Saturday, December 28, 2013

Uncle Gilbert’s Portrait of Jason Arrives...

Gilbert Rona presenting Jason his portrait
Gilbert Rona, my wife’s uncle, presented Jason, our nine-year-old, with his portrait for Christmas.  It was Gilbert’s first portrait, based on a photograph that he had taken.  Although the portrait was a few years in coming (you can’t rush an artist, especially when using oil paint), it was well worth the wait.
Jason was excited seeing it and, being the proud father, I kept pointing it out to various family and friends who came to our Open House on Christmas.  Most of Gilbert's relatives didn’t even know that Gilbert had taken up painting, let alone the huge talent that he possesses.

Now Jason’s younger brother Justin is expecting his own portrait after Gilbert mentioned that he planned to do one of him, too, though that may take a couple more years...

Four years back, after a  Lovers and Strangers Revisited talk and reading at the Little Penang Street Market, Rashid, an old friend who sketches there every month, did a quick sketch of me.  Personally, I’d rather have a portrait than a selfie any day.  Any idiot can take a photo of himself and post it, but it takes real talent to sketch and paint, and also a little patience by the subject to sit and wait for the final product.

Robert Raymer
*Link to my website, to MPH online for my three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie. 

Home for Hari Raya on YouTube!

Ohio University School of Arts, Media & Studies posted the film adaptation of my short story “Home for Hari Raya” from Lovers and Strangers Revisited on YouTube.  Apparently it was posted on 3 October 2013 which I recently found out by accident while updating my files on stories related to the filming.  Had I known (I must’ve overlooked it while in the midst of rewriting one of novels), I could’ve posted it in time for Hari Raya Haji in Malaysia (October 15th)

The film is about 24 minutes long. For some reason the film on YouTube opens at 1:55 mark.  Just scroll back to the beginning. It starts out with the call to prayer and some scenery shots of rural Malaysia.  This is in English, though in the opening scenes some Malay is being spoken. 
Last December I had blogged about Associate Professor Frederick Lewis and his team of students from Ohio University coming to Malaysia for the filming

Enjoy the film, a nice introduction to Malaysia, and share it with friends.  Here is also the link to The Story Behind the Story.
*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited
**Link to my website, to MPH online for my three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Father and Son in Jogathon, and a Trophy Too!

Photo: St. Joseph Jogathon. Daddy 3rd Men Open , Jason 8th for year 3 & 4

I admit I’ve been letting myself get out of shape, so when my 9-year old son Jason asked me to take part in a jogathon that his primary school, St Joseph’s (Kuching, Sarawak) was organizing, I was less than enthusiastic about the idea. 

True my left knee had been hurting me for awhile causing me to abort my last three jogging attempts, but that was a month ago.  Even last night, concerned about the knee, concerned that I had done absolutely nothing to prepare for the race, other than deciding what to wear, I was not all that keen to go.  Meanwhile my wife kept urging me to go to bed since I had to wake up at 5:30 am; already it was past 10.

The alarm went off; I didn’t hear it but I felt my wife shaking me and threatening to throw me out of bed.  I took a shower to wake up, woke up Jason, stretched for about a minute and was out the door by 6 am.  I had assured myself that if my knee gave out just a little, I was bailing out.  No need to push myself into an early wheelchair.  Then I saw the trophies on display and thought, as a proud father, how nice it would be if Jason won one of those.

The race began by categories, primary one and two and the women ran first.  Primary three and four and the men ran second.  Primary five and six, last. While waiting to start, I sized up the competition, the other fathers in particular.  Most looked to be in far better shape and much younger than me, in their 20s and 30s.  A couple of the guys you could tell were runners; they had that mean and lean and hungry for a trophy look about them.  Two in particular had the race won before we even began. 

The rest of us were anyone’s guess.  At our age and fitness level we might put up a good show by showing up in branded sweat suits only to get winded by bending down to retie our shoes.  I told Jason don’t start off in a sprint; that’s what the showoffs do to impress their friends (and wives); we all know the story of the tortoise and the hare, so I won’t go into detail.

I began the race at a comfortable pace, the four leaders way ahead of me but in eyesight.  Then I lost sight of them completely. I kept my steady pace, passing the occasional kid who had burned himself out on the opening sprint.  Then about half way I passed a guy and I thought, no way, wasn’t he one of the four who were miles ahead of me?  That gave me hope.

Then I saw Jason and caught up to him and thought, good he can keep me company, and for a short while he did as we passed another of the leading men.  Further ahead I could barely glimpse the two hares.  But there was no one, other than a bunch of kids, separating us, giving me hope.

