Sunday, January 30, 2005

Travel Diary Part 1

Sunday 30 January 2005

Morning Panic
Woke up really late today. I'm leaving for Kuala Lumpur in the afternoon. I'm a bit excited. I haven't left the country for quite some time now and I have always loved traveling. I was timing my departure from the house so that I will arrive 2 hours before my flight. Upon checking my printed itinerary however, written in smaller font at the very bottom of the page was the advice that I should be there 3 to 4 hours earlier to avoid missing the flight! Must be for the additional security precautions. I panicked for a few moments and attempted to eat a slice of pizza in 2 to 3 bites. I then pestered my brother to finish his meal and to call a taxi right away.

I'm not hiding anything in there... honest!
On the way to the airport, I kept on glancing at my watch and imagining that I will miss my flight. I arrived 2.25 hours before my flight. When I reached the check-in counter, there was a very long queue at the airlines counter. And it's just my luck that there's a whole group of golfers going to KL probably for a tournament or something. After spending almost an hour and a half queuing for luggage check-in, immigration checks and additional security checks at the predeparture area (I was afraid they would strip search me when the metal detector kept on beeping even after I already removed my shoes, my watch and my belt. Lucky for me it was only my zipper or pants button - the lady security guard was looking at me a bit strangely though), I was finally in the predeparture area waiting for boarding.

Stain on the plane
The actual flight was pretty much uneventful. The teenagers from the golfing group were a little bit rowdy and they kept on blocking the narrow aisle of the 737 plane leading to the lavatories. I had an aisle seat so it was a bit inconvenient since the person in the window seat tend to go out every 20 minutes or so. I had an accident however involving a small tub of butter. I was expecting it to be chilled but when I opened it, melted butter dribbled down my shirt and most of it ending up in a yellow pool in my pants. I think I saw some people looking at me strangely at the arrival area in KL. Either it's because of the fact that I smelled like freshly popped popcorn or they were wondering what that yellow stain on my pants was.

In the Airport
KL airport is very big. I remember the first time I saw it I was very amazed that you need to ride a train from one part of the airport to the other. This is my third visit (I think) to KL but the last time was about 3 to 4 years ago (well technically I have physically been here quite recently but that was only a stopover for my trip to Europe and we didn't even have to de-plane). Upon arriving, I was pleased to note that there were no problems with my mobile phone's roaming access. I sent a couple of SMS to let people know I was still in one piece and I got SMS responses without any problems.

I was supposed to have dinner with one of my colleagues at the hotel but I decided to eat at the airport. Whenever I go out of the country, I usually play it safe on the first day and eat in a place I am familiar with. In most cases it's a fast food chain (some people find this very strange, they were shocked when I told them that the first thing I ate when I went to France was a McDonalds meal). So anyway, I was falling in line in a Burger King counter when this person on the other line began to talk to me. Where was I from, have you been in Malaysia before, what hotel was I staying in KL and if I will be taking a taxi to KL. I was moderately alarmed by his line of questioning so I just said that I'm staying with a friend and in fact I'm waiting for him to pick me up. I grabbed my meal, politely excused myself and immediately went to the far end of the store and ate quickly (glancing around every few minutes just in case he was going to sit on my table).

Bathtub Soak and some Door Trouble
KL is about an hour or so away from the airport and the taxi driver was a friendly sort of person. It was just a bit strange for me since he is in the wrong side of the car (in my opinion at least) and driving on the wrong side of the road! It must be very difficult to adjust to drive anywhere here when I'm used to driving on the right side (right as in the opposite of left and also right as in the correct way) of the road. When I reached the hotel, I paid a large amount for the deposit since I didn't want to use my credit card (I heard a lot of horror stories before I left).

The first thing I do when I go inside my hotel room is to look a round and inspect the room. I open up cabinets, drawers, find out where the bathroom is, test all the light switches, those type of things. One of the door turned out to be an adjoining door to the other room (there was 2 sets of doors both with only 1 knob on the outer part so that the other could not enter the other room without the other person opening the other door) and once I realized what it was, I carefully closed it. What I didn't realize is that the door didn't latch properly. More on this later.

