July 2006

Last Sunday we were walking around after a particularly succulent Japanese meal, and this is what I saw in the basement of a shopping centre:

I was kind of curious to go and check out their modus operandi, like the good skeptic nerd that I am, but I was pushing the pram so…

But it’s the first time that I’ve seen a shop like this, and come to think of it, there must be quite a few more around. Now that we are entering the infamous hungry ghost month soon, I bet they must be making tons of money.

The truth is definitely out there.

This is a serious trip down memory lane…

Geraldine stopped over last week, on her way down under. How convenient that she should have friends in Seem City, just so that she could go back to her native Franche-Comte and claim that she tried…

Ok, so it wasn’t the best thing she ate, and yours truly perfectly understands, because durian is definitely an acquired taste, and yours truly spent two months trying to aquire it. Now, yours truly is a fan. But anyway, good old Gege.

We hadn’t seen each other since the New years’ eve party back in Italy in 2001/2, not long after that year spent teaching together in Providence, and having her home really brought back memories, like the long chilling sessions with dot allison in the background, the derivative discussions about anything that make friendships so special and unique, and something of a luxury over here right now. only Rudy was missing, and that would have been Transit Street on the equator line.

So what do you do when a friend comes over in Seem City?

First some makan, courtesy of the hawker centre just across the road.

That’s some nice nasi lemak that we’re having, it puts a smile on our faces. Well, Gege doesn’t seem all that happy, but that’s because I forgot to tell the Carlsberg lady to take out the icecubes before she poured the beer, so our probable best beer in the world was very cold, and very diluted. But you’ve gotta like the Carlsberg ladies.



Then some chili crab, on East coast, obviously. This is before the whole mayhem starts and our hands are still clean, and much time is spent catching peanuts with chopsticks. Endless fun.

Luca, though, seems unfazed. Or was he transfixed by the two gorgeous ladies in front of him?


Having a friend over also makes you see your habitual surroundings in another way. The things she chose to photograph for example, they are definitely taken for granted after a while, like:


or even these:

In any case, her blog has much more on the matter, and like the consciencious teacher that she is, it is updated hourly, or almost.

Luca, always eager to impress la gent feminine, made a few demented faces, and a few cute ones too:


So now that Gege’s gone, it’s back to us 3. But it was so nice having you over, Tata Dine.

And, friends, stop by too. There is never enough food over here, trust us…


…and an update, just for those who claim that I am too lazy to keep up with the posts…

We just had the first of Luca’s two birthday parties. Today was the friendly leg, tomorrow is the family/relatives leg. For the occasion, my in-laws took Luca to the hairdresser, and although i would have been adverse to it at first, I must say the result is quite nice.


He’s got that little beatleslike fringe which so many indie bands have been favouring over the years. Let’s hope that the genes in his hair don’t go all haywire and morph into mine…


It’s quite scary to think that Luca is almost one year old.That’s 52 weeks spent outside already…

Sometimes I’m not so sure whether he is better off in the right here right now, considering how the world is getting shittier by the minute. We used to debate whether having a kid at this point made any sense, and I must say that I was always the one who doubted the most. Obviously j. and my father had the better of me, and how could it have been otherwise?

I suppose it’s a bit of self-preservation too. You don’t want 6 billion morons now, do you?

You lose any trace of cynicism when you look at the world through his eyes. Everything is still fresh and possible, as everything should be.

His favourite spot is the playground downstairs. He’s pretty much the only toddler in the building, so it’s all for him to roam around and climb about!


I have actually filmed him climbing on the slide, sliding down a few times in the attempt, and laughing all the way to the top. I guess youtube is a necessity at this point…


This is the view from the new apartment. Same block, same layout, same size, but no more car park!!! No more darkness at 3 pm because the damn window faces North. Instead we now have an unblocked view of the reservoir, and if you were to zoom past the row of HDB blocks, you may be able to spot some of the downtown skyscrapers.

Thanks, Giedre and Kaj! But I suppose the summer cottage beats this anytime anyway.

Moving has been good, and with my holiday 2-week MC I have been able to unpack everything, while taking care of Luca as well. Actually i don’t mind moving, I must get that from my parents, who were absolute experts in their day. It’s a good reason to throw away unwanted stuff, get rid of the useless junk and clutter, and just make the house more practical, which is a luxury when you have a toddler.

Luca is almost walking now, and it’s a matter of weeks before he tries it out on his own, so you don’t really want too much furniture in the way.

