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30 Dec 2011

Book Review: Manana Manana

Title: Manana Manana - A Mallorcan Summer
Author: Peter Kerr
Publisher: Summersdale
Rating 7/10



Manana Manana (Manana meaning tomorrow in Spanish) is a perfect book to read to find out what life is Spain is like. Although set in a quiet town in Mallorca with a farm and a Scottish family as its protagonist, it is easy for anyone who has visited Spain to get into the story, especially when Kerr explains the relaxed, chilled 'tranqilo' culture of Spaniards. With flashes of humour and an array of misadventures that include brushes with the local police, the unfortunate outcome of a drinking session and the sense of community shared by their neighbours, there is plenty to laugh about. For most parts, it was an interesting book and reminded me of my own recent trip to Spain. I really enjoyed reading the author's reflections of Spanish life and culture.
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13 Dec 2011

Confessions Part III

Like any hot-blooded young(ish) Malaysian woman on an adventure to Spain would have hoped for, I too anticipated meeting a few gorgeous Spanish men, who may have a liking towards curvaceous  Malaysian Indian women who travelled across the globe to learn their mother tongue. I was pretty happy with the prospect of hanging out with a guapo (good looking) Spanish fella with dark brown eyes and spiky hair with a gorgeous smile at one of the bars in Sevilla - talking about cultural similarities while sipping some sangria. Somehow in my mind I would have been able to bypass any cultural and linguistic barriers and have a stimulating, sexy conversation. 

I obviously had a lot to learn. 

The reason why I did not share anything about the hot guys in Spain is because...the guys (if you can call them that) I met on my trip were not exactly anywhere on the hot scale. In fact if there was a scale to put them on, it would be the mature scale. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I got a whole lot of attention from old men.

While I was busy taking in the sights (in more ways than one), I was approached by numerous men on the street, who candidly confessed that they thought I was beautiful. Now it would have been a dream come true for me, if not for the fact that these men could have been my grandfather. And I don't mean men in their early 50's on a mid-life crisis, these men who talked to me were white-haired gentlemen who walked at a snail's pace. 

"Hola!," said Old Man A while I carefully avoided the Metro in the commercial street in Sevilla. De donde eres? I understood that he wanted to know where I was from. Deep inside I knew that it was also a pick up line, but happy to be practising my Spanish with a local, I crossed the borders and attempted to talk. I told him I only know a little Spanish, he asked me what I thought of Sevilla. Then he asked the dreaded question - would you like to go for a walk? I declined and was about to walk away when he added - Tu es muy guapa (You are pretty). I thanked him and walked, as fast as I could.

Not that that there were no guys who looked my way, but alas it was mostly just that - looking. I suppose the fact that my Spanish was basic and most Sevillians did not speak English also made a difference. The guy working at the Vodafone outlet was pretty hot and I called out my name so sweetly. ;) But other than that, the  I remember Old Man B trailing me in Barcelona and striking up a conversation. He asked me what I thought of Barcelona and when I said it was beautiful he leaned in and said Y tu tambien (And so are you) and proceeded to ask me if I would like to have coffee. If only the question was asked by a younger, non-Santa lookalike, I would have been happy to have that cuppa.

That's my little man-ly adventures in Espana...a little sad but true. Ah well, at least I will always have the memories of Vodafone guy. :)


This photo of footballer Ikas Casillas represents Vodafone guy who looks very similar!

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9 Dec 2011

Sexy Sevilla

Due to popular demand, here are some photos of Sevilla...


On my naughty days I took photos of Sevillians in their everyday routine. Horse ride anyone?


I apologise to Senor for taking a photo of him relaxing during siesta, but I just had to take it!  


I fell in love with Sevilla the second I feasted my eyes on the Cathedral.


Pigeons enjoying the sights and bites in front of the Archivo de Indias, Plaza del  Triunfo.



A typical sight in the streets of Sevilla - this is Calle Antolinez ( Antolinez Street).


The gate to Babylon Idiomas, where I studied Spanish for almost 4 weeks.



Sevilla souvenirs galore.



I spent many afternoons sitting by El Guadalquivir taking in the tranquilo atmosphere.



And walked to the other side on the river...


Where I saw hundreds of locks with names of lovers on the bridge, a symbol of  everlasting love. 



A Sevillian woman making ends me meet by selling fans at Plaza De Espana. 



First time I saw Plaza De Espana, I had to pinch myself. It was so beautiful.



The Cathedral on a sunny blue sky day. 


Plaza de Espana in the evening.


The view of Sevilla from the Giralda after climbing 32 floors up - it was totally worth it!



Despite its classy outlook, Sevillians do get musical action from time to time...



