31 May 2005
We got stuck in a minor traffic jam on the way there. Luckily I was the driver, as the people behind were stuffed with luggage. My boot was already filled to the brim with camp equipment, so they had to put their bags on their own lap.
Later that night, we had dinner in a special manner. Teaming up in pairs, we could not feed ourselves, only our partner. The same is vice-versa. I'm glad that everyone participated and it turned out to be great fun. It was only us committee that night, so it could be controlled. If it were all of us, some would never play along.
In a rare occasion, our participants actually came on time and they got on bus on time! What was more of a miracle, though, is that they managed to arrive within an hour, 30 minutes earlier than expected. Somehow, the road the driver used is devoid of morning traffic. We had to push everything up! This was unheard of by me - a camp that is actually ahead of its schedule.
Making more things heated for me is the realization at 12.30pm that there was nothing planned for the 1pm - 2pm slot. Somehow, I missed that even after more than 3 months of planning. You'll see in my schedule:
12.15pm - 1.00pm Lunch
2.00pm - 3.00pm Session 1
Somehow, that 1 hour vanished, even after being viewed by numerous people. A very strange occurence indeed, but we managed to cover it up with 30 minutes of dancing and then pushing everything else up another 30 minutes.
That was a real bummer, as Session 1 was meant to be my talk on Buddhist leadership, and I had hardly had the time to rehearse. Thankfully, all my previous experience helped me finish the talk with no major hitches. However, it was not as refined as it could be, and it was evident during the feedback session on Sunday where I mostly got a "Good" rating and not many "Excellent" ones.
A very dirty games session came up next. I believe getting wet and dirty is a prerequisite for any successful teenager camp. The only strange thing that happened was that I was the only one who stayed clean. Usually, everyone in the camp is obligated to become dirty, but this time I walked away cleanly. A little disappointed, I am. A friend and fellow participant visited me just now, and he also said that they all felt I was a little detached from the camp. Part of the reason was that I was the only constant photographer during the camp so I had to take photos of them getting dirty. And holding a camera seems to give you an immunity from playing the dirty games.
Dinner, which was scheduled for 5pm, had to be delayed till 7.15pm as the caterer doesn't open till 6pm. We had to shuffle around some sessions, bringing up the chanting and delaying the night game.
The night game played out perfectly, and really achieved its potential. My kudos goes out to all the games people for putting together such a magnificent session! Again, I didn't join. I was quite tired by then, so I meditated for 20 minutes before going out to watch them play. It was real fun, and I would have wanted to participate as well.
The evening ended with a sing-along session. I insisted on "When You Believe" as the last song as I had seen the awesome effect on the participants. However, when "Heal the World" was used as the encore, it got much better response. This goes to show how we cannot stereotype camp participants, no matter how often we are involved in youth camps.
I really wanted to stay up the night to accompany those on night watch, but tiredness got the better of me. My official reason is because I had to drive the next day, so I need my sleep.
The morning officially began with the Puja session. It was a conducted by a fellow coursemate of mine, and I think he did really well. Although I did Puja before, it was more complete this time.
Everyone played games again. And again, I didn't join in. But it was nice to see everyone participate actively.
We checked out at 12, and after having lunch, it started to rain heavily. But as they say, the show must go on, so we continued with the performance session where each group acted out a part of the Buddha's life. It was funny and fun, although some events were heavily skewered to be funny.
Presents were given out, but not everyone seemed enthusiastic. The emcee still has some way to go in order to pump up the participants, but she's doing fine for her first attempt.
The point when I realized that I barely made an impact on the participants was when everyone got everyone else's autograph but mine. What a shame!
We were supposed to end at 3.30pm, but due to a special request we got them to the Four Seasons House where it had been summer for 5 months already. Cheapskate.
We finally left the place at 4.30pm.
When we got back, I organized a committee dinner at 7. I planned to treat everyone, as a gesture of appreciation. But my Vice volunteered to share also, so I agreed. In the end though, everyone contributed RM10 as a 'donation', and I ended up only paying RM27.45 of the RM187.45 bill. We ate at Pizza Hut, by the way, and this being a Buddhist Society event, we had to take vegetarian. But I felt that having 6 Veggie Lover pizzas won't be nice, so I managed to order the Hawaiian Chicken pizza.... without the chicken, of course!
In the end, I am REALLY glad and happy that the execution went without a hitch. I guess I have finally proved my mettle to the main committee, as I was one of the only ones left without having organized an event. But even after all that, I do not plan to run for another term. I have a weird feeling that some of them are starting to think of me as the next Club Chairperson. That may just be my ego-created hallucination, but if it's true, I might have to break their hearts.
27 May 2005
As last minute as it may seem, I'm getting a rush out of it.
Call me a masochist, but that is a fact of planning camps. There are a lot of things that will only start to unravel as the date comes closer. And as much as I hate surprises, I'm used to it. I understand it. I anticipate it. I revel in it.
I just hope the rest of my committee doesn't view me as being too laid-back and relaxed. I'm not relaxed, but I'm not tensed either as I understand that in life, shit happens.
So, here's to a great camp! I'll be back on Sunday evening.
26 May 2005
We were supposed to meet up with the marketing people in 30 minutes time, so I decided to stay in the office rather than walking all the way back to my room. However, when 30 minutes came around, I was told that the tour has been delayed till 12. I was a little perplexed, but luckily I brought my Palm along so I managed to read some notes, do some camp planning, and play some games all on one device.
At 12pm we (me and one experienced guy) went to the Marketing office. Apparently, they weren't there yet. We sat in the cosy lounge till 12.40pm, and the students were STILL at another nearby college ('College B'). The marketing officer complained that the school did not have the courtesy to inform them of their lateness, and I totally agree about their rudeness.
Anyway, during these campus tours, everyone is given RM4 worth of cafeteria vouchers. Us helpers were given ours, so we went off to take our lunch first. I ate alone as I wasn't that close to the rest of the people in charge. Anyway, after eating I went back up the office and waited till 1.40pm, when they FINALLY came! So we joined them at the Library where an officer gave an introduction to the high-tech services available such as reserving books online. Strange, I have never been able to do that before. Misrepresentation?
Apparently, I didn't have to do much but stand there and be a statue. I just followed them around a bit and then at 2.05pm I took my leave (without their notice) and went to class. Before I left, though, I overheard one of the students saying to his friend, "At least the people here dress better than College B."
I think that's a great comment, but I can hardly agree to the fashion sense of the college students here. Seriously, some really think that wearing Giordano's "Me" t-shirts speak to their individuality. And earrings seems to be getting popular among the guys, especially the straights. And bleached hair? Everywhere.
That's what today was all about, really. From the proceeds of the Buddhist Exhibition last week, we funded today's Releasing Life ceremony. Generally, we buy up some animals that have been caught and release them back to their natural habitat. Last year, they did birds and crickets. This year, they went with catfish.
They ordered the fish at 7am, then collected it at around 10am, and brought them back here. They came in 4 big plastic tongs and are very very heavy. It was worth more than RM200, so you can guess the number of fishes there. The main obstacle for us is to keep them alive till 5.30pm, the actual time they would be released back to a river in Salak Tinggi.
The fishes are very packed and they will surely deplete their oxygen supply quickly. So we had to do some teh tarik-ing, by scooping some water out and then pour it back from a distance to allow the water to mix with the air. Luckily I had a class, so I didn't have to do so much. Nonetheless, the smell is very obvious and some of it had gotten onto my pants by 12pm.
Anyway, at 4pm the praying ceremony started. We had to carry it into the prayer room which was a challenge in itself as it was heavy and filled with stinking water. We did our 40 minute chanting in the fishy room (I felt I could throw up!) and had to transport it back to the ground floor to be loaded onto the pickup truck. All the guys had to be the ones doing it - and it was definitely stinky and dangerous.
In total, we had about 20+ people coming with us, so we got a college van, and some of our own cars. Mine was one of them. So all of us went to the river together. The night before - we had a meeting where a rough map was drawn out. After a left turn, we were supposed to go straight a little bit and then turn into the river. The person who drew it drew a short 1cm line on the paper. But when I actually went there, I realized that the map was seriously out of scale. We kept going and going and going before reaching the said junction to the river.
