Monday, November 29, 2010

The unbearable sickness of being.

I'm suffering right now.

I knew when I came here that I would have to suffer through this thing called Winter. But I was totally not expecting this thing called Eczema From The Very Dry House Because Of The Heating.

My whole body is affected by little mosquito bite looking thingies, which keep me awake all night because they're so bloody friggin itchy. But the worst part? The worst part is that it has also affected my face! My whole face is dry, red and itchy. When I wash my face, my hands aren't touching what is called My Face, but what is called The Gravelly Road.

Which brings me to a point that I hate about this country. What's new, you say? Well, I've been gradually getting used to and accepting the way of life here, but this point is really, really annoying.

The doctors.

First, let me point out the good thing about going to the doctors here is that you can walk in and out without paying or sitting around for medicine because it's all covered by a mandatory medical insurance (which you have to pay for, of course). And they send the prescription straight to the pharmacy near your house, where you can pick it up for no cost either.

The bad thing?

You have to call to make an appointment with the doctor, which you will usually only get at the shortest, 3 days later. I called two Thursdays ago, and found out that the whole clinic was away for a convention and I could only call on Monday if it wasn't an emergency. So I called on Monday and could only get an appointment on Friday. This is 9 whole days after I needed to see the doctor!

I should explain that this visit is actually a follow-up visit. I saw the doctor 4 weeks before to check a rash, and she gave me a cream for it then asked me to check back in 4 weeks. Three and a half weeks later, the rash has grown and is even worse. So I was actually pretty worried and desperate to get it checked out again.

Anyway, I finally saw the doctor on the Friday, and she took photos of the old rash to send to the dermatologist. When I asked her about the new eczema itches, she barely glanced at them and just pronounced that it is eczema and said she'd give me cream to moisturise my body with. All fine and dandy.

But 3 days later and 3 sleepless nights later, I'm getting really annoyed, because I don't see or feel any improvement. Makes me really REALLY miss my doctor in KL, who would have, first of all, got my first rash fixed or at least diagnosed by now, without it growing so serious and bothersome. And second of all, she would have prescribed not only moisture cream, but anti-histamines to take away the itch and maybe also a cream to calm the eczema. I've barely slept in the past 3 nights! I'm just guessing here, but I think because the medical is covered by insurance, they only prescribe the bare minimum that they have to. Well, I don't want the friggin bare minimum, I want to be cured!!!

When your whole body is red, lumpy and itchy, your face is rough, dry and ugly and your eyes are small and swollen, believe me, there is nothing about the medical system in this country that you can feel you will ever get used to or accept.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Netherlands vs Malaysia

Just a quick one while I can still remember what's in my head...

It's a colleague's birthday today, and as she was walking around giving muffins to everyone in the office, I couldn't help thinking of how it's completely the opposite in Malaysia.

In NL, when it's your birthday, you are the one who brings goodies for everyone and goes around getting wished "Gefeliciteerd!".

In Malaysia, you come into the office (or wherever), and people come to wish you "Happy Birthday!" instead, and probably bring you out to lunch that day, some closer colleagues even buying you a present.

In one situation, you are making everyone else happy, and in the other, everyone else is making you happy.

Got me wondering why the Dutch have to work so hard on their birthdays, when the rest of the year, they're pretty self-centred and individualistic.

And then I realised that perhaps that's how it works...

In NL, 364 days of the year, you are being self-centred and taking care of number one. So when it is your birthday, you give back and be a nice, giving person, making everyone around you feel special for once.

In Malaysia, however, you spend so much time belonging to the group and (usually) giving in to the group's majority decision, that when it's your birthday, the group gives back to you and makes you feel like the only one that counts.

I kinda like that everything balances out in the end :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Started drawing again

A quick update for those who are interested in what happened at the embassy...

It's a good thing I read Mumsy Bumsy's comment about printing out all the emails before going to the embassy, because when I got there and explained my business, Mr Bangla Bastard (who is actually a Malay dude) repeated the same thing to me as he did on the phone. Oh boy, do I know his voice really well now.

So I dug into my hat of tricks and pulled out the printouts of the emails. Mr Bangla-Malay read them in silence, then told me to pass him my police report and also to let him take these emails with him to check with Mr Jamal.

In the end, everything worked out, thankfully. Mr Bangla-Malay turned out to be a nice, talkative dude, albeit still having a sort of Melayu manner (more social than work-minded, but that's fine since I don't work with him) even though he's lived in NL for over 30 years.

My translation only cost € 35 (phew!) and although Schrobbenmaster and I waited all morning, Mr Jamal could only work on my report in the afternoon because he had a particularly difficult case to handle before ours. So we were advised to go home and wait for the post to deliver my translation.

It came 2 days later (yay!). So now I'm all set to get the remainder of my life back.


On another note, although I hated having Schrobbenmaster away from me most of the month of October for the festival, it was a good time for me to start looking into myself again and explore what I like. I decided to start drawing again. It's been awesome therapy and it's great to see a style emerging.

