Thursday, October 28

Giving away my babies

Here is what I posted on Facebook today. Am writing it here for the benefit of the only person I know that does not have a facebook account. Ahem.

Dear Jenny, Shu, Eli,

I am moving out of my apartment and will be moving out of singapore in the future (me hopes) so I cannot bring my babies with me. And since it's very expensive to ship my babies to Romania, I have decided to pass them to the only three people in Singapore (well, plus Sandra but she don't have no account), that I know are readers.

So, that being said, would you be interested in taking some of my books? If any of you says yes, I will make a list of the books for you to choose from. Please take them, your house must be filled with books, if not for you, then for your future kids (oh my, i suck :)) )

ps will post this on e blog too for san to read

Truth is, it costs 225 SGD to ship 20 kg of books to Romania. I think I have about 40 kg. Brr.

Wednesday, October 27

Welcome to the real world

1. My prof has applied for a research grant on which he plans to hire me as a post-doc (with a very good salary btw). I would be very happy with this except I have a few restraints:

  • I would, again, most probably, be the only one working on this project

  • I do not really want to stay in Singapore, it is very far from home! I want to go to europe. Hell, even the US. It's still closer ...

  • It would just mean more and more work all by myself though (with $$ comes more work work work)

2. There is no news of the grant yet.

3. In the meantime, I have started to apply for a lot of jobs, out of which at this point in time, one in particular looks very promising. In the process, I have asked the prof and another two Dr. if they would be my referees. All of them said with pleasure, etc. I need 3 reference letters for this promising application.

4. So the prof comes back from his sabbatical and starts to tell me that next year (jan) he is going to hire me as a post-doc (increased $$) in a field that is totally unrelated to what i have been doing for the past years (he does not yet know the project!). And, says he, if the grant gets in, he will switch me to work on the grant. And, after my Dr.Dr. gets confirmed, another more $$ in for me (regardless if i am working on the grant or not)

5. And then he says. I have not yet sent in your reference letter and I have told Dr. X not to send it as well because I wanted to talk to you if you still want to go ahead, considering all this (i.e. point 4), do you still want to go ahead? And I am like WTF?! I wanted to shout but I answered nicely and politely that yes, I want to go ahead (and then some more bla bla bla)

6. I feel strangely betrayed and scared shit because I am still applying for cool jobs. What if they don't send out any letter? What if he gets pissed at me for leaving and then makes Marian's life a living hell?

Tuesday, October 26

One picture Tuesday

This year we caught a single day of sun when we went climbing in Romania. We climbed an easy route on a very wet wall. It was scary as hell, but it was truly worth it.

As usual, Dark waited for us at the bottom of the clif.

Friday, October 22

The promise

Last year I made a promise to myself to run at least one marathon every year. This just goes to say that one shouldn't make promises when one is riding the wave. This is because last year when I made this promise, I had already ran two marathons so my task for the year was done. But I had also sworn NEVER EVER NEVER EVER to run Sundown marathon ever again. Not even if they come to me with the route and have me approve it. The memory of those stairs, of the volunteers sleeping on the side of the street, and of us rambling through the busy parking lot at 5 am in the morning looking for the finish line is deeply engraved in my memory. So this basically left me with having to run the Standard Chartered Marathon this December. This is no big deal, as I enjoy the run every time.

Things were great but then we decided to go to Nepal to trek the Annapurna Circuit. And we are coming back on the day before the marathon. A balanced person would say: fine, register, and then if you are NOT tired after hiking for 300 km, going up and down between 1000m and 5460m, and after a 8hrs flight from Kathmandu to Singapore, then you can actually run it. I know myself very very well so I decided not to register AT ALL. This is because I know that if I do register then I will run no matter what.

So I refused to run the Sundown marathon in May. And I can't run the one in December. This leaves me with a window of about two weeks to complete my yearly running goal. So how?

