Saturday, August 23, 2014

MY FIRST TATTOO

When my Indonesian couchsurfing host came to Malaysia for the first time, I thought be a good guide and take her to do and see touristy stuff. 

It was late evening when we got to Chinatown. It was also raining down a storm. Nevertheless, we kept up with our plans. Rain or no rain, the show must go on.



Dragons with silver whiskers, green scales, and red fins greeted us at the arched entrance, frozen in their vigilant gaze. The crimson hue of lanterns glowed above our heads. We forged ahead, plunging into an overwhelming barrage of sights, sounds, and smells. Colourful canvas parasols spread open. The raucous voices of street vendors beckoning to buy Prada and Gucci and Chanel hanging from frames of wood and rusty metal. Fragrant nutty pancakes fresh from the pan with wisps of hot steam escaping upwards to the overcast gloomy sky.

Dirty pools of murky water splashed our ankles, then ran back down to the ground in tiny rivulets down our sandalled feet. The sound of rain going pitter-patter, tinkling bronze bells of food carts, pleading of beggars on their torn woven mats ; all meshed and fleshed together in a glorious din of colourful noisy chaos.

We were quite some way through when I turned to see if she was still behind me.
Nope.

Rats!

I retraced my footsteps, hoping to catch sight of a mint blue headscarf.
Up and down, back and forth the streets I went with no luck.

Crap...
I paused momentarily to regain my bearings. 

***
Lo and behold, right in front of me was a signboard " Tattoos " with various designs depicted. 

Hmmm...

As a matter of fact, I'd already been thinking about getting inked for some time. Here I was, so why not just check it out? 

I followed the sign into a side alley, to store selling DVDs (pirated with a good variety of porn I don't doubt). Inside there was another small door which slid open to reveal what had got to be the dodgiest looking place I'd ever seen. 

The room was tiny. An old ripped sofa with bits of yellow sponge falling through took up most of the space. Fluorescent tubes hung from the ceiling, filling the room with garish light. Torn magazines and burnt out cigarette stubs were strewn around. Heavy rap music echoed off the broken floor tiles.

Two guys, both majorly tattooed and pierced looked up at me. One was chinese with a ponytail, looking bored and sitting on a chair (I would later come to recline in the same chair for my second tattoo). The other ethnic looking guy sitting in front of the computer browsing Facebook had long hair and wore high top sneakers with jeans that were cut off at the knee. 

I was apprehensive but took a deep breath and said 
   " I would like to get a tattoo. How much would it be? "

Sneaker guy responded 
   " What do you have in mind? "

I answered 
   " Here, let me show you. "

Walking over to him, I Googled up what I wanted and pointed at it on the screen. 
   " There. That's what I want. How much? "

He thought about it a while and said 
   " One hundred and twenty ringgit. "

But...
   " That's exactly how much I have with me now. If I give it all to you, how am I going to get back? "

He cocked his head at an angle, then grinned
   " Alright then, eighty. "

We shook hands on it. He told me he needed some time to print and trace out the design. I ran out to the streets again, almost right into my Indonesian visitor. I told her I was getting a tattoo and asked if she'd be down to come watch. She shook her head no and told me she was pretty tired so would be heading back to her hostel nearby. I bade her goodbye and ran back into the shop. 

" You ready? "

He donned rubber gloves, flicked a switch and the needle began to buzz. Ten minutes later, it was over and he covered my skin with saran wrap.

And that's how I got my first tattoo.

P.S. A little more about my tattoo artist. He goes by the name Biwan and hails from East Malaysia. He picked up the art of tattooing while living in Australia three years ago and has been doing it as a profession ever since. You can follow him on Facebook and see his work here.

P.P.S. He has moved out of the tiny crappy hole-in-the-wall of a tattoo parlour and is now inking people up at a much more decent, professional working space (still in Chinatown). To date, all 3 of my tattoos are by him. 







  




Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SHE'S A LADY

Woke up early in the morning, happily eager to go out and meet people. 
I'd planned my outfit and was excited to get dressed. 

The best part? 
The shoes. 

Oh those shoes.
I was so in love!

***

Hurrying through the mall on my way home, I stopped short. I retraced my steps. 
Rows upon rows winked merrily back at me. 

Enticed, I floated into the store. 
Drew out the pair that had caught my eye.

