Category Archives: Personal

Opinions and thoughts about things

My heritage vs my country of birth


September 5, 2015 3:29 PM

I’m a proud Australian of Malaysian heritage. I like to tell people that I grew up in Perth, and when I tell people that I’m Chinese, I always add “from Malaysia”. I’m proud of every component of my upbringing and my culture. I like to think of myself as a rainbow of colours and influences.

My first 14 years of life was spent in Kuala Lumpur. My dad was second generation Malaysian Chinese, and mom was first generation. Both were born in Penang. Dad was English educated and mom was Chinese educated. So while they both look Chinese, culturally they were different but what they had in common was being Malaysian. They both studied university in Australia (dad in Ballarat and mom in Sydney). They didn’t meet until they went to KL for work. I’ve written a bit more about them previously.

I’m telling you all of this to show you the stuff that I was born into. Then, living in Malaysia up till my early teens I enjoyed going to school and learning three languages (English, Malay, Mandarin) and thought that was the most natural thing ever. And also picking up Cantonese and Hokkien on the side – the dialects that the Chinese speak in KL and Penang, respectively. I enjoyed switching between all of that as much as I enjoyed celebrating each other’s religious and cultural holidays. I enjoy eating Chinese food, Malay food, Indian food and everything else in between. I hate to use the word “fusion” but it really was that. And I enjoyed seeing Malaysians of all races enjoying each other’s foods unless not allowed to by their religion (ie. halal vs. non-halal).

whos-the-cute-smiling-girl
Dat uniform tho

I enjoy speaking in the colloquial English shared by both Malaysians and Singaporeans, better known as “Singlish“. I enjoy the rivalry between our two peoples – hey Singaporeans, Hainanese Chicken Rice was invented by us ok? Just give it up already. Hahahah!

All of which is to say, yes I’m proud to have come from Malaysia and all that it entails. But, I’m not proud of Malaysia as a country. As John Oliver has joked, Australia can be a bit too comfortably and casually racist. However, at least the racism is not systemic and built into the laws like it is in Malaysia. The affirmative action policy in Malaysia (one that overwhelmingly benefits the dominant race in the country) ensures the following:

  • 30% of the equity of publicly-listed companies are reserved for a Malay person(s) or entity
  • 85% of the civil service (besides teachers) are Malay
  • And the biggest bugbear and cause of brain drain from the country, and why my parents uprooted us to move to Australia in 1988 – 75% of university places are reserved for the Malays. Ostensibly, this quota system was removed in 2002 but bias persists still.

A Never Ending Policy | The Economist
Is Malaysia university entry a level playing field? – BBC News

And yet, more than 50 years after independence from the British ultra-nationalistic Malay politicians in the UMNO party (United Malays National Organisation) still refer to the Chinese and Indians in the country as immigrants even though both races have been there way before the Dutch, the Portugese or the British. They constantly play to the racist view that their special rights as Malays are being impinged upon, especially by the Chinese. All of this where the laws are written in favour of them and where important levers of the government (political, judiciary, military) are dominated by Malays. All of this when UMNO is the dominant political party in the ruling coalition since independence.

Bersih4 rally in KL
Bersih4 rally in KL
(source)

What prompted me to write this post are the events that happened recently, whereby USD700 million of funny money appeared to have been funneled into the PM’s account and how he subsequently fired his deputy PM who was critical of this, and the attorney general who was leading the investigations into it. And people who participated in the massive street rallies that followed did so under threat of arrest.

Investigators Believe Money Flowed to Malaysian Leader Najib’s Accounts Amid 1MDB Probe – WSJ
Why Malaysians are disillusioned with Najib Razak – BBC News

But the depressing thing about this is, it has happened before when another PM (Mahathir) fired another deputy PM (Anwar Ibrahim) in 1998. And before that, he has also locked up anyone who dared questioned his behaviour and policies.

BBC News | Asia-Pacific | Malaysia’s deputy prime minister fired
Operation Lalang – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And what is hilarious about it is that Mahathir seems to have felt that the current PM has gone too far, even by his standards.

I want to say that not all Malays are part of or agree with UMNO (just like not all Australians agree with Tony Abbott’s stance against refugees – a topic for another day) but the rot will not stop until UMNO decides to stop it which is unlikely. Why would they when the current system perpetuates their dominance, their existence and their illicit ways? And that is what is depressing about Malaysia as a country. Malaysia may be close to being “Truly Asia” but it is not even close to being “1Malaysia”.

