Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Getting Prata

While sending L and P to the airport, we stopped at Springleaf Prata Place at Jalan Tua Kong for an early dinner. This was a short stay in Singapore for them. Given their packed itinerary chockfull of meetings, they wouldn't have had the time to go out to any prata stalls or biryani shops for a few good ones. We had an hour before they were due to check in at the airport.

Pure carbs! Mmmm. We ordered prata kosong and chicken murtabak, accompanied by fish curry. It's gotta be fish curry. The chicken curry here isn't good. Ordered mutton curry too. For more flavors, beehoon goreng ikan bilis putih was added. I really didn't know how we polished off all these dishes. There was even a chocolate-banana prata, which was totally eaten.  

It was raining heavily and this meal totally hit a spot. It would definitely be better than a meal in-flight. We know the friends love spices and local eats like these. I needed a cold drink, which came in the form of a 'less sweet' teh ais limau. Our guests washed down dinner with steaming hot cups of teh halia, something unfamiliar yet familiar. Ginger tea with milk, Singapore style. They loved it.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Ghosts Don't Really Matter

I first flipped through Laura Whitcomb's 'A Certain Slant of Light' (2005) in a cafe in Thailand. Was intrigued and bought the e-copy without doing much research into it. Big mistake. The story started off strong. But at some point, I groaned because I thought it was going to turn into a cheesy love story. (Reviews here, here and here.)

Protagonist Helen is a ghost. She's been dead for 130 years, remaining at age 27. She has to attach herself to a human host (who's unaware of her existence) in order remain in the Light, so to speak. She picks very literary hosts who loves literature, reading and books. Then one fine day while at school with her current human host, schoolteacher Mr Brown, she met and fell in love with James, another ghost who remains at age 29.

James has taken over 17-year-old eleventh grade student Billy Blake's body because his spirit went wandering when he overdosed on drugs and had to be sent to hospital. So to the world, Billy Blake's alive and okay, except with some odd changes to temperament and doing much better academically. Helen found a body to sit in in 15-year-old Jenny Thompson who's Billy's schoolmate, so that she and James could be together in flesh. At that point, I groaned. It's essentially YA. Oh dear. What happened to that super promising plot?! This is not going to end in the way I think.

Mid-way, this book turns excruciatingly painful. Even tone changes. Almost died when I got to the end. 😐 Wasted my bloody time reading. No wonder I finished it over coffee. The supernatural elements are negligible. Apparently, this book might be made into a movie. Riiiight. It's 'Twilight' all over again.  πŸ˜±

All this I observed from the corner of the ceiling above them, but now I was passing out of the room, right through the roof. I felt my heart fold out like a blossom not only because Jenny had saved herself and Billy had found her but also because I was being drawn to heaven at last. I was sure I could see some light ahead and then James smiling at me as if through a hole in the sky no bigger than a cat.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Happy Lunches This Month

Many friends know that I'm not keen on them buying me gifts on special occasions. Can't quibble if it's something small, but knowing the friends, something 'small' takes creative effort and ends up being rather time-consuming for them. A card is very welcomed though. I love cards. I'm soooooo delighted that V heard me. Well, that's not to say she isn't naughty at times too, but I'm very glad she also largely chooses gifts in the form of donations to causes close to my heart, one of which is shark conservation. 🦈❤️

She has decided to buy me all my lunches this February. (Chehhh I forgot to take photos of our meals.) We meet fairly often, and getting out for lunch in the CBD on week days has been good between work meetings and all. Effectively, via all these meals, they make up a birthday gift! I can't quite object to being fed hearty and not-too-decadent food. I've definitely lucked out with this girlfriend whom I've known for a decade now. I admire her discretion, integrity and drive. She's a gem. I look forward to her friendship in the next decade and beyond.

I'm missing a photo of a coffee cup in this collage below. It's supposed to represent how I've been shamelessly stealing cups of kopi-o-siu-dai off of her since 2015 when she shifted office to this current one. She has got one of 'em fancy swipe/value cards at the foodcourt; for convenience's sake, she always buys coffee, yet refuses to accept payment or allow me to top up the card for her. So I've completely given up on trying to pay her for coffee. Hahahaha. I'm still leeching kopi-o-siu-dai off of her in 2017. πŸ˜πŸ˜‡πŸ˜˜

Thursday, February 16, 2017

華藝節 ::《ζš—ζˆ€ζ‘ƒθŠ±ζΊ》三十週年演出

At the curtain call of the Singapore show.

Bravely attended 'Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land'《ζš—ζˆ€ζ‘ƒθŠ±ζΊ》at Esplanade's Huayi Festival. Staged by Taiwan's Performance Workshop (葨演ε·₯作坊), this well-loved classic written by Stan Lai (賴聲川) was first performed in 1986 (when Taiwan is still under martial law and has been separated from mainland China for 40 years), and has had a number of film adaptations made since.

