Sunday, February 28, 2010


It’s a good sign that as people get more affluent they tend to be more charitable.  It’s a general statement that may not hold true for everyone but it’s an observation I’ve made.

Look at the celebrities donating to all different causes and becoming sponsors to different non-profit organizations.  The skeptics may say it’s all for publicity.  Whatever the motive is not for us to judge but the outcome is positive.  Aside from helping the needy, it increases awareness for the different causes.

I respect the wealthy who spend the money and effort to help those in needs.  In Asia, in recent years increasing number of wealthy families have invested time and effort for philanthropic causes.  Many of my friends for example benefit from the scholarship the Sampoerna family has sponsored. These are young intelligent people who have so much to contribute to the country after they finished the higher education paid for by the scholarships.

With increasing affluence in Asia, many has picked philanthropy as a way to show-case their wealth.  It has become an “in-thing” amongst many of the rich.  It’s a new hobby.  As long as the support to the cause is sustainable, I have no qualms over anyone’s motives.  If one of the main purposes to support a charity event is to appear in Tattler, I’ve nothing against it as long as some poor kids get to go to school.

What I have an issue with are people who demonstrate their charitable support in public but are mean and petty to the household staff who work for them.  There are countless of people who pay their maids meager salary and have no second thoughts deducting their salary to pay for something they broke while cleaning up the house.  Others will not give their maids day-off.  I’ve also seen many who bring their nannies to look after kids in restaurants without offering the nannies anything to eat or even drink.  Do we even feed our domestic staff properly at home?  Do we care if our driver is making enough to send his kids to school?  Do we help pay for the medical bills when his kids are sick. 

So often, we ignore those around us who are most in needs.   I know many people treat their household staff like their family.  To those people, my deepest respect.  For the others, it’s not too late to start.  Charity starts at home.


An except from Taylor Clark's book "Without coffee, half of Western civilization would be crippled by blinding headaches; morning commuters would wonder around in a daze...In short, coffee growers prevent the world from descending into animal-pelt-wearing, fire-god-worhispping anarchy".   That's from the book "A double tall of caffeine, commerce and culture.  Starbucked. ", a must-read for any coffee lovers.

I had to laugh and couldn't agree more that I tend to measure how "civilized" a place is by the presence of Starbucks.  Although Starbucks doesn't serve the best coffee, I am still a fan.  Starbucks provides me with reliable coffee when I need a caffiene fix.  Stabucks provides me a place to meet friends and hang-out.  Starbucks provides me with a place to rest when I'm weary.  Starbucks provides me an escape when I need to be alone.

Starbucks is not present in Vietnam yet.  I'm sure Howard Schultz has the country all mapped out as his next target market.  How can he afford to miss this upcoming economy with growing affluent of young population especially when Gloria Jean's is here?

With all the local cafes in this country and with a similar Starbucks concept in the local chain, Highlands Cofee, I do crave for my Caramel Macchiato at times.  And yes, add a pastry to my order please.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


It’s easy to be in at peace when you are in your yoga studio or sipping wine by the beach.  One of the ultimate tests of how much self-control you have is in an efficient and congested airport.  People show their real self when they are in a hectic airport.

You get irritated by the stagnant yet endless line. You see people shamelessly cutting lines.  The noise level is driving you crazy.   You see people taking longer time than necessary at the check-in counter.  In Soekarno Hatta Airport, just getting into the passenger check-in area is a struggle with long disorganized lines and of course always with people attempting to cut the line.

It’s worse when you have kids or elderly with you.  Most of these airports are not designed for children, elders and least of all the disabled.  If you are late due to the check-in process, you realize that’s only the beginning of the nightmare.  The customs process is usually another long queue plus the long walk to the gate.    By the time you board the plane, you are exhausted.

Airport is the part of travel I least look forward to especially in South East Asia where apart from the world-class standard of Changi Airport, the others are sub-standard.   I don’t understand why major cities don’t design better airports?  With the increase of value airlines and travelers, isn’t it obvious most of these airports need an upgrade?  Or perhaps start with making the existing one more efficient?

Until such time, I’ll just plug in my ipod and breath my way through the jungle of the airport.

Friday, February 26, 2010


It just struck me yesterday at yoga class how bad I am with listening.  I hear but don't listen.  There is no other sound in class to distract me other than the teacher giving out instructions and yet I fail to listen.   My mind drifts away.  There I am trying to do my poses with my mind going havoc on me.  I read somewhere that an untrained mind is line a wild horse trying to flee in all directions.  That was exactly how my mind behaved yesterday in class.  Work, things to do, people all flocked into my mind randomly.   Breathing and listening to your breath helps tame the mind.

