I drew the Nine of Pentacles today from the Fifth Spirit Tarot deck as a daily tarot reading. The card portrayed a banquet from the reader POV. Later, on the same day, Liz treated me the most delicious Italian dinner I have ever eaten in Melbourne at Cucinetta.
Right before we ate, I managed to snap a picture of our meals which reminded me of the image on the card. And that, my friend, was one of tarot-imitating-life moments for me.
My 5 AM thoughts visited me again today, only that it came at 3.30 AM.
It has been three days in a row that I haven’t been sleeping peacefully, but today it was much worse since I could not go back to sleep anymore.
I refuse to self-diagnose myself with insomnia. Self-diagnosing when it comes to health is a trait that has become second nature among my extended family. Hence my conscious effort to stir away from it. Even at 3.30 AM.
I think I just overstimulated myself yesterday; both mind and body. The brain has been forced to work since 8 AM yesterday, and it didn’t stop even until I went to bed. From office work, blog posts, personal errands and reading heavy stuff until I fell asleep.
Meanwhile, I also let myself binge-eat yesterday using the period excuse. From sugary drinks, spicy chips to late-night garlic rice.
As a result, the heated stomach and buzzing brain refused to let my tire-soul rest.
I thought about how it has been a while since I share my coffee-diary entries here. How I forever chase the golden-light in life, both literally and figuratively. Both topics are unrelated.
I wondered whether I would have developed a deeper and layered understanding of a language if I was not raised to be multilingual. Since even until now, I struggle to express myself a bit more in-depth. In any language. Not only that, I have passed an embarrassing number of reading materials, just because it’s too hard for me to digest.
I felt like there is a version of me who I want to be (the one who reads daily, who cooks often, who goes on hikes on the weekend and who runs a marathon) and there is the current me that is not there yet. This year is about closing the gap between those two MEs, or at least minimize the gap.
My thought then went to the unwrapped gifts in the living room. It’s for a party that I have been invited to, by someone I wouldn’t invite to mine. Funny, isn’t it? Someone can be your VIP, but it doesn’t always mean vice versa. If you think I was being mean, hey at least I got them a gift 🤷🏽.
I wrote a reminder to finish reading Patti Smith this month – preferably this weekend if I am good. And to visit a new-to-me neighborhood cafe before we move out from here. Also, to get a tarot journal.
The question popped out on my phone. Sent by Jik. It got me thinking. The thing is, I have many.
The days I spent with my cousins, driving around Jakarta to buy the best road-side food.
The weekend I went to Malaka with my Uni friends and made more friends by the time we went back to Singapore.
Our three weeks honeymoon in Japan.
The weekend I went to Goa to attend my cousin’s wedding.
The first time I saw the Autumn colours IRL.
The many moments I shared with Cheryl when we worked together.
The day I went to the theme park as a kid with just my parents. I was wearing a red dress, and they let me do water rafting. It was so fun. I felt so happy and excited, and a bit of a grown-up.
The day I got a salary hike.
The day I got approval to move to Australia.
The day I stood in front of the sixteen floors National Library in Singapore.
The day I noticed Vi entering the classroom wearing her purple pyjamas.
The days I spent in Phi Phi Island, wearing a bikini for the first time and learning to be confident in it.
The day I bought my first MacBook.
The hours I spent in the bookstores. And the hours I spent in Spellbox.
The night of the New Year’s Eve when I met Fafa.
The drunken night walk with my cousins in Copenhagen.
The day I ate MSG ridden fried-rice in a Chinese restaurant in Italy after not having rice for more than a week for the first time in my life.
My first snowfall day.
The days where Fafa kindness was the only support I had.
The weekend in Uluru.
The hours Jik and I spent in coffee shops in Hong Kong.
The time with LOL memories.
Quality times I spent with Amma and the moments of hugging her.
The day my Amma complimented me on my cousin’s engagement day.
Drinking Karak Chai in Dubai.
The nights I sat on the beach.
The hours I spent in the kitchen with my workmates – having lunch or just taking breaks.
The days I spent with Erwin and Vivi, rediscovering Jakarta.
The days and nights I spent with Thu just messing around while trying to figure out life.
My days in Singapore.
First dates. Second dates.
