a nose for details. not!

The problem with borrowing bags for a trip?

They come with an amazing array of smells.

The large backpack was stored in a cupboard for years and by the time I inherited it for this trip, it was a wonderful case study of spores and their ability to grow anywhere. The inner lining was peeling although the outside still looked hardy. I just wished it didn’t stink of vomit. To counter that… I packed all my clothing in ziploc. I might be the girl with the most plastic out there. The rain cover was also in a bad state and so, the black garbage bags might come in handy.

The smaller backpack was borrowed from another adventurous couple and while it was maintained well… it reeked of ear wax. I don’t quite get how that aroma was so infused into its very fibres but I found myself sniffing my belongings, each time I took them out to check or re-pack.

Yesterday was also an assault on my senses.

‘Someone here has really bad body odour,’ I whispered to Flex, as I warmed up on the Summit Climber in the gym.

‘Yeah… I think it’s the chap behind me,’ he replied loudly. ‘Behind’ happened to be a man three machines down.

‘That’s one powerful stink he’s got,’ I answered, wrinkling my nose in reply.

‘Well… you carry on for another eight minutes. I’m going to get a drink,’ Flex said. ‘I need to breathe some fresh air. You erm… enjoy!’

‘Gee… thanks,’ I answered. Alone, I began to realize that perhaps there was some benefit to the body odour. It helped clean my eyes out. They wouldn’t stop tearing.

Traveling back home, I entered a carriage on the train that reeked of poop.

‘What the hell…’ I muttered to myself, looking for a way to walk to another carriage but it was all crowed and I couldn’t move. I sighed. This really felt like early training for my trip.

*

Each country has its scent and I wonder… what will Kathmandu smell like?

*

It’s 2.06am now and I’m done packing. I just need to finish up some emails and then, I’m on my way. I doubt I’ll get any sleep but no worries there. I can always sleep on the plane. It helps make the 4 1/2 hours pass faster anyway.

While sending the details to the family of my itinerary, I realised that I miscalculated the trek and I’ll have an extra day in Nepal. What a goon of a mistake. I’ll need to work out a new itinerary with Amir, my agent and see how things go. I wonder though, if anyone else makes such mistakes?

*

Four more hours to go before I leave the house. I can’t help but worry… did I even get my flight details right?

Wish me the best people because this is one doofus on her way out to do the extraordinary. The miracles began when I actually pulled myself together and managed to take my passport photos, line up the itinerary (albeit with a mistake) and pack my bag. Amazing.

I am in awe of myself.

God… please don’t let me forget to bring anything…

Bye!

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countdown… to all things new

36 more hours to go before I leave for two weeks out in the mountains of Kathmandu.

This will be my first official ‘solo’ trip away from family and friends. While I am excited about all that I will experience for the first time, I am also apprehensive. I’m not quite sure what to expect.

When I traveled in Japan on my own last year, I still had my umbilical cord plugged into cyberspace. Reaching loved ones, answering work emails and staying ‘social’ kept me from feeling lonely. But out there trekking, I’ll be leaving it all behind and will only carry my trusty iPod, a journal and a pencil. At least, I’ll still have words. Will I miss people desperately? How will the world (as I’ve known it) look different when I return? Will my person change?

For the regular traveler, my questions may seem way too cautious and worry-filled but bear in mind… the places I’ve been too have always been swamped with familiar faces. Yes, even in Australia, Japan, Malaysia… there were always people I knew.

This trip was birthed out of a desire to get away from it all, to return to solitude and anonymity… something I’ve not had in a very long time, and I am really looking forward to it. Just so happened that I watched the following video (it’s adorable!) last night and chuckled to myself. How apt…

*

18 more days to go before I turn a year older.

I didn’t plan it this way but it’s nice to know that I’ll be returning two days before my birthday. I think, on hindsight, this trip was really the best way of celebrating the close of yet another birth year. What better way to seal personal growth and survival with a trip that I’ve not done before? As usual, I began thinking back about the past 300+ days and asked…

What did I learn about myself this year?

