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A monthly column from a Malaysian expatriate in San Francisco
The first day of September ... Eleven o'clock in the evening ... Have mercy, the air condition finally did what it is supposed to do; I am cool, calm and collected. It has been a scorching few days in the southern California area and brush fires are everywhere. It is the time of the year again. Sweltering heat and record breaking temperature igniting wild fires in the canyon, dry land and brushy parts of town. I just pray that no one gets hurt.
My Dear Diary,
I can't quite get over the fact that fall is just around the corner, although with the unusual summer heat this year it will be a welcoming change for all. The world has gone mad and I think we have contributed a large part of the change in our crazy and unpredictable weather pattern. Floods in China and Korea, Tsunami in New Guinea, Earthquake in Turkey and triple digits heat index in the United States ... What is going on here?
I used to turn the other ear whenever I heard environmental scientist or activist talked about how we have polluted the earth and how we are going to pay for it. I thought, well, the globe is huge and it will take a while for us to be punished for our sins. Well, guess what Mr. Wise guy? Pay back time is here. I don't know enough of earth science to speak intelligently about saving the earth but you bet I will pay attention and learn as much as I can from now on. Especially doing whatever I can to help out before it is too late.
I realized how the weather pattern in my hometown has changed too, dramatically. I remember driving back from Kuala Lumpur to Penang in a downpour. It felt like Monsoon but I thought Monsoon season is not until the end of the year. Dad told me people gave up predicting rainfall because it is absolutely unpredictable. It rains when it wants to and floods the entire town and the next day, the sun comes up bright and shinny like nothing happened the night before. Dad is 71 years old and been through a lot, but even the environmental changes puzzle him to no end.
The rain did help to make my remaining stay at home rather pleasant though. I remembered the night before I packed up to come back to the States. It has become a family ritual now, after 15 years of coming and going. Mom, dad, sisters and brother gathered in the room, watching my packing ordeal and reminiscing the years before. Small talks every now and then but everyone is being very careful not to mention goodbye. My heart sank a way too familiar feeling.
The ride to the airport seemed forever. Mom was sobbing, after all these years. What have I done to her? Mom, I was crying too. Deep inside safely tucked away from prying eyes. Saying goodbye is hard, no matter how many times you have done it. I hurriedly kissed them goodbye, turned and walked into the immigration checkpoint. I dare not looked back. They can't see the tears streaming down my cheeks. Well, I made the bed and now, I must lay in it. The flight back to America offered me lots of time to reflect and ponder. Where have I been; what have I done; where am I going and what do I want to accomplish. I used to think life would be so easy if and when I solve the puzzle of life. Sound familiar people?
Well, needless to say I am still trying to understand life. Solving it? I am not even close to seeing the puzzle. But that is okay. On the way I learned quite a few things that make life easier and more meaningful. For instance, the Asian crisis that, like a bad dream, just won't go away. It is part of life people. Yes, free market is part of life. Winning and losing is part of life. You are not the winner all the time is part of life. So, deal with it. Like my buddy Steve would say - wake up and smell the Starbucks beans dude! Make that Jasmine tea leaf for me, please? Thank you.
Take a day in my life for an example: At 6:00 AM sharp my Sony alarm clock screams rudely until I slap her silly. Well, to say the fact that I chose a Sony alarm clock over the other brands, American made or otherwise affects the world market is really pushing it. Well, is it? I crawl my way into the bathroom and struggle to line up the Colgate toothpaste with my generic brand toothbrush. A random pick of brand name products? I think not. It is years of brushing my teeth with Colgate toothpaste and listening to my mom lecturing me how my entire jaw will fall off if I don't use it twice a day. My mom is tilting the demand and supply cycle? You bet your *&%$.
I turn on the shower and scream!!!! I forgot to adjust the hot water output. While I drown in the warm water from my head to my toe, I remember the CNN report last night about contaminated water in the flooding area in China. Did I turn the water off because I am done or that I feel guilty wasting the precious water? Dr. Freud might be able to explain that complex theory better.
I stand in front of my closet and finally decided to put on a white Polo shirt. All of a sudden, images of children slaving away in make shift sweatshop sewing the very shirt I just put on overwhelmed me. I hesitantly took the shirt off and put on a Tommy Hill shirt instead. Oh sure, that made a heck of a difference there. I feel less guilty now. After all, Tommy Hill is not making as much money as Polo. Time to go downstairs for breakfast. Yes, I did put on a pair of trousers, socks, belt, undershirt, underwear and cologne. For those of you inquiring minds out there. A bunch of busy bodies if you asked me.
I pour non-fat milk over Banana Crunch cereal and slice a couple of strawberries for myself. What? No porridge? No Maggie Mee? What is wrong with this Chinese man? My mom still thinks cold milk and hard cereal is where my ulcer came from. If you ask me, such is life. I sit down with my cereal, turn the TV on, ignore the other 95 channels and zoom straight into World News This Morning. Rape victims in Indonesia; Russian Rubbles down the drain; Prime Minister Mahathir broke yet, another record; North Korea sent a missile over Japan; and of course a follow up on President Clinton and his pain, ah I meant aides. Well, I flip the channel and start singing along with the Sesame Street gang.
I finish the last spoonful of my breakfast (my mom said if you don't clean your bowl, they will end up on your face as huge pimples) and walk towards the garage. OK. I am not even going there people. I am sure I will be flooded with hate mails if I even mention what car I am driving. So, the only thing I will say here is it has four doors, two tone green and with leather interior. Did I ruin the world economy? Of course not. Am I guilty of buying foreign import? Well, the air inside the car feels great and the "Saturday Night Fever" CD brings back such lovely memory as I drove away from my house. Did I just ignore the foreign import question? You bet I did.
My co-worker came into my office and talked about how sad she is to learn about the horrible flood in China. After a good thirty minutes of chatting she asked "Which part of China are you from?" I replied, "The very southern tip called Malaysia". She said "Oh, I thought Malaysia is a country" Duh! We are, after all, different creatures growing up, in every sense and way, differently. This is life, deal with it. The good thing is people are trying to learn and reach out, we should appreciate that effort. Discrimination is rampant. Everyone knows it and sees it. But guess what? A rotten apple should not ruin the whole basket. For every single racist we encounter, there is a true loving and caring human being just around the corner. Don't just focus on the negative side of mankind, take a break from the hatred, celebrate our goodness and embrace our livelihood. This is life.
I look at the clock. It is five minutes past one. The soft bed lamp casts a shadow on the angelic face snuggle up against me. I must have done something good to deserve such a love of a lifetime. I adjust my position ever so slowly to lie on my side. I watch every breath in and out of the perfectly carved nostril and wonder "Am I in your dream?" I move slowly to switch the light off. I better take a break here before I wake up my much better half. Guess you all have to wait till the next time for more of my "Such is life theory."
Till then, sweet dreams my diary. I sure will ... in San Francisco
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