Monday, June 15, 2009

Booty Call

After a two-year long hiatus, BooTay makes her debut reappearance! This can only mean one thing - the BooTay's gonna get some wet n wild action...

First stop, Tanah Merah.

After finding our way through some lalang (tall, wild grasses) and shrubbery, we reach an expansive shore, lit by the light (not the beam but the light) of the silvery moon and vessels at sea, docked in the distance. We can even see the CBD skyline from here... quite hard not to miss that wheel-in-the-sky (that doesn't always keep on turning).

I haven't been out to the shore at low tide for about 2 years and haven't been blogging about such trips for just as long, so I'm a bit out of touch lah. The pictures are also a bit overexposed because it's the first time I'm using this particular camera for pre-dawn photography, and I have yet to figure out if there's a way to adjust the intensity of the flash.

So here we go...
Ghost Crab



The BIGGEST slug I've ever seen!

The prettiest slug on shore

Sea grapes

Purple climber crab

Lazy onch hitching a ride on a nerite

I am Prawn, master of disguise! Earghhh!! Darn my Willy Wonka eyes!!

I am Gong-gong, the real master of disguise! Muahaha--- arrghhh! Darn my foot-mouth syndrome!

Now here's the real deal... How many fish can you spot in this picture?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Life Lessons from Spidey

Spider-Man 2 is my favourite of the three Spidey movies, and I managed to catch it for the umpteenth time on TV today. My favourite part of the movie would be the almost silent post-climax moment when train passengers lift and carry Spidey to safety after he passes out. I found it humbling - that superheroes are still, just people; that even heroes bleed, and angels fall.

I wonder if people really take note of the subtle acts of kindness or strategically 'placed' lines of inspiration in movies. You know, those moments that some of us find corny or cliche. Sometimes, corny & cliche is a must if we really want to get the message across. Movies are meant to entertain - some boys want lots of action [*wink*], some girls want romance, and crazy-about-movies-people like me just want a wicked dose of everything, from power effects to cinematography, great storyline to good acting, and then some (like the perfect seat and excellent sound system in a cinema, and of course, the best popcorn!).

So why is corny or cliche good? Well, we always remember corny moments! Like the silliest things we did in school, or the cheesiest pick-up lines you've heard. And cliche just means it's no longer original, or it's been said and done too many times. Now, there's a reason why some things are repeatedly said and done - your Mom nagging you about eating right or your doctor telling you to quit smoking. There's a message, a lesson to learn, and it's usually a darn good one.

Like Uncle Ben's "with great power comes great responsibility", or Spider-Man telling a vengeful Harry Osborn, "There are bigger things happening here than me and you". Finally, Aunt May says it best:

"I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble. And finally gets us to die with pride. Even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want most, even our dreams."

So remember, sometimes even the smallest act of kindness makes the biggest difference in someone's day or someone's life. Brighten a day or a life with a smile. And for the more heroic few, I say, Go get 'em, tiger!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mush room for improvement

So now, I'm out of a job again!


Mike's company did not get back to me by Friday evening, and I had to call Future Company before 5.30pm on Friday if I wanted to 'quit'. How do you 'quit' a job that you haven't even started? Maybe some call it chicken-ing out.

Future Company actually called me back on Thursday evening to say I could start this Monday after all, cos they managed to 'acquire' a work station for me.

But Ben advised me to just risk it and 'quit', even before getting a written offer and confirmation from Mike's company. I suppose just the whole issue about getting me a computer or not---not getting the software I require---pushing my start date back and forth---didn't seem professional. And if decision-making was already so kelam-kabut from an outsider's point of view now, imagine how much more teruk it might be once on the inside. The Dark Side beckons not.

As usual, scaredy me waited... till the time was right? Till I plucked up enough courage? Till I had enough caffeine in my bloodstream to carry out a conversation that might very likely explode into a bitter dispute.

I digress... and meet Shorbs in town for coffee. I ask her if she thinks I've changed a lot since getting married, or from the time she knew me back when we worked at The Club. A friend recently said that she feels I'm not the same bubbly person she knew before I was married. But I think, if I have changed, "bubbly" wouldn't be on the change list. I was thinking more of the confident, loud, outgoing, bold bits, which are no longer adjectives used to describe me.

Back in the day...... yup...

I used to be the daring and garang one in art school. Always on top of her game, always beating the boys, and always, always able to talk her way out of or into anything!

Now I'm the opposite.

It's not even marriage that has changed me. Shorbs says we're just more mellow as we get older. That may be true. But for me, I think it started right after art school. I told my parents I didn't wanna continue my studies overseas to get a degree. I didn't tell them that it was because I didn't want them to 'waste' money on me, but to save it for when my younger brother needed the money when it was time for him to pursue a degree or whatever.

And so it's been like that for me ever since. Always taking a back seat. I really don't know why! It started with letting others have the better opportunity or the bigger piece of the pie or even the final word. Then, to try to be the 'perfect' or obedient girlfriend or employee, I'd shut up when 'required', let The Man be Da Man, play dumb, play neutral, play stupid, so that The Man or The Boss could feel like he/she was Da Man or Da Boss. And eventually, it just made me weak, to a point where others could easily push me around.

So now I'm just mush. Mush around 'big' people. Mush around oppressive people. Even mush to the point of crying when faced with confrontational situations. I've gone soft! I guess those who see me as being weak might be the same people who'll use this 'weakness' to their advantage. But I still believe there's some good left in the world, and hopefully the nicer people out there don't see me so much as a weakling, but someone who's just gentle and kind.

I wonder if I'll ever find balance - to be gentle yet strong, kind yet stern, selfless yet able to stand up for myself. Because I know I'm not right now. And this is why I delay calling Future Company. Cos I hate being the 'nasty one' or the 'wrong one', and by always trying so hard to be the 'nice one', I let others walk over me or 'scare' me into doing something I'm not comfortable with. I'm the grin, bear it, later go home and cry type.

So finally, I call Future Company (FC).

B: Hi... blah blah niceties... blah blah I've been given another offer that I feel is more suitable for me right now, so I won't be joining Future Company on Monday after all.

FC: What! No but you signed the letter already.

B: I know, I'm really sorry to let you know only now -

FC: No there's a clause in the letter. I think. There's a clause - a penalty you have to pay or something. Let me check, I think there's something in the contract. I'll check and get back to you.

B: Ya of course. If there's a penalty or if I'm required to come in for a week, just let me know.
[I'm unusually cool about this only because I scanned through the contract thoroughly the night before, because I know of such a clause. Some companies require you to pay them a week's salary if you do not show up on the first day of work without a valid reason. But it wasn't in the Letter of Appointment that I signed with Future Company, so I can be cool.]

FC: But what - why - What position is this? Is it because of better pay? Why - uhm -

B: Well it's a Marcomm position that I feel is more suitable for me right now -

FC: No, let me just check the contract. I'll get back to you later.

Whoa. My hands are trembling after I hang up the phone. This is how weak I am lah. I get all gabra-zebra when dealing with angry situations or speaking to people of so-called authority or just those type of people who naturally command respect or fear. Fear is the path to The Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suff-fuh-riiiiiing....

