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Sunday, October 30, 2011

5 Months and Counting

My CEB has fallen asleep next to me, clutching the buaya toy (See pic below) to his chest while I write this entry. Nothing very much has changed in terms of our marriage life. The past 2 "Monthiversaries" just went by like that.*Snap.

We spent the 4th Monthiversary honeymooning in Brazil, and our 5th Monthiversary, which was a few days ago, in Malaysia. And we kind of forgot to remember both occasions. I guess there will come a time (quite soon I reckon), that we will only start to remember anniversaries. And that's an excuse for a long nice holiday next year! :D

Speaking of which, we just came back from a short getaway in Bangkok last weekend. And while shopping at Siam Paragon,

Me "Would you have married a Thai wife if you hadn't married me?" (After watching my CEB leer at all the pretty slim Thai girls)
My CEB "Of course - then I can set up business in Thailand....But now that I have married the Mob (his short form of the most unflattering nickname for me, Moby), I must concentrate on our business."
Me *suspicious. "What "Our" business?"
My CEB " Mini Mobs Making business!" *Guffaws at his own lewd joke.
Me "#@@#@$@#@!

My CEB has NOT changed the least bit evidently, after all these months.

My CEB still cracks me up, and he still abuses the hapless buaya stuffed toy that he bought for me. I bet the poor fella wishes that I hadn't lifted him off the shelf in Cairns and flown him back to Singapore. Look at the indignity that my buaya toy has to suffer, especially when my CEB gets struck by a creativity wave! Those are the eye masks that SQ gave him when we were flying back from Sao Paulo early this month!

But all that aside, I love my CEB very much, and I wouldn't trade him for anyone in the world. He makes me happy, very happy. He cracks me up with his jokes, we speak the same love language (physical touch), and he helps out around the house enough to keep me out of his hair (oh wait, what hair but anyway...).

My CEB is far from perfect of course, but he listens, and tries to make things between, and for us better. Throw in honest and sincere, all I ask God for, when I look at him slumbering next to me sometimes, is to just give us a little more time together in married bliss.

Although my CEB tells me that he is really happy to be married to me (and I was struck not by the words but the sincerity of his tone when he said that in Bangkok last week), I think I am just as fortunate to be married to a man I have grown to love so much. And not just love, but respect - for I found out recently that he had given to his parents the full sum of the monies that they had spent for our wedding, even though those monies (not dinner table monies, mind!) should by custom be from them.

It made me feel proud of him for being filial and responsible. But it made me even more proud to have a husband who was easily able to, and who wanted to, and did take the full responsibility of getting himself a wife, or in this case as he would say, getting himself the Mob.

I respect a man like that, even if he is a buaya, and a big cheese-eating buaya (CEB) at that!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Real Steel (2011) Movie

This movie was exhilarating. I loved the fight scenes between the robots. I loved the underdog theme. I thought all the actors, especially the little boy and his dance routine, were just awesome. I'm hoping there will be a Part 2, and I am still wondering what the robot ATOM's secret is.

The Slog Reviews: 10/10. Is this a must watch on the big screen? Yeah! I had a seat 6 rows from the front and even from that awful angle, the thought "Oh wow, how far we've come in terms of digital technology" crossed my mind. I can't think of a single awful thing about the movie at all!

And in the final fight scene with Zeus, the ultimate fighting bot, it occurred to me that to win
(a) you really just have to get your as* in there and try, even if the odds are stacked against you; and more importantly
(b) being able to sustain major blows may be more crucial than getting a good one in ie one must be able to roll with the punches and take the hits without folding until the window of opportunity opens.

I really dig this show.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Thing (2011) Movie

I have no idea why I am so tired of late. I haven't been able to make myself switch on the laptop the past few evenings and upload pics to blog about our honeymoon. Unlike my CEB, I consider the 4 hours between after-work and bed-time, time that goes by just too quickly. Throw in time used for dinner and a bath, and the day is over. Just like that. And then the week rolls by. Followed by the month.