The view from modern Plaza Mayor. I like!


Fresh veggies and fruits at a fruteria.



Many bars had meat as part of their deco, like  El Rinconcillo, Calle Gerona.



Green is always in. Check out the lane for bicycles in Sevilla.



When in Sevilla, expect narrow streets!

And yes, I've got more photos... :)  

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1 Dec 2011

Mis aventuras español (My spanish adventures)

When I decided to go to Spain for a month from mid October to November, I thought I had figured it all out. I would go there, spend some time learning Spanish, soak in the culture, devour some tapas and have some fun along the way.

But as always the Universe had more in store for me.



I learnt that learning Spanish was harder than I thought. I was reminded how I could be a social butterfly at the language school and a solo traveler in a hostel. I made both calculated and spontaneous decisions; and felt happier with the latter.

In the span of one month, I walked hell of a lot. I got a crash course on how to read the map. I got lost many times and then found new and interesting places because of that. I learnt that sometimes the ability to communicate counts and other times you just have to listen with your heart to understand what someone is saying in an unfamiliar language.


 I realised how often we tend to take things for granted when we are home or at a familiar place. Simple but important things like when to empujar (push) or tirar (pull) the door suddenly becomes an important question. You won’t believe what a huge achievement it is when you successfully ask a staff at the counter (in a bus station) in Sevilla if you could purchase a bus ticket from Madrid to Barcelona there. (Puedo comprar un billete de autobus de Madrid a Barcelona aqui?)

I was amazed about how friendly some Spaniards could be. In two cities, I took out my trusty map to help me decide my next course of action. In both cities, an elderly man came up to me asking me a question I didn’t understand. Assuming they were asking if I needed help, I told them in my limited Spanish that I wanted to go to go to La Mezquita (in Cordoba) and La Alhambra (Granada) and both times they explained to me how to get there. Did I understand everything they said? I did not. Did I get to my destination? Yes I certainly did.

During my Spanish classes I learnt that it was important to relax, not take things too seriously and just say what you want, regardless if it is wrong or right. That as much as it would be great to talk in perfect paragraphs, there was a sense of triumph when spoke my mind in Spanish, off the cuff. It was also at school when I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a few of my classmates had left their jobs before going to Spain - and formed bonds with my multinational Spanish learning team mates.




Living with a family – a mother and two sons was another interesting experience. The landlady Estrella Garcia was a kind woman who generously introduced me to typical Andalusian food and welcomed me into her three-bedroom home. Despite her not knowing any English, we managed to have numerous conversations about life and its surprises – once again with the help of my basic Spanish and two open hearts. And as for her teenage sons, they were just like normal teenagers everywhere – they loved playing football and video games.

Things were not all that fantastic in the land of Flamenco dancing and bull-fighters. In Madrid and Barcelona, I was reminded that no city is perfect, that there are good and not-so-good people out there.

I caught two people trying their luck to get a free gift out of my backpack in both popular cities. It was, I admit a bit of a shock after coming from the peaceful and safer Sevilla, located in south of Spain. It took me a while, but I learnt to look past the negative incidences and look at the bigger picture – the undeniable beauty and history of Madrid and Barcelona.

Did I mention that the tapas were culinary experience by itself? Whether with café con leche (coffee with milk, cerveza fria (cold beer) or a glass of vino blanco (white wine), every meal was delicious. One thing is for sure – I will never look at tapas the same way again.



Once again I was reminded how things never happen the way you want it – and how important it is to embrace it, rather than be disappointed and fight it. My three days in Barcelona was filled with rain and while I must admit I complained to the Universe about the bad timing, it was only when I let it go and relaxed did I enjoy myself truly.

Needless to say it was an experience of a lifetime and not one that I could easily forget. I am not sure when I will go back to Spain again but sure am thankful for being able to make my dream come true and doing it on my own. I look forward to continuing my love affair with the Spanish language and look forward to more cultural adventures in the future.

(More photos to come soon)
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29 Nov 2011

Estoy de vuelta!

I am back from my one month cultural adventure in Spain.

I've got photos and some funny stories and I shall update the blog very soon...until then!

Hasta luego. :)
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8 Oct 2011

Maid of Honour on an Adventure

After months of anticipation, finally my cousin Rena got her big fat Malaysian wedding today.

As Maid of Honour, I had the privilege of helping her get last minute preparations done and sort of the finer details at her wedding/reception. Interestingly enough, her wedding has taught me that I do like attending and being a part of weddings, as long as the people involved are close to my heart. And Rena, being one year younger than I am and who was my confidante and partner in crime as a child, is indeed very close to my heart. I wish her and her new husband Paul every bit of happiness together.

