Coping with homesickness

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.

Germany, here I come!

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. Ordering Moo Stickers

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.

Plus I’d like to visit at least one vegan joint there. I was looking through happycow the other day, and there is this vegan burger place which (I think) isn’t too far away from our accomodation. Ingress Anomaly Obsidian Vienna

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. Toon!

Something better than nothing! Maybe I can take this experience as a recce? And maybe one day I’ll even try to travel alone.

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.

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 : 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 : 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 : 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. 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? 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. Tiny House

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. sunrise

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. @ 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! 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. 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. 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? 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 : 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! 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.