Monday, February 28, 2005

Sunshine in my soul

I am an optimist. I considered writing this post anonymously, using thinly disguised code names for people and events that really piss me off. After all the fun of posting anonymously means that you can bitch and whinge all you want right? But then I figured that there is enough negativity around already, so why multiply it through repetition? If it served a useful purpose, like helping people learn from mistakes I have committed, then yeah - perhaps. Failing which I think that we should celebrate and remember the happy things, and appreciate the nice things that people do, so we do not take them for granted.

So, over this weekend this is a list of things I am happy about:

1) We bought our i-book! Have become an Apple convert now. Fab spent the weekend playing with our new toy.

2) Lee Yee and Tze Hua bought another going-away present - the BAG to put the i-book into! Now I can walk to class with my Apple and there is enough place to put a notebook (for traditional note-taking) Thank you my dears! (*big hug*) I am most defintely sending a thank you note to Tze Hua this morning.

3) Gayathri is together with Brad (*YAY!*) they look very happy together and I am absolutely delighted for them. Although I did threaten Brad with actual bodily harm should he only be messing with her. I don't think so - they are in luuurrvvee and it is fantastic.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Why use real names?

Should I use real or fake names on this blog? I say real names principally because I want to update my friends and family about the going -ons in Fabien and my life, and I feel that saying: "today I met a new friend... errm, let's call him Bob" just doesn't work. We are going to move to a new place and meet lots of new people, and I want to be able to paint the picture as it is.

What are the dangers or concerns? Well, given that this is a public internet site, the resultant loss of privacy for my friends might be annoying. However the counter argument for that is simply that the only intended audience of this blog are family and friends, so any random passer by that chances on this site wouldn't find it particularly interesting and wouldn't know any of these people anyway. Why flatter yourself that your life is of any real interest to the random rest of the world other than your immediate circle? I guess the only real concern is if I state "today we are going on holiday to Majorca for 3 weeks - our address is something-street, please come and plunder our house and all our worldly belongings".

Hummm. Anyways, I leave it to the sensibilities of my family and friends to tell me if they object to using whatever name they are known to me as. Of course my family gets it easy, because Pa is still Pa and Ma is still Ma and Ah Ma (bless her) is not online anyway..

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Go watch Lady Salsa!

Lady Salsa last night was really good! The audience (including me and Fab) were standing up in the aisles and clapping and swaying and generally looking goofy compared to the performers and their extremely pneumatic/ detachable hips! Hey - is it wrong to appreciate nice bodies (belong to either sex) in the presence of your spouse? I think that it is okay to wispher to your husband during the performance "that protaganist guy is really hot", and "check out that girls she is incredibly fit"? I guess as long as Fabien doesn't mind I will keep doing it. He has no body issues thankfully... We are now waiting for the aircon guy to service the aircon before going to the Apple shop. I want to see my i-book, and make the leap from PC to Mac.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Le Premier Post en Francais

Salut a tous!

Parceque notre blog c'est un site bilangue, donc je dois essayer d'ecrire en français aussi ! Fabien est en train d'obtenir sa compte pour qu'il peut commencer l'écriture sur cette blog. Pour moi - il faut continuer pratiquer français - sinon je sera tout perdus ce que j'ai appris.

Gros bisous à tout

No driving license can be a drag..

Last night I just took a quick look at the text-books which Nisha kindly got for me (big HUG) It's a little intimidating (gulp) and I really get a little nervous at the thought of going back to school again. We don't have a place to stay yet, and Fabien is nagging me about not having a driving license. The rationale is that IF we both had a driving license, then we wouldn't have to worry about looking for a house/appartment near a train/metro station or something. But I think that even IF i had a driving license, we would not buy 2 cars anyway...

more miscellanous info---
Nisha (the other one) is going to France for french class. I hope she finds one near us so that she can visit in Turin. Gayathri has just been invited to join this blog - I hope your office mail lets you.

Hey - if any of you object to me using your names on this blog you better tell me now so that I can "fictionalise" you. Otherwise I will just be writing your actual names because it otherwise defeats the purpose of this being an "open and honest" update on our lives.

First Present already!

Last night - dinner at Sebastien was yums. Met up with friends and got what was either the last present from the Singapore wedding or the first going-away present (probably combination of both). From Natalia and Ira (*dadadadum...*) a set of expresso cups!! I really love them - honest, not just becos you might be reading this, but because it's something I have been meaning to buy for the household (and they can double up as shot glasses too) NOW you have to come to have coffee with us - really.

Also watching Lady Salsa tonight with other friends, so I hope it will be good!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Road Ahead

Right, some people have asked what lies ahead for me and Fab. The simple answer is I really don't know. What I DO know is:

1) We are moving out of our appartment and into Fraser Suite on 22 March
2) 28 March 2005 is our last day in Singapore
2) We'll arrive in Turin on 29 March, and stay in a hotel and look for a permanent place to live
3) My first day of School is 31 March where I report to school (ok university) in Turin, where I will be doing a short course in International Trade Law
4) Fabien's first day of work is 1 April (nope it's not a joke) where he will be working on another Alstom project

5) we will be having another wedding celebration in France on 4 June 2005, and hopefully get to see all our friends again!