The days where I do very little but don’t feel guilty at all. The days when I do so much and feel a sense of accomplishment.
My post-grad days.
My wedding days.
The day I realised I had all the support I needed in life.
The afternoon in Brisbane when we took an hour Uber-ride to eat good Indo food.
The day I discovered Serial podcast while travelling in Europe, which led into the true-crime rabbit hole.
The day I took Shinkansen for the first time, the second time and every single time after that.
The day I set up my blogs excitedly.
My last working day in Singapore.
Those are some of my best days—the ones I would love to redo. I realised now that most of them involve being surrounded by my loved ones, travelling and discovering myself. Here is to creating space in my life for more of those kinds of days.
When Amanda, my colleague-turned-into-friend left the company, I bought a plant —Buddha Belly Fig bonsai, named it Amanda (Amanda I) and put it on my office desk. I talked daily to Amanda, the plant. It helped me through the lonely work-days without Amanda, the human.
Amanda the plant survived two winters and two summers, but at the end of last year, it was slowly dying. At the same time, I decided to leave the company. I didn’t want to take it with me because I felt like the office has become its’ home, so I left it with another colleague-turned-friend, Pri.
I did tell Pri that it was dying, so it wasn’t a surprise when Pri told me early this year that it didn’t survive.
Having grown to love my daily chit-chat with Amanda, both the human and the plant, I got myself another Amanda houseplant. This time a Peace Lily (Amanda II), but I noticed that it wasn’t doing well only after a few weeks I brought it home.
At first, I didn’t understand why. I gave it attention. I watered it regularly. And I kept it on my bookshelf as I thought similar to human Amanda, maybe plant Amanda also enjoys books. When nothing seemed to cheer Amanda the plant, Fafa suggested to leave it alone for a while.
I begrudgingly agreed to do so.
I moved Amanda the plant to the study room, to sit alone, with extra space and an equal amount of sunshine. Slowly I could see that it was getting better — healthier and happier.
Meanwhile, when I went to Amanda’s house recently, she gave me a potted jade plant, which naturally must be named Amanda (Amanda III) because it’s from the Amanda
Now I have two Amanda houseplants. Happy to report that both are doing well. Also, yesterday I noticed Amanda II has a new flower bud. I am excited to see it blooms — hopefully soon.
I went to Gyoza Gyoza for a dinner and catch-up with Viv last Friday.
Full disclosure: I didn’t even have the courteous to wait for her before starting to put the food order once I sat down in their Melbourne Central branch. In my defense, it has been a crazy workday, and I had to skip lunch hence I was famished. I did apologize to her. Halfway eating my grilled miso rice — with both hands, making a mess of myself — no doubt making her feel second-hand embarrassment, I realized this place might just be my favorite chain restaurant in Melbourne (Hoka Hoka Bento in Jakarta and Sakae Sushi in Singapore).
They have delicious tapas-style Japanese food. From edamame, yakitori, takoyaki to miso soup. And their drinks are delicious. So are the desserts.
I have lots of good memories in Gyoza Gyoza. I have been here with Fafa, I think twice with Jik and at least one time by myself. Clearly, it’s my go-to place for comfort food. Their price range from single-digit but doesn’t mean that they are cheap because you tend to eat a lot here.
I hosted belated Diwali celebration today and invited Jen, Pri and Aina for an Indian meal and Australian wine.
We started with the delicious mini bacon cheese quiches that Jen brought. Followed by sangria, cheese and olives.
I ordered North Indian food from 3 Brothers on Chapel. Onion Bhaji, Chili Mushroom, Cheese Naan, Kulcha, Murg Karahi Wala, Murgi Achari, Pepper Masala Chicken, Jeera and Peas Pulao Rice.
Fafa joined us for the late lunch before retrieving back to the bedroom.
The conversations were dominated by the happenings and gossips in the company. House hunting was next on the list as two of us are in the market. We also listened to Tinder date stories (two of them are currently single). Before finally landing in having a girls trip to Bali once the international borders are open.
We also continued the feast with the most delicious lemon cake Jen baked for Aina’s belated birthday. And ended it all with chilled slices of watermelon.
