Stories from Singapore and Passages from Penang

Whoo! It’s been a little while since I’ve blogged and my memory is a little hazy around all the things that have happened. I’ll try and be brief, but concision is not my forté so I apologise in advance!

After my last entry, we had another late start, and decided to breakfast at an organic vegetarian cafe I had found on a blog, partially because it was nearby, but mainly because it sounded like it served Western breakfasts (an important grounding ritual for Beth in such a foreign culture). We found our way there and had our minds exploded by the quality of the food, so healthy, so pure, made with love and effort… It was quite a foodgasmic experience.

Elated by our success, we headed to Gardens By the Bay, a widescoping outdoor gardens with two gigantic indoor domes. The outdoor gardens contained flora from various countries in Asia (as far as I could tell, that was what grew most successfully in the humid heat), and amazing as they were, we were visiting at the hottest time of day and had other priorities. We headed swiftly for the air-conditioned Cloud Forest dome, containing within it what appeared to be an entire rainforest, set upon an artificial mountain, with a spectacularly cascading waterfall several dozen metres high. Beth looked incredibly radiant with the mist in her hair and her flowing top and loose shorts, and she very bravely stepped out onto the tree-top walk to survey the ecosystem from the railing above. We stopped for a sneaky agli olio and chocolate cake dessert, with an accompanying sparkling elderflower juice, before hitting up the Flower dome. We spent a few minutes admiring the furry succulents and pebble-like stone plants, before hastily returning to the hotel for some immediate R&R.

Ivy had invited us for drinks at Clarke/Robertson Quay (respectively the clubbing and cafe districts by the waterside), but Beth wasn’t feeling too up to a night out. Instead, I journeyed into the surprisingly deep cultural centre of Little India to find a recommended vegetarian eaterie. It felt great wandering the streets independently, going wherever I pleased and almost looking like I fit in. Perhaps a little too much so, for an elderly Chinese man approached me and asked me something in Mandarin. Did I politely respond that I couldn’t help him? Did I apologise and explain I didn’t understand Chinese? Nope. I startled like a deer in the headlights, then hurriedly pushed past him rather than trying to formulate a response. The food, as it so happened, was deliciously spicy, and if given the chance I’d eat there a hundred times over. Beth and I ate it out of the takeaway containers while watching (a very stressful) Poseidon. And speaking of TV, have I mentioned anything about the censorship? We were watching the first Sex and the City movie, and they edited out all of the sex scenes so half of the jokes/transitions didn’t make any sense. They showed Charlotte and her husband about to get it on, but censored out a gay kiss. And in How I Met Your Mother, they just silenced the word “penis” whenever it was used. Ahh Singapore, you crazy conservative cat you.

Ivy joined us for breakfast the next day. We returned to that amazing organic vegetarian place, but unfortunately a number of different websites conflicted about the opening time and we ended up arriving half an hour before it opened. That, coupled with their fifteen minute late start nearly caused me to miss my flight. We ended up catching a taxi instead of taking the train, so it turned out okay in the end! But let’s return to the food: gluten-free pancakes, pineapple fried rice and some kind of eggy-bread magic. Incredible. I know it’s silly, but I’m really hoping to go back to Singapore to eat there again! It was such a wonderful experience. Plus the company was rare and excellent, making it a lovely way to end the trip. Once at the airport I shot straight off to the departure gate, while Beth had the misfortune (or perhaps the pleasure?) of spending a few hours in Changi airport until her flight departed.

Thence I found myself in Penang, Malaysia, and I can cease my writing and revert to the time-honoured tradition of the copy and paste.

***

Anyway, the gist of the message that I wrote out last night was thus: I didn’t realise how instantly and painfully I would miss you as soon as we left. It was like part of me had been torn away, and I miss you so much. I feel so isolated and separate. I hope that your flight wasn’t too uncomfortable and that you enjoy a rejuvenating few days. I’m confronted with an overwhelming sense of panic as I’m not sure what to do with myself over the next few days- my anxiety is definitely getting worse. Lines help, but only a little. I guess I’ll keep at it and try not to get stuck up in my head.

I’m also feeling super vulnerable… I didn’t recognise that’s what the source of my anxiety was, but it makes a lot of sense now. I’m in an unknown place with unknown people, feeling largely alone and lost and helpless. What comfort and entertainment I brought with me (my 3DS and AFFC) is about removing myself from this uncomfortable reality and getting lost in a happier one. I don’t want to keep doing that- I want to be able to be happy here and now, but I just feel so… vulnerable.

