Late night musings

There is a quote from the documentary The Minimalists, it goes: “Love people and use things. The opposite never works.” From my personal life and observations at large, however, I do believe the world these days runs on exactly that – Love things and use people. It cannot help itself, it is saturated with capitalist considerations, consumerism and conceit. It cannot turn back, like its unceasing overuse of plastic.
And I was an optimist once, foolish me.

I believe the only thing people can do – those who still harbour some faith and glow – is to be extremely aware and reflective of the people, things and thoughts you choose to let into your life.

You will think unkind, ungenerous thoughts sometimes, but you are only human. Process these thoughts fairly.

You will obtain some things you will regret. It is okay, try better next time. You can only beat yourself about it so much.

Know that some people will use you, but they cannot help themselves, and sometimes you cannot help but let them. It is inescapable. This is life.

There will still be those who love you because, well, they just cannot help themselves   too – they just bloody love you. If you can identify these people and keep them close – selfishly, deliciously so, then you’ve got life made.

Love people and use things. I suppose it is still a worthwhile mantra to consider, despite all said and done.


Right Man for the Right Place

On Jan 1st of this year, I was in Malaysia, and I chose to spend my lunch time with a Datuk in a hotel. I went with my husband’s okay and support.


Okay, so it was nothing dodgy at all. It was a meeting with a long-time work contact, Prof Zaini. He is now actually Datuk Seri Zaini Ujang, Malaysia’s secretary-general of the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water. But I don’t know, big titles don’t seem to suit him, in my mind he will always be that smiley Prof I first met circa 2003 or 04.

Some background is needed, I suppose.

In the early noughties, I was still a junior reporter at the New Straits Times interested in water management issues in the country, and I had a lot of questions. He was an academic in one of the local universities who could talk about the subject of water until the cows came home. Over the years and many discussions about water and the environment, I would call him whenever I had to understand technicalities or context related to these issues. Over the years I would also watch as his career boomed – he would continue to grow academically and professionally; in research, teaching and advocacy. He eventually became vice-chancellor of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, advised the government on issues, and continued to win awards, work with other universities, and so on and so forth. Many years later when he heard I had left the newspaper business for freelance writing, he hired me to edit material for UTM and teach his staff about social media and the like. When I moved to the UK, we would keep in touch sometimes, but by then he was an even busier man – he had been appointed Ministry of Education’s secretary-general (II) in 2013, later moving to Ministry of Higher Education. Last year, he would finally enter the ministry best suited for him – Energy, Green Technology and Water. I remember smiling big time when I read the news.

Okay, back to my meeting with him on Jan 1. The thing you have to remember about government officials or politicians in Malaysia is they are so busy and there is often a huge amount of red tape or dealing with secretaries and calendars if you want to meet them. The thing you have to know about me is I still had many friends I wanted to see in Malaysia before I left for the UK, and I was so tired. And this was the first day of 2017!

But the thing about Prof Zaini is he is still as humble, efficient and cheerful as the first day I met him all those years ago. And to know he wanted to make time to meet me was heartwarming, so I knew I had to make time to head to KL. New Year’s Day in the over-crowded city centre, yikes!  Anyway, we locked the time and venue down in just a few messages, ‘Okay see you there’ and we were done. We met at the breakfast/lunch restaurant of Mandarin Oriental, where he sometimes has meetings.

And here’s why I’m writing this post at all.

With all his status and success, we spent lunch talking about …. water and the environment and sustainability issues. And books and cycling, which he is quite obsessed about. Yes, we caught up – he asked about family and I asked him about life as an office-bearer, but we did not talk much about politics or what have you. When I told him about my no-shopping, low consumption plans this year, he was very interested and shared his thoughts on consumerism. We discussed sustainability issues at length. I even pointed out his super hip bag – it was the Kånken bag! I don’t think he realised how hipster the brand was, he just knew it as a great and durable bag from Sweden. (He is now all over Scandinavian efficiency, development and sustainable living – he keeps sending attachments about Hygge and ‘How to Live Danishly’ and all)



We also talked about the possibilities of improving the environment and green technology in Malaysia. ‘Prof,’ I told him, ‘This is your time, you can really make a difference.’ There is no better ministry for him. My personal hope is that those around him and in charge of other decisions pertaining to these sectors can move with him, for everyone knows the issues of water management, energy and the environment in the country are numerous and complicated. At the end of the lunch, I remember feeling energised about my own sustainability goals and hopeful for the country. Not thaaaat hopeful, but it was something. It was a good way to start off the first day of the year for me.



Even in the chillest of conversations, he draws charts …


I don’t keep in touch with many work contacts at all, and friends would know my current feelings about the administration in Malaysia. There are many things I sigh about when it comes to Malaysia, but obviously it is still so wonderfully raw and rife with possibilities. This is an example right here – someone born for a role now has it.

To Datuk Seri Zaini Ujang, I’m sure those who know you feel ever so grateful that you continue to share articles with us about ‘Responsible Consumption’ and ‘The Odd Beauty of Ice Fishermen’, haha. I just want to say thank you and Happy Birthday. I know I am a day (?) late, but here’s to your continuing passion and dedication to subjects you have always felt strongly about. May you achieve your dreams about book-writing and doing as much as you can for the betterment of the environment in Malaysia.


To those in Malaysia who are interested in these issues – especially Malaysian youth with good intentions and plans – you now have a man who is knowledgeable, committed and open to ideas about the topics of sustainability and Energy, Green Technology and Water. He just got in last year, but he won’t be there forever (you know what Malaysian politics is like!) He is interested in innovation. He raised the name of MaGIC (The Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre) before I did.

So move now. Plan nowDo what you can now.


