venerdì 5 ottobre 2018

The last day in Singapore

And here we are, our last day in Singapore.
It came fast, invasive and unwanted. We didn’t manage to do many things we really wanted to, the last few days flew by in a cloud of bureaucracy, work deadlines and annoyances.
But although we didn’t see again some places we loved, at least we managed to say goodbye to the people that made our stay in Singapore a unique experience.
We will miss you all (I still can’t believe this is it!) and I leave with the certainty that true friendship does not care about distance and time zones. Relationships remain and I am grateful for having you in my life.
We will see you soon
r.& M xxx

mercoledì 5 settembre 2018

A month before we go back home

One month exactly to our repatriation date.
I can’t describe how fast this 2018 has gone, the desire to travel and explore this part of the world is intact, so much we have not seen… there is still so much to do, experience, feel, taste and instead I’m packing my bags and thinking about these past two years with some regrets, but also gratitude.
I have been through weeks of denial and rejection of the idea we had to go (no chance for another extension). I got to the point the husband had the ticket to go and I didn’t…
If only I could rewind time and start all over again… I would do it differently. I wish I could start with my current mind set. I can now let go, I can now step back and feel less intensely about everything, I no longer have to be liked (I failed miserably at this in the office, oh well…).
A quick trip to UK and Italy in August boosted my desire to go back home. I have now come to terms with the end of our (hopefully first) Asian adventure, I am now happy to live closer to the people I care for.
It’s not a return, it’s not a defeat, it’s the beginning of a new adventure for us, definitely bigger than Asia and the only place for me to start this adventure is near the Bomparolas, the Corradis, the friends we have made over the years and over the countries in Europe.
I had time to reflect on the past 2.5 years, I had the chance to treasure the amazing memories and digest the hard bits, and God I feel blessed!
How lucky I have been to be sent here, to be living and experiencing such a different, rich and diverse culture. Who would have ever imagined that I would have the chance to see so many faces, to meet so many lives and to see so many stars in the night sky!
I’m truly grateful to life for this time and although with eyes full of tears, I can only smile to fate and say thank you!

sabato 30 dicembre 2017

Reflections of 2017 – part 4

Outside of the holidays and foods, the approach and acceptance of realising bodily noises in any scenario, my abiding memory is best summarised as this: no-one says “excuse me”.
It was Roby who sussed it some months back.
The locals push past. It’s not that they behave as if you don't exist, like we can often feel with certain tourists; rather, it’s just not a part of the day-to-day vocabulary.
And then, the moment you politely question the situation, they apologise like they just dropped a massive shit on your breakfast plate.

Example….blocked by family welcoming home mother as I exit Changi airport.

Marco thinks “that’s sweet, but I don't need that level of thoughtless shit after less than 40 hours sleep and about 40 hours of flight-time in 7 days.”

Takes deep breath, applies standard British approach and apologises…

“sorry excuse me, can I squeeze past?”

Cue chorus of "Sooorrrreeeeeee" as everyone moves out of the way.

As we head towards our new year in Singapore, for me that’s the abiding memory of 2017.

It’s the general lack of thoughtfulness and kindness, an appreciation and recognition of others around you. It’s not malicious, it’s just not there.

There are posters on trains, god-awful a-6-year-old-could-have-come-up-with-a-better-rhyme phrases, trying to get the locals to think about others, not just themselves.

There’s a kindness movement, with Ben and Bang (I’m not making this shit up!) in adverts on TV, trying to teach people to be nicer to strangers;

Here are a couple of the posters you can see on the MRT:
What aspects of anti-social travel behaviour do you think “bag-down Benny” and “hush-hush Hannah” are trying to get across?

Here’s the full gang outside taking a well-deserved break from another day of failing to get their points across….

There’s a word for this behaviour, or self-first: kiasu;

I took exception to hearing one of our Australian contacts refer to Singaporeans in this fashion – I still don't think it's a nice phrase to use in reference to the locals, but the word is derived within the Hokkien culture; it’s a Singaporean description for Singaporeans. And regretfully, it hits the spot to describe what you encounter more often than not.

So that was 2017!
It has been brilliant and fantastic, difficult and troublesome, so relaxed I wondered if I would ever be able to get up again, and so intense that we thought we would both explode. We've had visitors, stay with us, or stay locally for work and / or pleasure. We've travelled lots, but it still feels like not enough. We've eaten things that should never be eaten, and experienced moments of such uniqueness, that we will likely never repeat, that I sometimes wonder if they actually happened.

Have a fantastic new year to all of you, our family and friends.
We’ll be celebrating it here in  Singapore, at a party looking over the bay, with free-flowing food and drink. Should be a prime location for the fireworks, and loads of selfie opportunities! That assumes we haven't both gotten so rat-arsed we are asleep in the corner and miss it all.
We both have form in this matter, so wish us luck, and lots of red bull based drinks.

See you all in 2018 X

Reflections of 2017 – part 3

Cambodia in August
Glorious temples, and unbearable heat! If Singapore has been bad, never have we experienced greater humidity and more heat than walking through Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.

