Thursday, July 19, 2007

First Day: Landed!!! And a flurry of motorbikes later....

My computer is still dead. Photos will have to wait T_T

     If anyone's wondering about me health-wise, I'm much much better now. It's unbelievable how low my immune defenses are... all those late nights (...more like early mornings...) and sleepless days due to assignment rushing had caught up on me in the past 2 months, whooping with joy for the hapless victim that is me. In the past weeks, I've never felt so fragile in my life.

    Ever since coming back from my trip, I haven't been able to step out of the house without feeling as though I could keel over or fall asleep halfway... until this week (WHOOOHOOO!!!!). It's so funny how when I am unable to, there's so much for me to do... mostly meeting up with friends. Yumcha debts:
- Vishul and gang
- PY and LC (tomorrow!!!)
- Moony returns from UK! (watch out for major glomping ;P)
- Ashaaaa (going back to high school for long forgotten cert hahah)
- Kezia, TJ, etc... (Seiji, un-pokkai yourself now XD)
- Wai Mun's upcoming party-gathering (still not sure how to get there though...)

    Gosh, I miss them so much! All I've been seeing lately are new faces; from Bangkok to MIRACLE Youth Conference to Project Vietnam. It's definitely great to meet new people, but it's sort of like...sleeping on brand new mattresses as opposed to one that you have slept on for 3 years? All soft and comforting now... Holy crap, I'm comparing you guys to mattresses....

     Weird comparisons aside... when I snap back from Lalaland these days, there's this lingering longing. Not always, just a few times, but I guess that's enough, huh? The dreams still flutter behind my eyelids, trying to catch on wisps of something that fades from one's waking memory. In these dreams, I was back in Vietnam, in the 15 May School. The layout of the place is reinvented in my head and yet everything felt vivid. In one of these dreams, An, Boon Ming and me went back to Vietnam for less than 2 days because something happened in 15 May (can't remember). And my dream-self always seeks for one particular kid, Quy...You'll get to know him soon. Maybe not in this entry, but soon.


19th June 2007

Instead of taking the MRT to Changi, then the shuttle bus to budget terminal, my aunt kindly arranged transport for me wheeeee!

      As I took my seat on the plane, there's this overwhelming dreaminess that swept over me. Not dreaminess, but more like there's a sensory upgrade? Everything seemed 'bigger' than it is. Everything comes with a story. A sort of detachment from the usual thinking? I was looking out of the window and saw a dragonfly over the wing... and I was hooked on dreaming of the past; of people who dreamt of flying, looking at these creatures. Ponderings turned into wishes; wishes turned into sketches; sketches into machines... how wonderful to see the inspiration and the inspired next to each other.

     Then when we're finally in the air, don't even get me started on the stories I got from clouds! They are beyond small clumps of fluffy cotton, with long thin wisps of moody sheets looming over it. Instead it's a congregation of teddy-bears dancing the morn away, a dog breathing flames... Suddenly my reverie cracked from a pining stomach. -__-;

I tried to get the stewardess' attention for a cup of instant noodles (SGD4... budget airway, ye can't expect freebies!) but was looked over =__=;.

My neighbour had her feet up against the front seat throughout the whole flight. Luckily, no case of Hong Kong Chau Keok...

     Nearing Vietnam, the plane weaved in and out of clouds. Short glimpses of a land, with rivers so big they looked like highways instead, before my view is shrouded by a curtain of suspended water. I didn't like the whiteness outside the window, the lack of visibility for the land I'm going to live in for the next 12 days... A river roundabout spotted. I had to put the pieces of the landscape together.

Pieces, pieces.... For the first time, I allowed myself a thought for what's to come. Like you, like everyone else, I'm a seeker of pieces... will I find one in Vietnam?
I was told to look out for the SEALnet banner. As I left the entrance door, I saw it.

'SEALnet' printed on an amazingly A4 sized banner. Nice.

