There's something about being situated near a salted body of water that affects one's life view - resulting in the "que sera sera" attitude, I suppose. There's plenty of that in Barcelona when the beach (a real beach with real sand, mind you) is just at your doorstep.
Touching down at 7 am meant we had time to have drop by the divine miss m's neighbourhood breakfast joint for excellent coffee and bocadilo - that humble spanish bread with slices of jamon (ham) and cheese - which was to become our staple breakfast fare for the rest of our stay in Barcelona. That, and the pan de tomate - bread rubbed with tomato and olive oil, with some salt and garlic - would be another constant companion in any meal in Barcelona. You wonder how such simple fare can be so tasty and the "why didn't I think of that" moment hits you.
But we didn't go to any of the beaches in Barcelona just yet, but instead, the miss m and her hubby (let's call him Señor G) drove us up to the Costa Brava coast for a stay over at Señor G's parent's beach house at Platja d'Aro. The 1 hour drive out of Barcelona was made more interesting when we hit the smaller highways where female hookers in skimpy outfits would stand provocatively (or some more practical ones - a foldable chair when it gets tiring standing up) under the blazing Catalan sunshine). We had fun judging who had the skimpiest outfits until we saw one who looked like somebody in drag and that shut us all up quick.
The beach house was situated just beside the beach with plenty of sunshine - the best antidote for jet lag. The air still had the chill of spring but the occasional warm breeze suggested that summer almost here. It was your quintessential beach set-up - boardwalk dotted with bars and restaurants, beach umbrellas, volley ball and a couple of guys playing what looked like table tennis without the table. Did I mention that the Spaniards don't have any issues with breast exposure? and the sheer volume of buffed guys would take up your entire afternoon sitting at one of those bar sipping a cool mojito (which we did) and a plate of mussels in marinara sauce.
The water was still too cold to swim in (that did not deter some to venture in nonetheless) but we were happy to just stroll up and down the breathtaking Mediterranean coast - enough to give the pair of pale Singapore ghosts some colour. Equally breathtaking were the houses that line that coast, with their own steps down their small bit of Mediterranean heaven to soak in. What money can buy.
- Current Location:Singapore, Singapore
Like prior vacations where I had to rush through a couple of last minute tasks (and some I had to ruminate over while on vacation - dreading the work that lies ahead), this one started with an red eye flight with crappy seats and not really the best spread of krisworld offerings. So is was left to the books I grabbed shortly before I zipped up my trolley bag (and Dr S hollering that we are late) - The Hunger Games - to keep me awake and re-adjust to the impending time zone change. In short, I was extremely tired by the time our vacation started that all I wanted to do on our first day in Barcelona was to sleep in.
It's finally the last weekend before our much anticipated vacation to see the divine miss m and lomo in Barcelona. It will be our first overseas trip together this year (!!), and the first since we moved to our new place. So this time, no housemates to look after the cats while we are away.
So now, I am waiting for the cat sitter to drop by to see the 3 cats - and learn the feed, clean and play drill. I hope she is as good as the recommendations come.
The kitten should be ok - easily becoming friends with anything that moves. The 2 older cats will be more challenging. Let's see whether the cat sitter can draw them out from their hiddy holes.
It's also been awhile since I got out my trusty D70s (yes, my D70s is still around) from the dry box and take some new pictures. The divine miss m has already planned out our first few days (in the Costa Brava coast) and a roadtrip (!!) before catching Madonna in concert and another Madonna in Montserrat. Of course, food pictures and walking trails around town.
Of course, there's still this coming week to contend with. But never mind - I'm already having paella in my head.
I'm putting up this post while waiting for 3 pm to roll in - for me to pick up my freshly neutered kitten from the vet, and be able to rush out to meet Dr S in Chinatown to pick up some stuff for the divine miss m.
But I have to say its been awhile.
For the next 10 minutes, let me just see whether I still have the mojo to jump-start this blog.
I've looked through my friends list - and realised that I've only have half on my FB friends list. Either I have remained anonymous or I'm just un-added-able.
