Category Archives: Writing 101

Writing 101 ~ Day 20: The Things We Treasure

Today’s Prompt: Tell us the story of your most-prized possession. Today’s twist: We extolled the virtues of brevity back on day five, but now, let’s jump to the other side of the spectrum and turn to longform writing.

Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel

My First Dose of Egyptian History

The first trip to Egypt I took was to get away from the norm. I had just recovered from a close call with death and wanted to see and feel history incase another encounter occurred and I ended up not seeing many of the world’s wonders.

In Cairo, the first place I visited was the Egyptian Museum at Tahrir Square and the artifacts displayed were just breathtaking. Finally, after much intrigue from reading National Geographic’s articles and seeing astounding photographs, I got to see with my own eyes, some of the items that actually accompanied Tutankhamun in his tomb.

Following many narrations of Egyptian history, the most fascinating Pharoah I found was Ramses II, who just adored his wife Nefertari, built monuments galore in Luxor, Karnak and the great temple in Abu Simbel, all with her as his consort. I marveled at the craftsmanship of such magnitude, hand done with such finesse and precise mathematical calculations, without modern technical equipment. What history of this civilization reveals!

an odd tourist event

When walking the streets, I saw the usual tourist business style almost amounting to harassment: sale of t-shirts, plastic obelisks, papyrus paintings, you-name-it … but when my friends and I stopped at a tea-shop, an elderly man, whom I thought was a vendor of knick-knacks, approached and paused at our table. He looked at all of us (me and 5 friends) and smiled. I could see friends’ hands waving “no” and heads moving left to right. With so much signaling going on, I felt there was no need for my contribution so I just sat there, smiling, very tempted to invite him to a cup of tea.

Mr. Ancient walked right to my side and place a tiny little blue ‘thing’ right by my teacup. He smiled and said “For you”. I simply followed with “How much?”
He simply shook his head and waved “Free.” I was so stunned, all I could say was “Thank you very much, er… what is it?”
“Khepri, good for you.” And with that, he walked away, disappearing into the crowd.

I tucked that little blue ‘thing’ into my shirt pocket and totally forgot all about it, until a few days later when I decided to send that shirt to the hotel’s laundry. It then got put in my wallet’s coin purse.

I got Curious

“Khepri” was mentioned many times by tour guides and museum docents but I never had a chance to ask specifically, what that gift I got signified. Upon my return home, as I unpacked, that tiny little blue ‘thing’ appeared again. This time, with travel notes and brochures brought back, I decided to look up what that little blue ‘thing’ was all about.

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Writing 101 ~ Day Nineteen: Don’t Stop the Rockin’

Today is a free writing day.

I am an ex-urbanite who has left behind the fashionable office wear, the Estee Lauder creams and TGIF post work meetings at wine bars in a banking community. Strangely the soul locked in this body still feels the same, though the body, with age actually feels healthier and stronger. Maybe it’s because I got the smog-effect out of my system. Who knows…

Being out of the city rush and the concrete jungle,  the lifestyle changes and along the way the dreams and aims in life changed too. I walked along Soho and Lower Manhattan last year, looked at all the classy window dressings of Hermes, Uniqlo, Hilfiger … and there was no sense of appreciation at all.  Last week, by luck, I walked into Home Depot, found they had a sale in the nursery section and I just went wild with purchases of organic fertilizers, seed potatoes, seedlings which I do not have … it just got the adrenaline going. Made me wonder if I was a farmer in my previous life.

Todate I have only achieved a minute portion of my revised aims in life. Those aims changed when I saw a video of a garden in Vietnam which had been in that family for 28 generations, yes 28! and all the trees, plants, everything growing had a use, a purpose, to feed and support life, to provide shelter or to enrich the soil. I found it simply eye opening! You can say I was in a way “born again”.

Many have pet animals, I have pet worms. It’s amazing what they do to organic wastes. They are almost like recycling angels. Then there are the pet lizards, frogs, ladybugs, dragonflies, spiders, bees ~ yes, I live in a creepy creatures’ menagerie of sort and I sometimes also talk to them.

If I ever get my hands on 5 acres, I will start a full permaculture garden, which will include goats (for milk), chickens (for eggs) and other creatures who can contribute their poop to enrich the soil. Then, I might even start a barter community with neighbors.  One day …

Ah yes ~ Laozi once said: 千里之行,始於足下 ~ a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. (Free writing includes Chinese characters, right?)  I’m right now over 10,000 miles away from my birthplace so I think I have taken quite a few steps but I realize I have a long way more to go.

