Monday, December 31, 2012

Farewell Old Year

Hello, new one!

Honestly, I never really thought a new year is a big deal... (except getting a day off work!) I never care much for celebrations nor countdowns, and the only memory I have of celebrating a new year was from my teen years. My friends and I decided to gather at one of our homes and do the countdown.

We prepared our own food, had our usual party fun until about an hour to midnight, and went outside across the street. We sat, all in a row, on a wall - or something, I can no longer remember exactly - and shouted "Happy new year!" to every passing vehicle. At one point, firemen from the station nearby hollered at us. It just as well might have been a reprimand as much as a greeting, but we took it positively and returned the favour gleefully.

At 10 seconds before midnight, we started our countdown, as countdowns are usually done, and by the end, were overcome with joy and excitement, for which in the ignorance of youth, no reasons are necessary. We hugged, we laughed, we repeated the wishes and the cheers. In a couple of minutes, we heard a lot of noise coming from a (obviously significantly larger) party at the neighbourhood clubhouse a street or two away. The (more accurate?) countdown had just begun. That set us off on another lengthy fit of laughter, plus some forehead-smacking. Ah, the follies of my youth! =P

By my computer clock, which time may or may not be precise, I have 5 minutes to wrap this up before 2013 sets in. Here's wishing you, Reader, a splendid, wonderful and productive new year. Be in good spirits and stay in excellent health! =)

(4 minutes!)

(3 minutes!)

Right, that's enough. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The End Of The World

So people say the Mayan calendar implies.

True, the Maya were very clever with numbers and all. They said the world is currently in its "fifth age" - there were four previous "ages", each destroyed before the next started - and will now be similarly destroyed. But they also said that someone or something must be sacrificed to ensure the sun rises every day.

Good night, world.

See you all in the morning! =P

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mid-Term Assessment

It is no secret to anyone who's read a bit of what I write here, that I tend to complain about badly behaving students. I checked my posts - twice I had written about poor attitude regarding/during tests/exams (read about them here and here). Although those posts were written years back when I was teaching at a place different from where I do now, the truth is, I've never really stopped being irritated by similar behaviours I observed... until last week.

I cannot put my finger on what I'm doing differently this term - my teaching style, my interaction with my class, my attitude towards everyone in general - so I'm attributing it all to the students themselves. I have the good fortune of teaching, what I think, must be one of the best-behaved groups I've had in as long as I remember, perhaps, ever! They are attentive, obedient and never unruly. They actively participate in class and answer all the questions I throw at them. To a certain extent, I can tell that they strive to take responsibility for their own learning like I want them to.

On top of that, for their mid-term test which I conducted last week, no one was absent. Not a single person. Reader, if you think I'm being irrationally elated over full attendance for a test, for you think that is how it should be, let me say this - in all my years of teaching, with the exception of very small classes (of less than 5 students), this is the first time I've had no absentees in a test.

Some may shake their heads, thinking that I've simply been so continually disappointed that I should feel such wave of wonder and gladness at what should be normalcy. Perhaps. Nevertheless, I am very happy. =)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Today is the day I stood in front of a panel of experts and attempted to convince them that the research I'm proposing to undertake is valid and worthy, and that I know what I'm doing and it's not crap.

First, I went on for about half an hour on background stories, what had been done, what still needs to be done and what I shall do about all that. Then, I let them question me left, right, center, up and down.

After that, I had planned to conclude:

I mean, most research do in fact aim to make this world a better place in their own unique manner. *Ahem* You see, Reader, even if my proposed work does not amount to anything useful (which I hope not!), I would have at least shown that this particular approach likely leads to failure, so future grad students will know to avoid it! Right? The world will be a better place either way!

However, I was told beforehand that a conclusion isn't necessary for this defense. Oh, well... it's fine.

And now, I'd like to extend my deepest gratitude (publicly, for fun) to all who supported me through this, especially those who physically showed up! I cannot even begin to describe how much I appreciate your efforts. =)

This is, however, only the beginning, so I'll need everyone to work harder to keep all that support coming my way! (I'm actually joking, but if it isn't too much of an inconvenience, please please please do...) I'm fortunate I have a great supervisor, so I'm hopeful (I mean, I'm hopeful that she won't give up on me!) =P

Happy 12.12.12 to anyone whimsically gleeful about these "special" numbers!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


For life to seem interesting, every task, no matter how mundane, should be perceived as an adventure. Really. If one can't live in in pursuit of constant exciting outings, one should try to view routine ones as somewhat exciting. Once in a while, at least.

So, here it is. I had to make a payment of EUR500 and I couldn't use my credit card because the payee did not reply my email about their pay-by-credit-card link on their website being broken. The only other way is to make a bank transfer, which, unfortunately, I was informed I couldn't accomplish via online banking, probably because the recipient account is of a foreign bank. Long story short (I say this a lot, but it never really is short, is it?), I had to physically go to the bank.

I should add that I don't go to the bank, ever, unless I really have to, which adds up to maybe once in a year or two.

It was early because if I were late, I'd never get a parking spot in this crazy town I'm proud to call mine. The bank would not open for at least another 15 minutes or so by the time I reached it's front doors. I stood outside of the building, waiting for the doors to open. A minute or so passed and a man came. He pushed the doors opened and walked right in... it dawned to me that although the bank hadn't opened for business, the main doors were actually never locked, so customers can have access to the ATMs inside at all times. A metal gate separates the ATMs area and the inside (actual counters) of the bank. That gate was still locked, indicating what I already knew... I had to wait several more minutes for the bank to open.

I felt foolish, abashed, but I entered the building holding my head up high all the same. An old man stood near the entrance. He looked at me. I thought it odd that this bank likes hiring old men for security guards... I remember the other one I'd seen for several years prior, a man probably in his 70s, who always greeted customers in friendly manners and helped direct us to the right counters. Anyway, since this old man was looking at me, in what I think must be a friendly manner, I took the initiative to greet him.

He replied in Hakka, a Chinese dialect I can understand rather well, but haven't spoken since I was a little girl. He told me the bank isn't opened yet. I replied what I hoped was "I shall wait then".

An obscure side-door was unlocked a little while later and a uniformed employee beckoned the waiting customers in. I walked towards it. The old man did likewise, along with a few others. He was no security personnel - just a fellow customer like me. I wanted to crawl into a hole.

