A Lost Passion

WoooOOOooo... We are FC København! ;)
WoooOOOooo... We are FC København! 😉

Once, there was a small boy who loved football so much that he vowed one day he would travel half way across the world to see his favorite football team play. However, as the boy grew up, he forgot how much he loved his football. As the years passed and he was no longer small in size, the boy dismissed his once all consuming passion as nothing more than mere distractions. Sadly, he never gave much thought about what he lost when he did that.

A couple of weeks ago, I watched F.C København draw with their stiff rivals OB. The game had a couple of goals, wide wing plays and the usual football strategies. To anyone who is used to watching football, it was just another ordinary game. However, for me it was anything but ordinary. Quite hard to be impassive when you are standing next to a legion of diehard fans that were chanting and singing their hearts out. Before I knew it, I was cheering with the best of them. Hoping our collective will was strong enough to secure F.C København a win. We shared pain when OB scored and jumped with joy when F.C København grabbed the lead. It was eventful, fun and best of all, it was full of passion.

As the final whistle blew, I felt something old and forgotten stir. It was a part of me which has been lost for a long time. It was a part of me which I really wanted back. Since then, a new entry has been added to my list of 100 things to do before I meet the Big Guy…

“Pilgrimage to Old Trafford to watch Manchester United take on Liverpool”.

It was long overdue. A forgotten promise to a passionate small boy who loved his football.

Why the Vikings are Proud

Lil Mermaid gazing at a free and just land.

Malaysia has and always been a flashy nation. We have twins whose shadows are longer than any other towers in the world. Our international airport extends for miles in every direction. We have highways long and flat from border to border. How many other nation can boast a city built from the ground for the sole purpose of administration?

 

Denmark in contrast is drab. There are no sky scrapers. Their airport is a simple affair. The roads seem full of potholes with a capital city which is a quarter of the size of mighty Putrajaya.

 

Despite all that, the Danish people are probably the most luckiest people in the world. While we in Asia still fight for basic human rights such as freedom, justice and equality, in drab Denmark, these rights have been around longer than our country. Their rule of law has transcended brittle things such as constitution. Their principles of democracy are more than just words written on paper. It is interwoven into the very fabric of their society.

 

Admittedly, there are no modern, glitzy or shinny towers to awe the eyes in Denmark. There is only the rule of a just and fair society to dazzle the mind and make envy all foreign hearts that yearn for such things.

 

This time, the heart is Malaysian and the yearning is strong.

A French Island in Eastern Caribbean

The sun putting on a performance...

This is the third time I was lucky enough to experience the Caribbean. Like the other two islands I have been to, Martinique stands out on its own. The weather above Martinique is however erratic. This coming from a Malaysian boy who spent his entire life under crazy weather. Nevertheless, Martinique holds the record for showering on me in consecutive times. 7 in the short space of 2 hours. All that rain while the sun is shinning and people sunbathing.

 

Typical of a Caribbean island, the beach here is from a cliché holiday postcard. White sands, blue skies and clear waters to soothe the soul and quiet the mind. The locals are friendly but spot a sophisticated air in the way only French people know how. They don’t call this spot the French West Indies for nothing. Having only a rudimentary grasp of the language makes it hard for me to interact with my host but after travelling for so long, I have mastered body language. Being able to imitate animal noises with some flair also helps a lot when ordering.

 

Despite the language differences, Martinique is an example why the Caribbean will always be at the top end of people’s escape list. Why?

As I write this, the sun has decided to set. I sit on my beach towel marveling at the orange streaks that sears the sky and sets it on fire. A cool breeze blows by cooling and refreshing. The air is thick with salt but nevertheless a whiff of charred grilled fish floats down to my spot. As I hear the waves crashing into the rock in a soothing rhythm meant for the ages, I can’t help but wonder whether heaven is maybe an island somewhere in the Caribbean…

Kingdom of Faith

When tradition meets modernization...

Riyadh as a city displays conflicting emotions that hits you the minute you walk out of the airport. Like all faithful today, it is a character assaulted by a world of skeptics who are embolden by science and technology. On one hand you discern a city jealously holding on to its roots. Strong in its belief and unbending when it comes to faith. Look the other way and you have a city bursting at the seams trying to reel in a flood of commercialization and technology which accompanies progress. For now tradition rules with an iron fist but as I see the number of new sky scrapers reflecting the setting sun, I sense changing winds. Add in a massive legion of foreign labor, I can feel a culture rapidly evolving.

