Emily Was Never Being Boring

 

I’ve been in a Pet Shop Boys’s mood lately and with that came a flurry of thoughts I thought long forgotten. A kind of musical pensive so to speak. Now, because PSB are British and I started listening to them during my years in a British based school, I started to remember all things associated with my ‘Brit years’ so to speak which is really the Jeddah and the Uni years.

There I was happily remembering things from way past when cue in Being Boring. For some reason this really resonate with those wonderful 3 undergraduate years spent in that bastion of higher education in the North aka the University of Leeds. Then came that ubiquitous verse:

” all the people I was kissing, some are here and some are missing…
but I thought in spite of dreams you’d be sitting somewhere here with me…”

And immediately, without warning nor fanfare, Emily flashed into my mind…

In my third and final year, no longer wanting to share house with squabbling roommates – I’ve enough of the drama, but not really looking forward to live alone, I opt to move back to the comforts of the hall where the rent includes; food (not great but at least I don’t have to cook everyday), utilities (North of England is COLD for my tropical sensibilities) and laundry (it gets expensive and annoyingly boring to have to wait for one’s clothing lest it be stolen by those ruthless fellow students!). However, not wishing to live in the main building with rowdy, rambunctious freshers, I requested to live in the annex, a smaller 3 story building in the next street or road as it was small.

I caught a rather nasty cold just as the term about to start. Not wishing to fly when my sinuses are congested, I decided to wait and recuperate in the comfort of my parents’. Thus I was a couple of days late getting into the annex. After settling my stuff in my single room (blessedly I got the smallest one in the whole house. Great) I venture into the common lounge. I met Becky first, with her distinctive twang she said, “So you’re Sita! Your friends been looking for you! Hey Em, come here!”
Seconds later, a chocolate-brown eyes got into my view, smiled broadly and said, “Oh good, you’re here, now you can answer your door miss Popular!”

Apparently my friends been calling ever since the first day of term. Since we had to fix our final year lodging by the end of our second year, we pretty much know where everyone is going to live so no surprise that they knew where I live. Becky and Emily, while having the good fortune of getting the largest room in the house, it is also situated up front where, like it or not, they would hear every single coming and goings of the annex inhabitant, thus became the unofficial door person of the annex.

They thought I was popular, I quickly corrected, I’m merely a final year student hence the (not so rowdy) people at knocking at the door. Becky and Emily are quickly known as the Americans duo that lived in our hall. Like any good university, Leeds has exchange programs with universities around the world including Vanderbilt University. There’ll be a group of them and they’d be scattered among the various halls and student residences including the one I was in, Ellerslie Hall. Usually they would be paired with a Brit kid like Maura (the American) and Caroline (the English) and placed in the main hall. Becky and Emily are different in that they’re already BFF, shared a room, and lived in the annex.

The annex is basically a small house, so all the inhabitants pretty much see one another nearly everyday and got to know each other pretty quickly too. Since my room is the smallest and their’s the biggest, it wasn’t long before I start popping down there to chill out on their floor. We talked about nothing and everything. I’m curious about America and they would answer all my questions while I tried my best to answer theirs. I love to hear their accents, so different from the Brits. Their commentaries are amusing too; “I opened this magazine, lords and ladies start tumbling out of the pages!” was one that stuck to my head 😀

We talked, we laughed, we go out, I even helped Emily packed once. She had to go on this trip somewhere and was confused as to how to bring all the stuff she wanted to bring. With all my years of packing and unpacking I got curious and opened her suitcase. Well, no wonder. It was packed rather haphazardly. So I simply repacked it to fit everything in. Then, when summer rolled in, they decided to throw a traditional American BBQ. Or was it a picnic? I can’t remember. What they did was somehow they convinced the ruler or the annex to open the back door so we can have it in the yard. I have no idea how they managed to get a grill out. Or was it fried chicken only? It’s a while ago so details are kinda blurry. In any case, the American duo got a bucket of KFC, I made potato salad, and there were burgers, sodas, and rather stronger drinks later on. It was one of those blissful moment where everything is cool, everything is dandy, we’re all full and happy.

