In brief...

I'm a Nature-lover, aspiring conservationist, and wannabe traveller in search of outdoor adventure.
My interests vary from conservation to education to heritage to Nature (biodiversity & wildlife) to outdoor activities to life in general.
They occupy most of my waking moment.
Do read my blogs, follow me on Twitter (@jocelynesze) and friend me on Facebook (subject to my discretion). Visit my Nature blog, Nature Rambles, at http://natureramble.wordpress.com.

UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit jocelynesze.wordpress.com if you're interested in more recent writing.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 - A more exciting year than average.

Note: this is a scheduled post, cos I am right now somewhere on this hike. This post was actually written in mid Nov, before I left wifi.

I don't really feel like I'm in that end-of-year reflective nostalgic mood yet, partly cos it is mid Nov right now and I'm about to start an adventure (so the contents might not quite match up to the title). But because I will be out of contact for a few months, especially Christmas and New Year and Chinese New Year, I feel compelled to at least schedule something to come out, in keeping with my blogging tradition of the past few years.

So I finished a masters this year, completed a research project that had been rather exciting (and learnt a lot of R coding and some Python along the way), did my first multi-pitch climb, red-pointed a couple of 7as in the climbing gyms, and had quite a bit of ups and downs over the year. This blog has been fairly dismal to be honest, this past year. But wells, such is life I guess. Ending the year on an adventure though, is probably a high that I cannot yet talk about.

On a less personal level, it's been a crazy year, with Brexit and Trump. How the world will be when I come back to wifi and the Internet, only time will tell.

I will probably have more to write about after I've had my own thoughts to ruminate on for 67 days. And I am looking forward to 2017, with all its uncertainties and unknowns. If anyone's got a job opportunity, drop me a message please, I'm not part of the unemployed ;)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Travelling solo.

I quite enjoy opportunities to travel on my own. The ability to go where I want when I want, without considering others. To be able to stop when I want. To have only my thoughts echoing in my mind and no other voices (though that it is sometimes also a pain). Of course there is also a heightened sense of alertness when I wander on my own. Of having to figure out things on my own with no one else to bounce ideas off. Freedom vs. security I guess, like so many other tradeoffs (for e.g. in Singapore). 

When I travel, I spend my time wandering streets somewhat aimlessly, going where my feet takes me, following the crowds. I look at people on the streets - the vendors, the beggars, the office workers, the kids, the elderly. All these labels for humans. I sometimes wonder what they think, how they feel. I find it hard sometimes, as a tourist, to walk the streets. Knowing that I at least had the money to travel halfway across the world, money to find a place to stay and food to eat, money to spend on attractions and travelling more. And seeing some people living on the streets and knowing they have barely a fraction of that. Yet I cannot be giving money to everyone - it is not mine to give anyway, being financially still dependent on my parents (and I've written about this but in the Cambridge context before). And so I don't know what to do, what I can do, beyond just thinking about that and saying a little prayer for each one as I walk past, on my way to some other tourist attraction, where they'll soon be put out of my mind. 

I gave some money to this guy who boarded our local bus yesterday, held up a photograph of him and his mum, and gave a spell about his mum who is ill and needs money for treatment (it was all in very rapid Chilean Spanish but I got the rough gist of it). He looked around the bus after his speech and looked into everyone's eyes, and most people avert. As we do when we walk past people on the streets. My friends whom I was with at that point think me a fool, cos how do you know it's not a scam (there are so many scams out there, of syndicates and drugged children and slavery to beg on the streets, or just people who could work but rather not.) But I think I need to keep giving people the benefit of the doubt and believe and have faith in humanity. 

In any case, I'll soon be travelling with constant companionship for a few months anyway, and being in as isolated a place as we will be, there'll be little chance for meeting people in such situations. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

This world we live in - Part II.

As many memes out there on the interwebs suggest, 2016 has been a seemingly terrible year for humanity and many people everywhere would like to hit the restart button. The American elections results which came in on the day I landed in Santiago, Chile (the whole election was done while I was in the air, in no man's land, uncaring of the going-ons of the world below me) was highly divisive, like Brexit results a few months ago. People are arguing about the results, and again like many other social issues people are arguing about the appropriate response to the results (whether being silent is condoning Trump and his ideologies, or how we should just accept what the people have decided they want or how we should all move on and realise humanity is bigger than this and Trump alone won't kill the USA/world etc.)

Yeah, this world we live in has many flaws. And I suppose it might seem to have taken a few huge steps backwards this year. But I think not. I think we can never really know how anything might turn out, and predicting the future is a tricky business. There are many little triumphs that have been scored on humanitarian and environmental fronts. And Planet Earth II came out, though I have yet to watch it.

It's not so much focusing on the good news and not being despondent about the future just because two major countries had elections in which the outcome seemed to favour backward regression on the humanitarian and environmental fronts. I think we should all try and live better, more thoughtfully, with more courage and kindness (something that stuck with me from watching Disney's 2015 remake of Cinderella), and hopefully with everyone doing that, the world will become a better place. Hope's the only thing that can keep us going.
"There can be miracles/When you believe/Though hope is frail/It's hard to kill" - When You Believe (Prince of Egypt)


Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Travelling with the parents.

Most young adults don't relish the prospect of travelling with their parents. It appears to be something that every young adult dreads once he/she reaches a certain age. But I suppose I have just been very blessed to have parents whom I enjoy travelling with, parents who have been able to travel out to meet me (in various parts of the world) and make my parting from home less severe.

Sure, there is always having to learn again how to get used to them taking 2 hours to get ready to leave the house, the need to boil water to drink even with potable tap water, and endless photo-taking. But that doesn't make for terrible travel companions, it just requires adjustment on my part. And I always get awesome food in exchange.

I'm glad my parents travel like me; or perhaps that I've learnt to travel like them. Budget travel, tho they are more willing to spend than me, and shop more than me. Happy to just wander and walk around cities without specific places to visit.

I get my travel bug from them probably. And my more easy going nature. And budget travel tendencies. And I'm glad they've always been supportive of my travels even when it worries them endlessly.

Best parents ever, who always pack 20kg of food to meet me and cook for me :)

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Last farewell to the UK.

It's my last few days in the UK on a student visa. When I next return in May for graduation, I'll be on a tourist visa like most other people. I'm still not feeling the nostalgia very much; perhaps because the next thing coming up in my life is a rather epic 67 day hike through Patagonia. I was quite nostalgic last year when I was leaving for Cambridge, when I was thinking that perhaps I might not have another year in the uk. But I've had a whole proper calendar year now in the uk, and I feel like I'm ready to leave.