Looked through my outdated profile - and decided that some things have got to go. It's really been a while!
Perhaps it's partly because those muddynights moments have been coming far in between - those nights when kilometric thoughts are rushing through your head while you desperately wish for sleep to overcome. Nowadays, I fall asleep instantly - maybe because of age (ha-ha) or because I'm just too exhausted. Or maybe there's very little left to think about. Surely not.
Nevertheless, let's see whether I can still re-claim this space and conjure up muddynights.
There are 2 ways of putting your best foot forward in an expo pavillion. Either blugeon your hapless viewer to death with numbers and facts or let wonder take over. I leave it to you to guess how the Singapore Pavillion was. I was actually waiting for a pop quiz as we made our way out. In contrast, wonder was big in the Czech, Spanish and Turkish pavillions. We managed to snuck our way into the Philippine Pavillion, thanks to a craving for adobo for lunch. The sales people were gracious enough to allow us in through a back exit. 360 degree videos were big. The best one we saw was the Iceland pavillion with dizzying videos of the glorious Icelandic landscape. The China pavillion was packed with queues snaking all over. I turned to Dr s and told him to content himself with taking exterior shots. Once again, my belief that the local tourism industry can survive on Chinese tourists alone was re-affirmed.
Hairy crabs were in season. So we made our way to have a 8 course crab-filled dinner costing a bomb. Everything was yellow - yellow soup, yellow rice, yellow appetizes (even the tablecloth was yellow). When the crabs arrived, it was small but the yellow roe was heavenly. Dr S was sighing all throughout dinner. I had a tummy ache after eating so much
By sheer luck, we managed to score train tickets to Shouzou. Unless you can't get your hotel to get you tickets, be prepared to brave the crowds for tickets. In Shouzou, Dr s ordered what we thought were spare ribs in the menu pictures. Turned out to be duck heads and we were supposed to pick the brains out! Our return trip was at 6.20 pm and we were already by the roadside trying to hail a taxi at 5. At 6, we were still by the roadside. We eventually found our way back to the train station through an enterprising motorcycle driver who offered to bring us there for 20 bucks. So imagine 3 of us on a small motorcycle driving drown the highway - no helmets and dr s clutching his bag. I had to get off and walk to the next intersection as there was police and only 2 person per bike is allowed. That short 20 minutes ride was better than the short walk we had around town.
I didn't manage to buy anything in Shanghai, except for a dozen donuts to bring home. Imagine that, buying Krispy Kreme from China for your housemates!
I'm halfway through with the third novel I brought with me to China. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang is the story of 3 generation of Chinese women as they live through 3 pivotal periods in Chinese history - the final years of the Qing Dynasty, the Civil War and the rise of Mao, and the aftermath of the Cultural revolution.
For those who have only known the name but the not the person, I strongly recommend reading up on the man. The first eye opener was when I read Mao: The Unknown Story by Jon Halliday. The book I am reading now only reinforces the notion that this man is as evil as Hitler. At least Hitler did not sacrifice his own people in the millions to achieve power. Its no wonder Pol Pot, a staunch Maoist - turned to genocide in Cambodia.
Ignorance is the name of the game in China. How else can you explain the continued veneration of Mao? For somebody who is staunch anti-capitalist - his face now adorns all the money in China. His mummy lies in a crystal coffin in the middle of Tiananmen Square.
But I wonder how long this farce will last. How long will communism remain compatible with economic prosperity? or for that matter, the widening inequality between the rich and the poor where classes are not supposed to exist?
Adjacent to our table, a couple was arguing on whether to order the chicken or beef. The old guy across the table was tapping his cigarette ash on the floor. Dr s pointed to the tissue papers and cigarettes butts strewn all over the floor. The waitress left us the order sheet and asked us to just write down what we wanted, and went out to cut up a watermelon. Behind Dr s loomed this huge communist propaganda poster. We had originally planned to have dinner elsewhere but most were already closed by 10 pm. So we ended up in this neighborhood eatery a few minutes walk from the Hutong we were staying in. At another instance, I'd dragged Dr s out as soon as I saw the old man squat on the chair instead of sitting, but we were hungry so we persisted. It was obviously where people in the neighborhood had their dinner and everybody seemed to know each other. The food turned out to be better than I expected. In fact, it was one of the best we had in Beijing that we went back one more time.
