[chinese blood, irish heart] - DEFUNCT

Saturday, May 02, 2009


Hi everybody, I've moved to

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ach! They be Mogwai!

Just to showcase my pics from an awesome and deafening gig by Mogwai in January:

See the 11 others on my Flickr page. Another similar and brilliant post-rock instrumental band I listen to are Explosions in the Sky.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

This one's for the kids

Here's how professional I was today, I completley mixed up Sunday's peace rally with today's UNICEF gathering, both at Victoria Park. Called the organiser up and sounded like a complete eejit.
Ah well, at least photographing kids in the shadows was kind of fun. I find kids to be hit-and-miss at times. They can be incredibly candid because of their youthful playfulness and all, but they're equally as fast as to pull a 'victory' sign once the lens is on them.
The snaps also made me reminisce about childhood, strengthened by an ad campaign I watched recently by a Singaporean NGO to raise awareness about racism - how children are 'colour blind' and don't have the sense to distinguish race. Growing up in a predominantly caucasian environment of course made me all too aware of the notion of racism. I'm sure that played a profound role in developing my personality. Hey, at least I can say I definitely am not racist!
It also made me remember a Palestinian childhood friend of mine who lived in my neighbourhood. Umar was his name. Unlike kids nowadays, we didn't have email or mobile phones back then.
I find it quite poignant when thinking about my childhood. Certain friends gone and disconnected now. All those dreams once dreamed forgotten and never realised. Hobbies and toys once so playfully enjoyed now long discarded. That sense of childish naivite and innocence now adulated by notions of career, social status, love and everything in between. That's why we have to make sure kids these days actually enjoy being kids.


Monday, January 12, 2009

First of all happy new year to all you stragglers on the Internet (and mom & dad). Here's to more financial turmoil and mass layoffs! Cheers!!

Just like to make a comment about astrology:
I rarely read my own Sagittarian readings nor take them seriously, but I did happen to bump into a 2009 reading in last week's Sunday Magazine. It said that starting from January 25th, Sagittarian's ruling planet (or dwarf planet I should say) is moving out of my alignment for the first time in 13 years and into Capricorn. Pluto symbolises many things like death, life and change. For better or worse, it certainly means a tumultuous period for Sagittarrians from 1995-2008. And how lucky I guess considering this alignment happens once every 248 years.

So after I read this, and corroborated the information by some fancy Google browsing, I put the magazine down and just stared into my previous 13 years: I could say there have been many unique external factors that have pushed me to where I am today. Take my sudden onset of eczema in 2005 for instance. That's caused me to make the dramatic leap to Hong Kong and forced me to take a more proactive look on life. Now, as 2009 dawns (and referring to Pluto now edging away), I can safely say my skin condition has improved dramatically and I'm no longer bound by this (and still mysterious) ailment. Perhaps this is the finale to my transformation caused by Pluto?

Yes, yes I know, it's probably all bullshit. But if you're me you can't help but calculate all the stuff that's happened and the choices I've made since 1995 till today and wonder if it was all because of this little fucking dwarf Pluto... Well, I've got about 13 days left of Pluto's grace before it moves onto its next customer, so let's see what wonderful cosmic bolts of life comes my way till then.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Angkor What?

My trip to Siem Reap summarised in a photo story:
See all of 'em on my Flickr page. All are under Creative Commons so feel free to use/distribute! Just don't forget my credit!

Opening sequence. My first trip on a tuk tuk was far from exciting but was eager to see what Siem Reap has to offer.

A brutal wakeup call, but well worth it! Behold - sunrise at Angkor Wat.

Meet my shutter-totting Singaporese companions: (left-right) Kenneth, Laura and Jasmine.

I stumbled upon this meagre-looking family near Ta Prohm’s gate fishing for whatever the hell’s in that putrid water. I snapped away blissfully at the youngest child holding a bag dirty fish when suddenly a large group of Korean tourists noticed me and came rushing up cooing and ‘awwing’ at the kid.
I backed away quickly like an animal leaving his prey to bigger nastier hunters.

At least they gave him sweets.

The mighty Bayon complex.

Having missed out on a day with my Singaporese campanions, I wandered aimlessly away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. I was fortunate enough to have stumbled upon a mosque where prayers were being said.
I cautiously approached the unsuspecting crowd, only to be temporarily kept at bay by a boy at the gate, staring at me albeit unmenancingly. Carefully tiptoeing over the scattered slippers and sandals I hovered around outside quietly, my shutter flapping away like some annoying sound in the background.

