Chinese, happiness

Life: fengshui for the office

IMG_0907 by shimmertje
IMG_0907, a photo by shimmertje on Flickr.

I've been reading up on office fengshui. The main rule, it seems, is that you should not impede your way to your goals. According to general fengshui principles, clutter represents obstacles to the business in the office proper, and clear paths therefore mean that your way to your goals are unimpeded. Wherever you sit in the office, you should have a wall at your back and a view where you can see the main door, preferably with windows, so that negative influences may not enter without you seeing them, nor anyone hurt you where you can't defend yourself. And you have to know which areas symbolise good things such as wealth, health, and career, so that you can increase the likelihood of improving your life at work.

Some of the fengshui principles make little logical sense. Fengshui books talk about an invisible force called 'chi' and tell you there are lucky colours, lucky shapes, lucky directions, and lucky times. Why would red be better than blue, or octagons better than squares? Would a mirror really deflect bad luck, or facing west bring you a raise?

Who knows? It's not like you can split yourself in two and live two timelines, one where you sit west and another where you sit east, just to see if your life changes markedly. But it doesn't matter in the end whether you believe fengshui or not; it can be seen as a tool for empowerment nevertheless.

Removing clutter helps people to get organised. When there are fewer items on the desk, it's easier to work through them. Specifying a particular space for wealth, health or reputation focuses you on your goals and prioritises them. And in doing so, you end up thinking much more about how you want to get there.

So, how do you start? There are plenty of sites about fengshui on the Internet. If you want to learn about sitting in your luckiest direction, there are instructions on how to determine your 'kua' number at for example.

Similarly, there are various ways to determine which areas of your office and your workspace are meant to represent wealth, health, relationships, career and so on. Strangely enough, some methods conflict with others, so that the wealth corner according to one school of thought may end up as the creativity corner according to another.

I did find some agreement when it comes to lucky colours though. These are meant to be placed on certain compass points for the best results, and would work for you in your workspace, office, home, bedroom and so on.

Red, orange, purple, pink, bright yellow are used to represent fire, which supports energy in your career and helps you achieve recognition. Fire is best placed primarily in the south, but is also good in the northeast and southwest.
Yellow additionally represents warmth and friendliness.

Orange, creativity, a sense of purpose, and organisation.

Purple is good for healing and spiritual awareness.

Light yellow and earth tones represent earth, which creates stability as well as nourishes and protects relationships. Earth is best placed in the northeast, with secondary positions in the southwest and in the centre.

Metal is represented by gray, and brings clarity and efficiency. It is best placed in the west, followed by the northwest and north positions. A safe is also considered a metallic enhancement.

Blue and black objects in the north, east and southeast represent water (the 'shui' of 'fengshui'). Water calms, refreshes, represents abundance, and is said to keep you tuned toward your ultimate career goals. Objects representing water include an indoor fountain, a picture of a moving body of water, mirrors, or an aquarium with blue and black fish. Additionally, blue heals and relaxes and creates a feeling of peace and trust while black symbolises money and is great for careers when combined with metal.

Wood brings health, vitality and growth, particularly when brown and/or green objects are placed in the east, southeast and south. Plants also represent the wood element.
White, on the other hand, represents confidence and purity and is used with gold or silver to generate calm.

How you decide to put all these theories to the test is up to you - but since I tried improving my workspace fengshui I ended up with a lot more work.

Click on the picture to view a larger version, or to get to the folder of pictures of office life in 2011.

Chinese, happiness

Pink: Sungei Buloh settlement #1

IMG_2373 by shimmertje
IMG_2373, a photo by shimmertje on Flickr.

A little piece of history, in my father's collection: a 1936 one dollar note for Sungei Buloh settlement, all in pink, and very aptly featuring a kingfisher - Sungei Buloh today is a nature reserve and well known for its bird population.I never even knew Sungei Buloh had its own settlement and currency. Here's what Wikipedia says:

"The banknotes of the Sungei Buloh Settlement were issued in 1935 and 1936, as Sungei Buloh was a leprosarium. These banknotes are extremely scarce." (

Footnote: This note has been sold. The buyer was *extremely* interested in it.
Chinese, happiness

Work: What's that *** awesome smell?

Chicken, I told everyone. No one seemed pleased I'd created such aromas in the office.

Specifically, roast chicken that had chunks of cherry tomato, slices of raw garlic and onion with a sprinkling of dried parsley piled on top with a dash of shallot oil, and some Maggi seasoning, left overnight in the fridge, brought to work and fridged, and then microwaved for dinner.

I had it with toasted milk bread and melted cheese, and had separately microwaved Enoki mushrooms and sio pek chye (dash of sesame oil, freshly ground pepper, freshly ground rock salt) on the side.

I barely cook. But I do know how to use the oven toaster and the microwave.
Chinese, happiness

Life: Beauty and the beholder

Angelic conversation by shimmertje
Angelic conversation, a photo by shimmertje on Flickr.

So I'm on Twitter and somehow the conversation turns to marriage criteria, and this guy says that the only basis for a successful relationship is when the woman is physically attractive.

He says (copy-pasted): looks should be a factor too, u cant be in love with an ugly woman but u justify it by saying shes got a good heart cont.