And that was not the end! The river is situated deep in the area, and we had to drive on a makeshift road! I felt annoyed at the pebbles and sand that were destroying my tyres. Worse, muddy potholes were everywhere, making the path only suitable for 4WDs. I was beginning to regret it.
Then, we reached the side of the bank. I almost heaved a sigh of relief - until I saw that we had to go up a short and steep slope, and then down another steep slope before actually reaching the bank. Climbing up was hard enough, but then we had to transport those fishes! What ensued was quite chaotic:
1. The pickup truck had to leave as it was already 5pm, so we hurried to take the tongs down.
2. Some of them were too heavy, so we had to use pails and scoop some fishes up and form a human chain.
3. It was very slow to pull the thing up and then lower it down to the bank.
4. Everyone was divided onto the two sides, and those at the bank started emptying the pails even before we managed to chant - fearing that villagers would come and catch them again.
5. By the time all the fish were on the other side, they went straight into the river before I had a chance to wipe my hands and take out my camera.
Fine, I thought, at least it's all over. Let's go home!
As the pickup truck has gone off, it was up to the 3 remaining cars to carry 4 big tongs back. That is fine and all - except the tongs won't fit in our boots. All three are Proton sedan cars, and we overestimated the opening of our boots. I squeezed it in one way.... squeezed it in the other way... all the while trying to ignore the smell it will leave on my car. It just won't fit in nicely! So we had no other choice but to drive the 10 minutes back with our boot door open, and the tongs hanging out halfway. That was acceptable - we had no other choice anyway. But then...
What about the fourth tong?
Steve recommended a complex strategy of 3 cars carrying 3 tongs out, then 1 car will drop its tong off at the main intersection and go back for the fourth tong.
I recommended that the fourth tong be pushed into one of the car's back seat, and we can all go back together.
My solution was generally accepted, but we had to find something to cover the seats so it wouldn't smell like fish. But we had to run out of cardboards, so I suggested getting coconut/banana leaves. This IS a village after all, and there are a few plantations in our immediate vicinity.
Steve went off to search, and came back 5 minutes later with a dried coconut leave - not much help there. By that time though, some were getting restless and said that if they started walking with one tong they'd be out at the main road by the time our cars get out. So they took one tong and started walking.
Realizing the inefficiency of my idea, we just drove back with three tongs stuck in our boots. I had to ask the person sitting beside me to keep a close eye on the boot, as I had to adjust to driving with just my side-view mirrors - I'm quite dependent on the rear-view mirrors. We managed to make it back intact, and the first car to reach went back to pick up the last tong.
Gawd! That was awful!
If they ever decide to release fish again next year, I'm not volunteering my car. It's all for a good cause, yes, but still....
My clothes are all wet from the fish water. I planned to send it to the laundromat tonight, but my current dirty laundry is not enough to fill up the machine - so it's not worth the RM2.50. I'll wait till tomorrow.
I'm not sure why, but all that happened today left a bad taste in my mouth. It was just plain weak planning, all done in the last minute. I suddenly felt the urge to indulge, even after having rice for dinner, and I went and bought a beef burger. It was a binge, no doubt, but in defense, this was my first time buying a burger within the college. I always resisted that temptation as I was afraid it would give me sore throat, but I just couldn't care less just now.
I feel much better now. But now the focus is on my camp this weekend. I have a meeting in 4 minutes with the Secretariat Head - she is rushing me to pass her the final registration forms. Sigh...
24 May 2005
Anyway, I wanted to check my tyre's air pressure as I would be travelling again this weekend. Strangely, though, my usual Esso station does not have the hose installed. "Perhaps it malfunctioned," I thought. So I drove down a little more and came to a Petronas station. Once again, the pump was without the hose. A very strange and frustrating thing indeed!
I decided to forget about it for now and head on down to the bank. The cheque is to be cashed, so I planned to deposit that into my savings account until we need it this weekend. I didn't know how to write the deposit slip for that transaction, so I just wrote it for the RM100 cash first.
After waiting 5 minutes, my number was called up and told the banker what I wanted to do. She asked me to sign behind the cheque, and then gave me another deposit slip and asked me to fill it up. She told me that she would cash the cheque first, and then deposit it as cash. Alright, so far so good.
But then she asked me to pay RM0.50 commission for each transaction. So it's RM1 for both (RM100 and RM1000). I was wondering by then - why couldn't she have just asked me to add a '1' in front of the first RM100 slip and be done with it? It would have been the same anyway.
Except that in this case, the bank earns RM0.50 from this naive boy.
However, when we got to the place it was closed. Even eateries nowadays follow public holidays.... So we went to the mamak stall opposite. It had been a long time since the last time we both had nasi kandar, so we had just that.
A very big mistake.
I know my limitations when it comes to spicy food, so I took the ayam madu, which is usually very mild and very sweet. However, it seems that the chicken is very hot and not so sweet. I took a little of the fried cabbage, and even that had whole black pepper inside. Gosh, thinking about it is making me sweat right now! I used up 4 thick serviettes to wipe my face and neck as sweat just keeps coming out with every bite! As a result, I had to eat very fast, causing a very bloated feeling. The only thing that was redeeming was the iced Horlicks. It had been at least a year since my last cup and this one was just dee-li-shious! Rich, creamy, and very sweet!
Another problem soon cropped up though. Drinking the Horlicks and another 250ml of cold water (to douse my internal flames) made my bladder full. The toilets at the mamak stall were locked, and we were a little pressed for time as my friends would be touching down any minute, so we made a move. Indeed, a few seconds later my friends did. We were still far away so I had to SMS them that we would take 20 minutes. We promptly rushed there and managed to reach the airport within the promised time. Another 15 minutes, and my bladder was ready to blow up. I turned into the parking bay, asked David to switch off my engine, and walked as quickly as I could to the nearest toilet, not bothering to go up to my floor first. Once there, I stood silently for 2 minutes while I let loose....
Definitely not a healthy way to spend an evening.
Oh, I did call the crazy lady at 3pm sharp. She answered the phone after 4 or 5 rings, and asked me to speak louder. I tried not to as I was talking in my best Mandanese (Mandarin + Cantonese) but she eventually recognized me and went on saying about how she lost her bag with her money, camera, bla bla bla. She asked me if I knew Malay, and when I replied in the affirmative, she called someone else to give me the address. It was very noisy in the background, and I struggled to catch what she said along with entering enough coins into the public phone. I managed to copy it down, and quickly said my thanks before slamming down on the headset. I am not keen to hear the lady repeat what she said 5 times already. The phone call cost RM1, exactly the amount she gave me.
I was getting ready to develop her photo along with some others but stopped short after realizing the unfeasibility of paying the RM5 processing fee as I did not have enough photos. I decided to wait until next week, when I would develop a photo album for the camp. I would have more than 30 photos then and be able to avoid the processing fee. I'm sure the lady would be able to wait a week for it.
I came up with a list of things to do today. I have not finished any one of them.
Time flies. Oh wait, it has flew away.
23 May 2005
I slept very soundly through the night, waking up around 8.30 to see the day's light and my room mate back at his bed.
So, after Teng Bi An we went to Brickfields. We knew it would be very congested around that area, so both cars parked next to KL Sentral. From there, it was a 5-10 minute walk. I only found out yesterday that BMV is so close to KL Sentral. Even then, David was grumbling a little as he had to walk so far while carrying his heavy bag. And believe me, it IS heavy.
When we reached the counter it was swarmed with people - both devotees and helpers. Because of that, fresh air could not flow in at all, creating a very stuffy atmosphere. However, I did not want to stand outside in the open air, as the sun is at its hottest right now. Even one helper told me she felt like being stung all over from the heat.
The free food supply finished shortly after I arrived, and the packed the leftovers into the styrofoam boxes to be reserved for all helpers. I took one later in the day, and was a little irritated at the fact that each box has a little curry. Although it was delicious, but it wasn't something I wanted to have at this time of the day.
During those rare occasions that the cloud shadowed the sun, I would quickly walk to the main temple grounds to see what I could see. During those rare times I:
- went to the toilet where the tap water was yellow
- was sprinkled with holy water & got the yellow string to wear
- let my head be touched by Rev. Dhammananda in his office
- met two people that really defined my whole day
No, those two people were not politicians. Let me start with the first - a monk and his young friend.
