Thursday, March 31, 2011

[career? what career?]

As of last week, I made two discoveries.  I wouldn't exactly say they were new discoveries, but they could be termed reaffirmations of notions I already had about living here.

To sum it up, I have a double disadvantage of being myself.  Firstly, I'm not a local, and more specifically (my own deduction), an Asian.  Westerners are treated as gods here, men and women alike. Arabs are in the middle runk.  Asians are varied, with people from the Indian subcontinent being at the lowest end of the heirarchy, and I would say, being a Singaporean gives you a slightly upper hand.  However, after talking to Dr M, in his exact words after I asked about the possibilities about being trained overseas or the like, "they wouldn't sponsor me, because I'm not a local".  ("they" being the university)

This very blatant disclaimer came a couple of days after I talked to Dr F about my job change considerations. Ha, here I was thinking that talking to him would help.  What essentially came out of the discussion was that it's my own decision to make, though they like me and definitely want me to say. Though in the midst of it all, he said something to the effect of my news being shocking and that he didn't know I was unhappy with my current position, and that "any other woman here with your kind of job would be happy [with the workload], but you're from a different background". 

So basically, being a non-local, Asian woman (maybe that's 3 disdvantages, no?) has put me at a great disadvatage. While I knew I would have career suicide coming here, I did not think it would be this bad. Then again, maybe I did and I wasn't being pessimistic afterall.  What's even more disappointing is to have the people I work with say things like that without any reserve.  As a follow up to my conversation with Dr F, yesterday he asked what I felt/thought about what we had discussed about.  Honestly I said "I've come to a conclusion that women here cannot have a career". His reponse? "Well, I thought you would've known that even before coming here." Light-hearted or not, it was yet another slap in my face.

I have a very important decision to make. To stay in my boring job and have it as just a job i.e. let's not talk about "career advancement", much more a career, or to be daring and venture into a different field, with more challenges (according to Dr A they will work my butt off there, and I believe him judging by how much the nurses are overworked there and how they're already giving me work even before joining) and a less willing husband.  Compounded with the decision of wanting to start a family soon, that's the main thing holding me back from taking the job, otherwise I am all up for it.

Dr F once asked if he knew someone with my background he could hire. Even then I was thinking, who would want to come to this place.  My response to him from now on will be: Why would I want to ruin someone's career by asking them to come to this MCP country???

I'm down in the dumps. Keep wondering how I can move forward from this but at this moment, I just feel that I NEED TO GET OUT OF THIS FREAKING PLACE. HELP!!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

[my new baby]

So when I bought my first camera way back in 2006, I deemed it my "baby".  I was so proud of owning a semi-manual camera, and treated it with great care because 1) it cost me $800, which was a lot of money then since I'd just started working and 2) it was out of my first pay check so well, back to (1) but also because it was a memorable moment for me. Till now I treat it with such great care, often times huddling it close to me so that it gets all the TLC it needs.
If you haven't already known, I've been into photography since my secondary school days.  Is and I were, you could say, the pioneer girls in our then unofficial photography club under the wings of the AVA club (ok maybe I shouldn't remind everyone I was in that geeky club lol).  We were the first to get our hands on a manual film camera back then, attended courses with an ah-pek I remember (lol!) and by Sec 4, we were taking photos of official events in school and training our juniors how to use an SLR.  After we left, the photography club branched out to become a club of it's own (our campaign worked!).  Needless to say, I've always yearned for an SLR and have been more than hinting (more like thick-skinnedly asking blatantly) Mr F to get me one.

I was totally surprised one day, about two weeks ago, when Mr F started getting serious about buying one.  I'm not one who receives gifts easily.  Since childhood our parents only bought us expensive gifts on special occasions, mainly birthdays, so I was a little sheepish about receiving a gift on a "normal" day, and such an expensive one at that.  Moreover I didn't feel I "deserved" it (talk about esteem issues...) plus my Powershot is in excellent working condition except for the scratches on the LCD screen (the other thing I learned from my dad, fortunately or unfortunately, was that I shouldn't/couldn't get new things till old ones are dead and gone).   I tried to "postpone" it (to my birthday...many months away) but Mr F seemed pretty adamant about buying one, so we started our research.

Here I am, a proud owner of a Canon EOS 500D (reviews and specs here) which was a little above budget of an entry level SLR we were aiming for (though I was the one who convinced Mr F to go for a higher end one instead of upgrading later..hehe).
Love it! Compact, light and full of features!

