7

Peru: Lima Ruled by Conscience

Now that I’m settled with the time difference after 11 days of struggling since I came back, my brain has been buzzing about the things it wants to write about. It’s pretty vast considering I didn’t have anything to record it with or the strength to at the time but here I am. Also has a bit to do with reading Fienuts’ latest feature for Travel Spotlight: Gina Hashim a few minutes ago that pushed me to say something..so yeah, here I am typing away.

We’ll go with the flow, what these fingers would like to talk about. They rule this place, I’m just the medium.

So after climbing a mountain of work the past one week and waiting for clients to respond, I decided to finally go through the memory cards to see what photos I’ve actually taken during my three weeks trip to South America (and a bit of Dubai). Yeah, took me three weeks to get to this point and let’s not even start with unpacking my stuff. THAT bag still sits nicely at the corner of my room, staring at me profusely, “C’mon! Sort me out already!” I hear it scream at me.

Right, excuse the kooky side of me.

Where was I?

I was flipping through photos from Peru and a wave of sentimental emotions came crashing like I knew it would. I didn’t think after so many weeks I’d feel the same or maybe even more so now. It’s a strange feeling, wanting to capture as many photos for keepsake yet there I was in Peru (it all started in Lima) where I stumbled upon a dilemma that carried me through the rest of the journey.

I had imagined the kind of compositions I wanted when I landed at Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chávez, so many of them, I psyched myself to a point that when I head to Miraflores, I had the most conflicted feeling I’ve ever experienced during all my traveling days.

See, after going through Chemat’s Street Photography masterclass last year during Obscura Photography Festival in Penang, I constantly ask myself about what I photograph and if it has any story or significance to it. My trigger happy days has since died off and for the better too I guess.

Lima Panoramic View

Anyway, while I was looking at Lima from the window glass, this one particular question haunted me for the rest of the week.

“Do I have a need when taking photos of them? A reason that will benefit them or a story on their behalf?”

Each time when I answered no, I will put down my camera and just watch as time passes by. Ironically, I feel at peace with that decision. And you must think I’m out of my mind for letting such moments go so easily without a fight.

You’re right.

If I was you, I’d be like “Are you crazy?! All that beautiful epic moments you missed just because your conscience says otherwise? Geez, what a waste”. Well, I could say such thing I’m sure but when you’re there, seeing how they live, and the hard work they put in, how is your photo doing just to their lives? I feel like if I don’t have a story to tell about them from them, I don’t deserve stealing their moment. I felt like a trespasser. Weird right? I know but unless I got to know them personally, talking to them eye to eye and have some kind of connection, I feel that the least respect I can give them is allow them to continue living the way they’ve been doing it. Without me interfering.

That’s just me. For you, this might not even apply at all. And I can live with this new revelation about photography. I might walk away with (waaaaay) less photos of where I went but in the end, this is what that place is suppose to be. I’ll capture it with words, as best as I can.

These days I’ve dabbed into (something like) videos too. Maybe down the road I’ll pick up this trait again. It’s just that I don’t exactly have that much patience for rendering but we’ll never know until we try it (again).

The one thing I remember taking from my trip to Lima, Cusco and Puno is that it doesn’t matter what your background is. When you make the most of what you have and take on the opportunities you’re given, you can be where you want to be.

Rolf and Gonzalo inspired me to keep pushing to do what is best. The best thing you know in that moment for yourself and for the rest who can benefit from it. Their innate ability to constantly learn anything and everything under the sun makes me feel that there are still good in this world. I feel so humbled standing and sitting next to them, sometimes I feel a little shy too because while I was taking a nap in the train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, Gonzalo took out his notebook and studied German over and over again.

Tourism is a big thing here in Peru. It’s the source of income for 65% of the nation and what’s even better to know is that their degree in Tourism includes archeology, history and geology. Of course it makes sense but it makes studying to get that paper so much more worth it. Tourism & Hospitality degree here is just the basic stuff. Not hardcore as the ones offered back in South America and the thing is, we should take a page from them. If we don’t know our history, culture and beliefs at the tip of our fingertips, how can we muster such knowledgable people in the tourism sector?

They take pride in what they do, so much blood, sweat and tears invested for their beloved country and it’s so good to feel their passion oozing out from them without speaking.

It’s these kind of people who empowers me to do what I do. They are the ones who fuels me to push through all the obstacles I could face in the future. Just thinking about how hard they work makes me want to work just as hard or harder. Not because I’m competitive but because that’s what required of us to do good things. We don’t sit and give excuses. If we want something good to happen, we make it happen. The rest, we’ll just have to let Him write the story.

For as long as you’ve done your best, the best you can possibly do, no one can take that away from you.

I was lucky to have a friend like Z who was in Peru a few years back for work and had filled me in about his adventure then. Didn’t think I’d ever go there but when I did, he texted me of the places I should check out. One of it was Cerro San Cristóbal. I asked Rolf, who is a German born, bred and lived in Peru, if this place was far from downtown Lima (where we were heading) and he had this priceless look on his face. The kind who didn’t expect the cows to sing sort of look.

Rolf in Streets of Lima

I wasn’t sure what this place is to begin with when I asked Rolf besides seeing a photo Z had taken. Didn’t even do any other read up about this particular trip of mine to South America. And I was warned not to go up on my own and if I do take the cab, make sure to request for the driver to wait at the peak. So as we were maneuvering around downtown Lima, passing by one of the oldest universities in the New World – National University of San Marcos, he pointed to me the cross on a mountain in the horizon.

“That’s San Cristobal. But we’ll have to wait till noon so that the fog clears up a little before we go up there.”

I found out from him that there are only 10 days in a year when Lima will be blessed with clear blue sky due to Lima’s topography which is a desert and surrounded by the Andes mountains (spectacular terrain I might add). So, the fog/haze is really due to the dust and after awhile you’ll get used to this condition, not like the kind I’m used to (still hate it) in Malaysia where haze is mainly made up of smoke.

