Archive for October 2009

Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2009

P1000802

11.30am. Sawed off the top of the pumpkin to get inside.

P1000801

11.45am. Scooping out the flesh in the pumpkin to make soup later.

P1000803

12.00pm. Drawing the face and carving the pumpkin.

P1000814

6.00pm. Pumpkin sitting at the entrance of our house, attracting some local kids.

P1000811

8.00pm. Enjoying pumpkin soup with naan bread and sundried tomatoes.

Chicken nuggets

October 31, 2009

The first time I went to R’s house was in summer 2007, when I came to the UK to attend my graduation ceremony. We had broken up for two months just before that. Then that afternoon, when we saw each other again, we both realised how much we didn’t want to let go.

He showed me around his little bungalow, we went for a walk around the fields, and we came back to the house to have dinner. All he had in the fridge were some chicken nuggets and soup. So the first meal  I had as a guest at his house was, chicken nuggets with ketchup.

You know how some men who live on junk food and takeaways would actually try to whip up a gourmet meal if a girl was coming around, just to impress her? Er, not my husband. Alright, to be fair he did suggest we go to the supermarket to buy some fresh ingredients but I was really quite contented with the chicken nuggets.

But this has now become our private joke. The other night I was rooting through the freezer for something I could have for dinner and I found some… chicken nuggets! So I said in a thick American accent, “I think I’m going to have chicken nuggets tonight. Just like the very first meal I had at your house. All you could offer me was chicken nuggets!” We both burst out laughing.

But I do like chicken nuggets. They have a very special place in my heart.

Remnants of Vietnam

October 30, 2009

On my first night at Hanoi’s Intercontinental I slept very poorly. I woke up in the middle of the night and started worrying about… terrorists. I remembered having an exceptionally clear logical train of thoughts despite that time of the night.

I remembered thinking – We were staying in a luxurious international hotel chain. A lot of white people were staying here. Quite a lot of them were very rich and have high-flying jobs. The hotel’s layout was unique and perfect for ambush and kidnap. The buildings were spread out across the lake and security was pretty lax.

Anyone could walk around the hotel grounds without being checked or having to go through electronically locked access points. I laid on the bed while R slept, thinking about the horrible incidences in Indonesia, India and Egypt, how terrorists stormed 5-star hotels and held the tourists hostage. I was overcome by fear. I was tempted to wake R and tell him how scared I was. But I didn’t and slowly drifted to sleep.

I don’t think I ever want to stay at a prestigious hotel chain again.

——————————

We stumbled across Dong Xuan Market on our first day of sightseeing. It was a large indoor market on several floors, selling clothes, accessories, trinkets, you name it.

It was something like People’s Park Complex but on a larger, busier scale. Stalls jam-packed with a million different products, girls hauling piles of stock across the building, people bustling about in a small confined space.

It was simply too overwhelming to do any real shopping, we were there just to look for the loo. We did find it, on the top floor, squat toilets with no doors.

In the midst of all this chaos and clutter, I spotted a brown freckled hen. Not running about but sitting quietly or rather resignedly on the floor. Its entire body was contained in a blue plastic bag, with only its head sticking out from a cut-out hole.

At the end of a busy, tiring day, someone was gonna take it home and have it, for his dinner.

October 29, 2009

I was with Luca the first time I tried eating the intestines of a newborn lamb. This is a Roman specialty. Food-wise, Rome is actually a pretty rough town, know for its coarse traditional fare like guts and togues – all the parts of the animal rich people up north throw away.

My lamb intestines tasted OK, as long as I didn’t think too much about what they were. They were served in a heavy, buttery, savory gravy that itself was terrific, but the intestines had a kind of… well… intestinal consistency. Kind of like liver, but mushier.

I did well with them until I started thinking of how I would describe this dish, and I thought, It doesn’t look like intestines. It actually looks like tapeworms. Then I pushed it aside and asked for a salad.

“You don’t like it?” asked Luca, who loves the stuff.

” I bet Ghandi never ate lamb intestines in his life,” I said.

“He could have.”

“No, he couldn’t have, Luca. Ghandi was a vegetarian.”

“But vegetarians can eat this,” Luca insisted. “Because intestines aren’t even meat, Liz. They’re just shit.”

P. 62-63, Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert

It takes two

October 28, 2009

A few people have been asking me, “So how does it feel like to be married?”I have been replying, “Not much different from before, really, except I suppose if I want to have a baby, I now CAN!”

Well to be honest it was strange the first couple of days. On my wedding night I broke down, because it felt like I had almost “betrayed” my family and now “belonged” to this man. I wasn’t sure after our night’s stay at The Sentosa Resort & Spa if I was allowed to return home, or head back to my Mum’s other apartment in Pasir Ris. In the end my Mum said it was OK for me to come home so I did and was glad to see everyone.

