The funny thing about journal-writing is how habit-forming it gets. I feel like I have to record the past two days' events before even more things happen and I fall behind in record-keeping. I don't think the same compulsion is as strong when keeping a private journal --- unless something particularly memorable or significant happened in that time --- but with an audience reading this, whoever they all are, the pressure's a little different.

So here's what's been going on, and there's been a lot of it, considering that only forty-eight hours have passed since my last entry.

On Friday, after posting my journal entry, I headed to school, picked up my laptop and some other materials, heaved a pile of books into the car, and came right back. Along the way, I almost skidded along the Pan-Island Expressway (at the Thomson flyover), which was a highly freakish experience since I had been neither speeding, accelerating nor braking at the time, but the drive home was mercifully without incident.

At home, we packed a small overnight bag --- and I really mean small because when I said to Terz that we should pack, he was like, "Pack what?" --- and got ready to leave. I'd told Terz about the near-accident and he thought it was because our tires are old and due to be changed anyway, so he assured me (or rather, I asked for assurance several times) that it wasn't my fault that the near-skid happened. When he saw the car though, or rather its rear right tire, he changed his assessment: it still wasn't my fault, but we'd had a blowout, and we had to change our tires immediately. So instead of heading for lunch and then to the Marina Mandarin, we stopped by a car workshop near our home --- Terz didn't want to risk driving much on the old and blasted tires --- and spent an hour and a half twiddling our thumbs in the waiting room while the car got new tires. Add another six hundred dollars to our credit card bill. But the service staff were really nice, for a change.

This meant that we were starving by mid-afternoon when we finally checked into the hotel, so we did the natural thing people-who-are-already-broke do: order room service. Damn, it was expensive, but damn, it was nice to eat food on china plates and with napkins and silverware and anything. Plus I'd just showered, so I was wearing a bathrobe when we ate. It's all part of the hotel experience, I tell you. I'm not about to make room service a habit whenever I stay in a hotel, but it's a nice treat, yeah.

Stomachs sated, we walked over to collect the contact sheets and negatives for the photographs Terence took at the wedding last week. He didn't make prints yet because he wanted to just order (for himself and the couple) pictures that turned out well, and we are happy to report that many pictures turned out well. Some, in his own opinion and that of a photographer friend whom we met the next day, are good enough to go into his portfolio --- which is a good thing since the one big thing I haven't mentioned in this journal is the fact that Terence is considering a change in career, only he needs a lot of practice before he goes full-time, which is where shooting at friends' weddings and other random gigs becomes important.

Naturally, then, the next thing we did was walk over to Bras Basah and buy him a new portfolio (the existing one is full). Then it was back to the hotel for some crosswords and rest, before meeting our friends for a play. By then, it was full-on raining down on us. I don't know if I've said it here before, but in Singapore, it's not Christmas if it's not raining heavily. Through the rain, we went to Mohammed Sultan --- dinner at Viet Cafe, followed by Hark the Jingle Red-Nosed Chestnut at the DBS-Singapore Repertory Theatre at Robertson Quay. Hark is not so much a play as it is a collection of skits, parodying Christmas in Singapore as well as other local icons and rituals. I read a Bloomberg article yesterday that only one in seven Singaporeans is Christian, yet the holiday is celebrated with as much fervor as it is in Europe and America. Do you see how strange we are?

Anyway, dinner was okay and Hark was much, much better. The two short skits that really hit home with me were the "Counting with Annabelle Chong" segment and a look at how the local TV network has handled war dramas through the years (i.e. essentially, nothing has changed). Those were the two ROTFLMAO moments for me, but the rest was pretty good too.

Our Hark tickets gave us discounts at area bars, so we wound up at BarCelona's, which was right next door. I'd never been there before, but it was nice and mellow, with some live music (though by the time we got there, the guitarist sang only another four or five songs before packing it in for the night), a pool table and neato rattan-ish furniture. The Bs joined us there, we had drinks and pool, and when the place closed at 2 am, we popped over to Tivoli's for a few more drinks before that place closed at 3 am.

The funny thing was, we were all sorta hyper from the drinks or something, so we invited the Bs (our other friends decided they wanted to go home and sleep) back to our hotel room. On the way, we stopped at 7-Eleven to get more drinks. At about 4 am, we also decided to bring Scrabble, which we'd brought with us, but I lasted about three or four rounds, before my mind just refused to cooperate with me --- I couldn't see any words out of the letters before me --- and I fell asleep, right there. Apparently, the three of them continued to play for a while more, and it was five-thirty before the Bs went home. I dimly recall hearing Mrs B trying to wake Mr B up, because he'd dozed off in a chair, and I was told the next day that the wake-up operation took fifteen minutes. Heh.


I didn't sleep very well because the previous hotel guest had set the clock-radio alarm for 8:40 am, and when it went off, it took Terz and I a few vital groggy seconds before we located the source of the noise and shut it off. Then Terz had to call his photographer friend --- whom we were originally going to meet at 10 am --- to postpone the appointment. Then at 11 am my cousin in Hong Kong called my cellphone, to give me flight information since I was supposed to pick her up when she got in. And since checkout time was noon, I thought 11 was a pretty good time to get up.

More grogginess, more packing, more adding things to our credit card bill when we checked out. We headed to Burger King, when a bit of food and a lot of 7-Up revived me somewhat, and hung out with our photographer friend. We were going to go home after that, but we got a call from the newlywed couple about meeting mid-afternoon to look at both Terz's pictures and Mrs B's, since the latter was collecting her contact sheets at that time. They also asked us to meet them at Sng Arms, an army surplus store in Chinatown, for a bit of shopping before that. So the three of us hiked down to Trengganu Street, which was a pleasant walk despite the warmth of the afternoon, and poked around Sng Arms for a while. They sell your regular army surplus stuff as well as more hardcore offerings like samurai swords, a variety of knives and other camping gear; T pointed out the katana-short sword pair he wants for his next birthday.

From Sng Arms, we popped over to an Indonesian store 'cause my friends wanted to get some Christmas gifts there, then made our way to meet Mrs B and pore over contact sheets. It's so exciting to see wedding pictures --- or any pictures of an important event, I guess --- and I confess I'm jealous that we don't have as many pictures of our wedding. I suppose that's the price we paid for being the first in our circle of friends to get married, before those of them who are photography buffs today really got into the habit.

When we got home, our friend from London was awaiting us (as planned) to pick up some videotapes of shows that I'd taped for him while he was away (since he'd been watching things like The Gilmore Girls here, which aren't available in the UK). He was here for all of fifteen minutes, since he had other plans afterwards, and I couldn't get over how much weight he'd lost from being away for just three months. I'm not sure how it happened --- and he claims not to know either --- but either English food is worse than they say, or he's been secretly eating just salads to get by.

Finally, Terz and I got to take some naps, though not very long ones, because we had to be up by 7ish so that he could go to X-Man's party and I could get ready to pick up my cousin and her boyfriend from the airport. My errand took longer than I expected, partly because the boyfriend's flight was delayed, partly because I'd asked them to get something at duty-free for me and the duty-free lines were long, so I had to circle the pick-up area three times before they materialized. Fortunately, the cops didn't give me a ticket, though they were looking rather dour. I'm not especially close to this cousin, who's a good deal younger than I am and living in New Zealand to boot, but her family has an apartment near where we live, so I thought one of my contributions to goodwill this year would be to pick them up (the rest of the family arrives later today). Her boyfriend looks nothing like I expected, but I admit that my impression of him from the descriptions I'd received were hazy at best. Nothing like a good strong Kiwi accent coming out of a Chinese guy's mouth to throw me for a loop, though.

