Living in Rome changed the way I speak

I’ve been watching quite a fair amount of videos by Mark Weins, a vlogger that I enjoy watching. He travels a lot to Asia, and I like seeing him experiencing places that I’ve been to. In a way, I can rekindle my memories somewhat.

Like when he went to Langkawi, PenangKuala Lumpur, Singapore … all of them places that I’ve been to, and I’ve even already blogged about. I find Mark amusing when he tastes food that he likes by closing his eyes, and tilting his head and saying, “mmm…”

Anyway, out of curiosity I decided to watch one of his older videos.

7 years, ago his voice was deeper, he spoke slower and his accent was distinctly American. Two years later, living in South East Asia, his voice started to change.

In a way, it doesn’t really surprise me. Voices and accents change depending on where you live. Sometimes you don’t even need to live overseas for a long time for your accent to change. I’m sure you find yourself talking differently when you’re talking to different people.

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For example, if you were to meet a person of a different nationality – let’s say a French person, you find yourself talking differently to make yourself understood more easily.

Living in Rome, I have to force myself to speak a little louder and enunciate to make myself understood by the locals here. I guess I’m influenced by the environment here because when I go back to Singapore, my friends and family sometimes comment, “Marina! You have an Italian accent now!

Without realising it, I now tend to intonate certain words like their Italian counterpart when I speak in English like “Really?” (Davvero?)  and sometimes I find myself doing direct translations when having to switch from English to Italian and vice versa. Something like, “How many years does he have?” Then I realised what I said and correct myself.

I wouldn’t say that I’m great at speaking Italian, I still have a long way to go to being fluent. Nevertheless, I find the changes interesting.

Looking through my facebook feed, many of my friends have now emigrated (or going to) to different parts of the world. It’ll be interesting to hear them talk again in person!

Is this wrong?

I thought that I’d share something that I’ve recently read on Facebook – This was an answer to a Primary 1 student’s English composition :

rinaz.net Singapore Primary 1 student english composition answer

At first glance, I thought that the student didn’t do anything wrong. And then I went through the comments, many of them very harsh – saying about how the teacher needs to go back and study English, and how she should be fired.

But then I managed to read the question :

rinaz.net Singapore Primary 1 student english composition answer

“If you are celebrating a family member’s birthday, how do you plan to celebrate it?”

Granted that the use of the conditional “if” is a bit awkward,  I realised that the teacher wasn’t in the wrong at all. For every question, you’d have to answer accordingly.

When you are asked, “If you ARE to plan her birthday, how DO you plan to do it?” And so you have to answer in the matching tense, that is, “If I AM to plan he birthday, I WILL …”

And when you are asked, “If you WERE to plan her birthday, how WOULD you plan to do it?” then you could answer it with, “If I WERE to plan her birthday, I WOULD …”.

The trouble with the conditional IF when used in past tense, is for situations that is hypothetical, or something impossible for you to do, like, “If I were able to fly”, “If I was a man”, “If I was rich”.

But planning a birthday party is something do-able. Which is why I understand why the question was phrased that way.

This reminds me of another question that I read some while back. I can’t find the exact one, but it’s quite similar to this one :

rinaz.net Singapore Primary 3 student science question

The student’s answer was along the lines of : “Both of them can walk”.

When the answer was posted online, there were many comments of how, “This is killing children’s creativity” and whatnots. But this is a science question, and when you see the words, study or observe the picture, you’ll need to answer on what is based on what you see. Which is :

  • They both have four feet (or)
  • They both have two ears (or)
  • They both have a tail

And so on and so forth.

I wouldn’t say that I’m perfect academically, but it’s logical that if someone asks for “A”, one should answer back in “A”. It’s nothing to do with stifling a child’s imagination or creativity –  It’s just not answering the question.

