Saturday, April 29, 2006

Why I Live Where I Live

I am inspired this Sunday by Sunday Scribblings #5 to continue this little story I wrote some years ago: Always Saigon.

The trip from our refugee camp in Kuala Lumpur to the airport was exciting. We were taken in a small open bus at night through the streets of the Malaysian capital. I recall the sights and sounds of a very vibrant city. I particularly remember the night markets with shanty-looking noodle joints and strings of light-bulbs that adorn the fruit stands. There were people going about enjoying their night activities. To say the least, this was a welcoming change from nine days in a life-and-death struggle with the seas, fifteen days on a small and barely inhabited island waiting for the Red Cross to pick us up, and four months in the prison-like compound of the refuge camp, where the four members of my family shared a bed in one of the many small concessions lined in rows and rows of what resembles an outdoor flee market. That ride on the bus was an eye opening view to freedom. At that moment, it seemed, all of the past five months didn't matter, because we were alive and we were on our way to a new beginning; a new life; a new land - one with apples and chocolate!

Much of my first airplane ride was a blur to me, except the memory of my mom being sick from the flight and the constant worry of my parents of what will come next. Understandably, my parents were still operating from a position of fear and anxiety. I remember my parents tightly gripping their only worldly possensions, which consisted of some clothes and a couple of one-hundred US dollar bills sewn into the hems of my brother's and my shorts, and firmly holding our hands as we were lead from one point to the next through the airport and into the plane. I am so proud and grateful of my parents for all of their struggles to bring us to where we are today.

Strangely however, I do remember enjoying the airplane food - it was, as you can imagine, quite enjoyable. I also remember the cute little stainless steel airplane cuttery and a photograph of an Air Canada airplane that my brother and I each got from one of the flight attendants.

When my family got to Canada, our first destination was Edmonton, where we stayed for three days to endure much needed full physical examinations. Our initial impression of Edmonton was how simple it was. The houses and buildings weren't as spectacular as we had imagined they would be in the new world. We weren't particularly impressed, but we were nonetheless grateful that we were there.

We were housed in a military base during our three-day manditory visit in Edmonton. To our relieve, we got a fresh change of clothes. My most memorable experience in Edmonton was the first meal my family had in Canada, in the buffet-style cafetaria of the military base. Everything was new to us (well, at least to me) - the crackers for the soup, the jellos, the roast beef and mashed potatoes, the salads, the ice creams and (in hindsight, most hilarious of all), the lemons, which were so big that my parents argued over whether they were actually oranges!

Our translator in Edmonton told my parents that our final destination was going to be Toronto. To the relieve of my parents, she also said that we were very lucky to heading to Toronto because it was a clean, safe and multicultural city. She was absolutely right.

My family arrived in Toronto on October 10, 1979. At the airport, we were greeted by our sponsors, a group of Christians from United Church, including the minister and his family. I remember the confusion of my parents as all of these folks came to our aid. They were still operating in a mode of fear and anxiety and continued to clutch tightly onto their bags as they were being assisted, but I sensed that much those feelings dissipated when the minister, Mr. Rodgers, introduced himself and his group, and warmly welcomed us to Toronto.

The group gathered for a few pictures with my family, making us feel so special, when they were the special ones. We stood in the centre of those pictures, but I don't feel we were the centrepiece - our friends from the United Church were. To this day, my family feels indebted to the generosity and warmth of our sponsors.

From the airport, Mr. Rodgers drove us to our new home. Along the way, he gave us a guided tour of the city. I didn't understand English at the time, but I understood him. My family and I were incredibly impressed by the beauty of Toronto - the skyscrapers; the CN Tower; the wide, clean streets.

