Sunday, December 25, 2005


Presents wrapped? Check
Cards Sent? Check

Great - now can collapse in a heap, but before that...

Merry Christmas one and all!
(and something I pinched from Juney)

A Hokkien Christmas

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A time to every purpose under heaven

I think Fabien's Grandfather's funeral was a dignified and touching ceremony. I lit the candle in front of his coffin to show that his light shines on, because (click to see the English translations): Il y a un moment pour tout et un temps pour chaque chose sous le ciel , and I'm the official transport system for his latest descendent.

You see, this I suppose is a good time to make the

Official Online Announcement

we are going to have a baby next year- no kidding...

Here is Sohni's lovely announcement for us (click to enlarge):

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Empowered or Deluded?

I was just reading this extract from the NY times on women who choose to give up promising careers to stay at home with their families. I wonder whether it is empowered or deluded?

If you are interested, this is what the Becker-Posner Blog has to say about it. The subject has been discused in quite some detail, so I won't go into the economic and social arguments here. Just limiting myself to my own personal experience, my thoughts are these:

I wonder whether I am it's a great thing that my husband's career is interesting and provides for many oppourtunities for international travel, or that it is all terribly incompatible with my own land-locked career?

I work for much less money now than when I was a lawyer. But on the other hand I've ticked a lot more things on my "Life's to-do List" this year than I ever could have done working in a law firm, such as:
1) taken a crash course in economics (yep I finally understand Lagrangian multipliers!)
2) learned to make passable deserts (something which always confounded me)
2) speak enough Italian to kind of survive
3) Finished reading my French Lit books (which were otherwise gathering dust on the shelf)

The List of other things which I want to get around to doing whilst in Turin are:
1) get a driving licence (this is actually quite hard to do in Italian!!)
2) learn more about photography, art and art history
3) read more about Corp Fin, Econs and Sustainable Development (eclectic I know, but considering a career switch to microfinancing and development work)

Of course, I do wonder whether I could have done all those things whilst working as an in-house lawyer... I actually think it was possible, because I left work at 5pm almost everyday, but would have taken longer... However I think there is no need to torture myself with a whole bunch of "what ifs" and "maybes".

The point is, I've put my career temporarily on hold because this was the state of affairs Fabien and I agreed on for now. However, just as I look forward to starting full time work again (although I am not sure if I necessarily wish to go back to law) I also have learnt to enjoy the increased flexibility and the fulfilment with working free-lance light-weight academic - as opposed to my "heavy weight" academic friends who actually make a career out of university education.

Merry Merry Christmas and Peace and Goodwill to all!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Surprise party for ME!!!

My husband could have a mistress outside and I really wouldn't have had a clue... Who knows what he does behind my back? In this case - a truly truly wonderful gesture...

I thought he had organised this party for my birthday last week which had to be cancelled because of his grandfather's funeral. So we had dinner in Geneva instead. What I didn't know was that it was not cancelled -- only postponed to yesterday night!!

So... All our friends from Torino appeared at dinner bearing presents and food - it was really sweet of them!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

UN ideals

I managed to get a UN security guard to stand still long enough for me to take a photo of his badge.

I am a fan of the UN actually (*blush*). I actually think that Silvia Broome, is a believable character. Hey, if I spoke several languages (including a fictious one) and looked like Nicole Kidman, it might as well have been me... Actually, I do believe in a lot of things the UN stands for and what it tries to accomplish. Okay, there are alot of things wrong with the system, and it does drive me nuts some days.

This is what Mike Moore, former Director General of the World Trade Organisation says about the UN which I think is pretty accurate (emphasis mine):

I still get irritated by political leaders who attack the U.N. system, demand the U.N. do something, then deny the U.N. the resources, the mandate, and a coherent management system to do the job. It’s obscene when leaders attack the U.N. because peace-keepers stood idle while genocide was committed. They were instructed not to interfere. The U.N. can only do what Governments allow it to do. And that’s how it should be. The U.N. is not a world government. Those of us who believe in the system must be at the forefront of reforms to re-invigorate its structure and mandate, otherwise those who don’t trust multilateralism will win by continuing to undermine by preventing the reform that it needs.