Now it's time for me to have my adventure - a little Spanish affair. Wish me luck, keep me in your thoughts (and prayers). Universe, let's have a good time, you and me. Drink a little wine, learn a little Spanish, see some sights and make a few friends, have a few new experiences...I know you want to!

Until I blog again...adios y hasta luego. (Bye and see you later).
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13 Sep 2011

Adios MM!

And my stint at The Malay Mail is officially over.



Today flew by in a haze (and daze). Needless to say I didn't get much work done. I spent most of my time chatting with my colleagues and at the end of the day, taking photos of people I have grown to care about and become my friends. At the end of the day, when it's time to go off into the unknown, you take all the professional experiences, life lessons and fabulous friendships with you as you set off to the next journey. Boy, what experiences I've had!




The funny thing is I applied for the post of sub-editor at The Paper That Cares in 2008. I always had a love for words but being quiet and reserved I didn't think that I have the right qualities to be a journalist. However, at the interview with the Editor In Chief, he said I'd have to gain some experiences on the field as a journalist first for a month, before becoming a sub-editor. I accepted this and was looking forward to my new career in the publishing line.



I was pretty much thrown into the deep end of the ocean of journalism in the first week I started there. I had no choice but to swim so that I didn't drown, all the while thinking that I was going to be a sub-editor in no time. Life had other plans for me, though. A respected editor saw that I could write and asked me to continue to write for the paper. For eight months I was at the news desk, chasing MP's in the late night, interviewing residents about irrigation and drainage and working from 10am to 3am.

Just as I was about to sink, life threw me a lifebuoy in the form of a transfer to the Lifestyle and Entertainment section. It was just what I needed. A chance to inform and educate readers with a touch of creativity. An amazing experience right from the start, still there were many bumps on the road but I sailed through until a few months ago - I knew it was time for me to move on.
But I will always be thankful for this job and the confidence it has instilled in me, the opportunities I've been given and mostly for the ability to express myself using the written word.

Among the countless assignments I've been for I will always remember:

*Asking Jason Mraz a question at the press conference when he was in KL (and he looked straight at me when he answered it!)



*Meeting/interviewing theatre personalities Jo Kukathas, Gavin Yap, Edwin Sumun and my childhood heart throb Hans Isaac.



*Interviewing Ne-Yo when he was here in KL before his concert last year (and he remembered that I had asked a question at the press conference the day before)



*Extracting the DNA of a strawberry at a skin care launch. ( I wore the obligatory lab coat too!)



*Going on a hot air ballon at the Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon earlier this year.



*Attending the Borneo Jazz Festival in Miri (this assignment changed my life forever)



*Made my dreams of going for the Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching come true.



*Not to mention interviewing many ordinary people who inspire others to be productive, healthy and positive in everything they do.



I've had an enriching experience and am sure I will continue with more insights in my next professional adventure.

P/S- Maybe now I'll have time to write that post about my Indian trip. ;)
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27 Aug 2011

Announcement!

Instead of writing about my India trip (don't hate me Smeeta!), I have decided to make an announcement instead. Two announcements actually...here goes!

1. I resigned from my position as Writer at The Malay Mail last week. My last day is on September 12.

2. I will be leaving for Spain enroute London on October 12 and will be back in Malaysia on November 19. I will be in Sevilla for 3 weeks studying Spanish and making a few detours to a few cities after that.

And no, I haven't gotten another job just yet.

Am I crazy? Possibly. But from the bottom of my heart I know that this is something I need to do right now. For the past 3 years I've been eating, breathing, sleeping work and I think it's time for me to step back and do something different. I am also confident that I will be able to get a job soon.

Why learn Spanish? Only my family and close friends know that I've studied the language before, first in Melbourne and then in KL. I also passed the first level (A1) test while studying at Help College. So this is not entirely new for me, although making my dream come true is something new. I've been wanting, aching even to go to Spain for a few years now...and it's coming true.

And yes, I'm doing this on my own...Scary and exciting all at the same time.

Anyways, so that's the deal. Wish me luck! :)
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23 Aug 2011

DiGi Dear Malaysians: Official Video


Touching and realistic, we all have something to be sorry about...



I'm sorry I've never helped the blind cross the busy KL streets. I've always wanted to, but am just too shy to make the move. I must try harder.




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21 Aug 2011

I did it again!

Once again I'm a little slow on blogging about my recent Indian trip. Bah! So many things to do, so little time to do it - is my excuese.

For those (i .e.) Smeeta who is probably waiting for me to update the blog, I guess I will have to keep you in suspense for a little longer. :P

But I promise more exciting news in my next post.

Until then.....

