After much nagging on my parents’ part, I decided to drag my bum to the nearby park to take a walk or somewhat (as long as it can be passed off as ‘exercise’ to my parents). After keeping a while with this routine, I started noticing the people who frequent the place.

No monkeys were chased during the acquirement of this shot

As these people are random individuals from the neighbourhood (majority I assume), I don’t really know them personally so I started identifying them by their distinguishing points. Some of them are quite stereotypical, some are just unique. Some of them, I’m sure, just plain ended up in the wrong place.

Type 1 : The First-Timer

As the tag implies, these people are in this particular park for the first time. As this is quite a sizable area, they are somewhat overwhelmed and often wander around with their mouths open admiring the tall trees (and taking in the huge lake and the leafy hills) – which is not a safe thing to do as resident monkeys often have a timely bowel movement while above the ground. Otherwise, they are often seen taking a leisurely stroll, fanning themselves and appearing passably relaxed amidst the chaos that is around them.

Type 2 : The Average Jogger

Average as they come. Seen regularly, but not excessively frequent. Clad in simple exercise gear – T-shirt, shorts/tracks, and the usual sport shoes; minimalistic. Some may carry their tumblers of water, others (especially females) would equip themselves with a lot of ‘just-in-case’ paraphernalia such as foldable umbrella, pack of tissues, clean towels, extra shirts, etc. Usually spotted doing a few rounds the park and heading straight off right after. This group so far makes up the majority of the park visitors.

Type 3 : The Hardcore Athlete/Ironman

First thing that hit you is their serious face. Some look like they’re about to go to war. Some just look constipated. Then come the grunts that accompanies their self-applied tough exercise regime. They are always seen doing a zillion rounds (looks like that to me) and they would pass you several times per round. Drenched in sweat, they are often the silent envy of many as they overtake you swiftly and effortlessly – with their super-toned and ripped muscular frame that strongly hints their equally steely dedication at their local gym. Never seen stopping to indulge in small talk. If at most they just give you a slight wave and carry on with their punishing marathon.

Normally seen in track and field gear, although a common mistake may involve wearing spandex shorts which are probably 2 sizes too small.

Type 4 : The Wildlife Lovers

Not here to exercise. Equipped with many bags of leftover food (for some, fresh supply from the pet store) for the many creatures that reside at the park. Would spend a lot of time by the tree trunks coaxing monkeys to accept their bananas, which is usually followed by a rude shock as the monkeys took off with their tumblers, car keys, and their entire bag of food. The rest of the time is then spent chasing after your robbed belongings which would then classify as an indirect attempt at exercise. Any idealistic belief on monkeys being peaceful distant cousins of man are hastily dismissed soon after.

The same can be applied to those who came prepared with food for the fish and turtles. I’ve tried feeding the fishes/turtles many times and I realised that I spent more than half the time looking nervously over my shoulder if there’s any oncoming primate ambush. A lot of times the fish food are swiped by the hungry monkeys, often in a very startling and distressing manner to many as the entire ape army jump unto you and do tug-of-war with your bags. Some of the monkeys took off with the mobile phones and wallets in the skirmish which they conveniently dispose of into the pond once they realised it’s not edible.

Type 5 : The Nature Lovers

Not here to exercise either. Usually move in small groups and straddling along massive photography gear. State of the art cameras (like those you see used by National Geographic explorers) are swung around and they feverishly zoom in unto anything that resembles a leaf of flower. The more artistic ones would rummage their backpack for a pencil and a sketchpad to capture their surroundings on paper. The more passionate ones are often seen climbing the trees to get a good shot of the overlooking foliage. They conduct themselves silently and cautiously, slowly surveying their environment and studying the angles. They almost never interact with other visitors in the park unless, of course, they got stuck up the tree.

Type 6 : The Couples

There are a few types under this heading.