I can distinctly remember the smell of the pine cleaner when we entered the lobby of the apartment buiding on Woodbine Avenue in the east end of Toronto. It was like a dream come true. Our United Church friends had given us a wonderful home. The apartment was fully furnished. The fridge was full of food. The closet was full of clothes. Our life was full of a new sense of hope.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

How to Please a Woman with Chocolate

If a diamond says forever and flowers say beautiful, chocolate must say sweet, sweet, sweet! Chocolate alludes a sense of indulgence that leaves a sweet after taste, like the warmth of longing after a passionate embrace. By the twilight of a lazy evening, under soft moonlit piano melodies, a small morcel of chocolate fed to a lover's lips with a gentle caress of fingers' tips, melts more than the sweet stuff. Not a word needs to be said.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Surreal Day In Saigon

When I was oh so wee
I sat upon grandma's window sill
And watched the sky with glee
The day they stopped to kill

Flying machines filled the sky
Like swarms of buzzing bees
One with a cross swoshes by
With a soldier's wounded knees

Propellers fluttered overhead
Such a marvel to little me
As I dipped my slice of bread
In my condensed milk tea

I watched well into the night
And wished it would never end
But mosquitos began to bite
And grandma said to come again

I snug a final hopeful glance
As I bid a fond so long
To lights that seemed to dance
That surreal day in Saigon

This poem was inspired by a Sunday Scribblings writing prompt, "When We Were Wee".

Saturday, April 15, 2006


They'll say fate is a tough competitor
Never bow your head to their pressure
Success only comes when you strive
With both your hands together

Friday, April 14, 2006

Ten Ways To Better Health

While shopping in one of the numerous Chinese malls in Toronto, I came across a rice bowl with the following inscription, in both Chinese and English, that gave me a joyful moment of zen:

Ten Ways To Better Health
Less Alcohol, More Tea
Less Meat, More Vegetables
Less Salt, More Vinegar
Less Sugar, More Fruit
Less Eating, More Chewing
Less Words, More Action
Less Greed, More Giving
Less Worry, More Sleep
Less Driving, More Walking
Less Anger, More Laughter

Then I thought, wouldn't it be great to come up with a few more? Here are some that came to my mind:

Less Hate, More Love
Less War, More Peace
Less Sitting, More Dancing
Less Television, More Reading
Less Drugs, More Herbs
Less Judging, More Accepting
Less Arguing, More Listening

If you are so inclined, leave me a comment to add to the list!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Real Life

Real life is writing a Sunday Scribbling on Thursday!

I struggled with the meaning of "real life" for a while because of my computer engineering background. I went through university contemplating artificial intelligence, artificial life, virtual reality and the like. So, do I contrast real life with these concepts? Or, do I write about the daily realities of life? Perhaps I am taking too literal an angle.

No matter what the angle, real life is complex.

Engineers and scientists can build hugely powerful systems to try and predict something as unpredictable as the weather, but they struggle to mimic the simplest of the simplest forms of real life. Perhaps real life is not meant to be mimicked, and yet there seems to be a great fascination with the creation, duplication and prolongation of real life by artificial means.

The question becomes what is real? If (wo)man succeeds in creating a being, a robot, a computer program, a nose, a heart, an eye that can mimic all mannerisms of real life, does that make it real? Is it real life?

I believe it is definitely real and it is definitely part of real life, and, with some struggle, I believe it must be real life. My reasoning is this: if it looks like, feels like, smells like, acts like real life and was created by real life, it must be real life!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What would my son attempt if he knew he wouldn't fail?

I had the pleasure of being introduced to Jamie's blog, which by the way, contains some very awesome stuff. From there I came upon Sunday Scribblings and their first prompt:

"What would you attempt if you knew you would not fail?"

Rather than answering this myself, I instead asked my 9-year old son, Justin, who is also initialled, "JET", what he would try. His answer with his usual wit:

"If I knew I wouldn't fail, the first thing I would try would be to convince you that I could fail!"

Monday, April 03, 2006

I've Alive!

Jetism has not yet made it to the Oxford dictionary, but today it debutes in the world of blog!