23 Aug 2014, Flight from Frankfurt to JFK. 1947hrs Singapore time
My happiest childhood memories are with my family – my parents and my brother. They are not tied to a specific geographic locality; as a child I was fortunate to travel widely and saw many places. Indeed, my memories and transformative experiences are rooted in wild places all around. I recall throwing tantrums while treading gingerly on muddy roots in Malaysia. I recall watching a farmer pull a bunch of fresh lettuce from her garden plot and present it proudly to my mom, and then bringing us to pick and eat boysenberries from a bush. I remember being blinded by the mountain ice and the feeling of foot-numbing water seeping into my dark blue, supposedly waterproof shoes. I remember that after an hour of wandering in the damp streets of Paris, stepping the fuzzy warmth of a dimly lit Chinese restaurant and slurping duck noodles. I remember a strawberry-patterned t-shirt set that I wore while my brother and I were sent to stand outside the room by my furious mother for quarreling. You only have each other, she would tell us, how could you quarrel over small, stupid things? You only have each other, her voice a combination of a furious verbal thrashing and an impassioned plea; a small personal pain etched into her face. Once, in our old walk-up Block 31 in Marine Parade, she locked both of us in the bathroom with the gray plastic folding door after applying the residue of cut chili padi to our mouths for an hour. The quarrel quickly forgotten, we cracked open the tap soundlessly and lapped droplets of water to soothe the lingering burning sensation in our mouths. My family has always been good at eating spicy food.
Scorpionfly (Panorpa communis)
Panorpa communis, the common scorpionfly, is a species of scorpionfly native to Western Europe.
The common scorpionfly has a black and yellow body, with a reddish head and tail. The male has a pair of claspers at the end of its tail (for holding the female during mating), giving it a scorpion-like appearance, although it is not a stinger.
Although fully winged, the adults rarely fly very far and spend much of their time crawling on vegetation in damp, shaded places near water and along hedgerows.
Weird bugs are good bugs.
A milo tanker spotted in Yong Peng (excellent advertising, because I was inspired to purchase a packet drink). Two hours later, a windy 4WD ride through oil palm plantation land from Bekok to reach Endau Rompin, Selai where the remaining forest is. That’s where the palm oil in an overwhelming selection of our food, including that milo in the milo tanker, comes from.
"It offers a route out of poverty, while making people vulnerable to exploitation, misinformation and market instabilities. It threatens rich biological diversity - while also offering the finance needed to protect forest."
- Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) report 2009, Bogor, Indonesia
The metalwing perches on a dry spot of rock, digesting a butterfly and contemplating memories of its larva-hood. Like most creatures, she had spent her younger days stuffing her face with tadpoles and smaller larvae, and avoiding being eaten by big fish and bigger larva.
After hauling herself up, tarsi by tarsi, against the side of rocky prime real estate and braving the treacherous rushing surface torrent, she gasped from the jarring dryness of air but began to fill her abdomen with air, drawing in breaths from her sides. Her old crawling form separated and splits open at where her head and thorax used to be. A fully-ripe mango falling, bursting open as it strikes hard soil. She pulled her new structures out of old, crispy skin of her legs, eyes and even her internal breathing apparatus, now bearing finely-patterned wings. In recollection she enjoys every one of her wings anew; she can flex each one and move them however she pleases. It is difficult to remember, now, what it felt like to be flightless, but her recollection is interrupted by a giant that approaches with one of those illuminating flashes of light. She spots it lumbering in from a mile away and takes off, expertly piloting herself across the bubbling current with her beautiful wings.
Greasy tables and their round white number tags glow softly under fluorescent lights. The air is filled with the clinking of glass cups, metal cutlery scraping faded green plastic plates, filled by lazy clouds of purple exhaust fumes from passing taxis, buses and private cars filled with people hungry for midnight oil. Ice melts, diluting a pink soup of evaporated milk and rose-red flavored syrup, held in a translucent plastic mug patterned with little square windows. The smell of frying food and water vapor mingle playfully in the heavy night air and drapes over you like unwelcome company.
Drawn with color pencils using this image as reference. Someday I’ll be able to draw from memory, but for now…
Malkohas are one of my favorite Southeast Asian birds. Though in the same family as the some 50 species of notorious brood parasites that make cuckholds of some poor warbler, malkohas prefer to raise chicks on their own. They move quietly and unhurriedly through foliage and vines not unlike squirrels. This, coupled with their tasteful plumage, makes them pleasant birds to watch.