San Cristobal Panoramic

The drive up is quite a challenge, through slums and narrow roads in between and by the cliff. I wonder if maybe walking up might be a better idea and while you’re going up, try and spot all 12 crosses along the way. It’s also the area you’re best not to explore after dawn, “Not even if you give me a million bucks!” said Rolf.

It’s definitely a stark contrast from the rest of the cities I’ve been too. We’ve been accustomed to think that when you hear the word city, it’s developed, urban and busy but in South America, the cities meant differently. Lima’s down town city is very…unkept. However, this is also due to the history when the military chased the rich families out of the area and turned it into some kind of “public toilet” for many decades after.

Also, if you ever asked someone to take photo of you, be prepared to have some spare coins for tips later. It’s kinda a norm. I mean more often than not that is.

So what’s good to be at the top of Cerro San Cristobal? It being Rolf’s wild card in case the other places he had in mind weren’t good enough, I’d say it’s the view, a 360 degrees of Lima and the Andes at your feet. You can spot the biggest graveyard, a bull fighting stadium, San Francisco Monastery and more! Something similar to Christ the Redeemer at Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro but minus the crowd. Peru is what you see is what you get kinda place. My kinda thing. Everywhere you go, you’re walking on ancient history. There’s always Inca this or Spanish that. Just something else. The people are wonderful. So gracious and sweet even if they don’t speak much English but you can get by with speaking broken Spanish. Until then, I didn’t think my rusty Italian would help me much but it did because it’s very similar in meanings.

I don’t know how or where this affectionate feeling for Peru developed, I just know it all started in Lima and grew on me for the rest of the time and I still have one more story about Lima before I get to Machu Picchu!

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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.

6

#TSBreakAway Featurette: The History Dream

This year has been a big revelation for me. Where Australia’s trip last winter made me realised that I’ve come full circle with myself, two weeks ago, my trip to Kuala Kubu Bharu cemented my reason for being here. In Malaysia.

While for many, it’s either about not having a choice or tied down to family and such.. for me it’s none of that. I could at anytime leave this country and had planned that way since I was a kid. I desperately wanted to get out since young because I’ve never felt like I belonged here yet here I am. Where my friends thought I’d be the first to leave and never return, it hasn’t been the case.

Till today, I remember the one thing my mum said when I was in Leeds, chilling at Nix’s house a year ago.

“So decided to move there?” she asked or something to that effect.

In that moment, part of me wanted to say yes but I didn’t and I knew if I did, she’d support my decision. That was the plan, has always been the plan.

And like the saying my English teacher once told me, man proposes, God disposes. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

That is until this trip.

It was a spur of a moment, one day sometime three weeks ago I suggested to Anis to head up to KKB to meet the uncle she had wrote about in her blog for #TSBreakAway and see what he thought about it. Then I mentioned it to Nigel who wanted to tag along. The week later, she told me they will be going on Friday. I was with Ashraf who was the resident mentor and videographer for this project we’re involved and casually asked if he wanted to go up too, see if there’s anything we could add into the #TSBreakAway footages.

KKB Group Profile

So at 6AM all of us (three #TSBreakAway Zombies and one Xplorer) were up and made our way to KL Sentral train station. This would be my first time going to KKB by train and apparently it was a first for the guys too. From here, we had to switch train in Rawang after an hour and then head to KKB in 30 minutes.

The train ride was very scenic and by the time we were in Rawang, the train we took was empty. So hey, we were like kids taking over the carriage like our own, talking about the 80’s and 90’s like it was yesterday while snapping photos and recording the view in between.

If I had to take a trip to anywhere, this fun bunch would rank at the top of my list.

Serendah

KKB Train

We had no plans when we got to KKB, just another random day exploring an old historical town and meet this charming uncle Anis interviewed. We didn’t expect that our trip would be something mind blowing, to a point that it was literally breaking us away from the norm. So as we were tracking down the route Anis took for #TSBreakAway solo assignment back to the tailor shop, she told us she was intrigued by this old barber shop (roughly about 40 years old) on the same street from where the uncle was working but didn’t check it out then because it was busy with people.

So I had this “brilliant” idea to get the guys to give us a reason to drop by and help Anis get her story. What I didn’t expect was for them to go along with the plan. I kinda sorta challenged Ashraf to cut his hair and get a shave since it looked like he needed a fresh look. Nigel too but only Ashraf agreed to do it. I did however got Nigel to do the old school shaving tho!

KKB Barber Shop Ashraf

KKB Barber Shop Nigel

KKB Barber Shop Nigel 2

Once the guys were done with their “spa” session, we continued on our next journey like kids going from one candy shop to another. I like how in this town, no one looked at you like you don’t belong here. They just continue doing their thing (at a slower but peaceful pace) and treat us like we’re part of them. Despite the uncle didn’t remember Anis initially, he entertained us with his stories of yore. Made ourselves comfortable in his 50 over years old shop, watching as he cut the wool for his customer and even managed to teach Nigel a bit of Pinyin. Who knew they both shared the same surname? Of course, he wasn’t spared from being lectured too for not able to read Mandarin. Haha! It’s like watching father scolding his son for a mishap. Ah KKB.. you sure know how to charm us.

In case you’re looking for this particular uncle to do your pants or suits, just ask anyone in KKB for “The Shirtless Uncle” and they all know who you are referring to 🙂

KKB Tailor

You know how when you got the ball rolling with one story, you went and dig deeper? Yeah, this was exactly the case. We moved from one shop to another just looking for something, anything. Then Nigel read about this other uncle who has an old watch shop which coincidentally was just around the corner from where we were. I mean, c’mon, while you’re here you might as well do what’s in your bucket list. But when we arrived, we didn’t expect that it would set the course of our adventure after this.