Friday, December 16, 2005

In times of sadness and rejoicing

French funerals are generally pretty dignified. There isn't much overtly violent emotion and people just kinda sniff quietly in the pew. Maybe it was because Fab's grandfather was a pretty dignified kinda guy.

In the bright winter sunshine, we went from the church to the cemetary for Bon-Papa's burial in the family grave. The part where I started to cry was to see Bon-Papa's youngest brother (he is 90 plus years old!) come in his wheelchair say his last goodbye to his brother. He is the last sibling still alive.

What made the day a strangely emotionally charged was because immediately after the funeral, we had a lunch reception in Bon-Papa's house in Mons, and then on the same night, we had (on the other side of the family) Ingrid's Profession of Faith dinner reception. As we are in fairly strongly Catholic North France, religious milestones are also big family events.

So we attended this big celebration for Ingrid. These are some of the photos of the family who attended the happy event.

Ingrid is Fabien's youngest cousin, and the "bridge" between their grandmother's grandchildren and great-grandchildren. As Ingrid is only a few years older than the first great grand-child, she is of course, by far the most popular baby-sitter of the family! So you will see lots of the little ones running around too.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Happy Birthday!!

I am 28 years old on this day. My brother Shaun is 24 years old - Yup we share it...

I am sure my parents planned it like this so that we only get ONE joint birthday AND christmas present for 2 children ... (sneaky Singaporeans huh?)

Happy Birthday anyways Shaun.

I don't think we celebrate birthdays very much in my family, but Fab's family likes to make a bit of an occasion of it. Unfortunately with the death of Bon-papa, it was not possible to do anything too grand (and we were leaving for Geneva) so we had birthday breakfast for me in Armentieres.

What was a little logistics nightmare, was that Fabien had organised a little surprise party for me, with our friends, at home in Turin, but had to cancel everything at the last minute because we had to drive back to France - Thank you sweetie - it was the thought that counts.

Akan Datang!

(which is Malay for "coming soon")

Will soon post a little more about
1) the Funeral of Bon-Papa and our thoughts
2 Geneva and meeting my Trade Law friends

PS - thank you especially to Joan, Jean Nie and other unamed friends for sending your happy birthday wishes - it is very sweet of you...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

In Passing

We just recieved news that Fabien's paternal grandfather just passed away yesterday.

We will go to his funeral this week, so I won't be blogging for a bit.

In a way, I think this is not a bad way to go. He was 100 years old, his 3 sons grew up healthy, he saw his grandchildren grow up. He was in full possession of his mental faculties (albeit with a little hearing and eyesight loss) but he was active and lived a full and healthy life, generous and giving. When I first met him 4 years ago, he was curious about Singapore, gentle and charming.

We just spoke to him on the phone last week, and he was happy to hear from us in Turin. He dropped down and died whilst pottering in his own home, so there was no question of ever being painfully ill or having to suffer any kind of degenerative disease.

I think this funeral is to say goodbye to someone who lived a full and happy life which we should celebrate, and try to emulate.

okay, gotta go and pack now - but see you here again next week. We will leave tommorrow morning and drive up to Lille (stopping over in either Reims or Troyes), and directly to Geneva on Monday because Fabien has a meeting there.

See you here next week.

Kids: Ethical Parenting

Another one of my biggest bug bears is on ethical living - what does it mean? This one is an article taken from the Guardian (try link in the title). But in case you can't reach it, I have edited it for your reading pleasure here in this blog post.

To put it in context - the writer, Leo Hickman and his partner Jane just had a baby girl - Esme, and have subjected themselves to an ethics audit by the following people: Hannah Berry, writer and researcher at Ethical Consumer magazine; Mike Childs, campaigns director at Friends of the Earth; Renee Elliott, council member of the Soil Association and founder of Planet Organic shops.

