Skin Tones

Realised just now in the shower that my skin appears to be 3 different tones. The lightest tone is in spots of my body where the sun has never shone, an intermediary one from when I went to the beach with my parents in May (swimsuit tan lines still visible and all), and the darkest shade from my adventures of the past 3 weeks in Romania (probably very slightly only) and NYC (probably the biggest contributor).

After typing this, I will get ready and I will get out of my room and I will go somewhere there are people and study. 

Room 729

Towards the end of last week I received an email from the Residential Office offering me alternative accommodation at a different dormitory for US$7,900 a term. Needless to say I turned them down, as it meant paying US$1,500 a month vs. US$1,000 a month for my present (but totally unideal) room. So today (when I came back after fleeing to New Jersey again for the weekend), I started unpacking properly. Now there is only an unpacked box and luggage at one side of my room, a vast improvement from before when there were more unpacked luggages.

Other differences compared to last week:
1) The kitchen taps no longer function - I had to go to the supermarket to buy a gallon jug of water because I refused to use the taps in the toilet to fill up my water jug
2) 'New' cushion for my chair - appropriated from the Helfrich household to spare my bum from aches on the hard desk chair
3) Weather is now much more pleasant and cool - hooray for Fall approaching!
4) Changed the backgrounds on my phone - took me several tries to get the right background
5) Reading On Beauty by Zadie Smith - versus The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris 

Some things the same as last week:
1) Feeling homesick and lonely
2) Walking blocks because I feel homesick and lonely
3) Reading books which make me think of my present circumstances
4) Easting stupidly overpriced (at least in my opinion) Asian food for dinner
5) Skyping family because I feel homesick and lonely

I know I should totally seize the opportunity to get out! and make friends! but I honestly don't know how to do the last one. And I do go out. Today I explored Broadway (from W. 123rd to W. 101st), and popped into every single Duane Reade on the way (3? 4? I forget) to search for a particular make up brand because I had nothing else better to do. Only thing is, with every happy person I saw socialising on the street, I wanted to run up to them with a CV typed up of my best Friend Attributes and beg them to adopt me. Or hold up a sign saying "BEFRIEND ME! I'M PRETTY AWESOME!". 

I'm so not a fan of big unfriendly cities.

A Round up of Romanian Castles

Tonight, I will spend my first night in my dorm room. I feel uncomfortable because I don't know anyone around me, have no idea how to meet anyone (knock on doors?), am still stuck on the male side of the dorm (which means I can't fully unpack in case a female room opens), and am missing rubbish like pillows and shampoo because the bloody mail room is closed (work on Sundays goddamn it!). Meanwhile I find my anxiety going through the roof (ahaha, of course) as I start to panic and do my best to avoid Bad Dark Thoughts and be Optimistic Instead.

I really just feel like running all the way back to my Aunt's place in New Jersey.


Romania has 5 main touristy castles/fortresses: Bran Castle (most closely associated with the Dracula legend), Peles Castle (beautiful, but more like a palace), Rasnov Fortress, Corvin Castle and Fargaras Fortress. Of these, the first 2 are most well known, and the last two, the least well known, which doesn't make much sense.

Bran Castle
- The number #1 tourist attraction in Romania, and extremely touristy
- Very very crowded
- Restored, but very bare
- Minimal English historical write ups available

Peles Castle
- Very beautifully decorated, and very dramatic
- Set in a lovely forested area
- Open only select days and timings
- Historically used only as a summer home, so not much historical significance
- No English write ups at all (cause it wasn't open!)

Rasnov Fortress
- Largely unrestored, and accessible either by walking up the hill or by taking a tractor-train ride
- Almost zero historical information in English
- Filled with touristy shops - it was more like a bazaar

Corvin Castle
- In the midst of being restored
- Poor surroundings, it's in the middle of a rotting industrial zone (???)
- Very spectacular and breathtaking, it rises out like a formidable behemoth, with it's wooden bridge and all
- Again, minimal English write up, majority of it was in Romanian

Fargaras Fortress
- Not a very popular tourist attraction, and massively underrated
- Had the best English write ups, museum, and restoration
- Amazing, well fortified, visitors are able to walk all over with almost no restrictions
- Least crowded and most comfortable of all the castles and fortresses
- Even houses the local library, so it serves a purpose in the community

In sum, of all of the castles and fortresses we visited, I loved and enjoyed Fargaras the most.

