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A whopping decade of blogging

Time flies; it appears I’ve been charting of (mis)adventures for a good decade now. I started blogging on the suggestion and encouragement of my friend D, back at a time when I was searching for a solution to share (travel) news with my family and friends while trying to limit the use of photo attachments that could easily clog up emails. Remember, once upon a time, we did not have mailboxes with 1G+ storage space nor super high speed internet! With the help of Ed and JC – they are awesome technical rockstars! – I managed to get something up and running in no time.

DiXit

Of course, there aren’t ten years worth of blog posts on this site. Blog 1.0 was hosted elsewhere, written at a carefree time where I was less concerned about public sharing of personal information. With time came better awareness and the want to protect the privacy of people in my life so when I acquired this current domain name, I made a conscious decision to keep their stories away from Blog 2.0. F does get regular mention because often, it’s our story that I’m retelling.

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Tales of two photos

Weekend morning, every now and then, I allow myself the luxury of a lie-in. What was different this particular morning was the effort F put in getting breakfast ready. He didn’t just got me any random croissant, he had gone to a rather fancy bakery (where you must not stretch your hand beyond the glass barrier to point at something!) and picked up a selection of goodies. With tea and mandarin juice to complement the pastry.

Breakfast

Breakfast

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Let peace be the guiding light

I had not realised how significant these photos could be when I took them a few days ago, on a night out with friends to catch a ballet flamenco performance. I thought I was just photographing things that I thought to be pleasing to look at.

Peace and light

Today, millions – French and non-French alike – came out to demonstrate unity against extremism and terrorism, to defend their rights and that of their compatriots, and to mourn the deaths that remind us how fragile life can be if we choose violence against peace.

Anyone who the need to kill, to pillage, to rape, or to strap bombs onto a 10-year old little girl so to make a point, the only point they are making is their barbarism knows no moral nor ethical bound. How sad is that? Sowing fear does not make one a hero, but a coward who fear living a righteous life; the scheming, the plotting, everything in utmost secrecy. How sad is that? Living half a life and mostly lies; nearly loveless and nobody that truly cares. How sad is that?

Please, let peace be your guiding light, no matter where you are, which religion you adhere to, what custom you practice.

Let peace be the core of your being.

Laughing with

No one laughs at God in the hospital
No one laughs at God in the war
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God, we’re all laughing with God

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(re)focus

Happy New Year! Bonne Année! Selamat Tahun Baru!

Lightshow

I suppose this signals another yearly recap is due. Did I learn and did I make mistakes in 2014? A-plenty! Did I go off (life) tangent and lose sight of goals that I’ve set for myself? Ab-solutely! Did I carry bagfuls of regrets and mutter sorries along the way? Nope!

I refuse to wallow in laments for things I cannot change.

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To learn and to make mistakes

Index cards

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

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Another chapter closed

Happy New Year

I pondered about writing a recap of my 2013, but after a few false starts (text typed, deleted, typed, edited, deleted, typed, deleted again etc), I realised my heart is not in it. How could I? Sitting right next to me is a list of things I have to do in the next 2-3 days, largely because F and I will be moving to a new apartment.

Sometimes, things happened at an incredible speed in Paris. Moving is usually one of them. Mind, apartment-hunting is not. My head is still whirling at the timeline involved: apartment viewing (2 weeks ago), verbal acceptance (a week ago), lease signing (yesterday), inventory visit (this evening), moving day (end of the week). Had we not been away from Paris for the Christmas break, everything could well took place even sooner.

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It’s not all about chocolate

This may sound odd but I am off chocolate. I am not entirely sure how it comes about, just that I eat a whole lot less of them (or none at all for extended period) and I am no longer tempted to buy them regularly either. On the other hand, F is chomping in chocolate on a daily basis, at just about every main meal of the day. I reckon he’s eating enough chocolate for the two of us in any case. And yes, we have a stock of chocolate tablets at home to sustain his habit (and this is just about all the chocolate I pick up nowadays).