Future Company calls me back a couple of hours later. FC is very curt throughout the conversation. Perhaps exasperated too, and I feel bad, and I hate to feel bad and rotten. But luckily Shorbs is there to remind me that I shouldn't. Cos this is the HR person whom I'm speaking to, and even if HR is gonna kena from Management because of my LMC, it's nothing personal. So I shouldn't get personal, and I shouldn't feel bad.

FC: [curt and upset] Ok, I checked. There used to be a clause about a penalty in the contract about this, but I don't know why we took it out. So you're not bound - But I just want to know why! Is it because of higher pay? I mean - You said it's a Marcomm position? Why didn't you say anything about this to us during the interview, that you want to do Marcomm.

B: [gabra-zebra-tremble-tremble] I did actually. During the interview you asked me, and also on the application form, you asked where I see myself or how I'd like to see myself grow within the company. And I said, I'd like to do designing but have always been leaning towards Marcomm, and I want to grow into a supervisory Marcomm position. I said it and it's also on the form I filled up.

FC: [very curt and upset] Ok fine. So this other offer, this position is what you want? Is it because of higher pay?

B: Overall yes. I get to design, but at the same time, I get to gain more experience in Marketing. I actually interviewed with them two months ago. But they decided not to expand at that time. So I thought it was 'case closed'. And I really was very interested and excited about joining Future Company. But then they, have decided to expand their company right now. And yes, the overall package they're offering is more suitable for me right now, and more suitable in terms of future growth.

FC: How much more?

B: Uhm... I'd say, 20% more.

FC: But I already got you your workstation you know!

B: Yes I know! I'm really sorry. I know you took the trouble and did all the paperwork and got the hardware all ready and everything, and I'm sorry.
[tremble-tremble... Lucky Shorbs is sitting in front of me right now or I might actually start to cry]

FC: [still upset but trying to be the bigger person here] Well, if this is what you want I can only wish you good luck. Thank you.
[Thank you?]

B: Yes, thank you.

Hands and even elbows looking like they belong to a poor soul with Parkinsons. I think I even have a face twitch right now. But phew! I'm out of a job, but I feel so relieved!

Later that night, Mike's Boss calls me about their job offer, discusses the job scope and what they "envision" for me.

So I have a job again. One that's much more challenging, but that I'm genuinely excited to start. One that I'm absolutely lacking in experience in, but they're willing to guide because I'm willing to learn. One that doesn't state in black & white that I have to work a MINIMUM of 10 hours a day, even though it's expected that there will be late nights, multiple projects and datelines all happening at the same time, and plenty targets to meet. But I'm excited. And "excited" is good.

The Force is Strong with The Portuguese

In the beginning, there was Adam.

I've been back in Singapore for about two months now, but only started actively searching and applying for jobs after Ben returned to Dubai last month. While he was here in March, his friend (let's call him Mike for semi-confidential purposes) mentioned that his company was hiring, and he set up an appointment for me to meet his Boss. So we met, but they were looking for the more 'hardcore sales' type, which she and I both agreed wasn't me at all. She did however allow me to submit a marketing proposal for a mock project, to see if they might be able to find a fit for me within their Marketing department.

So for the next three nights, I pored over marketing-related books borrowed from the library and photocopied articles about market trends and other scary sounding terms that I've always overheard while passing the business-yuppie types congregating around a copy of the day's Financial Times or Asian Wall Street Journal. Terms like ROIs, KPIs, SWOT analyses, commodities, gains and such, that send shivers down any Arts-type person's spine. I surfed the Net like I've never surfed before, getting only a total of 4 hours of sleep in that stretch of 2 days and 3 nights.

By the 3rd night, I had only a sad excuse for a proposal, but reached a point where my brain could no longer function. No budget, no timeline... but close to 20 pages of research. I was embarrassed and really felt that my best effort came up short, looking like a silly high school project. But since Mike took the trouble to get me the interview, and since his Boss was kind enough to spend an hour chatting with me, I submitted my marketing 'research' minus proper proposal, and left it as that. I didn't even dare write Hope to hear from you soon cos it would seem too thick-skinned lah.

However, two weeks later, one of the managers there called me in for a "casual chat". She said the Boss wanted her to get to know me better, and if they could fit me into her department, or tailor a position according to my abilities and what I would be "willing" to do. So again, chat chat chat. They weren't actually looking to hire in their department, but apparently my juvenile efforts were recognised and highly appreciated, and these non-design agency sorts aren't so used to us creative creatures of the night, so receiving an email from me at 4.45am kinda made a big impression.

They didn't mind that I had no experience or skills in Marketing cos all this could be picked up along the way, and all that mattered was having the right attitude. I thought this was kinda cool? Cos it means an employer wants me for just me? Anyway, they didn't really have a position for me. So that was that.

The End...... ?

So Ben went back to Dubai, I applied for a few more jobs, ranging from Marketing to Graphic Designing to Teaching. I got a Graphic Design job within 2 weeks, and am due to commence work with my Future Company this Monday.

When I first told Ben about this company, he immediately advised me not to take the job, because of the work-you-till-you-pengsan-and-vomit-blood stereotype associated with these type of family-run *particular-race* companies. But I seemed to get a good vibe from this place, and the two interviews I attended here went well. They seemed genuinely impressed with my portfolio and work experience, which related very well to the various projects that the company is managing.

Some friends gushed about the low pay and long working hours - 9-to-7! Yes, SEVEN! Others gushed about how lucky I was to get a job so soon when times are supposed to be "so bad" right now. And all gushed and huffed and puffed at how I didn't put up a fight for a better package.

Even my Mom advised me not to sign anything with them last Monday as planned, cos my Tua Ee happened to be flipping through The Almanac and noticed that Monday was a "VERY BAD DAY" for me and a very bad day in general for people to sign important contracts, etc. But I told her that I couldn't just postpone my appointment at the last minute, and that if this was a lousy company, it wouldn't make a difference if I signed on a 'good' or 'bad' day, cos they'd still be lousy anyhow. So my Mom resorted to lighting some super-power holy candles during her daily prayers and intercessions.

I didn't mind the salary that they offered actually. It's actually 'up-to-standard' for such a position, but low for my 10 years of experience lah. I was only concerned about the benefits, or lack of it actually, and I'd have to travel quite a bit to get to the office. But there are 15,000 jobless souls in Singapore, so I musn't be choosy lah right.

So, I accepted their offer, and signed my letter of appointment on "Bad Monday". And sure enough, right after I signed, I got a Han-Solo-Luke-Leia-kinda "I gotta BAAAAD feeling about this" afterthought. Looks like The Force isn't too strong with me these days - getting wrong vibes or unable to sense The Dark Side in stealth mode.

During the interview, the managers said they'd be getting me a work station and asked what my basic requirements were for graphic software. Simple: Photoshop. Illustrator. InDesign. Dreamweaver. Now that I've signed at least 10 hours a day to The Dark Side, they say Photoshop is no problem, we're looking into the other two, and getting Dreamweaver is not possible right now. Part of the Letter of Appointment also states that I would have to work additional retail or restaurant/bar hours as and when necessary.

