Thursday, 16 April 2015

What I want to talk about when talking about passing time

Time is a concept of which its meaning until recently has eluded me.

The thing that brought it home was this: This year I turn 35. By any normal metrics this would seem like not much to write about, but in the absence of said measurements, I am now halfway through an average normal man's life. I am, in fact, at my peak.

Perspective is:

- Olivia who is almost 18 months speaking 2 languages, sleeping on average 12 or more hours a day. She's been sleeping more than half her life.
 - A normal American consumes 1 tonne of food a year. Adjusting for being Asian, and therefore a glutton (and my childhood for which I was largely fat) I'd say I've consumed in total 30 tonnes of food. I weigh 0.075 tonnes, therefore I've shat out a lot.
- I've grown up with technology and now its evaded me.

Okay, I admit, I really want to write about love. 

Remember the first time you fell for someone? That heart wrenching feeling whenever they were absent? Filling teenage notebooks with inspirational quotes from Gibran, or similarly attempting prose fueled with cheap booze? Or, wistfully remembering the one who you decided to let go of? Or, the failed relationship which you let yourself be beaten up over? 

Take heart. I once read somewhere that no matter how much you try and remember past pain, it never affects you in its original glory the way that the memories of joy do.

I remember meeting OH, and falling for him absolutely. While my superego was consciously playing the game of "interested-but-maybe-not", my Id had decided that OH was IT.

10 years later; a third of my relative life remembered. 

I have friends far and wide, old and new, past and present, who have shaped me: made me the bon-vivant, the asshole, the joker, the worrier. The person, and the meta-person that I am.

You know who you all are, and I love each and every one of you.


Sunday, 8 March 2015

I'll Tell You My Sins...*

This post started with an earworm.

I'd first heard this haunting song played through the speakers at the gym a few times, and never managed to identify it through the means of Shazam or SoundHound as I usually leave my phone in the lockers and make do with my trusty iPod, listening to podcasts, and, sometimes wanting to be more individualistic, trying to do squats to Miles Davies, or in moments of angst, working out to more melancholic melodies, the likes of James Blake whose rhythm adds a certain difficulty in trying to achieve a graceful lunge and therefore an added challenge to the whole routine.

Fast forward a few weeks, and there was a viral video on Facebook, depicting at first glance a seemingly naked man in a greenhouse, writhing about on the polished wooden floors. When I clicked "play", I started to be transfixed by the graceful movements of the ballet dancer, who was actually wearing skin-tone tights. After a short while, I realised the melody he was dancing to was the same song which I'd heard a few times in the gym.

After the video ended, I headed to the pool and searched online for the original version on my phone, and discovered the video which upset me to no end, and proceeded to watch it on a loop until the anger and exhaustion of the lyrics sunk in. After that I scoured various sites to read more about the song, and while it was sunny, under the midday sun I felt cold over the comments from readers over the video. More to the point, the video itself portrayed diametric opposites of immense love, and innane hate which in this day and age, is all too real, and which for the most part I feel incredibly lucky to have not been subject to much. 

Now, I am not usually wont to write about heavy-handed topics which attract unsavory comments and debate, as I often find myself flustered when trying to simultaneously searching for facts in my mind while trying to defend my own position and argument, and ending up tongue-tied and frustrated over the ignorance of the opposition. However, like a previous post on domestic abuse which later in sobriety, left me cringing over the fact that I'd tweeted a number of celebrities asking them to spread the message, the subject matter of the video leaves me in no doubt about my position on this: homophobia.

A few days ago I side-stepped the relative comfort of punchy Twitter to post a link to a short film and a heartfelt missive directly on my Facebook page which went beyond 140 characters. This was a viral video in China that reached out to the LGBTQIA+ community, and left me in tears at the end. In the closing credits, the Chinese mothers of the LGBTQIA+ individuals call out in supportive tones to the community and others to "come home" to the family, as it was during the Lunar New Year celebrations. Their snippets of support and verbal embraces were heartwarming, but underneath their calm manner you could see the struggle for answers and explanations. The ability to provide a satisfactory answer is nigh on impossible, because what parent can accept that the child that they have so lovingly nourished and brought up, despite all the attention and love, has deviated from their well-laid plans of becoming a (successful) individual, in tow with a partner of the opposite sex, and who will give them grandchildren to bounce proudly in the faces of their own friends and to proclaim said child's filial piety and conformance to societal norm?

This is further compounded by the fact that "being gay" is seen as a relatively new trend (despite historical evidence across cultures that is constantly disputed), as LGBTQIA+ individuals born in the 80s and beyond start to throw off the shackles that have been previously attached to them. From the damning proclamation of Queen Victoria's support of the Labouchere Amendment on gross indencency (which was later adopted into the constitution of Commonwealth States, and in some cases still remains), to the atrociously named Gay Cancer plague of the 1970s (now known as HIV/AIDS), it is no wonder that homosexuals born in this period had sought to cover up their natural human instinct to be attracted to and/or love another of same sex/similar being. This is further compounded by religion taking the LGBTQIA+ movement's name in vain, further denouncing immorality in the "prescribed" natural order of things. The result is that many of our fore-bearers had, and even many of our generation have to live a lie, living in constant fear of societal expulsion, and generating more issues from unhappy family units to STD epidemics in the meantime. [On a separate note, I was humbled by an article over an article on the altruism of lesbians towards gay men in the 80s AIDS epidemic, despite the ongoing misogyny that gay men exhibit. Article can be found here]

Back to the discussion at hand: my generation by no means has it easy, but somehow we are no longer satisfied of living a lie in order to fit ourselves into outdated pigeonholes which have been crafted through years of ignorance. Therefore, our voices proclaiming individuality and independence is seen as an attack on generations of constructed coherence, divergence from societal norms, and the "shameful" fulfilling of what are essentially natural desires. Through our constant battle to throw off stereotypes that we are cast with, we learn to be stronger, and we learn to accept ourselves as well as others, and build upon the universal knowledge of love. We gradually learn that saying that we are born this way isn't enough, and struggle to cite academic articles, arguments against religious texts, and identify LGBTQIA+ role models who are accepted in mainstream media as reasons in expressing ourselves. 

