Saturday, February 27

Saturday morning

In the morning
I do sometimes think about these beautiful places, especially while waiting for my students to come. I am holding a pre-mid-term tutorial for them but so far only one has arrived.

Thursday, February 25

Travel with the boss

SO. I will be going to MIT with my supervisor. No conference, no papers accepted, no nothing, just a trip. ZOMFG MIT!!! That's where all the smart people are?! How the hell did I get to go there and how the hell will I manage not to embarrass myself? I mean, I can shut my face for like maybe three hours or so, but what about the rest of the time? How does one prevent other people from seeing how stoopid one is?

So we have question number one:

1. How does one prevent other people from seeing how stupid one is?

Great, with that out of the way, here comes question 2:

2. How does one travel with one's boss?

This is a hard one because of the following:

  • What if i fall asleep and my head lolls and my mouth opens and i drool?

  • What if he sits at the aisle and i sit inside and you know i need to pee like a zillion times?!

  • What do I do?! Do i read papers or do I watch a movie? Do I read a book? If yes, what book? Ok granted, we can talk about the nook for a while but then what?

  • Which brings me to the last one: WHAT THE FUCK does one talk with one's supervisor FOR A WHOLE WEEK?!

  • Would this be a good time to ask him about my future?

  • How does one restrain from saying "shit" and "fuck" for more than a day? Shit ...

Google has not helped me at all. Below are a few excerpts from what I have found:

  • On a plane with your boss? Bring reading material that makes it appear like you are always trying to hone your business/advertising/communication skills. Books like "The One Minute Manager" or "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" are good choices - YEAH RIGHT

  • Keep the conversation about your boss. This deflects any unwanted attention or exposure to your personal life. Ask you boss about her inspirations, why she chose the business, her first job out of college, etc - AHAM, good one

  • Be extra prepared. There’s a chance your travel plans will go awry -- a very good chance. Though you can’t prepare for everything that can go wrong, you can have contingency plans for the more likely difficulties. For instance, know the name of a nearby hotel in case yours has been overbooked. Carry an extra battery for your cell phone, laptop or camera (or your boss’s). - RIGHT ON. Getting to it NOW

  • Don’t lose your temper. Emotions cloud rationality and make for an uncomfortable atmosphere. And what boss wants to supervise a person who can’t control his emotions? MY FAVORITE!!!! XCCSDSDW!@!E$@#$@$

  • Showing up on time for a 6am cross-country flight dressed the way you’d be dressed for a day at the office and not looking ready to snooze your way across the country. This is BAD - I have recently acquired a favorite ELMO t-shirt to travel - guess it will have to go under a shirt or something

  • Don’t venture into sensitive subjects. Stay away from topics that might be flammable. Politics, religion, sex and personal hygiene, for instance, can all be career-ending conversation starters. - No shit, Sherlock!

  • Pursuit of the opposite sex while still in business company - Dear god, i hope we don't get into that - it would be worse than seeing him in berms, seriously.

Tuesday, February 23

The beginning ...

... of a beautiful friendship.

Daffy has had the honor of being the fourth to give me a getfat pack! She had some tough steps to follow of the people that came before her, namely San, Dor, and Reg. Still she managed to introduce me to what will definitely become a butt-enhancing habit. Behold the rice cracker!!

Upon desperate queries she confessed that this is not a chinese new year treat but! some helpful information followed, namely that the brand is called Wang Wang (i hope it's just a brand name and i dun embarrass myself too much by saying, i don't know, i hate short chinese people?!) and that i could find it in NTUC. The quest begins as soon as possible!

Sunday, February 21

A lazy Sunday

The feeling of Sunday comes from the fact that we spent 7 hours cycling in Pulau Ubin yesterday - it was all amazing fun, toppled with a very artistic fall from yours truly and a somewhat not artistic chafing by yours truly as well (caused I suspect from trying the mountain bike course and having to fall/stop a lot of times and then trying to no avail to get back on the bike) - I still cannot turn right, mount, dismount, and change gears properly, to say nothing of the aim hahaha, but still, good fun. And then today we actually lazed around and only came to school around 11 am which is like the utmost luxury. Sigh.