As much as we dont like to admit physical attraction is as important as a the emotional connection u have with a person

So I ask what if the wife is physically disfigured because of an accident, or for that matter, what happens when she grows old:

He says: love is blind for some! But beauty plays a part on u fallling in love. If ur spouse is disfigured then plastic surgery

He adds (directly copy-pasted): no u dont get the point my point is u will fall in love with a woman that attracts u physically an emotionaly u wont go and

& marry a ugly woman cause she has a nice personality & ur not physicly attractd to her unles its arranged & u have no choice

Growing up where I've been taught not to judge a book by its cover, and knowing that the research shows that people do still judge books by their covers, I know where he's coming from but I still can't agree. Physical attraction is tempered by emotional attraction. A woman may be very plain objectively, and yet be the most beautiful person in the world to someone who is in love. And then, by sheer coincidence, this turned up on my Facebook stream:

“When you start to know someone, all their physical characteristics start to disappear. "You begin to dwell in their energy, recognize the scent of their skin. You see only the essence of the person, not the shell. That’s why you can’t fall in love with beauty. You can lust after it, be infatuated by it, want to own it. You can love it with your eyes and your body but not your heart. And that’s why, when you really connect with a person’s inner self, any physical imperfections disappear, become irrelevant.”
—Lisa Unger, Beautiful Lies

To be fair to the guy in question, he lives in a world where arranged marriages are common and males are not supposed to meet unrelated females of marriageable age on a social basis. In such an environment, physical attractiveness is going to be one of the few ways you can use to make a choice. But to give it such importantance - that is the danger.

Click on the picture to view it in larger form or to get to the folder of pictures taken in Novena, Singapore, in 2006.

Chinese, happiness

Pink: Fruit Plus chewy candy - pink guava flavour

  by shimmertje
, a photo by shimmertje on Flickr.

I'm going to blog about pink things. Fruit Plus sells mango, mint, apple, orange and blackcurrant flavours in addition to this flavour. I've tried the mint and apple and they're both addictively chewy. I admit I bought this (S$1.30 at Giant, on discount) just because it was pink. I hope I don't regret it.Click on the picture to see it in a larger size and to get to the folder about life in Singapore 2011.

Chinese, happiness

FGM in Oman

The cocktail

A good friend, MAS (check out her site at posted this blog post on Facebook: A mother of two sweet little girls, she had only learned that the practice exists in Oman and was horrified. Her post says: "Please share the article no matter what gender you are, its the least you can do!"

It is the least anyone can do, because Oman is not considered a hotbed of female genital mutilation. If you go to Wikipedia or Google reports about FGM, Oman is typically mentioned as a country where it does exist, but that the practice is thought to be dying out. Linoleum Surfer's post is dated very recently. No practice which is dying out would be mentioned as happening at a hospital today.

Just as recently as last year, I got a story - third-hand - about a respected Omani doctor who had asked an Omani pediatrician in Salalah if he could perform the FGM surgery on his daughters. For the record, this pediatrician said no - but the fact that a medical colleague wanted this procedure performed and to his own daughters shows that it has nothing to do with being highly educated, that he felt it was important to get the FGM performed, and that somewhere there must be doctors who are doing it.

There is a lot of rumour floating around in Oman, and I don't have any details like names or workplaces; but this story was too bizarre to be false. Taken with Linoleum Surfer's experience you just can't help but feel sick.

As Linoleum Surfer says, it doesn't happen in all communities, and it is certainly not something that anyone would discuss in public outside of the family - perhaps not even with the men of the family. As a result, you will have many Omanis who tell you FGM does not exist. It also means that very little is known about the practice. Making it illegal merely pushes the practice underground, to the detriment of even more girls.

Internet takeup in Oman is still slow, so a large proportion of Omani ladies don't have access to the amount of information out there. Most are more comfortable with Arabic than with English. And let's face it - it's not something you would Google unless someone brought your attention to it, and then only if you felt strongly that there was something wrong with the practice.

My take is that you have to educate people that it is wrong through the best medium they have now: text messages in Arabic over the mobile phone. There need to be hotlines to call where physical help is readily provided. And there need to be local voices of authority to carry this forward - no one else will be believed.
Chinese, happiness

Omani food: Chicken qabooli

قبولي دجاج

Qabooli is a rice dish where the meat is cooked together with the rice.

Basmati rice
1 chicken
Cardamom powder
Cinnamon powder
Turmeric powder
Omani masala
1 bulb garlic
1 pack of tomato paste
1 tomato
Salt to taste

Chop chicken into chunks.
Slice onions.
Cube tomato.
Crush the garlic.
Soak rice.
Saute onions.
Add tomatoes and fry till soft and dry.
Add garlic, then tomato paste.
Add water and bring to a boil.
Add the chicken, then the powdered spices.
Add salt.
Drain the rice and add to the chicken.
Cook till rice is done.

(More detailed recipe in "Eating Omani" by Omar Al Aamri)
Chinese, happiness

Omani macaroni recipe

معكروني عماني

1 pack of macaroni
1 pack of tomato paste
Omani masala
Turmeric powder
1 tomato
2 onions
Salt to taste

Heat water with salt and turmeric and leave it to boil.
Add macaroni.
Boil till macaroni is done.
Strain and set aside.
Slice onions, tomato, and chilli into small pieces.
Slice sausages into rough chunks.
Fry onions, tomato and chilli until onions caramelize.
Add sausages and fry till cooked.
Add tomato paste and mix thoroughly.
Mix in masala and remaining turmeric.
Add macaroni and mix well.
Cook further.
Add salt if needed.

(More detailed recipe in "Eating Omani" by Omar Al Aamri)
Chinese, happiness

Omani recipe: Mutton makboos

مكبوس لحم

Recently, I saw a 'Keep calm' poster that said 'Keep calm & eat makboos', which shows how much makboos is intertwined with the Omani psyche.

Fresh mutton
Chilli powder
Black pepper
2 onions
Salt to taste
Optional: raisins

Cut mutton into chunks.
Slice onions.
Peel and crush garlic.
Cook meat, water, garlic and onions on high heat.
Add spices; and if desired, add raisins.
Cook some more.
Add rice to broth, and salt to taste.
Cook until rice is done.
Serves 12 to 15 people.

(More detailed recipe in "Eating Omani" by Omar Al Aamri)