As dramatic as this is going to sound, I am thrilled and extremely thankful to my dearest habibi for finally fulfilling my 13 year long dream.  Yes you could say it didn't need to be dramatic since I could've easily afforded one and almost every other person owns one these days. But for reasons stated above I decided to hold back on indulging, being the thrifty person that I am.

Now that I have a new "baby", I shall polish up my photography skills and hopefully come up with really beautiful photos.  Shall practive whenever I'm bored.  This is going to be dangerous...if I take 500+ photos on a week long trip with my first "baby", maybe with baby #2 that might double with all the trial and error shots.  Good thing cameras are digital these days! 

I ramble...perhaps it's time to continue reading up on the manual. Ta!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

[conquering the dunes]

Remember how I said sand dunes + camels = my image of this desert country? Well, I'd been itching to go see some sand dunes; to be more exact, ride an all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) in the desert.  This famous spot, among expats who have nothing better to do at least, is about an hour's drive from downtown.  Well then again, plenty of locals do it too.  After months and months of bugging hubby, who came up with reasons like we don't have the right car, he doesn't know how to get there, we finally made the trip there. Seems he's up for lots of adventures these days. Me like!  This time I didn't let him give anymore excuses, because I even contacted members of an expat blog for coordinates or at least directions there. Coordinates we didn't get, but judging by the accuracy of our not very updated GPS, I think the well explained directions were more than sufficient.

I was more than surprised that his bunch of close friends were up for it. Note that they haven't previously "signed up" for any desert adventures for fear of it not being safe (for their ladies or otherwise) so us plus 2 more couples was more than I bargained for. It was a pity the nurses couldn't make it, what with S & S being in S'pore and Y being sick.

I was all prepared, buying sunblock just before leaving (they only have SPF 50 here..pathetic...must remember to stock up when I'm back in Sg). But the moment we arrived there, all was forgotten, so now I've got a tan that adds to the tan I got a couple of weeks before. At least now my family can't go "so much for living in a desert/sunny country" lol (they previously said that instead of getting tanned I've gotten fairer after staying here. no wonder women here have vit D deficiency heh). 

Off we went, me and Mr F sharing one ATV initially. He had a little trouble with confidence...he kept putting his foot down ala riding a motorbike whenever he felt the ATV wasn't stable, so we didn't progress much.  I initially thought I was too heavy so I got down so that hubby could ride by himself. The other reason I got down was cos I almost fell off once when we were going uphill and he braked abruptly. :P  Even then, he was still a little scared so I grabbed the bike from him and zoomed off without Well, as a sideline, we got a new camera (shall post about that too!) so he kept himself busy playing around with it.

It was a totally exhilerating experience. I was initially hesitant about going too far, more so so that Mr F wouldn't be worried. But after I saw that he wasn't stopping me (maybe he was too engrossed with the camera), I headed off as far as I dared, but always looking back to see that I knew which direction I was heading from.  As I got more and more confident, I went faster and faster, thinking "woo hoo, I'm driving in this country!!".  Cheap thrill lah, but what to do..haha. That little emancipation was enough for me.  N was daring enough, or should I say she trusted me enough, to pillion ride with me a couple of times.  Till we got into a minor misadventure, after which I told her she'd be safer with her hubby. I didn't want to bear any responsibility...Baby A needs his mummy safe and sound! (I should also add that M was so daring, he even brought Baby A on a couple of rounds...if he becomes an ATV expert when he grows up, we know why!)

While Mr F stuck to the safer gravel ground, M&N and I conquered dune after dune, especially during our final "countdown". I was braking too much at first, but after M&N's motivation, I became more adventurous and literally zoomed over the dunes. It was like a roller coaster ride, up and down, down and up, sometimes the back wheel even lifting off the ground. Weee!

After that exciting experience, we had some desert that S made. Too bad she couldn't ride cos she was preggie...maybe next year heh. Since we have a new tripod, we took the opportunity to take some couple/group shots. Baby A had a mini photoshoot too, just too bad he wasn't smiling much, till he was lifted into the air.

It was a great day and I'm sure returning for more adventures, if not just to shoot more pics of the red sand dunes. Yay!