So I went home that day feeling that I'd just been 'screwed over in advance'. Like I just signed a Permission-To-Kena-Screwed slip. I told Ben that this was the first time I started looking for other jobs right after signing a contract and even before commencing work! But I think Ben got a bit impatient with me.

I think he thinks I'm only having second thoughts cos I'm lazy and too used to being a bum and housewife, and that I really need this job to kick-start my 'work mode' again. So the whole week, I've just been trying REAL hard to psyche myself with positive thoughts about this company and this new job, even though I feel so rotten inside. It's money in the Bank, Berns. It's money in CPF, Berns. You've been a bum for way too long, Berns. Ben thinks you're spoilt n lazy, Berns. You might actually really love this, Berns. The office is not THAT far, Berns. Use The Force, Berns... You can do it!

So on Thursday, I try a 'practice run' to my Future Workplace. Woke up at 6.45am, caught the 7.40am express bus to town, transferred to another bus that brought me to the building next to Future Workplace by 8.40am. And it was set. This would be my Future Morning Route to work.

I continue my journey to Tiong Bahru, as I have plans to meet my Mum-in-law here for breakfast since she lives nearby. As I cross the road from the bus stop, I see what appears to be a vision of someone familiar coming down the steps of Tiong Bahru Plaza. His Jesus-hair billowing in the morning breeze as rays of the sun reflect off the plastic bag of bungkus-ed breakfast in hand. No! It can't be! No way!

It is Adam. Not first man Adam, but Adam I know from Church in PJ. There's always this awkwardness between us cos there may have been 'something' there before... but like way, way back lah. Back when he looked tamer, without a mane of curly, shoulder-length locks. Back when I actually thought Lars Ulrich was kinda attractive and Body Glove t-shirts were the thing. Now this fella is always popping up all over the place. Whenever I make a trip back to PJ, sometimes just once or twice a year for a few days, I always seem to bump into him lah. Strawberi cafe ada. Bangsar ada. Raju's ada. Now Tiong Bahru also ada!

He's just as surprised to see me. I knew he moved to Singapore just a few weeks back cos Nat told me last week. But there are so many PJ people from school or church who have been here in Singapore but I've never bumped into them all these years.

So we make the usual awkward small talk, exchange numbers, and we part with me feeling that this was such a WEIRD coincidence. I also envy how he gets to wear a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers to work, but maybe once you're a hotshot (or 'kickass' as Jamie puts it) copywriter or Creative Director you can wear anything you want lah, even wear your hair like Shakira.

So I meet Mum-in-law for breakfast. I tell her I'm starting work in 3 days' time and we chat about other stuff. Now, when I thought my encounter with Adam was weird, little did I know that it was just the start of what would be the weirdest day ever.

The following takes place between 10.30am and 11.00am on the Weirdest Day Ever. Events occur in real time...toot...tit...toot...tit......

10.30am: My handphone rings but I'm too slow and miss the call. The number seems familiar, and I check if it's Future Company, but it isn't. Then I realise it's a line from Mike's office. So I call him.

B: Hey 'Mike', did u just call me from your office?

M: Uhh no...

B: I just got a missed called from your office. Do u know anything about it?

M: Uhh no... Just call them back lah. Did u take the job at that *particular-race* company?

B: Ya, I signed already! I start on Monday.

M: What?!!

B: Nevermind, I can just give 7 days' notice...

10.34am: I call the number but there's no answer so I leave a message. I tell Mum-in-law that if Mike's Boss offers me a job, I'm in a dilemma cos I wouldn't know how to turn down Future Company. I don't wanna be the type who just doesn't show up on the first day of work. At the same time, I'm the sort of person who doesn't know how to negotiate for a better offer, yet alone reject people, so I have no idea how I'm gonna grow skin thick enough to call Future Company and say "Podah-lah. Wa mai zho liao!" [Tamil translation: Get lost lah. Hokkien translation: I don't wanna do already.]

Just then, my phone rings again!

10.38am: It's not a number from Mike's workplace, but again, the number looks familiar. It's HR from Future Company!

HR: (Wants to know if my graphic software is on a laptop, that I could use in the office for work, cos they don't have a workstation and computer for me. Apparently, they're waiting for some fella to podah in 5-6 weeks' time, and then I can use his station that only has Photoshop...Ooooh)

B: No, all my graphic software is on my desktop.

HR: (Asks if they could push my start date back 4 or 5 weeks since I'll have nothing to work on if I start on Monday)

B: Ya sure, that's fine. Just let me know by tomorrow, once you have a new start date confirmed.

I turn to my Mum-in-law in disbelief to tell her who just called and what it's about. Then my phone rings again.

10.45am: It's Mike.

M: [whispers] So how?

B: I called but there's no answer so I left a message. The *particular-race* company JUST called me. They said they wanna push my start date back about 4 weeks!

M: Whaa... I told u... These *particular-race* companies ah... Anyhow ask u to start then ask u to wait 4 weeks!

B: Anyway, whose extension ends with --?

M: (Checks and confirms it's "X" from HR) [whispers] She's at the board now... Oh! She's walking back to her desk! Call again, call her now!

10.50am: I call "X". She offers me a position with their company. I accept. She says she'll let the Boss know, and the Boss will call me to officially offer me the job.

11.00am: So now I have a job that is halfway out the door even before I'm due to start, and at the same time, one foot in another. Exodus before The Beginning? Or literally, I'm in between jobs.

I'm still wondering if perhaps waking up at 6.45 that morning left me in a part-zombie state, and I sleepwalked-sleep-took the bus to town and it was all a dream... Encounters with a Miranda, a Nonis and a Galistan... Fishy Portuguese connection, really extreme coincidence, or divine intervention?

...Hmmm... curious...... most curious.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bittersweet Crunch

This half of BnB is returning to Singapore, while her better half remains in Dubai. Don't worry, the cookie hasn't crumbled! This lazy cookie just needs to get a job lah. So I'm leaving Dubai tomorrow and moving back to Singapore, indefinitely. I'd like to say I'm leaving for good, but I guess it's safer to never say never. After all, we didn't intend to live here for more than 2 years, and it'll already be 3 years this June.

The decision was quite sudden as we had already booked our flight tickets back to Singapore for our annual holiday. So I had to change mine to a one-way ticket and pack like mad to ship back all my barang-barang. Thanks to the kindness of a few amazing friends here and back home, I managed to survive a few near-meltdowns.

As I said, I would love to announce that I'm leaving and never coming back because I'm really quite happy to be leaving this place, but if I do REALLY say it, I may jinx it and end up crawling back to this city. I guess I'm just excited about going home, and the prospect of kick-starting a "normal" life again. What I mean is, working again and not having to deal with dimwits all the time. Of course, I'm also really sad cos Ben and I will be apart, indefinitely, till we decide The Next Move.

