Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cash Crunched

One thing I often dislike intensely about life here is the never-ending cash collecting by the Church and other social organisations. Apart from the monthly tithes that every God-fearing churchgoer gives in good faith, there are literally dozens of begging bowls that come around every month. There's the church building fund, the missionary fund, the Bible Society with its numerous offshoots like the Bible-a-month/Testament-a-day/ Bible for China and other schemes, the YMA building fund, etc etc etc. Just over the weekend, our veng had a cleaning-up-the-neighbourhood hnatlang where at least one volunteer from every family was expected to show up. That or fork out a hundred bucks or else. I opted to part with the hundred and later learned that a not-to-be-sneezed-at pile of Rs 16,700 was easily made from opt-outers.

Now while I accept without question that money matters big time in these times of big spending, it's always seemed to me that donations ought to be made voluntarily. People ought to be giving from the heart and not because they're pretty much ordered to shell out so and so amounts of their hard-come-by earnings. Years ago I always cringed at church begging announcements. Talking about money and the need for it so publicly always struck me as crass and vulgar. Now I've grown somewhat immune to it all though there are times I still wonder if it can't be done with a little more subtlety and finesse. In a manner more Christian, with a little more heart and humane consideration rather than as an arrogantly preemptory dik-tat.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bitten by a Farm Bug

Every time I close my eyes these days, all I see are little squares of ploughed fields with grapes, potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, etc flowering prettily while trees stand laden with red, yellow and orange fruit. I've been killing my eyes, totally absorbed in a game on Facebook called Farm Town.

It's a seriously addictive game where you literally spend hours ploughing fields, seeding plots, waiting for them to ripen, then harvesting them. There are always scores of online farmers literally begging for a harvesting job because it's a great way to score points and earn tons of coins. You can have your FB friends as neighbours whose farms you visit or tend while they're away and in return you get points and coins. You can send them gifts in the shape of animals or trees as well. You can also interact with other players by going to the marketplace which is always full of online FT players begging for harvesting jobs. Or to the very respectable Inn which serves only water, prompting wiseguy quips like, "Waiter, bring me a casket of your best water!" Likewise in the market, besides the tediously unimaginative job-beggars, "Hire me, please hire me, I need a job, big or small", you get the occasional, " I have starving children," or "I have only 3 cents." Don't you just love witticisms in the most unlikely places?

I got so addicted that on my second day, seeing a friend's farm with crops all ripe and ready to be picked (there's a time limit within which crops should be harvested or go to waste), I picked up the phone and called her. She was knee-deep in house repairs, pointing out to hired carpenters which window frames needed to be replaced et al. I felt like a total idiot troubling her about her virtual harvest but oh well, what's a good neighbour for anyway? Another time, I chased down another neighbour in an mirc trivia gameroom to ask if he would hire me to harvest his crops.

I'm not sure what's the highest level for this game but apparently you can buy a mansion at level 35. I'm on 12 now and hoping to buy a small house soon. It costs a kingly 70,000 coins and I have only about half of that now. I know someone who's on level 24 after playing for a week. He probably cheats though he insists he just knows the secret of scoring points. The other day he dropped by for a visit and was aghast at seeing my fences, animals and open spaces. He went, "Tsk tsk what did you put up all this for?! No need for it. Just cover every available inch of space with tons of crops." I told him the fun was in designing and creating your farm, even putting up initials of your sweetheart - check out pictures. He said he was going to do all that once he out-levelled everyone else, even people who'd been playing for 4/5 months. Claimed he'd buy a mansion and a swimming pool then. I told him he was way too competitive and to stop and smell the roses along the way.

The ambitious guy's get rich quick layout!

Some people just don't know how to have fun. Or maybe their idea of fun is getting to the top before everyone else. I've realised once again something about myself. I'm definitely not the ambitious type. No fast and furious, ambition-driven life for me. I'd rather indulge myself first with friends and have fun along the way. The gentle, peaceful, laid-back life and feel of the first farm (of my buddy Alex from Wales) appeals to me best.

My farm (as it stood last Saturday)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A Maid for all Seasons

Wanted: a maid to keep house when we're away and to cook us yummy meals. Sure, there are lots of wonderfully self-sufficient people who manage everything on their own without domestic help but we're in a critical position where we need one on the double.

So we've been placing ads in a local paper. No names or addresses, just our contact numbers. The responses have been frankly tragi comic. The first response came in the form of missed calls. Initially I dismissed them as crank calls but when they persisted, I called back and a young girl's voice asked if we were the people looking for a maid. Yeow, imagine looking for a job by making missed calls. Talk of cheapos.

Another caller offered a package deal. His younger sister, 16, would work for free if he could come and live with her and continue his schooling (he said he was doing his 12th). Unfortunately, we don't have room for two and the idea of feeding two extra mouths was daunting so I said nothing doing.

Finally, we took in a young boy. He said he was 17 and could do anything a girl could and that he was desperate for a placement, so we decided there were times we needed a male hand around the house anyway. He stayed for over a week but didn't quite turn out to be what we had hoped for. On his second sunday day out, he came home after the stipulated hour saying he was going to learn driving, and that was it.

Our next try was a 22 year old girl who came with her aunt. She said she'd been married with a three year old child but the husband had taken to alcohol and turned abusive so they had separated last September. She was petite with heavily black eyelined eyes and tight jeans but once she settled down, seemed quite a find. She picked up things quickly and was neat, docile and seemed to enjoy working around the house. I had begun to breathe a sigh of relief but last sunday, around sunset, she told my sister she needed to buy a packet of tobacco just up the road and never came back. After frantic calls to her aunt, we learned she had gone to her friend's house and planned to stay the night there. The next day, it all came out. She'd told her aunt we had been getting her to take care of my paraplegic sister as well and that she couldn't cope with the workload. Needless to say, we took the aunt to my sister's room to see her with her daily attendant who is actually paid well over twice the salary we pay our house maids. We learned our girl was something of a pathological liar and had been surreptitiously using our landline cordless phone late at night etc.

So now we've placed yet another ad in the papers. We're dangling a bait of 1300/- per month this time. And there have been a number of callers already. One wanted to know if she could attend Burmese language church on sundays. When we said yes, she wanted to know if we could give her the bus fare every sunday. Yeow.