Friday, 18 February 2011
As Promised: My Apartment

So I believe I've mentioned that I would write about my apartment last year after my contract's ended? Well, it's ended and I've had my bond returned, so I'm free now!

So here goes. I foolishly signed the lease without first inspecting the place, and I was actually shocked when I entered the place, because it was so different than what I saw in the website. Here's the pictures from the website at the time before I moved in (therefore, the pictures that gave me an impression of the place I was moving into):

And here is what I saw when I moved in. I painstakingly tried taking the pictures from the same angle.

Big difference, no?

Anyway, the place was much dirtier and messier than I expected. And there wasn't any heating, which was actually supposed to be provided (I even printed out the page where they said it is provided, but the property manager then denied that they provide heaters).

Basically, the property manager at that time was someone whose label would rhyme with hitch. She was very unhelpful, and from conversations with other tenants, I came to realise that she was someone who did not take her work seriously.

Then, in a mere weeks, the property manager was presumably fired (supposedly because of a tribunal case brought on by a friend of mine). So the next property manager was chosen from the ranks of the lower ranked employees. 

At the beginning, this property manager was not much different from her predecessor. When I needed keys to the MDF box for my Internet connection, she refused to hand it to me, insisting that I had to get the Internet company to give me an exact time, and she will meet me there. But the Internet company said they can't give an exact time, and that I'll have to change the mind of my property manager. After pleading with her, begging her to help me, she caved in.

But when I returned the keys, the other lady told me that the PM (property manager) said I was late in returning, although the email from the PM was a different story. As my appointment was on Wednesday (for the Internet connection), anytime between 8am to 6pm, she said I was to collect the keys Tuesday after 5pm and return it Thursday before 9am. But that lady said that I was supposed to return it on Wednesday. So you see, not only were they incompetent, they were also extremely forgetful and apparently don't know the days of the week, too.

You can imagine how I must have felt, being treated like a dumb illegal immigrant who doesn't speak English and doesn't keep my word, when the so called 'educated' Australian was the one who can't tell the difference between Wednesday and Thursday.

Then once, she even made the mistake of assigning someone my apartment. That Chinese couple had rented an entire 2 bedroom apartment, but yet, was given my unit. And the PM did not explain it to me, and I only got the explanation from the Chinese couple.

That first few months there was really a roller coaster ride. Sometimes when there is no interaction I would be fine, but then there are instances like these in which their incompetence can be seen like peering through glass that would make my blood boil. I was beyond pissed at times.

At one point, I calmed down, and decided to take action. I was very prepared to go campaign to have them removed from the university's rental database, but as I was under contract I was afraid of repercussions. I also really wanted to post it here, but once again I feared that I might suffer consequences. So I took my high school English teacher's advice: don't get mad, get even. I decided to keep a journal of everything that they did that was not up to par, and I would lie low, bidding my time. Once my contract's over, it's no holds barred.

But this is a very watered down version of my experiences. I decided not to pursue my plan of revenge for one reason (besides the fact that a long time has passed since)- the new PM.

Slowly as she got to know her job, she became better at it. No doubt, at the beginning she was horrible- but then she started picking it up. She gave notices which told us tenants when to put out the trash, the fines for not keeping our trash bins, not triggering the alarm, etc. I actually felt that she did a good job. And not to mention, she was nothing but nice ever since. All her calls are polite, and was never rude since.

When I was leaving, she did everything nicely, wasn't rude, conducted the inspection quickly and returned my full bond money. I felt that it was unfair to label them as incompetent considering how good a job she's done.

I wouldn't say that I recommend students to choose that apartment to live in as it is quite pricey, and that it has a bad reputation- when I tell people I lived in this place, their reaction would be 'Oh gosh. I pity you' or something along that line. But I do think it's improving.

And there you have it. It may not be as crazy as it sounds or as bad as it sounds, but like I said, I've watered it down. It really was a horrifying experience. I mean, would you expect to receive this treatment in a 'developed' country? I think not.
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Tuesday, 15 February 2011
Saturday, 12 February 2011
About Time

1. My sister, who is in her late 70s, was on a visit to my son's house.

My three-year-old grandson was playing in the living room while the adults were engrossed in conversation. Suddenly, he fell and knocked his head on the floor. We quickly went to his aid. My sister put her palm on her forehead and exclaimed, "Aiyoh!"

My grandson promptly stopped crying. Staring at her indignantly, he said, "My head, not yours!"

2. It was mealtime during our trip on a small airline in the far east. "Would you like dinner?" the flight attendant asked the man seated in front of me.

"What are my choices?" the man asked.

"Yes or no," replied the stewardess.

3. One day I had to be the bearer of bad news when I told a wife that her husband died of a massive myocardial infarct. Not more than five minutes later, I heard her reporting to the rest of the family that he had died of a 'massive internal fart'.

4. While sitting on the train one day, the man next to me started screaming, "Call me a doctor! Call me a doctor!"

I asked, "Are you sick?"

"No," he replied. "I just graduated from medical school".

5. An army sergeant got word that the father of one of his men had passed away. At roll call he snapped, "Hey, Jones, your father died!" The soldier fainted on the spot.

A week later the sister of another soldier died, and the sergeant once again called his men together. "William," he yelled out, "your sister died last night!" The soldier burst into tears.

Finally, word got back to the general about the sergeant's insensitivity, and he was called on the carpet and told to be less direct and gruff when one of his men suffered a tragedy.

A week later the sergeant was notified that Private Wilson had just lost his mother. Remembering what the general had said, he lined up his troop.

Then he ordered, "Everyone whose mother is alive, please take one step forward. Not so fast Wilson!"
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Wednesday, 9 February 2011
Bye Bye, Tiger

So just like that, Chinese New Year has come and gone. I, too, wished it were longer, but unfortunately there's nothing I can do about it, except enjoy it while it lasted.