I've had a whole cycle of autumn leaves, blackberries, and apples; winter chill, minimal snow, and lots of heating; spring blooms of daffodils, bluebells, and foxgloves; summer rains, not much sun, and pressing deadlines; and back again to the fall with its Indian summer. I've gone on many more hikes and climbs than I did in the previous three years and visited many more quaint English/Welsh villages. Highlights include Snowdonia, Lyme Regis, Isle of Portland, Forest of Dean, and the Yorkshire Dales.

Like many others who spent their university years here, I'll always have fond memories of this country and cheesy as it sounds, always have a soft spot for the uk. Even with Brexit. I don't want to stay here much longer, but I've had an enjoyable, formative time here. It's undeniable I've changed over the last four years, and especially so over the last. But I don't think I've changed fundamentally, and I am very much at peace with myself and who I am.

I've made some very good friends, some I know I'll keep for life, even if we aren't in the same geographic vicinity. I've picked up a slight? Britishness to my (non-Singaporean) accent, and I understand British culture and humour much more. I've had a really good education with opportunities that I would not be able to get elsewhere. And ultimately I'm just really thankful I've had the chance to come here and do what I did, with the full support of my parents.

I talk endlessly about singapore and being a Singaporean and being overseas. I guess I'm now part of the crowd that's 'too foreign for home, too foreign for here, never enough for both' (quote by Ijeoma Umebinyuo). In terms of mindset and values, perspectives and opinions. In some ways I guess I'm ironically labelling myself and putting myself in a box, but part of me just wants to record my thoughts and emotions at this juncture, regardless of how much I might cringe to read it later (or for others to read).

Anyway, it's a whole new world out there, endless possibilities and options if I make the effort/make certain decisions. Honestly, never have I felt more uncertain about the future, or more free. For once, I actually don't have much of a plan beyond this upcoming hike. Even when I took my gap year before starting undergrad, I had a job lined up and plans to fill the coming months/year. It's gonna be an interesting time, I think.

The UK has got some pretty moments when you can actually see the sky. Winspit Quarry.


Friday, October 07, 2016

Finally an update.

It's been well over a month - almost two in fact - since I last blogged. So much was (and is) going on that I've been finding it hard to just take some time out on my own to contemplate and update. I had intended to blog about my short visit home for my older brother's wedding ceremony, and about British children literature (cos it was some Roald Dahl anniversary a while ago) and how it had influenced me. I've also been thinking of revamping my blogs - getting a domain name and merging the personal and nature/outdoor blogs into one. We'll see though.

So I've finally finished my Master's thesis, submitted it, completed the viva (oral defence), got my results (wasn't disappointed with it, unlike for my undergrad..), and cleared out of campus. A whole year gone by. I went back to Singapore for a week in between doing all that (actually right before submission) for kor's wedding, met lots of relatives I hadn't met in 4 years, and worked on my thesis. Then a lot of packing, camping, getting back into climbing, and now road-tripping through France to South of Spain. With more climbing (in Fontainebleau at the moment!). All the while trying to apply for PhDs. And soon, an epic two month hike through Patagonia. During which I'm sure I'll have plenty of down time to sort myself out. A blog dedicated to the trip and updates should follow at some point, when I get round to it...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Patriotic tears.

I'll confess I didn't stay up (to 2+am in BST) to watch the Olympic 100m butterfly race that made history. I woke up this morning and, as I always do, checked Facebook. It made me get up in a hurry and compulsively trawl the internet for every bit of news about that race, about all the Singaporean reactions to the fact that Joseph Schooling not only won the first Olympic gold for our country, but also set an Olympic record and beat Michael Phelps. I fervently wished I had stayed up, and as I watched a recording of the race and devoured all the news about the event, I was literally in tears. I so wish I were home, cos no one here can understand the feeling. When I told some of my friends, they (n=2) said 'oh I thought Michael Phelps was British'.

Super proud and happy, it lifted my mood a little and I felt like I could spare some time baking some cookies. Gula melaka cookies because I wanted it to be something to do with home.

I wish I had some of Schooling's determination and drive to succeed. Coming to the end of my master's, and being at crunch time now, I am questioning my ability to do science, my life choices (maybe I shouldn't have given up competitive climbing to study for A levels 6 years ago), my compatibility with the career I'm intending to enter (maybe I'm just not suited for academia). But anyway, this post wasn't supposed to be about me, but about Joseph Schooling, who has managed to achieve what no other Singaporean as, and has dared to dream when most of us would have shut it down for practicality's sake.

Rooting for the personal success of all the other Team Singapore athletes too, whether they bring back medals or not.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Happy 51st Singapore

I'm a day late, but all the days just run into each other when you have one massive deadline looming ahead of you (1 September, fyi). No time or brain power to spare to wax lyrical reflections about the relationship between my home town and myself. I do miss home, I miss my family, I miss the food, I love Singlish, and there are things from home that I find endearingly funny but which I know my friends here would never get. But there are other things that I don't miss, and as of this point in time, I still don't know when I'll be back. Anyway, just wanted to say that (some of) these cheesy NDP theme songs are quite suitable as motivational soundtracks for dissertation thesis write-up madness.



Update 10.25pm: I forgot to add that though I was rather tired from taking the overnight coach from Brussels back to London, arriving at 7.30am, then going into UCL to meet my supervisor, then meeting my aunt/uncle for lunch in Chinatown, before going back to Silwood, I did manage to rustle something Singaporean up.
Ondeh-ondeh :) 
Looks horribly messy, partly cos I was too tired to do make it decent-looking, partly cos I added slightly too much water to the dough so it was rather soft and leaked more than usual. But without a doubt, this is probably the dish I'm probably most pleased about having learnt. I don't know if that sentence was grammatically correct, and I'm too tired from reading and writing the whole day to care anymore.

Monday, July 18, 2016

extraordinary day.

Most days just pass by pretty averagely, not different from any other, no different throughout the entire day. Today though, was pretty awesome, awesome enough for me to deem worthy of a blog entry. I rolled out of my bed rather reluctantly, 2 hours after my first alarm rang, feeling completely unmotivated to get out of bed. I was in a very bored mood over the weekend, feeling slightly confined in Silwood, with no one to go climb with or doing anything much with (cos people were away, or catching Pokemon, or doing work). And I thought that mood might last the week. But because today was spectacularly warm, going up to 29/30˚C, I tried to work outside. Does not work. Was too hot for me to concentrate or think properly, and the glare from the screen, and the overheating of laptop all conspired against working. Also, more people are back on campus.

