Friday, December 08, 2006

Childhood comfort foods: Tea

I know. Tea isn't a food. But I plan to make this a series (like Cats In My Life, which unfortunately I've never expanded beyond Whiskey, the sweetest cat ever to walk this wicked earth) and "Childhood comfort foods and drinks and anything else that can be tasted" is just so... prosaic?

So. Tea. The story is, this morning I was jauntily walking to breakfast with my colleague when The Unthinkable happened. You know it's not really your day when you can't even get as far as the office door without bleeding. I opened the door without noticing that my foot, inadequately protected by a strappy sandal, was in the way. I actually heard a disgusting "sqqqsshhhhssss" sound as tempered glass and metal sliced through toe flesh. And yet somehow I still thought I could walk to breakfast and deal with the "scratch" later. Until I looked down and noticed the blood oozing. Then, as I walked to the bathroom to rinse it, really oozing.

I turned around and walked back to my cubicle. If that's what happened when I was just walking around indoors, who knows what I might get up to on a road with real traffic? My kind colleague went down to buy our breakfast since our attempt to walk out for food got aborted.

(Yes, this is about tea. I'll get to it soon enough.)

One and a half bungkus of nasi lemak later, with the toe still extremely tender and bleeding, I went to the pantry cupboard, took out a teabag and made myself a cup of tea.

And lifted the steaming mug to my lips. I happened to breathe in just then, and as I smelled the bitter scent, I paused.

The toe still hurt, but I suddenly felt better.

Tea.

When I was growing up, most of my days were spent at my nanny's house. Before I was old enough for the formal education system to claim me, those days were bliss, mostly spent playing with either Poh-poh, Auntie (when she wasn't busy with housework or cooking) or one of my older "siblings" from the Lim family. Or sleeping. Or watching TV. Or sleeping.

Somehow, even when I was too little to understand much else, I knew that 4pm every day was a special time: teatime.

It was a ritual that now, on those rare occasions when I'm with the Lims at teatime, I miss participating in regularly. From boiling the water in the whistling kettle to scooping just the right amount of tea leaves into the strainer in the green enamel jug, it all screams "home": not home the place, but home, that time in childhood when I was secure and happy. To this day, I find cream crackers dry and tasteless but still enjoy eating them. The only reason I can think of is that teatime always involved cream crackers and butter, not just tea. And tea was always with real milk ("the kind you can pour," I thought as a child, "not the powdered kind.") and lacings of sugar, before Auntie sternly told me off for putting my dental health at risk.

Ah... tea. One whiff of it can bring back so much in faded photographic colour. And take my mind off the pain of a deeply cut toe.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A post about many things

I think this article should be required reading in every secondary school and college in the country. Girls should read it because I think, most often, it's married women who give up their "selves" for the sake of harmony or "happiness". Boys should read it because it might still happen to them, and because they have to learn along with the rest of us that along with everything else in life, the primary purpose of marriage is not one's own happiness.

If our school system valued educating students with real life skills as much as it does mouldy, regurgitated facts, we'd see a lot more happy, healthy adults. Mid-life, quarter-life or any-other-fraction-of-life crises would be few and far between because we'd all, male and female, know what we want and do whatever is within our power to get it, while trusting the Almighty to get us there.

It's been almost eight months since I ended my last relationship, a painful decision mostly because I hate causing pain to other people. I am still sorry for hurting him but don't regret my decision. I know marriage is about sacrifice and servanthood, but I still firmly believe that it's about sacrificing and serving while being yourself, not the other person's ideal. Not a suppressed version of yourself who laughs at jokes you don't really find funny, bites your tongue when you're being insulted or put down, or keeps quiet when talk of a life vision that really doesn't match up to your own comes up.

I've had quite a rocky life in terms of relationships... not only romantic ones but those with both parents and some of my relatives. I learned from a young age to be the "peacemaker", pursuing peace at all costs even when it wasn't healthy for everyone involved. Looking back, and even now at one of my relatives now who's still trying to stir up trouble from last millennium (literally), I think everyone involved just needed to grow up. I mean, yelling at your spouse in public; swearing at family members (well, swearing at all); throwing silent tantrums when you don't get your way... if that isn't immature behaviour, tell me what is.

Anyway, I'm not posting this as an excuse to mouth off on those members of my family who aren't likely to read this. That's a little bit like pushing an anonymous poison-pen letter through the mail slot and then running away. One thing I decided when I began this blog is that it won't be a channel for attacking people with. I do occasionally criticise behaviour or actions that I don't approve of, but it's never a deliberate nip at the person behind the wrong.

Wow, talk about random stream-of-consciousness rambling... I know it's uncharacteristic of me to put so much personal stuff on my blog, but today feels different.

Oh yeah, while I'm being random (when am I not?) let me just say that I don't blog to get a reaction or because I'm desperate to see my work published. Not that I don't value everyone who reads [thanks for dropping by :o)] The biggest reason why I do this is because I want to, and hopefully somehow my words will achieve some good. That's all.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

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