When I go out to meet the light, the shadow of my body follows me, but the shadow of my spirit precedes me and leads the way to an unknown place
- Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Time in Dallas

Dallas has been a fabulous trip with glorious weather. I've been wanting to be here for a long time to make up for missing my younger brother's wedding in Fiji last year. That moment was the lowest point in my life since leaving California, I remember literally being floored by the acceptance that I was going to miss the occassion. Up until that moment, I had not realized how much I loved my brother - it hurt a lot.

For the past 4 days I've been catching up with him and his wife (A & A) living the bourgeois life - lots of shopping... and eating. The food has been very good, one morning the 3 of us ate at this Cafe de Patisserie called Bonnie Ruth's. A & A along with their close circle of friends are in a period of abstinence at this time for Lent. Each has opted to forgo certain pleasures such as bread and flour or meat. Since I am not abstaining, I attack the buffet and enjoy the best breakfast for as long as I can remember. Crepes in berries and cream cheese, french toast with thick syrup and chunks of butter. There are also red velvet cupcakes that melt in your mouth that I enjoy the next day when him and I return for lunch.

To compensate for all the glorious food, the folks in Dallas pursue a lot of fitness related activities. The current fitness fad is the P90X workout program. My brother gives me a copy.

We also go Salsa dancing at the yoga/Aikido/pilates studio. I enjoy Salsa dancing but I have not been committed to it for many years so really I am a newbie again. I do enjoy very much dancing with different women in the class, there is always a different sort of chemistry with each person and it is quite obvious when you pay attention to it. There is a tall slim African American girl that seems to have no shyness about her, she is constantly staring me in the face in a friendly manner as we perform our basic maneuvers. I resist looking at my feet and face her. When it is time to switch partners she playfully whispers "Hot!!" as she grins with a gleam in her eye. I know what she means. By the end of the class I am convinced that in Sydney I shall take on bi-weekly Salsa lessons to gain a respectable level of proficiency in it. I do believe Tai Chi will compliment Salsa as I grow my body awareness and become more attuned to the interplay of yin and yang forces.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cali Living

After 4 days the appreciation for being here has waned, replaced instead by a prevailing sense of peace and contentment. Nevertheless there's no doubt that the cleaner air and better diet along with a comfortable mattress at Tom's place has charged me up. We went for a run the other day, I hadn't run for over a year and my body protested especially the lower half. Towards the end I thought my legs would seize up on me. Tom was quite amused, normally I hold up much better. Over the next two days I play tennis with old friends and I struggle on tired legs. Nevertheless it is exhilirating to be outside in the perfect weather, the sun is bright but I do not feel burdened by it. The ball seems to be in HDTV because of the clarity of the climate.

I also take the opportunity to do some shopping, I have been quite deprived of retail choices living in Malaysia. I soon content myself with my purchases. I soak in the freedom of going anywhere without too much concern for parking and traffic and there are many places to go... I marvel at the ability to be seated in a restaurant in a mall just 5 minutes after exiting the freeway. In Malaysia, I would be struggling for another 15 minutes or so through traffic and then jockeying with other drivers through clogged streets scanning for parking. There would always seem to be someone waiting impatiently on your tail.

Yesterday I met with my friend IM, we've known each other for about 15 years. I met him in the Philippines, where he is from. His father and mine were expatriate colleagues in Taiwan. Coincidentally we both moved to Southern California several years ago. Right before I left California, he enlisted in the military and shipped out for training and then Korea. I hadn't seen him since. He was back in California for a while having completed officer training.

The military runs contrary to much of what I value. From the denial of the individual to the eager use of violence to subjugate, so I'd been sad when IM told me a few years ago he was enlisting. I've always known him to be the nicest guy in the world - soft-spoken, great sense of humor and courteous, as I sat in the restaurant I wondered how he would have changed. But he hadn't... still the same gracious guy. He did however acknowledge that the soldier in him doesn't show up in regular life and he preferred to be in full-time duty, he didn't like having to switch between the two personas. It isn't an easy life he admitted. I asked him why he loved being in the military and he said "they get shit done".

Monday, March 22, 2010

Fresh Eyes

A customer holds the door open for me with a warm smile as I step into Starbucks . I've been carrying a sense of displacement to get here. I'd driven self-consciously on the road, trying not to offend anyone with any of the poor driving habits I've acquired from KL. As I approach the counter, I ask for an oatmeal and order a mocha from the cheerful blonde. I also ask for the nearest AT&T and 3 people chime in including the brunette woman standing behind me in line. I feel as though I have stepped onto a staged performance of some kind, I am not accustomed anymore to such an outpouring of assistance.

As I sit at the table listening to a tune by Nina Simone while sipping on my mocha, I feel a strong sense of gratitude and love for this country and it's people. We may share different opinions and outlooks but in that moment it didn't matter one bit. I find myself saying outloud "I vow to return America". Someday... No sooner than I think that do I overhear another customer at the counter "It's good to be back home. I agree with her and wonder at the same time 'Is this my home?'. I don't know... And then it hits me, the reason for my sense of displacement... this trip marks the end of the longest period that I have been away from North America in the past 17 years. No wonder everything that is different from where I have been seems so highlighted.