Finally, I got to X-Man's party at about 10 pm and we stayed till 2-something. It wasn't a big party, but it was nice to see some of his friends again and catch up with them. The duty-free liquor my cousin bought was a big hit because you can't get Absolut Mandarin on regular store shelves here, and people were shocked that the bottle only cost $20-something in duty-free; our liquor taxes are daylight robbery, I know.

Eventually, I got Terz home and into bed, and then there were a bit of puking --- which I record only because this is the first time in six years he's had so much to drink that he puked --- then there was sleep. And now I'm awake; Terz is still asleep and I will probably go back to bed this afternoon. I'm debating if I should go grocery shopping today, though. We're supposed to fix a salad for the family potluck lunch on Christmas Day and part of me wants to get the food today, while my usual procrastinatory self is quite happy to wait till tomorrow morning. We have dinner plans with my parents tonight --- my brother got back from the US late last night --- and I should squeeze in some of my overdue work (testimonials and editing) in between all this.

Ah, well. We'll see.


I wasn't in the mood to write last night, so I'm going to allow myself about half an hour at the computer right now to jot things down before I get on with my day.

The last two afternoons were interesting and also quite strikingly in contrast to each other, as far as my impressions of my new colleagues and new work environment were concerned. Admittedly, my stomach spent most of Wednesday scrunched up in dire anticipation of missing some of the LotR movie, so perhaps that's why I wasn't feeling so hot on my first afternoon with them.

But surely all the corporate-speak had something to do with it too. I understand the importance of planning goals and strategies and so on, but I get a little wiggy when the trainer draws concentric circles with the word "Values" in the innermost circle, followed by "Purpose" in the second, "Mission" in the third and "Strategies" in the fourth, explaining how values are at the core of an organisation's purpose, which together are at the core of its mission, and so on --- but then she goes on to use the words "purpose" and "mission" interchangeably during the discussion that follows as if they are the same thing. That's like me teaching literature and making a distinction between similes and metaphors, but then going ahead to use the two words interchangeably. It's not very convincing, especially to a trainee who was skeptical about such an involved process of goal-setting to begin with.

I'm also a little wary of perfectly good mission statements that get tossed out, in order that the group has to spend half an hour haggling over whether to word something as "an effective and communicative process", "an effective communications process" or "communicate effectively". My god. I damn near screamed at someone then, especially since the time was winding rapidly towards 5 pm by then, but since I'm the only new person, I sat very quietly in my seat instead. I'd already determined before I met my colleagues --- whether prematurely at this workplan retreat or on January 2 --- that I'd be nice and quiet and obliging, and sit and watch a lot before I tried to change anything. I don't want to be the New Person that Thinks She Knows Everything, you know?

What really killed me on Wednesday afternoon, though, was that towards the end of the discussion, someone reacted to another person's suggestion with, "No, that's not true. Blah blah blah --- " but she quickly corrected herself with a knowing look at other people saying, "Oh, I'm not supposed to say 'no', I should say, 'I think that ... ' " and then people laughed. I'm glad people laughed; if they had taken her backpedalling seriously, I would have been in deep fear of my own mental sanity for the next few years. But isn't it such a farce? The corporate 'rule' is that during brainstorming and such, one shouldn't pass ideas on other people's judgements, which is why one shouldn't say 'no' outright to any idea and so on --- but there are things such as bad ideas, and it really depends so much more on the environment for discussion, how comfortable people feel if they make a poorly thought-out suggestion, rather than silly rules like Thou Shalt Not Say, Instinctively, 'No'. I have one simple rule whenever I teach a class: we respect each other's opinions, including the teacher's but especially the students'; we agree to disagree. If seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds can handle that, even when they're discussing controversial issues that mean a lot to them like censorship or religion or homosexuality, I don't see why a bunch of adults can't abide by the same rules.

Okay, so I shall get off my high horse now, because while Wednesday's afternoon's proceedings came close to inspiring a sense of dread in me for my new job, yesterday's were much more fun. For one thing, they were concrete: people talked about the actual projects and nitty-gritty duties that made up their daily routine, and that was at least more understandable to me than waffling around in the land of values-purpose-mission-strategies. Some good stories emerged, too.

And I do have a decent vibe from all these new colleagues. Everyone's been nice and even when they warn me about the workload, it's in a good-natured sense, not in a "I hate my job, I can't wait to get out of here" sense. I've been invited several times to the year-end party at lunchtime on the 31st, so I guess I'll have to go since I honestly don't have plans that day and there's no harm hanging out with folks two days before I officially join them.

What did surprise me was how few ex-teachers were in the group. I suppose I thought the group would be about half ex-teachers, half other staff -- but works out more to a one-quarter representation. Which makes me kinda glad to be here because frankly, it's hard to understand the attitude of school staff (and why in-house newsletters like Contact fail so abysmally) if you haven't taught at all in any Singapore school. I'm not saying I'm going to radically change anyone's attitude towards schools, because there's no doubt that the key boss to please in this new job is the Minister himself, but maybe little things can be changed.

As for what honestly wigged me out? My new boss, the Director of Public Affairs, sounds exactly like an ex-colleague in the way he speaks: syntax, intonation, inflections, everything. It's really strange because I feel like I'm listening to a slightly older clone of my ex-colleague (or my ex-colleague is the clone, or whatever). Another new colleague reminds me of someone in my current school, but I don't really want to say more here because then I'll sound bitchy; the former is a Trekkie though, which might be interesting since there aren't too many of those in Singapore (given the lack of any Trek TV subsequent to ST:TNG being broadcast here).

But what really really bothers me is the excessive communication in acronyms here. I understand that this is a Ministry-wide thing, which is not only alienating for a newcomer, but just --- I dunno --- dehumanizing? Something inside me has never liked acronyms, even though I've grown up surrounded by them and use any number of them in daily life. I know, however, that the rest of the world doesn't communicate in acronyms all the time, and I'd really like to not cut out words from my life. I'm not sure what I can do about this, but we'll see. Meanwhile, here's a whole bunch of acronyms that appeared at the last two afternoons' proceedings:


I can't remember any others. A lot of the 'D' ones are just "Director" followed by whatever division they're director of. Hence my boss is DPA --- Director, Public Affairs. I don't get, though, why we can't just call him by his name since he's clearly all right with that. I'm going to have to spend some time studying the nuances of this acronym usage, I guess.

Oh, I left out PAD: Public Affairs Division. That's my new home, with effect from January 2. I think I'd rather say, "Hi, this is Yu-Mei calling from Public Affairs," than "Hi, this is Yu-Mei calling from P-A-D." Dude, saying "P-A-D" only saves you one syllable anyhow.

So that was my last two afternoons at the Carlton Hotel. Now I'm not really wigged anymore, kinda psyched about the new job and learning new things, and relieved that I won't need more than two suits to start out (which means I I just need to snag a pantsuit, and I'll be fine).

Today is gonna be real busy and I should leave soon. Well, not really busy. More like: I have to go down to school, print out some stuff from the school server and pick up my laptop and other materials, so that I can finish up the last few testimonials at home before Christmas. I've been plugging away at them in school, but I don't really have any blocks of daytime time that I can dedicate to spending in school before Christmas, so these last few will have to be written at home. In the afternoon, we're checking into the Marina Mandarin to use our complimentary room --- we've had a hotel membership for several years now, though in the interest of cutting back on our expenses we're not going to renew it next year --- and tonight we're going out with some friends too. Meanwhile, my London friends are back in Singapore and we should establish contact sometime soon.

Okay, my half hour is up. I'm going to post this, and then get on with the day.


I have about twenty minutes before I have to leave the house and there were many goings-on yesterday, so I think I will confine myself to talking about the evening's events, and come back to work-related stuff later, since work-related stuff continues this afternoon (which is why I have to leave in fifteen minutes) and it'll be more coherent if I talk about both afternoons' worth together.

