November 26, 2008

I used to think that life would get easier as I grow older. I'll be able to get a steady income and buy stuff, drive a car and go places... basically do the things that I'd always wanted to as a kid. More importantly, I wouldn't have to go to school and freeze myself at the first bell after recess anymore. Ever.

The journey into adulthood has always been like a passage to liberty for me. It paves the way for me to enter this new world, warranting me the right to not be envious of adults any longer. Simply because I'd become one of them. It's a fact to be appreciated everytime I ponder upon the limitations that I had to deal with earlier in life.

One thing though, seems to be a million times simpler back then. And I reckon I speak for a number of guys out there on this one. For the subject in reference happens to be, for the lack of a better term, my relationship with peers of the opposite gender.

Prior to entering primary school, I had a rather primitive way of expressing my fondness of girls. It wasn't prehistoric per se, where I would knock them out and drag them back into my cave. Not quite... close enough though.

I was the maniac kid who liked to chase girls around at the playground. I would go to the park sometime earlier in the afternoon to play catch and collect tadpoles with my friends before the sun sets down a bit and the girls arrive. But I was fair, in a way. As I don't really bug them until they're done playing whatever it was that they were playing (God knows).

Until dawn breaks and they head home, running for their lives, away from the frenzied kid from hell that was yours truly. Well, the lot of them didn't really have to run away as I was actually running after this one girl only. Living just a few doors away, she was maybe four years older and I was good friends with her brother. Apart from being cute, I thought it would be a swell idea to get married to her as I would be able to catch tadpoles with her brother until we get old.

Things pretty much went downhill when I started school; not to say that any of the earlier anecdotes was laudable either. I became a bit too occupied with other things that I became -- and I stress my straightness in writing this -- somewhat disinterested in girls. I was overwhelmed, so to speak, with the ideas that I was getting from my friends at school. We played rounders instead of just simple catch and from tadpoles, we graduated to collecting frogs and performing surgeries on them. Girls were nowhere within our sights. Suffice to say, the Ninja Turtles took precedence in my priority list. They still do.

I'm partly kidding.

A part of me did realize the lacking amount of communication I had with the girls at school. It was a time when a number of my own friends were starting to get involved and have a taste of their own puppy love -- *washes hands* -- experience. Another part of me (the bigger one I'd presume) was rather complacent; telling myself that youth fades away before you know it and if I don't dissect frogs and other members of the Animal Kingdom now, I never will.

So there I was, spending my 11 years of primary and secondary schooling years engaging in activities mainly relating to either football, music, video games and worst of all, professional wrestling; requiring minute involvement of anyone from the opposite gender. Little that I know, however, such a behavior led to the development of a mild indifference. Consequently, while I could roar when I'm at a table with my guy friends, put a girl there and I'll purr away.

Now where has that little devil gone? That child who was so confident that he could find a life partner just by chasing girls around, literally. More than a decade of seclusion from socializing outside of his comfort zone did more than just tame him down. If only he's bold enough to just go out there and say it out loud,

"Hey, I think I like you and I'd love to know you better. Then again, I won't force you into anything if you don't feel like it. I'm sure the right one is out there for the both of us. Cheers!"

Life would be a tad too easy perhaps if things are as simple as that.

You're 5, you go to the playground, you see a cute girl, you like her, you chase her around, she runs away from you and you quit running when you get tired, you go home and play Sonic the Hedgehog, you come back to the playground tomorrow and you chase some other girl you like.

You're 25 and you're having a drink with your friends at a café nearby your office, you see an attractive lady sitting not too far from your table, you whisper to your friend her latitude and longitude, questions starts meandering around your head, would you ever see her again, do you just inflate your balls and go talk to her, but what if she's waiting for her boyfriend/husband, will be getting a good ass-whooping from the guy, even if you manage to talk to her, what if she works nearby as well, that would mean that you'll be seeing more of her after this and if you do get rejected there and then, will she be telling her friends of you, will you be able to withstand the pain and agony of such humiliation, would it mean that you'll have to work elsewhere and never be able to set sight on the café, ever again, would you?

I would... if I could.

November 15, 2008

Presumably, it's always the same scene at the Bali flight boarding gate anywhere around the world. Couples young and old clutching hands as they rest their heads on each other's shoulders. The glimmer of hope in their eyes shines brightly upon embarking into a journey to paradise; an island where lovebirds from across the globe flock to cherish their newfound romance or rekindle the nostalgia of a long lost affection.

Incidentally, I smiled as I threw momentary glances at them; fascinated by their delight in traveling with their other halves, promising a passage they'll never forget. Until I swerved to my right and set upon a sight that made me want to forget about my own trip to Bali already. For there stood my 'travelmates', Mazree, Zack and Badol.

To no one's surprise, our expedition began with Zack making a roundtrip to the airport and back home after leaving his passport behind. Questions lingered through our minds while we eagerly waited for his arrival and queued for boarding. How's it going to be if Zack couldn't make it? Should we forget about Bali altogether? Would it be just the three of us then? Could he take the next flight out? Will that fine, fine stewardess right there be on our flight later?

