Friday, December 31, 2004

Here I am in Plantation, Florida. The long trip from Narita to Fort Worth, Dallas, Texas to Plantation, Florida is finally over. The jetlag, however, has only begun. My trip from Narita to the US this time was better. There was no one next to my window seat. In fact, the whole row was empty except for me and the Chinese lady at the other window seat who looked a bit like Mich C. The movie offerings were yucky - only Collateral was worth watching.

Anyway, there was that trip, and after that came the trip from Texas to Florida, but that one was nightmarish. I slept most of the way cause I was feeling really wretched at that point. At least our drive from the airport to our hotel went without a hitch. A hot bath was the first thing I took when I got to my room, followed by linking my computer up to the Internet. Yes, this time I actually have broadband access in my room.

We ( me and the other two engineers ) went to Denny's for dinner, where Sandra our waitress who kept thinking we were from China taught us how to eat grits. Basically you put the butter into the grits, mix in some salt and stir stir stir. It's quite nice once you get over the extreme jelak factor of the dish. The country fried steak and the scrambled eggs were nice though. Scrambled eggs are always nice.

So now here I am. My shit's turned black in colour and it already smells different, but that's really because of the airline food I've been consuming. That airline food... sigh. You never know what weird stuff they put in there. I miss the studio style room I had the last time I was in Plantation, but this one has broadband access. That more than makes up for it, I guess.

The last night of 2004 and I'm spending it jetlagged. It's New Year already in Malaysia, but I can't seem to call some people back home. Maybe I'll try again after I attempt some sleep. Brr... it's cold here.
Narita. Here I am again in Japan, with the chilly wind and the American Airlines lounge. The Admiral's Club. Last time I was here, I just sat down on one of the seats, gorged myself on pretzels and basically felt tired. This time, I took a shower and here I am now, posting this. It's really fun when the place is empty.

The flight to Japan was very tiring. After a bunch of our colleagues dropped by to see us off ( actually to see the other two guys off, but I joined in the seeing off of since I was going off too ), we took off to KLIA. The MAS Golden Lounge there is very impressive. Lots of food - oxtail soup, cream of asparagus soup, nice dessert, spaghetti with seafood sauce, real seafood in the seafood sauce, all the Carlsberg you can drink... even the toilets looked good.

Then it was off to Kota Kinabalu for an hour of transit. We didn't want to go down initially, but Delia our air stewardess said we should go jalan-jalan a bit, so we went down, and realized that the people there looked very different. Maybe it's because they're orang asli. Somehow, their looks depressed me a lot. I thought about it for awhile, and I think maybe it's because they remind me of my grandmother. What the hell man.

And then came the trip from Kota Kinabalu to Narita. I think someone must have screwed up the food timing, cause they kept on feeding us food consistently. So much until *I* finally gave up on the final course. "No thanks," I said. "Really?" asked the sweet Japanese lady who smiles at everyone but when it comes to Japanese her face takes on this concerned look and she suddenly transforms from smiling matron to young concerned lady. Her smile made her look older, but I didn't tell her that. Instead, I told her, "Yes, thank you very much." Then she asked me if I wanted dessert, which was cheesecake. Really, the MAS air crew is very friendly.

Didn't sleep much on the plane though. Turned out that the Indian guy next to me was Fye's team member, so after the preliminaries, we got to do some minimal chatting and then later we watched the American version of Taxi ( starring Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon ). So I only had about two hours of sleep last night. Not to worry. After this brief transit we'll be heading off to America. The long trip. My face already feels like it's melting off and my lips are dried up and my throat is giving me problems again. Jetlag City, here I come.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Well, all my bags are packed and I'm ready to go. With low spirits, yes, but we do what we must. So. I go. And you folks just hang on for jetlagged-filled posts after I get Internet access again, ya.

Monday, December 27, 2004

So. The bastard's alive. Thus ends the Benjamin Southall "Did he bite the dust in the Goa tidal wave?!" panic, starring Yours Truly, Hel, Hel's husband's handphone and possibly a few other people. It will forever be remembered as an epic saga of mild apprehension. I tell you, dying's too good for some people.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Earthquakes. Tremors. Tidal waves. What a Christmas.

