Post European Holiday Blues

I came back from my two weeks of quick gallivanting around Europe last Saturday. I went to a bunch of cities with different purposes in mind and not counting Austria, (I was in for a full 13 minutes as the bus driver from Liechtenstein stopped to rest) I clocked 6 countries in total: Krakow and Warsaw in Poland, Brussels and Antwerp in Belgium, Luxembourg, Zurich in Switzerland, Liechtenstein and ended the trip in Barcelona, Spain. Oh, I went to Strasbourg, France too. That’s the beauty of Europe, countries are close by, you can pop by on a train and within two hours or so, you are speaking a different language with slight cultural differences, currencies and attitudes.

One thing that struck me on this trip was how everything was a little dejavu. I feel like I’ve been in those old towns, in the same restaurants, in similar set ups on some other trip. Every city has an old town with the ubiquitous clock tower and nicely-restored old buildings.

I also noticed how courteous the drivers are even when I was jay-walking or trying to cross in front of a moving tram. They would stop and wave me off. Amazing! Over here, some ass would always try to run me over at the pedestrian-crossing. I also appreciated how in some of the countries I visited, people didn’t think much of switching from one language to the next to help me understand them.

In Brussels, I sat down with a bunch of European expats and they switched from French to English to Dutch and then some German with such ease that I was so envious of them. I wish I grew up in such an environment. Granted yes, back in Singapore, I thought nothing of switching from English to Malay to Mandarin to understanding my ex-boss in Cantonese and then joking in Hokkien with some crew members but it isn’t really the same, is it?

During the trip, I had a huge case of euro-envy. I defined this for Le Manfriend as a case of penis-envy sans the penis. I liked that no one was staring blatantly at me even when I was dressed normally and lot showing extra skin. Even when I was in my sun dresses, no one bat an eyelid. I can’t do that here without some men gawking. It is one of the frustrating things about living in Istanbul. I think it isn’t just because I am foreign, local women get this treatment too.

The coldest it got was 8 degrees at night in Krakow. I stayed in a hostel amidst the mountains in Liechtenstein and that was pretty cold too. I love it. This tropical girl loves the sun but only if I have easy access to air-condition like hoe we deal with the heat in Singapore - run to a mall. Now I am back in burning hot Istanbul but looking forward to a beach vacation in Belek, Antalya and probably Side where I heard temperatures get up to 50 degrees celcius. Hurrah. Not.

Don’t get me wrong. I will be indoors with the AC and chomping away at the all-inclusive buffet spread for sure.

So you want to teach English in Istanbul?

The semester is coming to an end. Barely 16 teaching days left but why does it feel like an uphill climb, even more so now than the start of the school year? It doesn’t help that they are going to close down two kindergartens and the teachers there will lose their jobs with less than a month’s notice.

Amidst rampant rumours of losing their summer salary and having to sit around till August if they want to get paid, word has it that if they manage to convince their students to enrol at the main campus located in the convenient middle-of-nowhere land, they might be able to hold on to their jobs. When did that become a core job description of a kindergarten teacher?

The private school scene for native teachers here is basically the following:

Get into a school that will pay you enough or more than enough so that it covers your rent, bills and daily expenses. Usually this is well above the local salary for someone with the same amount of experience and qualification.

Try to negotiate a return-flight or accommodation into the equation if you can.

Oh, don’t forget the SSK and Vergi deal if you want to stay in Turkey in the long run.

Add classrooms of privileged runts from high-income families into the equation and some baby-sitting. Clock an average of 25 hours of teaching per week and that’s your “career”.

Also, it really helps if they have heard of your country and the fact that you speak and have spoken English everyday since you uttered your first word.

Yup, this captures how İ feel now.


It’s been a while since I read this quote. Probably good for a reminder.

Dinner plates selection process - the start to proper adulthood and here’s to hoping you won’t have the same taste as your mum

Dinner plates selection process - the start to proper adulthood and here’s to hoping you won’t have the same taste as your mum

Adulthood and consumerism goes hand in hand

Not to sound like Renton from Trainspotting, in under two weeks, I’ve gone from owning a 160x200 mattress, a pre-loved 2-seater sofa bed and six Ikea bags of clothes to choosing a fridge, washing machine, fake rococo bedroom set and a bigger sofa bed. Not to mention, a computer table, a computer chair, a bookcase, a glass display unit, an antique wooden vanity mirror set, an ikea “lack” side table, a big square table/ottoman ikea thing and a “lack” coffee table.

To this newly acquired stash iof things, I added a set of 24-pieces of pristine white plates and bowls from Spain. They are pictured somewhere after this entry. Kerem bought a cast-iron wok for me as a house-warming present because if I had to choose one essential thing in the kitchen, this is IT. I can perform miracles with just this one item.