Thursday, February 18

In a lull

[Just a better title for Meh.]

There's a time in your life where you think you will live forever. When 30 is old and 40 is like ancient. When marriage, children, career, health, insurance policy are all grown-up boring discussions and your life (at least mine) is all about walking the dog, rollerblading, and, later in life, climbing, running and all that. And when you do hear about bad things happening it's always in passing and always very very far away. And even when bad things are close, you can still look around you and identify your things, your rocks, your foundation or safety net. Like friends, family, favorite things or hobbies, things and people that you know will be around forever (or for a longer span than let's say, a year).

And then friends move away and NEVER keep in touch (and i mean AT ALL) in this dying age where Internet is available in most corners of this godforsaken earth. And you look around and you can count your friends (local) on at most the fingers of one hand.

And then you hear about somebody your age, that you went to school with, that has developed leukemia and has a very high chance of dying. Like soon. And it's not like other friends that have died about whom you could have said that they had it coming. This is like for real, pure, unasked, unexpected death. And if you don't have the benefit of a belief in heaven there's like nothing left. Fat worms eating your flesh at most.

And then you hear about somebody in the same graduate program that is insane. Certified or soon to be certified. And you look around and you hope that your hobbies and your friends (countable by the fingers of one hand) will keep you sane. And hope that you do not get injured again such that you can keep climbing and running (my elbow hurts! bad! and so does my ankle - must be all the Chinese new year food) because let's face it, these are the things that keep you sane in the absence of family, a real career and in the presence of DOUBT.

And because life as a phd student in a foreign country is one big hill that you need to keep on climbing consistently, you need a lot of Neverquits. And sometimes you just run out of Neverquits and all the shops that sell Neverquits (not to be mistaken with the shops that sell Moreballz) are closed because of .. chinese new year [?] It's that time when there's only one cure:

PS. I just wrote an entire page to justify the buying of [another] pair of shoes. Pfft.

Get fat

As if last night's lame climbing session (lame from my part, obviously) where I spent 75% of the time talking and the other 25% snoozing on the mattresses wasn't enough, now I have to deal with this thing right on the desk behind me. Calling and calling and beckoning and calling and asking and calling ...

Yes indeed, this is my get fat pack from Sandra (the square box) and Doris woo hoo!!! At the time of writing the one from Sandra is empty except the candies which I do not want to try because they might be sweet. The peanut butter cookies were gone like in two seconds after taking this pic and the prawn rolls and whatever-seafood seasoned white strips have just finished oh no! Doris expertly put a lot of stuff between the superior layer of bak kwa and the bottom layer. I however, because I am smart like that, managed to penetrate her defenses and am now halfway through the bottom bak kwa without having to eat all the dried plums and whatnot in between, yum!

Wednesday, February 17


Because now matter how much i donate it won't make a difference (because i am poor), maybe this will. I hope it does and i hope they got the pics.

PS. yes, that is the NUS football field and yes, i am wearing pink, albeit a very angry one.

Tuesday, February 16

The day I pain[t]ed

Which i haven't done since like the first grade or so. And that totally killed me because I was so frustrated that whatever came out of my hands was NOT what was in my mind. Pfft! I don't know how those painters do it, i swear.

The end product (basically shit):

My friend is a pro:

All the pretty colors:

This is how people who enjoy it really look like:

I look like I am about to give birth, extremely excited. NOT!

Monday, February 15

Chinese New Year ho!

Well, I guess the one that is enjoying CNY the most is Marian. He has been stuck in bed reading "A song of ice and fire" since Friday. It is now monday and there are still no signs of movement. He is refusing to watch movies (it used to be me, what the hell happened to the world?), to feed himself, and going out is a chore. Last time i checked he was at the third book and the fact that there are two more to go and only 2 days left of the holidays is no good because he just can't read that fast. Other than that, spent a pretty ordinary holiday.

Helped my friend move on Saturday and then went ahead and challenged myself some more (hopefully i will get the pictures to show exactly how) ok, fine, I PAINTED. With PAINT. On CANVAS. Pffft... I am extremely eager to get the pics (apparently the girl that took the pics went ahead and fucked up the card and so i will be trying to recover it) because if not, it just means that we have to do the whole thing all over again and I don't think my nerves will be able to take it.