With summer came the end of the academic year. We had our teary goodbyes in front of the annex. The American duo returned home. I graduated, went back to my parents and potter about wondering what to do next. That wasn’t the last I saw of them actually. At some point the following year I got a chance to visit the States for the first time! And I got to see them again! This time in their home turf. So different from Leeds.

dinner_beck_em

Only Southern style cooking would do!

It is now Becky and Emily’s final year at school. They were freaking out about grades. I was freaking out about live in general. They rent an apartment off campus and I marvelled at how they simply drive everywhere. Back in Leeds I only know one or two people who brought a car. Most just use public transportation. I got to eat Southern food, visit Grand Ole Opry, and had a fabulous time with the gals. The next year I was enrolled in grad school in Boston and lost touch with all my American connection. Great. My fault really. I’m pretty bad at correspondence.

Fast forward to 2008, Facebook is now available to everyone so of course I started searching these long-lost friends. Becky! Hi! Where’s Emily?

Sadly Emily is no longer with us…

For someone I haven’t seen in years this news knocked me in the solar plexus. I can’t believe Emily is gone. So soon. I’m sad for Becky too. It’s terrible to lost a friend, a best one at that. Especially since they’ve sometimes talked about the future, how fun would it be to take walk in the park as mothers pushing their babies strollers, how they’d plan to live close to one another so their kids can be best friends too. It’s not like I plan to pack my bags and move to Nashville either, but somehow I fully expect to also see their kids via social media, to wish them happy birthdays from afar.

“And we were never holding back or worried that time would come to an end”

But time does come to an end…

I cried then. I cried again now.

I won’t ever see Emily again. Those chocolate-brown hair and beautiful smile… Guess I’ll never found out what happened to that guy who followed her around back in Leeds eh? Not that it mattered anymore.

Becky, I am glad to note, is happily busy with her beautiful family and friends. I love seeing her photos, following the renovation adventure and all the daily family stuff. Forward and onward!

Someday I hope I’ll have the chance to see them again. Until then, good night Emily and good day to you Becky.

beck_Em

The Beautiful American Duo

 

In Praise of the Fish and Chips

It has come to my attention, as one entered studenthood, they would most probably encounter a situation – unless they happened to be one of those obscenely rich ones – that in the middle of a bleak winter, with with nary a penny to one’s name, while there’s an upcoming exam or an extra important essay looming ahead, they must also face the fact that at that precise moment, they are also faced with an equally alarming threat. That of the rebellious rumbling tummy to boot!

Disaster! One simply can not think on an empty stomach! That is simply not done.

Now, of course you can say; well they ought to learn money management better and perhaps to cook as well so they will never be in that dire predicament. But I would wager, as for the rest of the student body, that they would be in similar situation. I mean, we’re talking about uni years here, fresh from mommy’s home, off to fend themselves for the first time, do you really think the majority of them would behave logically?

Well… maybe you would. But, it is safe to say, at some point any student would find themselves skint and hungry. What to do?

If, like me, you were in England, the answer is fairly obvious; beans on toast! What else? Frankly, I never got the taste of that I’m afraid. I did once on a sudden bout of nostalgia, took a piece of toast and slathered a healthy serving of beans. Two mouthfuls later I remembered why I only like the idea of it as opposed to the actual partaking of the meal.

So that’s not the solution for me. What then? Am I to withered away my youth until the next bundle of coins find their way to my reticule? Why, of course, the quintessentially British cuisine of Fish and Chips!

Joy!

I adore Fish and Chips. I do. I really do. Nothing quite like braving the gust of chilly winds up a block to our wonderful Chip shop in the corner. Entering the toastily warm shop, waiting for our orders to be wrapped up, nesting the package under our coats to warm our grumbling tummy while we trek back to the hall. Then, once safe in the common kitchen, it is time to tuck in. Oh heaven! Thank you for small mercies.

In all honesty, our Chippy shop is probably not the best in the England, nor Yorkshire, heck, or even the best in the city.  But, as it is the closest from our hovel (okay okay, our equally toasty hall) it is the best Fish and Chip shop in the entire city of Leeds. So there!

