443: lunchtime jukebox

This is a little talk, I guess, about food.

It sounds funny, but it’s also about control. For me the concepts of food and control are kind of bound up. Because control means self-control, the kind where you have to stop yourself from peeking in the fridge at 3am to find something to eat, but it’s also about the amount of control you have over your life. What you want to do. What you want to eat. What you are. What you want to be. It goes without saying that most people feel good that they’re in control — of something. That they don’t feel like they’re just drifting along, carried away by some trend or another, only to find themselves washed up at the end. Because it is a scary thing, to be washed up. Hung out to dry. Helpless. One of my greatest fears is waking up one day not knowing how on earth I became what I was, and knowing that it is too late to change it. But I digress.

I talked about this because food in my house is not my own. As such, it directly impinges on the amount of control I feel I have over my life. I’ve noticed a pattern, since I came home from overseas. It doesn’t work for everybody, since I was one of the few who lost weight when I was away from home. But yet, a large part of it was due to circumstances (everyone thinks it is just about emotional upheavals, but there was also the fact that I was off steroids for a year…). A larger part, however, was being in control of your own life. Our parents think we will starve while overseas. But the cooking philosophy is so different. Perhaps student cooking is really all about subsistence food, but we cooked up yummy meals all the same, and while we sometimes resorted to packaged or canned foods, a large part of the ingredients were fresh. At least for me, little of it was processed, since my number-one killer supper food (Maggi Mee) was so expensive that I never ate it all that often. Beer was cheap, and so I never drank soft drinks (for a year! Without knowing!). When it came down to it, there were really only these few foods I didn’t mind living on. It was always mushrooms, spinach, tofu, potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, salmon (sometimes, if I was feeling rich), chicken breast, bacon, eggs, and courgette. In different variations. I made coq au vin once. I drank minimal coffee (there was no need to wake up on time). I ate when I was hungry and I didn’t when I was not. When I wanted to eat something, I had to cook it. When there was no food, I had to buy it. And yet, filled with an empty refrigerator most of the time, I always felt like I knew what I wanted to eat, what I had to cook, and whatever was in the fridge could be turned into something edible, comforting, warm.

Cut to the present date, where it’s 2.30am and I’m standing in my kitchen in Singapore. My refrigerator is never empty (ever). My larder is always filled. There is always something to drink, a ton of chocolate in different flavours and from various countries, blah blah. But there is nothing to eat. There is nothing I want to eat. Because none of it is mine. I feel constrained by the fact that none of this is my choice. How strange could it be that I am standing in front of a cupboard full of food, thinking that there is nothing to eat? But it is possible. Everything in there is canned, dried, a snack, some sauce or another. Nothing seemed appetising; everything was processed. As I realised how much I did without when I was overseas, the thought about control drifted back into my mind. That was it, you see, that I had no control over what I was buying, and therefore I couldn’t control what I could eat. I thought about eating a block of tofu for lunch once, just cold, with soya sauce and bonito flakes. It sounded clean and healthy (and probably gross to everyone else). I dreamt about it for ages. But there was no tofu in the house. There would be none still, if I didn’t go out and buy it. And yes, of course I could go out and buy it. And perhaps it begins to sound like I’m making excuses for myself. But I have no time. Why would I go all the way just to buy a block of tofu? And how weird is it to buy groceries for one, when there are five of us? It seems rebellious to even try, in a strange sort of way. A bit anti-establishment. Like I was opting out of some programme, or some community. Everything seems planned, and my job is to fit in somewhere. Even my mealtimes are not my own.

As one comes back to a house which is not truly one’s own, one has to live by whatever rules were set by those who came before. I do not own this house, nor the life I live within it (家有家规, they always say). When previously I would have breakfast at whatever time I woke up, or have lunch only when I felt hungry, the rest of my time in Singapore has been an endless repeat of “It’s already 1pm, why are you not eating?” (and then, if you wanted not to eat, as sure as the snooze button, the increasingly not-so-friendly family voice would pop up every 5 minutes to repeat the same question till you caved in and ate). It disorients me a little, which is why I prefer to stay out most of the time, where at least I can control my mealtimes, if not my food.

Isn’t it all a bit unnecessary, this musing? But the fact remains that I am still hungry, and there is a kitchen full of food, and yet there is nothing for me to eat.

