The passage (journey) of time starts with the future, which begins with a moment ahead, and has yet to come. When you cross the moment’s “line” (which occurs every moment), you are in the present. Make the best of it, for it soon becomes the “past”.
This journey through time has twists and turns that come with it. How you handle these twists and turns determines the person you are.
A head full of dreams leaves no space for fears. (Atkinson)
A swimming race championship is coming up again at PADE, Shah Alam, this weekend. This time round, it is for the novice racers. While many people may see this as a “play-play” (a Malaysian version of “not serious”) competition; I assure you, it is far from that. The swimmers taking part – Yes, they are athletes.
“The seed that has been nurtured under the soil for weeks or months, began to break the surface of the soil and sprout shoots and leaves”. It is at a meet like this where children who have been going through the various stages in learning to swim, compete while having fun at the same time. It is also a time where state, national and possibly world champion athlete potentials are born.
Now, not too long ago, I knew of this 6 year old girl who started going for swimming lessons once a week. She absolutely hated water touching her face. She cried whenever she had to go for swimming lessons all the time. In fact, she wanted to stop lessons.
Her father made a deal with her: “You continue to go for swimming lessons. The moment you can swim better than me; you can stop going for lessons”. And the little girl agreed.
From going for lessons once a week; she got a lot better at swimming and was going for lessons 3 – 5 times a week not too long after the pact she made with her father. She could swim a lot better than him by then. In fact, she could swim all the four strokes of swimming, well. And she had no intentions to quit swimming.
At age 9, she said, “I want to become World Champion”. Her father said to her that she could become World Champion if she followed her heart and put in the effort.
As time, went on, she became a state swimmer, representing Selangor; and was amongst the top breaststroke racers for her age group in the country and region. When she was 18 years old, she left for the U.S. to further her tertiary education. There, she represented her university on their swim team; bringing many wins and successes for the team.
Now, she may not have become World Champion officially, but it helped her get to where she is.
But she has become “World Champion” to all those young children starting out in life, not being able to fully comprehend that they, too; can become what their hearts desire, if they follow it. An example of this that comes to mind was when she competed in an International Open meet in Kuching, Sarawak -Malaysia; in 2016. When she raced her races, there were a few young 8 or 9 year old “little league” swimmers who cheered her on top of their high pitch voices. She had become their idol.
It was not easy. as huge sacrifices were made along the way. The sport was top priority.
She never boasted about her successes and never let it get to her head. She uses her experience to help others, in any way; even if it was the littlest of ways. If there were adversities, she would find proper solutions to them.
That makes her World Champion.
To all swimmers at the Selangor meet this weekend: Wishing you a great future in this sport. Have fun!
Dedicated to the ones that make this happen: Parents and siblings of the athlete of all sports. They are the ones who have to almost equally be with the athlete; make sacrifices with their time by sending and picking the child (children) up from training, making it a point that the athlete attends all practice, buy and invest in all apparel and necessary things for the sport. Laura Kristen Atkinson Coaches Soon, Wendy, Ben Lee of the Subang Jaya Community Centre Club – where it all began in 2007. Coach Mark Chua, Coach Marilyn Chua, Coach Ong Jin Kooi, Coach Dr Molly Duesterhaus (Millikin University), Coach Mokhtar.
NOTES: Alan Ian Atkinson, Writer, Author, Storyteller
People go through old photographs and watch old videos of their past; bringing up old negative memories. They end up being hesitant and doubtful about the future that lies ahead of them. They live in their past.
Our future is every moment of our lives that has yet to come. We have a choice to live in this future that continues to unfold in front of us and get really excited about it.
Don’t worry about how incompetent you were, so long as you have the right attitude to work towards excellence!
Trailer: Coming real soon…THROUGH THE EYES OF A 4 YEAR OLD BOY
The house, up the hill… from the school I was to attend in Standard One (year I) when I turn 7… the scary big man in red and white… coming up the road at the side of the house, carrying a big red sack over his shoulder. Maybe, he was going around looking for little children to snatch and carry off in that strange big red sack of his…
The setting: early 1960s… The place: Jalan Chantik, PJ (2).
