1

Different but Not

Often, I might come across as some arrogant dweeb because for some reason, I just know.

I can’t prove that it will happen but I know it will.

I don’t have special powers that allows me to see the future, I can’t predict it nor do I have premonitions about the future but when I do see a trail coming, I can see the outcome.

I recently discovered the existence of pattern thinking when Dr. Temple Grandin wrote about it in Drawing Autism and this is what it is (or I like to believe). I can only see when I connect the dots between one piece of information with the other. The more the better. And often, the theories I come up with ends up like a piece of abstract nonsense no one can resonate with. Maybe it’s too farfetched for them to grasp, the idea that I join the dots from no where and have this crazy thoughts presented on a silver platter for them to digest must have freaked them out.

So that’s my problem.

When I can’t explain it for people to understand and I see that they are either confused or not take it seriously, I get upset. This is when some people who experienced it think I’m too in their face. Too much to handle. Then I spiral in that frustration hole because I know that if something doesn’t change, the hypothesis I made will come true. Anxiety builds up, communication breaks down and the bridge falls apart.

“How would you know?” people would ask.

“I just do. I can see it. I just don’t know how to explain. I have this feeling..” I used to say.

And the conversation tend to end with me being weird statement or I just give up entirely trying to convince people because most of the time, I expect things to go the opposite but..more often than not, it doesn’t. Sometimes, I wonder if I’m just seeing things or people just don’t want to see what I see.

Then, there’s the second part I find it most difficult dealing with.

“You can say ‘I told you so’..” they say.

I don’t like saying that. I don’t enjoy being right because I don’t want to be that person who thinks she knows everything. I don’t and I will never be. It’s just circumstances happen to end up like that. It’s as if I’m being put in my place for doing something bad or negative.

I know you will say it’s all in my head. Perhaps you’re right. But I don’t find satisfaction having people coming to me after telling me that I’m right after all. Why?

Because I don’t know to respond.

Am I suppose to say “See, what did I tell you?” or should I sympathise that things end up the way it did? Latter would have depend what kind of situation because …

the third part of my issue is, after three rounds of trying to make things clear and no changes were done, I remove myself from the situation. In my head, I have to make one of two decision – do I stay and get wrapped in the spiderweb of frustration or do I get out before it gets too deep?

The moment I realised what the situation is, I will assess all ways to improve because I don’t like feeling like trapped. If I can’t improve after doing everything I can, I have to make the decision to get out. Otherwise, it will affect my energy, mood and mind. The three elements that makes up my compass and not having control either one of it, I will be screwing myself for something unnecessary that I foresee beforehand.

To me, I break things as logical as possible. If it’s beyond my understanding, I try to look it up and read about it. Find some form of explanation to answer all the questions in my head. The same way when people ask me if I drink. I don’t because I don’t like the taste or smell. Also, I don’t like the effects it gives when I get intoxicated. Using religion as an excuse to me is a copout. Not to say I don’t believe in God but I have my own journey with religion. I look into the details, the reasons because in the end, the religion I embrace is actually logical. People’s interpretation makes the true meaning of religion diluted and superficial. But that’s for another story.

Tash told me that I’m intimidated by the way I think and do things differently but in reality, I’m not that different. She’s right. Just that, I grew up with this perception that I’m such an alien, I don’t belong in this world but being here doesn’t seem like I’m all that different. In fact, I’m quite normal. Nothing special.

Blah. At 29 years old, we all have to grow up every other second. It’s a never ending journey and mine just so happened to have the table turned around.

2

I Left Advertising but it’s Embedded in Me

This whole week has been an emotional roller coaster ride for me personally. I did a lot more reflections since my last post, one that I’ve never revealed to anyone but ended up in the cyberspace one fine morning.

That whole revelation about how I treat myself like someone with autistic was not something I had in mind before this. I only realised it when I wrote it here and then more things made sense for me. It’s probably the most accurate description I could tell other people who has to deal with me in the future, like I’m wearing a warning label. 

The thing is, my mind would process logic and facts easily. Emotions cannot be proven, or rather has too many variables to play with and it only makes it too complicated to conclude. This is why Science of Deduction is my favourite go-to method. But this also means I need to spend significant time reading.