The only important thing you need to know about yesterday's workplan seminar is that it ended only ten minutes after its scheduled conclusion time at 5:30 pm, so I speedwalked to the MRT station, hopped on a train, tried to do a crossword during the three-station journey to keep my stomach from flipflopping further at the thought of missing the opening of LotR and to prevent myself from checking my watch every other second, got off at Orchard station and elbowed my way further to Lido cineplex, and managed not to growl too loudly at those pesky people who hand out flyers at every underpass corner.

I got to the cineplex at 6 pm and all was well, except that I was out of breath and my stomach was twisted into wretched knots still, since my friends were still waiting in line to get into the theater. The previous showing had just ended and people were filing out still. We got seated within five minutes, then settled down to wait till 6:27 pm (by Terx's watch) before the movie began. So I speedwalked for nothing. Bah. I should've known it would've started late --- this is Singapore, after all --- but I was really, really anxious not to miss anything.

The movie was really good, but I think I will have to write about it in greater detail after seeing it again. See, I was too distracted this time. Firstly, there was the time issue that gave me the stomach-wrenching fear that lingered even after I was safely ensconced in my seat. Secondly, there was the fact that twenty minutes into the movie, THE MOVIE REEL BURNED UP AND THE LIGHTS CAME UP AND SUDDENLY THEY WERE PLAYING BEATLES MUSIC AS IF THE MOVIE HAD ENDED.

Needless to say, people were pissed. Some people hammered on the window leading to the operators' room. Other people raised a ruckus. A lot of people got up to use the washroom, like it was a scheduled intermission or something, which puzzled me greatly. The movie image reappeared for a few minutes, but without sound and with the house lights still on so that the image wasn't distinct, and then it vanished again.

It was about ten or fifteen minutes later when the movie continued --- except that we had skipped over all the intervening material!! People yelled, "Rewind the movie!" and other less courteous/more impatient versions of that request, but to no fucking avail. The movie continued. We missed about twenty minutes' worth, according to Mr B. Mrs B said afterwards that her sister had come out of the film screening just before ours and had made the same complaint.

Fucking hell.

The moral of the story, ladies and gentlemen? NEVER EVER WATCH A MOVIE AT LIDO CINEPLEX. Tell your friends, tell your family, tell anyone you know who might so much as transit through Singapore for a day. LIDO IS RUN BY INCOMPETENT IDIOTS, so incompetent that at certain quieter points in the movie, because we were sitting four rows from the back, we could actually hear bits of conversation between the operators in the operators' room. Fucking idiots, the lot of them.

NO MORE LIDO. Terz and I are swearing by Grand after this.

Oh, and this isn't the first time it's happened. Apparently, a similar situation occurred when another friend (who was, alas, in our LotR group last night) saw one of the first few screenings of The Phantom Menace in 1999. On hindsight, since I watched a midnight preview of that movie at Lido, I'm now grateful my preview viewing at least went off without a hitch.


I'm sorry to belabor it, but I'm really pissed. If my brain is still intact after this afternoon's stuff, I will probably craft a complaint letter (for all the good it'll do, my cynical side reminds me) to both Lido and the local newspaper's forum page. Maybe I should CC the letter to Lido's main rival, the cinema chain that runs Grand.


Okay, so LotR proper. I think I will write in white, so that you're not inadvertently spoilered. Highlight the white space below to see my admittedly incomplete thoughts on the film. [Ed: White text changed to default colour for ease of reading, since I'm migrating this to my blog 3 years after the movie came out and there's really no spoiler issues anymore.]

It brought the story to life, without a doubt, and certainly conveyed the scope of the tale. The narrative was compressed, of course, and as someone who finished reading the book less than a week ago, I'll take the book's extended version any day. In the movie, there's less sense of the real grit, struggle and terror in the hobbits' fleeing from the Shire. Of course there are moments of terror, but they tend to be moments --- that's it --- and then someone saves the day, and the terror is suspended, for now. Which is not quite the same effect one gets in the book when it feels like someone is hounding the hobbits constantly.

I wasn't so hot on the inflated role given to Arwyn, but I can live with it. I really didn't like the romance between Arwyn and Aragorn at first, because I thought it was gratuitously Hollywoodesque, but a friend remarked afterwards that the romance was from one of the poems in the book, one of the songs Frodo hears during his sojourn at Rivendell. So that made me feel better about it, especially since my friend added that this interpretation coheres with the part in the novel when the author tells us Aragorn never returned to Rivedell as a man ever again. (I'd look up the chapter reference, but I really don't have the time to right now.)

The one thing I didn't like, as I told friends as we dissected the film at dinner later, was what I thought was over-the-top use of special effects to convey how the ring corrupted Bilbo and Galadriel, and twisted their yearning for it into a vile lust. I understand the corruption of the ring and I think it was sufficiently conveyed in other scenes with these two characters. I didn't like the whole Bilbo/Galadriel-momentarily-morphing-into-demon thing. I GET IT. The ring makes people crazy. Let the actors act and stop showing off your CGI budget!

Similarly, I thought Boromir was portrayed too obviously as well. In the novel, the ring's influence on him is quite insidious and you can really sense how little by little, he's being consumed with lust for it. In the movie, it was there right from the start, in some kind of mad way; after the Council witnessed Boromir's attitude towards the ring, why would they let him be a part of the Fellowship when he was the prime candidate to snatch it from Frodo?

So, yeah, a little more subtlety, guys. Tolkien had the subtlety and while this movie certainly wasn't as anvilicious as most Hollywood productions, they should trust themselves and the actors more. Let the story tell itself.

At any rate, I liked it. Loved the elves, loved the blondeness, loved the arrows. Really liked all the depictions of the various landscapes. Not so crazy about the way the narrative was reordered, but I can see why it's necessary for a the movie to be accessible to an audience that may not have had the time or patience to read Tolkien.

Okay, movie review over for now. More tidbits will surely come when we watch it again, probably this weekend.

After the movie, we went to Brewerkz for dinner and drinks, and wound up loitering there till closing time and beyond; they kicked us out of our seats at 12:30 am. Wahj & Kay the newlyweds went home after that, because Wahj was still under the weather from the wedding exertions, and X-Man went to join his girlfriend, but the rest of us trouped over to The Peak at Mohammed Sultan for several hours of karaoke. I don't sing, but Terz loves to, as do a number of our friends, and I'm okay with watching and laughing and cheering, as long as no one sticks a mike at me. The Bs know the boss at The Peak (which boss along the MS strip don't they know), so we got a room with a discount without any problems, and stayed till closing time at 3 am (and they don't let you overstay there, probably because their entertainment licence is at stake). Mr B had many drinks and was very funny, Terz sang till his voice was all croaky, and much fun was had by all --- without incurring a gigantic bill, thank goodness.

Teraz and I got home and went to bed at about 4 am; I got up at 10 am, for some reason, but allowed myself to loll in bed till 11 am. Terz's still asleep. He had a lot to drink.

And now I really must get dressed and go.


I realized today that I have exactly two weeks of school vacation time left, before the honeymoon is truly over. On January 2, I begin work at a new job. Tomorrow , as a matter of fact, I already have to attend an afternoon "workplan retreat" with my division (that's the Public Affairs Division at the Ministry of Education); part two of the retreat continues on Thursday afternoon. I don't think it can be too exciting of an experience --- for all that it'll be a novel one for me --- when the person who contacted me from the division about attending noted that, "[W]e'll first do lunch [at 12:30 pm] and then make everyone pay for the lunch during the retreat."