Nasi Lemak, Malaysia's national dish
Nasi Lemak – the one thing that all Malaysians agree on
(source)

ps. If you are Malaysian and you can vote, please exercise your civil rights and do so. Thanks for reading. This has been a long one. πŸ™‚

No Fate But What We Make


December 30, 2014 10:46 PM

Anytime there’s a disaster of any kind, man-made or natural, I see a lot of exhortations to pray. I am going to be callous here and call bullshit on that.

I don’t believe in prayers because I don’t believe in God. If there is a God though, I don’t think He has a plan for us. God is like a kid and we are like ants in his ant farm. I don’t think He is benevolent because bad things happen to good people all the time. However, I don’t think He is necessarily evil either in the sense that a kid that uses a magnifying glass to burn the ants does not know that what he is doing is evil. For example, shitty and catastrophic weather is not evil – it just happens.

Whilst He may be fascinated by our freewill, one that He has so generously gifted us I don’t think He cares one way or another if any individual one of us lives or dies. But somehow He cares who gets to enter heaven? This brings up another bugbear of mine with monotheistic religions.

If good people die early so that they can join God in heaven, then God is selfish because surely a good person can do a whole lot of good amongst the living, right?

If good people, along with the bad, the not-so-bad and the occasionally naughty ones die together in the same random events, then God is not a just God.

And if babies and children die before they can even be deemed good or bad, and if they die in the womb or if their mother dies in childbirth, how is that a plan?

How are people being born into, and living and dying in war zones through no fault of their own a good plan?

No, there is no plan. If He exists, He doesn’t care. There is just chaos and randomness and whilst we all spin around together on a little blue planet in one of many vast universes, we have only each other. We try to enforce structure and order where we can and live the best that we can, and if we are good and most of us are, we try not to be evil assholes who ruin someone else’s life along the way. If we are really good, we go beyond that and actually help others live a better life too.

The natural state of the universe tends towards increased entropy, ie. randomness. Like all life on this planet, we live and then we die. Some of us are lucky to die old, whilst some are taken away too soon. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Where we do have control is how we live the life that we are given, once we are able to comprehend the difference between being a good person and a shitty one. Don’t do something because you think God would approve and you will get to go to heaven. Do it because it’s the right thing to do.

So next time there’s a disaster, don’t pray – do something more practical instead.

Michaelangelo's Creation of Adam
He sure has inspired a lot of awesome art though

Going home in three different places


December 2, 2014 8:49 PM

In November, my leave from work took me back to Perth for a week, Taiwan for 9 days and KL for 2 days. During this time, it felt like I was going home in three different places.

Perth

Snoop

Home is where my family is. I had not planned on going back to Perth this time as I was already planning to go back during the Christmas break. But Snoop’s surgery to remove some cancerous lumps compelled me to want to see him as much as I can. He is a 14 year old dog and our time together is limited, even more so now that I’m living in Melbourne.

I’m glad I made this trip back – seeing him bouncing around like nothing has happened put my mind at ease.

During the week here, I also caught up with all of my friends which I thought was quite impressive (yes, I’m saying that I have a lot of friends :P). And I got to spend time with mom and dad and Marvin. I like my life in Melbourne but I will always miss my people in Perth. Thankfully Whatsapp and Facebook makes it feel like that they are just there.

Taiwan

Tainan old street

Home is where my cultural roots are. I have been to cities in China – Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Now that I’ve been to Taiwan I can honestly say that I feel more at home there than those other cities. Outside of Singapore and Penang, which also have an ethnic Chinese majority, I can now add Taiwan to the list of places that I feel very comfortable being in. I felt that the people are friendlier than those in China and Hong Kong, and it also helped that in addition to Mandarin, most people also speak the dialect that both sides of my family speak – Hokkien.

Hearing it widely spoken evokes memories of my family and childhood, and feelings of warmth. It was very intangible but very comfortable. The look and feel of Tainan especially, a city south of the capital Taipei, are very similar to the older corners of Singapore and Penang. And the street food is equally delicious.