I'm planning to make a recipe book for the kitchen here. A homemade one with blank pages to fill in. Right now we're just using a plastic folder with ugly black and white printouts from Textedit (Notepad for you Windows dinosaurs). I just need to find a lovely, cute, LARGE kitchen hook to hang the recipe book on. (Big hint for my Christmas wish list, anyone?).

Maybe I'll make my own Christmas cards this year. Or if I'm lazy again, Christmas tags like last year.

I have more sketches in my sketchbook at home, but I'm not sure what I wanna do with them. Whether to show them to anyone or just keep them as exercises in expression. Schrobbenmaster calls it my Tree Book, cuz I only draw trees in it :S

Btw, I started a new page on Tumblr to collect designs I find inspiring. Visit it here:

Monday, November 01, 2010

Embassies! Ugh!! Malaysian embassy FAIL.

So here goes another embassy rant, except this time, it's not about the Dutch embassy in Malaysia, but about the Malaysian embassy in The Netherlands.

I don't know if I wrote about this before - possibly not, as I've been pretty traumatised by the incident and I didn't want to think about it - but I was pickpocketed at Schiphol Airport when picking frachely up. I believe I did mention a little about it and then linked to frachely's post, but if not, then here it is: Black Friday in Amsterdam.

So with my wallet (if I mention, a brand new, very expensive Lacoste, will I get more sympathy?) gone, gone too were the most important things to carry - my Dutch ID, my Malaysian ID and my driver's license.

Hence, my contacting the Malaysian embassy.

I had already made my police report, but it was in Dutch and I obviously can't send in a Dutch report to get a new Malaysian ID card. So I emailed the embassy to ask if they could translate the document for me. Of all places, you'd think they'd be the first to offer it, right?

First, they took almost 2 weeks to reply. In that time, I even gave them a call directly and was told by some Indian/Bangladeshi accented man that *cue Bangla accent* "No, you kenot translate from Dutch at the embassy, only English to Malay or Malay to English".

So I asked him where I could translate from Dutch to English, as it would have to be an official translation accepted by the embassy and the Malaysian police and government. And he goes, "No, we don't know, you have to search the internet and find an official translation yourself. Official translation, ya!".

*cue an irritated me*

I said thanks and hung up and started searching Google for translation services. Found one (although in the US) and emailed them. They replied the next day, quoting me $ 0.10 - 0.20 per word. Whooooaaaaa... I have 5 A4 sized pages in my report and this was gonna cost me easily a few hundred dollars that I'm not willing to part with!

I left it for a while, when one day I received the long-awaited email from the Malaysian embassy. It said:

Yes, we can help you with the translation. You can call the Embassy at: 070-350 6506 to make an appointment with Mr. Jamal from the Consular section.

So this morning, I called the embassy again to look for Mr Jamal. Unfortunately, the same Bangla-accented guy picked up the phone, told me, "No, you kenot talk to Mr Jamal, he has a visiter.". So I asked if I could just make an appointment with him for translation. And he goes, "No, we kenot do translation from Dutch. Only English to Malay or Malay to English. You have to look for official translation in the Yellow Book.". To which I asked if he at least had any recommendations of companies, I mean, this CANNOT BE THE FIRST TIME SOMEONE NEEDED TRANSLATION SERVICES FROM DUTCH? Of course, the bastard went, "No, you must look in the Yellow Book for an official translater.".

After politely saying thank you and hanging up (hey, I was brought up well), I directly emailed the embassy again to clarify this whole bloody situation, why they tell me one thing, but the guy on the phone tells me something else. I also told them that I'm on a time crunch as I'm flying back to Malaysia soon.

Then I look in the Goudengids (the famous "Yellow Book") online for a translator. Schrobbenmaster helps me call a company near our house and they're very helpful, but they say that their official translators are registered in a database which is accessible by people who need to check, but which is probably not accessible in Malaysia. And that I would therefore need to bring my translated document to a court and make an appointment with a judge for him to stamp the document, making it official. And an appointment with a judge normally takes 2-4 weeks!!!

Devastated, I felt like emailing the embassy again to ask for help, when Schrobbenmaster suggested emailing the Dutch embassy in Malaysia as well. I figured it was a good idea, as embassies SHOULD charge less for translation than external business companies.

I emailed the Dutch embassy for help and advice, and a few minutes later, I receive an extremely speedy response from the Malaysian embassy:

Please come to the Embassy tomorrow or Wednesday before 12.00 for the translation.


As relieved as I was to receive it, I can't help thinking, what the hell are they doing? By email they're telling me that they're my saviours, and by phone, a Bangla-accented bastard is telling me that they're idiots.

Anyhow, I will be heading to the embassy on Wednesday morning to hopefully get my translation done. And hopefully for not too much money. I did email them back straightaway to ask who I should look for, because I didn't want to come face-to-face with the Bangla-accented bastard who will probably tell me to go home because they "kenot do translation from Dutch here". In fact, I think I might bring my own "Yellow Book" to bash him on the head if he does say that.

Wish me luck!!!