It was a great heart-and-tummy filling afternoon. And for the first time this year, the apartment had been blessed with hours and hours of loud happy-laughter. So glad to have them in my life.
I was taken back by the question. Not many have asked me this before. I forget when or who asked me the same question before that day when I traveling solo in China.
My mind traveled back to earlier that month when I just started contemplating on changing my writing direction to focus on culture, which eventually birthed Kulture Kween a few years later — to 2012 when I started a travel blog — to 2007 when I started a blog after I read a classmate’s poetry blog — to 2004 when Erwin Tanudjaja introduced me to the concept of a blog. The same Erwin who introduced me to the internet in 1997.
But, it was two years before that, I realized my passion for writing.
On the day I forgot to bring my homework. I called Amma from a rusty (even for 1995) coin-operated payphone from my school begging her to bring my homework.
It was not compulsory. It was an extracurricular activity. My grade wouldn’t be marked. But for some reason, I put an effort to write an essay with a not-appropriate-for-middle-school topic. I spent the whole long weekend in August to write and rewrite it in longhand (it was 1995). Finally, I put my rebellious twist on it. I know it would be marked by the school principal and didn’t care if he was going to penalize me for it. I just didn’t want it to be a cookie-cutter school essay with a sprinkle of mundaneness.
Thankfully Amma refrained from executing a teachable moment that day. She took an auto-rickshaw and dropped the paper to me at school. Just in time for me to slip it to the stack of papers waiting in the Principal’s office.
My essay won. No gift. The acknowledgment was done and dusted in less than two minutes. But it didn’t matter. I felt such joy at the moment, more than scoring a solid 100 on an exam paper.
That moment topped my childhood happiness chart.
That was the moment that gave the answer to what inspires my passion question asked by the stranger on the train. The foundation for me slogging hours and hours on writing/blogging/journaling.
Thank you for not penalising me on that day Mr. School Principal. I hope my hoarder parents still keep the winning essay somewhere in the house.
Memento Mori. A reminder that we all will die one day.
We all know that, don’t we?!
So, why do we need a reminder for that? Because sometimes we go through life as if we are immortals; standing at the edge of danger for a perfect selfie, accumulating money in multiple currencies, carrying the emotional baggage instilled by a distant aunt more than twenty years ago.
Hence, the age-old variation of the regrets-on-the-deathbed question. As someone who’s more than a little curious about death, I have thought about this plenty. At some point in your life, I am sure you have too.
But how about the other side of the coin?
Have you ever thought about the things you won’t care about when you are in the last seconds of life?
Things that are occupying space in the brain, things that we think a lot about, things which probably are not going to cross the mind on the deathbed?
I pondered about this question over the weekend and realized that I won’t be thinking about food in the last seconds of life.
As someone who plans the daily schedule around food, marks the beginning of romantic relationships with the moment food was shared and has an ever-growing to-eat list, the realization bummed me out a little. Unless a certain percentage of people in this world are right about heaven and it has an unlimited amount of peeled grapes I can eat there while watching TV.
Speaking of TV, though I spend an embarrassing amount of time watching embarrassingly titled TV shows (Deadly Women, Scandal, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 — to name a few), I don’t think I will be thinking about my Netflix subscription on the last seconds of my life either.
If you think that the early realization above is a reminder for me that there are better things to focus in life other than being a couch potato, then you are wrong! Because I know I won’t be thinking about books as well.
Not about the piles of unread books scattered around the house, the urgent desire to reorganize my bookshelf that resurfaces with the changing of the season, and the constant nagging whenever I pick a semi-familiar book in the bookstore and wonder whether I already purchased the book and kept it in the bookshelf at my parents. Nor of my bookworm’s dream of building a bookshelf in the bathroom consisting of only waterproof books and build a house that looks like a book (– and filled with books).
I won’t even remember feeling guilty for buying overpriced books at the airport even though on the 1st of January every single year, I make a new year resolution of not doing it anymore. And If I am dying anytime soon, the slip up of buying 11 books at Changi Airport during a short layover last year, won’t even come into mind.
The airport talk reminds me that, if I am being honest, I won’t be thinking about traveling as well, something that I constantly think, plan, and obsessed about throughout my adult life (even now, while I am typing this, I have Skyscanner open in another window tab, you know just in case Victoria opens its’ border by end of the year).