Climbed yesterday at Climb Asia with my non-climbing friends. One of them is apparently terrified of heights to the point where he cannot look down to see where he is stepping lest he freezes and cannot move. However, with some encouraging and shoving and pulling he managed to get to the top of the outside big wall! You would say that this would at least quiet his fear, but no, he kept his eyes closed the whole time while marian lowered him down. I find this extremely inspiring - how come a lot of people have so many balls whereas i don't even have the guts to finish the CA roof? Where do these people buy balls may I know? Was there like a sale recently? Cause I would so buy like a bucketfull.

Friday, February 12

Gong Xi Gong Xi

I'm ushering in the new year, i really really am! Firstly, i am enjoying the almost empty canteen - i do not know where everybody went but i sure am enjoying the fact that they went!! Secondly, I am looking forward to my get fat pack which hopefully will arrive these days from Sandra, Doris, and Regina - or from all of them woo hoo!!! As such, I did not buy any cookies today although the almond snacks were really really calling for me. And I went shopping this morning to stock up food for the first two-three days of the new year when EVERYTHING will be closed. I braved the supermarket gingerly balancing my free Starbucks coffee (thanks to jenny and flower), my bag, the bag from the bakery which back then packed (I ADMIT) three four cheese buns and three sesame cheese buns more than it does now, and the shopping basket! and fighting all the small (but fierce!) chinese old ladies out for the last or for the most fresh tomato out there - one of them snatched the last piece of broccoli right from in front of my eyes, WTF?

I know that I would not make a very good wartime housekeeper because the chinese new year provisions that i selected are: 5 apples, 8 tomatoes, 2 l of milk, 500 gr of white grapes, 70 gr baked almonds, 1 loaf of bread, 1 weet-bix, and 3 dragonfruits! We are going to starve to death, oh yes we are :))

The coming of the chinese new year brings possibilities of new resolutions, on top of the fresh year's ones: cutting down on carbs (i.e. bread - i was considering this while munching on the buns), running extra five k (making it a total of 10k) on alternate days, challenging myself more, more climbing, more mountains, ... etc. etc. etc. A happy year of the tiger everybody! ROAR!

PS picture of native friendly bird from NZ.

Wednesday, February 10

A cry for help

Ho there boy!! I wish there were an equivalent expression in English - what do you say to a horse who is about to go off on a rampage? (And of course this sentence was followed by amazing google queries such as "how to talk to horses" "wow there boy horse" and other stuff - if google had a table with one's IP and the cumulative IQ of their queries I think I have just dropped a few points) Seriously, claudia just wanted her mamma in the previous post, and san and dor, thanks for being my mommies (oh boy that sounded wrong) yesterday. There are bigger fish to fry, a phd to finish, and more pull-ups to do so no point in whining and stomping feet. Hell it could be worse, with me being truly alone at the other end of the universe - who would i have to rant on then.

It could be EVEN worse, what with having to face death at such a young age. This is the case of a university colleague of mine who has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, i will say it again, ACUTE LYMPHOBLASTIC LEUKEMIA, and whose wife (another uni colleague of mine) is giving birth next month. Furthermore, the costs of bone marrow transplant operation (which can only be done outside romania pfft!) is 150.000 EURO. Furthermore, they have managed to raise about 50000 EURO only. This is a horrible shift in perspective and one that i wish to god me and my loved ones will never have to make.

I have been struggling a lot trying to figure out how i could help to raise money - cook pies and ask for people to donate? sell my books and donate the amount? I have about 40 books, at 5-10 dollars each ... It all feels so puny and unjust it just makes me want to scream. What is the price that you can ask to save a life - seeing how it could very well be you in that position. Or is it just easier to shrug and say "Well, it's not me?"

I figure there are about 20 visitors a day here. If we all chip in and donate 5 SGD (am assuming we are all poor students) that would be 100 SGD = 50 euros. It's very little but if it could be done weekly then maybe it would make a difference. There is a paypal donation button on the right side of the site. Below is the link to the page. The text says "I am helping Daniel Raduta in his fight against leukemia".