There will be a few things about Dubai I'll miss (just a FEW). Although we say food here sucks, I think it's just regular food (like from foodcourts) that are gross. And to compensate for the lack of good regular food, we sometimes opt for "better" food at restaurants or more expensive stuff from supermarkets. So I'll miss things like steaks and desserts from slightly-higher-end chains, and the availability of terribly unhealthy sweets and snacks from all over the world. We can get some of these back home, but we never splurge on things like this in Singapore simply cos there's such a big supply of good and cheap food and snacks there.

Then there's the whole tax-free thingie - not having to worry about GST, income tax, etc etc. Plus free accommodation with free utilities too. And of course ALL the free time I have here!

I suppose that's about it. That's all Dubai has to offer someone like me.

Now the stuff that I WONT miss! Haha... here goes...

Zero customer service or after-sales service, or just plain useless dumbasses who get paid to do NOTHING!

The misuse of the phrase "Insya-Allah" and overuse of the word "maybe".

Lousy public transport. Horrible traffic. Reckless driving. Plus idiots in their 4-wheel-drives who park on pavements and sidewalks or drive off-road to cut queues. It's only fun when they get stuck in mud or a flooded area when it rains! Haha... padan muka!

People who cut queues ALL the time. Like simply standing in front of you, then looking away, looking to the sky, or whatever, pretending that they were there all the time! **** YOU ALL!!

Governmental organizations or large corporations who come up with all sorts of Save-The-Environment crap and then approve/allow or be part of activities such as capturing sharks and other animals FROM THE WILD (like, oh, just off the Gulf Coast boleh lah), and trapping them in tanks, for display like one large, live TV screen...

Sandstorms, dust, haze, construction=destruction=polution...

And just the plain scary, gross, stupid, or stuff of nightmares...

Choked-to-death fish?

Supposed to be Miso Soup... But seaweed, fungi, froth? Pond scum I say...

The sotong macam people tangkap from Underwater World. Enough Sotong Bakar to feed your entire family, and then some. Alternatively, you can make Calamari Necklaces...

The size of chicken wings here. I like to call ém "mynah" wings...

Emirates - Keep Discovering? Yeah, I "discovered" THIS in a can of tuna flakes. About tooth-size...

"Wine"and bacardi-breezer-wannabes. Non-alcoholic of course...

Food styling at a highly-acclaimed restaurant...

And of course, who can forget the "festive"decor at this 5-star hotel one Christmas... God Rest Ye Santa...

Scary-a** camel...

Scary-a** chicken that makes weetle children cry...

And the Plain Stupid...

I suppose, all the stupid and annoying stuff is what we'll laugh about, looking back many years from now. Will I miss it? No. So it's goodbye for now, without regret. Everything that has a beginning, has an end...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

UAE ID Pre-Registration Form Software

OK, here are screen shots of the UAE Id Pre-Registration Application, for those who aren't sure what needs to be filled, cos there are a few bits here n there that are quite mind-boggling. Click each picture to view larger image.

1: Personal Data, Nationality & Passport Data, Characteristics

Note: First Name & Middle Name are compulsory fields. For those with Chinese names like me, what I did was fill in my first name as per normal, then my Chinese name in the "Middle Name" field, and my surname in the "Family Name" field. Hope it works. If you have a typical Chinese name, eg. Tan Ah Beng, I guess just put "Tan" as your first name, and "Ah Beng" as your middle name.

2: Birth Data, Residency Data

Note: Residency Permit File Number is the 7-digits printed on the UAE Visa page in your passport. It's in a string of numbers, eg. 123/4567/XXXXXXX. Don't fill in the whole string of numbers with the slashes. Just the last 7 digits.

3: Addresses

Note: Better know the exact location... Cos they're trying to organize it according to "sectors", so Burj Al Arab, JBH & Madinat are located in Umm Suqeim 3. I had to select this for myself cos I don't know the proper sector for The Gardens.

4: Delivery Address

Note: By "Collector", they mean "Recipient". So if you want the ID Card sent to someone's workplace once it's ready, you have to fill in the Recipient's name & number. Again, I can't be sure if they'll really deliver it to my home, which is different from the Main Address that I filled in the earlier page, cos I don't have a P.O. Box for my home. So I put Ben as my recipient, and hopefully they'll deliver the card to him at the hotel.

5: Language, Occupation Data

Note: Mandarin is not in the list. Only "Chinese" or "Malay", for us Malaysians/Singaporeans.

6: Qualification Information

Note: Your School/Institution/University name can't be too long. It doesn't state maximum characters allowed, and I didn't bother to count, but just keep it short.

After you click Save & Print, you'll be allowed to select where you want to save the form as a PDF file. Then you can print it from a laser printer, or send the PDF to a friend to print.

Good luck!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Eida ai-dee

Here's a quick update about the UAE ID Card 'situation'. It's such a mess and there've been so many complaints about the whole registration process that they've come up with a few desperate measures.

EIDA's website still crashes or hangs when anyone tries to access the page for the online application form. And I think I may have wasted my Dhs.40 for the darn "special" envelope that I purchased from Empost. Cos I really don't know when they might mail me the "proper" form. Insya-Allah... next week? Next month? Next year?

Now, several organisations have chipped in, and provide a link for people to download a "special" software. I've tried it and it's quite a good idea actually. You simply download the zipped file, extract, install the application named "pre-registration". Click here to download the file.

Open the "pre-registration" program, fill in your details, and click Save & Print. What the software does is gather all your info, and save it as a PDF file on the "proper" bar-coded form. This works well, cos at least, if you don't have a laser printer, you can send this PDF file to someone who does, who can then print it out for you on a LASER printer as instructed.

Note that this only eases the PRE-registration process. Now you have to go down to your nearest EIDA office and queue, queue, queue. Most people who've survived this drama spent about 4-5 hours at EIDA, waiting, queuing, waiting some more... Some wait almost 6 hours, only to be told that they've exceeded their "quota" for the day and to come back another day... to queue and wait all over again. You've have to be like that torchlight in the old Eveready battery ad - dan lagi, dan lagi, dan lagi...

Some wait outside the office from as early as 4am, just to get in line. But if you know Dubai, then you also know that "waiting in line" means rushing to a counter like lemmings to the cliff's edge. Yup, NO LINE. No order. No system. Everyone just rushes and crowds the counter, pushing, shoving and shouting to get the "one guy"'s attention.

Actually, they have a system. It just doesn't work.

I've been reading all sorts of horror stories from 'survivors' and am really dreading my Date with Eida. But I think I might just forget about waiting for Empost and just use this "software", print the bar-coded form, and get to an EIDA office asap. Cos who knows when Empost will mail the "proper" form to me, or maybe they might send me an SMS weeks later to say that they found an error on my form after "scrutinizing" it for one month. Makes me think of a certain racist joke about a fella staring at a bottle of Tang Orange cos it said "Full Concentrate".

