Wednesday, July 27, 2005

With a population (last i heard anyway) of 4 billion, sometimes its hard to imagine how large the world is.

I mentioned to my neighbour the other day over dinner that Auckland's really international, and everywhere you look you see Asians, mainland Chinese especially. And considering out of every 4 directions you can look (front, back , left & right for those with exceptionally poor directional skills like my mum who has a tendency to take wrong turns whenever i navigate for her), 3 of those directions will definitely contain at least ONE Chinese among the people you see. And if there're already SO many Chinese here, its just testament to how mind-bogglingly huge China is, and if you extrapolate from there its not too difficult to imagine how much larger the world is compared to China.

Yet its not difficult to find examples to prove true the saying "How small the world is".

I flew 9000km only to realize when i'm in a completely foreign country i still find a fairly large community of Singaporeans excluding the 10 from NUS and 2 from NTU, one of which is even my flat mate.
Of which 1 of the Singaporean girls from NUS, Rachel (edit: sorry for the mis-spell, i'm gonna hunt down the prick who spelt her name with an "a") even happened to be from NYGH and knew my good friend's girlfriend Alicia (who also IS my good friend) since they were in the band together back in their Secondary School days. Better still, she went to the same JC i did, and again played in the band at ACJC, and yet again knew 2 of my JC classmates who were extremely prolific musicians - Yibin who was the resident student conductor last i remember, and Jason who was invited to play in the band for the Sydney Games (can't remember if it was Commonwealth or Olympics, but it was a great honour for him all the same) who i have unfortunately lost contact with.

I had the opportunity to play soccer with some Singaporeans who were permanent students at University of Auckland last weekend, and the guy who graciously picked us up to bring us to the soccer pitch was a guy called Ivan. Jason, a Law exchange student from NUS, had a few friends already in Auckland, and the friend introduced Jason to Ivan, which was how Ivan invited Jason and the rest of us to soccer. In the car Jason and Ivan talked about their mutual friend with an energy that was as if they had knew each other for centuries, and we found out he was from ACS(I) and then NJC. Edmund, a computer engineering exchange student from NTU was the other guy who followed us to soccer, happened to also be from NJC. Upon some incidental common topics of conversation did Ivan and Edmund realize they were actually the same age and graduated the same year from NJC, and then they later realized they had actually been acquaintences all along. They were both avid street soccer players in the basketball court back in the JC days, and since it was sorta a community thing so they had actually probably even played in the same make-shift teams back then.
During those conversations we had gathered he was a devout Christian, and was a member of the AOCF, the Auckland Overseas Christian Fellowship. A couple of days later when the Singapore gang met up again, we had mentioned to Debbie, an Architecture exchange student from NUS that Ivan who we had met only yesterday was an exceptionally friendly guy who was in the AOCF, and Debbie(don't ask me how), almost instantaneously popped the question of whether his surname was Goh. Neither Jason, Edmund nor I could answer that question, but somehow though Debbie had never seen nor talked to him she had this strange confidence that she knew that Ivan was the Ivan Goh she knew for a very long time and who was the President of the AOCF.
I was wandering the Quad in school a few days later when there were many booths of the multitude of clubs trying to garner new members for the new term, and happened to chance upon the AOCF booth where Ivan and another guy i had played soccer with last weekend who i forgot his name were manning, and Ivan was giving out flyers advertising the AOCF and inviting people to their worship sessions. I was running a little late for class so i only greeted him but didn't stop to chat; on the flyer i found out when i read in detail later it signed off Ivan Goh, President of AOCF.

Nithya, the Singaporean flatmate i'm living with, is a sociology exchange student from NUS. There happens to be another Singaporean girl in Flat 6, Sudha, who is a 1st year BioMed student at University of Auckland. Both of them have never seen each other until i took the initiative to invite both of them to dinner when i was cooking for my flatmates and then introduced both of them to each other. The 2 of them had casual conversations and begun to understand each other over dinner, and after washing up they proceeded upstairs for some of their "girl-talk", of which perhaps they got bored and invited me up to see exactly how female my brain was. Again perhaps i was the spark in their conversations and they soon realized they had quite a few mutual friends, of which Sudha's best friend back in Singapore was Nithya's dance-class classmate. So they proceeded to go on about their mutual friend, co-incidentally also called Nithya (i think) and discussed her likes and dislikes. They then proceeded to talk about their OWN likes and dislikes, and found common ground on criticizing the country they were currently living in (sheesh how incidentally Singaporean) - how a supposedly well-developed country could have such an unpredictable bus service; how the New Zealand coins were excessively large and heavy; how silly the Kiwis were to do away with a 2-dollar note and replace it with a 2-dollar coin instead, resulting in a coin that would have to be thicker and heavier than the already thick and heavy 1-dollar coin; how irritating it was that shops and departmental stores closed at 5pm instead of 10pm "when it should be for all over the world"; how expensive maintaining a cellphone was since each call to other Vodafone cellphones is $0.49 a minute, each text was $0.20 and all other calls were $0.79 (yes that includes calling a land-line); how bad and rude Kiwi drivers were (now where have i heard that before?) etc.

