Thursday, July 31, 2008

London is Happening

Working in central London can be bad for health, the pocket and facial skin.

It can be equally exciting and interesting too. Every hour every minute, there is something weird happening somewhere somehow.

Pictures of the day:

This is what it looks like from our floor when there's something happening on the ground:

And this is what's been erected next to the Tate Modern.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gift from Seattle

When my former housemate in Reading rung to tell that I have a parcel from the States, I immediately guessed it was Chris. Chris and his wife, Mel, visited Malaysia last year. I was really excited to host their stay.

After the trip, we have continued keeping in touch occasionally through email. We just have to email, because he is one of the few people in our MPhil who's been lying low since after the course ended! Even his blog is not updated!

When I opened the parcel, I couldn't contain my laughter. The top of the content was a postcard of Seattle. Shame that I thought they sent me a postcard from Japan. I thought I saw Mount Fuji!

But that wasn't what I laughed about. I laughed because they actually sent me a packet of smoked Salmon! In fact, the entire content in the box was from Seattle. Now, talking about Chris doing Sustainable Development, the carbon footprint that he just made and which I am also guilty of now! ;) I love Salmon. So I am going to have to offset my carbon footprint by doing less air travels this year in order to enjoy every bit of the meat without guilt.

As if the message didn't come out strong enough, they also threw in a travel book of Seattle and ended a cheeky message in the postcard that read, "...hope they give you the itch to come over and visit."

I am imagining that the other gifts were meant to say, "until you do, here are a chocolate bar and a box of premium cocoa drink to get you started."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

See you at 30!

First the blanket now the shirt. London's been quite hot this week with temperatures hovering around mid to late 20s.

I have ditched the duvet for the moment. Current temperature is 26 deg C. I'd be baked in that heat if I have continued using a duvet. Temperature like this is what Malaysian runners would regard as "ideal" for running. It is for me too. That's why I have not stopped doing my 20k pledge almost everyday! I should have covered 540k to-date.

In Malaysia, if I were to stay in the room in that heat, like what I'm doing now, I would have turned on the air conditioning. However, since I don't have such a thing here, I can only ditch the t-shirt. I had a mild sunburn from this afternoon's run. It feels like having an iron next to the face.

"Running at the height of the day with the sun throwing 28deg C at your face and only slapping some SPF 30? really deserved it mate!"

When we went to see a play called "Her Naked Skin" at the National Theatre yesterday, the sudden cooling of the sweaty body in the building almost glued my t-shirt to the skin. That was how sticky it felt!

Also celebrated Owen's belated birthday

After attending Winson's 30th birthday do in Fulham today, I came back to shower the second time. Another batch of laundry waiting to be done tomorrow!

You see, there is a cost to global warming. I have seen my fridge stocking up on cold drinks and I have increased my frequency to the bathroom as well as doing my laundry.

I had almost bought a litre of Pimm's two days ago in Sainsbury's if not because I had forgotten to bring an ID to proof my age. Can you believe it, they thought I was under age to buy alcohol?!! But that saved me a good 13quid from impulse buying. So I am not complaining.

I checked on BBC's weather for tomorrow. There's a two-digit number that looked Malaysian. But I have gotten the impression that the forecast is shouting to Londoners, "See you at 30!"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cousin Visited London

Leona visited London last month en route to Genoa to present a paper for her PhD research.

I was really happy meeting up with her. The last time we met was when we were "abusing" a big peach bun at a birthday dinner. No sorry, that was Terina, her sister. ;)
Malay food, warung style in Malaysia Hall. Bandung cincau, teh tarik, keropok lekor and rendang. You're not going to believe we never had this "rubbish" together when we were small. Ironically we were having it in London!

I think it's been three years ago since I met her then. Seeing her in London was great. She's still as bubbly as before. We chatted and laughed about our childhood days including those funny antics that we've done whenever we met in my aunt's.
"You better not show this to our mothers! Or tell them it's frothy apple juice! And remember to crop it first!"

It seemed odd at first when she acquired an Aussie accent the first time we spoke but after a while, the Manglish engine started choking black smoke and then it was up and running again!

As it was her first time to the UK, she would have many tourist places to cover. So it was very kind of her to make time to meet up on a few occasions. I hope she liked the roast duck too!

She should be back in Australia by now.

Dedicated to our Popo (grandma).

And this is for the family

Monday, July 21, 2008

Paris Sojourner Does London

CP and his family

CP and family came to visit. We had initially planned to run together but ended up not, because of the limited time that they had.

CP Waterman claims right of ownership of this place

We drove up to Cambridge on Saturday to witness the mega graduation ceremony. I called it "mega" because of the high number of graduands on this day! They were very lucky. I managed to procure tickets for them to witness the event at the Senate House.

Family of Yaps doing the road trip

I was a little envious thinking how easily they've gotten into a graduation ceremony while I planned for months for my family! They had also gotten into the dining hall of the famous colleges and eaten Fitzbillies chelsea bun; both of which didn't happen when my family was around.

You don't show off if you only have one chelsea bun!

