Monday, October 31, 2005

White and Little One

Little One was White's first volunteer assignment. White knew this could be a tough cookie as this case was off-tangent. Little One was not a normal kid, not one born from a normal situation. He had much more asperities. When Little One was ten, he was stricken with leukamia. Little One was raised by a single parent; the family was in financial turmoil; and Little One was weak academically. Little One's mother, Big One was perhaps the hardest hit. She had to carry two jobs a day, working eighteen hours each day. A caretaker by day, a factory worker by night. And when Big One had the time, she had to cook meals and look after Little One.

White's objective was simple and clear: be a role model, guide Little One and help out in his studies. The first meeting between White and Little One at the family care centre was a genial one. Although Little One was reserved, White livened their encounter with jokes, laughter and games like snake and ladder and Boggle. By the end of their session, Little One felt cushy with White's company. Little One rattled off stories about how talented he was at various sports, representing his school in soccer and sepak takraw. No matter how huge Little One blew his bubble, no one had the capability to deflate it. He excelled in sports, but failed miserably in his studies. Little One had never passed in his exams and his report card was always smeared with red characters. He was contented with low grades and he considered a feat to maintain a twenty out of a hundred. He constantly skipped remedial classes and only concentrated what he was good at, sports. Teachers began to abhore Little One as he had the tenacity and resilience. Little One would retaliate if reprimanded. No students could laugh at him, not about his loss of hair or his inability to read and write. It was as if there was a strong defensive wall surrounding him, only his fortified pride gave him hope.

The next meeting between White and Little One was held at Mcdonalds , but it was disrupted with a sudden eruption of the deadly disease. Big One had to work, so White had the immense task of taking care of Little One, taking temperatures by the hour and putting wet towels on his head. By evening, Little One was still pale and frail. He laid in bed, sometimes going into mild convulsions. White, together with Big One, brought Little One to the hospital. Fortunately, the doctor deemed the symptoms were not lethal.

Future meetings were more fruitful and a strong friendship was forged.White equipped herself with notepads, books, CD-roms and in every session, inculcate games so that learning became fun. White taught multiplication tables and applied them to the maths problems. But progress was really slow as Little One had short attention span. Amidst the tuition, he would play R & B music and croon to the tune "Lonely, I'm Mr. lonely.." The jiving went on incessantly.

Occasionally, Little One would show notes of affection from his girlfriend. According to Big One, Little One spent hours talking on the phone and text messaging her on the mobile. Intermittently, White would get phone calls from Little One "How do you spell...?" White was amused and probably thought the words were declarations of love to his puerile girlfriend. Outside tuition, White and Little One had meals and shared joyous moments watching the movie Madagascar. Their conversation topics varied, from cars to games to movies. But it was awkward when questions regarding sex were triggered. White felt that she never had the right answers and often shrugged it off.

Little One soon had a circle of friends and they came to his home almost everyday, even in the midst of his exams. They shared similar traits. They were lonely. They were consumed with hunger most of the time. They detested learning. In such circumstances, it was tricky for White to conduct her lesson. Little One would write a hurried essay and then join his friends for a friendly game on his laptop (donated to Little One when he was very ill). In other occasions, their tutoring sessions were often disrupted by constant flow of questions from Little One's friends.

Meanwhile, Big One had to juggle the many tasks thrown to her: attending to the business of medical consultations, phone calls from the principals reporting Little One's misbehavior at school, financial arrangments, and maintenance of the household. Big One would call White many times a day, venting her frustrations and pain. These phone calls became a reliance and they pertained to anything and everything (the quarrels between the mother and son, teacher's complaints of Little One, the lack of motivation to study from Little One, the mere confirming of tuition times, her working environment, and the fear that the Fierce One would return). Her erratic behavior was understandable as Big One was under immense stress each day and she hardly had friends to confide in. However, she was an endearing woman underneath the tough exterior. She made a simple Thank You card for White on Teacher's day. To this date, White is still keeping the card and it is nicely hung on her bedroom walls. Although the card was simple and plain, the printed three words "Thank you Teacher" on the card held much meaning. It signified a close friendship of two diverse individuals, bonded together from extreme backgrounds.

