Haniza's Slipstream

December 24, 2015 0 Comments

Please vote for my short story!

1) Click on http://shorts2015.quantumlah.org/shortlisted-stories.
2) Scroll to the bottom.
3) Select 'Haniza's Slipstream'.
4) Vote. 

Haniza's Slipstream

Then she was sixteen, sobbing and smiling and giving birth to a child whose father was a classmate and a basketball boy and a few months younger. She was supposed to repeat a year but skipped two, returning only after her ex-classmates left.

Then she was five and raising her hand, the only one who wanted to be a teacher. She turned twenty and tried to explain to her eldest daughter why she was a cleaner. Then she was ten, thirty-four, twelve and fifty three, grasping for someone to hold her hand.

For her, time is a clump of tangled knots. There is no definite beginning and no traceable end. No narrative arc of past-present-future. All she can remember are intersections.

She was thirteen with eight siblings from three other stepfathers. Her mother was in the hospital, this time with a bruise on her forehead, a split lower lip and a possible concussion. Her stepfathers were gone, the way stains dissolve in soap. Of course she left her mother alone in the hospital. If not, Halesya would battle with Hamid over the bolster and Halim would sleep along the corridor. Little Hariz needed a milk bottle, a shower in the sink and someone to cuddle him to sleep. It was the first time she had to leave her there.

At another time-knot, she was fifty years old, shrivelled but her fingers were smooth. Worn away from the rhythmic rubbing of soapy cloth against plates at a hawker centre. No palm print, no finger print, no thumb print. Somehow, she knew she would lose all these that made her who she was.

Then, she was eighteen and attempting her O levels. Crumpled her essay only to realise that she did not have time to write another. A year later which is to say a flicker-knot away, she retook her papers as a private candidate. This time, her grades were lower compared to her first attempt.

On her way home, she observed the family sitting across her. Tuuuuut tuuuuuuuuuut, the father hummed to a burrito-like baby in his arms. But it isn’t steam powered, sighed the lady next to him, so it goes thrum-thrum-thrum.

Her ex-husband was pleading for another chance. She opened the door to give her children the family she never had. The wind chime stuck to the back of the door tinkled and her eldest daughter cowered behind her.

Three time-knots away, her son called her a whore who deserved every slap she ever received before leaving the flat forever. She imagined herself surrounded by siblings whom she raised and her children whom she didn’t have the time to raise. They were having a seaside picnic and someone picked up a fish, which had been slammed by the tides against the rocky shore, and filleted it. The waves crept forward and retreated, as if curious yet fearful.

Time behaves differently, the way a cat rubs against its owners and scratches strangers. For most, time is linear thus boring with clear cause-and-effect. For some, time is a pivot which they revolve around like stars drawn to its gravity. For people like her, time is a mess of unpredictable experiences.

At another point, she was a baby, standing in her cot, one hand grabbing the railing, another reaching for the overcast clouds outside the adjacent window. That night, she stretched for the balloon of a moon.

The beauty and problem with her timeline was its chaos. She did not remember the in-betweens fraught with hurt and fears. She did not remember those journeys between time-knots where lessons that could be learnt were not learnt. So she let her ex-husband back into the flat where he proceeded to touch her eldest daughter again.

Then she wept while reading a letter her daughter wrote because it was Mothers’ Day and everyone in class had to write one. Mum, the letter began, I remember how you worked from six in the morning to ten at night but still refused to buy me an Elsa doll. Everyone has one, even Jessie. I guess you don’t really like me the way you like the rest. But it is okay, I still love you because you’re my mum.

Twenty one years before receiving this letter, her mother spanked her for failing her primary school leaving exams. Once or twice each week, she would call her a failure to remind her not to give up so easily.

She was thirty and her daughter was applying an ointment on her wounds. The sizzling oil from the wok had splashed on her forearm. There were pink blisters of various sizes. Some were small but the largest was the size of a ten cent coin.

Several knots away, she told her teacher that true love knew no boundaries and recognised no age limit. She wanted to marry that basketball boy and raise a family of chubby children with him.

When she was younger, she believed in fairy tales, in knights with shining armour who rescued damsels trapped in castles, in Cinderellas and Sleeping Beauties, in magic and myths and mystics. Folklores have it that seers exist. They can scry the past and future, careening from event to event. These people exist but what they do is not magic.

She will continue to see her selves, such as that time when she scrapped her knees after falling off her bicycle. Or that kiss in the boy’s bathroom or that baby cradled in her arms. Or when a teacher called to inform that her son was drawing skulls on every worksheet and that palm-shaped mark she left on his swollen cheek.


