Thursday, June 21, 2018

A POST ON (TRAVEL) PRIVILEGE


For some, travel is an unthinkable luxury firmly out of reach when there are bills to be paid, loans to be serviced, others to be accountably present for (children, partners, family, etc), rent to be paid, and it goes on. 

(When it comes down to paying to jump on a flight or putting food on the table, which do you think would come first?)

Which is why I find cliched phrases such as " Quit your job and travel the world " " How bad do you want it? " to be incredibly lacking in tact and realism.

Today, I am sharing two of my experiences regarding travel privilege.

*** 
It was 2015. 

I had gone to Thailand for my Open Water Diving certification. The course took 4 days, with an underwater videographer following us around on our dives. At the end of the course, the footage was compiled into a short video for our group of 5. The video would cost 60USD, but could be split among the number of people paying for it. I didn't see the point of paying for a video I would proably watch a couple of times and then forget about, so I opted out. A Norwegian boy in my group got annoyed at me 

" It's only 12USD, what's the matter with you? "

***
It was 2016. I was in Indonesia and met a young American couple who were teaching English in Korea. We were talking about countries in the region, and he asked me if I had ever been to Taiwan. I mentioned that I had not 

" YOU'VE NEVER BEEN TO TAIWAN? What on EARTH are you KIDDING me? You HAVE to get yourself out there ASAP! "

***

Travel is not a necessity and it's ok if you enjoy it - just don't make the rest of us feel bad because we can't.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

MAKEUP YOUR MIND

I never thought the day would come where I would be able to wield a mascara wand, put on lipstick without looking like the Joker, or do a (sorta-ish) passable job of contouring my face. 

Somewhat of a late bloomer, I only started to take an interest in makeup when I was in my early twenties. It started off with foundation, then concealer, tinted lip balm, and gradually grew. Through the years I've accummulated a reasonably decent set of makeup with lipsticks, eyeshadows, eyeliner, blush, mascara, and a basic set of brushes. 

(Thanks to the abundant fullness of my eyebrows, I've never had to own a brow pencil nor shadows to draw or shade in my eyebrows ; all I do is get them threaded and shaped every now and then.)

I enjoy wearing makeup on weekends or on occasion. For the most part it's the norm for me to be barefaced (save for my daily sunblock application). 

I have serious respect for those who have dedicated themselves to getting a full face of makeup down pat within 10 minutes. 
I also have serious respect for those who are comfortable and confident to go all out bare faced. 

In my perspective, both are equally great and neither one is better than the other. 

***

One thing I've realized is the hypocritical controversy surrounding makeup. 

Wear none or too little, and you get criticized for looking dull and frumpy.
Wear a good amount all the time and you get called 'fake' or a 'tryhard'. 

People don't say things like 'stop being so vain' when someone takes a nice hot shower and uses a leave in hair mask.

Nobody says 'stop trying so hard' when one sets a goal of eating lots of vegies and drinking plenty of water.

No one would say 'she doesn't really look like that' if someone were to lose weight from working out and getting enough sleep. 

So why do some people give flak to those who truly enjoy makeup, and take it up as a form of expression and self-love?


Monday, October 9, 2017

NOBODY CARES

I, as much as anybody else, have had my fair share of screw-ups and embarrassments. 


  • CC'ing the wrong person in an email.
  • Walking around with a piece of tissue stuck to your face unnoticed.
  • Accidentally driving your car the opposite direction down a one way street, realizing it is a one way street, and causing a temporary mini traffic jam as you try to reverse your way out while furiously cursing your dim-wittedness.
  • Doing your makeup under inadequate lighting and leaving the house looking like a clown.
  • Mistakenly greeting someone thinking they were your friend but actually not.
  • Stepping into the wrong Uber.

Ad infinitum. 

These are all completely normal.

