Participating in my first Goruck Urban Ops challenge

Obstacle races  has always interested me, but I never got about to it because they are extremely challenging and I never felt like I was ready for it. Also the fact that it costs so much to participate was a deterrent.

Nevertheless, when I found that the price for the Goruck was discounted for the Aegis Nova anomaly in Padua, I decided to grab the opportunity and sign up for it. I still didn’t know if I was strong enough for it but the requirements on the sign up page says ‘Moderate to Low’ on the website, so it should be fine … right?

DeusExMachina, who participated in the Urban Ops for Vienna kindly lent me his backpack and I felt blissfully unaware. It was only on the day itself when I started packing, I realised that my luggage was extremely heavy! What on earth did I got myself into? And I’d have to carry it for at least 4 hours! Goruck Urban Ops Padua

Among the required things to carry  for the Urban Ops challenge was :

  • 9 kg of weights (I used my hand weights)
  • 2 litres of water (I used 4 1/2 litre bottles)

Which will easily make my backpack over 10 kg. Oh my.

On Friday afternoon, we took a quick look at the Vegan Festival in Eur and had a delicious lunch there and then we took the train to Padua. Vegan Festival in Eur

It took us about 4 hours to reach there. We managed to snag a promotion from Italo and paid only 50 euro for the both of us travelling first class. Goruck Urban Ops Padua Goruck Urban Ops Padua Goruck Urban Ops Padua

Our BnB happened to be a few minutes away from Piazza Capitaniato, where we picked up our supporter kits in the evening.

I happened to see the Stealth Ops participants doing their warm ups and met and said hello to Maurizio who was already perspiring after he’s finished with his warm up. I marvelled in the fact that he’d be doing 12 hours of challenges. I don’t know if I’d be able to do it myself.

Saturday morning, I started getting ready and here is the outfit of the day! Goruck Urban Ops Padua

  • Blue t shirt from Decathlon (5 euro)
  • Blue buff found in Decathlon (5 euro)
  • Sports bra from Only Play (10 euro)
  • 3/4 sports pants from Only Play (10 euro)
  • Resistance Cap by Doriscreations (Priceless)
  • Aegis Nova bracelet (Which is my favourite design so far)
  • Newton Fate Running shoes

I stuffed the backpack with the weights, the bottles of water, a piece of towel and some bananas to snack on. So heavy! I had to walk really slowly with the backpack on – I felt like an elephant. Seriously, what have I gotten myself into? Goruck Urban Ops Padua

After having breakfast, my entourage and I walked over to the meetup point before the anomaly. There were so many people there and you’ll meet people from all across Italy and the world. Every anomaly always feels so festive and it was such a beautiful day. Goruck Urban Ops Padua Goruck Urban Ops Padua Goruck Urban Ops Padua

Eventually, I said goodbye to Cart as he went off with his team and I started to search for mine … I headed towards Piazza Dei Signori and that’s where I met Marco (Errequadropi) and I found out that we were the only two Resistance players for Urban Ops. Oh my. But that’s okay. Goruck Urban Ops Padua

There was Cadre Mickey whose role was sort of like a guide and judge of the competition. Our first task was to choose the leader for the team. Marco quickly arrowed me as the Team Leader and Roberto (HeartTremor) was TL for the Enlightenend.

Together we walked to our first location, Piazzale Porta San Giovanni with our backpacks. It wasn’t necessary for us to have our Ingress scanners open, but I wanted to do some unique visits along the way. Not easy while juggling all that weight behind you though!

When we reached our point, our first challenge was to choose someone to hold their backpack over their head while the rest of the team do lunges or elephant walks around him. Goruck Urban Ops Padua Goruck Urban Ops Padua

It was quite amusing to see the elephant walk but it looked easier than it was, especially with the weights, every step was precarious and I had to step hard to make sure that I didn’t topple over.

Both of our teams tried to last for as long as possible but we lost this challenge but according to Daniele who was holding up his backpack in the picture above, it was a very close match.

Then we walked to our second location – Via San Pio X. Here, the Team Leaders had to start a distance from their team. The cadre will say out a name of a glyph and Team Leaders will run to their team and write the glyph together on a piece of paper and then run back to the cadre. The first team which gets 5 glyphs correct will be the winner. Goruck Urban Ops Padua Goruck Urban Ops Padua

This challenge was interesting as some of the glyphs, I’ve never heard of before. I just winged whichever I could and hope for the best and you know what, Resistance won this challenge!