Well, this is how: I will run my own marathon, in East Coast Park, with Marian on a bicycle as a support crew, spectator, and cheerer. I will handle the registration and the finisher t-shirt. In the previous years what kept me going was the finisher t-shirt (vain, i know). This year it's going to be the promise of a seafood dinner in East Coast Park woo hoo!

Event: East Coast Park Personal Marathon - ECPPM
Date: 19th December (Sunday)
Flag-off: 4:30 pm
Venue: East Coast Park
Cut-off time: 9pm

Other spectators/runners are welcome :)

Wednesday, October 20

Vietnam, baby!

One week in Vietnam! Loved the food but hated the motorcycles and the noise. Cheese, bread, pate, and last but not least, kefir!

Communist propaganda. It left a very very sour taste in my mouth. Although to be honest, for a communist country, Vietnam is incredibly capitalistic.

Beautiful French buildings:
Tainted with propaganda":

Uncle Ho everywhere:

And motorcycles. No regards for traffic direction, speed, signs, anything. Now we know why the speed limit in Ho Chi Minh City is 40 km/hour.

Visited the War Museum. It was quite impressive and I did not find it at all biased or full of propaganda as I was told before. War is cruel and it does hurt civilians, no matter what we think. And yes, napalm and agent orange are illegal according to the rules of war. However, things got a little bit out of hand in this respect on the second floor, where there was a room that showed how other nations rallied for Vietnam during the war. And in it we found this picture, showing a Pro-vietnam Romanian demonstration in the seventies. We all know that these were not spontaneous but thoroughly organized by the party.

Between work, the prof and us visited the Cu Chi tunnels, where the Viet Cong hid while the americans where having their way with their country - napalm, agent orange, the works. The viet cong answered with bamboo traps, among other things:

The tunnel we visited was enlarged for tourists:

But it was still damn crammed. On our hands and knees we went:

A lot of things can be transported on motorcycles. From goldfish:

To tonight's dinner in a fancy restaurant:

Could not go inside the Notre Dame Cathedral:

But we visited the Mekong Delta instead:

And a bee farm:

Who knew pomelos grow in trees?

Or starfruits? [Click to enlarge]

Got ferried on some canal by locals:

Wore the hat!

So did the prof!

Cobra wine! Pictured is a dead cobra holding a cobra penis in its mouth. Who cares about animals anyway?!

Everything was chocolaty: the mekong, my ice coffee, the palm flowers...

I wanna see more of Vietnam!

Pics available on picasa, as usual [hover for link].

Tuesday, October 19

One picture Tuesday

Because we are training for the Annapurna Circuit, we have replaced the "Saturday morning lazy cleaning of the house" with "Saturday morning huffing and puffing" in Bukit Timah (but about the hills of my life in a later post).

In Bukit Timah you meet a lot of people. From people minding their own business, actually WORKING for a living if you must:

To people chilling on the azure blue:

And whom you actually disturb with your presence:

To people seamlessly integrating technology in their life:

And using technology to improve other people's lives as well:

Sunday, October 17

Annapurna Circuit Trek Summary

And the reason why these days I am giving up on my Monday training with the girls (which actually translates into doing an incredible amount of pull-ups or variations) to go run uphill either in Kent Ridge park or in Bukit Timah nature reserve. Below is a summary of the Annapurna Circuit. Hopefully we will be fit enough and the wether will be good enough for us to finish it.

Day 1. Besi Sahar --> Bahundanda
6-7 hrs, 510m ↑
- Ngadi is an alternative for the stop-over
- Bahundanda - one of the prettiest villages in the trail

Day 2. Ngadi/Bahundanda → Chamje
5-6 hrs, 420 m ↑, 260 m ↓
- Bahundanda - one of the prettiest villages in the trail

Day 3. Chamje → Bagarchap
6-7 hrs, 940 m ↑
- marijuana fields, rhododendron
- Tal village good for a break
- suspension bridge

Day 4. Bagarchap → Chame/Bratang
5-6 hrs, 550 m ↑
- must register at the police post
- Bratang: apple orchards, 2 inns, quiet night

