Archive for December 2007

Ushering in 2008

December 31, 2007

I believe year-ends are perhaps the only times when even pessimists can have some kind of positive thoughts. It’s a time which forces people to sit down (or stand if you want) and go over all the good and bad over the past 364 days.

You cringe at the thought that it’s time again for “Auld Lang Syne”. The whole idea why you want to usher in the New Year quickly is so that you don’t have to hear this tune for yet another year.

You wonder where did all the time go. You wish you’d done some things better. And then you start to hope for the best in the New Year. Everyone hopes. And that’s positivity.

In 2007, for the first time in my life, I set myself some resolutions. When I looked at them again a few days ago (the last time I looked was when I first wrote them), I was pleasantly surprised to see I had, to some extent achieved all of them, except for attending first-aid course.

Resolutions for 2007

1. Take up a course in counselling and first aid

2. Continue exploring the world and visiting new places

3. Put in effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle

4. Strive to be a better teacher

5. Save up

6. Continue to maintain and develop good relationships with my loved ones

7. Volunteer

In 2008, I hope to continue points 2-7  rather than listing down new resolutions. Instead, what I have for the New Year are all hopes and wishes.

It will be an even more significant year than 2007 has been and I will need all the luck. It will be a year of change and challenges, fear and apprehension, tears and goodbyes, smiles and welcome, suitcases and new homes, but hopefully filled with love, happiness, understanding and courage.

With any luck, by next time this year, I will be snuggled up next to a real log fire, in my snowflake-patterned pajamas and woolly hat, celebrating Christmas and New Year with my distant friend finally, for the first time in 8 years.

I pray and I hope. For the best in 2008.

Happy New Year everyone!

Looking good in winter

December 28, 2007
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Sometimes I wish Singapore was just a little cooler, enough to pull on some tights and put on a pair of boots/shoes. I think this is one get-up which will instantly smarten any outfit.

Japanese girls love skirts and shorts, which they often pair with patterned or coloured tights and ankle/knee/calf length boots. Coloured tights are widely available and unlike the usual boring black, they can really enhance what you are wearing.  This winter, maroon, aubergine and navy blue tights are in style.

Also big in Japan are socks. Very often, girls choose not to wear tights, but put on some knee-length socks and then wear their boots. This look works best with calf length boots.

Layering is another technique to achieve that polished look. Beneath that winter coat, the girls have a cardigan, scarf and a top. It’s interesting to note that their skirts are rarely below knee length, which not only show off their pretty hosiery but also give them the illusion of height.

I’ve never come across dress coats till I visited Japan. As the name suggests, dress coats are typically form-fitting on top with a clearly defined waistline and a flared hemline. The preferred way to wear them is buttoned all the way up for a sleek silhouette.

I think I’ve picked up a great deal more winter fashion tips during my 7 days in Japan than the whole of my entire 3 years in Britain.

Great stuff.

What about your father?

December 27, 2007

I very rarely mention my father. In fact, I think one will have a higher chance of striking lottery than hearing me talk about him. So there, those of you who are reading, do go and get yourself a ticket.

I don’t think I have even discussed him with my close friends. I remember J tried to ask me about him while we were travelling in Paris. I snapped at her and told her I didn’t want to talk about it.

Two of my work colleagues tried to carefully broach the subject. I just told them that we do not live together. When I was temping at the SPH media library 10 years ago, a lady I worked with took me out to lunch and asked me, “Is your father dead?” I was quite startled, and said “no”. But I can’t blame her for assuming so.

My parents split up when I was 9. I don’t remember much about the divorce, but I do recall my parents sleeping in different bedrooms when I was in primary school. Apparently, my mother said I never questioned why Dad moved out. She said that when she explained the situation to me, I just said, “Alright, Mum.”

I don’t hate my Dad, but I can’t say I love him either. I care about him somewhat, because he is afterall my father. He isn’t a bad person. He has never hit me or my Mum, and I think he loved Mum till the end.

He was just bad with money and preferred to gamble it all away. Mum left him because she was tired of seeing the loansharks who were coming around. She was very disappointed in him.

But she never stopped me from going out with or contacting my Dad. When I was still in school, we went out every other week, to the zoo or the birdpark or Sentosa. Sometimes we caught a movie and had A&W root beer floats. I always enjoyed myself.

Dad was working as a taxi driver but he seemed to have a lot of trouble with money. He borrowed some thousands from me when I was a teenager, and I don’t remember if he had paid it all back. Mum was very upset with me then, and really pissed off with him.

I don’t blame Mum for leaving him, though it deeply affects me till now that I did not grow up in a nuclear family. My Mum, aunt and grandma did their best to give me all their love and concern and I am very blessed to have them. But that unfortunately can never make up for not having a father around.

I still feel very sad about this, that I did not grow up in a “normal” home with both parents, but among so many women. That’s probably the reason why I never like to bring up my Dad and start the long story, because it always makes me cry.

In recent years, Dad has found a job as a security officer and I think he is really contented. It’s a job that suits him. Dad is a funny man and he likes mingling among people. Judging from the value of the ang pow he gives me every Chinese New Year, I know he’s not into dices anymore.