And usually, people who thinks logically will eliminate emotions altogether. Often, they are perceive as emotion-less for this reason. I however, function on a different spectrum. While my mind prefers to work with facts and logic, I have very high empathy. That means, I can easily understanding emotions if I put myself in other people’s shoes. The only setback is that, I can’t prove with facts unless it’s been tested already. Because whatever I say would be limited to my own observations and experience

Mind_Heart

This is me figuring out the bridge.


 

My biggest problem for the longest time is to bridge these two and up until two days ago, I’ve been functioning on separate entities.

Jessie tagged me on Brain Picking’s post about Drawing Autism which made me connect more dots about my childhood tendencies. Like a lightbulb, I had my “Aha!” moment lighted brightly. Not that I’m certain about my self-diagnosed but it gave me some form of clarity I’ve been searching all my life. I’m still on that path where there are infinity dots left to figure out but this week really untangled one of my life’s biggest mystery ever.

Which then answers a lot about why I found so much difficulty working in the advertising industry dog years ago. At the time, when I quit the industry, I accepted that I wasn’t fit for the environment, wasn’t as creative as the agency and industry demands and overall, just not awesome. I accepted that as an Art Director, I suck and I’m ok with that because I use my design background to beautify not to manipulate. 

In countries where branding is a strong market, there is such role as Art Director specifically for design and I was convinced, if I were to come back, that would be the role that fits me best. 

Advertising is a dog eat dog world. You have to love it, have passion for it to not only survive when climbing up the ladder but be the best of the best. Because at the end of the day, it’s a small world where everyone knows everyone and words will spread if you’re good or otherwise. 

I started off way at the bottom, from scratch as a DTP Artist in SpencerAzizul Advertising and worked my way up for half a decade. I had some of the best mentors I could ever asked for. Erman being one of the most influential people always sat me down and talked about things that ignite his passion and also which direction I should take. Today, (I feel) he is one of the more prominent minds in the industry and I have no doubt that the Creative Director role is in his pocket sometime soon. Calvin’s another guy who always have this crazy ideas that feels like it’s so out of reach but very possible. Since I was an intern, a small potato – he would go to my table and get me to collaborate with him. I never really understood why because there were so many other talented people in the office. 

“I like your stuff! I think it would be exciting to do this” Cal would say this often when I ask. So did Soon, previous ECD of ours. He used to tell me this a lot but as always, I just didn’t understand why.

Of course, it doesn’t help that I kept thinking everyone’s out of my league in this world. But I worked very hard to be part of this family, at one point I can instantly name the typefaces used (Erman’s very particular about spacing, kerning and typography). I can still name them today but it might take a wee bit more time. 

Then, there’s always the “what’s next?” questions popping up here and there. Slowly this family of 3 years started to disintegrate for better offers and careers. And it slowly made me question where I should be. Naturally, the next step from being a Graphic Designer, especially in Malaysia is to be an Art Director. It’s common sense. There’s no two ways about it when it comes to making a mark for yourself.  

Like his idol Sagmeister, Erman creates typography using anything and everything. I love his instagram feed @ermanbasiron

Like his idol Sagmeister, Erman creates typography using anything and everything. I love his instagram feed @ermanbasiron

Y&R was probably a reality check. Despite spending more than 2 years there, I never really found myself in it. Not because the agency wasn’t good. I just didn’t know how I can be myself in this world. I would dread the word advertising, like a nightmare I had to wake up everyday because it was dissecting one job brief after another, changing campaigns as per client’s request bla bla bla..

When Sasha and Sathi came on board, that feeling sort of pushed aside. I felt like I could do this again with them around even though part of me still couldn’t grasp this responsibility as an AD. We would brainstorm day in day out, trying to be different but still included in the many guidelines given. It wasn’t an ordeal I thoroughly enjoyed but because I had a kick ass copywriter who I could connect with and a funny group head, I immersed myself in this black ocean. 

Some people isn’t cut out to be something. And that’s ok.

It was a mantra I kept playing in my head because while everyone was rushing to get their scams executed before submitting for awards, I ran away from that mentality. But you see, when you’re in an international agency, (winning) awards is part of that dream and the more great ideas approved for submission, people acknowledge that you’re great. I don’t understand that need nor do I have a hunger for it. 

Yet, in the midst of all of that confusion, I was always attracted to the digital world. I just didn’t know what to do with it. I often go blank and poor Sasha had to help polish me with ideas so that we can just do something for the team. Everyday, I feel more helpless than the day before.