My Mum and I opened and counted all the red packets and we decided to donate S$1,000 to the Buddhist Free Clinic. I gave her S$700 to get a new washing machine. And the rest pretty well went straight to pay for my visa application. Over 5 friends donated at least S$500 to the various charities we’ve nominated, which really made R and I so happy.

It took a few days for reality to sink in and for us to get to terms with our “updated status”. In Hanoi, R forgot and referred to me as his “girlfriend”, though toward the end of our holiday we’d finally gotten used to addressing each other as husband and wife.

When we came home from our honeymoon, my Mum thought I should stay with R at her flat instead of sleeping at home. We would come around for dinner each night, and then afterward my grandmother and my Mum kept on shooing me back to my place.  It felt so odd to leave each night when all my clothes and cosy bed were upstairs in my room.

But things are very much the same back here in Wales, as we’ve already been living together since November last year. We still sleep in the same bed, go about the same routines, talk in the same way, pay the same share of bills, wind each other up crazy like we always do and kiss each other good night every night. I’m actually glad we tried to live together before we got married, because it allowed us to iron out a lot of issues during our first few months, which meant we didn’t have to deal with any rude shocks when we began our married life.

The only more noticeable difference I suppose is things are now about US, and no longer about YOU or ME. It’s OUR future plans and not my or his plans. I can feel that our actions now have a direct impact on each other, so we can’t just go ahead and do something if we want to like before.

Being married has brought us closer to each other’s families, and my mother’s even planning to go on a trip with us to Bangkok next February. That, in just a year ago, would have been something outrageous and unheard of. My in-laws have made me feel very welcome to the family. My mother-in-law gave us a very generous gift of £500 and my sister-in-law got us a garden table set.

One day on my way home I thought about my new status, realising I have now officially taken myself off the market and am no longer single and available. Well, to be fair it wasn’t like I was actively dating loads of different men before but you know, it was a sudden realisation that now that’s not even an option. That stirred up some weird emotions in me for a few moments but after that I hadn’t even thought about it again.

I have better things to do. Like going to the gym, eating heathily, taking my daily doses of folic acid and calcium tablets, you know, start looking forward to what many married couples look forward to.

Did you see that?

October 24, 2009

P1000795

I came downstairs one morning at 6am to get ready for work, and the first thing I saw when I turned on the lights in the living room, was this big fat round orange pumpkin sitting in the middle of our side console table. My first reaction was to laugh out loud. My second reaction was to rub the pumpkin around its hefty girth. I’d gone to bed early the night before and didn’t realise that R had gone out to the small supermarket nearby to get this. He said he bought it so we can carve the pumpkin on Halloween, but I know that he really wants me to make him pumpkin soup.

Halfway round the globe

October 22, 2009

I almost didn’t make it back to the UK. My Settlement Visa took longer than I expected to process and I had to pause the application to retrieve my passport in time for travel.

To cut the long story short, I got my passport back from the High Commission only hours before I was due to fly out. I then had to rush to the airport straight from the visa office. That wasn’t fun.

Plus I’d need to return to Singapore to attend an interview with the immigration officers some days before Christmas to determine if I should be granted the visa. All this will cost me my time, effort and money, which I honestly don’t mind, as long as I get my visa.

My Air Asia X flight back to London from Kuala Lumpur was nothing inspiring. Still there was little to complain about the journey. Despite the lack of inflight entertainment, pillows, drinks and decent food, it was a pretty smooth ride, which in my opinion, is the most important factor in determing the quality of air travel. I have been in the air with world-class airlines which shuddered and swayed due to turbulences and being strapped in our seats for hours was definitely not fun, no matter how good the films and games were.

The low cost terminal in KL though, was vile. Being there certainly made me feel I was at the rock bottom of the cattle class. It was hot, crowded, disorganised and frankly, undesirable.

I was intially supposed to fly with R but he had to head home a week earlier than expected as his mother fell ill. So I had an extra seat next to me on the flight and tried to make myself as comfortable as possible. The plane landed on time at about 11pm but it was too late for me to catch a bus home. Instead, I put up at a newly opened airport hotel, took a fresh hot shower and tried to get a few hours’ sleep. It was a good plan as it was only when I laid down on the bed did I realise how “travelled out” I was.

I made it home the next afternoon after a very long bus ride. We spent some time yesterday evening going through all the wedding cards, vouchers and presents we received. Among them included an outdoor garden table and chair set, photo frames and a jewellery box.

This morning, I went back to work and seemed to have successfully fended off the effects of jet-lag with a bottle of Diet Coke. But I haven’t found the energy to cook yet, so dinner tonight was half a sandwich from yesterday and half a jacket potato from lunch this afternoon, plus a banana and a cup of Milo.

It’s 7.37pm and I’d be heading to bed soon. I think the holiday euphoria and caffeine is starting to wear off.