29 March 2006

Those were the days ...

If anyone needs any convincing that my job is very unpredictable, here's another bit of evidence for you.

Woi - Pegi Mana?

Earlier, I was told I was headed for Australia for a month. Now that hasn't changed, but today, I was being told that instead of Sydney, I would instead head to Brisbane.

When I had my conversation with my supervisor, my response to that piece of info was a simple "Really? I used to study there ..."

But deep inside me, it was a very different feeling.

Brisbane was my home for nearly 2 years. It was my first trip overseas (there was another trip to Singapore when I was so young I can't remember anything except I travelled there by train, so that doesn't count).

I took a course in Queensland University of Technology, in the Faculty of IT, doing the Bachelor of IT. I majored in Data Communications, which turned out to be a pretty good choice. While I never really worked in a line absolutely related to Data Communications, the background served me well, and my work is never far from touching areas I learnt in Uni.

But was really got me thinking about the old days were the people who surrounded me. And the people who got me there.

Uni was a charm. Living overseas alone is a great experience.

First, the people who got me there.

My Parents

I come from a poor family. My background is not too bad, my dad made enough for us to be comfortable. We had the necessities to get thru the daily grind, but we never had more. Before my trip to Australia, I never had a holiday, except the ones the school organised.

When I went to Uni, it was with the whole-hearted support of the family. My parents made immense sacrifices, for which I am deeply indebted to them - forever - it's a debt I can't hope to repay ever - I hope I'll be able to make them comfortable in their old days.

But back to me, my Uni days were challenging. I had a budget from the start - me and my parents worked out the necessary finances - right down to the last dollar and cent. And that was what I got.

I touched down in Australia with money in the bank for my studies, and living expenses, and that's it.

The first month was difficult. My own college mates from Malaysia abandoned me (or maybe it was the other way. Depends on your point of view, maybe) - I wasn't Chinese enough, you see, I speak English, and I befriended all types and sorts of people. I made friends with a Frenchman, a Taiwan girl, a Singaporean and a Sri Lankan - all on my first day.

I got my accomodation, and moved in to share an apartment at Maryvale Street in Toowong with a Singaporean I barely know. Managing money was a problem. If you have a lump sum in the bank on day 1 and you have to make sure you manage it until you're done with your studies, you sometimes forget how frugal you might have to be - since the sum seems large at the beginning. It's only when you start to look into your finances that you realise - "Shit! Spent too much already !!"

I still reckon my biggest lesson learnt in Brisbane was how to manage a budget and spend wisely. And prioritise.

With the challenging timeline I had, I figured I wouldn't do any part time job, and instead I would just concentrate on my studies. Later, during the later part of my stay when the 97 financial crisis was about to show its teeth, it turned out to be a great decision. I am glad to this day I decided to make my studies a priority and concentrate on it.

I complete my studies just before the exchange rate made the ringgit so low I would have needed to quit and go home. There were all these forex restrictions and my father's already depleted savings was getting further depleted, so I was happy to be wrap up my studies on time with some money to spare =)

Through my times in Brisbane, my parents were a pillar of strenght. They kept me going during the tough times, kept the troubles back home from me to not distract me and reminded me of the bigger picture when I got into lows.

Now the people who I spent a lot of time with in Brisbane:

The Friends

Here's an oddity. In the pictures you've seen - except me, everyone else is a Singaporean. I was practically surrounded by Singaporeans. But I felt totally at home - maybe it's the people, and not the nationality. As long as you get on, you get on. Where you come from has very little to do with how well you get on.

I moved into my first apartment in Australia with a Singaporean whom I barely knew. It turned out to be a great decision.

I learnt how to live with people. And make new friends in strange new settings. And accept new cultures and ideas. It opened up my mind.

The guys were great - we had cookouts on weekends - I would normally do the cooking, and they would do the cleaning up thereafter. Yeah, we had disasters in the kitchen, but always emerged with humour. Burnt out chicken? Let's call a pizza.