I imagine Beijing as some sort of duck Auschwitz.. At night, ducks from the countryside would quack somberly among themselves inquiring on their destination. As they are herded into trucks, they are told they are going to a better place, and told to leave all their belongings. Of course all of them end up being dressed and roasted to a delectable crisp - to be served in the millions of restaurants in Beijing.
For a place that's called the Forbidden City, it certainly didn't deter the crowds, especially the Chinese crowd (China does not need foreign tourists, tourism will survive on just the locals). The place is huge but the crowds were bigger. Truth be told, the place is falling into pieces. I certainly don't understand how the interiors are left out to the elements to gather dust (literally). The building that housed the imperial throne is dark, dusty and have lost any semblance of past splendor. In contrast, the modern Capital Museum is air-conditioned, well lighted and well maintained. Just like most of Beijing, the old is left to decay in favour of the new. Nouveau riche mentality is everywhere in Beijing.
A young day guide who took us around Beijing haven't heard of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre or the iconic tank man. It's obviously not in the textbooks and the government continues to take extreme efforts to delete that embarassing incident from memory. Saddening. Those students died for nothing.
Whoever thought of installing those sleds for tourists at the Great Wall is a genius. On the way up, you take the cable car. On the way down, you take this sled where you can speed down the mountain. It was a fun experience as the awe you feel at seeing and walking down the Great Wall wears off after walking for an hour under the blazing noon sun. I actually got an unwanted tan.
Books at hand while in Beijing: Ma Jian's excellent "Beijing Coma" - an account of the Tiananmen massacre through the eyes of the students and Jia Yinghua and Sun Haichen's "The last Eunuch of China" - who knew the last emperor was gay?
Advice From Dr. Laura Schlessinger
On her radio show recently, Dr. Laura Schlesinger said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.
The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, penned by a U.S. resident, which was posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:
Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination...End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Law and how to follow them.
1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.
4. Lev.25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
5. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. The passage clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev.11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?
7. Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die?
9. I know from Lev.11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev.20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.
Thank you again for reminding us that God's Word is eternal and unchanging.
Your adoring fan,
James M. Kauffman, Ed.D.
Dept. of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education
University of Virginia
405 Emmet Street South
PO Box 400273
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4273
Downtime would usually be spent playing with the cats, or tending to my zombies; which leaves not a lot of time for blogging.
This explains the lack of posts for more than 2 months.
I did attempt a couple of times, but quickly abandoned it when I found myself being too long winded. So I would play Bejeweled instead.
So when I saw so many LJ's drop like opininated flies these days. I thought maybe I should do likewise.
NOT. (stare at cat with the cracker)
But a change of pace happening in the next few weeks should do me some good. Let's see.
The other day I was recounting a story to the rest of the team about Mr T from the A Team. The young ones blinked at me in ignorance. "You've never heard of the A Team?"
Nothing like a cold slap to remind you that you belong to a completely different timezone.
Tiong Bahru cat Lomo sure has gone a long way. He is bound for Barcelona Spain tonight with the Divine Miss M as they make their way to their new home.
I remember this dusty black furball relentlessly following me to the bus stop in Tiong Bahru - insisting to be picked up and a chin rub. After 10 minutes of playing hide and seek, I decided to drop by the nearby petshop (how convenient can you get?) to ask the store owner if the cat that was by then clinging to me belonged to anybody. After assuring me that he was a neighborhood tomcat, I bought a pet carrrier and brought him home.
The 2 tomcats at home, of course, were visibly outraged at having another cat to share the litter box with. After a sleepness night of hissing and cats trying to establish boundaries, I decided to call the Divine Miss M if she would be interested in adopting him. She did, and after 2 years of staying with her, he is now on a flight to Spain.