Day 5. Chame/Bratant → Pisang
4-5 hrs, 640 m ↑
- alternative is Humde/Hongde higher up, 1.5 hours from Manang
- forest of pine and cedar
- valley view (best!) - Sabje valley

Day 6. Pisang/Humde → Manang
4-5 hrs/1.5 hrs, 350 m ↑

Day 7, Day 8 (depends) acclimatization and rest day in Manang
To do:
- climb ridge north of village for great views
- climb point 4695 (strenuous climb)
- visit Bhojo gompa
- great view at View Point Cafe
- there is a doctor here, 30 US consultation
- free Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) lectures

Day 9. Manang -> Yak Kharka
3-4 hrs, 620 m ↑

Day 10. Yak Kharka → Thorung Ledi
3-4 hrs, 340 m ↑
- slow and steady wins the race

Day 11. Thorung Ledi → Jarkot - THE BIG DAY
6-8 hrs, 1040 m ↑, 1620 m ↓ to Muktinath
7-9 hrs, 1040 m ↑, 1720 m ↓ to Jarkot
- passing through Thorung La, 5400 m
- stop for lunch at Muktinath and visit around (must visit!!)
- can stop here also if no more strength
- must leave Thorung Ledi at 5 am

Day 12. Jarkot → Marpha
7 hrs
- Jarkot: peach trees, nice fortress town
- as we leave Jarkot, turn around and take photo

Day 13. Marpha → Kalopani
4 hrs
- flat OH YEAH!!
- views: Dhaulaghiri (8167m), Nilgiri Central (6940 m) and South (6839m), Annapurna I (8091 m)
- looks like it can be mixed with previous day

Day 14. Kalopani → Tatopani
6 hrs, 24 km, steep ↓
- Dhaulaghiri lodge is closest to the springs

Day 15. Tatopani → Gorepani
6 hrs, climb up, steep: 140 m ↓, 1750 m ↑
- Poon Hill MAFA!!!!!! - very nice views of all the mountains, good for sunrise, sunset pics

Day 16. Gorepani → Hille
downhill hard, rock staircase

Day 17. Hille → Pokhara
- hike to Beni town, take cab from Beni to Pokhara
- looks like it can be mixed with day 16 s.t we can stay one day in Pokhara

Pokhara: - relax around the lakeside, take pictures, trek around the lake, etc

Thursday, October 14


I have been slouching for as long as I can remember. I like to think that it is because my back muscles are so big that I am always hunching forward, but, truth is ... I just slouch. I have tried everything form: asking people to hit me when i slouch to: trying to walk straight. So basically, I have not really tried much.

Until I joined yoga for project elephant. After that my posture greatly improved and I was able to walk straight again (to say nothing that I was finally able to touch my toes)

I quit yoga this year in January. Reasons being that I wanted to concentrate on running, climbing (injury-free, this time), and on writing my thesis. I achieved all three objectives this year so I am really proud of myself for that. However, in quitting yoga I lost two important things, namely, my posture, and a friend I had made through yoga (come to think of it, this second one does not count because if i lost said friend so easily, it just means we weren't really friends). So I lost my posture.

About a month ago San, Dor, Mar, and I were walking through Taka and we spotted this:

The english says: "It chest out posture"

I could not resist it so I grabbed it instantly. At first, I said it was for my mom. But truth is, the arm loops are very tiny so my mom will not fit into it. So here I am today:

Notice the cool shirt: Vietnam-bought for only 10 SGD! And yes, I did put a pink teddy-bear on top of the cluster rack behind me.

Wednesday, October 13

One picture Tuesday

I have just returned from the land of motorbikes, bad internet and good food so I have manymanymany things to do and no time to find a picture. So here it is, for the first time seen on the internet, a picture of me from high-school! Guess which one is me!

Wednesday, October 6

Good morning Vietnam!

Here I am in Ho Chin Minh City! The land of the zillion scooters, where crossing the street is a fucking adventure, best coffee in Asia (me thinks), and good good good food!