So when Salon du Chocolat came rolling into town this week, I debated. Nearly an annual pilgrimage for me, I hemmed and hawed about going this year. I probably would have skipped it had my childhood friend not been in town and curious about this large gathering of chocolate vendors and other purveyors of sweet goodies. :)

Salon du Chocolate 2013

Salon du Chocolate 2013

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Sarah asked me 10 questions …

My friend Sarah loves to create and she blogs about her hobby over at Crafty Sorcha. She recently nominated me for a Liebster Award in which she has 10 questions for me. I’m honoured – merci, Sarah – and you can read my responses following the photo break.

It has been a while since I participated in a meme, and I’m afraid this particular chain of meme will also end here. One of the conditions set out for this award asks for its re-rewarding to bloggers with limited audience, and somehow, in recent months, most blogs that I read have large number of followers while the smaller ones have stopped being updated. (A sign of losing popularity of blogs among small-audience writers?)

Sunny

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Musing: when love and culture collide

Last weekend’s wedding in Lorraine (the region in France with 3 international borders!) kickstarted what I have dubbed the summer of wedding attendances. With six invitations – two coming from a same couple but for celebrations in different countries – under our belt, of which two had to be declined due to timing issues, we have effectively three more to go, unless there are more invitations due to arrive that we are not aware of…

Heart

A little something I’ve noticed – none of our friends and family are organising monoculture weddings. Each and every single one of these weddings involve the coordination of customs and celebrations of two different cultures; Indian-Irish, French-Dutch, French-Lebanese, French-American, and Malaysian-Chinese. Now, how’s that for diversity?

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Spring blooms

Spring has finally decided to make its appearance, and as I type this post, it is sunny outside, with streaks of blue sky among some diffused clouds (go away clouds!). However, I’m going to be holed up indoor for most of today, trying to get some work done before a presentation on Monday. The aim is to cram as much work as possible so I’ll have at least tomorrow free to be out and about. Allegedly, the temperature is going to hit mid-20s tomorrow!

Spring blooms

In the mean time, to keep myself happy, I compiled this series of photos from springs in the past 2-3 years. Some little thing to remind me of the reward I’ll get when I go out for a walk or a cycle tomorrow. More the incentive to get focused (after I finish this post :p) and knuckled down to hard task at hand.

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Is it expensive to live in Paris?

This post happens quite by chance. In preparation of some changes to come in my life (and no, we’re not talking about starting a family or buying an apartment – not yet anyway), I started tracking my expenses not so long ago. Normally I have a pretty good idea what I spend my money on, but to actually see the amount I spent on certain things, I scared myself along the way!

Pastry from Pierre Hermé

Then a couple more things came my way: (1) an article that I saw on Twitter last week about budgeting based on the 50/20/30 rule – more on this below – and (2) curious friends who have been asking me about the cost of living in Paris. The former had me pondering if I’ve set my financial priorities right, while the latter had me seriously thinking about feasibility of living in Paris.

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On staying positive

Dusk by the sea

It had been a frantic few days.

As a result, the small pot of daffodils which I bought in support of Institut Curie sat there for 4 days before I got round to replanting it into a bigger pot. I did buy the soil for re-potting right the next day after I brought the daffodils home though.

As a result, I didn’t have time to bake some goodies for a girls’ evening with my friends and I ended up with a store-bought cake.

As a result, I was enormously happy to squeeze in a walk at Luxembourg Gardens with Frédéric on Saturday, when he surprised me after my science outreach activity afternoon and just before I left to meet the girls.

And so forth…

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On welcoming 2013

Sunset in Paris

If there is one certainty in life, it is that life is uncertain.

This time three years ago – 2010, that is – I was at the brink of finishing my thesis and completely ignorant of how the year would unfold. In my stressed-out mind, there was only one thing to focus on: hand in the thesis already! I figured once that was out of the way, I can take a deep breath, have a much-needed break, start job-hunting, and we’d see how things would go.

That would be too simple, wouldn’t it?

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How did I do in 2012?

Semi-bared Santa

Earlier in January, I wrote about working on life resolutions and tasked myself on 12 little things to do. Let’s have a quick recap on how that went, and then I’ll let you know my opinion on this endeavour.

