

I knew he just needed to talk. Loosen some of that congealed feelings. Then he smiled, thanked me for caring enough to ask him out for coffee, and listening. We parted with promises of keeping in touch. I felt sorry for him. Endings were always sad.

A few weeks before I left Australia, Sheldon called me. He wanted to catch up. We met for a drink at uni and adjourned to a alfresco pub. I glanced furtively at this guy over my rather robust Cabernet Sauvignon. I had always thought he was rather attractive, but never had the fact been driven home to me so forcibly as it was now.

Gone was the cloud of depression. He exuded vitality, almost glowing.

"So what's new with you?" I ventured with a smile.

"The writing's coming along fine. I do about 1,000 words a day."

We talked about his writing for a while. Sheldon is one of the most talented writers I met at university. A cross between Peter Mayle, Laurie Lee and Gerald Durrell. He had the power to make me laugh and cry with a few well chosen words on paper. But somehow, whatever had brought about this change, it was not his writing. It seemed as if we were talking around things.

I asked about his wife and he told me the situation was about the same. They lived in separate houses because he told her he needed the peace and quiet to write. He went back on weekends to fix broken stuff. That had been the extent of their communication for a while. Yet surprisingly, he didn't seem to be very down about it. Curious. He asked me about how I got by between boyfriends. I laughed, saying there was much to occupy my time with. Work, friends and Cabernet Merlot.

"I've turned into quite a lush."

"I'll believe that when I see it."

"OK, but I have to say, I'm totally aware of what I do when I'm under the influence." I winked at him. "And I do it anyway."

"I'll bear that in mind."

Oh dear, it was getting hot in here. The wine, the lazy afternoon, the absence, temporarily, of all inhibitions. What the hell, I was leaving next week anyway.

As he dropped me off at uni, I leaned over and planted a kiss on his cheek.

"You're looking good Shel. Really good. So much better than when I saw you last. What gives?"

He grinned. "Things are going well with my writing. That... and I've been having an affair with a younger woman. No. I'm not going to tell you who it is. You know her. Now scoot. I have to get home."

Friday, February 10, 2006

To die for Ireland

Art does not imitate life. Art anticipates life. (Jeanette Winterson)

We talked about the financial crisis way back in 1998 and how the world, well, my world at least, went to hell. There was no art in that. It was an intense sort of remembering.

We talked about how the currency speculators tore down the ringgit, so much so, it had to be taken out of circulation. And how we became economic pariahs forthwith, at least for six months, until Steve Taran wrote that article saying, well done. When you're Salomon Smith Barney, people tend to listen. Maybe there is a little art there...

We talked about the centreless world, and the headless chickens staring helplessly at weeping statues. We have killed God. So we make money, we consume, we fill ourselves up and feel empty anyway? I'm not talking cheesecake here. Or maybe I am. Cheesecake is art, no?

We talked about the couple who gave their daughter an envelope with RM100,000 when she came back from Australia and how she went shopping to buy an RM8,000 Chanel outfit and a RM49,000 watch for a man she wanted who said: "Take it back, I can't accept that. And by the way, your dress looks terrible." Artifice. But it didn't work.

We talked about Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death and how people can't read anymore. Where are the bards? I told him I hated Socrates for saying poets should be banned from the nation state and he said, don't dismiss him completely, he did come up with some good stuff. As if.

Then he dusted the blueberry muffin crumbs from his hands and said, we have to go, I have vespers. And I said, thanks for the coffee. And he said, it's been a pleasure. And he told me about Patrick Cavanagh and lent me a book.

Then an old Irish monk wandered on by and we talked conspiracy theories for half a hour under the biting wind that felt more winter than spring. He spoke into his beard and I had to lean closer to hear him. We said, the tsunami was not a natural disaster, they were nuclear testing in our waters. We said, the killer application for cloning is to create armies.

And he said, everyone is willing to die for Ireland until they are actually asked to.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Shower, interrupted.

The thing is, some people actually like snakes. They keep them as pets. They take them out and play with them. They even kiss them. To all these people, I take my hat off to you, I blow a thousand kisses your way and say with all possible love and respect, stay the hell away from me! No, I don't think they're cute. No I don't want to touch them. And which part of "if you don't take that thing out of here, I'll brain you with this hairbrush" don't you understand?

I don't. Just the thought of one occupying the same square mile as me gives me goosebumps. Which is why when snakey showed up...I was a tad disturbed. There I was in the shower scrubbing away at the encrusted dust. If I broke into an untuneful rendering of My Humps, it was only to show how secure and safe I felt in this strange bathroom on the top of a rarely visited (by tourists, anyway) hill in Perak.

