May 18, 2008

Fragmentary Weekend

Living is about making decisions - deciding what to do with your life, deciding what to do at what time, deciding when to do something, deciding who to marry, who to blame, who to praise. Making decisions make you feel powerful, and that's the reason you have Starbucks allowing you to make 5 decisions in a span of less than 10 seconds - Cappuccino, grande, cold, no sugar, take away (cappuccino doesn't come in grande by the way).
No, I'm not talking about a visit to Starbucks recently. I haven't been to Starbucks since...last semester? And I can only afford to go to Starbucks only if it's on the house. No, I'm speaking about life as a whole.
Making decisions that affect your life - the teachers who decided to shield her students during the quake; the daughter who ran away first, and then spent days checking her mother's name on the survivor name list; Myanmar deciding to abandon foreign aid; China welcomes and praises all forms of foreign aid. It has brought me to realize - you can't change fate, but a timely decision alters consequences.
I have this little bamboo coin box I received a few months after I enter school, and since I found out how coins are actually destroying my leather wallet, I usually deposit $1 coins into the box (it's a cylinder actually) if I had any. Over time, the cylinder became more and more laden with coins, and it's a catastrophe if it ever fell from the cabinet during an earthquake. The coin box is more of a weight relief to me than a money deposit, I had no intention anyhow of spending the money on anything. Now in it's second year of accumulation, the cylinder is almost 5/6 full, and very heavy.
After watching Jacky Cheung's latest song for the China quake victims, I decided the money should go to good use. In less than 10 minutes, the cylinder was lying in my bag on its way to the Tzu Chi Compassion Relief Fund counter. I was wearing my most typical weekend costume - shorts and slippers, and entering an area where people wore QiPao's and suits (recall the Tzu Chi robe). I slipped in within a second thanks to my agility. And now the trouble starts.
Out of 10 encounters with Tzu Chi members, 9 will gasp if you reveal you're a TCU student. Out of that, 7 will poke and probe you as if you're from Mars, inquiring more information on, say, your coin-laden cylinder. And maybe 5 of them are influential people they can get crews of the DaAi television (Tzu Chi's news channel) to film a feature of you. I want nothing of that. I won't want to appear in front of the whole world with shorts and slippers, and my shorts was stained from yesterday's dinner. I was half-praying there would be no one at the counter so that I could change my mind, or just drop my cylinder and escape from the Palace.
A man in his 40's appeared. With the most polite but un-Tzu Chi-ish way I said I would like to donate for the Myanmar and China relief fund (Tzu Chi combined both). With a fluid motion he drew out a huge ledger while I reveal my 2-kg cylinder.
"Oh, I thought it was cash."
"(monologue: I'd be in Starbucks then) Heh, collected this for 2 years, thought it might go to good use now."
"Sure sure."
And while I was wondering from the very beginning how are they going to open the coin cylinder (it's fused with super glue, I tried breaking in numerous times with no avail), and start the agonizing process of counting every single dollar ($1 = 1 cent in Malaysia) in the Palace, he offered me relief.
"We will send this to the monastery, and there will be people there who have special equipment to open them up. You can leave your name and address, and we can mail you the receipt."
"(Oh, so these cylinders are to be opened by 'special equipments') Definitely. And can I get my coin box back after that?"
"If you want to, sure. We'll call you to collect it once we're done."
They say it's a feeling of enlightenment you get when you helped somebody. But when I exited the Palace with shorts and slippers I don't feel anything, except being pleased the man didn't drag me into their TV station for a feature. The indifference might also resulted from so many people pouring a waterfall of money to them they don't think the cylinder of one-dollars are useful.
Anyway, my psychology teacher says happiness is not because of what you do or what others do for you, but what you think. If you want to be happy, then go ahead. Nobody posted a sign saying 'you're allowed to be happy' for you to be happy.


Anonymous said...

i collected Rm 910 during Sim's family gathering yesterday 19/5 as donation. Do donate on behalf of u.

Just came back fr course on 17/5, decided no makan party for my school's teacher's day celebration, instead we will collect donation from students to be given to Chi Qi.We salute to those victims esp. teachers