Monday, July 24, 2006

Here, there, everywhere

The thing about driving in Kuantan is not that the arrows painted on the lanes at traffic lights are taken as suggestions only eg. 3 lanes in one direction, right most lane says right turn only, middle lane say right and straight, BUT you'll find that traffic in the right most lane does turn right AND also goes straight. If you're in the middle lane wanting to turn right, I suggest that you stay in the right hand lane next time. Well, it's not all that. It's actually the number of motorbikes zipping around you.

It's just that they buzz past you on the left and on the right and through any gap that may be available between you and the next vehicle or wall or whatever. So it's very important you dont do anything unpredictable, like changing lanes.

Admittedly, I used to ride pillion when I was in high school many many years ago. The one prominent memory that sticks out is when I was riding pillion in Penang (the one and only time). It was much like that chase scene in Star Wars #6 where they were on the planet with those annoyingly cute Ewoks. We were zipping and threading in between cars and trucks, through impossible gaps. Truly white knuckle stuff. I was absolutely terrified. I dont remember his name now but I've never ever held another man so closely or tightly before, or since.

Anyway, what I took away from this trip apart from a reminder of the magnitude of dysfunctionality in my family, was finding out about my paternal great-grandfather. I never bothered to ask before and therefore knew nothing prior to this.

Apparently, he was a rice carrier. ie. carried bags of rice, physically and was quite a strong guy. He was a big gambler and successful at it too. From this he bought a fair few properties in Penang. Unfortunately, he also smoked opium and was a womaniser. He supposedly had his own harem. But eventually, he had to sell off the properties one by one to feed his drug addiction, till it was all gone. He eventually ended up living in grandpa's house. Pa remembers great grandfather making the weekly trip to the shophouse only a block away from home, from which the British Government dispensed opium, to collect his weekly 2 vial ration. This wasnt enough and apparently he was shaking from the chills a lot. Pa remembers him scraping the bottom of whatever he used to smoke the opium from, to try to recycle whatever he could. Even worse, he died horribly from some venerial disease. This was pre-penicillin. He was a blind (from the VD) and frightened man when he finally went. Pa remembers GGF urinating but it is a little icky to describe. Good eh? I feel a little sad just describing it, just how he must have suffered. His name, when translated was "Black Boy" (or so my sister says).

I knew my maternal grandfather was a gambler (not successful) but I never knew there were gamblers on my dad's side, until now. My kid likes to play cards. Bummer. Predisposed? I hope not.

Till later.