***

What intrigues me is that the feeling of humiliation and discomfort at something which was a minor blip and easily laughed off, tends to linger and has an annoying way of resurfacing and making me cringe even after it has been left well in the past.

At times like these, I sternly repeat this phrase to myself 

" Nobody cares. "

Full stop.

Nobody particularly cares that you wore mismatched socks, nobody cares that your fly is unzipped, nobody cares that you accidentally said that thing at that time, nobody cares that you tripped at that place, nobody cares that you forgot about whatever.

People are too wrapped up in their own concerns, their own set of urgencies and priorities and appointments that really, nobody cares about your trivial series of worries or hiccups. 

So the next time you stop to worry about what people are thinking of you, remember -






Wednesday, July 12, 2017

KIDS WITH KIDS

I haven't been here for a while.

Life is good. 




Over the weekend, I went over to my best friend's place to fiddle around with manuals and bolts and screws to help her set up more furniture (which I had helped her purchase and lug home from IKEA).

We went to the pool to hang out after that, and she told me about the sky garden.

" You have a sky garden? "
" Yeah! Haven't I ever taken you? "

So we went to the sky garden and watched the sun set from there while just talking about deep life stuff. 

" Isn't it funny.. I still feel like I'm a kid but when you think about it, there are peers our age who already have kids. "

And I do really mean it. I still feel like a kid - and how is it that we're already expected to get married and settle down and get promoted and upgrade the car and have kids and renovate the kitchen and change the diapers and paint the fence and look for a kindy and and and

When there are so many books to read, people to meet, places to discover, weekends to laze, trails to hike, mountains to conquer, countries to traverse, adventures to explore and and and

And.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TEMPTRESS

" You deserve to be burned alive for arousing the desires of men and stirring up their temptation to sin! " he spat at her with venom in his words.


*** 

She was recounting her visit to a far-flung land of a thousand exotic Gods and marvellous monuments, of deliciously spicy foods and cobbled streets.

On her first day, she jumped out of bed barely able to contain her excitement to uncover all there was to explore.

She decided to don a three quarter sleeved blouse with a modest neckline and a full length, comfy, loose fitted pair of pants, and sturdy sandals. Her head and wrists were exposed.

" You deserve to be burned alive for arousing the desires of men and stirring up their temptation to sin! "

Standing by the street, a man looked her leeringly up and down, before condescendingly proclaiming his vitriolic judgement upon her then jauntily strolling off.

*** 

Back home as she repeated the incident to us, our first responses were indignant and scorn

" The very nerve of him! "
" Who does he think he is? "
" How could anyone be so lacking in moral code and discernment? "

However as the discussion developed, a different angle came into light

What if, to the people of that land, a woman with any part of her revealed was akin 

to Muslims what it would be to have someone bring a pig into the compound of a mosque?
to Christians what it would be to have someone paint the symbol of the Antichrist on the church walls?
to Jews what it would be to be gifted the flag of the Nazi?

Perhaps, what is considered 'right', 'acceptable', and 'moral' differs from one person to another ; perhaps the world is more nuanced than logical, more cloudy than clear.

Just my thought of the day.

Monday, May 1, 2017

SEVEN LETTERS & A FUNERAL

I recently paid my respects at a funeral. 

As the the wreath of lilies was placed at the foot of the cross upon closing of prayer, I was reminded that life is fleeting, time is precious, and it is absolutely crucial to convey myself to those who matter.



***

Letter #1
My nearest and dearest friend on earth, I love you so much. We've been best friends for more than a decade - from scribbling on our desks and painting graffiti on walls to climbing over fences (we were naughty kids weren't we?). We've gone through your dad's passing while we still were in high school, my sleeping over at yours whenever I was unhappy, your brother giving us lessons in accounting and economics, lining up timetables in college so we could spend our breaks together, me playing the piano for your sister's wedding, assembling Ikea furniture for your new home. We've been through a lot side by side and I'm looking forward to us growing old together. 