Tantalizingly tangerine, fiery fresh and stubbornly stunning. 
Oh those naughty devils!


I cautiously put them on.
They fit like a glove.

Quickly, I whisked them over the counter and out of the store with me.

***

Feeling uppity, bright eyed and gaily.
With class, poise, and grace of a lady.

Sashaying along the streets of Bangsar when...

I trip tremendously and fall splat! 
Sprawling flat with my palms spread out on the ground and skinning my knees.

How very ladylike indeed.

I think I twisted my ankle.
Ouch...
                      

Thursday, August 14, 2014

SO, YOU WANNA GET INKED?

I think I was still in kindergarten when I first noticed someone with a tattoo.

" What's that? " I asked.
" That's a tattoo. " I heard in reply.
" Oooohhhh.... " I oohed.
" Hush! Only gangsters and criminals and bad people have tattoos. " I was told. 

***

There used to be many misconceptions about tattoos floating around in the past. However, they seem to be gaining acceptance these days. It's nonsense that only gangsters and criminals and bad people have tattoos because I have them too and I'm one of the straightest, nicest, good-est people ever. (I hope you know I'm joking.. well half joking)

Some people are covered in tattoos from head to toe. I am not one of them (neither do I aspire to be). However, I would say that I have done a fair share of research before I got inked. If you are thinking about it, here is some advice before you get your first tattoo.

COST FACTORS

Size
You might want to think twice about getting that full back piece. Generally the larger the size of your tattoo, the more it will cost. The inverse is also true ; the smaller your tattoo the easier it will go on your wallet.

Detail
Fine lines, delicate patterns, fancy fonts, exotic artwork - the more impressive your tattoo, the more impressive the price.

Colour
From what I'm aware, as long as you keep it monotone the price will probably fall within a more comfortable range. Vibrant hues and lucid multicolour tattoos tend to hike up the figure. 

Talent 
Some people come in not knowing what they want. If you vaguely present an idea to your tattoo artist and request them to design it for you, making amendments and modifications as you go, you will be charged for their time, effort, and skill. 

My tattoos cost me a very measly (well in comparison to the industrial rate) sum. Probably because they were small, simple, monotone, and I came in already knowing exactly what I wanted. The first one I got was a cross, of which the template was already available on good ol' Google. The second one was a font, which this time I got straight off MS Word.


HEALTH FACTORS 

Cleanliness
Make sure your skin is clean in the area you intend to get tattooed. Actually, just go take a thorough shower before to make sure your whole self is clean. (Also so you don't stink for the sake of your tattoo artist of whom you will be in close proximity with for a while.) This is to reduce the likeliness dirt, dust, or foreign tiny particles getting trapped under your skin when the needle pierces through.

Hygiene
Ensure that your tattoo artist uses a fresh needle. Mine opened the needle from its brand new packaging right in front of me, wore gloves, and cleaned my skin with alcohol swabs before doing the deed. All these put me at ease that he knew his stuff. I think he also knew I was quite apprehensive and unsure of what to expect because it was my first time, so he would pause from time to time and ask me if I was alright.

Physical condition
If you have any notable health conditions like hamoephilia (where the body struggles to form blood clots), bruise easily, or have a weak immune system then you should think twice about going under the tattoo needle. (Cheer up you can still have stick on tattoos.)

TATTOO AFTERCARE

Cover
Right after you're done, your tattoo artist will cover up your tattoo with either bandage or cling film (yes the kind you use to wrap leftovers). It's supposed to stay on for at least an hour to let the platelets under your skin form a natural protective layer, after which should be safe to remove. However, I'd advise to just keep it on until you go home and have a shower. Take care that the water is not boiling hot as your skin is still raw. 

Moisturize
After your shower, lightly moisturize your tattoo. (Note that I said LIGHTLY) Your skin needs to 'breathe' in order to heal and a slapping thick coat of moisturizer is certainly not going to help there. A thin layer that is quickly absorbed would be about right.

Diet
It's advisable to stay away from food such as shellfish and prawns for at least 2-4 weeks as these can apparently negatively affect the healing of your tattoo.

Skin
After 2-3 days, your skin will start to itch and form a flakey outer layer which. Don't freak out - this is completely normal. Make sure you do not rub or scratch. After a couple of weeks, it should have completely flaked away.