Yoga is about listening to your body.  Letting go of what your mind tells your body what it can or cannot do.  One of my most challenging poses is camel which is a deep back-bend from a kneeled down position.  It took many months and classes for my body to convince my mind that it is alright to attempt that pose.  When I was told that that pose is about receiving love, it struck me that I do have issues in receiving love.  I've unconsciously felt that I need to work at being loved, I need to put in the effort in any relationship in order for the other person to love me.  And when I don't feel love, I work harder to gain back the love.  When I don't feel love, I may even blame myself for not making it work.

Now I am working to be at peace with myself.  I realize I first have to love and accept myself.  Only then can I love and accept others.  I cannot expect others to love and accept me and I've to learn to let go of that expectation.

It's still a journey towards self-love and self-acceptance but it's a journey I've committed myself to embark.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Allow ourselves to fail

Failure has all the negative connotations that come with it.  So intense is our fear of failure that it causes us to put our dreams in the back burner.  We freeze at the thought of venturing into unknown territory.

But why do we fear failure?  Is it because we are worried how people will perceive us if we fail.  Is it our ego driving this irrational fear.

It took me a while to start writing this blog.  I've always wanted to write but have been using my busy schedule as an excuse not to start.  It then hit me one day that time is not the reason why I don't write.  It is fear; fear of not writing well, fear of others being critical of my writing, fear of not knowing what to write.  All those fear even before I start.

Are we putting aside our dreams without even trying?  I would rather have tried and failed then not even trying.  If the experience makes us a better person, have we really failed?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Be thankful

Be thankful.   Easy concept yet often forgotten.

How can you not smile when you are thankful for the sun that never fails to rise everyday?  I feel the warmth of the sun on my face and the glow it casts over my surrounding this morning.  Nothing has changed just me feeling thankful for something I’ve taken for granted.

There’s no way to describe the fragrance of the flower picked from my neighbor’s garden.  Simple white flowers with small petals that exude the most enticing sweetness.

The vendors that push their carts of fresh grocery add a vibrant vibe to the neighborhood.   The carts overflowed with a variety of vegetables, fruits and spices.  Thankful for the convenience they bring forth.

Thankful for the domestic staff and drivers who ensure my life run smoothly.  My maids who never fail to make me my kopi trubuk every morning and let me come home to a house all cleaned and tidied with warm dinner waiting.  My driver who tackles the crazy traffic and make sure I get to my destination safe and sound, giving me the time to write, rest and catch up on work in the car. 

As I looked back in my life, I’ve been most fortunate to have all those people who make my life special in their own ways.

The baby-sitters who helped me with my kids since they were babies.  Without them and my mother-in-law, I won’t have managed my career.  Colleagues who in their small ways helped me ease into my work and who never fail to extend a helping hand when I needed them.  Bosses who believed in me and supported me.  Friends whose shoulders are drenched with my tears but who never fail to offer their listening ears whenever I needed them.  My parents who love me unconditionally.  My kids who teach me what it means to love.  My sis who shares my past and who will blindly stand by me while offering her does of honesty.

The list goes on and I know I am not doing justice to many others who have touched my life in their own ways.  I promise I will write about you at a later day.  For now, my most sincere thank you to everyone who touched my life in your special ways. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

People who touch our lives

"Some people are there for a season, others for a reason and very few are there to stay".

Our yoga teacher, Marcello, is leaving for an overseas project.  He's one of the teachers who've left an impact on my yoga practice.  Omar and Brian are the other two teachers I've learned significantly; whether it's fine-tuning on some postures or certain insights they instill during the lessons, they all have left an impression on me.  It's amazing how people can affect you in the most unexpected ways and leave  a lasting footprint on your life.

It makes me realize that we too can touch the lives of others in small ways we least expect.  A smile at a stranger may brighten his day when he most needed it.  A word of encouragement to a kid may be what he needs in moment of self-doubt.  

Smile, be kind and you never know who might benefit from you small gesture of kindness.

Our Daughters

We often don't realize that our daughters observe and learn from us.  We encourage our daughters to be courageous and follow their dreams.  But are we brave enough to go for our dreams?  Or are we so scared of failure we won't even take the first step.  We tell our daughters they deserve to be in a respectful relationship.  But does our spouse respect us?  Or do we let our spouse get away because we are too timid or lazy to demand the basic respect in our marriage?  We tell our daughters that knowledge is power.  Do we continue learning or are we complacent with what we know.  Do we push ourselves to upgrade our skills to keep up with time?

Look over your shoulder and you'll see your daughter watching every step you make and learning from you.  Start by loving yourself.  That's the most important lesson you can teach your daughter.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


What is considered infidelity?  In modern times, this ranges from physical affair to emotional affair to internet affair.  Many may argue one form of cheating is less damaging than the other but no one can dispute someone in the relationship gets hurt.  The damage is done.

I can never forget the chill that ran through my body and being overwhelmed with nausea when I am confronted with infidelity.  No woman walking down the aisle ever imagined that she will be faced with that harsh reality.

