Saturday, June 18, 2005

T Plus One Week - Serendipity and Other Things

One week ago, I set out on a life-changing journey. I flew to Berkeley to set up a little apartment. As promised, here's the story.

The Plane Trip

Amidst a tearful farewell at the airport, I left Changi Airport Terminal 2. At my farewell was Nick, Dawn, Edward and family, and my own family. In a rare display of emotion, my mother burst into tears. I comforted her as best I could, and as I walked into the boarding area, I didn't turn back, as I had promised myself.

The first part of the plane trip was uneventful. I helped myself to as many movies as I could cram in a 6 hour flight to Seoul. In front of me, a pair of people were talking loudly. I assumed they were old friends and kept to myself. My own wounds were still too fresh.

After a short stop at Seoul, a situation developed. Seated beside me was a family travelling to San Francisco. The lady beside me looked disturbingly like my old company's head of HR. Beside her, on the opposite aisle seat, was an old lady, head leaning forward, looking rather green around the gills.

I soon found out that they were flying from Korea, after visiting their family. They were apparently related to some Korean star whose name I just could not remember (It wasn't Wong Bin). While relating to me the tale of their family visit, I found out that the old lady on the other aisle seat was, in fact, the lady's mother, and she had just undergone a liver transplant. A while later, the lady asked the crewmen for a row with empty adjoining seats.

For a brief moment, I recalled my own crying mother at the airport.

I volunteered to move to the row in front, with the two chatting people. I figured that they wouldn't mind - they had each other for company after all. One of the two chatting people in front, a young lady, ducked into the center seat. She didn't mind sitting in the center, she said.

It turns out that I was mistaken. The two of them just got to know each other on the plane. Strangely enough, they were both headed to Stanford to attend the graduations of their significant others. I introduced myself to them, and we spent the rest of the 11 hours chatting like old friends. One turned out to be tres chic, the other turned out to'll see.

Jay is singularly -the- most unassuming man I've ever met. He had just returned from a business trip from India and wanted to suprise his girlfriend at her graduation. When probed further, he revealed who he was actually working for.


You heard me. Google. -THE- internet company. The mighty giant slayer.

I found out so many things about Google from him. Like how Google actually functions as an in-built calculator. How they serve lobster and steak at the cookhouse at the office.

In the course of our conversation, I asked him where else has he worked. His reply blew my mind even more.

NASA. Yeap. That organisation that launches people to the moon?!

Christina, my other row-mate, was equally interesting, though for different reasons. She's a happy, bubbly, Indonesian girl working for GIC (insert gah-men joke here) and anxiously awaiting to see her DSTA Scholar boyfriend Nigel. She talked at length about how her future in-laws (once Nigel -acutally- gets round to proposing) are the best-est people in the world, and how sweet Nigel was as a dude.

But Jay was, of course, tres chic. Cos he worked for Google.

Needless to say, Christina and I relentless badgered Jay about Google. I think it was equal parts nice-guy and just to shut both of us up, but Jay was nice enough to invite us to lunch at Google. So yeah, I'm gonna visit Google in a week's time. Is that cool or what?!

As we were about to land, Christina gushed about her future in-laws, and how we should really check them out. I stayed around. Jay must have rushed off, since I was slowed down by immigration and baggage issues so badly.

Here's the really freaky part.

When Christina finally introduced her future in-laws, I saw a middle-aged lady who looked -so- familiar. I couldn't quite place it. With that nagging thought in my mind, I left the airport for my rental car.

A few days later, when I called Christina, I asked tentatively if she went to Convenant Community Methodist Church. When she replied (more like gushed) in the affirmative, she handed me over to her future in-law, Aunty June.

It turns out that June was the organiser of a Sunday School class at CCMC - a place I hadn't returned to in over 10 years. I taught there 10 years ago when a girl I was pursuing at the time was there. And June remembered me, because the girl and I helped direct a Christmas play where we auditioned literally dozens of people until we got the perfect Shepard - Neville, Nigel's elder brother.

The really freaky part is - the girl that I was pursuing at the time is also in San Francisco. I don't have her contact, but I know she's here because my old Drama teacher told me.

The First Night

When I arrived in my new apartment, it was cold, bare and lonely. There was no furniture, no comforts of home, no grumpy brother and father, no nosy mother, no hyperactive wife, nothing. That awful first night, I broke down and cried. I missed home so badly. I called home in hysterical sobs.

My wife calmed me down that first night. She had been through it before during her undergrad days. I finished the phone call feeling tired but much much better.

The Next Few Days

After that awful first night, I resolved to beat back my homesickness. I went into a frenzy of decorating and stocking up. I bought groceries, crockery, furniture, everything. I assembled my own TV Rack and office chair. I understand now why people tell me to keep busy while I'm here. Every blow of the hammer, every assembled piece of furniture would beat back the loneliness just that little bit more.

Notice something wrong with the TV Rack?

When I was assembling this TV rack, I got three pieces back to front and hammered my index finger. I'm glad it's still holding up my big-ass TV. I usually watch the Comedy and Sci-Fi channel on it now.

The days that I spent could best be described as "two-steps-forward-one-step-back". Everything I did seemed to be unduly complicated by issues. My power transformers broke down and I had to get new ones from Oakland Chinatown. My cable connection was so bad that I had to call in technicians to adjust the frequency before I could get a signal to get internet access. My driving test was cancelled because I didn't get some document from the car rental company (which no one told me about, or even mentioned in the least until I was at the test centre). When setting up the bank account, I had to try three times because of inadequate documentation.