 

Thus Riyadh is a stereotypical split personality. Like most of us, it is trying to balance a strict upbringing with the influence of the new world. Only time will tell which way Riyadh and Saudi Arabia as a whole will move. Will it embrace progress, dig deeper into its traditions or will it be the few who master the difficult balance between the two forces…

When all you have is Bob

Meet Bob the underwear.

I saw Bob looking at me. He was cheap at 4 Dinars but seem rather small in size. However, Bob knew I was desperate so he didn’t try too hard to impress. It’s hard being impressive when you live to protect and serve but are called Bob. If you haven’t guessed it by now, Bob is an underwear. Not a fancy one like Calvin but not cheap or trashy either. Mildrew was trashy. I guess that is why Bob never worried about not being picked up. He was the middle ground in the underwear selection at Carrefour. Considering I had to buy multiple sets of clothes, Bob was just the man for the job. I think his parents knew that hence his strange name.

 

Bob is awkward though. Unlike Mildrew, he is of course better built. However, it is rather cramp in Bob’s care despite being a double XL. He is definitely not as comfortable as Celio or as spacious as Levis who were both three times Bob’s price. However, I was glad I had Bob. I can’t imagine walking around commando in this cold weather.

 

Bob isn’t exactly Mr. Warm and Fuzzy but at least he was some cover against the draft. The biting cold if you know what I mean. So I trudge along with Bob daydreaming about my Byfords and wondering when are they going to find their way home. Sigh…

Hola República Dominicana

Where the Senors are cool and Senoritas pretty as wild flowers.

The sun was sparing no quarters. A roaring river of sweat made its way between my eyes and nose and headed towards my neck. Humidity was high. Almost like Malaysia I thought. That was until she called out with a charming lilt “Buenas dias”.

 

Buenas días Senorita! I replied. I always wanted to say that. Ever since watching Speedy Gonzales, habla espaniole was always high on my list of things to do. Quite easy to do at the first capital of the new world, Santo Domingo.

 

She continued at me in a stream of fast pace Spanish. I nodded with understanding even though I didn’t. I had a secret weapon so I was not worried. When she finally finished, I said fluently albeit with a flat intonation, “Realmente no puedo hablar español. Solo aprendí unas frases de una página web” (I can not really speak Spanish. I just learned some phrases from a website).

 

She laughed. Fifth time I tried that line. Same result.

 

Language covered, dancing next. Bachata anyone?

The Last Stand

The last soldier of Carthage...

There stands a pillar. Defiant and strong. A symbol of might.

 

Once the pillar was part of an empire so vast and so powerful that even invincible Rome threaded carefully. Under its shade, the legendary conqueror Hannibal ruled. This was mighty Carthage. Kings tremble and emperors quake when Carthage goes to war. On the pillar’s shoulders, a super power thrived. This was where mighty men walked and lesser ones came to be judged. It was the glory years of an age long past.

 

Today, the rain falls incessantly on it. Mocking its pride. Eroding its strength. Sapping away the last remnants of its age. The pillar which once evoked awe and wonder stands on its final leg. The rain knows this. It whispers to the wind. And the wind roars with murder. Trees are uprooted. The sea is riled. Waves with enormous height threatens the shore. And yet the pillar stands.

 

Heartbroken. Lonely. But still defiant. Still strong.

Nice la Belle

Welcome to the Riviera...

Nice… Most people from the English part of the world will read that word to mean pleasant. However, Nice is also a place. South of France facing the Mediterranean. It has prestigious neighbors such as Cannes which is the seat of the oldest film fest in the world.

 

Nice is nice. I had to say that. It has always been at the back of my mind waiting to be said. But Nice is more than just pleasant. Fun, fast paced, magnetic will be far better words to define it. It is a city that does not believe in sleep. Unlike the other cities of France. Even the capital, Paris could learn a thing or two about nightlife from Nice. Cote d’Azur is the accentuated curve which punctuates Nice. A long rocky stretch of beach teeming with life. Human and otherwise. The lights never go out on the French Riviera.

 

I was there for a week. For work of course. Unfortunately Nice and I did not get acquainted as much as I would have liked. A few nights out in town. A couple of hours snatched here. A few glances there. A short fling was all we could manage. Work was all consuming. I knew she deserves so much more than just a few shots. There was so much to be discovered. I will come back. I know that for fact. Cote d’Azur made me promise. It was an easy one to make. Suffice to say Nice is not a taste easily forgotten or a promise made to be broken. She is after all a girl and a very beautiful one at that…

The day Air France lost my Life

An online system designed to drive you nuts!