However, all is not well. Little One's disinterest in his studies became more apparent by the day and was evident in his behavior towards White. He became impolite and shown much lethargy when learning was concerned. White had to match this misconduct by portraying a disciplinary figure. Little One did not like it and complained to Big One that learning was hard. Little One added oil to the fire, telling tales to Big One that White often mentioned about Fierce One during lessons. The subject of Fierce one or the term "father" was a taboo and White knew the sensitivity of the issue.

One afternoon, White received another phone call from the Big One. The phone call was not about the confirming of tuition times or the complaints of work environment. Little One wanted to stop tuition.
"He is stubborn and I have tried talking to him about it. He does not want it. I don't know what to do with this kid. I'm so sorry. I will call you again if I can persuade him."

Subsequent days followed and similar phone calls were received almost every alternate day. It all began like this.
"He has an exam soon. Are you going to come?"
"It's not that I don't want to. He doesn't want me to come."
"I will talk to him and get back to you."

The replies were alike, like a broken tape-recorder repeatedly playing its ragged tune
"I'm sorry. He still does not want..."

What would you like to do when you grow up?
A footballer.
You know, it's really hard to earn a living as a footballer especially in Singapore.
Yeah, but I have the skills.
However, even the best footballer needs to know how to read and write and converse well in front of the media.

Stop acting as if you care for my studies, just because she's here to teach.

He called me a crazy woman today. For all that I have done for him, he called me crazy.

Why did you pierce your ear? It's not that cool.
I like it. I pierced the other with a safety pin.


Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Lil too Late

My grandaunt had been battling with stomach cancer for a year. My relationship with her had been close, but grew distant over the years. She had been like a nanny when I was little. I remember the days when my parents had to work and they would put me at her place for days. I abhored going home and would wail incessantly when my parents picked me up.

When she was critically ill recently, I visited her a couple of times, only saddened to see her frail and gaunt figure. Just yesterday, I thought it was another one of those usual visits, but was overwhelmingly despondent when I was five minutes late. She couldn't wait. It was a sombre and morbid scene at the hospital....

I'll be attending her wake later and probably in the few days to come. And I'll thank her....

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Photo that win a million smiles

Singapore ranks 140 in Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2005


"North Korea once again comes bottom of the Reporters Without Borders fourth annual World Press Freedom Index, released today. It is closely followed in the 167-country list by Eritrea (166th) and Turkmenistan (165th), which are other black holes for news where the privately-owned media is not allowed and freedom of expression does not exist.

Journalists there simply relay government propaganda. Anyone out of step is harshly dealt with. A word too many, a commentary that deviates from the official line or a wrongly-spelled name and the author may be thrown in prison or draw the wrath of those in power. Harassment, psychological pressure, intimidation and round-the-clock surveillance are routine.

East Asia (Burma 163rd, China 159th, Vietnam 158th, Laos 155th), Central Asia (Turkmenistan 165th, Uzbekistan 155th, Afghanistan 125th, Kazakhstan 119th) and the Middle East (Iran 164th, Iraq 157th, Saudi Arabia 154th, Syria 145th) are where journalists have the toughest time and where government repression or armed groups prevent the media operating freely.

The situation in Iraq (157th) deteriorated further during the year as the safety of journalists became more precarious. At least 24 journalists and media assistants have been killed so far this year, making it the mostly deadly conflict for the media since World War II. A total of 72 media workers have been killed since the fighting began in March 2003.

But more and more African and Latin American countries (Benin 25th, Namibia 25th, El Salvador 28th, Cape Verde 29th, Mauritius 34th, Mali 37th, Costa Rica 41st and Bolivia 45th) are getting very good rankings.

Some Western democracies slipped down the Index. The United States (44th) fell more than 20 places, mainly because of the imprisonment of New York Times reporter Judith Miller and legal moves undermining the privacy of journalistic sources. Canada (21st) also dropped several places due to decisions that weakened the privacy of sources and sometimes turned journalists into "court auxiliaries." France (30th) also slipped, largely because of searches of media offices, interrogations of journalists and introduction of new press offences.