I shouldn't be complaining. I agreed to move over to work with them and I'm sure as hell sick of teaching. I also need something to do. I also figured out today that what's been bugging me lately is a strong sense of ennui since I don't have the routine of work or school or anything at the moment to keep me going, just this vague awareness that I ought to finish writing those damn testimonials and clear out my desk before December 28. Sad as this may sound, I need work right now. Too much unfocused leisure time --- and now we see what a pathetic creature I am, that I'm no good at even managing my leisure time --- is bad for this girl's soul.

On the other hand, I will conceivably have very little leisure time over the next two weeks. In addition to the Christmas engagements I mentioned before and the anticipation of friends and family coming home, throw in one more Christmas party this Saturday night and another good friend coming back from Baltimore for two short weeks. And don't forget those pesky testimonials I still have to write (did some today, five more to go, three of which have to be written from scratch), the editing job and general end-of-year madness. I suspect, after I case out my future colleagues tomorrow and get the scoop on the office dress code from them, that I may have to go shopping for some new work clothes too. I don't mind shopping, but I'm not sure how fun shopping for work clothes will be. I need the Miffy to consult on this; she's excellent at jazzing up office wear, though she's also got an impenetrable smile and will get away with denim jackets during business meetings, among other things.

And I might need new brown shoes.

Did I mention the new shoes I got last week? Before the wedding rehearsal, Isetan tempted me and I walked out with two new pairs of, well, slippers. One's black and casual; the other's silvery and sparkly. The black pair has served me well as casual footwear for the holidays; the silver pair did well at the wedding on Friday. I'm happy. Now if only I could sneak the black pair in to work...

So today, I went to school and threw some testimonials together, then Terz picked me up after he was done with his school errands, and we went downtown to get his pictures developed from the wedding. He's having A4 contact sheets done ($10 apiece) so that he doesn't have to pay to develop photographs that didn't turn out well. I'm not sure how much money that will save him, but he's the photo guy. We had lunch at a new sushi place at Funan Centre (next to the Watson's) which was nice, except that he ordered too much, then I had to eat it, and then I felt pretty sick for the rest of the afternoon.

When we got home, I set to reading more of The Corrections but even though I've progressed to page 220-something, I have to stop. It's too depressing. These characters are all misreading each other, yet it's perfectly understandable in a human sense why they're misunderstanding each other, and everyone's getting more and more depressed (including moi, the reader) and I felt so sad this afternoon I had to just put the book away. Doing something comparative mindless and less involved like editing that journal was much better for my system.

I will finish the book someday --- maybe next week, or when I've started work, to put some distance between what's going on in the book and undistracted life --- and it is fine, fine writing, but it's also just so sad. And I'm barely halfway through!

So as of now, I've edited, we've skipped dinner due to the abundant sushi still settling in our stomach, and I'm working on some photograph pages for the website (coming soon!). Soon there will be Buffy, then there will be sleep. I'm going to be well-rested for tomorrow's workplan retreat, if only because we have tickets to the The Lord of the Rings at 6 pm --- which means a real dash for me, assuming the retreat ends punctually at 5:30 pm at the Carlton Hotel so that I can hop on the MRT and sprint to Lido. I figure if things run over, I'm going to mutter something about a family/religious engagement and dash off. Come on, it's The Lord of the Rings! I admit it's not (yet) quite the same as if I had tickets for the preview of Attack of the Clones --- which I will see despite its stupid name --- but I'm not kidding when I say it's family and religious. Terence is pretty hardcore.

Wish me luck.


The fact that I'm writing so frequently today should tell you how little I'm doing, puttering about the house.

I have, however, cracked open The Corrections again, a book I've been dying to read for ages but barely read beyond the first thirty pages after I first bought it. I have now worked up to page 186 and I'm really into it, although it's very depressing to read. Life seems to be a real malaise, you know, no matter which character the author focuses on at the moment --- the retired parents, the discontented children, or their even more disillusioned spouses/significant others. I still do think good books are about acknowledging without adornment or foofaraw the hard knocks of life, but too many pages of it in one sitting would do me in. I'll pick it up again tomorrow.

My editing job also got delivered tonight. I'm going to proofread a local arts journal of about three hundred pages in exchange for some money. I'm excited about the money, but I'm also excited about editing. I haven't done this --- correcting student essays and scripts doesn't count --- since the summer of 1996 and I really got a kick out of it then. Call me anal retentive, but I like neatening other people's writing, so long as I don't have to do the actual creating and writing so much myself. (The fact that my Gripe/Thoughts website languishes this year is proof positive of that.) So we'll see how this goes. If only I could make a living out of it --- and it's really something that isn't bound by geography either, and I could work at home, with or without kids, and I should stop now because it's so unlikely that's gonna happen.

Whoops, plans have changed. I need to go pick Terz up from his wedding dinner and I'm taking the train downtown, so I guess I'll bring The Corrections along for reading too.

So it has been as lazy --- though not as rainy --- of a day as I anticipated. I roleplayed a little, watched TV a little, did crosswords, slept a little. I also helped Terz pick out clothes for the wedding dinner tonight --- he knew it wasn't going to be a dressy affair (certainly not like last Friday's shindig), plus he had to meet a friend nearby before that, so he didn't want to wear anything that would cause him to perspire profusely. That's the trick with Singapore weather: no matter how much it rains, you still run the risk of perspiring unpleasantly so long as you attempt to walk around outside an airconditioned environment. I really don't know why the British bothered to set up shop here in 1819; with the heat, I'm surprised they got anything achieved in the day.

Now I'm bored with Baywatch (no surprises there) so I'm typing this.

I watched bits of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon this afternoon. It's really much worse than I remembered. The previews on AXN made it look all slick and suspenseful, but the delivery of the actual film is much more plodding and predictable. I need to learn enough Cantonese so that we can get the original Hong Kong TV series from the '70s on VCD and watch it.

I'm looking forward to the end of this week. So many people are coming home! Friends from London, my brother from Madison, a cousin from Melbourne and another bunch of relations from Wellington. My datebook is just filled with notes of arrival times and flight numbers. Woo!

Okay, I think I'm going to heat up some leftover Kentucky Fried Chicken from yesterday now. I haven't had anything to eat since this morning's roti prata and my stomach is complaining. It must not have shrunk as much as I feared.

No hiking today. The gods must be displeased with Singapore because it rained torrentially this morning. It wasn't raining when we got up, but shortly before we were to leave, Miffy SMSed with the news that it was raining heavily in her neighborhood, which is also the neighborhood of our intended hike. We reshuffled our plans to meeting at Casuarina for roti prata instead, and then had to wait for a table when we got there, which was surprising since it was only 9-something and we thought most people would be sleeping in. (Today is Hari Raya Puasa, to celebrate the end of Ramadan, and a public holiday.)

Anyways, we eventually scored some seats, though Terence and I were perilously splattered by the rain. The food was kinda disappointing, so this may be the last time we eat there. A friend of mine who did a prata run all over Singapore lately swears that Sixth Avenue has the best stuff, anyhow.

[Explanatory note for non-Singaporean readers: Roti prata is like an Indian pancake, except fried in much more oil than a conventional American one and dipped in cholesterol-laden curry for a truly heart-stopping meal. It's impossible to find outside of Singapore; even the Penang chain of Malaysian/Singaporean restaurants in the US can't manage more than a paltry copy of the stuff. Oh, and it's also one of the most popular twenty-four foods in Singapore; there are joints all over the island claiming to be the original, and canonical, Jalan Kayu roti prata place.]