Also, hello, no one knows where they will be “traveling” to the afterlife, so why bother?
The good thing is that I should not also think about flying, more specifically, my irrational fear of flying which usually creeps in a few days before I travel (assuming that my last seconds of life is not inside a plane that is crashing). Not thinking about flying also means I won’t go through my friends’ faces in my mental Rolodex of whose message I “forgot” to reply nor replaying the moment when I yelled back at my mom back in 1997 which I haven’t apologized for.
Another thing that I gladly won’t think about is: adult-ing and all the responsibility that comes with it, such as staying in a job long enough before it’s acceptable in the CV to leave, keeping some of the money earned after giving both the government and AMAZON Prime a huge chunk of it and keeping the house acceptable clean to show my parents that as a 30-something grown-up woman, I actually can survive without their supervision.
On the contrary, I am truly saddened by the thought of not thinking about my blogs. The only thing I slogged on and powered through the winter cold (with the help of my cheap electric blanket) continuously, the one I come home to after a busy day at work to “nurture”, that make me skip hanging out with friends and lost my sleeping hours for. Theses blogs are my joy and pride, but if I am being really honest, I don’t think I will be thinking about it. This realization is kind of devastating because the blogs are what I have closest to a child or at least a pet.
Wait, that’s not true!
I do have something else that is closest to a pet for me. Something that I keep at home and Instagram-ed regularly. Something that I worry about when I travel, therefore, pass to friends to take care of while I am away. Something I fed, talk to, and named. The house plants.
And I am sure I won’t be thinking about it either. They are hard to take care of and I am happily won’t use my remaining thoughts not thinking whether I have watered Carrie, Samantha, and Charlotte that week. And hopefully, by then, I already made peace with murdering the majority of them (including Miranda) by either over-watering or under-watering.
On the note of obsession, even though I am utterly obsessed with true crime and have gone so far to form friendships based on the other parties’ knowledge about the serial killers’ full names and regularly googling their mug shots using an office computer, it’s safe to say that I won’t be using the last oxygen being an armchair detective. Nor will I think about my crystals collection, Japan (unless I get to be lucky enough to live and die there one day), and many other things I am borderline obsessive about.
At first, I thought it would be hard to identify what is it that I won’t think about on my last seconds of life, but soon after I realized that almost nothing occupies my mind today, this week nor this year matters then. And that the ones I will think about are a few button taps away. So I picked up the phone and spent the rest of the weekend FaceTime-ng with them.
What about you, what are the things you won’t care about when you are in the last seconds of life?
Yesterday my Melbourne Whatsapp group chat which I named “Lockdown Girls” (yes, I am proud of being the one who came up with such an original name) was busy for a hot minute.
We were discussing the things we miss and couldn’t wait to get back to once this lockdown was over. Whenever it might be.
One of them then said that they can’t wait to have brunch outside again. The same sentiment shared by my other friends in that group chat.
I almost chimed in with: “OMFGGGG ME THREEEEE!!!!!” (the added flair is just my Whatsapp personality), before I stopped myself.
The truth was, no, I didn’t miss brunch in Melbourne.
I guess, today as good a day as any, to come clean that — despite Melbourne donned as one of the cities in the world with the lit-est cafe scene — I don’t enjoy brunch, at least not in Melbourne.
You see, even though I moved here more than four years ago, my Asian tastebud is still loyal to its’ home continent. Meaning, brunch for me still is a bowl of hearty chicken porridge or prawn vadai or two half-boiled eggs or kaya toast or nasi lemak or chicken pao or vadai or chocolate soy pancake or nasi uduk or pastel with chili-padi or idli drenched in sambar. Anything but the fancy-looking-taste-nothing-super-pricey all-day-breakfast served in Melbourne cafes.
So yeah, it’s safe to say, if we are having brunch in Melbourne, that’s because I like hanging out with you. Enough to pay $23.50 for a plate of scrambled egg. In which I can choose to add bacon, hash brown, sauteed spinach, grilled halloumi, and mushroom onto, as long as I pay the extra $5. Each.
An exception to this is Tall Timber’s Shakshuka which I have been gladly paying an extra $5 for the addition of chorizo.