Monday, August 29, 2005

running all over the place

This is a quick blogpost from the tourisim office near the Mont St Michel

We are in the middle of our 3 week vacation. Started by spending some time at Hardelot, where I went riding eveyday (my fingers are still sprained and swollen, and I had to get rid of my wedding and engagement rings!) and Fab entered his first amateur golf tournament. I still think that a golf course is a waste of horse riding space...

Then we are driving along the emerald coast of Normandy and Brittany. Gorgeous sights to see. Fab has his birthday tommorrow in a wonderful secret location. Will post photos when I get back to Turin next week.

We will end the vacation with a bang at the Braderie in Lille next week. Eddie, Randall and some of our Italian friends are joining us in Lille, so it will be a riot!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Why we are so lucky

I was reading this email from Daphne, a friend of my parents who lives in Norway and just spent 2 weeks in a Sichuan village school. As I type this, Fabien and I are on the way to Hardelot to stay in his grandparents beach appartment. We are really so lucky, and Fab and I would like to seriously think about doing something positive for people less fortunate than we are.

Daphne's email extract:

China is a gigantic country under dramatic changes of different kinds. When thinking about China, people most likely come up with its new modern fa├žade and rapid economic growth first. At the same time, we all know that its development is unbalanced and full of contradictions. In its western inland, poverty still prevails. In addition to poverty, Dayingpan has another problem that cast dark shadow over its people: it is known as a leprosy village. Leprosy is a disease that easily arouses fear. It is contagious (though in fact, very difficultly), and patients with leprosy sometimes have dreadful appearance with deformed limbs. To control its spread, the Chinese government relocated some patients to remote areas for isolation decades ago. To date, there are some hundreds of leprosy villages in rural China. Those patients managed to survive with minimal resources and form families. However, their children and grandchildren, albeit born healthy and normal, usually have no legal registration and identity. They are a group of people forgotten by society and encaged by the cruelty of destiny.

Dayingpan village needed a primary school of its own. Until a few years ago, it was only two shabby classrooms, and pupils could go only as far as the third grade. Then, "Wings of Hope", a Taiwanese charity organization, came, bringing along capitals, expertise and care. Dayingpan Primary School gained a brand new look and vitality. My sister started working in "Wings of Hope" in February this year. It was from her that I learned about the whole thing.

I was assigned with various tasks: teaching English to kids at 3-5 grades, some basic genetics, and some knowledge about Europe. After two weeks at Dayingpan Primary School, the result was, I had a lot of fun with the kids and all the volunteers, and I wasn't bitten by the flea at all! The kids were really adorable. They love to learn, to sing, and to get in contact with us all. Dayingpan was the least developed area I've visited so far, but their kids were by far the most happy ones. In addition to school work, they all have a lot of house chores to do: taking care of the younger ones in the family, pigs, cattle and farms.

Now I've been back to Norway for one week, there are still numerous images and details from Dayingpan in my mind, lingering. I don't know if you believe in karma and previous lives, but you might at some point have uestioned yourself, "Why are we luckier than so many other people in this world? What have we done to deserve all this?" In a place like Dayingpan I witnessed, some things we take for granted are other people's dream, even something as fundamental as an ID card. I think we should all cherish what we have and be humble.

When we were about to leave, everybody was sad. At the dawn of 5 a.m., our bus drove away on the snaky mountain road. Joyfully, I realized, as a volunteer at Dayingpan, I gained more than I gave.

Here you can find some pictures of me in Dayingpan: link

Friday, August 12, 2005

photos photos

Images from the past couple of weeks, which I thought best to disgorge from camera before setting off for next round of holidays



This is the picture postcard view of the alps taken from the window of a moving car. Not too bad if I say so myself. It was from our weekend visiting Denis and Marie near Grenoble.



This one is taken somewhere at the Picadilly Circus Starbucks, by random Korean tourists. What I realise I like about London is that you hardly hear English being spoken - lots of Chinese dialects, Korean, and many East European languages etc.



Somewhere in a Greenwich pub, Lucy, Ed, and Eric met me. Lovely Chocolate Beer here can be found just here ----------------------------------->



Inspired by pirates of the caribean? You can see the pirate flag in the background if you click on the photo to enlarge. We are actually at Whitstable, the oyster harvesting English village near Canterbury. This of course begged the question why we are there in the first place, and the answer is that Christabel had her inspired holiday itineary planning moments.



This is the Matisse Museum in Nice, where Fab and me had a little wander the day after our U2 concert - will put up the images of Bono when I come back from France. We also drove past the village of Eze where Bono keeps his home away from home in France. I wanna be a Rock STar too...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Shaun's news

I am really happy for Shaun - he has gotten his working visa and job all sorted out. It is a big change from the usual clueless brother that I have, and he is becoming this more or less organised indivudual - although we have big arguments about his views on ethical principles, I must say that I am really proud of him.