How about in other places? My Australian counterpart claimed that they rely extensively on a wonderful creation called; the meat pie. Cheap and filling, this delicacy has saved countless starving students from the brink of extinction during those cold cold winter nights. Practically each and every one of these former Ozzie got glazed eyed when they’re waxing lyrical about this baked goodies.

So of course when I finally got to visit Kangaroo Land I simply must taste this invention. And I did.

IMG_2870

This is it baybeh!

It’s…. interesting. Better than shepherd’s pie, more filling than ramen noodles, cheaper than beer, no wonder they fall in love with the humble meat pie. Perhaps had I gone there to school, I too would be a glazy eyed devotee. Since I didn’t, I pledge allegiance to the aforementioned dish. But since I know what it is like to hanker for something from our youth (yikes! I sound terribly old!), I got some to take back home for my friends. Got very positive reaction from most of them. Glad they do.

But you know what, they have Fish and Chips in Australia! They do! They really do!

Oh my, I am back in heaven!

Of course there are establishments here that can fry fish in a batter served with a portion of chips. But it come on a plate not wrapped up in paper and the ones in Oz does. Well, they are still part of Britain, I suppose that’s why it is so similar to the ones found over there. One bite and I’m in reverie reliving uni days. Of Ellerslie Hall, Hyde Park, Roger Stevens, Eddie Boyle, Parkinson Steps, Casa Latina, Sports Ball, the Dry Dock, the Old Bar and lest we forget the ubiquitous PolyBop! Woohoo!

Be it fish and chips or meat pie, a mighty big cheer to those wonderful creation that sustain and nourish us in our time of needs. The fact that it can turn us from (reasonably) sensible people into poets and lyricist upon a mere mention years after we left Uni… Such, is the power of food.

Now, if I can only find somewhere that serve a decent Yorkshire pudding, I’ll be one happy bunny.

Scrumptious. No?

Dude, We Are Parents ?!?

The good thing about being an expatriate brat is that you get to have friends all over the world.

The bad thing about being an expatriate brat is that you get to have friends all over the world.

Huh?

If you go to high school  and then settled down roots in the same city, it’s a fair bet that most of your classmates also settled there. With friends that are in within your physical area, you get invited to their wedding, visit them in the hospital, buy them birthday present before going to the party, and have the event posted on Path to show the world, “Hey look, I’m here!”

If  you go to highschool elsewhere far far away from your hometown, more than few hours plane ride, well, once you finished school, unless you set up roots in the Western Hemisphere chances are you’re not going to end up growing old(er) with your classmates. If, like me, you’re from the Eastern part of the meridian – the rather poorer parts as well – then good luck finding your secondary schoolmates in your hometown. As much as you would like to, it is not always practical to go to a friend’s birthday party when it’ll took a day or three flying commercial to get there. Although strangely enough, I did found 2 of my high-school teachers here but that’s another story.

Now, as we all know, the internet supposedly brings us closer. In a sense that’s true. If we lived back, say in the 80’s, we’d have to rely on postcards and letters to bring us up to date. With social media, it is much easier to find out what they’re up to. Well, provided they like to post regular updates about themselves as well. Obviously not all of your class mates are social media fans, but a good chunk of them do regularly updates the world about their general wellbeing and sometimes post some pics as well.  So I  get to find out who’s married, who’s not, who have kids, who have babies, etc.

The thing is, even if you see pictures of their wedding and whatnot, because you were never there, even though you know those photos are not hoaxes, sometimes it still didn’t really register in your head that the dude who used to wear grunge fashion all the time is now actually someone’s husband. So when at some point later they have kids, you got nearly choked on your morning coffee upon seeing their beaming face while holding their newborn baby as you checked your fb updates. Especially this year it seems that a bunch of them decided to have another kids, some are still in the oven, some already popped out. Interesting. Never let it be said that the class of 94 are nothing if not productive 😉

Strangely enough, these coffee-choking moments only occurred upon seeing the male members of my high school classmates. Somehow when it’s my girl friends’ babies there’s not a doubt in your mind that they are now mommies. It’s an,”Aww… how cute!” moment rather than, “Say whaaat??? Who thinks it’s a good idea for him to have kids?” Ok double standard I know! Totally guilty. Off to the dungeon!

