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.

rinaz.net

(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.

rinaz.net

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.

rinaz.net

(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.

rinaz.net

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?

rinaz.net

(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.

rinaz.net

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

rinaz.net

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.

rinaz.net

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.

Why I am against the McDonald’s Hello Kitty Madness

Since the beginning of June, the Mcdougals in Singapore has been selling a limited edition Hello Kitty plushie with every value meal bought. I don’t know exactly how many are distributed for each though, but I guess they are about 6 k for each branch? I may be wrong though.

Anyway, here are the pussies :

rinaz.net

From top to bottom : The singing bone, the mcdelivery witch special and then the ugly duckling, the frog prince, the lion from the wizard of oz and little red riding hood.

To be honest, I don’t really find them special. I even saw some on someone’s dashboard while walking around in my Roman neighbourhood.

rinaz.net

I’m not that crazy over Hello Kitty, but if I really had to make a choice of the one I like the best between this edition, I guess I’d pick the frog prince on account that I like frogs and I like green. Moreover, my mum has been trying to collect them for me and my sister – which I think is such a sweet gesture considering all the queuing madness!

It’s bound to make the most rational person all bothered and angry. Just check out this video below.

It’s interesting to see people queuing, uniting. If only this energy was used for something more worthwhile, perhaps we’d still have our National Library.

By the way, I don’t believe that Mcdougals staff has an upper hand in collecting the kitties. My mum works there and she herself couldn’t get them all.

rinaz.net

What I really don’t support is when there are people who throws away their untouched meals in the trash straight after getting their plushies. So lets say that someone got their maximum of 4 plushies, that’s 4 burgers, 4 fries and 4 drinks all in the trash! What a horrible waste of food! I know they are unhealthy and all, but it makes so much more sense to at least offer it to someone who does want/need it.

And another sad thing is that there are a lot of people who are profiteering from this, selling the kitties at at least 4 times the original value. What’s even crazier is when sellers start to put an insane price like this :

rinaz.net

rinaz.net

Whether the bidders are genuine or fake so as to inflate the price, to combat this situation, I think it’s a matter of simple economics. Prices are determined by the level of demand, and if there is a sucker who’d pay that amount, till then prices will continue to be high. So we have to collectively not support these rip-offs. Less support and prices will go down.

rinaz.net

So don’t buy pets from pet stores if you don’t support puppy mills, don’t buy ivory products if you don’t support poaching, don’t buy NDP tickets … those things are supposed to be free anyway!

But think about it, if they were really limited editions, shouldn’t they come with a serial number on each packaging? They would announce that there will only be X amount in production, and you are currently holding number Y.

rinaz.net

Instead, you could buy them online for even less the price that Mcdougals asked for.

Somehow, I feel that this is heading towards the same path as the beanie babies phenomenon, where it started off as something that sounds valuable as a collectable, but ended with production being so high that hardly any of them are worth much now.

rinaz.net

In the end, I don’t think that these collectibles have so much monetary value for selling in the long run. Take a look at the Hello Kitty collectibles that Mcdougals did in 2000 – it was all the rage, with probably the same amount of queuing and madness. I remember that there were people selling them online for hundreds of dollars.

rinaz.net

13 years has passed by and you could get a set for about 25 SGD. Seems pointless. So if you’re thinking of profiteering, I’d advice you to think twice.

Should the rich be entitled to subsidies?

During the first few years that I’ve been living in Rome, I went to a school near my home to learn Italian. This building is a functioning elementary school so, while our classes were held, the school children would be doing their classes ongoing.

Apart from Italian, there are also other courses that you could do here and they are all government subsidized. I remember having to pay less than 20 euros in total for lessons 2 hours a day, twice weekly lasting for about 6 months. Dirt cheap right?

rinaz.net

I remember my lessons to be enjoyable (but it really depends on how lucky you are in getting a good teacher) as well as beneficial as a stepping stone in communicating with Italians. While I did take lessons before migrating here, being completely immersed is a different ballgame altogether.