Inside King's College Chapel

King's College ground

But I was really happy for them because they would have much more to associate Cambridge with in their recollection of the trip next time.

I am glad they enjoyed Cambridge.

As if reliving the experience two months ago but with a different family

The following day we drove to Windsor Castle. We also visited nearby Eton College.

I do not tag along when they do London on the weekdays but we make it a point to meet up almost every day- usually for dinner. In fact we had roast duck dinner in Chinatown for two nights consecutively! They loved it so much and I didn't mind too! ;)

I enjoy eating with CP and his family. Our eating style reminded me of eating with Pacesetters members. We cleaned up every piece of item on the plate and piled up on rice! What a typical runner!

They will be leaving tomorrow. I've not been able to repay their kindness when they hosted my family and I in Paris. Even the waitress who recognises me in the restaurant decided to take CP's payment and refused mine. They must have ganged up on me!

I hope we can meet soon. There's still a debt to pay.

Dear thief....

I am afraid I have outwitted you on this occasion.

The quoted price to fix the damage that you cost on my bicycle was unrealistic. So I had two options to solve the problem. First, I could wait till some realistic offers come around including the option of buying a new bike or two, I could resort to stealing, like you. I decided the latter is for scums of the earth, so the former was the only option left for me.

Recently I went to Cambridge and found many rear wheels lying around in my College. In fact I was spoilt for choice! I had to choose one in the end. So, I took the one in the best condition. It didn't cost me anything and best of all, I didn't have to resort to stealing. You should make a trip to Cambridge too. Who knows, you may want to help yourself with the punts too!

Anyway, I have fixed the rear wheel into my Old Faithful two days ago. It fitted like a second skin! The gears didn't need any adjustment and so were the brakes. The tyre thread is even better than the original!

I just found out that you have also helped yourself with the rear mudflap. You never fail to surprise me with the stuff you're after. But that's okay because the flap has never worked properly anyway. So you can have it. Please recycle if you can't use it.

At first the wheel was making some noise. It was coming from the bearings.That's probably the reason why its previous owner has gotten rid of it. Guess what, WD-40 has solved the problem. Now, the noise is gone.

If WD-40 could also solve social problems, I would have aimed the noozle at you.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Japanese for Reckless People

Or should I say “People who speak Japanese recklessly”.

At the escalator in Holborn station yesterday, a lady who was standing in front turned around and asked if I was Japanese.

“Ex-er kill-su me, are you Jar-par-nee-su?” she said with a thick Japanese accent.

Before I could decipher what she was saying, she continued in Japanese, “Nihon-jin desu ka?”

I paused for a while to think if I should answer her in Japanese or English since she asked me in both languages.

Then I replied, “Sorry, I am not.”

She apologised and repeated it in Japanese, “I yam sorry..Gomen nasai…gomen nasai” and bowed a few times.

"Ah! You look-ku like a Jar-par-nee-su. I yam sorry." she bowed once more.
I smiled and said, "That's fine."

The tiny size lady looked like she needed some help. Before the escalator peaked, I spoke to her in my dysfunctional Japanese to offer help. “Ano, Nihon-jin janakute, nihongo ga hanasemasu yo! (Err…I am not Japanese but I can speak Japanese!)

Her face brightened, “Ah! Honto?!” (Oh! Really?!)

She then explained her situation to me- at length! It reminded me when I was in Japan. The moment you speak a little Japanese, they will assume that you’ll be able to understand everything in the language – so you end up communicating and signing (or hanko-ing; Japanese seal) agreements away at the bank, post office, immigration office etc based on the little stuff that you could understand and leave the bigger ones to chance and pray that you’re not signing your life away! Thank God, Japanese are the most honest people in the world, or at least that’s how they come across to me!

I could understand pockets of the conversation. Two dots connect a line, so I made up she was trying to tell me she lost her husband two hours ago somewhere in the station after their visit to the British Museum. And her husband has a back pain! She needed help to locate him.

I may have missed other points but I thought that was sufficient to know what she was after.

The problem came. How the heck should I respond to her? That was the time I thought, “Shucks….why did I respond to her in the first place!!”

I mustered whatever Japanese words I could remember and just shove it up the conversation.

It was an emergency after all, so there’s nothing to be embarrassed about even if I had accidentally said that she looked like a whore or something. I am sure she would understand.

I found the use of “shimasu” extremely helpful at a time when you need to speak Japanese desperately!

From experience, an English verb and “shimasu” work wonders. The lady could almost understand me completely! Magic!

I was struggling with simple verbs like “check”, “take”, “help” and even “walk”! These were basic words but even that, they have slipped my mind! This shows how important practising is to learning a language.

The words ended up as “check-ku shimasu”, “take-ku shimasu, “help-pu shimasu” and “walk-ku shimasu”. They sounded funny but hey, the important thing is she got the message!

We had a good chat in between; about her trip, her family and her worries if she really had to lose her husband in London!

We finally found her husband in the room when we went to check it at the hotel. An outburst of a familiar word came out unconsciously when I saw them together; "Yokatta ne!!" (That's good!)

I realised we have spent 2 hours in the hunt for her husband when I needed to catch up on the next appointment. I have never spoken in Japanese for a long time since coming to the UK.