Since I moved in last Sunday, I’ve lost the need to decorate my new pad. The thought of the building going to be demolished in a year stopped me from wanting to paint the walls this long weekend. It is just not worth it to be spending money on painting it over. The best I can do is put up a picture or two with blu tack, my trusted friend in decorating a rented apartment.

I think back to when I started my journey with just my blue Quechua backpack in Aug 2010. Almost 4 years later, how did I end up with so much more stuff?? Stuff scares me. Stuff seems to bog me down and anchor me to a place but Kerem reassures me that you can sell off stuff or give them away. I want to hang on that.

I wonder if I will ever own my own apartment. It is such a scary thought to start a mortgage. It will mean always having to have a job to repay said mortgage. It will probably mean something to anchor you to a place. It will mean being in debt for the next how many years you signed for the loan. I aim to avoid that for as long as humanly possible.

word play

Here’s some light-hearted updates from my quiet life in Istanbul. Kerem’s sink was leaking today and he had to call in a plumber cos it isn’t the usual kind of leak. He turned to me and asked, do you know anyone who is highly recommended on dripadviser?

Kwa kwa.

The other day, I threw out some week-old guacamole from the fridge which he dubbed, GUACAMOULDY.

Kill me now.

death at a funeral

This morning, I was awoken by the urgent voices of my mum, sis and aunt who were in the living room. Nenek Uda passed away earlier when Cik Ati wanted to wake her up when she was leaving for work.

I had gone to bed early but spent the night surfing aimlessly on my phone so I barely had 3-4 hours of shut eye. We called the undertakers from last week and left for Tampines. It probably is a good thing everyone was still on compassionate leave from my dad’s funeral last Thursday. By sheer coincidence, her grave was to the right of my dad’s. Hello neighbour. The last time I saw her was at the same cemetery when she had arrived late because Cik Ati thought the funeral was after zuhr prayers.

I’m tired of being sad. I don’t even know where to start grieving. In the back of my mind, I know I’ve been putting it off long enough and it is time to go settle the bureaucracy and paperwork involved with the death of a parent. Ju, Sharyl and I are all in the same club now, the anak yatim club though by our age, we can surely deal with the death of one of our parents.

The funeral today managed to distract mum, sis and me for a bit. Tomorrow is the last day of leave that my sis will be taking. Then, it is back to the grind for her.

A part of me wants a new beginning some place else but I’ve always finished what i started unless you count that short stints at Discovery and Suria which were pretty damn shit.

Btw, i witnessed the bathing of the corpse and yup, don’t take things for granted. Even in death, there is biasedness. It isn’t one size fits all when it comes to the white cloth and cotton we will be buried in. There’s only so much cloth and i fear that when the grim reaper comes for me, I might not be able to fit into those loose cotton cloth that the lady undertaker has. Also, i hope I won’t be a burden to the living when they have to haul my large dead ass around. Gotta do something while I have time left.

one month and life goes on they say

It felt longer than a month since Dad’s passing but here we are on the 20th of April Easter Sunday, something totally not observed since we live in Moslem Turkiye.

I know there are scores of Jews and Armenian orthodox folks somewhere in Istanbul but I have yet to suss out where they live. Balat?

This morning, I woke up thinking of the time I lived in Barcelona, the first time I spent an extended period of time away from my family. The Spanish peseta was almost on par with the Singapore dollar and my father would bank in a thousand bucks every month for me. At least, I think it was a thousand, though if you asked me now, that seems like a huge sum of money for that time period in 1999-2000. I didn’t have to pay rent and I don’t know how I spent that money but I did. Maybe it was less and I’m mixing it up with the money I got from him every month when I was in Melbourne.

I can’t emphasise what this meant for my family’s monthly expenses but I was oblivious to the possible sacrifices that my mum and sis might have made on my behalf and of course, my dad. He earned around $2000 I suppose at that time and thinking back, I was a totally pampered brat for spending half of his income while I was away for those 1.5 years.


grief hits when you least expect it

I haven’t had much time on my own since I flew back to SG. I spent my days surrounded by my mum or aunt or the new cat Tyler we got from Fred or I would go to meet close friends who had time to sit and chat with me.

Earlier this morning, I was on my qatar flight and was sat next to an old Spanish dude in one of the few two seater sections on the 3-3-3 seat formation of the cattle class. I was watching one of the (spoilers alert) last scenes of a local film Ilo, Ilo when I suddenly started weeping st the sight of the main character boy Jia Le when he cut a bit of his maid’s hair and sniffed it as she left for the airport.

I want to remember how my dad smelled like and at that moment I could conjure up a faint memory of his scent lay on the hospital bed. Right now though, my mind is racing to the fact that I’m in an airport and i could head to the duty-free section and look for the Jazz cologne he used to use that will take me back to the 80s/90s or the green bottle of Polo with the men playing polo on horses which he used in later years.

I know people take stuff or look through photos. I took the huge 75L deuter backpack that he used on trips to Malaysia. It started out as mine but I had way too much baggage for my exchange program to Barcelona that I had to leave the brand-new backpack behind. We bought it in Queensway together. I finally decided to retire my 14-year-old Quechua backpack. New beginnings.

