Wednesday, May 31, 2006

21st May 2006: Gibralter

Today, we headed to Gibralter, the southernmost tip of Spain, bordering the Strait of Gibraltar, which links the Mediterranenan Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean.

What's most interesting is by just crossing a border town of La Linea de la Concepcion, you'll find yourself immersed in 1960s England, using pounds instead of euros, speaking english instead of my miserable two-word vocabulary of spanish (gracias and si), london buses as well as red post boxes. It comprises of a small area 5 km long and 1.6 km wide, and one hell of a huge lime stone 426m tall (a major feature).

It has a little airport. You can actually walk or drive across the runway except the times of taking off and landing of planes. The most prominent feature is the rock itself which is the home to many apes. Other attractions are Michael's cave (big natural grotto), and the Great Siege Tunnels (place for gun emplacements).

20th May 2006

How am I glad to see Monty!!! Finally.

We rented a manual car and I assumed the role of a navigator as it has been a really long time since I driven manual. Well, I was in safe hands.

First stop, Ronda. Picture this: a charismatic city with steep narrow cobbled streets, passageways leading to courtyards and dwellings, cliff top setting, old folks gathering for a nice conversation, tile roofs over dazzling white washed walls and laughter from innocent child play. A peaceful haven. A quaint Islamic Town.

You'll see a spectacular 100m deep gorge that divides the old and new Ronda. The old Muslim town, which I fortunately reside, called La Ciudad, stands on the southern side of the gorge.

19th May: International Buffet and Party

We were invited to a traditional International Buffet, where we can sample specialities from all five continents with delicious exotic dishes and a wide choice of beverages in an informal setting. Think Austrian Sacher Torte, think Japanese sushi and tempura, think Swiss cheese and chocolate fondue, think Indian curry and Naan.....Yum...

Went to a local club called Elephant straightafter. Pretty ironic that the club had a live performance of flamanco. Hah..setting me for the mood to Spain. By the time I got home and packed, it was 4.30am and I had to leave St. Gallen at 6.30am to catch my plane to Malaga! Tiring....

The two gals dressed in Bavarian style are my hosts! So gracious to help out in this event.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

19th May 2006

This marked the last day of the conference as I decided to leave one day earlier to spend more time in Spain as well as with Monty.

Above pics depict the setting of the conference in the university. I heard sources that the conference received about 6 million Euros for this conference and students from the organising committee are able to travel to parts of the world to source for funds. Impressive!

18th May 2006

The conference officially began.

You see, besides work and special sessions, one can opt to go for optional tours: a tour to the traditional Swiss watch fatory (IWC) followed by a visit of the largest waterfalls in Europe, the Rhine Falls; tour to Appenzell as well as a cheese factory. But stupid me, I was late and all the places were taken up when I arrived. Talk about "Kiasuism" in Europe.

Attended a work session chaired by a fellow NUS student (was amongst the top 20) titled Immigration- An Untapped Resource. This session turned out to be very enlightening as discussions centered about Singapore very frequently. The European working professionals working in Singapore cited examples of how Singapore handled immigration and how immigration is regarded as a source of strength. There was also debate about how local students in singapore consider the influx of foreign students as major competitors for entrance to local universities and jobs.

For the evening event, we were given a choice between jazz night and st. gallen dinner night. I chose the latter as it was set in the Tonhalle Hall (its like a concert hall), a magnificient Jugendstil building from the turn of the century. The highlights include the greeting of clowns as well as the appearance of acrobat, who entertained us with a fascinating and impressive balancing act. Some of us received free cigars... Sat with an amazing bunch of friends mainly from Eastern Europe. Took a pic with Yizhen too (shown above).

A splendid evening.

17th May 2006

University of St. Gallen is perched on top of a hill overlooking the city. Yizhen and I floundered up the hill, wearily making our way through the cobbled paths early in the morning. Midway, I became lazy and took a bus (all transport within the city is free for those attending the conference). Hah.

That morning, chartered coaches brought us to Swiss Re (a re-insurance company) in Zurich. The seminars were more interesting and we had a variety of choices. Topics like how do reinsurers manage risk, measuring risks for natural catastrophes, obesity and risks were the highlight. (Again, topics I can identify with). Well, I particularly favoured the appetising spread of desserts. Oh man, we were really spoiled.