I have 4 short business trips coming up in November. It won't be like that next year, I think, this travelling every single month for work since I joined this new company. Business trips are so disruptive and bad for the old waist-line. But in the meantime, I am leaving for a short weekend getaway in Bangkok with my CEB tonight. This holiday was supposed to be last week on his birthday but we rescheduled because of a wedding we were told we had to attend (but didn't have to at the last min). So this is one more holiday to blog about, in addition to the back-log from South America.

But in the meantime, I thought I'll write about a movie which we had no plans to watch, but ended up watching because of the timing. The Thing. My CEB knows me pretty well (which really annoys me) and he asked me if I was sure if I wanted to watch this movie because I generally hate horror movies. And since there is nothing better than giving my old jaded tired self a fright, I said yes.

The Slog Reviews: 8/10. The movie was short (less than 2 hours) but well-paced with good acting all around. Special effects did not disappoint and The Thing scuttling about with 2 faces is something I can't wait to forget in a hurry. But before you get me wrong, the Thing is a hostile alien lifeform that scientists have discovered buried in the ice in Antartica, an alien which has the ability to devour and replicate human cells. So most of the movie was spent guessing which scientist in the group was the alien, and watching how folks turn against folks in times of doubt and fear. If I had to rate this movie on a horror meter, I'll give it a 3/10 - one would definitely be able to sleep in the night after watching this flick.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tree of Life (2011) movie

I had intended to keep all my next few posts about my South America trip but I'm on a mandatory teleconference call now (not active participant) and brain dead from having woken up at 6am and being at work since 7am. So I thought I would write about this movie instead.

I fell asleep early into the movie. But let me clarify - this movie was the first movie I caught on the flight back to SG from Sao Paulo. The flight was at 1.45am and we were served supper about 2.30 in the morning on that flight. So I was really tired at that hour.

But if you read the reviews on the web from common folks like me, you will find that there were those who fell asleep/walked out ie they hated the movie that much. And those who raved about the movie, calling it a masterpiece (hey this movie clinched some award).

Myself? The moment I woke up, I went to replay the movie from the start. And I couldn't decide after watching it again whether I loved or hated it. I definitely felt "something" watching the movie and I know it is going to be one of those movies that will stay with me for a long time.

So, what is the movie about? There are plenty of really beautiful artistic shots of the world, dinosaurs even..read, national geographic stuff, and that takes up a lot of movie time. There is some sort of a story about a young boy growing up in a suburban family in the 1950s, a family where his gentle mother believes in the way of grace (to forgive, to accept all, to trust God etc) and his authoritarian father believes in the way of nature (dog eat dog world). This boy has a brother die, a brother who taught him lessons of forgiveness, a brother who was "good". And in his convo to God as a child, this boy says "God if you can't be good, why should I be".

The Slog Reviews: This movie is not for everyone and the only way to find out if it is for you, is to watch it. And to find a means of doing at minimal cost just in case like the other people out there, you fall asleep or just walk out.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Taking a public bus to the Corcovado Train Station in search of Hard Rock Cafe magnet

Those who read the blog will know about my recent obsession with collecting hard rock cafe guitar shaped magnets from all the cities I've been to.

The driver for my airport transfer in Rio informed me that Hard Rock Cafe in Rio was located at this district called Barra da Tijuca which was about an hour and at least 140 Reals (Brazil currency) away from my hotel at Copacabana. However, she said that there was a small stall at the Corcovado Train Station which sold Hard Rock Cafe merchandise and I could try my luck there.

Now I had taken a day tour up to Corcovado where Christ the Redeemer statue was (the reason I'd come to Rio) on my first day in Rio but the day tour operator had arranged for a mini van to take us up the mountain (the cost of an aircon minivan to take one up the mountain is 27 Reals as opposed to a train ticket which cost 36 Reals) and despite my plea, the coach driver did not stop at the train station for me to buy my magnet.

So, after much agonizing, I decided to use my last and final day in Rio (I had a flight back to Sao Paulo at 4pm and the airport transfer from the hotel was at 1pm) to acquire my heart's desire instead of hanging out at the beach as I'd planned. After rationalizing that I would never ever come back to Rio, I was prepared to spend the the 70 Reals (SGD 50) quoted by the hotel for a taxi to take me to Corcovado train station and back.