According to Ishat, it’s because I still see them as those grungy, long-haired dudes waxing poetics about the latest from the Seattle sound or Headbangers Balls. In reality we’re all racing towards the big 4-0, already completed our education, and is now a model middle-class citizens of the world complete with dogs and cats just to make our already rambunctious household even more so. How is it possible that we are now moms and dads? However, as Hollywood tv writers would like you to believe, we never really left high-school.

So yeah, I do know that Em has a son, or that Mel and her sister are both Mrs, and that Mike, Nori, and Nadav are now family man. But somehow in your mind you still see Em as that girl with the big smile and the first person who told you what olliebollen is. You still think of Mel this zany, quirky person who’s allergic to chocolate yet ate it all the time. And the boys? Well, they’re still in that grungy, long-haired, checked flannel shirts period, except for Nori – he had short hair back then. We were a crazy bunch, living in a wild town, in a funky era.

Then again, what are high school if not the crazy time of our life? Now that some distance has passed, I have nothing but chuckles at the memory. We may be old(er) in real life, but we’re forever young in our hearts.

Ah class, I heart ye all.

kusjes!

yep, that’s one of the choices of where we’d go at night 😉

 

My Beautiful Strangers

So there I was puttering in the house when the playlist, that I always set at random, choose Madonna’s Beautiful Stranger. Suddenly my mind is transported back to Summer of 99… 🙂

Back then I was graduate student living a stress free (yeah right!) life in Boston. My best mates were Rob and Matt. All of us were in the same COM class of ’00 though Matt was in Production like me and Rob was in TV Management. In the first semester we share a fair amount of classes together and we just clicked. Soon the three of us would hang out everywhere together.

Between internship and the already paid rent I decided to stay during the summer instead of going home. Matt and Rob were also staying in town. So of course we spend even more time hanging out together. Of the three of us, Rob is the only one with a proper paying job, that’s how he supports himself through school. Thus he’s the one with a car and during that summer he decided to bought a new car. I don’t for the live of me remember what the car was, all I remember was that it was an SUV, black, with only 2 doors cuz he said 4 doors are for families. Whatever. It means Matt and I were always fighting to ride shotgun. He likes that. Evil!

Rob’s job involved him going out-of-town for a couple of weeks or so, then stay in town for a few. He’s in union too so it was a very well paid job compared to the rest of us (yeah so say the trust fund baby with the monkey servant and elephant showers – ok that’s an inside jokes 😉 Now that he has a car, whenever he’s in town he likes to pack us up and go somewhere. So off we go. Sometimes we just go to chill out around Boston, sometimes we go further like to New York or to the Cape. He’d lug us there, took us to his favourite place to have clam chowder then we’d hit the beach.

It was during one of these sunset session at the Cape that we really opened up to one another. This sounds really cliché but we talked about our hopes, our dreams, our fears. We have another year of school then off to the real world we go. Matt and Rob (no, they’re not a couple) were planning to move to NYC and I was not sure where to go. I don’t want to go home just yet, I want to go to LA but neither of them wants to go there. Rob because his job’s HQ is in NY so if he wants to move to management it makes more sense to be there rather than somewhere else. Matt, well he’s from the NY State so it’s like going home for him. They were trying to persuade me to come with them, pointing out the benefit of being in the Big Apple, “We could live together like Friends!” Err… as much as I love you guys, I really don’t want to live with you. No thank you.

As the moon rose, the sea gets really dark. I suddenly quipped, “To think, my family is on the other side of the ocean…” and it hits me, sooner or later this is just going to be a memory. I am going home eventually. I am going to miss my two best friends very much. We joked that I should get married to Rob (cuz Matt already have a girlfriend somewhere) to get a green card then split immediately. Haha! Now that would be really funny. My parents would kill me for a start…

What has this got to do with Beautiful Strangers? Well, it was in Austin Powers, a movie that came out that summer, that we watched together and have a good laugh. It was on the radio during our trips, alternating with Ricky Martin and J-Lo. So yeah, here we are more than a decade later. I’m firmly at home and those two are firmly at NY. I kinda lost touch with Matt, last I heard he’s doing just fine. I hope so. Rob updates his fb every now and then so I know he’s definitely doing good.