At the top of the Index once again are northern European countries Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands, where robust press freedom is firmly established. The top 10 countries are all European. New Zealand (12th), Trinidad and Tobago (12th), Benin (25th) and South Korea (34th) are the highest-ranked countries in other continents.

Countries that have recently won their independence or have recovered it are very observant of press freedom and give the lie to the insistence of many authoritarian leaders that democracy takes decades to establish itself. Nine states that have had independence (or recovered it within the past 15 years) are among the top 60 countries - Slovenia (9th), Estonia (11th), Latvia (16th), Lithuania (21st), Namibia (25th), Bosnia-Herzegovina (33rd), Macedonia (43rd), Croatia (56th) and East Timor (58th).

The Index also contradicts the frequent argument by leaders of poor and repressive countries that economic development is a vital precondition for democracy and respect for human rights. The top of the Index is heavily dominated by rich countries, but several very poor ones (with a per capita GDP of less than $1,000 in 2003) are among the top 60, such as Benin (25th), Mali (37th), Bolivia (45th), Mozambique (49th), Mongolia (53rd), Niger (57th) and East Timor (58th).

Reporters Without Borders compiled this Index of 167 countries by asking its partner organizations (14 freedom of expression groups from around the world) and its network of 130 correspondents, as well as journalists, researchers, legal experts and human rights activists, to answer 50 questions designed to assess a country's level of press freedom. Some countries are not mentioned for lack of information about them."

Monday, October 24, 2005

Ma vie est complet!

I should be working next month. No more slacking. My professor finally emailed me today! Plus I got my new french semester class starting this evening. Ma vie est complet! I'm looking forward to the days to come. It must be the Christmas season. Many friends are crossing miles to visit Singapore in the next month or two.Woo hoo....

Levi's and Kenzo

These are probably my last two fashion shows (Kenzo and Levi's). I am weary of seeing all those long legs prancing around me. Only consolation: Cocktails and passed horsd'oeuvres. Kenzo's collection is much different from JPG. There is emphasis on bold palettes, ethnic influences, and floral patterns. Very bohemian looking. Levi's is just Levi's. Nothing much to rant.

The Priceless Photo

I have at hand the most priceless photo! Most likely I am gonna get slaughtered into turtur bits for this. Turtur, bribe me! Anyway it was all good fun eating bbq food with Daren, Tay, James, Turtur, May, Jane Doe and myself. $10 for eat all you can at Marina South.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Acknowledgement in Paper

Received an heartening email from my "grandpa" today. This Phd student from Finland read my paper and had encouraging comments.

"Thanks ever so much for your excellent paper Happiness in University Education. I must say that after reading hundred or two papers on happiness ( I am doing my PhD on "economics of happiness"), I had not yet read one so well written and coherent as yours is!"

Well, it's such comments that bring smiles galore. It is interesting as he is thinking of extending this research to his country. Wonder how the study will turn out?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Don't Mess with Feathered Creatures

Christoph sent this to me. Very amusing.

French Affair with Jean Paul Gaultier

JaneDoe and I were fortunate to have the opportunity to attend Jean Paul Gaultier's fashion show this evening and we were even more fortuitous to be able to sit right in front ogling at the models. Oh yeah, my french came in handy when the lady beside JaneDoe understood what I was rattling...Hah..IN FRENCH!!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Ever considering adoption?

The other day, JaneDoe and I met up for breakfast at this place called Toast (in Takashimaya). They serve lovely chocolate cupcakes, those that sacharrinely melt in your mouth with oozing bits of warm chocolate. Yum. Well, I'm currently unemployed, basically waiting for my professor to give me the green light so that I can saunter back to office. So I have much time to sample breakfasts from varied places frequently.

Anyway, beside us was this couple, definitely caucasian but with adorable asian kids. It seems that adopting asian kids is an uprising trend. I was reading this website from the US Department of State on International Adoption and they quoted "that the actual adoption and completion of the contract, which includes making a fixed "donation" of around $3000-$4000 US dollars to the Children's Welfare Institute, take place. This "donation" is NOT a bribe, but is required for the adoption and completion of contract for the institute."

