Friday, March 14, 2014

The Book Thief: Book Review


This book, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, does surprise me a little. First I thought it was another fiction, then I thought it was some story about a girl about her life. But when the story starts, I was brought into the perspective of the narrator. By that time, I was still curious who was this narrator and wonder why was he/she there. And turned out the narrator was Death himself. And he talked of historical events and human's idiocy from his point of view, which provoked quite a few wisdom itself.

But this is a fiction after all, he can't go on and on about philosophy and life advice. His narrative focused, slowly, on a girl, Liesel. She was fleeing, with her mother and soon-to-be-dead brother. She was sent to stay with another foster parents because she might be in danger because it was implied later in the book that her father was a communist. Her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Hans was a caring, warm character while Rosa was a strict mama. However, things went by and showed the three of them make a warm family. Liesel, for the first time, learn to read - which was why this book was titled. She was first caught with her stealing the gravedigger's handbook.

Their life was caught in turbulence when the Nazi was rising and the son of a Jew, whom saved Hans in the WWI, Max Vandenburg, came visiting hoping to get a place of hiding. They need to make sure Max was well-hidden while continuing with the deteriorating life style. Liesel made friends with the neighbours, particularly the lemon-haired boy, Rudy Steiner.

Liesel continued her obsession with book, including reading from the Mayor's collection, reading with Max and more. As the story progressed, Liesel developed skill in reading. Just as how Hans used to comfort the people during bombing with his accordion, Liesel read for them in the bomb shelter to lift them off tensed anxiety. Life went grey as the war intensified. People were sent to war, family broken, betrayals at hindsight... And the story went to an ending when one night, Himmel Street was bombed. Liesel was reading at their shallow basement. Everyone died, at least it seemed. Liesel granted Rudy a kiss before he died and shocked with her foster parents' loss.

The story showed later that Max was still alive and Liesel grew up to be book-lover, married and moved to Australia...

As much as the story sounds like an ordinary fiction, I liked the way it was narrated.

Quotes from book:

A small but noteworthy note. I've seen so many young men over the years who think they're running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me.
I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I even simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant...I am haunted by humans.
So much good, so much evil. Just add water.
I want words at my funeral. But I guess that means you need life in your life.
I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that's where they begin. Their great skills is their capacity to escalate.
So many humans. So many colors.
Even enemies were an inch away from friendship.
Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day.
Is there cowardice in the acknowledgment of fear? Is there cowardice in being glad that you lived?
Words can be used in a way that's like a child playing in a sandpit, rearranging things, swapping them around. They're the best moments in a day of writing - when an image appears that you didn't know would be there when you started work in the morning.
One opportunity leads directly to another, just as risk leads to more risk, life to more life, and death to more death.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Fix You by ColdPlay Cover

Posted a new video over what I did on Sunday night because I'm taking some time off. I flunked the chorus part, but other than that, I enjoyed the session, especially with my new music spot, of wait - I didn't mention about my new music spot, whoops.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Reunion Dinner


Reunion dinner, probably something to look forward during a Chinese New Year. I've heard some family has a strict rule/principle, of only commencing their reunion lunch or dinner, when each and every of the family members are seated at the table. Well, I did managed to miss one reunion dinner once because of work, but not since that. After my parents aged, we usually have our reunion dinner in restaurant to save the hassle of preparing the dishes and clearing them up when we have loads of other clean up to do. But this year, it was different. We were still on vegetarian diet because it was not over 49 days for my father's death. Plus, there seems to have nothing much to celebrate or a reason to have it in a restaurant at such circumstances too. We usualy bring Grandma over for the dinner, and maybe invite some of the cousins who happened to be free to spend reunion dinner together. This year, Grandma was no longer around, neither do father. 

It was disheartening because I do have an urge to prepare an extra set of rice, hoping we could pretend father was still there dining with us. But of course, my poor rational mind shoved that all away. We cooked the meal and packed some from the store outside. It was simple, but good - because we were eatingat home together.

Those who were studying or working abroad would have shared the sentiment. The best thing when you get back home, was to have meals with your family. That's something you can't have when you are miles away.

I was not so fond of those mock meat, but I do enjoy the vegetables, especially sticky gluey lady fingers, steamed. It was the same old soup, same old mixed vegetable dish. And we had the same old dessert, which we almost forgot and have to take some time to consume because we were just too full. 

Here is my brother enjoying the meal. It was a very confused dinner.



After the dinner, it was followed by massive last-minute gotong-royong. We made sure no rubbish lying around and neated up the place. We prepared our new pyjamas and listened to the roaring fireworks blasting just above our roof. Others were busy with the praying and fun, we spend the night, resting well. We couldn't sleep till quite late because the neighbours were bombarding the crackers anyway. I was, as always, confused.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Pre-Chinese New Year


It started with me taking my flight back home. It was not a great flight, because I teared almost the whole journey and I wouldn't be surprised if the passenger next to me reported me of suspicious act. I just can't help it. This is the first time I am heading back home when my Dad is no longer there to pick me up. Every time I return home, he was sure to be there, at the arrival hall, waiting - but not this time. And this will be the first time I celebrate Chinese New Year without father. And I felt bad because I was feeling sad because of my own reason, not his.



