Crabby Hives

Four days ago in the wee hours of the morning I felt a terrible itch that permeated throughout my whole body: its the kind of itch that makes you want to crawl out of your skin. Half awake, half asleep I eventually dozed back into sleep while my legs felt increasingly uncomfortable against my bedsheets which overnight seemed to feel as if it were sandpaper. I thought to myself, when did I get a mosquito bite and why is it so £@! itchy! A few hours later, as I got ready for work I was faced with the truth. My whole body from the hands to my feet were covered in red swollen patches. For the first time in life I had gotten hives.

I went to the doctor, got medicine and went about my life. The itchiness subsided for awhile but the following night I felt as if suddenly my body was like the Serengeti being flooded and blossoming with red flowery patches. Some were round, others heart-shaped whilst some looked as if it was an army growing and attempting to take over everything else. I woke up, fainted, and fainted again to the horror of my husband. I could have hit my head and died. Life is so fragile. That little pill was strong, too strong and dangerous yet the red army marched on. It wasn’t till a change in medicine did things get better. I am forever grateful to my doctor specialist friend for recommending me the change to a second generation drug.

Now what caused this terrible reaction? I suspect it was the fried rice I had eaten the evening before the breakout because Alex too had diarrhea after having a spoonful of the rice. Not having brought my own food that evening, I had gone down to the local shop that sells foods in the evenings to hungry office workers. It’s a shop that has been around for as long as I can remember. It was the only food outside of the norm and the fried rice had contained crab. Now I usually eat crab, so we ruled that out as the culprit. We suspect though that the crab must have been preserved with the highly toxic formalin and that is what I must have been exposed to. It’s not uncommon to hear cases of this happening locally. I was the “unlucky” one who had hit the jackpot.

Now my question to you is this. Should we allow this to recur again and again to unsuspecting consumers? Should we be conditioned as consumers to just brush it off to the shop owner who didn’t know better? When I asked the shop if they had had any other cases because I had gotten terribly ill, the guy at the shop said I should perhaps try the food again as if a test. If I could, I would have given the guy a punch to the face. I wonder what would have been his reaction, if someone he loved was inadvertently poisoned. I would not have been angry if his reaction was that he would check where they sourced their foods and try to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

The sweet and polite nature of the Thai people and adversity to confrontation allows this to sort of thing to happen again and again. Because it is difficult to take legal action, most consumers tend to just change their own behaviour and avoid risky encounters. Others are unwilling to be “inconvenienced.” Showing anger is suddenly seen as aggression. That is not something I think we as consumers should have to accept as a way of life. Personally, I believe we must take a stand to ensure this doesn’t happen to others. What do you think? What should I do?

Always in my mind: Happy Birthday MY

It’s been two days since my good friend’s birthday and believe me the words have just been flowing in and out of my mind in an endless stream that ebbs and flows.  There are so many things I want to say, so many things I want to write, yet having only 24 hours in a day, I could not quite fit everything in without fear of making myself collapse from exhaustion.  So here I am to write a birthday ode to a lovely friend who just celebrated her birthday two days ago.  You know who you are. You are always in my mind.  This is for you. I hope you like it.

Good friends who are always there are few in number.  Good friends who’ve you known for over 20 years are even rarer.  Yes, can you believe it, I’ve known you for over 20 years. I’ve known you since my primary school days.  Time though isn’t everything.  What’s more important, is that throughout the roughly two decades we’ve known each other, you have remained the same sweet and gentle person you’ve always been.

Not once, not ever have I seen you frown or expressed any signs of anger.  There is always a smile, a calm face to greet your gaze.  When you are happy, a light sparkles in your eyes and your smile lights up the entire face.   A few words from you suffice to let us know your thoughts.  No nonsense, but full of calm and good will.  No trickery, no ill feelings, no bad vibes.  There is not a person in this world who I think could do you harm.  You are always so serene, so gentle, so happy.  Stay that way.