Suddenly there it was. On the wall beside the heater box. This long black thing undulating wildly. I was wet. And naked. It was inches from me. In that small trapped space.

I let out a series of staccato shrieks. My friends Katherine and David, who were on holiday with me, came pounding from the hall, where they had been watching TV and banged on the bathroom door.

"Jenn, Jenn are you alright? Open the door? Are you decent? Can I come in?" This was David.

Katherine, who is very, very bright, had ascertained, without asking, simply from the quality of my blood-curdling shriek that it was a snake in here with me. She knows about me and snakes. She ran to get the men in charge of this bungalow to deal with it.

So there I was. Wet. And barely covered with the standard white towel. "Use our bathroom," Dave said.

I stumbled out of there shaking. As I completed my interrupted shower I found myself laughing hysterically. I was still shivering, but I couldn't stop. I gasped and howled.

Katherine came over and gave me a hug.

"You poor, poor thing, the men have dealt with it."

"They put it outside?"

"No, they chopped off its head."


"Well they didn't want it to come back. And apparently this one was poisonous."


Weird. I hate snakes. But I hadn't wanted them to kill it. Just to remove it, so it could slither away to some inoffensive corner of the hill where it wouldn't bother me anymore.

Last night I dreamt of three snakes in water. The middle one was my old buddy. I was snakesitting for a friend, but was too afraid to feed them. So I let someone fry them to death, hoping it didn't hurt.

OK now for the tag. I was tagged by Lemontree and apparently I am meant to describe my perfect lover. Eight points. Hmmm...how do I do this when perfection annoys the intestines out of me?

Well here are the rules....

Begin Quote "Rules of the Game.
1. The tagged victim has to come up with 8 different points of their perfect lover.
2. You have to mention the sex of the target.
3. Tag 8 victims to join this game & leave a comment on their comments saying they've been tagged.
4. If tagged the 2nd time, there's no need to post again." End Quote

And here goes.

Perfect Lover.

He/She/Indeterminate (preferably an alien from an interesting planet)

1. Intelligent enough to hold your own end of the conversation, without being arrogant and overbearing.

2. A free spirit. (Some people like commitments. I don't)

3. When I want to be left alone, you leave me the hell alone, whether it's for a day, a week, a month, a year. I'll call you sometime. Really.

4. Generous.

5. If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends...

6. A lyrical soul.

7. A good cook.

8. No babies, no babies, no babies, no babies. Not now. Not ever. So if lover is male, it would be preferable if he comes with a nice vasectomy.

I don't wanna tag anyone. Or if I did, I would say, OK now send this to eight people and tell them to kiss the next person who says, snufflelubugus under their right ear.

And so it goes, and so it goes.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Puppy Grief

It hasn't been Elliot's day. It was bad enough that he woke up to the sight of bags in the hallway this morning. Elliot hates bags. Bags mean that people are leaving. And he is never sure who. Just that, whoever it is, he is sure to miss them.

Forehead creased in anxiety, he watches as Julie, Jackie, Simon and Mom clamber into the car and take off. He circles the driveway in anxiety, waiting for it to return. Maybe it's a false alarm. Maybe this time the car will come back and disgorge its precious cargo.

But an hour later as he rushes up madly to welcome it home, he sees only three. He circles the car thrice just to make sure. Julie is gone. Elliot has pride enough not to howl but looking at him, you can feel his silent whimper.

At least Jackie and Simon are still here, though. To cheer him up, they close the large gate outside to let him run free. He does, but his forehead is still creased in anxiety. Today feels ominous. More unpleasantness in store.

Sure enough, Mummy and Jenn come out and herd him unceremoniously into the car. He sits on Simon's lap and gazes out the window, worried. He does not like car rides. Car rides mean a visit to the vet. He starts to shed in sheer nervousness.

At the vet, it takes three family members to load him on the weighing scale. Shivering, he scrambles off everytime he is put on. He hates the smells in this place. He just wants to go home. But his ordeal isn't over yet. Mummy, Jenn and Jackie force him into the vet's office. He refuses to be put on the examination table. Finally, Dr Koh listens to his racing heart on the floor. It takes all three to hold him still, while the vet places the cold end of the stethoscope on his flank.

"Oh my goodness, this dog is terrified," he says accusingly. They look suitably chastened. "And he is all bones. What do you feed him?"

"Dog biscuits for breakfast. Rice and meat for lunch. Despite appearances, this dog is far from starving," Jackie flashes, indignant.

"Hmmm....what did he weigh in at?" the doc wants to know, unconvinced.