By 6pm the crowd was really swelling up and it was a great time to take photos of the festivities. There were a few monks walking about as well, and I usually smiled and bowed my head slightly as a sign of respect. I did this to one such monk I've never seen before, and he came up to me and struck up a conversation. He then asked if I could take some photos of him and his friend, a young girl about 7 or 8 around the temple and next to the procession floats. It was hard for me to decline so I reluctantly said OK and began posing them around a bit. We went out and took some photos next to the floats. It was then that the second person came up to me.
I had just taken a particular photo of the monk and a float when this old lady carrying a large bag (they all do) came up to me. She wasn't particularly old, just middle-aged. She was very assertive and she asked me whether I could take a photo of her. Of course, it wasn't that straight forward. She spoke in Cantonese, whereas my command of that dialect is very limited. All the Cantonese I know of came from watching Hong Kong TVB series'. Anyway, she rambled in a long, long monologue of how these floats cost thousands to make, how she dropped and/or forgot her camera, how it would be nice if I could take a photo of her and then send her a copy, bla bla bla.
In my mind, I thought, "Oh, shit."
Of course, you may not feel the same as I do right now, but keep in mind that I have heavily condensed her words for brevity. She threw in lots of 'sympathy stories' in between (my kids ran away, how it'll be a waste not to take a photo, etc). Coupled with the fact that a monk was waiting for me, and she spoke quickly in Cantonese, do try and have sympathy for me.
I was in a trap, there was nothing I could do. With her state of mind I do not think that she would let me go off that easily. So I relented and asked her to stand beside the float. She asked me to hold on as she put on a pair of sunglasses to hide her tired eyes ('I didn't sleep well last night', she said). I shifted to take a good picture of her but she kept commanding me to stand directly in front of her. It was a bad position as the float behind would not be seen, but she kept insisting it her way everytime I moved a little to the left, so I just took it as she wanted. I was feeling pretty shocked by now at having met this person. But it was about to get worse (Don't they always do?).
She came up to me again, and asked me to record down her phone number. She wanted me to call her up and meet her whenever I have the photo. It was something I would definitely not do, but I recorded her phone number anyway. And thankfully I did, as she quizzed me later on to check whether I had her correct number. She didn't ask me to show her the photo I have taken, which means she doesn't know that I was using a digital camera. This increases her 'crazy/weird' factor. More so when she offered to pay me. She asked me how much would it cost for me to develop the photo and I just replied with RM2, trying to get the hell out of the place as soon as I can. Then she exhibited a rare moment of knowledge and asked me the size of the photo I would be developing. I said 4R. She said that 4R is too small and asked me to do it in 5R, and she would pay me more. I just said that it will cost RM3, but I know that it would cost more. I realized by then that she was serious with paying me, and I didn't want to cheat an old lady's money or anything.
She took out, from her large bag, a big black paper holder that she used to clip on to some cash. She gave me a RM10 note and asked me to return her RM7. Well, I did and she gave me back RM1 as a token sum for my phone charges when calling her. So in total I was given RM4. She eventually let me go after asking me to take more photos. And warning me not to cheat her. I asked her for her address so I could mail her the photos but she could only remember a bit. She asked me to call her at 3pm tomorrow (Monday) so she can tell me. I'm not sure she would be able to, but I'll call her later in the afternoon anyway.
By then, I was both repulsed and also sympathetic. Repulsed, because, well, she's mentally 'off'! But sympathetic because of her mental state too. I suppose that what she said was probably true (regarding the left alone thing), and I am aware that solitary confinement is not a healthy way to live. She probably needs someone to talk to, and all that pent up emotions have probably imploded. I feel sorry for her as it was probably her karma that brought her to this point. And I know that some karma is involved when we meet other people. After all, there were so many photographers there, why did she choose me? On reflection, though, she probably asked a lot of other people.
So.... I will call her this afternoon from a public telephone. I'm not that stupid to use my cell phone - I don't need an 'aunty' for a stalker! I will also fulfill my promise to the monk, Rev. Nande by sending him the photo CD and probably some developed ones as well. All this will cost me more than RM10, but I think that it is more important to keep my promises and spend off that karma, whether it was good or bad, rather than breaking my promise and incur more bad karma.
By the time I managed to free myself from her clutches I quickly looked for Rev Nande again. I managed to take a couple of shots of him before he had to rush inside. He didn't say a proper goodbye or thank you but I had to take my leave. It was almost impossible to walk around by then as it was so packed - worse than sardines! It took me quite a while to return to the counter where I prepared my things to take back. I called Oscar, a society member who wanted to follow me as well. I sent off the procession troupe, took some final videos, helped to pack the leftover books, and finally went back.
Both of us walked to KL Sentral and took a train back to college. I'm not particularly close to Oscar, a past president of Buddhist Society, but I managed to make some small talk while walking and waiting for the train. He told me that he was almost pick-pocketed by an old man, after warning his friend to be wary of pick-pockets! He turned around and saw the man's hand in his pocket, with his handphone almost out. He shouted at him, and the old man pretended not to know anything. That was a really close call. He didn't feel anything at all, and that shows how good those thieves are. Then I entertained him in return with my anecdote about the old lady.
Usually on weekends, the train is very crowded but it wasn't too bad last night. We managed to get seats, although separate. I took that opportunity to rest a little, but some noisy kids nearby ensured that I didn't have much sleep. By the end of the 1 hour journey, I felt better. We both took the public bus back, and during that time we discussed a little society polictics, especially with the AGM coming up soon. I asserted my stand once again that I would not be running for a second term. Luckily he didn't try to persuade me otherwise as I was in no mood for a debate.
I got back, and realized that my ass is sore. All that walking around has chaffed my butt cheeks around the perineum, so every step I took last night hurt. I put some Tea Tree Oil on it, hoping it will ease the pain but was quickly reminded that Tea Tree Oil is an antiseptic and has alcohol! Luckily, the burning feeling didn't last long. After a good night's rest though, it has subsided.
So that concludes a very eventful Wesak weekend. I spent a total of RM43, mostly on donations for books, food, and CD.
Here's looking forward to next year's Wesak, where I hope to be doing something different.
The problem? That single pair was to last us for two days. I knew from the start that there was no way that it will smell good with all the physical activities that I will have to do. That prophecy of mine was proven true within 10 minutes of changing into the t-shirt. Just a little carrying of tables and boxes in the afternoon sun made sweat run freely down my head.
I'm quite peeved at having to do manual work - I'm just not suited to it. I prefer to serve people at stalls rather than lugging around large, heavy boxes. I know some people who would take the opposite stand. I just wished they would actually exchange jobs with me! But I did get to do a lot of serving people, as after Tze Yun Temple we headed straight for Brickfields Maha Vihara (BMV), the main temple where everything is going on. This was my first time celebrating Wesak there, and it was just spectacular. The stalls run on both sides of the road for almost double the distance in Penang. There is a variety of stalls selling, among others, large luggages, java tea, Hindu images, and original music CDs.
As for DRBA's stall, we focused on setting up a free distribution book centre. We brought in lots of different Chinese and English books published in-house. We are only allowed to give away and display books that have been printed by DRBA itself to avoid distributing books that preach in contrast to their ideologies. A little strict, yes, but necessary to maintain the society's integrity. That's also what the Tzu Chi Merit Society is doing with their book stall, which happened to be directly opposite ours. I sincerely think we got more traffic than them, partly because Tzu Chi's books aren't free. All our books are free and also beautifully printed, which boosted its appeal. And I noticed that some people donate a lot for the books, so I guess their contributions cover back the costs and the smaller donations given by others. But I've stopped judging people based on how much they give, as I do not know the person behind the body.
Anyway, we spent the whole afternoon from 3-something to 8pm at our counter. We had more than enough helpers, so I was free to walk around and enter the temple itself. The main hall itself has a small photography exhibition by a world-reknowned photographer, a blood donation campaign, and a free skin carotenoid score scan.
