just questions

I feel like a rug was pulled from under me and I was blind to it until it was too late to see. This is how I feel whenever we fight, everytime im judged, with every eye roll and every cuss uttered at me.Maybe im no good for anyone, no good for me.

 

have you told her I’m joining

that you’re sorry “she’s intrusive”

did you say “the wife’s a bitch”

wish you could meet minus me

merry making without a hitch

her friends playing cupid

was I wrong to throw a fit

are your toes freezing from the nip

from the cold feet that week

when you slipped the ring

your forth finger twitched

are you feeling tricked

maybe your eyes couldn’t see

a wool too thick pulled over it

were you tripping into me

when it was her you were fantasizing

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The call of the Wild West

After a bloody long journey (thanks, Delta for 4 pointless connections) and a missed flight, I reached my destination, Phoenix, Arizona. Ray and Satoko-San were waiting to pick me up from the airport – the second time since our chance meeting in Japan! It quickly materialised into something wonderful and magical.

The first night was spent at a luxurious resort which was a surprise treat from them. This is the view from my room, scattered with cacti and desert flowers, and faraway waterfalls, humming birds and critters.

View from my balcony

View from my balcony

Next stop, Tombstone Arizona. Yee-haw. The old west was etched in every pebble I crunched on.

Wagoneer

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It took a while but it finally dawned on me; I’m in wild country! AND I LOVED IT.

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The place were Geronimo surrendered. Sad day for the Native Americans. This was their land.

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After changing landscapes, undulating hills and clear blue skies, home sweet home,  for the next 6 days.

The view from the patio. I never wanted to leave. My biggest crib throughout: STARGAZING WAS A NO-GO. Because, hello, full moon…thanks for ruining it for me 😦
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Day 3. Ray told me he was bringing me to Coronado National Park. T

Sometimes, you’d drive for an hour or more before encountering another car or truck. The roads just kept going and going.

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But the landscapes surrounding us changed drastically; barren stretches of deserts, lush hills, shrubs, rolling meadows with cows and horses grazing, thousands of acres of ranches. I wanted to move permanently. But err, border patrol officers keeping out illegal Mexicans and potential Singaporeans…and you don’t fu*k with em.

After an hour or so drive UP. Total drive from Ray’s to Coronado was about 3 hours. Had to stop for a picture. See that sprawling desert below? We came from there. Yeah…long, arduous drive.

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Let the hiking begin. Their national parks are as big as Singapore (mildly exaggerating, but it felt like it) and perfect for someone like me who loves hiking. Oh, just don’t get lost. Then you’re bloody dead. Literally.

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Shit got real when Ray said he spotted bear tracks and smelled cat’s pee. By cat, I mean mountain lions. Not Apple’s OS, unfortunately. Ray had two guns with him, but he wasn’t very positive since they’re experts at crouching and leaping right at us. I also don’t condone the use of guns…but I wasn’t particularly fussy about that, then.

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Ray leading the way. The summer skies were a splendid, vibrant blue (and bloody hot). I was baking.
Thanks, Banana Boat, for saving my hide. Not a single puffy cloud was seen that day.

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Driving back, downhill. I could stare out for hours at this. The terrains often became very bumpy. More dirt roads than anything. So, if you’re driving, make sure you’re on an all-terrain vehicle, built for teeth-chattering, bum-crushing rides. Ray’s all-terrain was battered with sand, pebbles and rocks.

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The scenic drive back; flanked by pine trees on both sides.

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Unequivocally the highlight of my US trip. I had the privilege of encountering a herd of beautiful horses frolicking under the sun. This friendly filly galloped to say hi.

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We exchanged pleasantries.

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At Chiricahua National Park. These monumental boulders that are centuries old stood erect like proud guardians protecting their lands. For as far as my eyes could see, every where I turned, these huge rocks, weathered by natural elements, were a stark contrast to the summer blue skies.

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Erosion is slowly taking its toll on these great phenomenon.

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A very necessary selfie.

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The last few remaining days in New Mexico, Ray and Satoko-san brought me to a beautiful little town nestled in between two valleys. Bisbee.

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Quaint, artsy and a touch of indie shops and colourful homes. It was a mining town before they shut it down.

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I skipped in delight when I saw this. The Beatles and I.

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And finally, it was the last day. The drive to Arizona, Phoenix airport.

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Sons of anarchy anyone? I slid down the car seat right after I took this picture because the biker saw me snap this picture. =/

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I loved New Mexico, Arizona. I never imagined just how vast America truly is. Wild, untamed, harsh and sometimes abysmally barren. Exactly as it should be.

And on to New York. Concrete jungle and a different kind of wild.