I’m missing you so much baby. I’m feeling pretty insecure, and I know a little of how rude it is to just whip out my book when there’s conversation abound. But I’m just so uncomfortable. I hoped it was cultureshock, but I think it’s just me feeling uncomfortable because most of my usual comforts have been stripped away.

***

I finished A Feast For Crows last night. It ended on such a major cliffhanger that I promptly went out and bought A Dance With Dragons, rather than waiting another week until I could borrow it off your Mum. It was a real pleasure to read, which surprised me. [Someone], you’ll be pleased to know, is [spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler spoilered]. I can’t wait to find out what happens next! Well, I can, seeing as I’m writing this instead… But I’ll resume reading soon!

This morning Wu Shu took us back to his place and we did a “Hard” level Sodoku together. I had given up many times but he, apparently a numerical genius, gave me hints and numbers here and there until we solved it after perhaps an hour. It was more satisfying than I knew it could be. Thereafter we earned a very late lunch (3pm) and went to the bookstore. I bought Sin Ler “Tomorrow When the War Began” because I assume she’ll enjoy it (having learned she devoured The Hunger Games). She has a stack of other books to read (including “Young Samurai”, “Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus”, “Warrior” (kitty cats) and other really cool young adult series) so it might be a while before she gets round to it.

Gotta go now, get ready for Badminton at 5:30. Tomorrow we’re going for a walk to the Botanical Gardens, and maybe to climb/hike up Penang Hill afterwards. I love Penang a great deal more than KL, though they’re both pretty good once I get out of my head. I love you. Talk to you again soon!

***

Heya gorgeous. I’m feeling a lot better since I sent that email. I did spend a lot of time stuck in my head, and I puzzled out a few reasons why I was feeling so uncomfortable. Foremost is because I’m in a foreign culture and I don’t know how to do anything like get food or go out to have a good time – I rely on everyone else to provide sustenance and entertainment for me. I didn’t have this problem in England because I was familiar with the culture and was more or less independent. It’s quite uncomfortable being so dependent and vulnerable in an unknown place. Furthermore, there actually *is* no one to talk to. It’s not just my imagining it, but I really am quite isolated here, even by my mother (who will often be talking about me with the people around us in Hokkien, and won’t explain what she said unless I ask her for a translation). But for lunch, Wu Shu took us out to a fancy restaurant on the top floor of his Aquatic Club. The view was beautiful, the food was great and Sin Ler (the 12yo who came to Australia) speaks excellent English. I had a great time and it allowed me to get out of my increasingly panicked head. Afterwards we had tea and biscuits (Chinese-style!) and I watched Sin Ler play Insaniquarium. It was so good to play a video game and not feel judged for not being present (or for being the loner in the corner on his gameboy). 3DS’, by the way, are 1000 ringgit here. That’s about $320AU. I sincerely doubt I’ll get any StreetPass hits while I’m here! [As it so happened, I got three. Two of them were from the US, and one of them was from Western Australia. No wonder nobody has any consoles when they’re all thousands of ringit to buy.]

More stories to come!

Stories from Singapore, part 2

Things in Singapore are going excellently! Although I have this delusion that we can do like, three tourist things a day, Beth and I are nevertheless making our way around a most incredible country.

One of the highlights I forgot to mention was the “doctor fish” at the night safari. Kangal fish (also known as doctor fish or nibbling fish) have the most peculiar habit of nibbling dead skin off a person. There is a fair amount of research that suggests this is very healthy and can help with various skin disorders. As we were leaving the safari, we heard a woman scream and a splash of water, and when we investigated she had pulled her feet out of the tank because the fish were swarming her. I found it irresistably tempting, so Beth and I paid for five minutes, washed our legs then dropped them in the tank as well. I personally burst out laughing uncontrollably for the whole five minutes, though I only had perhaps two dozen fish on me at the most. Beth, who appeared to be wearing socks made of fish, got used to the sensation very quickly and just shook her head at me. Photos (and possibly video?) to come.