Other things which I do know:
1) Fabien is my lover, best friend, mate for life and the father of our future children both biological and adopted
2) that our life may not always be easy, because nomadic life can be tough, but I wouldn't change anything - you have that one life, and you make what you will of it
3) that I do sometimes really miss my family and friends (that means you) even though I haven't even left them yet! However your family will always be there for you, as will your friends (not the hello and goodbye kind, but the solid pillar kind of friendship which deep down inside you just KNOW)

Right. Hope that made everything crystal clear - just in case you were the one asking

Time Lines

All the time lines are swiftly slipping past me (sigh). Everytime I want to sit down and do something useful, some stupid miscellaneous thing will crop up and then by the time I have dealt with that, there is no desire left to do what I wanted to do in the first place.

I think they call that procastination. Or sheer laziness.

Kuang's great work

Free advertising for Kuang's wonderful work - Pentaserve Photography rocks! We went to see the album yesterday, Kuang and Jules are rushing it for us so that we can bring it to Italia, and it looks absolutely great. So happy.

Good to see E also and his shiny new Beemer. I am really happy for all my friends right now because it seems like their lives are falling into place nicely. Yeah sure, you get these confused patches once in a while, but mostly everyone I know has at least one thing to smile about right now. Yay!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Horses and Rivers

This is another one of those things which I didn't have the heart to throw away, just because we wasted so much time arguing about it:

Whilst riding last Saturday, and I realized what it is that make riding so enjoyable.

It is the risk of falling off.

Many months ago, I had a conversation with Jean Nie about why I think that horses are alive in a way that rivers are not. That conversation once again struck me about the same time as the ground did, although the impact was slightly different. This is because I was riding a polo pony, and he decided halfway through that he had enough and bucked for absolutely no apparent reason at all.

The difference is one of free will.

The horse has a sentience that the river does not. Riding a rough river is exhilarating, but the river never has to make a decision whether or not to put up with you. The river obeys the laws of physics, it can only flow
from a higher gradient to a lower gradient, it cannot suddenly decide to turn around inexplicably and go upstream. Thus (and this is a gross simplification) if you do everything textbook correct, you (theoretically)
will be fine going downstream on the rough river. A bad tempered brute can choose to go on strike even if the rider has done everything perfectly. The art is in persuading this 500 kg of obstinate muscle that what he
really wants to do is to do jump over this cross bar even though he can just as easily go around it. Given that we are supposed to be smarter, this is not meant to be so difficult.

At the same time (and there is no need to delve into the point here) the act of canoeing up and down a river doesn't change the flow, but what you do with the horse can change the character of the horse, and that is why an actual interaction is taking place between us, as opposed to being on a river where the only change is that you become a better kayaker, and the river doesn't really worry about it.

Anyways, this Saturday I rode the same polo pony and he gave me a fantastic (and exhausting) ride. I actually think we have reached an understanding about this. One of the many reasons why I love riding is the realization that these four-legged beasts canter and jump according to my will, only because they have chosen to do so. It is a very personal experience, and I try not to take each rejection too personally. Only something that can choose can choose to love, so this could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

The Makan List

Apart from the normal chaos which is about moving house, there are special considerations when you make an international move. In an ideal world, the large MNC which is moving you and your family is supposed to take care of all of this, but of course if we left it to the HR department who knows where we would end up. At some point I am going to dedicate one special bitch about HR departments in general!

This week's reasonable goal is to find out from the Italian Embassy whether I can learn how to drive there, and trying to get my textbooks before school starts. Crash course in Italian would be nice as well. I think I am jealous because it is so much easier for Fabien to learn Italian with a French mother tongue than it is for me. Oh well, I guess I will have to learn to speak HAND instead.

Right the other thing is to tick off the Makan List. I have decided to eat all these things on the Makan List before leaving Singapore... Did I miss out anything?

Laksa at Katong
Char Kway Teow at Zion Rd
BBQ Sting ray and chicken wings Chomp chomp (Serangoon Gardens)
Champagne Sunday Brunch at the Ritz Carlton on 27 March (last day in Singapore)
Mortons at Oriental
Keiyaki at Pan pacific
Curry Puff in Changi Village
Bak Kut Teh at Balastier
Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle in Chinatown
Sebastiens at Greenwood Ave
The fish head curry place near Pierce Road
Drink at Handlebar

Description of Ethiopia

I thought I would start by bringing all the emails and little bits and bobs which I have been saving for ages because it is about time they found a permanent home. These are thoughts and descriptions by myself and some of my friends about different places are at different times. This is for the armchair travellers amongst us, or just for the merely curious.

