Sunday, April 29, 2007

Gone Shopping

Didn't get much done by way of writing chapter 2 of my research paper before I ventured out into the sunshine this afternoon. Dressed in my t-shirt, denim skirt and thongs, feeling particularly unglamorous as I was lugging my 3 bags of marketing, I contemplated whether I should drop in at the sales office of this new apartment block that is being built in the heart of the city. Have been reviewing it online and have seen the location, but was a little wary about sauntering in, in my get-up. But as usual, that doubt blows over in a bit, self-confidence takes over. So in I go, lugging my bags of veggies, fruit and canned food.

The sales person was very friendly and knowledgeable. I was really tempted by one of the units on the 13th floor. It is a one-bedder with a small winter balcony of 3 sq m. The internal space is 54 sq m. A good amount of space for a one-bedder. Rental potential is good, if I decide to let it out instead of living in it, seeing as it would be completed in April 2008. Deducting strata levies, managing agent's commission and other foreseeable expenses, the rate of return is about 6%, what I would get for leaving my money in the bank and taking no risk and having no hassles. Of course with a property, there is always the opportunity for capital gains and at the end of the day, one has a piece of real estate as well. I do like the location, the size but without a show unit, it's kinda hard to visualise how the finished apartment would look like. Need to do some more thinking before I part with A$400,000!


Friday, April 27, 2007

Home Improvements

This is what I need - the "Anywhere Telescoping System", perfect for renters as they don't need drilling, won't leave marks and you can take them with you when you go. You can change the curtains with any fabric to suit your whim and fancy and colour scheme. They create a nice divider for the room and afford some privacy. The only problem is it's available in a country not so near me. And at US$99 a pop too. I think when the time comes, I'll just resort to the old-fashioned way of hanging a fabric divider, perhaps use some 3-M hooks. At the moment, I think I'll be in the shoebox for another 2 months.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Today, Yesterday And Tonight

Oh glorious sunshine, the first sunny day in ... oh I really don't remember how long. The last few days of non-stop rain had been dreary. But today, in the burst of beautiful sunshine, I've moved my laptop out on the balcony (now why didn't I try this earlier??) and am lapping up the sun's rays while I work (in between emailing, blogging and other distractions on the Net of course). Solar therapy is always good. Especially when the weather is predicted to be rainy the next few days (starting from this evening) again.
Yesterday was ANZAC Day. I celebrated with a day out to see my friend, F who lives some way out in the suburbs. Haven't seen her in 7 weeks, and last she saw me, I was in a terrible state. She confessed that she thought I looked 5 years older, stressed and generally down in spirits. And I look so much better now. I feel much better now too, I tell her. The weight loss from stress can be taken as a plus! We had a nice Persian meal as always, drank copious cups of tea, munching on the chocolate cupcakes I had made and then had the de rigeur "lie down" after lunch and chatted. Then for the highlight of my trip, F read the dregs of my coffee cup. She had done a reading the first time I met her a year ago and I thought it was probably time for a revisit. Interesting stuff, not very illuminating this time round though. F thinks that now she knows me, she's tainted by personal knowledge and cannot distinguish between what she sees in the cup and what she actually knows...

Tonight I finally got my TV, after almost 6 months of doing without. A flat screen 20 inch for the shoebox. The sounds are comforting in the background even if I'm not really paying attention to what's on. Hooray for the idiot box!

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Chocolate Cupcakes Spell H-A-P-P-Y

I do realise that it's been a while since I wrote on anything that wasn't (1) angsty; (2) bluesy; (3) encouraging in a self-help way. As such, tonight I am breaking the pattern with an entry on food. Which also has been conspicuously absent in a long time (I think).

The shoebox has wonderful chocolately smells wafting around. Perhaps I should shut the balcony door to try to confine the smells in a little longer. Baked chocolately smells, mmmm. I made chocolate cupcakes and tried out the silicone baking moulds I just bought. These have been in for the last year or so and I have been meaning to buy some to try. They apparently survived the trial, and have not melted. But as I had limited moulds, I overfilled the cups and now I have ginormous cupcakes which cup runneth over. Actually upon closer inspection, several of the the baby cupcakes are so overfilled they have merged together to form little continents. I should go and get another half dozen of these silicon moulds. And encourage the happy baker to make a quick and complete comeback.