1. I actually love peanut butter.
2. I can face the world sweaty, grimy and make-up free… without an ounce of self-consciousness.
3. I can survive extreme fatigue, pain, loneliness and emptiness. With a smile.
4. I love running on trails more than pavements or tracks.
5. I’m not superwoman and I need friends & support. Goodbye selfish pride.

What did I do for the first time since my last birthday?

01. I ran my first 10km race. And I wasn’t last.
02. I got inked. Twice.
03. I traveled on my own. Well, at least I will be, soon.
04. I joined the local gym and began working out regularly.
05. I said, ‘No, I don’t think I can cope.’
06. I began eating healthily, three meals a day!
07. I wore a gown, on stage, in front of thousands, to sing.
08. I grew honest with my darkness, and in that, found freedom to be myself. Almost.
09. I wore trekking shoes to work and braved the snide comments. Ha!
10. I finally began doing things for myself. Just because. Without feeling guilty.

All in all, it’s been a good year.

And for that, I am profoundly grateful.

*

3 more months to go before the end of the year 2010.

Taking time to scroll through my writing (which I began regularly updating in April), I decided instead to frame my moments with music. It has, I believe, the power to re-fire memories in way that words sometimes can’t.

To Build A Home – The Cinematic Orchestra

In the pitch-dark performance studio, Patrick Watson painted a beautiful room of vulnerability, intimacy and safety, using only his weightless tenor vocals and piano. And in those few minutes alone, gave meaning to 2010. I walked away with a new desire to re-create that moment, this home every single day of my life, and for the many who come my way.

Let all that we pretend to be fade into the darkness… as we find beauty in who we truly are.

Holy – Jesus Culture

Again, it was the abandon with which Kim Walker sang that reached deep inside me, that taught me how I too, can be open about what’s in my heart when I sing. Each time this year I ran dry and wondered if I should quit… I picked up their album and listened. They are still on my playlist and I return, with regularity, almost every other week, to get re-ignited inside with their music.

Wonderful Life – Hurts

I have no idea where they’re placed on the scenester’s radar but when their album came out, I was on a blissful high for a long time. ‘Don’t let go, never give up, it’s such a wonderful life…’

They reminded me to smile.

Unredeemed – Selah

The words to this song was what struck me, when I first listened to some friends perform if last week. It felt as though someone had peered into my heart, penned down my questions and revealed it all for the world to see.

‘Life breaks and falls apart, but we know these are places where grace is soon to be so amazing. It may be unfulfilled, it may be unrestored, but when anything that’s shattered is laid before the Lord… just watch and see, it will not be unredeemed.’

It might be best to listen to it on your own below, and hear the story behind it all.

*

We sat there, side by side, contented just to be together. I leaned my head on His shoulder, closing my eyes…

‘What are you thinking?’ He asked.

‘You already know, so why do you ask?’ I looked up at Him.

‘I like to hear your voice,’ He smiled at me.

‘Well… I’m thinking about a year that’s gone by, and how each time I thought darkness felt overwhelming… those were just moments before the sun broke through,’ I reached out to hold His hand, ‘You were there every step of the way, always ready to hold me, to receive me, even at my ugliest. Thank You…’

‘No, thank you,’ He whispered.

‘For what?’ I said, ‘I didn’t give you anything!’

‘Yes you did,’ He reached out to hold me, ‘You gave meaning to what I did. You allowed me in to a place that no other person has ever been. You let me be your everything… and that is precious.’

We didn’t talk much after that, the Dream Maker and I. There was no need to.

We had everything we wanted right then and there.

about fonts, packing and being young

I just spent an odd amount of time (2 hours) compiling a list of items that I’ll need to bring with me to Nepal. Granted, about 20 minutes of that was spent formatting a document that only I will ever read but what the heck, it makes me happy. I’m still looking for the perfect font to rule my world though.

2009 was Georgia.
2010 was Calibri.
Unfortunately, Helvetica never impacted me much. My apologies to all designers out there.