I was in the bank. It was, or wasn't, quite as I remembered it - I could't even tell. I stood still a moment and looked around, just reveling in the strangeness that was me in a bank. The old man, right behind me, tapped me gently on my shoulder and pointed out the counter from which I was to take a number. Obviously, he thought I was at a loss. I could see in his eyes he saw in me a silly little (as always, I'm referring to my size, not age) girl who'd probably never done any banking in her life. I wanted to bang my head on a wall then crawl into a hole.

There was a lady making inquiries at the queuing-number counter when I got to it. I stood in line and waited, keeping a courteous distance between myself and that lady. Before I knew it, an old woman pushed past me and got into the "line" right in front of me. She was followed by another. Then, by an old man. By the time I realised there was really no "line", four or five senior citizens had gotten ahead of me. In hindsight, I do think there usually would be a line... but not for the old folks. *Ahem* The serving staff at the counter saw it all, but I think she shared my sentiment - they were all grey and bent... if they actually waited in line behind me, I would have gladly, willingly let them go ahead of me anyway. Still, it's rather amusing that the elderly take for granted courtesy that they cannot be sure is granted.

I got my number, I filled up the forms and when it was my turn, went to the teller counter. The bit of paperwork was completed, signed, counter-signed and when it was all about done, the nice lady teller gave me a concerned look.

"What are you transferring this money for?"

There was caution, and some suspicion mixed in with the concern in her voice. I shouldn't wonder. A silly little girl who didn't seem to know her way in a bank would be dumb enough to fall into the scam artist's trap. For all she knew, I was giving away my life savings, in secret and/or against the advise of family and friends, to a foreign "lover" I'd never met. I appreciate her diligence... really, I do.

"Conference registration fee."

Satisfied by my answer, the transaction was then quickly completed.

So much for a half-hour errand on a bright weekday morning.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Bonesetter's Daughter

This, much like many of the other posts, is long over due.

There is something about unraveling a mysterious past, discovering the origin of seemingly inexplicable habits and finally getting all the answers, that I find incredibly appealing and irresistible. Plus, the telling of a story within a story within a story, and the completely satisfying wrapping up and tying all loose ends by the conclusion - I have not a single complaint about this book.

I cannot decide if the main protagonist should be Ruth, the typical modern working woman with a live-in boyfriend and his two daughters from a previous marriage, or LuLing, her immigrant mother with a seemingly closed mind and strict adherence to Chinese tradition and superstition. The title, however, really refers to the enigmatic Precious Auntie, LuLing's disfigured nursemaid, who, within the first few pages of the book, is revealed to be her mother.

The story begins with that of Ruth - her busy days managing her work, family and her mother's increasing forgetfulness suggesting of dementia. Flashbacks include scenes from her childhood with her mother as a single parent and her mother's many peculiarities which she couldn't understand nor accept. These are eventually explained through LuLing's telling of her story growing up in Immortal Heart, a small village in rural pre-WWII China. Within her narration, the heartbreaking tale of Precious Auntie is unfolded.

Thereon, the dots start connecting, and there was no way I could put the book down till the end...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Baking Without A Recipe

Reader, if you enjoy watching the Chef At Home series as much as I do, you'll have an idea of what the post title alludes to. I love everything about the show - Chef Michael Smith, his kitchen, his pantry, everything in his kitchen and his pantry, and most of all, his warm, casual yet charismatic manner of presenting his culinary creations. I hope he wouldn't mind me "borrowing" his catchphrase to modify into a post title... especially since this post has none to do with him. *ahem*

We didn't so much bake without a recipe, but it was nearly so. Let me explain.

A few months ago, my friend, the Outdoor Expert, took me to a baking class, and we made macarons. He had since done up his kitchen and gotten a mixer that didn't look like a toy to complement his large and impressive built-in oven. Such then, when recently I finally managed to get decent candy thermometers and we are therefore (theoretically) capable of cooking sugar, he suggested we try our hands at those challenging macarons once more.

We prepared the required ingredients (plus a packet of "macaron mix" for Plan B) and I made my way to his kitchen. We laid the eggs, sugar, ground almond, butter etc. on the counter, placed the printed sheet of recipe right next to them, then started discussing the delicate art of approximating weight...

... because the Outdoor Expert doesn't have a kitchen scale!

I think this pack of ground almond is about 230g, I told him. He took that in one hand, the pack of powdered sugar in the other, and concluded that the sugar feels heavier.

Then, it must be around 250g, I said - one of the most ridiculous, baseless conclusions ever, I'll admit. Nevertheless, we went with it.

We needed 125g of each. I took one of the packs, squeezed my fingers around its middle, and asked him, "This is about half, right?"

"Yea, about," he replied, after a 2-second glance, "We don't have to be super-accurate."

It's not like we have a choice... =P

So, I scooped about "half" the pack of powdered sugar, and a little more than "half" of the ground almond. These I combined with 2 egg whites. Are 2 egg whites about 50g? We'll just assume so.

As if the totally insane way I was handling the recipe wasn't enough, when he needed to cook 125g of granulated sugar, he simply poured out a small bowl and estimated its weight on his hand by comparing with the half-pack of leftover powdered sugar, purportedly exactly 125g.

Now, as if all that messing up the ingredients was still not enough, we were *both* not familiar with his oven, and so, the first tray suffered a casualty when we poked at one before it was done. We then left the poor shells in there for an additional 10 minutes or so, and they totally over-baked.

Long story short (not so short I guess, but it could have been longer!), our macaron shells looked like they've been through a train wreck, had no "legs", were all crispy and not chewy on the inside - like regular cookies, thoroughly discoloured... well, simply an epic FAIL .

They tasted really good, though. My family (who would always look past the ugliness) couldn't stop eating them.

Later in the evening, I executed my Plan B - the pre-mix. The instructions on the pack say to whip the mix with 50g of water (yes, I have a digital scale in my kitchen!) for 5 minutes then bake for 20 minutes.

Imagine - just that! Whip for 5 minutes! No paste, no meringue, no cooking sugar syrup to 117 degree Celcius!

And what did I get? These:

It was a *slaps forehead* moment for me. However, truth be told, these pretty little things were extremely bland and void of any hint of almond. They're the kind of dessert nice to see, tempting and everything, but which you won't want a second helping.

Our train-wreck version was *so* much better. Now that the Outdoor Expert had put "one kitchen scale" on his shopping list, next time, we might make them prettier too... =D

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Open Sea Fishing

This is not a post about an exciting trip out into the open sea to fish.