Oh, and the 31st Dec deadline? Now they say that the Dhs.1,000 fine wont be imposed on professional expats who don't meet the deadline, and get this, they also won't freeze your bank accounts as previously threathened! And professional expats can still register for the card after the 31st Dec deadline. But they also say, this does not mean that the deadline has been extended. Once again, WHUUUUDD?

Ok, let me see. The deadline of 31st December still stays, but you can still register after the deadline. So, what's the deadline for? I think they're just trying to weird us out. Like that kid in The Matrix who bends the spoon but says it's not the spoon that bends but you. There is no spoon.

Here's a funny thing about the pre-registration software-form-thingie though. In the name field, First Name and Middle Name is compulsory, whereas Family Name is optional. And get this, there's also a field for Famous Name. Seriously, seriously! Oooh... so many choices! I've narrowed it down to The One&Only, or Bernie The Brave. Now I'm gonna spend the rest of the day scrutinizing these two Famous names, and the tribal council will meet tonight to vote out the weaker of the two.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Has all kindness gone?

The World I Know ~ Collective Soul
Has our conscience shown?
Has the sweet breeze blown?
Has all the kindness gone?
Hope still lingers on
Are we listening
To hymns of offering?
Have we eyes to see
That love is gathering?
So I walk up on high
And I step to the edge
To see my world below
And I laugh at myself
While the tears roll down
'Cause it's the world I know
Oh it's the world I know

Monday, November 17, 2008

Drama in Karama - Part One

The “authorities” in the UAE have implemented a new identification system for all UAE citizens and residents – a national ID Card, with built-in “smart” features that will eventually replace the need to carry multiple cards like driving licences, passports, employee cards, etc.

This “project” actually started a few years back, carried out on civil servants and professionals in the government sector as initial lab rats. Then some time earlier this year, I read an article somewhere that all UAE nationals were given a deadline in mid-2008 to register and have their ID Cards made, and that after this, the same exercise would be carried out for all residents including expats in the country.

I remember mentioning this to Ben, and he said we needn’t worry cos his company’s HR dept would surely alert or advise him about it if our turn came. However, they didn’t, and about a week ago, a colleague of Ben’s received an email from his brother working in a different company. This other company, along with most other companies in the UAE, have been busy registering their staff for the ID Cards, or at least advising them how to go about registering for the card on their own.

Things hardly ever get done here in Dubai and the UAE. It either takes forever, or you just give up trying to get people to GET-IT-DONE. We don’t mind getting things done ourselves, but not everything can be a DIY affair.

I self-medicate so that I don’t have to see a doctor. I look for fix-it tips for almost anything from the Internet so that I can reduce the need for technicians or what-nots. Thanks to Kemahiran Hidup lessons and armed with handyman tools, I can get most of the basic electrical, plumbing and other "handyman" stuff done around the apartment without calling the guys from Maintenance. Anyway, whenever you call someone to get a lightbulb changed in Dubai, at least 3 guys arrive (the most I've seen is 5). One to the hold ladder, one to climb up the ladder, one to retrieve the new light bulb from its packaging, one to flick the switch on or off, and sometimes one guy to oversee the whole thing.

Anyway, I can’t “do” banking without the bank itself right? I can’t book a flight ticket without an airline. If some other party is needed to get something done, be it a technician, sales rep, customer service officer, government official or whatever, you just kena WAIT LONG LONG.

So Ben’s company still seems to be going with the usual lackadaisical flow of things, while the rest of Dubai is in gabra-zebra mode. The unusual burst of activity and sense of urgency was caused by the announcement that all residents/expats have to register for their UAE ID Cards by 31 December 2008. Ben called me from work last week, telling me to read the email that his colleague forwarded to him, and to GET-IT-DONE.

There was a link to the website of the “authority” on this matter, the Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA). I read that the December deadline was for all “professional expats” in the private sector, holding a University degree, residing in the UAE. So I call Ben and say, “I’m a housewife, not a PROFESSIONAL EXPAT”.

Ben says, “Just GET-IT-DONE anyway. Or call the Singapore or Malaysia Consulate and ask them”. I tell him that the Consulates here don’t bother about anything but Deeparaya parties or outdoor activities, and they never bothered to email and advise us on this matter, so what would THEY know.

So fine. When Ben’s adamant about getting things done, I can’t say otherwise. So yesterday, I took the early morning Jumeirah staff shuttle bus to the Central Post Office in Karama. How did I manage to catch a bus at 8.30am? I didn’t sleep and stayed up from the day before of course.

Why the Post Office? Well, you could print out the registration form from EIDA’s website, EXCEPT THAT THE LINK IS NOT WORKING and hangs/crashes. And anyway, they insist that the form has to be printed from a LASER printer only so that a barcode can be printed clearly on it. If you visit an EIDA office (only 2 or 3 in Dubai) to get the form, you still have to go to a Typing Office and pay 40 Dirhams to get it typed for you the way they want it.

So Empost (Emirates Post) sells a "special" envelope with a PRE-registration form for 40 Dirhams. You just need to fill it, return it to Empost with a copy of your passport & residence visa, and they will “scrutinize” the form for any errors.

But get this, they’ll call or SMS you if there are any errors. That means, you’d have to go back and GET-IT-DONE all over again? Why can’t they just bloody “scrutinize” the darn thing when you submit it? Anyway, if everything goes well, Empost will get the PROPER form barcoded for you and mail it back to your PO Box along with an appointment date with EIDA. When? How long? I dunno.

At the Central Post Office, like all counters in government offices in Dubai or Malaysia, there are about 20 counters but just TWO open. Only ONE counter caters to people who want to buy the Pre-Registration Form/Envelopes, and there’s a haphazard queue of about 25 people waiting here (Notice how people have to queue around and between the rows of chairs). I stand in line, and less than a minute later, there are already another 10 people queuing up behind me.

The idiotic thing about this whole affair is that I don’t even know if I need to register for this. All I want is to ask them first, if JOBLESS HOUSEWIVES are considered “PROFESSIONAL EXPATS WORKING IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR”. Cos you never know eh, some say to-may-to, some say to-mah-to.

Suddenly this wise-ass male clerk stands at the next counter, saying “LADIES ONLY. HERE. Ladies’ queue.” So the few ladies in the queue move to this NEW row. I’m happy cos I’ve jumped from #26 in the queue to #2 in this Ladies’ Queue.

There’s this Caucasian lady who doesn’t want to give up her #5 spot at the original queue, but the clerk insists “Ladies HERE!” so she reluctantly moves over. Ladies’ Queues/Counters are usually served by ladies lah. But then, the dumb-ass lady clerk pushes her trolley of forms to the next, next counter, and calls out “Minimum 25, 50, 100 form only”.

They really are so BLOODY LAZY here. The lady clerk was supposed to serve the Ladies’ Queue, but instead decided she’d rather sell the forms in batches of 25, because they already came grouped in batches of 25 and she didn’t want to waste that little bit of energy removing the paper band around a batch of 25 envelopes, neither did she want to use her brain to calculate how much to charge if someone wanted 3 forms or 12 forms.