Months later, a fierce colourful dragon jumping up and down, with its head bouncing from left to right and back and very loud sounds surrounding it… I didn’t know that dragons were real…
The same road saw a very old, small, dark skin man, carry a green table on his white, bandaged head. Daddy called him to come in our gate, which was not locked. This man was so black…he must have got burnt by the sun because we see him come past our house in the sun… His table had many small compartments, with several different nuts. As he walked along the road, he used to shout on top of his voice, “Kachang Putih! Kachang Putih!”. He would pass our house everyday around the same time, when the sun was shining and hot. We never saw him on days that had heavy rain.
I also thought he was dressed funny. First, he had the white bandage around his head. Then, he did not wear pants. He had a white cloth… like a skirt…
Then, there was an aunty, who wore a funny hat. She carried a long, wooden pole on her shoulder. At the ends of the pole, on each side; hung round baskets….
Another lady, a nurse I think, because she was always dressed in white, yet I think she may have just finished school as she carried a rattan / cane basket. But mummy used to buy soap from her. Maybe, after school, she sold soap part-time.
Thinking back….60 years have gone by.
The “scary big man dressed in red and white” was Santa Claus. No one prepared me for “Santa Claus”. Neither did they tell me he was Santa Claus. I would not have thought so since he was walking on the road by the side of the house. No one told me that he was the good guy, on our side. All “those years” of growing up, from the time we (my sister, Jen and I) were 2 years (which was the time we began understanding things – we were all grown up to be able to handle the “adult” stuff like understanding things) to 4 years; it was ingrained in us, “Don’t talk to strangers”. So, all strangers were “the bogeyman”.
Long before we ever watched Ultraman battling monsters on tv; the fierce colourful dragon jumping up and down, with its head bouncing from left to right and back again, and very loud sounds of big drums and cymbals clashing surrounding it… that was in celebration of Chinese New Year or lunar year celebrations. I reacted like any kid my age would have reacted at that time…I freaked out!
This monster size looking snake, with huge eyes, the size of bowling balls (not that I knew what bowling balls looked like at that time), snaking its way up the road at the side of the house. What more… every step it took thumped the ground with the sound of thunder (pounding of drums) and its hissing, the sound of the crack of lightning (clashing of cymbals).. No one told us that was supposed to be a lion. That sure didn’t look like a lion. I know what a lion looked like. Daddy & mummy had taken Jen and I to visit the zoo in KL (3). We saw what lions looked like. They sure weren’t colourful and didn’t look like what we saw on the road. Anyway, what was a lion doing, walking freely around the houses?
I thought that the man balancing the table on his head was from the circus. It was quite a feat as the table looked stable and he looked comfortable (“table” mentioned 3 times in a single breath) with it as he walked long hours each day, everyday. The kacang putih or white peanuts and other varieties he sold, was quite tasty. It must have been healthy food because he also sold salted fried parapu or dhal. That “uncle” is fondly remembered. We were thought to refer to every grownup man as an “uncle” and every grownup lady as an “aunty”. Oh… and his head was not bandaged. He wore a turban!
The aunty who wore that funny upside down filter-shaped hat could most probably have been from the same circus as the uncle above. Her hat was to give her some shade from the sun. She was very good at balancing several round baskets, one on top of each other; at each end of the pole. She carried her cakes in these round baskets.
She sold some of the most delicious cakes in many colours that were diamond, round or rectangular shaped. The red and white layered kuih in rectangle shape, the white rice with a sort of green custard on top, or the green sort of custard with a coconut layered custard on top, the blue and white colour rice with kaya jam. I think she started walking her daily routes early in the morning as her cakes usually sold out by noon.
Sometimes, another uncle will carry something similar to the aunty selling cakes. He, too; sold cakes, differently from the aunty; but he carried them in round aluminum-type pans.
The lady who I thought was a nurse because she was all dressed in white yet at the same time thought she was a schoolgirl because she carried a rattan basket, was actually a part time soap or clothes detergent saleslady. She used to carry packets of this detergent and go from house-to-house, selling them. My mother used to buy detergent quite often from this lady.