I keep telling all my friends who're attached that i think it is a genetic commonality in human beings for all fathers to have something against their daughters' boyfriends. There are of course exceptions to this rule, such as my 2 good friends Daniel and Alicia who eventually got together (of which i'm still sore at not being the first 2 know), where (as i have conscientiously made it clear to Alicia >:] ) Alicia's father had so feebly rolled-over and played-dead and allowed Daniel to snatch his beloved daughter right out of his hands, even going to the extent of praising his potential son-in-law as "a very good boy". Evidently i think otherwise, and if Daniel is reading this now and fuming at why his good friend would think he is anything BUT "a very good boy", hell i have proof of you breaking promises, especially the one where you sweared never to promise, no wait, or was it promised never to swear? =) be happy i'm not asking for money to keep my mouth shut (though its not stopping me from typing this out for the world to know) *snigger*

ANYWAY, my story isn't as gold-plated as Daniel's, i got to love a girl whose father somehow has 700% of effort to divide almost equally among his 6 children. You'd think with that many children he wouldn't be having the foggiest idea of where most of his daughters were, but i somehow had the divine misfortune to love a girl who not only magnetized at least 120% of her father's surveillance, but was also the daughter who (in my eyes anyway) was LEAST likely to require corporal punishment, and hence somehow that automatically criminalized my poor self in her father's books.
I can imagine his mental notebook of me :
"Hmm lacks puncuality, that's 50 points off..."
"Did not feed my daughter when she visited his house, 3 million points off..." (incidentally that was because she had left my house before dinner time)
"His handphone number has too many fours in it, bad karma, 52 billion points off..."
"Doesn't smoke...hmmm this one's 10 points, but minus 11 points for not being able to offer me respectful cigarettes.."

Its been err i lost count, six(?) years since we've been together, and only for the past year or so have i started to chalk up credits on my balance sheet. Perhaps because of that i think her dad has taken it upon himself to "help" me recover my lost points by making sure i convert to a Baha'i. Everytime for the past year i visited Anna when her dad was around he would extol the wonders of being Baha'i (not that i disagree, but i have my reasons not to convert so listening to that old coot [shouldn’t be impolite, he might be reading this, and he might just turn out to be my father-in-law after all *shudder*] man croon isn't my idea of a visit), boast the number of friends he has due to the close kinship of Baha'i's, and (i'm not sure if this has anything to do with The Faith) basically make me feel as uncomfortable as humanly possible in his presence. And to bolster his 2nd point, before i came to NZ he was going on about him having Baha'i friends even in NZ and that by being Baha'i i would never be lonely etc

But here's the punchline for the world being too small: my housemate Aryan (the amazing chef, and whom i would have never heard of nor met if i didn't come to New Zealand) knows Anna.
Aryan had been living in The Solomon Islands for quite a few years since he was about 8-10, and it coincided with the time Anna's family had been there, with Anna being about 3-4yrs old. Aryan remembered Anna spotting short hair when she was young, and could recall more vividly Anna's elder sis Anisa since she is my age and therefore about 6-7 yrs old then. When he found out Anna was my girlfriend, and extrapolated the fact that her dad would be my father-in-law, he immediately offered me his condolences. How quaint. 20milliseconds is more than enough for people to forget, but 20years wasn't enough for even Aryan to blur the memory that Anna's dad was one scary guy. Big, burly, crew-cut guy who had a penchant for kung-fu (no, really, as in the martial art, not the hai-yah!'s) and a loud booming voice to boot.
Its good that this fact would put Anna at ease since though she knew i was fairly at ease talking to complete strangers and blending in, the fact that there was a family friend just living upstairs to me was reassuring - to quote "Had i known a Baha'i would be living so close to you i needn't have worried". I feel good knowing Anna's feeling secure 9000km away, but i DON'T feel good knowing Anna's dad is also happy, smiling his "I told you so..." smirk.

Dr@n|xX at 6:14 PM

Monday, July 18, 2005

Well i had a wonderful dinner at Fish & Co. at the airport with the gang. Love the New York Fish & Chips at Fish & Co, awesome stuff.

Flight was both wonderful and terrible. Wonderful not just because i have just discovered the wonders of the personal entertainment system, but also because the food was pretty good, seats were pretty comfortable, service was good and hostesses were yum yum. Terrible coz we flew through alot of turbulence till i've almost mastered drinking tea that doesn't stay still, and i didn't get ANY sleep on the plane.
Alicia was very sure i'd be playing the video games on the plane for most of the trip, boy how wrong her prediction turned out to be, coz the arcade games were lame, the nintendo was an emulated version with 2 games of which both were really old, and somewhat laggy coz it was emulated till it was lame too.
Landed and straightaway got a taste of the beautiful New Zealand weather. Nice and comfy 15 degrees or so. Until the winds started picking up. With the winds the 15 degrees felt like -304,958,293 degrees, no that wasn't a typo.

Kinda depressing coz when and IF you wake up at 7am, it feels like 7am in Singapore, but somehow the sun takes shortcuts across the sky down here and by 5pm it looks like its 8pm in Singapore. So days are really short, over and above the fact that NZ winters are mainly wet, so seeing the sun's quite a sight for sore eyes. Ironically, when the sun is out it isn't exactly good news coz there barely is any ozone protecting NZ, so the sun's UV rays are even more harmful than they would be in Singapore.