So I just lay about getting nicely burnt to a crisp (did put sunblock on my face, cos I could hear my mum nagging at the back of my head), played frisbee, had a late lunch, then an affogato in the one and only coffeeshop nearby, rolled around a bit more in the shade, did some slack lining, tried to do some R, gave up and went to play more frisbee, climbed some trees, contemplated tackling the manor house, climbed more trees, played more frisbee involving rolling around the grass, and then hung upside down on the pull-up bars because I can. My mood by the end of the day was a stark contrast to that when I woke up. Which I guess deserves to be called an extraordinary day.

And because the weather is so nice, despite the midges, it's back to sleeping out (:

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Silwood in the Summer.

If I were still an undergraduate, summer vacation would have started, and I'd be done with yet another year of studies. As it is, I've still got 2 months and a bit left to go before I'm done with my master's. We passed the summer solstice a few weeks ago, and should well be in to the British summer. It's my first time staying this long in the UK, and well, let's just say I had thought better of British summers before.

Pretty much sums it up for me. 

I've also been spending a lot more time on campus (instead of commuting into London for a few days every week). It is nicer in the summer, I'm at least usually warm in my room. If the weather held up, and if I wanted to, I can go for walks/runs. There still aren't as many people around as at the start of the (academic) year, but people are starting to come back.

55 days left to thesis deadline. I've got some preliminary results though, so I'm feeling a lot better, and actually have something to write about now. Need to make sure I'm not getting complacent and slacking off though. Have spent a few nice weekends fossil hunting in Lyme Regis (Dorset), hiking in Brecon Beacons (Wales), gonna go climb in Portland (Dorset) this weekend, and a fair amount of cooking/baking. Not just everyday cooking of my meals, but decent, presentable food for others.


A pretty ammonite fossil found by my friend while at Lyme Regis

So many foals and lambs about Brecon Beacons :) 


Caramelised upside down banana cake

Ondeh ondeh!

 Butternut squash ravioli with sage butter (hand made pasta dough!)

 Also gone for two long runs (>10km) in the past few weeks, which I'm rather pleased about. It's usually too much effort even for me to run 5km.

Quite looking forward to going home, if just for a short week, at the end of next month.

Friday, June 24, 2016

This world we live in.

I've always been rather pleased I ended up doing my undergraduate degree in the UK than the US. Every time reports of mass shootings and ridiculous politics in the US filtered through my newsfeed, it made me glad I was in a country which seemed rather more sensible. Where the people I met in the countryside (when I went for hikes/field trips) were so nice and welcoming, rather than backward and xenophobic. No longer, I guess.

I always thought I was quite moderate in my views, quite in tandem with most people. Only on my Facebook/Twitter I guess; nothing I ever voted for won, my views clearly don't reflect the majority.

It's honestly quite scary and alarming to be living in this world, where people can inflict so much pain and suffering and misery on others, whether directly or indirectly, individually or en masse. Maybe I've just been reading too many negative news articles - child abuse, sexual assaults, discrimination against LGBT+/the mentally ill, racist or xenophobic comments. Coral bleaching, deforestation, murders of environmental activists, wildlife abuse.

None of it is new, or exclusive to this age we live in. People being horrible to each other and to the environment have been going on since the emergence of human kind. We have progressed since then, with the outlaw of slavery, the improvement of human and animal rights. Still though, we'll never get rid of xenophobia will we. There'll always be an 'us' vs 'them', 'fellow countrymen' vs 'outsiders'/'foreigners'/'aliens'. Cos we all want to feel like we belong somewhere, something exclusive and private. 'Global citizens', 'the world is my oyster', 'the world is my home' etc, they're just catch phrases for a small group of (usually privileged) individuals who are able to move around, or perhaps cannot settle down.

I need to surround myself with more positivity and hope. Happy fluffy animals, cute chubby kids, and (seemingly rare) acts of kindness and love are about all that make me smile now.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

In or Out.

Today the UK holds its third referendum - whether to remain in the EU, or to leave. There's been much hype about it over the past few months, especially in the last few weeks. And because Brits once claimed Singapore as their own, as a current resident in their country now, I get to vote too. It's (probably) going to be my last vote here in the UK, and it's such an important vote too. Most people usually hope that their vote wins, but I'm usually not too fussed about the results - after all, politicians come and go, parties stay in power for a term of four or five years, not that much changes. This time though, I really really hope the UK votes to remain. As do most people of my demographic. Can't really be bothered going into detail about UK politics. I'm just rather pleased about being able to exercise my postcolonial rights.

Monday, June 13, 2016

ups and downs; bits and bobs.

Too many shootings and rapes/sexual assaults recently. Then again, it happens all the time, everywhere, usually unnoticed. And war, and terrorist attacks, and all sorts of human unhappiness and misery. It is overwhelming, and I often feel reduced to despair after reading articles like this. I simply cannot understand how the human capacity to love and empathise comes with the human capacity to hate and cause such destruction and suffering. (Well I do get it, that 'only in darkness does light shine'. But still.)

And it's not human destruction, but environmental destruction too.


My project is on deforestation, but I spend hours just sitting at my desk, reading up on (spatial) statistical models, their differences and assumptions. And I feel like I'm not doing enough, I'm not doing anything. And I think, maybe I should. Maybe a PhD isn't for me, maybe I should go join Greenpeace or some other activist group.

I've asked some friends about their experience doing PhDs, and one of them warned about depression. And I can see why; thoughts can run so wild, and emotions are so difficult to control.


Anyway, some photos of when I'm not project-ing.
Cecil Street, near Leicester Square, with lots of antique bookshops
One nice sunny day and everyone's out, at Gordon Square Garden opposite UCL

Field of poppies in Silwood Park :) 
Not too bad an attempt at a leopard?
Not too bad an attempt at a golden-headed lion tamarin?

Blanching vegetables to freeze them so they keep longer
Courgette pesto pasta bake
Attempt at 铁板豆腐 (hotplate tofu), using Quorn mince
Sushi :) Found inari at Japan Centre. With tamagoyaki, avocado, and cucumber filling

Monday, June 06, 2016

First aid course and helplessness.

