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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I'm Blessed

My Ang Bao haul for the year 2007. Yes, I still receive Ang Baos ;)

I received another blessing from Fancl - a bottle of serum that cost $100+ FREE. I signed up for some online trial quite awhile ago simply to try my luck. Think I'm one of the lucky few to be chosen. 2007's a good year!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Rocky the Menace
Observe the innocence my 8-month old puppy, Rocky, displays at the sight of a camera. Notice his puppy-like eyes and harmless face.

Well, as I always say, looks can be deceiving. Don't be taken in by his looks of innocence or even his doeful eyes that invite pity.

My golden has been termed 'Rocky the Ripper' at home. For he has chewed up countless pairs of shoes left unattended. I believe he has a strong fetish for high heels for his choice of shoes he chose to leave his marks on were heels. Sadly, even visitors to my home have not been spared. Rocky went on a shoe rampage and chewed up 3 pairs of my colleagues' shoes until they were beyond recognition in a matter of hours.

Check out the evidence below:

Colleague's heels 1

Ma's new heels 2

PH's crocs' accessories.

Having learnt our lesson, we try to keep our shoes on the rack at all times. Sigh...
*Edited to add* Rocky struck again today! At my shoes...-_-

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Second Chances
Children Live What They Learn

If a child lives with criticism,he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule,he learns to feel shy.
If a child lives with shame,he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance,he learns patience.
If a child lives with encouragement,he learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise,he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness,he learns justice.
If a child lives with security,he learns to have faith. I
f a child lives with approval,he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,he learns to find love in the world.

-Author Unknown-

Somehow the above sounds too idealistic too happen in a real world.
I have been pondering over this notion of a second chance for the past few days. Was rather heartbroken when I heard the news of an angel who made a grave mistake. One that was made out of folly. He was genuinely sorry and looked rather regretful over what he had done. Anyway, I certainly hope that he can be given a second chance and that he can learn that the world is actually a place filled with forgiveness and make amends for the silly act of his.

In my schooling years, I have been blessed enough to receive second chances, time and again. These second chances were fundamental to my growth as a teenager who was struggling with issues like studies, pride, fun and friends. I must admit that I was never the teacher's pet nor mama's girl. I disliked the idea of studying then for I felt there was no purpose in reading textbook after textbook. There was always an underlying strain of rebelliousness in me. It was not a surprise when I did badly in my JCs, so badly that my dad had to pay a visit to the VP's office. The orginal intention of the VP was of course to send a clear signal that I had to set my priorities right. Instead, Dad went in and gave the VP a severe tongue-lashing, for not giving his daughter a second chance to work on her subjects. I was rather taken aback by Dad's behaviour but thought nothing of it till I grew much older. Thinking back, I'm definitely grateful that Dad showed his support for me by giving me space and time to grow. For in his own ways, he gave me a second chance. For although the JC syllabus was demanding, I was totally disinterested in studying then. Perhaps the subjects did not appeal to me at all - demand and supply in economics, polar coordinates were all alien and lacked relevance to me.

I only found greater passion in my studies during my university years. Perhaps the increase in freedom and the appeal to take up Psychology and Maths spurred me to learn beyond the mere confines of the syllabus. The 17-period a week timetable allowed me to find myself back again in time. I found my confidence and love for studying for I was passionate about the things I did.

Somehow, now that I'm a teacher, I always hope that my angels can be given that second chance when they fall. I always believe that the best time to make mistakes is while one is in school. Of course, students always have the luxury of youth and innocence to use as their trunp cards. The real world is never so forgiving.

I'm one who believes in giving out second chances, having been a recepient of it myself. It's not that I'm kind, weak-willed or easy-swayed. But I'm sure, in time to come, these angels, like me, will appreciate the second chance they were given.

One thing that is for sure: second chances don't come thrice.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Le Saigon (Day 4)
This entry is most belated. Who blogs about their holidays after more than a month? Hahaha, I do! With the huge amount of marking piling up, I have no time to breathe, let alone blog.

Anyway, Day 4 of the Vietnam trip was the "coolest" ever. In fact, it was the most memorable day across the 5 days we spent in HCMC. We were all looking forward to the Mekong Delta experience, after hearing so many raves about in on forums and the Lonely Traveller website. Day 4 was definitely a day to remember.

Started the day with a heavy international breakfast spread at the hotel coffeehouse. Had a piping-hot bowl of beef pho, other food and tons of Vinamilk Yogurt.

On our way to pick up the remaining travellers at Palace Hotel, the excitement had already started. Somehow, we managed to witness what we thought was a riot. It turned out to be a walk for some cause instead. It was rather traumatic, sitting in the bus, not knowing what was happening outside on the streets. We took these pictures from the bus.

Spotted this pink shop which sells hats and more hats. Imagine having a 2-storey shop selling hats! In case you are surprised, Vietnamese women wear hats everywhere they go. Talk about having good sun protection. I bought a pageboy hat (not from this shop though).

On the way to the Mekong Delta, we stopped over at another "Happy House". It came in the guise of a tourist souvenir shop hawking wares at totally inflated and exorbitant prices. In any case, we bought nothing but took tons of pictures instead.