That's what my mind thought when I asked what they were doing with the strange laser device. From the broucher given, the score is a measurement of the level of the antioxidants in our skin. The score ranges from 0 to 50,000, with 50,000 being optimal. Anyway, we signed up for the scan and discovered that I only had a score of 24,000, slightly lower than the middle. But what was really surprising is that Steve, the society president scored only 19,000 although he exercises regularly and is a full-time vegetarian. Two members scored less than 10,000, but one of them is a smoker, so I'm not that surprised about him. Well, I'm no doctor, so I can't really say how important antioxidants are for us to have a healthy life, but I'm sure it's not the final determinant. After all, how can I compete with a devout vegetarian who prays regularly and goes jogging?
Of course, there's not such thing as a free lunch. The free scan is part of the company's (Pharmanex) guarantee that our score will rise if we start consuming their Lifepak dietary supplement. Basically, 2 sachets of the drink mix could provide nutrients equivalent to a LOT of vegetables and fruits. That is indeed good news for those who keep finding excuses to miss their greens. But the good news ends shortly as a monthly supply of Lifepak costs around RM248. It is just too expensive for students like me. Luckily, the people there didn't force the products into our mouth, but I suspect that my phone number given to them would be put to use in the future...
Back to the stall. We also have another stall providing vegetarian food such as fried noodles, nasi lemak, kuih, and herbal drinks. The major difference between us and everyone else is that our food stall runs on a donation basis. Whereas other stalls mark up their prices, we willingly give the food away. I really salute them and it reminded me of Annalakshmi, which I discovered has a branch directly opposite the BMV's main gate.
At 8pm, we left and went to have dinner at this popular vegetarian outlet. It was indeed quite good and reasonably priced, but by the time we finished it was already 10pm because Steve took a wrong turning on the highway. And as most KLites will agree, a wrong turn could mean an hour of lost time.
We then went to an apartment at the outskirts of KL. I initially thought that all of us were going to stay together in that apartment, which I don't mind as it was pretty cool up at the 16th floor and had enough space. I even took off my socks and got ready to bath. Everyone had already changed their t-shirts and gave their dirty, yellow t-shirts to Michael (an old member) as he had a washing machine and dryer in his home. Anyway, all that changing got me thinking that we would be staying there. I was wrong! It was announced that the guys will have to leave the apartment as it was only for the girls. The guys had to crash in Michael's house, while Steve will be returning to his own house as well.
So I dragged my tired body out of the house and sat in Michael's car as he drove us back to where he stays. When we arrived, his parents and siblings had gone out, so I used the master toilet and did my business. I wasted no time in being the first to sleep, making sure I did my yoga and applied the capsicum plaster to my lower back. I knew what I would be expected to do (carry heavy stuff), so I took the perfect short-term remedy along (capsicum plaster). All 4 of us guys slept in the same room on 3 foam mattresses. The air-con was switched on the whole night. It was nice at first after the hot day outside, but it became a little too cold for me in the middle of the night. Thankfully a blanket was provided, though still lacking. I knew that it would become unbearable for me, but I did not voice out my concern to the host as he already has so much on his hands, including washing and drying 12 pairs of dirty laundry.
I slept uncomfortably from 12 till 5am. We washed up, and at 5.45am we left for Tze Yun Temple again. We met up with the others there and plotted our next move. If there was a weakness in this whole event, it was the lack of pre-planning. Everyone was clueless about what they needed to do and where they needed to go until it was 5 minutes past the assigned time. In the end, we all went to pick up the girls from the apartment and had a quick breakfast at a nearby vegetarian stall. There were 3 cars this morning, so 2 cars were to be at Brickfields to help out at the stall, and another one at Teng Bi An, another DRBA branch temple. I, along with 3 guys and 2 girls, headed for Teng Bi An. Once there, it was mostly the same thing. There was also a counter giving out free Dharma books and we had to attend to the devotees by preparing plastic bags for them to put their allocated maximum of 3 books per person. We usually closed an eye and let them take 4, if they asked. I got to hone my Mandarin conversational skills today by responding to devotee enquiries.
About 30 minutes after our arrival, we saw Michael coming in along with those who sat in his car. Apparently, there were too many helpers at Brickfields so they came over to help here instead. Bad planning, anyone? Thankfully, it was a quiet Sunday so traffic was relatively smooth.
Another thing we had to do was to pack those blessed water packets (the term is used loosely here). It had lots of flower petals in it, and it made the tap water smell nice. We had to pack them up in small plastic bags for devotees to take back and bath with it. Other than that, we had to carry lots of tables in and out of the shrine hall once the proceedings were over at around 2pm. We had a very decent lunch there, and it was once again on a pay-as-you-wish basis. At 3pm, we left Teng Bi An for Brickfields once again.
The temple is situated very close to KLCC, and because of that, parking space is limited. We had to park next door at a corporate building car park. It was a Sunday so there were many empty bays. When we left the place about 7 hours later, we began to wonder how much the parking would cost. Michael's car was in front, so we attempted to see how much he passed over to the attendant.
We saw his arm passing over a red RM10 bill.
All of us in the car "wowed" at that.
We then saw Michael's arm passing over another RM10 bill.
A bigger "wow" ensued.
We saw the attendant passing back RM6 to him, so simple mathematics told us that we were being charged at RM2 per hour. It is expensive, but not as bad as London, where people spend more to buy a parking bay than their lofts.
I would really like to finish up the day's events, but so many things happened at Brickfields that it would take another post. I am just so tired now, and I need to start my recuperation period. David is not back from the procession yet. A brief preview of Part 2: crazy woman and eager monk.
21 May 2005
I had wanted to write the above three sentences in detail, but I'm in a rush as I need to be at the meeting area within 30 minutes and I have not finished packing my bag for the KL trip.
Anyway, we decided to find the source of the light and we traced it to the recently-erected fun fair. 'Recent' seems to be the total opposite of what lies inside, though. It is exactly the same kind of fairground that my parents went to, with clanky metal rides, and lots of games that relied on probability numbers. There were only a few people playing, trying to win the lame prizes. The three of us actually got close to playing a game where we got to throw 4 tennis balls to hit down 5 tin cans. But logic got the better of us as we watched the player before us get conned.
As I said, it was a sad sight. Even the prizes on display looked old while the attendees were definitely old! I also couldn't stand the loud instrumental music that played songs from the 70's as well! (Think: Teresa Teng) We left the place after 10 minutes, a fantastic achievement, really.
When I went to Myanmar a few months back, I was told that such fun fairs were considered as 'hip and happening'. Gee, political oppresion has set them back so far behind.
We finally left the dump and went to the mamak stall. I noticed that the boss was talking with someone so I respectfully ordered something while waiting for him to finish. When he finally did, I approached him and reminded him of the RM1000. It took a little time for him to refresh, but he trusted me and left for the office. I followed him and was told to wait outside at one of the tables. So I sat there for 5 minutes. When he came back he held a cheque for RM1000 that can be cashed. I felt relieved as I initially thought he would give me RM1000 in bank notes, which was a little dangerous. Anyway, I graciously thanked him but he seemed indifferent about it all. I continued my drink with the two of my friends and we talked a little while before heading back.
It was only when I came back that I took a good look at the cheque. I was shocked to see that the cheque was postdated at 24 May! That's a good 4 days away! I had planned to bank in the RM1000 along with the RM700 cash in my possession as I would be in KL from Saturday till Sunday. Looks like I'll deposit the RM700 first.
20 May 2005
This is my first year celebrating Wesak away from Penang. Last year, I drove back to Penang for the long weekend and got caught in jams and same old, same old routines. You can't blame me - it was my first month in Nilai. But now that I'm fully acclimatized to this place I don't feel the need to go back. In fact, I don't see a suitable time for me to go back at all the whole of this semester although I really want to. I especially hope to catch an Air Asia flight back around June so I can see some of my friends one last time before they enrol into their public universities, wherever that may be.
And once those old friends leave, I'll have less of a reason to go back except to see my father. Ah, impermanence.
We would order a piece of roti kosong (plain Indian pancake), and gather a variety of curries and assorted edible food such as sugar, peanut powder, etc. A small piece of the pancake is put in a smaller plate. Now, one of us is designated the host for this round. The host has to think of a number between 1 and 100 (or higher if we feel like it) and key it in his handphone as proof later on.
Now, we'll go either clockwise or anti-clockwise, and each has to guess a number. If the guesser doesn't say the correct number, he or she would be entitled to add a little something to the small piece of pancake. This can be a spoonful of curry, a squeeze of lime... you get the idea. Then, the host has to announce the revised range of numbers. So, if the selected number was 50 and I said 75, the new range would be 1 to 75, since 50 falls between those two.