I realised at the end of a two-day outdoors/field work first aid course that I just attended this weekend, that a huge motivation for doing what I do is disliking the feeling of being helpless. I always try to learn new skills, especially technical outdoor skills, mainly because I don't ever want to be in a situation where I don't know what to do. In part, perhaps because I don't trust the people I'm with to be able to get things done, but also because I don't want to have to rely on others all the time. Not if my life depends on it, not if it means I'll be restricted in what I can/cannot do. Having been 'trained' (read: gone out with friends who are instructors and learned as much as possible from them) in rope work means I can go outdoors to climb and am quite happy and comfortable bringing other people with less experience out. Instead of having to wait for someone with more experience than me (which can be strangely rare, though I'm not even certified or properly trained) to take me out.

The first aid course was immensely useful. I think I'm fairly well-trained in first aid (though any certification I had expired long ago), to the point that I always have a personal first aid kit when I go outdoors/travel (and I don't get why people don't usually have this). Nonetheless, there is plenty that I had forgotten, or never really knew. And I realised while we were practising scenarios, that though I thought my first aid skills were quite up to par, when you're actually faced with a proper crisis (not just a sprain while walking on the English hills), with blood gushing out and a panicking casualty, it's really difficult to think properly and get the necessary information out to make a proper assessment of the issue. I'm really hoping I never come across situations where I'd have to employ these skills.

Attending a first aid course (even a most basic one) should be necessary for everyone, I think. And if you go outdoors at all, an outdoors first aid course really ought to be mandatory. The people that get me most are those who overestimate their abilities, whether due to arrogance/pride/ignorance/lack of preparation, and inadvertently put themselves at more risk than is necessary.

Not knowing what to do is a most debilitating feeling I think. I suppose that's why I try to keep myself busy usually, so I don't get myself into situations where I don't know what to do too often. Being in Silwood, that has been rather difficult to achieve, but I'm making it up with improving my cooking/baking skills, and possibly drawing too.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Updates.

Is usually the subject of my emails to my supervisors. I'm not quite progressing as fast as I would like in my project, partly perhaps because I'm not working hard enough?, partly because I often have to go back and repeat analyses cos I realised I made a mistake somewhere in my code, partly because I'm sometimes just waiting for people to reply some query I have.

It's been a most interesting year, in terms of the things I've been learning. Nothing so much biological as much as computational. I'm starting to wonder why I even did zoology, and when I watch documentaries there's always that slight nostalgia, as though being a field biologist is now a long gone dream. Which when I think about it, is quite silly cos I'm still just a masters student with the rest of my career ahead of me.

When you're trying to unzip 100 folders at once. I find it fascinating how the computer chooses a random point on the screen to put a new finder window and stacks it till it can't anymore and finds another random point. And yes, I have a countdown of the number of days to my thesis submission.
I've been trying to get my computational and data management skills up to scratch, like using git/github to version control. I'm just mildly amused really, at what I'm doing now and how different it is to what I thought a few years ago that I would be doing now. I am enjoying it though, still.

At least my 'zoological' training didn't go to waste I guess, I managed to get all but two of the questions right in this animal quiz..

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Wanderlust.

I think every two months or so, I'm struck by wanderlust and the irrepressible urge to go somewhere on my own. And when I can't, I start planning where to go. And not just travel anywhere. I crave waldeinsamkeit.


Image from Give A Shit About Nature.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Into a fantasy.



Into A Fantasy - Alexander Rybak (from HTTYD2)

I have a dream
You are there
High above the clouds somewhere
Rain is falling from the sky
But it never touches you
You're way up high

No more worries
No more fears
You have made them disappear
Sadness tried to steal the show
But now it feels like many years ago

And I
I will be with you every step (Hey! Hey!)
Tonight
I found a friend in you
And I'll keep you close forever

Come fly with me (oh-oh oh-oh)
Into a fantasy (oh-oh oh-oh)
Where you can be
Whoever you want to be
Come fly with me

We can fly all day long
Show me the world
Sing me a song
Tell me what the future holds
You and me will paint it all in gold!

And I
I will believe your every word (Hey! Hey!)
'Cause I
I have a friend in you
We'll always stay together

Come fly with me (oh-oh oh-oh)
Into a fantasy (oh-oh oh-oh)
Where you can be
Whoever you want to be
Come fly with me

(Hey!)

And I
I will be with you every step
Tonight
I found a friend in you
And I keep you close forever

Come fly with me
Into a fantasy
Where you can be
Whoever you want to be
Come fly with me

Come fly with me (oh-oh oh-oh)
Into a fantasy (oh-oh oh-oh)
Where you can be
Whoever you want to be
Come fly with me

(Hey!)

Friday, May 06, 2016

Micro failures and achievements.

The term microadventure was coined by Alastair Humphreys, which he defined as "overnight outdoor adventure that is "small and achievable, for normal people with real lives"". To encourage people to go outdoors and have adventures more often, cos it's good for you. I guess cos 'adventure' to most people seems like something that others do, that it's a big thing which makes it slightly daunting.

Similarly, we seem to only make a fuss over major failures and achievements in life. Setbacks in life like failing an important exam, or milestones in life like getting accepted into a prestigious university (yeah my examples are rather academic-oriented, I wonder why...). But they say it's the little things in life that matter.

And so in that spirit, my microfailure was having to switch my laptop back into English (I set it to Mandarin Chinese about a month ago, in an attempt to keep up my Mother Tongue), cos I was getting too frustrated with not being able to find what I needed (to edit graphs in Excel). It's rather tragic, but then again, I'm not sure if my parents, both of whom are Chinese-educated, would have been able to efficiently navigate their computers in Chinese either... So I guess the extent of my Chinese language ability now is limited to being able to sing/understand Chinese songs.

On the other hand, my code writing in R has definitely improved. Fair enough, I'm often using the same functions and commands, but I've slowly added to my repertoire of 'basic functions', can incorporate checks, and can write slightly more eloquently. Gives me a sense of satisfaction (almost as much as flashing a difficult route) when a block of code I've written from scratch and not tested out line by line works without giving me errors.

Also, I made aubergine (aka eggplant/brinjal) lasagna (first time baking a lasagna!) two days ago, and it turned out pretty decent, and made pasta from scratch yesterday. Pasta wasn't perfect (dough was a bit too dry), but for a first try, it wasn't too bad.

This masters course is as much about improving my cooking skills as it is about improving my research/coding skills...

Saturday, April 30, 2016

What makes you weird?