KKB Watchmaker

You know how when you go to a shop in a city, they’d be breathing your neck or for some reason, it makes you feel like you either have to buy something or get out of the shop quick? This was neither the case. We hung out at his place, admiring the many beautiful black and white photos of him and his shop which was taken by other photographers in the past. We talked about his background and what he love to do. Then, I heard a dog barking at the back and his wife was so sweet to show me her pet. Feisty looking little poodle. Cute tho. But feisty, bouncing away while barking at me and I was told this little one bites. So yeah, I just leaned my back on the wall adjacent to the dog. Later, she told me about two other cats who are friendly with the dog and brought them out for me to play with. Yeah, we pretty much made ourselves very comfortable.

A spirit I have not known existed in KL or Selangor. That ease I love and strive for is in this old town after all.

Anyway, after all that shop talk we’ve made, the owner of the watch shop decided to bring us to check out his daughter’s cafe, a few doors away from his. Too bad we already had our lunch (one where I was scampering around looking for a clean toilet and an aunty from a kopitiam across the street was accommodating and got me to use hers without any expectation. She even wave and greeted me when I passed by her shop again later that day). Seriously, no one here forces anyone or expects anybody to get anything from them.

When we were at the cafe looking around at the 80’s local music posters and antique memorabilia scattered all over, his daughter went up to Anis and took out her phone to show a photo she took of a namecard she thought would be useful to us.

“I think all of you should check out the small photography gallery. You’ll like it! But I don’t know if it’s open today but you can call this guy.”

KKB Cafe

This must be the gallery Anis mentioned earlier in the day which I’ve never heard of despite visiting KKB a few times in the past. There’s only one place that sounds like this which also housed many other art related items but given how everything are, it’s no surprise that the gallery is not open. Well it is, you just have to call a few days in advance. I guess we’ll have to make another trip back and get inside the gallery. Seriously, it’s almost unheard of to know that art takes place in towns like these here. If there are, no one’s spreading the word. Which is sad.

This whole place calls out for a revival. THE perfect town to have art residency. Which got my head buzzing and throbbing, I wish I could manifest those emotions into papers. Slowly eventually I will. Some kind of community project all four of us made a pact to work on. I hope.

KKB Kedai Runcit

That burning sensation was only secured even more when we met Aunty Sim Ling Ling who threw us off with her generosity. Initially, we didn’t know what we stumbled upon since the owner of the shop went to KL for acupuncture. Then we roamed inside the shop looking at the things hung from the ceiling. You’ll find anything and everything here, it’s amazing. So she slowly emerged behind the counter making conversations with us and we being the cheeky kids, asked her all the old school items we could think of when we were kids. Excitedly, she said yes to all of it and even ran inside to grab it.

Where could you find “Buku Tiga Lima” that still costs 20 cents or pencil with rubber tip would still be 10 cents?

All of a sudden, we all had an idea to buy something from her as a souvenir to commemorate this surprising adventure of ours. Aunty Ling Ling was so jovial entertaining us with the things in the shop and also her tuxedo cat named Baby.

From one thing led to another, I don’t know what got me agreeing when she said “Let’s have coffee?” and walked really fast to the kopitiam next to her shop. In my head, I thought she said, maybe when we come again, we’ll have coffee with her. I didn’t expect to have coffee there and then.

We all ordered our drinks and the moment she found out that I’ve been looking for this particular Kaya Puff KKB is notorious for, she immediately got up and went to the shop.

Ashraf, Anis and I looked at Nigel, who was on the phone at that time.

“Psst..Nigel, we have a situation. Need to intervene..Psst…”

KKB Kaya Puff

By the time Nigel got off the phone, she came back with a box of Kaya Puff all ready for your mouth to salivate. *slap head*

And that she’s got this smile you just cannot not smile back at her. Cannot not accept her gifts. Cannot not accept her friendship. Just can’t.

Of course, I’m saying that in a good way. She even told us about the aunty who makes the kaya for the pastry shop..who happens to be doing it right that moment in that very kopitiam we were in.

KKB Kaya

BEHOLD! She was so efficient, she pre-ordered a tub of homemade kaya and delivered to our table each. Like what is this? Am I really in Malaysia?! By this time, we were all shaking our heads, didn’t know how to repay her kindness with and that she refused our money when we wanted to pay for it made us feel even more unsure. Appreciative of her kindness but also didn’t want her to think we’re taking advantage.

“No, no. I’m not petty over these things. I just want to share.” She told us.

At this moment, only then I know the real meaning of Malaysian Hospitality (MH). If we wanted to dig any story from KKB, this is the deepest KKB allows us. The heart, the bulb, the inspiration. You cannot go any deeper than this. No way.

So, as usual, you know we had to check out how this kaya was made and it takes 7 hours to make a big pot by one old lady and sells it around the town. When I asked if she wanted to sell it out of KKB, she said no. Dang it! Looks like I’ll have to come back here and replenish my stock.

KKB Kaya 2

Looking back, it’s true, KKB is mainly populated by the elderly folks who prefer the quiet and slow paced life. Which reminded me a lot of my late grandma who till she was bedridden, insisted she needs to work, to get the mind working. And that’s exactly what each of them are doing here..that and also because none of their kids wanted to take over their business because the bigger cities offer so much more. Hard working people makes me want to work harder.

Part of me was sad by this fact but another part of me can kinda sorta relate to their kids because it’s been years since my dad been pestering to take over his business but I refused because really, what he’s doing and what I need to do is on totally opposite spectrum. But I still feel sad for them because when they are no more around, what will become of KKB? This town can’t possibly die out of natural death! Over my dead body.

So enter that buzzing brain of mine which Ashraf, Nigel and Anis added more fuel. We just need a plan to execute this thing. I’m sure combining our nutty brains together, we’ll be able to do something but yeah, as of right now, I’m letting the pot simmer for a bit. I still have other paperworks to complete. Gah!

Oh yeah, so how did we end our session with Aunty Ling Ling?

Sneakily, she already paid for our drinks beforehand. Oh Aunty Ling Ling, you really blew us away with your sweet charm. Sigh.

