Note: Here’s a spoiler free review of Felicia Yap’s “Yesterday”.
What did you have for dinner yesterday?
Two days ago?
Now, do you remember dinner three days ago? (I had pepperoni pizza with watermelon. Simultaneously. So it’s more like pepperoni-watermelon pizza)
A world where everybody remembers yesterday’s dinner, some remember dinner the day before, and absolutely nobody remembers dinner two days ago. Except the odd psychopath, that is, who will eventually end up in a mental asylum on a deserted island.
Those who remember only yesterday are “Monos“, “Duos” remember up to two days; and this memory disparity is the gaping abyss that separate class- a system that favours Duos over Monos, may it be career opportunities or social dogma.
So when a steaming hot chick washes up dead from England’s River Cam, how does one solve the murder, if only yesterday’s memories remain?
Felicia’s story unfolds in first-person narrative from four different perspectives (hence breaking her teacher’s max three first-person voices rule). These four characters are Duo Mark, a successful novelist and aspiring politician; his Mono wife- housewife Claire; vengeful but dead Sophia; and detective Mark, the case’s assigned investigator.
The dead girl is identified. Her name is Sophia Alyssa Ayling. And she’s been sleeping with Mark. How does Claire feel about this? And does detective Mark have what it takes to solve this murder?
This is more than a murder mystery. The tale also explores a realistic view of love and marriage. How does memory affect one’s ability to love? In fact, without the lucid recollection of falling in love, can one remain in love?
In this fictional world, people record their lives with an iDiary every night (rendering Steve Jobs richer than ever). And before this technological advancement, people scrawled their lives on paper diaries. These written information is then reviewed the following morning and committed to long term memory, hence morphing the writen accounts into vacant, cold hard facts.
This novel is a blatant page turner. Humour your cognitive mind and forge theories along the way. Its plot resemble a spaghetti of climbing rope- a tangle of enigma. But as the book progress, we tug one end of the dynamic line, and the narrative untwine smoothly into a chain of seamless answers.
The reading journey is like a roller coaster, with penned up suspensions, a couple of emotional loops, followed by a majestic unveiling. This series of manoeuvres lead to the divulgent of who killed Sophia Alyssa Ayling?
Dear friends, I urge you- run, not walk, to your neighbouring bookshop and snag yourself a copy of Felicia Yap’s Yesterday. Claim for yourself the book 8 publishers relished a bidding war to print, the book now translated into 13 different languages.
The book written by a Malaysian!
Felicia Yap hails from Cheras, Kuala Lumpur with modest beginnings. Her father’s car had holes in its base so water spills in each time he drives through a puddle. According to Felicia’s blog, her parents lack funds to send her abroad, a feat she achieved purely through scholarships and sponsorships. Her less privilege background led her to understand the disadvantage monetary woes may present, and hence was born the Yesterday Scholarship.
Frankly, her personal story tears me up. I love a good underdog success story, and tangible proof that Malaysians have what it has to kick ass in an international arena. She is living proof that hard work pays of, that we reap what we sow. She is my inspiration.
Once again, run- no, sprint! Sprint to the nearest bookstore for a copy of Yesterday. Do it! And do it yesterday.
One should always abide firmly to the laws of the land (says the ESTJ in me). On the road, stay explicitly within your lane. Adhere strictly to speed limits, and under no circumstance should one race pass a gridlock of snail-paced cars in the opposite lane, accelerator fully engaged… unless you are chasing after scones.
The Lord’s Cafe
Like, say, the glowing figures on the Waze app indicate an ETA of 1755, and the rumoured closing time of The Lord’s Cafe at Tanah Rata is 1800 (different sources state different timings)- desperate times call for desperate measures; although we can neither confirm nor deny any assumption you may have chalk up.
Maybe it was the cool breeze wafting through the open windows, perhaps the adrenaline of the drive, or the crushing hunger, but the cream (RM2.80) and strawberry (RM3) scones were scrumptious. The slightly lengthy wait wasn’t pleasant, but the workers were friendly (entertained my request for extra butter). The negative Facebook reviews seem unwarranted.
On its own, the scones were ordinary, but when paired with cream, strawberry jam and butter? Heaven-licious. The chocolate cake is the foolproof consolidation and application of the cocoa plant- moist and generously chocolate. I thank God for friends with small stomachs, because save a couple of tiny bites, the cake was all mine *evil laugh*.
Chasing Waterfalls At Parit Falls
We wanna visit a waterfall! Feel the spray on our faces, hear the splashing aqua, smell the inodorous scent of Adam’s ale. So we hustle to Parit Falls and even manage a couple of shots at the wooden sign board before the entrance.
And then we advance towards the entrance gate like a couple of school girls for the canteen during recess period…
… only to find it securely shut.
A rectangular board denotes: closing time- 6pm. I glance at my Fenix watch: 705pm.
The entrance to the waterfall is closed.
A wave of disappointment billows over.
Disclaimer: Everything that happens next is hypothetical.
We survey the guard house, locked shut and starved of human life. A beat up van sit idly beyond the gate, equally desolate. The gate is only slightly higher than my height. Its design is plain with regularly spaced grills on both planes- conducive for climbing. Excluding the unsuspecting cars cruising by a few hundred meters away, our surroundings are uninhabited.
The gate looks closed but not locked. I wrap my hands around a grill and yank. No joy. I reposition my legs wider apart, and tighten my grip around the gate. With one mighty burst of strength, I engage every pull muscle (predominantly biceps) and tugged.
A slight creak escapes the metal structure. I smile at the encouragement, then draw another deep breath and pull. The heavy gate slides grudgingly about a feet and a half. I grin at my handiwork.
But good girls don’t trespass.
So of course we don’t scurry through the ajar gate. We don’t scamper downhill, glancing guiltily over our shoulders, giggling giddily.
We don’t have this conversation either:
Unknown character 1: “What about the gate?”
Unknown character 2: “Just leave it open. If anybody ask, we saw the gate open and decided to explore, which is technically correct.”
In a parallel universe, where we ventured in, this scene would meet our eyes (except darker, since it would’ve been after sunset):
Followed by this bridge (darker too), not that I know, having never been there before:
On Earth 2, we trek the short distance along the slightly muddy trail. This journey us to the rest area circled in red in the photo below.
Also, while vacating the crime scene (if one be so bold as to trespass- not us, certainly), and motorbike noises happen (hypothetical), here’s your best option: pretend to be ghosts (not a real scenario given none of these actually happened).
JOurney To The Mossy Forest
The next morning, we load our bags and hop into Gloria’s trusty Alza. The drive from our Airbnb residence in Ringlet to Brinchang where the Mossy Forest is took 45 minutes.
In an ideal universe, we’ll drive all the way up to the forest entrance, where we park literally steps from the green paradise.
But life isn’t perfect, rather, there’s an occasional avalanche of lemons raining down like burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah. The road is brimming with potholes, our tyres scream with protest with each indented experience. This is a job for 4 wheel drives only. A passing lorry driver lends advice. “Parking sini,” he says. “Jangan bawa kereta naik. Nanti rosak.” (Park here. Don’t drive up or risk damaging the car)
And discovered his lie.
The potholes last a short distance only, easily managed with slow driving. Beyond that short stretch lay roads as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
But it was too late, for we have already park our vehicle on a patch of balding land and began our uphill climb for the mossy forest.