In the evening, we had a welcome dinner and were each given a "goodie bag". with a swiss-knife (sponsored by PWC), a signer water bottle, conference t-shirt and materials. Got our SPOT ME device too....

Ended off the night with drinks and karaoke at a club called Trisli.

Monday, May 29, 2006

16th May 2006

Arrived in Zurich at 7am in the morning and did not have proper sleep on the plane. A really long day, nevertheless looking forward to it. I met other Singaporeans on the plane and surprisingly this year, the Singapore's contingent is the largest (25 out of 200 world participants).

( I am gonna make the next few entries short as I am kinda dozing and the next few days at work will be really busy!)

Well, we had a few hours to kill before the conference began. So we headed to Zurich city for a leisurely walk, stopping in a small cafe and enacting what many tourists did best! Photo taking!

Headed back to the airport and met up with other delegates from the other countries. I was pretty zonked out then and was tired of self-introductions. Thus, stuck with the familiar, a singaporean gal called Meera whom became a good conference buddy.

We were given name tags and lunch packs (mainly comprised of chocolates, nuts and cheese). Chartered buses brought us to the Olma conference centre where we were greeted with cocktails. Hah..saw Michael (whom I met 3 years back from the conference and whom I met a couple of times after in Singapore and Melbourne). It's amazing how our friendship still stands after all this while and how we have grown through the years.

We were divided into groups and was seated. We had talks from UBS (recruiting centre)...telling us how exciting and rewarding it was to work in their organization. The next seminar was on corporate governance. This was somehow more interesting to me. After all, I did a lil consulting relating to coporate govenance recently. We were made to introduce ourselves on the table and then later discussed some minute issues on corporate governance.

The lucrative "sales pitch" did not end. We were each given a toiletries bag and was treated to a sumptuous buffet dinner with wines, a magic show and the performance of a live band. Sat with Michael, Meera, Andreas (a Hungarian I met on the same discussion table) and Elidor (Albanian who attended the conference three years back too).

By the end of the whole day.....absolutely exhausted....I was brought to my host's (Bella and Lina) place at the end of the evening. Realised that I had another roommate (delegate too) from China. Yizhen is studying in New York and is from Beijing. Very sweet gal. I plonked my bags and headed out again! Had to meet Michael and Oender (A turkish friend I met 3 years back durin the conference). Fortunately, I lived right smack in the city. St. Gallen did not change much and I can still remember the "ins" and "outs". Met them at Macs and we headed to the local bar for a drink. It was really really nice to see Oender. Has been frigging three years since I last saw him!!! Amazing. He did not change much. Still as warm and is working in Credit Suisse now. You see, like I emphasized earlier, it's interesting to see how everyone changed over the years. From a student to a successful banker; or a student to a full time honours student and a part-time entrepreneur embarking his business in a high risk country...Love to see passion in people!

Oender had to leave early as he had to work the next day and had to catch the train back to Zurich. I chilled out at Michael's host's place for a while (again, the swiss students were very hospitable) and then headed back to my host's and zzzzzzz....

Back from a memorable holiday..=)

I was immersed in plenty of coffee drinking, yawns as well as piles of work today! Practically trudging the hours like a warrior drenched with fatigue. It's 3.20am now and I just completed my day's of work and in a few hours of time, I'm back in my battle zone. Battling with the jet lag, preparing for a client's presentation on wednesday, and numerous meetings. But my head frequently whisks to the times I had in St. Gallen and in Andalucia. Thinking of the conversations I had with the people in the conference and of course, my wonderful times with Monty in Spain!! It's strange that for the two weeks that I was gone, it felt as if I was away for a month.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

St. Gallen, Switzerland

A short short message:

Grace is fine. Good weather in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Excellent conference and food. Having a blast....but extremely tired.

A mix of interesting people...will update more. Two more days to spend time with Monty.=)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Finally finally finally.

The day will come tomorrow. Aaaahhhh...feels good. It will probably take another two more weeks before I update this little blog of mine.

The anxiety is killing....really dread to think of the returning part.

