Monday, April 9, 2007

The Singing Filipinas and the PIKOM PC Fair

Well, we've made it to the 5 month mark in the pregnancy, and everything is going well. My wife's tummy is getting bigger, but she hasn't put on much weight- only a kilo over the past month. Physically, she is doing ok. Other than some slight nausea and diarrhea the other day, which was probably caused by some bad chicken she ate, everything is ok.

She went swimming with the other Filipinas from Taiping Saturday, at the Coronation Pool near the entrance to Bukit Larut. She said that the baby really enjoyed it. The baby wasn't the only one who enjoyed it- she didn't get home until almost midnight. I was on the phone talking to my Mom when her and her friends came in and started singing Mother's Day songs.

That's ok- I wasn't sitting around the house waiting for her all day. Nope. I was out doing my own thing too. Mr. Wong and I went out to the PIKOM computer show in Penang.

Not that I didn't want to spend time with my wife and her friends, but I really wanted to go to the computer fair. I missed it last year because we were on our trip to Phuket after our second pregnancy misfire. This year I didn't want to miss it, because the one in Penang was supposed to be the biggest one that they are having this year.

Mr. Wong had to drive a student to Penang to take part in the Public Speaking competition at KDU College. At least that was what he told his wife so he could go. It wasn't a lie either- we did have one student who wanted to try to win the trip to London. Originally there were three of them, but the others chickened out, and decided that being part of the school wind orchestra was much more important than potentially embarrassing themselves in front of an audience.

So at 7:30 am Mr. Wong showed up at our place with the student. We went over to the roti channai place at the circus grounds hawker stalls, and had some breakfast first. Anytime I've been anywhere with Mr. Wong, he usually pays because he gets to the proprietor first. This time I made sure that I paid, trying not to seem rude or impolite, or not appreciating Mr. Wong's normal generosity.

After that it was off to Penang, and everything went smoothly. We found KDU with no problem, although we were about 45 minutes late. We dropped off the student, and told him we'd be back later. How much later, we didn't know, because the computer show started at 11, and it wasn't even 10 yet.

To kill some time, we went to the Chowrasta Market, and Mr. Wong showed me where the used bookstores are on the second floor. They are almost literally piled floor to ceiling with books. If you are looking for a certain type of book, just ask the owner and he can find it for you somewhere amongst the piles. If you're an inveterate browser like I am, you could probably spend most of the day looking around there. We spent about an hour there. I came out with two books- one a book about the Holy Spirit, by Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho, whose church in Seoul has 850,000 members. I figured it would make a nice gift for our Pastor for Easter. The other was an ESL book from Cambridge University Press, "All Kinds of Writing", which seemed well worth the 8 Rm I paid for it.

Then it was off to the Penang International Sports Arena for the show. We got there a little after 11, and the place was already packed. Mr. Wong knew right where to go, and we easily found a parking space under the arena.

So we started looking around to see what kind of things they had. I was in the market for another pendrive, as the 1GB one I already have is almost full. When Trien and I were in KL running around between ministries and embassies, I saw a 4GB pendrive that had compression software that would allow you to get 5 times as much space, for about 100Rm. I didn't buy it then, and was hoping I could find it there.

The first thing that caught my eye was the little MP4 music and video players. They looked cool, but turned out to be little more than fancy toys. Sure, you can download songs and videos onto them, but you can't play them on anything else. You can't hook them up to a computer to play the video, or anything else to play or download the music, so what use are they?After learning that, my initial interest passed quickly.

There were plenty of pen drives for sale there of all capacities and prices, but what really caught my eye and my interest were the portable hard drives. The ones being sold in the mezzanine around the outside of the arena were about 270 RM for 80 GB. We were both interested, but instead of buying right away, we decided to look around some more, and see if we could get it cheaper.

Sure enough, when we entered the arena itself and started looking around, we found the prices for the portable hard drives getting cheaper and cheaper the more we looked. The cheapest we found was 178RM for the 80 GB model.

We didn't buy the cheapest one, even though it was made by a well known company. The company is one that is well known for its electronics, and not its computer components. Plus, the guys selling them were selling them already inside of the case, so you couldn't be sure what you were really getting. My New York Scam Radar was going off big time. After talking to Mr. Wong, we both decided to go to the booth selling Seagate brand portable hard drives for 189 Rm without the case. At least then, you could see what you were getting. The case was 13 Rm extra, and they put the hard drive in it for you. After a little soft bargaining, we got the complete package for 199Rm.

After that, it was time to pick up the student. We were late, but not too late. We would have been there sooner, but for some unknown reason, we couldn't find it. It was as if we were stuck in the Bermuda Triangle of Penang. Nothing seemed to make any sense, nothing seemed familiar, and we were running low on fuel. So we stopped for gas, made a bunch of wrong turns, and drove around aimlessly until things looked vaguely familiar enough to get us back to where we should be.

Our student didn't do too well. He only scored 17 out of a possible 40. He didn't seem too happy to have to sit around and watch the semifinals. So we went to the mezzanine and snagged some tea and whatever snacks were left.

After that, it was off to the hawker stalls along Gurney Drive for something to eat. I had the char kuay teow, while Mr. Wong bought a huge plate of tofu and fried food covered with a sweet and hot sauce for us all. The best part about it was watching the student, who was a Malay, trying to use chopsticks for the first time in his life, and failing miserably. Mr. Wong had mercy on him, and asked the hawker for a fork.

After that, it was back to Taiping. We dropped the student at SERATAS, where a few parents were visiting the form 1 students, and having dinner al fresco.

Then it was home for me. I made a quick call to my wife. It was so noisy in the background that I could barely hear her. This time they weren't singing songs, which for a group of Filipinos is very unusual. They were all chattering away happily, and there was laughter in Trien's voice. That was cool, and I was happy she was having such a great time.

I went off to the Internet cafe to surf the 'Net, and waste some time until she got home.

If you want to know, yeah, I did miss her. It's just not the same coming home to an empty house anymore. It never used to bother me before, but now it just seems so empty without her there. Not just empty in the apartment, but empty in my soul, too.