Hefty price! Wonder if that includes money to the families too?
Some pictures (shown above) that I chanced upon: It's this adopted gal called Jinx. I think she's from Guangzhou. Check out this link for more pictures. Isn't she cute?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Black and White

It has been months since White last saw Black. In past months, heated arguments evolved to angry emails, simmered to cold wars, to no contact. Then out of the blue, Black contacted White with another pacified email and this placating led to another phone-call.

Since the day Black cut all ties with White, White had been devastated. White became better with the support and encouragement of her many friends and she soothed herself by partaking in plentiful activities. White volunteered, giving free tuition services to the needy in the hope that by helping others, it would fill up the void. Well, it did work. Slowly, White carved a life of her own. She learnt french, golf, went for an academic conference and bask in many travels. To date, White has visited six countries in the year and in such a short span, her life was filled with cheery "colours". White has never felt so fulfilled and in a way, she thanks Black for the way she is today.

This phone call steered to a meet up between Black and White. They were supposed to meet at the hotel lobby where Black was residing. As usual, Black who was a typical workaholic and always driven by an innate passion to excel in his career, was late. Apologies were said and both persons ambled to the nearest restaurant in the hotel. Much pauses were noticed in their conversations. Both were concealing their weaknesses by putting up amiable fronts. Both engaged in logical and rational exchanges. The conventional type. It's the "how do you do?" and the "I'm fine" dialogue. Both had much to say about how the other has changed in terms of appearance. To White, Black lost weight, donned different spectacles, watch and wallet. To Black, White had a natural glow, a different aura and lost weight too.

This dialogue continued to Black's uttering sweet declarations of White's mum, Violet. Black always adored Violet as she was one of the most patient, generous and sincere people. She was a woman full of grace. Black handed a pink box to White. "Pass this to your mum and send my regards. It's her belated birthday present." White accepted politely, and again, muttered the expected "You did not have to."

The chat flowed to topics regarding friends, work, love, travels, goals, interests in life and even why the relationship they once shared ended. Just months back, Black ignored all calls from White and chose to share his life with another, Orange. This neglect was all abrupt and sudden. This meeting gave White an opportunity to air her disgruntles, seizing this opening to voice out her discontentment with him. Arrows were shot, only to find them deflected. All these came to a halt when both finally admitted their mistakes. Black knew he was selfish and confessed to misdealing the whole situation. White acknowledged that her elfish behaviour was part of the problem. But there was no point wallowing in perplexes.

It seemed as if they were performing a soliloqy, both crooning different tunes. Black was playing a rock song which was grim, powerful and rough at the edges. Powerful in the sense that Black was very successful in his career. His work will soon take him to emerging economies like Pakistan and Ecuador. But he did not seem contented. He revealed a tinge of sadness and regret. He was doleful that the friends he once had now harbor certain detest for him. He asked all the "what-if questions". As he warbled, tears welled up.

"There is no point now. I have moved on and you've got to." White mumbled. Although White appeared nonchalent, she still cared for Black. After all, Black had always been a confidant to her. White diverted the topic and began a light, crisp and delightful folk song. White whistled tunes of friendships and travels, all painting pictures of cordialness and pleasure. White hoped that her tunes were not signs of mockery to Black, which White intended to before she met Black. But now, mockery seemed inappropraite in White's dictionary.

Before Black and White parted, Black touched White's face, only to be discouraged with a light slap on the arm. They promised to keep in contact through emails before they separated.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A funny read

This page that Yizhen sent me was really funny. It's satirical humour of Singapore . A good read for destress and relaxation.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Singapore and Katrina

Singapore and Katrina
By Thomas L. Friedman,New York Times
Sept 14, 2005
Singapore - There is something troublingly self-indulgent and slothful about America today - something that Katrina highlighted and that people who live in countries where the laws of gravity still apply really noticed. It has rattled them - like watching a parent melt down.

That is certainly the sense I got after observing the Katrina debacle from half a world away here in Singapore - a city-state that, if it believes in anything, believes in good governance.

It may roll up the sidewalks pretty early here, and it may even fine you if you spit out your gum, but if you had to choose anywhere in Asia you would want to be caught in a typhoon, it would be Singapore.

Trust me, the head of Civil Defence here is not simply someone's college roommate.