 

Another highlight of the trip was visiting Virtual Land at Bugis Junction, after it was recommended by a friend of a friend. And what a fantastic recommendation it was. Virtual Land is a fantasy dreamscape where any video arcade nerd can happily nerdgasm him (or her)self to death. It was the biggest, loudest, flashiest arcade I have ever seen with some incredibly cool technology. In one corner, a group of machines was set up to play a hybrid card-video game, where the player brought his own deck of cards, laid four of them out on the table and moved them around the board. In real time on the screen above him, those cards would manifest as armies and the four armies would run around in the direction they were aimed, trying to defend their gates, assault the enemy’s and survive the encounter. It was incredible how much strategy could be employed with four individual units, each of which could change focus within a moment from a quick slide of the hand or the press of a button – some very fluid and mesmerising gameplay there. There were a few 4D machines, which were 3D games inside a carriage that jolted and shot air at you when you were desperately trying to fend off zombies. A LAN station upstairs overlooked the arcade where hardcore and casual PC gamers united to check emails and play DOTA. Various machine-gun and pistol shooting games (most of which were very good) lined the walls. Groups of six people crowded around a single machine, each of them controlling a battle station to shoot or capture aquatic animals. (I was particularly delighted by how many children, women and casual gamers were drawn to this simple but addictivly rewarding game.) The Skilltesters were largely untouched, the racing games of excellent quality, and the physical games all very flashy (though there was no DDR to be found, which amazed me – Singaporeans seem big on hand-based rhythm games instead, pressing flashing buttons and panels in time to the music). But most pleasurable of all was the back room, almost as big as the rest of the arcade, full to the brim of fighting games. There was Tekken and Soul Calibur and Street Fighter IV, but also rarer games like King of Fighters, Blazblue, X-men vs Street Fighter and Street Fighter II. And the kids (and men) who played these games, my goodness… Having amassed a pile of discarded coke cans, their reflexes were lightning fast as their hands twitched and mashed and flittered around like hummingbirds. Some of them were mediocre, but many of them were incredible to behold. Ah, it was a night to remember (and I’m happy to report I didn’t spend a single dollar).

 

But perhaps the most enjoyable highlight so far was seeing Ivy again for the second time this week. Beth stayed in the hotel to rest while Ivy and I went to her hotel to practice Muay Thai. It was a crazy fun experience for me, and I think I adapted quite well to the “rules”. It was a matter of reducing my available skill set to straights, hooks and uppercuts, push kicks and shin kicks to the body. At first I found it incredulous that the massive gloves could be held up in front of the face and form an impenetrable shield, but I soon got over the unrealism and just had a great time wailing on Ivy and getting wailed on in return. I’m also amazed and delighted to report that there was nothing egotistic about our exchange – I wasn’t trying to show off or dominate, I was just having a great time learning from and playing with my oldest friend. As a very special and unexpected gift, she also gave me the handwraps she wore in her first championship fight, and taught me how to wrap them. I will practice every day until they’re perfect!

 

Now, for some lessons I learned from the fight…

  • Ears actually ring when they’ve been beaten. (The gloves are huge striking surfaces, so I think it’s the first time anyone’s actually hit me on the ear with a hook rather than on the face.)
  • When fighting a left-hander, watch their left hand. I got caught by more left-hooks than any other technique because I kept dropping my right hand to deflect kicks.
  • Keep your hands up! If you’re wearing gloves, they’ll stop a punch in its tracks no problem, even if there’s a fist-sized gap in your defence. Gloves are much, much bigger than fist-sized.
  • This isn’t so much a lesson as an insight. I was throwing a left-hook towards her at the same time she was throwing a left-hook towards me. Rather than risking hitting her but also taking a hit, I changed the direction of the strike and punched her in the bicep instead, stopping her hook in its tracks. It was a glorious moment of reflexivity.
  • It’s much harder to catch or hold someone when you’re wearing gloves that are so big you can barely wiggle your thumbs!
  • Muay Thai employs one-legged take-downs if you’ve caught a kick. It does not condone two-legged sweeps, though.
  • I have a preference for throwing certain techniques from my right side, and certain techniques from my left. Although I’m far more ambidextrous than I used to be, this is still something to be conscious of.
  • Muay Thai basics: The stance is front-facing, with the back heel slightly off the floor (or ready to come slightly off the floor). Elbows typically cut from top to bottom, or straight up. Knees are not angled up, but forwards: to achieve this, lean the torso back and bring the patella into prominence as if you were hitting straight ahead.

All right, that’s enough about fighting. God I love martial arts.

 

After that, Ivy and I went for a run around the harbourside. It was a lovely experience to be running with a friend! I’ve only had one other friend whose ever enjoyed running, so this was a highly pleasurable delight for me. And the view, my God the view! The durian-shaped Esplanade, the magnificent double-helix bridge, the quays, the fort park, the mynah and ko-well birds, the Marina Bay Sands hotel, the Art Science Museum, Gardens by the Bay, the dam, the hotels and buildings and Muay Thai fighters who were out for their training runs… It was a beautiful way to see the city, though as I discovered this morning, my calves did not approve. We were going to get bubble tea afterwards, but Ivy needed to slip off to see her boyfriend so we went our separate ways once more. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to meet up again before I leave!

