Photography, The organised chaos

Fixing those pix from Japan

I have finally gotten down to tackling those 800 photos I had shot during our trip to Japan. Thank heavens for Adobe Lightroom! It sure made things easier for me. And I am so happy that I shot everything in RAW format, cleaning up terrible white balance and overexposed shots has never been easier.

I still have more than 600 photos to go through but it’s fine, the editing process is quite a joy. Thanks to my stint at Loiters, which taught me to be bold with my edits and to try out angles that I normally wouldn’t have thought of. I may not be a good photog but hey, I’m trying!

Here are some random favourites of mine, they are mostly from our jaunts in Yanaka and Meiji Shrine. A proper recap will be coming up soon!

Chain of buckets hanging from a well
Chain of buckets hanging from a well

Buckets at a shrine in Yanaka
Buckets at a shrine in Yanaka

Religious procession at Meijijingu
Religious procession at Meijijingu

Wedding couple posing at Meijijingu
Wedding couple posing at Meijijingu

More photos here.

Arts & Entertainment

Sing with Glee

It’s been almost three years since I’ve stopped singing and to be perfectly honest, I don’t miss it too much, barring those moments when I hear great choral or acappella pieces and think, damn, I wish I could sing that.

Recently, these moments have been triggered by Glee, the funny TV series that has been ruling my iPhone, together with Gossip Girl and Grey’s Anatomy. And I just realized that these shows begin with the letter ‘G’. But that is not the point.

The point is, Glee is so wonderfully warm and funny. Set in a fictitious high school in a small American town, it follows the trials and tribulations of a singing group and its enthusiastic teacher-in-charge. The song and dance routines are very Broadway and immensely infectious. It reminds me of the time when we were singing fun ’60s songs back in SCGS choir days. We loved what we were singing and we had lots of fun doing campy choreography and cheesy moves. That was before the days of singing strange avant garde songs that did nothing to warm my heart. Who doesn’t love a pop song or musical?

And the characters’ need to fit in and to do something special in their lives hit the right spot. I mean, before I joined VJC Choir and Victoria Chorale, I was merely mediocre. I was good, perhaps above average, in most things that I did (except for Maths and Physics – I sucked at those!) but I was never the best. I was a good writer but not great. I did well at English Literature but would never have gone further than A’Levels with it. It wasn’t until I joined the choir and started winning competitions and awards that I felt I was truly good at something. Singing was probably one of the only things in my life that I put my heart and soul into.

I leave you now with a song that has been ringing in my head. Heck, I even bought the track off iTunes store. Coincidentally, we were at Courts Tampines shopping around a couple of weeks back when I heard this song, sung by Journey, and was humming it the entire day. Tonight, when I get home, I am going to dig out all the Swingle Singers and Rockapella tunes from my external hard disk.

(Much thanks go to Lucian for sharing this with me!)

Two of Us

Mr Muscle Man

Hello, we are back from Japan! Needless to say, we didn’t want to come back at all. The weather was perfect, the sights were beautiful and the food was AWESOME. I will never go for sub-standard ramen and sashimi again.

The way we ended our trip was most comical. From our service apartment at Shinjuku, it was supposed to be a short drive to the train station where we were to catch the Narita Express. The trains depart at one-hour intervals so missing the train would have meant missing our flight. Of course, us being us, we were running late and had only 15 minutes to spare before the train left but we thought it was fine since the station was a mere five minutes away.

And of course, us being us, nothing went as planned. First, the cab we hailed was steered by a most useless driver. He saw us with suitcases at our feet but did not open the boot. It was only after husband banged repeatedly on the boot before he popped it open.

After the luggage had been stowed, we told him that we were heading to Shinjuku Station to catch the Narita Express. He started rambling on and on in Japanese, opening up a directory and flipping it to the Shibuya pages. Hello! We said SHINJUKU! We gestured to him the way forward but he continued peering at the Shibuya maps. Exasperated, husband sprinted back to the lobby and got a staff to help us communicate with the driver. She explained nicely to him where the station was but he kept asking, is it there? Is it really there?

Finally, he decided that he was certain of his way (it was but a five-minute drive away!) and started cruising along. That’s right, he was not driving but CRUISING at a leisurely speed. Husband nearly reached over to snatch the wheel from him, I reckon.

Once we reached the station, we ran as fast as we could with the luggage in tow. But, this being Tokyo, the station was all about staircases and there were no escalators or lifts in sight. We heaved our suitcases – they weighed all of 39kg, mind you – and plodded down the stairs and that was when I realised that yes, it IS possible that I could love my husband more than I did before, as ridiculously madly in love with him as I was.

So husband turned around, saw that I was moving surely but slowly down the stairs with my 19kg suitcase, and grabbed it from me despite my protests. Look, I am pretty strong for my size, even though the stupid luggage was almost half my weight, and he knows it. But he still took it from my hands and toddled down the flight of stairs with a bulging suitcase in each hand. I don’t know why but the situation struck me as pretty hilarious and I burst out laughing behind poor husband’s back.

Once we hit the ground, I took my suitcase back from him and we ran for our lives. Only to realise that the platform was like, oh, a mile away. Well, it feels like a mile when you are running and pulling a 19kg suitcase behind you while trying to navigate a crowded, complex station. We ran and we ran and I thought that my lungs were going to burst. At a certain point, I almost gave up but it’s all mind over matter, isn’t it? I started talking to myself in my head (I do that a lot), I can do this, I can do this, don’t give up.

