A lesson on the value of love

Back at home, I took my family and my friends for granted.

Ashamed as I am to admit it, I’ve done it plenty of times. Saying I was busy when I could’ve met up with a friend, revelled in her good mood or lent a shoulder in her bad time. Making excuses everytime my parents reminded me to do something important that I’d forgotten..again. Using the “older sibling card” to make my brother do something under the facade of “I’m just looking out for you; you need to know how to do this when I’m not here with you.” It comes in many forms, but from the same place of over confidence, that there will always be a next time to balance it out with. 

Nothing changed on my immediate week of joining the ship, of course. I was too excited about where I was and the people I was with to even write back home letting them know I was alright. The first trip was a 4-day cruise, and I didn’t even take a minute to text anyone back home, from the moment I left the hotel and signed on to the end of the first cruise, that this ship job wasn’t a scam. (Some people’s main concern, since the company keep your passport the moment you sign on.) 

In my defense, I had said I would only speak to them the next time I was back in home port. 

But, highlighting my offense were the hundreds of messages and calls the next time I was back in port. 

In those 4 days I heard from possibly eveyone I have ever cared about. The obvious one was family. They were worried sick to the point where when I actually spoke to my dad, he was only able to say “Thank God we heard from you. Now call your mom.” He didn’t want to know anymore about how my first week had been, or any stories that he usually looks forward to from me. When I called my mom, who was with my brother in Bangkok, I could only hear relief and gratitude in her voice. And from my brother, who snatched the phone from her, I felt concern in the form of anger like never before. He just yelled at me for 5 minutes, and returned the phone to my mother. 

In that moment, I was washed over by a wave of something I can’t quite describe. I almost retaliated in anger, but I realised the meaning of a quote I’d seen pop up a lot recently; “People don’t listen in order to understand, they listen to reply.” At that moment, I listened. I listened to understand. And I understood that I was loved beyond words, beyond reason and beyond imagination by these people. 

Of course, I also defended myself and argued a little later in the conversation, but all in good humour. What I did realise is that living so far from my family would change the equations a little bit. I may have taken for granted how much I should have contributed to all my relationships, but now the values of my ‘x’ must change and so must their ‘y’ values in order to equate the new factors.

2 of my most amazing friends in this situation showed me what it means to be able to count on someone. One friend was constantly in touch with my mum asking about me and checking in on her as well. And another was ready to call the cops and report me missing. I know what you’re thinking. And I agree. I am the most horrible and irresponsible child ever. You’re right.

Anyway, now everyone knows I am happy, healthy and safe. So far, I’m thoroughly enjoying being on board, enjoying the people, the parties, the food and the comfort of being fed and cleaned up after. We have an amazing and very hard working team on board that takes very good care that we enjoy a well-balanced life. From what I hear, no other cruise line takes as good care of its employees as Carnival. And it might just be true.

On a different note of realisations, I have come to appreciate people for who they are. On board, when you live together and share a lot of your life with one another, you come to appreciate that people aren’t their job title, but so much more than it. Everyone is very capable of all sorts of roles, but many put their pride aside and choose to do things they wouldn’t back at home. You will find ex-accountants working as housekeeping staff. Lawyers working as bar tenders. The environment allows you to forget the expectations of society; and the competition that living in a community imposes on you. It allows you to take a step back, try a hand at something different and re-evaluate your bearings. It is a very accommodating surrounding. You are encouraged to take a chill pill, but we also have crew training centres that encourage you to step up your game by taking as many courses in as many fields as possible. If crew members want to try a different job, all they have to do is prepare themselves and make it known to relevant departments that they are looking for an opportunity. 

Maybe I’m still spell-bound by this magical new home I have found, but I would recommend everyone that has always wanted to challenge themselves and get out of their comfort zones to take this amazing opportunity. Next week, maybe I’ll talk about some downsides of this job to allow a complete evaluation. 

Until next time..! ūüôā

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Behold! The Carnival Valor…

We’ve heard it said that a cruise ship is like a gigantic floating resort,  or a moving city. But nothing said prepares you for this feat of engineering that is a world of its own. 

This is my home for the next 7 months.