But on the other hand, we have to be careful not to lead children only  use rote memorizations without understanding its meaning like in the video below :

The clip comes from the movie, “Three Idiots” and if you haven’t watched it yet, watch it! It’s the funniest movie that I’ve watched in a while 🙂

I’d love to live in a Tiny House

Tiny houses is a movement which advocates simple living, in small homes. These homes are usually about the size of a caravan. Most of the ones that I’ve seen are on wheels so that one could travel with them although it’s not always the case.

rinaz.net Tiny House

I absolutely adore the idea of Tiny Houses.

I love the philosophy of it because having a small home forces you to think of the things which are important in your life. Do you really need that extra pan when you already have 5? A new bag when the other ones you didn’t touch for over a year?

rinaz.net Tiny House

I don’t know about you, while having a lot of things is nice, trying to find the space to store these things makes me stressed and seeing a lot of clutter makes me anxious and makes me embarrassed at how much I’ve let go. I really don’t want to be like one of those people on the TV show, Hoarders.

Ideally you survive with the basics and get creative with where to store your items. The staircase could double up as a drawer, or you could put the power battery under the sofa.

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More over, I’m happy with just a place with wifi and a bit of space where I can roll out my exercise mat.

If I had the chance to live in one, I really wouldn’t mind. The biggest advantage that I see about it is that it’s much cheaper to upkeep. A smaller house means that it uses lesser electricity and water – which saves you on utility bills.

rinaz.net Tiny House

It’s not something for everyone though, as some may think that they need the space for comfort. Cart is adamant that you can’t invite people over for dinner as there will be no place for them to sit comfortably.

rinaz.net Tiny House

While I really would like to have my own tiny house, I don’t think that it’s feasible for me and a lot of people living out of the United States any time soon, unless we have our own land (which I don’t see happening) and due to housing standards and construction laws.

One can still admire and dream.

Here is a video of a tiny house made by a single mother :

Why are you wearing flip flops?

I was near the metro station and I saw a girl wearing a spaghetti top, short shorts and rubber flip flops. The first thing that came to mind was, “She’s definitely a tourist“, as you’ll never catch an Italian wearing that.

In the land of Prada, Valentino and Dolce & Gabanna, Italians are known take pride in how they look as demonstrated by the Geert Hofstede analysis comparison. And so far in my observation, flip flops are something that are worn only at the swimming pool or the beach.

rinaz.net No clothes no service
Spotted near Ostia Beach

So when Jules was here, I told her confidently that you’d never catch an Italian (or at least a Roman) wearing flip flops in their regular, everyday outfit as it looked quite sloppy. “In fact, lets see if we can catch 10 Italians wearing them and prove my hypothesis wrong“, I added.

The first few days passed by uneventfully.

Imagine my horror when I was getting some pizza al taglio and saw for the first time a man wearing rubber flip flops. Not sandals but rubber flip flops – the type you could get for less than 5 euro. I was pretty sure that he was Italian due how he spoke. My mouth agog and I was flummoxed. But perhaps, it’s just an anomaly, something out of the blue.

rinaz.net Pizza al taglio di Fattori Eligio

And then next days I began to spot at least one man wearing flip flops a day  and not being anywhere near a swimming pool nor the beach, and I think to myself, “What on earth is going on?

I guess my hypothesis is invalid now.

 

Fasting month is here again

It’s now almost a fortnight since Ramadan started. It has been quite challenging as it’s about 18 hours abstaining from any consumption of food and water. Coupled with the fact that it’s currently summer and the temperature is rather balmy, making me feel dehydrated and fatigued if I’m out for too much.

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But contrary to what I anticipated, it’s actually doable. It’s not easy forcing myself to get up at 2.30 am for sahur and then breaking the fast at around 8.50 pm, but I’m quite surprised that I could actually get through fasting all through these hours.

I don’t want to overly exert myself which was why I haven’t been exercising. Although I kind of miss going for my jogs. Which is surprising as the truth is, I hate exercising, but I do love the adrenaline rush when I am done.

rinaz.net @ CSC Run by the bay, Singapore

Prior to this, I managed to complete Jillian Michaels 30 day shred and I really like how my body looked like. I’m lighter compared to the first time I did it, so my body looked more defined. Unfortunately, these days I’m slowly becoming soft again. But I’m keen to continue doing circuit training again after this.