Not having stayed in Bangkok throughout my entire life, we lost contact, but that was once again renewed when I later came back.  Birthday lunches, ladies day out, we will meet again.  There is always a reason to keep in touch, even if it is just for a nice lunch out.  What I’ve always found funny though is that not being a Thai, you have actually lived in Thailand longer than I have.  Even funnier, is that soon enough, we shall be living in the same area.  Minutes away.   I suppose then, we shall be meeting each other more.

I hope you had a wonderful birthday my dear friend. (Birthdays are celebrated week long right? :):)) I’m happy to have you as a friend and to the many more years to come.  Stay forever the wonderful person you are, forever calm, forever serene, forever happy.  That is indeed a lovely way to be.  See you in a few days my dear friend 🙂

It’s all about the “L” word: Learning

The other day I wrote about how important it was to fail before you can  succeed.  I realized I did not quite emphasize enough how important it is to actually LEARN from your mistakes.  Learning is key. It is what you must do before you can succeed, for if you keep failing over and over and never learn from your mistakes, then that is a failure. That would not result in success.

As Einstein said something along the lines of ” If you keep running into a wall and expect the same result, then it is the same.  However, if you keep running into a wall and expect different results, then it is a miracle.”   Only a miracle can alter the outcome.  No matter how many times you drop the egg to the ground without any protection, it will break.  There will not be a moment that the egg will float on air.  If you keep trying to solve a puzzle, and always use the same techniques to an unwanted outcome, it will not work.

The same happens in life.  If you keep trying to talk to approach someone and it does not work, then reevaluate it. Perhaps other techniques will work. Learn from your past experiences.

If you keep getting your heartbroken because of A and B, then perhaps you need to re-evaluate your likes and dislikes.  Perhaps certain kinds of behaviour are not what you want in your other half.  Learn what caused the heartache.  Learn about what effects it had on you.  Learn what caused the disagreement.  Learn how they can be avoided.  Learn what needs to change.

It can be applied to everything in life even on simple things.  Today I fell down flat on my face onto the pavement, wallet, phone, shoes flying in the air.  Yes, I am bruised and scratched. What did I learn from it?  To be more alert when I am in a rush.  To slow down. Rushing causes me to not be aware of my surroundings as much. My mind is elsewhere.  I also learnt to be careful when rounding corners and to watch out for potential threats like a sudden move backwards by someone and a potential hazard of feet
gone awry.

Simply LEARN from the experience, the mistake.  That is the greatest lesson of all.

All the World’s a Stage

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,”

William Shakespeare

I think Shakespeare was really right to compare our world to being a stage and us merely players.  We are all born onto this earth as a child, we play our parts, grow up, and then we depart.  Sometimes it’s as if we are taking part in one giant movie.  Each life is a different movie.  Sometimes they interact, sometimes they each take their own path.   Upon each path, we encounter a series of characters, each one brings with it new experiences, new emotions.  Then paths diverge and evolve.  It’s a lifelong process that ends when we depart from this world and exit the stage.

I am suddenly reminded of the Truman Show.  A life we thought we had, was simply someone else’s show.

What happens when we exit the stage?  No one knows. It’s another story, another stage. Some believe in the afterlife, reincarnation.  Some believe there is a soul that remains and perhaps we go to heaven or to hell.  Some believe we are nothing more but dust and air once we perish.  It’s an answer no one alive can ever tell you.  To find out, we’d first have to exit this stage. Then, we wouldn’t be here discussing what happens.

What ever stage we are on. Whatever movie we are taking a part in, I think what matters most is what you learn from those experiences.  What you learn from your interactions with the other players and how your react.  That is life.  A series of experiences and interactions.  Fascinating.

What do you think? Please share.

The Sweeper

On the street where I live, the streets are always clean.   Every morning an old  man, who lives in a little unimposing house in a corner, gets up and sweeps the streets.  I call him “The Sweeper.” He’s not paid to sweep the streets.  He is an inhabitant of the street, yet every morning he sweeps the street for everyone.  He gently moves down rows and rows of houses with broom in hand sweeping away trash, leaves and whatever else is left on the street.   He asks not for recognition, he asks not for notice, he asks not for money.  He sweeps the streets because he wants to.  He sweeps the streets because he has a good heart.