When life showers you with lemons, make lemonade with a shot of vodka.
So we take weird detours into vegetable patches, pose with suspicious looking houses, and chat up hardworking farmers (who probably wish we’ll just get lost, but is too nice to verbalise so).
Disclaimer: The following events happened in a dream and not in real life. Ahem.
What does one do if physiological needs strike in the form of a bladder emergency? Well, pick a bush, of course; and employ a lookout. So that’s what I do. I choose a luxuriant plant, yank down my track bottom and panties in one swift motion, and unleash a shower of liquid gold.
Here I am, fertilising plants, minding my own business, when a distant sound propagate into my ears. Its volume is increasing.
My brain waves interpret the approaching thrum as a nearing motorbike.
I unfreeze. Basic instincts kick in. Do I fight or flight?
Neither. I hold my pee and jerk my pants up, panties still dangling below my butt cheeks.
Just as the elastic band contact my waist, a motorbike rolls into sight. An ang mo couple rides past with flushed cheeks and cheerful beams. I even reciprocate a smile, short of a hearty “welcome to Malaysia!”
As soon as they disappear from sight, I turned to my supposing lookout and shoot them a “do your job” look. Then I resume my plant-watering duties without further interruption.
Finally, We Arrive At The Mossy Forest
After a staggering 1 hour and 10 mins, we finally arrived at the Mossy Forest.
First item on the agenda is paramount- a wefie.
Then, we step into the mossy utopia. Wooden planks pave our trail, flanked by a disarray of contorted oak trees with gnarled branches and messy leaves. The flora is enwrapped by a layer of mist. Moss drape the trees with impressive fervour, like string lights adorning a Christmas tree. The picture before us is not unlike the Black Forest from Hansel and Gretel. Minus the bread crumbs.
The plan was to hike Gunung Brinchang. And find Jim Thompson. We stroll towards the trail’s starting point, located within the Mossy Forest…
… where we’re stopped by a decent looking guard with I-just-work-here written across his face.
Now, it would be fitting to share that we contacted the relevant authorities about permit requirements. Some misunderstanding obviously occurred, since we were led to understand that one isn’t needed.
So here we are, posed for entry, and our friendly neighbourhood guard just stands there like Gandalf– “You shall not pass!”
No permit, no entry, he says.
How do we apply for one? We ask. Can we pay and enter now?
“To obtain a permit,” he replies, “one must visit the dark forest on the 3rd moon after winter’s end, clothed in a robe of a thousand threads. Carry in your right hand a vial of virgin’s blood, mix with 2 drops of unicorn sperm and a pinch of fairy dust.”
No, not really. This is how you apply. The application must be completed beforehand. It may be done online, but payment has to be via post or stork delivery system.
I asked the guard if he’ll leave for lunch or a drink soon. Or toilet, or to feed his cat. He wasn’t. (Not that we would trespass in his absence. Brr. Because, good girls don’t trespass. Also, google “Cameron Highlands”, “hiker” and “missing”)
Remember the lemons and lemonade? Screw that, I’m having a beer to drown the disappointment.
No, I’m serious. We lugged beer cans uphill to sip amongst the sea of moss-laden vegetation.
And it was good.
Other Tourist-y Activities: Boh Tea Plantation, Cactus Farm, Strawberries and Others
It’s Cameron Highlands, so obviously one must indulge every tourist-y activity.
We visit the Boh Tea Plantation. Greeting us is a terrain full of tea leaves, dotted by moving dots (people).
We buy tea, take pictures of greenery, and fawn over this giant tea pot:
Day before, this flight to Shenzhen was retimed following a harrowing build up of mist. In fact, the aircraft bound for neighbouring Macau was unable to land. So comprehend my relief at the comfortingly short lines of METAR and TAF.
Refer to story below for gravitas justifying my cheer:
A recent flight to Kunming had me shitting my pants (See Note 1 below). At approach minima, the Runway was not in sight. Just as I’m about to drive the thrust levers into TOGA for a go around, the FO verbally gestures down at the approach lights that magically materialised at our hour of need. I click off the autopilot and manually fly the aircraft down, flaring with minimal visual cues, save for the scarce runway centreline lights. Speak of a legally unnerving, unnerving legality.
Hereby documented are the various stages of a pilot’s fear:
Stage 1- f***ing scared/ da** scared
Stage 2- shitting my pants
Stage 3- my balls up here (demonstrated with curled fingers to represent balls, held/bounced along the pilot’s neck region)
Yhprum’s law (Murphy spelt backwards) states that everything that can work, will work. And Old Yhprum is on our side today- if only we’re prepared.
I count four aircraft ahead on the taxiway- discounting the distant tattle of twinkling landing lights on the approach path, we brace for a long wait on ground. In line with that prediction, we delay our second engine start (we taxi with only one engine as part of fuel saving initiatives, which allegedly translate into bigger $ bonuses). So picture our bewilderment when offered an immediate intersection departure, of which we passed on account of an idle Engine no. 2.
We start our engines. Not long later, we are again hurried for an immediate departure, ahead of the approaching aircraft advancing at a chilling rate. But engine starts take time, and mandated post-start time requirements exist. We reject the benevolence with a heavy heart.
Why the hurry to get rid of us? Not that I don’t appreciate this overt change from the typical conspiracy to keep up planted on ground for ages (Note 2).
Note 2: From fear of a piggy-back.
Like a fan girl at a Westlife concert (excuse the reference, for I am, after all, a 90s kid- we lived on boy bands), the nice looking marshaller waves his marshalling torch like glow sticks in an overhead clapping movement.
Can’t believe that I’m the fool again, I thought, this love would never end… I let the aircraft roll at a meagre 3 knots. Fan boy holds both bats upright and stationary, teasing a stop. Except, as I advance, the bats remain at constant distance from each other- offering me no estimation to my stopping point. Without warning, he crosses the bats in one quick swift motion, and I’m forced into an abrupt stop. “Dahsyat!” my FO remarks, which is a polite alternative to my intended remark.
Here I am, minding my own business, peering out the cockpit window, when HE plods along, dragging 2 heavy wheel chocks behind him.
I rub my tired eyes for clearer vision, then blink twice.
And then I squint, and lean forward…
For I cannot believe my eyes.
Clad in a red shirt under his reflective vest is Wang Lehom!
Or a doppelgänger? Either way, the guy roaming the tarmac is a dead ringer. In fact, the likeness is so distinct, I’m almost certain it IS Wang Lehom. Has he quit singing and acting for a lucrative career in airport ramp management?
I should have requested an autograph!
Our ride home in uneventful, but not un-annoying. I sit with my back against the back rest and the headset firmly clamped over my ears.
Now, a new procedure was introduced where one of the two pilots is required to have the headset on at all times in Chinese airspace (instead of the usual speakers). Being the dutifully submissive cockpit officer that I am, of course I comply (yes, I’ll totally self-incriminate online).
Neglecting the rationale behind that ruling, my ears are, like, clamped- which is only mildly annoying (not that I can’t pull off the Princess Leah look).