Cadre Mickey took me aside and gave me a code which contains pertinent information to help my faction during the anomaly. I quickly forwarded it to my dispatchers on Hangout and updated them on Zello.

After the challenge, we walked to Prato Della Valle. It was such a lovely day for a picnic here. There were loads of people sitting on the grass and just relaxing themselves. But I’m not sure if it was the heat or the fatigue from carrying all those weights but I was already starting to feel a little dizzy by this point.

For our third challenge, we had to take everything out of our backpacks and lay them on the ground next to it. All of us had to walk a distance away, and get ready in a line. When the cadre yells start, we run to our respective backpacks, put our things in and hold it over our head and yell Resistance or Enlightened.

I thought for sure we would lose this one as my zip didn’t close smoothly but to my surprise we both seemed to have finished first. Goruck Urban Ops Padua

Another win for us! I breathlessly and quickly updated our dispatchers. We took a quick break and I lied down to ease my dizzy feeling.

For our final challenge, we walked to Piazza Eremitani. By this time, while I tried my best to catch up, I find myself constantly being the back of the pack. Each step was so heavy … Goruck Urban Ops Padua

Nevertheless, it was such a beautiful park inside and felt so peaceful with all the flowers and greenery.

For our final challenge, while it sounds simple, trust me, it’s not. Everyone in the team will have to plank and the last man (or woman) standing will win for their faction. Goruck Urban Ops Padua

I could only hold to the position for about 10 minutes. After that my arms were all wobbly and I could only crawl like a baby to move towards one of the agents who was showing me his scanner.

It was such a close match between Marco and Daniele. My goodness. They planked for close to 30 minutes. How on earth did they do that? Goruck Urban Ops Padua

It seemed to go on forever. Unfortunately the Enlightened team couldn’t hold out longer possibly because he was tired from participating from the 12 hours Stealth Ops challenge earlier on. So we got this round and another code for us!

We headed back to Piazza dei Signori where each of us received our hard earned patches. Goruck Urban Ops Padua

So beautiful! Goruck Urban Ops Padua

After a shower and a brief rest, back at the apartment (so nice to finally plunk away the backpack!) I headed back to join Cart and the rest of my faction members to celebrate our anomaly win. It was heartening to see so many people coming up to me curious about my experience and congratulating me. Goruck Urban Ops Padua

Like Matteo and Gimmy from Stealth Ops and Matteo, Luisa and Aalyah my former team members from Vienna. Goruck Urban Ops Padua

My shoulders hurt and my thighs were sore and my feet were complaining (doing the mission day on Sunday was a miserable day for me) but all in all, it has been a very interesting experience for me, and dare I say it, actually fun?

Thank you so much Roberto and the rest of the Enlightened members for being so friendly and a very sporting team and thank you Marco for being a wonderful team member and thank you Cadre Mickey!

The past six months has been amazing for me so far. With Ingress, I got to do a lot of things, I got to try at being a Team Radio in Milan, then a Team Leader in Vienna and now participated in a Goruck in Padova. Wow. Goruck Urban Ops Padua

Now I GoRest.

P.s. For those of you thinking of participating for Goruck Urban Ops, while the fitness requirement is low – moderate, my advice to you is to train in some circuit training anyway. Carry a towel so that it will soften the barrier between your back and the weights and just enjoy the experience the best you can.

Vegan Strawberry Cake

Stawberries are my favourite spring fruits. I could eat them by the bowls if I had my way. Have you ever had some with some lemon juice and sugar? Sounds so simple, but it’s so delicious.

Recently, I saw an event for a strawberry faire in Carchitti, which about 40 minutes drive from Rome. I was so looking forward to it. I planned to buy several punnets and make a cake from the recipe I read from my booklet. I even charged my batteries, my camera and formatted the SD card in case I wanted to do a video-log on a whim. Unfortunately, the weather was really bad and when we reached there it was raining and the worst part was, there were no more strawberries left to be sold! Imagine my disappointment. But I still wanted to make my cake, and in the end, when the weekly market was going on, I went to buy a punnet. And gave the recipe a try. The cake turned out to be quite acceptable – it didn’t last for more than 12 hours.

Vegan Strawberry cake (Recipe edited to my taste)

Ingredients :

  • 500 g cut strawberries
  • 300 g flour
  • 150 g cane sugar
  • 50 g powdered sugar
  • 200 g vegetable milk
  • 1 sachet baking powder
  • 4 tbs corn oil

Put 1/2 of the strawberries into a processor till you get a purée .