Indeed, Singapore believes so strongly that you have to get the best-qualified and least-corruptible people you can into senior positions in the government, judiciary and civil service that its pays its prime minister a salary of US$1.1 million a year.It pays its cabinet ministers and Supreme Court justices just under $1 million a year, and pays judges and senior civil servants handsomely down the line.

From Singapore's early years, good governance mattered because the ruling party was in a struggle for the people's hearts and minds with the Communists, who were perceived to be both noncorrupt and caring - so the state had to be the same and more.Even after the Communists faded, Singapore maintained a tradition of good governance because as a country of only four million people with no natural resources, it had to live by its wits.It needed to run its economy and schools in a way that would extract the maximum from each citizen, which is how four million people built reserves of $100 billion."In the areas that are critical to our survival, like Defence, Finance and the Ministry of Home Affairs, we look for the best talent," said Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy."

You lose New Orleans, and you have 100 other cities just like it. But we're a city-state. We lose Singapore and there is nothing else. ... [So] the standards of discipline are very high. There is a very high degree of accountability in Singapore."When a subway tunnel under construction collapsed here in April 2004 and four workers were killed, a government inquiry concluded that top executives of the contracting company should be either fined or jailed.

The discipline that the cold war imposed on America, by contrast, seems to have faded.Last year, we cut the National Science Foundation budget, while indulging absurd creationist theories in our schools and passing pork-laden energy and transportation bills in the middle of an energy crisis.We let the families of the victims of 9/11 redesign our intelligence organisations, and our president and Congress held a midnight session about the health care of one woman, Terri Schiavo, while ignoring the health crisis of 40 million uninsured.

Our economy seems to be fueled lately by either suing each other or selling each other houses.Our government launched a war in Iraq without any real plan for the morning after, and it cut taxes in the middle of that war, ensuring that future generations would get the bill.

Speaking of Katrina, Sumiko Tan, a columnist for the Sunday edition of The Straits Times in Singapore, wrote: "We were shocked at what we saw. Death and destruction from natural disaster is par for the course. But the pictures of dead people left uncollected on the streets, armed looters ransacking shops, survivors desperate to be rescued, racial divisions - these were truly out of sync with what we'd imagined the land of the free to be, even if we had encountered homelessness and violence on visits there.

If America becomes so unglued when bad things happen in its own backyard, how can it fulfill its role as leader of the world?"Janadas Devan, a Straits Times columnist, tried to explain to his Asian readers how the US is changing."

Today's conservatives," he wrote, "differ in one crucial aspect from yesterday's conservatives: the latter believed in small government, but believed, too, that a country ought to pay for all the government that it needed."The former believe in no government, and therefore conclude that there is no need for a country to pay for even the government that it does have. ... [But] it is not only government that doesn't show up when government is starved of resources and leached of all its meaning. Community doesn't show up either, sacrifice doesn't show up, pulling together doesn't show up, 'we're all in this together' doesn't show up."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Michael Buble's Concert

I attended Michael Buble's Concert with Jane Doe this evening at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. He was hot hot hot, with many gal fans (even old aunties included) screaming for him. He has an entralling way of charming the crowd, doing animated impersonations of Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Josh Groban and Maroon 5. This guy has it all, the voice, looks, humour and charm to even interest guys ( I am sure there are a couple of gays out there captivated by him). He worked the crowd when all of a sudden, he rushed down from the stage to the mass audience who were seated way back, blowing hugs and kisses to the female admirers. Quite a funny sight to see slightly MATURE ladies getting excited!

He ended the concert with a blast, getting the audience to dance as he crooned a faster tune. Thumbs up, Mr. Buble. Avril's concert seems a little mannequin-like and stiff compared to yours!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Scenes from Central Park

Our little "cozy" room in New York

It costs us approximately US$100+ dollars per person.

1st and 2nd October

In my last entry, I mentioned that I was going to prate about the many tete-a-tete conversations (not very negative actually) I have with students and friends who live overseas regarding Singapore politics. But well, politics and blogging don't go hand in hand, as noted from the two singaporeans who are imprisoned for two weeks for making racist remarks. So, going to keep mum on this one.

