The Truth

The truth is, I’m horrible at keeping in touch. There’s an undeniable pattern. I pack up and leave some place so dear to me and people so precious to me, with sweet promises of keeping in touch. But what portion of my promises do I keep? How many people have I written so far? How many postcards have I signed, sealed and dropped into the mailbox?

It’s a disease, this inability I have to keep people afar in check. I am so consumed with my present, with the life that unfolds around me, and I truly hate myself for that. You might think I’m out and about, doing things I want, living the life, but honestly, sometimes I find myself more alone than ever as I walk alone in shopping malls or eat at some stall by the roadside. And the looks I get, those pitiful looks on the expressions of the people I get for being alone. That alone could be a story for me to craft to some of the precious friends I’ve got. But I don’t. I don’t understand myself.

I guess I’m writing again, in this blog, after such a long hiatus, to hopefully explain myself to some people who have been really good at checking up on me from time to time. Owning a smartphone has only, rather paradoxically, made me spend less time offline. The times I do go on Facebook, is the time when I look you up. Yes, you, the friends I’m writing to. This is honest to goodness, the first time I’ve used my Macbook in three months. Somehow working life has repelled me from utilizing anything technological outside of work (aside from the wonderful machines like the fridge, microwave, my phone i.e. source of music for the tired heart).

So I beg that you understand I have parcelled every memory of you and you into some very special compartments of my heart. But there is a weakness in me to just be content with these stories and pictures because I know, every step along the way, our lives take us to so many new adventures that they will remain just that, memories. Our paths become so divergent and we, ourselves, change independently of one another. Even if this is not a valid reason and the truth may be that I am just the crummiest person in the whole world, please know that you are remembered and sorely missed. And that, is a truth.

“The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do” – Andy Warhol

This is for you, Samina, Ainul, Imi, Jamal, Helen, Kudzi, Nancy, Last, Judith, Claire, Bongi, Fatou, Adam, Kat, Hanaa etc.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I Can Haz Furry Frenz?

I call this a case of madness, or “buang tebiat”, but I really, really, really want one of these animal beanies. They’re a little pricey for my tight budget right now, but anyone interested in sharing a super duper advanced birthday present for me, here’s a crystal clear hint! :)
5 long months before my birthday, sure, but winter does last 5 months, at least here in the Midwest! Please pretty please? A very early thank you card to follow, too!

Owl Grey (Earl Gray, geddit? Hehe)

Black Owl

Little Moose

Posted in birthday, shoppingitis | 4 Comments

Asam Garam Belacan dan Paku

“Paku itu tajam / tapi itu belacan sedap dimakan/ Asal negara orang putih / Mereka kacang lupakan kulit / tanah air mereka sendiri” (Belacan dan Paku theme song).

Harap maklum, I memang lambat sikit dengan perkembangan di world wide web mahupun anything to do with pop culture. Kebiasaannya, viral videos, YouTube channels, blogs, websites, indie bands or artist yang tengah top macam pisang goreng tepi jalan semuanya I dapat tahu from friends. Dulu, masa MBB (famous for their literal translation of foreign-language clips) was sizzling on Youtube, I only found out months later. Kesian, kan?

So it is with my newfound love for Belacan dan Paku (and I have Kat to thank for that). Lepas dah ada 20 000+ fans on Facebook baru I nak terhegeh-hegeh, memang. The first video I saw of them was Tarian Mat Salleh (a spin off of The Beatle’s Twist and Shout). Of course, bila dah kenal dan tercinta, I will stalk yang berkenaan dengan sungguh dilligently.

Belacan dan Paku adalah dua mat salleh dalam lingkungan 20-an yang sedang tekun belajar bahasa Melayu dan budaya Malaysia. Mereka rajin menerbitkan YouTube videos dalam usaha berkenalan dan berinteraksi dengan orang Malaysia. Paku berasal dari Salt Lake City, Utah manakala Belacan dari Phoenix, Arizona. They spent over a year in East Malaysia (Sabah/Sarawak) (here I surmise they were part of a missionary) and basically learned bahasa Melayu through conversing with locals on the streets.