I had loved fishing since I was a little girl. I would go fishing with my father and the ponds we frequented were filled with fishes that kept biting. I didn't even know why people said fishing requires lots of patience. There was once, while casting a line, the weight broke off and was lost. My father then switched to the spare rod and I was left to play with the decommissioned one. (Yea, back then, parents weren't paranoid about their children possibly getting hurt - like, if I was dumb enough to pierce my fingers, or any part of my body, with the hook, then I totally deserved it) I dropped the line with the baited hook into the shallow water right at the edge of the pond - for fun - and within minutes, a wee fish took a bite! It was a baby - no bigger than my girlish hand. Imagine my glee! We released it, of course. Eventually, after having gone to ponds with inhabitants neither that hungry or greedy or both, I realized the truth about the relation between patience and fishing. Nevertheless, I still loved the idea.

My father once went out to sea, on a boat, and spent the entire weekend fishing with his friends. I was in university, away from home, at the time and after the trip, he called and bragged about his catches. I was indignant that he didn't take me along. He brushed me off, saying it was a men's trip, and continued bragging. I would *so* have loved to go fishing in the sea with him, but we were never to have the opportunity.

So, recently, when a friend mentioned taking a boat out to the sea for a day-long fishing trip, I asked to join without second thoughts. Well, I wouldn't fish - for my life philosophy has shifted towards non-killing, as much as possible, even for food - but I could sit in the boat, watch the men, smell the sea, take photographs of anything and everything... it'll still be a grand adventure!

"Are you sure?" my friend asked me, wide-eyed, when I told him excitedly that I want to go with them in the boat.

"It's going to be really, really hot... like, the whole day, under the scorching sun."

I could slap on loads on sunblock. I could wear a gigantic wide-brimmed hat. I could even carry an umbrella, since I wouldn't be holding a rod...

"The sea might be rough. The boat is small, you might get sea-sick."

I know they sell anti-sea-sick pills in pharmacies...

"We're going on a little sampan so obviously, there's no toilet facility on board. We men will just pee into the sea."

I balked...

"You could probably get through the day if you don't drink so much of water, but you might end up dehydrated..."

Well, well! I have to drink, and I have to pee... It's not that I really mind peeing into the sea like the men will do (I know, I'm not a man, but I *can* find a way... don't roll your eyes!) but I do very much mind peeing in front of the men.

So, I change my mind. No spending an entire day on a toilet-less boat with a bunch of men for me. And that is why this post isn't about an exciting trip out into the open sea to fish.

Monday, October 29, 2012


The first time I saw a set of the Russian nested dolls, I marveled at the very fine craftsmanship and how the tiniest was little larger than a grain of rice. I remember I gave a little giddy schoolgirl squeal each time opening doll and finding a smaller one inside. I don't know how my roomee (whose doll that was) put up with me.

Today, I was given my very own Matryoshka doll! They're painted red, they're very pretty and they traveled all the way from Russia! I tried not to squeal when I took them out of the bag, but I think I did... in delight!

Thank you, roomee, for remembering that I told you ten years ago that I wanted a set =)

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Motivation talks / seminars, much like counselling and self-help literature, are not for everyone. I, for one, don't believe in counseling, and totally loathe self-help books.

When I was in college, the Vice-President once suggested I make a visit to the career counselling center to speak to someone who can help me determine my "ideal" choice of major. I complied, partly because I really respect and admire the man, and partly because he's my uncle and I always obeyed my elders... Anyway, I made an appointment with a counselor, bore with the stranger talking to me as if she knew me better than me, and then took a "career personality" test. Of course, I don't think it was called that, but this happened *so* very long ago, I really cannot remember the actual name. The counselor then had me booked for another appointment, a date a week or so later, to discuss the result of the test and the options she thought would suit me best. I didn't honour it. She called and I made up some excuses. I can't recall how many times she called, but eventually, she gave up and I never set foot in a counselor's office ever since.

Maybe I'm arrogant, but I earnestly do not believe a stranger knows me better than me, no matter how over-educated or highly-trained they are. (On a side note, someone's suggested I see a psychiatrist, but again, that someone doesn't know me better than me, so he doesn't get to decided whether I need therapy or not. Ha!)

So, as I said earlier, motivation talks are not for everyone. I'm somewhat neutral towards them - don't really mind, also can do without. As yet, I haven't heard one that conveyed what I don't already know. (So, actually, I prefer team-building camps with lots of intellectual and physical challenges... but I'll leave that for a future post) Many, of course, are receptive, accepting and downright passionate about these talks. Some, however, simply don't respond positively to such psychological manipulations.

I'd like to think that those who refuse to participate are not necessarily bad eggs, and those who are earnestly enthusiastic - well, absolutely good for them! However, if, immediately after a course, during which the principle of "no complaining" was repeatedly drilled into everyone's head, the enthusiastic lodged formal complaints about the non-participating, it becomes really clear why some people doubt the effectiveness of such seminars...

Thursday, October 11, 2012


... with only a good book for company. We all need that every now and then.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lost Monkey

There are times when a new piece of information sort of takes me by surprise for being fascinating, but at the same time doesn't actually shock me much for I've known it all along, somewhere at the back of my mind. I know this probably doesn't make much sense.

So, we were at the other side of Nanyang Wall, where I'd never been previously, and I'd foolishly (or bravely, if you will) failed two 6b (5.10c) routes. One of the guys then announced he wanted to do the Lost Monkey. This was the moment I felt that sudden wave of fascination at the fact that this route has a name, but then again, I'd always known that it is common that outdoor routes are named. In fact, some are downright famous.

The Lost Monkey is graded 6c (5.11b). The craziest thing about it, is not the overhang-all-the-way from the mid-point until nearly the anchor, or even the bit of almost-roof  just before the anchor, but the first several meters of ascent. This section is mostly slab, without bolts. That means a climber effectively does a free solo for several meters before getting to the point of the first clip.

The guy belaying asked with a laugh if I wanted to try it. I gave him what I believe was the involuntary wide-eyed, open-mouthed, flabbergasted look of you-gotta-be-kidding. Ask me again when I have muscles like you do. Ask me again when I am able to clean the 6bs without breaking sweat. If that could ever happen... =P

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Damai Wall

Oh look - I'm back to blogging, and this is a post longer than a photo plus a few sentences!

You must be wondering, though, Reader - just how many different posts can I write on the same subject? Just how many different ways can I describe a rock face with bolts on it? Well, I don't know, but I keep trying =D

So, Damai is the only one (of the more popular climbing sites) at Batu Caves that I haven't covered. The place is way more "comfortable" than Nanyang and Nyamuk. There's a proper carpark (not as proper as being complete with neat white lines, but still...), well-maintained grounds with paved paths, benches, a small playground for children, and a nice footpath covered in a-sort-of rubber flooring right next to the wall. It's basically a small recreational park where one can also rock-climb. There are supposed to be public restrooms too, though I didn't manage to locate them.

