Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Note Slipped In Class


How tired I am of this
unbearable distance between us
How I long for the toll of the recess bell
Have you forgotten me?
Grown mindless of me?
Tell me I am not writing into an abyss
Or that is what will become of my heart

I find this so sweet :)
link from Limmie's blog

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Angels We Have Heard On High

The following story was inspired by another short story Angels We Have Heard On High in the book Joan 'n' The Whale.

It was Christmas Eve.

Snow fell from the sky like light feathers from a down pillow; each snowflake unique and special, then blending in with the rest on the ground in a blinding brightness of white.
The lights from Harvest Church shone like a warm fire in the coldest of winters – a yellow glow on the stark white. Service was about to start.
Pastor John stood patiently before the pulpit, waiting for the congregation to settle down. He heard snippets of women chattering about Christmas decorations and dinner preparations of the turkey, men discussing the increasing prices of decent Christmas trees nowadays and the dangerous conditions of the roads in this weather.
As Pastor John cleared his throat rather loudly, his patience wearing thin, there was a hush over the sanctuary and everyone hurriedly took their seats.
Pastor John stood over the pulpit, his arms holding the sides, and looked each member in the eye. Then he smiled, and a breath of relief went through the church.
Everyone was silent and attentive when he finally began:
“Our Lord was born on this day over two thousand years ago. He was the King of Kings, Prince of Peace, Lord over all of creation. Yet he arrived not in a palace and purple robes befitting his title, but in the humblest manner imaginable – in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, surrounded by cattle and sheep, in the smallest and most insignificant town in Judea.” He paused.
“Joseph and Mary, who was heavily pregnant, had travelled far from Nazareth to Joseph’s hometown in Bethlehem. When they finally arrived, they were tired and completely exhausted from their journey. But they were told by the innkeeper that there was just no more room,” Pastor John emphasized on the last three words.
Before he could speak his next word, there was a murmur from the back of the church. He stopped in the midst of his sentence and strained his neck over the crowd to see what had happened. Every face in the congregation turned towards the direction of Pastor John’s eyes.
At the entrance of the church was a young couple. They looked a little worse for wear. The young man had a beard a week too old, and his wife (“Are they even married?” the women in the church had begun to gossip) was noticeably pregnant. Both were shabbily dressed, the young woman’s shawl covered with snow.
They seemed embarrassed and the man looked frantically among the pews for an empty seat for both of them to sink into oblivion, away from the public scrutiny they had unintentionally gotten into.
It being Christmas Eve, Harvest Church was packed to the brim. The only available seats were right in the front pew, directly facing Pastor John.
The young man was hesitant at first, but eventually took his young wife’s hand and led her to the front. The disapproving looks of the women and men alike followed them as they made their way down the main aisle to the seats. After what seemed like eternity, the young couple sat down quietly, heads down.
All eyes returned to Pastor John, who had silently watched the young couple, noting the clumsily sewn patches in the young woman’s skirt and the young man’s wrongly buttoned shirt. He shook his head as he scanned his notes for where he had left off.
“In Hebrews 13, the Scripture says ‘Continue to love each other with true Christian love. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” Pastor John was taken aback by the aptness of the verses, considering what had just occurred. The congregation was silent, thoughtful.
Clearing his throat he began again:
“The gospel of John says that ‘He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.’ The people of Israel did not recognize him, the Jewish leaders did not recognize him, and the innkeeper who turned them away did not recognize this precious gift that has been given to us by God for our salvation.” He gave a solemn pause.
“My brothers and sisters, do we recognize him?”
Pastor John sat down beside the young couple in the front pew, offering a small smile to them, as the choir stood up to sing a few Christmas carols.
When they were done, Pastor John stood up at the pulpit again.
“Welcome to Harvest Church. We are so very glad to have some visitors with us this evening.” He looked at the young couple.
“We would like to open a time of sharing right now. Anyone who has a need, or prayer concern to share with the rest of the congregation, please feel free to come on up.” Pastor John held the microphone out, his eyes inviting the young couple to come up.
But before the young man could get up from his seat, old Mizzie Everett ran up to the front as fast as her arthritis could allow her to. An audible groan went up and down the sanctuary. Old Mizzie Everett loved sharing time.
Every time sharing time was open, Mizzie Everett was up there, well, sharing. And the congregation would look away, embarrassed, as she rambled on about her seven cats, their habits, and their latest mischief. They would hum in impatience as she discussed every one of her ailments and aches in excruciating detail.
And she rambled on again, her knuckles white as she grasped the microphone tightly in her disfigured hands.
“Thank you, Mizzie,” Pastor John interrupted, after fifteen minutes.
But old Mizzie Everett did not hear. Or she pretended not to. The congregation was getting restless.
Thank you, Mizzie,” Pastor John said firmly, after another fifteen minutes had gone by of Mizzie rambling on about every single leak in the roof of her house. He took the microphone from Mizzie and gently nudged her down the aisle back to her seat. “We will be sure to keep that in our prayers.”
“Anyone else?”
The atmosphere in the church tensed as the cordless microphone was passed to the young man. He stood up, shakily.
“This is my wife, Mary,” he gestured to the young woman sitting beside him, head still bent low, “and I’m Joe.”
“J-Joe? As in Joseph?” Pastor John sputtered.
There was excited murmuring in the church as the people wondered about this striking coincidence. The namesakes of the parents of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Joseph and pregnant Mary? A young couple? On Christmas Eve? This is more than a coincidence, Pastor John thought.
Joe smiled, embarrassed. “Yeah, I know what people are thinking. But we’re normal people, really. Our car broke down a few blocks down the road. We were looking for a place to spend the night but noticed the lights from the church. So I figured, what the heck, it is Christmas Eve and all. Why not?” Joe passed the microphone back to Pastor John and sat down abruptly.
“Well,” Pastor John said, unable to think of anything else to say. “Well.”
Suddenly, he smiled.
“Two thousand years ago, Joseph and Mary, carrying baby Jesus in her womb, were turned away. This Christmas, let us recognize our Lord for who he is. This Christmas, let us be sure there is room in our hearts.”
Pastor John sat down as the choir stood up to sing “Angels We Have Heard On High”, his heart full. There was a lesson to be learned here. He smiled as he turned to the young couple and shook their hands.
Entertained angels without realizing it, eh? Everybody would be happy to help this young couple now, Pastor John smiled.
As Pastor John had predicted, during Coffee fellowship after the service, the young couple found themselves surrounded by the beaming faces of many of the members. One member brought them punch, and another, hot cocoa. A member, who was a mechanic, volunteered to look into their car problem early the next day. And more than a dozen of them offered their homes for the young couple to stay for the night.
“You are all too kind,” young Mary gushed, her face radiant.
Pastor John beamed proudly at his members’ hospitality, convinced that this Christmas was going to be the most special one of all.