Other
Avoid suntanning or rough contact sports that might raise the risk of burning / bruising your skin. Swimming as well would be best put on hold as you don't know what might be in the water.

Touch-ups are generally after 2 weeks, or depending on the area and size it might be after a month. 

MISCELLANEOUS

Research
Enquire about rates at more than one place / artist to get a rough idea of the figure that is likely to come up. Request to see some of their previous work as this helps you figure out their 'style' and what type of design they specialize in (asian, celtic, animated, freehand, portrait, floral, black and white, etc). I took more than half a year scouting artists and rates.

Comfort
It's important that you feel comfortable with the artist doing you (heh heh) so you can communicate and work well together. People tend to usually go back to the same artist even if they are getting a new piece so it would be good to have someone you'd have no problems seeing over and over again. My first tattoo was done by a completely random person and at a chance encounter (I'd never heard of him or researched his work), but I was fortunate to have a good artist. I liked him so much that both my tattoos are by the same person.

Attire
Preferably not stiletto heels and your shortest tightest dress. Comfortable clothing that allows for easy movement would be recommended. My first had me sitting on a regular stool while my second had me lying on the reclining chair. 

A mistake I made was wearing a white top during my second visit. I thought I'd be careful to see that it was safely tucked out of the way but nope, it still got ink stains (not too much but still). Something darker would be the best bet. 

Pictured beneath is me right after getting my second tattoo. 
Yay : Easy breezy comfy pants
Nay : White top



With Pamela, a fellow backpacker I met while as I was pondering life sitting on the riverbanks of the Mekong in Laos. Met up with her in Malaysia and took her around KL, of which included a paying a visit to my tattoo artist and getting my second ink. Probably not something you'd get in a regular tour package.

Pain
Of course it's going to hurt. This is partially dependent on which part of your body you choose to get tattooed. I have one on my back and one on my ribcage. The latter was a fair bit more uncomfortable because the needle was going over bone. 

Your tolerance for pain plays a role too. If you're a sadist, yippee! You will have no problems at all. However if you cried just getting your earlobes pierced then you're in for a bad time.

Relevance
Is getting a tattoo of your boyfriend / girlfriend's name after 3 months of being together really a good idea? I didn't think so too. 

Some people get tattoos 'just because' and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Nevertheless I personally would advocate having something that is classic, timeless, and will bear significance for a long time to come.

Lifestyle
When I was getting my hair washed at the salon (this was ages ago way before I even had any notion of getting inked), I noticed that the girl had a huge smudge that ran from her index finger to her wrist. I curiously asked and she told me it was actually a tattoo of a flower she'd gotten two years ago. However, her job required to have her hands in the water frequently every day and that was the outcome it had on the ink.

If you have a desk job or one that involves a lot of writing and drawing, I've heard that it's not wise to get your wrists or forearm tattooed as these areas tend to get a lot of dirt and friction.

Tattoos on the feet are a hassle too. This is because your feet are shoved into socks which are shoved into shoes so they get a lot of heat, moisture, friction, and pressure which is not good when you're talking about allowing the skin to 'breathe' and your tattoo to heal well. While I'm not saying getting one on your foot can't be done, bear in mind that you will have to go to a lot more trouble to care for it.

Visibility
Your friends might be cool, but would a potential employer be as lax? (Or would parents-in-law be as chill?) The collarbone, front of the neck, forearm, and other highly visible areas - you should REALLY think before you ink. If you're in the corporate sector, it would be preferable to get your tattoo somewhere you can cover up. On the other hand, if you're in the creative industry it seems like the more you have the merrier it gets. 

Clarify
Just before you happily make yourself comfortable in the reclining chair, make sure you confirm the asking price. While I guess they wouldn't actually have a choice if you fell short with the amount in your pocket, I don't think it's nice to leave your tattoo artist with an I.O.U. 

                        

Sunday, August 3, 2014

SQUAT HEAVY

WOD 2nd August 2014 :

5-10-15-20-25-30 
Overhead squats (scaled to 20kg),

5 pullups every interval (scaled to 10 ring rows + 10 pushups on knees).

Could've gone heavier on the squats but I guess probably was good to go with light(er) weights after such an extended time of MIAness.

***

After the previous three months of
- not working out
- sitting on my bum a lot (which has grown enormously sideways)
- indulgent carefree eating that is practically synonymous with travelling 

Damn.
It feels amazing to be back and bangin'.