The view, back-facing the wall:

And the view, back-facing the park:

I only realised after a while that my first few shots did not include *any* climbers currently climbing. So, here:

Anyway, unlike my regular climbing gym, outdoor routes are never marked with their difficulty. I'd usually ask if one is "difficult" before I start on it, but the answer's always that they're sure I could do it. So, really, I never know until I'm up there and I finish, or I hurt one of my joints and have to give up.

After a relatively lengthy break from climbing, I got started on a purportedly 6a+. Reader, you must know that I can barely complete a 6a indoor route even when climbing regularly. But hey, no one wants to put up with a total wimp, so when the guy told me it's "mostly OK, with just a couple of cruxes", I said alright, I'll give it a try. I got stuck at the first crux for quite a while (poor belayer, but thank goodness he was so patient!) but I got past it. Belayer commented "Wow, you got past that part!" and that sort-of compliment got me really motivated to go on, despite the throbbing pain in my left shoulder, which sort of got pulled the wrong way getting past "that part". The human brain is very funny - I had studied how it reacts to compliments, understood how shallow such feel-good-stimulants can be - and yet, I still get affected by them. In a good way, in this instance, of course. Anyway, mind over matter isn't always enough to achieve what is beyond my physical limits. At the second crux, just a little way below the second last runner, my lack of height, length of limbs and brute strength failed me. I did not manage to finish the route. I think it's that crux that gives the otherwise 6a route the "+". Oh, well.

I did two more on that occasion, and finished both, though one of them I managed partly because the belayer wouldn't let me down unless I went all the way up (her version of motivation, but yea, it worked...)

Reader, now I am going to digress.

At times, when I read about people who travel the world, set up camps and spend all day just climbing, I feel pangs of envy. I mean, I'd love to do that too, wouldn't I? Climb till the skins come off my hands, rub antiseptic all over them, and then climb some more! Well, maybe not to that extreme - I am not a fan of open wounds and bloody smears on the rocks - but seriously, wouldn't it be really fun to climb until I get sick of climbing? (Oh... no, I'll never get sick of climbing... what a nonsensical thought! A man was cleaning my 4th floor office window - from the *outside* - today and when I took a peek at him through the blinds, I noticed, of all things, that he was wearing a Petzl harness. Yea, climbing has become that much part of me now.)

Imagine - a few awesome days (or weeks!) away from the responsibilities of regular life, just camping and climbing. I know my last camping trip didn't go so well. I also shudder at the mere thought of having no proper toilet / shower, or worse, having to use the toilet when something I'm really scared of is in it... (a small part of the trip I didn't share was that my friend, who was and still is, terrified of frogs, had to use the toilet in the middle of the night and there was a frog right on the wall inside..... in case you're wondering, yes, frogs can totally perch on walls - see the following photo, which by the way, was taken in the bathroom in my house and is totally unrelated to whatever I'm writing about now *ahem*)

I'm not scared of frogs, but there are other things that'll freak me out. No, I'm not going to make a list. I think I made my point.

Despite all that - wouldn't it still be grand to just camp and climb, and not think about any of the things that upset me? Simply grand!

Right, end of digression, end of post.

Good night, world!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Angel (Of Music)

(photo taken from

New album in 2013, followed by a world tour, followed by a space tour! *can't wait can't wait can't wait*

Do you love Sarah as much as I do? You can sign up here and download the song, Angel, taken from her upcoming album.

Friday, September 28, 2012


What, are you going already? Wait, wait... wait!!! I'm trying to catch up, but I'm already short of breath.....

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tour Is A Four Letter Word World Tour in KL

There aren't many musicians I'd pay to watch live (friends who are musicians don't count - I believe in supporting friends, and somewhat believe in supporting local performing arts). Sarah Brightman, definitely. Josh Groban, if only he'll come! Jason Mraz. Ah, Jason Mraz - the man who sounds better live than on records. There aren't many like that. 

The concert was on 19th June (Mee Mee's birthday!), and yes, I realise it's almost the end of August now. Mine isn't the most diligently updated blog, I know. Reader, if you want to skip this yesterday's-news post, I'd totally understand.

Still here, Reader? Well, you must remember the time I went for Jason Mraz's concert in 2009 - I went fully resolved not to scream, and came back hoarse from having screamed too hard and too much. Lesson learned. This time, I didn't even bother to try. Goodness knows I need self-control (a lot of it) in many aspects of my life, so no, I don't need it when I'm at a concert, especially not at Jason Mraz's.

I was about an hour early so there was no queue and not too large a crowd when I entered the stadium. I had numbered seats too. I'd cleverly (or so I thought) chosen seats near the aisle thinking I'd get a clearer view of the stage if I didn't have a gazillion rows of people directly in front of me. Theoretically, I know I was right, but practically, I got this -

I tried to talk the ushers into removing the divider gate thingy once the concert begins, but well, they didn't even want to speak to me. I conspired with another concert-goer, who had the seat next to mine, to move it aside ourselves when it got dark and the lights went out. He gleefully agreed. But no, we didn't do it. Part of the reason - the moment Jason got on stage, after waiting a while for the deafening screams to mellow (but no, they didn't, so he shouted right over them... he had the amps, though, so it was fine), greeting everyone and telling how the humidity was making his hair big (it really was pretty big and unruly, and he wasn't wearing his hat... yet), he invited all of us to get on our feet. So, of course we did! I'm not tall, but being on my feet, my view was no longer blocked by the offending gate thingy. Later in the evening, I figured I could actually put it to good use -

I know I'm accident-prone, and was absolutely asking for trouble pulling stunts like that, but I managed it well. Came out unhurt. Must be all the yoga and climbing, eh? *Ahem!*

The concert was more than awesome! I can't, obviously, remember the exact setlist (this'll teach me, to procrastinate this long to write a post), but I remember there wasn't a single instant I wasn't enjoying myself. He performed most of the songs from his latest album, plus a whole bunch of older favourites. Each piece was accompanied by stunning visuals projected as the backdrop of the stage. The crowd was so alive, crazy, and exuding generous amounts positive energy all the way. We cheered. We danced and sang along on cue, and I was very near to tears at the beautiful A Beautiful Mess and Mr Curiosity

(My roomees and I were talking about how we find it hard to cry in front of people, no matter how angry or bitter we feel, but it seems I can always recall moments I get moved to tears - a beautiful song, a wistful tale, a heartbreaking scene, my bestfriend getting married...)

