The organised chaos

Ay, farewell 2005!

And good riddance too, I might add.

2005 has been a positively bizarre roller-coaster ride for me. Up and down, up and down, up and down, much like the rickety Lethal Weapon ride I took while in Movie World at Brisbane, Australia. It felt as if I will always be the source of things that are opposite to serene. There was a point in time when my life was going swimmingly well and I actually stopped and thought to myself, “Gee, this is too good to be true. I have nothing to complain about, nothing!” And well, before I knew it, the ride began again. I am a clairvoyant, I tell you.

Here are some highlights of my life thus far, in this year.

January
Worked up my courage, aided by Jiahui, to go for my wisdom teeth extraction operation, just a week before my birthday. Ended up looking like a very square-jawed cheekchipmunk, very ugly indeed.

February
Officially signed a pact with he-who-is-my-boyfriend to encourage him to lose weight. If he loses 15kg before his next birthday in March, I would have to fly him to somewhere around the region on a budget airline ticket (my suggestion for this scenario: from JB to KL). If he fails, he would have to do likewise for me (my suggestion for this scenario: Australia, Vietnam, Bangkok, Hong Kong). On this last day of 2005, he has another 8kg to go before the bet concludes in exactly three months’ time, heh heh heh.

May
In the name of work, I took to the skies, flying to Sin City, Las Vegas. To my regret and disappointment, that also proved to be my last with the company, as it announced its decision to close all its publishing operations in Singapore.

July
Out of a desire to leave that blasted company, I went for an interview with one of Singapore’s biggest media company and came away astonished at its miserly ways. The London bombing threw the rest of the world into panic but at the same time, revealed a side of us that proved to be more resilient and strong-willed that we had ever expected. Terrorists shall not rule our hearts and minds with fear.

August
Victoria Chorale held our annual concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall and while it was well-received, I still wished we could have done better and more. Let’s stop being complacent singers and work for the World Choir Games in Xiamen in 2006!

October
Despite seeing my work published on the WWW, my restlessness only grew in leaps and bounds. I doubted myself and questioned my sanity. Wrong. I shall resolve to learn from my mistakes but never to question my own abilities.

November
I went on a week long journey to Cambodia, which kickstarted the change in my mindset. I loved Siem Reap, from its dusty roads to the wondrous sights of Angkor Wat to the beautiful children. I didn’t want to come back to Singapore, I didn’t want the bubble to burst.

December
I ran my first marathon in a decent time and left my company, feeling relieved and free for the first time in many months.

I am brimming with positivity and optimism for 2006. It’s true that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. I have changed and I believe that I will be a happier and stronger person than before.

And so ends 2005. Farewell, 2005, you have been really full of excitement for us this year. Hello 2006! I have high expectations for you and you had better not let me down.

here’s wishing everyone a wonderful year ahead, with plenty of laugher, joy and faith!

Photography

Cambodia: Of lingas and coca cola

(Note: This was written during the trip and edited upon my return)

Woke up bright and early at 4.30am today, because Trevor had set the alarm clock to the wrong time. We were supposed to get up by 5.30am in order to set off by 6am but instead of setting the alarm at the local time, he actually made sure that we woke up at 5.30am Singapore time. As you can probably surmise by now, Cambodia is behind Singapore by an hour. Went back to sleep crankily for another hour before being roused, again, reluctantly.

To get to the waterfall and the river, we had to trek through a forested area which still had landmines buried. It was quite a chilling thought. The trek was arduous and tiring, full of uneven ground, rocks and tree roots. The gradient was unpredictable too, sometimes uphill and sometimes down slope. Oddly enough, the greens in Cambodia are rooted not in soil but in fine sand, which made the ground rather slippery. It was not uncommon for one of us to slide down a bit further than we had intended. I could literally feel the strain in both ankles, and was rather worried about injuring my feet just a month before the marathon. EFB was moaning about his knees giving way.