After breakfast, there was talk of heading to Marina Leisureplex to goof off at the indoor archery range there --- but a minute after we'd pulled out of the area in our separate cars, plans changed again and people decided that given the delightfully rainy weather, they'd rather go home and sleep. Terz and I got back here: he's playing his NFL game and thrashing the Detroit Lions 41-0, I'm logged on and attempting to roleplay. He has a wedding dinner to attend tonight, but other than that, it looks like it'll be a quiet and rainy day at home for us.


So we wound up not watching Rurounin Kenshin but Men in Black instead. That movie is darned funny --- not in a cerebral fashion, certainly, but it's smarter than it appears to be. I always enjoy it. I also tried to do my crosswords, but despite all the practice I've been getting lately, the Washington Post and LA Times ones are getting harder and harder. I think my brain has reached saturation point, dammit. What happened to all that intellect that fielded me through college?

Probably melted to goo from all the silly episodes of Survivor and The X-Files that I've been indulging in. Bah.

I should also note that my being not in the mood for the internet this past week has also meant that I've sadly neglected my roleplaying games. I really shouldn't, because I'm in the middle of various ostensible storylines, but I feel no zest, no pep, no stimulation to get online and play my characters. I'm not sure if it's because of overkill from the earlier part of the month and November, or if I've finally hit my plateau with them. I hope it's not the latter; on the one hand, I've managed just fine without roleplaying at all this past week, but on the other hand, I remember the withdrawal symptoms I felt when work got busy and I couldn't RP for several weeks. It always felt like I was coming home when I finally logged on and played.

All of which was probably interesting for about three of all my readers. Oh well.

Other bits and pieces: Christmas plans are crystallizing. Christmas Eve at a friend's girlfriend's place. Christmas lunch at my cousin's. Christmas dinner at a friend's --- they're preparing twenty-two kilograms of meat (erp) and thirty liters of beer from Brewerkz (the only local microbrewery). No presents at any of them. The nice thing about Christmas in Singapore, now that I'm an adult who has to pay her own bills, is that you don't have to get gifts, although the plague of obligatory gift-giving has spread its insidious influence far more than it did when I was a kid.

[Note: I don't hate the idea of Christmas gifts. I hate the idea of having to buy them for people. That's so meaningless, plus I'm hopeless at picking out gifts. Just ask Terz.]

And now it's time to go to bed. We're going hiking at MacRitchie Reservoir tomorrow, in search of some Shinto shrine. Wish us luck!

Mmmmm... KFC. I ordered Original instead of Crispy, which Terence prefers, but he ate it all up anyway. He also decided, while watching yet another repeat of this week's Survivor, that he's like Frank: no bullshit, do things my way or whatever, and certainly no snivelling like a certain bartender who was voted out this week. I think I'm a Kimp --- I'm not quite smart enough to play the game and I don't say what I feel too often. I'm sure Kimp's got more feelings than she's letting on, but we're both pretty naive.

I got my credit card back today. They took a while to find it, because it had been locked away in a drawer at the cashier's counter, and that stopped my heart for a minute --- but we found it and it's safely home in my wallet now. Amazingly, Orchard Road was less crowded today than it was on Friday afternoon. There were lots of empty parking spaces at the open air parking lot beside Wheelock Place, which is usually jam-packed even on weekdays. As I SMSed Terz, either the recession is worse than we thought, or the party was happening elsewhere.

After I came home, I sat down and industriously wrote out all my Christmas cards. I ended up sending out fewer than I'd planned, because as I paged through my address book, I realized how few complete addresses I have, of friends both in Singapore and abroad. I have lots of mobile phone numbers and e-mail addresses, but I'm pretty low on the snailmails. I'm going to have to surreptitiously gather the missing ones as next year progresses.

Now I'm waiting to watch The X-Files. StarWorld is showing a repeat of the one that's a spoof of a Cops episode, which was a hoot and a half, so I'll be TV-bound at 9 pm. Meanwhile, I think I'll print out a few more crosswords and do them while the Rurounin Kenshin movie is on.

[This is the third part of today's tripartite entry. Go here to read about the preceding week and here's the scoop on my friends' wedding on December 14.]

Note to self: the longer I procrastinate on writing journal entries, the more I have to catch up on each time, and the longer the entries are, making it difficult for both my readers and me. Resolution: write more frequently and in shorter bursts.

I was gonna write about what I did today, but now dinner's arrived (KFC delivery), so I'll be back later.

[This entry is mostly about our friends' wedding on December 14. If you want to find out what else went on with me in the week preceding it, read the first part.]

We didn't have to be at the hotel till 3-4 pm, so we took our time lazing about in the morning. Terz had to pop back to the NCC camp for some badge presentation ceremony that would end the camp, but he was gone for barely an hour. We had lunch at the coffeeshop downstairs, then I packed up my dress and things, as well as a little gift hamper we'd made up for the couple (containing the oft-munched Pringle's sour cream and onion potato chips, the oft-chewed regular flavor of Fisherman's Friend mints, some celebratory Ferrero Rocher chocolates, a packet of balloons that could be blown up and twisted into animals, since they had done just that for decorating Terz's birthday venue, bubble bath mix and massage oil from The Body Shop, since the groom-to-be is renowned in our little circle for delivering fantastic massages, and the obligatory box of flavored condoms), and took off for my hair appointment. Okay, so a hair appointment was somewhat extravagant for these trying times, but I felt like it since these are two very good friends, and how often do your good friends marry each other, and besides, I was wearing my long red dress, and I never know what to do with my hair on a formal occasion anyway.

Funny thing, though: when I got to the York Hotel (where the hair salon is), there was no parking. There was, however, a hotel guest who seemed to be leaving his spot, except that his spot was in the first row of parking, which I thought might be reserved for valet parking or special guests. So I drove up to the security guard and asked him if I could take that particular spot. The guard simply nodded, then it turned out the guest wasn't leaving after all, but the guard went ahead and removed the no parking sign standing in an adjacent parking lot (also in the privileged front row), and let me park there.

Which left me in a bit of a sweat because I first had to go out of the hotel premises to The Body Shop to get the massage oil --- which made me look like a typical Singaporean who'd stash their car in a hotel carpark that happened to have free parking (the only free parking in this nook of town, I might add, unless you're a member of the American or Tanglin Clubs) --- which made me feel like I'd done the security guard an injustice.

So what did my overly conscientious self do? I parked, walked up to the guard and explained that I had to pop down to Orchard for a little while but I would be back to go to the hotel, most certainly, and he just smiled at me as if he were wondering why I was explaining to him. And by the time I got back with the massage oil, a different security guard was standing in his place. All that explaining for nothing. Bah.

Okay, so that was a bit of a tangent.

The hair appointment went well. It's always a tricky deal to put up my hair because there's so much of it, plus it straightens very quickly after it's been curled. I was also a little nervous because he was putting it up at 3:30 pm and it would have to last (ideally) till 10:30 pm or so. As things turned out, it began to wilt at around 8:30 pm, so I guess the next time I decide to do this, I'll either ask for extra-super-heavy-duty hairspray, or I'll do my hair much later in the afternoon (which wasn't an option on this occasion because I had to help set up stuff at the hotel in the afternoon).

It was only when I was about to pay for my hairdo that I realized my Mastercard was missing. Fortunately, I had a Visa card I could use instead, but I was a little panicked since I'd just used the Mastercard to pay at The Body Shop, and had I left it there or dropped it in my bag somewhere or dropped it on the street? The answer, after some minutes of frantic searching, then calling directory assistance to get the number at The Body Shop, was the former. Whew. I'd hate to have had to deal with an utterly lost credit card on a day like that, although the fact that I'd left it at the shop was bad enough. I swear I had it in my hand as I took the receipt from the cashier...