There were songs, other than those from Love Is Four Letter Word, that he didn't perform in his last concert in KL, including Mr Curiosity and Bella Luna. He accompanied himself on the keyboard for Mr Curiosity, saying it was a request so he hadn't practiced. But, it was perfect. Perfect! The concert lasted well over two hours (I think...!) including the several encores.

Pardon the lack of during-the-concert photos, Reader. Unlike some people who wouldn't stop taking photos and/or videos all throughout, I was more focused on enjoying each second. Each millisecond. Microsecond. Nanosecond... although I don't think I can discern a time period smaller than say, a third or fourth of a second... plus, it was really dark. Anyway, I took a shot shortly after he put on his hat, so I'd have something to remember the moment by. 

(That's him, projected on the screen... I don't suppose you can tell the "real" him on the stage at the right)

Oh, it's Monday already. Happy start-work-day, Reader! =)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Nyamuk Wall

One of the first things I learned about this place is how its name ("nyamuk" means mosquito in Malay) indicates its regular inhabitants. Literally. There is no direct access, so from where the cars were parked, we had to walk a short distance through a housing area to its edge, where a trail begins. From the start of the trail leading to this climbing spot, it is a short 5-minute hike (about 10, for someone like me, of course). It isn't a clear-path hike, mind you - we had to climb over boulders, zig-zag around impenetrable obstacles, and keep from tripping on tree roots (fine, this last point is applicable only to me). Although the experienced climbers joked about the hike being the warm-up, they seemed hardly worked up at all by it. On the other hand, I got all flushed and was sweating like mad. And that, with a girl climber having helped carry my rope! *major embarrassment*

The rock face here is much higher than the part of Nanyang Wall that we climbed previously. It has but a narrow ledge upon which the climbers and their gear perch, with very little room to walk about to and fro. I don't know how the other climbers do it on 2 legs, but when I had to move about, I did on all fours, plus my butt for additional stability. *ahem* I am so not outdoor-trained.

The site itself is lovely - quiet, secluded, and sufficiently distanced from highways, buildings and other forms of civilisation.

There are quite a number of routes set-up here, the easiest being 5cs. I do not know for sure how high most of them go, but I would estimate they're at least 25 meters on average. This is because the modest 50m rope I brought was only enough to climb about three-quarters of one of the average-length routes.

At first, we were the only ones there, and the climbers jokingly cheered at being able to hog the entire place to ourselves. We put our gear down, and they proceeded to unpack various types of insect repellents. I was handed a can and instructed to spray it all over my legs. Some sprayed the repellent all over their arms as well. Coils were lit and placed at convenient corners all around.

The name of this place isn't a joke. Within no more than ten minutes getting there, I'd had to brush away several nyamuks, eager for a meal, from my arms. Of course, while some fussed a little, no one would actually let those little things get in the way of a good climb. As we got ready to start, more climbers arrived.

While most of the climbers there that day could've completed the 5c and 6a routes, I think, not every one is up to lead. Thankfully, we have Sifu, who, as usual, graciously led several and set them up as top-ropes for the rest of us. Sure, some of the stronger climbers also led every single time. Not me though... I needed the assurance of a safely anchored rope!

There is something inexplicably gratifying and extremely enjoyable climbing such long but none-too-difficult routes. They say it takes endurance, but I hardly felt it. There were plenty of good positions for momentary rests, a soft breeze keeping me cool all the way up and the constant eagerness to find out where and what's the next hold like. Unlike indoor colour-coded routes, every next move is an exploration - even more so for the first-timer. It is, I must say, intoxicating and totally addictive. I now understand why serious climbers all have an addiction problem.

A little while after we'd begun, we heard thunder rumbling at a distance. The climbers insisted it's no more real than hallucinations, and laughed it off. I don't think they find it physically possible to stop unless they actually feel raindrops on their heads and noses. It's great.

So, we climbed on. Against the darkened sky, rolling thunder and stronger winds, we climbed on.

And you know, Reader, it never actually did rain until dinner time, which is usually when they would stop anyway.

I don't know if it is possible to continue climbing after it gets dark, but it must be, for as we were leaving, there were others still climbing. On my clumsy hike down, I got in the way of a lone climber going up. He eyed me for two seconds, then promptly stepped aside to let me stumble past him, (probably) lest I should stumble on him... *yikes*

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


There is this climbing gear store that I've been meaning to visit. Reader, you may remember this post from some months ago. I finally dragged my heavy bottom off my comfy chair last Sunday and got myself there! It is nestled within a neat little commercial area no more than 10 - 15 minutes' drive from some of the favourite climbing spots at Batu Caves... a most befitting location, indeed.

The moment I stepped in, the friendly staff greeted me warmly and offered me a chair. You wonder why? Well, I was half-panting (the shop is on the 3rd floor, but seriously, what kind of climber am I to start losing breath after just 3 flights of stairs? *sigh*) The store is modest in size, but extremely well-stocked. They carry every climbing necessity from the very basic shoes, harnesses etc., to headlamps and even ice axes!

(I only had with me a wimpy compact camera, Reader, so please excuse the quality of the photos)

*pretty pretty pretty*

*new arrival, in a cool black!*

There is something inherently different, special, about a gear shop run by climbers for climbers. At one corner of the amazing little place, there is a bouldering wall. Yes, an actual bouldering wall with crash pads, complete with a 7a+ route marked out!

See? I'm not joking about the 7a+:

I imagine, other than satisfying the climbing addiction of the staff when on staff-duty, the wall gives a huge plus point if a customer looking to buy shoes wants to get a feel of how those shoes would perform on the rocks.

I did not get onto the wall there, but I did try their slackline (in retrospect, I should have tried that crazy 7a+ and see how miserably I'd fail!) Walking on the slackline is supposed to train one's balance, focus and core strength. If one can get on it at all. I couldn't. I tried several times and each time, I wobbled off before I even got completely on. Climbing Sifu tried to help by sitting on the line to stabilize it for me, but even then, I could only manage to stand on it only for fractions of seconds longer before falling off, as usual. It was awfully embarrassing, but Sifu, being the good, professional Sifu he is, didn't laugh at me. :D


Needless to say, there isn't any photo of me on the slackline. I mean, if someone were to attempt to take a shot of me up there, he / she would have to use a super high-speed camera, like those used in Time Warp, considering how extremely momentarily I remained on it!