Slowly, but surely, though, my life and lot here got better. I present to you now, the fruits of all my labour.

My computer desk

After my fiasco with my TV Rack, I decided to get someone to install this for me. Don, the assembly technician, was more than helpful. We had a long conversation about places to go in Berkeley, things to eat, places to visit. Don was another interesting guy. He was a former soldier who served in Desert Shield, and spent his time after his service making deliveries as a UPS trucker. His knowledge of the area was nothing short of awesome, and his furniture assembly skills put my own to shame. He has 4 beautiful teenaged kids and he is a good man.

My Kitchen

I am especially proud of my kitchen. It's the heart and soul of my apartment, more so than my computer desk. I cook my meals here, and have been since the second day. I have a wok, a pan, a rick cooker and a microwave. I've a well stocked spice cabinet, and food enough for 2 weeks in the fridge. I'm so very proud that I managed to set this kitchen up from absolutely nothing in such a short time.

So here's the report card of my previous week. It feels like it's been a year, and I still have many things left to do, but I think this is a pretty darned good start for a week.

I'll be blogging again regularly now that I've got my connection. For those of you loyal enough to still be reading this blog, God bless you. All two of you. :D


Huichieh said...

Nice apartment :) I'm so jealous that you now stay near Berkeley Bowl!

Sprezzatura said...


Anthony said...


Thank you. It's taken a lot of work, but it's now in a liveable condition. The rest, as they say, is gravy.


-hugs- Get online soon yeah? It's good to be back online.

Elia Diodati said...

Which goes to show, even the most random person can have fascinating stories to share... Some of my favorite movies, Run Lola Run and Amélie touch upon this them. I'm sure you'd like them, if you haven't watched them already.

Have fun in the Bay area!

BTW have you heard the Real Group and TRY-TONE?

Chainer said...


Wow, Google.

Anthony said...


Yeap. I'll never take people for granted again.


Yeap. Google. And NASA. Don't forget NASA.

ash said...

NASA sent man to moon, but google have Google Copernicus Center in moon!

j. said...

surfed over from tomorrow. all the best to you; it's been my lifelong dream to practise in california, i'm glad you had the mettle to pursue yours.

Anthony said...


That's funny man. I must ask Jay when I meet him about it.


Practising there is but a stepping stone. It's the living here that's important to me.

Alex said...

anthony... re: nigel/neville...


nigel is a PSC scholar right?

and erh. they live (in singapore) near the junction of dunearn road and eng neo avenue?


Anthony said...

Yes Nigel's a PSC scholar. I don't know where the family lives.

Let me guess, another friend? :D

yallo said...

Eh clarification.
Nigel is DSTA scholar. Don't anyhow steal scholars away and dump to PSC okies? =P Heh. Small world eh? Or rather, small Singapore. ^^

Anthony said...


Is he? I distinctly remember PSC. Then again, it was a long flight and it was a week ago, and I'm -still- in shock Aunty June remembers me.

Kelvin said...

Nice to see you well settled in the US by now.

Remember to say "bathroom" when you mean "toilet" or "washroom", and say "elevator" when you mean "lift".


yj said...

Got here from Tomorrow -- very interesting post. I was just on holiday in SF staying with my friend (who works at Google), and met up with Nigel once while I was there. Small Internet.

Anthony said...


Thanks, I'll keep that in mind. I can hardly understand what people are saying here. :D


Thanks for your add to the serendipity pot! I'll be sure to tell Nigel and Christina what a big fan club they have. :D

vandice said...

Hey, the kitchen looks familiar. And you've got your TV rack on backwards. Have a blessed time in Berkeley man. Yes, I cried at the airport. I cried during my first night Stateside. In fact, I cried every time I showered (so it wouldn't show) during the first few weeks. I don't like being away.

Anthony said...


Actually, my TV rack is on the right way - it's the two planks on the side that have been put on backwards. Kudos on the eyesight though.

And I know exactly how you feel about the crying. You don't quite get over it. You just learn to cope.

vandice said...

About your rack, that's what I meant, your 2 sideboards are install the wrong way. Difficult to tell when both sides are finished in the same black color right? & probably too lazy/tired to put it right. Oh what the heck? Keke. Sama sama.

One Little Twit said...

:) I'm sure with time, it will be a wonderful place for you to be!

nigel said...

ey... i'm not a nun. :)
it's covenant community methodist church, not convent. :)

yep, sijing's right about the dsta thing. :)

alex yup yap? long time no hear man! & see too. thx for bringing the laptop over yingjie!:)

btw, i only knew abt this cuz christina's future boss got back to her about this blog! alex, sijing & yj, how did u guys find this entry???

look forward to meeting up with u (Anthony) & J on friday at Google!


Anthony said...


I believe they surfed in from I was suprised this entry generated so many hits.

Even more suprised that Christina's future boss actually took note of this blog. Maybe they -are- watching...

Anthony said...

Oh, almost forgot.

Nigel, I've corrected the factual errors on my blog - PSC to DSTA, Convent to Covenant.

And when are you getting round to proposing? Hmm?

Anonymous said...

It was all so exciting to read from the start..... right up till you suddenly mentioned 'wife' ......