Selling 25 at a go was easy. Just collect 1,000 Dirhams and give the customer the whole pack of 25 envelopes. NO NEED TO COUNT! NO NEED TO LIFT AN EXTRA FINGER! NO NEED TO USE BRAIN!!

There are of course office clerks or HR people who are here to buy a bulk of forms, so about 10 men migrate from the original queue to this other new one. Meanwhile, the male wise-ass clerk still stands at the “ladies’ counter”, but he makes sure he stands about 2-feet away from it to prove that he isn’t manning it. I have to shout out my query about “housewives” to him. He doesn’t have any idea what I’m saying, and instructs me to move over to the next, next counter, to ask the dumb-ass lady clerk.

I ask her if I need to register cos I’m a housewife and I don’t work. She looks at me blankly and says, “How many form you want? Here only minimum 25 form.”

Okay, so maybe some say to-may-to and some say baba-ganoush. Like, WHUUUUUDD?

I think, what the heck, I’ll just register anyway. “I want ONE form”.

Again she says, “Here minimum 25 form. 1,000 Dirham”. I retreat back to the so-called Ladies’ Queue. But wise-ass male clerk isn’t serving anyone. Suddenly they all realize they don’t want a Ladies’ Queue, and ask all of us to go back to the original queue, which has now doubled in length.

The Caucasian lady who must have been queuing since they opened at 8am is fuming now. She starts yelling at the clerks in English AND Arabic. They point out that if you want 25, 50 or 100 forms, you queue at the counter with dumb-ass female clerk. If not, you re-queue at the original queue. This angers her even more and she shouts, “Wahid! Wahid! One by ONE! Not 25!!”

Somewhere in my head a Cerekarama-like voice-over plays:
Drama minggu ini! Detik-detik penuh semangat, penuh aksi! Sungguh dramatik!

The rest of us ladies are reluctant to re-queue too and still stay at this 'limbo' counter, caught between the original counter and the “minimum-25” counter. A few of us decide to try and 'make 25' by pooling how many forms we want. Two ladies wanted 8 forms, another two wanted 4, and then there was me, ONE HOUSEWIFE who’s supposedly considered a PROFESSIONAL WORKING EXPAT in Land-of-the-Lazy. So we get our batch of 25 and divide it accordingly. Yay.

Now time to fill up the form and join ANOTHER queue, to return the form, get a postal slip and wait for the PROPER form to arrive in the mail with a date to visit the EIDA office that promises more queues, more idiots, more drama. Oh, joy. And so now I wait, for Part 2.

Friday, October 24, 2008


It's annoying how people take me for a "lady of leisure" or "taitai" just because I'm house-bound. I don't have a job, but it doesn't mean I don't work. Household chores take up a big chunk of the day, and I admit quite a lot of time is also spent on unimportant things, like Facebook and emails.

I tell people I surf the Net and am on the computer a lot, but again, this doesn't mean I'm a web bum. I spend hours surfing job sites for Ben, foodie sites for the two of us, online articles about favourite topics... And of course, hours and hours in Photoshop. If I have photos to retouch, this means non-stop " 'shop'ing " for hours till my eyes see double, my 'mouse' hand stiffens and my back finally gives way.

Unfortunately, I'm also ridiculously anal about the little things that don't really matter. Like making sure the thousands of songs or videos in my external hard disks are properly named, categorised and sorted. Stuff like that. This can take hours and days too.

I'm the screen, the blinding light
I'm the screen, I work at night

It's understandable how many people might think I'm lazy, or that I lead an easy life when they find out that I usually wake up at noon, or later, or sometimes even at around 4 or 5pm. What they don't understand is that I sleep as late as I wake. In a week, I'll sleep at around 2-4am on 2 nights, and for 4 nights, I would go to bed some time between 5.00 - 8.00 AM, and usually, there'd be one night when I'd stay up till morning, and slug it out the whole day without rest.

I really don't think you can say it's unhealthy. That "early to bed, early to rise" notion is old-skool rubbish lah. I've never been a 'morning person', and get as much done in a 'day' as anyone else even if I start my day at three in the afternoon. When I was in school, I studied better at night. When I was in art school, I did all my art work only after midnight.

Fluorescent flat caffeine lights

Perhaps it's the stillness of the night that is soothing. No phone calls. No usual daytime disturbances, interruptions or distractions. It's just you, facing what lies in front of you, knowing that while the rest of the world slept, you were creating something that they would wake up to.

I'll squeeze into heaven and valentine
My bed is pulling me

And after your work is done, you can sleep soundly while the world wakes up to too much noise, too much information, too many crowded streets, too many restless people.

So please, don't call me a lady of leisure, don't call me a taitai, don't call me a bum, and most of all, don't call me in the morning if you can help it.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

In between jobs

After I left Singapore Airlines and before leaving some of my other jobs, I attended several interviews for positions at quite a number of places. Most of the time, these were for Graphic Design or Marcomm posts, but I also applied for Customer Service positions and a few other generic jobs.

I usually ‘feel my way around’ at the start of an interview first to decide right away if I’m interested or not. Usually, it’s the initial ‘connection’ with the interviewer. Is he/she gonna be the person I’m working under? Does he/she seem pleasant enough? Is he/she faking it?

The longer the interviewer puts up a front, the longer I do too. If he/she seems genuine from the start, then so am I, and we see if we can connect. If I don’t like what I ‘feel’ from the start, then I usually just switch off and let the interviewer carry on as I decide what I’d like to have for lunch or wonder what’s on TV later.

Some interviewers act all bossy and strict, as if to come across as being professional and to test if an interviewee can handle the pressure. I think it’s stupid, cos if that’s really the plan, then that means he/she isn’t a boss, but just wants to BE the boss of you. That means he/she usually just bullies employees into getting things done.

I always believe that people should work for someone out of respect, not fear. Why be a leader commanding an army of men who fear you, when you can be a leader who commands people who RESPECT you. Bullies are just pricks with no balls.

Then there are the worthless half-wits who probably saw “Flight Attendant” on my resume and thought they’d call me in for an interview just for the heck of it. They don’t bother looking at portfolios or asking about graphic software proficiency. NOOOO… They just want some eye candy, hope that I’ll turn up in a skin tight kebaya with a slit that runs right up my thigh and maybe even luck out with a lap dance after some coffee and tea. #%*!@ morons! And they always, ALWAYS ask the same thing. “Waaaah, so you were a stewardess ha? Must be very glamorous ah. Why you quit?”

There was this guy who said I didn’t LOOK like a designer. There was this other guy who said my work wasn’t any good. There was this dude who said that all staff were ‘advised’ to spend every Friday night getting wasted together at a club as part of their office ‘teambuilding’ effort. And then there was The Butch.

Yeah, the scary butch whose desk was a chaotic clutter of papers, files and stacks of gold 555 cigarette boxes. She sat with her legs so wide apart as if she had more between them than any man, mammoth or bull had. I guess what’s worse than a bully with no balls is a butch bully with too much.