KKB Group Photo

To end this unforgettable trip we did, I found this draft poem I wrote while I was in the train in Sydney a few months back. One I think describes KKB profoundly to me.

A return trip is in order!

Ticket to the Unknown

It ain’t so bad,
This train to no where,
Worst case would be to arrive
To a place you’ll write your story
For the rest to read and navigate.

There’s a moment in our lives,
When the ticket you bought
May not be the place you thought;
You’ll arrive in peace and harmony
But then, peace is anywhere no?

Such is the life this dwarf leads
For those hunters may not see
The beauty therein lies
in front of thee.
Oh what a waste when it flee.

So where will you go,
What will you see?
Just take a trip
Wherever it may be
and just hold on tight for this journey.

Sidenote: Nigel took some superb black and white photos from this outing. I think this is by far he best work, you gotta check it out here!

4

Obscura 2013: Finding Familiarity in Art with Chemat

Treat everything we do like it’s a form of art.

I was watching Masterchef Australia Season 4 which Heston Blumenthal was part of the Mega Invention Test. Dude’s most known for his insane creation by merging two unthinkable ingredients together.

Masterchef Australia Season 4 Episode 49 Heston Blumenthal

Photo Credit: Corner Cafe

Anyway, while watching the episode and when he said something along the lines of being in a creative space and under pressure to create something is what’s most exciting – and that thought brought me back to Chemat‘s Street Photography Masterclass workshop during Obscura 2013 last June.

That was exactly how I would’ve explained the intensity throughout my trip then. I’ve spoken highly of this 10 days program and was so inspired that I’m hoping a project I’m working on would see the light of day and have some sense of belonging as it did with Obscura.

Many asked me what it was like during the 3 days workshop in Georgetown, Penang. I only have this to say,

Mind Blowing

I don’t know how else I could have word it out so excuse my french.

I hear whispers, words of terror that Chemat is one to be feared. And yours truly has every right to be afraid too, I mean this is one of the legends in Malaysia we’re talking about.

“Well, worst case is, he won’t like what you do and make you do it again” a friend said.

Right. Like that’s any comfort to my anxious mind.

But it turns out, he’s a lion to his students in MMU. Outside of it all, he’s really a humble man who’s willing to impart knowledge on you. So much wasted brain cells on feeling scared, I learned to relax as we go along during his briefing.

There were about 13 of us. Maximum was 10 but I can see why so many were so eager to register for his session. We were made of from different parts of the world – Washington, Dakar, Germany, Bali, Singapore..basically everywhere around the world. I went into this session alone but end up anything but that.

Obscura Chemat Group Photo

The weirdest part during Chemat’s briefing on Day 1 was that, I was the only one busy live tweeting while the rest make mental notes as he walk us through what makes a street photography, history, etiquettes and more. The things he shared with us were so valuable, I think everyone would get something out of it .. therefore I retreat to the medium I’m more familiar with. I might’ve spammed my followers with bits and pieces of Che Mat’s wise word, hopefully someone find it useful.

China House Obscura Chemat

Before this, I never thought street photography to have such depth. All this while, I’ve been accustomed to just snapping as I go along – he made us stop, think and find meaning in each frame. He made us throw our bad habits; we had to unlearn to relearn this new approach. Street is always about the moment we capture and it still is, just that the technique and mentality has been turned 270 degrees.

Obscura Tweets

After his briefing, we went out together as a group with Chemat. First part of the day was the theory section. The second part is the practice. I was still intimidated and unsure but slowly I found reassurance with myself. Partly because I was still figuring out my new camera. Talk about throwing myself into the sharks.

We were brought to spots Chemat tend to do his shoots, taught us how to be approachable, respect strangers and just simply be. Stick around next to the legend and you’ll pick up details like composing before snapping, waiting and anticipating for a moment to happen and think about the subject before shooting. It’s these nuances that made him great, these nuances that he wants more people to apply into their habit.

Obscura Festival Chemat Street

See, there are a few points Chemat had mentioned which I find most profound. One of which was that – even if you went out and do your usual street photography, it’s ok to come home with nothing (good). So long as you keep doing it, eventually you’ll get something. In today’s world, people want quick fix and instant results. Which isn’t how life works as a whole but people are still adamant to make it happen that way. Having him stressing out the importance of letting go of expectations, you find more patience in everything you do. It’s that secret power you harness what makes your photos tell a deeper story, a better one than before and hopefully one that resonates with other people who view it too.

After all, if a photo is unable to bring out the emotions it speaks, it’s only just a photo. A two dimensional one.

Then there’s the wisest statement I’ve heard in a long time – he also stressed out the importance of one particular street photography rule. Never ever take photos of beggars ( and visually impaired musicians) on the street. That is not street photography by any means. If anything, you’re exploiting their unfortunate lives for your own benefit. Unless you’re doing a story about them, understanding who they are and intend to make your story help them in a positive way, then don’t ever. Taking advantage of others who couldn’t do anything about their situation without purpose is just insensitive.

That’s his rule of thumb. Something we all can apply into our daily life. Think before we share, speak or do something. If we’re doing it just because we want to be part of something (without deeper purpose), there is no point in doing it. Do something with purpose. Do something good.

And it’s always good to have principles to hold on to. At the very least, when you go off track, you can look back and ground yourself to what/who/where you truly are. You’ll pick up these tricks along the way as you discover yourself. Be constantly curious and adaptable.

What did I learn at the end of the trip? What I thought my strengths were was otherwise not the case and I found out that I’ve got a knack for graphic things. I’m more drawn to those and having him pointed it out to me when we were reviewing our pieces really shed so much light into what street photography is all about. So that 2/3 of the day images I took were not hitting the mark now that I had a new direction. So off I went waking up 6am and walked to the other side of Penang, waited and anticipated for moments.

I sat for more than an hour outside Komtar. No one was around at that time, one could just cross the road easily. I went to this place the day before, but didn’t get the shot I wanted. Given that I only had until 9am to get my shit together, I look for something..anything really and found a possibility.