I sent in my first resignation to Sathi but he talked me out of it (much like how it was in my previous agency). I gave it another chance and a year later, that throb kept beating harder. By this time, I felt so detached from advertising like it was a foreign language I could never learn to understand. I felt very sad to leave a team who shaped me but I also felt relieved because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone by holding this title I felt was undeserved.

I went back to basic, to where it all started – design. Only this time, it was freelancing. I did a month or so stint as a freelance Art Director a couple months after I left for a smaller agency because I needed the money but as soon as I woke up into that world again, I began to feel resentment.

“Wasn’t this why I left my job in the first place?” kept ringing in my head. Conscience has a brutal honest voice. That’s my conscience. 

Once that job ended, I felt free again. Lesson learned that whenever I do anything for money, all these negative emotions will be infested in me and for that, it became my compass. The greatest reminder in my professional life.

Then I got to collaborate and work with a state tourism agency. I wrote many things about this chapter in my life here but the moment Fazly gave me veto power to handle the social media, I found my purpose. I didn’t understand what it was, no one knew what to do with it or had any idea for that matter. 2011 was when social media grew very fast in the local waves. I did a lot of reading, countless of hours researching, understanding and mind mapping this unknown world until we came up with ways to change the way tourism industry function in the cyber world.

Despite the (many many many) setbacks in that 3 years I invested to this work, the results were far more than any of us could’ve expected. Especially when it started from nothing. We did something with our hands, eyes, mouth and feet tied. While the visual might seem exaggerating, that was exactly how we felt. But courage, passion, tenacity and motivation to do better and have bigger purpose than what is given, we became better people. 

I merged my knowledge from the ad world. What I know and experienced, I put my entire mind, heart and soul combined with other great souls to achieve what we came to change. It wasn’t easy and it will never be easy but the fact that I found my purpose, obstacles are just hoops we have to jump, run, crawl or push over to overcome.

Coming to Hyper Island was the best back up plan I made. Despite knowing that I would give the same amount of heart being a psychologist, this is something bigger. Design, branding, marketing, art direction and copy will always be my core knowledge no matter what I do but perhaps I finally know why I had a hard time back then was because..

I needed time to read and research about a subject before I can contribute any ideas or find solutions to. I didn’t give myself time for that and that’s why my performance was below par. I kept chasing to be as good as other people but I will never be like most people – I can’t just come up with great ideas without fully understanding what the problems, clients, subjects and possibilities are. I compute differently and way more complex. I need to form a clear understanding before I can jump to the next level.

I asked myself last night with this knowledge at hand, would I make a better Art Director if I was given a second chance? Perhaps. But it also depends on the agency’s culture. 

Maybe service design agency would suit better. 

in the end, no matter where we go, I think this ad sums up everything well and also a reminder why we should be doing what we love more. There’s no perfect world but we can change the way we perceive things. I may have left advertising but it’s apparent that advertising didn’t ditch me, no matter the years that went by.

A very smart classified as for Saatchi & Saatchi done by it's CD, Sathi. (a/l means son of in Malaysia)

A brilliant classified ad for Saatchi & Saatchi Malaysia written by it’s CD, Sathi. (a/l means son of in Malaysia)

6

Combustion and Autistic Tendencies.

This is my dog Rolly. 5 years ago she got lost as a puppy and ended up at my porch one morning. I think she's my kindred spirit. As odd as it may sound.

This is my dog Rolly. 5 years ago she got lost as a puppy and ended up at my porch one morning. I think she’s my kindred spirit. As odd as it may sound.

Sometimes, I feel like I can relate to the way people with autism operates. The brain functions differently and it’s difficult to explain the way it processes information not because stupid or slow but because the brainwave embedded (in my head) is a lot more complex than many people. Therefore information can be interpreted infinity times more. It’s not something that can (ever) be changed genetically.

I can only communicate that I need time and deeper reading to understand. What may seem simple or complex is only a perception by an individual.

So it can be frustrating to make people understand me and vice versa. That’s probably why dealing with autism people takes a lot of patience and I often treat myself to that level. That I need patience for myself and for others to let me get to that level where I can transmit thoughts and ideas in layman terms.

Above all, I’m glad that there are people who have do their best to work well with me despite this tendency I have and not just jump into conclusions and cut me off or out. More than anything, I feel blessed to know these people I call my friends who I feel more like a family yesterday when I broke down.