This is an email extract from my friend Maridel describing her first impressions Ethiopia. I think about her in contrast to the winning couple of the Amazing Race 6, where the woman was panned when she was looking around Senegal and saying "look at the poverty, these people should stop breeding" or something along those lines!!


Dear all,

I am for the first time in Africa and I could have not landed in a better place: Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Soon you will understand why. Not only am I living in a different continent but also on a different date. Here today is 28th October (second month of the Ethiopian calendar) of 1997!!!! Sort of nice to come back to the past and be 7 years younger, isn't it? If this was not enough, Ethiopians also have a different timing. At 6 am, when the sun rises, it is 0 pm. At 7 am, it is 1 pm. And so on. At 6 pm, when the sun sets, it is 12 pm. I think this type of timing makes a lot of sense. It is plausible because Ethiopia is very close to the equator and hence the sunrise and the sunset are about the same time all year round.

You might be wondering what on earth I am doing in this different planet. Some of you already know. I am working for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). It is pretty exciting to work here. There are people from all over Africa. I am working in a UN compound with about 3000 people!! My task is quite challenging and I am learning a lot. I am participating in the writing of the poverty chapter of the Economic Report for Africa 2005. I have to analyse poverty reduction strategies of about 30 African countries. Such a responsibility!

Addis is the third highest capital in the world. It is about 2500 meters above the sea level, in a mountain area. This, together with the fact of being located very close to the equator, makes the weather here fantastic. The Tourist Commission of Ethiopia portrays the country as having "13 months sunshine" (the Ethiopian calendar has 13 months). Except for the rainy period, it is almost always sunny in Ethiopia. The temperature in Addis ranges from 5-10 degrees in the night to 22-25 degrees in the middle of the day. During the day it is hot but not very much and, unlike other equatorial countries with unbearable humidity, the climate is dry. During the night is quite cool and so you can sleep very well. And this climate is about the same for the whole year. Over here they do not need neither heating nor air-con. It is like an eternal spring. This climate is also great because there is no risk of Malaria.

Ethiopians are extremely religious. About half of the population here is Christian Orthodox and the other half Muslim. They live together in perfect harmony and peace. Every morning I weak up at about 6 am with the praying and signing of the Christians. I do not need any alarm clock. They pray with loudspeakers for about 2 hours plus and also later in the early evening. And on Sundays they go and pray in the church for four hours starting at 5 am. When they finished, it is like a procession. Hundreds and hundreds of people dressing in white get out of the church and walk towards their respective houses or their home street places.

The Muslim community is equally religious, especially now that it is Ramadan period. You will not believe me, but I went to a football stadium to watch a match between the two leading Ethiopian teams and, in the middle of the game, a very significant proportion of the spectators (the Muslim ones) went down the terracing very politely and orderly and they started their praying on the ground while the football match was going on. As an outsider, what they were doing seemed to me more yoga or aerobics rather than praying. They kept moving all the time up and down in a very synchronised way. Moreover, some of them could not resist the temptation of keeping an eye on the match. Ethiopian men love watching soccer (e.g. they know all the names of the Madrid and Barcelona football players!). Although half of them were fasting and the other half had very little food in their stomachs, they did not stop singing and supporting their teams very vigorously.

I think the example of Ethiopia gives a lot of support to the hypothesis of a strong and positive correlation between poverty and religion practice. The direction of causality (some LSE friends of mine will understand while I am using this terminology, je, je...) is not clear, though. Many of us would think that poverty makes people more religious as poor people need religion to pray and hope for a better and wealthier life. When you are rich and you have the possibility to have a lot of material things that make you happy, religion becomes less of a necessity. But some people here have told me that it is because Ethiopians devote so much time to religion that they are "materially" poor (i.e. as when they are praying they do not work or they do not look for an income-generating opportunities). From what I have seen in the street, I think it is a sensible "partial" explanation of poverty in Ethiopia. However, one could argue that they are NOT overdevoting time to religion, as arguably material things are not the only priority in life. Maybe it is we in the developed world that think too much about material things and about getting richer. As a matter of fact, precisely because the people here are so religious, they are admirable in their honesty, hospitability and values. In spite of having a large amount of poor people and beggars (which could give raise to violence, crime, robbery, etc.), Addis is an amazingly safe city, even during nighttime. It is actually one of the safest cities in Africa. And this has certainly to do with religion.

[edited for length- get in touch with me if you want the full article, it's good but long]


Monday, February 21, 2005

And in the begnining...

Just for my friends to know that I have not vanished off the face of the earth. Hopefully I can keep in touch with them through this blog (it's a lazy way I know) or even find some new ones/ recover some old ones...

Cows have this amazing serenity about them which I feel like I need right now in the midst of all this chaos, and hence the title of the blog.

The website is for me and Fabien so that he can blog on this too and keep in touch with his friends if he feels like it. It is going to be a multi-cultura and -lingual blog. But at least you know in any language, cows all MOOO.