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17 lessons in 17 months

It still surprises me some day that I live in Paris. Not only that, time has also sneaks up on me. It didn’t feel that long ago when I flew into Paris-CDG with an overweight suitcase, battling my way up and down staircases of public transport system and my then new building (how come no one ever offered to help?), before collapsing into a studio apartment with a beautiful view of springtime out the window.

In between then and now, much has changed and many lessons have been sent my way, whether I asked for them or not. Some are glaringly obvious, others not quite so. These are lessons which Paris has taught me in the past 17 months (yes, already!) …

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Let’s talk languages

I speak Franglais?

I like it that I grew up in a multi-lingual environment, and that I have opportunity to live abroad and experience new languages in the process. At present, I use either English or French in my daily conversations and they are slowly mergin to take life on its own. Slightly alarmingly for me is to find a plateau in my grasp of French and at the same time a regression in my use of English…

Lately, I find myself saying things like “his father” and “her mother” despite referring to the parents of a same friend (who is not both male and female at the same time, I assure you), asking a colleague if she has “taken her tickets” for a conference trip, and I “make (someone) a present” even if it’s store-bought and directly gift-wrapped (lovingly chosen, of course).

In another word, I’m beginning to literally translate from French to English (“son père”, “sa mère”, “prendre les billets”, “faire un cadeau”), and therefore committing the very same errors that I used to correct my Francophone friends from making! I know this is not strictly Franglais in the traditional sense – I don’t often speak in either one language then pepper it with words from the other – but what else would you call it? Confused foreign-speaker?

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Start, pause, stuck…

Writing a personal blog should be easy, right? After all, these are my experiences that I’m trying to put to pages. However, every so often, I find myself starting little snippets and then paused, not entirely sure how to finish them up without putting everyone to sleep, and all the while thinking “why would anybody think they are interesting?”.

Chocolate of Patrick Roger

The following is the equivalent of the text on type-written-but-crumpled-on-the-floor pages. Maybe I will revisit them one day, but it’s a lot likely that I won’t. At least I can now get rid of the random text documents – we shall be exploring the theme of “thing I don’t have since moving to Paris” today – sitting in my draft folder. ;)

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A year in travel, from Paris

L'Orangerie of Versailles

One of the best thing about living in Paris is the ease one escapes from Paris. Ownership of a private mean of transportation optional.

For someone who likes to travel, this is essential. Paris being a massive travel hub means I could either take the RER/Transilien to visit areas in Ile-de-France, the main rail services for trips around France and all its neighbouring countries (and then some), as well as flights to the rest of the world. I know, there are bus options to travel around Europe too, but I’d rather pay a wee bit more and shorten the travel time, given I don’t exactly have unlimited paid holiday to take.

And well have I been busy taking advantage of this in the last twelve months or what… February (as in 2 months ago) was the only month in which I stay put in entirety in Paris. If it hadn’t been a short month, who knows where I could have jaunted into? ;)

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Personal thoughts on Sri Lanka

Returning from my short visit to Sri Lanka, I’ve been asked on numerous occasions my perceptions and thoughts of the country. I find this relatively difficult to respond, as every observer notices different things. Even though Claire and I travelled together, I’d bet my last euro that what she thinks of the trip would be quite different from mine, plus some common points of course.

Buddhism
While knowing the fact that Buddhism is practiced by the majority of Sri Lankans, until my arrival, I simply had not realised just how significant its presence is. Everywhere we went, we would come across a Bo tree which under sat a statue of Buddha, or a simple shrine at the edge of a road, or a large temple overlooking the turn of a bend, or magnificent (and historic) complexes attended by many for prayers and ceremonies.

It also served to remind me that the root of Buddhism lies in South Asia, despite the main practising strongholds of Buddhism and its related/linked religions being East and South-East Asia. The iconographic representations of Buddha are noticeably rather distinct here from those of other parts of Asia. It also highlights how prayers are conducted quite differently from these fractions of Buddhism, yet at the same time hold through the practice of calm meditations. I find them all quite fascinating, but to discuss them in details would merit long articles in their own rights.

