Surviving Hari Raya

Hari Raya means Eid. I used to love and look forward to it when I was a kid. As an adult, not so much. Worry not, I have survived the initial stage i.e. the day before and the first few days after. This is when the preparation is most intense, the crowds that come to visit our house is never-ending and the heat is unbearable.

Our family typically celebrates Raya at my grandparents’ house (the kampong).

Ever since I could remember, my Raya has always been at this house. I spent my first Raya away from home in 2007, when I was studying in the UK. My grandmother passed away in 2009, my parents kept it a secret from me because I was sitting for my finals. When I finally returned in 2011, we still celebrate in the kampong but it wasn’t the same.

My grandfather stays with us, and nobody really takes care of the kampong house. We would go there once a year for Raya. Can you imagine the amount of work that is required to bring it back to habitable, or almost habitable condition? After that, we had to cook a lot of food for our family members who are spending Raya there as well as for the relatives who would come to visit on the subsequent days.

There used to be trees growing outside of the house – Durian, Rambutan, Sapodilla, Jackfruit, Coconut. These trees somehow made the house a bit cooler at the peak of the day. Rambutan season was my favourite because we would spend almost every afternoon picking Rambutan fruit and eating it there and then. Now, the trees are gone leaving the outside of the house very bare.

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Kampong from the front.

Here’s how Raya went this year:

Day T-2: We went back to kampong, arrived at midnight, grateful that one of the uncles came a bit earlier to clean some parts of the house so that we could at least sleep.

Day T-1: Cleaning continues. We went to the wet market to get ingredients to cook and then the supermarket for other things. Cooking. More extended family members arrived. Everyone was busy cooking, eating and socializing until 1am.

Day 1: Woke up at 6.30am, got ready to go for Eid prayers. After that, came back home and changed. Gave Raya money to my parents, and my younger cousins. Relatives start coming and the house was so full. Some of us stayed in the kitchen to make sure the food and beverage supply are sufficient. It was so hot, coupled with the amount of people in that small house at one time, we were roasting. We tried to take a family photo. Some of us went out to visit the neighbour’s  house. Soon after, we saw an ambulance. Our grandfather was taken to the hospital because his speech was slurred. After a few tests, it turned out that he had a panic attack and was allowed to go home.

Day 2: I woke up 3 times during the night to go to the bathroom. I found out that all the people who went to the neighbour’s house yesterday had diarrhea. More relatives came. We managed to visit our grandaunt’s house. Some of us had to go home straight after due to diarrhea. We watched a horror movie before bed, and I always fall asleep right before the movie ends. Sorry, guys.

Day 3: We’re okay now! No more diarrhea! Relatives started coming at 10am and only stopped at 3pm. We were exhausted but we had to go home today. We packed everything and left.

So that’s just the first part. Raya lasts a month so…

29 Februari

To be honest, I don’t usually watch Malaysian films. When Masumi asked me to recommend her any Malaysian films at the DVD store, I told her I don’t know what to recommend because as far as I could tell, contemporary Malaysian films are limited to sappy romance, silly comedy or horror. Some even combine the 3 genres into one story.

Today was different though. I had some time to kill and I thought, maybe I could watch a Malaysian film. After browsing on Iflix for a bit, I decided to settle on “29 Februari”.

29 Februari is a love story/musical directed by Edry Abdul Halim about a man who was born on the 29th of February, and only ages once every four years. It’s like the opposite of the movie Jack (1996), where Jack would age 4 times faster each year. 29 Februari was able to hold my attention for the whole 1 ½ hours. Okay, I took a nap in between because I was sick but that doesn’t count!

The story started in 1896, when Budi (played by Remy Ishak) was born. His father is working for the British in Kuala Lumpur. We view the world from Budi’s point of view, when even after 40 years, he looks like he’s 10 and was shunned by the other children for being “old”. In 1941, the Japanese invaded Malaya, the British forces were called to Singapore, Budi’s father was entrusted with the property left by the British.

What came next is perhaps the most devastating part of the movie, his father is captured and beheaded by the Nippon army.  Budi is then raised in an orphanage and sells woven baskets for a living. One fateful day, on 31 August 1957 (he’s 61 at this point), he meets the love of his life, a Chinese girl called Lily (played by Jojo Goh). In case you haven’t noticed, this date was also the Independence Day for Malaya.