The carousel went round and round. It was empty. I was alone. Where is it? I asked myself for the thousandth time. The carousel finally comes to a grinding stop. No bag in sight. My heart sinks. It can’t be. The guard beckons me to the baggage counter. I can’t believe my luck… My bag is gone. I am lost.

 

No sir. Your bag is not lost. It is just late. Just call that number and they will tell you where it is. She made it sound so easy. Easy for her. Her life was not packed in a suitcase. A suitcase misplaced and probably feeling as lonely I am.

 

I called the number. It answered. She was an interactive voice system. Apparently she spoke only Arabic. English? She continued in Arabic! Click. I hung up. Now, I am in trouble…

 

5 days passed and I hit F5 again. For non-geeks, F5 is the refresh button for the Internet Explorer. It is usually located along the first line of buttons on your keyboard. Somewhere in the middle. For the past few days, I have come to know this button intimately….

 

The luggage claim status page stares back at me. Still tracing reads the message on screen. Where are thou my beautiful bag I wonder. My trusty tripod which my 30D pins for, my clean toothbrush and its minty flavored hubby, my freshly pressed office shirts who so lovingly hide away all my excesses? Where are you my shorts and undies who live only to protect and serve? My poor maggie mee packets always ready in 2 minutes to fight off famine on a cold day. Where are you guys? Who is holding you?!

 

Refresh! Still tracing. Refresh, refresh… Refresh! Still tracing. Son of a Camel!

 

This is unbearable. I need to speak to a human. This time I wait. She continues in French. That’s progress I think because before she only spoke Arabic. The IVR has flipped to another language. I wait a while longer with my fingers crossed. Toes as well. “Please wait a moment while we transfer your call to a call center”. What!? She speaks English now! No way…

 

Yes way! “Good evening Sir, how can we help you?”. “Well my bag is lost and here is my reference number” I stammer away. Finally a warm body to speak to. Someone with blood cursing through his veins as opposed to current. Silence. I am praying he is NOT hitting the same refresh button as  I am. “Is your name Vijaiiii sir?”. That’s right, my name is Vijay. That is with a Y at the end.

 

“Yes sir. Mr. Vijaiiiii, your bag is here with us.” I was smiling. Some people say you can hear a smile on the phone. I hope he heard mine. “You mean I can come and collect it now?” I was shouting but I didn’t care. “As you wish sir”. I felt like kissing him but only just controlled myself! I squeaked out a thank you instead.

 

The feeling of being adrift faded. My bag is found and along with it, my life…

Heaven on Earth

Paradise central...

Aruba, Jamaica ooo I wanna take you,
To Bermuda, Bahama come on pretty mama…

Hard to believe but the Beach Boys really did stumble upon heaven on earth. They tried to tell everyone. It is right there in their song.

Apr 5, 12.00 AM: Welcome to hell!
Cramped, stuffy and claustrophobic.

13 hours flight puctuated with a 9 hours standby giving way to another 7 hours of slow and painful torture. Staying still is my weakness. I almost ran out of the plane when it touched down. Of course it didn’t end there. Immigration kept me in for 2 hours. My vacation cover story didn’t fly. It was getting out of hand. The shouting was scary. The threat of being deported was real. I couldn’t take it anymore. No place could be worth this pain. No place I know off.

Apr 6, 6.40 PM: Welcome to Bermuda!
The only place where the pain is worthwhile.

The island which was part of the infamous song. Talked about being overhyped. I was skeptical about this place. The hype around it is unbelivable. Like most people I have been dissapointed by hype. Stopped believing in it. Phuket and Bali compares. Therefore, I arrived a skeptic. After all, if you seen one beach, you seen them all…. Or so I thought.

Apr 6, 9.00 PM: Welcome to Coco Reef!
I have not seen it all. Not by a long shot.

Driving along the road, the ocean never leaves your sight even when you are deep inland. You can smell it. The intoxicating mix of laughter, holding hands and stunning sunsets was heavy in the air. Everywhere you look, people just broke into smiles. I thought Malaysians were friendly. Bermudians are something else. This was not about being friendly. They were genuinely happy. The morning after I found out why.

Apr 7, 7.00 AM: Welcome to heaven!
Waking up to a garden of white sand and an ocean which displays emotion in glorious shades of blue, the words to describe it all slip by me. For the first time in years, I found my language not powerful enough to capture the moment. It came out all jumbled. I stopped trying. Instead, I just lay back and let it all slide. This was no hype.

The Beach Boys used Bermuda to rock the world. There was a reason to it. They sang about heaven on earth. They sang about Bermuda.