Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Ode to Wilson

This was supposed to be a report about my neighbourhood pasar malam. I had planned to take a few test shots with my new camera about mouth watering ayam golek and juicy tropical fruits on display. But it was not to be. My neat and trim plan was to go straight to the camera shop at the mall after work, get the camera, rush back home to charge up the battery for about an hour and head straight out to the night market.

What I didn’t anticipate was a family of four having a hard time deciding whether to get a compact point-and-shoot or a camcorder. And a very persuasive and enigmatic salesman. As I arrived at the shop (which I had already been to a couple of times this past week), I found Wilson, the shop manager and my old friend, attending to a charming Malay family. Wilson was his usual friendly approachable self and did his best to answer all the queries and doubts this family had about digital cameras. And camcorders. And SLRs.

An hour and a half later (!), Dad finally decided to buy the digital camera with the proviso that he is allowed to consider the camcorder next year. Mom only smiled. The kids of course were over the moon in anticipation of their new toy. I also got to make a new friend in Mom who is a teacher in a local primary school. Apparently they’re going to Cameron Highlands for the school holidays. Nice.

When Wilson finally completed the sale and we waved goodbye to Mr and Mrs Hisham, it was almost closing time. No matter, he still was very professional and we chatted a bit over a Big Mac and fries (his dinner) about why I should get the Canon S80 instead of the Olympus 7070. Little did he know that I had already done my research and thought long and hard about it this past few days. I already had my heart set on the former anyway.

I like his style. Very humble, very patient, very friendly. A damn good salesman who gives you the feeling that he genuinely cares. And I believe he does. Having seen him attending to his customers first hand, I realized I have lots to learn and improve with regards to my people skills.

Oh, and I absolutely LOVE my new camera.

Friday, November 25, 2005

A Rogue Chinese Port and her barbaric laws....

An article in BBC’s news website today talks about Australia’s reaction to a recent decision by Singapore High Court to hang an Australian national for drug trafficking after pleas for clemency were ignored. Nguyen Tuong Van is due to be executed on 2 December after being convicted of trafficking 400 grams (14.11 ounces) of heroin in 2002. This comes hot in the heels of another high profile drug trafficking case involving another Australian, Schapelle Corby, on the Indonesian island of Bali earlier this year.

Quite a number of Australian MPs and political figures have expressed their dismay at this turn of events as well as outrage that Nguyen will have to face such a “barbaric” form of punishment. Mr Gough Whitlam, a former Australian Prime Minister in the 70s, has even gone so far as to label Singapore a "rogue Chinese port" for ignoring appeals to save the drug smuggler from the death penalty.

Personally I am outraged at such disrespect shown by the Australian political figures for their Asian neighbours and their laws. I am not saying that the punishment is justified, but anyone entering Singapore is warned in no uncertain terms that drug trafficking is punishable by death. So if someone willingly disregards the warning, commits the crime and then has the misfortune of getting caught, he should then have to face the music without his countrymen creating a hue and cry about how unfairly he is being treated.

Having said that, my heart goes out to his family members who not only will be losing a loved one but also have to suffer the indignity of being thrust into the media circus surrounding this trial. I only wish that this latest episode will serve as a deterrent to all aspiring drug traffickers to think twice about commiting this heinous crime or at least stay away from South East Asia. Heaven knows we have enough on our plate to deal with as it is.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Letting Go and Moving On (or Underwater Housing for Canon S45, anyone?)

I think my camera is broken. A couple of weeks ago, I took it out of my briefcase to take pictures of my patient for research purposes, and it just wouldn’t come on. At first I thought the battery had gone dead, so I gave it a quick charge. An hour later, the darn thing still wouldn’t light up. Two hours of charging, a new battery (RM 150) and a not-so-small-amount of stress later, the camera was still not responding and it began to dawn upon me that it’s going the way of the dodo.

The guy at the camera shop politely told me that he would try his best to fix it, but in the meantime, would I be interested in looking at some of the latest models of digital cameras? Sigh, I guess that’s his subtle way of telling me it’s time to let go and move on.

But I don’t know if I’m ready to let go. That camera has been with me for almost four years. She was my first foray into the world of digital photography. She has seen me through the start of my fledgling orthodontic career. She’s been with me to Bali, Bangkok, Sipadan (twice!) and Sydney. And I was just starting to get a hang of taking underwater pictures with it (although supermacro pictures are still almost impossible!).

So, I’m still hoping to receive the good news from the camera shop guy one of these days but at the same time, getting myself used to the idea that she’s not coming back, sob sob. Oh well, at least now I have an excuse to go shopping for a new camera.

It never fails to cheer me up to do some research online about the latest models of electronic equipment…. like a child in a toy store. The wonders of the Internet… so much choice! Now that I have some experience with digital cameras, at least I know what special features and functions I would like in a camera. And I’m sure that my best friend Kieran has a thing or two to say about which one will suit me best. :-)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Of Chicken Tikkas, Salvation Army and Praha

I recently went over to my friend's place to help him and his partner pack up his stuff. He'll be moving out of his rented apartment by the weekend and it was a race against time to sort, pack and throw. It's amazing how much 'stuff' one can accumulate over a course of just two years (and I'm guilty of this as well); there was so much clothes and so many books, souvenirs, and dvds to sort out.

The idea was to keep only the essential and most memorable items; the rest goes to either the Salvation Army or the recycling bin. A lot of time was spent trying to convince him that neither the tacky Vietnamese table runner nor the interestingly faux hawaiian shirt were in any way essential nor memorable. In the end we ended with about five bags worth of clothes that we all agreed would be of use to the Salvation Army. Some six footer who wears size XXL is gonna be really happy come Sunday.

Terry is
an American expatriate who's been living here in Melaka for the past two and a half years and I've known him for almost two years. We'd meet up for dinner and explore the wonderful culinary variety that Melaka has to offer. Even though we would usually try something different each time, oftentimes we'd end up at one of our favourite restaurants, Bonani. It serves North Indian cuisine and I love their mango lassi. Terry can't get enough of the Chicken Tikka which is like Tandoori chicken except without the bones. Oh and of course we've called for Aloo Ghobi so often, we actually know what it means (a spicy mixed vegetable dish containing mainly cauliflower and potatoes). Sadly, he will be reassigned to Prague (or Praha as the locals call it) in January 2006. Sigh, it won't be much fun having garlic naan, chicken tikka and saag paneer by myself from now on.

On a brighter note, plans are now underway for some of us to go visit him for the CNY hols (yahoo!). I've never experienced sub-zero temperatures before and look forward to seeing snow for the first time. Looking at the Euro exchange rates, I hope this doesn't break the bank account. :-)

Terry is a great friend, a wonderful travel companion, an excellent scubadiving buddy and a genuinely kind human being. I'll miss you, buddy.