I know I'm weird, in that slightly geeky way, but I never really thought that was too far off normal. After all, there are lots of people out there who can go on and on about Harry Potter, and spout ecology/evolution facts randomly, and have their eyes shine at the thought of data and mapping and other cool stuff like that too. I can read other people's body language and carry out (pretty normal?) conversations, so I think I'm still pretty normal.

What I think, perhaps, makes me really weird is how emotional I can get when reading. I'm about to finish The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng, which I got at a second-hand bookstore somewhere sometime ago. It's the kind of fiction I like - set in some historical context, describing events that had happened, though the characters are fictional. They give me a rich in-depth into life at that point, provide cultural and historical context for the region (other historical fiction I really liked was Ken Follett's Century Trilogy, set in the first and second world wars), and I learn so much from them. Pretty much like memoirs which I enjoy as well (Bound Feet & Western Dress by Pang-Mei Natasha Chang, and Wild Swans by Jung Chang, both of which I had read ages ago as a kid), though knowing it's not entirely real makes me feel like it's a lighter read.

Anyway, I don't quite know anyone who gets so emotionally affected when reading. Or maybe people just don't talk about it very much. I cried, so hard, when Twan Eng described the Japanese invasion of Malaya, the cruelties, innocents abruptly taken away, relationships rent, hearts broken. And I kept crying, though I know the characters are fictional, because there were people like that who had existed, who had experienced all the hardships. And as always, it gets me wondering why, why are there wars, how can people be so cruel to others, and though all that had had happened in the past, why such misery can still exist in the present. And I grieve for everyone who has not been as fortunate as I have, and it makes me even more determined to make my life worthwhile.

Does anyone else quite get so affected when reading? Is that actually normal?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Motivation.

I'm halfway through my project, and I'm only just about to start the actual research bit. The past four months have been spent just processing the data I downloaded off the internet into something that I can use as an input. I.e. now's the 'new' bit, and I'm desperately wishing we were taught some spatial statistics and GIS stuff before. Reading up on my own is like a blind person in a maze, trying to get out. Slow progress, but I'll be real pleased once I get it down.

When You Believe - Mariah Carey & Whitney Houston (from the Prince of Egypt)
Many nights we prayed
With no proof anyone could hear
In our hearts a hope for a song
We barely understood

Now we are not afraid
Although we know there's much to fear
We were moving mountains
Long before we knew we could, whoa, yes

There can be miracles
When you believe
Though hope is frail
Its hard to kill

Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe somehow you will
You will when you believe

(Mmmmmmmmmyeah)
Mmmyeah
In this time of fear
When prayer so often proves in vain

Hope seems like the summer bird
Too swiftly flown away
Yet now I'm standing here
My hearts so full, I can't explain

Seeking faith and speakin' words
I never thought I'd say
There can be miracles
When you believe (When you believe)

Though hope is frail
Its hard to kill (Mmm)
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve (You can achieve)

When you believe somehow you will
You will when you believe
(Hey)
(Ooh)

They don't always happen when you ask
And its easy to give in to your fears
But when you're blinded by your pain
Can't see the way, get through the rain

A small but still, resilient voice
Says hope is very near, oh (Oh)
There can be miracles (Miracles)
When you believe (Boy, when you believe, yeah) (Though hope is frail)

Though hope is frail (Its hard)
Its hard to kill (Hard to kill, oh, yeah)
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve (You can achieve, oh)

When you believe somehow you will (Somehow, somehow, somehow)
Somehow you will (I know, I know, know)
You will when you believe (When you)
(Oh oh)

(You will when you)
(You will when you believe)
(Ohoohooh)
(Oh, oh)

(When you believe)
(When you believe)


Try Everything - Shakira (from Zootropolis/Zootopia)
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Oh oh oh oh oooh

I messed up tonight, I lost another fight
I still mess up but I'll just start again
I keep falling down
I keep on hitting the ground
I always get up now to see what's next

Birds don't just fly, they fall down and get up
Nobody learns without getting it won

I won't give up, no I won't give in
Till I reach the end and then I'll start again
No I won't leave, I wanna try everything
I wanna try even though I could fail
I won't give up, no I won't give in
Til I reach the end and then I'll start again
No I won't leave, I wanna try everything
I wanna try even though I could fail

Oh oh oh oh oooh
Try everything
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Try everything
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Try everything
Oh oh oh oh oooh

Look at how far you've come, you filled your heart with love
Baby you've done enough that cut your breath
Don't beat yourself up, don't need to run so fast
Sometimes we come last, but we did our best

I won't give up, no I won't give in
Til I reach the end and then I'll start again
No I won't leave, I wanna try everything
I wanna try even though I could fail
I won't give up, no I won't give in
Til I reach the end and then I'll start again
No I won't leave, I wanna try everything
I wanna try even though I could fail

I'll keep on making those new mistakes
I'll keep on making them every day
Those new mistakes

Oh oh oh oh oooh
Try everything
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Try everything
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Try everything
Oh oh oh oh oooh
Try everything


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Keeping up my mother tongue and third language.

I haven't quite heard it in a while, but I recall hearing this a fair amount in my first year in the UK, when talking to strangers: "You speak really good English!" (the last time I heard this was during the Pennine Way somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales when I was chatting with a shepherd/sheep farmer) A smart-alec answer could be "Thank you, so do you!", but I often just laugh and try and explain the Singapore education system/Singapore.

I would consider myself an English native speaker, but saying that English is my first language makes me more uncomfortable - after all, I technically grew up with both English and Chinese (Mandarin Chinese). My parents speak both languages, and I learnt both languages at the same time. However, the fact that my parents speak and understand English, and that every other subject (apart from Moral Education) is taught in English are obviously what makes me more fluent and confident in English than in Chinese, despite my supposed bilingualism.

Anyhows, I think in English, and speak and write and listen and read English way better than Chinese. My Chinese standard has definitely dropped, especially over the last four years of being here, since the numbers of people speaking it conversationally are fewer. I then picked up Spanish in my second year, thinking it would be very handy and probably easier to learn than French (which I tried to learn at 13 years old but failed miserably). Attended basic Spanish lessons for a year, highly subsidised in Cambridge, then went to Ecuador and Peru for two months. Since then though, I've not really been keeping up Spanish, either with DuoLingo/Memrise consistently, or attending proper lessons (cos Imperial doesn't subsidise language lessons as much and they're wayyy out of my budget).