Writing 101 ~ Day Eighteen: Hone Your Point of View

Today’s prompt: write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

That landlord was there again, but this time he had all those policemen with him. One of them was Billy’s dad, maybe I should go over to say hello and to please leave Mrs. P alone, but I just felt safer to stay put. All those big grown men…

Well, there’s Mrs. P and, uh-oh, she’s got that black rifle in hand and the men, they stopped walking, now just standing there. I guess they didn’t want to get shot.

“All you wicked men stay where you are, if you don’t want to die and see the Lord today! ~ and you, John Smith, I told you I would pay you as soon as I got Timmy’s Social Security.” she said. They were all whispering now so I think they were a little worried that she was going pull the trigger. Little Mrs. P was only 5 feet tall, why on earth would that wicked landlord need 3 other men with him?

As the tallest man put his two arms out and said “Wait a second Mrs. Pauley, we’re not here to cause any trouble. Mr. Smith here said you might want to move closer to your sons and we can help you move your things.”

Mrs. P just wouldn’t budge. She kept waving the rifle and told them to get off the property. That’s when suddenly the little droplets came down from the darkening sky followed by a flash of lightning and the sound of a crack very close by. Maybe Mr. Pauley was looking down from heaven and trying to scare them off.

I could see the men were in a stressful discussion, probably wondering whether to walk on and risk getting shot at as they were already wet, or to just walk back to their car and wet all the seats in there. Thank goodness they chose the car.

As they got in and drove off in the now heavier downpour, I could see Mrs. P looking up to the sky with a sad face. She probably knew her Timmy was looking after her since all those useless boys had left home to be with their crazy wives.

As she lowered her gaze and looked straight ahead, she saw me. Our eyes met and she smiled, while raising the toy rifle in the air. She then started to giggle and pulled the trigger and out popped that red flag with the word “BANG!”.

Daddy gave me that rifle two years ago and Mr. P and I had always played Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in their backyard. I’m glad I left that toy there after our last game, 2 days before he died. I’m really glad.

Writing 101 ~ Day 17: Your Personality on the Page

We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears.  Today’s twist: Write this post in a style distinct from your own.

In this life I hope to keep my senses
and lead my lifestyle with ease
I hope I never develop
the Alzheimer’s Disease.

That’ll make me lose my memory
and create problems with speech,
then comes cognitive impairment;
and caregivers will I beseech.

I’d walk around in diapers
be told when and what to eat;
guided to stand before walking
and be told when to take a seat.

Then, my life is no longer mine
and my past will be forever lost.
I will just exist in a body,
worthless, but incurring high costs.

That is my greatest fear
which I hope never takes place,
rather than to burden loved ones
I would choose to die early, with grace.

Writing 101 ~ Day 16: Third Time’s the Charm

Today’s Prompt: Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.

Spring-cleaning this year, just 3 weeks ago, was an interesting one. There is a case which was packed in Singapore with miscellaneous items and even had a tag reading “Misc” which has never been opened in the US, until that eventful afternoon when I decided to bite-the bullet and open my personal ‘Pandora’s Box’. As I removed items which I had not set eyes on for many (and I do mean many) years, it was like taking a step back in the time tunnel.

Key chains, photo albums, diaries, trinkets, cassette tapes, etc… and I actually remember the where’s, how’s, when’s & who’s related to most items.  Thinking back, yes, I have led quite an eventful life, though never wild and partying.

My fascination for old cars and motorcycles scared my mother (like hell!) and she blamed the first guy I ever dated for that because he had an old Triumph Bobber with a sidecar making it a three-wheeler. Everyone looked when we proudly slow-zoomed around ~ on hindsight I not sure if I looked like rescued maiden or a nutcase being bundled to some hideaway.

Then I saw it! preciously wrapped with soft-cloth in the case, that keepsake piece from the 3rd car I had owned and one I’ll never forget.  I had to sell her to a neighbor as I was going overseas for some time and yes, it broke my heart but I had to choose the lesser of two evils – he was a vintage car lover too, so she would be in good hands.

AHtagIn my little 1963 Austin Healey Sprite, I exchanged smiles and waves with taxi and bus drivers, motorcyclists and yes, even the traffic police! They didn’t mind me on the road in my little old lady, heck, with only 948 cc, how fast can one go, right?  Ah yes, those days when it was so cool to feel the breeze in one’s hair driving around ~ less smog, less tolls, less road bullies…

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Writing 101 ~ Day 15 ~ Your Voice Will Find You

Today’s Prompt: Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force. How does that make you feel?