Visit them virtually at -

Or, physically at -
2-105, Jalan Prima Sg 3/2, Taman Sri Gombak, 68100 Batu Caves, Selangor, Malaysia

Monday, August 6, 2012

My Inspiration

More than a decade ago, someone inspired me to bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies. It started with an opened cookie jar and an offer to have some. The cookies were so delicious I immediately asked for the recipe - something which I had never done before - and those happened to be the first baked goods I ever made. This someone was my roomee.

She is one of the most creative and talented persons I know, and those qualities applied to baking yield amazing things. I mean, just look at what she did yesterday:

She is my inspiration.

And this post is the inspiration for -

Thank you, roomee, for all the recipes, tips and tricks, photos and the super delicious peach tart you made for us... twice

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Reader, you must remember the awesome Outdoor Expert guy who took me on the crazy adventure at Bukit Tabur and the exciting whitewater rafting trip. He's into the outdoors (climbing, hiking, diving etc.), photography, gardening and... baking. Yes, baking. He's attended some formal culinary courses for breads and pastries, and fancy desserts. What a guy, right?

I was on the phone with him last night.

He: There's a baking class tomorrow. Macarons. Do you want to come?
Me: What time?
He: 10am to 4pm
Me: Hmmm... I would have to skip some classes at gym. But, YES!!!

I hope my pilates and dance instructor isn't reading this. (Sorry! :D)

I first came across this classic French dessert reading my roomee's blog, and was of course, captivated by the sheer variety of vibrant colours (and flavours!) they come in. Then, I came to realise that because they're relatively uncommon here, they tend to be really expensive. And anyone who bought macarons tend to show them off in ways that irritate me. So for a long time, to me, macarons are just fancy desserts, totally gourmet and catered to those rich enough, or those given to anything fancy just because they're fancy. I wasn't interested at all.

Some time ago, though, my roomee attempted macarons and according to her, they failed. This verdict was absolutely according to her, since we never actually saw the finished product - being the perfectionist she is, her "failed" was probably only "not pretty enough" for the rest of us..... Anyway, she inspired me to look up recipes for macarons, just to see how evil they are. No, not very evil in written words, but according to roomee, the technique itself is a major challenge, plus some say the egg whites need to be aged, or something or something else. The point is, macarons are generally considered very challenging. So, I got curious.

I'm rambling (waaay) too much. 

The class was hosted by a university nearby which offers courses in hospitality and/or culinary arts, and they have superb kitchen facility. It was my first time in a kitchen of a classroom setting. There was a demo station right at the front, and two rows of counters equipped with bowls of all sizes, spatulas, and electric mixers and their accessories. For our class, there was an apron, a hand towel and a hair cover for each of us. You know, Reader, the apron alone made me feel more competent already. Self-confidence is a weird thing.

Chef started by talking about macarons, and saying that he will be showing us the Laduree macarons, pointing to the very words, embroidered on his shirt (or whatever you call that robe that chefs wear...)

"Anyone heard of Laduree?"

A few of us, me included, nodded. I nodded wide-eyed. Of course I'd heard of it... my roomee blogged about it! Seriously! We are going to learn the recipe used by the most famous macaron-makers in the world! Honestly, I don't believe they'd give out all the secrets, but hey, the basics are good enough. For now.

So, Chef started by demonstrating a batch. He whipped up the batter, piped them into perfect circles while saying how he'd like to see us pipe (anticipating big time comedy, that is). While the shells were baking, he proceeded to make the filling.

"Anyone heard of Italian Meringue Buttercream?"

Again, I nodded excitedly. Granted, I was already very excited just being in the class. It was quite recently that I was reading up on Swiss and Italian Meringue Buttercream, how they are different and which I should try first should I ever want that much of frosting! 

I don't know how much filling he made, but he used 1kg of butter all in all, so... A LOT. This, he divided into several small bowls and added different flavours to each. We had lime, hazelnut, and pistachio to begin with. Later, he also made strawberry, raspberry, orange, apple, and also a super rich and extremely dark chocolate ganache. 

He then showed us how to assemble the dessert by matching pairs of shells most similar in sizes, piping a small amount of filling on one, and pressing them together. I made a joke about how that's gonna be tough for us, for our shells will all be of different sizes, maybe different shapes as well. Had I known just how really true that was, it wouldn't have been that funny. 

These pretty little things were from the first demo batch:

All the photos were taken using my phone (which has a camera but ultimately isn't a camera) so please excuse their quality...

Chef said macarons are best displayed standing. Someone else made a joke about how ours are not going to be able to stand so nicely due to being out-of-shape and/or having the two halves mismatched in size. Again, true.

The first batch we whipped we used ground almond, resulting in a smooth top. Apparently, both the Outdoor Expert and I aren't exactly very skilled in piping...

Fortunately, they don't look that horrible after assembly. We had to rip those conjoined shells apart, though, and that wasn't pretty nor classy at all.

While everyone was busy whipping up the second batch of macarons using ground hazelnut, Chef decorated a cake with some of those he'd made earlier:

Notice the orange one of the left? Yup, ours! Chef walked past our station, picked it up and used it. We totally took it as a compliment of the highest sort and deluded ourselves into many minutes of pure happiness.

Another cake that Chef decorated:

In all seriousness, the first batter we made was too thin, resulting in difficulty in piping and thus, the sloppy, spread-out shells of different sizes and odd shapes. The thinness was due to under-whipping the meringue, said Chef. So, for our next batter, I totally went overboard and "over-whipped". But we got these:


We were joking about how we're now ready to take orders for homemade macarons when I realised I'd probably never be able to achieve the same results at home. Reason is, right after piping, we just hung around laughing at ourselves and others, walking about poking our noses into other people's piping, taking photos of all the different colours there are... and let the two student helpers do all the baking for us.

So, yea, I have no idea how to actually bake them. If jamming them into the oven, counting 10 minutes then taking them out works, great. Otherwise..... :P

Thursday, July 26, 2012

At 1+ AM

As much as possible, I avoid posting copyrighted photos uncredited, so really, if I knew where the credit lies, I would say it. However, I can't even remember exactly where or when I stumbled upon the following:

I only remember thinking that Julie Andrews looks great! I mean, I don't usually have a thing for older women (older men, yes!) but, whoa... she definitely looks better than the young lady (whose name escapes me right now) next to her.

