the backstage epiphany

where reality is so subjective it's entirely optional

Permanent residence

I’m not sure what brought it on: the tendency to get bored quickly, the sudden urge to try something new, or the mounting desire learn to conquer what other people seem to find so easy. In any case, after more than two years of having my blog hosted by WordPress and nearly four years by Xanga, I’m moving yet again to a new website, hopefully for the last time.

It has not been an easy process, and it’s still very much a work in progress, but with Jeremy’s help, WordPress’s extremely user-friendly software, some prior knowledge (i.e. the measly amount that I learned in school) of HTML and PHP scripts, and lots of reading up on other things like databases and cPanel, I’ve finally managed to set up house at a place that allows me to just be a http://www.[domain name].com as opposed to a http://www.[domain name]

That’s right; I’m self-hosted now. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now, but the many attempts at understanding the documentation and processes involved always left me too frustrated and confused to actually set it up. It was only after I realized it would be easier to learn from watching someone do it that I sought Jeremy’s help with setting up the web host and server. Then I paid Namecheap 9.28USD for a year’s registration of my domain name before I could change my mind and chicken out yet again on learning how to manage my own website.

As I’ve mentioned, this is still a work in progress — I have yet to find the perfect theme for the website and manually and painstakingly change ALL the hyperlinks in ALL my posts (right now they ALL redirect to this website) — but from here on out, I will be operating out of


And then there were Nine

Me: Did Jessie get her tattoos here or did she get them all in Australia?
She got them in Australia. Why?
I want to get new ones, so I’m on the hunt for a good artist. I didn’t like the one who did my last tattoo.
What! Why do you want new ones now?
Because I have 7, and my dad says to round them up to 8 because 7 is a bad number for Chinese. And I can’t decide between two new designs so I figured I’d get both and finish off with 9 tattoos. Do you know if 9 is a good number for Chinese?
I think 9 symbolizes completeness.
Oh really? You see — maybe my luck will change once I stop carrying around 7 with me!

It had been a while, longer than I realized, since I last felt it — that urge to get a new tattoo. Looking at my tattoos about 2 weeks ago, I realized I missed the adrenaline rush, the unforgiving screech of the needle, and the excruciating, yet intoxicating pain. And then I realized that I missed all that because I had relapsed into my pain-for-pain pattern, a pattern I haven’t gone through in more than two and a half years, since I got my last tattoo.

So I made an appointment with Julian Oh of Blackcat Tattoo Studio, who had been recommended to me some time ago, to have two new designs stabbed into me this past weekend. I’m not sure if it was because the foot is a much more sensitive part of the body or because I had forgotten how much the process hours, but the pain was blinding. Most of the time I was either sore from sitting with my leg up and foot twisted, or fighting the urge to twitch and kick, so much so that the next tattoo barely hurt in comparison.

I must admit that not since Kate Hellenbrand did my very first tattoo back in 2005 have I met an artist whose work I actually really liked — until now. Julian was extremely patient and allowed me to shift positions and stretch my leg when it was stiff and cramping, and he was nice enough not to tell me I was twitching and close to kicking him in the face. And so, besides being extremely effective in distracting me from all the things I’ve been ceaselessly worrying about over the past couple of weeks, these are the results of my 4-hour session with him:

It may be safe to say my tattoo-acquiring days are really at an end, because I’m of a certain age now and trying to embark on a career that involves people too young to be exposed to things such as tattoos and piercings. And even though I got most of my tattoos for a less-than-conventional reason, each experience was no less unique than the other, and if I could do it all over again, I would.

And here is the final tally of my tattoos, in chronological order:

Memories of TEFL Town

A few days ago, while looking through some old school records, I came across my TEFL Certificate, which brought back memories of the five weeks I spent in Boston nearly three years ago, four of which were the most intense yet rewarding of my life. So I hopped on to the Boston Academy of English website, and was pleasantly surprised to come across this new video on the home page:

It’s amazing how much the school has grown and how far it has come, considering that it was already very well established when I did my TEFL certification there in March 2008. I always tell people who ask that it’s better to train for something like this in a foreign place, because the staggeringly vast diversity of nationalities, languages and cultures that all come together make the teaching and learning experience so much more memorable.

Watching that video, looking at the familiar faces, and especially Cora, one of my trainers, I realize more than ever how much I’ve truly missed Boston and the amazing times I had there. And now that I’m finally attempting to put my certification to good use, I’m reminded more and more every day that given the chance, I would go through those four weeks all over again.

Welcoming change

“There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse!  As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place. “ – Washington Irving

I’ve never really liked the idea of change. Fear of the unknown, sadness of leaving the familiar behind, apprehensive towards testing uncharted waters, and the possibility of failure are the main factors that have always held me back from embracing something new. It’s only after a great deal of thinking, debating, pushing and bawling that I can ever make up my mind to pursue something, and even that with great caution.