Budi and Lily fall in love and dated over the next few years. Interracial marriage was uncommon at that time and with strong opposition from Lily’s family, they were separated. Iflix didn’t have subtitles so I couldn’t really understand the dialogue between Lilly and her family.

Not wanting to go through the arranged marriage to another man, Lily runs away from home. Budi spends the rest of his life looking for her and eventually finds her in 2012 (he’s 116).

One look at this and you could see that it has a high production value. The setting, the backdrop, the props and costumes was on point. Even the insertion of the actual colorized footage from the formal declaration of independence was brilliantly done. I have not seen a lot of local films that are under the “Fantasy” genre so this was like a breath of fresh air.

My pet peeves about Malaysian films is the dubbing quality. Sometimes I can’t tell whether the characters are actually talking or the voices that we hear are just internal monologues. Sometimes their mouths don’t move but they are actually talking to another character.

Next, this is supposed to be a musical. And a musical it is just because the main characters sang a few songs. Or was it the same number over and over, I’m not so sure. The numbers were nothing memorable but it wasn’t as cringy as I thought it would be.

I just wished that there is more storytelling, like how did Budi end up opening a flower shop, or did he have any other girlfriends after that, or how did his close friend die. I don’t know, it just felt like Budi was a bit one-dimensional. And just when I thought that this story is going to be different, they gave me a typical Malaysian film tragedy ending.

Or as my mom would say “Sudah jatuh ditimpa tangga”.

I thought it was well-made but there are always room for improvement. So yes, I would recommend this to Masumi and watch her reaction to it.

You look like a panda

As I wrote in a previous post about my boss being a robot, I have now established that she does eat. But that doesn’t change the fact that she works everyone very hard.

I have to wear concealer to cover my eyebags, and there was once I didn’t put on enough, my colleague said, “Are you okay? You look like a panda”. Pandas are cute but I do not want to look like a panda. Ever since then, I will always wear as much as I can. Another colleague who has just been with us for a little over 2 months said she had to put on two layers of concealer to look human. So remember boys and girls, concealer is your friend.

Ever since reporting to this department in January, my work life balance has been crazy. Every staff is overworked, each of us is probably handling about 3 people workload. Our team members are falling sick one-by-one. Sometimes I feel so stressed that I just disconnect.

Transferring to a different function would be difficult because I know the big guys won’t approve. Happened to some of my ex-colleagues.

I’ve been looking out for a new job but the job market is not looking too good. And then, plot twist! Another company is going to acquire our company. It’s highly unlikely this new entity will be keeping ~20,000+ staff so yeah…

We’ll see how it goes.

Until then, let’s enjoy some panda video because they are adorable and I don’t know how to end this post.

 

 

 

 

Positivity

I’m working for a corporation in a highly competitive (stressful) industry and I work around 12 hours a day and sometimes weekends. Already overwhelmed with tons of work, today I was surprised by more work i.e. what my CEO wants. I just don’t know how to cope.
Just to keep myself being positive, I want to list down all the good things about working here.
  1. Everyone is jaded but everyone is nice and helpful, regardless. Everyone is in this together.
  2. When I organise events for the 1000+ staff, I get a lot of support and seeing them having a good time is priceless.
  3. I write key messages and design communication materials that (hopefully) all staff reads.
  4. When we do go out to eat together, we would order so much food and just have a good time.
  5. A guy at my floor is a graduate from culinary school so he brings homebaked cakes occasionally, it’s really good.
  6. The tea lady here sells fruits and snacks so we don’t have to go anywhere.
  7. I’m sitting at the best floor in the building. It’s the project management office and it’s always buzzing after 6pm.
  8. Ever since I was in university, I’ve wanted to work in the Central Business District.

Girl’s Step Movie

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Girls’ Step is a straightforward teen story about unexpected friendship and finding your own true self. There’s nothing new to see here, nothing that hasn’t been done before. But still worth a watch.

Nishihara Azusa (Ishii Anna) is a 2nd year high school student struggling to fit in with the popular kids and just be liked by everyone. All the cool kids are apparently in the school cheerleading squad. While they let Azusa hang with them, she was more like an errand girl, buying them lunch and stuff.