Amidst the happy chatter and laughter of the congregation and Pastor John’s distinguishable guffaw, old Mizzie Everett stood at the corner of the hall, alone, nursing a now cold cup of cocoa in her pale, bony hands. Nobody noticed her. Nobody wondered about her.
Mizzie was silent as she finished her cocoa and headed slowly towards the outside of the church where she had parked her old bicycle. She got on it, with difficulty, and carefully pedalled out of the compounds of the church, in the direction of her house. Nobody noticed. Nobody missed her.
She was gasping for breath, wheezing terribly as she pedalled slower along the bumpy road.
Oh, my back. It has been hurting so much lately. She sighed. In this frail mortal body, they do not realize how temporal it is. Everything is, until we go home.
Her bicycle squeaked at each pedal she took. She willed herself to keep going until she reached her destination. She slowed down and leaned on one foot as she stopped the bicycle by the roadside. She left her old bicycle lying on its side as she trudged up the snow-covered hill, wincing in pain at each step.
This is it. She gasped for breath, reaching a steep slope. This has been one of the toughest assignments yet. But finally, it is over.
She pictured the golden paths, the magnificent gate, and the glorious voices of the rest as they sing her joyous return, their wings radiating light and beauty. And she thought of the Master, welcoming her home with open arms.
As she reached the top of the hill, the sky above her turned bright. She heaved a final sigh.
Finally, I am going home.
With a crack and a flash of light, Mizzie Everett was gone.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Melancholy, Indeed

I was suffering from a slight headache after sleeping late and getting up early to register for my ko-k subject.
The system was having some problems, and after 328594738562305783 times of trying (okay, an exaggeration) I
finally managed to register myself for the class that I wanted (with my brothers helping me click the "Daftar" button ceaselessly).

that was settled, I had another matter weighing heavily on my mind. I could not go for my Korean class. There were 4 sets offered. And I had problems attending class for ALL FOUR of the sets. What are the chances? I prayed I would be able to negotiate with the coordinator and figure out a way so I can attend classes. If the coordinator could help me, I could start classes this week itself on Wednesday. But if he could not help me...I would have to give it up. :(

Reaching UKM after months of not seeing it, I could not help but sigh. Not in nostalgic fondness, mind you. No, I am being honest when I say I was
not looking forward to starting the new semester. The holidays felt way too short. Plus, the initial headache of not being able to register for an important subject fueled my non-nostalgic-fondness of anything and everything UKM-related. Suffice to say, I was fed-up with UKM (in)efficiency in things that matter, and had run out of swear words with which to curse UKM with (I know, forgive my unrestrained jaw in tense moments >.<). Thinking to help my roomie to check in and get her room keys since she will be flying back to Peninsular only this weekend, I inquired at the administration office about it while checking in myself. The kakak there told me that they just realized that the previous person who used my room had not returned the keys yet, and the office's set of spare keys for that particular room was also missing. Hence, the key I held in my hand was the only key to open my room. She suggested that I give her my set of keys bila senang (when I am free) so she could make a duplicate. I wonder then, how I was supposed to go in and out of my room while she held the one and only key? How can things like this happen? At the beginning of the semester already?