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The One-Week Mark

Today I woke up congratulating myself on surviving the first week of eradicating toxicity from my life. I still feel strong about the decision, in fact I can feel myself getting physically stronger with each passing day. My friends give me encouragement via email, the phone, IM, face to face - all modes, I count myself lucky to have these friends. I encourage myself by having little talks with myself as I walk home, and come back and add on to my list of "I did the right thing because". Every little bit helps and then one day, you don't need the little gestures anymore. Because it no longer matters.

The rain which has been ongoing for the last 30 hours, looks like it's clearing as well. It seems to be a lot brighter as well now that the clouds have passed through.

After the storm, everything would be better.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Musings On A Sunday Night

Bolts of lightning lights up the sky, rain lashing down. I'm sitting in the shoebox, safe and warm, with the sounds of the rolling thunder reverberating around me. No tv tonight although that was within my original plan, Sunday nights always have good programs and I have been looking forward to succumbing to some tv distraction after the 5 months of being consciously without. Instead, that plan is to be slightly postponed. In the meantime, it's back to the internet. There is also an essay beckoning, but since it's not due for a couple of weeks, I guess I'm not antsy enough to get to it - maybe later.

Another Sunday night, this one so far better than the one last week. A week doesn't seem very long after all, as the days fade into one another. I lose track of when things happen, even as I count them in days or weeks. What I do know is there is another 6 weeks to the end of uni, end of this Masters course that I've come all the way here to do. If the original plan was stuck to, I would be soon packing up, everything I own here, and the life that is mine for the last 1.5 years into bags and boxes, and shipping them all back home. However, plans so carefully made, are seldom carried out. I am going to be here a little while more...


Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Clean Up

Last night I finally took the step to clear out the toxic webs from the closet of my life. Have been thinking about it for ages, discussed it to death with all my friends, consulted horoscope readings to see if/how/when this should be done. I guess the final decision happened when the weightedness just overwhelms everything else.

The clean up took ages in coming, but was done in 20 seconds. Over. Final.

I wait for the sense of liberation to hit me. It hasn't. Maybe it's the protective sense of numbness and steely hardness that envelopes me now, the cocoon I've built up for insurance. But from experience, the heart catches up with the head in a delayed reaction. Then hurt, pain and possibly relief and liberation thereafter. Not possibly, definitely.

Certainty is always better than uncertainty. Pieces in my life are starting to fall into place now. Seems I've tackled 3 things at one go instead of small, baby steps. Or rather they all seem to pick the same pace. The job offer has been prepared, the assignments are moving along and I got a good grade for the paper that I had the worst mental block in my entire student career, and the toxic clean up has been done. Oh and the icing on the cake? The sale of my apartment has been completed, I have (some extra) money!

I think this calls for a celebration.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Survival Rules

Simple Rules For Surviving The Next 2 Months

1. Take one day at a time.
2. Focus on one task at a time.
3. Remember that term ends 6 June.
4. You can move out of the shoebox after 6 June - and into a one-bedroom "penthouse" (by comparison).
5. You have a full-time job that pays decently after 6 June.
6. You can finally get a TV and watch "Grey's Anatomy", "Ugly Betty", "CSI" and "Cold Case".
7. You will have free time to do nothing (or everything) after 6 June.

Mantra: I am the most important person in my life, it's what I want that matters.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Blues

Maybe I'm slowly spiralling downwards into a quagmire of depression, maybe just slowly being sucked in such that I'm still in denial that I'm depressed? But I still don't buy the idea that I'm depressed. I still think it's the Friday night/Saturday night/Sunday night routine, when I'm sitting here suffering from cabin fever in the 20 square metre shoebox, with nobody online to chat with, and getting a mental block on my neverending papers that I am writing, that I start feeling sorry for myself, working myself up into a bout of loneliness blues. Like how I ended up tonight. Except that the instances keep becoming more frequent that it's beginning to worry me. Like now, when I am over it and collected enough to be objectively worried about my mental well-being rather than dwell and wallow in it.