But for the moment Luca’s big thing is his Chiang Mai xylophone. We bought quite a few toys in Thailand, in the hope that the sweatshop condition is less objectionable there (is it? is it?). Whatever it is, the wooden toys are nicely made, way cheaper than what you can find over here, and much better quality than anything made in China.

Plus, the xylophone comes with its own exotic scale. No ‘doremifasollasido’…instead, it’s a hybrid pentatonic/atonal scale! Fantastic. Luca loves it, and after a few days of figuring out, he has learnt how to beat the xylophone with the right end of the mallet, the harder the better…

He does get bored after a while though…but so far this new activity has been keeping him very busy.

Of course, once you have tried the kiddy version, you want to have a go at the real thing.

I have sat with him on the piano for some time now, but he hadn’t quite shown much interest. These past few weeks have been such a drastic change though. all of a sudden, he has discovered the difference in pitch (he loves going from low to high and back again) and in dynamics (again, the louder the better).


He kind of hums too, like a miniature Thelonius Monk.

The musical dad is happy. But Luca can definitely improve his spoon-management skills.



I am stuck at home with a 2-week MC, after my first-ever surgery… trust the squeamish in me to freak out at the mere sight of a needle or an IV plug… But funnily enough, the operation itself was rather underwhelming, not that it was major surgery to begin with. Since I had opted for local anesthesia, there is a certain amount of unwanted information that I managed to receive, which it made it…interesting. Like: ‘pass the forceps’, or ‘maybe I’ll cut a bit more’, or ‘you will now hear a buzzing sound accompanied with the smell of burnt hamburger. Do not panic.’
Anyway, now I am waiting for the wound to heal and next week I should have my stitches removed.

So the land of smiles.

We hadn’t left Seem City since last Christmas when my parents came over, and 6 months is a very long time to spend within 680 square kilometers (and reclaiming). We didn’t really feel like going to a beach destination again, so Chiang Mai it was. And it was really good.

The people in Thailand are really friendly, everybody knows that. But in Chiang Mai they smile at you all the time, and if you have a kid you get bonus smile points too! It is such a welcome change from the faces over here, where the government has to implement the ‘4 million smiles’ operation in order to get the same kind of good vibes going on.

When you go to Thailand, what do you do? 3 things:

And Chiang Mai did not fail us, not even once. Or maybe just once, but it was our fault really. On the first day after checking in at the very nice Yaang Come Village, we were hungry and lazy and went to the restaurant nearby.
Very nice and all, but definitely lacking in the tastebud department. I guess it caters to less adventurous souls, but the LP guide summed it up quite nicely: overpriced and underspiced.
It was the only time we ate at a ‘proper’ restaurant. And it was the last time I pretended to be somewhat vegetarian too… I have three words for you: Chiang Mai Sausage. There is no going back after that!

There are endless stalls just a few streets away where the shopping seems to go on end, but the nice thing was the originality of the products. Instead of always having the usual near-perfect branded rip-offs, a lot of people were selling their own designs and clothes, and you can only find this in Thailand, really. I am buying my t-shirts there, from now on. They rock.

Luca had his first Tuk Tuk ride. He rather enjoyed it.

The street markets and food stalls are such a wonderful thing, and since it was low season, you didn’t feel like you only had one square foot for yourself.

Of course, Chiang Mai being the second largest city in Thailand, you can see things like these:

One day we took a trip to the hills, just outside the city, although you would think it’s further away than that, but that’s because Thai drivers are neither too fast nor too furious.

When you are conditioned to the controlled landscaping of Seem City, driving on dirt roads across empty portions of forest land feels so liberating.
We stopped in a hilltribe village, where we were the only tourists. It was odd: we were such obvious outsiders, but no one made a big fuss about it.
It was nice to see that people still like to stay where they are, even though they could just move to the city or try to change their lifestyles somehow.

They have these terraced landscapes everywhere, with some really funky flowers.


I don’t know who was the more intrigued of the two…

Of course, if you go to Chiang Mai you have to visit Doi Suthep, for good reason…

The Thai temples are really peaceful in a way, and the people really seem to connect to a certain idea of spirituality, not unlike the Japanese shrines. I like the fact that nothing looks threatening in a Thai temple.


And the chime of these countless bells is very soothing too.

More temple-hopping, this time with 800-year-old elephants charging.

Everywhere you go you see these kids wearing the saffron novice garments. I think it’s part of their national education in a way, and every kid has to go through a period of service.
It makes a lot more sense than forcing your child to enroll in the Army if you ask me. Which skill would you rather possess: compassion or combat?