I had an enjoyable time writing this essay as it brought back many favourable memories. I have tried to depict this story as best as I can from the memories I have of the time we (my family) stayed in that house up the hill in Jalan Chantik, PJ. I hope you will enjoy this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
As I arrived at the bank, it was almost bursting at its seams through the doors, with customers. There were business people, various levels of office management people, people from partnership companies and sole proprietorships, the elderly uncles and aunties, housewives (many who tagged their young children along and students. This list of people is not exhaustive. It was sort of claustrophobic.
There were two wait-for-your-turn line-up systems. One was: you lined up in a line of people at each teller counter. Here, you had to gauge which was the faster moving line and queue up there. I have had experiences where this was not always the right choice as one or more people in front of me would strike up “friendly chats” with the teller that would take like(huh?! How did this word sneak in this sentence) forever.
The other system was having to line up in a single line. Once you reached the front of the line, you go to whichever teller in the row of tellers that was available, to have your transaction attended to.
So, once you scrambled to fill up the necessary forms and looked for what seemed like the fastest moving, line; go for it. I thought I nailed it by grabbing the necessary forms needed, rushed to the shortest queue and start filling up the forms while waiting to get to the teller. It was quite the task – holding the form in one hand in the air and the pen in the other, filling in that form or forms. They were definitely “works of art” instantly being created, each one uniquely differently from the other; as the writing would get into shapes of pictures. I rarely ever could managed to write on the printed lines. Not to mention that I could barely make out my handwriting even on a good day.
All this were common scenes back then, in the old days of 2010 and before; before internet banking, more commonly known as online bank; became the “in thing”.
Internet or online banking – 24 x 7, anywhere, in your pocket or bag (on your smartphone). How cool is that?
Most of the common banking transactions went “online” some years back. Think of it – no more having to go through traffic jams, parking, waiting in long lines as we used to do before internet banking. What more can we ask for? We should be happy, right? What else did internet banking take away? The biggest loss was that people would no longer be interacting in person with other people. People would only be interacting with their computers.
There were still some transactions that had to be done over the counter, which would require us to be at the banks, physically. Then, came the Covid-19 pandemic which saw a total disruption of performing physical transactions at the banks. After some months, the banks put in place some standard operating procedures to allow for physical transactions to recommence.
In April 2022, the pandemic became the endemic which allowed for procedures to go back to as per pre-Covid-19 pandemic days. One would think that was the case. Well, not so for some banks.
The one in particular that I bank with, has a procedure that we must make an online appointment, that one cannot just walk-in or show up unannounced, to perform transactions. Registering online for an appointment, means answering a litany of questions.
But get this: This may have been good during the pandemic period. Now, that the pandemic is over, why continue with this procedure? Upon checking with the bank; some of their officers stated that it was necessary to pre-register for an appointment for customers to perform transactions at the bank in person. The bank’s intention is to eliminate long waiting queues.
I thought that this appointment registration system was an absolute inconvenience and put customers at a security risk in letting people know when they were going to be at the bank and for what purpose.
I was punctual for my first online registered appointment. I was asked to fill up all the necessary forms, take a number and wait. Yes, WAIT. There were one or two other customers in front of me. No other people. The bank has 7 counters with about 30 staff present.
On my second visit, I was made to wait, even though I was half hour early. I had to wait nearly half an hour though the bank had only 1 customer ahead of me and none after me. The bank had its counters fully staffed. What crowds? If I brought this matter up to the bank staff, they would have said this is proof that the online registration for appointment was working.
Can you imagine the rest of the staff, stationed at their work stations and pretending to look busy? What morale would these employees have when they sit at their workstations each day, with rarely any work to do? This would be ideal for the very few who are aimless or clueless in life.
But for the majority of these employees, especially for those who were used to serving a high customer patronage, daily, before the Covid-19 pandemic; it would be tough for them to keep their spirits up. They would still have to stick to their jobs. They need their income to meet their financial commitments. I am sure they would like to see the crowds of customers back in the bank.
As for the customers, many of whom have built a wonderful relationship with the bank staff; they most probably would like to visit the banks once in a while to strike up chats with the staff (real people) instead of dealing with computers and websites and having to confirm and reconfirm that they are not robots.
What is it like being 64? I don’t really know. I’m just getting the hang of it. It’s only been a few days since I turned 64.
The mystery of life. Each of us can truly say we have not experienced the next moment in our lives until it comes…we are in that moment.