 

Navy Seal Commander Tells Students To Make Their Beds Every Morning In Incredible Commencement Speech

Unlike the more notable names that have been invited to give a commencement speech, I’ve never heard of this Navy Seal Commander. He may not have said make good art, like Neil Gaiman drilled in, which appealed to my creative element, or JK Rowling’s speech where she said “rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

It wasn’t a motivational speech; he didn’t have a rags to riches story, or one that inspires you enough to start writing a story in order to make good art because of a break up (ahem). It wasn’t any of those because that was simply not the purpose of his speech. What’s his speech like? It’s hardcore, life-will-kick your-butt-but-you-kick-right-back kind of a speech. Simple and effective. And you start with making your bed, not good art. Managing expectations. 

If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

He’s a Navy Seal Commander who swam in shark-infested waters for crying out loud, he isn’t going to tell you to make art. He’s going to ask you to punch the shark in the snout, unless you consider yourself a shark’s snack. And because I love kicking ass, this resonated with me a lot. 

If I fall in love some day

If I fall in love some day

for you, my dear, I will write

verses from my heart that sings

hymns that will sound so sweet

Yet laced in hurt, once so deep

from a past, my love still bleeds

 

If I fall in love some day,

forgive my heart the scars it bears

and my pain doesn’t feel, but despairs

for broken things are naked

my edges, dear, they’re jagged

 

If I fall in love some day,

bless your soul, oh, darling soul

you’ve made me whole, don’t you know

to feel like gold, my all you own,

heart and soul.

 

 

 

 

Bangkrupt in Bangkok (but so much fun)

On Thursday I sent a text to my travel girlfriend “BKK for NYE”?! and on Sunday  I was hauling my butt as fast as I could to the airport. Because I was under the impression that our Scoot flight was at 7pm. Damn you, 24 hour format. 17:45hrs is not  7:45pm. Normally, I’d be more alert. But when you factor in my 3 hours of sleep over two days, you’ll understand why everything was a blur. On Friday I had told my friend the flight is at 5:45pm. On Sunday, I kept telling myself just be there by 5:45pm. Pffft. Luckily my friend sent a text an hour earlier to ask my whereabouts because she couldn’t find me.

But I reached the airport without having to pull my hair (or the taxi driver’s); he pretty much channelled his inner Fernando Alonso. I remember sending a prayer up on the expressway. The rest of the ride was a blur.

As our plane was taxiing to the runway, my friend and I were discussing about the riots going on in Bangkok. A mutual friend who just returned from Bangkok told us that the media was hyping things up as usual, as he didn’t see anything major. They didn’t invade the shopping and touristy places of Bangkok like they did previously.

I was sitting beside another girl, and after a while we got to talking. My friend was watching a movie on her phone; I was taking a break from reading. She’s a Singaporean who lives in Australia and was traveling to Bangkok to meet her boyfriend. Her boyfriend’s family are Australians and run two restaurants in Bangkok – an Italian and Thai restaurant.  Bravassimo.  She started speaking with a funny accent, but an hour later she was speaking Singlish. What gives. But she was a decent girl, friendly and all. She said every time she visits Singapore, she feels bigger (and she’s bloody skinny) because the girls here get thinner. I told her it’s the skinny epidemic; especially amongst the Chinese! My friend took this chance to quip “not us, we’re still maintaining our sizes, we like our thighs without gaps”. Did I mention we met at the gym. Thanks, Fitness First!

Bangkok has undergone many changes from my last trip in 2007. Back then I felt like a giant and their medium sized clothes were small for me.  But when affluence expands so does girth, and in my case, shopping. For one who hardly shops, I spent almost everything on the 2nd day at Platinum mall. When almost everything every top/dress is 200 baht (roughly 8SGD), you can merrily kiss logic goodbye. And they have shopping centers that can shame Ion. Firstly Central World is back bigger and brighter. The last riot in 2010 almost destroyed Central World. I remember seeing parts of the building charred and crumbling to the ground. Siam was our holy grail to some of the best shopping centers in Bangkok, but unless you’re willing to spend a few hundreds on a bag, put your wallets away, and just window shop. Siam Paragon was massive and we got lost inside trying to find Fitness First. Siam Center is a concept shopping mall, and caters to the younger generation so the prices aren’t too steep. 

Some highlights of NYE 2013  in Bangkok.