Esplanade has also brought in this play a decade ago for its Singapore debut. Of course I know nothing about it. 2017 is my first time watching the much-raved-about play. This 30th anniversary version is directed by super-talented actress, director and playwright Ismene Ting (丁乃筝). The girlfriend wanted to know the title of the song the actor sang right at the start. I assumed it was an original song written for the anniversary edition of the play, but an initial google search turned up nothing. It sounded familiar, so some furious googling the next morning led me to θ”‘η΄ηš„《θΏ½ε°‹》.

Two plays within a play. Of two bickering drama troupes that somehow booked a rehearsal space at the same time and date, creating loads of arguments and conflict. They eventually halved the space, and in a magical twist of brilliant scriptwriting, the actors began to complete one another's lines in spite of them rehearsing completely different plays set in different eras and storylines. Basically, it's really about separation and reunification. To choose to remember or forget, to live in the present or hold on to the ghosts of the past. There must be a political comment in there somewhere about Taiwan and China. Of which I refused to delve into. I didn't need the English surtitles since not much Min Nan (閩南θͺž) was spoken.

The play even bothered to use local references and even a mention of the actors acting in Jack Neo's play as a...corpse. πŸ˜‚ I rolled eyes at that. Some bits were seriously lame and super corny. There was a random character walking around looking for another equally useless person. I thought that was completely unnecessary. I only wished that the scenes with both plays interacting on their halves of the shared stage were increased. That was witty.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Watermelon Cake!

[πŸ“·: D]

After all the water activities, I finally decided to stroll out to Lazarus Island. When I came back, Y and A surprised me with a 'cake' of watermelon drizzled with yoghurt and yuzu-honey, and topped with gorgeous berries. Everybody sang that birthday song again. 😐 I was a little overwhelmed. Was this close to crying.

They didn't bring a ready 'cake'. They brought a box of berries and tubs of Greek yoghurt and all necessary ingredients, including knives and spatulas, and that heavy whole seedless watermelon. They chopped it up, did everything from scratch right there in the tiny kitchenette and assembled the cake beautifully! Wow.

I was wondering why on earth Y and A brought so many cooler bags onto the catamaran when beer and food were all sorted out. I assumed they held snacks for the children. I didn't think anything was up when I saw them bring out the watermelon before I left for that stroll. I only realized that people were up to no good when they instructed the little girls to take me up to the saloon and not to allow me to come down until further instructed.

Y and A! You both are truly the creative power couple lah! It was the perfect cake for the hot hot hot afternoon. Somehow people don't eat that much during trips out to sea and a cake like this was a great snack for everyone after being out in the sizzling sunshine. It checked off every one of my preferences for cakes (besides a low-sugar dark chocolate-Guinness cake) especially when yoghurt was used, and not cream. The sugar came from the natural sweetness of the fruits, and from that beautiful subtle yuzu-honey which lent depth.

See the cake topper? Missy made it for me. 😍 She knows I love Lego, ice-skating, writing postcards and mailing them out. The minifig is on skates. Wheeeee. There's a penguin. One day I'll go see them cute penguins in Patagonia and Antarctica. There's even a miniature postbox that can be opened. The tower simply signifies that I travel lots. Ohhh. I'm not going to think of it as Singapore Changi Airport's iconic control tower; am gonna imagine it as Seattle's Space Needle. Oof.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Day Out At Sea

I tend to shy away from most social events and parties. I grudgingly accept birthday meals and all that, but I try to wiggle out of bigger dos. I didn't bother to have such parties done at other 'coming-of-age' milestones.

To my utter horror, the man and the BFF made a thing of this 39th birthday by renting a catamaran for a day out at sea. They tried to keep it a secret from me, but that's not easy. I found out anyway, because of a botched text sent to me about rates for a catered BBQ. 🀣 When the first charter company screwed up with securing this specific catamaran they wanted, I was all ready to say 'scrap it'. But no, the bloody resourceful BFF found another better (and friendlier) charter company to give us another suitable catamaran with nicer options for food. The plan was back on track. It sounded so major. UGH. 😯

The weather gods decided to play very nice, giving us a break from the constant rains. It was a glorious day. Blue skies, fluffy clouds, sizzling hot but superbly windy. It would be the night of a full moon, so tidal current velocities were strong near the shore. Sailed out from Sentosa Cove and stopped at Lazarus Island for a stroll, a dip in the clean waters and some kayaking. Strong currents but the catamaran is a big-enough Leopard 51 Powercat and managed just fine, powering through the waves to the delighted squeals of the little girls who wanted 'big and bigger waves' as though we were on a rollercoaster. ☀️πŸ’¨πŸ–πŸπŸ›₯

My friends don't all know one another. Not even the BFF has seen all my more solitary and introverted girlfriends, even those who currently reside in Singapore. Think of a Venn diagram. Half of them don't even bother with having any social media presence. LOL. Having drinks or a meal together, or heading to a gig or an event is kinda easy and not-too-demanding. I see all these friends regularly. But asking for a huge chunk of the friends' time on a precious weekend is quite something else. I'm touched by these friends who merrily hung out all day. The few hours together gave me sufficient time to go up to each one to get a word and thank them for doing this. Almost teared at some of the hugs. Good job, people. πŸ–€πŸ’™πŸ–€

That's not to say I don't care about those who didn't come. Many good friends don't live in Singapore. People travel; others gotta work over the weekend; some aren't fans of sun and sea. We're old enough to understand why some of us prefer to stay away from large groups, and instead catch up separately one on one or with two more humans. I (introvert) totally get why. Please, we're not petty 18-year-olds. For those who couldn't come for many many reasons- get well soon; we begin anew in the morrow; may some days feel better than the others; my heart aches for your loss, and my thoughts are with you.