I think the dynamics of our relationship have changed as we both grow older. We meet during the school holidays for a meal or a walk in town. I feel I’m meeting an older friend. We don’t have a lot to talk about. I ocassionally give him some money, which is awkward for both of us because we know he’s never really supported me financially. 

I have no doubt that my family situation is the reason why I am attracted to older men. I appreciate their wisdom and maturity. Surprisingly, I am not averse to marriage or kids. In fact, my background motivates me to try to make mine a success and bring up kids in a “normal” family.

I told W one day when we were returning from lunch, “If I lose the love for my husband, I will still stay married with him. For the sake of my child. I know the kind of pyschological effect it has on the kid when parents split. And how long it lasts.”

I am the kid. This is my story. Dedicated to all those who asked or wondered “What about your father?”

Fuji-san

December 27, 2007

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From Gamagori, we had to drive 4 hours toward Hakone. We were all dozing in the bus when the guide shouted excitedly, “There’s Fuj-san!”. We opened our eyes and marvelled at the beautiful sight.

At 3776 meters, Fuji-san is Japan’s highest mountain. A dormant volcano, it last erupted in 1707. The beautifully symmetrical volcano has been worshipped as a sacred mountain by many Japanese, and women were forbidden on it till after 1912.

Clouds and poor visibility often block the view of Mount Fuji, and you have to consider yourself lucky if you get a clear view of the mountain. It is only fully visible 50 out of the 365 days in a year.

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Visibility tends to be better during the colder seasons of the year than in summer, and in the early morning and late evening hours.

Like many pretty objects, Fuji-san looks better from afar. The view which confronted us when we drove up mid-way to about 2000 metres, was a black summit with streaks of white snow.

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The temperature at that height was at least 6 degrees below that on ground level. It was -2 when we were there, trying to pile on warm clothing and not to slip and fall on the thick blanket of snow all around.

Colourful kimonos, delicate gifts, beautiful temples, delicious foods, fashionable people, great designs and vending machines. They were wonderful encounters but it was the majestic Fuji-san which really left a lasting imprint and made me feel it was well worth the trip.

The joy/pain of receiving

December 26, 2007
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This Christmas, I made myself wait till the actual day before opening all my presents. As a non-Christian, this day doesn’t really hold much meaning for me, but I have always participated in gift giving and exchange because many of those I care about are Christians.

This year, I received a big book wrapped in beautiful paper from a colleague before term ended. I remember feeling really guilty because I had only given her some cute magnets, so I decided to buy her something nice from Japan to make it up to her.

When I sat down on Christmas night to open the presents, I saw that that heavy book was actually a travel journal. She must have found out from Facebook that I enjoy travelling, and that was really thoughtful of her.

But upon closer inspection, I noticed that the book was turning yellow on the inside and its labels were peeling off. Its hard cover was also dirty. I’m pretty sure my colleague must have had this journal for some time. Though she has not used it before, I don’t really think it was in a condition where you could give it out as a present.

Two other colleagues gave me some kiddy cartoon sweets which I was glad to offer to my neighbours’ kids.  I was really quite upset last night. 

Personally, I really take the effort to select a gift for someone, and a lot of thinking goes behind every decision. That is why I feel really let down and disappointed when someone gives me some ancient, dusty item which they try to pass off as new, or just gives me some random thing without much consideration.

This is not the first time somebody did that to me, you know, giving me something from their store room. Sometimes I really hate receiving gifts because a lot of the times I am disappointed either by the condition or choice of it. That’s why most of the time I’d rather not have anything.

Still, it was Christmas night, and I allowed myself to be grumpy for just a little while. I should be giving thanks to those who took the effort and were thoughtful enough to get me little gifts which they know I’d appreciate.

Thanks to TSL for the lovely beige glittery scarf. It was very handy in Japan. In fact my Mum loved it so much she used it more than I did. Thank you to GK for the Fancl cleansing oil. Now I know you pay attention to what I write. 🙂

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Thanks Mum for sneaking back to the gift shop in Narita Airport while I was slumped on the chair waiting impatiently, to get me the cute porcelain Beckoning Cat which I’d wanted. Thanks to R for surprising me with wonderfully succulent roses and yummy chocolates.

Thanks to my Danish friends, Johan and Maria, for sending their little present so early this year. It was a Danish Nisse soft toy. He is a mischevious elf who plays pranks on others during Christmas time. It came with a heartfelt card which as usual brought a big smile to my face and warm thoughts to my heart.

And not forgetting those who love me in their own ways.

Sometimes you have it good, sometimes you have it bad. I guess I should be thankful I have people to make it good.

Birds of a feather

December 26, 2007

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I like this group of photos. Four artificial sparrows sit on a metal railing outside the Osaka Castle, while a flock of seagulls parked themselves on a bridge in Gamagori (a Japanese seaside resort town famous for its Mandarin oranges), leading to the island of Takeshima. Sometimes it’s hard to spot the difference between what’s real and fake. I guess that’s till you wave a big piece of bread or dash madly toward them.

Squirrel away

December 25, 2007
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Spotted outside the Osaka Castle was a man walking his pet squirrel who was wearing a golden bell. He carefully placed it in the groove of a tree trunk and chatted to a curious passer-by. A little nuts, no?