Before I joined the wine company, I actually worked at this one place in Singapore for just two days. It was a Customer Service position in a small outdoor-advertising company, located in the ‘ulu-ktulu’ Kaki Bukit industrial area. I insisted that I did not want to be a designer in their Graphics department, and the director was quite happy to hire me as Customer Service cum personal assistant. The pay was good, and throughout the interview, she discussed how I could “glow” with the company.

The only problem was the company was tiny. The office staff were made up of ONE admin/office manager, ONE accounts person, and me. There was another director, a few sales people and a small team of graphics people I never met since I got out of there while the ice was still intact.

The office manager was a married, but very effeminate middle-aged man. He was ol’skool. I mean, the typical chinaman-stingy-as-hell ol’ skool sort. My first day at work, he passed me a form, on which I had to sign a confirmation that I had received ONE blue ballpen, ONE pencil (no sharpener), ONE half-used eraser, ONE stapler, ONE row of staples, and get this, ONE paperclip. I had just come from “The Club”, where Jacky the supplies guy allowed us as many pens as our hearts’ desired and paperclips came by the box. But here, I had only ONE clip... One clip to bind them all... My precious...

The first half of the day was spent in ‘shock treatment’ orientation, with the stingy sissy showing me around the tiny office. Only He held a ‘special pass’ for the photocopier machine, and there was just ONE computer in the office, which also had ‘exclusive’ internet access, to which only He held the password.

If I needed to photocopy something, he’d have to approve it first and then reluctantly tap his ‘special pass’ at the copier. If I wanted to print something from the internet, he’d take a look at it, and say that we shouldn’t waste ink and paper. So I’d have to copy EVERYTHING down on an old piece of recycled office stationery with my ONE blue ballpoint pen.

The next segment of Shock Therapy was Filing 101. This old man probably never stepped into a Popular Bookstore before. It wasn’t as if the company was those “Go Green” sort. Plastic L-shaped folders and file dividers were unheard of here. Instead, I was instructed to cut up leftover scraps of glossy art paper and card stock from rejected colour proofs, to form makeshift L-shaped folders and file dividers, joined flimsily with sticky tape (I had to ‘borrow’ the cutting tools and sticky tape from the manager of course).

The final part of Shock Therapy was Literal Shock Treatment. This happened each time I went to the toilet. Switch on the toilet light – ELECTRIC SHOCK. Switch off the light – ELECTRIC SHOCK again. I could actually see sparks fly out of the light switch as the live current ran from my poor forefinger right to the nerves around my funny bone. I think it even tickled my armpits a little.

The office was also quiet, VERY quiet. No radio. No chit chat. No mad typing on keyboards or mouse clicks since there was just that ONE very special computer in the office. So I sat there at my empty desk, with my newly made paper files and MY PRECIOUS pen and paperclip, hoping I didn’t have to pee again, and praying I wouldn’t let out a sneeze, squeak or fart that would break the already awkward silence.

That night at home, I kept telling myself, “You need this job. You need the money. You need this job…”

So the next morning, I actually went back for more. I really can’t remember how I got through this second day. I think the director gave me an assignment, and I had to look up companies in the directory, make cold calls, make follow-up calls, and contact event companies for quotes for a joint-pitch for this really big job that I knew this place couldn’t handle.

I also went to the back of the office to grab more scraps of art card, and lo and behold! The ‘HUGEST’ grandfather cockroach ever! Shock therapy complete. I called in sick the next day, gave some bullshit story the day after, and never showed up again.

It really sucks to be in the ‘in between jobs’ stage. You’re either desperate to leave your current job, or desperate to get a job cos you already left your previous job because it reached a point where you said, Enough is enough! But being and feeling desperate sucks. Being piss broke sucks even more. Being desperate, piss broke, AND in debt sucks the worst. To make matters worse, you go for interviews where people try to bully you or tell you you’re not good enough. You get so desperate you actually take on jobs that you know in your gut isn’t right for you. Trust me, I know.

It’s not really a proud “been there, done that” moment. But it’s an experience that you will go through, a hardship that you WILL overcome, so that you can give others who are in the same boat Hope, because you survived.

There may not be fairytale endings, but clouds do have silver linings. Bet your bottom dollar, the sun DOES come up tomorrow. And believe it or not, miracles do happen. So hang in there, cos it might just be a day away.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Where everybody knows your name

Since I’m not working, I have all the time in the world to do nothing much, except look back and laugh at myself or others. As I’ve already started on the subject of work, I’ll write a post each for places I’ve worked at in the past.

After my one year at “The Club”, I worked at a wine and spirits company in Singapore. Like the job before, my title at the company was always vague. Sometimes referred to as the Graphic Designer, sometimes Marcomm Assistant or Executive.

My job was simple enough. In-house designing for the company brand, such as logo re-design, magazine & press ads, website design, signage and displays, packaging, and mainly point-of-sale design collateral for the company’s customers, like tent cards, wine menus & posters for restaurants, pubs, hotels, etc.

It was at this company that I learnt to leave work on time. Not because I was finally good at time management, but because almost everyone left on time. It was a small company of about 24 staff back then, and the office was located in a building in the Tampines industrial zone.

A hired bus shuttled employees at this ‘ulu’ building to and from Tampines bus interchange in the mornings and evenings, so every evening, at exactly 6pm, everyone would hurry down to catch the bus at 6.15. If u missed this bus, you’d have to walk quite a distance through this dark and quiet industrial area to the nearest public bus stop.

You can’t help but want to leave with everyone else because by 5.55pm, the ladies would start packing their little handbags, shutting down their computers, tidying up their desks and counting down the seconds. Some would even make calls to each other to find out if the other party was all set to go. Like, “Oy So-and-So, u ready oredi? Ok see u”, or “Ay So-and-So, five-fifty-five oredi… balik loh”.

They HAD to get home on time each day to watch the latest episode of the current Chinese drama series on TV. (And of course the next morning there would be the usual discussion of the drama that took place on TV screens across Singapore, over breakfast).

So most evenings, I actually left work at six-pee-am on the dot. This was cool, although it was a bit of a culture shock cos I was so used to reaching home when it was already dark, so some evenings I’d simply jalan-jalan around Tampines Mall or someplace for a few hours till it felt more ‘normal’ to go home.

Because I finally had free evenings, I decided to take my Higher Diploma in Mass Comm as a part-time course, attending classes about 3 times a week after work. This was the start of introduction into the typical Singapore work-culture – working full-time and constantly studying part-time to attain something ‘higher’ – a diploma, a cert, a degree, or whatever we presumed we needed to give us “added value”. But taking this Mass Comm course was a good thing, even if not to “add value”, I was reading and writing again, something I’d hardly done since I left school.

It was crazy though. Reading stacks and stacks of books, writing stacks and stacks of papers within almost-impossible timelines. After living in Singapore for almost 5 years, I finally stepped into a library… and I was hooked. I had a premium membership which allowed me to borrow 8 books at a time. Most were for reference from the extensive list of books we were advised to read. And later, after I graduated, I’d still borrow loads of other books – design & photography stuff, food & cooking, nature & the environment, early childhood education & natural history. I guess I behaved at a library like how some behave at an all-you-can-eat buffet, grabbing as much as I could carry even if I knew I couldn’t consume it all.