But this time it’s different. This time, I know what I want and what I must do to get it, regardless of how long it takes. Over the past two weeks I’ve been given a sign, which has reassured me that I need no longer worry about feeling any guilt or fear towards what I’m about to do. The only ties, strings and bridges that I ever cared about have self-destructed, and now I’m free to move on with what I’ve planned to do.

To a certain extent I will always care, I suppose, and to a certain extent it will always hurt, but it’s the pain that teaches us to brave up, be strong, and throw all emotional attachment into the fire and focus on what we were meant to do.

So hello, Change. You’ve been a long time coming.

Something Wonderful

One of my favorite songs from 1965’s The King & I, also known as the doormat’s anthem:

This is a man who thinks with his heart
His heart is not always wise
This is a man who stumbles and falls
But this is a man who tries
This is a man you’ll forgive and forgive
And help and protect as long as you live

He will not always say
What you would have him say
But now and then he’ll say something wonderful
The thoughtless things he’ll do
Will hurt and worry you
Then all at once he’ll do something wonderful
He has a thousand dreams that won’t come true
You know that he believes in them
And that’s enough for you

You’ll always go along
Defend him when he’s wrong
And tell him when he’s strong
He is wonderful
He’ll always need your love
And so he’ll get your love
A man who needs your love
Can be wonderful

– Terry Saunders, Something Wonderful

The forbidden job

Becca: Apparently people are in trouble for discussing boob jobs on TV3.
Me: What!
Becca: Boob jobs are ‘a trivial issue which violates a woman’s dignity’. Not to mention they’re haram (forbidden). “The show’s official Facebook fan page also received criticism from female viewers who said they felt uncomfortable with the issue being talked about openly. It was also embarrassing to women, they said. They objected to the use of models, who were fully attired but the cameras had focused on their chests to visualise the topic being discussed.” Are you sure you want to join this religion? Oh dear…
Me: The religion doesn’t make the person. It’s the crazy ones who give the religion a bad rep.
Becca: Agreed… But unfortunately in this country the religion is controlled by the crazy ones. And the normal ones are prosecutable for being normal.
Me: Well, fortunately I do not need a boob job. But unless someone of another religion who actually wants me comes along, I’m happy to be left with the current prospects. I mean, look… Good Christian Gregory Chang didn’t want me.
Becca: That sounds very bad, yet funny.

You have to hand it to Becca. She looks out for me where nobody else thinks to look.

Beating the post-retirement blues

My mother is oftentimes not the most typical kind of woman. She hates weddings and Chinese New Year, hates having her photo taken, refuses to wear makeup unless it’s for family photoshoots, and declares that only women (and here she pronounces the word with unadulterated contempt) drive barefoot and have no sense of direction.

I think it’s also her lack of femininity that led her to swear she was not born to work in the home and therefore she must go out to work (“I will not be one of those women who’s only good enough to be a housewife“). And because she goes out to work and revels in gassing people out, she is now worried about what will happen to her when she’s no longer fit for medicine (“I can’t be knocking people out if I can’t even see well enough to set their IV lines”).

So last week, we discussed the things she can do to take up her time when she is retired and desperate to prevent what she calls brain death. She finally narrowed it down to three possibilities:

I could take up gardening. “But I can’t crouch down all day so I’ll have to buy one of those little stools to sit on while I pull out every weed by hand. And I’ll wear a giant straw hat so I don’t turn out red as a lobster. I don’t know how much gardening I can do though; everything I ever grew died after a few days. It’s amazing you’re still alive.”

I’ll start knitting again. My mother has never been very good with needlework, and knows just enough to get by, such as the fixing of buttons, zippers and hems. So, after reminding her that she once spent an entire year knitting me a cardigan, I suggested she do crocheting instead, which she can do fairly well if she could just make her tension knots consistent. And after convincing her that it’s far too hot in this country to wear anything crocheted, I told her she could crochet doilies and placemats, provided the maid can keep them clean.

I can go dancing again. Inspired by my great-aunt, who took up all manner of dancing after she retired and to this day still attends classes at the Penang Senior Citizens Association. To be fair, my mother did do a lot of dancing when she was (much) younger, but now she’s become more particular about it, especially when it concerns a partner. “You want one who will be there regularly so that you know what each other does, and one who’s at least good at it, because if you’re stuck with one who has two left feet, you might as well be dancing by yourself.”

Nowhere in this discussion did she ever mention helping to care for any grandchildren she may have in the future, which is something I realize a lot of my friends’ mothers and mothers-in-law do. And when I brought it up, she gave me a blank stare and said, “Oh, ya. Ya… no. No. I’m not going to spend all day every day taking care of someone. I would never have time for myself. I might as well go back to work.”

For Aiden

My beautiful godson turns 3 today. He is probably the closest I will ever get to having my own children, and therefore is a testament to how unforgivably quickly time passes, and how we must remember each and every moment that makes that time worth living.

Happy Birthday Aiden! Auntie Sandra loves you!