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435: all this hate and love

Maybe it’s true what they say about big cities; maybe it’s not. What is more certain is that life goes on the way it has for years, regardless of the tourists that come and go, snapping pictures for their travel albums back home. Funny how scenes of every day life translate into souvenirs, as if you would make a lovely picture just standing outside and taking in the laundry. But you do make a lovely picture. I don’t know what to say about Japan. Most of these were day trips, achieved by taking a train out from the cities, filled with skyscrapers and illegible Japanese neon signs. Here the lights go off by ten, and the streets are empty after dinner. We wandered slowly and tentatively, afraid to break the hush. Once in awhile we pass by a convenience store (truly convenient), refuel, go on our way again. A bicycle stops, and a high school jock gets off. He wears his track suit, his dyed hair is painfully brown, illuminated against the harsh flourescent lights. They step in to flip over magazines along the aisle, filled with covers of pretty girls with big boobs.

These cities are old and quiet and the residents cycle through everyday life with steady momentum. People are less brash, more polite. The air is fresh and cold. The mountains continue to exist, as they always have, without our presence or help.

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339: remember 2008

The year has been eventful, to say the least. I ushered in the new year at the beginning of the year (last year, now) in a variety of circumstances; every year with the Hwa Chong people, screaming “Happy New Year” at the top of our voices around the swimming pool, and then drinking Raffles beer at the front of Block B, our cars parked in a perfect straight line along the parallel parking lots. I was wearing a red dress, I remember, and the rest were happy and drunken.

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332: where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about

… we’ve got so much to do, but only so many hours in a day. And we can dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true.

I have decided to update this post everyday for a week with the things that make me happy everyday. It is time for some POSITIVITY! Also, strange how they say people only blog when they are either 1) very depressed 2) very free 3) very busy. I suppose this must be true, because I do it all the time. 

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319: things will be great when you’re downtown

London was wonderful, even though I arrived with a heavy heart on Wednesday night following a pretty bad weekend. It was Guy Fawkes Day and I had loads of fun watching the fireworks coming up from random houses on the bus from Stansted into downtown London. I spent a lot of money shopping and spent half a day in Topshop alone (no kidding) and picked up something like 20 tops and/or dresses and trying them on endlessly before narrowing it down to just two; saving my money for the Boxing Day sales! I was so tempted to buy so many things because Topshop stuff is lovely and I miss it so much now that I don’t get to shop there regularly anymore. Had to keep restraining myself from getting things (“No, it’s winter now… and you’ll only get to wear that six months later when you get back,” and then a voice goes: “But it’s pretty! And you might not be able to find it again! And it’s summer all year round back home anyway! Cost-per-wear!”) including this grey blazer which cost 60 pounds (I didn’t!).

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314: come again another day

Nobody realises the importance of a bottle of soya sauce till they don’t have it anymore. 

Fortunately for me, I (finally) managed to find light soya sauce at the nearby supermarket, and it sounds gross, I know, but honestly I think I could just survive on porridge with soy sauce and soft-boiled egg.

XD

Updates:

Sorry. It’s not that I’ve been terribly busy or anything. We went to Amsterdam (twice over two weekends) and Munich last week for Oktoberfest, so basically I have a shitload of pictures I haven’t really uploaded, except on Facebook. Funny because my mother wants to see them but I keep saying I haven’t uploaded them and then my cousin goes and tells her I uploaded them on Facebook, so now she wants to be my friend. Not good. 

It’s October. I’m going to Italy in two weeks. Time flies, huh.

312: rain rain go away

We went to Amsterdam yesterday. Woke up at the insane time of 6am (unthinkable in this weather) and cycled all the way to school where we took a bus to Amsterdam. It was raining the whole morning and for the better part of lunch, but the weather cleared up marvellously in the afternoon. It would’ve been a great day if I didn’t lose my contact lens at the end of it.

But oh well. Here are pictures of my room from a very long time ago;
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296: japan: kyoto contradictions

Some think Kyoto is all quaint shops and beauty. It is, but there’s so much more than that. Maybe it’s because it’s the old capital. Nowhere else do you feel the contradictions more strongly: time-honored tradition living next to modern amenities; something as mundane as seeing two geisha clad in kimono walking next to a taxi. The men who frequent Gion have changed their clothes as the times pass, yet till now it is the wealthy businessmen who look to entertain and be entertained, in their dapper, dreary business suits, that sing and laugh with geisha in the comfort of the teahouses overlooking the river. Not everything Arthur Golden says is true, but it’s not all false either. As tourists throng to the temples frantically snapping away with their cameras, there remains the crowd of people that stays the same, going back to the temple year after year, month after month, praying for this or that. The wooden plaques always say the same things; human nature changes very little. Many things have changed, but there is still hope. 