Here’s to my beautiful strangers, may you stay well and beautiful. Cheers!

The Beautiful Strangers in Boston

Hash, High School, Het Museum

Flag of Amsterdam. The official city motto is ...

Flag of Amsterdam Image via Wikipedia

When people find out that I finished my high school in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, they usually thought it’s cool. Some though get all glazzy eyed and thought OMG, did you smoke like, pot, like everyday? Err… Well, while one of my classmate did give an impromptu lesson on how to roll a joint tobacco filled ciggarette paper in the school lounge, I never actually try them. The glazzy eyed crew were not impressed. So, what did I do in high school?

Not getting high every weekend that’s for sure.  I was so naïve or idiotic -probably the latter- I didn’t even realise what weeds smells like until Jou pointed it out to me during one of our many excursion to the Dam. There we were, Luci, me and Jou, my hs crew,  pondering whether we should get a tattoo, where and what when he suddenly sniffed the air and remarked ever so casually,

“Dang, it smells so strong today!”

then Luci concurs “Yeah it does doesn’t it?”

“Smells what? It always smells like this,” said the resident idiot

“Doh! Its the red light district. Coffee shops, space brownie?” asked Jou

“You mean hash?”

“Ding ding ding! Hello! Where have you been? You do live here don’t you?”

“Well… I just didn’t realise what it was. I just thought this area smells funny…”

“What do you think it is?”

“The dirty canal?”

I think Luci just laughed and Jou gave me the biggest eye roll ever known to mankind. And this all happened in broad daylight I might add. So no we weren’t under any kind of influence, except maybe all those tertier hand weed smoke/space brownie baking smoke inhaling. Hmm.. come to think of it, that’s probably why I’m slightly kookie.

So yeah, it is safe to say I also didn’t partake in any drunken debauchery in high school. What I did do is exploring the museum and music. Suffice to say that the Dutch has their share of great arts. Rijksmuseum is truly an amazing museum. The Doll House by far is my favourite part. So back in the 18th century, the hot item of the day is to own a Doll House which was a replica of their house and it would show you’re rich enough to spend money on ‘frivolous’ things. One such lady (or her family) donated her doll house to the Rijksmuseum.  I just love to stand there imagining the woman – it was a woman’s thing, not a little girl- who used to owned that doll house. Would she let the daughters play with it? Or did she, when no one is looking, play like a little girl that she once was? Then, as it is an accurate copy of what a house looks like at that time, I started imagining what would it feel like living in a house like that? Would I like it? How does it feel to have two doors? One for the servant and one for you? Must be interesting.

I would go to the museums with Sarah. She’s just so smart it was interesting to see her take on things we see. We’d have lunch afterwards, a slice of pizza with a glass of cool soda in Leidseplein. But Sarah wasn’t just my museum buddy, she’s also my music buddy. Well, not together because we played different instrument, she plays(ed?) flute and I do vocals. But we’d perform on the same events. One that I still remember is when our school entered a music festival/competition that was held in the International School in the Hague. There were a bunch of us, we actually go on a bus to get there, there were kids who played the piano, flute, and some other instruments. I was in the choir, I think we performed the little fawn song and one other I can’t remember. For a brief moment we felt like musician traveling from city to city to perform a show. We were supposed to watch other people’s performance and learn from them but since we were the only ones there from our school we ended up just going to each other performances for support. We both got blue ribbons! Happy!