But back to packing. Rule that Curious Penguin gave me? Don’t bring anything that has less than 2 uses for it. That wasn’t a problem. What bugged me the most was what do I wear?

Thankfully, I tried on some of the outfits and I must say, I look good. Well, as good as a hippo wearing baggy pants can look.

In choosing clothes and shoes, I realized that there’s this odd thing about Gore-tex. It’s the magical word that makes all things good.

‘Check out my new shoes!’ I say.

‘Are they Gore-tex?’ The designer asks.

‘I managed to get some tees! And a jacket!’ I exclaim.

‘Are they Gore-tex?’ Someone else questions.

After a while, I find myself defending dear old cotton… which many deem is evil. That rules out most of my wardrobe.

Then there’s the subtle thing about brands. Heading out to buy a new pair of shades for the hike, I actually grew tired of donning so many. Oakleys just didn’t fit my face. Neither did Bolle, Ray-Bans and even Adidas. I ended up with a pair from Nike because it rested well on my face.

‘Nike?’ Scooter Girl wrinkled her nose in disgust.

‘Nike?!’ DigiBoy looked at me in horror.

Yes dear friends. Nike.

Hopefully, my Marmot backpack and jacket will redeem me from the wrath my Nike shades bring.

*


My mood also has been weird, fluctuating between happy, irritable and dead tired. Explains why I have been crashing into bed and now, I finally get it, the sharp thinker I am.

I need sleep.

Without proper rest, I don’t function as well as I want to. What happened to the young girl who used to party till the wee hours of morning, only to get up and head to school the next day with no side-effects whatsoever? Damn.

I’m still young. At least, I think so. Although sometimes… my body disagrees. Especially after a tough workout session with Flex, it groans like an old lady.

An old lady who tries to squeeze into pants one size too small.

*

‘Why are you suddenly doing all this?’ Miss Adventure asked me.

‘I don’t know… I guess I just want to do something new and different this year,’ I replied. ‘I want to know I can do this.’

‘I’m proud of you,’ she smiled in reply. ‘Next time, head to Sikkit, and the Everest Base Camp. It’s gorgeous!’

‘I will. I don’t think this will be the last of my trips…’ I answered.

And I truly believe that.

Heading out to Nepal is just the start of a brand new approach to life.

One I’m doing with a big smile on my face.

getting ready for Nepal

Status: Officially freaking out

It’s less than eight days before I leave for Nepal and I’m not packed, immunized nor ready. In sheer terror, I pulled out an old email from Spike, which he’d kindly sent to me because he felt that I needed ‘help’.

Things to pack (a list courtesy of Spike, who’s leaving for Nepal ahead of me):

