domenica 26 novembre 2017

Finally Vietnam!

A couple of weeks ago we decided to escape to Vietnam for a few days.
We really needed a break, it was best time of the year to visit Halong Bay and it was my birthday.
So off we went to the north of Vietnam for 6 days.
6 days is definitely too short for this amazing country, but we managed to get a flavour of this beautiful crazy place.
Hanoi is the busiest city we have seen so far.
By far.
The number of motorbikes around is mind blowing. And even more so is what it’s carried on each motorbike: people (from 1 to 4-5 including babies), animals (we have seen a cage full of hens), stuff (from massive number of balloons , Up-style, to wall mirrors).
They don’t necessarily stop at traffic lights, and definitely do not stop at zebra crossings.
Therefore, walking in Hanoi is an adventure. With pavements occupied by motorbikes for rent and street food ‘restaurants’, streets full of cars, bikes, motorbikes, pedestrians and sometimes animals, you pretty much walk in the middle of the street where motorbikes zig-zag around you.
Plus the constant honking, in a non-aggressive way though, just to let you know they are there and they are not stopping to let you pass.
Pure madness.
But a safe and organised madness, in a way.
Then another reason why this is one of the craziest places we have visited so far, is the street.
Life happens on the street. The cooking, the eating, the selling, the hair-cutting, the nail varnishing, the grooming, the dish washing, and even some personal washing.
It all happens on the street. Fascinating is an understatement.
We have to try it, so birthday dinner is cooked (by us) on a tiny table, sitting on a tiny chair on a pavement. Tom Yam soup, or something similar. Nice, cheap and heart-warming. No-one speaks English, so no-one offers us any drink, one more reason to hit the pub later.
And it’s festive. Every night. And not in a touristy way, but in a very local way, with music playing around the lake and LOADS of people dancing, strolling around, kids driving tiny motored cars and teenagers buying stuff at the night market.
A happy mess.
After not even two days in Hanoi, we went on a day trip to Nihn Bihn region, Tam Coc to be precise.
Where the limestones are on land and the rice fields surround them.
A blissfully green landscape we enjoyed on a bike, followed by a boat ride on the river (locals row with their feet!).

It’s finally time to relax and we leave the busy city to go on the bay. After hours on the road (single line and questionable safety) we arrive at Halong City (via a water puppet show and a visit to a massive souvenirs shop).
We took a boat to Ba Tu Long Bay, only to return after two nights.
The scenery is breath-taking, the noise is forgotten, phones don't connect, wifi is not available, we are isolated, and fully immersed in the most peaceful nature.
Kayaking, swimming, bbq on tiny beach and drinks on the boat are the activities for the day.

By the time I get used to being spoiled, it’s time to come back.
Sweet, sweet Vietnam! I am not done with you. I will see you very soon.

giovedì 9 novembre 2017

Little rant

Today I went back to the office after almost two weeks of absence. A few days holiday followed by a short trip to China meant I have not been at my desk for a little while.
So today I go back (reasonably) happy. Usual colleague (the one from 'mmmmmhhh sun, cancer… Hugh Jackman' comment) is there when I arrive and first thing he does is to point at my face, my skin that these days is worse than a flowering field.
How wonderful.
A male colleague in their 50’s commenting on my spots. All I needed to boost my confidence.
Thanks T. I love you too, and I love being back.


sabato 30 settembre 2017

The last couple of months

We are so behind in reporting our adventures that maybe easiest thing to do is bullet points and photos:

  • We had our first visitor in August. Teresa arrived just before National Day and made us feel like tourists again
  • We saw the fire works on the bay for Singapore 52nd birthday
  • Went to Siem Reap for a weekend: AWESOME place and AWESOME people.
  • We continue pushing our gastronomic boundaries by eating insects, flies and spiders. I had something stuck in my throat for a few days (or did I just imagine it?) but it was worth it.
  • It’s been an alcoholic August, cheers! With Dain visiting for one day, Davide for two, Andrea moving to Singapore and Dan doing handover with Marco we have been drinking all sort of spirits... (thank you Simon for having introduced us to Moscow Mule!)
  • We have been off to UK for about two weeks. It’s been a feast of food pretty much every day.
  • I wore my Burberry all the time, and jeans and sometimes socks. YAY! Small things that make me happy
  • We have spent quality time with family, friends and colleagues.
  • Weekend in Stavanger: autumn, graffiti and family delighted us!
  • And I have managed to send my citizenship application! Super-YAY!!! It’s been an adventure, but I made it :) and now I can only wait with my fingers and toes crossed that I will be invited to affirm my allegiance to the Queen.
  • Back to damp Singapore, I had to trade my straight hair for beautifully painted toes nails… I guess everything has a prize, so welcome back spots and shitty skin, but I will get you tanned ;)
  • I have found a sign that represents us perfectly! (It was not even mid-day.)