Anyway, back to work. Of course there were nights when I did have to work till 10/11pm. Khim and Janet worked till really late very often too. It was quite scary if you were the only one left, because all the lights in the building and other offices would be out and you'd literally have to feel your way along the pitch black corridor towards the lift. I seriously can't imagine what I'd have done if I suddenly felt or heard something other than the usual empty space ahead of me one of those nights.

My messy workspace

In the office, most of us sat within earshot of each other, except for the Accounts department and the directors' rooms. Khim and I worked directly under Flora, the Sales & Marketing Manager, and we got along really well. It was impossible for me to not get along with Ida, cos we had the same shared love for non-stop snacking and idle chit-chat.

More of my messy workspace. This was also where anyone could leave snacks n goodies, so my workspace was also where everyone (even The Boss) came to binge.

Karen was a lot tamer than the rest of us, but there were times when she would really flare up if The Boss or the sales people pissed her off. She and Sabrina (the Accounts girl for our ‘sister’ or ‘mother’ company) lived in Pasir Ris too, and there was a time when they actually convinced me to join them at the Community Centre for Aerobics class.

Larry is the sweetest and most patient guy we know, and he never, EVER loses his cool. He sat to my left, and in front of Ida, and I still have no idea how he could tahan the two of us chatting non-stop from 9 to 6.

James, The Boss's uncle (and brother to one of the richest men in Singapore) sat behind me. He's a really humble and friendly guy, and never really bothered anyone about work much. It was all about his wine cabinets for him, so as long as you helped him design pamphlets and ads, or fax this and that, he was happy. He would ta-pau really really good food for us all the time, like the best ‘chye-tau-kuei’ (raddish cake) in Singapore, the best curry puffs in Singapore, the best pies in Singapore… it always had to be from the best stalls/shops.

James used to ‘cover’ for me a lot too. You know how, the people who live closest to the office are always the latest to get to work? Khim lives in Jurong and Ida lives in Commonwealth but they’re at work by 9 each morning. I live in Pasir Ris and the office is about 20-mins away by bus, but I was always late. Sometimes 9.15, sometimes 9.30… sometimes even close to 10! The Boss would come in at around 9.45, and some mornings he’d be unusually early, or I’d be exceptionally late.

This was the usual ‘Bernie’s-Late-For-Work-Again Cover Up' :
  1. I’d SMS Khim to let her know
  2. She’d switch my computer on and inform the rest that ‘operation cover-up’ was in action
  3. The boss would walk-in, pass my desk, notice me missing and look at Ida or James for an explanation
  4. Ida would point in the direction of the toilet and say “Stomach ache” or James would point upwards to signal I was on the roof (I would usually go to the roof for a ‘breather’ or to work with spray-mount for posters or spray-lacquering cards)
  5. I’d finally arrive at the office and leave my bag with the building’s receptionist, then cool-ly walk into the office as if I’d been there since 9, knock on the boss’ door and say, “You were looking for me?”

This was the super cool thing about working in a small company where everyone was like one happy family, and everyone shared the same dislike for authority, or “The Boss”… even the boss’s uncle!

Khim and I

Ivy, Nick, Trovan and Joel were in Sales. Ivy was loud, brash, quite vulgar, but the best in her field. Nick was a lot more reserved. Trovan and Joel were the younger guys, and Joel was the messed up shortstuff with the scary girlfriend I mentioned in an earlier post. Ida would refer to him as 'cicak kering' (skinny/dried lizard) cos he'd slink into work each morning, sneak up to my desk, and try out his 'Line of the Day' on me.

I remember one time, he approached my desk with a copy of the New Paper and said, "Miss Chi-i-i-n... We should go for this together?" It was a small advert in the papers, calling for contestants for Mr & Ms Chinatown!!

With Ivy, Karen, Ida, Larry and Khim

We were allowed to have the radio playing during work, and Ida would sing or hum along to songs most of the time, even if she didn't know the lyrics or the tune. "Under Pressure" was Khim's song, since she was always stressed out especially when The Boss wanted this or that changed for the millionth time. James would always make fun of names of callers or company names, like "LL" or "LJ".

If we ever had to take the crowded MRT heading West from Tampines after work, we were always assured an entire row of seats with the expert gestures of Ida, our official 'MRT Seat Blocker'. She'd target an empty row as the train slows to a halt, brisk-walk in, take the seat in the centre of the row, spread her arms out like a mother hen, then call out to us, "Ah, come, come!". No one else would dare take these seats, and embarrassed but giggling like schoolgirls, we'd sit and chat all the way to City Hall and beyond.

2006 Reunion with Karen, Khim and Ida

Now the oddest thing about me working in a wine company is that I don’t drink. I used to get really bad allergies if I drank the slightest bit of alcohol. Less than half a glass of beer or wine and a rash would appear on my arms within an hour, spread all over my body, and stay for a day. Long Island Tea or Tequila shots would hit me within 20 minutes and the rash would stay for about 2 days. And nothing helped – anti-histamines, jabs, calamine lotion, scratching till my skin was red and bare…

So you could say I missed out on all the ‘fun’ when we had wine dinners, wine tasting sessions, wine training for staff, and the occasional special lunch when managers or directors brought us out to celebrate someone’s birthday, farewell, promotion, Chinese New Year or just cause.

Everyone's birthday was an excuse to have cake and lunch treats.

I must especially mention Derek, one of the directors. He's what I'd call the hardcore wine guy, with a personal cellar full of dusty old bottles plastered with labels like Lafite, Petrus and the likes. He brought us out for 'power lunches' at nice restaurants - lunches that would stretch past 2 hours, pissing of our boss. 'The Boss' couldn't do much cos he was the young MD, whereas Derek was old-skool.

There was only one place to have lunch nearby - a sort of 'kopitiam' catering to the offices and factories within this industrial area. So quite often we had to rely on Larry to bring us to other coffee shops or food courts in Tampines cos he was the only one among us 'regulars' who had a car. Flora and the sales people brought us out for lunch quite often too, if they were around.

A group of people from very different backgrounds, all brought together by a similar interest, investment or just plain love for good food and fine wines, we were a small and happy family, for some time. Then, as usual, Change came along, this time by its other dreaded name, Restructuring.

People weren’t happy, and bit by bit the cookie crumbled. Ida and Karen left. I left. Khim & Flora left. Someone from Accounts ‘disappeared’. A few from Sales decided to sell something else. And as usual, just a handful stayed and survived, even till now. Though scattered all over the place now, we still try to meet up once a year, like a family at Chinese New Year reunion dinners.

2008 Reunion with Larry, Khim, Sabrina, Karen, Ida and Janet

I guess, one cool thing about job-hopping is that you (usually) make happy families along the way. The places you work may just be stepping stones, but sometimes, you form a bond with the people you meet on this never-ending road trip, and they will always be as much a member of your extended family as any uncle, aunt, ‘tai lo’ or ‘mui-mui’.