Hi, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all you beautiful people out there. Christmas Eve was magical after such a long time, Christmas lunch was actually better than usual and Boxing Day has been pretty exciting so far. This morning I woke up to go pee. Then when I was trying to go back to sleep, my bed started creaking. That was strange, since I wasn't having sex at that moment, but my half-asleep mind was hoping that the creaking would go away. And then my neighbour started waking us up to tell us about the earthquake. So I got up and my father got up and we enjoyed the vertigo for awhile before the tremors subsided. Some dumbasses ran down to the ground floor and stood between two blocks of flat, thus guaranteeing that if both fell, they would most assuredly be crushed. Fools.

Anyway, post quake, there was peace for awhile, so my neighbours took the opportunity to ask me to format their computer for them. It got the tall leggy one into my room, but only to get her IR port working. After installing some stuff, I returned the computer to them. Just as I was booting up my PC, my mom called me to tell me that the northern coast of Penang had been hit by tsunami. She was buying mee when she saw the village folks near the coast running away from the sea. So now, apparently, the north coastal areas have been cordoned off. E&O Hotel's lobby is filled with mud and water, and a number of houses have been destroyed. And also, a lot of jammed roads, but I think I might go have a looksee myself just to see how bad things are.

Now India will have a severe fish shortage, and vacationers in Phuket have been washed away, and generally the Christmas spirit in Southeast Asia has been brutally cut short because some faultline decided to join in the festivities. Geez.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

You know how it's like when you sleep at 5am and your dad's alarm clock wakes you ( and probably the neighbours ) up at 8.30am on a Sunday morning? And you can no longer fall asleep again?

Welcome to my life.

The only thing on my mind now is that I'm going to need an insane amount of caffeine and flu medicine to get through the day. I forecast the headache to hit me in the afternoon. The mucus is already gathering at my nose, ready to start sliming up that area between my nostrils and my upper lip. Slightly salty shit, that. And all this because of a single shot of espresso on a Saturday night.

Yesterday. Ah, where to begin? The Von Darkes ( Carmen the dotter and William the big bad dad ) and I attended Hel's and Captain Insano's wedding registration and wedding reception lunch. The registration was held in the Chinese Town Hall in Georgetown. The lift wasn't working. We found that out after waiting five minutes for it. When we got up to the waiting room, Hel and her soon-to-be hubby were already taking photos underneath a flowery arch. All the guests who were already there gave at us that "ah... latecomers" look. We quietly skitted over to some empty seats and sat down to admire the very good-looking couple.

What is there to say? He looked neat and cool, she has never looked more beautiful. I've no idea why Hel was walking around weirdly ( with sudden movements of the head ), but I'm going to attribute that to excitement and possibly weird dressing. While Captain Insano looked well-groomed, I think her newly-developed eyelashes made her look slightly different. Plus, she did her hair up. After the flowery arch photos, they walked around chit-chatting with the guests a bit. And then we all went into the registrar's office where they signed the documents. Hel was so excited her hands were shaking when she signed the docs heh heh. Then after that, lots of photos, then went out to the waiting room for more photos, and then we adjourned to Penang Swimming Club for lunch.

And what a lunch it was. When Captain Insano says that he doesn't want his guests to go home hungry, he means it. Lots of chicken dishes, and man, I haven't been to PSC in ages, they've done the place up nicely. Especially that walkway connecting the parking lot to the club. Nice.

So that's it. Captain Insano's married Hel and they're both going to be happy ever after. Whereas I still lurk between the shadows, a Malaysian Constantine. Yeah right, hehe.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Ow. Hey. Back from KKB ( Kuala Kubu Bharu ). Firefighter's training in FRAM ( Fire and Rescue Academy of Malaysia ), yeah. Before you learn how to save the world, you must first learn how to save people from a burning house. So, here we go.


THE CAST
From my department - me and another colleague
From the HFID department - 5 fashionable guys ( kinda like that queer eye thing )
From the hardware department - 22 minus 7 people
Our coordinator - Mr. Z ( pronounced Zack )


12 December 2004, Sunday
3.15pm - We leave Penang, all 22 engineers on one bus.

7.15pm - Arrival in Kuala Kubu Bharu where we were greeted by Mr. Z. Checked in. Me and Shirish ( HFID - the same guy I went to US with earlier this year ) shared a room - the ONLY room with air conditioning. The other twenty engineers got non air-conditioned rooms. Nyah nyah.