The peopleOn biard my ship alone,we have crew members from 60+ nations. You’re introduced to all sorts of languages, slangs, cultures, and styles which all combine to form one universal ship lingo. In the same sentence you’ll hear Mexican, Philipina and English. And nobody on board will even bat an eyelid, it’ll be understood. 

Impressions

With my unique background, I enjoy the confusion I raise among my new friends. The Mexican / Latina / Spanish nationals on board will say “Hola! Como estas?” as they pass by. The Indians look at me in wonder, afraid to look silly asking the question “Are you by any chance partly Indian?” (Most will just stare and never ask because they see my name tag says “Thailand”). The best is when I meet the Thais on board though, they don’t expect me to be Thai so they wouldn’t even look at my name tag or me. Until other people who know me introduce me to the Thais which is usually followed by them tugging at my name tag for confirmation, quizzical eyes that wander back and forth between my face and my tag, and then some laughter. 

Then comes the question of how I’ve got an American accent if I’ve got an indian background and lived all my life in Thailand. And I sheepishly answer, “Well, this is gonna sound strange, but I went to a British school back home but somehow picked up an American accent” which leads to more surprise and yet more laughter. 

I’ve really gotta thank my family ancestry and my parents’ decisions about school and my expat-magnet hometown island of Phuket for the multicultural blend of a person that I am. It’s always worked as a great conversation starter and allows me to make friends so much easier because I can relate to people from so many different backgrounds. 

The job

Some real serious responsibilities that would ruin not just holidays and waste money, but waste tonnes of petrol for travel and yet not allow us to dock at or leave from home or foreign ports if I fail to submit the righ paperwork. And of course it’s kind of cool to be the only H.A.C on the ship. Empowering, yet frightening. I’m still in training though, for about 2 more weeks. 

The timings can be odd sometimes, like tomorrow I’ve gotta be up at 4.30am to clear customs for our vessel. Other days I’ll start at the usual 7 or 8am. On sea days I may even have the flexibilty of creating my own schedule, as long as I get my job done. So it’s a well-balanced lifestyle overall. 

The Life

I can totally get used to this! Being away fron home, at boarding school, or going to universiry in a foreign country, and moving out to live and work in a different city, all combined together have prepared me for life on the ship. Neither the small cabins, nor the shared rooms, or the noisy environments can possibly dominate the beautiful sea view, cool breeze, nightly star gazing, friends that I easily see becoming family, crew activities, diving or swimming with dolphin opportunities, and the magical destinations. 

For instance, yesterday I was relaxing on the deck with some friends at night time, and looking up at the sky I saw the most phenomenal night sky I have ever seen. There were a million twinkling stars. Even being from an island like Phuket, I have never managed to see such a vast expanse of a starry night sky.  

Friends are as close as one bunk apart, 2 doors down or as far as a few decks up or down. Open air movie nights by the pool on a giant projector, discounted prices on shopping, tours and food and drinks, live musical or theatrical performances, and arcade games and casinos are entertainment options on board the ship, to name a few. “All for fun, Fun for all” is Carnival’s motto and over the period of my first 4 day cruise, I have experienced nothing short of it. 

The Food

Food for staff and crew is served 24 hours a day, be it fruits, yogurt and cereal, ice creams or cakes, and a variety of selections at the buffet meals. To cater to the 60+ nationalities of tastebuds, we have food inpsired by countries around the world. We will never go hungry.

Health and Fitness

We have several options to help us maintain a healthy lifestyle even when we’re so many miles from land. Staff and guest gyms are fitted with some very advanced gym equipment. Once in a while personal trainers run fitness classes like HIIT training and Spin classes (where applicable). Jogging tracks are available on the top most deck on the ship. And if you simply enjoy walking, we’re bound to find more than one place for it on this 953 feet long ship we call home. Going up and down the stairs is another option, although I wouldn’t personally like that option. 

I have to say I still miss my Guavapass classes that I had back home, especially Thai boxing.

Oh,  leaving so I’m gonna just post this now. More next week. ūüėÄ

A Badass Workout Plan

     Have you ever done something that you enjoyed so much that you could not help but tell everyone about it? (Perhaps to the extent it threatened the continual of your friendship?)

     The Guavapass has been one such experience for me.