Fond Travel Memories

Those who have been to our home know about the seemingly random photograph of a man on a horse displayed on our wall. I had such a laugh when I first saw it because it is a little jarring in the midst of all our other personal photographs. I had come back from Malaysia and he had put some framed photos up. I was like WTF is this guy doing on our walls??! My husband argued that he really liked the photo and it reminded him of such a nice day in Argentina!

I must admit that I love that photograph, and today especially so, when we caught this very gaucho on British TV this afternoon! I really squealed when I saw him and other gauchos we spent time with on TV, it truly was such a joy. Ann was packing in the next room and I actually asked her to come out and look at ‘our’ gaucho. (A gaucho is an Argentinian ‘cowboy’, or horse whisperer, which may be an oversimplification really)

That day we spent on that estancia, or ranch, was the most relaxing day we had in Argentina. It was the beautiful outdoors, la pampas. We chatted with locals. We had the best food and we rode horses, and I played with dogs … it was truly a wonderful day. I have only ever written one proper travel review in my life, unprompted, and it was for this estancia – Camino Pampa – on Tripadvisor. We have since recommended it to other friends who may be going to Argentina.

There he is on the right!

Sorry about my foot, haha. But there he is again!

So yeah, a post that has nothing to do with decluttering or non-consumption. It just made us really happy today remembering that day. Reminded us that this is the kind of travel we like, when we interact with locals. But hey, actually, perhaps it also is about the home – we have something on our wall that truly sparks joy. So this is what it means. When we see it, when we explain it, when we even think about it. It’s just good vibes. And I guess that’s just a lovely thing to have in our home. Thank you for putting this photograph up, Anh, that was a good call 😉


People Around You

Maybe it’s because I’ve been happy with the company of my best friend, Ann, who is now here in London. I love having her around! Maybe it’s because Valentine’s Day has just passed, and even though we do not celebrate it, I have been reflective about my husband and child. Just grateful for how we are and what we have. Maybe it’s because Chinese New Year is now over, and so are our planned hosting or celebrations in the house. I’m feeling zen and much more relaxed about life in general here in London.

I don’t know if if my de-cluttering goals have helped with that. For I have also taken steps to add elements of ‘spark joy’ in my relationships.


Pix by Ann. A lovely day out chatting with your sister from another mother is just the best.

I told Ann about some steps I had taken this year about who I had been hanging out with too, or allowing into my space and frame of mind.

It is a little tricky in London, for it is not my ‘hood’ yet, even though I have been living here on and off for 10 years now. In Malaysia, I must admit I am flush with choices. So many wonderful people I love are there, and there are so many interesting people I can meet or do projects with. I’m not saying there are no such people in London – obviously there are! – but I do not have the same roots or networks yet. And these past few years have been a bit mad for me – new country, new career, new home, new baby. It’s not going to get any less mad. I wish I could drink my brains out  I knew I needed to find other ways to keep sane and happy, so I am doing things this year to keep everything together.

On the relationships and friendships side of things, these are some things that have happened:

  • Not only removed crap and added things that ‘sparked joy’ in my house. This needed to apply to who I hung out with or allowed in my ear/head. After learning about a friend who was ever ready to gossip about me (dude, are we still in college?), I came to the conclusion that I just needed to change the nature of the relationship – bam, you are now an acquaintance. No drama needed. But one needs to actually remove them from your ear or head – it makes no sense if you are hearing from them every day (whether online, on feeds, in chat groups), when you wouldn’t want to actually spend time with them on a daily basis anyway. That just sparks yuck. Their feeds make you feel gross or negative? You want to curse or barf when they say certain things?  Unfollow the feeds. Remove yourself. Un-attach. It’s early days but it’s been so important and good for me.


  • They say ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’ While I may not necessarily agree with that to a T, I agree with the concept. Obviously I am so far away from my most loved. But I still try to make sure they are in my life as much as possible – I chat with them, write to them, think about them. I want to make more effort with people I really love, respect or am curious about. I am also taking steps to get more involved within my immediate community, and do things I used to do in Malaysia. It will take time and effort, but these are quality ways to spend my time.


  • I think I have rebooted some anxiety re my feelings about feelings. Haha. Don’t worry about feeling uncool or affected about relationships and friendships. Over the past few years I have realised the coolest, most macho, most zen people have more than their fair share of issues to do with relationships. You think boys and men don’t have these dramas or issues – I can assure you that is absolutely wrong, they just deal with it a bit differently. The coolest cats also have issues, sometimes relationship drama you wouldn’t even be able to imagine. I’ve seen that a lot of dysfunction comes from people who have trouble expressing or speaking about issues, and a lot more people get hurt along the way sometimes. This year I have decided I will write about it all, because I think I have finally accepted that this is who I am. What can I say? I am an overthinking and over-feeling little shit. And I shall embrace this insanity – bring it!



When you don’t buy crap, you can treat your friends to a real special birthday lunch at Duck & Waffle! 


  • I have said sorry or tried to make amends with friends where an apology or discussion is necessary. I think all of us have that – a past encounter or issue you have felt bad or uncomfortable about in hindsight. I have done that when I was younger, but it takes a certain strength to do it now the older you get. Perhaps the ego or comfort zone (‘just leave it’) gets in the way some times. I do it when I sincerely feel I was being an ass, and I really want the person to hear my apology. Whether the person forgives me or not is totally not up to me, and they have every right to feel the way they do. That’s not up to me.


Well that’s mostly it. So yes, I have decluttered my home, and I have kind of ‘decluttered’ some relationships. I suppose it is apparent in the word ‘clutter’ – it is a mess, you don’t know what is there, really. You feel torn about things and you know you could be happier. It can feel so fucked up.

So now I feel better. Will it stay this way? Who knows?