I should try to do more low impact workouts to retain my muscle mass like going for my daily walks like how I did last year. It’s just that without participating for a race, there isn’t that much motivation. Yeah, I’m like that. Don’t judge me.

So at the moment, I’m content to just stay at home and watch Breaking Bad. If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s awesome! I got hooked from the pilot episode on the get go!

rinaz.net breaking bad

I don’t want to give any spoilers but in a nutshell, it’s about a chemistry teacher who isn’t doing well financially so he starts using his skills to make quality meth.  It’s a gripping show and I’ve just completed season 1 yesterday and I can’t wait to finish the rest of the seasons. Heh heh heh.

I am not a prostitute

I love Eur and the parks here with the abundance of greenery which makes it a charming place to be.

rinaz.net laghetto eur

Unfortunately, this area becomes a seedy place when the sun starts to set and if you happen to be driving around, you’d spot a lot of night workers in action. You could tell by their skimpy, loud clothes and tall shoes.

There was one time when I was walking home at around 6 pm after my driving class. I was near the Laghetto when a car went close to me and a young man inside asked, “80 euro an evening. Is that fine with you?” The funny thing was that I was wearing a regular t-shirt and trousers. I didn’t even have a trace of make-up on my face. I shook my head, amused at the ridiculousness of the situation. And he went away. And that was that.

rinaz.net Colosseo Quadrato, Rome Italy

Yesterday afternoon, I was in a park near the ‘Square Colosseum‘ near Eur. It’s a lovely place with many interesting sculptures to see. I saw dads playing ball with their sons, priests and nuns walking and lots of people having a picnic. With the shrines at each corner, I was marvelling at how much the place gave me such a Secondlife vibe.

I was looking at one and started fiddling with my phone when a man came up to me asking me what time it was. When I answered him back, that was when he started harassing me with questions :

Thanks beautiful, Where are you from?
Are you Japanese?
Do you work here?
Do you want to work?
Hey, why are you not replying?

rinaz.net CQ Park

At that point, I was extremely offended. I am not a prostitute and he was being such a dick. I stared at him angrily and ignored him. But he didn’t get a clue. He wouldn’t leave me alone! I walked away and he continued following me, trying to talk to me. I wasn’t afraid, but he was so insistent till I couldn’t take it any more and went away on my scooter.

I could understand if this event happened in the evening, but I was there at noon and the more that I thought about it, the more pissed off I was.

There are people who said that the area has gone bad and that it’s best to avoid it. But I think that it’s such a shame because the more if we all avoid it, the more that it’ll be overrun and eventually taken over with shady characters.

An American girl in Italy

While watching Ballaro last evening, I saw an interesting illustration used as background image :

rinaz.net Ballaro American Girl Walking In Italy

As soon as I saw that, I excitedly told Cartcart, “Hey! I know that picture! That’s a homage to a famous photo. Here, let me show you!

rinaz.net Ballaro American Girl Walking In Italy

An American girl in Italy is a photo taken by photographer, Ruth Orkin in the year 1951. This photo is one of her most memorable one as the subject, a lone woman walks down the streets of Florence with men leering and staring at her – one of them even grabbing his jewels.

That would have been a harrowing experience for any woman walking alone, but the odd thing, when interviewed, Ninalee Craig, the woman in the picture insists that, “It’s not a symbol of harassment. It’s a symbol of a woman having an absolutely wonderful time!

My uncle passed away recently. It was so sudden that it was a terrible shock to me. I always remember him as a kind and friendly person. Each time when us relatives would visit his house, he’d be busy cooking something and insist that we have a meal together and we’ll update each other about what’s going on with our lives.

It sucks so much to know the passing of someone that we love and I can only imagine what my cousins and aunt are going through right now. And frankly, this is one of my biggest fears I have living so far away from my family.

What to say when someone wishes you Merry Christmas and you are not Christian

The air feels festive in my neighbourhood, and it looks so colourful here with the Santa decorations, bells and wreaths on the doors and fairy lights outside the window.