Oops… I did it again. I binge watched nearly 3 seasons of chick flicks … got lost in the show…
The case in point is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a musical series, and here’s a rapid fire about our heroine, Rebecca Bunch:
“She was working hard at a New York job making dough but it made her blue, one day she was crying a lot and so she decided to move to… West Covina, California! Brand-new pals and new career. It happens to be where Josh lives, but that’s not why she’s here…”
Rebecca moves to West Covina, home of her childhood sweetheart- Josh Chan– that cruelly dump her last day of summer camp many years ago. Despite her initial denial, we all know the truth- she’s in West Covina for Josh.
Not long later, she discovers that Josh has a girlfriend- Valentia. However, this plays no deterrence to her affection and constant seduction of Josh. This flagrant dismissal of Valentia as Josh’s girlfriend leaves a nasty taste in my mouth, much like Emily Griffin’s book Something Borrowed, where the heroine (?) shamelessly steals her best friend’s fiancé. Of course, Emily portrays the best friend as “manipulative”, and the supposing antagonist. But perspective is a powerful fulcrum, and protagonist is just one viewpoint tweak away from antagonist.
Similarly, Valentia is painted as mean, and unappreciative of Josh, as if that somehow justifies Rebecca’s pursuance of a taken man (although it is interesting to note that Rebecca and Valentia eventually become good friends). Some, in the spirit of hedonism, might applaud Rebecca’s pursuit for love and happiness, but I am substantially troubled. I consider Valentia the victim.
Anyway, Rebecca eventually realise the err in her ways, which she express through the song I’m the Villian in My Own Story:
But even after her warm for Josh is over, her man-stealing days aren’t. She had a committed relationship with Nathaniel, her boss-turns-enemy-turns-boyfriend-turns-ex-turns-co-boss-turns-F-buddy, that she eventually breaks off for mental health reasons. He gets a new girlfriend, but Rebecca and Nathaniel continue to bone… and bone… and bone for another 8 months. At one point, she even laments that this affair is the healthiest relationship she ever had, an attestation that she harbours no remorse about banging another girl’s man. But does her unstable mental state give her a free pass? I don’t know.
The narrative doesn’t frown on infidelity. I love Rebecca and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but this element is questionable.
“I’m just a girl in love, I can’t be held responsible for my actions… I have no underlying issues to address, I’m certifiably cute and adorably obsessed… they say love makes you crazy, therefore you can’t call her crazy… when you call her crazy, you’re just calling her in love!”
The feminist factor
Rebecca Bunch is a feminist, there’s no question about that, and the show has an underlying feminism theme.
What? The girl who ditched her lucrative city job, zapped across the country, relocates herself, purely for a guy, is an advocate for female empowerment??
Feminism has been redefined over the years, the by-product when scores of opinionated women roar (I am woman, hear me roar!). Humour my brand of feminism, when I say it’s one’s freedom to choose. The power to marry or not, have kids or not, cook or not, wear yoga pants or not.
To phrase it differently, a woman may say “I choose to be a stay-home mum, not because of society’s definition of woman, but because of my personal decision to concentrate on my family,” which is worlds apart from “women should stay home to clean, cook and care for the kids on pure virtue of their gender”. Also, “I need a man to provide for me” is vastly different from “we have our individual role to play in this relationship, independent of our respective gender”.
Therefore, I support, applaud, even, Rebecca’s right to, yes, bolt across the country, desert her conventionally-defined success, in hopes of reigniting the spark she once shared with her ex-boyfrined from 10 years ago.
On a side note, there is nothing weak or antifeminist about loving someone who doesn’t love you back. I adore how Louise Brealey blunts it out. After backlash on her character, Molly Hooper‘s unrequited love for Sherlock Holmes on Sherlock, she tweets:
“Loving someone after years is not reductive, retrograde, antifeminist or weak. Fight the patriarchy, not me, and read some f****** Chekhov”.
Not that Rebecca is not madly in love with Josh Chan, of course, more like passionately obsessed. But her mental health is not the point here (important issue as it is), rather we emphasise on women’s journey for the sweet spot.
Consistent with a woman’s right to decide, is her journey in search for her individual ideal. We don’t want armies of empty-headed feminine warriors. Instead, we yearnfor platoons of strong, independent women, whose decisions are made from rationalisation, and not directly influenced by society’s expectations. For the ability to think, rationalise and make decisions, are the foundation that will prop up the feminist movement.
And to arrive there, one must journey, search, make mistakes.
To quote Huffington Post, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is doing something far more complicated than simply ironically reclaiming, or accidentally reinforcing, a sexist insult: It’s limning the gap between how far women have come in our ideals and expectations, and how far society has actually progressed. Rebecca is a bad feminist, in the Roxane Gay sense; she holds feminist beliefs, and can easily articulate them, but her entire social self is at war with her ideals. She wants things she knows a feminist “shouldn’t,” and she admires qualities she knows define traditional femininity.” (Or as Holly Bourne calls it- cognitive dissonance)
And one has the right to be a bad feminist, because that is what feminism is all about, once again- the right to choose. And as Roxane Gay said, “I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”- Let women think.
I’ll spare the Megillah and lay it down: I ship #grebecca (Greg and Rebecca) so hard, sigh- shit show though, their relationship was. First, she “whores” (her words, not mine) herself to him at Bean’s party, in an attempt to locate Josh.
Then, she proceeds to brush off his advances, over and over again. Ever felt like sticking your hands through the laptop screen to give a movie character a dire shake? Wake up, you blind chick! It’s the best friend! It’s the best friend! (Greg is Josh’s best friend)
Finally, she offers him a pitiful minute and agrees to a date, after this very sexy rendition of Settle for Me:
The date is great, so swell (even if not perfect) so she HAD to wreck it by claiming banging rights with another guy. Get this right: she ditched Greg during their date, and brought home another guy to screw.
Uhuh, chicks’ got issues.
But Greg eventually forgives her- speak of amazing in a flannel shirt.
Later, she discovers how much he cares about her, and hence began a series of marathon sex. So much sex, actually, that she contracts a UTI (Urinary Track Infection):
And because people in general suck at keeping sex and love separate, she (alas) falls for him!
And then complications knock. Josh and Valentia break up, and Rebecca gets a bite of the forbidden fruit- Josh.
Greg. Josh. Greg, Josh. Greg… Josh… Greg? Josh?
What’s a girl to do when she’s stuck in between men?:
But he producers intend to write Greg off, and they do- he hops on a plane for Evory. When Santino Fontana (actor that portrays Greg) left Crazy Ex, I was miserable. Crushed. Dejected. Grief-stricken.
Life lost meaning.
So now, Greg is gone, and only Josh remains- convenient for the producers’ plan to rid all love triangles.
Please, anybody but Josh, I pray (my personal opinion, which is surprising, given my staunch support for Asians in Hollywood). It’s nothing personal, only that Rebecca needs a man with backbone, which Josh seems to pathetically lack- partially due to his pattern of serial monogamy.
Oh, what does the future hold?
… And then they spring Nathaniel on us. (He’s the one in the middle.)
P.S.: I don’t blame you for watching that video on repeat. Not that I did. Ahem.
“What you wanna do for your birthday, Jo?” I asked my BFF.
I cross my fingers and hope for “get pissed drunk”, although half a can of cider beer does it for her (true story).
Instead she says, “caving!”
And that’s how we ended up in Mulu, Sarawak.