Anyways, he is going to work in URS after he graduates. If (like me) you do not know what URS is about, you can go to this link : http://www.urscorp.com/

I am glad he is going to be an engineer. I kind of think it suits him better than being a doctor (he is from JHU) or an investment banker type of person (another popular choice for people with engineering degrees). The fact that my brother is going to work in a job related to his degree makes me slightly envious. I wish I had studied to be a vet instead! This is because if I were I vet, I could get a job reasonably easily each time Fabien moved countries - after all all dogs speak the same language right?

However if I was not a lawyer, I probably would not have met so many of my lovely and wonderful friends (possibly not even Fabien) so I suppose I can live with being a lawyer in the end.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Paradise on the Cote D'Azur



The most earth-shaking bit of this weekend was the U2 Concert which we watched at the Stade Charles Erhmann in Nice. It was quite a party! U2 had invited Bill Gates, Elton John, the Beckhams, so we had an entire galaxy of stars to watch, but it meant that security was pretty tight. They removed all the caps from your mineral water bottle so that nobody could throw it! Celine (Fab's little sister) is staying with us this week, all the U2 photos are on her camera though, so I can put them up in another post.

Fab used to live in Nice and work in Monaco, so he showed us around a bit for the rest of the weekend. Of course we went to the beach, which is where you see us in this photo.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

August - seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness

The one remarkable thing about Europe that never ceases to amaze me is the belief that people are entitled to a rest.

As uncontroversial as this sounds, in Singapore and in most Asian cities, were work is a priviledge, rest is a luxury not a right. So the idea that on Sunday there are no shops open and the only part of town busy is the church, just does not wash in Singapore. Well to be fair, it does not work in London or NY either. Perhaps it is partly also the big-city syndrome.

In Turin (which is a big enough city - take a look at the entry in wikipedia ) everything comes to a complete standstill in August. It is as if the entire city is forcing you to go on holiday. Nobody works really, apart from crucial or emergency services. The roads are pretty empty and most shops have a sign which says "chiuso per ferie" which means closed for vacation. It is as if it is somehow understood that you are not meant to be working in August.

Check out some thoughts about this by Ben blogging about Florence:
http://www.benhammersley.com/weblog/2004/08/07/chiuso_per_ferie.html

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

This Man is a Lifesaver

As you may or may not know, I am considering taking this exam in Econs in October this year. The reason why I am still undecided is because it is Bloody Too Much Work for a lousy entrance exam. Because IF (that is a very big IF anyways) I get in, it means that I have to write this Frigging Long dissertation which is probably not going to be worth the paper it is printed on. There are no two ways about that dissertation, if not you have to return the grant money that you probably long spent on ciggarettes and alcohol. The point is that I dunno if even want to spend the next 3 years of my life committed to that.

Despite the indecision, I have made the discovery of the week - a WONDERFUL website by this dude called Karl. It is the only thing which allows me to make sense of my current econs study. It is not so hard actually, kind of like A level econs but with more calculus and statistics involved. The problem for me is that I remember sod-all stats and calculus.

Once the maths starts to make sense (with a bit of help from Karl) then I must admit that econs is really pretty fascinating stuff, and I am enjoying learning something just for the pleasure of doing it . So yeah, maybe if I feel like I have managed to cover the syllabus before October then I will go take the 2 sets of 3 hour papers (with an oral exam at the end of the day!). And if I do not cover the syllabus, then I will come back and angst on this blog about what a failure my life has been - you have been warned dear readers that there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Still fudgy on the outline

Do you remember a post in February where I wondered about the road ahead?

Well it is a couple of months down the line, and I still have not really gained a clear idea of where I am going with my life. Which is screwy because I have always been quite sure what I wanted and just went about doing it. So it is a bit wierd to be a bit directionless right now. Do I still want a UN type of job? I dunno because what I have seen so far of the UN is just bloody downright depressing. All that optimistic energy and resources squandered on administrative bullshit shaded in light blue colours.

Good quote from Prof Posner in the the becker posner blog :

"As John Stuart Mill pointed out in On Liberty, when one's ideas are not challenged, one's ability to defend them weakens. Not being pressed to come up with arguments or evidence to support them, one forgets the arguments and fails to obtain the evidence."

I spend a great deal of time examining my personal motivations to make money, or learn about new stuff, or be actually useful to somebody else (not a lawyer then!). I have started asking myself whether I really want to be a lawyer still - maybe I had good reasons to do so before, but perhaps they are no longer applicable now.