Here, young girls still guide their hopeful friends, hands clasped and eyes closed, towards the sunshine and in search of love.

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293: japan: osaka city riots

18- 21 May.

So, finally, here is Osaka. Most of what they say about Osaka is totally true. It’s a merchant town, and it’s filled with people who love food, love being happy, love being loud and funny and living life. It’s kind of like being Hokkien on crack. Being Japanese, they’re naturally polite, and really really willing to help. They’re the sort of people that, when you are standing alone on the train platform surrounded by your luggage, an elderly lady will totter over to you asking, 大丈夫か? (Are you all right?). At this point most of what you can say merely consists of ああ、はい (Ah, yes) which is really rude now that I think about it. Yet the same elderly lady, when getting onto the train, will fight you tooth and nail to get in and give you a not-so-friendly push if you dawdle too long at the entrance. Osaka people are always hurrying everywhere; not in the same way as Tokyo or the big cities, where everyone needs to look like they have something very important to do. Here it is pure unadulterated rush. 

We spent four days in Osaka, and they were a good four days. We visited temples and parks, castles, got lost, did lots of shopping, checked out Kennedy’s wildly expensive t-shirts, gawked at more wildly expensive merchandise, ate and walked, and ate, and ate non-stop. 

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291: it’s a bright, bright, bright, sunshiney day

I must say; it’s so hot it’s not even funny. I can just sit here and start sweating for no reason. I hate hot weather. And summer. And whatever arghhh.

I haven’t done anything these few days. I met Nurul to do our nails yesterday so now my nails are grey. It looks cooler than it sounds. I think. Other than that, I’ve only been meeting J for dinner and making full use of my Internet’s temporary connection to Megaupload (I have never been able to download anything from there before. Ever. J says it’s where all the porn is stored and MU has probably cleared all its servers so that horny Singaporeans don’t get to access it anymore…) to download 34689475968 episodes of everything. 

I now have on-going series (what is the plural?!) of Osen, Zettai Kareshi, Last Friends, and Nodame Cantabile. Also I found the subtitled version of the Hana Kimi special. GO ME! I now have a drama collection to rival Isaac’s. Who is obsessed with Nakama Yukie. Watching Gokusen for all the wrong reasons. Tsk.

Pictures of the super wonderful bento/don I ate the other day:

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290: yummy yummy yummy

I don’t understand why I’m hungry all the time these days. I’m not eating as much as I was when I was in Japan, but that’s normal, isn’t it? Who eats four meals a day? So why am I still so hungry? I do not understand.

I think my house may be running out of food. Hunger pangs are shitty. 

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I have discovered I have nothing to buy for Holland because I already have about 356456 winter coats in varying lengths. Except that they are all black but I can live with that. But I need socks. And tights which are not footless. And preferably not black or brown or some boring colour. WHERE DO I FIND THESE? TELL ME!

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In other news I just watched the first part of the CTKTIIYOU DVD. Oh my god. I want to be there right now. The 2008 tour has started and the reports are coming in, and I am feeling rather sad. 

The atmosphere during a live show is really different, huh? I felt like that at the 伍佰 concert. After The Eagles I couldn’t stop smiling. And even Eric Clapton, which was woefully short, left me high. 

GLASTONBURY AWAITS! Next summer baby.

 

282: 写真を撮って、いいですか?

Just a quick post: in Yokohama now, heading to Osaka tomorrow morning.

Everybody loves Japan, yes? I am no exception. I wish I could stay here forever, but we all know that’s not possible. However I thoroughly indulged my fangirl self ogling cute boys everywhere (and the girls are so pretty) including random Kanjani8 Nissin Cup Noodle advertisements in the subway, caved in and bought two KAT-TUN DVDs (haha did you know Johnny’s Entertainment has their own separate section in HMV?) and a magazine (the one where the photo below appears) while my boyfriend dragged me all across Harajuku and Shibuya shopping and looking for his weird obscure underground shops. Oh, and he bought about half of Uniqlo as well. Also, I have overheard more conversations about the merits of Akanishi vs Kamenashi vs random Japanese celebrity from girls with their boyfriends than I can count. Starbucks is freaking everywhere.

Today was good: Yokohama is a pretty place. Pictures when I come back; the night lights are beautiful. I’ve also sat more rollercoasters than I can count, including the ones in Disneyland (the parade was magical omg, but I got sunburnt haha) and some random super drop rollercoaster in Yokohama today, in a free theme park no less!