Taiwan will deserve another post from me here, with more photos. πŸ™‚

Kuala Lumpur

Here on a whirlwind stop and spotted this. #wheninmalaysia

A photo posted by Marcus Ooi (@real_mooiness) on

Home is where I was born and had spent 14 years growing up in. Although the racial politics depresses me whenever I read about it, and I don’t foresee myself ever living here again, there was still something making me feel at home here. It’s not the maddening traffic, nor the heat and humidity. I’m guessing that it must be the food even though we can get very authentic and very good Malaysian food outside of Malaysia these days.

There was something intangibly comforting about eating Malaysian food in Malaysia, and seeing Malaysians of all races enjoying each other’s food. That gives me hope that someday like the food, the politics will follow suit and be less divisive, and be more binding and uniting.

And I also quite like that upon seeing my place of birth on my Australian passport, the customs officials will immediately switch to speaking Malay with me. A few broken phrases of Malay from me, and they smile and I smile. πŸ™‚

And the sun comes out


October 12, 2014 9:11 PM

Loading

Sun shiny day.

View on Instagram

We have transitioned into spring in Australia, and the weather in Melbourne has gotten warmer but no less schizophrenic – the sun can be shining on you warmly and along comes a cold blast of air. The questions of whether to bring a jacket out, and when you are out whether to keep it on or take it off are persistent ones. I’m still getting used to it all.

During the winter months I’m certained that I went through a mild case of the SADs (seasonal affective disorder). I’ll be lethargic, and I’ll be depressed without knowing why or have a reason to. However, there was one legitimate reason in July and that was when we found out Snoop had multiple lumps on his body. Over the next few weeks after that, although I was not a mess I was not my usual happy self. And the way I usually handle my depression is not the easiest on myself as I prefer to deal with it on my own and at home – I don’t show it to friends and colleagues.

But good news is, our vet recommended a surgery specialist (yes, for pets!) and after two rounds of surgery we got all the lumps out – the first one cut out the obvious ones with an X-Ray taken to guide the surgeon to clean out the rest during the second one. I think I’ve mentioned the importance of pet insurance before because it’s really worth it. I ended up paying about $6000 and that’s roughly half of the actual bill. The price of unconditional love, right? And I will get to see him soon when I go back to Perth for a week next month. πŸ™‚

July was also the month I started my new job and I’m happy to say that I’m really loving it. The work is varied, and I am trusted with and get to recommend IT-related stuff. Best of all the people are awesome. And I’m not gonna lie – the fact that there are more females in the office really livens up my work day. Only downside? Formal business attire means not-so comfortable shoes and more laundry and ironing. Small price for a more satisfying work life and a happier me during the work day.

Plus my social network has expanded and is still growing. So yeah I’m glad that the sun has come out – in more ways than one.

Sunny Melbourne

When It Rains


July 20, 2014 1:07 PM

It’s been a while since I’ve written here. Sometimes not much happens but this past month isn’t one of those times.

New Job

Work during May and June was especially frustrating and it made me wonder if moving here was worth it considering that I’ve only been here since the beginning of February. Despite city life being awesome, and a social life that is starting to get more fun, work pays for everything and if work is not pleasant anymore then it is a problem.

Serendipity feels like it happens a lot in my life, and it did happen here again. An ex-colleague of mine was leaving his job and referred me to his manager. Had I been happy with my current job, I would not have went in for an interview. The fact that it is also just across the street from my current office was an extra incentive to just go see what’s on offer.

The interview went really great because with regards to the technical aspects of the job I was a shoe-in and they already knew that as my ex-colleague and I did the same job when we were working together. Culturally it felt like a good fit too. I was offered the role by the end of the day.

The place is more formal than the current place (hello business shirts!) but from my two days spent there for a handover with my friend who’s leaving, the people seemed nice and friendly. I start tomorrow. I’m excited and a bit nervous. However, after 6.5 years at my current job I felt ready for a change.

This is my new employer – Lincoln Indicators and I will be their new systems administrator.

Lincoln's letter of employment offer

Mom’s visit to Melbourne

Inside Oriental Spoon on Elizabeth Street, Melbourne

Mom was here for 2 weeks and it was swell. Although I cooked a few meals whilst she was here, she did most of it during her stay. It reminded me of home in Perth with her because I didn’t have to think about groceries or what to cook after finishing work. We shopped and ate out quite a bit. Her favourite places were Uniqlo and Wonderbao.