Hmm..From Tokyo to Vienna to Bratislava and then to.....Malaga. La la la...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Learn how to die and you learn how to live

Monty and I had an interesting conversation today. We talked about death. A grim topic where any sane human being would be so fearful of. Would you have done anything different if your days are numbered? Would the choices differ for people of varied ages? I would think so. Most of us would quit our monotonous working life and then embark on a unpredictable riskier journey (given our leftover resources).

I gave it a little thought. First, I would definitely quit working. After all, I see no long term gain. Hmmm...I would probably hold my own funeral where I am present and where I can hear melodious eulogies of myself. It would have to be a joyous a wedding. There I would give thanks to all my loved ones. Then I'd probably raise money, together with my savings, head to countries that are stricken with poverty and help them financially (in some ways possible). Armed with a camera, I'll take snippets of grateful faces. Armed with a laptop, I'll write a book with their stories and my journey and hopefully, able to create awareness with this published work of mine. All earnings will then be donated to unicef. Rather wishful thinking...but a fulfilling one.

Death by William Butler Yeats
Nor dread nor hope attend
a dying animal;
a man awaits his end
dreading and hoping all;
many times he died,
many times rose again.
A great man in his pride
Confronting murderous men
Casts derision upon
Supersession of breath;
He knows death to the bone-
Man has created death.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Boo boo's birthday at the Mcdonalds!

When was the last time you visited Mcdonalds? Or...when was the last time you attended a birthday party at Mcdonalds?

As much as I can remember, I attended Pearlene's birthday party of this sort when I was probably 7. Since then, I have never been a great fan of this fast food chain, especially after the release of the movie SUPER-SIZE ME. It's natural for me to equate its food to obesity and beef patties made up of the insides of a cow. Eeew...But to my delight, I enjoyed myself today. One thing for sure, they revamped the menu, catering to the health conscious. I mean, ten years ago, you would never imagine this fast food chain that is sprouting all over the world to have "Apple slices", "yogurt", "low-fat milk", "corn" in its menu.

What's interesting about the party ain't the birthday cake or the singing of the birthday song. It's the mere fact that a bunch of adults in their mid-twenties are actually enjoying themselves playing kids again. We were treated like kids! Ditto. The organizer, much like a disciplinarian or a school principal, ordered us to sit on little chairs, wear our juvenile colourful hats and finish our food quickly. It was ludicrous to hear nursury rhyme songs playing on the background (damn....should have brought our own cds). Likes kids, we played infantile games and received happy meals (with the toy gadgets inside). Quite embarassingto say this, but I did enjoy myself!

Thanks Booboo....Happy birthday once again!

One more week...counting down

I just received my conference package and learnt that my host's name is Kathy.=) Hopefully, all goes well with my stay with her.
I remember the first time when I went for the conference. I stayed with a bunch of fun-loving gals, two swiss, one south-african, another Singaporean as well as a Slovakian! It was pure fun. Just partying every night. The second time of the conference...due to my drunken stupor, I lost my host's key and I had to pay for the loss.

Anyhow, this is a first rate conference. Here are some facilities they offer (all provided for):
  1. Excellent food: We have 5 meals a day with free flow of lindt chocalates (from what I remember), booze galore during dinner nights..specially catered evening events (held at different venues in and around St. Gallen)!
  2. Financial Information: A comprehensive news and up-to-date information service will be available at the Reuters Terminal in the Communication Centre as well as on flatscreens in the foyer.
  3. Internet Corner: Enjoy e-services at the Internet Corner with sufficient terminals and printers.
  4. Money Exchange Counter
  5. Press Centre
  6. Free Transport around as well as within the city! : We just have to present our badge to the bus conductors for free transport.
  7. Simultaneous Translation: All keynote sessions taking place in the Auditorium will be translated simultaneously into English, French and German. Portable ear phones are handed out in the Auditorium.
  8. And a Funky Device called SPOT-ME. This device (only be used in the conference) can detect your friends within your victiny and informs you their presence by vibrating (like a pager). Through this device, you can also send messages .....very cool to play with during boring lectures. It stores photos and information of all delegates as well as outside participants. week more....and the best thing, hanging out with Monty in Spain!

Friday, May 05, 2006


Went prawning the other day with a bunch of friends and brought Little One along too. Surprisingly, he caught the most amongst all of us.

The picture above shows the mega-prawn we caught, but surprisingly, NO ONE ate it...oh man. What a waste!