  •  Authentic Thai body massage and foot massage almost every other day. S$15 for 2 hours.  That would cost about S$130 in Singapore.
  • Meeting my dear friends in Bangkok and celebrating NYE with them at Bangkok’s gay district.
  • Desserts at a whimsical concept café at Siam Center called Mr Jones’ Orphanage. The décor in the cafe makes up for the less than spectacular desserts, but the Chocolate Soufflé was pretty good.   
  • Getting a taxi driver from Khaosan who insisted on 200 baht back to our hotel and when we demanded he use the meter, brought us on a merry go round through seedy dark alleys, speeding at breakneck speed and ensuring the meter reached at least 150 baht. I hope his taxi gets stuck in mire.
  • Delicious street food, tom yum soup, and Thailand Ice Tea. 

Because it was only a 4 days trip to Bangkok, I didn’t take many pictures and I forgot to bring my phone out on NYE – smart move. It was a great trip, my friend and I are travel-soul mates, so the trip was filled with so much laughter. I ended 2013 and greeted 2014 with glitters, balloons and hot gay men and close friends. How can one complain when the year ended with glitters!

 

Japan needs the love doctor, pronto.

Japan needs the love doctor, pronto.

I have to admit that this is one phenomenon that has intrigued and confused me thoroughly in Japan. During my daily commute in their subways, I “people-watched” a lot, and I noticed something disconcerting. Absurd in many ways and perhaps you can call it an anomaly, really. Men don’t check women out (I’m talking about straight men). Seriously disturbing. I think I counted just about five men over different days, throwing furtive glances at someone who caught their eyes before looking away. Serious what the fu*k.

I explicitly looked out for men checking women out (or vice versa), totally sacrificing my fascination with the Japanese fashion! Pffft. I gave up fashion-watching for couple-spying instead so to speak. I was there for only ten days and I know it isn’t the greatest sampling, but from my mere observations during the trip I saw less than 10 dating couples.  I’ll say it again; this isn’t based on a 3-month stay based on the study of relationships/courtship between a man and woman. But if a visiting outsider like me made a startling observation such as this, it’s really proof of how pervasive the issue is.  Japan also happens to be facing a population crisis. No prize for guessing why. No one is dating, or no one is interested in what follows after dating…that is probably (hopefully) falling in love, getting married and having a family.

The ones holding hands and acting all lovey-dovey? The Taiwanese/Chinese tourists in Japan.  It’s easy to identify them, trust me. I’m an Asian living in a country with 75% of its population made up of local Chinese (but of course now I have to factor in Chinese from China and it’s all blurry). Point is, it isn’t so hard to tell that they’re not Japanese.  

Someone call the love doctor, please!

Satoko-San was telling me how Japanese men are stuck in their own little comfortable bubble. Playing games, reading comics, indulging in hentai and what have you. They rather be staring at their phones with games, chatting with cyber friends or staring into oblivion with glassy-eyed expression (seen this a few times there), than going on dates with the opposite sex. Nothing wrong if it’s a handful of shy men and women, right? Uh, yes, but when the statistics (courtesy of the guardian) point at a staggering 61% unmarried men and 49% unmarried women, then Houston, we have a problem. Oh, did I add that 45% of Japanese women (16 -24 years) aren’t interested in sexual contact. When I was 16, I was dreaming of Nick Carter, from the Backstreet Boys, confessing his undying love to me. I’m not embarrassed about this at all. Nope.  I also had long drawn out plans about my first kiss and how to get the boy to kiss me. Thank you, Disney. 

Ok, maybe as a future (but unlikely) parent, I may be glad that my teenage daughter isn’t in a hurry to have her legs up in the air, but what does this all mean?! When did everyone start thinking this way?

What, why and how did it become so wide-spread and… normal? On hindsight, the government should introduce this overly successful plan to India… (kidding, it won’t work there for obvious socioeconomic reasons, yet). But I’m blaming rapid technological advancements for the lack of boy-girl relationship and intimacy. If more men and women knew how to draw clear boundaries, and not get sucked into the abyss of technology, they’d be doing the horizontal mambo instead!

The men in Japan can even go without sex, learning how – as they put it – to live without sex. As a single female, this spells trouble for me if their secret gets out of Japan. Nothing wrong there if you’re an aspiring catholic priest, nun or monk. But we know they’re not the most religious either. In fact, that percentage is also dwindling. So what went wrong and where did it go wrong? I’m rambling about this because a friend shared an article with me from The Guardian earlier, and it cemented my unprofessional-ethnographic observation during my trip. He’s also planning to visit the sexually-starved girls there. What a Samaritan.

And I won’t be surprised if Singapore follows suit. But hey, at least my facebook page will stop flooding with friends’ baby pictures detailing their every facial expression in a span of 30 seconds. 

 

Turkey, I’m coming.

Just seconds before writing this, I jumped up and down for joy [still gasping for air – need to hit the gym despite my patella tendonitis]. Why? Because I’m going to go Turkey!!!! (I try not to use too many exclamation marks, but this deserves three or more) It’s so much cheaper to go Turkey with Saudia Airlines, just $600. Thank you, Kayak.com. 