This was also where I truly understand the meaning of a stage persona. How, when one steps onto a stage you can transform into whatever character that you’re inhabiting for that moment and if you’re good, you shines. See, they invite some the jury deems the best to perform at the end of the day. There’s this one boy who got to sing. What he sang I don’t remember, but I do remember watching him sing on that stage wearing just normal clothes but he looks totally amazing. He belted his heart out and he just has this aura – I can’t take my eyes off him. Then, a very funny thing happened. Whole thing over, speech etc presented, we filed out the hall trying to locate friends and the right bus. And I saw him. And he looks? Just normal. Just your average high school boy leaning towards geek chic. I was so surprised. Was this the same guy that was on stage just moments ago? Pretty much crushed my hopes of ever marrying an actor someday. They just look dashing on-screen (which was confirmed as I worked on television later on and met actors but I digress)

And that’s what I did in high school. Choir, vocal lessons, making up songs with Mel and her guitar, getting Haagen-Dazs with Mel, watching loads of movies with Kath, Luci and Jou, checking out the American bookstore with Kath, tramsurfing (have you ever done it? Highly recommended), and of course, dancing the night away. You can not really life in Amsterdam as a youngster and not check out the nightlife. The tourist club, the interesting places, places only locals know… out when the sun still shining and home when the sun is back again and not because the sun never drops 😉 Just where did I have the energy? Ah youth!

A thought just suddenly pops into my head. Would Mel ever take me on her bike through A’dam little straaten again? Most probably not, since the last time we did we almost went into the canal. Ah no, that wasn’t with Mel, that was with Helene. Ah well. I prefer walking instead of biking around there anyway.

Drive bebe, drive.

Like many teens, I waited feverishly for the day when I would be allowed to sit behind some wheels, i.e. drive. As luck would have it, by the time I was 18, which was the legal age to drive here in Indonesia, I was studying in the UK. In my university city I live on campus for the whole 3 years I was there so of course my dad, wise and sane man that he is, did not see the point in allowing me my own car. Not to mention one has to go through a very rigorous test to be able to drive in the UK.

Well then, what about summer? Yes, I went back home during summer holidays. The first thing I do is to enroll in a driving school learning how to drive manually. So I go through learning how to shift gears and learn to park. Not sure if I master parallel parking though. Then I took the test, passed with flying colours and start driving. At that time what’s available  was this huge family sedan. It looked huge to my 18 yr old self. I didn’t crash into anything. Thank God. But I did got a ticket. How the hell am I supposed to see the sign since it was obscured by tree leaves? Regardless it left a bitter taste and I was only too happy to let my sister drive me around and took taxis for the rest of the holiday.

Fast forward a couple of years, I suddenly find myself living in California. To prepare for living in Lala Land, a driving license is a must. Luckily this time my friend’s home town was Visalia, CA. I learn to drive automatic this time. Took my test in Tulare, again I passed with flying colour in both theoretical and practical test. One piece of advice I got from Jen, when it doubt, go to the truck’s lane. They won’t go very fast. Was very nervous the very first time I drive on a highway. I prayed the whole way from Visalia to Burbank. Managed to got into our rental home in one piece. Thank gawd.

In LA, there’s no way around it. I had to drive around. To get to work, to play, etc. So every morning I brace myself to strap on my safety belt, turn on the ignition and off I go. But you know what, after a while I became comfortable. Yes I get lost every now and then but thanks to google maps direction and that ever-present LA maps plus and AAA card I zip here and there like I was born with wheels. My biggest achievement was when I go to San Diego to visit my cousin and to SF for fun. I drive there alone and I make it back, again in one piece. One  literal dent in the whole experience was when I was hit by a car upon entering the freeway. I was in a hurry and I already give the signal but somehow the other car manage to ‘kiss’ the rear end. I spun the whole length of the freeway, it was 3 lane wide. It must not have been my time yet because as I spun I remember thinking oh dear God please let the lanes be empty and it was!!! I was safe, shaken but unhurt.

All good times must come to an end. As I was wrapping up my time in LA, Jen remarked how I will not miss the LA traffic. I remember chuckling saying actually I will miss LA traffic since it is still a whole lot better than Jakarta‘s. Couple days later I’m home. Jet lag over, I tried driving. And of course what’s available is either a big SUV type family van or a serie 5 Beemer. All huge cars compared to my teeny tiny 2 door Toyota. First I had to adjust to a different side of driving. Though the Dutch occupied us for 3.5 century, the Brits were here first and somehow their side of the road preference stuck. Then, Jakarta’s traffic is really crazy what with motorcycles everywhere and crazy bus drivers. I was so not enjoying it. So different from LA and its huuugeee freeways. Heck even in New Jersey the roads were bigger.

