Sunday, April 1, 2012

Nice work if you can get it...

Some days I'm amazed by how lucky I am. Very early one morning last week there was nowhere on the planet I would rather have been than running in the dark through the quiet streets of Kuching with my mate Min, listening to Billie Holiday singing "Nice work if you can get it" ( We were a group of five runners (Eng Hooi, Steven and Alfred were the others) spread out over quite a distance. We converged on the waterfront right on 6 am for running drills with the regular group that meets there on Sunday mornings. (It was this group that I spotted and spoke with in January last year, and which has led to a wonderful friendship with two families.)

I'm really enjoying all our early runs. Instead of going to Brunei to run a half marathon next weekend, I'm staying in Kuching to do a special Good Friday 32 km group run to Damai Beach. This is the fourth year Eng Hooi, Min and others have attempted the distance, and I want to be a part of it this year. Min and Steven are training for their first marathons, Penang in November, so this will be a great run to complete this far out from Penang and just before the Wees and I head off to Bali for a half marathon.

One of the many pleasures of running with Min in the mornings is having breakfast afterwards with Sam and Sean and their house guest Kay. We eat at different places depending on whether we feel like popiah or laksa or noodles... I feel so happy sitting with them, still sweating after a good run. It's such a great start to the day...

In the past week or so, there have been dinners at The Junk (with the Wees and a whole bunch of architects) and at The Dyak (with the Wees, architects Ivy and Swee, and a visiting architecture professor from Singapore who is a friend of Min's). One of the items on display at The Dyak ("dyak" is the collective name for all the indigenous tribes of Sarawak) was an antique headhunter's sword, with holes (notches) indicating it had claimed the heads of 17 men and 5 women. The owner, Vernon, has many stories to share.

Today I spent the morning with Emily and some of her family, who were tidying up the graves of her grandmother and grandfather and sending them burnt paper offerings as part of the Ching Ming festival.

'Cosmetics' for the afterlife

Sending burnt paper offerings to Emily's grandmother, Ching Ming festival

It was fascinating to be in the cemeteries, where thousands of people were tending to their ancestors' graves. Food and rice wine are offered along with the paper money and other small items that are burnt, and many families set off fire-crackers.

It was a stunning morning, with a huge sky and cirrus clouds, without a trace of a breeze. By 4 pm, when I was back working at my desk at Batik, we'd had our regular daily thunderstorm.

I've scaled a mountain of work in the past few months and am now facing a manageable daily load — for the next week, at least. I've been self-employed as a freelance editor since 1986. Technology now means I can travel the world while I do it. It certainly is nice work if you can get it!


  1. Fascinating. Sounds like you're having a great time.

    What are in the cosmetics boxes? Are the boxes burned as well?

    1. Tim, the boxes are empty. Yes, they are burned :-(((