01. Duffel bag (with lockable zips) – borrowed
02. Backpack – to borrow from Cutesy?
03. Daypack – I’m confused. What’s the difference between that and a backpack?
04. Rain covers for backpack and daypack – black garbage bags work, no?
05. Sleeping bag – to buy in Nepal
06. Sleeping bag liner – to buy in Nepal
07. Trekking poles – they cost so much! *argh* I wonder if wooden branches work well?
08. Hiking boots – just got them from North Face
09. Sock liners – do I really need them? Maybe I’ll buy a pair. Just in case.
10. Woolen socks (3 pairs) – more money *sob*
11. Normal shoes – wait. Aren’t trekking shoes ‘normal shoes’?
12. Slippers/scandals – Spike’s typo. I have both. *mad laugh*
13. Glove liner – huh?
14. Glove (breathable) – again, I’ll need to buy a pair. My suede ones are too pretty.
15. Undergarments (quick dry) – umm…
16. Thermals (2 sets) – finally! Something I already have!
17. Trekking trousers – to borrow from Cutesy. Darn it. I think she’s a size smaller than me.
18. Rain trousers – wait, wait, wait! If it rains… do I change mid-way up the mountain?
19. Shorts – got it!
20. Fleece pants – can thermals work underneath normal trekking pants?
21. Fleece jacket – to buy in Nepal
22. Wind/Rain jacket – I’ll carry an umbrella. Or wear garbage bags. I’m serious.
23. Beanie – need to find the one I wore when I traveled to Israel…
24. Wide brim hat – ooh nice. Finally. A possible fashion statement.
25. Scarf – I got plenty!
26. Sunglasses – *sob* Another purchase to make. I don’t usually wear wraparounds.
27. Pocket knife – beg, borrow or steal
28. Torch light – to buy tomorrow, maybe
29. Head torch – funny as it may seem, these come in handy for midnight toilet trips.
30. Batteries – for torchlight, camera, and whatever else electrical I’m bringing
31. Towel (quick dry) – to buy tomorrow, maybe
32. Toilet paper/Wet wipes – I’ll carry loads. I’m considering less bathing, more wiping…
33. Talcum powder/prickly heat – I’ll get them tomorrow! To the pharmacy!
34. Hand sanitizers (some swear by this to avoid diahoerra) – got bottles at home. *whee*
35. No rinse (body wash and shampoo) – dry shampoo I have. But body wash? Isn’t that what talcum powder is for?
36. Moisturizer – got loads! Rosken. Amazing stuff.
37. Toothbrush/Toothpaste – finally, we’re coming to the part of the list that I am prepared for.
38. Lip balm – Elizabeth Arden 8-hour lip balm. One of the best!
39. Sunscreen – got it!
40. Insect repellent – will it work? Or are the insects there somehow, immune to the repellent?
41. Lighter – friend should have these. She smokes.
42. Mirror – who’s gonna see me? I’m lying. I know I’ll still be vain up there…
43. Water purification tablets – alright, the list is changing. Now it’s stuff I need to get tomorrow.
44. Diahoerra pills – Spike has very interesting spelling…
45. Hydration salts – to the pharmacy I go!
46. Vitamin pills – always packed, always ready.
47. Panadol – ditto
48. Blister kit – what is a blister kit? Plaster?
49. Nail clipper – doesn’t higher altitude stump nail growth or something?
50. Tweezer – eyebrows? Splinters?
51. Ear plugs – what for?! In case my friend snores?
52. Travel adaptor and device chargers – definite must. Although electricity up there is supposedly intermittent and scarce. Maybe I should pack a solar power system.

Somehow, I’ll manage to pack everything into my bag, including snacks for the needed burst of energy, and carry it all up the side of Annapurna. Right. I’m so freaking out right now.

*

On a happier note, I met Flex today for another session at the gym and nearly cried each time he told me to do another set of exercises for my legs and butt.

‘Are… you… mad?!’ I managed to pant out, as he took a heavier set of weights for me to lunge with.

‘Yes! You can do it!’ He very cheerfully bellowed in the near-empty gym.

‘Dammit Flex, the exercises are tough!’ I bellowed back. Just for fun.

‘No, it’s not tough. You’re tough! You can do it,’ He chided me.

‘What was that?’ I looked at him in horror. ‘You get those lines out of a PT manual?’

He laughed and handed me the weights, nearly causing me to keel over.

‘Tell me I’m improving,’ I begged as I hoisted the barbells above my shoulders.

‘Yes, you are. You know… you’re actually quite strong,’ he said, ‘as if you’ve done all this before.’

A little encouragement. That was all I needed. And I finished my set without further cussing. And like a good girl, came home with very sore and aching muscles.

*

So. I still have to manage a re-write of the article I handed in last week. Then there’s shopping and a little detour to the travel clinic for my necessary jabs. There are also some urgent house matters to finish and more work for upcoming events. Then… I’m off.

I may need a holiday after this holiday, to recuperate.

‘Do you feel guilty that you’re going off amidst all this?’ The Mother asked me a few minutes ago.

‘Well, yeah,’ I admitted to her. It is hard to up and leave when I know people are depending on me for work and family matters.