Everyday I think of ways to understand people better. That’s why I do a lot of writing and mind mapping when people talk too fast or too much. I need to digest all this information and not be overwhelmed by all the senses. Few people will at first take it personally that I seem to listen but I don’t pay attention because I’m jotting down on my notebook but this only happens when there’s too many things going on and I need to isolate all my senses and maximise it’s capabilities.

So by eliminating sight, I can hear better. By focusing on a blank piece of paper and the pen that will translate massive amount of information, my brains can focus on taking it apart and restructuring it again. It’s either that or I focus on music to recalibrate my thoughts. Photography works brilliant with this system because the eye focus on the composition and subject, background and foreground. The brain analyses the way the composition, subject, background and foreground merges together.

It’s the idea of being able to detach everything, breaking it down into smaller pieces and then piece the puzzle back again into a bigger picture that makes me feel more assured and accomplished. It’s taking apart and finding the core values, the source of the inspiration or issue before trying to find solution that makes it easier for me to understand how things work and feel more comfortable figuring it out.

Honestly, sometimes I wonder if deep down I have some form of autism symptoms because I know I have to put in a lot more work to keep up with people and be at their level.

Or maybe many people in general prefer to talk instead of making space for their silent thoughts.

I’m still coping and finding ways to figure it out. More so for myself so that others won’t have as much difficulty understanding me than I do of myself. I can only imagine what it must feel like for other people to deal with me when at times I find it infuriating just because I am wired this way. I can only wish that there’s a computer that could translate my brainwave for me so that other people can understand the way I work but until someone comes up with it, all I can ask is be patient.

I will get there. I just function differently.

4

Play, Rewind, Pause: The HI5 Experience

Northern Quarter

It’s a rather new discovery this part of me I just got to know. Probably a little less than a year and having to move to Manchester just amplified that notion about me being an introvert. My tendencies have kept me questioning about myself more since I’ve moved here. Of the things that I am more comfortable with versus the things I should be doing.

It hasn’t occur to me what culture shock feels like until I removed myself from the environment I’ve built for a lifetime. It is then that I am able to see the other side of myself without trying too hard.

First week at Hyper Island made me feel like I have a mental disorder. Of course, I meant it in a good way.

I liken the first day as my bubble bursting in thin air the moment we were meant to mingle with other people in Hyper Island. As with every other first day, I know how I will be – awkward. I’ve always thought of myself as somewhat socially inept. Not on an extreme level but to a certain degree, I lean towards it.

For that, I played along where I could but then Hyper Island one-up their game by getting us all to do a personal presentation about the 3 events or people that had impacted us. Each of us, including HI managers and facilitators did it.

Hyper Island Crew 5_6

“It’s an equal level playground this new school of thought,” I told myself.

Everyone had something to say, something to ask, something to answer yet there I was shutting it all down as fast as I could. Well, I tried to and felt guilty thereafter and what an odd sensation to feel – a deep conscience telling me what I did was wrong and it carried on till the next day.

Hyper Island went on another level and kickstarted a Reflection Session after we “check-in”.

It’s funny that there were two running themes that went on prior to my departure and here I am diving head first into it and unearth the very core of my emotions based on these themes (self awareness and reflection).

Wait, what am I doing in Hyper Island you might ask? Masters in Digital Marketing Management is what I got myself into and what’s better – it’s a super accelerated course. Somehow, I have a knack for getting myself into madness no matter where I go.

Piccadilly Gardens

Hyper Island Crew 5_3

Hyper Island Way Week taught us all to be aware and reflect on our actions individually, small groups and eventually to the entire crew. Imagine how nerve-wrecking that experience had been on the second day itself (and will continue till the end of the program). It’s no wonder I needed 3 days to recover from all that “therapy” when we first started. Yeah, I excused myself from the after-class outings because I was emotionally and mentally exhausted from all that digging and thinking. It doesn’t help that I’m really loving the apartment I’m staying too.

Hyper Island Crew 5_2

Brilliant way to kickstart though. Brilliant indeed to break our walls on our very first week.

Even my past therapy sessions didn’t feel as intense as this.

But, on the upside, it taught me to make improvement every single day. Just one thing at a time. It was what I had got myself to do the last 6 years on a personal level. This time, it’s on professional AND personal level. Oh boy.