All night long, I sent out SOS's by email since there wasn't anyone online. No responses. So I started calling using my Yahoo Voice Out, a sure sign of deeper desperation. The stupid facility went into denial, pretending that I wasn't subscribed. Excuse me, I still have $3.57 left in credit, dammit. So third option, I send an SOS by sms. 3 minutes tick by, in the world of instant gratification where we are surrounded by electronic devices which make communication so accessible, 3 minutes of non-response is NOT acceptable when it's an sms. Especially one which concerns life and ... a sucky, lonely life.

I start feeling really blue by then. Then all of a sudden my phone rings, my SOS is answered - delayed because the caller was driving home and now calling to check what has caused a complete turnaround from chirpy me yesterday to down-in-the-doldrums me tonight. I think I wanna go home, I choke out my feelings. I might be less lonely there. But the caller feeds me the exact same line I said to myself 7 minutes earlier, one could still feel equally lonely when surrounded by people. A beep shows up on my laptop screen - a friend from home has received my email SOS and is online to chat. I let the caller go to dinner after another 5 minutes, and move on to the online friend. The more I let out, the better I started to feel. By the end of the chat some 40 minutes or so later, I feel more connected to the world and recovered to face another day.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Fine Autumn's Day

Limited sunshine hours cannot be wasted. That is the Autumn mantra personally for me, especially on weekends. So I started out at 10 am, on my way to main art gallery, but got sidetracked at the famous St. Mary's Cathedral. I realised I've never been inside. Although a self-professed agnostic and not at all religious, I have always enjoyed the cool, dark sanctuary feel of a church. So I ambled inside and sat at a pew at the back, the scattering of people inside, were all engrossed in their own thoughts and prayers. I too, had a conversation with the Supreme One, in the light of all the uncertainties in my life, a little help from my Friends would not hurt.

After that spiritual pitstop, I arrived at the "Art Express" exhibition I wanted to see. These are high school students' prize-winning works which were exhibited in an annual exhibition at AGNSW. The works were quite impressive. I found that many had concepts behind the works that seem pretty mature for high school students.

I walked through Hyde Park on the way back and decided to sit and read for a bit on the grass near where the group of band players were playing. I soon realised the band players were part of a demonstration against Communism in China. Rousing Oriental-sounding melodies were soon being churned out.

More distraction on the way home as I stopped in at the David Jones' Food Hall and got sidetracked into a Masala chicken sample. Mmmm, yummy, so bought a bottle of gourmet paste to reproduce the same at home. At A$16.50 for a small bottle this had better be good. And finally yet another pitstop for a coffee and an apple danish. All in, a good Autumn's day and it was just the morning gone. I had another afternoon worth of activities in front of me, after all, I am trying to get my sunshine's worth.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Be Careful What You Wish For

Be careful what you wish for - it may come true...

An eerie warning that seems loaded with overtones of doom and gloom, I've always felt.

Today I turned down an awesome job offer, in favour of another one - on the overt basis that I want to remain in Sydney and that other job offers me that opportunity to do so whereas the awesome one, in terms of challenging job scope, irresistible money and perks, glamour (perceived) and jetsetting nature, was not based in Sydney. The HR person for the awesome offer then suggested that she check with the US HQ to see if the job COULD be based in Sydney and if so, would I consider it? Of course I said yes. But it would be such a hard decision to make if they did manage to do that! You would almost wish they wouldn't make you that offer and save you the dilemma...

Again, yet another twist in my life. And that is why I said earlier that all I can say is that I'm MORE inclined towards the other job offer and not the awesome one at that point in time cos I just know that anything can happen to change the course of things.

Stay tuned for another exciting episode in my life.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Chessboard Of Life

My life is full of twists and turns. It seems there is something lurking every other week, round the corner, waiting to pounce on me. It is almost useless to plan for anything because everything would probably be thwarted the following week. It's almost like it's out of my control, perhaps like the Titans playing chess and pieces of my life are the pawns and the bishops and the knights and are being moved around the huge chessboard of Life, at the whim and fancy and possibly some sort of higher being strategy than is probably within my comprehension. I've never quite felt that my life was being played out in the fashion before, only in the last 6 months or so I guess.