I’ve stopped taking lessons there since last year as the lessons covered up to levels A2/B1 and was getting a little easy for me (Did I just say that? WOW! Haha!) moreover, the timings clashed with my then working stint.

In any case, recently, I was walking to a pharmacy and to get there, you’d have to pass by the school. By chance, I noticed my former Italian teacher having a break and we had a quick chat.

Anyway, after we said our goodbyes, I passed by the parking area of the school and I noticed an Asian lady coming out of a huge-ass-expensive-looking car. She was dressed nicely – ankle boots, trim tailored trousers, well fitting, possibly designer jacket and she was wearing sunnies and swishing her meticulously wavy hair.

Two thoughts came into my mind :

  1. She must be going for Italian classes
  2. Why is a rich woman going for subsidized classes?

I understand that everyone – be they rich or poor has the right to education. I just find it odd how anyone would flaunt (accidental or not) their monetary status in a public aided place.

Am I delirious?

Last evening was my FIL (father in law)’s 80th birthday. To celebrate, a surprise birthday party was organized for him in the same restaurant that Cart and I went to, to celebrate our wedding anniversary some years back. Without him knowing, his friends were all there. There were about 20 of us altogether.

Celebrating birthdays the Italian way can be quite dramatic – it’s perfectly normal to have your birthday cake brought to you, with fireworks.

rinaz.net

I had a lovely evening, eating loads of good food and here are some pictures of them so that you could be jealous :

This was our appetizer with mixed seafood.

rinaz.net

Pasta with clams (there was another type of pasta with fish, but I didn’t manage to try it … aww!!!)

rinaz.net

Risotto con crema di scampi which was absolutely delish.

rinaz.net

Baked Mediterranean Seabass with zucchini and potato … mmmmm.

rinaz.net

And we ended our meal with some macedonia

rinaz.net

And the birthday cake! My nephew’s sharp eyes immediately spotted out that this isn’t FIL’s name. Oooh … Someone at the bakery did a typo 😛

rinaz.net

But as the evening went on, I started to feel sleepy and I was fighting to keep myself awake. Suddenly I realised that all of the ladies in our group looked like makciks (makcik is the affectionate term that Malays call an aunt be it if they were related or not)

rinaz.net

The only thing missing is the headgear. But it was nor hard for me to imagine them with. Even the way that they chatted with each other reminds me of a typical scene when a makcik meets another.

Am I delirious?! Or am I subconsciously trying to find things to connect about things that I grew up with so that I don’t feel homesick? I don’t think that feeling will ever go away. There are people who live overseas for more than 10 years, acclimatized themselves and yet still miss their place of origin.

I want to go to Germany

My friend Alessandro shared this video recently.


Click here if you are not able to view

For the benefit of those who don’t understand Italian, basically the guy in the video is comparing the prices of common, every day things in Germany. It is shockingly low compared to the prices that we pay in Italy. Multivitamins for example, costs 50 cents euro in Germany, but in Italy, it costs about 5 euro!

Seriously! Check this picture I snapped in a local supermarket just yesterday.

rinaz.net

This is so depressing! I’m not even Italian and I feel outraged.

How is it that in Germany, workers in general have an almost double amount of salary compared to a regular Italian. We’ve always been told that the cost of living in Europe is higher in general (I cannot comment on how much Germans have to pay for taxes et al), but in the case of buying daily necessities, in reality this video shows otherwise.

Having a higher pay and a lower cost of living means that they have stronger spending power and could save more and enjoy their money better.