 

Beth and I had a vegetarian lunch beneath the Buddha’s Tooth Relic Temple, a hearty meal for a very small donation, and spent the rest of that day at Marina Bay Sands. We shopped a while, exploring the wonders of TWG (an incredible tea store), before heading to the Art Science Museum. We wandered through the photo exhibits before we were too exhausted to keep going (what a crazy idea it is to be up at 8 in the morning!) and stopped for tea and coffee. To my surprise, it was thoroughly invigorating, and we soon pressed on to the lego exhibit. Man, the art that can be made of lego was both profound and exquisitely beautiful. The artist, Nathan Sawaya, has great insight into the human condition and is able to express it so very well. If the exhibition ever comes to your corner of the globe, I give it my stamp of approval!

 

Afterwards we returned to the MBS shopping complex where Beth found an adorable stationery/bag/paraphernalia store, and I rather foolishly attempted to wax-skate. It had promoted itself as “ice skating”, but it wasn’t even close. The lack of friction lead to some pretty pathetic slips and slides, and one very waxy fall. Although we were running late, we were hoping to catch the sun set across the bay, but I had utterly forgotten the way and we wandered around quite lost and exhausted. Finally giving up, we asked for directions to the train from a man at the concierge desk. But as we reached the train station, I thought I recognised where we were and convinced Beth to follow me. What a terribly sad moment that was, because while I recognised the general direction we had to travel in, I hadn’t realised just how far away it was. Twenty minutes later, we turned back and approached the same concierge desk with the same question. I tapped my nose at him and he gave me a smile, and off we went again. For reals this time.

 

One and a half days left in Singapore. Well, one day really seeing as it’s nearly noon and Beth’s still asleep. Undoubtably I would be as well if she hadn’t woken me. Our sleeping patterns really have been quite awful since we arrived, struggling with jetlag and a new environment, and with no natural lighting whatsoever. Ah well. Hope everyone’s enjoying their holidays! Go see The Hobbit and The Life of Pi if you haven’t already!

Rants of Mr Pedantic

"Are you an avatar?"

HA!

Does it matter whether you’re rich or not? No. As long as you live comfortably, or even at all, you can be happy.

Does it matter whether you are artistic or not? No! You make your own art. What you love best, you do, and may it bring you happiness.

Does it matter whether or not you have the perfect figure? Of course not! At least not to anyone who has any inkling of perspication (who can see things as they really are). When you see something beautiful, you see it with your heart, not your eyes.

What is passion without an aim? Unless it is used in some way to do something that means a lot to you, it is wasted passion.

Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

EDIT: Gasp! Caught out. Well done, sorry for being so obstinate! >.< I really have changed enough to respect and agree with your views. I’m not sure if I’m quite living yet. I’m still going through an identity crisis. [12/09/06]

Announcement

Ladies and gentlemen, and vagabonds alike, I have something to say.
 
As of yesterday, Ivy and I officially broke up. Now the reason I’m taking this so casually is because I have to. I’m afraid of what the impact of understanding and acknowledging the term "break up" will have on me, and so I’m just sort of cruising, not really thinking, and carrying on life as per normal.
 
Please do not offer me your sympathies across MSN. It will more than likely only depress me and put me in an awkward position to answer. If you must sympathise, do it here, but if not, hey whatever.
 
It is a sad, sad day in the world of men.

Home

Home is where the heart is, and, well…
 
Here I am. Australia. It’s both good and bad to be back. My tears are mingled with mirth, and still, my pillow catches them.

Because Ivy wanted me to.

1) Ppost 5 weird or random facts about yourself.

2) When you’re done, write 5 people’s name, people whom you want to do this quiz next, then leave them a note to tell them to see your blog.

 

1. If I could live any one life, I would probably move to India and spend my days holding dying people, letting them know they’re loved.

2. If I could live a second life, it would probably be spent training in the mountains with Jack to become physically perfect, then becoming the greatest assassin alive.

3. I cannot stand the sight of myself brushing my teeth.

4. I… won’t say that one. Um… I dislike cheese.

5. If I could, I would take a loaded shotgun (the answer to all of life’s problems) and shoot Wallace [& Grommit] in the face. Blow that cheesy grin right off his head. Ugh.

 

In no particular order,

1. Siobhan

2. Richard

3. Chazwozzer

4. Wildflame

5. Lee