     Three people await me; two are Nhung and Duong (pronounced 'Yeung') who were locals in the planning team and one was Selena, a future team member, who I later learnt was on the same flight as I was in. Accosting them was this... fascinating rubbery ball with little 'tentacles' all over it. Like a rambutan, only more awesome.  It is bright orange and simply mesmerising when you move it because the 'tentacles' sway like plants under the sea.

It was later christened as 'Emily'.

If anyone were to ask for my first impression of Vietnam... I'd say, The traffic wins, hands down.

     The traffic in Ho Chi Minh City is awesome beyond words. A huge number of motorcyles zooming around with helmetless people on it, and blaring horns is a common thing. Very chaotic and seemingly lawless at first glance... Like how sometimes the red, yellow, green in traffic lights all means 'Go' XDXD.

     I especially love the part when you see motorcycles from coming towards you from the opposite direction. Crossing the road for the first few days was definitely an adventure hahahha! And I'll never be flustered by Malaysian bikers ever again...

     Amidst the traffic, Nhung asks Selena and me had any questions about Vietnam. I immediately asked about the language. 'Cam on' means Thank You. But when I said that to the immigration guy, I got the weirdest look ever... Because the pronounciation leans more to 'Kham en' while I said... "Come on" wtf.

     Fast forward an hour later, after dumping our bags at the hotel, we headed to where the rest of the team were. Highlands, which is something like Starbucks chain. One table particularly stood out; a very lively group.

     And after that, I was in total... blurness. Table was buzzing with places, events and names that I do not recognise or have any idea of (beyond knowing the existence of the word. Like I could remember the word 'Wullabagawagagoogoogaaaaa'... but comprehension? Nada.). Example: MIT? UCLA? Dartmouth? Sure I know these are universities... but I'm totally clueless on how US education system works etc. I didn't feel too keen to interrupt a happy conversation just to go, "Huh?".

    I think I was really quiet that time. The first person I spoke to was John but mostly I'm just sitting there, being a very obedient sponge. It's just a little overwhelming initially.

Remember Emily? The bright orange rambutan ball-creature? Her role was to attract our attention at the airport lest we get lost, but her role has since become.... mascot-like XDXD. Someone named her, citing that it "looks like an Emily..." XDXD

     The rest of the day was basically for everyone to settle down and get to know each other. And as you know, the first obstacle is.... names XD. In a hotel room, we sat in a circle and played this game called the Name Game. It's like this, person 1 goes, "Fred." Person 2 goes, "I'm Greg. Fred." Person 3 goes, "Yo, I'm Mimi. Fred. Greg."... and on it goes. There's about 23 people in the room and with great luck, the person next to me was the first one to go... and I'm the last. And if you know me in real life, I'm CRAP with names!! It was really fun though; at least I remember everyone's names on the 1st day hahah.

    I'm not about to list down every single thing we did (Heck, I'm even surprised if anyone made it that far down here......damn). Other than the above, introduction to SEALnet and Project Vietnam (PV). Goals and what's at stake. There was one session that I remember well; you turn to the person next to you, and just share with each other on why you chose PV, what do you expect out of it, and what you have to offer on this project. Gayle was the first one I spoke with about this. Then Selena.

I remember Selena offering this view; Some people just go for the sake of going. Selfish reasons, you know? Just so they could say, Hey, I did this and that charity! And after that, they won't think about it. It shouldn't be that way. They should go beyond that.

I really liked that. I think it captures what service leadership is all about. What this project aims to acheive. People tend to not go further once a project or charity run etc ends. It becomes a surface, instead of reaching the core. And I guess that's... really sad.

The clogs in my brain shook off the dust, and the clik-cloks sounds started up; a change from the usual silent domain.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Day Before

     Bronchitis, bronchitis... I never knew the extent of your annoyance, (nor your existence, really...) until you have befallen me. As complained to Linh (a friend from Project Vietnam!), I think I've generated enough snot, phlegm and lung mucus to fill up a kiddie pool. For once, I'm not exaggerating. Dammit.