And as I was leaving the hotel reception to go up to my room and get my bag, it suddenly struck me that there was the option of public transportation. Now, my colleague who is at least six feet tall and 200pounds had told me that the only place he felt safe in Rio was the airport lounge. Which is why I was extra cautious in Rio since I was alone there. But 70 Reals was quite a pretty sum to part with so I decided it was worth my while checking if there was a bus that went to Corcovado station and if it was safe.

The hotel staff (The same one who had booked me the taxi for 70 Reals) obligingly told me that there was a public bus (853) less than 5 mins away from the hotel which would take me to the doorstep of the Corcovado train station for 2.50 Reals. And to get back to Copacabana from the train station, all I had to do was take the bus 854 in the direction of Leblon for another 2.50 Reals. To top it off, he said the public buses were v safe, clean and the ride was only 20 min. 70 Reals compared to 5 Reals...of course the public bus it was for me!

From the pic above, the public buses in Rio have a driver and a conductor who sits at this turnstile collecting money from passengers who do not have a card (to tap). I asked the fat conductor to tell me where to get off for the Corcovado train station and although she nodded obligingly, she kept dozing off which made me feel uneasy. The biggest problem I had in Rio was that few common people spoke or understood fluent English (the national language is Portuguese). So I went up to her again and took out my Portuguese guide book and pointed to the phrase "Can you tell me when to get off".

A passenger on board saw this and he came forward to help. With his help, I found out that the old lady sitting behind me was getting off at the same station and she would tell him when to get off. And throughout the journey, he kept trying to make conversation in his limited English, and gave me his email address and phone number. After he got off, the old lady tapped my shoulder and looking straight at me, wagged her index finger in the "no no" manner. She then gave me a thumbs down before pointing at my chest and then rubbing her thumb and index finger in the money sign. Yes lady, I get it. That friendly young man is a bad dude who wants my money.

Anyway, the public bus journey was safe, clean, fast and comfortable. I reached Corcovado Train Station in about half an hour. The bus stop was just 1 min away across the street and when I got there at 8.45pm, there was a long queue of people waiting to buy the train tickets. Now, I had no interest in going up to see Christ the Redeemer again and all I wanted was the hard rock cafe magnet so with the help of friendly folks who pointed me in the right direction of "Hard Ock" (that's how they pronounce it), I found the small stall near the boarding entrance. And to my horror, I found that it was closed (the other shops near it were all open),

I asked the stall operators of the stall next to it whether the stall would open and I managed to gather from their limited English that because it was a Sunday, it might not be open. I think I could taste despair at that moment. I went to ask another stall operator and she said the stall might open at 10am so I figured that since I was there already, I might as well wait till 10am (even though this would mean a waste of time on my last day in Rio). As there wasn't any place for me to sit and wait, I decided to give in the herd mentality and joined the queue to buy a train ticket to kill the time

Now, according to the informational stuff around the train station, the train which can carry up to 124 passengers runs through the Tijuca National Park. One can apparently get to see lots of flora and fauna, as well as enjoy an amazing view of the city on the way up.

Below is a picture of the boarding area of the train station. There is a small cafe, some mock train carriages as well as various write ups about the history of the Corcovado Train. Apparently, the late Pope took a ride up the train to see Christ the Redeemer. Anyway, about 9.20am I reached the train counter and bought a ticket for 36 Reals. The ticket I got entitled me for a train ride at 10.40am. The trains before that were full.

So, I asked the counter staff for help to see if anyone in the long queue wanted to buy my ticket off me and we managed to find a single traveler like myself who did. (The counter staff was very nice though and offered to give me a full refund for my ticket if I could not find anyone to buy the ticket). If I hadn't had to check out of the hotel by 12noon and go to the airport, I would certainly have wanted to try out the train given all I'd read about it. :( I would certainly advise anyone who takes a day tour that includes Christ the Redeemer statue to check whether this includes the train ride up the mountain instead of the air-conditioned vans.