I knew everyday that I’m thankful for this diversion He got me to do. What was known as my back up plan is now my primary plan and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I know now that, I had to be here right now at this moment because I’m ready on all level. It might tear me apart and stitch up together but I will not be able to appreciate the greatness that HI delivers if I wasn’t where I am today.

Yeah, this is where I’m suppose to be and I better make sure to do the best I can.

Two weeks ago, Max, our program manager asked us to write a letter to ourselves and sealed it in an envelope. I suspect it’s for time capsule but anyways, one of the things I wrote to myself was about making a deal with the introvert side of me. I may take any one weekday off to recharge and any one weekend for the same reason but the rest, I need to make effort to join the crew for whatever they intend to do, as long as I’m ok with it. Everyday since then, I do my best to push myself from falling back to my comfort zone. To others it may seem almost insignificant but an effort is still an effort.

Hyper Island Crew 5_4

Hyper Island Crew 5_5

I’ve enjoyed my time so far. I really have. The people are fantastic. Crew 5 (that’s what we’re called) are from all sorts of background and countries. It’s amazing to know how other people from other parts of the world think and feel. In such a short time, they have shaped me to be a better person one way or another. Truly an amazing chapter in my life even if I don’t even know what’s ahead of me for the rest of the year but with open mind comes with an open heart.

It’s refreshing to not know what other people’s religions are or races for that matter. Malaysia has been so accustomed to pigeon-hole humans into different sectors and lifestyles – they are either Chinese, Indians, Malay or others who believe in Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam or none of the above. That itself sort of become our crutch in the real world. Everything has to fit into some kind of stereotype and it’s in HI that I learned none of these really mattered.

None whatsoever. Zilch. Nada.

Hyper Island Crew 5

Everyone respected each other. If you happened to say something insensitive, you can be sure that feedback will be given from the horse’s mouth. We’re wired that way in what I would call the Hyper Culture. It makes us more productive, effective and human in so many ways.

We have this space to make mistakes, forgive ourselves and other people for it and make it better. What has been playing on my mind is, now that we’ve created a whole different bubble for ourselves, by the time we get back to real world, that bubble is going to burst and I look forward to see how we can apply all these methods and culture to other people.

To summarise our program, it’s about cultivating some form of leadership qualities in all of us and take ownership of the consequences we are about to cause. I hope you don’t think we’re going do things quietly without any impact..because we will.

Last week was the start of the incredible journey of masters with real clients and mentors from all kinds of industry. I don’t know how to feel but naturally, I’ll give all I have to be better as solo and team player.

 

Image
0

Back Against The Wall

Under Construction

At this point in time,
the road is unseen,
unwritten and unimagined;
Yet here I am standing,
heart and soul exposed
with everything to lose.

I want to answer,
I want to say,
Most definitely to scream
“It will be okay”
but I never convey
Never reach for that day.

Honestly, I am too afraid
Don’t know what to do
With this grenade,
ticking away minute after minute
“Just throw it to me”,
whispered a voice I never foresee.

How can this be?
So far from any possibility.
I see that charming smile,
the one that’s capable
of undoing everything
I try very hard protecting.

It’s always gonna be like this,
One moment I think I’m done
And then I’m hitting home run.
Someone tell me what’s going on,
‘Cuz at this rate, I’m so far gone
I don’t know what I should hold on.

“What about the adventure you speak of?”
Oh, how I long for those days my love!
He took my hands and shove all insecurities,
Writing our story with so much purity
“I’ve always been here, only a lot less gutsy”
“Welcome home”, I hand out his old key.

 

I wrote Under Construction a month ago but had pushed it aside because I didn’t think it had any place here, or in my point of view, I don’t know how it could fit in this little world.

I don’t know any other way to write but to tell it from the way I feel deep down. I think because I felt that my back is against the wall more times than I like it to be, whether on my own doing or otherwise..it’s been a struggle to push back.

So I stay put for a bit. Praying for the calmness to arrive after chaos.

To be frank, I don’t know how to move forward from here. Maybe once I get this phase over and done with, I’ll get that release I’ve been longing for. Excuse my incapability in writing something important right now. There’s a time when the need needs to be met before crossing over to the greener pasture. This is that.

When I face a wall, poetry and art manage to depict my emotions. There is no better way to describe the feelings I’ve been going through than Pablo Suarez’s Exclusion masterpiece which was exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Pablo Suarez Exclusion Argentina

 

5

Relocating My Malaysian Identity: A European Dig

London Graffiti

I should have known better.