I love eating with Marian and the prof. Marian is a very very fussy heater, but when he is with the prof HE HAS to eat. So he eats things that he wouldn't eat even if promised to give him 10 children: like spring rolls, funny meats, weird cakes. He eats those now without beating an eyelid. He even agrees when I ask him how nice they are! :)

Hopefully tomorrow's internet connection will be much better and i will be able to post some pics.

Interaction between me and the hotel reception desk.

Me: "What is the name of the wi-fi network?"
Them: [pause][weird look] "Um, no?"

Tuesday, October 5

One picture Tuesday

A couple of weeks ago Marian and i were hydrating in preparation for the 2010 Safra Army Half Marathon. We bought two 1.5l bottles of water and started drinking. Here's how our bottles looked after 3 hours.

After Aconcagua, where I had to drink around 5l of water per day to decrease the effects of altitude sickness, I have become quite the little hippo. Guess which bottle is mine?

Monday, October 4

Why I hate Singapore

  • It's VERY clean and VERY safe - sometimes, it is just very septic, and very boring. There are no scary rides in the amusement parks.

  • The seasons NEVER change - it is always summer. It is never cold. Sometimes, if you try really hard, you can see some signs of spring, but those signs would look like summer for other people.

  • People here are not friendly. They are not unfriendly either.

  • Chinese people do not want to lose face. So they never argue, fight, yell, scream, etc. in public. Unless they are drunk. Coming from a latin-balcan society, sometimes I miss that. (I don't miss it that much, mind you)

  • There is no bread and cheese culture. Coffee mostly sucks.

  • The rocks in Sentosa are fake.

  • Shopping and eating are roughly the only two national sports that Singaporeans love to play.

  • People read at most newspapers (no books) or sleep in the subway or buses.

  • There's rarely a good play or a ballet or a concert.

  • A percentage of middle-class singaporeans have at least one maid (usually treated badly by the kids - at least) - usually from the philipines or indonesia. The singaporean kid that grew up in such a family will not know how to change a light bulb, iron his/her clothes, cook, sew a button, etc.

  • There is a set of rules or steps to be followed for everything. The moment you do something that does not fall in those steps or something happens that is unspecified, everything comes to a halt. Nobody wants to take responsibility, nobody wants to move an inch. Everybody is happy to delegate or wait for the supervisor to decide. And so on and so forth. - granted, there are steps and rules for mostly everything, but sometimes there aren't.

  • Kids are stressed with exams since primary school. When they reach university they are unable to think outside the box. I would say "Think" only, but thank god! that is not entirely true.

Friday, October 1

Why I love Singapore

  • Durians! - it's as simple as that. A fruit. Calorie-free* too! (well at least in my book:D)

  • It's VERY clean - as in septic, sometimes.

  • It's VERY green - it's at the tropics!

  • It's VERY safe - as in, can go running at 2 am in most neighborhoods and nothing will happen to you

  • Climbing with Sandra and Doris. A pleasure!! And sometimes, during my fat/weak days, a curse.

  • It's summer all year around. Bring on the sandals! Skirts! T-shirts! Flip-flops! Air-con!

  • For some of my friends, I am the only caucasian they have ever met. Or, after Crystel came here, their favorite caucasian. Ahem.

  • While for caucasians I am of average height, bordering on shortish, here I am tall! My hair is light brown, but here people see me as blonde!

  • The variety of cuisines you can find here is amazing!

  • Fruits, fruits, fruits!!! Pineapple, mango, guava, papaya, soursop, dragonfruit, rambutan, starfruit, apples, pears, plums, grapes, jackfruit, DURIAN, mangosteen, all-year-round!

  • TOM YAM! - my favorite soup, right up there with my grandma's borscht soup, I need my almost-daily fix of this spicy and sour soup. Or else.

*Apparently some people say a durian has 800 calories. Yeah right! These people don't know my truth: it has ZERO!