28 March 2006

Kobe, Kanae and Hayato

I have been wanting to put up cute little Hayato's pictures but never found a good pretext. Now there is one - it's spring and I am going to Japan! For work yes, but I am going to swing by Kobe to see Kanae and Hayato.


Curious Hayato

Bunny kissing Hayato

19 March 2006

The young woman and the old woman

Although countries are often congratulated for having rapidly modernized themselves into the league of developed nations, I have found two major downsides to rapid modernization that ought to be taken into account when determining the pace of development. The first is the noveau riche mentality. (Cf »my post on Bejing.) The second as I recently found out is the strain on mother-daughter relationships.

In an era long past and never to return, mothers and daughters led fairly similar lifestyle. Life urbanized quite slowly, at a pace acceptable to the general society. For a country that took a hundred years to double its GDP per capita, there were three generations of mothers to spread the change over. For a rapidly industrialized country however, there is all but one generation to bear the entire trauma of the change.

In an era long past and never to return, it was reasonable to adopt a yang er fang lao attitude and to expect your offspring to stay by your side. It was not likely that the education level and level of exposure of mothers and daughters differed as drastically as today. Today, we would find that in one generation, no woman had ever gone to college; but in the next, women are going for post-graduate degrees. In one generation, it took fifty-six years for the old woman to make her first Trans-Pacific flight; but in the next, it took nineteen for that first Trans-Pacific flight, then less than five subsequently for 100,000 miles to be travelled.

In an era long past and never to return, women were homely and time away from home meant stints in which one was reluctantly pulled out of the home nest for a greater cause like work. But in the current era, it is quite possible that the young woman relishes this time away and genuinely enjoys being a citizen of the world.

This entire burden of change rests on the single old woman (instead of the three in the past), who still expects her nestling to stay by her side. But the young woman flies and stays no more. Her heart still lies with the old woman, but that is not enough for her. Why is my daughter not happy to stay by my side when I was happy to stay by my mother’s, laments the old woman.

The young woman does not know how to explain to the old woman that the world has modernized too fast and placed too heavy a burden on her.

So she tells the old woman stoically and simply - in life, one can only look forward.

The past is an era long past and never to return.

10 March 2006

Say hello to my frog prince!

JAKARTA - I first saw my frog prince in the Vientiane airport two months ago but was too cheapo to pay US$8 for it. Since then I have been thinking about it and trying to look for it in vain.

At last, I found it in Jakarta this time. Kudos to our Indonesian colleague Ms D!

P.S. My frog prince crrroaks when you roll the wooden stick over the ridges on its back! And depending whether you use the fatter or thinner end of the stick, my frog prince changes from a young frog to an old frog. I was so taken in by it because when I was in Japan, there was a frog who was stuck in the pipe of my dorm and it would croak all night. The croaks of this wooden frog prince really reminded me of that pipe frog :)

09 March 2006

Jakarta undercurrents

This is my 3rd time to Jakarta but probably the first time that I enjoyed it. For the past two times, Jakarta was the boring, chaotic city which I didn’t look forward to because, in my own words, “There is nothing to do in Jakarta”.

To a very large extent, this is true. When I thought of Jakarta before this trip, only a crepe restaurant, a fusion restaurant (Koi) and the amazingly affordable hair treatment stood out in my mind. There are no world-class museums, no orchestras, no Arc de Triomphe, no Bangkok shopping finds. (Okay, there are some cheap Polo and bra buys, but those are about it.) Jakarta is not a walking city at all and the bad traffic inspires lethargy on even the most enthusiastic of visitors.

But in its own ways, Jakarta is alive. Only that it does not reveal itself easily to outsiders the way Paris or Rome does; it takes an insider to link you up to the undercurrents of Jakarta.

Perhaps it is significant that this time that I was in Jakarta, I had the fortune to be taken around by two local Indonesians. Feisty Ms D had driven us around yesterday, and we were fascinated by the modern designs* of bars and restaurants in Kemang amidst the impossible Jakarta traffic. Then today, Ms W brought us to F Bar and introduced us to the excellent band, One Vision. Although they were mainly doing covers, the quality of their voices was very impressive. Somehow, noted Ms W, Indonesians are endowed with deep mellow voices the way blacks are. She also commented that the Indonesia Idol is a lot better than the Singapore Idol. Gyrating to the tunes by One Vision, Ms M and I couldn’t help but agree.

One hour into the good music, I started to think that perhaps, famous bands are more the product of good packaging than anything else. Which is to say that Indonesian bands like One Vision could well have the potential to be as famous as Black Eye Pea. They are already a natural; I really liked how they mingled and chatted with the audience afterwards without any airs. With the proper packaging – good PR management etc, they are surely ready to break out into the world with hits of their own. By then, Ms D’s Japanese girl friends would no longer have to beg her to send them CDs of Indonesian bands.

Live music. At the end of the night, I realized that that is the part I relished the most about Jakarta – it is just so easy to find live music in Jakarta. (My hotel even has a pianist-singer in the afternoon.)

Where labour is cheap, music abounds. That unfortunately is the harsh truth, isn’t it?

* Mr L would say that the unfortunate thing about Jakarta is that the design is great but more often than not, the food does not match up at all. I had to agree for the Italian restaurant that Mr L brought us to the other time.

Sensory overload

JAKARTA - I looove the sensation but I always feel quite guilty when I ask for this:

“Hair spa and foot reflesi please.”

Jakarta is probably the only place where for US$6, you can have twenty fingers massaging you at the same time – ten for your head and ten for your feet. The first time I had this hour-long treat, I must admit I was very confused by the sensory overload. Just where should I be feeling? Ooo ooo, the head, the head. That feels good. One second later, the foot... The foot feels so good. And ahh, I can feel the stress being taken out of my skull now. Then ouch! That’s an accupoint there on my toe!

The net result of this sensory overload is that I have to shut my eyes in the hour or so I am at the hair salon. Both in comfort and in the attempt to shut off any other channel of sensory inputs to my overloaded brain.

Sometimes I wonder if Karl Marx is turning in his grave to know that two proletariats are serving one capitalist exploiter of labour. And more so, if he knows that the proletariats are probably earning only 10% of the miniscule sum paid by the capitalist…