A few irrelevant questions later and out comes Zack from the security checkpoint. Upon which Badol sighed the biggest sigh of relief -- for his aim to feast his eyes on some 'susu jemur' is still within sight. Bali here we come.

The accommodating scent of the ocean with the calming sea breeze welcomed us as we set afoot Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar. Our arrival was greeted by a group of vibrant tourist guides holding up signs and hollering out names as we eyeball around in search of our own names. A few feet away from the crowd was our guide, standing rather indifferently holding up his sign. Lazy-eyed and laidback, Ahmad introduced himself coyly as he brought us to a Suzuki APV at the parking lot to meet up with the driver, Komang, seemingly more livelier at the time.

On the way to the hotel however, Ahmad started to show his true colors. Just as any guys of the similar group age, we traded jokes (mostly from the toilet humor school of thought -- which rarely fails, by the way). Gradually, and I say this in the most non-homosexual manner possible, we managed to win each other's hearts simply through the warmth of our comedy. Indonesian humor, it seemed, differs little from the one back home.

Or so we thought until the following conversation left him in a bewildered heap,

"Dipanggil 'sepak bola' ya sini Ahmad? Di Malaysia, 'bola sepak'... sering saya main dahulu tapi sekarang sudah main bola lain pula."

"Ha ha, gitu ya... bola apa itu?"

"Bola kocek."

A lot still to be learned from our neighboring countries.

We stayed at the Matahari Bungalow on Legian St. near Kuta. A decent place to stay if you're spending just the evenings there, the hotel was just a stone's throw away from the Bali Bombing Memorial. Sandwiching the one way traffic were rows of hotels, restaurants, pubs, surf shops, tattoo parlors and suckling pig joints leading to nightclubs filled with both locals and Australians howling everything from "G'day mate!" (pre-alcohol) to "Shite mate!" (post-alcohol). All of that, only meters away from Ground Zero… signaling the resurgence of Bali.

The timing for the trip was a bit off, unfortunately. Our first night in Bali was also the eve of the Bali Bombers' execution, sparking threats of backlash. Out of security concerns, we had to stay in on the first few nights until things had calmed down a bit before making our way to the Hard Rock Cafe on Kuta Beach... only to witness Mazree and Badol's dreadful moves to the music played. In all honesty, it made me rather be at the hotel and watch Abdel & Temon on TV instead.

Through Ahmad's enunciation, we figured out the nomenclature for our names in Indonesian. Asrif is Asrep (to which I'm quite used to actually), Mazree is Majeree, Zack is Zak @ Zaki @ Jak @ Jaki and Badol, oddly enough, goes by his real name, Badrul. Naturally, we played along with the idea of everyone in Bali knowing Mazree whenever they call him 'mas' (Indonesian for mister) as we call him a similar sounding 'Maz' as well; not discounting the possibility of him talking to himself,

"Mas, ini enggak bisa kurang lagi ya..? Oh enggak bisa ya tu Maz... harga pas. Ah, gitu ya mas? Iya Maz..! Nggak apa-apain ya mas. Bisa Maz..."

Ahmad at least, was amused.

Going to the temples is a must whenever you're in Bali. With 93% of its population adhering to Balinese Hinduism, the influence was all too apparent. Ahmad brought us to the prominent ones but the more unique ones, Tanah Lot (temple in the middle of the sea) and Uluwatu (temple on the cliff) easily stood out. We missed the sunset at Tanah Lot due to the clouds but it was good buildup to the one in Uluwatu the next day. Sunset at Uluwatu, overlooking the Indian Ocean, brings you one of those mesmerizing views capable of making you want to just sit there, do nothing and let the good thoughts flow through your mind. Sadly Badol had to stay away from the temples as it was 'that time of the month' for him.

Of course I'm kidding.

The temples aside, we made stops at the volcanic Mount Batur in Kintamani, Mount Agung, Tegalalang rice terraces, Garuda Wisnu Kencana, Tampak Siring holy spring, Ubud and many other spots which names I fail to recall. The mountainous areas were as any that you'd seen while the rice terraces were a joy to witness. But being the art aficionado that I was (at least by Mazree's low standards), I was especially intrigued by the concept of Ubud as an 'art village' and thoroughly enjoyed walking along the galleries, confusing myself as I tried to depict the abstract paintings.

Just as any starving travelers would, we ventured our way in and out of the food joints in Bali. With Ahmad's assistance, we feasted upon the island's best Sumatran Nasi Padang, Javanese Wong Solo roasted chicken and Jimbaran seafood. Every dish tells a story, with the amazing blend of tantalizing tastes; especially the smoked seafood at Jimbaran. Furthermore, dueling Ahmad on messed up jokes in between puffs after the meals was a joy. Nothing like the local fairs with the locals, as we quenched our arid throats with Es Jeruk, Teh Botol and the likes. Not to mention Badol's deeply inquisitive yet entertaining questions (e.g. Where is Nasi Padang from?).