This new year has been a very different experience in some ways compared to the previous new years. Of course, it's still essentially the same, but at the same time it feels... different. 

First off, like many people, this new year felt really short. Normally during CNY I would be able to relax and read, or sleep, or even play some board or card games. This year, I found myself busy helping out with the preparations, as well as with other things like entertaining relatives. I barely read any of the 5 books I brought along with me, and only managed to play a round or two on Vocable, a word board game.

Then, I also had a bad stomach reaction which I have no idea what it was caused by. But it had given me several days of eating less before culminating in stomach cramps.

Not to mention, I realised that I had not become an uncle just last year as previously thought; I actually became one about 8 or 9 years ago. You see, my mother's family is extremely huge, like one of those families who can have reunions with more than 100 family members. Apparently, some of my cousins (my granduncle's grandchildren) are about 40 years old. I always knew that I have a huge family on my mum's side, but it was just hard to comprehend until now.

The state of my room, few days before I came home.

But one of the highlights has got to be listening to my grandfather's stories of his youth. Apparently he was a pretty rebellious kid. But his memory of his youth is extremely intact- he did talk about World War II and the Emergency period as well. The proof of his memory lies in a photograph that he received a few years back. He claimed that he was only 11 in the picture, but no one else believed him (even yours truly) because he looked about 16 at the very least (most thought he was about 20). But this trip back, I removed it from its frame and compared the date it was taken with the year he was born. And lo and behold, he really was 11!

But it has been a satisfying Chinese New Year nonetheless. 
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Wednesday, 2 February 2011
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When it was the Raya holidays, The Star carried an article where someone wrote about how differently is Raya celebrated now, compared to when he was younger.

Yesterday, I was eight. Back then, at this time, I wouldn’t be indoors writing this. I’d be out there on my grandparents’ lawn, running around with my cousins in the bright afternoon sunshine in Kampung Laut, Kelantan.

Today, I’m 27. It’s 9.40am on the second day of Syawal and I’m parked in front of the computer. Trying to pin down the magic of Raya; the youthful exuberance that has lost its energy; the excitement I may have left behind, together with the songkok I blew up in 1991.

Yesterday, Raya was the most eagerly awaited time of the year. Even before Ramadan, I’d ask my parents if we’re going back to Kelantan (my father’s side) or staying back in Kuala Lumpur for Raya (in Kampung Pandan, my mother’s side).

Travelling to the East Coast meant that I would have to brush up on my Kelantanese, or endure the taunting of my cousins, who would laugh mercilessly whenever I fumbled on the dialect. As a kid, the approval of cousins your age meant the world.

Today, the most eagerly awaited time of the year is the English Premier League. Raya is just a few days’ leave from work for me to regain the weight lost during the fasting month. So that I can fit back into pants that are getting loose, and not have to buy new ones.

When I read that article, I thought, 'how true!' The article definitely resonated with me, probably because I have realised that this had been happening for several years, and I'm sure everyone has, too.

Of course, in my case it would not be Raya; instead it would be Chinese New Year, or CNY for short.

Celebrations and festivities are definitely a way in which we can see the changes in our lives; it happens only once every year, so slowly, we see how we grow up, and how the significance of the celebration changes.

Back then, Chinese New Year was about going back to my parents' hometowns, it was about getting more ang pow money than my sister, and it was about the entire festivity. It was about being away from school and the routines that I'm used to, it was about escaping all that and going away and having a good time without having to worry about schoolwork.

Now, Chinese New Year is about so much more, and so much less. The joy of receiving ang pows have gotten stale over the years. Yes, the money's good, but sometimes it just doesn't seem to important anymore. For the past few years when all the noise from the chatter got too much for me to bear (trust me, my extended family's loud- on my father's side, that is) I would simply head into the room, close the door and read a book or even take a nap. 

Chinese New Year lost its charm on me for several years, when I would be the only teen in the household. It was lonely, but of course, only in the sense that there were nobody my age- I could still play with my younger cousins, or watch TV, but it just wasn't the same anymore, especially after my grandmother passed away. Chinese New Year became so much more simpler, when I had always enjoyed the traditions that seemed insignificant at first.

Now that I'm based overseas (sort of), Chinese New Year has once again, changed for me. Now, it is where I can go back to where I came from, to where I can see my family members, and most of all, to forget about the Australian culture for awhile. For that brief moment, I am back to my roots, my beginnings, where I belong.

Chinese New Year is where I enjoy two very important aspects of Malaysian culture- good food, and family. This is the time when I get to lay down the technologies (not my choosing, but still liberating) and simply... be at the present.

I enjoy having reunion dinners, where I get to be in the company of family whom I don't get to see often, surrounded by good food. You can even say that although I've grown, and perceive Chinese New Year in different ways than what I used to see it as, it is still very simple- it's a time to relax, to enjoy my time, to be with family, to eat good food.

Many years ago I even took the effort to dress up during Chinese New Year, including donning the traditional Chinese costume once. But as we've rarely go out visiting (my grandfather's the oldest, so according to Chinese custom everyone else would have to visit him, not the other way round), so these days I just put on a decent looking pair of shorts and a T-shirt.

I guess it is an unfortunate rite of passage that I find different meanings for Chinese New Year as I grow, physically as well as mentally. But it doesn't mean that CNY is not as fun; it still is, I'm sure of it. All it takes is to accept and go along with it.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Note: I know it's a day early, but I have limited Internet so I had saved this post earlier (it was actually written last year, if you remember me writing about not wanting to post an entry on CNY yet), so this is what I've written earlier.
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