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Introducing Azusa, the protagonist

One day, Azusa along with 4 other girls were called by their PE teacher, Fujiwara sensei (Otozuki Kei), telling them that they were failing the class. I was only watching this movie for Otozuki, by the way. The girls had to do a street dance performance at an autumn festival or fail the subject. Not surprisingly, all the other 4 girls were the very unpopular ones. I’m so sorry, I don’t really remember the other girls’ names.

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For easy reference

The teacher called her friend, a dance instructor to help the girls out. They started practising at the school gym, the same venue the cheerleaders use for their team practices. Immediately, the dance teacher could see that Azusa has potential.

A side note, Ishii Anna is a dancer for LDH’s E-Girls so I bet she had to really water down her moves to make it like she’s just a beginner.

Autumn festival arrives and things didn’t go so well at first. Then, with Azusa’s encouragement, they picked up the pieces and the audience were cheering them on. Even the popular kids didn’t seem that mean after all.

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Underage girl (right most) is off. Get it together!

It didn’t stop there. The girls were actually enjoying each others’ company and perhaps even dancing that they decided they wanted to enter a dance competition. Initially, Megane girl was unable to join, but she really loved dancing. Throughout the practice, things start to get a little bit shaky between them. Popular kids start questioning why Azusa is still hanging out with the unpopular kids. Azusa, who still has no backbone and wants to be accepted, started to back away from her dance teammates.

Underage girl actually has an adult boyfriend, who likes to call her over to his house for Netflix & Chill (although in Japan, I heard people use Hulu more, so I guess Hulu & Chill?). Underage girl started to miss practice and school altogether because she was sick. Why though? We’ll find out later.

With Azusa missing in action, the team kind of broke up and everyone went on their own way. Yankii girl was just pissed off at everything. She just wanted to dance, guys! I forgot what the Other girl was doing. When dance teacher came by to the gym, no one was there.

But they weren’t happy with the way things are now. As Asuza was just staying home, thinking about the choices that she made, she received a call from underage girl. She left the house immediately, running to her friend’s aid. Turned out underage girl was pregnant and she was having a miscarriage. As she was being treated at the hospital, the gang was somehow reunited. Yankii girl, who only knows violence and profanity, decided to take matters into her own hands. She was going after underage girl’s boyfriend to set him straight with a baseball bat.

The boyfriend didn’t want anything to do with them. He was already getting humiliated as they confronted him in front of his workplace. The gang was finally reunited and a good, loud cry fest in public was definitely what they needed. Underage girl was suddenly healthy enough to start dancing again despite the miscarriage she had the day before.

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Aww…I had secondhand embarrassment watching this

Practice resumes. Popular kids are now nicer and let the dance team use the whole gym to rehearse. The competition day arrived, compared to the other dance crews there, they were clearly the underdogs. But who cares, what’s more important is the experience and the friendship bonds they gained from this journey. The popular kids were also there to help out and support them.

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Final dance scene

It was not a bad movie, I actually enjoyed it. There was a few things I didn’t include though, like Azusa liking her neighbour, or the dance teacher’s backstory.

Did I mention that Ishii Anna is super cute? She looks so pure when she cries or smiles. Members of E-Girls love seeing her smile. You should check out episode 3 of Koibumi Biyori where she plays the role of a blind girl. Otozuki only had like a few minutes of screen time but I can see her Otokoyaku-ness peeking through.

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Kimu<3

So this is a good movie to watch if you have nothing to do on a Saturday evening and you just want a simple, feel good, maybe even inspirational movie.

There were good songs too. Take a listen to Generations – All For You and REVOLVER, and Nishino Kana – Go For It! I was expecting some E-Girls song to be in but nope.

I kinda like musicals, I guess..?

As I typed on my laptop, getting work done in time for the long weekend, I told my supervisor that I’m going to watch a movie on my day-off.

“What are you watching? I don’t think there’s any movies worth watching at the moment,” she said.

I glanced at her, thinking if I should just say it. To her, movies that are worth watching are superhero movies. I finally said without looking at her, “I wanna see La La Land.”

“Oh La La Land. What’s it about?”

“It’s a musical, I guess.”

“I see…so you like musicals?”

I nodded. “Kinda, I guess.”