Monday, March 14, 2011

[iris fields]

I have to refrain from writing another post about how the DHs are so overprotected, but somehow that tale is related to this post. Let's just summarise by saying that K did not want to go for the trip because it wouldn't be safe for A.  A pity...  Between the last post and now, or I guess even longer than that, I realise I'm glad I married Mr F.  Although he's protective, he's not overprotective. And he's always in for an adventure.

That aside, the day started off early with me waking up at 6.30 am. Although the "official" time to wake up was 7, when I'm excited (and worried) about cooking for a picnic or preparations in general, I have an automatic alarm that wakes me up in the morning, if I hadn't already had a restless night's sleep.

After waking up that early instead of cooking the night before to have fresher food, I found out that the gas had ran out. What are the odds?? I was initially relieved thinking phew, I don't have to cook afterall (let's just say I have cooking esteem issues).  After prancing around the hall for awhile and feeling a tinge of disappointment, hubby said he'd try to check if the shop selling gas would be open. So off he went at 7am in search of a new gas tank.  I was happy as I heard the sound of the tank on the stairs signaling my preparations wouldn't go to waste!  Menu for the day: mee goreng! :) As part of my cooking esteem issues, halfway after reconstituting the noodles (don't have yellow mee here lah...have to use packed ones..), the noodles which I haven't tried before (supposedly pancit Canton aka Cantonese noodles in tagalog) seemed to be very little. So I told Mr F that we'll just leave it for ourselves. By some miracle (or perhaps I should've thought about it first, but it was 7 am so...) after adding the noodles to the ingredients, the volume plumped up so we were ready to set off.

We were the earliest car at the meeting point, not that we were going in our car. When our ride came, it seemed a little out of shape and I was like..hmm..I think it would be better to take our car. Mr F wasn't in the mood for desert driving so we stuck to our original plan. Off we set with Art and Mei.  They were good company and we had plenty of good, intelligent, light hearted and stimulating conversation throughout the 1 hour drive to our destination. Well, Mei did most of the talking.  She had lots of stories to tell about her myriad of experiences having lived and worked abroad.  Art was interjecting here and there, and whenever he did, I had to strain to hear him. Now who says all angmohs speak loudly..heh. Oh and I should add, I loved his Scottish accent!

Just as we were 1 km before our destination, our car got stuck in sand.  The spare wheel at the bottom of the car (seriously, why keep a spare wheel there of all places??) kept accumulating sand, and because of that the back tires also got buried in sand. Of all days, Siti n hubby didn't bring shovels in their usually well packed desert-friendly vehicle.  The next best solution was to tow the vehicle out of the sand.  The first attempt didn't work because the front wheel wasn't straight.  After straightening the wheel almost by hand (and I mean turning the wheels by hand, not with the steering), it was attempt #2, along with man-power pushing from the rear end.  This worked and thankfully we were out of the sand in no time, not before the tow hook of Art's car snapped. Ha.  I wonder if we were jinxed because even on our trip last year, our car was the one that had engine troubles. :P  Good thing we all had the mentality that these little misadventures added a little more spice to the trips, we would have interesting stories to tell. ;)

Then came the highlight of the day (well, my highlight anyway) - the picnic! Why? Because there was nasi lemak! Haha. Even while waiting for Siti n family who were the latest (due to some rice cooker issues), our motto was "We're not leaving until we have that nasi lemak". A bunch of S'poreans and M'sians desperate for local food, I bet we would have literally raided Siti's home had she not appeared.  Even if it meant forsaking the trip.  So there we were gobbling down the good food, including chicken curry Sara made.  All in all, as I said, it was a yummy-licious highlight.

We spent the next 2 hours literally waiting for the irises to bloom. Siti's intelligence (no pun intended there) had said they would bloom at 12, but there was no sign of any blooming even at 12.30. We were joined by a Msian convoy shortly and about an hour later, a Japanese convoy. Talk about foreigners trying to find amusement in a desert country!  It was cute seeing the Japs bowing to one another when they arrived.  Their intelligence told them the flowers would bloom at 1 but even then, the flowers were still sleeping. Siti attempted to wake them up by pouring coke (=caffeine) on them but even that didn't work. So much for the rain the night before...