mercoledì 26 luglio 2017

The other side of the coin of an expat assignment--Brexshit

That I am very upset about Brexit is no secret.
But not everyone knows that it has happened at the worst time for me. I moved to Singapore just the month before the referendum. Marco and I watched incredulous, mad and heartbroken the results unfolding while the majority of the British population was enjoying a satisfying night sleep before waking up to an historical event.
Once the emotions eased and I was able to think logically, I realised that at the end of my expat assignment I could enter a totally new and maybe not so welcoming country, that I used to call home.
So, I decided to apply for the Permanent Residency. It was tricky, given the fact that all of my documents were in the UK. But with Marco’s help (and excellent organisational skills) I did it.
6 months later it was rejected. Our fault, we did not provide prove of employment. We were so busy in providing all sort of evidence that I missed one of the most important documents.
Clock is ticking, but what could I do?? Accept and move on.
I re-applied, providing this time an overwhelming amount of evidence. And I got it after only 3 months. Success.
I was so relieved! Until the day after, when the Government hinted to the possibility that EU citizen that already have PR, might need to re-apply with new (to be defined, or at least to be disclosed) application rules.
PR is not enough. Especially as it can be lost if more than 2 years are spent outside of the UK.
And guess what. I am living in Singapore with a two years contract. And my PR has been back dated to 2015.
So I decide I need to apply for British Citizenship in the UK. But I still live in Singapore, and I have exceeded the number of days I can be out of UK.
So I can apply and rely solely on HO discretion (risking to lose over 1000 pounds)
risk to lose the PR
end my expat assignment earlier.
I hate all of this from the bottom of my heart.
It makes me sick to even hear the word Brexit.
I just want it to go away.

lunedì 26 giugno 2017

Senso del gusto, addio

Oggi è festa a Singapore (fine del Ramadan) ma io lavoro perché in cambio prendo libero questo venerdì che viene, quando saremo già in Italia J
Grazie a Dio mancano solo 4 giorni alla partenza perché oggi abbiamo toccato il fondo, gastronomicamente parlando.
Lavoro da casa e Marco passa dal letto, al divano per mezza giornata prima di decidersi ad andare a nuotare. Poi ci va e mi lascia in pigiama seduta al tavolo della cucina al mio computer.
Torna, abbiamo fame e l’eco nel frigorifero.
Prepariamo cibo veloce, velocissimo. Cibo finto.
Cous Cous marocchino liofilizzato (con tutti gli ingredienti già dentro!) e tom yum noodles secchi al sapore di pesce, ma di pesce non si vede manco l’ombra.
Marco alla fine ha ancora voglia di qualcosa e affetta soppressata calabrese.
Papille gustative perdonateci, siamo stanchi e abbiamo bisogno di vacanza.

venerdì 16 giugno 2017

Our latest trip to Japan

Back to a ‘normal’ week in Singapore (see previous post).
Although to many it can seem exciting, travelling constantly is very tiring. Especially when it’s work related and after a day at work you need to go for dinner with colleagues and keep the conversation going…
I love Japan though.
And if trips to JTC are quite exhausting, I would go back now if I could, not to mention how I would love to live there!
Most of the days were sunny, not too hot and so perfect for walks at the weekend!!
We went to Yanaka on a Saturday to walk around houses from pre-WWII. It was very different from the rest of the city, an oasis of peace lost in time, with traditional tiny shops where the owners were cooking delicious rice crackers. Shrines in flowery gardens, the Japanese trees I love (and want in my garden when back home) and a very cool art shop. Ended up in Ueno park to see a lotus pond, that I could stare for hours, such was its charm…
The afternoon was sweet and it slowly dissolved in a not too busy Shimbashi area for dinner, in a Japanese/Spanish fusion restaurant.
That’s one more thing I love about Japan, there are so many fusion eateries! And so delicious!! I love the diversity and the experiments they do… even if it means eating pizza straight after some sushi while drinking red wine.
Something Italy is definitely not ready for.
On Sunday we took a train for a day trip to Kamakura. A lovely little city by the sea rich of temples and with the famous Daibutsu, massive Buddha.
The beach was crowded with Japanese families completely dressed and hiding from the sun in tents and desperate Westerners sucking up the sun while laying  on a very dirty beach, full of all what the tides have brought.
We strolled around, looked into the little, unique shops around, and bought cherry blossom shells.
Pure bliss!
There is something nostalgic about that country that touches my heart.
Lost in time but yet at the front of the most modern technologies.
So generous, hospitable and yet so traditional and inward facing. Definitely unique in its kind.

Till soon my beloved Land of the Rising Sun.



giovedì 15 giugno 2017

Die Slowly

Another day at work, another lunch in a local canteen and another ‘death in small dose’ as Pablo Neruda would say…
EVERY day I go for lunch with my colleagues I get a comment about me eating. EVERY SINGLE DAY.
It’s usually about me eating fast. I promise you, anyone would be fast compared to people that eat one noodle or rice grain at a time.
It can also be about me being hungry (we eat the same amount, and I am not particularly fat..), or how expensive my meal is (5 Singaporean dollars compared to the 3 they spend).
Every single day a bit of me dies. Every single day I wish I did not have to endure this. I wish I was not the different one, but I am. And even when I don’t want to notice it, it’s highlighted to me.
Whilst for many lunch is a break, for me it’s very much a meeting, part of my job.
I don’t want to sound negative, because it is not all bad, but the same comment every day is really hard to bear. It always has. What can I say, I am a sensitive soul.
Today we also talked about dishwashers, and the fact that is not common in Singapore. So young colleagues setting up a new house are not going to buy one because they don’t believe in it.
At my comment “You don’t have to believe in it, it’s not a religion” I had weird faces looking at me, mostly lost. So I am the weirdo that misses having a dishwasher.
Fucking yeah.