Yang tertarik lagi menarik adalah satu comment I terbaca on either Belacan dan Paku’s facebook or Ben Bradshaw about orang KL semua mahu “speaking” sahaja bila jumpa mereka sebab they immediately assume diorang orang putih maka silalah aku (KLite) tunjuk power and cakap English. Ramai juga yang comment memuji Belacan dan Paku’s effort sambil menyentuh isu mengenai orang Malaysia yang lupa diri dan mengagungkan bahasa dan culture bangsa lain (pendek kata, budaya Barat).

I tak terasa. Tapi I terasa terganggu sebab orang Malaysia cepat assume dan kadang-kala sangat petty-minded. For example: Circa 2006, I was on a bus bersama ex-boyfriend S pergi Sunway Pyramid daripada KTM Subang. Kami bertutur dalam Manglish, suara I juga mungkin sedikit high-pitch (okay, sorry other bus riders). Namun begitu, kedengaran penumpang lain mengejek pertuturan kami. Kononnya kami “eksyen”.

Hm, I personally tak rasa yang kita tunjuk power bila cakap English. Depending on the time, place and context, kita pandai-pandailah adapt. In this blog, I choose to mostly write in English sebab I lagi comfortable menulis dalam bahasa Inggeris. Tak pernah sekali pun I merendah-rendahkan my mother tongue sebab to me, it will always be what it is: my mother tongue.

Most Malaysians are okay with the dynamic duo because they’re embracing OUR culture and language. Does that mean Americans are disgusted with them for doing so? Do you think the American working class take 10mins of their day to watch Belacan dan Paku’s YouTube channel and spitefully think “Eh, mat salleh dua ekor ni kacang lupakan kulit betul”. Sounds lucu, bukan? It’s in their theme song, but we know they can’t possibly betul-betul lupakan America dan their American habits, bukan? Satira lah. Take it with a grain of salt.

Harap-harap, orang yang comment sebegitu kepada Belacan dan Paku faham bahawa keadaan hidup yang berbeza telah mould people into different things. Setengah orang cakap Manglish di rumah, setengah orang prefer bahasa Melayu, setengah orang cakap Cantonese or Hokkien di rumah, setengah orang dilahirkan dan dibesarkan di Amerika, mungkin sebab itu they have an American accent (not me because people can tell my accent a mile away, LOL), bukannya mereka mengada-ngada.

I admit I’m in love with Paku because he’s a Ben Affleck look-alike; only better because he can talk like a Malay man and freakishly act like one (yes, gaya dia sejibik macam gangsta kampung). But I assure you, it’s NOT because he’s a mat salleh and his skin is white but he speaks just like my brother. It’s because of his passion and interest in learning the language, and all the time and energy they must have devoted in creating those videos. And to think they’re also bridging the global community with such a project too. Besides, I think color is sexy, remember? ;)

All op-ed aside, do check out their videos, especially this. Their theme song memang terbaik.

Posted in cuba try test tengok, manglish | 1 Comment

3 Weeks, 21 Days

Reblogged from safmohsin who reblogged from takethistoheart.

If I only I had seen this before things became unreal. Being alone is painfully real, alright.

Posted in in quotes, snippets | 4 Comments

“Hilang Stim Sikit Lah”

Last week, a heart was lost. My heart. When probed why, I told my brother “Hilang stim sikit lah last week”. And that’s exactly it. I lost some steam.

For 10 days I disappeared off the cyberworld and maintained minimal Twitter presence. It’s become a habit of mine to just wander off into oblivion when I’m feeling blue and hope the world wouldn’t notice. Or maybe I secretly wanted people to notice.

Now, what the fuck was my problem, anyways? I really can’t say. It was like a cyclone gathering speed, you know, just waiting to happen. But if I had to sum it all, I’d say this: self-esteem, down down down.

The matter of fact is, people who did matter noticed. And that’s kept me going. Your simple tweet, quick but concerned phone call, skype date or blog update about my MIA-ness has in fact been the negative feedback in my loop of self-esteem depreciation. Thanks, precious people!

I’m a fourth year at The UofC, and for four years I’ve been surrounded by excessively intelligent and eloquent people who achieve milestones by milestones, reaping awards and success like nobody’s business. I really felt like that jaguh kampung who taught she was awe-bulous because she won a scholarship to the US. Here, I get by with a 46/100, as long as I’m slightly above or below the mean, and a B is an A-okay. Sekarang baru aku tahu langit tinggi rendah. Now, tell me, how far down the road I’ve come along?