Anyways. Okay, so in typical Singapore fashion, the heavens decided to rain for a little bit. I was waiting for Mrs B to walk over to the hotel from her home, since she wanted a ride to the hotel, but then there was a lot of rain and Mrs B had a lot of camera equipment with her, so I drove over to pick her up instead. We got to the hotel without mishap and brought all our stuff up to the hotel suite, where there were a number of people already milling: the bride (Kay) and groom (Wahj), of course, plus the best man, my husband, the emcee, the videographer and the banquet manager. (Uh, by banquet manager, I mean the friend whom the couple had appointed to be in charge of liaising with the hotel staff for the evening, since the couple would be understandably too busy to deal with all that themselves). Kay's sister (also her maid/matron? of honor) showed up with her family while we were there, then a few of us went down to the adjacent shopping mall to get some McDonald's for hungry people. We also stopped at the ATM to get cash since it'd be a bit difficult to fill an ang pow (red packet) without cash --- although Terz decided to write a check for us this time.

When we got back up, the men in the suite had vanished (except Kay's brother-in-law, who was minding the kids, see below), taking all the stuff down to the reception area. "Stuff" included:

  • seating arrangement lists for dinner
  • name-card holders as gifts for the guests
  • the couple's three Polaroid cameras and plenty of film, for photographic fun during the evening

Kay's friend, who was doing her makeup for her, had also arrived by this time. Since the bridesmaid's two kids were running amok in the room, things got pretty interesting. Fortunately, all the photography equipment was safely stashed away from curious kids' fingers. But the kids got to be too much of a handful and were eventually banished from the bedroom area and at 5:30 pm, some strange Australian show that was like a N'Sync'ed version of Sesame Street was on and the little girl was entranced by it. It was very, very strange. The opening and closing songs of the show (called Hi!5 and there are five teens on it) was "Rain, rain, go away" but it was all techno'd up and virtually unrecognizable except that the five were dancing in yellow raincoats. I thought the program was American at first, but it makes sense that it's Australian. Australians on variety shows on TV have this very earnest air that trumps the attempted soulfulness of a Backstreet Boy any day.

Just before 6 pm, we realized we all really ought to get changed and head downstairs, since the wedding ceremony was scheduled to start at 6:45 pm. Someone was in the shower and the other bathroom wasn't usable at the moment (because of an attempt to smoke in it), so the girls wound up taking turns to change in the bedroom, while hair and makeup was going on for Kay and her sister. The guys, naturally, were all changed already. I mean, men just put on a suit --- big deal.

Downstairs, family members were arriving already. The ceremony was held in a small anteroom outside the ballroom where dinner would be served. The room had floor-to-ceiling mirrors on either end and chairs were arranged before the farther end, to set up an aisle for the bride's family to walk down. Only family members had been invited to witness the ceremony (besides the friends who were dashing around making sure things were just so), and most people made it on time. Terz, Mrs B and Miffy (the friend who was appointed videographer but preferred to be a photographer) circulated in the room. Wahj, the groom, looked highly un-nervous. I smiled and invited people to sign the guestbook. We were trying very hard to start on time, but as it turned out, Kay's hair and makeup took a wee bit longer than was planned --- which was the case in my wedding and Mrs B's too! --- and we began about ten minutes after the appointed hour. It was just beautiful, despite the crackly mike and the fact that the music for the exeunt was late: no stuttering, no insistence on repeating the kiss for photography's sake, no mad screaming from the hyperactive flower girl (aka the girl who was watching Hi!5 an hour before). I suppose one could say there were too many photographers/videographers on the scene, trying to work around each other at the front, but hey, the couple will be glad of it later.

After the ceremony, we had about a half-hour break before dinner, and other guests were trickling in. The couple mingled, drinks were served, Polaroids were taken and kept guests amused while waiting for dinner, I tried to keep the table assignments straight while resisting the urge to chitchat with friends. Everyone was really, really dressed up- -- which, if you've any experience with attending wedding dinners in Singapore, is a really rare occurrence, especially since the dinner invitation didn't specify a dress code. Maybe that's the effect of having dinner at The Four Seasons. However, people were late anyway and dinner, despite our best intentions to start on time (also a rare Singapore occurrence), eventually commenced at about 8:10 pm, twenty-five minutes later than scheduled. I missed the initial goings-on when the couple entered the ballroom, since I had to remain at the reception table to assist guests who were late and to guard all the gifts, but I believe the cake was cut (ceremonially, since they distributed chocolates to each guest instead) and Wahj made a short thank-you speech. I loitered outside the ballroom for maybe another twenty minutes, trying to keep my hair from wilting and also tidying up the reception table so that we could move everything quickly up to the suite when the couple went upstairs to change after the second course.

[Note to non-Singaporean readers: It is customary, at a Chinese wedding banquet, for the bride to change her dress at least once. Sometimes, the groom changes too, or just changes his tie or the color of his shirt or something. I guess it's an old tradition dating back to when you wanted to show off how much money you had by showing off how many wedding outfits you could afford. Brides used to change like two or even three times in the past; nowadays, most girls are contented with the excuse to buy two dresses instead of one, as both Kay and I were.]

By about 8:35 pm, I was starving, so when the Bs came out for a smoke, I was relieved that they volunteered to take over guard duty for a bit, while I went inside to grab some food. They'd saved servings from the first two courses for me and I think I ate too quickly, because I felt rapidly full and even bloated, and that doesn't usually happen to me during a wedding dinner. But the food was lovely. The chicken and abalone soup --- the hotel's alternative to the now commonly vilified sharks' fins soup --- was much better than it sounds. And despite all the men we had at our table, it seemed like we had pretty large servings of food, more than one usually gets at a mass dinner like this.

My duty was pretty much complete for the night, but our three photographers still had plenty to do. Kay and Wahj reentered during the sixth course. For anyone who wants to know, both of Kay's dresses were from Celia Loe- -- simple, understated elegance, very appropriate for her. There was the usual champagne fountain (a bunch of champagne glasses stacked atop each other, and the bride and groom open the bottle and pour it on the top, so that the overfill runs down to fill the other glasses), and we had two toasts: a more "Western" "to the bride and the groom" to acknowledge Kay's side of the family, and then just one simple and not-too-obnoxious "yam seng" to acknowledge Wahj's side. Kay made a speech to thank their parents before they presented them with gifts. Then there was more food, then there were two speeches: a short one by the best man and a longer, funnier one by Kay's father. Then there was more food.

On hindsight, fathers do make the best speeches at weddings. I was a little afraid of what my dad would say at mine, but he was awesome. So was Kay's dad. I suppose the only thing one might fault him for was referring several times to "grandchildren", but I suppose that's obligatory at any wedding, especially Asian ones. In any case, I'd rather hear it from my dad than from some well-meaning pastor or something.

Food, food, and more food... We had an awesome waiter, which I highlight in particular because most wedding banquets employ part-time staff who aren't too clueful, but our guy was great. He was polite, he kept glasses and cups refilled, he remembered --- or at least tried to --- who ate seafood and who didn't, and he was just all-round nice. I'm thinking we should've tipped him on the way out.

Dinner rounded up just before eleven pm and I was stunned because this is about the only dinner I've attended when guests didn't make a beeline for the exit as soon as dessert was served. Family and friends were lingering over dessert and drinks, which was really neat. I hate it when a ballroom empties as soon as everyone thinks it's over, as though they didn't want to be there in the first place.