"About 20.5 kilos," Jenn replies. Dr Koh shakes his head unbelieving. No, it can't be. "Malaysian dogs are usually between 15 and 20 kilos. You're telling me this one is over 20?"

"Yeah, he eats a hell of a lot. He has a voracious appetite. We don't know why he looks the way he does."

"OK then, we will have to deworm him. Crush these two pills and give it to him in his food."

Dr Koh injects his side and Elliot, who has been struggling wildly to get outside in the meantime, hardly notices. He's good to go.

He scrambles out of the vet happily and is perfectly well behaved on the way home. If he does try to lick Mom in the face while she's driving, it's only because he's relieved.

Jackie and Simon take him for a walk, and he's actually smiling. Maybe things are not so bad after all. But....

It's evening and he sees the suitcases lying open in the hall as Jackie packs. He does not like this. He doesn't like this at all. He watches her mournfully, tail between his legs. He sees Simon packing too. How many people are going to desert him today?

They pat him goodbye and he knows...he jumps up to give them a hug each, pushing Jackie down. She laughs, as Jenn pulls Elliot off her, and struggles up. But the laugh is hollow.

The car leaves again. This time it comes back without Jackie and Simon. Elliot circles the car to make sure. He stands on his hind legs to peer in. Then he creeps off to hide under Mom's car.

His tears are silent.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Our National Pastime

"Gosh, I'd forgotten that eating is the national pastime over here," my sister Jackie remarked, glancing at the crowded stalls. It was 3.30 pm (not peak hour by anyone's standards) but we could not find a parking place. We went round and round, said a few prayers to St Jude (and some to St Antony for good measure) that someone would decide to leave, so I could park.

It doesn't matter what time of the day it is, if our eating places are open, they are full. If you have lived here for a while, you acquire the art of waiting for a table. You hang around, watch to see who has finished their food, test to see if you can make them uncomfortable by giving them bitch glares (my sister Julie is particularly good at these) and pounce on the tables as soon as they are free. Even before the desultory waiter has sauntered up to clear up the dirty dishes.

Jackie lives in England. She actually has to work for a living. She is on her feet the whole day, with a short lunch break and maybe another 15 minutes sometime during the day. She is forced to smile as nasty wankers unload their bile and vitriol over her head. Sometimes she sneaks off quietly to burst into tears. No, she doesn't work in a sweatshop. She's a pharmacist.

When she comes for a visit, she wants to eat. A lot. She makes up an elaborate list and gets on the phone with my sister Julie to discuss it. Just to see if there's anything she missed out.

As we circled around the shops hopelessly, she turned to my mother. "Hey Mom, you didn't make goreng pisang for me this time. What's the matter? I also want the pal appam, the Lucky Gardens one, and the curry puffs at Raju's and if we can fit it in Muthu's teh halia (ginger tea). Also the butter prawns at Kam Ying and the honey spare ribs at the Herbal Soup House."

I felt obliged to prick her balloon here. "It's no longer Kam Ying, they sold the place and the new cook can't make the creamy prawns to save his life. Sorrylar monkey. Oso I donno if Herbal Soup House is still open. Last time I went, the honey spare ribs were so tough I nearly broke my teeth."

Jackie sighed sadly. "Changes, changes, why can't everything stay the same?"

"I know. What to do. But anyway, Mom's rendang is the same. Still the best I've ever tasted anywhere. Even if she doesn't bother to use the asam gelugor. Haha. And I'll make my prawns, howzzat?"

Jackie nodded, happy.

I feel a little sad today as she goes back tomorrow. The feast is over. Back to real life.

We did manage a hell of a lot of food while she was here, though. There was satay. Char kueh teow. Nasi lemak. Roti canai. Lots of chicken rice. Rendang, rendang, rendang. Butter prawns. Black pepper prawns. Chicken vindaloo. Palak paneer. Beef pasandha. Tandoori chicken. Goreng pisang. Malay kuehs, such as seri muka. Indian sweets (jelebis, gulab jamuns, barfis, halwa). Hot plate noodles. Pandan chicken.

I guess we don't bother much with drink over here because we eat. And eat. And eat.

If eating is indeed our national pastime, it's because there's food in so much abundance and variety. We eat out all the time, we favour stall food (specially flavoured with body salt) because it's cheap. But bottom line, our food is just pretty damn good.

I was on the phone with Jackie while still in Australia.

"Excited about going back?" she wanted to know.

"No, not really. I don't fit in. And having to deal with Malaysian drivers again....oh God!"

"Think about the food....," she said.

So I did.

And I have the 10 extra kilos to show for it.