But of course, I know and understand those As back in Malaysia were meaningless (I mean, yes, they took me where I am now). But what I mean is that I believe that “academics shouldn’t get in the way of my education”. Yeah, and that’s sort of my problem. I feel that I haven’t done much the past 4 years here besides some minor engagements with tutoring, MSA, MASA, cultural shows and other jaguh kampung stuff. So I took it to heart that I was going to achieve something this year.

Then I applied, and got rejected. And applied again for a different thing, and got rejected. I’m not just dejected by the rejection, but just overall pissed that I discovered this vicious conundrum: you can’t get a start somewhere unless you’re given a start before that. So basically, one who’s not had the chance to start, can’t ever START, contradicting what the American Dream purports.

Also, I took my rejection from the Microfinance Initiative very, very personally. The group is led by second years in the College who think they’re awesome because they were the founders and pioneer batch and have met Muhammad Yunus. Awesome my ass. I arrived for my interview for the position of Research Associate, dressed in business casual as I was instructed, only to find my incompetent interviewer in jeans and boots. And how is that professional on their part again?

Ah, and why was she incompetent? So I was talking about how I’m concerned with the reality of Grameen Bank on the ground, about how some developmental economics studies and human rights studies have shown how microfinance could negatively affect power dynamics in the homes of the loan recipients and suggested reevaluating Grameen Bank’s evolution from its inception and now.

Offended and taking my critical perspective personally, Incompetent Interviewer X indignantly offered “Well, you know that we met Muhammad Yunus last year, right? He was so inspiring” while giving me that one-eyebrow-raised look I just feel like slapping now that I’m recalling all this. Then, she went on being all-defensive and let the bomb drop, “Besides, it’s a newly founded initiative . .” to which I quickly disagreed because I knew for a fact that Grameen Bank is NOT new, come on, it was founded circa 1975. At least, wiki your facts lah if you want to interview people about Microfinance. Shame on you Incompetent Interviewer X.

So we obviously didn’t hit it off and in a way I’m glad I was rejected because I would have bitched about the leadership all year long anyways. Anyhow, shame on UCMI for being such an elitist group. I would have opened my doors to anyone genuinely enthusiastic in contributing to my organization.

Taking a step back, this post is pretty much me venting my anger. All estrogen and hot air. But listen, in that same week I was feeling really down, I dreamt again and again that I was peeing (yes, literally peeing) on myself. Dream Moods Dictionary says that

To dream that you are urinating symbolizes a cleansing and a release of negative or repressed emotions. Depending on your dream context, urination is symbolic of having or lacking basic control of your life. You are literally “pissed off” and not expressing yourself in a positive and constructive manner. . . Alternatively, your dream symbolizes your lacking sense of self worth.

So I need this one blog post to rant and rant and rant because who wants to relentlessly dream that she’s pissing on herself, right? I mean, it’s just so euw. And yeah, I’ve been told I beat myself up too much. I wish I could physically do it. Strike a jab on my jaw, give my flat nose a whopping blow, gain a black eye or two.

But I guess I have too much self-love to hurt myself. Hehe, so you don’t have to pick up the phone to call a Suicide hotline on my behalf or something. Never going down that road, InsyaAllah, I sayang badan oi. But seriously, the sun is lurking in the horizon somewhere, I promise.

Posted in personal, uchicago | 23 Comments

Muting for the Deaf and Hurt (me)

It’s not to be expected that after 3 years of liberal arts education, I can sit in class and not have to utter a single word. The sweeter victory of this lies in the fact that there is no “the kid” for he/she is indefinitely silenced. The kid is defined within UChicago purview as one who finds 321 things to comment/critic/analyze, every single class. I emphasize every single.

And I reiterate, “the kid” is no more. Because the teacher is deaf, and hell yeah it’s American Sign Language I’m talking about. Yes, I mean deaf, I wasn’t trying to be cruel. If you’re giving me that “why on earth” look, I don’t care for that face, and I sure don’t care to explain.

