2016 is almost to its close. Goodness, where does the time pass by? It feels that it wasn’t too long ago when we unpacked our luggage from our trip back from Singapore back in January.
So for the last post of this year, I thought that I’d write my reflections about the year and the things that I’m grateful for.
2016 has been quite an adventure and new experiences for me. Cart and I have been travelling more, and even though the trips has been short, it has opened my eyes to the magnificence and beauty of the different places in the world.
It’s like the game Diablo where the more you walk around, the more you reveal your map and for me, it was something like that. I loved seeing the colourful carnival in Viareggio. Walking around the parks in Vienna was breathtaking. Padova was charmed me with her vibrance and Cologne made me so happy because there were so many friendly faces.
It’s also incredible the opportunities that I’ve been given – like leading a team during an anomaly, participating in my first Obstacle challenge, even helping out with a Television Programme. Yeah, I probably am going to sound like a broken record because I mention these so often, but I’m still very thankful.
And I guess that with the more things that you see and experience in the world, it inadvertently makes you grow.
For me, I’ve noticed a change in myself in the sense that I feel that now I’m much calmer compared to before. Things which used to bother me, doesn’t faze me anymore. It’ll just take too much of my precious energy and in the end, leaves me burnt. Nah, there are other things better to focus on.
Maybe that’s what happens as one grows older, I suppose.
What’s in store for me in 2017?
Nothing much. Apart from visiting my family during the Summer, there hasn’t been any plans to travel as of yet.
I’ve never been one who makes resolutions but for now, I want to continue with my vegan diet, continue doing Cross Fit (and maybe join a spartan race if it’s not too expensive) and try to keep blogging of course. For the moment, I’m trying to get in the momentum of posting 3 times a week – Cartoon Mondays, Vlog Wednesdays and Random Fridays.
I also want to do merchandising with my cartoons, of course. I keep saying that I’ll start but I need someone to
kick me in the butt give me motivation. I keep procrastinating. Why? -_-
It’s just a few days till Christmas. You really can’t miss it. It’s evident everywhere. When you leave your house, all your neighbours would have a wreath on their door. There are fairy lights on buildings, trees decorated with baubles and decorations and wherever you go to, people would almost always greet you with an “Auguri!” or a “Buon Natale!”.
While the sight is beautiful to see, but on the other hand, traffic is horrible these days. The streets are full of cars – be it the highway, or the regular roads. What would take me half an hour to commute, would take at least an additional 15 minutes more. I don’t understand why, especially for the path with no shops or commercial centres in it’s radius.
Cart and I don’t usually spend Christmas in Rome. Around this time, we’d normally spend time with my family and friends back in Singapore. I’ve never grown up celebrating Christmas, but no matter, I enjoy spending time with my extended family … mostly to eat good food.
Although this time round, I’m a little confused at what to make for Christmas. Usually for Christmas in Italy, it is a tradition here to serve a lot of seafood like smoked salmon and tuna. And since this will be my first time spending Christmas on a plant based diet, it’s perplexing me. What on earth do I cook? Soy fish?
I want to help my in laws so that they are not encumbered in cooking diverse meals. But on the other hand, I don’t really know much festive vegan dishes.
Argh. Such a headache. In the end I think I’ll just cook stuff that /I/ like to eat. Problem solved.
Happy Christmas everyone! Have a lovely weekend with your loved ones and eat lots of food!
I’ve been sick for over a week now. It always happens each year around this time when the temperature begins to dip, this nasty virus goes around, attacking everyone.
For me it it started out a a sore-throat, and the next day, I started to have muscle aches and then it manifested to become a flu, fever and headache. Cart’s been very sweet these days and gave me an extra dose of cuddles and brought me over to see the doctor.
According to the doctor, I didn’t have a cold or fever, but instead I had a parainfluenza and prescribed me a medicine to help me breathe better. It was incredible to find out that the pack was only 65 cents and according to Cart, it’s medically subsidised here.
Nevertheless during the week I haven’t been very productive at all – I’ve missed all my exercise classes, I can’t go to work, which makes me sad. But it’s better for everyone.
All I’ve been doing was to stay at home and watch Netflix all day. There is this space opera called The Expanse, which has been rather captivating. And when I felt tired of staying in bed, cooked a little and when I finally had enough of the cabin fever, went off for a quick walk and fresh air when Cart wasn’t looking. I’m feeling better, but I think it’ll still be a few more days till I’ll be in tip top shape.
At this point of writing, Cart’s starting to get the same symptoms as I had last week. And now he wants a bell to ring. Oh dear.
November is here already. Just 9 more weekends and then we’ll be saying hello to 2017. My goodness. Time really flows by quickly.
Loads of memorable things has happened so far since the start of the year. For 2016, I wanted to be stronger so for a start, I’ve embarked on a plant based diet, and have taken up crossfit (I’m still not sure if I like it or not)
I’d like to get my cartoons to a higher level. I’m still clueless at how merchandising works, but so far, friends seem genuinely excited at the small little knickknacks that I’ve done. That gives me the motivation to continue and do more.