There was a bit of packing up to do, then most of the aforementioned friends headed up to the bridal suite --- partly to sort things out, partly just to unwind for a bit, certainly not to sabotage the wedding couple in any way (give us a little credit, eh?). There was some talk of going to Bar None, since Kay's brother-in-law works there, but our energy steadily dissipated as soon as we got comfortable in the suite. Some of the guys tried to figure out the karaoke settings on the hi-fi system, but we eventually settled for just plain old MTV. Kay was just glad to be able to get out of her heels; good thing she didn't have to dance in them. Room service brought up the couple's dinner --- a lovely serving of cold cuts, cheeses, bread and a smidgen of dessert --- as well as the chairs and extra glasses we asked for. The best man got a little carried away with taking Polaroids, so that soon got a lot of the other guys (note: guys) in the act, and we must've taken at least thirty just sitting around in the room for those two hours. There was still whiskey left over, so people had some whiskey with water. Wahj and Kay finally got to eat --- except for the blue cheese, which was readily offered to other cheese aficionados in the room --- and dissected a bit of the evening's goings-on. I was surprised that they weren't as tired as we were, after ours, but I think it's because they didn't have to get up in the morning and do the Chinese tea ceremony.

People started trickling off after midnight, beginning with Miffy and J who actually had to work the next day; Terz and I decided to head out at about 1:30 am. We didn't even need the complimentary parking ticket because the barrier was left up at the car park exit --- so if any of you are looking for free parking in that corner of Orchard Road, try The Four Seasons, as long as you leave really, really late.

I'm not sure about the wedding couple, but Terence and I slept in till 1 pm or so yesterday. And we slept some more in the afternoon. I watched Survivor in the evening and cheered as they finally got rid of Brandon --- though I wonder how he and Kelly will get along for the next three days before their jury is joined by a third --- and we went over to Terz's parents' place later so he could tape Band of Brothers. Unfortunately, his mother's VCR didn't cooperate fully, so it looks like we'll have to get the DVD at some point. Meanwhile, I finished reading (finally!) The Fellowship of the Ring. I finished the first half of the book some months back, but stalled at the Rivendell meetings with Elrond, but now I've finished the book and I'm ready to watch the film on Wednesday evening.

Okay, I think we're all caught up now. Whew.

[I decided to add more to today's entry. See the next page.]

See, I haven't forgotten about this journal at all. I just, um, got lazy. Yeah. Call it the holiday malaise.

Not that it hasn't been an eventful couple of weeks, but I got lazy. I kept thinking to myself (while the website was down and after my friend's internet access was restored) that I should be writing journal entries, but something more attractive always came up --- like sleeping on the couch, watching an episode of The Powerpuff Girls, doing more and more crosswords, and so on.

So what did we miss over the past ten days?

During the week, Terz had a NCC camp that fortunately only required him to stay at the camp for one night, so he was home the rest of the time. He amused me greatly during the day by sending me SMSes about annoying people, poorly prepared army food (despite the fact that the Singapore army now entrusts food preparation to caterers, not to its own personnel), and other examples of military inefficiency. Meanwhile, I went back to school several times to try and finish some of the work I've been procrastinating --- like the twenty-two testimonials I must write before December 31, out of which only about ten are ready.

Two of our good friends got married (to each other) on Friday the 14th, so there was last-minute assistance to be rendered as well. Actually, that involved very little: showing up at the rehearsal on Monday night, even though I wasn't part of the wedding party, and accompanying the bride-to-be to her nail appointment on Thursday. She was gonna go alone, but I warned her how boring that would be, since after your nails are done, they just leave you to sit with your hands and feet under some miniature fans, and you can't even read a magazine, so I went with her. I couldn't get my nails done --- no money! --- but she bought me an iced lemon tea afterwards and told me funny stories that had brought her and her husband-to-be together this far.

The wedding rehearsal on Monday night was far more involved, but only because the bride's father was much more particular than even mine was (and any of you who know my dad know he's not exactly a shining example of Mr. Laidback). Nevertheless, things went well, details were ironed out, the hotel staff took meticulous notes, and I was jealous that I hadn't thought of doing our wedding in the same ballroom as they had. Okay, so we had no money too, at the time, and we had more guests than they do, but still. Envy gnaws at me whenever I attend someone else's wedding and they do something I wish I'd thought of. I wonder how many years have to pass before this feeling goes away.

Other than wedding foo, school foo and NCC foo, we had a game of Trivia Pursuit at our friends the Bs' on Saturday night. They have four dogs, one of which is hyperactive but at least she's not nipping people anymore. They're Yorkshire terriers mixed with something else and very, very cute. Mrs B has some pictures of them which would look perfect in one of those doggie/puppy calendars where the animals are looking out at you with the cutest expressions. I told her to sell them and make money, so she can finance a real career in photography that way. The Bs also recently acquired an exercise machine that was on sale, so the men spent some time playing with that. And we had very healthy tea with our Trivia Pursuit --- not just because Mr B is English, but also because too many beers will start to sit uneasily on us all as we age.

In a rather slapdash way, I think I've recovered most of the lost ten days except for the wedding itself. So here goes.


I realize my website is down --- because the friend who hosts it has temporarily lost his internet due to @HOME's abrupt bankruptcy --- but I'll keep writing anyway.

These few days have been quiet. There has been much rest and not much else. The few moments when I did venture out of the house:

Tuesday night: my college prom. The kids were there in full regalia and I showed up fashionably late just to check out what they were all wearing. I am delighted to report that two of my most attractive students chose to deck themselves out in red --- which well-suited their chirpy but not flamboyant personalities --- and one of them walked away with the "Lady of the Dance" award. She is the sweetest kid. Even though she's obscenely wealthy, she's also unbelievably nice and will probably go on to be an excellent, if somewhat giggle-prone, member of society. On the flip side of things, I sadly must also report that many young men had either dyed their hair horrible colors, gelled their head stiff enough to prick a person's hand (I witnessed this inadvertently when a friendly slinging of the arm around the shoulders was punctuated by an "Owwww!"), worn red shirts with black jackets, or worn fall/winter jackets in lieu of the customary suit-jacket. It's very very strange to enter a ballroom in Singapore and see young men in fall/winter jackets. It wasn't even raining that night.

Of course, there were some truly horrible outfits donned by the female students too, including the requisite too-short dresses, invariably worn by an uncomfortable-looking girl who would keep tugging it down, the over-the-top tiara (on one of my colleague's most problematic and least favorite students, so ha!), the pouffy balletic tulle skirts and the gowns straight out of an '80s' movie. But nothing that seriously hurt my eyes.

I stayed for about two hours, ate a bit of food, obliged excited students who wanted pictures, got the scoop on the post-prom party (one enterprising badminton player had booked local dance club Eden for three hours) and then dashed off into the night once I got bored.

Tuesday/Wednesday afternoon: errands. We developed the photographs from Sunday night's adventures, but a number of pictures didn't turn out; Terz suspects it's because he was using 200(-speed) film instead of 400. We also helped our photography friend (from Sunday night) buy some paint and move it down to an art space in Chinatown (at the corner of Upper Pickering Street/South Bridge Road in an ancient block of flats that's about to be demolished, for those of you Singaporeans that are interested). The space used to be occupied by a coffeeshop for untold millennia and the grime on the wall, as well as the customary sexist Guinness Stout posters, prove it. It's an interesting slice of old Singapore, though. I'm glad we got to see it before it gets painted, even though all the dirt was sorta creepy.

Thursday afternoon: I pulled grandfather duty. Well, it's not really duty in the sense of being a chore. My grandfather had to go for some medical checkups, none of my aunts or uncles was free to take him in, so my mom asked me to do it. It took about two hours --- mostly spent waiting in the very posh premises of the National Heart Centre --- and then we went to Jelita for him to get some stuff and me to pick up theater tickets for tomorrow night. My grandfather is very cool. He's eighty-four, very spry, and was just complimented by the cardiologist today for having a young heart. I think that made my grandfather's day; he was pretty talkative after that.