December 7th: The day of the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon.
I clocked in 21km at approx 2hours and 15 mins. Not bad for my first even long distance run.

Sunset at Prohm Bakeng.

What serendipity. I only heard about this MTV EXIT concert 2 weeks before I flew. It's Angkor Wat's first ever rock concert! It was free entry but tickets were issued via an online lottery system for foreigners. I, on the other hand, managed to blag for a media pass and free tickets for my homies!
And how's this: Headlined by Placebo!! I'm a fan alright but not enough as I didn't recognise some of their songs.
So here's what I knew from their setlist: Meds, Teenage Angst, 20 Years, Hang On To Your IQ and Passive Aggressive. More available on my Flickr page.

At a drab-looking teeny village on our way to Kompong Phluk, overturned boats and discarded fishing nets symbolised the harsh dry season that has taken hold. Fishing is the main source of income here and I often inquired whether China’s gargantuan Three Gorges Dam project had any adverse effect on the Mekong. Most were fazed at my questioning, claiming they’ve never heard such an accusation. Well, there’s my attempt at a story gone into humid air.
The people here were so poor the huts barely looked intact. Two naked children frolicked under an upturned boat, languishing in the shade away from the unrelenting sunlight. One seemed to playing with a bowl of mud when I realised it was actually food. “Here”, I thought, “have a vegetable cracker.” He was duly rewarded with a balloon afterwards and I don’t know if he’s seen or much less held a balloon before, but he seemed mesmerised enough to leave us with a rewarding feeling as we left and made way for the enchantingly titled ‘floating village’. More abject poverty awaited us.

A passing smile warmly greets us to Kompong Phluk, 'The Floating Village'.

We shared lunch at a family home where our shy hosts brought pineapple soup, morning glory and possibly the best fish I’ve had in a long time. And I don’t even like fish. But I do hanker for Irish wild smoked salmon. Damn.
I saw a child taking huge gulps of the water under his boat. Looking around the neighbourhood there’s no viable source of fresh water. I mean, the entire village is surrounded by a murky emerald-coloured water. And guess where all those pipes from the homes lead to? All mineral water, beer, soft drinks had to be laboriously transported here. If this is meant to be a tourist destination then it left me with a sobering rather than the usual touristy-rewarding feel afterwards. It feels sometimes that the fact I was born in Ireland, Europe, the First World or whatever dictates I would most likely lead a more comfortable life than the large majority of the world’s population. So in fact it’s like a lottery. An old saying goes ‘the one thing you can’t choose is your parents’, but where do your parents live?

I felt somewhat irked when a hawker tried to sell me notepads and pencils, claiming I buy them to give the local school children. Pointing at passing children and describing their poor fate as I pathetically tried to escape her clutches, she was blatantly playing on tourists’ guilt. And for that she ain’t getting one damn Riel. So mental note, bring lots of pencils and paper with me next time. And chalk. When I visited the classroom the teacher’s last remaining bit of chalk was so small I was careful it didn’t crumble between my fingers. Instead, Jas snatches it to scrawl a Singapore flag on the blackboard. I was bleedin’ mortified.

One of Siem Reap’s children’s hospitals is under the helm of Dr. Beat Richner from Switzerland. Completely independent of the Cambodian health system, Jayavarman VII not only doles out free medicine but is also one of the most cost-effective and efficient hospital in the whole country. Well, for one thing his annual budget is about US$20 million a year from donations while the Cambodian health system gets US$52 million. Buoyed by his fame and successes I went along and donated blood. Got a free Coke too.

A boy observes the long wait he'll have to endure to get free medical treatment.

I found 18 monks lounging at Bo Wat Temple just off the touristified epicentre of SR. Three were smoking under a tree – looking holy and cool, one kicking a football, four seemed to guard a sacred-looking drum and two stared at me as I approached the gate. A brief pause. It was Monny with his effervescent orange robe who sidled up to me first with an emphatic hello, I returned the gesture with relief. After some initial laconic exchanges, I learned he’s 18, studying English and Japanese, loves Jackie Chan films and didn’t know where and what Ireland was. Well, at least he didn’t have to question my dubious accent.
I made it an aim to send my subjects their photographs by email and unfortunately Monny didn’t have one (others before did!). I thrusted him my business card and told him to email me when he gets one. He was taken aback as if I gave him gold and proceeded to study the words, probably trying to deduce just what the heck a ‘multimedia producer’ does. As I manoeuvred around the complex, the sunlight bounced off the effervescent orange robes giving the room a comfortable glow. I left shortly after and waved Monny off, him still clutching my card.