This will go on until someone eventually says the right number. He or she would have to finish up the pancake along with its condiments as a prize! It is a really fun game to play and gets more suspenseful as we approach the final range such as "75 and 79". We would attempt to link possible answers to something relevant to the host. As for me, I guessed correctly once so I got to play host once as well. It actually didn't taste all too bad tonight, but a little yucky at certain corners where the Sprite and lime juice mixed. Or so I think. I'll never know if the Milo or granulated sugar played a role in it.
19 May 2005
Better yet, it cleans!
My white underwear remained white, and the large brown patch of cake
cream from Tuesday on my bermudas was reduced to a small, unnoticeable
streak. Pretty good performance especially considering that the
machine has to wash so many loads every day.
And they come out pretty damp, so there's no need to pay RM2.50 for
the dryer - I just had to hang them up in the drying area of my block.
It may soon replace my usual dobi, but not now. The boss had agreed to
sponsor RM50 for my camp, so I must at least patronize his shop for
the rest of this semester.
It is a recent addition to our hostel blocks. Each block was installed with a washer & dryer. Except mine. No surprise as there is a laundry shop in my block itself. I'm sure they prevented one from being installed there. But I feel it's too late. At only RM2.50 for a 5kg load, each, it's much cheaper than what they charge.
Anyway, I'm now waiting for someone else's cycle to finish. It is pretty exciting as I have never operated a washer before. Nevermind that it has a very simple control panel - I can only choose from Whites, Colors, Bright Colors, Perm. Press, Woolens, or Delicates and Knits, and off it goes on its 30 minute cycle.
The guy has just come to collect his load - it's my turn!
The 25 minute cycle has just begun. It was a fairly simple operation to load everything in. I pressed on Color. I do hope that the red t-shirt I cheekily threw in won't bleed onto my white boxers or spoil my RM80 shirt. And I hope I didn't put too much detergent - I could only guess how heavy my dirty laundry was. Well, all my fears would be put to rest once I come back to collect it 22 minutes later.
I don't have an 8am class on Thursdays, but I went early to meet up with my group mates to rehearse our presentation later at 10. However, we spent so much time compiling the documentation that, by the time we finished, it was already 10.01am. We decided to just try our luck and talk crap, a specialty among all students here. Luckily, the presentation was postponed and instead, the lab demonstrator showed us the actual components of the things we were supposed to research for. We were quite disappointed that it was postponed, as we panicked so much over it, but were later proud as he commended our group as the first to produce a documentation.
I'm soaking in my own sweat... better go take a shower.
"And at 10?"
I lied, "No." My internal alarm was on full alert now.
He attempted to joke, "Then, come back and sleep la!"
I smiled my standard smile and said, "Haha, ya. But 12 got class again."
I more or less reversed my whole schedule for the day. I don't usually lie, but my instincts told me otherwise. It was strange as there was absolutely no reason for strangers to ask me that, although we both live on the same floor.
I'd better be alert over the next few weeks. Especially with David's expensive equipment inside, I wouldn't take the risk.
Oh, and don't think I'm racist because I mentioned "Indian fella". I'd be doubly suspicious if it was a Chinese fella.
I'm really glad that this semester there is more of a variety. Last semester, almost everything was deep-fried and I found myself walking away from them. This time around, I got myself an egg tart (RM1), putu mayyam [traditional Indian dessert with grated coconut and brown sugar] (RM1.50), and Nyonya meat dumpling ['bak-chang' - though I wonder why it's white] (RM3).
I'm really full from the egg tart and putu mayyam, especially since I already had a proper dinner. I threw 1/4 of the putu mayyam away, not really characteristic of me, I know, but I was too full. The Nyonya meat dumpling will be kept for breakfast tomorrow.
I'm in a better state of mind today after having a good night's rest yesterday. I'll rest a while and do some planning for the camp. I have absolutely no idea what to discuss about during this Friday's final meeting. I only know that I must have it.
18 May 2005
Starting with the lab class today, I lazed around without much of an aim although I tried hard to focus myself. I have some very important work to do over the next few days, but my mind doesn't seem to be very co-operative. Is this a side-effect of consuming those ginseng that helped me so much yesterday? I surely hope not. The minor diarrhea I had this afternoon worsened the situation.
In some totally unrelated entertainment news, Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith is getting some very good reviews. This is a major relief. After all, if George doesn't get it right this time, he might have to come up with Episode 3.5.
Also, one of my favourite female singers, Kylie Minogue, was diagnosed with breast cancer. As a result, her Australian and Asian legs of the Showgirl concert has been postponed. I pity the fans who queued up and fought over the tickets. Poor suckers. I'd have more compassion for her if not for my current infatuation with Gwen Stefani.
17 May 2005
Thankfully, I managed to resolve it with the help of another committee. I also remembered another saying at that point:
At 4, I dragged my tired body to my last class of the day, where I sneaked in a 5 minute nap in between. Through all this, there was one thing that kept me recharged - ginseng. That specific type of ginseng is famous for enhancing vitality, and I immediately became a fan today. Although I realized how tired I am, my mind is as fresh as ever. I attribute it to the ginseng drink I had once in a while throughout the whole day.
But a tired body remains that - tired. I can feel a sorethroat coming on, and if I don't sleep early tonight to fully recharge, I may have to go through another week of antibiotics. I'm too busy now to write up about the Malacca trip, so I'll get that up later.
16 May 2005
I woke up at 5am, with one goal - to research my lab assignment. There is much to do, and the time to do it has gone by. While the Malacca trip gave all of us a chance to bond together, it will probably be my last time.
I have no time to write up about the Malacca trip yet. Suffice to say, I had a tiring but good time, and my back is still intact although there were a few close calls.
14 May 2005
Last night started innocently enough. I went to help Buddhist Society (henceforth referred to as 'the society') to setup the place for the book exhibition next week. We needed to get some materials from our messy storeroom, so the President directly asked us to move everything out for reorganization. Some of the boxes are REALLY heavy, as in 30kg and above. With my recovering back I had to be extremely careful of my position and what I carry. But I didn't want to look like cutting slack, so I did my part. Thankfully, I didn't injure my back because as far as I can tell, my back is back to 90% normal!
Anyway, the boxes are really heavy as they contain Buddhist books. We had to separate them according to publisher as we wanted to return some of them back. Some of the books also belong to the non-existant library (couldn't get approval from college admin). At any rate, they are worth a lot. So, when the President announced that we could take some of the books that we like - it happened.
Not much different from starving vultures, most of those who went swooped down and got sidetracked from the task at hand. Instead, they looked through the books to find those rare gems that they never knew were in our collection. And rare gems they are indeed. When one treasure hunter would boldly proclaim his or her find, the others would 'ahh' and 'ooh' over it.... and then quickly go back to their own pile of books to see if they could find something as good.
This went on for most of 2 hours and really cut down productivity. There was no control as the President also got involved in it. As for me, I played smart and waited for the rush to subside. I did other work first and then went to the books after everyone was satisfied with their find. Although most books were already packed, I could still find some gems of my own, largely because I look for Theravadian books. I managed to take back the Buddhist Hymns book (worth RM4.50 from Sukhihotu), biography of Bhante Suvanno (a very respected monk in Penang - I've met him!), On The Path to Freedom by Sayadaw U Pandita (I think I might've met him in Burma... not sure), and Pen Portraits of Ninety Three Eminent Disciples of the Buddha by C. De Saram (I knew about this book from an excerpt - seems interesting). The bargain hunt was satisfying - especially since it is free anyway.
Today is going to be a busy day.
At 10am, I'm going to drive to KL's Chinatown with some the society's people to collect the stock for the exhibition. This is mainly vegetarian products which include snacks, and even body shampoo! I will try to avoid carrying large boxes as usual. I hope to be back by 2pm, as at 5pm I'll be heading down to Malacca with 8 other people. We're staying at an apartment owned by one of them. After a planned steamboat dinner, we'll stay up playing games. Then on Sunday we will go to A Famosa water park for a whole day adventure. My lower back should be set to go by then.