Îl susţin pe Daniel Răduţă

Monday, February 8


Coming to Asia from a Latin country is a huge leap of faith even for the most open-minded of us Latins. Latin families are very close-knit, feelings and fights are always in the open and until the very end, and passion is just another word for normal. Asia is different and provides a huge culture shock to most. People are shorter, their facial expression are almost unreadable, the food is new and mostly too spicy to take, there is no bread and the cheese and coffee are awful. Respect is assumed and not earned, mostly by age and social status. Corruption exists but is is very well disguised, especially to outsiders. Sarcasm and irony are not understood and self-deprecating humor is almost inexistent - quite surprising, considering some of the Chinese proverbs I've heard. And yes, more importantly, the society is very closed to outsiders. If you don't feel left out by your size or the color of your skin, there will definitely be something that will make you feel an outsider such as temperament, expectations, etc.

With previous incarnations of the team i used to feel very lonely or left out every time they would go out and forget (or not think) to ask me. Or when they would accidentally bump into a friend and present me as "this is claudia, she likes durians" as if portraying some kind of weird foreigner characteristic. It didn't bother me as much, seeing how an open, welcoming attitude towards strangers is normal i guess only for expats - since the people already living here have their set of friends for a very long time already and are unwilling/shy/lazy to make the space and effort for anybody else. But it does bring a bitter taste seeing how the two major highlights of my non-climbing related socializing events with my climbing friends came in 2008 when I a) got invited to Cherlyn's to watch the opening of the Beijing olympics and b) got invited to Shu Mei's for pre-marathon carbo-loading. If it's not the color of the skin, the weird occupation, the humor, the language, the choice of lifestyle (let's be honest, VERY FEW Singaporeans would EVER leave home), the weird foodstuffs, the curly hair, the hair color, etc., that will be somehow pointed out to you to show how different you are, well, recently I've found another one: AGE. Or rather not age, but the social tag that comes with each age interval. Like at this age you should be doing this, hanging out with these people, looking out for career opportunities, buying the latest ipHone, iTampon or whatever, being a good son or a good daughter, etc. etc. Truth is, if age doesn't somehow point me out as an outsider in the current team, the lack of preoccupation for the rat-race (bonuses, staying late to please the boss, must advance in career, have something to show for myself for cny dinner, etc etc) will point me out with the others.

I have never given age more thought than tonight since for me it matters more a person's inner youth than his IC age (hell, most 23-year olds here are about 17 by most international standards) but I somehow come to glimpse that it matters for others. Quite an offhand remark - "But Claud, why do you want to go [to Outward Bound Singapore]? You'll be the oldest one there!..." spiked all this literature and my decision to finish this training cycle and then permanently move outside the team and trainings. Quite frankly, I am sick of being an outsider so I will just move on my remote island and fuck everybody else.


I will spare you the morbid musings on how a year more in one's age is only a year closer to death, but I can't help but notice that other people think so too! There you go, I went ahead and validated my beliefs not through a logical proof but by relating to the masses - I am one step closer to feeling comfortable among my fellow beings. Regardless, I got a book for my birthday called Cosmos by Carl Sagan. It's sort of popular science with the cosmos and the planets, and the greeks, but very well written. Below is one of the passages that stuck, mainly because it says what i was thinking to the comma (only more articulate, mind you):

Part of the resistance to Darwin and Wallace derives from our difficulty in imagining the passage of millennia, much less the aeons. What does seventy million years mean to beings who live only one-millionth as long? We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.

Sunday, February 7


I swear to god nothing spells G.E.E.K than six people playing RISK from 7pm to 1:30 a-fucking-m. I just wish I weren't such a grump and could actually take part in their enthusiasm, with Marian being the chief violin. All in all, it was a wonderful party, everybody seemed to like the food (again, I think no picture). I am off to CA now, with a sekret plan to try on the roof (and have the guts to fall from it). The theme of this year will be "challenge" for me. As such, I am wearing a girly dress and! plan to take a fall from the roof. YAY! Maybe I'll even try some pig organ soup this year, who knows?