========= start of edited article =======

Jane and I know we are going to receive a mauling for using disposable nappies. So Jane holds up one of Esme's Pampers and invites the castigation to begin.

"The nappy question poses many ethical dilemmas for the modern parent," says Mike. "You have opted for convenience at the expense of the environment. Disposable nappies are a major waste problem, with eight million nappies thrown away every day in the UK. Ninety per cent of these end up in landfill. Disposable nappies can even make up half the contents of a family's bin. You should try using reusable terry nappies instead. You may find this is not practical all the time, but you will save money. The Women's Environmental Network estimates that using terry nappies instead of disposables can save £500 over the nappy-wearing lifetime of a child."

Like all parents, we thought we had done everything we possibly could - bought everything our baby requires, attended antenatal classes, created a cosy nursery, exclusively breastfed her, read all the books. So when we hear that the manner in which we are raising her is bad for the environment, we are left reeling and somewhat dejected.

About a week later, we settle on nappies made by Mother-Ease, as the poppers are the easiest to use and the nappies fit snugly. So we go ahead and order 20 more at a cost of about £200. Considering that disposable nappies can cost upwards of £1,000 in a baby's first year, we justify this as a long-term investment. We are comforted further when we ask the nappy lady how long they can be expected to last and she says each will take at least two children through to potty training.

An area we have less success with is plastic toys. We can stop buying them, but it is hard to expect friends and family to adhere to the principles of our ethical experiment. It raises a much bigger question, too, about where you draw the line.

Should you impose your views on others, even if you feel passionate about them, or should you only ever try to live the best way you can and not preach to others?
======== end =====

The answer is I don't know. I guess if you and your family have a certain view about say, plastic toys, you should inform the people early on that you think that they are bad, so that nobody will be caught out buying inappropriate gifts?

On that note -- Please do not give plastic (including plush) toys to our kid!! There are sites with alternatives like wholistic planet where you can get other toys..

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Game Season upon us

Torino means "little bull" and the Piemontese are justly proud of their meat and dairy products. I try to buy organic milk, honey and cheese from the fresh market, but organic meat is hard to find. So I am pretty happy to know that game season is upon us - wild game tastes great.

Game cusine is popular in this reagion, partly due to its the long association with hunting. One of the most beautiful hunting lodges and the summer palace of the House of Savoy is Stupinigi , located 10km outside Turin. The Savoy dynasty were monarchs over Sardinia and Italy. The monarchy ended on June 12 1946, because Italy became a republic and exiled all male Savoy descendents.

Tough tits for them, but thanks to their royal hunting traditions, we have these great regional specialities:
Stambecco Brasato
Civet di Camoscio
Cervo al Ginepro

BTW - Stupinigi is no longer a hunting lodge but an art museum, and its surrounding forests have become a natural park... Elaine and Irene tried to see it but missed it - so you guys have an excuse to come back!!

Monday, December 05, 2005

What Art Piece are you?

You Are Best Described By...

Fluo Flowers
By Olivier Kosovsky

Apparently if I were a painting, I would be Fluo Flowers..

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Who are your friends?

Nope, I am not going paranoid, and those mushrooms for dinner are perfectly fine. I wanted to post something like this on 25 Dec, but I realise I will probably not be online, so better say it earlier than later.

I thank God for being blessed with friends - people like you reading this now (yeah - like all 2 of you).

So who are our friends? What makes someone a friend? The biologist might say you just like the way the other person pheromones smell. But I'd like to believe it is a bit more than that... I think one key trait defining all my friends is generousity. My friends are by and large very generous, and I don't mean merely with money, but with their knowledge, their comfort, their advice, their efforts and their time.

It is wonderful and I feel truly blessed. Even by the people we have met in Turin, it is amazing how warm and open they can be in just a really short space of time - and I am not just talking about the 4-legged and furry kind of buddies either.

Merry Christmas! You are Loved!