     That's not even my biggest problem; I don't care if I cough up enough snot/mucus/phlegm for a Olympic-sized pool, but what irks me is the force of the coughs. I coughed so violently in the past 3 days, it should be given a 18-SG rating. Seriously. If I wasn't so heavy, I might had propelled backward... I could say the same for fartin- no no, I didn't say that ;P. SO! The upper part of my torso hurts and I haven't started on coughing yet! Let's just say that it's painful enough to make me dread coughing. It's probably sore muscles but I feel as though I cracked some bones or something...

     Health is very important. Do take care of it. I didn't, so it's the whole 'Been There, Done That, Filled a Kiddie Pool With Snot...' thing. This is a public service announcement from Confessions Of a Confused Soul. Thank you for reading.

    Before unloading my another long-winded entry, here's a shoutout for MOONY!!! Also known as the Bouncy Oompha Loompha in our circle XDXD Welcome home, babe! Wished I could had been there T__T

18th June 2007
Still in Singapore.

Adventure of the day: I remembered that my EZLink card (like TouchNGo card, only more effective hahah) had money in it from my last trip to SG (Dec 06), so when my grandma asked me if I'd like her card, I said no. I boarded the bus with it... and I was right!!!

Amount left in card: 3 cents

I'm amazingly smart. Mensa, please endorse me.

     To not bore people, I bonded with my grandma. Also, I encouraged her to scold my mom wahahahahah! (I love it when my mom is being 'put in her place' by my grandma.) Visited a four-storey library (GLEE! GLEE!!!) which was only a 10 minutes walk away (DOUBLE GLEE! GLEE!!!) and spent the rest of my day there. Had an interesting chat with the housekeeper, Michew (?), about her own country Myanmar. On Suu Kyi... so many united voices with powerful support for democracy but guess who has the guns? Phooey =(.

Trying not to think anything about the next day... flying to Vietnam and I did not wish to have any expectations.

     I was commanding brain to not think about what's ahead so much until my brain got numb. It's like self-applied anaesthetic on brain cells or something. One bad habit of mine is imagining too much of what's to come, and when I actually get there, I'm often disappointed, so expectations = gets no-no this time.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

High-class buses and the daydreamer relived

Back in Malaysia since yesterday! Currently trying to heal from bronchitis, and meanwhile, here's an update! Rewind please!

17th June 2007

   Paranoid about missing the bus, my very harried mom made us all go early. Tossed me, my dad, my luggage and dumplings (for my grandma) straight into the car... only to get out moments later because her car ain't working wtf. We reached Corus Hotel very early though, and ended up sitting on the stairs, slightly shivering from the morning chill. I've only packed my bag the night before and man, if you ever need an expert to stuff the kitchen sink in your luggage, I'll be THE one to do it! Such skills that I have acquired; I would actually feel prouder if it weren't for the fact that it's one heck of a useless skill =___=;;;.

   Anyhoo, the double-decker bus finally rolled in, 15 minutes shy from the departure time. Weeks before, I was insisting on sitting on the Konsortium (because I'm a cheapskate and Konsortium ain't that bad!!), which would probably save us back about 80 bucks, but my mom wanted me to try the apparently "high-class bus". I got a kick from how they tried to make everything sound so high-end; on the side of the bus, there was " AEROLINE The Convenient Way To Fly".

Um. Fly? The only way that a bus would fly is when it hits a barrier and somersaults through the air. THEN you will say, "Oooh, flying bus!" before it comes crashing to the ground and bursting in flames. Then a smartass would go, "Oooh, dying people!" =_____________________=;;;; * tosses smartass into fire and burning metal*

And oh oh, the announcement! I found it so funny that I actually copied it down:

"... There is a toilet in the lower deck for light usage only. I repeat, LIGHT USAGE only. If you're going for heavy usage, kindly inform me, we could stop at any restrooms down the highway."

One , upper and lower deck. Ahoy there sailors! Two, "We'll be stopping by the restrooms as a passenger would like to do a Number 2." Okay, they didn't actually say that. I just love how they keep emphasizing the light usage part. It's even printed in A4 and stuck on the wall in the toilet.