‘Don’t feel that way,’ she said. ‘It’s been more than 11 years since you took such a break and coming from me, I’m happy you’re doing this for yourself.’

‘Really? You’re actually happy I’m going off for no real reason? I mean… there’s no necessity in this trip,’ I was a little surprised.

‘Yes, I think it’s time you took a break and lived a little,’ she smiled as she hugged me tight.

‘Thanks… I needed to hear that,’ I said.

So Nepal, are you ready for me?

behind the cardboard dreams

In the beginning was the idea.

And that idea was made flesh with recycled cardboard boxes, gaffer tape, black marker pens, yellow notebook paper, thousands of photographs, willing people and hours of time sacrificed.

I was up till the wee hours of the morning approving the final details of the video and waiting for it to get exported but it didn’t matter, we were excited. This morning, the editor was slightly late in delivering the video file and we had our mad moment running to the broadcast room at 7.30am.

‘You’re late so we won’t screen it,’ the person at the door said to us.

‘What?!’ the editor said, barely able to control his anger but the door had already slammed shut.

‘They wouldn’t even port the file over to the system!’ He growled at me, ‘And I have never wanted to throw something at someone in a long time.’

It was a dismal start. We walked quietly to our office.

‘What are we going to do?’ I whispered to Cutesy, ‘I mean, yes, we are late but come on, is this the way to treat the issue?’

I wasn’t even mad. My mind was already trying to work on a solution but I felt hopeless. After all, the video was the missile that would launch the entire campaign and without it, the work didn’t make sense. We were robbed of context.

‘I’m not going to fight,’ Cutesy replied me, her eyes downcast. ‘I’ll leave it to people on top to work it out but we need to pray.’

The team huddled under our dark cloud and closed our eyes. We could only trust in the Dream Maker to make it happen. Already tired out from weeks of overwork and yesterday’s traveling back from our trip, we felt beaten by circumstances beyond our control.

‘Alright guys! Let’s get to work and make this thing happen,’ I said to everyone. Summoning a smile for them, I continued, ‘Let’s have fun. This is going to be awesome. We’ve worked with the impossible before. This is nothing new. Now, let’s rock!’

Putting the fear aside, we set up our stations built entirely out of boxes, hung posters, distributed materials and prepared the many teams, all the while wondering if everything was going to fall through.

‘Hey,’ I said to the Dream Maker, when I finally had some time alone, ‘can you please hold my hand?’

‘I already am,’ He answered.

With Him by my side, I watched the details get pulled together and marveled at the beauty of every single person’s spirit. The what-if’s threatened to dampen my enthusiasm but I knew I had to look like everything was okay. It wasn’t easy.

A few hours later, Cutesy came up to me.

‘How are things?’ She asked.

‘It’s all ready to go,’ I answered. ‘What about the video?’

‘It’ll air,’ she answered, ‘but I’ll need to write a formal letter of apology. Because we did cut it too close this time and of course, made some people unhappy with our seeming flippancy with deadlines.’

‘You okay?’ I asked. She looked very, very tired.

Cutesy smiled.

‘I’m good. We’re all good.’

And it was.

*

‘We did it!’ the twins laughed, throwing off their huge boxes. ‘We shocked the people!’

They’d been hiding in their boxes where the crowds were slowly building up and when people had grown accustomed to the many boxes strategically placed all over, at a synchronized moment, they stood up and began dancing.

‘People were laughing hard!’ They giggled as more of our people came streaming back. ‘This is so much fun!’

I sat at the booth and in the spaces between the busy moments, began reflecting on 2010.

‘I remember watching the video of you walking in months ago,’ I said to Smiley, ‘when you first auditioned. Back then, I had no idea who you were, what you did or where you came from. It was almost as if you had been plucked out of non-existence onto the stage.’

‘I had no idea what I was getting myself into,’ Smiley answered.

‘And from a normal chap, you went to lead actor, then singer, then singing regularly and now, leading your own team of people… isn’t it grand, the journeys we all took in 2010?’

‘It was crazy,’ he answered.