I've had my laptop settings set to announce the time every hour for a number of years now, because I realised I often get absorbed in my work and lose track of time and end up sleeping too late. Playing around with the settings some time a few weeks ago, I realised I could set it to announce the time in other languages, and I settled for Spanish. My laptop told me that it wouldn't work very well if the rest of the system language was not Spanish, and so I changed my laptop settings to Spanish. That went alright for a week or so, but then I wanted to set up an Imperial VPN so I could easily access academic journals without hassle and gave up on the Spanish.

Subsequently though, my itchy fingers led me back to the language settings, and I thought why not set it to Chinese, which I should be more familiar with than Spanish, and would help me keep up the language. But because I still want to improve my Spanish, I decided to switch my Facebook settings to Spanish. It's been about a week now, and I'm glad to say, I have learnt some new vocabulary, and have not majorly messed up anything.

Did you know that Copy on Safari is 拷贝? I always thought it would just be 抄. Microsoft Word is 文档, Documents is 文稿 and PDF is 便携文稿格式.

On Facebook, the space for you to update your status usually asks "What's on your mind?", but in Spanish, it's "Qué piensas?", Home is inicio, tagged is etiquetó, link is enlace, and profile is perfil. Interestingly,  for Facebook in Chinese (just to see what it was like),  it just asks you to "分享新鲜事" (Share new things), friends are 用户 (not 朋友!), and like is 赞 (not 喜欢).

So it's fairly fun, definitely learning new words and thinking more in Chinese, shall see how long I can keep this up for.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Back in Cambridge.

When I found out there was going to be an ecology/conservation symposium in Cambridge, I quickly registered (after finding out if I could be reimbursed for the registration fee). It was not directly relevant to my project, but being on science and policy, is an interest of mine, and being in Cambridge in the new conservation hub just gave me all the more reason to go for it. I came down a day earlier and am leaving a day later than the duration of the symposium (would have extended my stay if not for meetings) to meet up with friends, and it always surprises me how quickly and easily I just slip back into old 'routines'. Going to the same places (the university centre/grad cafe, Fisher House, zoology department, Peterhouse) along the same roads, meeting up with friends.

I don't just miss the living environment, I really miss the intellectual conversations I had with friends too. I have normalised so much being in Silwood the past half a year or so. Though being exam term, I am definitely not missing the revision fever and accompanying stress.

I have definitely slipped back into consuming copious amounts of caffeine (meeting people and the symposium also keeps us well watered and fed) to stay awake and staying up to do work.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

24.

When I started my gap year after graduating from RJ at 18, I started work at the Education department of the Singapore Zoo. Some 4/5 of my colleagues were 24 at that point, and so when I think of being 24, I think of them, at that time. It's so odd, now that I am at their age. I feel different from when I was 18/19, but I've not started work, am unable to support myself (i.e. still living off my parents) and still am a dependent. It feels though, that at 24, I should already have somewhat settled in life. At least, in typical Singapore terms, maybe?

Could we ever have guessed where we would be now, 6 years ago when we graduated? I think, at that time, I thought life was pretty straightforward and clear. Take my gap year, do my undergraduate degree, get a job. Now though, having gone overseas and been exposed to rather different lifestyle and ideas, I'm so much less certain of my path ahead. Mainly because the possibilities are endless and possibly wonderful opportunities abound. How can I know which path I will take, where I will end up, what I will be doing?

That is probably the greatest value of an overseas education. You feel less constrained by expectations back home. It weighed quite heavily on me when I first arrived, but I will say that as the years go by, I've become more selfish, and self-absorbed. I'm much less exposed to the Chinese?Confucius? ideals of nation before family and family before self etc., and after a while you just think less of it. It is interesting, coming from that kind of culture and background, and then being immersed into a different, more individualistic culture. This WSJ piece certainly provided food for thought, though I've not really thought about it that much - trying to find oneself and one's true calling instead of embracing the changes that come as one grows and matures.

I definitely have come to accept the multi-faceted sides of myself, and realised that personality, traits, behaviours, characters, interests, and values don't all come bundled in a set.

I am 24, and I feel like I have the rest of my life before me, and there are many things I want to do and achieve. I don't particularly feel like I've done anything amazing in my life so far, nor do I really feel like my birth into this world has made much of a positive difference so far. Especially not now, when I'm doing nothing that helps anything bigger than myself. Still though, I am thankful for my family and friends who have been supportive and encouraging, and as I said before, I guess birthdays are for that.


Random aside: So I changed my laptop settings to Chinese. And my Facebook settings to Spanish. Shall see how long I can keep this up for; I am definitely improving my vocabulary in both languages. Not without problems though, such as trying to read translations of other peoples' posts (if they're in a foreign language), and getting Spanish instead of English.


Update 10.05pm: This post was scheduled, before I realised my mum posted a whole bunch of stuff on my Facebook (which doesn't have my birthday publicly visible). It's not that I don't want people to know, I just don't see the point of having my wall flooded with well-wishes from people whom I barely know.
I did nothing much the whole day. Woke up with a bad hangover, went to get ingredients to cook chicken rice, cooked chicken rice (from scratch! No Prima Paste this time.), had dinner with friends, and had some cake. Did nothing very exciting, but it was still a pretty good day. My domestic skills (cooking) are definitely improving at least. Perhaps I wish I could have said, I went bungee jumping, or sky diving, or white water rafting, or hiking, or something outdoorsy and exciting, or that I spent my day volunteering, cleaning up a river somewhere, or visiting a retirement home, or teaching needy children. But I guess ultimately birthdays are just like every other day, and I can't be bothered putting in extra effort to make it a special day for myself. The only effort I'm putting in is avoiding any work at all. Very grateful for my family and friends who wished me/sent a card/present though, they're much appreciated (:

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Easter break.

Spent last week hiking part of the Pennine Way, and it was a wonderful break. I was really happy just walking on the moors, even in rain and snow (just not strong winds please), a joy that I can scarcely find in city/day-to-day life. But taking such a long break from work also made me feel immensely guilty, and so it was with renewed fervour that I tackled my project this week. Still though, I can feel the melancholy of the city living kicking in.

Going up Great Shunner Fell (728masl) right before the snowstorm

Great Shunner Fell just on the horizon

Frequent companions

The joy of being outdoors

Teesdale

Scrambling over rockfalls beside the river Tees 
Battling ferocious sideways winds along the edge of High Cup Nick


Into the Open Air - Julie Fowlis (Brave OST)
This love, it is a distant star
Guiding us home wherever we are
This love, it is a burning sun
Shining light on the things that we've done

I try to speak to you everyday
But each word we spoke, the wind blew away

Could these walls come crumbling down?
I want to feel my feet on the ground
And leave behind this prison we share
Step into the open air

How did we let it come to this?
What we just tasted we somehow still miss

How will it feel when this day is done
And can we keep what we've only begun?