I could Google “dealing with grief” or “how to cope after the death of a parent” but it would feel contrived and pretentious as if I needed a format to follow as to how to behave. How should I behave? Who takes two weeks off work to grief or settle things? Don’t everyone just get 3 days off? Was I special cos I live away from the rest of my family? Is it time to relook at my priorities as one friend pointed out or do I go on living like I did for the past 3 years or so since I started my journey? So many questions, no actual right answer for any of it.

My mum started giving good firm goodbye hugs these past few years. They are close and she uses both arms and for a family that’s not really haptic/touchy feely, this is really a move in the right direction I suppose. Gosh I’m tearing again just writing this.

I need an outlet for all these thoughts. I haven’t written in ages and I’m going to use this to help me along.

one week on (wrote this on the mrt)

A week since my dad passed on. This is around the time I sat outside to take a nap and Fadila showed up. We talked about my dad and I showed her into the room when my other relatives left.
Today, I met up with Nanny but we didn’t get into the whole conversation where I cry when I explain how I just sat there on Tues nite to talk to him with the curtains closed and laid on his chest. Then, at a particularly sad moment in my confession, his hand made a few jerky movements and seemed to want to pat my head. It made me sit up cos I was afraid I might be hitting a nerve or something but for me, that sudden patting movement will be taken as a sign of closure for me. That’s all the closure I needed.

may i pass away* ?

Last nite I said goodbye to the very first man in my life. I witnessed his passing and as I lay here in a strange bed next to my mum, I try to reflect on the last 24 hours.

I don’t want to edit my writing, like how I don’t want to edit my memories of him. He was a provider and always made sure we were given the best. I never had to take on a part -time job to help pay for school. I was spoiled as a teen. He would paint the whitewash gosh don’t know what u call it in English kapur kasut, that chalky liquid white stuff you paint on your canvas school shoes and get all over your blue school uniform skirt when u sit down during assembly and it was done quite late the night before because you were such a lazy girl and so it didn’t have time to dry by the next morning.

During the night in SGH, I let Ayah listen to his favourite Casiopea and a dash of Earth, Wind and Fire cos listening to the surah yassin on loop was never gonna happen on my watch. Well, when day broke and before people started showing up, I did what was expected of me and turned it back to the Quran. Sigh.

I googled all I could during the night about signs and symptoms of the “last days of life” and “facing death of a loved one” and “last stages of cancer”. Words like “mottling skin” waxen, cold extremities of the body, death rattle, some other words about how he looks like he is gasping for air, there’s a scientific phrase for it that I can’t recall. But all these facts and symptoms and all the googling just didn’t prepare Mr cos I have never seen it in practice.

It didn’t occur to me and sis that when his breathing slowed down and it was more than 10 seconds (I actually counted the seconds out loud) between breaths that those were going to be his last breaths. It did dawn on me when I felt his fingers and they didn’t feel as lively as before when he would curl them a little or resisted my touching and bending that the end was very, very near.

I also read a line where they said sometimes u need to tell the person that you love them and that you are just going into the next room for a bit before you step into another room cos usually, that is when it happens. Somehow they don’t want to let go in front of their loved ones.

I wanna continue this but my eyes are heavy and it is very late/ early in the morning. Good night world. Goodbye Ayah.

* refers to a lame comedy sketch that my dad saw in one of the rare times he was forced to watch a Malaysian film. The person in the film had a very basic command of English and asked “May I pass away?” instead of “May I pass through?”

This is the only thing I found that I could agree with on this website that makes me weep and want to poke a fork into my eye.

homecoming stress

I leave in 3 days or so and feel a little stressed from wondering if I will overfill my bag and what I can leave out and whether there will be drama at the airport. Actually, I’ve played out a million scenarios in my head and none of it helps because worrying is like chewing gum while trying to solve an equation. I just want to zen out and go for my 2 weeks in Singapore and JB and enjoy the company of friends and family. Is that so much to ask dear brain?

This song is familiar but I arrived at it when I googled a man with bayi toncit hair who just accepted a golden globe for a soundtrack of a film. Alex Ebert.


groundhog day

If you knew the amount of times I have gone back and forth to this certaın place, you too would have left thıs country by now. How do ı wrıte about ıt wıthout gettıng caught by the thought polıce, ı heard they are crackıng down on foreıgn ınfluences. fırst attempt, told to apply for a dıfferent thıng, second attempt, told to go to a neıghbourıng country for a stamp and come back. thırd attempt, told to go to a certaın person who wıll dısh out more stamps on a pıece of paper and hand over an amount of money and then get a fourth tımıng.,

When wıll thıs end? thıs was all very unnecessary and ıt ısnt lıke ıt wıll last me a decade. 6 months tops.

ım tıred. tıred of ıt all. zzzz.