The Orphan

For as long as I live, I will never forget the haunting scene.

Had it not been for the occasional limping child on the road, anyone would have defined this place as “ghost town”. Bombed buildings and rubble marked the evidence of a past civil war. No efforts were made to clean up the mess, simply because the government wanted it to be proof. Proof of what could be done if one dared disobey them.

Adjusting my lens, I took a photo of the ruins, and made my way into the remains of the town.

Like the rest of the people in my country, I did what I could to survive. I was a photographer, and naturally, I was more exposed to raw data, to what was truly happening around me than most people. I was aware that almost half the stories printed in newspapers were taken out of context. There were times when things happened, and I questioned the righteousness of the government. But I couldn’t afford to complain. The economy was good, and I was earning a rather generous salary every month.

And that was enough to keep my big mouth shut.

Surprisingly, one small building – now classified as an orphanage – still stood awkwardly amidst the chaos. My work environment changed constantly, and I had to be prepared. Today, I had to work with the light and climb over pieces of brick and stone in order to get a decent picture inside the wreckage. I wore a thick rubber mask indoors to prevent the inhalation of toxic fumes within, but the orphans weren’t so lucky.

Orphans constituted a massive portion of the town’s population. They were the forgotten ones, ostracized by society as the offspring of those who betrayed our land. Their parents and guardians had rebelled against the country… and had failed. Now their children were left to pay the price.

Well, not all children. Those who were healthy individuals and over the age of twelve had the privilege of being re-accepted as citizens of the country. They had to take an oath of devotion to the country, and sign a binding contract, allowing their memory – prior to taking the oath – to be erased. It may have seemed like a harsh procedure, but it was extremely effective in preventing another possible rebellion.

In the corner of the town, scoops of watery soup served in carboard bowls and pieces of stale bread were being distributed to the long line of orphans and the sick. I attempted to capture faces of gratitude as they received their daily meals, but it was impossible. Skin caked with dirt, clothes hanging off their bony frames and eyes drowning in grief, it was obvious that they derived little to no comfort from their serving. Some even appeared to hesitate in taking their fill, as they looked silently in front of them like walking corpses on barren land.

Suddenly, I caught sight of a child, no more than eight years old. He stared at right into the depths of my soul, and his face began to turn pale. His bottom lip quivered, as if he wanted to speak, but dared not to. Perhaps his features caught my attention because they were very similar to my own. His hair, his cheekbones, his dimples… even his eyes were just like mine! One was a beautiful hazel brown while the other was an emerald sinking into a pale, watery blue. They grew wider and wider, almost in a delightful recognition of me, as if he had spotted a light at the end of the tunnel.

I looked at this stranger before I started to realize… something wasn’t quite right. My breathing hastened, and my heart… Oh, my heart! It started beating loudly against my chest. I was beginning to understand. It was so obvious! Adrenaline pulsing through my veins like hot lava, my lips parted in joy as I raised my arms towards him.

Click!

I got it. I squealed with glee. I got the much-needed photo. The perfect story I could create to support the rule of the government and display the hope these orphans see in them. The child’s expression in the photo painted a thousand words. Undoubtedly, I could sell this to newspapers and companies all over the country. I could get promoted. I could earn so much. I could achieve so much fame and fortune!

And with that, I mouthed one last “thank you”, and turned away from the broken memories covered in ash.

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The Thief

“In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.”

That, my friends, was a quote by Hunter S. Thompson, an American journalist, author, and founder of the gonzo journalism movement. The first time I heard of this quote, my blood froze a little from its coldness. Surely, stealing is wrong. Wouldn’t being caught and punished be well-deserved? But of course, this is life, and in life, there are exceptions.

Jerry never went to school and he didn’t know many quotes. In fact, he never had an authority figure to guide him through life. But he had always believed in something similar to what we were talking about. In this cruel, harsh world, men stole from each other. As long as they benefited from the stealing, little else mattered. No guilt was ever felt.

“I must take one thing. At least one thing.” That was the only rule Jerry had, as he moved swiftly down the narrow path.

Tonight, he held that rule even closer to his heart. His sick wife was waiting at home for him with their five young sons and daughters. With so many mouths to feed and a growling warmth in his own belly, he simply could not afford to come home empty-handed.

Jerry reached his destination. His dark beady eyes assessed his surroundings. Luckily, he had been to this area many times, and was quite familiar with it.

The place was dark and quiet. Assuming no one was around, Jerry stepped forward and sniffed the air. Each time, there was a different smell. In that moment, the aroma of delicious soup wafted into his nostrils. Divine. The soup here usually consisted of juicy chicken and a variety of vegetables, an absolute treat for the family! He spotted a pot, and was about to approach it when he heard a creak. As quick as a flash, he turned back and hid around the corner of the wall, out of sight.

Jerry analysed the situation he was in. He heard footsteps enter the next room. They were near, but not near enough to catch him. Still, it would probably be too dangerous for him to get any soup. Too much noise. He had to look for whatever else was available.