Life is a gamble. In particular, today the news on the jobfront. Now I feel like I'm rolling the dice and waiting to see if the double sixes come up. On one hand, I've got a sure-win Lotto ticket, on the other, I'm waiting to hear if the last 3 numbers on my Bingo card will be called. I know it's not over till the fat lady sings. And like gambling, it's not always about the money...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Narooma Update

It has been a good 18 years since I last went camping (and 15 years for G), and the unpreparedness was telling. The first essential thing we realised we didn't have was a torch. By 6 pm, it was dark and our campsite wasn't powered and we had to go to the loo. I had a brand new roll of toilet paper though and was proud that I brought bananas, biscuits, water, plums, chocolates to sustain through the 4-hour drive (which turned out to be much longer as we stopped at various towns for food, loo breaks, stretch breaks, sightseeing etc).

But we didn't even have a torch (Ok I think I did my part, it was G who didn't prepare anything apart from buying the inflatable mattress). Thankfully, we had neighbours who were super well-equipped with palatial tents, cooking stoves, chopping boards, battery power (we borrowed to blow up our inflatable mattress, otherwise the pathetic footpump would have failed us) and all sorts of expensive camping gadgets. They would also painstakingly prepare their meals on their portable stove on a table in front of their tent, while we ate our bananas, scrounged for free sausages off people and drove off to the nearby town for fish and chips and blueberry pancakes and coffee.

The weather during the day was pretty good, sunny but windy, oh but at night! I almost froze the first night when it started raining during the sausage sizzle. Eating cold salad sure didn't help, I couldn't help shivering through my dinner. When it really rained down, we made a mad dash for the tiny igloo tent (regret having no photos of it cos my batteries and spares ran out on day 2). I refused to walk to the loo to wash my face or brush my teeth that first night because I was trying to thaw out under my sleeping bag which thankfully, was really warm.

Bright and early on day 2, we walked along the golf course, trying to avoid being hit by stray balls while trying to spot some seals. With my superiorly-lasiked eyes, I spotted the seals! We weren't sure for the longest time if the black objects with fins pointing in the air while the rest of their parts were basically submerged, were seals or driftwood/seaweed/kelp. I was pretty certain they were seals, except they weren't moving much and going with the flow of the current. G was sure they were driftwood and I was making things up. After much debate, we finally agreed they were seals. Then we weren't sure if they were dead or alive because they pretty much weren't doing anything! G claimed they were sleeping, I was sure they were dead otherwise how could they drift for so long without any activity. Surely if they were sleeping, they were getting dangerously close to the rocks and would have moved by then? Our doubts were put to rest by a golfer who assured us the seals were well and alive and just drifting along till they see fish and then they would pop down and snap one up. So we were pleased to report we saw 3 plus 4 seals - alive but sleeping probably.

Then off to the Tilba Festival with music performances, stilt-walkers, food stalls, all sorts of shops and homemade goodies. I bought a bottle of Ginger and Cumquat marmalade and a wedge of bell pepper cheese. Dinner that night was fish and chips. Good, generous portions.

On day 3, we had yet another breakfast of blueberry pancakes and coffee before taking down the tent and saying goodbye to the rest of the gang who are staying on for another night. We left at 10 am and I got back home at almost 5 pm as we made our usual pitstops and even took an extended lunch break at Kiama to see the famous Blow Hole, which was not what it was made out to be.

We were greeted by a rainbow on our drive back into Sydney, coincidentally as we drove out of Sydney 3 days ago, we also saw a big and beautiful rainbow on the way out. It seemed like a suitable ending to the adventures, although the drive back into Sydney really felt like driving back into reality. I arrived home, knackered and nursing a slight headache. It was a different experience, seeing the moon rise all orange above the ocean before it got lost in the dark clouds, the many stars that played hide and seek as the rainclouds loomed. I got to see Narooma, and a few other towns along the way down South. The company was good and I had fun. I guess I'll keep going till I start feeling too weighted down to enjoy the fun.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A-Camping We Will Go

I've almost quite decided that I will be going camping this Easter weekend. Got the details as to location (4 hours drive down South coast) to a place called Narooma and accomodation (8 feet x 8 feet tent, but with a promise of an upgrade to a cabin if things are bad - like inclement weather lashing and blowing away the tent?). Driving up early on Good Friday and coming back on Sunday. I guess the promise of an adventure, to see a different part of NSW, is quite enticing, considering that some of my other friends are also going away somewhere. Beats being stuck in Sydney, in the shoebox surfing the net - which is inevitably what I will be doing otherwise.