DAY 1- the arrival and botanical heritage trail
We voyaged over a tropical rain forest via an ATR 72 into a plane of viridescent vegetation. The earlier departure into Mulu was significantly delayed due to mist, rendering a visual approach unfeasible. So I sigh with relief when our 20 minutes flight conclude seamlessly (from the perspective of a passenger, discounting all possible undisclosed cockpit complications).
At the arrival hall, a nice girl named Diana stood patiently with an A4 paper- “CP LEE & JOANNE LIM” printed in capital letters. Walter from CBS’s Scorpion once said that “there’s an endorphin release you get from seeing your name on a sign at the airport. It’s an indication of forethought.” I concur.
Diana drives for 5 minutes before we arrive at our home base for the next 3 days- Mulu National Park.
We check in at the park’s office where we’re tagged, then presented a map and room keys.
I’m amused by this T-shirt and it’s accompanying note that says “adhere to the park’s regulation… to safeguard you from keeping 120 professional Sarawakian Search & Rescue members busy for days AND you don’t have to print a silly T-shirt!”
Point taken: a T-shirt is a very unflattering place to have your face plastered.
After dumping our baggage, we pull on sensible shoes and venture out for an evening stroll. The sky hints at a chance of rain, and sun sets at 6pm in East Malaysia. Therefore, of the unguided tours, we picked the Botanical Heritage Trail for it’s length (only 1.5km) and proximity- being stuck under the pouring rain in the dark is not on our bucket list.
The entire trail is covered with a wooden pavement. Trees line each side of the track, with limited sunlight exposure. The walk is easy and relaxed, the perfect setting for a poet’s soul; or 2 gossiping 20s girls.
We make a couple of new friends along the way:
DAY 2- CANOPY WALK
Trees, unidentified insects, nasi lemak, and canopy walks- these are the staples of a Malaysian national park.
We set course on the same wooden pavement we sauntered along on Day 1. Here, we encounter a huge tree, probably older than Noah and his ark. Oh, if trees could talk!
After 2.5 km of leisure trekking, we arrive at canopy walk.
I’ve experience numerous canopy walks, the last documented one being this at Taman Negara, Pahang. Yet, the thrill never gets old- suspended from multiple tree trunks, caressing the treetops, like a passageway into a hanging Eden.
LATER DURING DAY 2: ADVENTURE CAVING IN RACER CAVE
Alas, the highly anticipated moment has arrived- tummies full from lunch, we board the little speedboat that will journey us to Racer Cave for our spelunking adventure.
After 20 minutes, we arrive at Racer Cave. Here, we slap on yellow safety helmets, headlamps and strap into safety harnesses. Attached to the harness is a rope, each end equipped with a carabiner.
After a short safety brief, our group advance into the stony unknown with caution. But first, we squeeze through a tight and narrow opening between the rocks. I suck my tummy in, and curse every cheese cake I’ve ever indulged.
Thank goodness, I wedge through uneventfully.
I turn around, and darkness nods. Our headlamps and peeping light through the rock fissures act as sole light sources. In fact, later during the tour, the guide prompts us to switch our headlamps off. As a result, patent blackness envelopes. I couldn’t see an inch ahead of me, and all I could think of was, “is this how David hid from King Saul??”
We climb rocks, sometimes with a rope’s help, mostly freehand. As a lukewarm rock climber, I rate these ascends 5a- doable by any abled body person with basic locomotive functions. The advertised “intermediate level” sounds about right.
At one point, we repel down one and half storey of rocks. A rope permanently looped around a sturdy rock act as anchor while the guide belay us down. As each person reaches the base of the rocks, he/she throws the carabiner back up, and the act is repeated till everybody is safely lowered.
We even get a stingy view of the cave’s namesake- the racer snake. This belt-like reptile binges on bats and birds, we learn. No rats, the guide assures us.
On top of that, we also get a healthy look at the “Mulu Cappuccino”. The guide grabs a handful of what resembles black soil and parades it to our little group. Jo whips out her camera and is about to snap when the guide says with a wink, “it’s bat poop.” HAHA!
We continue to traverse rocks and scale others. I thank God for that yellow miner’s helmet that saved me from concussion at least half a dozen times.
The cave has only one way in and out, which is unfortunate. A route loses its charm once you’ve conquered it. But becoming cavewomen is not the plan, so we backtrack where we entered. This, however, given its declining gradient, proved to be an onerous feat. Indeed, that was exactly what I spat, grip working overtime.”This is an onerous feat!” I declared. “Yes! I did just say that while hanging from a rock for dear life!” I continue loudly to aware the bats of my anguish.
But I didn’t die… which was a relief… phew! What did happen though, was a comical tumble that followed my attempt of leap off the rock like cat woman. Our guide managed the jump effortless, making it look easy.
Mimicking him, I ready myself, knees bent, and sprung off a rock with burning confidence… landing flat in a pile of unidentified brown “fluff”.
And that was the end of my humiliation… not.
Our 2 hours expedition approached the finishing line. Having slip right back through the initial crack, sunlight is beaming on our faces.
After living 2 hours without a ray of sunshine, I’m ecstatic. I quicken my pace down the rocky terrain, arms raised in victory. “We survived!” I proclaim.
I smell the sun… freedom… I feel the wind… I feel…
… the lack of solid ground under my feet?
I’m tripping! I’m falling! I’m rolling…
… Yep, just imagine me in place of that cute cartoon log…
… Once again, the yellow miner’s helmet is my saving grace.
DAY 3: SHOW CAVES- wind cave, LADY CAVE, and clearwater cave.
After 2 hours of navigating through bat poo, and making ladders out of rocks, we still insist on spending Day 3 in more caves. This time, however, we stick to show caves- those with solid, beautifully paved routes and man made lights to lit our paths.
The first show cave on our agenda is the wind cave. It’s name is derived from a spot in the cave where wind blows in at varying velocities.
Mid cave, a crack of sunlight spills into the cave from a hole above:
“Where did the hole come from?” The tour guide asked. “Why, this asteroid, of course!” Then he gestures at this rock:
No, not really, he rights the story. It’s some science-y stuff about rain water. But I prefer the asteroid tale.
Lady Cave is named such due to a stalagmite that cast a womanly shaped shadow. In my honest opinion, though, that conclusion requires quite a lucid imagination.
The Clearwater cave, as its name suggest, has crystal clear water. This cave also have a hefty flight of stairs that overly satisfies my daily cardio requirement. But that climbing wasn’t for nothing, thanks to this rewarding view:
Advance spelunking starts here, we learn. Cavers swim considerable distances in the freezing water:
And then it’s time to ascend more stairs:
After all those dark, dingy caves, it’s time to photosynthesise. So we take a dip in a pond of Clearwater’s chilly water.
(Okay, full disclosure- we city kids sat on the steps leading into the pond for eternity. I said “Jo, we need to stop being the embodiment of city kids”, after which, I took a step down, then spent another 5 minutes shivering from the cold water. We then tried to visually gauge the depth of the water. Jo even attempts a step of faith, then quickly retraces when her feet couldn’t meet the bottom. Only after a couple of Sabahans boldly plunge into the water, do we leave the city on the wooden steps and soak in mother nature.)
“A blatant page-turner… I guarantee you will hate reaching the end.” – Sunday Express
What should a company’s billionaire owner do when ordered by court to pay a grieving widow $41 million in damages? Why, buy over the juridical system, of course.
