Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Getting Pursued by Light-Bulb Moments

I've heard and read countless times of travellers finding themselves or what they lost or couldn't find somewhere else, in India or other parts of Asia. In my case, I believe I left a part of me there that I cannot retrieve.

 After eating, praying, and loving (as author Elizabeth Gilbert did), one must also experience some awakening. Or more profoundly, enlightenment. Otherwise, the carbon footprint all the way from America or Europe can't be justified.

 For the more economically privileged, poverty porn is cathartic that it reinforces abundance, and brings them to a realisation that the one important virtue they lack is gratitude. 

India, 2005.
But let's talk about enlightenment that happens on a daily basis. The one that comes in patches when you least expect it, at the most unexpected places. Enlightenment is such a big word though. Not everyone is an intellectual or in touch with their spiritual nature. So I'll call it using an Everyman's term, as I'm sure everyone, in their most switched off phase, has had a light-bulb moment,


In the loo. 
Or the toilet. 
Or, in the comfort room as our friends from across the pond would say.
I don't play candy crush or solitaire on my phone when sitting on my throne. It's handy for thoughts that flow freely when I rid myself of the stresses and excesses of the day. You can keep a pocket notebook and pen so you can jot down ideas while enjoying your 'me' time.

In the shower or bath.
This is where I recite monologues. As I can't reach for my phone or notebook, I have to rely on my memory when eureka moments wash over me at the same time that the shower head blasts me with warm water. So I memorise what passes through my head, and pats myself on the back (try it) if I retain it. Most thoughts and lines end up here. Some on the weekly shopping list. Or to-do list. Sometimes, between rinsing off the shampoo and applying the conditioner, important decisions are made. That explains the 40-minute shower and the hour-long bath.

Washing up in the kitchen.
Not as dramatic a scene as the first two, but scrubbing the grease off pots and pans forces me to concentrate. Soon after, I have the mathematical genius for any budgeting task.

In the park.
 Whose mind has not been decluttered while sitting in the park?

In the coffee shop.
In my pre-med course, I used to burn the candle at both ends studying at Dunkin' Donuts. Or any place where the constant footfall and comings and goings distract me from overly focusing. When I let my mind slightly wander, it comes back with a haul of ideas. It helps when the coffee's good.

Occasionally relegated to the sofa.
My best slumber is almost always in the front room, on the sofa. I wake up refreshed and with better ideas. I talked about this on the blog in April 2013. Click HERE.

Reading a book.
I was about 13 when my 15-year-old bestfriend wrote in one of her letters to me that she's not going to be the husband-and-children-white-picket-fence type when she grows up. She must have read that in one of her Mills and Boon. Hers was a conscious choice; mine was brought about by circumstances. How I do my best to live my life now though is through how I learned it from a book when I was 13. On 'Which Book Made You?', which I wrote last year, I discussed what inhibits us from making choices that contradicts what's expected of us. You can read it HERE.

Having deep and meaningful conversations.
 The one thing I learned when we talk about conversations, is that it doesn't have to happen with another individual. These are conversations happening in my head which are best laid out when written. I'm an introvert and have always preferred writing my thoughts rather than constantly discussing it with friends and family. They indulge me up to a certain extent, but it's quite a slight when my deepest thoughts are not taken seriously, as if the-mad-one-has-gone-haywire-again-we-need-to-temper-her-ideas-with-jokes kind of atmosphere. Have conversations with a diary. You can rant, analyse, act silly, repeat yourself, and be irrational, and you won't be judged. I find that when I leave what I wrote and get back to it after some time, I pick out a lesson or two, and I take them with me.

On holidays.
Setting aside the booze-fuelled ones, a break away from the prosaic demands of the daily grind either revives an old and dusty perspective or gives me a new one. That's why I'm off to one. Today. It can't wait any longer. I look forward to where a break in my routine takes me.

Tell me, where do your light-bulb moments find you?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

I'm a Woman, Not a Man. Therefore, I'm not a Sir.

Whenever I receive an email at work that begins with the salutation, 'Dear Sirs,' I must admit that I leave it for a little longer than usual to reply. A woman who gets to be addressed as Sir, whether deliberately or not, reserves the right to let someone wait.