“!(imgleft)http://static.flickr.com/9/78400809_265dc96f3c_m.jpg!(The waterfall)”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/yannie/78400809/

It took a good 40 minutes before we reached the waterfall. It was nothing grand or fabulous, just rather quaint and charming to see this mini waterfall in the middle of the forest. The place is memorable for another reason: I took a tumble while attempting to take the perfect photo. It was embarrassing – My foot gave way on the slippery rocks and I stumbled but tried desperately not to fall in case I bang my camera and kill it. Another thought that flashed across my mind was that I did not intend to get wet. Unfortunately, I did. Thankfully, I landed rather softly on my bottom and immediately, Trevor and EFB rushed to pick me up and I escaped a little wet but relatively unscathed except for a slightly bruised ego.

After the waterfall, we trudged on ahead for another 25 minutes before arriving at the river from where the waterfall flows. Apparently, the kings of old had worshipped the “lingas” – a phallus shaped object – in order to have fertility (of both the lands and the people, I believe) as well as good luck. The river of a thousand lingas, as from the name suggests, is a river that was dedicated to this art. On the riverbeds and in the stones that frame the river are carvings that depict either lingas or deities.

Seen in carvings, the lingas are not really that obscene and are rather interesting, indeed. But when you go off into the Old Market and start peering closely at the figurines that were being sold in virtually every stall, you might see some rather pornographic err poses. EFB (who else would you have expected) uncovered a few that were rather suggestive. Let’s just say that those were pornographic and plain gross. And what do you know, The Blue Pumpkin, a cafe that we often frequent because it was the only one with air conditioning, actually has a pastry that goes by the name of chocolate lingas roll. And in Phnom Penh, we spotted an ad on the back of a tuk-tuk that says “Lingas restaurant and bar”.

What can I say, it’s practically part of the country’s culture.

After a hearty meal of local fare, where we witnessed some chubby little chaps running around like tiny madcaps, it was time to move on again. We made our way to Bantaey Kdai and Sra Srang, by which time we were rather templed out already.

At Sra Srang, we were besieged by women and children who wanted us to part with our money in return for drinks, coconuts and trinkets. When a young lass toddled up to EFB and offered to sell him two cans of Coke for just US$1, he was thrilled by the low price and a deal was promptly sealed.

“!(imgleft)http://static.flickr.com/39/78425235_14eec6cb17_m.jpg!(Let’s jump!)”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/yannie/78425235/

We stood there for a while, amused by a group of cheeky boys who were jumping off the shore into the water, stark naked. Their tan was so dark, they could roll around in mud and nobody would be able to see them. It was hilarious, watching them jump into the water, climb up and then jump off again. I started to wonder about the different kind of childhood that kids back home had and wished they could enjoy the same kind of outdoor activities that children here had.

Before we left, we were inundated by sales pitches again: “Sir, you want to buy Coke? Three for one dollar sir!”

EFB walked off huffily, indignant at the swift drop in value of his Coke.

More photos can be found in my flickr set and my photo page.

[Let’s play tag! , , , , ]

The organised chaos

The Christmas aftermath

So Christmas came and went.

I had commented to the boyfriend that this year’s festivities seem to be a little more subdued than before. The roads were less jammed with human bodies and there was just something lacking in the air. Even caroling seemed less enjoyable than before. Perhaps we were getting older.

“!(imgleft)http://static.flickr.com/9/78124973_2884f883d8_m.jpg!(From resorting to eye patches to piling on the concealor)”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/yannie/78124973/

We actually went into Christmas eve on a sour note. The two of us had a nasty fight on the eve of the eve and I had gone to bed pissed off with him for giving me grief and puffy eyes the next day (had to resort to eye patches chockful of collagen and some stuff). It was something insensitive that he had said and it sparked off a lot of laments that I had, such as his lack of initiative in applying his brains to planning dates (it’s always me saying “let’s do this” and “let’s go here”) and our seemingly non-existent future.

He gave me my present in the evening and urged me to open it but I ignored him for most part of the day, until we ended up in his house watching television in silence somehow. And then he mustered up enough courage to poke through my icy wall and I finally dignified him with a proper answer.

Initially, I had thought that he was going to present me with something like an external hard disk drive (yes, we are that sort of couple) or a DECT phone but somehow, the size of the present (which was wrapped in black plastic laundry bag, I must add) didn’t fit. I opened it and the rest is history. Shall not go into the whole sob story (literally, I think I flooded his shirt by trying to reject the gift), which revolved around “I don’t want it, you take it” to “it’s too expensive, I don’t want it”.

