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.

martedì 30 maggio 2017

Thailand and the Chinese tourists

In order to have something to look forward to at the end of our Florentine week, the husband has very sweetly booked a short break in Phuket, yay! He knows how to spoil me :D
Tired, absolutely unprepared but excited we make our way to Thailand on a Wednesday morning.
All goes well and we are welcomed in this beautiful hotel in the south of the island by its own beach, we check in and relax! Marco falls asleep pretty much instantly (admittedly we got up at 5 in the morning) and I do my challenging exercises (that I am more and more sure won’t improve my look but just damage my back..).
An hour later we hit the beach, looking forward to our break by the seaside 😃
There is no loungers on the beach, we are given towels and a plastic mat, which is ok, we are soooo thrilled to be there. Half an hour later I am deep asleep on the mat, covered in sweat like a mermaid (well, this is how I like to picture myself 😜).
The sky is cloudy, but I don't care and I go for a swim (or dip, however you want to picture it) in a darkening but still inviting sea.
It’s all good; we decide we don't need to take too much in, let’s take it easy and tomorrow, first thing in the morning we come down to the beach and we go a bit further down where you can rent loungers for the equivalent of 5 pounds a day, for 2!
In the evening we go to the hotel restaurant for Thai food, delicious even though not very traditional. Satisfied and happy to have booked a day to James Bond island we go to bed just when it starts raining.
The morning after is raining, consistently and heavily, through breakfast (which is by the way AMAZING), through lunch and all afternoon.
Nonstop. Until the day after.
We try not to get too much affected by it, we stay by the bar of the hotel overlooking the sea (people more desperate than us are actually swimming), we read, relax, sweat. The humidity is unbearable. It bring us all sort of creatures, geckos, flying ants, and massive flies are everywhere and don’t hesitate to get close to us even though we are sweating out all the DEET we are covered in.
The day after a bus comes to pick us up for the tour, yay!
We go to a pier to get a speed boat. It is still raining but we find a very entertaining distraction: Chinese Tourists.
And possibly the classiest in the whole world. They occupy an area with sofas and chairs just behind us, and without any consideration of being in public they sit in all sort of positions.
We start taking selfies of us in order to capture their poses in the background. 
(PLEASE try not to look at me, just focus on the people behind us!)

Here we go, the day has brightened!
The speedboat comes and I am sitting right under the hole in the tent above, it’s raining at speed on my head. I hate when it rains on my head. I can’t even describe how much I hate it. I 
By the time we get close to JB island, the rain easies and we are able to enjoy the scenery and dry up a bit.
No words to describe the natural beauty. It’s breath taking!
Too many tourists though. Too many selfie sticks, groups, children and vendors.
It is actually a bit sad that the ability of seeing places has been lost, I am as culpable as everybody else. Everything is watched and experienced through a phone or a camera in the best case.
The selfie poses are hilarious, from the Russian lady with a perfect body (aaarrghh!) and a flower in her head (fake boobs though), to the Chinese fat woman in a nonsense pose with arm sleeves.

This is not only reason for laugh with incredulity, it is all good experience, learning and a more open mind.
We are ecstatic. We loved the James Bond island and we cannot wait to go back and explore more of Thailand. Phi Phi island is on my list, as well as Krabi, Bangkok and the rest of the country.
Back at the hotel after the killing exercises (supposed to eventually give me the body of a 20 years old) we go for a swim at twilight, the sky is patched with dark clouds, but with some clear spots too, the lights of the hotel are illuminating the palm trees and the beyond green vegetation. Pure bliss. (I am also learning to enjoy everything, without getting to obsessed about the lack of sun, which usually is the main thing I want).
The day after is cloudy, humid like hell and miserable. We spend the day by the pool and dip into the sea just before we go and pack our bags.
The sun comes out, just when we enter a taxi to the airport.

mercoledì 26 aprile 2017

ONE year in

Our first year in Singapore has passed so quickly that we have not yet had the chance to acclimatise.

Time is flying and I am not happy about it. I am aging at the same pace.