Nonetheless, the sky was really very beautiful and that was the reason I was oscillating between sad and calm. It was a peculiar feeling. 

And soon after the arrival, the mood was drifted towards the preparations. Because of the situation, our family was not celebrating much. So, everything was kept to the minimal. And I realize there was something good in this because you started to get some time to see what everyone else was doing. It is like feeling the celebration through others. We got to see colourful flowers everywhere, boxes of manadarins piling up to the sky. And I met those hawker uncle and aunties whom I grew up with. There is this auntie whom we bought our economic beehoon every Sunday morning before piano lessons. It was a simple meal but very nice!


As night comes, the whole Jalan Raja Uda was lit up with 'tanglungs' - or rather, lanterns. And not to mention, the increasingly heavy traffic!


For normal days, we stayed at home and chilled, while enjoying our time together as much as possible. Unlike Singapore, the weather in Penang for Chinese New Year are always hot! It just so happened that the little bamboo in my house was flowering. My mum told me that's because the weather was too extreme, I wondered if she was right. Despite that, we cooked most of our meals because commercial vegetarians are not that pleasant when you're going to eat it every meal. I was introduced to this vegetarian oyster sauce which made wonders.



And when we went to EconSave, there were people choosing vegetables and mandarins. The mandarins were cheap there - and sweet too! And this is obviously not a popular choice at this season. Chinese usually avoid eating bitter gourd during Chinese New Year as that indicates hardship or bitter experiences. Superstition or not - I can guarantee they are bitter.


And there's always this cool rows of spices. Just by passing them makes you high because of the fragrances. I would sneeze a little usually. They're part of the essence of the dishes as those who cook would know how different combination of spices can churn up different type of smell and taste. This, good stuff.


So this is part of preparation for Chinese New Year!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

One Month Two Funerals

Procrastination has not been my area. In fact, there are only those few things in my life that I do dawdle about until this came in, writing about my recent happenings. I probably wouldn't go into too much detail in this post because I might leave the extra bonus sneak peek to the few confidante, or perhaps a book or perhaps no one else (procrastination alert again). Either way, here is a story of what happened to my life in December 2013.

11th December 2013
My Granny, from my mother's side, passed away. I received the call on 12th. She was admitted to the hospital out of breathlessness since 10th. It was not the first time, but due to her old age and fragility, every time she was admitted to the hospital out of breathlessness, I was rather prepared with any news that came. So, on the 12th, when I get to know the news, I wasn't expecting anything else. I even forgot to ask if I should go back for her funeral. It was at a later hours when my lab mates talked me to go home to visit her for the last time.

I debated with my parents over whether I should take a bus back or flight. My parents were for the flight option while I was planning to save money by taking bus. In the end, my father said he would sponsor my flight ticket for this trip. I booked the flight through SilkAir and decided to return the ticket money when I went back but my father refused. But, I get to bring my monthly 'parents money' to my father during this trip.

The funeral was a peaceful ones and Granny finally rest in peace next to her husband, my GrandDa whom I never get to know, in their cemetery. The whole thing ended quite well. After brother return to KL, I was supposed to board a night flight back to Singapore. My father was worried about me reaching Singapore too late, while I thought there were still taxi for last resort anyway. 

However, when we reached the airport, the company officer told me the flight I am supposed to board has been delayed to later that night. Instead, they asked if I wanted to change my flight. I thought they would charge, so I didn't ask further and simply mentioned the suggestion to my father. My mother was unable to bring me to the airport because she and her siblings were busy discussing the post-arrangements of Granny's funeral. My father thought it would be good if I can change flight. Turned out that I could change to the earlier flight, which was in almost half an hour, with no charge. My father supported me in getting that change. 'It's fate lo,' he laughed. I think he was happy and relieved to have me reaching Singapore when there is still daylight.


23rd December 2013
My father battled around twenty hours of unwell symptoms before passing away. Everyone was home for Christmas that week. I looked forward for the Christmas lunch we reserved a table for that Wednesday. In the end, the whole week turned into wake and funeral. The details of what happened were indeed precious and heart-wrenching, but I knew I took back much more than that. I learned so many things within that ten days that I felt like I grew so much older in just ten days than in the last ten years (okay, maybe I exagerated). A replay of the whole incident was still a horror or deep-thought-stimulating to me. I'm not sure how's every one in the family is reacting to this sudden loss, maybe I will find out again when I get home for Chinese New Year. And - turned out I have to still pay for my own flight back for Granny's funeral, such is the in-the-end-it-still-comes-back-to-point-zero. 


I know there probably is not much chance of someone reading this, but I would like to take this opportunity to thanks those who helped and showed concern over the period of time. I was astonished to see so many kindness and love in the world. 


So here are the tales of two funerals that happened within a month. I did not mean to write them in detail because I preferred to leave some intimacy between me and them, but I thought writing a summary down would probably help me to set a chapter down in my life.

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