Oh, and the theatre tickets are for tomorrow night's performance of Hark the Jingle Red-Nosed Chestnuts. It's a Christmas parody thingie, performed by a friend of a friend and his theater group STAGES. He got rave reviews for his previous shows, so I'm really looking forward to this, even though I can't really afford the tickets, so soon on the heels of Terz's birthday spree.

Um --- what else? Oh, I bought a new crosswords book from MPH yesterday. It's a collection of puzzles from the US Airways inflight magazine. It was the only decent crosswords book at the store and I'm desperate for a new one because the New York Times one we've been doing (since Terz wisely invested in it at the Vancouver airport bookstore before our flight home in June) is almost completed, except for three or four absolutely impossible ones. This one is easier than the NYT one --- too easy for Terz, in fact --- but it'll tide me over for a while. It's also more current and slightly less America-centric than the other.

It really sucks that @HOME crashed because I have so many friends who rely on them for e-mail and internet access, and now they're scrambling around, looking for alternatives. Phooey.


I've finally had enough sleep that I'm coherent enough to write this. Yes, I was too tired --- too tired --- to write a journal entry, even though I spent most of the day asleep. (Note: I said 'day'. This will become important later.) I was also too tired to check e-mail. This proves not so much that we did a lot over the weekend as it does that while I'm not the thirty-year-old, I feel pretty much like the one who's over the hill.

Friday was fairly relaxing, if only because I put off all necessary preparations till evening, at which point I had to zip about town in rush hour traffic. If I've learned anything from this birthday-planning experience, it's that I really ought to start earlier. For instance, if I'd worked on decor earlier, I wouldn't've been scrabbling around for ideas on Friday morning --- I wouldn't've found out on Friday evening that the store where everyone assured me they would have awesome (and cheap) decoration fodder has devoted its entire selection to Christmas decor --- I wouldn't've wound up decorating at 11 pm because various friends whose talents and apartment were involved were all delayed (by work, through no fault of their own) till that late hour. And so on, and so forth.

We also decided at the eleventh hour (see previous paragraph, I mean it quite literally) to rearrange some of the party plans, moving all evening festivities to the apartment in question. That, again, involved a good bit of last-minute SMSing (thank goodness for free messages, since that allowed me to plan even when Terz was around, and I hope Virgin Mobile caves in to reality soon and realizes that SMSing is part of local mobile phone culture and it shouldn't be such a prig about it) and last-minute shopping, chiefly by the absolutely fabulous X-Man --- who deserves a mention here in full because he really threw the party together at the very last minute. If you ever need someone to throw you a party in less than twenty-four hours (and you mustn't be on a tight budget, by the way), call this man. Not that he was the only one who did anything --- kudos also to the Miffy and partner, and the Deyi Trio --- but he was, pretty much, the man.

So where was I? Friday night. It basically went like this:
5:30 pm Cold Storage, buy snacks and drinks
6:30 pm Leave Cold Storage and battle vicious evening town traffic
7:00 pm Bugis Village, find out that aforementioned decor store is now purely Xmas-oriented
8:00 pm Leave for home to pick Terz
8:30 pm Pick Terz, drive down to Brewerkz to hang out with friends who were kind enough to amuse him all evening while I was otherwise engaged --- the amusement included a lot of beer and some karaoke that went on till three am or so.
9:45 pm Leave to go do decor and stuff.
1:00 am Finish decor and stuff, find out that Terz is out singing, hang out at X-Man's apartment watching bits of Survivor, Crocodile Hunter and other things.
3:00 am Give up waiting for Terz, head home, but he got there shortly after anyway, startling me since I had been double-checking his presents just a few minutes before, thinking he wouldn't be back yet.

Thanks to NCC commitments, Terz had to be up at 7 but he overslept, then panicked, then puttered around looking for stuff he needed -- all the while, still clearly a little tipsy. That was pretty funny, even to my sleeping self.

Oh, and happy birthday to him.

The highlight of Saturday afternoon was paintball. We'd booked the place for two hours, but thanks to various delays and such, we didn't quite get people together and the game started till the second of those two hours. On hindsight, it was just as well because as expensive as paintball is, I don't think we could've afforded to play for more than the one hour we did play. We had ten people, a lot of bullets and Terz shot me between the eyes. Bah. (We were all wearing masks, so I'm not permanently scarred or anything.) X-Man tried to rig a head-cam for the first game, but that failed --- so he ran with the camera during the second game, which provided us with a lot of amusing footage of grass and cursing when we watched it later --- but eventually he gave up and handed his camera to one of the paintball guys to film the last two games. Paintball doesn't look too strenuous, but it really is. As someone who never exercises, I was pretty beat at the end of it and I think I spent most of yesterday sleeping as a result. My legs are still achy today, two days after the fact. Yes, I am woefully out of shape.

Post-paintball, we went to Bishan to grab a bite to eat. Terz and I headed home after that and slept for about an hour before we got ready to go out again. On hindsight (I keep saying that in this entry), it's just as well we didn't have an elaborate surprise planned and that Terz guessed the party was at X-Man's because a tropical thunderstorm was in full swing around the time people were supposed to be at the party and a lot of them/us were late as a result.

Oh, and hey, it just started drizzling now. I love the monsoon season, but I don't like it when it makes it difficult for people to get to a party.

So, um, the party. Food aplenty, drinks galore, and lots of balloon animals as well. I had to make a run for beer at about 10:30 pm because someone suggested doing 'depth charges' --- a shot of JD's in a pint of beer or something. They also wanted me to get cigars, but the 7-Eleven cashier had a very amused look on her face when I asked her if they had any. Then there was cake and presents and watching the paintball video (as well as some of X-Man's other videos, because they tend to be unintentionally funny) and finally, clearing up. We cleared out at about three am --- leaving a heap of forlorn balloons that we couldn't shove down the rubbish chute, so we weren't sure how to dispose of them without popping them all, and without having incurred the wrath of any sleepless neighbors or bored policemen.

So Terz is thirty and what's the first thing we do? Sleep in till almost noon. We got up and out of the apartment for a brief lunch with his family, then came home and slept some more till evening. Then dinner with his family, followed by --- no, not more sleep --- but an almost-all-night drive around Singapore to take pictures. Terz has been bitten by the photography bug again lately, so we picked up a friend with her digital camera and headed out.
10:30 pm Changi Village, where the beach has been neatly rearranged with little changing rooms, lots of lights, paved paths and everything.
12:20 am Bidadari Christian cemetery --- what's left of it, since Upper Serangoon Road is being extensively widened and a MRT station has been built there. It was very surreal since my family used to visit various forebears' graves there and not only does the cemetery look different by night, it's also got a lot more empty patches of ground (where graves have been exhumed) than it used to.
1:15 am Chinatown, which I discovered has been incredibly gentrified, including the erection of some really ugly canopy over, I assume, the future MRT station at Pagoda Street.
2:30 am Food break --- roti prata at Jalan Kayu, since the Casuarina outlets turned out not to be open twenty-four hours.
4:00 am Senoko Fishing Port --- except that there was a security entrance and everything, so we thought we'd do some research on what you need to get into the fishing port and come back another time.
5:00 am Home.

Rereading the above list, it's starkly apparent how quickly everything changes in Singapore and how ugly most of the new stuff is. We weren't intentionally searching for historical places or soon-to-be-demolished places to take pictures, but this sort of upgrading, remodelling and refurbishment is really everywhere. And people wonder why I don't like living here.

We saw lots of cats last night, too, and not one dog. I wonder if the local animal catchers are selective that way --- but I think the cats are just better at dodging and hiding.

Writing all this has really tired me out. I don't think I've done justice to the weekend, 'cause it sounds really prosaic in this recount, but it really was a lot of fun. Alas --- the inadequacy of the written word.