With my mum helping, I lugged my one-bootful of heavy luggage into the hostel corridor and finally arrived at my Second Home. I pushed the key into the keyhole, turned it and pushed the door open, expecting everything in the room to be covered in six inches of dust.

It was worse. There were bits of paper and plastic bags all over the floor and both the study tables. The pin board looked like someone (or some
thing) had tried to scratch it to ribbons. (In retrospect, it must have been the C_ _.) The cupboards had the pungent smell of moth balls (which I never use, because I hate >.<). And sitting right on top of my bed, smack in the middle of the mattress was an odd-shaped lump of...cat pooh. Yes, cat pooh. I kid you not. Yes, you may go Ewwwwww here. I've done my share of Ew-ing.
Oh, and did I mention there were ants crawling over it too?

I know, disgusting as it was, what choice did I have but to just clean it up?
I'm ashamed to say I allowed my mum to wipe the lumps off the bed with tissue paper. I just couldn't. >.<

After the "cat pooh" fiasco, I went to meet with the coordinator for the Korean language class and asked if there was any way he could help me so I would be able to take his class? He said a very clear and firm,
No. Part-time lecturers will be taking the classes and the time slots are fixed, non-negotiable. My plea of "Is there any other way?" met with another what I took to be a rather unsympathetic No. He explained that he had taken on more students than the limit because he had expected this to happen - students not being able to take the class because they clash with other important classes; students who will eventually drop the subject. It must have been my imagination, but it seemed rather like a smirk.

really want to take Korean. At first, I had my sights set on the Japanese language - my first love. I just love the language - the way it sounds, the melodies and harmonies it seems to create when being spoken, how expressive it is, how adorable it sounds sometimes, how beautiful.

But the fact was, Japanese class was
really hard to get into.

Oh well, Korean was an interesting language as well. And oh, how many Korean dramas I loved ! Would it not be absolutely awesome to watch Korean dramas without the subtitles? *
Finally deciding on taking the Korean language as my elective, I signed up for an online Korean language learning module. Just to learn a few basic words in the language. And I watched a few Korean dramas during the holidays to "immerse" myself in the language. I guess, that is one way of picking up the language. And I
did learn a few phrases :) I was all excited and ready to start Korean lessons.

And now this. :(

I got back to my empty room after my parents had left and just felt...tired.
It is amazing how fast you can get exhausted and mentally strained even before the semester has officially begun. Classes have not even started and I already feel like giving up.

Not even two whole hours of singing with other Choir members (which always worked to cheer me up) could get me completely out of this melancholic mood I am in at the moment. Nor the high-spirited Disney-value-filled
High School Musical soundtrack I am listening to now.

I hate sounding like a sour lemon, but I really need to vent.

Would you blame me for no longer looking forward to this semester? Not like I was very excited for this semester to begin with. But now that energy has just dampened and gotten worse.

Plus, I am all alone in my room now. No one from my gang is around.
Friends who are not back yet, friends who are at home with their families, friends who have been kicked out to a different residential college (for no valid reason !

I hope it is true what they say that when you're down, there is nowhere to go but up.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Master Chef and the Klutz in an Ideal World

The mansion was magnificent, to say the least.
Well-manicured lawns, its perimeter lined with beautiful rose bushes - ruby red and pearl white varieties.
The windows were spotless, reflecting the light of the sun into my eyes until I had to shield myself with my arm.
I walked up a cobbled path that led me to the front door, watching each step as I went.
My heart was hammering in my chest; I felt about to burst from the build-up of anticipation of the past few days !

The moment was here.
Who knew what could happen?
Who knew where this could lead?

I took a deep breath as I stared at the grain of wood on his polished front door.
And I took another deep breath. And another.

After what seemed like a millennium, I raised my arm to knock on the door and alert someone of my presence. But before I could...

"Hey ! You're here ! Please, come on in."

Gosh. It really IS him.
I cannot believe that he is really standing before me, larger than life.
I pinched myself to check if I was dreaming.
Okay, I'm not.

I was struck by his hair, his face, beaming at me as if he was happy to see me.
Although he was much taller than me, I noticed the colour of his eyes - a deep brown - the broadness of his shoulders - very inviting for someone to cry on - and the rippling muscles beneath his shirt.
Oh, he certainly looked dashing in a black shirt, unbuttoned just before his mid-chest.
How flattered I felt that he would dress up for such a simple lunch with me.
I had to almost physically force my eyes to look up into his face, instead of into the small exposed area of his chest.