In the movie, she plays the young lady's grandmother, I recall. When I am her age, I want to look better than my granddaughter (assuming I'll have one)...

Goodnight, world!

P/S: I sort of wrote about my looks and how vain I want to be about it... that makes this my first sort of bimbo post! Yay...?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cake Tales

Once upon a time, The Roomees gathered to celebrate a very special occasion, which was really a combination of 3 special occasions. They ordered a "triple celebration" cake and the wonderful baker came up with this beautiful creation:

Before the big day, Mee Mee shared with Nee Lee this message she got from the baker:

"... this is the triple-celebration cake. The shell is mango-flavoured chocolate, the blue is white chocolate and the other one is strawberry chocolate and dark chocolate. I hope you'll like it. It's quite difficult to combine the 3 different things together..."

Nee Lee, who was obviously not right then in the most rational mental state, got all excited and said "Three different flavours! So, we'll need to eat 3 slices of cake each to taste each flavour???"

Mee Mee replied, "Yea!!!"

The day came. Mee Mee and Nee Lee were so sure each of the three "sections" of the cake were of a different flavour, they made Bee Ree, official "cake-cutter", slice the cake up from three different angles. The result:

Of course, there was no such thing as three different cake flavours! The entire cake was simply cappuccino walnut. The baker was describing the decoration. Bee Ree and Shell Shell slapped their foreheads.

Recently, The Roomees got together once again for a celebration. Bee Ree bought the most beautiful cake ever:

Mee Mee asked, "Is every layer a different flavour???"

Nee Lee waited in eager anticipation for the answer...

Bee Ree said, "NO!!!"

It was then cut in the dignified manner which cakes should have the right to be.

The End.

Further reading:
The Radioactive Cake Celebration
The Rainbow Cake Celebration

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Forty Sets of Sun Salutation

What's running in my mind -

At the beginning:
Right, here we go, I wonder how many we'll be doing...

Completed 5 sets:
Can it be six? Can it be eight? I wish... although, going at this pace, it really doesn't look like it's gonna be this few...

Completed 15 sets:
What? Did she just say "Keep going, do not stop"? Man, we are going for 20 sets aren't we? I'm tired, I'm bored, I'm tired, I'm bored...

Completed 20 sets:
OK, it's gotta be 25. My arms are killing me and I'm starting to go out of breath, but I can make it to 25. Keep going, keep going...

Completed 25 sets:
We are still keeping it going?! GOSH! She's going to make us do 50 sets! Fifty!!! *ARGHHH* I'm so exhausted! I can't make it to 50, I just can't! My arms are wobbly, my almost-completely-healed wrist is starting to hurt, I can't catch my breath, sweat is trickling down my forehead into my eyes and turning into tears.....

Completed 35 sets:
Hmmm, after this I really should get a hot chocolate. Maybe some noodles tonight. Tomorrow I'm going to have that bun I absentmindedly left in office. I hope no ants will get to it... oh, but I still have some gingerbread. So, maybe one of them for breakfast and the other for afternoon tea? And that email... I must remember to attend to it first thing in the morning.....

Completed 40 sets:
What? We're done? Did she just say we're done? Oh wow! I'm dizzy, my vision is blurry and I can't really stand anymore... but wow, forty sets! I just completed forty sets of Surya Namaskar! What a great feeling! I wonder how many calories I'd burned there. I'm so gonna blog about this! Yippeee!

When practicing yoga, one should, as much as possible, rid one's mind of all irrelevant thoughts and focus on the breathing and the poses alone.

Yea, I'm not there yet =P

Friday, June 22, 2012


This is one of those really annoying times I've gone to bed more than an hour earlier, only to realise sleep would not come, no matter how hard I try. Yes, lots on my mind. Way too much! It did occur to me to write it all out, for it's what I do best and what brings me rest. Then again, seriously - who wants to read of all the matters that trouble me, things that hurt me, stuff that make me cry et cetera? So, how about a story instead? Surely, when one cannot sleep, it's time for a story?

A couple of years ago, I shared a story of a camping trip I had as a teenager. The rain threatening to flood our tents was just the opening act. The major thing was much, much less amusing. It was, after all, our very first time out camping all on our own, and we thought no further than having the time of our lives. Just imagine - a bunch of girls (40 cadets plus 10 or so probably incompetent "camp leaders" - the committee members) wanting to do manly stuff. The only thing we did sort of okay was pitching up tents that didn't fall down while we were in them - and even that wasn't perfect because we forgot the trenches. (Read the previous story!)

We reached the campsite in the morning of the first day, unloaded all the stuff from the bus, fed the girls their brunch and got to work on pitching up the tents. Then, it rained and drama ensued. Lots of it. (Seriously, read the previous story!)

By afternoon, the rain had stopped. It was bright and sunny and everything pleasant. We hiked a little way off campsite and frolicked in a stream. It was shallow and bubbly, the water cool and clear, and the girls all giddy and silly. Everyone was playing and laughing, enjoying every moment. So far so good.

Then, evening came and it was time to make dinner. It's been a long time, really, but I remember we only had 2 or 3 burner stoves, to be shared by everyone. Dinner was simply some canned food which the girls (4 to a group or so) had to cook by themselves. Here's a picture of how accomplished in cooking girls of my era are: there are 8 girls in my group of very close-knit girlfriends, and out of that, at 15 or 16 years old, only my friend, Big Eyes and me could make decent fried rice, mee or meehoon. Some can't even fry an egg without the final output appearing burnt and butchered. Yes, that bad. But no, no one set anything on fire while cooking - the comedy was to come later.

After dinner we gathered at a small pavilion for some songs, dances, sketches, stories-sharing - all the fun stuff. All the girls were enjoying themselves so much they must have thought that was the best camping trip ever (or so I liked to believe, while I still could...) Then, came the comedy. It's really a tragedy, but since it was such a long time ago, it's become comedy.

My friends, the other committee members, concluded that the cause of this comedy was the girls' dinner. They played in the water upstream, and then collected water downstream to cook with! In retrospect, it might not be likely, for they played in the afternoon and made dinner in the evening... I am more inclined now to think it was because they didn't know the first thing about cooking - most didn't wait till their concoction boiled before taking the pots off the stoves. 

It was bedtime when the first girls started getting tummy aches. It wasn't much of a problem, as we had two toilets right next to the campsite. Within the next couple of hours though, it became quite clear we had a huge issue. Almost all the girls were stricken with diarrhoea. Two toilets to about 40 girls. Imagine. Wait, don't imagine! There was nothing we could do. We were first-aiders and we had first-aid kits stocked full of supplies to treat sprains and strains, cuts and burns, maybe even small fractures, but not food poisoning. The girls just had to take turns at the two toilets until their bowels cleared. The queue outside the restrooms lasted the entire night, until the next morning.