But for the sake of entertaining a dialogue, yes I do want to be different, no I don’t need a language credit because I waived my language requirements with Malay language, and yes, I am genuinely interested in ASL not just because it’s an easy A. I didn’t even know it was an easy A class until I observed the perplexing high ratio of football players to class size, but hey, my transcript desperately needs an A, no?

We’re onto Week 3 and I’ve come to enjoy a growing ASL vocabulary albeit at a crawling pace. I can sign “Hello, my name is NJ. What is your name?”, “nice to meet you”, “Sorry, I’m late” and finger spell three-letter names (we’re crazy for Eve, Joe, May, Bob, you get the idea), at least for now.

Finger spelling chart from

Technical progress aside, learning the deaf culture is every bit as gratifying. The “politically correct” (in spite of the reservations I have for the term) term is “deaf” or “hard of hearing” rather than “hearing impaired”. I used to think otherwise, but the accepted convention now makes sense because the latter seems to suggest that hearing is normal, being deaf is not.

The world doesn’t end for someone who is deaf. But the world may, unfortunately, seem a limited place of chances or choices for the deaf if we perpetuate the stigma that being deaf is a disability of irremediable magnitude . There was a time when deaf people were forbidden to marry (for fear of “propagating deafness”, which turned out to be an erroneous justification in both history and scientific reasoning because only 10% of deaf children are from deaf parentage); coerced to lip read and make sounds rather than signing what comes naturally to them (in the effort to “normalize them).

That world was a horrible place. Okay, well, this world still is.

But there’s still hope, especially when there were ASL interpreters rocking away at the Chicago Lollapalooza 2010 concert festival. In some ways, we have listened. But that’s not enough. It’s time for less talk, more listening, less prejudice, more understanding. On a whimsical note, a no-talking policy in class means less number of “the kids” eclipsing over you in class, and it’s a no-brainer that yours truly is a fan! On an ironic note, I better shut up now, shouldn’t I?

Posted in my two-cents, uchicago | Leave a comment

The OC

Obsession. Compulsion. It’s a disorder.

I’ve never strayed far from the comfort of books. It was books, then school supplies, then purses (the American moniker for handbags), then shoes. And now, I’m back onto books.

As a kid, say from the age of nine to fifteen, I was obsessed with building a collection of Sweet Valley books. It was buy, buy, buy, read, read, read for me. I was fortunate then, my dad made quite a bit and could afford to spoil me with as many as three books per weekend on our weekly outings to MPH at Section 14.

Eventually catching up with the most recent Sweet Valley Junior High and Senior Year books, I vigilantly kept watch for the latest books to be released into the Malaysian market. I was such a regular at that particular MPH that the kakak would even call to inform me of the newest arrival. I even back-ordered the older Sweet Valley Middle School series to complete my collection.

Call me kiasu, but I really was concerned with having the biggest, the best, the almost perfect assembly of Sweet Valley books. I say almost perfect because to this day, there is a painful lacuna in my Sweet Valley Middle School section of my mom’s mini-library under the stairs; particularly because The Boyfriend Mess, which was supposed to follow The Boyfriend Game, never did arrive in Malaysia. . . for reasons I could never fathom (deemed inappropriate in some way for young adults by the Malaysian Censorship Board, like the recent censure on Anime? I don’t know, the mystery never ends).

As I don’t wish to bore you with my childhood preoccupations and disappointments that to this day still occupy my thoughts, I shall move on.

Then in my tween/teen years, I moved on to an obsession over school supplies. It became an unspoken ritual that I would visit Popular or some form of stationery shop during my overnight weekends from the boarding school. My dad thought I was dealing (stationery, not drugs). Heck, I wish I was because it would have been one hell of a lucrative business. But no, you know how erasers and bendable rulers and that awesome Pilot pen and milky pens just mysteriously goes missing from your pencil case. Macam Chipsmore, sekejap ada, sekejap takde. My solution to that was: buy buy buy, fill my pencil case till I die.

In retrospect, I was a spoiled brat. No sugar-coating that.

Now, though, I pay for my own obsession and compulsion, literally and figuratively. I have accumulated about a year’s worth of reading (and this is a grossly generous estimate, say one reads one book a week, and does nothing but read, has no jobs, no attachments, no commitments, no paramours). This is not including the course books also sitting salaciously on my bookshelf, waiting to be picked up and caressed once more (ain’t happening with Marx, Weber, Sahlins *yawn*. Okay, maybe Freud; the man got me with his Oedipus Complexes and his psychoanalysis and shit).