It’s not easy to find a man like him in this modern day where no one wants to do anything for free.  Everything now must be bought, be exchanged, be in response to another good action.  It reminds me of what Thomas Hobbes wrote in the Leviathan about man being innately selfish.  The Sweeper, however, sweeps because he wants to. He is not selfish.

I have not talked to him, but early mornings around 6am when I am rushing out to run, I’d see him already sweeping.  From the looks of his age, he must be many years past retirement.  Perhaps a decade or more.  I assume he started sweeping to keep himself busy, as a form of exercise, but I could be mistaken.  One day, I shall have to park the car and have a chat with him.

I wonder what pushed him to start sweeping. I wonder what his life is like. I wonder what he thinks. I wonder what he was before we all know him as “The Sweeper.”  I wonder if he has any family.  From what I see, his only companions seem to be the dogs that wander around his house and watch out for him while he sweeps.  Some days, I’d see him sitting on the street in front of his house surrounded by the dogs.  They love him.  Dogs know who have a good heart.

I wonder if there ever was a day he wanted to give up and just not get out of bed.   Rain or shine, he
is always there.  He is like a reminder of times past.  A time when Bangkok was less cosmopolitan, less busy, less hectic, and more loving.
I am thankful that on this earth there are men like him.  He reminds us that sometimes life isn’t about always doing things in expectation of returns or compensation.  Life can be about giving.  It’s about doing what gives us pleasure.  He need not be boastful, yet his goodness shines out far and wide.

Thank you Sweeper for reminding us all.  I wish you a pleasant, healthy and good life.

Two Worlds at Once

It’s the end of August. This time last year I was in Malaysia visiting a good old friend just before Malaysia’s independence day. This year, I am in Bangkok, and am instead keeping touch with good friends through other high tech means such as Skype, Google+ and Whatsapp. It really is quite amazing all this technology. It brings people together. Yet, it can also bring people apart.

You might have noticed that since the advent of BB messaging and chat programs on iPhones, smartphones, androids, many of us (me included) sometime zone out of conversations and instead grin at our phones. We are living in two worlds at once.

One moment, I’m in conversation with the person next to me, the next, I’m in a conversation with someone else on the other side of the phone. Maybe that person is in another country. I don’t mind it at all, but sometimes I think we ought to put down our phones and enjoy the person next to us. Enjoy the conversation a little more. Enjoy what is happening around us.

I’m still working at it. I have a tendency to just pick up my phone and constantly check it for messages. It’s addictive. You hear a little “beep” and you feel a sudden urge to check it. It’s annoying. I want to get rid of this addiction. I see the iPhone lying still in front of me, and I just want to pick it up and play on one of its many applications. I like the feel of the rubbery skin I bought for it.

I suppose, sometimes we really should just turn off the phone, put it away in our bags and really enjoy the people around us, especially during lunches or dinners. Perhaps we’d get to connect a little more, really enjoy the company and learn a little about the person next to us. Connect more without the phone when we are surrounded by people. Connect with people through the phone when you are alone. Maybe that’s how we should balance out all these online chats….

What do you think?

Anger Be Gone

The other day I had a chance to go to a temple unlike others in that the monk does not simply chant the buddhist prayers during the funeral, but instead he’ll spend roughly half an hour teaching us some of the philosophies in plain language for all to understand.  I think it’s great and I although the journey there was long and the journey back included wading through the flood and having my car at times turn into a boat, a lot of interesting thoughts remained in mind.  So much so I thought it’d be great to share a little of it here with you today.  It’s about anger.

Now we humans all have emotions. We feel happiness, sadness, fear, anger, jealousy and a zillion other feelings.  Sometimes we feel more than one at the same time and cannot quite distinguish which is which.   Sometimes they get the better of us and start influencing our actions.

It’s how we control those emotions though that make all the difference.   The monk’s example was on “Anger.”  For example, he said, if you light a match, the flame at the end of the match is but a small flame and you can easily distinguish it with a fling of the hand or a little blow.  However if you let the flame catch onto other things, it can grow to be so powerful that it’d burn down houses or even rows of houses.  By that time, a single firetruck would not be sufficient.  You’d need a couple firetrucks and a team of firefighters.