I am not sure why but somehow, a couple of my friends gave me mini-hell for accepting his gift eventually. They accused me of selling out, given that I had been seriously unhappy with him less than 24 hours ago, and said that I was easily bribed. I don’t understand. The things that happen between a couple remain within us, am I supposed to explain to all and sundry what conversations we had and how we had talked to clear things out? Why were they saying things like that?

It marred the whole Christmas experience a little but well, I brushed it off as nothing more than friends’ jesting. I never expected the gift, nor had I asked for it. It came as a total surprise and I only accepted it because I know what it means to him.

We then spent most of Christmas day with friends and family (mine) and I think it wasn’t any spectacular decoration or wild partying that made it a nice Christmas for us, but the love and joy we felt amongst our company.

Now, am looking forward to NYE and then hey! it’s going to be my birthday soon. Did I mention how much I love December and January?

The organised chaos

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

This is not exactly the most photogenic picture but what the heck.

Here’s wishing everyone a very very Merry Christmas!
Hope you have been good this year and dear ‘ol Father Christmas will make your wishes come true (psst I would so lurrrrrve an iPod nano).

Oh, and do drop by Hyatt hotel if you happen to be doing any last minute shopping. We’ll be singing at 7.30pm today and 12.30pm tomorrow. =)

The organised chaos

Happy anniversary, Dad

Hello Dad,

How have you been since I last saw you exactly 18 years ago, yesterday?

Time really flies. Then, I was just six years old, a mere slip of a girl. You went off to work and we waved goodbye to you. Then, the sista and I helped out Mum in the kitchen to make tangyuan, since it was Dong Zhi. I remember going to the NTUC with Mum and buying the pre-packed dumplings and then happily throwing them into into the dark soup that Mum loves to make with the tangyuan.

We never knew it would be the last time we would ever see you alive. The phone call came in the evening and all I can remember is Mum keeling over, her loud sobs echoing around our little flat. Before I knew it, we were all bundled into Uncle’s car and on our way to the hospital, only I didn’t know we were going to the hospital. But even then, at the age of six, I had an inkling that something was not right and started praying in the backseat of the car, the very first prayer of my life. It was for you but somehow, God didn’t seem to have hear it.

It’s really surreal but I recall walking down the corridors of the hospital, its smell and sterile environment really getting to me. As we walked, me trying to keep up with the adults, Mum suddenly burst out crying again. And try as I might, I cannot seem to remember what happened then. It’s almost as if that part of my life, those few hours, have disappeared somewhere down the black hole of my memories.

The next few days passed on by in a haze, for me at least. I didn’t know what a funeral was, I was still happily playing with my cousins at the wake, in between bouts of prayers and procedures. But I know I was scared of seeing you sleep in the coffin, all stiff and unreal. I instinctively shied away from getting near you, because it wasn’t you. The person lying there wasn’t you at all, it wasn’t the man who had cooked fried rice for me, who had washed my hair and dried it so fiercely that I whined out in pain, who had allowed me to swing like a monkey on your arm as we crossed the road, who had picked the sista and I up from school at one end of the carpark before “driving” us home to the other end. It wasn’t you there, I knew it wasn’t you.

It was only at the last day that something clicked in my mind. I don’t know why but somehow, I started bawling noisily and endlessly like a baby and suddenly, everyone around me started crying too. I was hugged and passed from one relative to another to be cuddled and calmed but I just could not stop. And then, it was gone. You were gone.

The next 10 years were probably the most difficult to live through. Every December, every Qing Ming, Mum would be overwhelmed by sorrow and there was nothing we could do but to let her cry. It was really painful. And for those years, the social, emotional and financial repercussions of your absence and lack of financial planning emerged and sometimes, the going went really tough. God knows how often I wanted to just hide and escape from the difficulty of it all. But I couldn’t.

But we have made it through and somehow, we think you would be pleased too, even as we imagine you doing rascally things like gambling and drinking and travelling in the world that you live in now. I don’t have dreams of you anymore, they have stopped since I was young. I used to dream of you and me and would wake up in tears, only to realise the dream wasn’t real.

In a way, your very absence have shaped us to be the individuals that we are today. Maybe the sista and I are a little bit tougher, somewhat more wary and vulnerable. But really, I think you would be happy to see us today. She’s going to get married soon to a very nice man who has proposed to her, and I, well, I guess I need to sit down and count my blessings more often.