By 2 pm, there were vague signs of the flowers blooming. One here, one there. Very sporadic. No 21 gun effect that we see at our NDP.  Our Msian neighbours told me that they had been there the week before and the entire fields were covered in purple. Maybe we went there a tad too late.  It was hilarious looking at such a big crowd (~15 of us, ~10 in the Msian convoy and at least 30 in the Jap convoy) bending forward, scrutinising and waiting patiently for the next iris to bloom. One lady squatted in her spot for so long, we were watching her from our car (city people lah, had to run for shade eventually, after we gave up using our umbrellas) and saying maybe she's got positive thinking: If I stare long enough, the flower will bloom.  We took several snaps and since it was getting too hot, we left at about 2.30.  The Jap had a better route so we took that one back out so that Art's car wouldn't get stuck in sand again, and thankfully it didn't.  In fact, we even stopped along the way to look at desert watermelons which I initially thought were tennis balls picnickers had left behind (kekeke).

So the iris fields were a little bit disappointing, but overall I had an enjoyable time.  Maybe next year we'll go a week or two earlier to watch the whole field turn purple, and have more nasi lemak of course.  Meanwhile, enjoy these photos!

How do we get out of this? (note Mei and her cute straw hat. Or at least, her shadow)
The rare couple pic
Our convoy
Maybe the irises had performance anxiety after seeing the crowd :P

before, after (pretty!)

Tennis balls Desert watermelons

P.S. On a separate note, the new blogger image interface seems much better than before. Good!

Friday, March 04, 2011

[over protected]

What am I to do with my life
(You will find out don't worry)
How am I supposed to know what's right?
(You just got to do it your way)
I can't help the way I feel
But my life has been so overprotected

Ok no, I haven't become a Britney fan but the song rang in my head as I was thinking about the situation.

On Wed A and I went out for an "adventure".  Since I'd been to the spa before, and A wanted a massage badly, her husband finally relented and allowed her to come along with me. The massage was yummy but that's not the point of this post...

When they saw me standing outside a bookstore where were supposed to meet, K (A's hubby) first exclaimed: Oh no, F left you there alone??
Me (jokingly): Yeah, he always leaves me alone, sob sob, I'm used to it.
K: Oh no! I would never leave A alone. It's not safe here!

After some goodbyes and questions about "do you have pepper spray in your bag", I promised K I would take care of his wife even without a pepper spray (I have a strong kick) and she'd be safe with me.

On our way home just as I was about to open the building door, A suggested we get some ice cream and drinks at the bakalah (grocery shop) nearby.  As we made our way she exclaimed, "Wow, this is the first time I'm out on my own. I feel so free." Me: "Uhuh, you feel liberated right? Like a breath of fresh air?"  And she was chirping away, almost with a spring in her step.

This was exactly how I felt a week ago when I met Y for dinner.  Now don't get me wrong, we love our husbands and we enjoy going out with them. But with the entire scare about safety and what nots, A and I have been under the shade of "we can't go out ourselves because it's not safe without our husbands." Seems A wants to go for an internship but K is not keen on it because he doesn't trust the locals...gah.

This was the mentality I shared for more than half a year after coming here. All the DHs were warning me how it wasn't safe and this and that. I was shocked when A said she hasn't even gone down to the grocery shop on her own.  What more K wouldn’t have allowed her to come with me had I not had a driver i.e. no taxis.  Gladly I met the S'porean nurses last August and from there I thought, wow, if these girls are "daring" enough to go out on their own, and they're single, why can't I? Afterall, even if I get lost in the taxi, I can always call my husband to redirect the driver home.  Even the mum of the kid I was tuitioning would go out on her own in the days so from there I started gathering courage.

Now 1 year and 3 months after first stepping foot here, I wouldn't say I'm totally "adventurous", but I'm not as afraid to go out on my own. It’s not about being complacent about my safety, but it’s unhealthy to be always paranoid to the point of being miserable about being cooped up within four walls.  Baby steps are the way to go.  My main worry is that I haven't memorised my way home except from nearby places, and that I don't speak the same language as the taxi drivers who can be trusted.  My driver is well, another story.  So far my strategy is to get hubby to drive me to wherever I want to go, and I'd memorise the route so that I can take a cab back. Actually the memorisation part hasn't been absolutely necessary because most of the drivers of the South Asian kind know where I'm referring to (for some reason the locals always seem confused...) but for my own peace of mind, at least I know I'm going in the right direction home.

Looking forward to venturing the town more often on my own, or rather with my girlfriends. Am already bugging Y about her next off day. We are planning to paint another mall red! ;)