8.00pm - Dinner.

After dinner - Mr. Z gave us a short briefing on what to expect.

After the briefing - Me, my colleague and the HFID guys decided to take a stroll around town. Actually, the HFID guys decided to take a stroll around town and since Shirish had the room key, I tagged along and my colleague followed cause there was nothing else much to do. After a long endless walk along very dark roads with possible rain ( heralded by lightning in the distance ), we finally reached the town. Which was empty and deserted around 9.00pm. About that point I complained to Shirish that everytime he brings me out, he keeps taking me to these small deserted little towns. So we walked on, and reached what might be the town center ( there's a 7-11 and a mamak shop there ). After that we walked along this area where Barisan National was having some sort of gathering, and fireworks went off just as we were in a very very strategic position to view them along the road. YES. FIREWORKS. In KKB! I SHIT YOU NOT. Thanks be to the DPM, who was supposedly visiting that night. I don't know how often they have fireworks in KKB, but man, it truly was a WTF moment. It was like they set off the fireworks for us or something. Some say it was triggered when one of the fashionable guys bought a can of soft drink from the sundry shop. Who knows? Who cares? Right after the fireworks ended, we headed back to the FRAM. It didn't rain.

After the stroll - Back at FRAM, we went to the karaoke room for awhile where some people were karaokeing. And then close to 11.30pm...

11.30pm - We all headed back to our rooms.

11.31pm - I detoured to chat with Shirish and a couple of the HFID guys until 12pm.


13 December 2004, Monday
Around 1 something am - FINALLY FARKING FELL ASLEEP. Yes, my room was blessedly air-conditioned, but the bloody pillow was too high and too hard. JESUS.

6.00am - Muslim morning prayers. It was like someone screaming in my face. And I think whoever was saying the prayers got a phrase wrong. MALU. You woke me up for this? COME ON. After awhile, drifted back to sleep.

7.00am - Alarm clock woke me up. Cold morning bath. Brr.

8.00am - Breakfast of nasi lemak and teh tarik. Mmm.

9.00am - Class commences.

10.30am - They teach us how to use a breathing apparatus. That thing with the oxygen tank and the gas mask which firemen use when entering burning buildings filled with smoke.

11.30am - They showed us a fire engine and its innards. And I climbed up the ladder and stood on the fire engine. Yes. I stood on a fire engine. That was a moment for me.

Sometime after that - Lunch. After this we got our coveralls, our helmet and our boots. We suited up nicely for...

2.00pm - Field training. They taught us how to carry fire hoses around, lay it out and basically coordinate stuff around. Very painful stuff, especially under the hot sun and all. At one point I felt like puking and fainting at the same time. This shows how out of shape I am. There's something really sadistic watching the recruits running around in full uniform breathing from the oxygen masks carrying the oxygen tanks on their back. Each cylinder weighs around 20kg.

5.00pm - The Dark Room exercise. They turn off the lights and let you grope each other as you try to find your way out. Sadistic bastards.

After the Dark Room - We washed up, and headed off to the fire department's open house. Very big affair, lots of Malay families which I assume belong to the firemen, a few stalls around with food.

9.00pm - After waiting an hour for the bigshot to turn up AND finish his speeches, we finally got to eat. Satay. Beef rendang. Soto lengkong. Fried rice. Lamb. Chicken. Ketupat. Durian. Oranges. Syrup. Man, I've never eaten so much so fast before. Of course, I was really hungry.

9.40pm - Tired but my hunger overappeased, I went to the TV room where I watched half of the Alias season 3 finale ( "Resurrection" ) before I headed back to bed. Too tired to finish the show.

11.00pm - Dropped dead in bed.


14 December 2004, Tuesday
6.00am - Prayer time again. But this time, it served me well. I stumbled out of bed and headed straight into the bathroom. There, I paid for my gluttony the night before with TWENTY FULL MINUTES OF HEAVY SHITTING. By the time I was done, I could no longer see the bottom of the toiletbowl. Heavy shit indeed.

