the machines

I regret every time I’ve used the word ‘amazing’ up until this point, Louis C.K would agree. But I’ve stumbled upon an installation by Dutch artist Remko Scha on the 9th floor of the CMC, that fully warrants the use of that word. At least for me.

Five guitars that hang, suspended in a metal frame, are played by four machines that oscillate and bounce the four wires strung across their faces.

Creating a wall of noise that rises and falls as the superposition of wave upon wave, that varies with the contrast of natural harmonics and mechanical rhythms, allows it to fade into and out of synchronisation in an eternal, never repeating pattern of syncopated beats.

Music and physics, that’s what I’m talking ’bout.

land of no(t much) sleep

I don’t know how or why or even if this trip may or may not have been different to the others, but it seems I have a lot more to write about. I suspect it’s because its still fresh in my head. However, it may just be that Malaysia (probably for the best) has the most expensive alcohol in South-East Asia.

For that reason, this time, I’ll try a different approach. Commence the chapters.

Chapter Zero. Chinese Exam

What’s that? Chapter Zero? I hear you ask. Listen, please bear with me. You see, the story begins before the actually beginning of the story. Like this.

(several months ago)

Melissa: We should book some flights to Malaysia.

Gage: Yeah, sounds good. When?

Melissa: How about 19th to 26th of April?

Gage: Yes, that sounds appropriate. I definitely do not have exams or tests or assignment due on or around those dates. Let’s book immediately!

And so we did. Needless to say several weeks later I found out about the Chinese exam scheduled to finish 95 minutes before our flight’s departure. Hah, I laughed a little, then was concerned, then we made a plan, then I was excited/nervous, not stressed… yet.

19th of April

18.03: Marco and I meet in the agreed location. Garden, as its known. I order the spaghetti. We take a seat. “Have you got the stuff?” I ask. He produces the class notes. We have a short chat in Chinese. 没有问题。

18.12: We leave for class.

18.15: We arrive early, as prearranged with Sissi. But she is not here. Okay, now I must admit, I was stressing a little, yes, I know it goes against my own advice, I know there was nothing I could do, but the magnitude of this feat was overwhelming. I’m only one man, after all.

18.19: Sissi arrives. “Are you ready?” she inquires.

18.20: Oral exam. Which we take before the class, instead of after when our comrades (which coincidentally is a euphemism for a homosexual in China) would exercise there vocal abilities. It goes well, Marco’s mother and father are fine, they like to go dancing together. Not that its my business, but my Chinese is creepily specific when it comes to people’s families.

18.23: Okay, a water break, toilet break, anything, I need a breather.

18.30: That was a long 7 minutes lets commence the written part. Nope, people aren’t here, not enough paper, can we write, listen? what/./ ohgod!!!1!11! its bucilding up, i cat typerw moer.

18.36: People arrive, we do the listening part, I’m already halfway through the other parts. I’m exceeding expectations.

18.44: This is amazing. Last obstacle, what the word for egg cake? 蛋糕 Got it. I’m outta here. I’m the first to leave, 14 minute exams certainly are the best kind. I’ll let you know the result in due course.

18.45: I call Melissa. She’s where she said she would be. This planning thing is pretty neat, especially when it works.

18.53: We get a taxi. The rest is history.

Chapter One. Kuala Lumpur

So you made it this far. Congratulations, and thanks. Most readers are filtered out by text blocks. Now we can enjoy some pictures. No cameras where allowed in my exam, you see.

Welcome to the Matahari Lodge. The only window we had was actually a mirror. What this meant for the trip remains to be seen.

Some challenges were met, like mistaking Bukis Badak and Bukit Bintang, pictured respectively. We won’t talk about how long that added to our train journey.

We did, however, make up for it, much to the dismay of our stomachs.

I also managed a new profile picture. One that I think my Civil Engineering friends would like.

Hah! I was kidding. Mainly about the friends.

Chapter Two. Haircut

My Mother has always said, ‘without great risk comes nothing.’ I’m not sure how that’s relevant here. On the other hand, I’ve always said ‘Change is as good as a holiday.’ And both together, well, wouldn’t this be a treat.

Chapter Three. SUNRISE

As a precursor to tropical island paradise, we made a mandatory stop at the port of Kuala Besut. The sun wasn’t up at that stage, but unfortunately we were. So we took a walk. We were hunting for something to eat when suddenly a poor night of sleep became completely worth it.

Banana and honey roti anyone?

Chapter Four. Tropical Paradise

Welcome to the Perhentian Islands.

As you may have guessed, not much to do here.

Chapter Five. Kampong

So, I’m one of those guys. By that I mean I’ll happily point at something, anything on a menu and eat it. Its a must for me when I’m travelling. I’ve considered, more and more recently, creating a separate blog dedicated solely to my Asian culinary adventure. And I would, but usually my desire to devour any given dish is greater that my instinct to photograph it before I do.