¬† ¬† ¬†I signed up to it in February this year, but had been pondering the idea way before then. I registered myself on their website in October last year, when I saw a Facebook ad or shared post about it. Because that’s what you do when you are planning to lose some weight. You start following a whole bunch of Fitness pages on social media, you subscribe to healthy cooking and 30-minute-workout channels on Youtube. You fill your Pinterest board with healthy living and healthy eating inspirational pins. Yet, you scroll through, watch or browse these things all while munching on a bag of chips, a bar of chocolate or an ice cream in hand. DUH! (Or is that just me?)

     However, at some point in your life things may change. You may decide to take serious steps towards achieving a leaner, fitter and more toned body. Or you may decide to change the way you eat, or more importantly the way you snack. On the other hand you may, by a lucky chance, get introduced to, or stumble upon a kind of activity or sport that you enjoy so much, that you lose weight from it without too much of a struggle.

¬†¬† ¬† I’ve personally been through all of these phases. I’ve always been between the overweight and the obese range of the weight spectrum. I distinctly remember weighing in at a blundering 47 kgs when I joined boarding school in Year 4, at age 8. We had the same medical file through all the years that we spent there, with new pages added for every visit and at the start of every school year. In my final year, I recall looking through the pages to see my weight at the start of every school year and I noticed a very embarrassing gain. Look closely at the figures.

Grade 4 = 47 kgs

Grade 5 = 52 kgs

Grade 6 = 67 kgs

Grade 7 = 76 kgs

Grade 8 = 88 kgs

¬† ¬† ¬†However, luckily, the school was located on what we Indians call “hill stations”.(i.e. a town at the base of a mountain, at higher elevation than nearby plains, and hence relatively cooler and suitable for a getaway in the summers.) This simply means that every little walk from the classroom to the dining room, or the dormitory to the infirmary, or from the dormitories to the tuck shop was considered a work out. Consequently, by the end of the year, I’d lose more weight than I had put on during the vacation and I’d end the year at healthy body weight. And then the cycle would repeat.

¬† ¬† ¬†At age 13, my mum decided I was no longer going back to boarding school because she wanted to be more involved in my education, since I was starting high school. (For those who are unaware of life in a boarding school, it’s highly likely that if you weren’t a focused, hard working, goal-oriented middle schooler, then that’s how you’d remain during high school.) But, of course, my mother couldn’t just accept that so she decided to take matters into her own hands. Now the new school I was joining followed the International school calendar so the academic year began in August / September, while the academic year at my previous school ended in November and I was a few months too young to join the next grade in the following semester. This left me with about 9 months of holiday time. Initially, I took lots of tuition and my dad would take me for swimming or badminton, etc. But after a while came peak season for business on the island and he was no longer able to chauffer me around. If you’ve been to Phuket, you will know it’s a tiny little island with the least reliable and most expensive public transportation, so overtime, I’d get lazy taking the buses and because my parents were so busy, I was mostly home or in the area nearby. As a result, my already low physical activity went even lower, and my already high weight…well, it didn’t get any lower. To be honest, it went up… a lot. That was the time my weight went from the 80s range up to over 100 kgs. My max. weight ever was a 110 kgs.

¬† ¬† ¬†I had a phase where my father would force me to go for morning jogs at the beach with him, where I’d eventually fall behind by almost a whole kilometer. Embarrassingly, he’d have to jog back to motivate or taunt me to get me moving. After a few months, I just refused to go. Those days my mother had started going for evenings walks by the beach or around the neighbourhood. Being the more leniant parent, I thought going with her would be less stressful, so when she asked if I wanted to join, I did. Little did she know that I was going to be a horrible influence. Thailand being possibly the best place in the world for street food, I would ask for snacks whenever we were out; safe to say there was more sitting and eating than walking. One particular evening’s happenings seem to stand out. There was a community center, with a huge garden and playground on premise, where we’d sometimes go to walk. I had just had some Pad Thai from a street vendor on our way there, and so my mum suggested it was a good idea to do a couple of rounds of brisk walking around the grounds because I had really over eaten that day. I RESPONDED BY STANDING UP, AND WALKING IN CIRCULAR ROUNDS OF 5 STEPS EACH, 5 TIMES, AND SAT BACK DOWN, CONTENT WITH MY “WORKOUT”.