At any rate, there will be no instant updates as I'll be writing through my Palm and then uploading it when I get back on Sunday. Till then.
I must not let Dad know of my condition, or he'll prevent me from going out to Malacca this weekend. But I'm not stupid. If I think a particular ride is not safe for my back, I won't take it no matter the jeers that I'll get.
13 May 2005
Really, really weird.
What's not so weird is my getting straight A's again for last semester. Sure, there were times when I felt threathened, but I kept on soldiering ahead and it paid off. Better yet, a lot of my peers did not manage to maintain their A streak, but I did so I'm feeling pretty good about myself. But as I slowly head towards my final year, many things are uncertain.
Of course, I doubt that she would be as successful now if she had 'returned to her roots'. After all, this is the age of rap artistes and Idols. There's no place for divas and boy bands (thank god!) anymore.
I now have another peculiar habit to explain to inquiring friends, along with my excessive teeth brushing and boring fashion.
At least I got a good start to a better back, without paying thousands of ringgit.
12 May 2005
I woke up this morning to a better back, but one which still hurts a lot when I move around. Feels fine when I'm walking, and it's just when I'm sitting that is causing trouble. This is the worst case of back pain since the first time, and I doubt I'll play badminton with that guy again.
I actually have duty from 12pm - 2pm at the Buddhist Society counter, but I took leave and told them I was not feeling well. So I bought my lunch back and ate in the room. I also used up 1.5 packets of those capsicum plasters and plastered most of my lower back. This is also the first time I used so much for a single application. But now is not the time for frugality, as I have to get back in shape for the weekend.
This Saturday I have to drive down to K.L. to collect stock for the book exhibition next week. I'll try to carry light items as on Sunday I'll be going to Malacca's A Famosa water park. There'll be lots of slides that I want to ride while I still can fit into my swimming trunks, not when I'm 45 and have more health concerns.
My lower back is very sore now. The badminton game just now made me stretch and put stress on my back unnecessarily, causing me to regret it now... and regret it more tomorrow. I have already pasted those capsicum plasters that help relieve the pain, but it doesn't solve the root of the problem.
My back ache started slightly more than a year ago, when I slipped on my feet when bending down and pushing a large and heavy object. The floor was wet at that time, so I lost grip and lunged forward, instantly causing pain to my lower back, near the base of the spine.
I never saw a doctor or specialist for that as I thought it was a simple strained muscle, but right now I think it has more to do with the spine.... especially since one year is not enough to cure it. Meanwhile, massage therapists and other pain specialists charge exorbitant fees for a single session. I would rather live with the pain in my back than in my wallet.
Due to the risk of further injury, I am extremely careful when it comes to lifting heavy objects and being asked to move things. I guess I have been labelled 'weak' behind my back but I don't really care. I have to be constantly aware of my sitting position, which is what I'm doing for most of everyday. I keep myself upright but sometimes find myself slouching, which is a big no-no.
I have faith that if I maintain good posture, exercise to strengthen my back (swim, Yoga), and avoid dangerous situations (hiking, rock climbing), I would be able to alleviate myself from this strain.
If it doesn't go away when I'm 25, I'll probably look into corrective surgery... maybe it has something to do with slipped disc or something. But I seriously doubt I would still be walking happily if I had a slipped disc for more than a year.
Sigh, decisions, decisions.
11 May 2005
As I walked back from a very tiring game of badminton, I saw an acquaintance who attended the whole event. I asked him what the auction was all about.
Apparently, if you donate RM10 (or higher depending on the person), you will get to ask a member of the college Administration to perform on stage. He or she could be asked to sing, dance, bla bla bla.... Very boring stuff, you know.
My acquaintance said that this was totally different from the Slave Auction held in another private college. Students will bid for other female students to become their 'slave' for an hour. Generally, it's like being a maid to you, but of course, sexual favours and fantasies are out of the question. But that still sounds more fun than what we had here.
At any rate, it was all for a good cause. It is to raise funds for a young cancer patient.
I donated a few ringgit.
I'm going to take a short nap, & then go on down 2 the 'Slave Auction' to see what it is all about before joining my friend for a game of proper badminton.
So how does looking old work to my advantage? In my experience in public speaking, looking older has increased my credibility. This is important as no one wants to listen to a speaker who doesn't mean what he says. Even more so when I speak to people who are older than me. A matured-looking person can easily command more authority than a boyish looking one.
In my upcoming camp, I'll be giving a talk on Buddhist leadership. I have not much idea on the content, and I'll also be speaking to an audience whose average age is higher than mine. This is where my image plays such an important role.
Obviously, I hope this trend reverses in the future, so that I'll look like 30 when I'm 50.
In my experience, it takes no more than 5 minutes of chatting with them until they look at me, straight into the eyes, and ask, "You got girlfriend already-ar?"
Since I don't, I employ various Tai Chi evasion techniques, one of which is to discuss the psychology of girls. Being nosy seems to be an inherent part of their genes, I tell them, and hopefully it shuts them up.
However, I usually have to repeat myself as they will go into their next interrogation question, "So, you have any crushes before?"
I'll say, "No."
"What about in your hometown?"
"That means you have a crush in your hometown la, since you don't have one in college."
Which brings me to another superpower that girls have - the ability to link unrelated propositions and come up with new conclusions. Anyone who studied math logic and set theory would definitely go crazy trying to explain a female mind's reasoning.
Of course, I think that whoever majored in math logic and set theory is already crazy.
Well, not anymore.
Left, right, up, and down, people I know are getting cancer.
3 months ago, my coursemate was diagnosed with lymphoma.
Last week, I received a petition to raise funds for a college graduate who is dying from brain cancer.
Before that, I heard that some guy I didn't know of back in Penang died of cancer. He was my age.
Today, I received news from my father that a temple devotee is undergoing surgery to remove her breast cancer.
Some of these people are kind, generous, loving. Others maybe not so. But that doesn't remove their right to live.
What is my theory to the increasing occurence?
Stress. Anger. Greed. Dissastisfaction.
Sure, they have existed through the ages. But in today's world, those factors are multiplied.
Seriously, having so much of these emotions is just NOT healthy.
Cancer is basically mutated cells that attack other healthy cells.
With such hatred running through our veins, can you blame our body to rebel?
I don't think so.
May you be well and happy.
On notice boards all over the college, there is a poster announcing a "Slave Auction" tomorrow night. On the poster is a photo of Ms. Britney Spears in her pre-pregnancy days, with her eyes blacked out. Surprisingly, it is organized by the Career & Counselling Centre.
How does the idea of a Slave Auction contribute to the positive messages espoused by a Counselling centre? That, I don't know. But I will go tomorrow night just to see what it is all about. I'm not getting my hopes high though. Expecting actual slaves to be auctioned tomorrow night is just impossible.
Have to go now, I've got another meeting with the Games subsection. I'm really thankful that my committee is really holding well together!
10 May 2005
Another inconsiderate fool, this time mainly Chinese students, is the one who turns the volume dial all the way up when playing shoot-'em-ups. In certain group games such as Counter Strike, they'll also be shouting commands, jeers, and laughters to their friends in nearby rooms. Thankfully, this group resides at the opposite end from me.
My reportaire of tools is almost complete. Any other blogging tools to recommend?
The Race usually happens in group projects and assignments, where we must race against each other to:
1. Get a group together
2. Outwit, Outsmart, and Outplay (if necessary) all other groups to come up with the best report
3. Book our presentation slots
I find that the first task, getting a group together, is the trickiest part. It's too bad that Political Correctness experts do not specialize into this area, as they will surely make a lot of money from advising students how to go about rejecting people and asking others to join their groups. It's a dangerous minefield that might blow up if not navigated correctly.
As for myself, I navigate it by joining different groups every semester. I maintain the dynamics of always being in a fresh group, while avoiding the notion that I "belong" to any particular set of people. I find this strategy very effective.
However, this semester has seen a massive reduction in the number of projects, probably due to lecturers' vocal complaints (and also students' silent ones). In exchange, more emphasis is placed on Lab Tutorials. While this should have been a good move, lecturers are beginning to treat the assignments as projects. Therefore, we get almost the same workload, with only half the marks at stake.
We were overjoyed when we realized that we don't have projects. Right now, I'm beginning to dread what is going to come over the next few weeks.