And as I watched the people signing up today, I wondered how many of them were in for the same journey of stretching. Resonating deep within me was this knowing that we – as a team – were poised for a new era.

‘Let us be marked by fun,’ I whispered to the Dream Maker, ‘And let it all be done with such a level of rest…’

‘It will be,’ He sat back and chuckled. ‘After all, their stories have already been written by me, hasn’t it? And you know me…’

‘You like happy endings?’ I smiled.

‘Yes, I do,’ He reached out and slung His arm around my shoulder. ‘We are going to have such amazing exploits.’

I nodded to myself.

2010. It’s already been filled with the amazing.

Only the spectacular lies ahead.

hope


Standing on the brink of camp, my insides are slowly expanding with the potential of good things to come. I’d been dragging my feet in the dust regarding this getaway, many times regretting that I’d even offered to go with the team due to work and my recent spate of procrastination.

This time round, I really have bitten off too much to chew, what with camp, work, life and the upcoming trip to Nepal… feeling overwhelmed every morning when I wake has been something of the norm. It probably explains why I’ve been unable to sleep well. Worry has been etched into my face and I hate how it disfigures my smile.

Besides work, I’ve also been considering some massive changes in my life (albeit unwillingly but for the good of the future) and with no one to really talk things through, my thought life had been a tad abysmal.

Tonight though, as I started preparing for this trip, the excitement began building.

How will it end? Will it provide the answers I need? Can I get the rest I desire?

Check in a week later and we’ll see how it rolls. Let’s hope it’s all good.

*

‘It’s all dead,’ the girl whispered to herself as she sat in her barren garden. Picking up a withered daisy, she held it close to her heart. ‘What happened? You promised me flowers and fruits but all I have is the withered image of what could be.’

‘It does look dismal, doesn’t it?’ The Dream Maker sat down beside her on the cold, dry ground. ‘This dying garden, is it all you can see?’

‘What else?’ the girl answered, ripping the flower apart. ‘What else is there to see? Just look at this!’

She held out the dried petals and leaves, before scattering them onto the ground.

‘I am so angry I want to destroy everything, tear them all apart and walk away. I give up. I’ve worked so hard to keep the garden alive but it dies on me. It’s all a work of futility. I hate this place…’ she gritted her teeth, digging her fingers into the earth with frustration.

‘Let’s destroy this place then,’ the Dream Maker answered. ‘Let’s set fire to all that’s dead and gone.’

‘What?!’ the girl looked at him in horror.

‘I’ve got the fuel. Let’s kill everything that’s in here.’ He said firmly.

‘But… but I still love this place,’ she said. ‘Look, I know I’m angry but I had dreams for this garden. Maybe if I work the ground harder, something will change. I think destroying it is a little harsh.’

‘No, it holds the ghosts of what could have been,’ the Dream Maker stood up. ‘Let’s torch the past together and rebuild it all from scratch.’

The girl didn’t stand up. She didn’t understand. It didn’t make sense to her.

‘Hey,’ the Dream Maker stooped beside her, ‘when we burn what’s dead, it fertilizes the ground and rebirth is easier. You don’t see it now but everything that seems wasted effort can help build something beautiful for the future.’

Sweeping a clear spot on the earth, the Dream Maker used His finger and began drawing His plans for the new garden.

‘What do you see?’ He asked the girl.

With tears in her eyes, she looked at the lines in the earth.

‘I see hope,’ she sniffled.

Then wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, she stood up and tentatively reached for the matches.

‘Where do we start?’

*

beautiful. i am.

I want to thank those two ladies who appeared just as I was about to give up.

Out on the tracks tonight, I was initially reluctant to run. I’d already spent two hours in my running outfit, seated at the computer answering emails, phone calls and text messages. It was all tremendously frustrating because I felt time slipping away… then I remembered that ‘if it’s 15 minutes you have, run 15 minutes.’

Basically, it’s a just do it mentality (good for you on that one, Nike).

I headed out and after 4km, was ready to finish when these two pony-tailed females popped out of nowhere.