The jury finds Krane Chemical Corporation guilty of water contamination that allegedly caused the death of Chad and Pete Baker, husband and son of plaintiff Jeanette Baker.
Not just the death of this father and son pair, we learn. As the story progress, we discover that the fictional Cary County is cleverly nicknamed “Cancer County”, and not for lack of substantiation. In fact, the cancer rate in Bowmore of Cary County is 15 times the national average. (Pg 32)
In light of that startling revelation, the people of Bowmore, Cary County blame Krane Chemical Corporation. They attribute the abnormal cancer rate to the illegal chemical dumping that polluted their water, and ultimately, killed countless innocent lives.
And we learn that Krane Chemical is indeed guilty on all counts.
“Ratzlaff had a memo under lock and key. It was eight years old and had been prepared under his supervision. It ran for a hundred pages and described in gruesome detail the company’s illegal dumping of toxic waste at the Bowmore plant. It summarised the company’s elaborate efforts to hide the dumping, to dupe the Environmental Protection Agency, and to buy off the politicians at the local, state, and federal level. It recommended a clandestine but effective cleanup of the waste site, at a cost of some $50 million. It begged anyone who read it to stop the dumping.” (Pg 25)
In other words, shameless and calculated abuse- blatant negligence.
And yet, Mr. Trudeau, billionaire owner of Krane Chemical Corporation, vowed that “not a dime of (their) hard-earned profits will ever get into the hands of those trailer park peasants (residents of Bowmore and casualties of the irresponsible chemical dumping).” (Pg 26)
This fictional tale is a reflection of real world events, or so I gather, reestablishing my suspicions about this wicked and crooked world.
THE RICH AND POWERFUL EXPLOIT THE POOR AND HELPLESS
Mr. Trudeau’s driver, Toliver, chauffeurs Trudeau’s black Bently to his Central Park penthouse worth $28 million, $38 million if you include the additional interior work.
His trophy wife is perched in her dressing room of the master suite while hairdressers fix her $1000 hairdo.
Draped on her size 2 physique (achieved with a daily routine of an hour with a trainer- $300 per, private yoga- $300 per and nutritionist- $200 per) is a $25,000 Valentino dress. (Pg 33-36)
Oh, and she’s eyeing Abused Imelda, an intriguing piece of “art” that Mr. Trudeau eventually does purchase for $18 million (Pg 63).
In other words, the Trudeaus are not exactly lacking financially.On the other hand, the Paytons- a husband and wife lawyer team that dare sue Krane Chemical Corporation- live in a 3 bedroom apartment of an old complex, and are at least 4 months behind with rent (Pg 46-47). They own a “battered Ford Taurus with a million miles, at least one low tire, and constant click of a sticking valve” (Pg 19). Life was once financially liberating, but then this Baker case with Krane Chemicals sucked away their BMW, the Jaguar, the credit cards, their house… Eventually they took a bank loan of $400,000 to finance the case.For the Paytons, money is tight, and every dollar matters.And legal battles require money.So when the Paytons manage an impressive win over Krane Chemicals, Trudeau appeals to the Supreme Court, then pull every dirty trick in the book to ensure a heavy tip in his favour.Firstly, he’s aware of the Paytons’ fragile monetary position, that a slight jolt will send them down bankrupt-street. And push, he does, buying over the Paytons’ bank- with his mountain of cash.Next, why take a chance with wild cards like random Supreme Court judges, when you can rig the judicial election, strategically place a friendly judge, then sway the final verdict to your advantage, all for only $8 million.
RELIGION IS A CONVENIENT POLITICAL MANIPULATION TOOL
Ron Fisk is a small town lawyer from Brookhaven, Mississippi. Fits the good Christian mould perfectly, we gather, and ideal choice for Supreme Court judge candidate in conservative Mississippi.
The idea of running for judge is pitched to him by a low profile yet highly effective firm called Troy-Hogan, who are in the business of “reforming courts”.
“… That’s what we do, and we do it very quietly. When our clients need help, we target a supreme court justice who is not particularly friendly, and we take him, or her, out of the picture.” (Pg 117)
In the case of Krane Chemicals, at a price of $8 million, they place in the supreme court a judge that is willing to protect corporate liability at all cost. One that would vote in favour of overturning the $41 million dollar jury verdict, freeing Krane Chemicals of their lawsuit.
They already have a target- Judge Sheila McCarthy. They will replace her on the supreme court with one of their own. All they need now is a candidate.
And an angle of attack- religious values.
Unaware that he was meant as a pawn in a bigger game, Ron bites the bait. “… change the judicial landscape of this country. And if we do that, we can protect the rights of the unborn, restrict the cultural barrage that is consumed by our children, honour the sanctity of marriage, keep homosexuals out of our classrooms, fight off the gun-control advocates, seal our borders, and protect the true American way of life,” (Pg 152). In other words, a series of religious-aligned jargon.
Ron is convinced. He will run for supreme court member to uphold Christian values at the juridical level.
And play the religious cards, he does, with his campaign manager as a conductor. He kicks off his campaign at the pulpit of the church he worships. “I seek to serve on the supreme court because I cherish the values that we share. Values based on the bible and our faith in Christ. The sanctity of the family- man and woman. The sanctity of life… I am frustrated by the erosion of our values. They are under attack by our society, by our depraved culture, and… by our courts. I offer my candidacy as one man’s fight against liberal judges…” (Pg 277)
Of course they advertise his opponent, Judge Sheila McCarthy as a liberal (although she is not).
And the churches rally firmly behind him, completely oblivious to the corporate interest of Ron’s puppet masters.
The Christian support is obvious. At a political rally, his supporters hang huge ‘Save The Family’ banners, an attestation to Ron’s primary selling point.
The event begins with a prayer (religious), followed by gospel songs (also religious), and more sermons (very religious). And repeat. (Pg 421-422)
Pastor Denny Ott (pastor to many of the cancer victims) tries to warn Pastor Ted of the danger of endorsing a political candidate, given their status as a non-profit organisation (church). “Mr. Fisk is being used by a conspiracy of big business interests to stack our supreme court with judges who will protect corporate wrongdoers by limiting their liability,” he writes in a letter. (Pg 414)
Yet, blinded by religious convictions, they are unable to see past the marketed package (Christian judge) to the manipulative forces behind. They are unable to separate church and state.
GOOD DOES NOT ALWAYS OVERCOME EVIL
This book has one certainty- the good and evil.Unlike books that reveal both the light and dark of its characters, John Grisham’s figures belong to either extremes of the good vs. evil spectrum.
The Paytons are good; Mr Trudeau and Krane Chemicals are evil.
Pastor Denny Ott is good; Pastor Ted is evil.
The people of Bowmore are good; The employees of Troy-Hogan are evil.
Other than Ron Fisk, who has pure intentions, but plays devil’s advocate to the evil Trudeau’s cause, the antagonists of the story are obvious.
The Paytons (good) fought with everything they had, putting at stake their finances, their firm, their family, their reputation, in an effort to liberate the oppressed people of Bowmore (good).
But Krane Chemicals (bad) couldn’t care less about the cancer clusters, the dying people, the pain, the suffering… all that matters is money.
And fight justice with money, they do.
Good loses. Evil wins.
Mr. Trudeau gets his wish. Not a cent is paid to lawyer or plaintiff.