Grate a teaspoon worth of lemon zest and squeeze to get 3 teaspoon worth of lemon juice. Combine these to the strawberry purée and mix together with the powdered sugar. Leave it in the fridge to rest.

In a mixing bowl, mix the baking powder, the flour, the sugar, the vegetable milk, the rest of the strawberries and the corn oil.

Transfer the mix in an oiled cake pan and cook in the oven for 180 degree celcious for 40 minutes.

Serve with the strawberry sauce.

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I survived the Obsidian Anomaly in Vienna

Last weekend Cart and I were in Vienna and it had been an unforgettable experience of my life. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

We were there mainly for the Obsidian anomaly – a large scale cross-faction event for the GPS based game, Ingress. Vienna was a primary site, which means that more points were awarded to agents playing in this area.

While Cart and I have been to a couple of anomalies, like the one in Florence and Milan, this has been a different type of anomaly for me personally as it was a flash shard and it was also my first time on being a Team Leader. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

(Picture by MyZap)

So far while it was challenging, it was something that I wanted to experience and I was blessed to have such an dynamic and responsible team that everything went smoother than I expected it to be. I love my team! Team Blueberry Pie! Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

Anyway, the day before our flight to Vienna was so busy. I had to teach in the afternoon and as soon as I reached home, Cart and I rushed off to get some last minute things ready – I wanted to collect my pins and patches and Cart wanted to give away some capsules so that he’ll have some pertinent space in his inventory. We then later had dinner in a place called Vitaminas 24 which I might blog about in the future. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

In the morning, it was a flurry of activity with the packing and I don’t like leaving the house messy as I don’t want to reach home from a nice vacation to see an eyesore. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

Once we were done, Cart didn’t want to risk being last to reach the airport, and decided to park the car at a place called Lunga Sosta. I don’t recommend it much as it appeared to cost 18 euro for 3 days, instead we were charged 54 euro when we picked the car up. It was such a shock when we got back from Vienna. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

Eventually we met up with a group of some of the Resistenza Roma members and took a flight from Vueling, which is a low cost carrier based in Spain. While the interior reminds me a bit of Air Asia, having just recently rewatched Toy Story 3, I was extremely amused each time the flight information broadcasted. Anyhow have this in-flight song, which was very catchy. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

It was a short two hour flight from Rome to Vienna, and the first thing that we did was to search for the mobile shop to pick up our SIM cards and then it was the challenge of getting to the train station to try to reach to our accomodations. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

I say challenge because, German is the national language here, and a non native can get overwhelmed just looking at an innocuous sign like a metro line. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

Luckily for me, the caretaker at our bed and breakfast had already explained to me on how to reach there – by taking the S7 line. While it’s slower as goes to each stops but it’s cheaper at around 2 euro.

Tip : It’s best to buy two tickets from the airport as it’s cheaper compared to buying a ticket one by one.

Cart and I stayed in an area called Praterstern and it’s an amazingly beautiful area by itself. Prater is best known for it’s giant (and probably the oldest) feris wheel in Vienna. It’s lovely just for going for a walk to and fro. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

While it was Spring time, it got quite nippy when there is no sun, in the early morning and during the evening and I was regretting that I didn’t pack anything warmer than my pullover. I was too confident that the temperature would be the similar as it was in Rome. Serves me right! Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

Nevertheless, thank goodness that the place where we stayed at was quite comfortable as you could see from this quick video I shot. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

I find it quite interesting to see all these baby buggies lined up near the front entrance.

I was amazed when I found out in the morning that that your number two doesn’t drop down directly in the hole here in the toilets in Austria. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

Sidenote : When you’re watching Netflix Austria, there is season 9 for Supernatural. In Italy it only goes all the way to 8. Another thing that I find amazing is that newspapers are sold like this. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

You can put your coins into the coin slot and take the newspaper from the plastic flap. People are so trusting that no one takes a paper without paying. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

After we’ve left our stuff at the apartment, we headed to a place called Leopold Cafe which is near Museumsquartier for the registration point and get our packs – inside there was a medal card, a sticker, a wristband and a load out card. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

After that, we went off to another area in another place for the Resistance pre-registration called East End. It’s not at all near the registration point, but I could understand why – so that we don’t risk too much in clashing with the opposite faction while we strategize and exchange items with each other. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

I finally got my Team Leader pack and met a couple of the organizers there. But by this time, I was feeling extremely hungry and couldn’t concentrate on anything else. It was already evening and we haven’t even had a proper lunch. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

Thankfully there was a place nearby called Fly’s American Fifties Restaurant, which was an adorable looking place.  While it was a regular burger place,  I was relived to hear that they were open to tweaking the dish to make it vegan, so there was something for me to eat, which was nice. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

I didn’t manage to take a picture of my delicious burger as I was so hungry but it was awesome. I didn’t even manage to take a picture of the waiter, who had such a cute laugh.