A Student Again

In slightly over a week (a Wednesday I think), I will be starting life again as a new student, about 5 years after I first entered university as an undergraduate. As I think about this from the room I'm staying in with my parents in Sibiu, Romania, I cannot help but feel apprehensive and yet excited. For the past few days I've been travelling with my parents in Romania, and it's been great because I got to both see a nice new place and spend quality time with them. On the other hand now that our trip is drawing to an end (in just 3 more nights, counting this 1!), I'm starting to feel anxious again.

I'm feeling anxious because:
- Oh God I've got a chance again to make something bigger out of my life...
- But what if nothing comes out of it?
- Will I find long-lasting happiness out of this?
- What's my next path in life?
- I'm leaving my very very cosy comfort zone

My thoughts seemed a lot more beautifully drawn out when I was thinking in the shower. Then I came out and started typing away, my father saw me writing and started mocking me (as he always does) and someone turned on the TV. I guess one thing good about leaving home and them is I'll have more time and peace to think proper thoughts, provided I don't spend too much time brooding by myself.

12 Angry Men

Just finished watching 12 Angry Men while eating dinner, and it was amazing. With my brother alternating between curling up on the couch behind me and bouncing around, I spooned rice and chicken into my mouth with my eyes peeled to the screen. I love how the script was tight and the run time of the film was a manageable 1hr and 30mins, unlike many movies that are out in the market nowadays. One of the biggest problems I have with watching movies on my computer/not in a cinema is that I find myself getting restless and distracted by other things during slow parts, which was not the case for this film at all. Definitely recommend. 

I Must Nap Less

It's been almost a week since I've stopped working and I'm already bored. I've ended up spending almost every single afternoon napping and I'm all napped out, but I nap because I'm bored and feel sleepy in the warm afternoons when I'm huddled in my room and reading a book. I've already polished off Jonathan Franzen's Freedom and Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test, along with a graphic novel called Depresso. Today I even walked around the library in Clementi like an idiot because I had nothing else better to do, before realising I was just wasting mere seconds when I had whole hours to while away. Gosh.

In the past week I have: 
- Stopped work and said goodbye to all my classes
- Fucked up taking the bus twice (once missing a stop when I was with Gail and once boarding the wrong bus [!!!!!!!] while trying to rush to work on Sat - my last day of work)
- Watched two NT Live screenings at the Esplanade: Frankenstein and The Audience
- Mixed up the timings for Frankenstein (7pm, not 7:30pm!)
- Gone for a spa with Tiffany (fun and relaxing, but I need thinking of the baby cockroaches running around the jacuzzi now)
- Been to the Esplanade Library again to borrow more DVDs (12 Angry Men, I've Loved You For So Long and The Story of Adele H)
- Bought 5 books from Kinokuniya (or maybe it was 6?)
- Had 2 wisdom teeth extracted
- Watched I've Loved You for So Long and Barking Dogs Don't Bite
- Finished a cross stitch I was working on for my Mother's birthday present
- Visited the Gastroenterologist
- Accidentally got a quickie $10 haircut when I was looking for a proper hairdresser
- Bought clothes from Uniqlo
- Art Jammed with Shu Wen (she painted Paddington, me some random landscape)
- Had lunch with Mama at Imperial Jade
- Went to NTUC to buy last bit of food supplies
- Finished packing 2 boxes for shipping to my dorm
- Finished marking all the things for my Saturday classes
- Picked up the framed cross stitch to give to my Mum

In a little bit I'm going to leave to go deliver the worksheets to my ex-workplace in Buona Vista, and grab dinner with Ianthe afterwards. I suppose I'm bored because I never really know what to do with myself even when I have a just the slightest bit of down time, especially after having had my time sucked up by work for the last two years, which is quite bad really. Nevermind, it's only one more week till I leave with my family to travel in Romania. 

Oh And...

...I failed my Practical Driving Test and spent the rest of the day (18 July) half bawling my eyes out and half moping. Even now thinking about it makes me feel testy. I do not want to think about it. Urgh.

Last Tuesday of Teaching

Today was my last class with my tiny Sec 1 IP class. As usual only one person turned up (I don't think I've had more than two people together in that class for weeks), and it happened to be my favourite one (terrible how teachers have favourites eh?). J is a good kid that's pretty bright and quick on the uptake, plus I had solo sessions with him so often that we were used to it by now. Even after class had ended he lingered for a while, talking about random things, which I appreciated. I guess that's his way of trying to drag out our last moments together, which made me smile.