I took him all in, hardly believing that I was here, that he was here, that the moment was finally here.
He did not seem phased by my lack of speech.

"I have everything almost done. Just need to get the roast out of the oven."
As he said it, I became faintly aware of the aroma of something sweet and heavenly from behind him.
All of sudden, I felt hungry.

I stepped in behind him and admired his furnishings as he bustled behind the counter of his neat kitchen.
At the dining room was a table set for two with mouth-watering dishes I could not even begin to describe laid out in the middle, tempting me to go up to them and take a whiff - just to see if they smelled as good as they looked as well. He was definitely a master chef.

Gosh, I wonder how it would be like to live with him?
I started daydreaming of waffles and pancakes in bed, lovely pastries for tea, wonderful scrumptious meals everyday, spoiled for choice when it came to types of cuisine...

"Shall I seat you?"

He pulled out my chair and I gingerly sat on it, aware of his eyes boring into the back of my head.
Was my hair all in place? Did I have a rogue strand? Can he see it?
I consciously ran a hand through my curls, and smiled as he sat opposite me.
But he was such an easy person to be with.
He put me at ease so quickly, with his wit and his humour, and his charm.

I can barely remember our conversation that whole two hours over lunch, but it did not seem to matter.
What I did remember were details I hoped he would never know I noticed.
How his hair looks soft enough to risk reaching my hand out to touch. (Which, of course, I did not do. How embarrassing would that be?)
How his smile is a little crooked, but his teeth so perfectly white.
How his laugh is oh-so-enchanting and could melt all my insides into goo.
How his eyes are a deep brown just like many other Asians, but if I stare long enough, I swear his eyes could smile right back, as if they knew I was staring, and was amused.
How he likes to rub his hand to the back of his head when he was embarrassed at something I said (when I praised him for his culinary skills, his generosity).

We shared a lot about ourselves.
I told him about my dreams, my hopes, my wishes for the future. How I wanted to be more than just a good teacher to my students, more of a friend they can share things with. Someone who, they will tell me years after they have left the school, has left an impression on them in more ways than one. I want to be GREAT.
He shared with me about his life, his work, his passion for cooking and how it is more than just appeasing the stomach, but more of an art. About his struggles, and even how one allergic-reaction incident almost cost him the career he had spent his life building. But he made it through. I mentally saluted him for his courage and determination. He would never give up his love for his work. I could certainly see that.

All too soon, it was time to leave.
I was reluctant to go, but embarrassed that I had taken up so much of his precious time.
He must be annoyed with me for that, but had been too polite to say so, or show any sign of it.
I kicked myself for that. How insensitive ! Don't you know how busy he is? He's got more important things to do than chat aimlessly with you, I berated myself.

As I stood on his front porch step, I held out my hand to shake his; to thank him for a wonderful lunch.
Honestly, it was more than wonderful. It had been great. I wondered if it was too forward if I asked him to lunch next time. And cook him what, instant noodles? I shook my head.
He was way out of my league. I should be grateful I even had this opportunity.
I looked at him and was surprised to see that he was nervously picking at the hem of his shirt.

"Do you think...we could do this again sometime?" His eyes flicked from mine, to the ground at his feet.
I almost laughed out loud.
Was he nervous about asking me to lunch? Him? Nervous about asking me?
It suddenly hit me that he was asking me out again.

I almost choked.
Don't let this opportunity go. Be confident, girl !
"S-S-Sure." Darn.
I was too busy scolding myself for stammering my response that I did not see his hand until it was below my chin, tilting it up towards his face.

I gulped visibly.

His nervousness seemed to have disappeared as his lips curled upward into a smile.
My legs could barely hold me up - they felt too much like jelly.

The distance between my lips and his got smaller and smaller...
An inch away from him, I closed my eyes thinking, "Ohmigoshohmigoshohmigoshohmigoshohmigosh..."

My final thought was, "I hope my breath does not smell like the roast turkey we just had !"

Suddenly I felt a vibration just beside my ear. A strange kind of buzzing.
Not now !!
I tried to ignore the buzzing and vibration and concentrate instead on the softness of his lips on mine - which I should have felt by now.
My forehead creased and I peeked out of the slits of my eyes.


Ceiling fan.
Pink walls.
Pillow in my face.
And my handphone alarm, buzzing furiously to tell me it is time to wake up.

Nooo !!! This cannot be happening !!
I squeezed my eyes shut, as tight as I could, and willed myself back to moment before our lips touched.
All I could see in my mind was black.


p.s: This was definitely a dream I did not want to wake up from :(