Anyhow, gotta finish where I started. The last two days in New York were spent in Central Park, the zoo in Central zoo, Grand Central Station, Museum of the City of New York, dinner at B.B. King (Restaurant that plays live blues), World Trade Center Site and some flea markets.

A small little comment on the zoo in Central Park: the real zoo is far from what is depicted in the cartoon movie "Madagascar". There ain't any zebras, giraffes or even lions. The movie is totally a misrepresentation. But well, still a heartwarming cartoon for kids.=p

Sunday, October 09, 2005

30th September-The rest of the day

Made our way to Fifth Avenue. It's a street for the opulent, street for the many envious eyes. Upscale retailers flock to this area. Along the way, one passes the Rockefeller center and the St Paul's Cathedral.

Well, the highlight of the day had to be the United Nations Headquarters. Kofi's face, the millenium development goals, pictures of the impoverished and the neglected were plastered on the walls. We had a Swedish guide who escorted us to the halls of the Security Council and the General Assembly etc. He also explained the role of the UN as well as clarifed our queries. The feeling of being there was amazing as I often see the general assembly on the news, but never really expected to be there. Out of curiousity, I asked the guide about the job. Basic Qualification: A degree and being multi-lingual helps. If I'm wrong, they pay nineteen dollars an hour. Anyone interested? You can apply as an intern too.

We had japanese dinner at Greenwich. As it was close proximity to NYU, students crowd the streets. Pearlene went shopping after the meal, while Starbucks and coffee kept me company. Fortunately, I brought some papers to read. But this middle aged man seated beside my table started chatting to me. The dialogue began with how he started his e-commerce company and then to the politics of Singapore (see how long Pearlene can dwindle in the shops..=p). Singapore politics has always been a central topic whenever I meet students and people overseas. I have much to prate about this, but I'll leave that for another day as it's getting late.

Although exhausted, we went clubbing at Crobar. It was voted best club in the chaser. When we arrived, the queues were horrendously long. Apparently, a DJ called Armin van burren (whom I have no idea) was spinning. The queues were so long and at the rate we were at, we'll probably enter in two hours. Heh..did something cheeky. Went to befriend some gals right in front and voila, Pearlene and I got in way earlier! Partied till 4.30am....weary.

Top two pictures: Crobar
Bottom two: UN

Friday, October 07, 2005

I forgot how to sleep

Since returning from New York, my sleeping schedule has been haywire. I am awake at unearthly hours and have food cravings at the oddest hours. Just the past night, I have tried sleeping three times. But my efforts have amounted to nothing. I lay in bed, my mind started wandering and I tossed sleeplessly all night. Frustrated, I attempted to weary myself in all sorts of ways: I got on the net and chatted with my cousin; went to the kitchen and made myself a sandwich, thinking that a surfeited person will find its ticket to dreamland in the quickest way; finished reading a story by Paul Auster (City of Glass in the New York Trilogy. It was highly recommended by Christoph and true enough, undeniably good.); did crunches in the wee hours of the morning. I am beginning to wonder whether sleeping exists in my dictionary. If this continues, I'll be close to insanity. I can't even remember when was the last time I had a full eight hour snooze. Maybe I will turn out to be the guy whom I saw on tv who has not slept for 18 years. Imagine how life will be like if you have much more time than others. What would you do if others were asleep?

To date, I was late for two appointments, both of which was due to afternoon slumber. So for today, no afternoon naps for me....and yes jane doe, I won't be late for the appointment with you for the jewellery fashion show this evening.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Therese Dreaming by Balthus

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Card Players - Paul Cezanne

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art

30th September- Morning

The first stop for today is the Metropolitan Museam of Art. Pearlene did not fancy arts and sculptures, so she headed to central park while I wandered around this fascinating museum. This museum is huge and has two floors, but it's definitely not as big as Le Lourve or the Sistine chapel (Vatican city). However, it is comprehensive and houses art pieces of the many famous artists like Balthus, Matisse, Cezanne, Chagall, Van Gogh... It's divided into sections like American wing, Arms and armor, Arts of africa, Oceania, and the Americas, Egyptian Art, Greek and Roman Art etc. I zoomed into Modern Art as that was my favourite. I am enamoured by the art pieces of Piccaso, Paul Klee, and Cezanne. This brings back memories when I was backpacking in Switzerland (2002 and 2003) and my travelling partner, Yueh Chin and I would visit some of the museums. In Luzerne, we visited the Rosengart museum. Angela Rosengart is a highly-educated woman with a broad range of interests in the arts. She was a personal friend of a number of these artists, first and foremost with Pablo Picasso. Picasso, for his part, painted Angela no fewer than five times. I, very fortunate, met her in her musuem and got her to autograph in the printed portrait postcard (the one where Picasso painted. I put the picture above).