That was when he spotted it. A large piece of golden delicacy sat there, right before his eyes. It was too good to be true. It glistened, under the dim lighting and Jerry licked his lips in anticipation. Think of what fortune this could bring the family! It would last them an entire month!

It had been decided. He had to take the risk. Checking one last time to ensure that the coast was clear, Jerry sprung forward soundlessly and reached out as far as he could. The moment he picked up his new-found treasure, he immediately turned around to return home, when… SNAP!

The noise echoed through the room. It was hard to tell whether Jerry cried out or not. All that could be seen was that his body froze and he dropped the item from his grasp. Next, his body went into a spasm of pain. Panic struck his heart. What had happened?? Was he shot? Was there someone in the hiding after all this time? He couldn’t move at all.

He turned to take a final sorry look at his bloodied tail and hind leg, both now caught under the heavy metal mouse-trap, while the concept of bringing home the piece of cheese lay a million miles away from reality.

BPD?

“What’s the matter?” a kind voice asks, as my soul crumbles to the ground
And I try to spurt out my deepest thoughts but alas! I make no sound.
How can I describe this feeling? – this emptiness in my heart.
It’s like I had lost a nothingness that had never been there from the start.

Please don’t leave me, my darling. I love you quite a lot.
But I’m afraid I have to push you away in case you love me not
and abandon me. Just like history replaying itself again.
Like my father, my brother, my sister and all my so-called friends.

Perhaps some didn’t reject me, at least not as I had in mind.
Nonetheless, my clumsy body tags along and generally falls behind.
It doesn’t make much of a difference, as no sooner had I learned to love
I would find fault and evilness, blood stains on a simple white glove.

I dreamed of hateful torment and his calls for me to die.
I became a weak child again, never catching glimpse of the sky.
I hate myself for not being able – I detest my vulnerability.
And I thought you were my mother… why won’t you look after me?

In reality, I don’t blame her. She’s a victim herself, I know.
But I need a source or an outlet to blame; the pain needs somewhere to go.
A thought that gives me pleasure is to spend a day at the beach.
Forget the ache, forget the memories, forget people. And I reach

For a rope tied to a rock to tighten around my neck
And close my eyes and breathe sweet air as I casually fall off the deck
And sink down to the seabed where my soul can finally rest
Such freedom, such peace, a lift of heaviness from my chest.

But I am much too cowardly for such a noble end.
And part of me wishes to seek a way for my fragments to mend.
My arm becomes a chopping board, each slit a dash of relief.
I regain my sense of control over everything that I hold a belief.

My body is tired, I couldn’t sleep, or at least I wish not to.
I haven’t drunk water or eaten at all. I know what I should do.
But everything is extra hard – I amn’t quite sure why.
It’s like I have not motive to move or go out or even to sit and cry.

I’m hurting those I love with the pain that I suffer from.
So, I’m reaching out and getting help – easier said than done.
It’ll take some time to get by. And I’ll understand if you can’t wait.
I really shouldn’t be dragging you into this awful state.

I just want you to know, I’m not pushing you away.
And I’ll always love you for our good memories every day.
I thank you for sticking by me, and making such wonderful plans.
And maybe one day the brilliant sun will shine down on us again.

 

Abu Dhabi

Writing 0015

If you want an enchanting experience of rich Arabian culture, Abu Dhabi is one city you don’t want to miss. The dome-topped architecture marks splendid spots around the city, and visitors feel as if they have entered a different realm in Emirates Palace while admiring the extravagant decor.

Itching for a souvenir to bring home? Among the many malls and markets you can explore, Yas Mall is by far one of the most popular. Conveniently located just ten minutes from the airport, it is the biggest mall in the city, with a fantastic variety of retailers and restaurants to choose from. Undoubtedly it is a shopaholic’s paradise!

Sit back and relax at the end of your day with some authentic Middle Eastern food. There are great reviews about the overall service and atmosphere Mijana. Al Qasr and Awtar are also worth visiting for a taste truly delicious food.

Addiction help

021

An emptiness in your soul that looms
and drags you into a pit of doom
Dark shadows haunt you as you fall,
trapping you within their walls
Doing anything is the last resort –
it all requires so much effort
Icicles clog your veins; it’s too bizarre
to control yourself, frozen as you are
Clammy hands nervously clasp together at length,
to regain this control with all your strength
Trying to look normal in front of others
getting harder and harder? you frequently wonder
Isolation from society is not what you first chose,
as was hiding in broad daylight with your curtains closed
Only the thoughts of your addiction fill your head
and feeds your mind with pain and dread
Nothing else matters in this world, you said,
don’t you just wish if I were dead?

Hold on; this can change without a doubt
End this on your terms, and choose to opt out
Look for the brightness and a brand new gate
Prepare for a better life – it’s never too late

Perspectives

020

Today, I got bitten by a mosquito.