And now these walls come crumbling down
And I can feel my feet on the ground
Can we carry this love that we share
Into the open air?
Into the open air?
Into the open air?

This love, it is a burning sun

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter - for He is risen!

I somehow always felt Christmas was a more celebrated occasion than Easter, perhaps because of all the additional hype from present-giving. Here of course, there is all the chocolate egg and bunny sales going on throughout the period of Lent, which makes it difficult to think of the penitential season (Advent is a penitential season too I know). To be honest, this was probably my least Lenten Lent in a while, I've been finding it difficult to keep my faith without the support of a community like Fisher House. Nonetheless, it's Easter.

He died for our sins though He is without sin, and is risen now. And that is why we are Christians, and why we believe.

At the last minute, I decided to attend Easter Vigil at the Brompton Oratory last night, and I'm glad I did. It was in Latin, and though the first time I attended Latin mass it was somewhat of a shock, I quite enjoy it now. Makes the order of the mass somehow more beautiful. The lighting up of the altar was also really nice. And I am reminded, perhaps at just the right time, to be a light in this world, and bring light to others' lives, and not despair.

Brompton Oratory all lit up after Easter vigil

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Escapism.

I've always been a bit of an escapist, which is why I read (fiction especially). The past week and a bit, I've been in a real low, which I would like to attribute to it being weeks 9 and 10 (and I'm used to 8 week terms). Was getting rather frustrated over trying to work some stuff out in my project, and I really wanted a break and to get outdoors. Visited some friends in Oxford over the weekend, which was quite nice and made me more cheerful for a while, but it didn't last long. Even watching the awesome films at the Banff Mountain Film Festival yesterday provided just temporary reprieve from the foul mood that had settled over me (in that my default expression was resting bitch face, and I was tending towards more negative thoughts, though if you talked to me, you probably couldn't tell anything was different).

In this dark mood, my sensitivities towards humanity/human nature/living are heightened, and I find myself feeling miserable for all the inequalities that exist, especially how much one's life is determined just purely on where one is born, to the point that I wish I could just escape all my emotions. Went for a wander around Brompton cemetery this morning with a friend who was doing coursework on it, and instead of elevating my mood as I had hoped, I found myself on the verge of tears for all the lives lost during the wars, especially of the lost years of living for the youths.

Escapism however, can always be found in the world of Harry Potter. I had read the books (in a continuous loop) when I was younger, and even ventured into fan fiction for a while (stopped myself cos it would have taken over my life). After 3+ years in the UK, I finally went for the Warner Bros. Studio Tours in Leavesden (Zone 9 of London). And though it was really expensive (£35), it was really really good. Cheered me up immensely.

The entrance. We had a 4pm entrance ticket, which was pretty good timing

Amazing Hogwarts model!

Seriously amazing, the amount of effort and detail that went into making the film.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Beautifully haunting music.

This song has been stuck in my mind the past few days. I usually listen to instrumentals (Studio Ghibli, Yiruma, Brian Crain, Richard Clayderman) or film OSTs (HTTYD!, LOTR, Hobbit) when I'm working.



Into the West - Annie Lennox (from LOTR: The Return of the King)
Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You’ve come to journey's end
Sleep now
And dream of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across the distant shore

Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away
Safe in my arms
You're only sleeping

[Chorus]
What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home

And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
All souls pass

Hope fades
Into the world of night
Through shadows falling
Out of memory and time
Don't say: «We have come now to the end»
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again

And you'll be here in my arms
Just sleeping

[Chorus]

And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass
Into the West



Was talking to a friend about it and she said it would be a really nice funeral song. And I fully agree.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Cycling in London and the idealism of youth.

They're two somewhat disparate concepts but both thoughts floating around my brain the past few days.

Another difference between this year and the last three years (on top of the cooking, drinking and boredom) is that I've been cycling a lot more. Despite Cambridge being a cycling city, I just never really had to cycle much - unless I was going somewhere more than a 10 minute walk away, cos then it's just 'too far'. And Peterhouse being wonderfully located 10 minutes away from my departments and the Catholic chaplaincy, there was just very little need to cycle much.

Being here in ulu (Singlish slang for isolated/rural) Silwood though, where the train station alone is about a 40 minutes walk away, I find myself cycling way more, as I chronicled last week with my grocery shopping trip. When I have to go to London for my project (which is with University College London; UCL), I bring my bike in as well (love it that bikes can be brought onto trains for free in the UK, though only during off-peak hours) so I can cycle around London instead of paying for the Tube.

Cycling in London is pretty terrifying. I usually try to cycle during fairly off-peak hours so I don't get overly petrified on the roads, but sometimes that's just unavoidable. Last Thursday, I was cycling from UCL to Oxford Street to meet my friend for dinner, and on Bloomsbury Street I was seriously overwhelmed. There were cars/cabs/buses all around, stuck in traffic, and while I was trying to figure out which lane to get into, cyclists were swooping all around left right and centre, swerving around vehicles and cutting in front of them. I was honestly amazed - are they not terrified of getting hit?? I guess you become a fairly hardened cyclist once you've spent enough time on London roads.


I've also been meeting the other Singaporean naturalists?biologists?people-into-biodiversity? in London a fair bit as well, every Wednesday for the last two weeks and the upcoming one. And it's pretty energising, cos I've honestly become so much more jaded and passive over the last few years about speaking up for nature/biodiversity. I still love it, no doubt, still geek out about it with friends, and still do post a horrendous amount on my Facebook (sorry FB friends), but I feel I no longer talk about it with a zeal and passion that maybe I used to have when I was younger. Scrolling through my old posts on Nature Rambles (my nature blog; pre-2013 posts), I am suddenly reminded that yes, I used to do a lot of trips and was so excited to see all the different organisms and blog about them.

