Flashbacks, Malaysia, Numbers

The Quiet Years

From end-1995 to mid-2000, I was back home in Lahad Datu. Things I have done in this period do not go on a résumé. Yet, I feel the need to list them here:

  • Successfully launched my youngest brother off to college, and then later to university in the US. I did the research, the calculations, the preparations, the planning. I wrote his university application letter for goodness sake, and flew with him to the US!
  • Both my parents reached retirement age. I was there to assist them with their claims to their retirement funds. My father’s retirement fund was solely from his teaching career. My mother’s retirement was from her 20 years as a teacher and partly from her life insurance career, which she continued.
  • For my mother’s insurance business, I helped in renovating the Lahad Datu office, set up a new one in Kota Kinabalu, and have a home-office built beneath the living room.
  • I planned a solo US-trip for my father to meet up with my sister who was then in San Francisco and my brother who was still in university in Kalamazoo. He had the experience and time of his life!
  • Gifted properties were formally and legally transferred to the rightful owners. We then went into small-scaled oil palm planting and development. I recalled driving to a weighing station to collect a cheque for sales of oil palm seedlings?!
  • I had a wisdom tooth removed, by my childhood dentist. I survived LD style dental brutality!
  • Planted trees along a busy street.
  • Because I worked for my mother as an administrator, I had to help manage a secretary, a handful of death claims, a lot of accident claims, and tons of paperwork.
  • Spent some good and memorable time with church members and friends, some sadly no longer amongst the living. Cancer is a bitch!
  • Then there are plenty of things I no longer remember…
  • My last big act was planning my getaway from Lahad Datu, to begin the next chapter of my life.

Five and a half years of accomplishments that were quietly executed. Deeds that were easily forgotten due to their lack of glamour. When you lived in cities like San Francisco and Las Vegas, people do not bother to know what happened to you when you lived in hell holes.

I have no regrets spending half a decade back in Lahad Datu. No one forced me to stay. They were years well-spent and well-lived.

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Business & Creativity, Malaysia, Numbers

Employee Provident Fund

In Malaysia, the EPF (also common known as KWSP or Kumpulan Wang Simpanan Pekerja) is a social security institution formed according to the Laws of Malaysia, Employees Provident Fund Act 1991 (Act 452) which provides retirement benefits for member through the mandatory contribution from two parties: a portion of an employee’s salary and employer’s contribution on behalf of their workers. ~3E Accounting

2021 EPF dividend has been declared at 6.10%. One of the highest percentage in the duration of five years. Not bad for a developing country, which has to endure a global pandemic.

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Belgium, Flashbacks, Malaysia

Power Outage

What the heck?!

There was a 30-minute power outage, and now I have to reprogram all the digital clocks in the house. Half an hour of no electricity meant no radio, no buzzing sound from the boiler, the refrigerator, the freezer and every other electrical appliances we tend not to think of all the time. So freakishly quiet…

This reminds me of the serious blackouts I used to experience in Lahad Datu. Day-long power outages meant that refrigerated perishable food had to be cooked and consumed quickly. No lights, no televisions, no radios, no fans! And in the later years, no computers and air conditioning. But blackouts then were never quiet. There were always the animals, the insects, people conversing amongst each other, and my parents scolding me for messing with the candles or oil lamps.

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Flashbacks, Malaysia, Numbers

Nineteen & Thirty

I left my home town, Lahad Datu, when I was nineteen years old to pursue higher education. It was not a pleasant experience but it was necessary.

After returning from the United States and spending half a decade living and working back in Lahad Datu, I took leave again at age thirty. My second departure was less painful. And at the back of my mind, I was aware that I will most probably never return home to stay.

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Belgium, Flashbacks, Malaysia

Floods

The south east part of Belgium had endured some serious floods in the past days. So serious that it had cost more than 30 lives and enormous material damages.

Yesterday, it rained heavily again and parked cars were flunked around like rubber duckies in a bathtub.

Having lived in a tropical country, I am very aware of the danger and damage floods can cause. I feel sorry for these people who are at their wits’ end. Experience tells me that the floods are just the beginning of their troubles. When water roars through places that it is not suppose to be, it brings along many issues.

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Flashbacks, Malaysia

Annie & Siti

When I entered primary one at a local Chinese medium school in the mid-late 1970s, I only know how to speak in Cantonese and Indonesian Malay, which I have learned from my parents’ housekeeper. Because I cannot communicate with my Mandarin and Hakka speaking Chinese classmates, I gravitated and hung out with two Malay girls named Annie and Siti. If I still remember this correctly, they told me that they are sisters (not twins) born in the same year.

After a few months, as my local languages improved and my network of school friends expanded, the time I spent with Annie and Siti became shorter and shorter. My last memory of them was their surprised expressions when they found out that I have a Christian name. And that was in primary five when we were all registered to take our national examinations.

I have no contact nor any news regarding Annie and Siti after primary school. I should ask around. Some of my other primary school classmates might know. I am never known for making up imaginary friends, please let Annie and Siti be real people…

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Flashbacks, Malaysia

Spell Check

Two days ago, I sent a news article to a friend in Japan. She informed me that a software immediately translated the Dutch texts into Japanese, and that she had no problem understanding the article. Part of me was glad that the language barriers are low these days. That people do not have to go through too much trouble to share and understand information that are presented in foreign languages. But part of me is a bit sad that we do not have the need to learn each other’s languages.

When I was in my first year of college in Malaysia, I had an instructor who taught communication. The man cannot spell, even if his life had depended on it. One day during our lesson, a frustrated classmate spoke up and asked the instructor how he ever got through school and life when he never bothered with his spellings. The instructor shamelessly uttered two words: Spell check.

There you go. Computers, smart phones, AIs… We no longer need our brains?!

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Business & Creativity, Flashbacks, Malaysia, Numbers

Thirty & Fifty

In the year 2000, I bought a 21-year life insurance savings policy. It was a financial gift and commitment I gave myself in commemoration of my 30th birthday. My financial objective then was for this policy to reach maturity in the year I turn 50, thus becoming my birthday gift for the second time. 🙂

Today, I received the maturity sum in my bank account.

Two decades went by really quickly.

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Belgium, Flashbacks, Malaysia, Travels

Walk, Bike, Bus & Train

For most of my life and in all the places I have lived in, I have been dependent on the car for transportation. The only place that I did not need a car was San Francisco, and the reason is because I lived in the city and can walk to most places. Also, one can rely on the public transportation in most US cities.

Not in Malaysia though. Our public transportation system was downright shameful. Well, at least that was the case when I relied on the buses to get to school in the 90s when I lived in Kota Kinabalu. Public transportation did not exist in my home town when I lived there – and probably still not?!

The Belgians complain a lot about their existing public transportation. But for me, I have walked, biked, took the buses and trains in the past decade more than I ever did my entire life.

When one grew up in a third world country, one appreciates the freedom and security that public transportation in a peaceful and developed country such as Belgium.

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Flashbacks, Malaysia, Travels

I Miss Flying

I miss long distance travels. *insert big sigh here*

In the past decade, my trips back to Malaysia were more than just tropical vacations. These trips were often coupled with some ongoing projects I have been working on remotely, to be concluded back home.

Even my trips to the United States are more than just carefree holidaying, because I always seem to have some matters I need to take care of.

Despite the unpleasantness of air travels, I do miss flying?!

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