Rafflesia Trek at Cameron Highlands

It was supposed to be a four hour trek to see the exquisite Rafflesia blooms. Thankfully, it took six leisurely hours due to two three-year-old children who kept whining and begging their parents to carry them. It seemed like divine intervention; the elderly me could trudge at a slower, more comfortable pace without even asking for it.

Bamboo flowers are like weeds sitting on smooth hollow trunks. 

Due to rapid development in the highlands, acres of greenery are cleared. Bamboo, being a rapid growing species, shoot up the fastest. It is like an alien landscape, with tender bamboo spears among chopped up emerald.  

Walking along the dense undergrowth requires trekkers to contort themselves into awkward positions.

At certain points, we had to cross muddy streams. Two people attracted blood-sucking leeches which pierced holes in calves and drank to their slimy hearts' content.

Some roots diverge at regular intervals, forming natural stairways. How considerate.

Here's a bunch of wild bananas. According to the local guide, these aren't edible.

Here, the guide's dog mocked human beings who were splashing awkwardly across the river flow.

After three hours, we finally reached the Rafflesia. This brown knob isn't a coconut. It is a Rafflesia bud, biding its time before it bursts into a three-day bloom that will quickly decay into rheum.

A dense springy crop of moss grows on the lianas. Being an ignoramus, I didn't know that Rafflesia is parasitic. It will suck nutrients from lianas for its own growth.

Here, the Rafflesia bloom is decaying.

According to local lore, the withered petals can be stewed into medicine which would prevent miscarriages. Of course, this isn't practised anymore, given that these flowers are protected under national laws and no one can collect them for personal uses. 

The white polka dots on red seem like a fashion statement.

Is it possible to survive in these jungles by oneself, like a modern day Tarzan? And at what costs?

Either way, it has been a thoroughly exhausting but rejuvenating trek. The songs by cicadas and birds that will never have their names, the afterglow of rain-soaked trees, the crystalline air. It had been fulfilling. 


Saying 'Thank You' Instead of 'Sorry'

December 12, 2015 0 Comments

Unless you’re Canadian, you’re not doing anyone any favors by saying “sorry” all the time. New York based artist Yao Xiao takes this a step further in her comics, where she suggests that you say “thank you” instead.

The Internet is full of empty promises and terrible art, but this idea is worth paying attention to. See how using “thank you” instead of “sorry” plays out below.

Yao Xiao was born in China but now lives in New York. Many of her comics are autobiographical, and she describes herself as an “enthusiast for queer fashion, vintage cabaret, collecting odd objects, and absurd science fiction with a flair of whimsy.” The rest of Xiao’s work is quite different from the comics below, so be sure to check out her website!

Source: Bored Panda


ThouSun Orchid Nursery, Cameron Highlands, Ringlet

December 04, 2015 , , 0 Comments

After searching online for orchid nurseries at Cameron Highlands, I stumbled upon a blog entry exclaiming over exotic specimens. There were photos of paradisaical blooms, some with twisted shapes, some with brilliant light and even one with a monkey face.

With time and patience - the internet connection at my lodge was patchy - I managed to identify the name of the nursery and pin down the owners' contact details.

ThouSun Orchid Nursery is located at the corner of a small hill in Ringlet. The road leading to this place is bumpy and muddy, thus a challenge for typical cars. As such, it was such a relief that Mr Sin, the owner of this nursery, drove us there.

After a knock-knock-knock ride, we made it to the sprawling nursery. Mrs Sin patiently introduced the different species - Dendrobium, Cattleya, Oncidium, Phalaenopsis, Bulbophyllum and many more - as well as offered advice over what to grow in the stifling Singapore weather.

Apparently, I came at a wrong time for 'there were few flowers'. What little I saw was sufficient to dazzle though.
Here's the Dendrobium Spectabile, with its curling flowers. It is colloquially known as the alien orchid!

Look at the monkey face orchid! It is adorable.
Here's Victoria Regina, an incredibly rare specimen with blue flowers.
Look at Mrs Sin with her bulbophyllum phalaenopsis! Its leaves are almost as long as her body!
Very drawn towards these beauties with draping petals:
This one with tiger like spots is lovely.
Apparently, this crimson one is a species from South America.
This slipper orchid is a stunner, with a precise blend of colours.
Instead of carting adult plants home, it is possible to buy seedlings.
More flowers, all intricate and beautiful, some even fragrant:
There are two different flowering morphs for this Dendrobium Macrophyllum. One is yellow and the other, green.

ThouSun Orchid Nursery is located at Cameron Highlands, Ringlet, Malaysia.

If you're an orchid lover who wish to feast your eyes on both hybrid and species orchids, do make an appointment with Mr and Mrs Sin:
Mr Sin:+60195511312
Mrs Sin:+60165511430
email address :sinchanwah@gmail.com
It will be a feast for your eyes, a famine for your wallet and a day well-spent.