Nonetheless, Malaysia has possibly the best mix of cuisine I’ve encountered. Chinese, Malay and Indian, all delicious and all available. I mixed it up, one day I’d eat Indian for breakfast, Malay for Lunch and Chinese for dinner, rotating as necessary. Occasionally laziness, tiredness, unusual craving and/or peer pressure would coerce me into thinking western food was a good idea? Never. I regret every burger I’ve eaten on this continent. Pasta even more so. Moving on.

I pointed to Kampong once. Best descision I’ve made. A fried mix of rice, tiny dried fish, peanuts, chilli sauce and general deliciousness. Washed down with some hot Teh Tarik. Well, the hot was a communication error, it was already around 30 degrees. But when in Asia, do as the rocals do.

The curry was also good.Chicken masala in a pancake, five kinds of sauce, each as necessary as the next.

Chapter Six. Spice gardens

I got excited, maybe a little too much, but they had spices, a lot of them, which they grew on site. If you’re into meta-cliché, they say that ‘Variety is the spice of life’, and they had a variety of spices. Is that even meta? Not important. They also had tea, ginger and stevia, very nice indeed.Our friend here joined us for tea, he didn’t drink much.

Chapter Seven. Moped

A trip to Asia is never complete without a scoot about. Despite burnt hands and knees we made it out of Penang without any major injuries. The tropics seem much cooler cruising along at 50kph. You can see more as well.

The mosques were a interesting addition to the abundance of temples that Asia usually displays. It felt like a different place when you could hear the sung prayers during salat echoing around the city. Makes me want to travel more. What’s new, huh.

Chapter Eight. Land of not much sleep

First night, plane delayed arrive at hostel 4am. Second night, reasonable. Third night, sleeper bus, ridiculous, started scuba course at 8am following day. Forth night, had to be up at 8am for scuba. Fifth day, had to be up at 8am for scuba with hangover. Sixth night, sleeper bus, ridiculous. Seventh night, no air-conditioning. Seeing the world is tough.

My life is great, truly.

thunderstorm

Well, well, well.

If it isn’t my old friend the thunderstorm. The friend who is exciting to be around but makes you doubt your decision to venture outside, for fear of being struck in the back of the head by fifty-bazillion electrons. He remains my only friend with that ability, I stopped speaking to the others quite some time ago. 

He isn’t the only friend, however, who rattles my door in the night, or in the day; but he is the only one who does so without without asking to be taken to the hospital because of a drug overdose, or because they cut off a finger while playing with a box-cutter, or because they’ve just been struck in the head by 50 bazillion electrons. He doesn’t even ask for milk.

The thunderstorm and I have an understanding. I sit here working, he plays off in the distance, just far enough so that his booming claps cannot penetrate my headphones, but close enough to illuminate the darkness, like some reverse pyrotechnics that tickle the ground from above, just for me.

They say he never tickles the same place twice, but I know him, he is a creature of habit, who returns time and time again almost always for the same reason as before, like when you return to your favourite park or city or dream.

It’s been a while old friend.

update on the mutant ninjas

The last place that I’d like to find out about the death of my beloved turtles is on the blog of the semi-friend responsible for the potential freak accident/negligence after developing severe jealously and resentment at the owner. Cowardly wouldn’t cut it. Absolute inhumanity might be close. Inturtlanity!

Shyam, your turtles aren’t dead, but they look delicious. Pick them up. Okay?

What do you know? The adjective for turtles is testudine.

complete separation of states

Foreword: I’m on caffeine. I feel that it’s relevant to say so. I don’t drink too much coffee these days. I’m a tea man, you see. And since being here I feel like my tongue isn’t big enough to taste all these eastern blends. I’ll take it one step at a time. Alphabetical perhaps: black, green, oolong, red then white. Ah, hold up a second, how do a alphabetise 中国绿茶?Oh, almost forgot. That’s why I’m drinking coffee today.

Okay, so I’ve just exhausted my vocabulary on a foreword that isn’t what I wanted to write about, but I suspect it may relevant to the topic. Hear me out.

More and more recently, I feel my life exists separate to reality. Right now, for instance, I’m in the library on campus, on a public holiday. Based on current trends its seems that they are the only days I spend here. I certainly don’t visit this windowless dungeon as part of my normal routine. But the extended Easter/Qing Ming Festival (aka Chinese Ancestor’s Day) holiday has seen me visiting the library 5 out of the last 6 (working) days and producing some 5000 words. I’ve outdone myself, truly. You can compliment me in the comment section.

All this work, has helped me to understand the value of days off. I have a friend, who shall remain nameless, that recognises this fact for a different reason, vis a vis partying so hard last Friday that they didn’t wake up until Sunday. That, however, is a story for another day. That’s not to say its irrelevant to my point.

Everything that is happening has a unique individual domain that I cannot reconcile in my head. Things that are happening now or which have happened at one stage or another seem weirdly ridiculous and effectively impossible when side by side, like alternative universes that I somehow transcend with alcohol or caffeine or by library card. How many persons can one people be? (Without needing to see a doctor, that is.)

The only thing that these people and universes have in common is that they exist together right here in the form of a written hyperbole of my life that can’t really be that interesting. Can it?

I’m not sure how the ‘tea’ metaphor was relevant to my tale. Take from it what you will.