After having my dinner, I met up with some of my team members, who were mostly based in Foligno, which is about 200 km away from Rome.  It was the first time for me meeting them and they were friendly and were raring to go for tomorrow. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

We also met up with our awesome local guide, Marlene, who decided to drop by to say hello to our team. We found out that she lived in the zone where our team was assigned to. If we needed anything, we could probably just hop over to her house. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

The next day – anomaly day. I was feeling trepidation but I had to do the best I could. I was reading on the team leader chat to try to get some pertinent keys. So I got out earlier to try to farm them – Cart was just waking up and getting ready. I quickly popped by the nearby supermarket and had a quick breakfast of bananas and apple juice. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

I looked at the label. The funny thing was, according to the packet, the apples were harvested in Italy? Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

As I walked towards the metro, I was amazed that I was going on my own. There were apps that makes travelling on public transportation a little bit easier, nevertheless, I need time to orient myself in a new country. Heck, it even took a while for me to get used to the public transportation in Rome. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

This is why I cannot join reality competitions such as the Amazing Race. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

It was such a cold morning. So cold. I was shivering underneath my pullover. But as long as I kept moving, I should be fine. I headed to a place called Belvedere and my goodness, it’s gorgeous and completely lush. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

I wanted to get some more keys from other locations. Unfortunately, the district is quite big and takes time to reach. I had to meet up with the rest of my team members, so I decided to go directly to Marx Halle.

Everyone in my team was there and all ready – naituousn0329, LuPellox, LaMomo19, LuStargazer, frenksuperfly, Schioppaculi, Matteoz991, eternit, AalyahAtreides, Myzap and Elzap. Gosh, I was so nervous at leading but I just kept pushing on.

Look at what Marlene Niphinia did for us! What splendid muffins! She actually brought her baking equipment from out of town to make this for us! Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

And before you know it, it was time to move to our first portal. Like I’ve mentioned before, Vienna is a big place, and it took us slightly more than half an hour to reach there.

It was a park and we sat down on the benches and kept an eye on our portal while waiting for further instructions from the dispatcher. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

I completely fell in love with my team as soon as they opened up their backpacks and took a cold one and started making sandwiches. It’s just too adorable. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

Compared to the previous anomalies, this anomaly was different as it was a Flash Shard. In the simplest term, shards are like soccer balls in which you need to put it in your respective target to score points.

To move the shards, the agent will have to link the portal to the target at the specific time window. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

But of course in any anomaly when there are hundreds of people fighting against hundreds of people, the game play becomes frenzied. There will be agents defending, agents shooting the portals, agents blocking … and with so many people at one area, the game can be unplayable most times. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

(Picture by MyZap)

Especially when we moved over to our 3rd and 4th portal where the shard was, there was a big crowd and you can see that the portal changing from green to blue in an instant. It was easy to use 100 xmp at a time. So we just had to keep calm as best as we can and kept on going. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

In being Team Leader, among all the responsibilities, my biggest priority was to keep my team together and safe. Even though it was important for us to move from one portal to another fast, I never wanted to lose any of my members at the back. So constantly kept an eye and glanced back and made sure there was always the 15 of us. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

Unfortunately for me, I happened to be standing on a a bicycle lane. In Vienna, many people travel on bicycles and as soon as I looked to the front, there was a bicycle which hit me and I saw stars for several minutes. I slowly felt a swelling on my cheek. Luckily it wasn’t too serious and went down in time.

We finally reached the last portal for us to defend and defend it we did. In our excitement, we started talking loudly to each other, “DEPLOY! SHOOT! SHIELD! DON’T STOP! LINK!” And some of us ran over to stop some of the Enlightened agents from doing block links. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

(Picture by Myzap)

Eventually, the time jump window ended and I was elated. It’s over finally! And I’m so proud of my team! We fought hard and I felt confident that we did great during the event. Just look at the amount of shards that the Resistance managed to put in the target. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

By this time, I started to feel an aching in my thighs all the travelling, and we slowly headed back to Prater to the Niantic After party. It felt so festive in there, with all the waving of the flags and the cheering. It was something that had to be experienced.

