Chicken pox and drunken students

Yes, the unbelievable has happened. I have contracted chicken pox.

To get it at this stage of my life! Even Piers is laughing at me saying I’m so cute-obsessed that even the diseases I get have to be cute.

What rubbish? There is nothing cute about chicken pox, I told him, for it is the ugliest, most evil disease. But he argued that only little children get it usually, therefore it’s cute.

Why is it happening to me, then? What the hell, you stupid poxes?

It’s like these Chickenpox-men from outer space have decided to land on my body to have a picnic. They’re celebrating some alien festival by having a week-long party and the whole bloody colony is invited.


Houston, we've found a new planet to colonise!


At first, they send a small expedition team of maybe five to test the water, so to speak. These brave pioneers, upon finding the land fertile and the water fresh and unpoisoned, ring home eagerly to mobilise the rest of the colony.

They start coming in droves, the quickest ones getting to pick choice spots around the body. But there are plenty of good spots to go around, so there is no need to fight. The whole body is an endless field of fun and sunshine all for the taking. They even bring camping equipment to make it a nice holiday.

“Look, Ted, let’s set up our tents next to the navel. We can play bouncing castle in it after our picnic!”

Ted and his friend are soon joined by more friends, who set up more tents and mats around haphazardly. It’s a celebration, folks! Come, have fun and don’t worry about anything! Bring your old, ailing grandparents and newborn babies, too, why not? The more the merrier!

And then, inevitably, some of them wander up to the face.

“Come quick, Amy, I have found us the perfect lookout point for our picnic! The view up there is gorgeous!”

While Amy is swooning at her oh-so-romantic beau, my brain is going, “No, nooooooooooo. Anywhere but my nose!”

Or my cheeks, for the matter.

Or my whole bloody face, you poxy vermin!


Who are you and what are you doing on my nose?


But the Chickenpox-men (and -women) don’t care. The whole point of their existence is to have a bloody picnic on my body and face. They just plonk themselves right down anywhere they like and then text their friends to hurry up and join in the fun.

Between the crazy itch and the disfigurement (and the fear that, if I so much as sneezed the wrong way, the disfigurement would become permanent), I am finding it hard to keep my sanity.

My flu isn’t getting any better after one whole week of holing myself up at home and surviving on oatmeal and honey drinks. I haven’t gotten much quality sleep, what with the painful throat, coughing, sore intestines (from coughing), blocked nose and my chronic neck pains.

And stupid university students who walk past the apartment every night to go to the bars and clubs in the town centre.

These nincompoops are worse than the Chickenpox-men because I know the Chickenpox-men will soon get tired of revelling and go home to Chickenpox Land.

These university students are there night after night, year after year. There’s a large university hostel near my apartment, so that’s where they come from. No matter what day it is, no matter what unearthly time of the night, they’re outside my window singing drunken songs at the top of their voices.

Sometimes they don’t just walk past. Sometimes they stick around the carpark just across my apartment and hold ear-popping rock concerts.

I am not exaggerating. This morning, Thursday, 4:10 am, group of blokes singing in unison loud enough to wake the dead. The ones who can’t sing are laughing their asses off, trying to drown the singing with their laughter, but it’s a tough fight.


The road to nowhere


This goes on every night between 11 pm and 6 am, with different groups of students streaming past every so often. Nobody has put a stop to this for goodness knows how long despite the fact that there are like 30 affected apartments between the hostel and the city of sin.

I don’t know why. There’s even a police station smack in the middle of the path, but I guess the police knock off work at 5 pm like everyone else does in this country.

I can understand the fun of drunken romps, but have none of these people yet realised that they’ve been doing it in a residential area, which apartments are stood out in the open right in their faces?

The amount of partying these kids do is unbelievable. I mean, never mind their studies, they can flunk their asses big time and live on government welfare for the rest of their lives, but what about their livers?

Oh, yeah, healthcare is free in this country so that’s covered, too.

I guess there is no reason not to party yourself to your grave, then.

Piers and I have been talking about moving out to a nice big house some time in the future and leasing this apartment out, but I’d feel really bad for the future tenants who would have to put up with this insanity.

Oh well, at least they won’t be having chicken pox, too. That much one can be thankful for.

Not for me. I thought I’d already gone through hell week (with the flu) but now it’s beginning all over again, meaner and poxier.


And good riddance too!


Survivors Part 4: I thought I was gonna die

[This is a multi-part series describing in gory detail my 10km race through the treacherous mountains of Padawan, Sarawak.]