Think of it. Each moment of our life is new. It is true to say that we cannot plan each individual moment of our life. We can, however; make daily plans. We can also set short, medium and long term goals. Short term goals could be for a duration between 3 to 6 months. Medium term goals could be set for a 1 year period. Long term goals could be between 3 to 5 years.
I am 64 years old now. When I was in my late teens and early 20s; I thought people who were 64 years of age were dinosaurtically old. I mean really, really old. Grey to white hair people, that is if they still had any hair left on their heads; deteriorated eyesight with thick rimmed magnifying lenses framed with a thick black frame and almost always respond with an “aaahhhhh?” because their hearing is almost shot to pieces.
They would sit at coffee shops every morning, possibly holding on to a tongkat (walking stick) to shoo away the stray dogs that would come around them hoping for scraps of food.
They would be with the rest of the old folk and talk on subjects; aimlessly.
But having grown up in the town (now city) of Klang (2) and nearby Port Klang (3), especially amongst the elderly Chinese; I used to watch the art of drinking chinese tea. The kopitiam (Why not “tehtiam”? Don’t know.) fellas or ah moi (1) will pour the chinese tea from a big ordinary aluminum pot to a much smaller teapot made of clay. That aluminium pot is usually kept on a stove to keep the chinese tea in it, hot. Then, the tea is poured from the clay teapot into small cups with no handles. Maybe they got the idea from expresso coffee coming in tiny cups.
The explanation behind this system is that the teapot and cups made of red clay keep the tea warmer for a longer period of time. The small cups will contain tea enough for 1 or 2 sips. (I think).
We can say that this is a lifestyle we choose or perhaps we have inherited it from our generations before us. It looks like our minds may have been conditioned to believe this is the way, the only way? I dare say, “No!”
When I think of it, it’s kind of funny how I expected it to be something of a blast when I crossed the finish line of my 64th year; moving into my 65th.
Many people, when it comes to their birthdays; have this same old saying: “Nothing special. It’s just another day.”
I think it should not be treated as “just another day”. We have an opportunity to learn something new, experience something new. We can share what we have learnt and experienced, with others, and they; with other people, too – The Ripple Effect.
We are all explorers of life. I believe the opportunities are abundant – they are just waiting to be discovered.
Dedicated to the people who believe that “LIFE” is not just about life; it is about living: Jen, Liz
NOTES 1. It sounds like Ah mui or Ah Muay, which in Hokkien is Little sister (阿妹or小妹) and is not derogatory. It is akin to calling someon “miss”…. http://www.quora.com 2. & 3. Klang and Port Klang are located in the state of Selangor, Malaysia.
I found this old draft of 3 year ago of my plans while searching up for something else on a different subject. I am leaving it in its original form without much changes, except for the here and there grammar mistakes. Grammar mistakes? What? Me make grammar mistakes? Hogwash!
Truth be told. At times, the keyboard goes off tangent and does its own things. Many times without my knowledge. If you believe that, then you believe that the cow did jump over the moon, while the cat was playing its fiddle.
5 days after turning 61 years of age, many would think of retirement. For many years, I have always told myself and my friends that I only plan to retire at 105. I have a whole lot of things on my bucket list that I want to do. I will be travelling next month and will be back in Malaysia by August 24th or 25th.
1. One of the first things I want to do is revive the volunteer standby group of donors of platelets and blood. We had this going for some years and anyone who needed donors, we always had a pool of donors to come to their aid. Anyone who wants to volunteer as donors can join us – this group of donors.
I, myself; did my last donation, my 304th donation; on July 5th 2018, as I reached the maximum age limit of donors. I am getting in touch with the National Blood Bank to check if I can continue donating as my health is way better now, since I walk a minimum of 10km a day. I visited Sime Darby Medical Centre, Subang Jaya’s blood bank last week. They welcome me back anytime. According to their records, I am still their top donor in terms of number of donations. Records are meant to be broken. I hope many more will come forward to offer themselves as regular donors.
2. Encourage parents of young athletes to constantly support their children by giving them all the support possible, like taking them for training on time, all the time, constantly cheering them on in all they do. I will relate more to swimmers’ parents (I have had over 10 years of experience )
3. Finish writing the book I started a long time ago. For now, the only thing or things I jot down are ideas that come to me, zany or otherwise. I got this reminder from Dato’ Patrick Grove – founder of http://www.Catcha.com, who also writes down things.