There are many reasons and excuses for cheating and it's not for me to judge.  What I want to share is simply a few survival tips on how to get back on your two feet.  First and foremost is to take your mind off the affair.  Stop trying to dig into the affair and stop blaming yourself.  It's easy to fall prey to blaming ourselves for not keeping our spouse.  At the early stage, keeping your sanity is the most important.  As much as you are tempted, do not ever confront the other woman.  You will not achieve anything, the chance of her ending the affair out of sympathy and morale ethics is close to nil.  Surround yourselves with family and friends who love you and support you.  You need all the shoulders to cry on.

After nights of crying, it's time to move on.  Take stock of your dreams and wish-lists.  You've always wanted to be a painter but was busy running the family.  Now is the time to take a painting class.  You've always wanted to travel.  Grab your best friend for a weekend trip.  Even better, go traveling on your own.  You don't know what you want, now is the time to experience life. Volunteer for charity; helping others put one in a mood of gratitude.  Sign up for a language class.  Learn to cook.   Even working long hour to finish that projects at work seems an attractive option at this stage.

In essence, be yourself instead of desperately clinging to your identity as a wife.  You are you before you are a wife.

For those with kids, it's important to prioritize the kids during this turbulent moment.  Kids should not be caught at the cross-road between the parents.  Unless the father is abusive, I do not condone keeping the kids away from the father.

I know what I've shared may sound too easy.   You are stronger and more resilient than you think you are.  As they teach in yoga,  let it go.  Let go of you anger and resentment.  Learn to love yourself as you heal.  You cannot experience love if you don't feel love for yourself.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Staying true to ourselves

Many of my female colleagues face the challenge in managing work and family.  In Asia, thankfully for domestic helpers,  many of us are freed from household chores.  That does not mean it's anyway easier for career women.  The issues with domestic helpers render a different discussion on its own.

The challenge in managing work and family is a constant balancing act women have faced since the industrial revolution when women started to get a job outside, first to assist the family financially and as time passed, for self-fulfillment.

There are many women who are constantly haunted by guilt from working especially if they are not doing it for financial reason.  Many well-educated women in South East Asia who are from well to do family tend to stop working after they start a family.  I have considerable admiration for women who decide to quit their job to be full-time mom or as they are now called, home-makers.  It's a round the clock job that is as much challenging as holding a 9 to 5 office career.  As long as the decision to leave their job is a conscious one they've embraced and not one made out of family pressure and guilt.

I won't call it an advice, but for the rest of women who enjoy working for the self-satisfaction, financial independence and the social networking, I suggest we stay true to ourselves for I am not sure we will be any happier leaving something we enjoy doing.  Our happiness is as vital to the family as much as we care about theirs.

To all women out there, may you stay true to your choice.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Starbucks Experience

Starbucks means more than coffee to me.  It's a recollection of my experiences in the States as a student.  Starbucks had started to mushroomed throughout the States then.  Even in the suburb of Arcadia, I recalled a Starbucks nestled in a corner along Huntington. Used to drop by this place to grab my vanilla latte on the way for my commute to college.  Just stepping into the aroma with the music is enough to sooth my nerve and prepare me for the LA traffic.

Weekend is for Starbucks in Pasadena.  This is at the corner near a supermarket and it has a livelier vibe.  Sunday morning over LA times and latte is the best way to kick-start the day.
Starbucks has always been a place where I prefer to go alone.  I cherish the time to reflect and gather my thoughts while I enjoy the warmth of the coffee and the bitter sweet taste it leaves behind.
Such are moments in life I relish.  And such are little things in life I treasure.

To my tall latte...salute.

Bikram Yoga and Me

It's impossible to imagine how 90 minutes of stretching and sweating in a heated room with so many people packed next to each other can make me feel so good.  The first class was all about surviving in the heat and gasping for air.  Subsequent classes didn't immediately make me feel the inner peace I was hoping from yoga.  Thought that perhaps Bikram is the wrong style of yoga for me.  But given how stiff my body is; I can't even bend over and touch my toes and I am not close to 40, I decided to give Bikram a chance.  This in addition to me getting bored with the gym.  It was more about trying to lose weight and keeping fit then.

It's been a year since I started yoga and as much as I can't do all the 26 poses in perfection, I now long for the 90 minutes of class, both for the physical benefit and but the meditation.  Yes, it sounds bizarre but listening to the teacher and to your own body and emotion when you are trying to do the poses is similar to meditation.  I have overcome the fear of some poses.  Many of these fears are what my minds tell me but apparently once I let go of these fears, my body can easily accommodate.  There are good days and there are bad days.  Goods days when all poses come in naturally.  Bad days when you can't do the basic, when you can't stand even your teacher, when you feel nauseas and want to flee the room.

Whatever it is, as long as you remain in the room and make an attempt with all the poses, it's a guarantee that you will finish class feeling more at ease, more recharged and refreshed.  Otherwise, just simply let go and see you in the next class.