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14 Jul 2011

Psychic dreams?

I wonder sometimes if I am a little psychic.

Just a few days ago, I dreamt that a friend of mine was determined to get married soon and today I learnt that he will be getting married in September. Ok so the dream wasn't actually him saying 'I'm getting married' but it was very close, because I remember the sense of determination and faith he had in it. And I didn't think of him at all for many months, so it wasn't a case of it being in my conscious/subconscious state.

This of course reminds me of my love for interpretation of dreams (well, thanks to the Internet even deciphering a dream is easy enough). I wonder how many of my other dreams may have some truth to it...and God knows, how I'd love to have some of those dreams come true.

My favourite latest dream was about my father. I had almost gone to sleep when our house alarm went off. I was about to go down to check it out, when my father gestured to me not to go, and he went ahead before me. That's when I woke up. And I firmly believe that the dream meant that he is still looking out for me, still protecting me.

Let's see what else I dream about and if any of those dreams come true...
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25 Jun 2011

Let's see

As I've said in my previous post, there is something in the air. The winds of change is here, albeit blowing slowly, I feel it gaining momentum as I type. What's in store in the next few weeks? We shall have to wait and see...;)
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4 Jun 2011

Crossroads




After my last out of KL assignment, which was the Borneo Jazz Festival at Miri, Sarawak , I had a feeling that something had changed.

I couldn't put a finger on it or say exactly what it was, but something had changed. Period. Perhaps it was the fact that I had met many interesting people during the assignment, both journalists and musicians. Perhaps it was their energy that got transfered into me? Maybe. But I knew that things were not going to be the same since then, and almost a month later, this feeling has intesified deeply.

It feels like I have reached crossroads and that I will have to change my course. At this point, I've got two roads to choose from and honestly my heart has already chosen it's next step. However, the brain has to be given a chance to present its case and for that I am taking some time to digest, research and try something new. Let's see what happens in the next few weeks.
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18 May 2011

Treat of Trees

"Redone with help of instagr.am on my sister's iPhone 4.

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Date A Girl Who Reads by Rosemarie Urquico

Recently, I found this heart warming piece and it's been so beautifully written that I had to share it here. Guess who this reminds me of? :)



Date a girl who reads by Rosemarie Urquico


Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.


Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.


She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.


Buy her another cup of coffee.


Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.


It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.


She has to give it a shot somehow.


Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.


Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who read understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.


Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.


If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.


You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.


You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.


Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.


Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

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29 Apr 2011

What do you say, Universe?

Since my last post a few things have changed. First up, I am now 35, although I still look 25.


I got what I asked the Universe for and am now leaving it to the Universe (or God, whoever is it charge of my source code) to decide the outcome of this new found experience.

I know this is all vague, but the thing is I've said a few things out loud over the past few weeks and now I'm beginning to wonder if I have jinxed it by doing so. That's why I'm leaving this to 'greater forces'. I suppose when things are well and truly sorted out, I'll have the chance to write about it and express my thought about this. Until then, I will just leave it and wait patiently for things to unfold the way they are meant to be.

I suppose that's the good thing about getting older. All those silly petty issues are no big deal anymore. And as for the big ones, u do all that u can do until there is nothing else to be done except to wait and see. I guess I'm becoming more mysterious as I grow older. ;)


In the meantime, I'm gonna focus on work, on getting healthier (I must say, I've been neglecting this important element over the past few tumultous weeks) and having good moments.
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2 Apr 2011

Postcards of Hong Kong

Ok so I finally decided to put up photos of the Hong Kong trip. Not very happy with the photos don't say I didn't warn u!





On the first night walking around Lan Kwai Fong area. Our first (and favourite) dessert - Mango Pancake. The lovely Star ferry that we took many times. In front of the Legislative Council Building. I like!

Divya and Dhanya at typical HK market. Note the stony stairs.


Night scene at the pier in Kowloon. Lovely scenary.


I love this old Chinese Junk. LOVE!


A scene from the cable car at Ocean Park.


Beautiful scenary from the cable car at Ocean Park.



This is what we saw on our Big Bus Tour - lovely lovely scenary.


Divya and I at Stanley Market, where we bought lots of stuff.


And me trying to hold my hair in place at the Peak. Boy was it cold!



Our Dim Sum dinner from 7-11.


With Goofy at Disneyland. Enough said.


Disneyland No 2.



Hollywood Road, in memory of Michael Buble's Hollywood.



See I told you they sold dim sum in 7-11.



In front of an antique shop.


An epitome of a junk shop. Wow!



And as always there will be an Indian store.



The twins at the park near my cousin's place.



Tortoises sunbathing at the park.


Me in Central Station. Love the background.
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