Number one: I'm not a Sir. When I'm addressed as a Sir whether in a formal letter or e-mail, I feel that it's equivalent to being mistaken for a man over the phone even when my name and voice are obviously feminine. And by the way, who are the other Sirs? Seated next to me is another woman.

Number two: It's sexist. And sweeping. What makes the sender think that a department in any business is run by men only?

Number three: It's politically incorrect. Nowadays when LGBTs can marry or enter a civil partnership in some countries, why am I, a woman, still hidden beneath a title reserved for a man?

Number four: It's not gender-neutral. An officer is. Their is, as opposed to his/her. A manager is. That's why I balk at women who insist on being addressed as manageress. 'Manager' doesn't make you feel less of a woman and neither does it turn you into a man. But 'Sir' does.

It's been a while since I last took a technical writing class, and although I've always been taught that a salutation must begin with a Sir/Madam if the gender of the recipient is unknown, I'm also aware of the old-school formal writing rule of addressing a department as 'Dear Sirs' even though I have always refused to do so. 

Of course I don't believe in the segregation of men and women, whether on a piece of paper or aboard public transportation, but I disagree that women should be collectively addressed as part of the menfolk. It's already a known fact that there's an imbalance in the take-home pay of men and women for doing the same job, that the least that can be served us in the work place is for our gender to be given credit at least when addressed.

Is that too much to ask for?

To acknowledge that I'm a woman. That I'm not a man. Therefore, I'm not a Sir?

Rant done. 

I got over myself and finally replied to the gentleman who emailed me regarding an enquiry. I just received a very polite message from him again. 

He addressed me as Miss.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Last View of the Missing Gate at Dachau Concentration Camp

It's not the usual holiday trip where one admires the views and the beauty spots. It's rather sombre, I couldn't consecutively share this post after my sun-worshipping and beer-drinking intercontinental jaunts. I needed a very good push to publish this. 

It came via a missing wrought-iron gate.

'ARBEIT MACHT FREI' or 'Work sets you free.', as seen at the main entrance of Dachau Concentration Camp, near Munich. Part of the original wrought-iron gate was stolen yesterday, 2 November 2014. I took this photo in late August this year.

Other concentration and death camps bore the same cynical slogan that was part of the Nazis' propaganda to 'humanise' forced labour which was part and parcel of their aim to torture, and eventually, to annihilate.

Some of you who have virtually come with me in some of my travels may be aware now that my childhood interest in modern European history and World War II has taken me to places I've only read and come across in history books and documentaries. From the secret bunkers of Berlin during the Cold War, to the Eagle's Nest and the former site of the Berghof, I use my limited holiday allowance to go beyond the book chapters and TV schedules.

Dachau is a medieval town near Munich, where the first concentration camp was set up by the Nazis in 1933. There were 32,000 documented deaths in the camp, and more undocumented.

A memorial to camp prisoners who took their own lives in act of defiance to the Nazis who were keeping them for forced labour until they can no longer hold out to the physical torture, or they were murdered when deemed useless for work.

The prisoners were colour-coded based on the Nazis' view of their ranking in society.



We were told that if reports were accurate, victims were immediately shoved into the oven after being released from being hoisted up. Notice the pulleys up the ceiling.

The sign that leads to the crematorium reads: 'Think about how we died here.'


The crematorium

The gas chamber. Next door is the waiting room where the victims had no idea of the fate that awaited them.

The former site of the barracks

1 is not just a number. Many of the descendants who learned of their missing relatives' incarceration in a specific numbered barrack have at least a place to pay their respects for the departed.

The barracks as pictured above

Statue of an unknown prisoner inside the Dachau camp. It symbolises how each human being incarcerated and who died there from 1933 to 1945 was reduced to anonymity but nonetheless will not be forgotten. The prisoner stands at his most defiant: right leg forward, hands in his pocket, head held up. The inscription reads: 'To honor the dead, To warn the living.'

During one of the darkest periods in European history, lives and freedom were stolen inside this camp. Now, part of the memorial that witnessed the victims' struggle wasn't spared of being stolen. In our minds, we have shut the gate to that time, but it can't be helped that incidents such as this proves otherwise.

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