And sometimes..the good stuff happens through accidents.

That was exactly the case with this particular photo I took as part of the concept. The 5th photo that made into the presentation list. Wasn’t part of the plan but it became THE plan. I was trying to capture the uncle at the shop lot but then, a pack of dogs decided to photo-bombed.

Yep, this was the result of that. The one I didn’t expect to snap but I did. In that moment, I finally understood what Chemat has been talking about. Waiting for that moment, composing the subject and just be patient. Everything he said throughout his talk wrapped into one image.

Obscura Street Photography Chemat

So y’know, it helps to go with the flow when it comes to things that’s beyond your control. You’re more relaxed, open-minded and accepting of things. I like this.

When it was time for our final group review before slideshow that evening, I was as nervous as a noob can be. What more being among the most talented bunch of cool people in this class..geez, I’m like somewhere at the bottom. However, that’s not the point of joining this session..I brought back so much more, in fact it helped boost my confidence just a little bit more. We all know what a mess I can be when it comes to the public, having people actually sit and anticipating for our work was every bit a nerve wrecking experience for me. One that was projected to an empty wall at the temple opposite China House with people lying down on the grass and more on the bench, oi, some experience that was! To be honest, so many times I felt like getting out of the place, not wanting for people to see what I shot the past one day. Shout out to Anis for the moral support 🙂

Having a good collection of photos, street photography for that matter is no easy task. It’s something that’s almost out of your control – whatever the result of your photos may be. But patience.. that’s all it takes to build up something good.

As for Chemat, you students are lucky to have him as your lecturer. As strict as he is..it will carry with you to the end. Don’t bother hoping for someone who’s more delicate with you, you bunch of lucky folks.

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Down Under Healing Formulas

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I’ve been trying to write, every single day. Not because I had to in order to get this place active but because I want to.

Too many words, phrases, emotions..all boiling in one pot in my mind. Yet I don’t know what to do with it.

So everyday I sit, I pen it all out but at the end of the day, it’s left hanging. Either unfinished or I’m not satisfied with the delivery.

Today, I scrap everything off. Starting fresh. Still don’t know which direction I’ll be taking but I hope to end up with something closer.

I’ve always written about travel as a means of searching for something. More than anything, searching for myself. A bit vague to go places to look for something you don’t know what it is yet for some reason somewhere somehow you manage to findit. Whatever it is.

Since Australia happened, all that searching sort of stopped.

Like I’ve completed my rounds. I call it a full circle.

I could go as far as finding my closure.

And that’s silly, what on earth do I have connection with Australia to have closures anyway?

My past.

That’s what it was. Everything Australia held were my past and I finally returned after 17 years because I’ve got my head straighter. Feet firmer on the ground.

I have gathered a bit more knowledge about who I am and what I’m here for by Him.

So this task in Australia, as grand as the continent itself; it also buried so many memories inter-related to all the things I’ve done and met. While some of it are ghosts to my memories, I have to face it up front in order to move forward.

And that’s exactly how it turned outwithout planning to.

My late grandma’s memories were one of the biggest culprit to this self discovery journey. The thing is, I still do push any thoughts of her at the backof my mind, so far behind, sometimes when it pops up, I get a sudden surge like it just happened yesterday and get overwhelmed by it.

And then I shove it back again.

My first trip to Australia was with her. One and only trip with her. So having to fly on my own this time was somewhat strange to me..I guess. Despite flying solo many times before, this was different. Don’t know why.

It being Queen’s Birthday the day after I arrived, Syiks had a day off and we spent the entire day and night out in Sydney doing the things we love. Whale watching was one of the agenda I was really looking forward to. She didn’t know there was such a thing so close to her and I’m glad we did it for the first time.

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So many childhood memories crashed over me like a tsunami the whole time but I tried to keep it at bay. Somewhat hard but eh, just enjoy the ride.

During the speed boat ride, I manage to spot the hill we once stayed back in the day. I remember being in love with the sight. The cliff. The space. It still looked the same today.

I remember even back then I was struggling to find myself because I grew up thinking I should be a certain type out of a cookie cutter yet deep inside I knew I’m never going to be that. Struggle it was, still is but I’m stronger to fight for it now. Back then I didn’t know any better.

Therefore, I kept doing things the unusual way, say and act differently.

Watching the whales in it’s entirety was a gift from God. It’s so good to know that the Aussies know how to balance developing a country and taking care of Mother Nature. Every time I see a bald patch, it feels like someone break my heart into pieces.

To know that there wereonly 200 whales a decade or so ago left and since then they’ve took every action to stop the killing, today there’s about at least 20,000 over whales. Good job Australia, good job.

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We also spent the afternoon at Circular Quay, where the Opera House is situated. Just chilling out, watching the sun setting two days straight was a magical experience to me. The day before it was on the plane, this time on the steps of the Opera House. My favorite discovery on this day was the Opera Bar. The live band playing contemporary music with a jazz touch was perfect. So perfect, I didn’t want to leave.

What I like about Syiks is that, in some ways, maybe she doesn’t even know it (or maybe she does?) – she knows when to just let me be. Just hang around. If I don’t talk, she’s ok with it too. We sat at the steps of Opera House for at least 2 hours.

I love that. I just love that part.

Being able to indulge without being indulgent and she lets me be.

It’s perhaps one of my best memories for as long as I’ve lived. If I were to stay here, this would be one of the things I would do often.

We passed Manly Terminal and photographs I took back when I was 11 did a slide show on it’s own. I remember posing with my grandma and not so willing to take with her at one point in my orange turtleneck top.

I’m still that – not so willing to take photo of myself. Sometimes, I’m sure it can be annoying.

Australia (it started with the journey from Canberra to Sydney) was also the point when I started film photography. And wouldn’t you know it – after being on hiatus for more than a year since my old E-510 went on comatose, I’m back on the horse again with this trip, armed with a one week old sidekick.