The Lovey-Dovey. Every trip to the park is a Valentine’s Day Celebration. Usually seen in work-out attire although the only sport they seem to be occupied with is kissing. Perched on the many benches that are found spread across the park, they are always found joined at the hands and going through the human courtship ritual. Would spend many laps walking slowly and meaningfully as they romantically gaze into each other’s eyes, only to break free very briefly to avoid walking right into the waterfall. Main age group in this category consists of adolescents and those under 30.

The Routine Couple. Walking in the park has been a regular itinerary for many years. Often walking confidently and nonchalantly, as the couple have been here for the umpteenth time. Indulges in less small talk than the lovey-dovey couple, these people are often seen quietly strolling and doing their rounds side by side. Facial expressions range from anything between serene and grumpy. Some may appear bored. Do not let their mild demeanour fool you as these people are amongst the most experienced when it comes to peacekeeping with the park’s wildlife. A rolled-up newspaper is an effective weapon against any offending primate.

The Wedding Couple. They’re here to pose for their wedding album. Accompanied by a mini entourage comprising of at least a photographer and a wardrobe assistant which often doubles as an obliging maid for hire. The golden couple would be fully dressed in their wedding gown/tuxedo etc with hair and make-up done.

If you walk past close enough you can hear the photographer very patiently/stressfully giving instructions on how to pose to the couple – “Hubby please stand closer a bit, Wife smile a bit more please, come on you have to look happier, yes very good…Wife turn your head a bit towards me, yes more, Hubby put your arms around her…Oi your eyeliner’s running, Assistant!! Fix the eyeliner please!” – and so forth. All this under the sweltering equatorial sun.

It must be hard to look delirously happy and in love (in 30+ degree C heat) while wearing thick gowns + high heels/suit and tie and trudging about the park’s landscape (I have personally seen a couple climbed up a tree to get their shot. The bride wore Adidas under all the white lace).

Type 7 : The Family

Inevitably in a group. Peak incidence is during the school holidays. The assault is lead by a bunch of  screaming kiddies, followed shortly by a harrassed and puffing mum. Occasionally a grandma/grandpa is seen trailing behind, trying to control the kiddies by voicing disciplinary orders as they try to keep up so they are within the kid army’s earshot. Each unit has their own flurry of activities; one son jumping into the mud pool in his new jeans, a daughter  mistaking monkey turd for Play-Doh, and another little guy squealing with glee after managing to foster his first screaming relationship with a nearby monkey – all in exchange for his mother’s Sony Ericsson handphone.

Failure to instill order into the unit would result in the mum roping in the help of the dad. Usually dressed in working clothes (taking kids to the park after work), he would then peel off his socks and remove his patent leather shoes, hike up his smart slacks, as he tread barefoot into the pool of mud to extract his adorable offspring (whom would be shovelling mud with his mini plastic shovel and swinging it around wildly in an early study of projectile motion).

Break time would include a mini picnic. This can be a challenging task for the parents to carry out as instructions such as “after you play in the mud, wash your hands, and then you can eat your chips” are often carried out in the wrong order by the kiddies. The more versatile kids chose to multi-task.

Type 8 : The Auntie Squad

Membership is open to aunties only, albeit informally. They have the highest decible output per meter square in the entire park (only sometimes put to shame by a screaming 3 year old). They can be seen somewhat patrolling the park and furiously engaged in deep meaningful conversation, such as how to cook ginseng chicken, or what their daughter-in-law bought for their last visit, or which gynae clinic has better parking facilities. The more excited ones would be seen waving and gesturing madly when stressing a particular point, sometimes poking a passerby with their steel-pointed umbrellas in the process.

They are generally avoided by the rest of the other groups in the park, as they are so engrossed in their debates that they wouldn’t know what’s in front of them. Many side-stepped when faced with them.

Type 9 : The Fashion Conscious

Never seen in ill fitting clothes or hair out of place. Matching and trendy branded sportswear is compulsory. All colour coordinated from their headband to their sneakers, from their make-up to their iPod. Has great consistency in terms of the words plastered all over them (think ‘Nike’, ‘Adidas’, ‘Fila’, etc). Female make-up would consist of the full works which include foundation, blush, lipstick, eyeshadow, faux eyelashes, sunblock, and topped off with a dainty sparkly hair pin at the fringe.