I step outside Starbucks and pause to take in the fresh sweet air, the sound of birds chirping and the distant hum of a lawn mower. The casual unhurried demeanor of the people. A man chats candidly on his mobile phone, the sky is clear blue and seems to stretch for endless miles. Ahh... the space and freedom before me, another surge of gratitude takes me as I step towards my car.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Meeting Tom

It was a long and arduous flight to get this far but finally I am in LAX (Los Angeles Airport) having cleared customs and immigration. Air China was the airline and I've plumbed new depths of discomfort traveling this low-cost carrier. I spent one night in Hong Kong, I stayed at the Marriott near the hotel. The food was expensive but my instincts were correct when I ordered the assorted Indian curry platter - it was perhaps the most gratifying Indian meal I've ever had.

I am fumbling with my luggage and wallet looking to get some coins for a phone call to alert Tom to my arrival when I hear "well, well, well..", I look up and it's my dear friend Tom standing before me. As usual my reply is facetious, "Hey man, what are you doing here? Just doing your usual rounds around LAX picking up strangers?". It is wonderful to be in his company again.

Perhaps no one else has taught me the value of friendship other than Tom. His willingness to go out of his way for his friends has re-written my book on human nature and relationships. Tom also mentioned before that also he regards me as a role model of sorts with my drive for continuous learning, risk taking and perspective on life. This relationship is one that I cherish highly. He is family to me.

We drop off my luggage at his home near the airport and then proceed to Mr.Cecils. A hole-in-the-wall diner that serves quite honestly the best ribs in town. I attack the enormous BBQ beef ribs with gusto, I've been deprived of a meal like this for far too long.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


After many, many months of routine living, patiently biding my time... I find myself in another upheaval. Ever since I learned of my imminent move to Sydney, I've noticed changes:

1. When I am present in the moment, the physical world around me seems to be recast in a new light of seeing. There seems to be an aliveness in even inanimate objects; it is as though everything I see is saying goodbye in a subtle manner. Maybe it is a knowing that I cannot any longer take the things around me for granted for soon they shall change.

2. I have been struggling a bit with relationships, suddenly questioning the true nature of each. My mind tends to want to dismiss them as being superficial, maybe it is a way of avoiding the pain of saying goodbye.

3. Events have been happening in a blur, I have not grounded for days and I have not been Ascending nor practicing Tai Chi. It's been quite stressful and I know the look on my face most of the time is grim.

Now that I am sitting here in the airport departure lounge I have become pensive and contemplate the crossroads that I have come to again. I am going to the US for 3 weeks, then back to Malaysia for one week then... onto Sydney for a permanent position. I see Australians around me here in the departure terminal and I wonder how the interaction with them will be compared to Californians and Canadians. But at the same time, I feel as Santiago - the Andalucian Shepherd Boy. Am I on the path of my Personal Legend? I believe so.

Seeking encouragement, I have bought the book 'The Fifth Mountain' by Paulo Coelho at the bookstore in the departure lounge. It is a tale of Elijah in the ninth century BC, and seems to be about enduring faith to triumph. I spent a while in there picking up and replacing many books before the one that felt right was found. I suppose I need to be reminded of magic, adventure and fulfillment of dreams, I have been fearful and anxious lately. It is not a feeling I am accustomed to, but one that tends to enshroud me when I spend time with my parents who constantly spin words of caution and end up injecting negativity. It could be also I am more susceptible to such, I have not slept properly in many many many nights... I will make it a top priority to find myself the ideal mattress in Sydney.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gathering Winds of Change

I am at the car service center working remotely on my laptop while awaiting the maintenance of my vehicle. On a whim I log into my personal email account to have a brief look.

There is an email from a former work associate; the last email we had exchanged was almost 4 months ago. I had initiated that exchange to formally declare my interest in working with his company X, a multinational Canadian company that is performing very well. I was hoping to be based in Sydney since that's where he worked out of. It would also be a great step for me professionally since it would be an increase in my role. He said that unfortunately they were in a hiring freeze but would keep me at the top of his list.

My finger instantly clicks the email and it takes me a couple of moments with my mouth open to grasp the meaning though it is short - "Are you still interested in working for X?". Waves of euphoria hit me. I have this knowing that finally this is the long awaited payoff to the gamble I had taken in giving up my job and life in California two years ago. I quickly respond "This is wonderful news! How soon do you need me?". We agree I should start after my trip to the US, sometime late April.

The rest of the day is spent floating, there is a looseness in me. By the end of day, I feel completely spent; I attribute it to strong overdue relief. I come home from work and fall asleep almost immediately. As I do so, I think with a smile, "that yogi guy was right after all"...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Arun by day, Alan by night

I find it quite amusing that:

During the day when I am at work, my boss who is from India refers to me during tele-conference meetings as 'Arun' to the snickers of my coworkers.

In the evening when I am at Tai-Chi class, Master Lim who doesn't speak English beckons me with his hand while calling out loud 'Alan' to the delight of my classmates.