This current obsession, if I may, is about reading and owning as many of the greatest literary works as I can. In this pursuit, I adopt a more discriminatory approach in that I halt all purchase of chick lit or below-par reading material (now now, I didn’t say I wouldn’t read any chick lit if it was right in front of me, in case I offended any chick-lit aficionados out there).

It is about building my own separate, quality (and mostly fictional) canon even though I know for a fact there are the same books probably lying somewhere in my mom’s, sister’s, or dad’s collection. As a result, I now have on my bookshelves an impossible number of used and new books, all waiting to be read. And that still didn’t stop me from ordering two books by Jhumpa Lahiri on Amazon just a few hours ago.

My “condition” wouldn’t fit the traditional OCD definition per say. But if it’s not an obsession and compulsion, I don’t know what is. God knows I need a decent-paying job to keep up with this kind of crazy. Buku macam boleh bawak mati je kan?

p/s: Do blame those simply divine books and the pleasant Chicago summer days for my prolonged absence. Salut!

Posted in bibliophile | 4 Comments

Full Empty

“There are these kids who have dreams
then there are these dreams that will grow
until they get so goddamned big that they explode
And what’s left in the smoke and the falling debris
are grownups like them and losers like me”.
– anon
Posted in in quotes, snippets | 4 Comments

University Library Seized By Clay Babies

CHICAGO,  May 18: The Joseph Regenstein Library bookstacks of The University of Chicago is seeing an increase in abnormal activities with the latest Clay Babies mystery. The Bookstacks Department headed by David Bortoff claims to have uncovered twelve clay babies planted amongst the library collection to date. Bortoff has reason to believe there are more Clay Babies “lying out there in the stacks, waiting to pounce and shock people with their crazy smiles and wide open baby stub of arms”.

These white, identical baby figurines are believed to have been made out of paper machete (in which case its name would be a misnomer) or more likely, clay. Search Services Assistant, Christopher Straughn found two clay babies while doing his rounds early yesterday morning. A frazzled Straughn expresses his concern for the potential hazard Clay Babies may bring since “some had been planted on top of the moving shelves on the B-level and fell on patrons. ” However, Straughn does not speculate the culprit has malicious intents, perhaps just a “morbid and horrible sense of humor”.

A Cage Management Assistant who refused to be named insists “it must be the work of some weirdo lady who has nothing better to do”, claiming condemnation by the feminist factions of the student body who is “sick of people almost always immediately pointing fingers to the likes of cat ladies, creepy lady stuck in 80s clothing and them ‘hos.”

A student employee reports that “[she] thought students getting it on in the stacks is pretty awkward, but these fugly babies are just plain sick.” “Totally creeeeepy!”, another lamented.

Fondly known as The Reg, this library bookstacks is already home to major nerdy conversations and self-introspection in the form of wall graffiti that defeats social conventions and norms. Inglorious remarks are made upon the self with reference to Dante’s Inferno, au contraire to common youth speak such as “FML” or “fuck this shit and that shit.” One dark corner on the second level clearly speaks for the University culture as cost curves, cost functions, production-cost frontiers and supply and demand graphs grace the walls.

During the school’s winter quarter, the library hosts the controversial, annual Athletics Team “Naked Streak”, opening all floors to an orgy of skin, giggles and to some, terror. Acts of coitus is also common in the bookstacks and this alludes to the perverse eroticism that must lie within the walls of this brutalist and otherwise boring architecture.

And now, perversity continues to reign as Clay Babies terrorize bookshelves, fall on patrons, disrupt peace and inculcate fear amongst library frequenters. Bookstacks personnel, clearly paralyzed by the emergence of Clay Babies are considering organizing a strike in the lobby if  “this crazy sensation does not stop.”

The library is home to 4.4 million  print volumes, making it one of the largest repositories of books in the world. It is open to the general public every day and visitors may request a free day pass at the ID and Privileges Office.

Posted in banter, uchicago | Leave a comment

Hm, Do You Concur?

Posted in tv | 2 Comments