When I went to wash my cup this morning, I saw that an inconsiderate
fool had emptied a whole cup of noodles into the sink, without
bothering to clean it up! Some people are just so fucked up! I hope he
is blessed with a good and patient housemaid in the future.
I don't mean that, of course.
P.S. For those who have jumped to the conclusion that I'm a heartless
freak who do not mean what I say, relax... you're just half-right.
Frankly, I couldn't care less about the noodles, but for the sake of
entertaining my readers, I add in large doses of exaggerations.
09 May 2005
Nowadays, teenagers are no longer interested in clubs and societies.
I've seen that decline starting from my juniors. Before that, students
were genuinely "into it". Joining a club was a privilage, a statement
of how involved a person is in the community.
Unfortunately, those days are long gone.
As I've expected, my Buddhist Society president told me that club
memberships are going down. Major societies such as Leo Club are
desperate for fresh blood, and are racing against each other to find
potential "up-and-comers". Why? Why is this happening? For religious
bodies like us and the Christian Fellowship, the problem is even
I've done an article on this before. But as I reflect
back, I think I've narrowed down the problem - the yearning for
In the age of the Internet where everything is a Google search away,
people are conditioned to expect everything to be had instantly. Need
a pizza? Call Pizza Hut. Need money? Call Dad. Need porn? Go online.
Thus, anything that doesn't reap instant fruits is considered useless.
And it so happens that joining societies belong under "Long Term
Commitments". To make matters worse for them, all the benefits they'll
get are intangible.
"I get to learn leadership skills, you say? Bah! I'll just buy a book by Ken Blanchard."
Therein, I feel, lies our problem. Even our sales pitches are starting
to gear towards promoting what members can get NOW, not so much on the
activities that we'll carry out.
All this is very sad, especially considering that the Law of Karma
does not always go into effect this very life. People who do not
appreciate it say, "I see bad people get good, and good people get
bad, so why care about conscience?" As long as this trend continues,
people will make decisions based only on short-term effects.
A very worrying trend indeed.
Somehow, being Buddhists made us demure, unable to evangelize at length. And this is crippling us beyond our imagination.
This semester we aim 2b different. For the next few weeks our schedule is packed back to back with events - starting with Buddhist Book Exhibition next week, followed by Wesak Day celebrations, our Gathering Night, then my Youth Camp, Concert performance, & finally the Charity Community Service 2.
Due to the rain, those 'rain insects' have swarmed the area, including
my room. They are harmless, I know, but the gentle landing of these
insects on any part of my skin could cause me to react violently,
thereby killing a harmless insect.
That is the least of my problems though.
As I sit here writing this, a small lizard is living under my bed,
coming out every 5 minutes to catch one of those insects for its
dinner. This seriously worries me.
No, not the killing.
I'm afraid that if the lizard finds his mating half, I'll have to ask
the lizard to start paying for his share of the space his brood is
taking up. If not, I'll have to go to court and get an eviction order stating that "Mr. and Mrs. Lizard, along with their 19 offsprings, will
have to move out of their present home to one considered more
Any lawyers to recommend?
08 May 2005
We went out to McDonald's for dinner. I had my usual, the Double
Cheeseburger value meal with an Apple Pie for dessert, but no ice
cream sundae tonight.
That was my first visit to McD in more than 4 months, a great
accomplishment for someone who absolutely adores their vanilla ice
cream. Total money spent: RM9.45. If I were to eat in my college's
dining hall, that amount could buy me 3 meals.
Guess it's another 4 months till my next fast food meal.
This is supported by the fact that on the paper they put to cover
their trays, a BMI index tells me that I'm overweight.
Yeah, like, that is SO untrue!
Damn demoralising statistics.
I thought I had long left behind the days when I would lose file data
due to power outages of hard disk crashes. Unfortunately, it happened
today after a very long absence.
Despite claims to the contrary, I love micromanaging people, and I
have been typing a very detailed breakdown of work to be done by the
committee of my camp. However, when I opened the file this afternoon
to continue work on it, I noticed that 1/3 of what I have written is
I panicked. I spent one whole morning doing that part!
After thinking hard about what happened, I realized that I lost my
file when I synced my Palm. I made an edit on the Palm version and one
on the PC version. So when I synced it, the Palm version overwrote the
Desperate attempts to recover the file through a wonderful software
called Norton GoBack failed, which severely reduced its wonderful-ness
Aargh!!! I should be doing further planning for my camp, but I got
hooked on a friend's blog, and I can't stop reading! With more than 2
months of posts to go through, all my available minutes are slipping
away without mercy.
It rained last night and drizzled a little today. Weather is perfect
for wasting time.
David just started watching The Pacifier on his laptop. Should I join?
In the hostel, most of us get out drinking water from the water
fountain, which dispenses cold and hot water.
I decided to have some green tea this morning, so I put in the teabag
in my cup and went to fill some water. Looking at the water filling up
my cup, I noticed that the tap is in blue, not red.
I hope that doesn't affect the taste of my tea much.
Since we are on the topic of tea preparation techniques, I have
something to share. When I went to Yunnan (China) a few weeks back, we
were taken to the Agricultural University to visit the Tea Science
department (I'm not joking). Their main purpose was to sell us some of
the high-grade Pu Erh tea, but they also threw in some tips about tea
The lecturer attending to my tour group said that tea leaves should
only be soaked for a maximum of 1 minute, and it must be removed from
the drinking pot. When it is time for a refill then we can put the tea
bag/leaves in. I followed his tip today and my tea does taste better
and not too strong.
That also means the tea served in Dim Sum houses is a big no-no.
After helping the Buddhist Society decorate its board for the coming
Club Exhibition, I went for a swim. After 1.5 hours in the water, I
went back and was told by David that another 2 friends are coming
together for badminton later. After some initial hesitation, I decided
to join in - and we played badly for another hour on the small road.
I am so tired right now. I have not exercised so much since the days
of running 1500 meters for my Pendidikan Jasmani (P.E.) test. I just
gulped down a bottle of Brands Essence of Chicken, in hopes that I
would be able to recover my energy faster.
To top it all off, I'm going out at 11pm to the mamak stall.
07 May 2005
Then again, there are those over-hyped hawkers, places where the food is mediocre but was somehow elevated to god-like status by god-knows-who! Oh, and believe me, they do wield their heavenly powers to its full extent. One char koay teow stall I know in Penang forces you to collect your own order and charge you triple the price for half the usual amount of food. I don't condone diva-like behaviour, so I have not eaten there.
In Nilai, there is a wan tan mee stall that only opens at 2am and closes before sun breaks. I do not know what is so special about it or why the owner feels such an affinity for the graveyard shift, so that's why I did not bother to join my friends this (early) morning as they set out to try it for the first time. David is still sleeping soundly, so I'll ask him when he wakes up.
OK, so I outsource all my laundry.
It didn't used to be that way. In my first semester, I religiously
washed all my clothes except sheets. You know, to get into the
"I'm-independent" mode. Halfway through the semester I found a decent
dobi, so I started sending small packets of clothes there to reduce my
load. My weekly laundry then was around RM3-4.
In my second semester, I managed to maintain that trend. I'll keep
some dirty clothes to wash myself and send the rest (especially long
pants) to the dobi. I still pay around RM4, but it occasionally
touched RM5 during hectic weeks.
In my third semester, I started sending even more clothes to the
laundry. It was unavoidable - it was the busiest time of my life and I
barely had time for myself. Launndry fees were definitely in the RM5-7
range by now.
And today, in my fourth semester, I sent all my laundry and was given
a bill for RM15. Hmmm. Of course, it is more expensive as I sent my
bedsheet and blanket along, but it is still amazing how I managed to
create a personal record. The boss had to load my stuff into a basket
so I can fit everything on the weighing machine.
Sigh, with rising petrol prices, I'll have to start washing again.
In other news, I managed to get the dobi boss to sponsor RM50 in
vouchers for the camp. Another committee got the college stationery
shop to sponsor, well, stationery.
Things are definitely looking up after today's constructive committee
meeting as well.
06 May 2005
When I went out this morning, I forgot to bring out my room key. I realized that I was locked out of my room as I was approaching the door. I fished around my pockets but couldn't find it! That 'Eureka!' moment wasn't a particularly shining example of me.