29th September

New York is effortless to navigate. Just equip yourself with the subway and bus map and get ready for a wondrous date with this compact, lively, and bustling city! In addition, get an unlimited 7 day transport pass ($35). It is the cheapest and the most efficient way to move around. But I think the best way is to peregrinate. You see and experience the most in this manner.

Pearlene and I started off with the Empire State Building. You pay a hefty sum of $15 just to get to the 80th floor and enjoy a paranomic aerial view of the city. The winds were gusty and both of us had hell lot of good fun trying to get a good grip and not get blown away.

Had lunch at this Korean Restaurant. It was serving sushi and bulgogi buffet for $9.99. Pretty good deal.

I love Times Square! I have been to many cities and the closest to mirroring this area in terms of huge billboards, lights and music is Shinjuku, Tokyo. Even so, Shinjuku is still far from it when creating buzz and spectacular signage are concerned. Broadway theaters, jazz clubs, hotels, comedy clubs, restaurants, and cafes. It is the home to the theater, home to CNN, CNBC, Phantom of the opera, Late show with David Letterman. All the familiar names. It is a favorite setting of many movies, including the one in Vanilla Sky where Tom Cruise was running down the empty streets of Times Square. It is a place where people celebrate New Year. Every year as the clock nears midnight on December 31st, the eyes of the world turn once more to the dazzling lights and bustling energy of Times Square. Anticipation runs high. New Year's Eve at the symbolic center of New York City has become more than just a celebration - it is a global tradition. The world holds its breath...and cheers as the clocks strike twelve. As the famous New Year's Eve Ball descends from the flagpole atop One Times Square, 750,000 people in Times Square, millions nationwide and over a billion watching throughout the world are united in bidding a collective farewell to the departing year, and expressing our joy and hope for the year ahead.

Pearlene and I wanted to catch a musical, so we joined the long queues (you can see Pearlene queueing in the pics) to enjoy half prices for musicals shown that evening. We got tickets for the musical, hairspray. It is set in the 60s and in Baltimore. This big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, wins a spot on the local TV dance program, The Corny Collins Show and, overnight, is transformed from outsider to irrepressible teen celebrity. Pretty light-hearted and heart-warmin. Guess who I saw in the theaters. Anthony Maretino : the gay friend of Charlotte in Sex and the City.

Current Favourite Movie

Current favorite movie: Crash (2004)

I watched it when I was traveling from New York to Frankfurt. It is the bliss of traveling with Singapore Airlines. A wide choice of 60 movie. It is fantastic! Several stories intertwine in Los Angeles to portray this beautiful movie. The theme: racism and it depicts how people, regardless of race and color, face the daily problems of this segregation and are bogged down by the societal racial pressures.

Current favourite Song

Current favorite song: Goodbye my lover by James Blunt

As usual, I heard this song amidst my plane ride from Frankfurt to New York. James Blunt is brilliant. The other song Tears and Rain, is not too bad either. There was an embarrassing encounter attached to this song too. I am not really a depressive person but it was probably PMS and I got all emotional after hearing the lyrics and the tune. I started tearing, and at this inappropriate moment, this air steward asked me whether I wanted some custom forms. I avoided eye contact and started mumbling, looking downwards constantly. He could not hear me so he kept asking me. A little irritated, I looked at him, all red-eyed and said, Yes, please. You should see his face. He felt so awkward but he gave me a smile.

Not the mundane

No matter how many times you are being doubted, have faith and be yourself.

28th September

What lovely weather to start off the day!