So I guess watch this space for the Narooma camping update.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

An Offer I Can't Refuse?

An offer that I can't refuse? I think I've finally met one of those. Well, rationally speaking, it was fabulous in terms of money - basic salary, quarterly bonuses, stocks. They even threw in other "expat" type perks like relocating me back home, shipping my stuff back, providing a month of free storage, even housing me for 60 days instead of the usual 30 days. That part really threw me off and completely blew me away, the whole relocation bit. I think the basic money bit looked attractive, but the second part really made me realise how much they WANTED me. Golly... it was a great feeling no doubt, to be so wanted. The job scope sounded really challenging and exciting as well, in an industry that was a growth and not sunset one, for a change.

But, but, but despite all this absolute fabulousness, I struggled against it. I was tempted no doubt, like a moth to a flame, but perhaps it was the exact analogy. Will I get burnt for flying too close to a dangerous flame? There is, after all, no free lunch. I would expect to be working my tail off, with no sense of personal time, despite all the assurances of work-life balance. How could that be, when you are literally working US hours, flying to the US all the time for starters, and then flying everywhere else in Asia as well? From a zero balance in frequent flyer miles to the top-tiered membership in 4 months was what I could expect. So for the glamour, the money, the excitement, just be prepared to put in punishing hours, chronic fatigue, perhaps resentment of being sucked into the mainstream corporate culture so quickly once again. Am I ready? Is this what I want? How I envisaged my next 5 years to be?

With the infinite wisdom of my 37 years of accumulated experience, both at the workfront and personally, I think I can unequivocally say that money really isn't everything. Of course, critics say it's only those who have money who say that. But whatever it is, how much money does one need? And can spend? And how long do we know we have, to devote our lives to work and accumulating all the material wealth? What will I have to show for it at the end? A swanky apartment? A high-flying corporate existence? Expensive meals? Actually, just looking at what I've recapped- it's not as though I haven't been there and done that, and am waiting just for this moment to present itself.

Hence at this point, I can safely say that for the first time in my life, I've turned down an offer that I (thought I) can't refuse. Or at least I know that I'll be turning it down next Monday when the deadline to consider the offer is up.

On another note, I've got yet another offer. Slightly different. An offer to go "high-end" camping (if there is such a concept) this Easter long weekend. I'm no longer the camping girl I was 20 years ago. I remember my last trip in a tent on Sentosa island, the ground was hard and cold. I think I gave up trying to sleep and instead spent all night chatting with some friends. So here I am, 20 years later, sitting here contemplating if I do wanna go camping. Somehow this decision seems harder than that regarding that fabulous job offer. I suppose a side issue that I am grappling with is where the offer came from. I'm still trying to work that one out...

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Friendship used to be simple. No doubt it came in different permutations and packages, but it wasn't that hard. There were friends you made in primary school that you kept throughout your life, friends you made at work who drifted away when work situations changed. Friends you spoke to almost every day, emailed at least once a day, saw once a week and friends you saw twice a year, at Chinese New Year and some other occasion that warranted a get-together.

Now that life has become more complicated, so has simple pleasures like friendship.

Today I got a proposal for friendship. A strange sort of evolution of a friendship. Do I want to be friends with this person? Why do I want to be friends with this person? Do I not have enough friends? Am I doing this out of charity because the person doesn't have many friends? Am I really that compassionate? Am I hoping to get something out of this in return?

Friends come in many packages - friends for a reason, friends for a season and friends for a lifetime. Maybe there is a reason for this, I'm just waiting to see what it is...