But in fact, I kinda do!

Well, if you don’t count High School Musical, I would say that it started circa 2011. At that time, I was a fan of AKB48 and I’m actually quite ashamed to say that out loud sometimes.

AKB48 is an all-female idol group from Japan that has a million members. I was really into it, the little fan wars were awesome when they had their annual elections. The year before that, they produced a musical called AKB Kagekidan Infinity which had quite a ridiculous plot line. Regardless of that, I was interested and watched it. All of it. All the main characters, even the male lead character was played by girls. Well, it got even more interesting because there were kissing scenes between the two lead character, both of which were girls. Yeah I know, I sound creepy.

After that, some fans started to make references to a real all-female theatrical group, called the Takarazuka Revue. To satisfy my curiosity, I looked them up and I saw that they were playing Romeo and Juliette. And it was probably the most attractive Romeo I’ve ever seen. Not that I’ve seen many, but you know.

Eventually, I started to watch any videos that I could find online. “Phantom” was probably the first that I saw and loved. They caught my attention but I had other things to do then. Besides, my Japanese comprehension was really poor. It wasn’t until 2015, on a boring weekend, that I decided to give Romeo & Juliette a try. I was hooked, it was like watching magic happen. I don’t know what it was, maybe it’s the androgynous appeal, the sparkles, the weirdness, that pulled me in. All I know was that I couldn’t look away.

Slowly, I started to watch more shows, buying their expensive DVDs, and magazines. I bought programme books of shows I haven’t seen. I feel like Takarazuka is turning me into a more cultured person (I think). Their productions are sometimes adapted from books, movies, classics, foreign musicals and even opera. It’s opening up a whole new world for me. Because when I know that a certain show is adapted from such-and-such book, I would read that book just to get a better understanding of the whole thing.

I can’t say I’m fully embracing the fact that I’m a musical fan because I still haven’t seen a lot of other musicals which that is not Takarazuka. At times I feel like I like Takarazuka’s adaptations of books/classics or their original production more than their adaptations of Western musicals.

So yes, I’m looking forward to seeing more things. Musicals, that is.

 

My boss is a robot

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A real robot.

I’m being serious here. Is she even human? I’m not talking about her lack of emotion, because she can get emotional when she wants to. Or needs to, just to get what she wants.

Here’s why I say she’s a robot.

She comes to work early, she goes back very late.

Every single day! She comes in before most of us do. Usually, I can already hear the sound of her loud voice as she talks on the phone whenever I come to the office. I sit down and I sign-in to my computer. I pray hard that she wouldn’t call me and for her to just leave the office for her many meetings. Fast forward to end of the day. She comes back to the office after her back-to-back meetings. Sometimes, she would be back during lunch and leave again. After office hours is the only time she has to see her subordinates and for us to update her with anything. She would stay until 9-10 pm, before she leaves. Rinse and repeat. She even works on weekends.

Normal human beings need to rest. I bet she goes back and plug into a socket to recharge.

Okay, okay, so you may say that is how most bosses work. Here’s my second point.

I have never seen her eat.

As I said, she comes in early, then she goes out for meetings. She comes back during lunch hour and asks us to see her even though we haven’t had a bite to eat. We all were forced to work late, but I’ve never seen her eat any evening meals.

I was just talking about this with one of my team mates who have been with her way longer. She denied it and said she has seen the boss eating.I refuse to believe until I see it myself. Gosh, now I just sound like I’m paranoid.

She lacks empathy and is very persistent that everything goes her way or the highway.

One of my teammates had to work despite her daughter being sick. The boss doesn’t care about you or the fact that you have family.And when you are sick, you have to work because nobody is gonna be covering for you.

Whenever she talks to anyone, she has to be right. ALL. THE. TIME.

Then what is the point of asking other people’s opinion? I simply don’t get it. It’s like her algorithm is stuck in an infinite loop. Until she gets what she wants.To make it worse, she micromanages. Every little decision needs to go through her, she wants to know all the details.

Other than that, she is a selective listener. She only listens to what she wants to hear. She can’t understand if I give my input on certain matters if it doesn’t meet her expectations. She just couldn’t compute certain things. Only when I say, “Sure, I’ll do it right away”, that she understands me.

So there it is. My boss, the robot.