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12 little things to do

Between the great things we cannot do and the small things we will not do, the danger is that we shall do nothing. -Adolph Monod

Speaking to a friend a few days ago, I lamented how weak my resolves of late have been, of things I’ve started but now reluctantly giving up or putting on hold, of feeling overwhelmed by all that I should do and the panic that ensued when I felt I’ve failed to push myself to get them right. Methinks the greedy philosophy is backfiring…

If I am to go slow, then I need to (re)start small. Baby steps. I cannot keep looking back at those which have gone wrong. Do-over moments are life fallacies. There are, however, don’t-repeat-bad-choices moments to live by. Afterall, life is the sum of all that we’ve been through, regardless of time, place or the people we were with. We are who we are.

But now, time to look forward. Set new (little) goals.

1. Set aside 15 minutes each night to reflect on the day, focus on the positive, and mentally prioritise tasks for the following day.

2. Learn a word a day. English, French, Arabic – who cares which language it is in?

3. Go away a weekend each month. See and experience something new. It doesn’t have to be far. Even a village nearby would do.

4. Cook and eat seasonal. (Note to self: prepare a list of what’s in season when)

5. De-clutter. Nothing good comes from hogging anything, not even love. You know as well as I do that obsessive love is unhealthy. In any case, love is not a collectible item. Just be grateful with all that you receive.

6. Be more a saver, less a spender. (Perhaps a tad contradictory to No 3 above, but hey, trips don’t have to be on the pricey end either. Got to balance things up but it can be done.)

7. Stop worrying about what others may or may not think of my weight. If someone tells me that I need to lose some, I’d thank him/her for the advice and move along.

8. Healthy body, healthy mind – time to get back into my jogging routine!

9. Stop procrastination. ‘Nuff said.

10. Free hugs, virtual or in real life. *Hugs*

11. Project Life. (I’m just throwing this in for now. It’s something I’m interested in but just an inkling. On principle, it’s a pretty good idea.)

12. Smile. Every day. Even when it’s tough to. :D

And no, these are not New Year’s Resolutions. These are life resolutions. And thank you for listening reading my sudden revelations on improving my personal life. I’ll be back tomorrow with more thoughts on my roadtrip in Sri Lanka. See, part of the “stop procrastination” effort. ;)

The plus side of being petite

Supermarket shelf too high? The guy sitting in front blocking the view? Can’t reach that little corner for cleaning? Need about 3-4 inches of heels for a wee boost in height? These are the downsides of being me. Of being a mere couple of inches taller than five feet. But when it comes to travel, being petite has many advantages too. (Scroll over images for captions)

Plenty of leg space
Frequent travellers know that leg space is on the premium while on the move, be it on the plane, car, bus, or even train. Luckily for me, there’s normally a reasonable gap between my knees and the back of the seat in front of me. Stretching out, pas de problème!

Just get comfortable
If I don’t feel like stretching out, tucking my legs under me to settle in comfortably is relatively easy too. There’s nothing beat curling up in one’s seat to read while listening to music, if the scenery proved to be too familiar, repetitive and/or unattractive.

Evoke protectiveness
It is hard for me to appear threatening to anyone. With a little smile, it goes a long way into enlisting help from others. Putting my bag into overhead locker, fishing that one last bottle of ice tea from the top shelf, asking for direction… I just need to be careful that the friendliness is not perceived as an expression of interest for “something special”.

Make the luggage shrinks
The running joke is I could shop in the kids’ section to avoid paying too much value added tax. I bet my five blouses could fold more compactly and weigh less than, say, an adult man’s pair of jeans. Even my shoes are nearly comically tiny. Translate that in terms of volume, it means I can bring less and travel lighter.

Walk right through
Low ceiling, low door threshold, low cupboard shelf, etc – nary to worry. I would have to try to jump up so I can bump my head to the corners. So I’d just happily walk under them, and come away on the other side unscathed. Pretty handy for visiting Lilliput!