I never had any disagreements of large magnitudes with these guys. We had many trips together to a great many places - Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and - still a highlight of my life - a road trip along the Queensland Coast of Australia, where we drove for days, and enjoyed the breath-taking beauty of Australia.

I did make many other friends in Uni, but this was the closest bunch, my gang. I sure miss them.

Unfortunately for me, after my Uni, I lost touch with - believe it or not - every one of these folks. I actually only have 1 contact from my Uni, and that too because he's working in the same company as I do.

Hopefully, with the wonders of Internet, I might one day re-establish contact with them.

Mission: Incomplete

As for my work assignment in Brisbane, I'd like to take the opportunity to finish some incomplete tasks - stuff I wanted to do in Brisbane I never got to do, due to my lack of funds, or because I just couldn't or because I plain didn't care then :

* Properly get to know the city - You may be surprised to know that I avoided some parts of the city, like the Eagle Street Pier, because I didn't really fit in. I had shabby clothes then, and never had an interest in the cafe lifestyle.

* Walk across the Story Bridge - me and Ken Leong attempted it and we both chickened out when we looked down and saw that sheer drop. I'll do it this time. Moz not chicken anymore.

* Do rock climbing at Kangaroo Point - it was just across the Brisbane River from the QUT Gardens Point Campus, but I never did this due to lack of fund and lack of sense of adventure.

* Get myself a QUT sweater - lack of funds. Couldn't afford to buy even a SINGLE souvenir from QUT except a Kangaroo soft toy for an ex-girlfriend.

* Take a lot of pictures - believe it or not, young readers, there was a time when digital cameras have not been invented, when we had to take photos in rolls of 36 exposure films. What it means to a student on a budget like me is that I was very economical with my photos, and I regretted it. I'm going to rectify that this time =)

* Visit Milton's Park Road - Park Road in the suburb of Milton is where we call "Little Paris" - there's a replica of the Eiffel Tower there, and it's a place dotted with cafes and alfresco dining. It's probably the most happening place in Brisbane after sunset. I wonder if the Ferrari that was always parked outside one of the cafes is still around ... ? Hmm ... maybe not. But this time, I'll be able to afford dining in ANY of the establishments there ... hmpph ... no more dirty looks because I wore shabby clothes.

* Visit Mt. Coot-tha again - ever stood out in -3 celcius air wearing only a T-Shirt? I did. A girl dared me and I stood out in the cold, leaving the comfort of the car that brought us up Mt. Coot-tha, believing I could impress her. Never did find out what she thought. Brisbane has a very mild winter, but at night, on a hill, with the windchill, it's perfectly possible for -3 celcius temperatures.

* Appreciate the Botanical Gardens - I never thought much of the Brisbane Botanical Gardens - it's just a park next to the Uni. Maybe there's more to it. I'll at least revisit it. And the Kidney Lawn in front of the Old Government House.

* Visit Moreton Bay - never did visit this place, although it was practically in Brisbane itself.

And perhaps many more ... I can go ballistic with the listing, but let's just see how things work out. I might be so swamped with work they'll be no time for play. Let's hope not, but I don't wanna get myself all worked up and later get deflated when I can't complete my mission.

Now. Let's just hope my supervisor won't tell me later that it's switched to some other place. Because that's a possibility where I work.


angel said...

**the angel is truly, deeply touched**

*sheds a tear*

Eric said...

How cool is that! So happened, I just posted some pics of Brisbane at my blog, go check it out at www.xanga.com/ericlim83

pelf said...

Pelf wants to go.. *buat muka kesian*

moz monster said...

angel: Huh? What did I say that touched you? But I do shed a tear for my student days

eric: TQ. I'll check it out soon.

pelf: Haha ... come, come. The more the merrier. =)

Che-Cheh said...

You have so much to do in Brisbane. Enjoy! When are you leaving for Brisbane ? You won't stop blogging right ?

moz monster said...

che-cheh: I have absolutely no idea when and where I'm going now. I still think it's Brisbane, but the way these guys are hiding things from me, I might be going to Timbuktu in Africa. But Brisbane sounds fun, no?