Yeah that’s what has been chiming in my head the past few days when this certain realisation hit me. A year later after it happened no less too for that matter. Ah, God works in mysterious ways indeed.

While I was moving around Europe, I stumbled upon an interesting pattern. One I love repeating the story to others but never actually connecting the dots. It all started when I was in Shephard’s Bush, London. We were walking back from Jamie’s Italian for an early dinner (you’re best at reserving a table in advance) and I came across a Ukrainian who pointed out about my cheeks which had red streaks due to the dry weather and issues with blood vessels. While on normal terms, I wouldn’t be so open to trying new things, for some reason I just felt like I should. I knew Dead Sea and Himalayan Salt are very good for sensitive skin but never got around to use any.

His name was Mario. I remember because of my favourite childhood video game. Upon knowing I’m a Malaysian, he instantly spoke to me in Bahasa Malaysia. Delightfully at that. In my head, I was amused, speechless and dumbfounded because..well I’m thousands of miles away from Malaysia and here I am having conversation with a stranger who has never been to Malaysia in Malay.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he has good PR skills. Which is partially true too.

But then again, given how London is, someone’s bound to pick up Malay as a language because this city is filled with them anyway. It kinda sorta made sense to me .. I guess. Still, of all languages in the world, I had to get to know people who speak it. The main reason why Mario learned to speak Malay is because many of his clients are from Malaysia. It made the connection easier for him and in many ways, I admire his courage to learn something new and willing to improve himself.

Again, of all languages. I can understand if it were French, Italian, Mandarin or Spanish but I’ve not met anyone who isn’t living in Malaysia willingly learn Bahasa Malaysia as their third, fourth .. language.

London Millennium Footbridge

A while later, as we were making our way across The Millennium Bridge to the Big Ben, someone asked me if I could take a picture of him with the background. Once I did it and we exchanged a few words, one more person spoke to me in Malay when “from Malaysia” came out of my mouth. This time, he was from Lithuania (I think). It was a short conversation, a brisk one but it got me thinking, what are the odds that I get to meet these people? ME of all people.

Let’s back track a little here in case you have no clue why I’m making a big deal out of this. For decades, I’m known to be that kid who has no affinity with Malaysia. Heck, the first place I felt like I belonged somewhere was Jakarta on my first visit (and then subsequently Haarlem and Roma). I’m also that kid who had planned to migrate to Italy and make a life there. The idea was to make my way to RUFA.

It also has a lot to do with how easy I feel to just be me and engage with strangers along the streets in Europe.

Of course, that didn’t happen but that feeling of being an outcast still throb in my heart but slower as of late.

Anyway, I didn’t think much of bumping into foreigners who has never been to Malaysia speaking Malay although the joy they show when speaking the language made me feel like we in Malaysia might miss something, that spark that makes it special. Or maybe it’s just me. I could somewhat relate to that feeling when I get to speak (rusty) Italian with people but I never viewed (what is supposedly) my Mother Tongue as part of that euphoric experience. We tend to take things we have for granted right? So that was me with my birthplace. I suppose, no matter where I go, I can’t escape from my root. No matter how badly I wanted.

Which reminded me of one time when I was in Jakarta, at my favourite music shop in Plaza Salina. While going through the cds I plan to bring back (ended up with a dozen), two Indonesian kids were at the counter asking for Siti Nurhaliza’s albums. At that moment, I was like “Of all times and places!”. To those who doesn’t know, Siti Nurhazila is one of Malaysian’s biggest artists, especially in the late 90’s and 00’s.

So you see, God has a wicked sense of humour when it comes to things I try very hard to remove myself from.

Coloured Shadow

Then, while we were waiting for Guilia, my childhood pen pal who I was very lucky to meet for the first time a day before she moved to London, we dropped by Hard Rock Cafe Roma to kill time. There were some demonstration happening down the street so we thought, might as well take cover till it settles down for a bit.

As I was about to pay for my t-shirt at the counter, I greeted him the typical way any Italians would.

“Ciao! Di dove sei?” he asked while giving me this unsure look. Got me wondering if I had pronounced something wrongly (chances are I might given how long I’ve not put it to practice).

“Io sono di Malaysia..” I was a little bit hesitant to say since I wasn’t sure if he would know where it is. Oh how wrong I was.

