Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Here is an essay I wrote in year 8F in high school, when I was 14. Which makes it 1985. I am currently planning a trip back to Malaysia for my 40th birthday in 2011 which has me looking at guidebooks on the area I spent three years of my childhood in.


The environment I am about to write about is an environment I have lived in. I have lived in many environments but I find that none of them are as beautiful, fun and memorable as the tropical rainforests.

Those that I am talking of are the ones of Borneo, in Brunei. To live there is like a dream. It is my ideal environment.

Lets imagine a stroll through the jungle. Picture in your mind rich, green trees, clear streams, friendly Iban natives who still live in their ancient ways, and a smell of the jungle that is enough to recognise from the city.

The city is actually a large community or small town. It involves a few blocks of shops, hundreds of flashy cars, a market place.

The market place is no Rodeo Drive of Hollywood, I guarantee. It is a two story building with no glass in the windows and no proper doors. There are stray cats and dogs everywhere. There is insufficient light and lots of water on the ground. It may sound terrible but it is quite and experience!

If you are an 'expat' (white person from overseas), you usually live in a comfortable home with your own maid who lives downstairs or next door. For about $400 a month she will babysit, cook, clean, do your laundry.

There are clubs with swimming pools, golf courses, theatres, dining lounges, playgrounds, beaches, sporting activities, summer holiday activities, bars and restaurants all together.

In the centre of the capital city (Bandar Seri Begawan) is a beautiful mosque with a gold dome roof. As well as one of the richest palaces in the world belonging to the richest man in the world. The Sultan (King). He owns the richest land in the world (Brunei) which happens to be my ideal environment.

Here's a photograph of the entrance to Niah Caves, some of the biggest in the world and a spectacular sight. Have you ever heard of the famous 'Bird's Nest Soup?" Here is where they get the bird's nests.

Notice the beautiful rainforest in the background.

In the midst of the beautiful jungles are crystal clear, icy waterfalls which are very, very beautiful.

One of the favourite pastimes is the K.B. River. Many people enjoy boat rides upstream to the thick jungles. I and most people, liked to water ski on it. You have to be very brave as there are large crocodiles, sea snakes and jellyfish in it. Here is a photograph of my mother while she is skiing on the great river.

The sunsets in Brunei are supposed to be the most beautiful in the world. I have seen and believed.

Brunei is a very dirty country as well as a very beautiful country. Like I said it's a dream and my ideal environment.

A Malay woman. In many parts of the Jungle, the natives have become more civilised, receiving electricity, western food and other products eg. the bicycle in the background.

In the background, a beautiful mosque, belonging to the Sultan of Brunei. To him this place is old and old fashioned. His new palace is priceless..

* * * * *

Obviously things have changed since then, including my parochial views and privileged position in society, but one thing remains, my fondness for that period in my life. I was 9-12 years old, and it was the last years before my parent's divorce, and the weather was nice. Most of these photos are by my mum.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stem the Tears

I haven't been outside once today, which for me, is weird. I think I'm forcing myself to stay away from the shops which are pret-ty scarey places on wet weekends. Yesterday i went to IKEA, on a rainy Saturday, say no more.

Today was more about your back to basics wet weekend pastimes. Rekindling marital bonds, reading, talking to my mum on the phone for an hour.

My daughter and I decided to make some more mini-purses, they are basically ribbons folded in half with beaded sides. We made a basic one last week, today we embellished another one with a fringe. On the first purse I got her to paperclip it together, design all the ribbon/thread/bead combinations and did my best to hold my tongue, I can quickly lose my patience and she is quick to tears. I think we both tried hard and made it through. Today she was close to crying straight off the bat because she'd forgotten what she'd learnt.

We have a secret word that I say when she is about to cry when she can't do something. It is a dumb word with no relation to what we are doing except we both agree that it means "try not cry, lighten up" and she can use it back at me and it means "stop being mean, Mummy". Learning to sew, to use needle and thread is fraught with opportunities to give up, on both sides. Small steps, including a nap on my part mid-way, we got through.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Procrastinate Later

Something is going on today, some sticky chi is getting moved, is it the the extra coffee I had? I’ve opened Pandora’s box and in it is 74 undeveloped black and white films I have never got around to seeing what is on them. Years of hard work not wasted, hopefully. I finally feel the urge to get around to dealing with my neglected art.

There was that 5 year stint in the media that made me only live for the day and have the time to shoot/develop/upload the work I’d done that day. There was never enough time to go back and organise or rework the previous year’s efforts. There was only this rushing wave of ambition that headed in one direction - the future. Then there was the 7 year stint of full-time parenthood/part-time photographer. I could hardly string 10 full minutes together to gather my thoughts let alone create anything that took more than one fifteenth of a second.

Now the youngest child is at pre-school, I have three days a week to myself. I’ve had naps, watched ‘Cougar Town’, made elaborate salads, jogged with girlfriends, taken yoga classes, shopped, vacuumed, Facebooked, done laundry and sloughed my late thirties feet. But lately I have this hankering to actually do something about that nagging feeling called ‘my lost career’. It wasn’t really lost, it was just on the pause button.

There is a box of black and white film that dates back to 1991 that has been following me - it documents all the awful relationships I had, all the exotic places I went and now dream about, all the films I just couldn’t find the time to develop in my makeshift darkrooms in the bathrooms of Surry Hills or freezing laundry of Clovelly in the nineties, when I was holding down a day job and night school and shooting my heart out in between.

I’ve looked online and found my old favourite labs still open (surprisingly after the slaughterhouse of the Day of the Digital Camera) and I’ve got tomorrow pegged as lab drop-off and begin the process of exposing these little windows into my history.

I’m starting off cheap and cheerful by the seaside with Charing Cross Photo in Bronte at $6 a roll. But what I’d really prefer is the Blanco Negro hand job experience with a happy ending for $13.75 a roll