I walked around the souvenir shops a bit more to kill the time and at 10am, made my way back to the Hard Rock Cafe stall with my fingers crossed. And when I got there, I saw a young lady setting up the stall. *pumps fist in the air, Yeah baby yeah! I was literally dancing with excitement and thanking God that the damn stall wasn't closed on Sunday.

I have to confess that I was very close to tears when I finally laid my hands on the guitar magnet I had come for. Christ the Redeemer is on the magnet, as well as the colors of the Brazil flag at the bottom. This magnet is certainly the most expensive Hard Rock cafe magnet I've purchased to date, and not just in terms of cost (at 59.90 Reals which is SGD 42) but in terms of effort to get it.

And in my exhilaration at managing to secure the magnet and saving 70 Reals on cab fare to boot, I indulged myself with a Hard Rock Cafe T shirt that had the words Rio de Janerio on it. It was about 69.90 Reals, the cost of the cab fare there. Hah.

I will write about the day tour I took in the next entry but silly as it seems, getting the magnet is the most significant event of my entire trip to Rio. Because it goes to show that if you want something really bad enough, you would take all risks and find all means possible to go out and get it.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Journey to Rio

I now know why I gain weight after almost every business trip.

I left for the GAC 2011 4 days earlier so I could spend 3 days by myself in Rio before the work week started. And as usual, I flew on my company's preferred airline, SQ for the 26 hr flight into Sao Paulo where I would then take a flight on TAM to Rio.

The flight to Sao Paulo was some time after midnight and the almost non-stop feeding started soon after we were airborne. Courtesy of the Supper Menu (yes, at that hour) or the SG to Barcelona leg, I had one of the best crabmeat cocktail I'd ever had in my life.

This was followed by the main course. I had the recommended "Veal Grenadin with crystallised tomatoes, eggplant cavier, button mushrooms and black olives". Now, despite how it turned out on picture, I would strongly recommend this dish to anyone on a SQ flight if the dish is available. The eggplant cavier did not taste the least mushy or "vegetable-tasting" but was a rich flavorful concoction that had me ThisClose to licking the plate clean.

The Supper Menu ended with the selection of gourmet cheeses, by which time I was satiated and sleepy. So I watched a couple of movies and then folded down the seat to sleep.

I was awakened by a pretty stewardess in time for breakfast which I'd pre-ordered before falling into slumber. And I ate every single bit of the "scrambled egg with chopped chives, grilled chicken sausages, sauteed mushrooms and hashbrown potatoes". Because it was that good.

Anyway, after abt 11+hrs, we landed in Spain where those of us going on to Sao Paulo were hustled off to the transit area. The shops beyond the glass window of the sala VIP lounge beckoned invitingly but I was told expressly that I was not allowed to help the Spanish economy with my tourist dollars. Oh well, their loss....and mine too, I might add, given how expensive everything turned out to be in Brazil. The transit in Spain was about one and a half hours, and we were delayed another hour because of some (idiot) passenger's luggage issues. As WIFI access was chargeable in the VIP lounge, I ended up using the lounge's computers to write about the movies I'd watched on board and of course, stuffing my face with the complimentary food in the lounge. Nothing like an opportunity to eat Spanish food for free. Yay for the waistline right?

Right. So after stumbling rounded-belly back to the plane for the next leg of the trip which would last about 10hours, I was served with the Lunch Menu for Barcelona to Sao Paulo. As if I'd never eaten all that Spanish chow, I downed the Prelude which was 3 sticks of satay, followed by the Starter, smoked ham with roasted capsicum and mesclun.

I ordered the "Roasted duck breast, ginger bread sauce, carmelised pear, parsnip and leek" as the main course. The duck breast was not very tender or tasty but ate it all I did, rationalizing that it would be a waste of good food otherwise.

And then after the plates and all were cleared, I watched some more movies sprawled in the seat. Before sleeping again. I mean, come on, how could I possibly have thought that I could get away with not gaining any weight? It certainly didn't occur to me on the flight how much I was eating and how little I was exercising (do trips to the bathroom count?) in the 26 hours to Sau Paulo but as I write this blog entry with the aid of the pics I'd taken en route to Rio, I now realize how much I'd gorged just on the way there!