Eventually the Acolyte came up to the stage and announced the results. I was elated to hear that the resistance had a landslide victory of 325 vs 3640! It was an exhilarating feeling. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

The Resistenza Roma family went to have a celebration dinner together after that. At this time though, I was really tired and cranky and just wanted to lie down and faint. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

Nevertheless, it has been such a fruitful and spectacular fight! And I’m honored to have experienced and being part of this incredible memory. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

Here are a couple of pictures I took from mission day. As we had a flight back to Rome in the afternoon, I had to be a systematic tourist – no time to look at the monuments, just snapping pictures and look back on them when we’re back home. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

A completely carbon zero taxi! Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

There are a lot of these in Vienna, I’d avoid them like I avoid those “Gladiators” in Rome. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

I met agents Crox and Ramon who were so friendly. I was admiring their jackets from behind and they ambushed me for a photo! Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

To end this post, here is a nice video of the event done by agent MadTiXx :

Oh gosh, how I miss Vienna! I want to go back again! I want to give a shoutout to my awesome Blueberry Pie team, to our patient Local Guide, and thank all the operators, dispatchers and organizers for this beautiful, amazing, unforgettable experience. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

(Picture by AalyahAtredes)

And thank you Vienna! Auf Wiedersehen and hope to see you again soon!

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Cheap alternative of a GoPro strap

It’s been a while since I’ve used a point and shoot camera ever since I’ve accidentally damaged my old one. I was contemplating on getting a new one, but then inspired by the GoPro used by one of the crew during my trip to Viareggio, I remembered that I had a similar one that my brother bought for me a while back.

I thought of getting a head-strap or a chest strap but they both didn’t seem convenient. In the end, I went the DIY method of getting a broad strap and pinning them on my backpack with safety pins. Sports HD DV Camera

It’s quite low-tech but it seemed to work OK so far as long as I move smoothly. Here is a test shot.

While I do like the quality of the video shot on my camera, what I don’t like is that videos are captured in .mov format which my main video editor, Premiere Elements can’t edit.

This week I had to reformat my laptop as I was hit with nasty malware trying to find a suitable video editor. So stressful. X.X

Experiencing Viareggio Part 2

Continuing from our first day in Viareggio, on Saturday morning we woke up bright and early and got ready to take some shots around the around the neighbourhood. It’s an interesting experience going around in a group with so much heavy equipments. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

We then headed towards the port : Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

It’s so pretty here, with the place reminding me a bit like when we visited Lake Como in Milan. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

By the way, according to our driver, this is the Torre Matilde – the oldest building in Viareggio dating back to 1500s. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

We then drove to the Citadella. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

This place is so colourful! Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

The cittadella del carnevale (Carnival Citatel) is a place where the floats are built and stored. There are 16 hangars altogether and the area comprises of a museum and a restaurant. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

And the place is impressively huge! I estimate that each hangar is at least a 4 storey high building. Just compare the size of the floats to a regular person. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

I was then given a microphone to use for the first time – this device was to be slipped under the shirt and taped towards the collar. There is a part which looks like a paper clip is supposed to be left free. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

We met up with Andrea, one of the staff working at the citadella and before I knew it, the camera was rolling. The hosts Mas and Seri started talking excitedly in Malay and I was listening in and the continued talking … and then out of the blue they asked me, “So Marina, can you ask him how the festival started” and I blanked out. The hosts continued smiling and gently prodded me to say something … anything… but I was so confused and flustered. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

It was challenging for me to switch back and fourth in English-Italian and now I had to switch from Malay to Italian! You can imagine how jumbled up I must have felt.  But after a few tries, I understood the mechanics and got used to it.  I just hope that it goes well in the clip later!

We talked about when the carnival started in Viareggio, and how the floats (or carri in Italian) are unique here as they are the biggest ones in the world made out of papier mache. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

For me, one of the things that was very memorable of, and which I feel very fortunate of is when we interviewed one of the float makers.

This talented man below is Alessandro Avanzzini who is in charge of his float called, “Moby Duck”. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

His inspiration of his float is based on an event in 1992 where a freight ship which was carrying over twenty thousand plastic ducks was shipwrecked. Some of the ducks are still floating around and poses danger to the ecosystem.

According to him, most of his material was recycled from various sources and that it takes about 4 – 6 months for a team to build each float.