Spotted some beautiful pictures made entirely from butterfly wings. Lovely creations but it's hard to appreciate its beauty in entirety when it dawns on you that approximately 100-500 butterflies are used in the making of one picture. Out of curiousity, I asked the salesgirl for the price of one butterfly painting - US $75. Ouch.

A random picture of a rooftop which I found rather intriguing

A random picture of a lotus pond

After a 2-hour ride, we finally reached the terminal where we boarded a boat for our Mekong Delta cruise. The sun was especially fierce that day. Luckily I had brought my ugly fisherman's hat along.

The way of life in Mekong Delta

We stopped over at one of the islands for a seasonal fruit-tasting session. This was all that was remaining after 5 minutes. Basically, we had our fill of ramutans, small bananas, cikcus, pineapples and jackfruit. Even the tasting of the fruits had to follow a specific order from the least sweet(pineapple) to the sweetest(jackfruit), least we do not taste the fruits at their best.

I think I have a strange but huge affinity with Chinese Orchestra. Being a CO teacher is not enough, for I am reminded again of CO in Vietnam while on holiday. Imagine my surprise when I saw these musicians playing instruments similar to the erhu and pipa. The music was similar to CO music as well. Hmmm... maybe a cultural exchange with the Vietnamese Orchestra? Haha

The musicians entertaining the diners with their song.

The Pipa lookalike. Hey, I mean the instrument, not the man.

The Vietnamese Erhu "Shou Xi". JX you have competition!

This biazarre-looking fruit is actually a "water coconut". I didn't try this so I can't tell you what this tastes like. My best guess is that the Singaporean equivalent is either the "sea coconut" or the transparent, chewy oval-shaped objects you find in ice-kachang. Can't remember what you call it at this point.

A random picture of a pomelo tree

Check out the murky waters of the Mekong Delta.

Proceeded to the second island where we received one surprise after another. On this island, we were shown the makings of coconut candy. Since coconut is readily available on the island, hence they make full use of the coconut fruit. They use the juice and meat to make the sweets and even the husks to keep the fire going. How environmentally friendly!

The man is the picture was my Mekong Delta guide. A rather animated character I must say for he was really earnest at telling us the stories of the Mekong. He's 25 and already married.

The Cooking Process

See the huge amount of coconut husks used as fuel?

The rolling and kneading of coconut candy

Stretching the candy before cutting

The retail counter. In my anxiety to purchase coconut candy, I paid around $10 more than required (6 packets cost $5) . The lady in white simply kept mum about it. Luckily I discovered the booboo in advance. My first nasty experience in Vietnam. Sigh...

Dad and I

After the coconut candy session, we took a ride on a horse-drawn cart around the island. Indeed this reminded me of the rickshaws in Bejing.

Bro carrying the bags of coconut candy which were surprisingly heavy.

Next stop on the island was to sample some honey lime drink which was surprisingly refreshing in the hot water. The most challenging part about this experience was to sip your honey lime drink while bees buzz around you. Some bees even kamakazied into the drink in a desperate attempt for a taste of honey. Of course, I tried to remain calm and composed despite the fact that I was fearing for my life. It didn't help matters that I had earlier watched a documentary on bees prior to the trip. Anyway, it was here that I managed to take a picture with a huge python. twirled around my shoulders. Cool!

After walking down a dirt track, we discovered some boats waiting to ferry us for a miniature boat trip along the narrow waterways on the island.

Basically the island has many mangroves. We saw mangrove after mangrove after mangrove.

Check out our driver. Think she's only 9 years old and has to ferry 4 adults around to make a living. This trip has definitely taught me to count my blessings.

Here's the highlight of the trip - A special dish called "Elephant-ear fish"(the fish looks like an elephant's ear i guess), fried to crisp-perfection, scales and all. From the pictures, it looks as if the fish is infested with maggots. Trust me, it looked the same when we saw it for the first time. In fact, we thought the fish looked like a normal luohan fish that was cleverly disguised as a special dish to unsuspecting tourists who eager and game to try anything and everything. Yup, we were clearly disgusted but tried the dish nevertheless, with scales and all.

Basically you scrape the meat and wrap it like a normal rice roll and dip into tangy fish sauce. Between bites, you can taste the crunchiness of the fish scales and the dish was definitely not a palatable one for me. I tried my best not to look at the leftover remains of the fish on the table while chewing on the rice roll. It was not an easy task. Hahaha

Another bee hoon roll.

Finished lunch rather quickly and decided to walk around the "restaurant" for a breather. Was grateful that I had my walkabout after my lunch for I discovered the place where the "elephant-ear" fish were housed in - a pool infested with algae and filled with murky water from the nearby drain. Goodness. For once, I'm grateful for the level of hygiene even in Singapore hawker centres.

Where they kept the "elephant-ear" fish.

Squirrels kept in cages. I think they cook them too. Ewwww... *wrinkling my nose in disgust*

On the way back, we saw street hawkers hawking the meat of wild animals by the road. Business was actually rather brisk!

Notre Dame Cathedral, the place to be seen on Christmas Eve. The sermons were also in Vietnamese.

HCMC Central Post Office

The interior.
We were greeted with another surprise upon arrival at our hotel rooms. Chocolates were given to guests as Christmas gifts. We spent the evening chilling out at the hotel lounge.