Cheap(er) to feed
Well… this is not exactly true. I’m not a fussy eater and I’m almost always game for something local and novel to me. Give me a decent plate of food and I’ll be quite full but, reality is, I could eat large-ish portion when I put my mind to it. Not only that, I’m not aversed to eating at expensive places either. One really should not assume that it’ll be cheap to feed me… ;)

A renewed start

I can’t even begin to tell how crazy the last 6 months have been. I am away a lot – perhaps a bit more than I care for – and hardly have the time to see my family and friends. Even with regular Facebook updates, many are still confused of where I am and where I’ve been. In addition, I have put aside part of my personal life on hold, and by extension, this blogling too. Ops.

My schedule is still pretty erratic and busy. I also know that this is going to continue right up to the end of the year. And then some. This blog will end up going nowhere if I don’t just start writing. Something. Anything. Hopefully interesting stuff. A few more pictures. This and that, you know.

But first, I must renew my commitment to write.

There are a couple of pages around here that I have not yet work on and for the time being, will most likely remain neglected. Baby steps. As much as I’d love to launch this only once the entire site is completed, I must be realistic. It’s going to stay work in progress for a while more and I’m learning to live with it. For now, baby, I’m back!

Ps: meet Hope, my current constant companion on the road ;)

Spring travelling

Spring is my favourite season to travel. More concisely, late spring spilling into early summer, although given an opportunity to travel, it doesn’t really matter when, does it? ;)

New bloom in spring

Here are but some of the reasons why it’s great to travel in spring:

  • Cost: traditionally a shoulder travelling period, prices from flights to accommodation to certain activities are cheaper than the summer (peak season) and winter (to escape either to seek the sun or to hit the slope) months.
  • Attractions: in a lot of places, come winter, certain attractions are difficult to access and/or may be closed. Spring is the time they reopen and luckily, the throng of visitors doesn’t usually flock in high numbers during this period.
  • Transportations: winter travel sees potential cancellation due to adverse weather conditions, summer travel within close quarters can be too stuffy and uncomfortable. Additionally, for winter travel, public transportations to get around may also be limited.
  • Weather: not too warm, not too cold. The possible downside is the arrival of spring shower, but more often than not, it is sunny and cheerful with temperature in high tens.
  • Colours: after the grey winter spring brings forth a burst of colour as flower blooms and trees begin to spot fresh foliages. The “awakenings” may seem like a poet’s cliché but it is all very true.
  • Day and night: the times for sunrise and for sunset are within reasonable time frame, and I take this to heart because I love going out in the morning when it’s quiet outside with little people around, not to mention the colour of the sky at this time of the day is simply wonderful.
  • Packing: oh how nice it is not have to bring thick jumpers and coats, and with less to carry, the lighter I can travel. Perfect for this day and age of travelling where best flight prices are with low cost carriers, and when negating the need to check in luggages, additional charges can be avoided.

Of course, most of the above are mainly applicable where seasons of the year transform the way we live.

What is your favourite season to travel, and any particular reason why it is so?

Hello world!

Never have “Hello world!” been so appropriate. ;)

Still, I have travel envy.

I am envious of carefree travellers who are seemingly unbound by anything but their wish to see the world. Oh I am sure they have their share of worries but at least they are not paralysed by these responsibilities of life.

Travel guides and photo album

On the other hand, I fret over too much, from my being a female (indeed, many places are safe for single female traveller but there are also places where to venture all by myself would be foolish to say the least) to the burden of education loan (unless someone’s offering to help me repay them?) to the lack of travelling time (at times of recession, jobs are hard to come by and losing one would hardly be conducive to saving up for travels).

It all comes down to balancing act. I try to sneak away for a trip here and there whenever I can spare the time and the dough (loan repayment obviously takes priority), and I try to do sufficient research to ensure my safety and well-being. Luckily I usually do have travel companion(s), or friends to spend time with at my destinations, thus it’s not often that I’m left to my own device in a foreign location.

I used to dream of having a job with extensive travelling opportunity. Even better would be a job that allows me to stay in a place for 2-3 months before moving on to another place, so that I can get a deeper feel for the place, the culture, the language and the cuisine. But of course, this is untenable. It doesn’t take much for me to realise that I’m not quite as nomadic at heart, as I need to have a stable social circle to really thrive and to appreciate what I have in my life when I’m away.

I may not travel as much as some, but I count myself very lucky to be able to travel more than most people.


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