The past months we visited Vienna which was absolutely gorgeous in the Spring. Then Padova, where I participated in my first Obstacle Challenge. And then Cologne, where I wished I could spend more time in. I think the pièce de résistance was when we visited the Carnival in Viareggio with a Singaporean TV Crew. The episode was out last night, so you can imagine how excited my family was, watching it. I thought I couldn’t watch since it was aired in Singapore, but am pleasantly surprised to find that I could watch it online.
And yet 2016 contains one of the most painful memory for me too. My aunt passed away two weeks ago. I still remember the moment clearly. It was Friday morning and I had just woken up and checked my messages. My mom wrote, “Mak Oteh is gone” and I stared at the message. Stunned and then felt a deep, hollow pain and bellowed out. I couldn’t stop crying.
It was a pain that I’ve never felt before.
Growing up, our families lived close to each other. So I’d be dropped at her house while my parents went to work or when I was done with primary school. I still remember her mashing up chillies using her Batu Giling at the old-old house at Taman Jurong. This was the time when the houses were 5 stories high, if I’m not wrong. I don’t remember it having elevators.
And then my aunts and my grandfather moved closer to our old house, sharing the same block. I remember her giving me snacks of soda biscuits eaten with canned tuna flavoured with chopped onions and green chilli. I remember us sitting on the floor, watching Cinderella or American Werewolf in London or Indonesian horror movies which freaked me out.
Then when we had to move again because our blocks were to be demolished, about 15 years ago to where my parents are currently staying and Mak Oteh chose to live in the same block together.
As I started to go to tertiary education and then started to work, I didn’t manage to spend as much time with her. Nevertheless our families try to do a lot of reunions together. Not one Hari Raya would we miss going to each other’s house and I’d eat her delicious food. I’d always look forward to eating her Mee Hoon Goreng Putih.
And I remember us spending vacations together. The time when we got stranded and our extended family had to stay in a really seedy hotel. And then the time when we stayed in little huts somewhere near Terengganu where we caught sea snails and then she managed to de-shell them and then turn them into a nice sambal. Or the time when we went to Kuala Lumpur together and woke up to the sound of chickens.
I still remember.
Mak Oteh was a good person. She has this way of making people around her feel special and while she can be naggy, she always had a kind word for me and advice. I feel loved when I’m with her and I feel like she’s my other mom, since we spent so much time together.
While she didn’t like to exercise, she was a hard worker and would do something with commitment. Which is why I felt such honour when she volunteered to cook for our wedding. It’s not at all an easy thing or glamorous thing to do to feed over thousands of guests.
I remember her saying in her relaxed, bright voice that she’ll come running to Rome as soon as she finds out that I’m pregnant…
The last time that I saw her was in January while we were in Singapore. She was visibly thinner compared to the regular Mak Oteh. I should have seen it coming when my brother was recounting about the time when she went to the hospital. I brought it up to her, and she was as chatty as usual, just not as energetic as before. Never did I imagine that it’ll be last time that I see her.
I should have known…
You know how people say that they feel their heart breaking? It was overwhelming the sadness and for the whole day I just couldn’t stop crying. Completely devastated. The thought of her gone. Not being able to see her anymore, talking to her, hugging her, getting a whiff of the make-up that she likes to put on.
One of my worst fear has come true. And living so far away, gives me no sense of closure.
I just don’t understand. It’s not fair. She’s not old. She should live at least 20 years more. Why?
Thoughts ran in my mind and I didn’t feel like blogging, I didn’t feel like going anywhere or meeting anyone or do anything. Just looking at our photos together was painful. It took a week for me to stop crying.
And yet, I don’t know how I’ll react the next time I come and visit Singapore. I just can’t imagine not being able to go to her house – with her rows of potted plants and not see her or hear her voice as your reach the gate.
I’m still in pain.
I wish that somehow we had a way to back ourselves up and connect our consciousness together. That way, we could visit our loved ones at any time without this distance between us.
I saw an interesting topic on a forum and I thought that I would blog about it today – “Coping with homesickness”
The first few months of arrival wasn’t easy for me.
There were lots of things that are different between Rome and Singapore – the climate, the culture, the bureaucracy, and of course the language among others.
During the first few months, I remember crying a lot and feeling miserable – the cold winter didn’t help that much either. I surprised myself even, when Cart brought home a pack of vegetable couscous and for some reason it reminded me of biryani – something that I ate often when I was in Singapore. And I cried, much to Cartcart’s horror.
Eventually I’ve adapted to living here. Which I should, since it’s been seven years that I’ve been living in Rome. But if I could tell 2009 Marina what I know now, I would have told her several things to make the transition easier.
1. Install social media
Technology in 2009 wasn’t the same as what we have today, but apps like Facebook and Whatsapp makes it easier to communicate with your family and friends. We even have a Telegram group for my family chat. Singapore and Italy has an 8 hour different timezone and sometimes it’s hard for me to catch anyone on the phone on Skype but it’s better than nothing.
2. Explore your neighbourhood.
2009 Marina was very afraid to venture out of the house. She was worried that people would treat her badly because she doesn’t know the language well. Nonsense! Just try to leave the house every day and go out and explore and expand your map. It’s good to know where important places like supermarkets, pharmacies, gyms and whatnot. And the more you explore, the more confident you feel.
Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to even get yourself lost, riding a bus you’ve never taken before and taking a random subway. Worst case scenario is if you can’t find yourself back, there is always Google Maps.
For me, once I’ve taken my riding license in Rome, it opened a whole new world of freedom. I could travel around faster and more efficiently.
3. Find something you enjoy doing
An easy way to socialise with other people is to find something that interests you. If you like exercising for instance, you may want to search for nice gym to go to near you. If you like photography, you may want to participate in an Instagram meet, there are even ‘centro sociale‘ in Rome, which functions like a community centre where you could learn and meet other people. Cart and I learnt how to make bread and I did a bit of yoga here.
I probably made the most friends through Ingress – a GPS based game which ideally you need to play as a group.
4. Immerse yourself in the culture
2009 Marina spent a lot of time trying to find as much things that reminds her of her homeland – trying to find as much Asian foodstuff, searching for other expatriates from South East Asia … which is all fine.
Personally for me, after several years trying to find acceptable SE Asian food, I get fed up because many a times it’s way too expensive and doesn’t taste the same. So I save my appetite for when I go back to Singapore and buy all the things I need to carry over to Rome.
It makes more sense to buy local. They are more abundant and cheaper. There are plenty of interesting places to experience and discover in Rome. Apart from visiting historical sites, there are always events that might interest you.
Not forgetting where you come from is important, but I think, it is also important to also embrace your new home too.
If I could somehow tell 2009 Marina, I’d tell her to just chill, have fun exploring around and not to worry too much about the language barrier. It’ll come eventually. The faster it is that you explore and interact, the easier it is to pick up the language.
The important thing is to just keep yourself busy with things that makes you feel excited about. It’s when you don’t occupy yourself, is when you have all these nostalgia. And having too much of it isn’t good. You start to compare and then get disgruntled.
One of the things that I did that I’m quite excited about of is creating my weekly cartoon strips – I first drew the characters them around the time when I started this blog in 2006, but I thought it would be a nice way to try to improve my Italian so I started my strips a few years ago and I actually have a few people who appreciate my cartoons which gives me the inspiration and drive to continue.
All in all, when you have something to look forward to, eventually you don’t think about your homesickness.
It isn’t officially Autumn yet. But you know that summer is starting to leave us – the temperature is starting to get cooler and it’s been raining non stop these past few days.
This week itself has also been rather eventful for me. I depend on my scooter a lot when I commute around Rome so when it rains, chaos ensues. I tend to be a little apprehensive because of the incidents that tend to happen then.
On Monday, I was on my way home when it started to drizzle heavily. I went to seek shelter under a bridge. There were already at least 5 other motorcyclists there. We waited here waited for at least half an hour and when the rain dissipated ever so lightly, tired of staring at the water dripping down the walls, I plucked the courage and finally went home.
On Thursday, there was a talk that I really wanted to attend. It was about food photography which is something that I’m enthusiastic about as you’d probably see from my Instagram account. It’ll be nice to meet other foodies too. Unfortunately the clouds were dark grey the entire morning and then it rained very heavily so reluctantly, I had to give that a miss.
(I probably could have taken public transportation, but I had to rush off for a job in 30 minutes, so that wasn’t practical)
It broke my heart to think of what I missed. I’ve been looking forward to attend that the whole week.
And just yesterday, I was at the fuel station filling up my scooter but when I tried to leave, the scooter refused to start. Apparently, the battery is exhausted and needs to be replaced. Yikes. I think my scooter is still relatively new, so I’m surprised. Fortunately where I was stranded, was not far away from where I live and Cart was able to help me out. Unfortunately the mechanic is really far away from where we live and Cart isn’t a morning person to help me in time.
Oh well. Things happen. I just hope for the best.
Cart and I are going to Cologne, Germany in about two weeks time for the Via Lux anomaly and we’re slowly getting ready for it – the plane tickets bought, our Airbnb apartment booked and I’m even thinking of making some stickers to give out.
Aren’t these cute? They are kind of expensive though at 46 euro for 156 pieces considering that they are quite small at 3.8 cm each. But if they turn out well, I might make more.
I’m looking forward to this trip. There are plenty of things to be seen – museums and architectures and I’ve read that there is even a chocolate museum there.
But you know what I’d really want to see? A trip to their supermarkets. Yes, it sounds a little anticlimactic but I’ve always been curious ever since I’ve watched a video documenting how the goods there are cheaper compared to the ones in Italy. So that’ll be something interesting to compare.
I don’t speak German, this will be interesting experience
If I had more time, I’d love to see things at a slower pace. But after my experiences, I have to be pragmatic. That’s the biggest issue with doing an anomaly – you’re so busy trying to orient yourself in a new country, then you move all around the city by foot, your eyes are on the scanner for most of the day and you get so exhausted you just want to faint but when the next day comes, you’d have to rush to do the mission banner and then it’s time to fly back home.
Something better than nothing! Maybe I can take this experience as a recce? And maybe one day I’ll even try to travel alone.