This past year we have travelled a lot, especially in Japan and Korea, seen amazing places, met wonderful people, tried all sorts of exciting (and not) delicacies, re-encountered old friends, missed friends, missed the families, established the “bestie” relationship, drunk loads of wine, champagne (mainly travelling Singapore Airlines) and sake, eaten too much MSG and too few vegetables, got rid of socks, got a more decent skin tone (less corpse-like and more human), found out I can actually sweat, seen paradise on earth, changed job, experienced solitude, answered some very funny and weird questions, realised the importance of my bimby, missed M&S and Waitrose, got gold card membership and beyond, got stressed like never before, found a grand piano in my kitchen (not my piano, and temporarily not my kitchen), got a new nephew, celebrated our first wedding anniversary, missed my mini pretty much every day, got rid of my glasses, accepted looking like a lioness most of the time, got used to living with damp armpits, got used to being either too hot or too cold (never ok), had my first pedicure, bought a couple of gorgeous swimming suits, received a Burberry for my birthday, and a Prada for Christmas (from different people in case you are thinking about the extravagance of the expat life style), done pilates in a park in tropical weather, walked 24 Km in Kyoto, cycled under a thunderstorm, felt appreciated, felt like a bitch, got very annoyed, very happy, very emotional, very emotion-less, woken up many times by thunder (and got fucking scared when the husband was not responding to my prodding as he was sleeping deeply through one), read a unique series of books and felt totally empty when I finished them, became addicted to Netflix, achieved first Level in Chinese language, put a picture on my desk, found a dead cockroach under my desk, worked my ass off, felt absolutely mad and incredulous, started drinking milk in coffee, started using linen sheets, applied for British residency, didn't get British residency, applied for British residency again, started talking with an old friend after more than 10 years, wrote an unprecedented number of PCMs, got my first ECG (almost got confused with EGR, doh!), became used to telling taxi drivers which way to go, felt frustration like never before, missed fireplaces, took LOADS of FaceTime calls, bought new furniture, became a landlady, lost weight, put on weight, wore out clothes and shoes, shopped for summer clothes (every time I go shopping), used litres of mosquito repellent…

I could go on forever, but figured I will need to leave something for year #2.

The adventure continues. Week break now, for an Italian wedding; we will be back in Asia very soon.

sabato 11 marzo 2017

What's so wrong with tiramisu?

We ended this week with a dinner with a car manufacturer customer, in a high end restaurant overlooking the marina that spins slowly. 90 minutes for one rotation. A high end place with a high end menu and a high end price to boot. Our guests were Asian and American, and we, the hosts, Asian and European.

The soup course. I recognised some of the food as I ate it...sometimes chewing quickly, sometimes choosing not to chew and not to think too much about what I was not chewing. I saw pondering on the faces around me, a furrowed brow, a question forming, and then asked.... "What is this?"

I had my mouth full, with the last of my bowl.
Don't answer, just don't answer
"Fish stomach in chicken broth"
I thought it was fish bladder. Still....
Swallow, drink wine, think of chips.

Other courses came and went. Those more visually paltable were eaten in silence. Those that were more local in appearance were challenged. Didn't see many non-Asians clean up the abalone. I did of course, it was delicious. I thought it was a meaty was served with rice and was very mushroomy in taste. No, apparently it's a sea snail.
Tasty or not, it's a snail.

A. Fucking. Snail!

And at the end, never had before, birds nest!
Consisting of birds nest, egg white and coconut, served as a warm broth in a coconut shell.

"Why is it called birds nest?"
It tasted ok. Don't answer, please don't answer....
Because it's made from the nests of birds that are found in coastal areas. The nest is cleaned and then used in sweet soups as a delicacy, affording a delicious gelatinous base.

Roby ate slowly at that point. I focused on extracting egg, you know where you stand with egg. Comes out of a hen's arse but it's in a case that can be discarded.

Why does knowing what you are eating affect how it tastes? Thinking is over-rated in these situations, but can't be avoided. The focus in Asia is on the taste, but more so, on the best bits, on eating something expensive. Fish bladder or stomach is good for you, birds nest is high end and expensive. Fish cheek, fish tail, and it wouldn't surprise me, rats arse. I recall the technical summit in Shanghai in 2016 and how we left a beer hall, which had fried food and seats and above all shit-loads of beer, to go to an expensive restaurant where we didn't eat the expensive food that was on offer, because it wasn't fried or beer.
Was still a great evening, BPC knows about the best places, and we had fun. Ended the evening wandering around the funfair and Festival of Lights.

This morning, having finished our coffee and chocolate biscuits in bed, a lazy Saturday treat, Roby wondered out loud what would be wrong with a dessert of tiramisu. An espresso to go with it. In this apartment Asia is outside; we venture out and experience it, and then lie here amazed that we tried it, ate it, swallowed it...we even bring it in sometimes, but we westernise it.

Roby misses tiramisu. I miss sticky toffee pudding. I think we will do our bit for nature and henceforth endeavour to leave the birds nests where they are, for the birds.