On the bright side with rainbows and woodland creatures, Aeroline has the extra leg space, television and servings of food. Well, water bottle (Evian!) and fruit cake.

     This is probably the first time that I'm travelling on my own, not to mention that in two days I'll be flying to Vietnam, and understandably my parents, especially my mom, were quite worried. No matter how old I am, they will always see me as the baby of the family... it's a quarter annoying and 3-quarters heartwarming. To be honest, I still can't believe that they let me go. The first part of my life was a very sheltered one... I was book-smart but nothing else and I hated it. My mom's overprotectiveness used to drive me up the wall and I can still remember the fierce arguments that ensued whenever I voiced out my desire to take public transport; I fought with her for four years before she allowed me to take public transport. We're like night and day, and yet at the same time, we have the same ground; our basic principles. After that, it was gradual process of letting go. It must had worked because I was on my way to Vietnam on my own ;P. Back to the alone part, I've always travelled with PY and suddenly there's no one to chat with or camwhore with on the bus.


     What did I do then? There will, of course, be the sleeping, and most possibly snoring. Then a call jolted me awake, which was my mom worrying that SG immigration will confiscate the dumplings (FYI, the dumplings made it!). On the bus, there was this family with two boys. The boys were squabbling, as boys usually do. Then when they are tired, the younger one would climb to his brother's side and they would sleep hugging each other, which is so sweet!!! Then they would wake up and resume squabbling.

     And I did a lot of thinking. I was trying to remember the girl who used to enclose herself in her own world because she was so afraid. She fumbles in the real world and she couldn't bear the pain of being so useless, so she escaped. She soared and reached great heights in her dreams. It felt so safe and happy and comforting. She replays it, over and over, hoping that if she wish it hard enough, it would magically come true. But her eyelids were only screens to a fictional movie played by idle brain. She can't keep her eyes closed forever, and when she did open her eyes, she was stagnant while everyone else is in front. Dust laid in her hair and skin, undisturbed. Dust from her lashes fall like snow when she opened her eyes. It seeps into her vocal chords, and her throat rusts from the lack of use. That time I kept thinking that I'm brave but in truth, I was cowering in fear. And it felt so bad whenever I open my eyes. I was so happy in dreams, but when it came to the real world, I couldn't help crying. For years, I'm still healing from a past hurt, a betrayal so great, that it made me into the person I was then; meekness, nice little doormat, master escapist, and the dweller in people's shadows.

     The girl still appears once in a while, whenever I screw up and she would peek from the door and say, Come with me, let's run away!! and her outstretched hand looks so inviting. The world were I would be perfect and I could do no wrong. My own created reality; an altered one, made to fit. But I've learnt over the years that it's us who has to do the fitting in without compromising the person that you are. The world is not, and will not, revolve around a single entity. Nor will there be a fairy popping up and offering to turn back time for you. Running won't solve the problem. Living in the real world isn't as hunky dory than the fictional one. So why the real world? You won't be as happy. People here disappoint you, hurt you and leave you. But then daydreamers are forgetting the joy of growing as a person. I'm still very a child because I deprived myself so much in the past. Sure, things rarely go my way and there's more heartaches and sadness in comparison to the amount of happiness that I experienced. And the happiness that it gives me cannot be compared to the ones I get from dreams. It goes deeper to the roots of your being. It reaches into corners that you never thought existed. It's so much more fulfilling, like rich rich chocolate where one drop is enough as compared to the sugary mix weak chocolate that you could eat forever and don't feel full.

I live for that ounce of happiness. As long as it still exist, I will remain right here in the real world.

I don't want to feel afraid to go further, be more than I am. Time has been wasted for many years and though it would be easy to lament of the loss, I refuse to. I want to grow. I'm not as brilliant as some people, but I will not grudge. I will follow my own pace.

The late bloomer is on her way.

As my thoughts came to an end, I've reach Singapore. Eager to meet my aunt, grandma, uncle and niece. I never used to feel that way. It's funny that the older I grow, the more appreciative I am to have this big big family.