From what I remember, it costs about 100 thousand euro, but the prize money would be 1/10th that but each builder is proud to showcase their work that it’s not about the prize but pride of their craftsmanship. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

I really like how colourful and cheerful looking the float is! There is also a bubble machine that made it all the more festive. This will last for the two hour carnival. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

We then headed to the museum and met up with the director, Marco Antonio Francesconi where he explained to us the history as well as gave us a demonstration of how the floats move. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

I found out that floats don’t rely to much on electricity and instead uses pulleys instead to move various parts such as eyes, mouth and head. Each float could have around 10 people – each with their own station. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

Lunch break! And a quick picture with the beautiful Seri and Mas. We had an awesome  pasta arrabbiata here and took a quick breather. Half a day has passed by, and I already felt like we did so many things already! Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

After our sumptuous lunch, we went to the area where the smaller displays were housed. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

We met up with Daniele Chicca who created this piece called “The American Dream”. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

It’s not yet finished in the picture, but there will be eight heads that can be turned around – each one a famous American character. He’ll be carrying his piece at the carnival too, but has to keep it as light as possible as he’ll be carrying it by himself. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

Daniele showed us how the papier mache was done. Did you know that the paste is made of just water and flour? Then you tear the newspaper as straight as possible and layer it on the mold, then use a brush to spread the paste and continue till the mold is covered and left to try. That is layer one. There should be at least 5 or 6 layers in total.

Can you imagine how long it takes to make this? Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

In the late afternoon, we headed back to the canal for dinner. We spied upon this street sign and we were joking at how much it looked like the papier mache brush. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

The roads were closed to vehicles, and there were already music and vendors by the street. The atmosphere was so festive. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

Even though Fat Tuesday was still several days to come, you could see many people in costumes walking around, celebrating. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

This guy is not a real policeman Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

I saw an angel, some ghouls, I even saw a huge used sanitary pad walking around. I didn’t take a picture of that. No. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

All these costumes made us feel inspired so we stopped by a stand and got for ourselves a quick deco. I chose this blue wig as it’s a crazy colour. Maybe I can also wear this for the next anomaly in Vienna 😛 Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

There were a lot of food stalls opened and it was crowded busy. Most of these stalls serve items ranging from pasta to risotto to deep fried food, mostly seafood. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

This was what the rest of the crew had. This was the risotto di calamari. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

This was the insalata di polpo Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

I don’t know how it tastes like as I was already on my plant based diet by now. Cart and I had a nice plate of pasta al pomodoro instead. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

Here’s Robin, the camera man taking a shot of his dinner. Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

Here’s Cart posing with my blue wig Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

And here is Dzul, the director of Ole Ole Temasya posing with  bunny ears. He looks so adorable. And we chatted about how he started the series. It was interesting.

So dinner, we headed back to the villa. I was already beat and ready to go to bed. It will be a big day tomorrow with the parade going on. Impressively, when we reached back the crew still had another shot to do and they weren’t done till 11 pm! They have an incredible amount of stamina.

Anyway this is the end of the post for today, watch out for part three soon! Carnevale in Viareggio, Italy

Eating vegan for two months

It has been slightly over two month now that I’ve been on the plant based diet, consciously avoiding meat, dairy and eggs. Two month vegan

I dare not label myself as a vegan though, as I still own clothes with wool or duck feathers or leather in them but I’m going to continue using them till they last as throwing them away immediately will be such a waste. Nevertheless I’ll try to be more conscious of the new things that I’ll plan to get.

But so far so good – I’ve lost about 4 kg now. I probably could lose even more, but I like to eat junk food sometimes … Potato chips are vegan and living in Italy, it’s so easy for me to just grab a piece of pizza rossa or marinara 😛 Two month vegan

Apart from my weight, there are also other effects :

  • I seem to need less sleep now.

When I used to need about 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep to feel refreshed, nowadays I could go to bed at 11pm and wake up at around 4 to 5 am. Is that normal? I don’t get it.

  • Going to the toilet is really easy now

But that’s just TMI

  • Uh. Wind.

It takes time for the digestive system to get used to the high amount of fibre and produces gas as it breaks it down. While first couple of weeks was quite lively, it has gone down now, although I don’t believe that it’ll be gassy free – as long as we eat food like legumes and cruciferous vegetables.

  • I dream of eating meat

Literally. Sometimes when I sleep, there will be dreams when I’m with friends and we’re enjoying a plate of plate of fried chicken or ice cream. At first I’d be confused, like something isn’t right but at the back of my mind, I knew that this wasn’t real so I’d just enjoy it anyway.