To put it in the most simple terms, Germany is able to do this because they have a stronger budget deficit. They don’t have much need to borrow money to run their country. Thus national debt are accounted for, which means that bank interests get lower. And this leads to the money paid for taxes to be channelled more for the benefit of the public – like subsidizing daily necessities.

rinaz.net
Image from ideativi.it

Without going too deep into politics, (as I can’t vote in Italy and I don’t usually talk about Singaporean politics anyway) I think that it is more than a right, it is a responsibility in choosing the right governance. Regardless of which nationality you are, it is your life and livelihood that is affected and we are all in the same boat. Please don’t let us sink even more …

(Which is why I don’t understand why there are people who goes to a voting booth and gives invalid votes … on purpose)

Anyway, coming back to the video. After watching it, makes me really want to plan a trip there. It is probably cheaper to buy a plane ticket, go to Germany and get stuff in bulk than to buy the same thing in Italy. Heck, Cart and I haven’t had a proper honeymoon either.Eating out wouldn’t be expensive either. Spending 15 euro for two for dinner is something I’ve never heard of in Rome. If we had spending power like that, we wouldn’t even have to think twice about having children.

So lets go to Germany! When I’ve saved up enough money for a trip, I’m so there! Achtung! Achtung! Attenzione Germania che arriviamo! So which part of Germany should we visit? Any recommendations? 🙂

If you liked this post, check out what other expats think about of the elections :

My two cents on Amy Cheong

The latest hot topic in Singapore is about a woman who made a racial comment online last weekend.

The woman, Amy Cheong, former assistant director to NTUC was upset about the noise coming from a Malay void deck wedding and she posted this on her facebook account :

rinaz.net

The first time I saw the comments, I was ambivalent about it and pretty much dismissed it. In my mind, I thought, “Gee, what a dumb thing to say“. I was more disappointed rather, as these were words of a socially uneducated person (regardless if she went to university)

But the reverberations were fast and her post became viral. In a matter of hours, there was a significant amount of outcry online over her words.

It was understandable, as people seem to always be fascinated with “the bad” (which is why there’s always a traffic congestion when there’s an accident even though there are 4 other free lanes, as everyone slows down to look for any trace of gore and whatnots)

As expected, I see my timeline filled with replies, and I can feel their genuine anger. But what bothered me more is how emotional and quick the online community are at judging her and crying out foul and for her virtual murder.

Rather than discussing the issue like civil people, we think with our pride and ego. Gosh, is this really how we want to be perceived? That we are a community of mobs?

It’s as if someone makes a passing comment while walking, and if another hears it and doesn’t like it, doesn’t give them the right to form a collective group to beat that someone up. That’s bullying, regardless if the person deserves it or not.

Just to be clear, I’m not condoning Amy Cheong’s actions (moreover, don’t you think that she’s already been duly punished already?) But I feel, we should be more gracious and be a little less emotional especially online, where media is usually more fantastic than what it really is. Like the extreme anti-religion protesters are only 0.007 of the entire community. Mass media made it seem like it was more.

It’s always easy to react, especially online when information is transferred so quickly. The beauty of being human and freedom is that everyone has the right to think what they want. But each person should be responsible for what they convey

Each of us have a choice in how we react. Be angry and finger point – leaving the problem unsolved and widening the gap OR we could educate and have a more understanding and open minded mentality with each other (not just tolerance)

To be honest, if someone were to say to me, “Malay weddings are low class and costs only 50 dollars“, I’d genuinely be surprised and and wished that we had that person as our wedding planner! And if someone says to me, “People who have void deck wedding are idiots as it will lead to a divorce“, well I’m just happy that my marriage with Cartcart is still going strong.

rinaz.net

(What does the cost of a wedding got to do with the happiness of a marriage anyway?)

Why take an allegation personally, when you know it’s not true? Rather than reacting negatively, we need to be the bigger person.

And as for me, I’ll just relax one corner and play my guitar.

Feeling emo

This video was shared with me by dear blogreader Jaz Moi about a man living overseas. It’s 14 minutes long, but it’s worth watching.

There’s one part where he says that in living overseas, the thing that he misses the most is his family.

I’ve been living here for over 3 and a half years and while I’m starting to get used to life here, it seems each time that it gets close to Eid, I’d always feel emotional. To the point that I dreamt that I was hanging new curtains with my sister and the entire day yesterday, I was bawling my eyes out out of emo-ness.