BHR Nature Challenge 2009

See previous chapters:
Part 1: Crossing the chasm of death
Part 2: We were stung by bees
Part 3: A leech on my bum

Disturbing content

Death Mountain

I wish I could have taken a photo but I didn’t have my camera with me.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, a monster of an obstacle presented itself to us.

It was a cliff face which we had to Spiderman across to get to the top because that was the only way to go.

Death Mountain

My illustration isn’t totally accurate because it’s really hard to draw terrain, but the general idea is there.

We could see some faint outlines of footholds in the path we were supposed to take, but they had been ground almost flat by rain and by other trekkers before us. There was also a scarcity of anchored objects which we could use to haul ourselves across.

Worst of all, though, was the nothingness beneath the trail. We were about 3,000 metres above sea level.

There was a jungle below. We could see thorny plants and trees and shrubs. But the jungle was on another slope and it didn’t look like an ideal place to fall into if one wasn’t ready to be jungle fertiliser.

Jungle fertiliser

Taking a deep breath, Nanny Wen led the way. She encountered some minor incidents (root giving way and stuff) but on the whole did pretty good progress. I followed her shortly after.

When she was three-quarters of the way through and I was only about a quarter way, I got stuck.

“Arrgh,” I yelled, “I’m stuck! I can’t find anything else to grab!”

“Wait, I’m reaching,” Nanny Wen yelled back. “I’ll help you to see once I get up there.”

Everywhere around me was mud and leaves and fungi and unidentified icky things. Maybe worms.

I tried not to see worms. I had trained my mind to think: “That’s just a branch!” whenever I saw a worm.

You are a branch

As my eyes searched desperately for my next anchor, I started feeling my feet losing purchase on the two slippery footholds I had chosen.

I had to move on, quickly.

Setting my sights on a faraway branch sticking out the cliff face, I strained a hand towards it. But before I could reach it, the hold under my feet totally gave way at the same time the piece of root one hand was holding on to started loosening.

I found myself sliding down.

Deus Ex Machina

Crying out in shock, I tried to grab stuff around me, anything, hoping to find something anchored strongly into the cliff face.

I think I must have worried Nanny Wen a lot because she stopped in her tracks and went, “OH NO!”

I slid down a few metres. It felt like a year.

And then, miraculously, I stopped sliding.

I can’t remember now how it happened. Maybe I managed to grab hold of something. Maybe my feet found better footholds.

Deus ex machina

I just remember my mind blanking out in one horrifying moment when all I could think about was the nothingness below me. Next thing I knew, I had stopped sliding.

I hung there for several seconds, reluctant to move. Nanny Wen started to clamber downwards to help me, but I told her to stop.

“It’s okay,” I said. “I got it. Go ahead.”

“You sure?”


After pulling herself up the last few steps, she began to direct my pathing.

My arms were beginning to feel like they were coming out their sockets because I was using mostly my arms to suspend myself, unwillingly to trust the slippery footholds.

Fortunately, with Nanny Wen’s help, I managed to haul myself up with the dying strength of my arms. I finally docked at safe harbour.

We had a few seconds of reprieve as we trudged shakily forward, and then the next obstacle loomed, although now I know that the worst had already past with that crazy Spiderman stunt we pulled.

No Quitting

Borneo Highlands Resort

Thinking back now, I can’t believe we managed to complete the race. There were moments I wished we could give up because the trail was insane.

I began to suspect that maybe Sarawakians are all superheroes in disguise because they just bowled through the obstacles as if gravity didn’t exist for them.

At the 5km checkpoint, there was a real chance for us to give up. The jungle trail led out to a spot of civilisation where tourists come up on buggies to admire the scenery. We could have copped out and followed the next tour group down in a buggy.

I contemplated it seriously. The obstacles had been really frightening, to say the least. I couldn’t believe the race organisers would put any normal human beings through what we had been through.

I asked Nanny Wen, “Do you want to quit?”

She said, “Yes.”

Relieved and happy to have reached the checkpoint, we ran up a grassy hill to the water station and downed a can of 100 Plus each.

100 Plus

Our media host was there. We told him about our bee stings and leech attack. By the time we finished our drink, Nanny Wen said, “Let’s not give up.”

As much as I valued my life, I didn’t like giving up, either. I’m a stickler for achievements. I told myself, “If we can make 5km, we can make another 5km.”

We had taken two hours to finish our first 5km. I was hungry but I decided I could hold out for another two hours.

So we forged on ahead, leaving our last chance for refuge behind.

Nobody told us that the next half of the trail was going to be the more dangerous half. (The suicidal obstacle I had described above belonged to the second half.)

I constantly questioned my own sanity.

What the hell was I thinking?