Likewise, if we get angry and cannot control it,  our anger can grow to be so powerful and strong it will overshadow our life and our actions.  We might spend lifetimes seeking revenge or retribution for a remark once heard, or an action once done.   We might kill lives, destroy things around us, or even misplace our anger on those who love us most.    Because of our anger, we do things that have utterly no benefit to our life.  We waste a good portion of our energy feeling “angry” and plotting revenge.  Then in the end, we all die with nothing left but that feeling of “anger.”

Of course it’d be great if we could all just turn off our emotions at a flick of a hand, but it’s something that is achievable with practice.  It’s not easy,  but if you stop, pause, take note of your emotions before it becomes a storm, then perhaps you’d have added a little more happiness to your life.  Count one to ten before you send of some remarks in anger or seek revenge.  Life is so short.  Who knows what will happen tomorrow?  Why waste time being angry when you can be happy?  Look up and smell the roses 🙂 Life is beautiful.

The Thai Red Cross Fair

Yesterday, I went to the Red Cross Fair for the first time. My office is located not far from where the fair is held, and after more than a decade of being stuck in its traffic and wondering why they have to close down roads for it, I finally decided to actually go in and see for myself what they have inside. In previous years I had contributed to the fair by donating my clothing and other goods to sell, as well as buying raffle tickets, but I had not ventured into the actual fair. The hordes of people always seemed so overwhelming to me. It still does.

The Red Cross fair is one gargantuan affair in Bangkok. Temporary stalls are built along the roads surrounding the Parliament building and spread all over the gardens that surround it. Stalls from all public sector offices ranging from the post office to the local district office have things for sale and other goodies for which to try one’s luck. The army, navy, and airforce are all there in full force. Living models of soldiers in full clad uniforms stand guard booth entrances and those interested can go in to try their skills at firing guns. Uniforms, keyrings and other goodies are all on sale. Then there are local companies with countless goodies on sales. Everything there is supposedly cheaper than those sold elsewhere and bargain hunters go crazy sorting through the goods.

One thing that stands out though is the number of people who turn up to the fair. People were everywhere buzzing around, goods in hands amid the unbelievably high level of noise pollution. Everyone was fighting for everyone’s attention and at times I felt like I needed to have four heads to take it all in. To my right would be a stall promoting local products, to my left one telling me that I can go play games inside, behind me would be a stage full of dancers and a singer, to my front would be a bear garden.

My favorite part though was the area surrounding the pond and the gardens. There, were some areas of peace and calmness admist the hectic bustle of red cross shopping. I particularly liked a stretch of garden where roughly 20 artists lined it’s path awaiting anyone who wanted to have their portraits drawn. Young children to older adults sat there patiently as the artist watched and drew. It reminded me of the Montmarte in Paris. I wonder what is going through the artists’ mind and in those sitting on the chairs as people walk by. Amidst all this chaos, is a quiet area where art and people unite, where brains can reflect and inspirations created.

There was something for everyone at the fair. Even goats for you to feed.

It was one crazy evening I have to say. If you don’t mind the people then you should go to the fair just to see what it’s like. It’s one giant party. Food stalls can be found everywhere, and if you get tired, there are foot massages for a mere 150thb. Everything is on sale for the Red Cross. Mind you though , at times you’d find yourself being pushed for there is no place for you to walk and lound speakers blast into your ears every now and then.

I have to say for me it’s a good experience and one that I’m happy to have had. I understand now why it has to be outdoors. The atmosphere just isn’t the same and all this could not possibly fit into any convention hall. How could you have several shooting ranges set up, stages for dancers, food stalls and shopping all under one roof? And all this for 9 days and 9 nights. I suppose I’d just have to put up with its traffic for a while longer as this is all for a good cause.

Despite the interesting mix of activities for everyone, I probably won’t be going again for a couple years. I get a little dizzy with all the people and noise….but that’s just me. :):)

A Contemplation on Japan’s Earthquake: Life is More

It’s been two days since the earthquake in Japan, yet safe in Bangkok I still feel a certain sadness for those in northern Japan.  Some entire villages were swept away. Entire families and communities gone just like that.  In a blink of an eye.  I cannot imagine.  I cannot say I understand how it must feel to be in the midst of this devastation because I am not there and I am not the one whose house was swept away or whose relatives are missing.  All I can say is that my thoughts are with those in Japan and that I pray the worst is over. 