Letter #2
It's incredible how we're so different but get each other so well. When we go to events together, you're always content to hide in the corner while I draw my energy from the life in the room. You comically roll your eyes exasperatedly and turn up your nose at my backpacking tirades and declare that you could never, EVER, understand how or why on earth anyone would want to fly economy rubbing asses with the masses, to live with locals, trek through rolling hills and valleys of paddy terraces, hike an explosive volcano, dive with sharks, stay in a dorm and share a bathroom with a dozen other people. 'Exercise' is one of your major allergies (you would rather spend a weekend at the philharmonic or watching a play) and you can't bear to go outside without a full face of makeup and your heels. Yet it's those polar differences which keeps our dynamics interesting and friendship full of hysterical laughter.

Letter #3
I met you in my previous life as a writer - you were my Chief Editor. You gave it all up to go on to new challenges, I went my way to explore other career paths. We still have our progress reviews, only now our conversations revolve around life and its nuances rather than features, advertorials, headlines, blurbs, and copy. You showed me that there is more to aspire to in life as woman, that your worth goes beyond getting married and making babies. I treasure every moment with you.

Letter #4
My dear cubicle neighbour - you're loyal, trusting, affectionate, funny, good natured, sweet, kind, patient, humble, and the best keeper of secrets. I can't say enough how much I value and treasure our friendship at work. Praise be onto the Cubicle Gods for seating us next to each other. 

Letter #5
You started up a conversation while you were in transit through Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It's almost hilarious to think that somehow through all this time, we've kept in touch and now talk to each other almost daily - what I shopped online, your door and sink which need fixing, the weather today, what we're having for dinner, etc. Hopefully one day we'll catch up - this time in person.

Letter #6
Some time has passed and it's been a while now, but I still treasure what you taught me. You taught me that when two people who care about each other want different things - there is no need for hate or bitterness in going separate ways. You showed me that it is possible for a relationship to end well and beautifully. We're on good terms with each other today and whether you find yourself in London, Melbourne, Sydney, Berlin, Vancouver, or anywhere in the world - I wish you all the happiness and success and abundance in life. 

Letter #7
They say there are no bad experiences - only lessons. Thank you for cheating. Thank you for teaching me strength and dignity, to make the right decision, to cut you off. Thank you for teaching me to value and love myself, to never settle for being a side piece. I know I am worth more and deserve more than that, and I thank you for teaching me to step up and acknowledge it. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

BABY TALK

As I approach the age where people start getting to THAT stage in life, this topic has come up in more than a few conversations. 

The majority of people are adamant about having kids.

( I am still undecided on reproduction. )

***

When posed the question of why they want kids, common responses are 

“ I want kids because babies are cute “ (My response to that - get a dog.)

“ I want kids so I’ll have something to look forward to. “ (Same as above - or find a hobby)

“ I want kids so I’ll have someone to take care of me when I’m old “ (Annuity - perhaps have a look.)

" I want kids so I'll have meaning and purpose in my life. " (Aim to fulfill selfless acts of volunteerism, set goals for yourself and work towards attaining them [like run a marathon, trek a mountain, help a charity, feed the needy, etc etc])

***

What’s a good reason for having kids then?  

I guess you should have kids simply because you want to, and want to raise them with love and selflessness without expecting anything in return - and not with the intention of them serving as excitement to nullify your boredom, nor the agenda of setting them up as your retirement plan.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

MY RIDE SHARING DISASTER : HOW UBER & GRAB RESPONDED

Here is the ordeal in its entirety, the aftermath in the following days, as well as lessons I learned.


Image source: vietnambusiness.tv

*** 

THE INCIDENT

It was a rainy Saturday evening in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. 

UBER 

I opened up the Uber app in my phone and hailed a ride. A driver responded and I confirmed. 