It just so happens that David (roommate) has gone out with my other friends to KL, thus leaving me out cold. They won't be back till evening and I would have to spend my time wandering around the college like a zombie. Normally, I could have requested the Accommodation Office to give me the spare keys, but I have not given them my spare for the padlock, so I'm really out of luck and out of my room.
As I walked grudgingly towards the library where I planned to stay for the afternoon, the heat caused me to sweat so uncomfortably that I made a pit stop along the way at the enrollment hall. I sat down at one of the tables to cool off. Luckily, I borrowed a few books from the library earlier, so I proceeded to read a little of it. However, the Lunch Effect started to set in, and I began to lose concentration. At about 2.30 I stopped reading and continued my journey to the library.
That's when I remembered that I have 2 classes for the afternoon, starting at 2. I didn't think the lecturer would be there as this is the first week, but I had to be sure so I just walked by the classroom. Lo and behold, the class is on! I quickly entered and greeted him. I don't suppose I gave a very good impression, coming into class 40 minutes late.
The lecturer did not start teaching, but just talked some slow and lengthy material about computers, thus increasing the Lunch Effect by two-fold. I was glad when he finally released us at 3pm.
I finally went to the library and looked through some books. I then went down to the first floor of the library and used the computer to type this and send some emails. I have another class right now at 4, so I'll go check if the lecturer comes. If not, I'll spend the extra time napping in the library (which is what 40% of students do anyway).
Some people actually feel that living in the hostel is a burden and
they prefer to stay outside in a rented house or apartment. The main
proponent seems to be my roommate, David. He has suggested numerous
times that we move out from the hostel. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem
to realize the disadvantages of doing so. I don't feel that he is
ready for it, and frankly speaking, neither am I.
One main factor is the unavailability of the cleaning staff. Every
morning, the contracted cleaning company will send workers to each
block. The tasks they have to do include taking out the garbage,
cleaning the toilets, and sweeping the corridor, among others. It is
indeed tiring and boring work to be doing everyday, but most of these
foreign workers (Vietnamese? Cambodians? I'm not sure) go about their
work without uttering a word to us. They mostly stay out of the way,
and I do feel a little sorry for them sometimes, as they must feel
very lonely here. I sometimes see the local cleaners chat with them in
English over lunch. Lunch is usually own-cooked rice packed in
Tupperware, eaten while watching the hostel television. I suppose they
can't afford to eat in the cafeterias.
Anyway, back to the topic. David and I generally find it a real chore
to even sweep and mop our little room every weekend, and sometimes we
skip it altogether. Imagine that if we move out, who's gonna clean the
bathrooms, floors, porch, etc etc? Another rich friend of mine, Alex,
suggested (in true-diva style) that we just hire a weekly cleaning
lady. Yeah, right.
I'm just so excited right now!
I managed to secure a RM1000 sponsorship for my youth
camp, RM300 more than required! Before this, I had to
trim A LOT of corners in my budget, but right now I
can afford to splurge a little bit!
That generous sponsorship came from Mr. Indiran, the
owner of Eastern Tea Corner (also known as "AK" among
students). It is the largest mamak corner in Nilai,
and definitely the most successful. After all, they
charge very steep prices for their food and drinks.
However, a lot of their earnings are channeled back to
club events such as ours. It is therefore no surprise
that most of our college activities are sponsored by
What IS a surprise though, is how Mr. Indiran is
spiritual himself. As he puffed on his cigarette, he
impressed me with his knowledge on Hinduism and
meditation. He talked on how values were declining
among youth and how he supports religious groups. That
could be a major reason why we managed to secure such
a large sum of money.
A major weight has been taken off me, and the only
things I have to worry about are internal problems and
getting the participants themselves.
05 May 2005
As the Assistant Secretary of Buddhist Society, I had to photostat
copies of the last meeting minutes for distribution. I walked across
the street to the Services Building, where there is a small printing
shop. As I stood there observing the machine, I'm amazed at how much
manual work has been taken over by automation. Gone were the days when
workers had to photostat multiple copies of a page, then replace it
with the following page, and then having to manually sort it out after
it is done.
Now, all workers have to do is to place the whole stack of the
original on top and key in the number of copies needed. The machine
will sort out the pages in order, and put each copy into its own slot.
When finished, it will push out the upper left corner of the copies to
allow easy retrieval and stapling.
I know it's not new technology, but when we stop and observe how much
machines have done for us, it's surprising that there isn't a Machine
Day. Or is there?
I take back my last comment. No matter how many yoga stretches I get
into, I'll still have a painful back when I wake up. The mattress that
was supplied to us is very weak, so the foam sinks after a short
while, leaving the metal spring frame barenaked. In return, the spring
bites into my back at night, creating an unhealthy posture. I'm no
"Pea and the Princess", but a decent bed with decent support is all
I'm asking for. I use a non-spring bed at home (Penang) which is
filled with compacted coconut fiber. It never sinks and gives me the
best sleep after all these years. I wish I could have it here.
It's not like I haven't complained before. Technically, we are allowed
to change mattresses if they are faulty. I did apply last semester,
and when I checked back 4 weeks later, they lost my request form
although officers have come to check me bed. They promptly put me in
the queue again and said I'm on their list.
The bed never came.
I don't really feel bad. After all, they'll just exchange my bed with
another one that's just gonna sink after 3 weeks. Anyone have any
ideas on how to firm up old beds? Or at least keep the spring frame
from poking me?
Most of the people I mentioned above converse in Mandarin. In contrast, I talk 2 every1 else in English. Yes, I'm a banana. That's what ppl call a Chinese who cannot speak Mandarin. But compared to when I first came to Nilai a year ago, my comprehension of Mandarin has improved leaps & bounds!
I'm really neglecting the 8 people with me now, so I should just finish this & feign interest.
My friends and I had dinner outside at this Chinese food outlet. The
cooking is good and price is a little bit above average, but the
capable cook makes it all worthwhile. I had Marmite chicken and rice.
Now, I'm not a big fan of Marmite. I guess I'm one from the "hate it"
camp. I avoided it when I was little, probably because black sticky
goo doesn't really appeal to kids, ya know?
But when I was accidentally introduced to this dish, I fell in love
with the sweet and salty taste, and now I'm hooked! How does one get
"accidentally introduced" to Marmite, you ask? Well, apparently they
pronounce Marmite as "Mummy" there. I'm not sure whether that's
correct, as I pronounce it as "Ma-mite".
Well, after dinner, the 8 of us drove back and went to the college
deli. We weren't there to eat though, but to play at the pool tables
at the back. At RM3 per game, it is a little steep but we managed to
go through 6 rounds anyway. I teamed up with my roommate, and together
we won 2 games.
I really don't know the difference between pool and snooker, so we all
usually play by the standard rules of following the colour or stripes.
My aiming ain't particularly good either, but I think I did pretty
Before you jump to conclusions regarding how I spend my time, I'm not
one to simply waste my time. It's just that, in the first week of
college, nothing is taught, and the mood is just not there yet. As
much as I want to be productive, I can't cause there's nothing to be
productive on! The only exception is my Buddhist Youth Camp that I'm
planning for. Our accounts are usually in the red, and I have to find
sponsorships or the word "Failure" will be branded across my forehead.
Planning-wise, I have so much to do still.
Sigh, all this intangible pressure!
04 May 2005
It is indeed scorching here, and in many places around Malaysia. I
don't remember a period that was as hot as this for any prolonged
period of time. Coupled with the fact that I do not have
air-conditioning in my room, I have to cool myself by taking showers.
If I'm unlucky, the water will be warm as well.
I went to class, and was happy to see that my ex-classmates from
Computer Science will be studying with us. It has been almost a year
since we studied together, and we do make a dynamic and funny bunch.
Speaking of funny, our lecturer for that course, Ms. K, has taught us
before. She is a nice lady from India, but because of that, her accent
differs pretty wildly from ours. She never fails to make me chuckly
every other sentence as she pronounces simple words in awkward ways.
For example, "lab" sounds like larp" and "syllabus" sounds like
"c-lah-burst'. I guess you just have to hear it for yourself to be
able to laugh!
Gosh, I'm tired, but I'll fit some time to play a little King of
Fighters on my emulator. Sure, it's illegal! So?