After work I went to Courts today and finally bought a new camera. I realised to my utter horror last week when I had my last lesson with my P4 students on Wednesday that the camera wasn't working properly. Every picture came out horrendously dark ): I had already noticed it when I was on holiday with my parents in Boracay, but hadn't realised just how bad it was until it was too late. Urgh. So I went off today and bought a Canon IXUS 140 for to replace the old family camera. I'm still not convinced it's the best I could have bought, but my Mum was adamant that I buy either a Canon or a Nikon. In other news earlier today I bought a camera for my own personal use (Lumix LF1) from Lazada. I really really REALLY hope I actually get my camera and not some empty box :x but at $310, a savings of $190, the risk seems worth it. Fingers crossed.

In other news I wandered about town with Daryl and Chong Wee on Sunday. We met for Brunch at Park, where I finally got to try the Tiramisu Pancakes, and then we headed off to tramp about the city area. We started at Raffles Place, playing with the swings, and then walked to Victoria Theatre, taking a stop at Fullerton Hotel along the way. I don't think I've managed to walk about so freely in a long time, feeling free and excited to explore my surroundings. It did get however, bloody hot after a while. In the end we parted after exploring Victoria Theatre and I headed off to the Esplanade Library to borrow DVDs.

I ended up borrowing:
1) Finding Mr Destiny (Purposely Daft Korean Rom-Com)
2) Kolya (Touchingly Funny Academy Award Winner)
3) The In-Laws (Slapstick '70s Comedy)
4) Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (Time Travelling Stoner-like Flick?)
5) The Flowers of Evil (Some French Dark Comedy)
6) Barking Dogs Never Bite (Some Japanese Dark Comedy)

As it stands I've already watched the first three, all with my Mum incidentally, and she liked them all. The last three I'm not sure if she'd like, so I decided to save them for another time. I cannot emphasise how much I love the Esplanade's DVD lending library. My tax dollars (all $500 of it) at good work baby!

7 Jalan Harom Setangkai

I spent my formative years growing up in 7 Jalan Harom Setangkai. It was the family home that my grandparents had bought in the late '70s as an investment for them and their 3 children, and it became my home from 1997 to 2001. Around 1997, my parents decided they couldn't afford to pay the mortgage on our current house, so they decided swallow their pride and move back to my grandparent's place. The move made sense, after all my grandparents now had 3 free rooms because all their adult children had moved out, and at 7 I was an absolute pest about being separated from my grandmother. We ended up staying there till end of 2001 (I don't remember moving during the school year), so I spent a good chunk of my childhood in that place, and it definitely left a strong impression on me.

Living in that house as a chid was great. My grandparents were always around during the day time (OK, not great when my grandmother came after me to study) and there were lots of area to play around in. There was the old wooden bar which was a massive dust bomb because the maid completely ignored it - felty green carpet and all, the staircase landing in the middle that had its own little window and curtain - which was excellent for playing 'house' in, and the large garden complete with all sorts of plants and trees. The house was also filled with all sorts of odd knick knacks. I once found movie film canisters in my grandparent's room [see: second floor, area on bottom right labelled 'junk'] sitting next to a rusting treadmill, and I would play with the wood shavings and various substances my dad would use for his luthier hobby out on the back balcony. Fruit season was fun too, because the rambutan tree always blossomed like crazy, and there were always rambutans to eat.

I have many memories associated with that place, all of them warm and fuzzy, from a time where I was less anxious and less scared of everything. Thinking about it makes me feel happy and safe, but it also makes me feel a little sad because I know that the 7 Jalan Harom Setangkai I remember only exists in my recollections. After we moved out in 2001, the house was completely torn down and rebuilt, then my grandparents sold it and the new owner decided to rebuild the house from scratch (again! Ahaha).

Today after picking my grandparents up to go to lunch, we ended up driving past the old house. Of the entire row of houses along Jalan Harom Setangkai, number 7 was the only house that had been altered completely beyond recognition from my childhood. Still, I should be thankful that I have so many vivid and nice memories of my childhood home. 

Preliminary Reading

"In the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith thought that the primary role of education in the eighteenth century was to compensate for the 'almost entire corruption and degeneracy of the great body of the people', that resulted from the mind-numbing jobs which most people were expected undertake in return for increased wages"- Introduction in Education, Globalisation and Social Change.

I giggled. Am not looking forward to work starting again tomorrow.

Today I saw Two Hubcaps

I don't know when I first learnt the word "hubcaps". I remember knowing it from a young age, and I seem to vaguely remember asking my Dad what it was when I was about 6, because I kept seeing the word in Archie comics. Several of the running gags in Archie comics involve Archie's sad jalopy that keeps failing, including a few which featured both the wheels and hubcaps flying off in the midst of being driven. Thankfully cars aren't actually like that.