To make myself feel better, I would imagine real people being trapped in jungles, lost, wandering around for days looking for an exit, tired, hungry, forced to eat bugs and mossy plants.


It could have been a lot worse, right? At least I had red paint to guide my way and I didn’t have to eat bugs. I just had to endure the ordeal for a few hours and there would be a finishing line.

Breaking Down

By the time we were just 2km away from the finishing point, we were both so bone weary it felt like we would dissolve if you so much as poked a finger at us.

Reaching the 2km checkpoint was a bit demoralising because we really believed we were closer, like 1km, instead.

We were just putting one foot in front of another mechanically. If a tiger had come out of nowhere and pounced at us, I doubt we’d have had the strength to run.

My body was shooting signals of pain all over, especially on my back and knees. My feet and shins were cramping from the effort of balancing myself on precarious footholds for hours.

I had gastric pains in my tummy and bee stings on my ankles. My arms were sore from overuse. My feet were literally heavy with mud because there were a couple of swampy patches we couldn’t avoid.

Dirty shoes

The last 2km was madness. I was so weary I would have screamed in frustration at the neverending obstacles if I had the strength to.

Nanny Wen suspected that the trail was more than 10km. The map did say that 10km was only an approximation. Also, the 10km probably didn’t take into account vertical distance, of which there was an abundance.

Finishing Alive

When we finally broke out of jungle and hit civillisation (paved roads) at about 500m from the finishing line, we yelled out in happiness. We couldn’t do a victory dance, though. We were too exhausted.

There were some construction workers by the side of the road. They waved at us and gave us the thumbs up sign. We waved back.

Bones about to fall apart, we trudged up the road hill and into the welcoming arms of the finishing line.


We finished the race in 4.5 hours. We found out later that the champion had finished in something like 80 minutes.

How he did that is something I will never understand till the day I die. Nanny Wen and I never stopped to rest except at water stations for hydrating. We had kept going as fast as we could without compromising our safety.

I can understand three hours. Maybe even two hours. If we had worn the right shoes, we might have finished faster. Our running shoes didn’t have the right traction for the muddy slopes.

Still, 80 minutes is just freaking unbelievable.

Nevertheless, I’m glad we completed the race, even if it was a little embarrassing reaching the finishing line hours after everyone else. By the time we arrived, all the other participants were lounging about in the grass, clean and relaxed, the race all but forgotten.

Borneo Highlands Resort

But we did receive encouraging words and applause from some people who were impressed by us being the only Singaporean participants. The race referee had made a big deal at the start about us being media from Singapore who have never seen jungles.

Well, at least we didn’t come in last.

And I was so glad to be alive.

After the race

Giving woman drivers a bad name

The following post first appeared on on September 13, 2005.

Illustrations are new.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I had a mini adventure yesterday. I drove to Changi Airport at six in the morning.

It feels really good driving when there are hardly any other cars on the road. Especially if the last time you actually drove was so long ago that they haven’t even invented sliced bread yet.

Having no other cars on the road means you have a higher chance of staying accident-free.

I have never been a good driver.

(Which is why I never feel insulted over woman driver jokes. I do try to stick up for my gender, though, explaining that men and women have different talents. For example, men suck at wrapping birthday presents, so there.)

Birthday present

After my dad bought me my first car as a reward for passing my first driving test, the car suffered many bumps and scrapes. I suffered many traumatic moments when I thought someone was going to throw me into jail for being a horrible driver.

For instance, I have difficulty multi-tasking while driving. I can’t watch the road efficiently while I’m lost, trying to figure out whether turning left or right would get me nearer to my destination.

Earlier, I was driving for practice and scared the bejeezus out of some poor pedestrian trying to cross a zebra crossing. I forgot I had to stop and didn’t brake the car until I was near enough to smell what the pedestrian had for dinner.

Pedestrian puking

Anyway, rewind back to when I got my first car. Many minor accidents and almost-accidents later, I developed a phobia for driving. The car was sold when I had to go overseas and I didn’t drive again until now.

I decided to start again because the boyfriend needs someone to drive him home after getting drunk at pub outings.

Of course, that’s only what I allow him to believe since that’s the only way he could be convinced that letting me drive his car is worth the risk of a bumper dent or three.

So far, including the trip to Changi Airport yesterday, I have driven the car a total of four times.

Since we’re counting, I have given about eight pedestrians heart attacks and relieved the stresses of about 200 drivers by giving them a target to curse at. (Cursing someone and giving them the finger is like squeezing a stress ball, right? It allows you to express your stress in a productive, carthatic way.)

I have also bumped the front bumper twice, the back bumper twice, and also knocked someone’s front gate very lightly with my car license plate. Mind you, it was very lightly. I bet the gate hardly even felt it.


