Beng in Brazil: Bringing sambal to samba-land
The sun. Mother Earth. Brains. A pregnant stomach. Breasts. Fruits. A wedding ring. Beautiful eyes. Wheels.
The best things are usually round.
But ever since I was a young boy, my eyes have always been firmly on the ball.
Tak giu. Footballs.
Size one, size four, size five or even a cheap $2 plastic ball that seemed to have a life of its own - footballs never failed to bring me endless joy as I kicked about with my fellow neighbourhood bengs.
It was at the neighbourhood football field where I impressed my first ah lian, who became my first girlfriend, but it was clear two half balls were no match for a full leather one.
I even cried when my first proper football was swept away in a monsoon drain when I was 10.
That was in 1994, the year of my first World Cup experience, and what a roller coaster ride it was.
There was the heavy price of scoring an own goal (Colombia's Andres Escobar was assassinated), the romance of the underdogs (Sweden and Bulgaria), the heartbreak of penalty shootouts (Italy) and the joy of winning the biggest prize in world football (Brazil).
Teams I'm looking out for at the World Cup. Singapore may never qualify but they are always in my heart.
Twenty years on, it seems like full circle as the World Cup returns to the Americas, and in particular Brazil, the spiritual home of football.
With all the brashness of a typical ah beng - I've gone on solo trips to Europe, Africa and India - I knew I just had to get on a plane.
After getting my leave approved last month, I hastily booked my flight to Sao Paulo on Qatar Airways, an internal flight to Salvador on TAM Airlines, and bought over-priced match tickets for Spain v Holland and Germany v Portugal on online ticket marketplace viagogo and made plans to crash at a friend's place.
Swee, steady, gia (let's go)!
Simple cai png dinner with mommy dearest before I fly to Brazil for two weeks...miss ya lots!
But it wasn't as smooth-sailing as I thought. After spending a bomb, I had some grenades thrown my way.
First, the flight time is about 25 hours, backside confirm tear.
Then, there's the vaccination for yellow fever, which the doctor told me was the most expensive jab around. It cost me $180.
My arm not pain, but sakit hati (heart pain) max.
Then there was the travel insurance that cost $92. Then I read that a Big Mac there is $8. And travellers should prepare to spend $850 (including accommodation) each day.
Wu siao boh? (Mad or what?)
But boh bian, this kind of once-in-a-lifetime experience, it's go hard or stay home. YOLO!
So I went to the supermarket and stocked up on the spicy cup noodles, fiery Tao Kae Noi seaweeds and sambal belachan.
This ah beng likes it hot, you know?
Packed my bags I'm ready to go ...
But my biggest headache was still on the way - my ticket for Spain v Holland did not arrive on time.
It was supposed to by the end of Saturday but it didn't. And Sunday is a non-working day for UPS.
And I'm flying off early Monday morning. By early I mean 2.25am. Siao liao (this is crazy)! Kancheong (panic) until can die!
Amazingly, their US office replied to my message on Twitter and after communicating with them till 430am (all the late-night parties were good training), Cesar from UPS assured me he would try his best to contact a Singaporean representative.
My phone rang at 6.30am. This pig (I can knock out for 10 hours) was never so relieved to be disrupted from sleep.
Magesh reassured me again he will try his best to sort out my issue, and I got in touch with Sazali, who referred me to Rahmat.
When I called Rahmat at 9.30am, it was clear he was still sleeping, but he did not hesitate to go the extra mile and offered to go to their Changi South depot to check on my package.
By 3.30pm, Terence delivered the package, containing my golden ticket, to my address. Heng ah (Lucky me)! Steady pom pee pee! This is what I call A-star customer service!
What a relief to get my match tickets just before I fly off, heng ah!
So after some last-minute packing and panicking, I'm good to go.
By the time you read this, I should already be in Brazil.
See you in two weeks Singapore!
I seriously don't know what to expect, but I think I'm prepared to impress the chiobus there.
Stay tuned for a glimpse into my attempts at learning Portuguese, and also updates of my experiences there! Huat ah!
Follow David Lee's Brazil adventures on tnp.sg/benginbrazil and on his Twitter account @davidLeeTNP, and send him messages with the hashtag #benginBrazil