I was reading the news… fine, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and learned that my friend is engaged. Here’s the best part, she proposed!
Darn straight. Welcome, 21st century female empowerment! Why give the guy a chance to mess up the proposal? Also, screw social norms.
The post evoked a chain reaction, and induced a burning question: how would’ve I propose to my husband?
After careful though, I drew up 3 potential proposal (pun intended!) strategies, hopefully each ending with a “yes!”.
THE ONE WITH THE LEGO
On his birthday (need an excuse for the exaggerated set-up), I’ll lure him into the dining room of my condo. The lights are dimmed, because he digs yellow lighting (something about “ambience”). John Legend’s All Of Me is playing in the background, probably on some cheap speaker I snagged somewhere.
The dining table is empty, except for 2 huge gift-wrapped boxes. I sit him down.
“Open this, baby.” I say, inching box number 1 forward.
He tears the wrapper off, face (hopefully) dripping with anticipation.
Underneath is a box of lego- the one he’s been lusting after (one of the many on his list).
Hopefully he’s smitten. It’s hard to tell with boys. One moment they promise you the stars, next they camp in front of a laptop screaming “cover me! cover me!” as if you don’t exist.
Of course he’s eyeing the next box. “This is for you too, baby.” I gesture at the neatly wrapped box. It’s bigger than the other, he notes.
He tears through the paper once again, to find… a plain cardboard box?
He shoots me a puzzled look.
“Go ahead, open the box,” I nudge him.
Inside, lies a huge lego board. On it, arranged with lego blocks are the words: MARRY ME?
At this point of time, I whip out a lego ring, and go down on one knee.
With the best doe-eye look one can muster, I form the words, “we are like two compatible lego bricks, perfect together. I love you, will you marry me?”
THE ONE WITH STAR WARS
Also on his birthday (again, can’t have him suspicious), I bake him a Star Wars themed cake, garnished with an X-wing plane- one of the more aerodynamically-logical aircraft in Star Wars.
I’m dressed as a rebel pilot- probably a Taobao enabled purchase.
This time I balance the cake in both hands. I approach him while (probably) singing an off tune version of Happy Birthday.
After his hearing recovers from my singing and he blows the candles, I say, “look under the X-wing, baby.”
He reaches under the sugar laden cream with one sweeping finger motion, his expression quizzical, till he hits solid.
He pulls out a silver ring with the rebel emblem. Of course its covered in sugary goodness, but I don’t care.
I pry the ring out of his hands, and drop to one knee, thank goodness for the jumpsuit and its knee-abrasion-prevention properties.
“Amazing, you are. In love with you, I am. Marry me, will you?” I pose.
P.S.: A Princess Leiah outfit is not an option due to the impossibility of anatomy accuracy.
THE ONE WITH THE NOTE
“Hey dude!” I call over the thundering roar of whatever game he’s playing.
“For you,” I say, and thrust an envelope into his hands.
He pauses his game… just joking, he never pauses his game.
During his next toilet break, his curiosity gets the better of him. So he rips the envelope open.
There’s a piece of paper and a solid object in the envelope. He turns the stationary upside down, and something hard and metallic drops out with a ping on the floor.
He bends over to retrieve the mystery object to find, to his amazement, a gear ring (his friend got her man one, and he’s been fancying it since).
He glance at the paper in his hand and reads out loud:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue;
Can’t wait to have sex,
So marry me, will you?
Should he say yes, I present him a neatly wrapped box. In it is lingerie, and a note: “to supplement your wedding gift.”
Fun fact- I can trace my lineage to Princess Ping Yang’s brother, which makes her my great grand aunt, thousand times removed.
And this is how I imagine her- witty and quoting Shakespeare.
I apologize for any feathers I may ruffle with this piece, though indeed that is my intention, but not offensively. Although elements of this writing are (obviously) not 100% historically accurate, the keynotes persist.
I must emphasise that I do, and always have admire China as a nation. So rich in history and talent- fascinating to say the least.
Yet, as I examine the social mechanics that surround me, I must return, to my roots, where it all begin.
P.S.: This is a work of fiction… or is it?
I slam a shot glass on the table; the force sends shock waves up my right arm.
My armpit fats are flapping violently.
I throw my head back, disheveled black curls bouncing. The tequila shoots right through my nasal canal and explodes in my brain like Merdeka fireworks.
“Oooohh, babeh!” I shriek, not unlike a hyena, simultaneously releasing what I hope is a silent burp. A burping hyena.
A few empty shot glasses sit before me in single file.
The bar counter where I’m perched is nearly empty, because what idiot waste away at the bar on a Wednesday night. The bartender looks amused as he places a new batch of shots before me.
“Your shots, ma’am.” He says with an air of professionalism. “That will be RM109.90.”
I fix him with a pointed look. “You!” I wave a finger at his distinctively oriental features. My wedding band is gleaming under the yellow fluorescent light. “Walking embodiment of Chinese male privilege.”
I pause, finger mid-jab…
Then everything went black.
“Babe, wake up. Babe!” Somebody is shaking my shoulders like an Osim massage chair.
The voice’s owner circles around and plops unto the stool next to me.
“Rough day?” she asked. I note her attire of black spaghetti straps and denim shorts.
My head feels heavy. I prop off the bar top with a mighty splurge of strength, not unlike a constipated dump.
I gather enough consciousness to study my new friend. There’s a scar on her left cheek, but not enough to taint her sublime Chinese beauty. Her long black hair flows all the way down her rich blossoms; her voice lined with sweet authority.
“Meiii aii elp youu?” I manage.
She helps herself to my shots. “Ooooff..” She blinks twice, then swirls her head around to face me. I notice a dark penis-looking tattoo on her left wrist.
She follows my stare. “Like it?” she says. “I got it last week. Reminds me of good times.”
“So, pray tell, of the affair that thrust you into this alcoholic rove.” She continues with a powerful gaze. Enchanting, even.
“I fought with my husband.” I say simply.
“Ahh… the opening to every good story ever.” She downs another shot. “How did he screw up? Obviously, it’s his fault.”
I relax a little. All hail the sisterhood. “Our first Chinese new year as a married couple is looming. And we can’t agree on where to spend new years’ eve reunion dinner.”
My fingers grip another shot glass, transferring its contents into my system. “Chinese tradition dictates we grace the male’s home. Obviously. Penis-ownership and all.” I don’t miss a beat. “As we know, the Chinese culture is one big tribute to the patriarchy.”
“He’s like, ‘why can’t we stick to the status quo?’ and all. And I’m, like, ‘I couldn’t care less where we eat. It’s the principle behind the gesture. We can’t allow another generation of gender-dictated policies’.”
I’m hyperventilating. And burping again- not so silently this time. But I don’t care. Rage is bubbling in my stomach, or maybe it’s the gas. It’s all pouring back to me. My friend who cares for her elderly father doesn’t get a cent of inheritance, while her useless brother gets all the land, on pure virtue of cock-entitlement. The other friend who slaves like Cinderella so her brothers can laze around like the douchebags they are, except Cinderella is a brainless masochist, while my friend has the misfortune of a vagina.
I’m seething with fury.
A balding uncle is eyeing me curiously. He’s either illiterate or a blatant jerk, judging by the cigarette in his mouth despite the striking “no smoking” sign.