On my mini adventure yesterday, I took Elyxia with me — we were going to see Chong off at the airport. Chong was leaving Singapore for a mysterious reason and we were there to cheer him on and to encourage him to buy us cheap Nikes and Levi’s and Tag Heuers and Mont Blancs.

Ely was very much entertained as my passenger because I kept doing the unexpected, such as turning on the car wipers when I’m supposed to signal left. (It is common knowledge that audiences very much enjoy the unexpected.)

In return for my award-winning entertainment, Ely treated me to a breakfast of mee siam and iced milo at the airport.

Speaking of which, the mee siam I had at Changi Kopitiam (at T1) was really good. It was so sour it woke me up good and proper and gave me more energy to present part two of my entertainment program: Driving Elyxia Home.

Driving Elyxia Home

She really enjoyed my Oscar-winning performance of a paranoid neurotic, with my well-timed fugs and shits and am-i-supposed-to-turn-here-now-oh-fug-i-missed-its.

Timing is everything in a good performance, you know.

And, now, in order to raise funds for the Society of Innocent Pedestrians Frightened by Crazy Drivers, I’m selling tickets to my limited-edition performance.

Since I am an Oscar winner now, the price of a ticket has gone up from a mee siam and iced milo to an all-expenses paid trip to HK Disneyland.

Hurry, now, tickets are going fast!

The French Vanilla burns Yang Ba

So, the Goonfather just came back from a China holiday, all excited to show me the presents he’d gotten for me.

“Deardeardear!” he said, “I brought back a menu from a Chinese restaurant for you!”

“A menu!” I said, trying to look enthusiastic, “Imagine that!”

He smiled excitedly as he thrust a large piece of paper into my hands.

Chinese restaurant menu

“Wow, a real-life menu!” I enthused, as I peeked at his luggage furtively to see if he had brought anything else back.

Of course, it turned out that the menu was the best present because it had me in stitches for a few minutes.

Chinese menu items translated into English to hilarious effect are nothing new. But to actually see one with your own eyes just kinda knocks the ground out under you.

I found myself reading every item carefully, savoring each lovingly-crafted dish name with relish.

“The Japan standing grain sauce burns the beefsteak” jumped out at me especially.

Chinese restaurant menu

It was a toss up between that and “This large handcart Liu Ba”.

I’d be delighted to meet the person who names his handcarts and offers them up as delicacies at restaurants.

Or maybe not.

“The shredded pork fries the spaghetti!” announces item number five on the global food category.

Not to be outdone, “Assorted mushroom Bacon fries the spaghetti”, too.

But neither can hold a candle to “The Sauteed Beef Fillet with Black Pepper fries the spaghetti” because everyone knows that dead cows can fry spaghetti a lot better than dead pigs can.

Especially ones that have black pepper in possession.

Chinese restaurant menu

Item number nine claims that “Singapore fries expensively tricky”.

Trust Singapore to try trumping everyone else by being expensive and tricky.

Because, a continent away, underprivileged livestock and seafood are still attempting to find their destiny.

“The lemon deep sea silver snow fish digs up” while a few hundred kilometres away, hopefully above sea level, “The onion citron pig digs up”.

Chinese restaurant menu

I think the onion citron pig might find it easier going because it’s understandably easier to dig up on land than in sea.

Hey, but how about making an example of soup?

Chinese restaurant menu

Don’t be fooled by the name. “Example soup” is actually very tasty.

I’ll forward you some as an enclosure to give you an example.

Chinese restaurant menu

In the meantime, “The western-style pig digs up the food/spaghetti”.

A winner is you!!!

Peaceful-like chicken all over the world celebrate by eating!

Chinese restaurant menu

“The peaceful-like chicken eats” and “The Hungarian chicken eats”! Triumph! Victory!

Because, just before that, Hungary attempted to eat its chicken by first braising it.

Chinese restaurant menu

I wonder who won.

Well, whoever it was that won, it sure wasn’t Wu Dong.

Chinese restaurant menu

Poor Wu Dong got fired. And over what?

Thirty-two yuan, presumably.

At least “The French vanilla burns Yang Ba” over 88 yuan, which is more than double Wu Dong’s retrenchment fee.

Chinese restaurant menu

From all this, we can take away a very useful lesson.

Whatever you do, if you ever visit China, do not, for any reason whatsoever, upset the prawn salad.

Stay away from it as much as possible.

Because it is a “Sentiment deep crazy bean prawn salad” and it will not look kindly upon laughing tourists.

Chinese restaurant menu

You have been warned.