I then scratched my husband’s car. He didn’t like it. So I cease driving. In his defense, he then provided me with a driver. So much easier to get mad at the driver than the wife if the car got dings and dents. For a few blissful years I don’t have to worry about anything. Just get in the car, tell the driver where to go, then sit prettily until I arrived at the destination. I can read, eat, sleep, do whatever I want. Until now.

So far we’ve lived pretty much near the city. But very soon we will move into the suburb. Yes, we still have the driver but my husband thinks it is high time we have a second car so we would be more mobile. Due to budgetary restraint, he ended up buying a small compact city car. How much bigger can a hint be? Yo wifey, learn to drive. Again.

Well, I guess I have to overcome my fear of the streets and conquer it. Cross fingers I’ll be ok 😉

How about you? Do you drive? What tips would you give?

Of Round Table Dinners

Enter students...

A friend was writing about bringing wine to a gathering and not sure why, but suddenly it reminds me of my uni days.

Back in ole Blighty, I used to share a pint cider until my friend moved up to lager and the other one took a fancy to Guinness. There I was at the Met, nursing half a pint of cider forever while my former ‘drinking buddy’ is on only he, the barman, and God knows how many pint of whatever.

and that's what a pint looks like...

Shortly after, another friend introduced me to Bailey’s. Sweet, smooth Bailey’s. Double shot with ice courtesy of the trusty Old Bar and their selection of after exam specials, desperately trying not to rehash the papers we just sat. We didn’t do too badly though my friend did better.

"I hereby declare I am of legal age..."

Then I moved to the States. There, they don’t do lager but this piss coloured, and probably tasted as well, liquid called beer. Smells foul. But being older students, my friends don’t do beer. They do wine! I can not tell the difference between a Merlot and a Chablis to save my life but I do hang around them enough to know that Rose is not just a type of flower.

I don’t know whether it is the libation of choice or the age but the wine set definitely mellower than the lager/Bailey set.

No wine by the looks of it. Is that why Rob looks unhappy?

Brandon would tuck into his steak and taste the reds appreciatively. Fred and Rob would be twirling their goblets while discussing the merit of various years they’ve tasted and bought and pour some more. Where was I? Usually nibbling on cheese, cracker, grapes (the actual fruit) with a glass of water. Or just happily eating my dinner while listening to dinner chatter.

The lager set were bouncy (as in bopping up and down the clubs) happy people. The wine set were chilled out happy people. I don’t miss the drinks but I sure miss the people. I miss them. I miss the camaraderie of hanging out, lounging after a good dinner talking about this and that and when the clock strikes 12, we turned into pumpkin and start talking about God and existentialism, sprouting all kinds of communication theories and ideologies. Hello there Marx, Stuttgart, Truffault, Chomsky, Weaver, the burning bed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer for good measure.

Under the influence even cleaning up is fun!

Oh! How I miss those days.

Well, one of these days I’ll see them again. Sooner rather than later. I hope.

Them, I Miss

As an expat child, I know that when I move there will be things I’ll miss. I will miss my friends, I usually miss the house (I’d like to say my house but it was never mine to begin with and that my room in Amsterdam is still the best bed room I ever had) and if it was available, the public transport (oh lijn 5, green line, come home with me!!!) and the public parks. That’s usually the case when I move cities.

Now, I’ve moved back home for good. Obviously I moved back to my parental home, I used to have a room there but because I moved around so much, my room been re-arranged, re-decorated, re-owned by various siblings, nephew, nieces, that by the time I moved back it doesn’t feel like my room anymore. I ended up using my sister’s room since my nephew and nieces claimed it as their weekend room. Yes I know I could kick them out, reclaimed my room and make them use my sister’s but somehow it was easier just for me to change rooms.

Then I got married and moved to our apartment. I miss my parents but I’m there so often anyway I don’t really miss it. I got a child, then another and soon our two-bedroom apt is cramped and full. We need to move.