On the way to the airport via tuk tuk speed, it suddenly dawned on me the end is beginning. It was back to the drudgery of work life and the increasingly vexatious cosmopolitan environment. It all sank down my spine with a tendril of melancholy. With my SG companions already back home a few days before my departure, I yearned for someone to say goodbye to. Oh sure, my tuk tuk driver would be polite to say it only after I give him my last crumpled up fistful of greenbacks, but a more heartiful goodbye. What about those numerous kids I gave toothbrushes, biscuits, a ‘shuang’ Coca-Cola postcard left over from Beijing and an MTV EXIT sticker? Ah well, Just the usual travel withdrawal symptoms coming on I guess. Moments later, an overcrowded car full of what seemed to be workers sped past me. I made eye contact with one of them and he waved at me. Because I was a foreigner? Or that he knew I was heading to the airport? Never mind I thought, maybe there’s no reason. But it’s one reason to have this as my parting shot.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cambodia, here I come!

I can't remember the last time I've posted some reasonably good news. But anyway, I'm holding my brand-spanking new (and improved) Irish passport and am fully booked for Cambodia. Before that I had been tearing my heart out not being able to run the Angkor Wat marathon because I really wanted to do it - to achieve something I've never done before. I've had no goals or ambitions since coming back from Beijing and knowing that leaves me kinda stuck in a rut. And I don't enjoy that feeling. Another core reason is when I'm completely shattered after finishing the run, collapse on the grounds of Angkor Wat and stare up at the sky, I hope it will offset those feelings of love-forlorn melancholy that his plagued me since Beijing. Yes, for a third time I have been beset by these seemingly childish but excruciating feelings of why must my love is always doomed to be unrequited. Sounds melodramatic I know, but instead of feeling shitty about it I've finally acknowledged that it's just the way things are with me - fate and destiny don't mix well when I'm in the middle.

I have big aspirations in achieving many things in the field of journalism and if I have to walk this path alone in vagrancy then so be it. It's bittersweet to say that but also consoling in a way. Because every time it happens it leads me onto bigger things and changes - with good results in the end. This Cambodian trip may be my latest venture because of that. I do admit it is one of the reasons why I'm going there, because I knew it might offer me some respite.

And also as a bonus, I've learned that Angkor Wat will be hosting its first ever concert! And a rock one too with Placebo headlining it! On the same day as the race!! I'm just so stoked right now, really. Be happy for me.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Home is where the heart is... but where is my heart?

First of all, check out my Irish friend's awesome electronic band Le Galaxie, their latest album's been out for over a year, and the album cover's is of Hong Kong's very own Lippo building! Also taken by another Irish friend. But yes, I'm a little late in promoting it but I had just been reacquainted with their music since that very guy emailed me out-of-the blue today regarding a video featurette I did of the band ages ago.

Anyway back to the title...

Many people ask me if I'll ever return to Ireland and I always shrug in return. And if I'll stay in Hong Kong? I also shrug back. Truth is, I'm starting to wonder if I'd truly consider both to be 'home'. Naturally my place is birth is the obvious choice but I just don't see myself back there in the forseeable future. I think I lost a lot of friends since I've left (especially the acquaintainces, so to speak). And three years ago I had such a yearning to leave sometimes I feel in a perverse way that my skin condition was a good thing because it gave me the stimulus to come and stay in Hong Kong. But now fast forward, I'm beginning to feel a sense of detachment. There's a Cantonese term I've recently learned and it's pronounced as 'saw ley', meaning lonely or detached. But it's a term exclusively used in urban life and is especially apt for a metropolis like Hong Kong. That is, despite the vibrant social life and you bump into people every where, you still feel somewhat alone or isolated.

Perhaps it's because I have no sense of 'home'? Stuck between both worlds? I've actually had this conversation with a few expat-Chinese and they feel the same - the 'home' part anyway. I always thought I had the best of both worlds considering I'm well versed in Chinese traditions and speak the local lingo. But now I don't know where I stand. If I can't call Ireland or Hong Kong home, then there's no real other choice is there? Perhaps I'm destined to be a vagrant.