It was truly beautiful, ancient temples slowly being consumed by nature, man seeking to hold back the tide.
The fusion food we tried in Embassy, delicious! With geckos watching us through the windows.

Eating bugs? Turns out if you cook them and flavour them with French pastry and sauces, then all they are is a mental block to swallowing and a photo opportunity to share later.
The Cambodian people, so kind and helpful, so many smiles, so much gratitude, despite the poverty.

The town always awake, or so it seemed; the brown dust and mud (that persists to this day in the treads of my trainers), the poverty of the water village. A truly beautiful place to visit.

Vietnam in October
The madness of Hanoi, crossing the street by not looking at the cars and motorcycles, trusting they will flow around you, like water around a rock…a rock that is slowly crossing a river, trying not to show any fear that the water is going to kill it.
The night market, the dancing on the street around the lake; how everyone lives on the street, not just cooking and eating food, sat on what can only be described as pre-school sized plastic chairs and tables, but working, welding, selling, even having hair cuts.

The motorbike is king! Deliveries are made by bike, gas cylinders, hundreds of helium-filled balloons, chickens and all manner of animals and vegetables, are all transported by bike. The traffic makes it the most convenient form of transport. Even the Grab taxis that we use in Singapore (similar to Uber) offer motorbike pillion taxi travel in Hanoi. For the brave or desperate only!

The serenity of cycling and being paddled down the river in Tamcoc in Ninh Binha.

And Halong Bay...
The serenity, beauty...silence, while kayaking into grottos and the junk sails further into the bay...a barbeque on a secluded beach....which changes the moment our allotted time is up, as we are suddenly swamped by tourism-overload.

Another country we will go back to in 2018, the middle and South need us to visit too.
And the other trips and events…work with a twist of fun, work just for work…Europe for weddings or wedding anniversaries, Norway for stop-overs, Singapore for the National Day….we’ve done so much that the level of tiredness we feel presently makes a lot more sense if considered in the context of travel. And 2018 threatens to be just as busy, even more so.
So how can I sum up this trip so far……….?

Reflections of 2017 – part 2

Phuket Thailand in April
The James Bond island, famous as the backdrop from The Man With The Golden Gun, the face-off between Roger Moore's 007 with Scaramanga.

Asians and Westerners all posing, hands clasped together with index fingers pointing, loaded weapons ready for the photo opportunity. Seeing the 2 Asian ladies posing, so different in style and yet both so equally mesmerising…in a car-crash / "WTF" way!

The posture of the Chinese tourists in the waiting room....don't worry if it’s a public area, just relax, treat it like home. Belch, yawn, snort the phlegm in and eat it. It’s all perfectly acceptable. Oh, feeling a bit warm? Cool off by raising your t-shirt over your belly. That’s better…
On the return the air stewardess…. "boarding paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.....". I think I was sitting by the time she ended that word (more on the local use of English at a later blog-date).

Tourists are weird. So interested in visiting other nations, seeing what must be seen, getting themselves as many photos as possible, and yet often so unthinking of local cultures, and what is appropriate.

The Chinese tourists are probably the worst we have seen overall, but not just from our trip to Thailand. When we went to buy a new TV in Mustafa's, Chinese tourists would loudly walk in front of everyone, no regard for people other than themselves, literally as if no-one else exists. It has just never happened, in any society where I have spent any time, that while shopping, looking at shampoo, with barely 30cm between you and the shelves, that someone comes and stands in front of you. And yet it happened to Roby. All it needed was a Chinese tourist who had an interest in looking at the same goods.

But in Phuket, it was the Russian tourists who stood out as the biggest wankers; no modesty on display, the women in bikinis, the men topless in shorts, all of them bright red from too much sun.

Still, the best tourist moment….(drum roll)…. goes to China and the Chinese gentleman pretending to take a photo of the rock formation, whereas when I passed behind him saw he was actually taking close-up photos of Russian cleavage.
Maybe such “materials” are not readily obtained from the internet in China? Or can only be secured at personal risk?
Just think, he might literally explode with excitement if he went to the Jeju Island sex park.

Tokyo in June
A trip by train to Kamakura, and walking on the beach. A sunny day, with children playing in the water, kites being flown.
The Westerners soaking as much sun as possible, the Asians wrapped up in clothes, wide-brimmed hats, arm covers, for fear of tanning, or sitting in little tents safe from the rays of Vitamin D while enjoying their more compressed views of the sea.
Weddings and newly-weds posing in town, being photographed by their official photographers, friends, and visiting strangers ;)
Eating tonkatsu in our favourite tonkatsu restaurant in the world, Katsukura in Shibuya.
Trends 2017, the Ishibe-san retirement party, and ending the night in a karaoke bar. “Big in Japan” by Alphaville was my song of choice.

“Oh Sole Mio” was our duet – needless to say we didn’t choose the song, it appeared on screen and 2 microphones appeared as if by magic in our hands.

‘course we nailed it.  ;)