  • The past two months hasn’t been that difficult

I’m not sure for the whole of Italy but fresh produce is easily accessible here. There are temporary markets in my neighbourhood at least 3 times a week and no matter where you live here, there will always be a vegetable seller within walking distance. So we are pretty much settled at having fresh vegetables at hand. Fresh produce at Nuovo Mercato Testaccio

Even in regular supermarkets, there is an increasing amount of vegan or vegetarian options. Heck, there is a special section in Ipercoop and Panorama and as much as possible, I try to get more vegan items from supermarkets as they tend to be cheaper compared to specialist shops. Two month vegan

  • Eating out has been ok.

There are lots of vegan restaurants compared to a few years ago and even in regular places, I’ve noticed that there are some which labels their dishes which are good for vegans or you could simply ask for dairy or eggs to be omitted for the dishes and 90% of the time, they’ll comply. Two month vegan

Understandably when going over to other people’s houses, sometimes they’d be confused at what to serve, but one nice thing to do is to bring a nice vegan dish for all of us to try and enjoy. Like roasted veggie pasta or vegetable paella. Yummy!

  • I find myself cooking more

Cart claims that he doesn’t know how to cook vegan dishes, so I find myself having to cook for the both of us. Sometimes I do have lazy days, but I don’t mind that much, as there are loads of ideas on the internet and I’ve found quite a bit of recipes that I really enjoyed. One would be this bean wrap that I had for dinner last night. It was seriously so good. I’d be more than happy to make it again. Two month vegan

Anyway, there have been some who have been asking me why I’ve started on my plant based diet and I find it a little complex on how to explain it. True, weight loss is one of them but at the same time I don’t think that it’s right to dedicate all the limited resources that we have when it can be used and redirected to other more needy channels. Two month vegan

And this in tune with my philosophy of minimalism and living simply.
I’m just one person – I probably can’t solve world hunger by myself. Nevertheless I will never impose anyone to think the way I do. Cart still consumes cheese and milk. Even I still think that it’ll be better for him not to, for health reasons. (He did tell me that he lost weight while in Singapore because he didn’t eat any cheese)

Lets see how this path brings me. I just wonder how it’ll be when I go back to Singapore. You know, with my family and all. Uhmm…

The most stylish urn

When guests come over to Rome, one of the things that I’d recommend that they get as a souvenir is a moka pot. It’s something that I think that is symbolic of Italy – since coffee is such a way of life here. And using a moka pot lets you enjoy espresso quality coffee at home.

Bialetti Moka Pot

Here’s a video I did about 6 years ago on how to use a moka pot. My command of Italian is rather awkward in this video, and I can spot out a lot of mistakes now but oh well 😛

Probably the most famous brand here is Bialetti. You can easily recognize it by the cute logo that it has in front.

Bialetti Moka Pot

The caricature of the man is actually Renato Bialetti. While he didn’t invent it, this was the man who made Moka pots famous around the world.

We have 5 moka pots ourselves in our household – 3 of them Bialetti. And when we travel, Cart would make sure that we at least have good coffee packed in the luggage.

Which was why, at first glance at this picture, I thought that it was kind of cool to see this priest with a big coffee maker in front of him. I was imagining that he’d be sharing some coffee after his sermon, maybe.

Bialetti Moka Pot

It was only later when I found out that it was actually an URN! Containing the ashes of Renato Bialetti who died about a week ago.

As dark as it is, I think that it’s a stylish way to go.


Experiencing carnevale di Viareggio – part 1

In Italy, there is an event called Martedi Grasso which basically means “Fat Tuesday”. This is kind of like a last chance for you to enjoy yourself before the start of 40 days of lent.

During the days leading towards Martedi Grasso, you’d see a lot of children in costumes, throwing confetti around.  There would also be a carnival. Probably the most famous and biggest one in Italy would be the Carnevale di Venezia – something that I’d love to see for myself in the future.

Anyway,  last weekend, I feel extremely fortunate to have had the chance of experiencing a carnival. While it wasn’t the one in Venice, the one in Viareggio is extremely impressive by itself.

A little back story. A couple of months earlier, I got a message from a production company who was looking for someone who was living in Italy to be a co-host for a documentary show in Singapore. I don’t know anything about hosting and I’ve never hosted before – youtube-ing is a whole different animal altogether but I was so intrigued about the Viareggio Papier Mache Carnival, I said yes! What’s the worst that could happen? In the end, it will be a very interesting experience.

Viareggio is a town in Tuscany. It takes about 4 hours to travel from Rome to Viareggio by train. This time round, we took Frecciarossa – which was interesting, as it has a fold-able table for when you want to do your work, a charger below, and wifi! Viareggio Carnevale 2016

But trying to log on to Frecciarossa’s wifi for the first time is quite challenging though as I don’t think that the website was coded to suit smartphones. It took at least 15 minutes for me to try to remain calm enough to type my information in.