He is quite the mastermind. The Scriptwriter and Producer to my story. All I can do is just bask in His greatness, the only way he knows how. He is my greatest Storyteller. There’s never one point in my life where I’m not mesmerised as He orchestrated my life, leaving trails along the way for me to thread together.

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Since Vivid Sydney’s last night fell on Queen’s Birthday, the entire city lit up vibrantly for the last time. I felt so overwhelmed, what with the memories of the past and to experience what passion can do to a country. God, I’ve never felt so much excitement in my life then to see art taking the stage in all sorts of medium. To see that everyone interacted with it was what gave me so much more inspiration and happiness.

It made me realised that art is not just for the selected few, the elite ones or the eccentric minds. It’s for all to enjoy and when you bridge ideas and public together, you create something so amazing, it becomes an identity. That’s what Vivid was all about. I’m so glad, I managed to fly down and be part of it even though it wasn’t planned.

Here’s the thing, people kept asking me what I’ll be doing while I’m in Australia. Honestly? I have no idea but to chill out. I walked, I took my time, I spoke to so many people I never knew and it was my kind of trip. It was different from any other trips I’ve done in the past. Didn’t have a schedule, don’t have to run for something or be somewhere. All I did was purely going with the flow from the moment I woke up at Syiks’ apartment right up to grabbing dinner with her and exchanged stories about what we did the whole day. Telling her my new found love forAboriginal art was one of the highlights of my museum visits too.

It was just different.

I won’t lie, I did imagine what I’ll be like if I were to move here and this would be it.

That is until our roadtrip to Newcastle happened and I found my exact visual in my mind of escapism. Nobby’s Beach in winter was painted exactly the way I had imagined since I was a kid if I have a place to run to for peace.

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Many a times, I would say that I’m no beach person but I can imagine me coming here just to find solace. Especially when there’s no one. It’s just that piece of heaven on Earth I wish to have close to me.

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In a way, I’m lucky to have known Syiks because Newwie (as I’ve been accustomed to for a decade) is where her family is from. Unfortunately it was a short trip as we had to run back to Sydney the night after to catch a flight to Melbourne early morning.

I named this road trip as my mini Great Ocean Road trip. Each one will be explained better in another post. Right now, I need to settle this tangled emotions that’s been incubating inside.

Having never been to Melbourne before but had more than my fingers could count friends being here throughout my life, I’ve heard so many good things about it. About how I would love it and that it’s so me.

Took me 28 years to be here alright and I can see why I would love it.

The one thing I forgot having after so long is to have a friend who could literally read melike a book front to back, back to front.

Enter my slightly cuckoo, twin friend of mine.

I’ve known Nuddin for 11 years. We grew up being damn close friends because to a certain extend, we do think quite similarly. The one fella I could spend talking on the phone for what? 6 hours was it? One of those record back in the day.

Anyway, so as we grew up, we keep in touch where possible – he still loves giving surprise visits and I’ve been invited to go to Melbourne since forever by so many people. The moment I paid for my Sydney trip, I convinced Syiks to fly down with me to Melbourne as well to see my twin from different mother and father.

Having families all over Australia, Syiks made her plans with her cousins in Melbourne when we arrived. So when I touched down, Nuddin texted me several things and places to do while waiting for him to finish his work. Spent 3 hours at the Hollywood Costume exhibition at ACMI. Didn’t realised how involved Aussies are in the Hollywood scene until then.

Again, I have no idea what to do in Melbourne (not because there’s nothing to do), I just left that job to Nuddin suggesting me whatever works. Knowing him knowing me so well, I trust he has a few of things lining up for me.

The weird part was, I just saw him sometime in January when he came back for a short holiday and to see him in his turf was as if I’ve not seen him for a long time.

He brought me to The Grill’d because we were starving and loved the whole concept of this joint. There’s a solid idea, brought with love through food and then give back to the people again. Things Malaysians wish to do but somehow isn’t like that when it happens.

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It was such a good catch up session for three days. I forgot what it’s like having a friend like him. We could talk about everything and know that there’s no judgement for who we are. The fact that we know each other so well just made it so much easy to fall back into comfort. Finishing each other thoughts and such, dude – you’re like one of a kind in my list of friends. Yes,I just realised that and if he ever reads this, he’ll have the biggest grin on his face I’m sure.

It’s that easiness that I had forgotten. Just be.

Fact that he was so excited to show me his city reminds me of what I do for my job. The thing with him is that, don’t bother asking if he doesn’t wanna tell what he wants to show you when he said “You’ll see”. It’s that joy of sharing part I find most fun about.

And knowing him, when he says “You’ll love it”..I know for a fact it’s true.

We zig-zagged in an old arcade by Flinder’s Street up to the 8th floor and there lies the best view of Federal Square.

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Then, he introduced me to his friend he happened to know when he was exploring this very old building. Stephan Mclaughlan, the gallery owner was quite the man we got to talk to. Never in my days would I see myself listening and talking about Alfred Hitchcock. Stephan’s a big fan and yet another passionate, straight to point man. We even talked about James Bond because he saw the package Nuddin helped carried for me.

We also got to know how the networking works in Melbourne for an artist to be successful. Who he chooses to display and how to tell if it were to be a good show.

I wanted to record every moment of my stay in Australia in tape so I can watch it again but alas, all I could do is depend on my photos, photographic memories and writings so that I won’t forget this feeling.

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I was also delighted to get Yoga and Nuddin meet up for the first time while I was there. Very grateful to have all my friends freeing their days for me. The best thing about this trip is that, all of us got to do something we’ve never done before. Yoga told me about igersmelbourne‘s photowalk happening the day after and I made sure Syiks and Nuddin were to join us. IgersMelbourne stands for instagram melbourne. None of us except Yoga had done this before and it really inspired me to do things better with my work. This photowalk is kinda like an extension to what #TSDayOut is all about, which is awesome – I get to enjoy what others plan with one objective in mind, which is to explore.