Oh, and before we reached Sao Paulo, there was one more meal to be served. Dinner! Yes, because of all the time differences between Singapore, Barcelona and Brazil. I can't remember what the starter was and I didn't take any pics of the menu this time round but it was beautifully presented and extremely tasty,

However, I do remember being disappointed by the cod fish which while well cooked and tender, had this strange taste to it. I guess I should have ordered the beef and was almost minded to ask for a replacement of my current main course which I'm sure they would have willingly given until I realized that the button of my jeans was biting into my belly. Not good.

I was glad when we finally reached Sao Paulo and the 26 hours of movies, sleep and food was over. The sight of the city of more than 39million people laid out below me got me all excited (the pic below is the first pic I took of the city from the plane) and I kind of forgotten how much I'd eaten on board.

Till I got up and the button of my only pair of jeans popped off when I reached up to get my laptop bag down. Way to start a holiday. After a short walk around the duty free at Sao Paulo airport in the hope of buying some pants, (Trust me, everything there is hideously more expensive than if purchased in Singapore or USA), I collected my check in luggage and made my way to the TAM counter for my flight to Rio.

My flight out to Rio was supposed to be at 9.40pm - I'd decided against booking the 7pm flight despite my arrival time being 5pm because the ticket was a lot more expensive. However, because the 5pm flight was relatively empty, the counter staff put my name on the standby list for that flight and I found myself rushing ticket in hand to the departure gate 5 mins before the take-off time.

The flight from Sao Paulo to Rio took an hour and because I'd stupidly forgotten to charge my blackberry on board the plane, it was dead after the 26hours of travelling. I was pretty much resigned to having to wait at Rio's airport (which had all of one cafe at the arrival area) for my airport transfer to come get me at 11pm (I'd arranged this based on my earlier flight time of 9.40pm) but a very kind stewardess helped me call the airport transfer 24hr hotline and the driver came at 8pm to send me to my hotel in Rio.

And that was how after almost 30 hours of travelling and feasting, I found myself in the city I'd always wanted to be in since watching Fast and Furious - Rio De Janerio.

Awwww....

Well, at least I know one thing hasn't changed despite my being gone for some time.

My CEB is curled up soundly asleep next to me as I write this one quick entry while waiting for all the pics to be transferred to this computer.

While my CEB and I get along pretty well for the most part, close proximity for an extended period of time does increase the likelihood of spats and the like. I know marriage is all about proximity but the "24-7 in your face" type of proximity can be a bit overwhelming.

And our honeymoon was a lot of the latter kind.

I would love to say that every single day/moment of our honeymoon was as happy/loving as the pic above (taken at Taquile island) but it wasn't. I was irritable and snappy some days, and my CEB was an irrational and bad-tempered fella for some bits.

But there was this 1 really bad spat near the end where I could not bring myself to be with/talk to my CEB. However because we were bound by the travel schedule, I had to sit next to him on the plane..

And while I looked at him who had fallen into angry slumber (arms folded across his chest), I felt awful for my own less than nice behavior/words because....God had given me this fella as my husband for me to respect, love and honor. Not to hurt with words or action. And even if I didn't approve of his actions/words during the spat, holding onto my resentment/anger and ignoring him would just make my own actions just as bad.

So I took his hand and made peace. As well as apologized.

I quite forgot the whole thing after we made up on the plane. But after the flight while waiting for the luggage, my CEB hugged me and said

"You know your husband loves you very much, don't say things to break his heart."

*Gulp...

I know. Awwwwww......

Saudade

After 20+ days or work and leisure in South America, I'm finally back in Singapore.

Getting used to the humidity and time difference (Brazil and Peru are like 11 and 13 hrs behind SG time) is a real challenge for us.

Stepping back into, or rather, finding a routine/semblance of a life after I left, is going to be a challenge too, but only for me and not my CEB.

In Brazil (the work bit), I learnt a word that accurately describes how I feel right now - Saudade. (Click here for the definition).

When all along I thought that word was "Lost" or "Restless".