September 2008


“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”

– John Steinbeck in “Of Mice and Men

.     .     .     .     .

An old friend asked me the other day why I chose to work overseas.  It was a simple question, one with an answer that was suppose to be at the tip of my tongue.  But I was surprised that I was stumped for a moment and did not know how to answer him.  It was then that I realised that in the run-up to me being here in Cairo last year, I had cited many reasons to different ones – from career advancement, to a lack of choice, to financial reasons, to wanting an adventure while I was (relatively) young and even because my peers were also overseas working. 

Yet, never once did I gave the same consistent answer to those who asked.  It struck me there and then that maybe I never really thought about it carefully.  Maybe this whole idea that its God’s Will is an excuse for me not to give this life-changing move a deeper thought.  I had actually stop thinking once I was told about the “Big Move”.  Thinking is tiring.  And life was tiring enough in 2007.  So saying ‘yes’ was easier.

When I was young, I just want to study, bag some ‘A’s, get a well-paid job, get married, have children and wait for 55 so that I could withdraw my CPF and trod into the sunset.  That was the Singapore Dream, at least for my generation – the 70s kids.  But fortunately or unfortunately life never pans out like that.  You grow up and see life no longer through tinted lens.  Reality calls for wisdom.  There are consequences for choices.   It requires us to think of what we truly want to do with our life, a very short time here really, and how we are going to reach there. 

So after saying so much, am I regretting now?  Not really.  Like many things in life, we don’t and won’t understand how it all fits in the bigger scheme of things.  I have had some real great experiences while here.  Met some wonderful people.  Been to places that I never thought that I would go.  Did things that I could only dream of back home.  Challenged myself and my personal threshold levels several times.  Sure, there were failures and times that I felt that I am moving against the tide.  But each time I come out of it a ‘bigger’ man.  And that is something that cannot be taken away.

Meanwhile, life goes on …            

I know I haven’t been blogging lately but been awfully busy in the past fortnight.  Plus the fact that I have been afflicted with “writer’s block”.  In any case, I hope to get into the swing of things real soon so akan datang. 

Meanwhile, this is something I picked up off the internet … good grief !! 

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WASHINGTON (AFP) – – Computer help desks are used to fielding oddball requests but sometimes the questions leave even the best of them stumped.  Such as: “Why isn’t my wireless mouse connected to the computer?”

Or: “Can you reset the Internet for me?” 

Then there was the questioner who asked: “Where can I get software to track UFOs?” He was presumably not the same person who called in to report that “a skunk ate my cable.”

Robert Half Technology, a provider of information technology professionals based in Menlo Park, California, asked 1,400 chief information officers from companies across the United States to come up with the most baffling questions their help desks or technical support teams had ever received.Among the more unusual were:

— “My computer is telling me to press any key to continue. Where is the ‘any’ key?”

— “Can you rearrange the keyboard alphabetically?”

— “My daughter is locked in the bathroom, can you pick the lock?”

— “Can you tell me the weather forecast for next year?”

— “Can you install cable TV on my PC?”

Then there was the computer user who confused the CD-ROM drive with a drink holder and asked: “How do I get my computer’s coffee-cup holder to come out again?”

Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology, said such queries were a test of the skills of the help and technical support desks.

“These unusual requests highlight the need for technical support personnel to also demonstrate patience, empathy and a sense of humor,” she said.

— AFP

source: Kodak Agfa in Flickr

One of the most important time in the Islamic calendar is upon us again.  Back home, you may not notice much unless you stay near a mosque and/or have Muslim friends.  Yes, the fasting month, Ramadan, has started since 1 September here in Egypt.  For the uninitiated, all Muslims fast from food, drinks, sex and even smoking from dawn to dusk daily for about a month.  The pre-dawn meal before fasting starts is known as “sahoor“, while the breaking of fast meal is known as the “ifta“.  This will culminate with a feast, known as “Eid-El-Fitr“, to mark the end of the holy month of fasting.

Being my first time spending Ramadan in a predominantly-Muslim country, I was caught off-guard by the many (minor) inconveniences to life.  For instance, with 90% of the population fasting (the other 10% are Coptic Orthodox Christians, who while obviously do not fast during Ramadan, also observed fasting periods prior to Easter and Christman), there was almost nothing to eat in the city during the day.  Yes, while McDonalds was the saviour at times, one had to source for other sources of food so as not to be another accidental test subject of “SuperSize Me”.  I have to be also sensitive to my Egyptian Muslim colleagues by not eating or even drinking water in front of them.    

Also, traffic was chaotic after 8pm as the locals would go out in droves after iftar to eat, drink and meet loved ones or friends until the wee hours.  It was impossible to go anywhere unless one walked!  The whole experience was like Chinese New Year, except that this happened every night.  Of course, during the breaking of fast, the streets of Egypt becomes deathly quiet as everyone – rich to poor – would gather somewhere to have their meal and drinks or a puff at the exact same time.  For me, the quietness of Cairo is very surreal as everyone of the 20 million folks in Cairo is indoors! 

Ramadan is not just about fasting, but also lanterns, decorations, festive food (loads of extra-sugary sweets and pastries) and lights.  The whole city lights up in a dazzling array of colours as people go about shopping for clothes, foodstuffs etc, and wishing each other “Ramadan Kareem” (Ramadan is Generous).  I have yet to venture far due to the impossible traffic, but have heard that in certain parts of Cairo, like the famous bazaar of Khan Al-Khalili, it is very beautiful and full of “atmosphere”.  While inflation has hit the people here hard, everyone has learnt to tighten their belts to ensure that it will still be a time of celebrating holiness and kinship.       

In the midst of all this, I felt a sense of loss – I think I am really going to miss this year’s Christmas and next year’s Chinese New Year …

This is my younger brother’s pet – a cavy or guinea pig.  An Abyssyinian, she has nice long hair, though her unkempt appearance is due to our negligance!  … She is a real veggie lover – eating bean sprouts, chye sim, and even bitter gourd! … We have not thought of a name for her despite having it for the past three years … “Scruffy” perhaps?  

Mato is my eldest brother’s pet.  A mini schnauzer, she has an extremely good temperament and have “forgotten” how to bark while growing up; but she has “stair-a-phobia” (fear of the stairs), this had to do with an incident when she was a puppy … Loves having people around her and to cuddle her – her favourite activity is “tummy rub”.