I just texted a friend and asked her – “March or April, Turkey? It’s 600SGD”. I know she’s going to jump, too. Ohmygod, Turkey. Edit: 10 minutes later she replied: “WHAT!!! CHEAP!!!” And that she has a two weeks break in April!! (deserves “!!” too)

The country between Europe and Asia, the colours and cultures of two distinctively different worlds, Hagia-Sophia, rich Ottoman history and the heart of the Byzantine Empire. 

Already planning my next holiday. I love this.

Day 2 – The wanders of Sapporo and Hokkaido University

I reached Sapporo the next day in high spirits. After all, I had done everything correctly so far and nothing could go wrong. I got there around 2pm, walked around the block a couple of times (you understand I was just inspecting my area of potential threats right?), and I found Hokkaido University before I found my apartment, hooray!

I blended in – I did look like a vagabond, with a backpack and all. Students are usually poor and I had no problem looking the part – I am considered poor in Japan. I made a beeline for the Students Information Centre and asked where the South entrance of Hokkaido University was. Conveniently it was just around the bend, 5 minutes away and I thank every single atom for that, because Hokkaido University is MASSIVE okay? If I had to walk with 16 kgs (I checked) of stuff on me for 20 more minutes, I would’ve just slept on the road. I graciously thanked the girl who spoke good English and made my way to the South entrance and walked for about 5 minutes. My home for the next 3 days was wedged in between a few other buildings, so I know why I missed it while I was inspecting the area for possible threats (yep, I’m sticking to this explanation).

I’m glad I found this apartment through airbnb.com. It’s really close to the JR Sapporo station, I had shopping and food just a stone’s throw away and I couldn’t wait to explore Hokkaido University – which is famous for its lovely parks, ponds and roads littered with autumn-kissed koyo leaves. The landlady of the apartment who lives in Tokyo, also provided me with a portable wi-fi device, which explains why I was uploading pictures on Instagram and twitter.  I dumped my stuff, made some green tea, took some pictures of the cosy place and stepped out to explore Hokkaido University.

 

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Cosy and lovely

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It’s considered one of the top research and most prestigious universities in Japan, and the largest in Hokkaido itself. It prides itself on being the one of the most beautiful universities as well, with pretty rivulets, preserved buildings and beautiful pathways that lead to gardens, mini parks, and ponds.

It was around 4pm when I left my apartment. A crisp sun-smitten blue sky greeted me as I entered Hokkaido University, and you could see people walking their dogs, mothers with laughing children and their friends picnicking, couples getting lost hand-in-hand, and huge scary crows. I’m not joking about the crows. They are massive. And they’re everywhere.

I walked along Ginkgo Avenue – one of their tourist attracts (if I were a student here, I’d be totally smug: “yeah yeah, I study here, uh huh, nothing to see, this is my playground people, go home.” Kidding. Anyway, it’s beautiful but I think I came too early during autumn, the leaves were just beginning to turn red, though some over-achieving trees did look fabulous.

 

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I found the Ono Pond while I was wandering in the park.

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I also found their museum and went in for a look-see. It’s dim, quiet and has a musty smell about it that truly alludes to how old the university really is. I loved every second I spent inside the museum, though some rooms scared the living daylights out of me. 

As you walk into the museum, there’s a section of the museum on the ground level dedicated to the history of the school and its founder. The wall mural reads “Boys, be ambitious”. Famous words of the founding father of the university, Dr William S. Clark. 

They also had a pre-historic exhibition going on! I mean dinosaurs and I have a love affair, so lucky me 🙂 Mostly everything was in Japanese, but it’s ok. I was having a trippy time just looking at the exhibits. 

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I also saw a bust of  Inazo Nitobe when I was walking around aimlessly. He’s one of Hokkaido University’s famous graduates. Two of his his most prestigious roles were as an undersecretary General of the League of Nations from 1920 and as a founding director of the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation (the forerunner of UNESCO). His famous words are engraved on his statue.  

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“I wish to be a bridge across the Pacific” is carved on his statue

After a few hours of exploring, people watching and day dreaming (also pinching myself because it was all still too surreal), I had to say goodbye and find food. I hadn’t had anything to eat, and it was time to pay Daimaru a visit. 

This sprawling university needs a few days to explore thoroughly, but I exceeded all expectations of myself by getting lost in the ancient and beautiful place that is a treasure trove of knowledge. If you go to Sapporo, allow yourself a few hours or maybe even half a day to get acquainted with this spectacular place full of wonders, and let it surprise you. I’ll come back to Hokkaido University, that’s for sure.