Lots of food. Ate orgasmic sushi at Tsukiji it’s like food porn. Really can die. And my Japanese is super bad it’s so embarrassing.

More when I get internet again.

251: and one man in his life plays many parts

It’s 9.40 in the morning on a Sunday, a fact which is very surprising because I’m actually awake to record it. It reminds me of the time I woke up at 7+ on a Sunday morning to drive to Starbucks at Liat Towers to have breakfast by myself before (sadly) heading to school for a round of intensive studying. I don’t know what it is with me and Sundays, but I like them. Even more so when I don’t have to go to church. It might be the fact that I slept at 7pm last night though. 

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241: something good will come my way!

Things that don’t bear thinking about:

Why I am going back to school tomorrow.

Why my knee is suddenly acting up and hurting like a bitch today. I can’t bend it or walk properly. WHY?

Why I have a really bad and horrible throat.

Why my attempts to eat Penang Laksa at Jalan Bukit Merah have failed. Thrice.

Why that Miu Miu bag is so expensive.
(US$285 on eBay, ending today!!! If I weren’t so broke, it’d be mine, for my birthday. Hint.)

But.

My timetable this year is pretty sweet.

After more than a year, I’ve decided what I should name my car. And in the name of spontaneity, I present to you Judy Bloom!

We are going to get our asses on the dean’s list this year.

216: 我们都已经长大 好多梦还要飞

just so i can spare you the trauma of having to come here and read my depressing post again, here are exciting pictures of exam madness to tide you over and make you laugh, because i am really going crazy for the exam tomorrow because i only started studying 3 days before. GO ME!

as i’ve told wilson before, studying comparative legal traditions has never made me so glad to have studied history. civil law? french revolution? german unification under bismarck? the Enlightenment? NAPOLEON? the french haunt us still. they will never go away. let me show you some proof, an entry i wrote almost exactly two years ago on 19 november, 2005:

WHY ARE FRENCH SO STUPID?

no really, someone answer me! why do they continually feel the need to go all dramatic and shout their LIBERTE EGALITE and FRATERNITE all over the place? (pardon the lack of accents because i speak ENGLISH not FRENCH, which only sounds nice and romantic precisely because you cannot understand what the fuck is being said) why do they go on strike over two stupid people who decided to get themselves killed with no help from the police at all? why is their politics always in a mess? why does the french government never know what they’re doing? and most importantly, why do they have stupid people like d’argenlieu who continually feel the need to fuck up everything for fun? why are they so rude to anyone whose surname is ho? why are there people dumb enough to like a newspaperman who, having a skin condition that causes skin to flake continually everywhere all the time, bathes in hot water every single day of his life only to die in a damn bathtub, stabbed by some stupid girondist sympathiser who happens to be, of all things, a WOMAN? did marat get pwned by a crazy woman? INDEED HE DID. (i wonder if marat ever had sex.) did robespierre get pwned by himself? OH INDEED HE DID. do the french continually pwn themselves by talking to americans? has no one realised that enlisting the help of the americans means you will end up fighting their war? (BRITISH ARE STUPID TOO.) why is everyone called NAPOLEON unceremoniously pwned by someone with a british or a german name?! why is there all this talk about LA VILLE LUMIERE and their irritating policies of assimilation which require the setting up of alliance francaises all over the damn globe (africa and asia included, blinking neon lights sold separately)?! the FRENCH! they are the cause of all problems! they are the cause of every single major revolutionary movement post-1789 that i have had to study for since then!

I AM NOT XENOPHOBIC. I AM JUST BITTER.

i will forever and eternally be devastated. woe. also, the other day, i met huixuan and alex (haven’t seen both in awhile, and totally random! hi if you still read this!) at starbucks on sunday. and everyone was studying. studystudystudy. whee.

ok, pictures.

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215: true voyage is return

there is corn soup in the fridge. we say this all the time, but always there are things that come along and make you feel glad to be alive, even if you’ve spent your day holed up in some corner of starbucks with a multi-pin plug and property law trying to make sense of mortgages. and getting nowhere in the end.

these few weeks, in a series of bizarre and morbid coincidences, there has been a lot of trouble in the family. first, two grandpeople died in the space of one week (i considered trying to explain this to my company tutor, that i had to miss class because both funerals were on the same day of the week (tuesday) since they both died on the same day of the week – but i thought she wouldn’t believe – i mean, who would? but truth is stranger than fiction), and then random assorted extended family members start fighting, over trivial and inconsequential things (as always). this sounds suspiciously like a soap opera. and my mum is in bangkok right now celebrating her birthday, i.e. trying not to kill my dad.

that leaves me here, alone with my grandmother and her soup, half a bottle of white wine from raffles hotel and a property textbook. it’s quite a weird combination. let’s be thankful for the small things.