After a while, I just gave up and enjoyed the scenery I saw outside of my window. Viareggio Carnevale 2016

Around two hours passed by and we stopped at Firenze to do and interchange with a regional train for the rest of the journey.

Something that I think will probably be a little TMI is how Cart explained to me how the toilets in train works. He claims that you should only go when the train is moving as you’d make a pile when the train is still.

Really? It makes sense but I don’t believe him. I’m pretty sure that there is a containment below. Viareggio Carnevale 2016

Four hours later, we finally reached the Viareggio train station. It was cloudy and drizzling slightly, but I was so excited just to be there. Viareggio Carnevale 2016

We walked to our bed and breakfast called the Villino Lola, which was just a few minutes walk from the station. It’s so beautiful! If you ever travel here in a group, this is a great place to stay – and when the cost is divided by 8 people, it’s not at all expensive.

You enter through the hall into the main house which  has a reception room, a bathroom and big kitchen. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

Look! There’s a classic vespa! Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

In the kitchen, you have all the usual cooking needs like olive oil and condiments, table ware, cooking ware …

For some reason, there are a lot of bottled water in the fridge. There were at least 4 in this kitchen alone. We were told that the water in the taps in Viareggio are potable nevertheless. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

This place is huge! When you walk upstairs, there are 3 bedrooms and two bathrooms. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

I find each bedroom so charmingly country. There is a particular bathroom which was so luxurious. On hindsight, I think I should have taken a short video of the place. Pictures doesn’t do it justice. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

When you go back down to the kitchen, you could open the door that to the the garden, leading to guest house. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

And here was where Cart and I stayed for the next 3 nights. Our own little tiny house! I loved how self sufficient it is – a place to sleep, a place to cook, a place to shower. I’d be happy live here if there was wifi connection here too. 😛 Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

Above the guest house was a terrace where I imagine people could have a nice open air dinner when the weather is better. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

After exploring our bed and breakfast, Cart and I went to have a look see outside. The street where we walked in, there were so many houses which was decorated with masks and banners, in the spirit of the carnival. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

We walked and walked and walked and eventually we found ourselves close to the sea. It’s very lively here – there are a lot of shops and food places along the path and there are plentiful of people walking around. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

Don’t walk next to the sea during winter when it’s very windy. Personal experience. 

When you are in Viareggio, you’ll see this a lot : Viareggio Carnevale 2016

This is called the Burlamacco. This red and white clown like figure is the mascot for Viareggio. I think he’s cute. Viareggio Carnevale 2016

It was starting to be dinner time, so Cart and I headed back and met the crew  at this very lovely sandwich place called Paninoteca Adone. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

I love this place. The people here are so friendly and the sandwiches here are the bomb! The  list of sandwiches are very comprehensive and can be daunting for the first timer, but you’ll be sure that there is something for everyone.  And here are some of the pictures of the sandwiches that I managed to snap.

This is the 4 formaggi  sandwich – gorgonzola, mozzarella, groviera, fontina. Check out how cheesy it is! Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

This is the Rosa – Smoked salmon, butter, lemon Viareggio Carnevale 2016

This was my Verde – Artichokes, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, tabasco sauce and lettuce. Viareggio Carnevale 2016

It was so delicious that I’m still thinking about it now. I think I’ll try to make it myself. It shouldn’t be too hard, I hope. The only thing is that, it’s a little bit oily, and it trickled down my hands while I was eating it, which made it a little bit awkward.

Anyway, let me introduce you to part of the team! Next to me is Remi, the producer and there is Dzul who is the director and the two ladies are Seri and Mas who are the hosts, who by the way, are very popular in Singapore. Viareggio Carnevale 2016

I’m covering myself with a flower because I look really bad in this picture. Yikes! Next time, I’ll remember to turn my head or cover my neck with a sandwich like what Mas is doing here. Ahaha!

When I first met them, I wasn’t sure how to react. What should I do? Should I talk all formal? How? What? Huh? But when we started talking, they were so friendly and so nice and so chatty that I felt so comfortable around them.

One of the things I remember was when they told me about their trip to Jokkmokk, Sweden and how the temperature there was very cold! Minus 25 degrees even.  I don’t think that I’d be able to cope in such cold weather. Nevertheless, they enjoyed seeing the reindeer and the scenery there.

After our dinner, we had an early night. Tomorrow will be a big day!

Diary of a Singaporean now living in Rome, Italy