28.12.10

Christmasy goodness

My cousin also knits Christmas tree ornaments. Merry Christmas, everyone!

I caught up with Stellou and her husband today --- over a very non-French lunch of Japanese potato salad and beef stew at Workshop Isse --- and they asked me what I'd been up to since I got to Paris. "Eating and sleeping," I confessed. Besides cousin Nardac's home-cooked Christmas dinners (see exhibit A and exhibit B), there've also been Vietnamese pho and nem, and lunch at Mini Palais where I had a splendid suprême de volaille (who knew just chicken could taste that good). Last night my stomach threw in the towel, though, so it's been light meals and no coffee since.

Tomorrow we're off to the Black Forest in Germany for the New Year's. The place we're staying at has no internet access, so this'll probably be my last blog entry for the year. See you in 2011!

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23.12.10

In which I made it to Paris

Christmas tree

I was going to head to the train station on the earliest available Tube train this morning, but late-night updates to the Eurostar website yesterday stated that they would be running almost all their services to Paris, so I let myself sleep in till 7 a.m.

By the time I got to St Pancras at 8:15 a.m., there was a line of passengers just inching out the building into the annoying rain. But Eurostar staff were also hustling everyone with tickets for 8-something trains into the check-in area, so very soon I was indoors, in a moving line, and eventually being offered complimentary tea or coffee and croissants by more Eurostar staff. I texted my mother immediately, so she wouldn't worry about me freezing in a queue outdoors.

Soon enough it was call time for my 10:25 a.m. train. Check-in, security check, passport check, boarding, blah blah blah. And before I knew it the train was pulling out of the station. There were even a couple of empty seats in my carriage, so I could plonk my bag (the one with all the electronics) on the seat beside me.

So I made it to Paris and the train pulled in only half an hour late. The toughest part of the journey turned out to be schlepping my three bags up and down the stairs in the London Tube and Paris Metro. Oh, and I forgot to pack my comb.

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21.12.10

The plan is

Soon enough, a snowman

On Wednesday morning, I will catch the Eurostar train for Paris, to spend Christmas with my cousin. Next week some time, we mosey over to Germany for a little snowy, rural getaway.

So much for the plan. Meanwhile, the Eurostar is running a "contingency timetable" due to snow here and on the continent. What this means is that people queue like crazy in the cold, despite having tickets in hand, and maybe get a seat on the day's trains, viz.:


I am packing a water bottle, biscuits, possibly sandwiches and a thermos of hot coffee for Wednesday.

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14.12.10

That time of the year

When I finally got homesick, this is what happened:

It was the last day of the cultural theory course, and the class was about some fundamental differences between Chinese and Western philosphy/ways of thinking, as articulated by contemporary thinkers François Julien and Wang Hui. Which left me feeling like, as the only somewhat ethnically-Chinese person in the class, I ought to represent, somehow --- but what the heck do I know about Chinese philosophy, right?

(Sometimes I think there are only two things that are Chinese about me: my first name, and the fact that I find it very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, VERY difficult to do something that would really upset my parents.)

So after class I made a beeline for Chinatown, for a hot bowl of noodles and to stock up on instant noodles. It's amazing how reassuring the flavours of MSG-laden soup, red chillies doused in chilli oil and blanched egg noodles can be.

For further reassurance, I came home also with dan tat (egg tarts) and yow za guai (dough fritters) from my favourite little bakery Sun Luen, and tinned dace in black bean sauce, in case I decide to make Teochew muay (watery rice porridge/congee). The only thing I couldn't find in the Chinatown supermarkets was Ayam brand tinned sardines in tomato sauce.

I don't think I am properly homesick, in that I wish I was in Singapore instead of here till next September. But after three months, perhaps I'm properly aware that there are Important Things Going On with family and friends at home that I've missed, despite the miracles of Skype and Viber and IM chats: babies arriving in friends' laps, kids playing "boomdit", birthdays and other milestones, meals of a gustatory and/or sentimental significance.

Not complainin'. Just a little wistful.

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12.12.10

Amazon Author Central, ahoy!

Thanks to a generous Lonely Planet author sharing the info on an internal mailing list, I've recently learned about Amazon Author Central, which allows verified, published authors to create and maintain their own official Amazon Author Page. I've plonked the standard content that the system permits authors to update right now: list of books I've authored (or co-authored, in my case), image, biography and blog, which is just a feed from Too Many Thoughts.

If you wanna have a look, here it is. The page layout isn't terribly attractive, in my opinion, but hey, what can you do.

By the way, image credit goes to Kar-Wai Wesley, Memphis West Pictures.

Yes, I know Amazon pulled the plug on WikiLeaks' hosting services last week. I'm conflicted, but I'm not at a point where I can pick and choose who gets to sell my books. This way I can at least keep tabs on sales figures and such.

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11.12.10

Happy and far away

Good ol' Shoreditch


I don't know what this blog post is going to be about. The title comes from something I said a few days ago when a friend from home asked me, online, how my cats were doing. I'm presuming the happy part, obviously, since we don't know if cats know what being happy is.

I spent a lot of time on the phone this week, catching up with various people I haven't had the chance to talk to for a while. Between Skype Monthly and Viber, it hardly costs anything to call Singapore, which is a far cry from what international call charges were like when I was an undergraduate. If that were the only good the internet brought us, it would be good enough.

But it isn't, of course. There's been Wikileaks, and the organising of student fee protests, and the University for Strategic Optimism, and engineering a friend's birthday gift from afar, and other heady, heady things, swirling on- and offline. Part of my brain is ready to shut down: It's Christmas! It's the holidays! (Been nibbling on Christmas cookies and bumping into Christmas carolers around town.) But there's still so much going on.

In other news, I'm back to living alone for a few weeks; my flatmate's gone home for the holidays. Last night I suddenly wondered what would happen if I *knock on wood* slipped and fell in the shower. No cats here to walk around my unconscious body and meow piteously (for food, not for me).

Hm ... this entry sounds less happy than I am.

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