Ironically, all but one of us, the seniors, were fine. We sat a table with wooden benches, kept awake in shifts and actually had the time of our lives. I had my first experience of the I'm-being-watched feeling. I was back-facing this really huge tree, and I kept having a feeling that something was watching me. I turned back several times in the course of half an hour or so, and saw nothing but that tree. A little while later, a friend joined me, and it wasn't several minutes before she turned as well, citing the same feeling of being watched. Then, a third friend came and joined us, and that feeling went away. We talked and joked and laughed, and talked and talked some more. Reader, you know how I somehow have the ability to say the stupidest things in the wrongest times to cause unwitting listeners, usually in the midst of drinking, to spit water they are otherwise supposed to swallow. (Example here) So, my friend was sipping tea from a glass we'd been sharing (by "we", I mean all my friends at the table and those who came and went) and I said something, well, "funny". She nearly choked on her drink, spit the very last drops from her mouth back into the glass and laughed heartily for a good couple of minutes. After that, we left the table for a while and when we got back, to our horror, we found the glass almost empty. Someone had drunk the spit-mixed tea! We asked a few girls in panic and found the one who drank from the glass. She was clearly very upset when we told her, but it was still pretty funny to us. So, we went around telling the funny story to our other friends, until my bestfriend frowned when we told her. She drank from the cup too, she said, indignant, but the story just became doubly funny.

While we were having all that fun, the girls were still taking turns at the two toilets. Then, one of my friends started feeling sick too. By that time though, half of us had stayed up half the night, so it was time to end our "watch" shift and go to sleep. My friend told the following story for years afterwards although I have absolutely no memory of it. According to her, right before we went to sleep (we were in the same tent), she told me she was afraid to go to the toilet on her own in the dark, but she knew she would need to, with her tummy aching and all. I, she alleged, declared that I will go with her when she needs to - just wake me up, buddy! And then, when she really needed to go and tried to wake me up, I simply turned to the other side without opening half an eye and continued sleeping. Seriously, she told this of me for years!

Anyhow, we all made it through the night. A bunch of us, me included, woke really early and took a walk along a trail where we saw beautiful rays of sun piercing through the thick morning mist onto a bunch of giant bamboo plants. We hurried back to the camp to get the others to go and have a look, but everyone was too sick and too tired, and they just wanted to go home. They said it was the most horrible camping trip ever and they just wanted to go home.

We made the girls take down their tents and pack up while we did the dirtier job. What dirtier job, you ask? Remember, 40 girls having diarrhoea through the night and two toilets. Someone's gonna have to clean those two toilets. So, we wrapped ourselves up in black garbage bags and we did. We even had a photo taken of us - all in a row in garbage bag fashion - but I don't think I have it anymore.

The End.

Sleep will come now.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Traveler

The thing is, I never really considered myself sociable (I still don't). I don't like approaching people and most of the time, I don't enjoy small talk with non-friends. When I was in school, my friends and I were expected to foster friendship with cadets from other schools during events like annual gatherings and campfires, and I would be one of those who'd perform most poorly in this "socializing" task. 

I used to think it's because I am somewhat shy, but once, when I dared describe myself as "shy" and all of my closest friends gave the same response, "You must be kidding!", I had to accept the fact that maybe it isn't shyness. I mean, I'm talkative by nature and I find it hard to run out of things to talk about, so if I really want to, I guess I shouldn't find it hard to simply walk up to someone and start a conversation. So, maybe I just don't like taking the initiative to be friendly. In fact, most of the time, I wish strangers wouldn't talk to me. For the "protagonist" of this post, though, I'm glad he did.

It was a lovely evening and I was taking a solitary stroll along the beach. A bunch of local men were bundling tourists onto a banana boat and they asked me to join in for a ride. I politely declined, citing fear. They offered to let me ride in the speedboat (which will be pulling the banana boat) instead. I declined again and after several minutes of courtesy chit-chat, I went on. A little way ahead was a lone man with tousled shoulder-length hair, relaxing and watching life around him. He smiled warmly as I walked by and I smiled back (because it would be impolite not to). It took no more than ten or fifteen minutes' leisurely pace to reach the end of the stretch at which I turned back. The man was still there, and as I passed him again, he smiled and said "Hi."

I said "Hi" in return, and we started chatting. 

It began as all usual conversations would - where we are from, whether we're there for work or leisure - and then, I took an extreme interest in him. He's traveling to see the world, he said, in his mobile home, which he's driven all the way from his home in Germany, out of Europe, through the Middle East, India, Indochina etc, and had been parked at Batu Ferringhi Beach, Penang, for ten days. I was beyond amazed. I am aware that it isn't uncommon for some people to take months off work (and regular life) to travel, but that was the first time I'd met anyone who's spent almost a year on the road... literally! At the time of our chance meeting, he was a week away from the first anniversary of his traveling, and his journey wasn't at its end... once he's reached "the end" (I think it is Singapore, but my memory is poorly these days) he will turn back and trace a slightly different route back to his home, possibly through vast China. That will take another year or more.

I asked for his permission to take a photo of his mobile home. He graciously allowed me.

I spent the evening talking to this fascinating man. He told of his many encounters in the foreign countries he's been - the people, the culture, the ease or difficulty with which he made his drive across and meeting other travelers like himself. He showed me his solar power generator, which provides electricity for appliances in his vehicle; the little boat and the bike which he hauls with him, for local exploration when he's parked somewhere; picture books of common objects which he uses for communication in countries which languages he doesn't speak - he would just point to the picture(s) that indicate what he needed; and a map on which he tracked his journey thus far -

I had so many questions to ask - he put up with me good-humouredly and answered everything. He talked of his life (and life in general) in Germany, his work, his wife and children, and his past travels. He asked me stuff as well and I painfully remembered I don't really know much about interesting spots in my country. Remember the last time I went gallivanting around town with the lost boys from Europe? Yea, that was the one and only time. I kept thinking, if it was my bestfriend, she would have made a far, FAR better conversation with this traveler than I ever could have.

I don't generally talk to strangers, and still don't think it is wise to, but for this - well, I guess I'm fortunate. It isn't yet a year since our chance meeting. He should still be driving, somewhere, right now. All the best, F! Thank you for your stories.