Do we miss you? I don’t know. I never really had much chance to spend time with you to know what kind of impact you would have on my life. Do I wish that you were here? Yes, because I think it might have made me a better person.

I will soon turn 25 and I hope you are proud of me, of all that I have achieved. I may not be the perfect daughter with the perfect temperament and talents but I think I did okay.

I hope you think so too. Here’s to another year ahead of us, a better year.

Always your little monkey girl,
yAnn

Arts & Entertainment

Narnia, next vacation destination?

I just love magical, fantasy worlds, don’t you?
It’s the whole “imagination running away with you” element that makes the fantasy world so exciting and mysterious. Of course, the fact that it does not exist rules against it but well, it is precisely because this world is not reality that enables you to conjure up your own interpretation of how it would be like if it were reality.

And it is so with the world of Narnia. Here, animals are intelligent beings that can hold a decent conversation with humans (in fact, humans are more likely than not to be sillier than animals) and creatures of all sorts exist. And now that it has been brought to life by greedy movie studios, how does the silver screen version fare against the eloquence of the books?

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Well, to be honest, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe reminded me a lot of Lord of the Rings. It’s hardly surprising given that the effects team from Weta Digital had also been the creative brains behind LOTR. The whole good against evil concept was also very LOTR, which could be due to the close friendship that authors CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien shared.

Despite the lacklustre reviews, I enjoyed myself very much. I loved the faithful adaptation of the book, thought the pace was steady and the casting was superb. The addition of the war scenes at the beginning added weight to the story and gave an explanation of why the four Pevensie children were bundled off to the countryside. It reduced me into a blubbering idiot, with tears streaming down my cheeks within the first five minutes of the show (note to self: L’Oreal mascara not as waterproof as Maybelline’s Great Lash).

The wonder and beauty of Narnia was recreated so astonishingly by the team and indeed, as Susan said, it seemed so “impossible” that such a world actually existed. But it does. And it houses not just fauns, but also satyrs, minotaurs, giants, nasty witches (well, there was only one) and winged creatures whom I cannot put a name to.

!(imgleft)http://static.flickr.com/40/76310496_d242b0263b_m.jpg(A very adorable Lucy)!

And when Lucy, the youngest (played by a very adorable Georgie Henley), stumbled upon that world via an old wardrobe, you almost wish that you could discover it too. Georgie Henley was magnificent as the forgiving and loving Lucy, and her wide-eye precocious look easily made her the star of the show. Well, almost, anyway. Tilda Swinton as the White Witch Jardis was eerily evil and her capture of Edmund, the moron whom you want to slap silly till he come to his senses, seemed to contain this bizarre and faint sexual undertone. I especially loved the voice characters, ranging from Rupert Everett (the Fox) to Dawn French and Ray Winstone (Mrs and Mr Beaver respectively) to Liam Neeson (Aslan). Liam Neeson was such a splendid choice, his deep and rumbling bass voice was perfect as Aslan.

This movie is definitely not for children due to the nightmarish killing scene of Aslan. While it was not particularly violent, the implicit and tribal-like act was horrific and turned me from a blubbering idiot to a bawling baby. And I already knew what the ending is, mind you.

The aforementioned battle scene reminded me greatly of LOTR: Return of the King, where my darling Aragorn gathered his little troop to storm the Black Gate at Mordor in order to buy Frodo some time to drop that blasted ring into the fires of Mount Doom. When Peter jabbed his sword into the air and yelled, “For Narnia! For Aslan!”, it brought me back to the Black Gate where Aragorn shouted to his men, “Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me…This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you!” But truthfully, it did not move me as much as LOTR’s battles (Helm’s Deep, anyone?) did somehow.

While Narnia cannot hold its own against LOTR’s darkly lush Middle Earth, it is more than entertaining and unlikely to make CS Lewis turn in his grave. You can literally hear the “ker-chink!” of the cash registers as movie moguls plot their next move, ie. a sequel. And goodness knows they have more than enough materials to choose from.

A wonderful choice of Christmas movie. Go with that special someone and soak in the marvel of Narnia together.

[Let’s play tag! , , , ]