Day 1 was outright misery. Didn't sleep on the flight. Landed on NZ in the morning, so it was straight off to orientation. Boring administrative briefings aggravated by my lack of sleep, the multitude of things we have to worry about upon landing in a foreign country didn't help. Thankfully met some fellow Singaporeans pretty easily, no offense but Singaporeans have a knack of sticking out like sore thumbs when they're together in groups, loud and critical about things that're different from their country, and that unmistakeable English but not English Singlish. They were really nice people, and its perhaps another Singaporean trait to treat other Singaporeans (like me but yet not like me since technically i'm NOT Singaporean) like family when they meet overseas. They had done their scouting and told us which cellphone provider was the best, which bank had accounts for students and where to get cheap necessities like bedsheets and stuff. Really grateful coz it saved the then tired me ALOT of work. I had no choice but to do all of those mentioned even though my brain was screaming for sleep because these were necessities. Trouble started when we all went to town, and then realized i didn't know how to go home. I had meet-&-greet from the airport who dropped me at the Village then to school so i had NO idea where the Village was, so i had no choice but to take a cab home which i already knew were REALLY expensive.
I asked the first taxi at the stand whether he knew how to get to Parnell Student Village. Nope. 2nd. Nope. 3rd. Nope. 4th. Nope. 5th. Nope. Okaaaaaaaaaay... so thankfully i had just came from the administrative briefings so i had the documents on me, so i dug out the school's number and tried to call them to get the Village's exact number. Number not in use. HUH?!?! WTF?! I called the rest of the Singaporeans whom i had seperated since they lived in a different part of town to see if they knew why i couldn't call out. None of them knew. My patience was growing thin, shortened by my fatigue. I then called customer service to ask what was wrong and found out i had to dial 09 before any Auckland number since that was the area code. I quickly proceeded to call the school before they closed and begged them for Parnell Student Village's exact address.
Claybrook Road. I then went to ask the 1st taxi at the stand who was by now previously the 3rd taxi when i last asked. Claybrook road? Nope. Erm ok... 2nd taxi.
"The first taxi knows."
"I just asked him, he said he didn't."
"No he knows."
"I JUST asked him he said he didn't."
"No no i know he knows."
"Err i just came from there and asked him, he said he didn't."
"NO he knows, he just doesn't want to take you."
"Then can you?"
"No. Tell him i told you and he'll take you."
"Err... what am i supposed to tell him then?"
"I dunno."

No surprises for guessing i slammed the door. The fact that ALL the taxi drivers were Indian and their replies to me were thick with the stereotypical Indian accents didn't help. I've got nothing against Indians since i live with 4 of them, but when you're wet, cold and tired, and they're ALL replying to you in that accent telling you they DON'T KNOW or DON'T WANT TO take you home i swear if you weren't wet, cold and tired you'd have gotten in and educated them on pain & misery.

I didn't even bother with the 3rd taxi since he'd be stuck in the middle and couldn't get out of the stand even IF he knew where Claybrook road was. The 4th taxi was another Indian, and though he didn't know where Claybrook Road was he didn't mind finding out for me, only that because he was 4th in line he expected to not have a customer for a while so he had proceeded to eat dinner in the car, and here i was interrupting him begging him to take me home. He finally did, and i was at the back thanking every deity i was familiar with.
The starting taxi fare was NZ$0.59, $1.81 cheaper than in Singapore. The catch of coz came that somehow after a while it jumped to $0.99, and from there onwards the fare jumped by dollars. $1.99, $2.99, $3.99...... $10.99. Ouch. I was fumbling with the coins to pay him the remaining 0.99 and when i took out a 50cent coin he must've gotten fed up and said that'd be sufficient so i got a ride for $10.50 instead. Most people'd be happy at getting away with a 49cent cheaper ride. You wouldn't if the ride was only for no more than 15minutes, INCLUSIVE of the peak hour jam.

Home. Everything was still in the luggage. Tired. Wet. Room didn't have a heater. Just bought sheets. But no food. Great. Thankfully the "head" of Flat 10 which i was in was this Iranian guy called Aryan. He offered me dinner and kept saying it was alright even though i kept apologizing for freeloading since i didn't have a chance to buy any food of any sort at all. Boy was he an AMAZING cook. His cooking would put ALOT of people to shame. And he was a REALLY cool guy and all. He'd cook a huge dinner, and invite neighbours or friends over to eat, so for quite a few days now we've been having little dinner get-togethers, and i've known quite a few people just from these dinners, such as (no you don't have to use this as a threat or blackmail coz my gf already knows this) this Canadian girl called (coincidentally) Alisa, catch is her mum's Japanese... BANZAI!!! =) *drool* best of all she's in Flat 6, four away from me... *snigger*

Anyway that's up to day 3's worth of blogging. In the meantime enjoy yourselves to my first week's worth of photos. Apologies for only 1 week coz the internet here's really slow...

Dr@n|xX at 6:35 PM