I wanted to take her to fancier places but she said not to waste my money. That’s my mom. πŸ™‚

We had such a great time just being in each other’s presence that I was a bit depressed when she left a week ago. But any time is better than nothing. At my age, you’d realise that time with our parents is precious – time waits for no one and is fleeting.

My Car in Perth

Thanks to my brother my car has now been sold, after about 4 months on the market. Bye bye car. You’ve served me well since I got you in 2001. Many fun times were had and I’ve driven you a little too fast more than a few times. Shhh. πŸ˜‰

Snoop has a new lump

I don’t want to end this post on a sombre note but chronologically, it is the most recent event as I was told just yesterday. Mom had taken Snoop to the vet because she was worried about the appearance of a lump on his chest. It turned out to be cancerous but we don’t know if it’s aggressive or if it was invasive locally or otherwise. We will know more once a chest X-Ray is done next week. As Snoop is 14 this year, the vet has advised me to be prepared for the end.

Of course I’m sad, and I haven’t even recovered from my mild depression since mom’s left either. I feel some frustration that I’m not there to deal with it myself, and a sudden urge to go home. However, I’m putting it in perspective. This will be the third time that Snoop has cancer and he has had a good run over this past 14 years. When the time comes I won’t be selfish – I won’t prolong his life unnecessarily with painful surgery and misery just because I will be sad to see him go, even as I’m choking up a bit from writing my feelings here.

There is a family trip to Taiwan in November that I already have leave for. I will be forgoing that and I will use that 2 weeks to be in Perth to spend with Snoop. Yup, time is precious and fleeting indeed. Go hug a love one today.

This is funny even though I'm not Christian
Ok maybe a little bit of levity is appropriate right now …

It’s always a good time


June 2, 2014 7:38 PM

Except for a few extended holidays and until I moved to Melbourne I’ve seen my family every single day of my nearly 40 year old life. This is the first time that I’ve been living away from them on a permanent basis. So the recent news of a friend losing her mother got me thinking even more than usual.

Times when a friend loses a parent always fill me with sadness and empathy for my friend, and it never fails to put me in a reflective mood about the short time on this planet that we are given with our loved ones. But being physically away from my own parents amplified those feelings more at the moment. It made me realise that I don’t tell my parents that I miss or love them as much as I do. Actually I don’t think I’ve ever said that. As Chinese, we are just never expected to say those things because we’ve never heard our parents say it to each other or to their own parents.

It’s hard for me to vocalise those words so I guess I just have to write them here. Mom, dad and Marvin – I’m glad that I don’t bicker and argue with you as much as I did whilst growing up, and I miss your soothing and comforting presence even if it was just us sitting next to each other not talking and staring at the TV.

The Ooi Family, circa 1980
This felt like yesterday

The old cliches are true – time flies and there’s no better time than the present to make the important people in your life know that they are important to you. Life is cruelly and freakishly random so don’t put it off and don’t wait for a good time. It is always a good time.


Another truthful cliche – the simple things in life are the best πŸ™‚

I’ll always be just average


May 10, 2014 12:51 PM

Mom and dad's 40th anniversary dinner
Mom and Dad’s 40th Anniversary, June 2013

My recent trip home to Perth during Easter has reinforced what I’ve always felt: that I will never be ambitious and career-focused because I value the people in my personal life more. I do not aspire to higher positions or more responsibility, and more money. I will always be just average at work, possibly above average at the most.

The high life or the powerful life will never be for me. I will leave that to the truly remarkable people who can forgo time with loved ones to focus on work, or the truly remarkable and fortunate ones who have it both ways.

Me, Simon, Kayo, Katie and Selina
3am supper after clubbing, April 2014

It is true that I moved across the country for my job. However, this is as far as I’m going to go. I am not going to move to another country for a job like a few of my friends have done. That will never happen.

Now living alone in a new city, I could have easily fallen down the rabbit hole of using work to fill up space and time. Instead I choose to fall down the rabbit hole of video games, Youtube and, blogs and news sites instead. The Internet is great – however did hermits stay sane before it?

So in summary, I embrace my average working life because my personal life is so much more enriching and satisfying to me, and I rather do over-time on that than at the office. πŸ™‚