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This year is the third time that I’ve spent Christmas in Rome.

Normally the day before, we’d spend it over my in-law’s house and we’d eat a little too much, and talk while we wait till midnight and then proceed in opening our presents.

The thing is, Christmas doesn’t have much significance to me as I never grew up with it. But I am always happy to be included with my extended family – just spending time together, bonding over delicious home-made food, watching the telley and have a nice time together.

Even though I am not a Christian, I firmly believe that there is nothing wrong in sharing happiness together.

What to say if someone wishes you Merry Christmas and you are not Christian

When I was about 11 years old, and living at my old neighbourhood in Jurong, me and my childhood friend Michael and his sister were celebrating Mid-Autumn festival. We’d be lighting up candles and then we’d walk around proudly with our paper lanterns. It was such innocent fun.

But then it was ruined when a group of kids came, walking up to me :

Tsk! You know, you’re not being very “Malay” playing with paper lanterns. This is a Chinese custom. Stop it! You are being disrespectful to your race!

Of course, being so young, I didn’t have the capacity to express coherently how I felt. But I knew that I wasn’t doing anything wrong and I was genuinely happy spending time with Michael and his sister. I couldn’t understand why anyone could be such a kill joy.

The irony now though, after five years of living in Rome, I think I am slowly losing my enthusiasm for spending Hari Raya here. Compared to Singapore, I don’t have a big family here. So when I try to invite people over, they don’t seem to share the same enthusiasm, which doesn’t feel fair considering that I do try hard to care when it comes to their holidays.

rinaz.net christmas

Is it so wrong to feel this way? Perhaps this is something that most migrants feel when they live overseas for an extended period of time.

What Tarzan and I have in common

After landing in Singapore, it took a while for me to get adjusted to the place again – not that much the weather (although the high humidity was what really got me perspiring buckets) but more the amount of changes that I see.

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(No more Jurong Entertainment Center, but JCube)

I can hardly recognize my neighbourhood anymore – the empty plot of land near my parents house now has almost complete 18 storey building and not too far away, there was an area with at least 4 high rise buildings, is now completely a flattened land – my mind was struggling hard to connect the changes – My eyes sees it, but there is a nagging feeling at the back of my head that something was off.

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One of the biggest change I noticed is how very crowded everything seems. The neighbourhood where my family is living has a significant amount of traffic now, even during non working hours. While before I migrated to Rome, I had fond memories of riding my scooter in the evenings where there was hardly any cars on the road.

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(I like this design though, you can fit twice the bikes in the same space)

And heading to the smrt and the bus terminal for example, has more people than I ever remember. Being in big crowds in a contained space tends to makes me anxious. I feel like I’m a teeny tiny ant with an entire colony in front of me.

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But when I tell my Singaporean friends about the changes, I’m flabbergasted as the typical response that they give me, “Changes? What changes? I don’t see it!

Of course for them, the changes are very gradual compared to someone who visits the same place, say … once every two years?

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(Janet the evil cat. I wont forgive you for clawing my new bag!)

Anyway, the point of this post is that, I just feel a little apprehensive that with each change, I’d feel more and more disconnected each time I come back. Kind of like Tarzan (the book, not the Disney version) After growing up in the jungle and then returning back to human world and picking up new habits, when he returns back to the jungle, he doesn’t feel like he belongs to either one.

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It’s kind of like how I’m feeling right now. After living in Rome, you just naturally pick up some habits (Not to sound pretentious) that when you come back, things seem incredible. Like seeing women going out in public with wet hair. That’s really strange to me now and uh … rather unattractive #sorrynotsorry

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One could say that change is inevitable, especially in the name of progress and that change is an evolution for the quality of life. Nevertheless, I think it’s nice to have something from the past to remember by.

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But I’m still thankful to have my friends and family. I’m drifting away, and they are like my anchor. Without them, I don’t think that I have much to feel any connection. Maybe this is what all people living overseas long term feel like.