My verbal diarrhea does not halt. “New years’ eve dinner seems minute, pick your battles and all. But these are the foundation to more palpable sexism. Rid the base, rid the peak, and rid the patriarchy.” I spit with fervor.
My new friend widens her eyes at me, a smile plastered on her lips.
She raises a shot glass. “Cheers babe. Death to misogynist.”
“Cheers.” I shadow her actions, chugging the glass down my throat.
A shot of adrenaline rockets through my body… and all went pitch black again.
I open my eyes, and then close them quickly again. Sun is beating down, right through my eyelids and cornea.
“Arghh… my pancreas.” I moan, still lying flat on what appears to be grass, flapping my arms like some pathetic grass angel.
I hear a snort to my right. “Babe, sit up. Check this out.” It’s spaghetti-straps-with-scar girl. She’s sitting with her knees to her chest.
“Where are we? What…” I begin.
“Sshhh…” she interrupts. “Look!”
I drag myself up and discover we are perched on… a hill? Below us sits a city, a prominent pagoda in sight. China? Despite our beaming sun, the city is covered in darkness.
I’m about to crack some Kungfu Panda related joke when a girl sprints out through the huge city gates. She’s clad in a ruqun and white shawl, running like her life depends on it. In fact, she looks like Mulan at the 100m event of the Olympics, with the skirt pulled right up to her boobs.
Her hair flowing behind her, she’s running and running. She’s a good 3km or so out of the city before she slows into a brisk walk.
“She’s fleeing from Imperial assassins,” scarred-face chick commentates. “Her father and husband are heading a rebellion to overthrow the emperor. The emperor is a dick head and medical wonder- born without a brain. He poisoned his dad for the throne, then aspired genocide through attempts to expand the great wall and great canal. And you’ll think a nincompoop of that magnitude would lose interest and switch goals, but no, he gathers an army to invade Korea and Vietnam, and we all know how that went. ”
She continues. “Along comes her dad, who rose through ranks from peasant to general, pretty kickass story. Emperor Moron sends him on a series of dimwit missions, and he doesn’t even complain. In fact, he’s so freaking legit that the enemies submit to a peace treaty with him- they won’t attack Chinese land as long as her dad is in charge. Problem is, Emperor gong-gong decides its…” she rolls her eyes and raises her fingers in air quotes, “a threat to national security or some crap along those lines, and orders his execution. Hence, rebellion.”
“Wow…” I manage. Our hill has mysteriously trailed the general’s daughter.
“A few days later, she arrives at her home province.” The landscape before us fades, only to be replaced by a village, acres of sweet land and yummy topless men.
“The saga unfolds.” My raconteur gaze into the distance. “Our heroine sells her family home and land for monies, which she uses to purchase weapons, equipment and tonnes of other badass shit.” I watch as Mulan in the white shawl makes numerous exchanges. House. Land. Money. Bazooka. AK-47.
Next, she gathers every Tom, Dick and Harry Lee, Wong and Tan to aid her strive.
“Babe, keep in mind that this is the year 617, when men wore their egos like hair gel. The patriarchy then make 2017’s look like kindergarten play.”
The general’s daughter chick is so hardcore, she shaves her head and whips her homie peasants into shape, then proceeds to offer the surrounding warlord tribes 3 options: (1) bandit leader gets officer commission in her army, (2) gets bribed with food or money, or (3) get a serious ass-whooping in battle.
They usually say yes to army-membership. Soon, the army grows to an impressive 70,000.
My companion’s face grows serious. She stretches her feet and arms out in front of her. We’re still sitting on the grassy hill as battle after battle, negotiation after negotiation flash before us.
“Not long after, she joins forces with her dad. Together, they beat the macam-yes Sui army into sorry, rotting pulps. Papa claims the throne, declaring himself Emperor Gaozu, first emperor of the Tang Dynasty.”
I pause, and my gaze falls on her penis-tattoo, then the bald newly-crowned princess at the foot of our enchanted hill. A wave of revelation traverse through me.
“You are her, with hair. You are Princess Ping Yang, daughter of General Li Yuan, aka Emperor Gaozu.” I point at her tattoo. “That’s the Tang Dynasty, which you helped forge, because only a badass feminist like you can form an empire shaped like a giant male organ.”
She smiles good-naturedly and folds her legs. “The tale progress,” she says slowly. “As you know, I died 2 years later at 23 years old.”
The scene before us transforms into a throne/ administration room. Emperor Gaozu is sitting on his throne with a determined look etched on his face.
“… But she’s a girl. With a V-jay-jay. How can we allow this??” Says the ugliest guy I’ve ever seen.
“… Does she have Y- chromosomes? Huh? Huh?” I take it back, this one’s uglier.
“Wú huáng, wàn suì, wàn suì, wàn wàn suì! Your majesty, we simply CANNOT allow this! Our customs and traditions simply disallows martial music at a woman’s funeral! ” This one looks like the offspring of an Orang Utan and Frankenstein’s monster, except deformed.
I’m watching with dropped jaw. “What’s their problem? You rallied the rebellion troops and helped form the empire! What’s their contribution? Other than comical relief with their faces?”
She sniggers. “The lizard-looking one had the audacity to harass my handmaiden? Pinched her ass. Male chauvinist pig.”
“Jerk,” I agree, leaning over our magic hill for a closer look.
“We value her contributions, and are eternally grateful. However, we cannot discount the fact that she’s a woman!” Lizard man is still talking.
I’m about to launch a chain of choice words when the emperor raises his hand. Silence follows.
“The princess personally beat the battle drums and aided my ascend to power. There WILL be martial music.” He relays with authority.
There may be hope yet.
I blinked, and the bar shimmers into sight. Princess Ping Yang is still perched on the bar stool next to me.
She has a shot glass in her clasp. “Cheers, babe,” she says, a twinkle in her eye.
I mirror her move. “Cheers, princess.”
We down the shots simultaneously.
And the bar plunge into darkness, again.
I snap my eyes open. We are back on the sunny little hill.
I study the view before me. I know a modern Chinese village when I see one.
“It’s the year 2017. Look through that window.” Princess Ping Yang gestures.
I obediently trace her pointer. A family sits around a table for dinner… it IS a family?
“The man is entertaining guest, the elderly couple. Miss his wife?” Her focus shifts and I follow. “She’s in the kitchen. She doesn’t have the ‘right’ to dine with guest at the table.” I’m horrified.
The panorama changes. A similar scene unravels. “Same shit, different home.”
And another. And another. Gosh… another?
Suddenly, we arrive at an unexpected scene. The husband, wife, and three guests are seated at the dining table, chatting and being merry. I’m so surprised I gasp aloud.
“That’s Li Xiaomin. She’s an elementary school teacher. She is this village’s only married woman who eats at the table with guest.” Princess Ping Yang relates. “She also earns 1000 yuan in monthly wage, way higher than the village’s average of 170 yuan. In northern rural China, a woman’s status is directly proportionate to her earnings.”
“The sexism in this village might seem like the exception and not the rule, and while the law may dictate that each child share equal inheritance, misogynist dies hard.”
She tilts her head and gathers her hair behind each ear. “For exactly this reason, girls must be educated, to raise the female status, everywhere. On top of improved status, education brings forth urbanisation, which entails independence and equality.”
“Every revolution begins with a tiny change- our individual role to play.”
We are at the bar again.