“Oh! Malaysia! Kamu apa khabar?” All bouncy and happy in perfect Malay intonation mind you. Trying to wreck my brain deciphering his accent, as I would think it’s sorta normal if it has some Indonesian influence but nada. Zilch.

For the longest seconds ever, I didn’t manage to answer him. At all. Suddenly my brain just shut down and turn into mush. Of course, the fact that he looks like an Italian version of James McAvoy didn’t help make me feel any better.

I was awestruck by the fact that he’s cute (hello James MacAvoy long lost twin!) AND speaks perfect Malay which made me look more like a fool. Blergh. Way to go Dian!

“Hello?” Reality finally hit me, blankly staring at him while he titled his head, giving me this adorable look like he didn’t believe I’m a Malaysian. Yeah, what a dweeb I am right?

“…..err khabar baik..”

He was so not buying it. He said it himself. “Are you sure you’re from Malaysia? How come it took you a while to answer?” smarty-pants wearing the lopsided smirk didn’t make this surreal conversation any easier for me.

I couldn’t tell him that I was lost for words because of him. So I said what came to mind,

“Been away from Malaysia for a quite a bit”.

Yeah right, it was only four weeks since I left. We both broke out in laughter soon after and continued talking about our different cultures, what got him to learn my language and his with me. It was like looking at your reflection, just a different version of you.

That I found him very cute when he was counting numbers in Malay made my day even more endearing. Ah Italians, they just know how to charm you without even trying. Totally forgot to take a photo of him was something I regret a little bit. Just a little.

So what was Francesco’s reason? Bahasa Malaysia/Malay is the easiest to learn because it’s similar to speaking in Italian, you spell the way you pronounce it. I never really thought of it that way until then. Never really got myself to see it from another perspective about my country, the language that I never think too highly of. That’s also probably something many of us don’t get to see too, not because we don’t want to but perhaps too jaded by the current affairs and the on goings of Malaysia to see the beauty that lies behind being a Malaysian.

Rome Train

I find it strange, so strange that the past few entries has been about me finding my identity in Malaysia. Finding my place and voice in the country I’ve lived all my life. And maybe that’s a good thing, that things are happening the way it is because I always believed that in order to appreciate something you have, you have to learn to see it for what it is and what you can do to make it better.

So about me wanting to remove myself as far away from Malaysia is slowly diminishing (for now) because I feel like I have a task to do here, a purpose He’s given me, even if I can only make one person’s life a difference in Malaysia, that would be enough for me.

I’m still going to travel wherever I want to but I use that to see how I can contribute back to this place that needs a lot of like-minded people to hang on. Hang on to any good faith you can find deep inside and do our best to be the change we yearn to see.

Got this off The Single Woman

And in this case, being crazy might just be the antidote to our conundrum.

Image
11

Cherating, My Heart Breaks For You

Cherating Haze

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.” ― John Lubbock.

Throughout my entire journey in Cherating and Kemaman, I was struggling to keep the voice in my head quiet. There’s that unsettling feeling burning inside me, one I don’t know what to do with besides going on for the ride. I guess the voice of reason can’t be in silent when the ground we walk on is shaken.

We woke up on Thursday morning, a very early one at that in hopes to catch the sunrise at Cherating Beach. Honestly, the last time I remember attempting at doing this was back in Bagan Lalang, Selangor (2011). Before that, Sanur, Bali (2009). Otherwise, I wouldn’t be bothered by it. Yet on this trip, I was determined to do so. Don’t know why.

The moment we unlocked the door, my body stiffen. “Who the heck burns rubbish this early?!” I grumbled to Anis, still half awake then. Thinking it was still too dark, we took a slow walk to the beach. Still hoping, praying in fact for a good morning.

With our cameras in tow, we looked up and boy, the sky was anything but happy. Very moody actually. Slowly as time passes by, it got brighter and the photo above was the view that welcomed us. So, all that effort to catch the sunrise were put to rest when we realised it was haze all this while. It was the answer to my early morning mystery.

No wonder I woke up with rash all over my body that morning.

You would think, it being September and all, we’d be done with haze (for the year at least) but sadly, this one looked pretty bad. So bad, it continued to crawl right up to Legend Resort‘s swimming pool area. Not exactly the kind of morning you’d wanna wake up to and suddenly I got a text from Nigel;

“Just woke up. Doesn’t look like we get to see the sun today.”

You got that right buddy.