Thursday, February 4


Yesterday I was grinning so much that I had an instant headache - not too instant to go away i'm affraid. Basically, this is my b-day present from Marian.

Lo and behold, a nook e-book reader!! It's slick! It's lovely! Means I can continue to buy books and a) not feeling bad for the trees that I cut and b) not having to worry what I am going to do with them once I leave here. ZOMG IT IS GREAT!!!!! (the yellow blotch is just a camera mishap, relax :) )

Tuesday, February 2

Dusky Track - (Part 2)

Read the first part here. Read until the end, there are naked videos of me!

Day 4. Loch Maree to Supper Cove hut. Tis the day we first swam in Dusky Sound. Dusky Sound was so called by captain Cook when he arrived here in 1770, you got it, at dusk. It's beautiful, it's amazing and we didn't see much of it because it was clouded. And it was raining.

Back to the swimming part, the Interwebs guides will tell you that you can cut 2 hours short if you walk through the Sound at low tide. They really mean at LOW tide, not at half-low tide. Because if you try at half-low tide, you can walk a part through knee-high water (this is normal), and then you have to SWIM a part to the shore. This is fun (although the first time the cold water reaches your groin area YOU ARE A DIFFERENT PERSON) while you swim, and even warm when you reach the shore, but then, unless the shore is in a warm, sunny place, you become very cold. Regardless, you can swim with your boots on (who would have thought?) and the backpack floats.

And no, you can't carry the backpack on your head, not if the water is deep!

After that, Marian, Pasha and one german guy that was at the hut went fishing in a thunderstorm. They caught 27 fishes, out of which 6 or so were big enough to be eaten, among them a blue cod! trout! While the incredible waste made me seriously consider not eating and throwing a huge tantrum, I relented to Marian's enthusiasm and cooked the buggers. The blue cod was delicious!

Day 5. From Supper cove to loch Maree - the only half sunny day!! This was the only day when the solar panel was actually used to charge our iphones. Good, good! We even lost the track at one point and managed to find it using the GPS!

Day 6. From Loch Maree hut to Kintail Hut. The guide books and the rangers at the DOC office will say that you should not leave Loch Maree for Kintail if you can't see the tree stumps in the Loch. I come and add to this: even if you do see the stumps but it has been raining steadily for two-three days, DO NOT GO. Unless you want to swim for it.

And swam we did. The first time I even stripped to my sports bra. Afterwards I didn't bother, figuring that I would waste too much heat by dressing-undressing (it was raining of course so we were wet and cold on a lot of levels). The gore-tex + thermal combination worked wonders for me.

We lost the trail many times because the orange triangles were heavily underwater (they are placed at about 1 m height) and you could not see them. At one point we wondered into deer country even, we were so far off the track - a combination of gps (until it died) and my knack of finding the way saved us in the end.

Hell, remember that family? Well, we found them stranded on a dry patch, waiting for a river to go down. In the end, we helped them get to Kintail - cross a lot of streams, rapids, up and down etc etc. My guess is that he wanted to kill her because otherwise I cannot for the life of me imagine WHY he would bring his severely unprepared wife on a trek like this. Ah well... It took us a total of 12 hours (and them 15) to get to Kintail Hut. The last three/four hours I was alone with them, having agreed with the boys for them to go ahead and then come back for us - the pace was snail-like. Marian turned out to be my hero because they really did come back for us! By that point I was nearly hypothermic because we were going so slow that I could not warm up at all - still wet, in shorts (ha ha). Marian and Pasha came and Pasha stayed with them while I ran the last km or so to the hut with Marian in tow (carrying my backpack - v. heavy as I had a large part of the family's clothes) such that I can prepare some warm drink. BRRR.

Monday, February 1

A story in watches

- excuse the hairy hand, it's one of my many many charms :)

1. Who I am - no doubt about it, big screen, electronics, functionality (timer, stopwatch, alarm), SPORTY!

2. Who I am when I am high on caffeine - girly, baby blue, square!

3. Who I want to be - modern, slick, quirky (a bit, the golden metal squares in the strap are not equal) but still cool

4. Who my mother wants me to be (i secretly like this watch as well :D)- slick, elegant

Now all I need is two more arms such that I can wear them all at the same time!