“So, I should NOT oblige social norms, shut up, and follow my husband to his parents’ home?” I asked confused.
“Not exactly, I suggest you give the situation serious thought, fully informed. There is no handbook for feminism. Instead, we strive for generations of thinking woman. Woman who understand the ultimate goal- female empowerment. We must right the system, but be cautious not to, in the process, lose our soul.”
I rest my chin on my palm and pout.
She winks. “I’ll leave you with that for now,” and raises yet another shot glass. “Parting is such sweet sorrow that I say goodnight till it be morrow.”
I clank my glass against hers with a grin. “Goodnight! Goodnight!”
And darkness envelopes me. Again.
“Baby, you okay?” A deep voice meets my ear.
I wrestle my torso off the bar top. Where Princess Ping Yang was, now sits my husband.
“I’m fine.” My voice is coarse. I eye his expression- slightly concerned, yet brimming with purpose.
He holds up a 50 cent coin, turns it so I glimpse the Bunga Raya and Wau at alternate intervals. “I have a solution. I’m going to flip this coin. Heads, we spend new year’s eve at your parents. Tails, mine.”
I grip his hand just as he’s about to toss the coin into the air. “And then next year, we alternate.”
He shoots me that smile that turns my insides to agar-agar.
The coin leaps into the air, lands on the bar counter, and spins for a few seconds.
Then it settles- flat and stationary.
We bend over to determine the verdict.
Slowly, our gaze raise and meets. Smiles escape the corner of our lips.
“Amorous congress?” He asked.
Then we beeline for the toilet.
P.S.: I am thankful that my parents raised my siblings and I strictly equal, regardless of gender. Some close to me will argue that I was raised as a boy, a claim with gravity given that (as far as I remember) the most feminine purchase my father has made for me are sanitary pads. However, many around me do not share that good fortune. I may not change the system, but I hope to do my part, because, at the risk of sounding like a broken record- every revolution begins with a tiny change.
P.S.: 50% of this piece was written at 34,000 feet above MSL, the remainder in a hungover blaze.
What’s Christmas? What are the elements of Christmas? Here, I break down my understanding of the season of noels- a point in every letter.
C – carols
Nothing charge endorphins like that of Christmas carols over blasting Bose speakers
H – holiday
“Holiday” is not dictated by one’s employer. “Holiday” is a state of mind. My company can steal my Christmas, but they can NOT steal my Christmas spirit.
R – run for no man’s land
My liver’s endeavour this season of giving.
I – intense humidity
No eggnog, roasting chestnuts, evergreen spruces, or falling snow. But we Malaysians have our heat. I’m dreaming of a humid Christmas.
S – Santa Claus
Apocryphal fable. Unless you subscribe to the logic of a speeding sleigh at 650 miles per hour, which is 3000 times the speed of sound or 23 times the speed of a Ulysses space probe (the fastest man made vehicle).
T – tree
If I say my plastic tree branch, erected in a juice bottle, garnished with earrings, is a Christmas tree, then the heck it is.
M – mistletoe
Where can I find one? To felicitously embellish my make-out hut, aka couch potato haven (my sofa).
A – aliment
Nosh that consist of the main Christmas food groups- fats, sugar, cholesterol and alcohol.
S – Son of Man
No, Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th (try June-ish, or so the experts say).
So we celebrate His generic birthday. But is HE generic too? I mean, I rant about the unsubstantiality of Santa Claus (refer to point “S”); but am I hypocritically celebrating another fictional character?
Rather than indulge the emotional whirlwind many Christians spiral into, I decided I like facts.
Here goes, although He wasn’t born amongst mistletoes and falling snow, non biblical data suggest that Jesus existed. (Because of course the bible is bias in this context- every rationalisation should begin from a plane of congruous underlying assumptions).
“Nero fastened the guilt … on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of … Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome….”
Wrote Roman historian Tacitus on Emperor Nero’s bid to “tai chi” blame to the Christians for the engulfing fire that ruined Rome in A.D. 64.
The “extreme penalty” of “Christus” is believed to be Jesus’ crucifixion during the reign of Pontius Pilatus; and “mischievous superstition checked”- His resurection.
I like the use of “mischievous superstition”. I have a mischievous superstition about drivers who switch lanes without using the turn signal.
“They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food – but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”
This could be a slight stretch, or perhaps its gravity is lost in english translation. You be the judge.
In a letter from Pliny the Younger to Emperor Trajan, he wrote about the Christians, seeking advice on how they should be dealt with legally.
He mentions their worship to Christ, “as a god”. Historians believe the expressed message is, “they worship this man as if he were a god”, which indicates the actual blood-and-flesh existence of a man named Jesus Christ.
Of course, “as a god” could hold other meanings. But I’m inclined towards the man-God theory.
“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he … wrought surprising feats…. He was the Christ. When Pilate …condemned him to be crucified, those who had . . . come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared … restored to life…. And the tribe of Christians … has … not disappeared.”
Jewish historian, Josephus wrote in his book, Jewish Antiquities, a portion called Testimonium Flavianum. There are conflicting views on this passage. Because of its tune, some scholars think a Christian edited it. But even after disregarding the chilli sauce and pepper, the skeleton remains- that there lived a man named Jesus. (Remember that our question under focus here is did Jesus truly exist, discounting the accompanying theologies)
“Being therefore this kind of person… Ananus, thinking that he had a favorable opportunity because Festus had died and Albinus was still on his way, called a meeting… of judges and brought into it the brother of Jesus-who-is-called-Messiah … James by name, and some others. He made the accusation that they had transgressed the law, and he handed them over to be stoned.”
Another portion of Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities mentions Jesus. The focus of this passage is not Jesus, though, but His brother, James.
During that time, there were like, a million men named James. To specify the James in question, Josephus relates him to Jesus. But since there were 2 million Jesus’ at the time, he goes one step further, and labels Him “Jesus-who-is-called-Messiah”- synonym to the Jesus of the bible.
“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald … cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.”
The Babylonian Talmud is a collection of Jewish rabbinical writings compiled approximately between A.D. 70-500.
“Yeshu” is Jesus in Hebrew, and “hanged” refers to the hanging off a giant “T”- crucification.
The “stoning” in question, is what the jewish leaders were planning to do before Roman involvement. And the “sorcery” is that the perspective of Jesus’ accusers. However, the stoning and sorcery are irrelevant given that our issue at hand is “did Jesus really exist?”, and eye witness accounts once again implies so.
“The Christians … worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account…. [It] was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.”
This passage, on the other hand, is no eye witness. However, the Lucian of Samosata, Greek satirist is believed to have gather his sources on Jesus from that other than the new testament, hence its status as evidence of Jesus’ existence.
I try to base my faith on facts and evidence. I work extensively to NOT be a Pocahontas Christian (everything has a spirit, has a life, has a name). However, the emotional whirlwind I mentioned? Guilty at times.
Because, what is a relationship without sentiment? I possess head knowledge that my husband is a good man; sweet, sexy, and talented in bed responsible. But our relationship won’t BE a relationship without my fervour for him.
In the same way, I know Jesus is the way, the truth and the light. I know He was born (not on December 25), and crucified for my sins. But my relationship with Him stems from more than knowledge. It sprouts from the warm of His love for me- my best friend, heavenly father and 24/7 counsellor.