We took the sub to the New York harbour. Hopped onto a ferry and the first stop: Statue of Liberty (the world's promise of freedom). I have seen two miniatures before, one in Tokyo (2005) and the other in Paris (1999), but nothing beats this one in terms of size and grandeur. Well, I was enlightened with some interesting facts. This "lady" was a gift from France to celebrate the end of the American civil war. The interior iron framework was designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, also designer of the Eiffel Tower ( I did not know that!). It's as tall as a 22 story building and the 7 spear crown represents the 7 continents. The reason why the statue is green is due to oxidation of the copper. Interesting...

The next ferry stop, Ellis Island. (If you watched Hitched, you will find this familiar). The story of Ellis island is the chronicle of the more than 12 million immigrants (mostly europeans) who passed through its doors in the early 1900s. It signifies the immigrants' faith and dedication in their pursuit of happiness. A step by step view of immigrant processing is revealed through historic photographs, artifacts and personal items from the immigrants themselves.

We headed to Chinatown thereafter. You see hawkers selling perfumes, leather goods, souvenirs, pirated DVDs, fresh fish, and chinese herbs. I have been to many different Chinatowns in the world and they are all very similar. This one is no different. Similarities: filthier streets, cheaper and yummier food, crowded, weirder layout of roads. But there is a certain hype in the people. Everyone is ardent to do business, be it big or small. They have this fluster plastered in their faces and they seem to build barriers around them. In order to "break" these walls, there are two ways. Do business with them (as in buy from them), or just speak mandarin or cantonese. It works wonders, especially the latter. When Pearlene first ordered, she spoke in English and the chinese waiter felt foreign, replying to her back in English. I ordered my food in Mandarin and there you go. The waiter was grinning from ear to ear. He questioned us why we didn't speak Mandarin. But we all got into a little tete-a-tete. He was from Malaysia, complained about the life in New York and insisted that Singapore's way of life should be more comfortable.

Little Italy was just beside Chinatown. So we went to one of the cafes and had coffee and biscotti, while trying to plan our next destination.

We decided that a little jazz would highlight our evening. Jazz standard was termed as the "best jazz club" by new york magazine and has the "best BBQ" by time out new york. Although we did not have our bbq, we had scrumptious seafood. The jazz was exquisite...we both are living such high life now...unbelievable.

27th September

Adios Orlando! Big Apple here I come!
Once we stepped out of the airport, dodgy guys approahed us for rides to the city. Do we look so gullible?! Well, we managed to get a bus shuttle to our hotel for $17. Our boutique hotel is probably two stars but it's pretty convenient as it's close to Central Park and some of the museums. Due to our heavy-duty shopping in Orlando, we had to tote many bags up the tiny elevator that looked quite similar to the one in Tower of Terror.Hmmm....

Our hotel room was cosy, but the toilet cubicle was whoppingly small. You cannot help getting your elbows and ass knocked. And admittedly, for larger bottoms like Pearlene and myself, cubicle life was a lil difficult.

If there is any store that outbeats Mcdonalds in terms of numbers, it has to be Starbucks. I see it everywhere, every corner, every street. New Yorkers are Star Buckers. Yes they are. The typical New Yorker yuppie: Hand gripping a cup of starbucks coffee, the other hand grasping the New York times, mostly equipped with sun shades...Honestly speaking, they are better looking than the people from other states. Better dressed, more health conscious (Many donning sports gear and jogging in the middle of the city), very dog lover. Having a dog seems to be a vogue icon. Well, it's interesting how Pearlene, a fervent dog lover, adores to capture snapshots of dogs while I on the other hand, snaps pictures of toddlers or babies.

Anyhow, we splurged lavishly on food for dinner. A Fuji Platter of sushi for two. Yummy...totally beats the typical American diet hands down! I indulged in a glass of caprinha ( a brazilian cocktail that includes a mixture of ice, cachaca, lime and sugar.) Splendid.

26th September

The final theme park of our trip: Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure!
The weather spells heat! Fortunately, there were two water rides that will get you absolutely soused! At the Popeye's blige rat barges, we brave though churning white water rapids and we were thrilled when we saw others who were more drenched than us. This ride just brings laughter to everyone! In the sweltering heat, gotta take the ride twice...

Rip Saw falls was another flume ride that made us wet. It's the steepest flume ride in the world. It definitely looks more intimidating...