Today I had yet another driving lesson. While driving around (we seemed to have moved on from parking to refining my road skills), I saw a hubcap lying about on a grassy kerb area. Later on the way home on 156, I saw yet another hubcap lying on a grassy area, this time pretty far from a road. Pretty odd to see two abandoned hubcaps in one day.

Random Things to Note, Lest I Forget

Met up with Rufus for brunch today at Holland Village. He brought along a friend, Boon Guan, whose name seemed familiar but whose face I couldn't place. No matter, we had a great brunch together at Breko. By the end of brunch I wanted to run off and rest my horribly winded lungs - we had talked so much that I felt like I couldn't speak anymore. I suppose that's one way to determine great meal partners.


Last week we had a lesson on protecting the high seas. It was bits of climate change, pollution and overfishing all rolled up together in a ball of bad things. I decided to concentrate more on overfishing, because I didn't recall it being taught very much in school at all. All the bits I knew about Bad Fishing Styles and overfishing came from outside reading, so it wasn't till I pieced all my information together when I was planning my lesson that I finally realised how dire the whole situation is. As it is before that, I had already refused to touch pomfret because I know they're horribly overfished, but still kept chomping away on tuna and shark's fin.

Anyway, I had heard about dynamite fishing before, and set about trying to find some clips. Everytime I think of dynamite fishing, I cannot help but laugh blithely, because despite how incredibly destructive it is to the environment (which makes most people sober), the act itself seems to me so ridiculously over the top and overly aggressive that I cannot help but laugh. Bombing fish! That's like throwing a grenade to catch a rabbit. It's the stuff of movies like Naked Gun. Except it's real life, which makes it even funnier and sad at the same time, and so makes me laugh even more.

I ended up typing "dynamite fishing" into youtube (as you do), and realised that the first result given was possibly one of the most funniest things I have ever seen in my life. It wasn't until I watched it for the first time with audio with my students that I realised some parts of the clip has been dubbed over for comedic effect, which made the video even better.

It reminds me of Exploding Whale, which I saw a few years ago and absolutely loved:

Perhaps it's just because it's the perfect combination of things that makes me laugh: death, explosions, and black humour (though, what does this say about me as a person?)


Today after dinner with my grandparents, they sent us back home. They took a different route from my parents and we ended up driving home via Old Holland Road. The last time my grandfather had been driving me along Old Holland Road was when I was still a student in MGS, probably circa 2006. He kept mentioning how he used to drive me, asking me if I remembered, and chuckling to himself. Then just as we turned the corner to enter Greenleaf Road, he asked me if I remembered how the wall of the house at the corner had collapsed, closing the road temporarily. I was quite amazed because it was EXACTLY what I was recalling just moments before, and made me feel a little warm and fuzzy inside. Ah, shared memories of other people's misfortune. 

So Close, So Far

Just watched So Close, So Far with Shu at the Iranian Film Fest. By a stroke of luck I manage to hop onto both 75 and 970 with minimal waiting and arrived home just before 12am, which is a great way to end the day, and put me in a more amiable mood to blog.

I liked the movie initially right until the last bit. I like foreign films that are slice-of-life, peeps into other worlds. The problem I find with this film was that towards the end it felt terribly improbable and depressing (unless 0.01% of every Iranian dies trapped in a sandstorm covered car), with some bits feeling a bit overacted and overwrought. It reminded me a bit of a Russian movie I had seen at the East End Film Festival years ago in 2010, which is still by the far the most depressing and bleak movie I have seen in my 24 years of existence. I remember running to the movie theatre from Stepney Green tube because the Hammersmith Line was delayed. I remember clocking the various fried chicken stores all over as I ran. I remember sitting in stunned silence when the movie came to the end because, WTF?!

Anyway I guess in comparison to that, the Iranian film was much less of a downer. It had some nice shots of Iran, which I really liked seeing, though the shots of the harsh desert landscape made me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps it's because I don't like the idea of being so utterly far from human life. True enough, that's how the main character dies (from being alone and trapped in the wilderness), confirming all my worse city-born stereotypical fears.

Have just started trying to select classes for the upcoming Fall Term, which makes me feel a bit better about things. Lately work has been overwhelming and (largely) unrewarding, which already makes for shit morale. Compounding the problem however is the fact that I know I am serving my resignation notice period, which makes me feel even less motivated, no matter how much I do love and care for my students. Although I know the lack of enthusiasm I feel now is only temporary, it still feels horrid. It makes me feel like pulling grumpy faces at the world. Talking to colleagues helps I suppose, because they understand exactly what nonsense I am talking about, and talking to Shu today over dinner helped too, because she feels similarly. Ah life and jobs.


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