Legend Resort Cherating

And there I was, trying to figure out what I was feeling. You see, this dwarf here is sensitive to fragile things. I get so easily affected by anything – people cutting down trees or an injured animal lying helplessly. And the only thing I could do is pray for their well being, our well being. Here’s the thing, once upon a time, people kept telling me not to be too sensitive over things and I would get so repulsive because it only meant that I was not good enough. But as I grow older, I found a way to slowly mask these feelings..just not enough to have control over it hundred percent.

The thing is, it’s not that I want to be sensitive. I’m just built that way.

Having said that, when I’m greeted by such scene in front of my eyes, I have nothing but sadness and anger for Mother Nature. Here she is sacrificing herself for our benefits and all we’ve been doing is constantly raping her. I feel so ashamed, so dumbfounded because this is not a problem we’ve only just stumbled upon; in fact it has been at least 15 years since our first introduction to this filthy air YET nothing has been done to solve the issue. If anything, it had gotten worst by the year.

Where have we done wrong (or done nothing at all)? How can we face this right in the face and settle it? All we’ve ever done is complain that the weather is too hot, too humid..just not the way we wanted it to be. Never about how we can make it better. The thing is, global warming is one enemy you never want to mess with. It comes in different shapes and forms, and once it strike, it takes the entire place down without a warning. Take Europe for example when they had the cold wave last year. So many homeless people died on the streets because no one expected the weather to go as low as -39.2°C. That’s all global warming’s job and why did it happened? We keep on cutting trees like we change clothes everyday. Worst in fact.

I admit, I can be very intense when it comes to things I care deeply. Nature falls into that for some reason and when people ask me how my trip was, they were shocked when I told them I felt heartbroken for three days. “Your feed seems to say otherwise” is what they said. Which is true, I had fun but more than anything, deep inside, I was broken into pieces discovering the sacred part of Malaysia. The most beautiful yet so very fragile side of Cherating and Kemaman are under fire because of greed. Greed to develop land for their own pocket. We don’t realise this, not until it’s too late that what we have in Malaysia is perhaps one of the most richest resource in the world.

By right, we should be one of the richest country with strong economy.

Cherating Mangrove Cruise

Alas, that wasn’t the case. Not when the mentality keeps on feeding with money that can’t be brought to the grave. Much less when the earth has nothing else to offer, and then what?

I had a good session with several eco warriors who don’t even know they are fighting tooth and nail defending Mother Nature but deep in their hearts, it’s all they want to do. Listening to their struggles and quest to keep our nature together is not for the faint of heart. These are the heroes, storytellers I want to talk about in my next post. One is a firefly whisperer and another is a turtle ranger guardian. I’ll even throw in a bird lover too.

So you see, deep in Cherating lies all this secrets, her magic is not about the activities you can do but the people who help nurture and preserve the way she deserves to be. These are the kind of people we should be encouraging to live and prosper. The kind that sees the importance in loving Mother Nature for who she is and not just for what she can give you. We don’t have to go far, take LYNAS for example. It’s in Kuantan for god sake, or rather in the works to set up there. If Aussies ’emselves don’t want anything to do with it, why are we freely accepting this darkness into our territory? Again, money talks but we have 23 million voices and so far only one million has spoken about taking action against LYNAS in Kuantan, Pahang. They can tell you it’s safe, it’s not going to do any harm but truth is, it’s all bullshit. The first thing to get affected would be our ecosystem, the wild animals and their habitats. Then the locals and the rest of the world.

Why should we care so much about our environment you say?

Well, for one, you’re breathing, drinking, eating and sleeping well because of Mother Nature. Imagine if there’s no trees – there won’t be any oxygen. No clean water, no more food but processed ones and landslide happening every now and then. Can you live in that situation? Truly believe you could with those bugging you?

Cherating Beach Storm

Even when there’s a storm coming, she was able to take my breath away.

I think we need to be more aware and dedicated to taking care this environment of ours like it’s our own children. For now, do take a minute or two to Take Action! Stop Lynas. If we are not defending our rights, who else gonna do it?

This is my story, a prologue if you will to get the right message out about protecting our environment. This trip has changed so much in me, fueled my hunger to fight for the good cause even more. Therefore, I’d like to thank Anthony for inviting me on this trip. I just need to draft out the other two stories about this heartbreaking journey of mine. Someone has to write about the unpopular topics and it might not bode well with some people but let that person be me.