So, in short we’ve moved from our apt to a somewhat larger, spacious house (it’s still not ours yet, so it’s still a house not a home). And yes, I miss our friends from the apt, we don’t bump into each other in the pool, the market, the lobby or the elevator anymore. Good thing we’re still in the same region so we bump into the local mall aka our local townsquare. But here’s some people that I didn’t think I miss; the people at the local grocery store. The neighbourhood Hero in this case.

Who’d thought they miss their local grocers? I didn’t miss any of the grocers in my previous cities. Ok maybe I miss some stores but I didn’t stay anywhere long enough to truly know the people in my neighbourhood. But I realise that the people that worked in the local Hero, they’ve known me almost as long as my husband. See, that Hero is also my mom’s local store. She goes there to do the weekly shopping and guess who’d accompany her or sent on such errands? Yours truly of course. If I’m not busy I would definitely go with her to the supermarket, its a childhood habit. If she’s busy and I’m not then she’d send me armed with a list and some notes to do her shopping. My apt is practically a stone throw away from her house so it’s really no brainer I’d continue shopping for my weekly groceries there too.

It’s a strange thing, this relationship with your friendly supermarket workers. I realise I may not know their names – but I know who works where. She’s in fruits and vegs, he’s at the meat, he’s a stacker, and then there’s the cashier gang. They see me going as a kid tagging along, as a young homemaker, pregnant with my first child, as a mom with a little baby, with a baby and a toddler in tow and finally with a toddler and very young girl. They’re with me in most stages of adulthood. And not only that, they know my mom too!

My friend once said that if you stay in a place long enough and keep going to the same public place or using the same public transportation you soon ‘know’ the people. I guess in 7+ years, going there once sometimes twice a week, that means I see them at least 60 odd times in a year! Wow.

Now that I moved and start shopping in a new place called Giant Supermarket (what is it with our local supermarkets, they have such funny names, Hero, Giant, Superindo, were the owners aspiring to be a comic book writer but thwarted by their parents? No sonny boy, no more drawing pretty pictures you must run the family company! But but… I wanna be Stan Lee) I started recognising and knowing the people who works there. Given that our house (yes, we finally own a house!) is in close proximity to my current rental, I’m fairly sure I’ll continue shopping at that local Giant for years to come. Maybe now I’ll actually know their names instead of just their faces.

Oh, one last note. I went back to my old haunt as I was in the area and whadaya know, the meat guy and the cashier greeted me like a long lost friend. They actually asked me, where have you been? I guess the feeling is mutual after all.

Het Lijn 5

You are my best pal
every morning and
every afternoon

You’d be there
every day
without fail
whether I’m late
or early

Schooldays or weekends
whenever I need you
you’re there

Sometimes you make me wait
Sometimes, despite my best effort,
you left without me but,
you’ll always come back for me

Very rarely you disappoint me.
I’d truly be lost without you

I wish I can pack you up
and take you home
But alas!
That’s just wishful thinking

And so my dear lijn 5
here I am
stuck in traffic jam

Wish you’re here
so we can play that silly game
that Luci and Jou invented
the highly amusing
highly entertaining
Tram Surfing!

To your wellbeing and prosperity
May we ride again one day.

Until then.

*Jkt morning traffic 140311*

MJ

Michael Jackson.

Like most kids in the 80’s, I too was caught up in Michael Jackson Mania. My Thriller tape is chewed due being played so many times and we all tried the moonwalk.

Just so happens my parents took a trip stateside so of course I requested all things MJ. My mother deliver magazines and a poster wall of MJ at his most good looking face IMHO with just the nose done. Such talents and charisma.

As years go by, new players streams in and out of my consciousness. But somehow MJ made a spot on my permanent playlist. I watched his videos, tried to learn the dance routines (without much success I must add) and is a welcoming presence in new towns I have to live in. While I must navigate new places, make new friends, which is never an easy thing to do . Just as I’m getting slightly lonely, there’s someone I know since elementary school. There, on my MTV is Michael, singing and dancing his latest song.

I thought it’s kinda interesting how the last of these was during my America years. The last stop before going back home. It’s like, ok, I’m big enough now to cope on my own, I can handle these new things now.

And now he is gone. HisStory has ended. But his spirit lives on. Just take a look at yourself and make that change!

Take care Michael.Hope you’re in a better place now.