7.00am - The real alarm call. But since I emptied my bowels earlier, the morning bath went quickly.

8.00am - Breakfast.

9.00am - The first group went off for their fire simulation. We, the second group, sat around and twiddled out thumbs while listening to the first group's antics over the radio.

Around 10.00am - OUR TURN. We hopped onto the fire engine and the rescue vehicle and cruised round town for awhile. Then the emergency call came in. And we scrambled towards the burning building ( SIMULATION ONLY ). It was fun. While we rescue folks cooled our heels and basically panicked about our masks and our gloves, the fire team raced to set up the hoses and put the fire out. Then the call came in to pick up dead people, so we hurried to the building with our stretcher to carry the wounded out. I think I cooked my ass a bit when I got too close to the flames, but apart from that, everything was peachy keen except for the wounded, who were heavy. It's always heavy when four idiots screws up carrying a stretcher. Geez. My colleague playacted as the second victim, and we nearly dumped her over the side of the staircase, but since she's still alive, I can now claim credit for saving her life. Oh hero, thy name is me.

After the death-defying simulation - We had this brief talking session with some of the firemen.

1.30pm - Lunch, thank God.

2.30pm - We gathered to leave and took some photos with the most esteemed Mr. Z, who's a very nice chap. He's one of the instructors, and he's really funny and engaging.

3.00pm - HOMEWARD BOUND. Most of the engineers feel asleep on the bus. What a bunch of wusses.

shortly after 7.00pm - HOME.



Christ, that was one hell of a trip. Muscles are aching in places I didn't know had muscles. But I had fun. It was torture, yes, but in a fun way. Right now, I'm really beat. I think I'm gonna go drop dead again now.

Things I have learned from fire fighter's training:
  • Fire is dangerous.
  • The fire fighter's training is bloody tough. Someone actually told me this a long time ago, but I forgot.
  • NEVER MASTURBATE A DAY BEFORE GOING FOR FIRE FIGHTER'S TRAINING.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

They'll be shipping me off to Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor for some training thingy tomorrow. I used to hate travelling, cause I've always got this fear that this is the last journey I'll be taking in my life. Actually, I still have that buried somewhere in my heart. But during my US trip earlier this year, my fellow travellers managed to imbue me with a sense of adventure and want-to-experience and a "Come on, how often do we end up in St. Louis, Missouri! Let's go see the arch!" attitude. That might have mellowed a little bit, but I think that too is now buried somewhere in my heart. So I want to go, but I also don't want to go. Splendid. I so needed to add more contradictions to my being because hey, walking paradox in the making here.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

REALITY.

It slammeth me in the gut like a ton of bricks ( ow ). But I straighten up again. Now is not the time to keel over like a dead flower. Nay. Now is the time Prove Myself to the Company.

Yeah. Right.

Sod them all, those bastards. Like I give a flying shit anymore. It's like dominoes. First, the first one falls. Followed by the second. Then the third. And the fourth. Fifth. Sixth. Seventh. Ba. Jiu. Shi. And so on. That's my life in a nutshell. When it all, it all falls down ( south side, south side, we're gonna set this party all right, west side, west side, we're gonna set this party all right ). Vodka helps blur out the acute feel of life. Which explains why I'm grumpy in the morning ( hangover ), chirpy in the day ( high ) and moody in the evening ( reality sinks in again ). Sometimes, things might happen and reality sinks in EVEN deeper. That's right, Juliet. Stab Romeo's dagger into you a little bit more. *stab* *stab* *stab* ( ow ). Yeaaaaaargh.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

The Simoniac will be flying off to Bangalore tomorrow, so Hel and I had dinner with him tonight. Hel herself will be running off to the States at the end of this year, so since we'll all be terribly missing her, we're spending as much time with her as possible now. Cause pretty soon, NO MORE HEL. At least, for a year or two. Then she'll come skulking back to Malaysia with an American accent cause by then, she'll be an American tourist.

The Simoniac, however, will be in India for three months. And when he comes back, he will have an Indian accent. Damn these accents. I want one too. If they send me off to Florida, I'll be sure to cultivate a British accent there. Yes, I'll cultivate a bloody British accent while I'm in America. Cause if I come back speaking like an American... man, that's way too clichéd.