Husband must have read my mind for almost simultaneously, he turned around, read the expression on my face and came to my aid by taking my suitcase from me. We eventually reached the entrance of the platform – he dragging the luggage and me clearing the path – and I dashed up the escalator in relief.

Only to see that the blasted train was at THE OTHER END of the platform. Without a backward glance, I propelled myself forward, planted ONE foot solidly into the train and stood there defiantly. The train driver and conductors must have thought I was a bit mad and stared at me…until they followed my worried glance and saw husband huffing and puffing away with two suitcases. Then they smiled and waited till we were both safely ensconced in the train before pulling away from the station.

When we got to our seats, I threw my arms around my husband and told him that he was my hero, I didn’t know where he found the strength from but he was just plain marvellous. And then I started laughing and did not stop until he told me to get off him because he was all hot and sweaty.

Now, he is still Mr Thick (around the waist – the food we devoured in the land of the rising sun certainly did not help) but I also proclaim him the bestest, sweetest, MANLIEST hero to ever reside on earth.

My husband, my hero
My husband, my hero

The organised chaos, Two of Us

Be right back

On our way
On our way

In five hours’ time, Mr Thick and I will be boarding the plane to go to Tokyo!
This trip has been in the works for the longest time and I’m just happy that it’s finally here.

It’s my first time there and so far, everyone has been telling me that it’s “my kind of place”.
Well, I am looking forward to the cool weather, the delicious Japanese food and the beautiful sights. Oh, and +J, H&M, Comme des Garcons, Muji, Head Porter, Agnes B et cetera.

Most of all, I just want to chill with husband and walk down the tree-lined paths with my favourite guy.

Arts & Entertainment

(500) Days of Summer

Most of the time, we head into the movies to get a dose of fantasy. The happy every after, the good vanquishes evil, the dream comes true…escapism is probably one of the reasons why we all love watching movies.

Surprisingly, this is why we enjoyed (500) Days of Summer. Not that it’s a movie that’s unrealistic or full of fluff about love, but because it’s so similar to real life.

(500) Days of Summer

How many times have we believed that the other party is The One for us, only for them to walk away and leave because we are not The One for them? How often have we fooled ourselves into thinking that we can be what the other party wants us to be, only to come to the realisation that we cannot change our expectations to match theirs?

I’ll try not to spoil the movie for you if you haven’t watched it but bring along a hankie, just in case. It’s not a weep fest the way The Time Traveler’s Wife was but the events unfolding on the screen will mirror your life so much so that you start to feel a bit sorry for yourself and consequently, for Tom-the-protagonist too.

The casting was just perfect. Zooey Deschanel, whom I had adored since her quirky turn in Elf, was full of old-world charm. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is not the next Brad Pitt in the making but he has a way of connecting to the audience and making us feel for him.

Even the soundtrack is perfect. This is truly the romance version of Juno – a tad indie, unexpected and simply a gem among expensive blockbuster failures. Highly recommended.

Friends

Birds fly high, hard to catch

We had the friends over in the evening and were going through some old photos. It brought back a lot of good memories: we giggled till our tummies ached and the air was constantly punctuated with shouts of when did we take this?

I cannot believe we have been hanging out since 1999. It’s been 10 years. The physical and emotional changes that Time has wrought on us, oh, how we have evolved. But despite all that, we are still the same us and we still stand by one another and have too much fun together.

The third wedding in the group (Mr Thick and I were the second) will be happening at the end of the month and I am so, so happy for the couple. Tomorrow’s going to be the stag night and this time, the girls are invited! Woot!

Circa 2002? Or 2004?
Circa 2002? Or 2004?

The organised chaos

Little blessings

One thing I love about the World Wide Web is the fact that people are able to connect with one another. I wouldn’t have known Yuling, for instance, had I not hopped on links and got to her site. I wouldn’t have met her and her family, especially cute little Raeann. Through our words, we feel happy or sad or excited or disappointed with one another and get to learn about life’s little lessons.

It was through link hopping that I found Stephanie Nielson’s blog. Stephanie, or Nie Nie, and her husband were involved in a plane crash which left both of them with severely injured. The young mother of four was in a coma but battled against the odds to open her eyes again. Since then, her road to recovery has been fraught with surgeries and pain but she remains positive and optimistic.

Her blog is beautiful, as is the writer. The photos that she snaps of her children, her loving husband and her life are so poignant and lovely. The stories that she tells are so heart-warming and engaging. Her writing has touched the hearts of many, many people, who all rallied when they found out about her accident.

How often have we moaned and groaned about life and the unfairness of it all? I certainly have done my fair share of that. But it’s people like Nie Nie who show us that we can rise above it all and face everything with courage and hope. Life certainly dealt her a terrible and grievous blow but she’s come through it with so much dignity and integrity.

She was recently featured on Oprah and the footage just made me weep. Little things that we take for granted, like opening a jar or holding a child, are things that she struggles with everyday.

It’s an inspiring story – makes me want to be a mom like her, and a stronger person. Go on, have a read, you won’t regret it.