What better way to relax after a busy day traveling than to soak in a hot bubbly tub. I brought my own bubble bath for just this occasion, so before I could unpack my stuff, I was already enjoying the hot tub. I was just relaxing there for a few minutes when the phone rang. I wasn't expecting any calls so I was a little puzzled. I thought it was my friend who was staying also in the hotel but it turned out to be the concierge telling me that there was a problem with my room. Apparently there was a lady next door who was just as curious as I was on the different doors inside the room and she accidentally pushed my side of the door and I imagine much to her horror, the door actually swung open and revealed the bed with some clothes on top of it. She might have imagined me parading inside the room stark naked. I cautiously peeked out the bathroom and making sure that her side of the room was closed, I closed the door making sure it's properly closed this time (both my clothes and the bathrobes where outside the bathroom and although the towel was large enough, I didn't want to scare her any further - she already sounded hysterical as it is). I could hear her complaining to somebody in the next room. She wanted some assurance that I would not be able to go to her room. Err... excuse me? I think I'm the one that should be complaining. Just think of the things she could have done to me when I was lying there vulnerable in the bathtub!

Friday, January 21, 2005

My Recipe Vault

Pancit Molo
Pancit Molo
Originally uploaded by
Jepster.
At long last, I am very pleased to announce the launching of my recipe vault (see right side panel for the link). It's actually an entirely new blog with its own URL but I would like to think of it as an extension of this main blog. I'm very excited about it and I had been busy the past few days setting it up. I have started off with 2 recipes and I would add to this gradually in the coming months. It won't be updated as frequently as this main blog but I will try my best to add recipes to it from time to time. The idea for this recipe vault is to feature our traditional family recipes. These are the food we usually prepare during family gatherings and special occasions. Sadly such gatherings are becoming very rare since the family are now scattered all over (my brother is also expected to go out of the country very soon). Hopefully we will still continue to enjoy these recipes wherever we are in the world. There's so many recipes I want to post including the sugar drop cookies my mother always bake at Christmas time when we were young (to eat and to give out as presents to our friends and teachers - haha no it's not a bribe!), the ever popular orange cake that my father still bakes whenever he feels like it (which is quite often), or even our extra thin home-made pizza crusts (we haven't made these for a long time), and a whole lot more. I started the vault with 2 very yummy recipes: Pancit Molo and Pot Roast. This is a chance for adventurous friends and visitors of this site to try out the recipes for themselves. Hope they enjoy trying those out.

I remember one time my niece asking for my mother's (or is it my father's recipe now?) orange butter cake. It's a cake that my mother baked on birthdays and special occasions all these years but lately my father is the one doing the baking. My mother eventually e-mailed the recipe to her. This is what made me think about this recipe vault. My niece is also very fond of baking and have started from baking ready made cookie dough to easy brownie mixes (just add egg and butter!) and then to banana cake and orange cake. She would be my assistant (also my nephew of course) whenever I baked and I would scold her when she tries to lick the pans and wooden spoon hehe. It reminds me when I was helping out my mother when I was young (also trying to lick the orange cake batter off the bowl -- oh and the drop sugar cookie dough is also yummy). I miss those times with my mother and my niece. I hardly bake these days anymore (the closest I could think of is making waffle cheese/hotdog). There was a time when I bake bread. The kneading and rising and kneading some more is time consuming but I found it relaxing and stress relieving.

Eventually I will set it up in such a way that the newest entries will also appear on the side of this main blog under a heading that says something like "what's cooking?". I will try to do that as soon as I figure out how to do it. I seem to remember an article on the Blogger knowledge base about that.

A big thanks for my brother who helped me edit the recipes.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Turtle Eggs

I'm so sleepy. I slept very late last night. It's a combination of arriving late last night and excitedly going through some packages sent by my sister (most of the stuff she sent wasn't for me but I still enjoyed perusing the items she sent for other family members though and trying on the colognes she sent my father hehe). Turt (my pet red eared slider turtle) was also being more active than usual throughout the night (it sounded like she was scratching the sides of the tub and making splashing noises).

Turtle Eggs

When I woke up this morning, 3 eggs were piled up on a corner of the tub! I'm expecting more eggs soon. The last clutch of eggs she laid were about 8 eggs or so. Sadly though none of the eggs hatched that first time. I'm hoping most of the eggs survive this time. I'm going to transfer turt later to a smaller tub just in case she feels like laying more eggs. Red eared sliders should normally lay their eggs on dry sand. She was forced to lay all the eggs inside the tub that first time because I didn't even realize she was pregnant that time. Hopefully I get it right this time. And I hope the three eggs she laid this morning is OK despite the fact that it was soaked in the water for a few hours. I also read somewhere that the eggs should not be moved after being laid or at least be in the same position. I can't wait to go home at lunch break to check for more eggs. :)

Monday, January 10, 2005

Wild Penguin


Swimming Penguin
Originally uploaded by
Jepster.
A friend of mine was asking for more "wild animals" posts. I do not exactly understand what he meant by "wild animals" so I just searched my photo archive and this is the best I could come up with. The penguin was not photographed in the wild (this particular shot was taken from the Singapore Zoo I think) nor is it particularly vicious. He was however flapping wildly about in the pond when I got this picture so you can say that he's somewhat "wild" in that respect. Sorry this is as wild as it gets. I seem to remember having some pictures of panthers and tigers but I can't find them. Hmm... I'll post those pics when I see them.