Optimist: Don’t worry! The swelling will die down very soon.
Pessimist: In the meantime you will itch a lot. You will also scratch and bleed and cry.
Realist: Thankfully, this one isn’t an anopheles mosquito, so it doesn’t carry malaria.
Idealist: One day, we can utilise mosquitoes to help carry out blood transfusion, and we won’t need to worry about human errors anymore.
Physicist: That is highly unlikely since mosquitoes consume blood rather than give.
Surrealist: Perhaps they pretend to consume blood, but secretly store it in their bellies and hiding places for a time in need.
Relativist: No.
Scepticist: Highly unlikely.
Communist: Everyone’s blood should be taken in equal amounts.
Opportunist: …And when it’s my turn to be taken, I will hide and let another one suffer twice.
Sexist: Yeah! Push the (insert gender) out.
Racist: Don’t forget the (insert colour) person.
Conspiracist: They are gathering our intelligence in the aim to one day overthrow us all.
Utopist: Mosquitoes really love us, and only take our blood because they think too much blood is bad for us. It’s a great service!
Capitalist: There are approximately 7.5 billion people in the world. If I charge $1 for every person I offer the service to…
Nihilist: Except the service doesn’t exist, mosquitoes aren’t here, you aren’t real and neither am I.

I had to leave the room. Quickly.

Dear Child

Kids with globe in grey background

Happy International Children’s Day!

 

Remember when you were first born
Into this world of hope?
Mum and Dad would hold you close
and wondered if you’d cope.
At one year old you’re learning to walk
while sipping on your milk.
And if you’re lucky you’ll sprout some hair
It is as soft as silk.
Two years old is a tender age
For tantrums, tears and drama.
But still you’re cute and love to play
With blocks and your teddy llama.
Look at you with a bag on your back!
Kindergarten here we go!
Because at three it’s time to learn
How to be more social.
At four you’re on your tricycle.
By five you can stand on one leg.
Where are your teeth? Peering into your mouth
You’ve got holes there when you’re six!
Seven is smart and can work things out.
Eight you can read lots of books.
Nine and ten you have way more friends
And become interested in your looks.
At eleven you’re leaving a stage behind
Your days at primary school.
But hey, no worries, you’ll have more fun
Once in secondary – it’s way more cool.
Look at all the twelve years gone by
Has it really been that fast?
I often think of the times we’ve spent
All the joys we shared in the past.
Sad I won’t be here anymore
Indeed I’ll miss you too.
Just know I look forward to see you blossom
Into that special, awesome you.

Ocean Park

 

Writing 0014

Here we are: last stop. Eager faces press against the bus windows as we catch a glimpse of mighty escalators ascending to a vibrant-coloured mass on the platform. The entrance to Ocean Park.

Now easily accessible via the South Island line on the MTR, getting to Ocean Park has never been easier. One of the most popular attractions in Hong Kong, it is an amusement park with a total of 44 rides, including four roller coasters and two water rides. A mountain separates the park into two places of attraction, namely the Waterfront and the Summit. Visitors can take a spectacular cable car ride (currently suspended for approximately five months from January 2017) to either areas, and enjoy a breath-taking view of Lantau Island.

The park is further divided into a total of eight zones, each of which holds a unique feature. Polar Adventure, for example, is home to walruses, seals, Arctic foxes, and various types of penguins, while pandas, marine animals and avian animals reside in other zones. Dolphin shows, musical acts and culture shows will not be missed while wandering around the theme park.

Visitors usually end their stay by watching Symbio!, the world’s first ever 360° water screen show featuring two beautifully designed dragons clashing in the water as the story slowly unfolds. The combination of a warm atmosphere, intense sound effects and fantastic visuals, it is undoubtedly a night to remember…Just make sure you get a good view from start to finish!

To Whom It May Concern

018

I’m writing to ask you kindly
About some things I find strange
With humans, ethics and principles
I really wish to change.

Why do the bullied bully?
And why do the hurt hurt again?
Have they not suffered enough
To understand this pain?

Consumed by greed and selfishness
Spouting words that are untrue
If everyone offered to be that bit nicer
Wouldn’t our lives be better too?

What gives you the right to hurt and kill
other people with souls and family?
What pleasure does it give you to hunt for fun
helpless animals consistently?

Twenty-first century, yes, I know we’re smart
So many achievements we’ve got.
But remember how we aimed to improve ourselves
Isn’t that what we first sought?

If you have an answer to anything
Pray tell, I’d love to know
As I’m looking over our planet daily
Wondering…where did humanity go?

Yours sincerely,
Fellow Human

Hello

017

Hello.

I look up. I see my surprised face in the mirror. Did someone just say “hello”?

I shrug. Maybe I heard wrong. This is an old place. Creaks and grumbles are part of the package. I rinse my toothbrush under the tap. Just as I turn it off…

Hello.

I spin around with my toothbrush in hand, as the hairs at the back of my neck slowly rises. Who the heck is that?

As far as I’m concerned, I’m the only one in the apartment. Would it be someone next door? Why would they say hello? It sounded like a man’s voice, not deep, not high. Could it be a peeping tom?

I inspect the wall of my bathroom. No holes.

Ugh. I don’t have time for this! I’m about to reach for my watch when I see… it.

A face on my hand. It opens its mouth.

Hello.