‘Typical,’ I jealously eyed their physique. Tight asses, cropped tees and slim legs, I had begun on a new round without realizing that I’d been tailing the running beauties.

‘Oh well… I’ll just keep pace with them,’ I told myself. Interesting… the run grew easy while I watched them talk (dammit… they were chatting while I was huffing away). Men kept turning their heads as they passed by.

Just as we reached the halfway mark, they halted. (I know this is mean but what the heck). They were tired! Gleefully inspired, I straightened my back, composed my features into a nonchalant I-do-this-everyday expression, gathered speed and ran past them. It felt gloriously wonderful.

So what if my thighs are twice theirs in diameter? It didn’t matter that I was dressed in a loose tee and shorts while they looked way more professional. I was fitter.

Resisting the urge to do a little dance, I ended my final stretch with new power and looked up into the indigo sky.

Bliss.

*

‘The beauty is in the flaw,’ Mr. H once said to me. A renowned director of photography in this region, we were discussing framing. ‘You have your rules of perceived perfection but really, it’s the quirk that gives a picture that special quality.’

‘I totally agree! That’s why I love used items like books, leather jackets and bags… it’s the scuff marks, the imperfections that make me want to own them. You can’t purchase these flaws,’ I said.

That conversation took place more than two years ago and resurfaced today. Which made me wonder…

Can I see my body the same way? Can I believe that it’s the imperfections that make me beautiful and special? I know I can’t fit into the ‘ideal’ set by someone else… but if I can see my lumps and bumps as the ‘quirk that gives a picture that special quality‘… I can grow happy with whatever shape I’m in.

It’s worth a try.

*

‘Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.’

– Marilyn Monroe

thanks for the cheer

Cherries in a plastic basket.
Hazelnut ice-cream.
Dark chocolate.
A phone call.
Text messages.
A banana muffin.
Email how-are-you’s.
Triple grande hazelnut lattes.
Promises of fruit tarts & pies from Oz.

I was encouraged by the many ways friends reached out to me, yes, even by the notes you left behind, dear readers. It gave me that little surge of power to continue on this leg of race called September. Your cheers yelled out, ‘You’re precious! You can do it!’

I can and I will.

Thank you for the pom-poms and dance. It meant a lot to me.

*

I’d ignored the weighing scale in the gym’s locker room for the past one week but today, I couldn’t resist. I took off my sneakers and climbed on.

‘What?!’ I cursed under my breath. The scale told me that I’d added another 1.5 kilos since the start of my intensive training. Don’t tell me it’s muscle! The tight jeans beg to differ and seriously, this weight issue is starting to grate on my nerves. Gah!

My overflowing closet continues to mock me every morning I choose to wear something. You see, I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I have gotten chubbier. 7.5 kilos in fact. This is NOT good.

Sulking, I nursed a bottle of water as I stared at my thighs. I contemplated returning out to the gym. Maybe I could run off half a kilo on the treadmill? Nah… My legs were already trembling from the crazy walk-lunges I did with weights. Any more and I would probably crumble in a heap at the foot of the machine.

It’s tough enough, walking into a gym. People there like to watch you as you do your workouts. I don’t get that. Why are they so unabashed in observing me sweat it out? The first time it happened, I thought it was my imagination.

‘Why are they seated around me, watching us?’ I whispered to Flex.

‘They’re cashing in on your lesson,’ he chuckled. ‘You paid for me to train you, and they, being free-loaders, are seeing if they can get any tips. I call it monkey-see-monkey-do.’

‘I want them to disappear,’ I managed to grunt as I hoisted myself up from the floor.

‘Wipe your sweat,’ he said before leading me to yet another metal machine. I took no offense. I perspire a lot and at the end of each session, am usually drenched. It’s embarrassing but what the hell… there’s no one at the gym to impress.

I’ve been working out at the gym for about a week and I must say, gym culture is very interesting. This is my first foray into the world of the body-beautiful and so far, I’ve already noticed a few regulars.