We felt rather unperturbed, somehow, by the activities leading to our last days in Bali. Something seemed to be missing. There was this urge for adrenaline rush as the sound of the ocean paved its way into our ears. The sight of the waves seemed like a calling; an invitation to get a taste of what they've got to offer. A taunt, if you will, for us to prove ourselves worthy of the gonads bestowed upon us. Aptly enough, we signed up for surfing.

And surfed we did... at the nearby Internet Cafe. So much for a taste of the local overused dry pun.

Our craving for some ocean action brought us to the Oakley sponsored Odysseys Surf School. All set in our rash shirts and board shorts, we tiptoed our way through the blistering hot sand holding on to our boards, into the sea. Su, our instructor was perhaps used to dealing with beginners -- something he didn't have to utilize much upon dealing with us (bar Mazree); good on the lad.

At the end of the day, it was a treasured experience for us all. Riding the wave, weaving our own lifelong dream of surfing through the sea breeze; I couldn't stop smiling even after suffering cuts and bruises and swallowing perhaps a few dozen gallons of salt water. More importantly though, we all had the Facebook-worthy shots we wanted.

It was only a few days back that I wanted to forget about the trip even before taking off. All in the apathy of going there with three guys. One surf session, 2 mountains, 4 beaches, 36 temples and 384,573,028 bottles of iced tea later, we woke up to our last day in Bali; in solemnity, as expected. Making it a trip we'd least want to forget. Truth is, I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much if it weren't for these guys.

Getting back into the office will be a daunting task. Why wouldn't it be? Hours of non-stop laughter to the worst jokes known to man on the island that is Bali is not an easy zone to get out from. Ahmad and Komang's camaraderie made us more than mere customers; it made us friends.

Coming home, we're all sunburned, our legs soar, muscles aching with gashes everywhere. I can still feel the wave slamming the surfboard right on my face again and again. Suffice to say though, I loved every bit of it. Doubtlessly, Bali has yet to see the last of us.

Oh why the hell not...

Mockumenting Youth
November 01, 2008

In his book 'Everything and a Kite', comedian Ray Romano explored the subject of mockery in children, an issue rarely researched by child psychologists the world throughout; let alone comedians. The complexity of the matter has been deterring researchers from delving deeper to unearth the mysteries behind it, consequently leaving intrigued individuals like Mr. Romano and myself to do the job. More likely though, they just couldn't give a rat's ass.

In 'Kite, Romano focused on children's inclination to rhyme names (e.g. "Slimy Jimmy wets his nappy!") in their effort to make fun of their peers. Nevertheless, this observation may be more apparent in children of the West. And if your childhood wasn't spent anywhere near that part of the world, like myself, the severity of the name-rhyme approach may be questionable.

It's a whole different ball game over here, halfway across the globe. Growing up, the artistry and creativity revolving around the act of ridiculing our friends played a huge role in our lives. And I can safely say that it was only a mere second to our academic achievements, during our formative years; as far as we (excluding our parents, evidently) were concerned.

"What's this C doing on your report card?"

"This kid at school had a pink lunch box... I asked if it came with a matching pantyhose."

"That's my boy. Where do I sign now son?" I would always imagined my dad saying.

The cruelty often prevails when physical appearance was the topic of interest.

It was the early days of satellite TV. And who do you ring up whenever you get bad reception at home? None other, than the kid with the rather, flappy ears.

"Dude are you on the trampoline or something? Quit it man... stay still... I'm trying to watch some wrestling here!"

There was also then, by the wonders of his abdominal area's premature expansion, the potbellied kid. Some highlighted his resemblance to our childhood hero, Doraemon; occasionally sliding into his pockets with the hope of getting an invisible robe or something of that nature. Some, bolder ones, would toy with the concept of male pregnancy and place their hands on his prized belly...

"Aw, there it is kicking again..." they would say, before getting kicked themselves.

What goes around though, as they say, comes around. I had my (not too) fair share of derision.

The kids in the neighborhood who'd seen my siblings would usually notice how I was a few tones darker than they were. Inevitably, it took them no longer than a heartbeat to write a letter to the National Registration Department to revise my nationality and propose the revelation of yours truly, as an adopted child.

More than fifteen years had gone by since those days, and I can conveniently say that, little has changed. Old habits die hard and I still jeer as much as I am jeered. From the transformation of the gap between my front teeth into a road tunnel, to the atrocity of my hair, I've heard them all.

The universal, recurring theme agreed by guys worldwide however, has always been the size of their, for lack of better words, reproductive organs.

"Mine has got its own zip code!"

"You don't need that much rubber do ya?"

"Sigh, I have to buy two seats everytime I fly."

"What do you mean I'm only 5-4? I'm 5-11... wanna see the other 7?" and so forth.

This guy, however, shifts the paradigm like no other. 'Fess up Ticub!

Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

  • Asrif, b. 1983
  • Subang Jaya, Malaysia
  • asrifomar[@]gmail[.]com
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