This earthquake demonstrates how powerful nature is to destroy all in its path.  Nothing can withstand the force of 10 meter high waves hitting inland. Footage show entire houses being swept away as if they were toy houses and cars rolling around in the water like ice cubes bubbling up and down in water.   Some say it is nature’s way of “cleansing” itself, it is interesting.  Perhaps there will be a period when the world becomes calmer.  Perhaps there will be a period of harmony when we all become happier humans and turn to value each other more than the value of our assets.

What do we learn from all this earthquake?  More than I can summarize in this post, however, discussing it with Alex  a lot of it boils down to this:  One cannot plan one’s life completely

We humans (at least me anyways) like to think we can plan what will happen and when.  We like to think that we are in charge of our destiny and in control.  But think about it.  Are we really in control?
Can we really determine what will happen when and where? 

Of course there are certain things we can influence, like when to wake up and when to sleep, when to go eat…but in the overall scheme of things, do you know whether your usual trip to the office in the morning would include seeing the World Trade Centre being reduced to rubble in NYC?  Did you imagine your usual afternoon meeting in Tokyo to include one of the biggest earthquakes in history?  Did you think your visit to Christchurch would involve seeing the city in rubbles or that your visit to Haiti would see millions homeless?  Did you think your annual diving trip would involve you in a Tsunami?  Did you think you’ll meet the person of your dreams on a plane?  Would we know that we would see our loved ones die before our eyes and there is nothing we can do about it?  

We don’t know. A Japanese man says he saw his wife swept away.  What a feeling of helplessness it must be.

We don’t know what will happen.  We have no clue what will happen with our lives.  We can’t plan, we can’t control it.  We just have to embrace what life brings us.  Look around yourself and be grateful for what you have. See the beauty in life and value what has been given us.  Many of us (me included) like to forget and complain about how miserable everything is, how we wish this and that were better.   How we wish things turned out the way we want them to be.  Somethings things just aren’t perfect.

We have no control.  So go out and live your life.  Look around you and be happy with what life has given you.  Who knows, something may happen tomorrow or tonight?

Prayers for Japan

This afternoon, as I sat there watching and reading the news about the earthquake in Japan, I cannot help but feel a sense of sadness and a certain emptiness inside.  The quake measured 8.9 on the richter scale.  This is no little affair even for Japan which is used to having earthquakes.   I pray that there are no devastating aftershocks and that the tsunamis don’t affect more people than it has already.  I know it’s partly wishful thinking since warnings have been issued from Russia to the US, and the Philippines, but one does have to hope for the best.  We must all hope for the best.

This was one catastrophic movement of the teutonic plates and somehow this past year or so, more of these catastrophic events have been occurring.  I’m not sure if its just me but with the one in Haiti, New Zealand , Indonesia and South American countries,  earthquakes seem to be occuring every few months.  Thailand isn’t located in the ring of fire, but the Indian Ocean Quake in 2004 which hit Thailand and killed thousands of people is still firmly in my mind.   The powerful force of the Tsunami waves destroyed everything in its path.  All that remained were scenes of wreckage.  Scenes of destruction as if we were in some kind of horror movie turned reality.

Today, many around me kept saying how it reminded them of the movie 2012.  I have yet to watch it, but I gather it depicts the end of the world.  Some say it is the year we on Earth shall no longer be.  Perhaps this is it for us.  Perhaps not.

Whatever the destruction, the carnage that we see, we must not lose hope.  We must help Japan rebuild and revive.  They survived the 1995 Kobe Earthquake, and so they’ll survive this one in Sendai.  Whatever happens, one must move on and make the best of life. 

Remember that anything could happen anywhere, anytime and to anyone.  I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Japan last year and it shatters me to imagine it in such a state, but then, this is a good reminder to us that nothing in life is “permanent.”  Live and do the best you can do now before its too late.