Penguins are a bit troublesome to photograph. Not only would they not stay still, most of the time they are underwater so that you can't get a decent composition. If you want something easier, try taking a picture of a cookabura. Now that's a bird that's easy to photgraph :)

Friday, January 07, 2005

Holiday ranting and some car trouble

I'm glad the year is over!

Things weren't going very well for me last December. There were a total of 4 non-working holidays that was on a weekday for the second half of December last year. Plus the weekends, that's just 8 days total until the new year. I should have been at home enjoying the time off from work. Instead, I was on duty at the office during most of the holidays. Bummer! Being on duty doesn't mean I have to report for work the entire day, although it meant waking up very early in the morning to attend a meeting at 7am in the morning. That's everyday. It doesn't matter if it's a weekday or a weekend, a public holiday, or even Christmas, you still have to attend that meeting which goes on for about 1 and a half hours. Working for a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year manufacturing plant meant there should always be somebody on-call 24 hours a day. It's acually composed of a team, each with their own area to look into. If the plant operators encounter any problem, they will call us up and wake us no matter what time of the day it is. And all of that responsibility comes without any extra compensation *sigh*. We used to get a meal allowance during our tour of duty (which lasts for a whole week) but even that small amount of concession was taken away early last month. They told us that our stay in the company's housing compound free of charge is compensation enough. Well, they did provide us with cooking facilities after all. It's a good thing I know how to cook. Sadly, that's not always the case for the other bachelors working at our company. I wasn't actually scheduled to have my duty untill end of February but since the one on schedule was a senior person, well let's just say I was "volunteered" to go on duty during the holidays. Fortunately, my brother accompanied me during my duty through the holidays and my birthday so I wasn't too miserable at the time. We just cooked a lot of festive food and ate, then cooked again then ate again. And so on and so forth... you get the picture heh :)

To make matters worse, a colleague of mine crashed a pickup on my car right after Christmas! It was early in the morning and we were already just about to be late for the meeting. As I was going down the road, I noticed him backing out of his garage. I stopped the car since he may not have noticed me. I pressed on my horn a few times so that he will notice me. He just kept on going and going even when I was pressing the horn continuously at that point. The rear end of the pickup slammed on the front of my car. That finally got his attention. He jumped out of the vehicle and kept on apologizing. I didn't even wanted to look at the damage at first. I calmly suggested we proceed to the meeting and we talk about it later. Perhaps he's feeling just as miserable that morning at having to wake up so early in the morning during the holidays just to attend a stupid meeting. I was doing the minutes of that meeting and I couldn't write straight. My hands were shaking, the full realization of what just happened finally sinking in.

I wish my car gets fixed soon. Up until now I still haven't heard from the insurance people. They were supposed to send someone over to survey the damages.

I just hope this month will be a whole lot better.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Tardiness for the new year?


Originally uploaded by Jepster.
I woke up at 8:30 this morning! I panicked when I saw my alarm clock. I have been late everyday since coming back for the new year that my boss is beginning to take notice. Is it my imagination or is he frowning at me every time I see him. It could just be my overactive imagination but I can't be sure. I was supposed to go early starting today. Oh well, I suppose I could start that tomorrow. It's a good thing that I had a meeting taking up the rest of my morning. I only knew about it the moment I arrived (the phone was ringing in my desk when I was unlocking my door and quickly answered it trying to mask my heavy breathing from running through the hallway). So when a colleague asked where I was the whole morning, I wasn't lying when I told him I was in a meeting hehe.