4. Read more. I am reading Anthony Robbins – “UNLIMITED POWER”. Good stuff. I read about 4 books at any one time: one book when I travel on public transport, one at home, one on the “throne” and one on marketing. I think the Americans are the best, most innovative and hip about marketing.
5. Pick up my old Adamas guitar and start learning to play it again. I love the Adamas – not the conventional type guitar.
And the list goes on….. Many, many more things I want to achieve.
It looks like many of these things listed here 3 years ago, are still on my list, as I hold them dear to me. Writing that book: story of my life. Anyone want to co-write with me?
A quick trip to the Assemblyperson, Michelle Ng’s office in SS14, Subang Jaya to collect the annual gift (birthday?) voucher given to citizens above 60 year old. Hardly any wait. Was more like a dash in, collect the voucher, and dashed out; heading home, which was about 10 minutes away.
Got ready for the big event. anticipation without expectations. Yet there was excitement that was building to a crescendo…
Arrived at 1.55pm for my 2.00pm appointment. Always shying away from the popular Malaysian habit – always late. Reason for this habit: The other person will be late, too.😏 Sure one (Must have the “one” there, then sentence is balanced [noticed I left out the “the” before the word “sentence”? Then, more “oomph”]).😂
I am at “The Coffee Academics” at the Pavillion, Kuala Lumpur; waiting with bated anticipation to meet Sharon Ehler – after “many” years (not wanting to reveal sensitive information like age for example😘). I am more used to her being “Sharon Fredericks”. “Ehler” is her married name.
She is coming with her elder sister, Lorraine; whom I suspect is Sharon’s chaperone. This article is supposed to be with all seriousness, I mean straight face serious; but by the looks of things, it is heading south. Ai ya ya yai,🎵 Ai ya ya yai.🎶
And they are fashionably late, not Malaysian late. The difference is not that they use different time pieces. One is “fashion” fashion, the other one got the “one” one is Malaysian time. I still have not understood how this communication works; but a Malaysian communicating with another Malaysian, totally makes sense.
I chose The Coffee Academics because the ambience looked pleasant and comfortable. While penning / keytapping this article on the keyboard of my Samsung Galaxy Z-Fold 3 (In all my earlier articles mentioning the Fold 3, I left out the “Z”. Never too late to add it on😟); I did a quick research on this cafe, and found out that it had just set up shop in April of this year.
A few minutes into seemingly looking busy at work, on the “Z”-Fold3, they arrived. Her big, smile lit up, our long, long embrace and the first few words of greetings – this is the same Sharon I knew from back then. Exactly! Wow! I was blown away!
Nice to meet up with her chaperone, Lorraine, too. The last time we met was about 3 years. They were accompanied by Lorraine’s son, Matthew.
Going down memory lane brought many, many wonderful long moments of laughter and smiles, over long blacks served in big (we had to reiterate to the waiter “big”) cups (saucers not essential. We were ok if they did come with the big mugs). We had an orange muffin, and a couple of fairly soft brownie cookies with molten chocolate oozing from its centre when they were broken and shared between us, too.
Then, we went into the typical Eurasian mode. This is when we are related to everyone or everyone is related to us and whether we knew this person or that. Matthew was pretty much on his own, as he was lost in our conversation. He did the smart thing, smiled and played video games on his phone.
Though we talked a lot about our present and our past, there were many quiet moments, too; which I enjoyed thoroughly. In those quiet moments filled with love, gentleness and smiles, I resonated in the aura of calm that exuded in Sharon. Ain’t she sweet? That itself, spoke volumes.
Back to the future, today; we have our families, our loved ones; the ones who are the centre of our lives, whom we are blessed with.
We spent the next hour or so, “walking off” the long sit down at The Coffee Academics. Sharon and Lorraine shopped a bit. I just accompanied them.
Our meet-up ended at about 6.00pm. Lorraine leaves for the U.K. early next week. Sharon will be around til (I seldom use the word “un”til…don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I don’t plan on “un”doing anything(?). ‘Til sounds much better, maybe a tad laid back) the second week of August.
It was a reunion worth keeping – our friendship has become even stronger.