[πŸ“·: JC]

Monday, February 13, 2017

Round The World Stories

Dug into the stack of tsundoku and pulled out Wena Poon's 'The Proper Care of Foxes' (2009). This book must have been bought three or four years ago and I forgot about it till now. Oops. 11 short stories set around the world from Austin, Texas, to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, London and Somerset, England.

The writing is nuanced, concise and thoughtful. Some stories connect, some don't. Yet they don't feel haphazard in this collection. Many good ones totally worth a second read. Love the backstory and the deep platonic friendship between college roommates- typical Hong Kong girl Regina and flamboyant intergender American boy Siegfried, featuring in the second story 'Siegfried & The Avalance' set between New York, New Hampshire and Hong Kong, and the subsequent bonus essay at the end in 'Siegfried & Regina' set in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The eponymous title story 'The Proper Care of Foxes' is set in Somerset, England and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Edward has been retrenched from his high-flying job at the bank and while on garden leave, he moved back to stay with his mother in a small village in Somerset in order to get over the shock of it and plan his next move. He renewed acquaintance with an old university mate, and offered a room at his mother's house to host Malaysian-Chinese girl Meg Tan who's visiting the country again. Bit strange, yet not really.

I found a very enjoyable story in 'Vanilla Five'. It's almost hilarious, in how the author portrayed the realities of life, failed marriages and fake friendships. Chance meetings and stepping out of her comfort zone gave the protagonist a renewed lease of life and strength to carry on after two miscarriages, a stalled career, a divorce, and an urgency to get a job to make rent on her apartment.

I knew what Meg was thinking. I could hear the tape playing in her head. I had fallen off the precipice and was now groveling in the dirt as one of the newly divorced, sleeping around indiscriminately with musicians, waiters, doormen, truck drivers. 
She said, "But I worked so hard to convince Tom to come. He had to get a babysitter for his kids just to come to my party." Her voice rose to near scream, "Do you know how hard it is to get a babysitter on Halloween?" 
"Yeah, but he's forty-five. I've got a twenty-two year old guy. The sex is incredible, Meg. You should try it." I was lying of course - Sato wasn't twenty-two, but he looked it. I was enjoying this hugely. Diane Keaton damned, I was now Demi Moore. I could feel Meg quivering at the other end of the line, and suddenly felt bad for her and her Banana Republic outfits. "Look, seriously now, I'm coming with Sato and his band. You'll like them. Didn't you use to like indie rock in college?" 
"But what do I tell Tom?" wailed Meg. 
"You must have another divorced thirtysomething woman friend in New York that you could invite. Don't even tell him there was a switch." 
She considered. "That's true." She then began to blather happily about another woman she had thought of whom might work. 
I hung up on her, glad that I had restored world peace, and went back to looking for a costume in Vanilla Five.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

One Last Lo-Hei For the Huat

The Lunar New Year of the Fire Rooster has well and truly begun. Hardly anyone bothers to celebrate the 15 days of it. Dunno why we're still lo-hei-ing. Some people are trying to achieve 15 lo-heis this year. Ha. I don't mind eating yusheng, especially homemade versions. Hehehehe.

We were super disciplined- no alcohol was ordered at the table. Not even beer. Everyone was driving, and all of us were scheduled for an early start the next day. Well done! We obediently stuck to actual food. Something easy and not overly pretentious- vegetables, chicken, Peking duck, noodles and all. Nobody bothered ordering extra rice or extra dishes. Skipped the seafood we had more than enough to eat in the past few weeks.

I would have been very happy to let the evening pass quietly. The whole point of getting together was for the lo-hei and the company. It wasn't actually my party. It was the standard annual Lunar New Year gathering, and my birthday happened to fall within this period. Gaaah. I had wanted to excuse myself, but they said everyone and all must come. These people wouldn't let me turn older without a beep. Goodness. Birthday wishes and cards are always welcomed, but they still came with small gifts (the kind that they know I won't scold them for; OMG I sound like an old Aunty), and even insisted on a small strawberry shortcake with a candle and one sparkler-thingy! First cake this birthday. Haizzzzzz. They were like, "We must do all the huat for the huat!" πŸ€£πŸŽ‚πŸ’™☄️πŸ”₯

Okaaaaay then, you terribly naughty people. It was bad bad bad. They took photos and they even took videos, and now permanently own blackmail material that I can't delete unless I hack into their clouds, which is illegal. πŸ˜’