I gave Driver A a call and he informed me he was on his way. I waited more than 30 minutes before he eventually he revealed he didn't know the area / couldn't locate me and asked me to cancel my booking. I replied that if it were the case, he should be the one to cancel. He reverted that if he did so then he would be penalized by Uber ; hence it would be better if the passenger (me) cancelled. I did so and was charged Rm5 because it had been more than 5 minutes since I confirmed the ride. 

After I cancelled the first ride, I hailed another Uber and Driver B responded to my request. I then received a call from him enquiring my destination. When I informed him, the following exchange took place 

Him: Oh.. you want to go there.. but it's not on my way. Can you cancel your ride?
Me: Then why did you respond? In that case, YOU cancel it. 
Him: But I'll get blacklisted by Uber. 
Me: Ugghh, fine.

Following the second failed attempt, I try hailing another Uber - and Driver C responded. However to my frustration, the same scenario repeated itself! 

(In the second and third events, I wasn't charged as I cancelled both in less than 5 minutes. However, the inconvenience of the situation made for an extremely poor customer experience.)

Tired of playing this game with Uber, I then turned to another ride hailing app popular in Southeast Asia.

***

GRAB

I hailed a ride with Grab and a driver responded. I requested to be picked up at the Grab booth at my location - he agreed. 45 minutes later and a flurry of calls and messages, turns out he was circling the area and didn't know where to pick me up from. I informed him to use Waze / Google Maps and provided him the name of the restaurant I was at but he insisted he didn't know and asked me to walk to where he was waiting.

Fed up of waiting and this ridiculous back-and-forth, I reluctantly complied and WALKED IN THE RAIN to find this incompetent driver. Multiple calls and messages more - I managed to locate him! I nearly cried tears of relief and got into the car approximately an hour since I booked the ride. After all the drama, I thought that was the end of this harrowing ordeal and I could finally get going.

However, it was not. I arrived at my destination and was about to get out when he stopped me and presented me with a bill of Rm 15 (on top of the original fare). Turns out he had paused at a reserved parking when he was circling about and was charged - now I had to bear his penalty.

I argued but was exhausted after a night out and just wanted to get this done and over with. I eventually paid up.

***

THE AFTERMATH

In the following week, I shared my experiences with both ride hailing services on social media. This is how the parties involved responded.

UBER

In less than 2 hours, Uber had reached out to me to apologize. That day itself, the following actions were carried out 

- Refund the cost of penalty 
- Refund the cost of the ride
- Extra Uber credits as compensation


GRAB

After the infuriating experience, I rated the driver deservingly and also sent an email to their customer support team. I received an email that stated they 'appreciate bringing to our attention' but nothing further.

This prompted me to take to Facebook - however with still no response in sight I escalated to LinkedIn and also tagged their CEO and Founder. That evening, I received a call from the Grab team apologizing and verbally outlining the following actions. (However, it was only a week later that they were carried out.)

- Refund the cost I was charged for 'VIP Parking'
- Refund the cost of the ride
- Extra Grab credits as compensation 


*** 

LESSONS LEARNT

Speak out

This is also a partial reason as to why I am writing this post - more than a few people are asking me about my experience that evening and how things were resolved. As a consumer, it is our responsibility to deliver feedback in  a clear and coherent manner. This is so companies can take this into consideration to educate their drivers, who can then in turn deliver accordingly to consumers - ultimately providing a positive experience for all.

Rampage rants which go " F&$%!! all ride hailing services you all SOBs never taking a ride again MotherF*#@ers! " are of no help to anyone.

Be graceful 

As with any other regular company, ride hailing service do the best they can to screen and educate their employees. However some parties may still be misaligned at times. What you can do is to deliver feedback and let them take necessary action.  

Being a regular user of ride hailing services, I must say that the majority of drivers I've encountered have a sense of ownership and responsibility to do their job well and deliver a smooth and pleasant experience as possible. There may be a few who are the exception to this, but as a whole I find that ride hailing services provide a valuable service to the public and I will continue to use them.