214: leave your weight problems at the door

the sky is red, this beautiful morning, waiting for the rain to come. outside the open windows the lights in the backyard have been on all night, the neighbours bustling about preparing for their new year. the rest of the night passed in a haze, though it was a blissful haze. i talked to ian a few hours ago, and thought back to the hordes of army boys i saw crowding the clubs at the edges on the eve of a public holiday, and i remembered the first time i sent him into BMT. now he no longer wears a uniform.

for our witnesses, steak frites at les bouchons, cakes and souffles at laurent, with two pots of tea and hot chocolate to get it all down. strangely enough, we would have gone for beer and mussels after, but they were closed by the time we were done with the dessert. i was stuffed, and somehow… not really.

not sure if that was because of my digestion rate or because i just have a really huge appetite.

but you can enter now and look at the pictures.

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209: whee qualifies as a boggle word

beer and breakfast at tiffany’s. :)

today i sold my stuff at home, and earned $100! had a nice dinner to celebrate. i saw alot of nice clothes there, but i refuse to blow my hard-earned money (haha) on instant gratification. most of the time it ends up being sold at the next flea market. UO is having 15% off sale items but i can’t find anything to buy.

however, my favourite pizza joint is still da paolo pizza bar! so much more worth it than stupid pizza hut!! (i really don’t understand it when people say they swear by pizza hut when there is much nicer and authentic pizza out there for less than what they are charging…)

i am happy to be in school.

208: so this break is a break-up

strange, isn’t it? life is not turning out the way everyone thought it would be.

J told me the other day that i am not a romantic. that i don’t believe in forever, don’t think about getting married when i’m in a relationship, about having kids together and living life like an old couple in years to come. and yes i don’t, but that doesn’t make me unromantic. why think about the future (and so far ahead) when you have the present? why do you spend your days thinking about what’s going to happen and forgetting that if you don’t keep the person here, right here right now, all your daydreaming is going to go to the dogs? to me, that’s not a smart thing to do. and that’s not because i don’t believe in love, because i do. but it’s not all sweet smells and roses and walking down the aisle. to me the greatest fear of thinking so far ahead is that you will end up regretting it, when it is all gone. it seems at once presumptuous and pompous, to assume you’d (he’d) be the one. as if all of it were something you could take for granted, that lasted forever and forever.

and no, so i can’t do that. i don’t do that. at the end of the day i feel stupid, for wishful thinking. maybe it’s the painful voice of experience talking on my part (okay it is, but you don’t know everything, so don’t judge.). people change. sometimes forever is not an option.

#

today we handed in our assignment. then, with liwong, kaiyong, denise and iris – ramen at robertson quay, dessert at ricciotti (half-price after 9) and pizza. 15% off with UOB card (no GST! gasp). stupid jokes, boggle, half-baked cantonese. i died laughing. it was a good night :)

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there was so much alcohol on friday. i mostly like anything with green tea. sitting at the playground, just like the year before, only so many things have changed.

outside on the kerb

at the playground – pardon the wonky jeans, and i dunno why i always wear this top in pictures

us stealing food (again)

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then emo-ing in the KTV on saturday night after a nice old school dinner, rugby finals at jon’s place. i was quite sad england didn’t win, but it was inevitable, it seems. and percy montgomery reminds me of lancelot.

171: city of blinding lights, a city lit by fireflies

so you take a little trip down to town and find that nothing much has changed except the christmas decorations, although those at peninsula hotel always seem to have that extra sense of class, that magical feeling, those yellow stars. the neon lights draw you in, there are side alleys that lead off into darkness, into people sitting on wheelchairs begging for money, into unbidden surprises. one thing about hong kong is that appearances can be deceiving. walk into a shop and take the stairs down and suddenly a space becomes ten times bigger than it turns out to be. flowers are fake. a massage centre is really a pornographic wonder. there are stars on breasts, there are porn theatres, advertisements flashing out in neon colours that blind your eyes and are a grandiose swirl of colour. such nuances cannot be accurately portrayed by words nor by the unsteady hand of a camera. one day i’m going to go back into lan kwai fong and see the other side of hong kong, away from midnight curfews and parents’ prying eyes. it’ll be lovely. there’ll be lights.

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