Somewhat terrifyingly,  I am now perhaps just as excited or even more about plotting pretty graphs in R and getting my script to work. O:

Anyway, with the Cross Island Line (CRL; no idea why it's not CIL) being the hot topic in Singapore right now in the nature community, that was naturally what was on our minds too. The youngest member among us, who a fair number of people have compared to me (as in she reminded them of me, when I was on my gap year), has a contagious passion and will to get things done, and it's amazing. It makes me wonder if I used to be that passionate, and somehow lost it all in the intervening years. The idealism of youth though, is so precious. If not for her, I really doubt we'd have gotten anything done; we'd just have spent a lot of time griping about it and resigning ourselves to being able to do nothing halfway around the world. As it is, we managed to get an event organised for next Wednesday, with Ms Faizah Jamal, former Nominated Member of Parliament, talking about the CRL and other environmental/governance issues in Singapore at UCL. I was like 'let's take a bet on the attendance - 10?', and on FB we now have >50 who indicated that they're going. Even with a 50% dropout rate, that's still double the number I thought we would get. That's how cynical I've gotten :/


Meanwhile, I'm getting really restless. Want spring to come proper so I can get outdoors and go camping.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Grocery shopping Silwood style.

I haven't done a proper grocery shop since coming back from Christmas break, subsisting on essential buys at Sainsburys Local or Tesco Express. And so I decided that it's about time to do a big shop - I needed detergent and coffee (only CaféDirect will do for me now, none of the other brands I've tried made me feel quite as happy drinking coffee in the morning, and somehow the smaller stores don't stock them).

Going grocery shopping is a big deal in Silwood. The campus minibus does once/twice weekly trips to Tesco, and it takes about 20-30 mins (depending on the traffic; about 7.5km away). Lives are planned around Tesco trips ("sorry I can't make it for dinner, I'm going to Tesco"), and occasionally, desperate pleas are made for Tesco trips lest one starves to death (I'm exaggerating). Unless of course, you do your grocery shopping online.


I'm not keen on online grocery shopping, mainly cos I like to see what I'm buying, I sometimes get ideas for what to cook when browsing, and I don't think I need that much food for free delivery (it's mostly fresh produce I want and they don't keep). So anyway, I decided to cycle to Tesco when I woke up this morning.

GMaps said it would take about 20 mins (it showed a different route to the one seen above, kinda detours to Cheapside first before joining the main road again, for some reason). Took me 27 mins to get there, which wasn't too bad. Some of those hills though.

Had a nice long leisurely shop (1+ hours), unlike previous occasions when I was always rushing cos I didn't want to be the last and hold up the minibus. The cycle back took 37 mins, with my load. I reckon it was at least 12kg, my backpack, and I had an extra bag slung on the side.

All I wanted to say was, grocery shopping here is a bit of an effort, and it also says something about my life now that I spent half my day grocery shopping and felt it was worth a blog post.

Coming after cycling in London yesterday (from UCL at Euston to Westway Sports Centre near Portobello, then Westway to Earl's Court then to Clapham Junction) and some fairly hard climbing, I'm quite physically exhausted.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Update on life now.

Genuinely what I'm feeling. When I graduated from RJ six years ago, never thought I would be doing lots of computing stuff. Gradually became a nerd I guess, going for coding courses and choosing to do modelling projects. Honestly though, when I decided I wanted to go down the ecology/natural history route, I thought I'd be doing lots of fieldwork, looking at plants and animals, and spending time outdoors. Not lots of coding, head-bashing and help-Googling, looking at a screen, and spending time on GIS StackExchange and StackOverflow. 

I've just about got the hang of R, and thought I should pick up Python last Summer. Tried to teach myself a bit, but I'm terrible at learning on my own, and now I'm dropped in the deep end cos I have to use it for my project. My emotions are tied to the output on the console now. 

I remember being very awed when I visited the computer tech guy in the Earth Sciences department in my second year at Cambridge, cos he was using command-line interface to execute everything on his computer. Now, terminal is almost always open on my MacBook Pro cos there are times when it's just easier to use command lines. 

What am I doing with my life even. Not saying that everything's gone wrong in my life, cos I definitely consciously chose this (looking forward to being able to finally say, I am fairly proficient in R and Python and GIS), but I definitely didn't expect this six years ago.

Photo credits: Original meme, coder in distress photo from Flickr user Peter Alfred Hess.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Chinese New Year

It's my fourth year missing CNY back home, so I've gotten used to not collecting ang baos, or eating CNY goodies, or visiting relatives etc. This year though, being at Silwood with a properly equipped kitchen instead of the crappy gyps I've had for the past three years, I thought it would be quite nice to cook dinner for friends. And so a bunch of people and I cooked for about 40 on CNY eve.

I was making yu sheng, ngoh hiang and cheng tng, the first two of which are quite exclusively Singaporean/Malaysian (can I just stick to using Malayan when referring to the two countries...) and it was my first time making those dishes too. Turned out surprisingly well, though gathering the ingredients (took a couple of London chinatown trips, cos there wasn't often much space in my backpack to get everything at once) took effort and I had to substitute some stuff. I'm thinking maybe those cooking genes have just been lying dormant till needed. My parents seemed genuinely surprised at the photos of the outcome, as though they didn't think I was capable of producing edible material for 40 people.

I even roasted and crushed the peanuts by hand.
I hadn't properly Skyped them though (only briefly to ask some questions about cooking, in which they raised their doubts over my cooking abilities), and despite my asking for a time to call, they were 'too busy visiting'. I was starting to wonder if they just couldn't be bothered about me (Middle Child Syndrome kicking in), but it turns out they pulled a fast one on me.

My mum told me previously that her friend was visiting her daughter and will be able to pass some CNY goodies to me. And that since I didn't have lectures today, I could pick her 'friend' up from Heathrow. I grumbled a bit cos of the distance, but went anyway, and hey presto, it was my mum at the airport waiting for me xD

This is turning out to be the best CNY in a long time (she brought a LOT of food from home). Though today is Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. I guess I'll just have to make up for it later.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Lazy Sunday afternoon.

I've known this for a long time coming, but it never really hit me till now. As I get older, I get lazier and lamer. I realise my involvement in activities (inside and outside school) have declined to near zero and I find myself bored more often than not. Perhaps it's partly the Silwood effect, but even being in London, I scarcely find the energy to do much else apart from the bare minimum. Not that I'm even old or do anything that requires much energy. I guess it's mainly inertia. No wonder one of my ex-teachers said inertia is a sin. It's like a scientific-sounding excuse for sloth.

Woke up with my throat hurting/feeling slightly rubbish today, so stayed home mostly. Did zilch. I did bake my first ever banana cake though. It's a lot easier to cook (Asian)/bake when you're staying at places with kitchens that are already equipped for such pursuits occurring.

I guess at least I have been reading. Just started on Fellowship of the Ring.