¬† ¬† ¬†I’ve come a long way since, thanks to my dad, who compelled me to take P.E. as an IGCSE subject in an attempt to increase my weekly physical activity. Even though I didn’t lose much weight because of these classes, at the very least I learned to appreciate sports. I learned to play football, baseball and fixed my incorrect swimming technicques and learned some survival skills in a challenge called “Personal survival”. This is ¬†a test where you wear long jeans, a t-shirt, a long-sleeved sweater or jacket, jump into the pool with this heavy outfit, and swim 50 ¬†or 100 m, in under 30 seconds, in any stroke of your choice. This is followed by floating while hugging a buoyant ball for 10 minutes ¬†and ends with swimming yet another lap or something along those lines. The type of activities, however, is not the point. The real achievement is that I, the girl who couldn’t walk 5 rounds around a community center garden, ended high school as a member of the football team for the last 3 semesters. I was by no means the best player, I’d get a mini heart attack each time someone kicked the ball my way, but thanks to a friend, I had the courage to get out there, make a fool of myself, learn (a little) from those mistakes and had ¬†great time on some inter-city football trip and the one or two matches I was part of when my school hosted the FOBISSEA tournament in 2009.

¬† ¬† ¬†Not only my father, but also, very shockingly, my once-leniant mum at some point decided she’d had enough of my laziness and dragged my sad ass to the gym every single day during my summer holidays. Overtime, all of that resulted in a happy 15 kg weightloss. Although that wasn’t enough, I was still happy with the results and turned my focus onto exams and school more than workout. The weight stayed constant since, nothing too drastic except for the one time i did a protein diet and lost a further 10 kgs in 3 months, while at university, but I gained it all back in no time.

¬† ¬† ¬†Over the last 10 years, I’ve tried a fair variety of gyms, ¬†workout techniques, and other activities like hiphop, salsa and Bollywood dance. Some I enjoyed, some I loathed because I was too shy to move my body a certain promiscuous way, mainly because when done by me it would look like an act of comedy. But nothing had me like the Guavapass.

¬† ¬† ¬†In the 6 months that I was an active member, I’ve tried Thai boxing, Calisthenics, Bounce (large trampoline group workouts), Rock climbing, Surfset (a surfing simulation set up, where you workout while on a surfboard balanced on gymnastic balls to give you the feeling you are maneuvering a wave), tennis, HIIT or other forms of interval training, Resistance or Endurance training, ¬†CrossFit (hands down the toughest workout, but oh so rewarding), Spin training, Barre classes, Bootcamps, Suspension training, Parkour workouts and many more things I hadn’t even heard of. I have thoroughly enjoyed the variety it offers, fun that comes along with it and the number of people I met while at it.

¬† ¬† ¬† Some of my favourite trainers were so motivating because they were previously either overweight themselves, or in depression and found salvation in exercising and keeping fit. The benefits of working out are endless and you are all aware of them so I won’t talk about that, but I’ll definitely encourage anyone looking to shuffle their workout routine to give the Guavapass a go.

To wrap it up, ¬†can I just add that I lost 10 kgs doing these different workouts. It’s not the fastest weight drop you’ve heard of, but for someone whose weight ¬†hadn’t budged in a few years, that is good progress, all thanks to the fun variety of exercises I was exposed to.

I envy the gross spiders!

What do you think of when you see a spider?

Putting aside the inevitable gut-churning, sudden quiver that the sight of a spider sends through me, I have come to appreciate how much composure the creature has. (And no, I have not been sitting around staring at one!).

As human beings that believe we are one of the few species that have the power to make things happen our way, or that we are somehow in control of things, it’s funny how little control we really have. We can buy flattering clothes, put on some pretty lipstick, wear high heels to boost confidence and set out pretending all is well. But that’s only on the outside.

What about the inside?

On average, I have 20 new ideas a day. Be it related to my health, short cuts to losing weight, new additions to my wardrobe, how my room is arranged, new recipes I want to try, more ear piercings, a holiday I want to take, what I’m going to do on the weekend, new restaurants / cafes in town, parties to attend Friday night, progress at the workplace, what my next blog topic will be, when I will actually write one and post it, etc…! Whew! That list took me a minute to come up with! Imagine this list with ten times as much intensity as you felt while reading it. And now think of that whirlpool of thoughts, all day, every day!