I would then feel sleepy the whole morning with my productivity increasing only after lunchtime. I have long since stopped being a coffee addict so I didn't have the usual perk up in the morning brought about by a jolt of caffeine. I have nobody to blame except for myself. Well, aside from sleeping late playing WOW or chatting with friends, I just feel so tired these past few days. I have started jogging every afternoon starting off with 15 minute jogs at the start of the year and a 20 minute jog just yesterday (with brief periods of walking trying to catch my breath in between hehe). Ideally I will eventually bring it up to 30 minutes but I don't think I should push it so far just yet. I am hoping that I could sustain this sort of activity throughout the year. I just feel so out of shape lately. *sigh*

One thing I am concerned about is that this feeling of tiredness may also be caused by my body's inability to process the sugar in my body for energy. It is a common symptom with diabetics I heard. I just had my yearly medical check-up and the doctor scolded me for not coming back after a month from the first diagnosis. I took medication for about 2 months and didn't go back for the follow up. It's one of those things that you keep on postponing because you are currently busy with this or that and before you know it, one year has passed. I haven't talked to the company doctor yet for the interpretation of my medical results but I hope it has improved. In the meantime, I really should do something about my current diet and lifestyle. Hmm... I'm thinking that I should do other stuff besides jogging on a treadmill for 30 minutes watching Spongebob on TV (strange I know but it's the show that's on Nick about the time I jog), like swimming or *shudder* badminton (I still haven't gotten over my dislike for this sport for some reason). We'll see in the next couple of weeks how it turns out.

The pic? Oh that's just the TV as seen from inside a mineral water bottle. hehe.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Some very sad news...



Originally uploaded by bratkun.



Brat, our cute and loveable Persian cat, died of pneumonia last December 14 after staying at an animal hospital for 2 days. He will surely be missed most especially by my brother who was his constant companion for almost 10 years. My brother and I enjoyed his company on our drive to our hometown. We left him with our parents since we were taking the plane going back. He was almost a part of our family and it's not the same without him around. My parents buried him beside a mulberry tree at the back of our house.


Cat in a basket Younger carefree days



One thing that was unusual about Brat is that he is afraid to go out into wide open spaces. He's so used to living inside the house that when we tried bringing him out to the lawn he climbed on top of my brother (claws clinging to his clothes) and perched on top of his shoulders glaring at him reproachfully.

My brother once made a comment that probably Brat doesn't even know that he's a cat. He lived with humans all his life and aside from a brief period where he ran away from home when they were in Japan (coming home days later dirty and disheveled), he never had another cat for a companion much less a mate (well a lot could have happened in those few days, who knows right?). So it may very well be that he died a virgin cat. hehe. I remember when he visited a few months ago a neighbor of mine, who owns a cute gray female Persian cat, introduced Coco (the gray cat) to Brat. Brat and Coco both scampered away from each other and they hid inside our respective apartments. Hehe. The funniest thing about Brat is that sometimes when my brother is asleep, he would sneak to his bed and position himself on my brother's arm and... *snicker* hehe... get ready for this... hump his arm! Hahaha I would burst out laughing and my brother would wake up (presumably due to the weird sensation in his arm) and scold Brat away.

All things considered I think he lived a good life. He stayed in Japan during his early years and then transferred to our province for another few years in our parents house. He even had his own room there with his litter on one side and his constant supply of cat food on the other with the occasional tuna treat. He uses all our furnitures as scratching posts and amuses himself with chasing lizards. He then lived next in my brother's condo unit all the way up in the 28th floor. He probably spent the whole day looking out the window contemplating the ant-sized people walking below. When my sister and her family relocated abroad, Brat and my brother moved in with me (I only live there during weekends). I remember that I would sometime pester him when he's just lazing on the sofa or the coffee table by tickling him on the tufts of fur in-between his paws. He would initially playfully swat my hand away and if I continue he would let out some more claw and hiss at me at the same time. That's the signal that he means business and I had the scratch marks on my hands to prove that too. *ouch* He would then just stare at me for a few seconds then go someplace else to take a nap. I only lived with him for a short time and yet I miss him whenever I go home. I could just imagine how much so for my brother who was his constant companion most of his life. While I was writing this, my brother sent me an SMS message telling me he dreamt about Brat going home and very hungry. Weird coincidence huh?

View more of Brat's pictures on his online photo album Page#1 and Page#2. Farewell Brat, it was a pleasure knowing you. We will definitely miss you.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A very happy new year to all!


Sparkler star
Originally uploaded by
Jepster.
It's been a while since I last updated this blog since the early part of December. Hmm... strangely enough, I started that post with these very same words. It's not that there's nothing interesting going on in my life, it's just that between the time I spend playing online games, doing heaps of backlog work at the office, and time spent in the new mall which opened in the neighborhood, it's very hard for me to make the time to write in this blog. I just hope that none of you loyal readers thought I was kidnapped by aliens or something like that... (that..) hmm. that's strange. I thought I heard an echo... Hello! (hello...) Anybody there? (there...) Echo! (echo...). Hmm... makes me wonder if anybody still read these posts. Most readers probably got bored of all that WOW talk in the last few posts hehe. Anyway, I would just like to greet everybody who just might be reading this a very happy new year!