Carries themselves with great flair and greets their passing jogger friends in an elegant wave ala Miss Universe. It is taboo to be seen wiping their sweat off their brows using their sleeves; any removal of obvious perspiration is to be done via the gentle and lady-like pat-pat-pat motion using a 100% cotton pad. Failure to recognise the consequences of the excessive sweating-heavy make-up combo would result in the face looking like a melting pancake.

The male version of this also includes heavily branded gear, accessorised with wraparound RayBans and matching knee/elbow guards. No make-up here, but hair is immaculately Brylcream-ed to resemble the latest metrosexual idol in fad. Posture while running/jogging is absolutely important – many conquered the laps while adopting the ‘puffed-out chest’ stance like Hercules/Conan running after the ice cream truck. Often seen casually changing their shirts/singlets in the crowd after their run, smugly putting their hard-earned 6-packs on display.

Type 10 : The Fisherman

Here to catch fish. Seen clanking around hauling a variety of fishing nets, accompanied by an equally impressive variety in portable makeshift containers/aquariums. Best bet to find this type would be the isolated portions of the river/lake where they can happily be knee-deep in the water and baiting the fishes with overnight bread. Their main grimace would be being spotted by kiddies (“That uncle’s catching fish! I wanna seeeeeeeeeee!”) which would mean the little ones jumping right into the water in their excitement and causing a mini-tsunami.

As the activity is done at the far end of the park, any need for the loo would be massively inconvenient (as the nearest one is perhaps 500m away – far for a kid). For those kiddies who hang around to watch, the need to empty their bladders would be met by them getting into the water next to you (so they can hold unto you for support and balance) while they pee into the river. This is promptly followed by a transient warmness felt by the fisherman’s legs as the freshly excreted urea whirled momentarily around his calves.

Type 11 : Your Guess is As Good As Mine

Not too sure of their purpose nor their actions. Seen wandering the area clad in park-inappropriate attire (from business suits to clubbing wear) and walking around aimlessly, sometimes in circles. Would pause and look around (sometimes purposefully) before heading off to walk in circles again. Not physically active enough to be exercising, nor relaxed looking enough to be having a leisurely walk. Difficulty blending into the environment as they stood out looking lost or uncertain. Appears distracted most of the time.

Secret society meeting? Missed a bus stop? Need leaf Pokemon? Hmmm.

*     *     *

Merry Xmas people!


Cards. Life.

December 2, 2009

Life is very much like a game of cards, don’t you think?

Every one starts out with a unique hand that they’ve been dealt with. There is very little or no control over what one would get.

You look at what you have. There are probably a few combinations that you could do with yours. Have to make do with what you’ve got.

As the game goes on, cards come and go. Some change hands. New cards are dealt.

You may decide that there’s some cards you want to keep. Others you could do without. But as the game progresses (or as fate dictates), sometimes one may have to sacrifice their plans to stay in the game.

Sometimes the card that you gave away may turn out to be the one you eventually need.

Sometimes the card that you value highly may not bring you equal return in worth.

The cards you desire are determined by your needs and wants; your setup moves in the gameplay

The cards that appear worthless and redundant to one may be treasured by someone else. A card would be worth better to a player who sees its possible/potential use.

There are other players in the game. Some you play alongside with, some against. This can change with turn of events.

At the table, no one is truly independent of another. One player’s move may affect the next. Some you can read, some you can’t.

Changes are inevitable. One has to decide how to play through these changes.

Your next move is essentially your next best guess. Some contemplate the risks, some risk it all.

Small wins may matter the most at the end of the day.

It takes skill, patience, and wisdom to maximise one’s winnings; but even greater may be required to know when to fold and let things go.

And of course – you win some, you lose some. It’s a gamble after all.

Aw shucks!