I’m sure most of you can relate! Whether you are a man or a woman, things that matter to each individual vary from person to person, but we all go through this phase. We have so many plans we want to actualize, and sometimes at the end of the day, we haven’t done anything but think about them! When this happens regularly, we get frustrated with ourselves for not having made any progress in spite of having so many ideas.

It’s hard to believe that after all that brain power we put in, it was all only in our heads!

Speaking for myself, I tend to plan a lot and do very little about it.

What’s the point in only making plans and dreaming of a more exciting tomorrow, if I’m not going to do the work involved! I’ll be exactly where I am today, in 5 years! Still hoping I could go on that Euro-trip, or move to that new apartment in the heart of the city!

BUT it’s not as simple as that! This all has to be managed in between properly and efficiently working at your full-time job, maintaining a social life, spending time with the family, staying fit, cooking and giving yourself some time off!

We always hear people tell us how we can’t tackle everything at once, and that we need to break things down and dedicate fixed times to everything that deserves our attention! How do they make it sound so easy? Do they never get tired? Are they just lucky? How do I do what they’ve done?

It’s pretty simple, really! They don’t have super powers! They just got a pretty good grip on time management!
And we’re all going to hate to hear this since we spent 20+ years waiting to finish school and university, so we could stop living life by a timetable! Yet, that seems to be the answer to all the frustration!

Remember going to school and thinking you had too many subjects to focus on, and those days when you doubted you’d ever make it out of there? For some of us, it was the P.E. class we hated most, others hated Math or Economics or English essays. But we all got out of there, made it into the big world, and DON’T YOU DARE DENY that you have found yourself thinking at some point or another “Oh! I did this in class Mr. X, Ms. Y or Mrs.Z”!

Whether or not you mastered it, you graduated taking some knowledge with you from every class! Imagine these weren’t exactly even subjects you chose with a lot of enthusiasm! So if now we set our heart on something we really want to learn to do, if we keep at it for long enough, and in healthy 2 hour (or whatever is suitable to your situation!) sessions, don’t you think we could accomplish all we want?

I started today’s post looking for someplace to vent my frustration, but figured this out while I was at it! So I’m going to try and implement this in my daily routine from now, and hope it works!

Because as some anonymous genius once said

~~”The best project you will ever work on is yourself!”~~

You see, if a spider with its 8 hairy, creepy-crawly legs which, studies have uncovered, are more than they need, can have the determination to tame those legs to carry it’s body in the direction it wants to go, I can’t help but envy the creature of its sure-footedness! If we are a superior species with a mind enabled to execute logic and reasoning, shouldn’t we be able to set our hearts on something and follow-through?

Rattana

I’d love to hear back from you, so feel free to leave me a comment!

Dear Gunraza

SO a friend of mine just had a baby 2 weeks ago, and I’ve been trying to put pen to paper ever since but having obviously never been in her position couldn’t figure out what the strongest emotion would be and what I should really be writing about. But anyway, here’s my feeble attempt!

Shayna, I just want to wish you all the very best for everything that lies ahead. Everyday will be a new adventure, enjoy every minute of it! Wish you and Gunpreet happy parenting years ahead! I love you! A BIIIIGG but very gentle hug to the li’l one.

Dear Gunraza

Tiny hands, tiny feet,
Baby hair and look, no teeth.
The first glimpse of her made you forget all your pain.

Her first cry, her first smile,
the first look, her first touch.
Her innocence, her purity,
Her cluelessness, her fragility.

Hunger, heat, cold, or sleep,
Only you know why she weeps.
Overwhelming, isn’t it?
Hey momma! Take a breath.
She’ll be just fine, have faith!

Your demands for pickle, your craving for ice-cream,
And changing your mind as soon as you got it.
The hubby finally understands the reasons for your mood swings;
After all it was the emotions of 2 beautiful girls: mommy and offspring!

From this point on you truly learn to be somebody’s everything.
Her smile, your aim; her mischief you tame.
Such is the game of parenting.