The event was a bonus to the hard rock music lovers of that era in Singapore. The strict government had relented a little to see what kind of an effect it would have on the music, art and social scene. Many wanted to be there; many rushed to get tickets. I couldn’t afford to attend such an expensive ‘rock’ event. Heck, I didn’t even know if I would like that kind of music.

I received an envelope in the mail which I assumed to be another voucher to collect free make-up or shampoo or perfume … yes, I was a keen participant in women’s magazine contests. But this one was different, the paper was a more expensive type with gloss print and it just looked and smelt different. Upon opening, I found out I had won two tickets to the David Bowie concert!

I called a close friend and asked if David Bowie songs were nice and she firmly said, “Of course, of course, go down to the record store, check it out… er, why do you ask?” “Well, I won two tickets to his concert next month and I’m wondering if I should go.”
Silence … long silence … (On hindsight, I think she might have had a mild heart attack of sort.) “Would you like to go with me to the show?” Then came a whisper “Yessss, yessss!”

The other concert attendees were way, way more trendily dressed with cloth pieces I would never dare imagine being covered by. That, in itself, was eye-opening to me, the ‘square’ one. When the music started, the screaming, clapping just went wild, then the lights flashed and David Bowie jumped out with “Let’s Dance”. The acoustics, the rhythm, the beat, the screaming crowd ~ they just got into my blood and soul, and soon I was actually enjoying myself so much I even joined in the screams. Oh yes, that night I was introduced to and got sucked into the hard rock noise of the music world.

If I had never won those 2 tickets, I guess I would still be the nerdy goody two-shoes, not knowing and appreciating real rock music. Would I have joined the long lines and paid for those 2 expensive tickets? No way.

Writing 101 ~ Day 14: To Whom It May Concern

Today’s Prompt: Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What’s the first word that jumps off the page? Use this word as your springboard for inspiration.
Today’s twist: write the post in the form of a letter.

Book:  Chicken Soup for the Soul – Page 29 – Joe.

Dear Joe,

I know you assigned your son Joe Jr. to complete the painting of my west wall but I think you did not leave him proper instructions.

The upper 3 feet got painted leaf green whilst the lower portion is canary yellow. He has also added marigold petals to yellow area. I think those flowers may have been from my neighbor’s garden because she has inquired if I might have hired a new gardener who did not know our property lines and cleared all her flowers leaving the plants with only leaves. Joe Jr. also stretched his painting into the garage and left blotches of yellow paint on our washing machine and dryer.

Did Joe Jr. by any chance bring home a 10-lb ham joint for dinner? A joint, left in our freezer temporarily by my father-in-law, is missing and in its place we found a pair of spectacles with very thick lenses. If that belongs to your son, I’m hope he did find his way home.

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Writing 101 ~ Day 13: Serial Found

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today, write about finding something.  Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment — loosely defined.

When we lose treasured things in life, we try to recover, to find substitutes or to start anew.

Before coming to the US to live, I took everything for granted as I was making trips twice a year. I had a comfortable apartment in Singapore and another one in Florida. It was cool. Then things were taken out of my hands. With the application of a US spousal visa, I could not step on US soil for 1 year. When granted the visa and moving to the US, I could not leave US soil for 1 year. It was during those times that I learned, not all things are yours to have all the time. You make do with what destiny offers.

Moving from a Singapore yuppie urban area to a US suburb took getting used to. Everything was a long, long way away, nothing was within walking distance. No taxis, no public buses, no fried noodles just 5 minutes walk away and horror of horrors, no Asian size ladies clothes! Many a time I asked myself if I really liked living here, why not New York or San Francisco?

One day, it was like Karma slapped me in the face and told me to get over my self-built wall and to look at the beauty around, appreciate the different landscape, the different culture, the clean air and most of all, the space ~ my space. That’s when the old inquisitive explorer’s urge resurfaced. I once trekked, sailed, scuba dived … so why on earth was I moaning and groaning as if in the confines of a loony bin? Ah yes, after 2 years, I found my sanity again.

That’s when things got really exciting. Felt like driving a truck, got my commercial driver’s license. Felt like real Asian food, explored, found Asian stores and got my hands on curry concoctions, Asian vegetables … the list goes on. I have found most necessary things but hope Matthew 7:7 “seek, and ye shall find” will one day bear fruit.
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