There’s the Indian girl who’s always on the treadmill. She runs with an amazing swivel-motion to her hips and I wonder if her knees hurt. It’s almost unnatural, as is her dedication to her goal – which I’m assuming is weight loss.

Then there’s Swing Lady – a petite, toned and limber female who swings on the rings in what looks like child’s play. Except that she’s always with a trainer too, so I’m guessing it’s actually exercise.

I’m just glad no one likes the Summit Climber. Each time I enter the gym, I head straight there. Being goal-oriented, I know why I sacrifice time to enter the sweaty place: I am training to climb up to the Annapurna Base Camp in one piece. Hopefully, with a smile.

The ticket is purchased and travel plans firmed. Now all I need is the right equipment to help get me up there without dying. First thing was the shoes. I did some research and nearly gagged at the trekking footwear they categorized as ‘stylish’. It was all very blah. Well, at least it’ll blend in with the mud I will undoubtedly encounter.

We’re traveling there during the final weeks of the monsoon season.

‘The good news is that you won’t see leeches!’ an experienced friend exclaimed.

‘What?! Leeches? Wait… are there insects on this trail?’ I asked.

‘Of course! That’s why you need to remember to keep all your bags tightly sealed. You don’t want them climbing in…’ she laughed. I didn’t.

‘What else do I need for this trek?’ I was starting to get a teensy weensy bit worried.

‘Get a walking stick, or walking poles. You will need them because on your first day there, the one thing you’ll be asking yourself is why. Why did you pay so much to suffer this torture? But after that, the view will be worth every bit of pain,’ she said.

‘Pain? I don’t want pain…’ I whined a little.

‘You have three weeks to train… that’s erm, very short to get appropriately fit. You are fit, right?’

‘Well…’ I smiled. I didn’t dare answer her. In my mind though, I began calculating how many hours I could put in on the Summit Climber.

‘I can’t help you with the altitude but if you work on this machine and can complete an hour, you’ll be in good shape,’ Flex told me on our introductory tour around the gym. Since then, I’ve managed to work up from ten measly minutes to 30. It’s sheer torture though.

‘I get bored…’ I confided in him. ‘What’s there to take my attention away while I climb the steps?’ I asked.

‘Think about how wonderful the mountain will be,’ he answered.

Right. That is NOT going to help me one bit. Maybe it’s time to be annoying and start observing the other people who work out at the gym. I guess I can conjure up stories about them…

Watch out gym rats.

The story-teller is let loose.

t.i.r.e.d.

[A picture was supposed to be inserted here]

1.00am: We finally wrapped up the shoot for the stop-motion video and there were moments during the process, I asked myself why, when hard-pressed for time, we continued to strive for that perfect representation of the imaginary world. I know the answer. I just ask these questions when I’m tired.

1.30am: We entered our building’s car park, only to find that the gantry refused to budge.

‘Oh hey, the gantry’s tired too…’ I murmured in the backseat, half asleep. We stayed in the cool air of the car as the driver tried to get the automatic sensor to recognize his card but some things in life just won’t work reliably. One of them is anything labeled ‘automatic’.

1.32am: I hauled the huge borrowed backpack (for the Nepal trek) out, along with my shoulder bag and two other carriers stuffed to the brim with random what-nots, and began my slow walk to the apartment…

1.35am: So tired. And my article was due today. I need to squeeze in 240 minutes worth of conversation into 800 words. Miracles always happen, I’m sure. I’m living proof every time I take a breath.

2.35am: I should sleep and yet, this is the only moment today when I’m completely alone. It’s nice to unwind. The internet is reflecting my state of mind – byte by byte – for once, I’m not bothered by the fact it’s taking me five minutes to load a page.

Okay. Brain’s not working. Neither is wordpress functioning well. It’s a sign.

Good night everyone.
Have a wonderful life.
Tomorrow is a fresh start.

[Insert whatever picture that immediately pops into your mind. Credit to wordpress for stimulating imagination.]