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While Sydney was more relaxing for me, Melbourne was go go go because there’s so many things my friends wanted to bring me to. It was a nice balance, a need and away from the reality for at least a little while.

I’m also very lucky to have Nuddin’s girlfriend to not murder me for spending time with him 3 whole days straight. As I’ve been accustomed to the past, I don’t exactly have the best records with my best guyfriends’ girlfriends. But yeah, I’m so thankful this is not the case at all. Thank you for that Kamilah.

I think I know what this is about. This mind had wanted to shout to the world.

I finally am able to be happy with where I am at, enjoy being me and having people around me who allows me to do so without telling me.

I can’t undo the memories of the past but I can make better ones today.

Will I ever return for another trip to Down Under? That’s for another post to reveal what I’ve got plans for.

This might not be your cup of tea, this post I mean. But that’s why I write, why Danywhere exists. It’s the wanderlust theories I come across that makes me want to write. To get it out of my chest. Who reads it does not matter to me but I do appreciate if you happen to finish reading till the end.

Aussie doings will be elaborated further now that I got this out! Phewh. What a rut I got myself into.

However, during my flight to Sydney I manage to write this without having any preconceived ideas about what my trip would me to me.

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Battle Victory

Finally, it feels like it,
Like these demons are taken down,
The warriors are crying for victory.
Is this what it feels like,
When the endless battle is ending?

Oh that closet filled with darkness
Is released from evil tricks and mind.
Reborn with renewed faith,
Today, a new day has begun
For a dwarf finally gets her fun.

It feels strange, alien somewhat;
Where blurred line becomes clearer,
Horizon looking better,
Happier in fact.
Well, here’s to a new adventure.

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The Obscura Point of View: Penang Day 1

This is fate. The Maker’s way of saying;

I’m suppose to do this the way it is right now. On my own.

6 days after coming back from Sydney, I’m packed up and headed for Penang for 5 days. I only ever go back to Penang for Eid Fitr celebration because it’s my mum’s hometown. That or that one time when I stayed in Penang for a class trip back in college.

This is a whole different thing.

I’m rediscovering Penang  from a whole different point of view. I call it The Obscura Point of View.

Obscura Photography Festival

Initially I plan to go for Obscura Photography Festival on my own for Che Mat’s Workshop then it became a team plan until 2 days before I came back only to know that some people weren’t happy about the plan. Then I’m back to square one.

Considering I’ve paid for the workshop and my flight, I might as well just go anyway even if this would be my first solo trip in Malaysia. I mean c’mon, it’s Penang for god sake. It’s generally a lot better than Kuala Lumpur; what with the haze and all.

So, Penang is a go no matter what. It’s easier to go according to your own plan rather than depend on others anyways. Except that as days go by, I get to know more people who are interested to go for the trip. Each one arriving on different days. Whaddya know? I got a bunch of like-minded folks for a super cool event again.

It was slightly weird. I think to be in a familiar place you’ve been countless of times but this time for a different reason. Touched down at Penang International Airport was odd – the last time I flew here was in Dec ’09 to see my late grandma. Even then it was a 12 hours thing. So being here again sorta kinda made me reclaim all these memories for better hopefully.

Instead of heading to Green Lane or Gurney Drive as I would have usually with my parents,

“Chulia Street please” I told the taxi driver.

Very odd feeling, a good one I’m sure. Unsure most of the time but good nonetheless. And being the typical me, I’ll grab by the bull’s horns when I’m on this path anyway.

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Had it not been for Obscura, I wouldn’t have known about Syok at Chulia Street. This place surpassed my expectation. Even Dorsett Penang can’t win this one. Honestly, I think it’s like staying with a big family. Everyone’s so warm and inviting for a chat, always available for a chat actually. Even my roommates are really cool too. I was told, a lot of the Obscurians are also staying here. We’ll see who I’ll bump into tomorrow morning.

The bed’s really comfy, all you need are here – with a good eye aesthetically too. Kudos Karen and her team! Heck, they’ll even lend you their umbrella too 🙂 Bicycles are available for rent as well.

For a moment, I had to remind myself that I’m only in Penang, not another country. Constantly reminding myself that there’s no timezone difference. Brain’s still going cuckoo I guess but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I don’t feel like I’m in Malaysia at all. Pedestrians are able to walk a lot better here and I’ve been making friends with random people in an instant. It just has such a good vibe this state, how far ahead they’ve come now – truly, ultimately I can feel a great community is nurturing it’s power together.

I didn’t realised that Syok at Chulia Street is situated right smack in good food area. Only 3 minutes away and I’m back at my family’s favourite food joint for Nasi Kandar – Hameediyah at Campbell Street. Eating alone is really no big deal, in fact it’s the only time I can check on updates actually.

Hameediyah

Then upon reading my email, I got to know that Che Mat’s students are required to register on site later in the evening at China House. It was only 4pm at that time. Slowly taking my time walking in the rain (thank you God!), I head back to Syok to grab Obscura’s map. Wasn’t sure how far China House was but I’m sure I can just walk to the other end.

When I asked one of Syok’s staffs about the direction, two guys who were chilling at the common area overhead my conversation and spoke out aloud saying that they too are heading the same place to check out Filmmakers Anonymous show and other exhibitions in China House. Hey hey!

China House

It’s then that I got to know Adli and Kadir who runs their own creative space near where I live. Along the way Kadir found this particular shop that fits for his photoshoot or something like that in one of the lanes we walked.

When we arrived at China House, the show was already running and we dispersed. People actually offer you seats and make space for you. All this little gestures are so rare in KL that I’m easily amused by it.

At first, I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb looking like a lost lamb and dressed up so..normal. Everyone looked like they below in this festival while here comes a kid who .. came with an open mind to learn. The movies were..interesting. There were one or two I really liked. Ramadan (Umar Muhajir) and Bajet (Zam Nayan).