Two hours are an ordeal if you don’t know what the other person or you are talking about. I could remember I nearly boarded the next flight back to Malaysia when I first stepped into Japan and felt paralysed by the language. So I am glad I survived with my reckless Japanese.

Needless to say, I need to “practise shimasu” instead of practice “shimasu”.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Most Shameful Londoner

Last Friday when my colleagues and I were returning to the office after lunch, we witnessed a bicycle theft in front of us. It took a while before we knew it. After all, London is a world-class city. So you would not expect petty thefts like this to happen here, right?


It was not until when one of the youths ran across the road with a bike on the shoulder that we realised he was stealing a bicycle in broad daylight and in central London! There were two other accomplices.

It's petty thefts like this that people could get away easily because the law seems to have placed too much emphasis on "popular" crimes like stabbing and terrorism. So, thefts like this will only be swept under the carpet. Thieves just get away with it. Isn't it frustrating?!

You see, I started cycling to the office three weeks ago in my old faithful. I inherited it from a friend in Cambridge and it went to Reading and now here.

After the bike theft incident, Yong, my colleague asked if I had my bike locked away properly. I told him, "Trust me, only a fool will take my bike! It will cost him more to repair it! The rear tyre is almost going to explode! Good riddance! Then I could buy a new one."

I told him about my bike conditions. It's a squeaky female bike. In fact, some friends in Cambridge used to laugh at me using it. And a housemate once said, "It must have taken someone with lots of confidence to ride on it!"

Even though all these comments appeared to be amusing rather than advisory, I was thinking of getting a proper bike as it would be much easier to make a decision when there is a triathlon race to sign up for.

Today, I cycled to Elephant and Castle to join a walking tour of Charlie Chaplin. The tour lasted one and a half hours. I was knackered after the walk because I had also spent an additional one and half hours on a Charles Dicken tour earlier. But I was very happy to know so much more about this place. So I headed for my bike.

The rear wheel was stolen.

I was neither amused nor shocked. I just stood in front of my old faithful and looked at it for a while just to make sure I've got the right bike. I'm probably the only cyclist in London with a basket in front so when I spotted it, it became clear it was my bike! It looked like someone has lost a limb and chained to a rail.

There was a bike shop nearby. So I went and asked. They quoted 35quid for a second-hand wheel replacement. It costs more than the bike! No way! It sounded like a scam. So I walked out and took the bus home.

In the bus, the conversation last Friday came flashing back. I became very angry because I was made "immobile" for at least until I get it fixed or I get a new bike. Either way, I have to be more careful next time. I'd probably invest in another D-Lock soon.

When I returned and told Chane, my housemate about it, her look of disgust showed immediately. She took it worse than I should be!

She said, "These people are just f*cking pathetic aren't they?! You just can't leave anything outside nowadays!"

The incident was just unbelievable. If the person had wanted a severely worn rear wheel from me, I would have so willingly handed it over along with the bike! But no, what happened was a crime in its lowest form by the most shameful Londoner.

Old Faithful. Take care for now. I'll be back soon to bring you home.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I was asked if I could write something about my work or put photos of my office.

"At least we know how people in the UK work."

While I am adamant not to discuss about work in my blog, I wouldn't mind talking about life at work so far.

I also find it necessary to debunk several myths of what people thought I'm currently going through. But it's okay since I haven't spoken about it before.

1. I don't handle the entire project, you must be joking!

2. I don't deal with the Olympics events. Stop asking me for track event tickets for 2012!

3. If there's a comparison to what I was doing in Malaysia, I would give the engineering in Olympics -"Engineering - the Extended version". There are great emphasis placed on sustainability and legacy planning; two words which are still unheard of in Malaysia.

4. I haven't had to deal with anyone from Beijing.

5. I haven't met any famous Olympians in doing my work.

And finally, I don't use sophisticated softwares in my work. My tools of trade are a scale-ruler, technical compass set, mechanical pencil, few sheets of blank paper and a cup of coffee.

Proof that I was neither joking nor trying to be sarcastic to Japanese engineers

Monday, July 07, 2008

Malaysia's talent flight looms

The discomfort towards the high cost of living and weariness towards the unceasing political bickering are making a lot of Malaysians fed up with the country.

The Financial Times recently reported that there will be visa curbs to 11 countries because of continuous overstaying problems in the UK. Malaysia is listed as one of them.

For those who couldn’t work in the UK with the proper document, this is their only way in. If all fails, then Singapore that is.

For those who could, they have either gone or already preparing the documents. At least seven of whom I know have applied. Three are already here.

For those who are already here but were planning to return, they are now holding back their plans for the obvious reasons.

Taking the numbers of those who are here illegally out of the equation, those who are now considering a move out of the country are top talents and brightest people in the country. Some of them are people I had the honour to meet, work and study with and became the industries’ top-flights upon returning. They are now throwing in the towel.

While the political situation is in gradual crescendo, Malaysia’s talent flight looms. Whether it is long or short haul, KLIA will be hit. The beneficiary? Heathrow. If not, Changi.