But Jason was fading.

“Daddy, wait,” he said, and I waved at him, urging him to keep my pace.  I felt torn actually, but I knew that all I had to do was hang in there and I had a legitimate shot at the bronze trophy, so long as my stamina, my knee, and my shoe laces held up.  Of course, I should’ve done a better job tying those laces.  In fact, I gave Jason double knots to prevent any potential disasters.

I kept looking over my shoulder to see if Jason was getting a second wind and to see if anyone else was sneaking up on me.  Meanwhile I kept thinking that running a race is a whole lot like writing a novel.  Far too many writers sprint through those early pages, even writing a chapter or two before they burn themselves out.  Slow and steady may not win the race, but it would get me to the finish line, and if I stepped it up, who knows the outcome, as in the recent Faulkner-Wisdom contest.

Then there it was the finish line.  Ignoring my loosening laces, I pressed on (it’s always better to have a strong finish than a great start that piddles out).  The organizers flagged me down and stuck a third place sticker on my sweaty shirt.  I felt so proud.  I held up the family honor.  I felt proud for Jason, too, when he came in 8th place for his category and would receive a medal too, so we would both come home with a prize.

Later, Jason admitted that he was disappointed that I didn’t stay back with him, but he sure looked proud that I won a trophy.  He showed it off to his friends, no doubt telling them, “He may be old (and white) but he can run!”

My wife was impressed, too, but then added, “I thought you didn’t want to go?”

“Well someone has to win a trophy around here,” I said.  Besides, as a father it’s my job to lead by example, so long as the laces and the knees hold up.  I also wanted some revenge on Jason for beating me in chess!  So there is hope for me yet; for him, too.  Pretty soon he’ll be creaming me in everything, but for now, I’m holding my own—my own trophy high above my head.

                             —Borneo Expat Writer

Update:  Just ran my first marathon, 2014 Kuching marathon!

**Link to my website, to MPH online for my three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.  

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Winning as a Father but Losing to My Son in Chess

Last night my nine-year old son Jason beat me in chess.  I didn’t know if I should be embarrassed or proud.  Actually I was more proud than embarrassed since he had come close to beating me a couple of times before if not for some lapses on his part and some luck on mine.  Still I was hoping to stave off defeat for another couple of years or at least until he reached double figures.

Then it happened.   

Jason said, “Check,” and I thought, no problem, I’ll just move my king here and he said, “You can’t do that!”  I’m thinking, why not, and then I saw the problem.  He had a bishop waiting on that same slant.  I was flummoxed.  He had me.

“I won!  I won!”

“Not so fast,” I said, sure that I would find another way out, some clever move on my part that had served me well over the years, but lo and behold, no clever move materialized.  There was not a thing I could do and finally had to admit that he won.  Jason beat me.  I mean, I had this game so won!  I had been putting his king in check a half a dozen times already and was within two moves of clinching the deal, but then his queen came out of nowhere and he said. “Check.”  Then it became “Checkmate” and our whole chess relationship changed. 
Instead of me being the mentor advising him against moves that he shouldn’t make lest he wanted to lose an important piece of his arsenal, and how he needs to find a better balance between offense and defense, I was now on the down slide, where pretty soon he’ll be trouncing me right and left while looking at his smart phone and talking to a couple of girlfriends in between my moves. 

“Have you finally moved, Dad?”

“Wait, let me get my walker.”

I can see it all now, more gloating from my son at the dinner table aided and abetted by his mother, who naturally took photos of my personal agony of defeat, and his six-year old younger brother Justin, who suddenly saw hope in his chess-playing future of trouncing me too.

Jason is now talking about trouncing me in badminton once my sore shoulder heals, which I’m hoping at this point it never does.  Maybe I should just stick with writing.  
                                                 #  #  #

*By the way, I picked up that chess set in Singapore in April 1980 when I was still working with Kinko’s in the US, after spending two months backpacking from Japan to Singapore.  I had just left Boulder, Colorado and was about to take over a new store in Madison, Wisconsin.  The time off for the trip was part of the deal.  So was a company car.  OK, they were des­perate, but I ended up being a regional manager in charge of 11 stores in three states before catching the writing bug and moving to Malaysia.  So that chess set has some miles on it.
-Don't Monkey with the Monkeys!

-Hospital Adventure for My Two Boys

        —Borneo Expat Writer

**Link to my website, to MPH online for my three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.