See here’s the thing about shorties, often I come across either dark genre or emo. And it has become such a stereotype that it had me going “What else is there?” so when I watched Ramadan and Bajet which both are from different genre – one’s more self discovery and adversity while the other is about the quirky side to everyday life – it made me pay attention to the storytelling and craft. Both of which were executed well. There’s a certain depth and natural aspect to it, which I find more appealing.

Obscura Photo book

When the show ended, both Adli and Kadir nonchalantly introduced me to other Obscurians who then I got to know that our circle of friends are quite small. I also got to know that I have two more look-a-likes. People from all over the world are here for this, you’d be missing a lot of greatness if you decide to skip it.

Managed to even check out the Handmade Photobook Workshop by Yumi and Nozomi. which wrapped up today. I really wanted to join this one but oh well. The results of other people’s photobooks were really cool. Each one presented their book and told us their thought process, journey and ideas about it. Loved it even more on how they have to search their materials in Penang. So it’s just not about making the photobook by hand, it’s the journey and exploration. I’m such a sucker for that. Even the photographers who are here to exhibit participated too. It’s just such a shift, there’s no status, hierarchy of any type. Everyone’s like everybody..just with passion.

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Then, Gianni Frinzi (an award winning publisher) had an impromptu talk about the books he published and won. It was suppose to be about showing his books but eventually with the Q&A session, it turned out as a proper talk about publishing books (mass or niche etc). Truly, in just a matter of hours, Obscura has managed to inject all sorts of awesomeness from every angle – it need not have to be strictly Photography but indirectly, it links back. Gianni spoke about how Amazon has changed the game with distributors and why self-publishing is more important now than ever.

One thing I realised during Gianni’s session is that in order to stay alive (literally and metaphorically) – a person has to have a few cards on the sleeve. Being a jack of all trades is really what’s gonna keep you awake and sated. It’s always finding ways to get something done, expand your mind and make the most of what you have. Not so much about making it big (I’m sure to a certain point it does) but it has a lot to do with striving for the best while keeping it balance because in the end it’s about communicating with your client and knowing what your audience wants. People tend to find commercialism to be..well over compromised but I don’t think that was the case with Gianni. You need a certain standard to achieve greatness and that standard is there for a reason. So strive it. Break it if need and don’t forget to have fun while doing it.

Gianni Frinzi Obscura

It’s those little pieces you know? Doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll change the world but with enough little things to make a difference, eventually it’ll give a big impact.

Work hard, hard work.

It is what it is. No short cuts. Just you and fun doing what you wanna do.

I’m so freaking grateful that Vig brainwashed me to go for his massive festival. No amount of words can describe it.

You know..you’re still not late to join the fun – Obscura goes on till Sunday June 30. So come!

Tomorrow, my Obscura fever begins..one I’m quite terrified to be honest. Why? I hear so many people say the same thing about my instructor – strict. Jeng jeng jeng..

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

Umm..all photos above were taken with the iPhone. Sorry.

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Travel Reminder: That Skin of Ours

Travel Reminder: That Skin of Ours

This coming from that girl who once upon a time never bothered to care for her skin amd grew up after last year’s trip.

It’s not that I’m not bothered..I just felt like it’s cumbersome to carry so many things and do it all the time.

So after 1.5 weeks trotting around Europe last year, I realised I had red streaks across my cheeks. Make that a few streaks.

Thinking I prolly overdid on my Posie Tint blusher, I opted without it after that until I met a Beauty Assistant who stopped me at Westfield. See, I choose to not care as much about my face but I’m a big fan when it comes to body shower and lotion. Then he pointed out my red streaks and explained how it happened. In medical term, it’s called Telangiectasia Rosacea.

Those red streaks were a result of broken capillaries, which is what happened when exposed under the sun or in extreme weather without proper skincare to protect the skin. Which also constitute to me having very dry skin on my legs in the process.

I think that was the point, the point when I realised I could do something about it or walk away and continue being ignorant about my body.

That’s when I knew the need to exfoliate and moisturise.

The Beauty Assistance was from Ukraine and spoke pretty good Malay (I guess there must be a lot of Malaysians around that area) which got us to talk a lot more after that 🙂

One of the biggest things I’ve learned from my recent travel (and there were many life changing ones) is the importance of having good skin. Before, I may think it takes too much effort to keep up but it’s a whole lot more inconvenient when your skin acts up when you’re away. It’s great if you don’t feel any pain but if and when it does get worst, by then it’ll be almost too late to get it back to normal. You could but it won’t be as flawless as before or at least not anytime soon.

I was lucky to be in a continent that produces a whole lot of skin products in the world so it was relatively easy for me to find what I needed. Plus, I got it cured before it got worst.

What if you’re in a place that isn’t? Then what?

These are my essentials for my Australia trip in 2 days time. Had a lot of thought about these..not because I want to have the most flawless skin any human can have but because I remember 18 years ago when I was in Australia, the weather was so dry and considering the ozone layer is thinnest down under, skin get exposed to UV even more.

That was 18 years ago when I came back with sunburn and such. Today it might be just as intense or slightly more.

Like our body, our skin too needs to be constantly hydrated. Water plays a big role so does the food we take.

And it’s so important to listen to your body, inside and out. Because I know my skin is (hyper) sensitive and dry, (unfortunately) only selected products are acceptable for my skin.

Before I go scatter around looking for a cure, these are my happiness – SKII Facial Treatment Milk, Obey Your Body Facial Scrub, Closet Mixologist Cleansing Oil (made of apricot kernel and lavender oil), L’ocittane Shea Butter Lip Balm, Shiseido Perfect UV Protector SPF50 & Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Creme (hand and feet).

Indeed, my collection of skincare and makeup has grown tenfolds since Europe. Maybe because I’ve grown up, grown to understand why I need to take care and listen to my body. I’m girly-fied! *gasp*

Oh well..

In a way, I prefer to roam around without worrying that I’ll be in pain.

Do remember to at least have your sunscreen with you when you go out. At the very least.