Normally towards this time when I was in Singapore, me and my family would be busy decorating the house, prepping to cook for the guests and the radio would be blasting with Raya songs. You could feel the festivities in the air, that something good was coming.

Suffice to say, it’s not the same here. And during this time, is when the feeling of homesickness is the strongest. I really miss being with my family, with simple joys of eating ketupat with Ayam Masak Merah and talking rubbish.

At least I’m looking forward to having my family coming over in September … so that’s a consolation.

Attending a Roman Catholic Funeral

Two times in a span of two weeks I’ve been to a Roman Catholic Funeral. One was Cart’s distant relative and the other was his uncle.

While a sad event, Cart was comforted that they both lived such long lives, reaching to almost 90 years old. For me, as it was my first time attending a funeral of this type, it was interesting to see the differences in culture and compare it to the ones that I was used to.

Briefly, this was what happened :

rinaz.net

We reach the  church in a sombre coloured outfit, and time, a hearse will be driven in and  then about 5 men wearing a dark coloured suits will carry the coffin into the church.

rinaz.net

We then sit at the pews and the priest, wearing a purple robe (there is a symbolism for each colour) will enter, and start the mass by reading some verses and we were supposed to sit and stand at the right moments.

rinaz.net

Nearing the end, the priest would invite the attendees to come forward for them to eat a wafer. After that, he’d eat a larger sized wafer and drink wine from a gold cup and then wipes it with a silk looking cloth.

Finally he goes towards the coffin and out of a utensil, he shakes holy water out of it to the coffin and then after that, smoke from a swinging incense burner.

rinaz.net

The 5 men in suits then carry the coffin away in the hearse to the final resting place.

While the customs are very different from what I’m accustomed to in funerals, the smell of the incense brings me memories during my close relatives’s funeral. Even though I didn’t know them well, I can’t help but to feel emotional.

Sidenote : As morbid as this sounds, when I think about death, I tend to wonder how it would be when I pass on. There doesn’t seem to be much helpful information about Muslim funerals here in Rome.

Living overseas, gets easier in time

It’s close to 3 years now that I’ve been living here in Rome. For me, I think that’s the amount of time to really get used to living here. The first few months was probably the hardest, being all homesick, missing friends and family. It’s not so much about the language barriers, but the sense of loneliness that kills you.

I can completely relate to Carrie when she was in Paris and happened to walk past a bar with 4 friends laughing and having a moment together.

rinaz.net

Even now, sometimes I miss spending time with my besties Jules and Hema. We went to school together, and since then, we’ve done a lot of activities together, and so there are loads of memories. It could have been the simplest type of meet, but it’s the company makes it joyful.

It might take a shorter time for others to integrate, but for me, I needed time to assimilate and really feel like, “This is my home. This is my life,” instead of it feeling like a long stay-away. Which is probably what the mentality of a number of people that I’ve met here, have. They know that they are not going to stay here long term and eventually go back to where they came from. But it’s different for someone who’s married to an Italian.

It’s hard to abandon the metaphorical tree that I’ve sowed and start on a new one. And it took quite some time, but I finally have close friends whom I can confide and hang out with. It doesn’t feel so lonely anymore.

rinaz.net

And I feel so amazed that it was just about a week or two ago when I’ve felt like I’m stuck in a rut, missing my financial independence. But now I’m getting more work opportunities. What I’m doing right now, is not my dream job, but at least I feel wanted and that my skills are not stagnating.

I feel like I’ve a more social life now, about twice a week I hang out with the people at the centro sociale, where there are quite a number of interesting activities held there. It’s a fun, stress-less, non judgemental place just to bond with others with a mutual activity.

rinaz.net

I’ve been taking better care of myself, exercising more and watching what I’ve been eating (more or less) and I’m increasingly happier with I look at the figure in the mirror. I’ve went past my pre-wedding weight now and just a couple of kilograms more to my ideal BMI!

All these small things makes me feel motivated and I feel blessed. Things are looking up. It seems as if my new tree is growing healthily. And if there are anyone who’s just migrated in a new country like how I did, just hang on in there. It will get better.