Journey away from the centre of the Earth

To all fans of the movie who were led here by the deceiving title, Oops! Sorry. ūüôā

It is said that telling friends and family about your goals supposedly helps keep you motivated towards achieving them.
Coming to think of it, it’s a logical statement. Once you’ve told people you’re pursuing something, you don’t want to come across as being all talk, and that is what drives you to make it happen.

I like to believe I’m a strong, ambitious woman! However, as a fresh-grad just out of college, only 5 months into my first ever job, I don’t have very many examples to give, of my determination. And somehow through this blog I want to gradually build a portfolio for myself. For me to one day look back and see the changes I’ve undergone over time, that I may not otherwise be able to put a finger on. Because every decision you ever make contributes to the forming of your character.

My one life changing ambition is to move abroad, live in a few countries with very different cultures, before finally settling down in the UK.
(Think: The English Accent!! The rich history, the scenic beauties, their (in)famous rain, and the countless pubs!)

Anyone wanna share their opinion on this?

Anyone wanna share their opinion on this?

Having said that, I still fully intend to visit to the UK several times, for short or long periods, before making that kind of commitment. It may seem far-fetched to say I want to live there without having ever visited the place, but sometimes when you’ve wanted something for long enough, no amount of reasoning can change your mind. If at a later date, I find out I’m not as psyched about it after having had the chance to experience it, it’ll just become part of the journey of finding myself.

So if that’s what this article was about, why be such a Drama Queen about the title?

Well, although the times are changing and most parents are actively making an effort to bridge the generation gap between them and their children; to become more accepting, or tolerant (however you want to see it), most of us of Asian origin will understand that for a young man or woman in an Asian family to want to move abroad and live independently is not an easy concept to grasp for our families. It’s alright to want to go study abroad for a few years, (work abroad, maybe?), but why would you want to leave the comfort of your home and the love of your family to go build a life from scratch?

How do I explain to them that it’s about self-empowerment; about creating a life of value for yourself. Living on your own is not defined by the difficulties you encounter, but is a great way to get in tune with yourself, figuring out the things you stand for. Most of us go through life passively; living with the family during school life, with friends at university, and then with boyfriends, fianc√©es or husbands after (or if you’re a man, then your female counterparts). In all of this, if you’ve managed to give yourself enough ‘me’ time, good for you! but for the rest of us too caught up in trying to please everyone and fix overburdening relationships, it’s amazing how fast life goes by once you have your education and life-partner departments figured out. You simply cannot suddenly decide to focus on yourself without disrupting the natural order of things and throwing all those around you in confusion!
Is it wrong to do some exploring when you have the time, to avoid feelings of regret later?

And so, to answer my own question about my dramatic title for this post… My life, as it is right now, simply put, is a whole bunch of questions, far away dreams, and blurry visions of the perfect future. As I move from one phase to the next, adding more value, more character and more solidity, I will essentially be increasing the distance between my current state of chaos and bridging the gap between the vast galaxy, that is my dreams. Therefore, the journey ‘away’ from the centre of ‘my’ earth.

A Sprinkle of Fairy Dust

The chiding sun, the aggressive alarm,
The goodbye mommy as she holds u in her arms.
The curiosity to learn, the eagerness to grow,
The plans for tomorrow all laid out in a row.
That flat in London, that comfort of old friends – although far.
The surprises and history of a big city, yet a familiar couch for after hours.
A small girl in a big world, out to explore it, out to leave a mark.
Then the fairies sprinkled some dust, and her life catches a spark.

Uncertain, determined,
Afraid, excited,
A heart full of emotions, but freedom her only thought!
Having once taken a step, she knew only too well never to back down.
In a sea of strangers, picked a face not in toxins drowned.
Oblivious to moon light’s sweet farewell,
Enchanted by tales of kittens and sportsmen.
Strolling through narrow alleys in the warm embrace of sunlight,
for the first time I really saw his face.

Soon came pungent realization,
A cherished memory, a lesson learned.
Travel is about so much more than the destination.
In a labyrinth of dignity, the web of egotism,
We bury our naivety, and wear a wreath of stone.
Only on a journey does one truly carry the weight of his soul,
Willing it to be amazed, willing it to be bold.