However, this only further fuels the debate in having to justify ourselves in what we are. Through the years of repression, we are now finding our voices but are reduced to a construct of rational scientific argument in explaining why we are the persons we are. It's not sufficient to merely say that we are born this way, as we do not outwardly project any defining marker that automatically makes it understandable. It is laborious to draw upon the visible birthrights, but ultimately we bear a burden that sex and race cannot convey to the naked eye in being able to safely label oneself whether positively or negatively which still runs rife despite advances in time (cf:misogyny, racial issues).

While I have had it easier than most, I know that my parents still struggle to reconcile themselves with what they perceive "went wrong". This is compounded by their new-born status into the Church, and struggle internally to accept me for who I am. I could respond caustically, and hurt them and drive home more doubt about their individual ability in raising me, but what would that achieve? The only way can I deal with it is to be unflinching in knowing the acceptance of myself is key, and through dialogue in establishing that its a case of "it's not you, and it's not me". I now realise over time that their love is unconditional, but it is their Pavlovian conditioning heaped upon them for their need to fit in comfortably with their peers, reflected in so many others, which hinders them from being to see clearly that despite being different, we are still human beings with the ability to love other humans and each other unconditionally.

Homophobia exists in many forms: from snide comments at school being dished out from kids who are fed knowledge of the world by their ignorant parents; in the workplace where ostracism through lack of career progression and peer acceptance where more schoolyard bullying tactics occur; to active violence towards individuals or groups who have decided not to hide their true nature: the list is immense when it comes to examples. I have experienced some, apart from the last, and its only by sheer force of will that I have been able to play most situations to my benefit. It is routinely soul destroying that while we are brought up to believe that "Love Conquers All", the message of hate is the one that spreads like wildfire and inflicts immediate damage throughout.

At the end of the video in Coming Home, the mothers tell their kids and others in the community to return to their cradle, because the overriding message despite the turmoils, is one of love. So why is it such a difficult argument to make that an individual born into love, that has an unyielding capacity to love, is no different than another despite differences instilled by generational misunderstanding?

So, the next time you look at someone muttering in tattered garb that looks menacing, or bumping into that shrill person who calls you an idiot for ruining their day, before you glare and make a snap judgement, look into your heart to find the understanding to cast love, and disperse the prejudice which we we are prone to. 

*Title courtesy of Hozier

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Thursday, 5 March 2015

Let's go to the zoo!

Smiling monkeys are not friendly monkeys

I had some friends over visiting, and one of the touristy things that they mentioned they would like to do was a trip to the Singapore Zoo, which is famous world over.

As it was a weekday afternoon, there were very few people visiting, mainly traveling families, tour groups, and some Chinese tourists which proved more entertaining than the animals themselves. 

Overheard (in Mandarin):

Son: Daddy, what's that?
Dad: It's a lion!
Son: Daddy, can we eat lion?
Dad: No, we cannot eat lion.
Son: Daddy, can we eat giraffe?
Dad: No, we cannot eat giraffe.
Son: Daddy, can we eat tiger?
Dad: (pause) Well, we are not supposed to eat tiger anymore.

Also overheard in Mandarin at the crocodile enclosure:

Girl 1: Ooh, look at that HUGE crocodile! How many handbags would that make? 
Girl 2: Better to make shoes, more profit.

Overall, the visitors were well behaved, apart from a noisy group of Japanese teenagers, and an absolutely atrocious pair of German children whose parents had given up in the heat and looked decidedly miserable. 

Also, it's interesting to note the number of women who wear animal print in a trip to the zoo. [insert anthropological behaviour observation here].

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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

On the despair of youth

There are so many things to write about in life, but somehow in the last 18 months life itself got in the way, and I left blogging to the verbose, and decided to try and convey experiences through the medium of 140 characters or less. 

Then, one evening, while drunkenly deciding to reorganise the study, I decided it was also time to weed through the boxes of stuff that I'd accumulated over the last 15 years. There were boxes of postcards, hoarded through drunken pub crawls in my youth. There were rolls of film and photographs back from the days when film still existed as a proper medium, and not some hipster reincarnation. Then, there was a jar of petrified wasabi, nicked from a night out with a friend during the kleptomaniac phase of (again, drunken) youth. During that same time, I'd also accumulated enough bulldog clips and other stationery cupboard paraphernalia to last me, and any new business, a lifetime and a half.

However, there was one box of memories that I hesitated on once the lid was lifted. Diaries of inane meeting notes, reams of coloured paper (also courtesy of the stationery cupboard), and a journal. This was, in hindsight, a pathetic attempt at a scrapbook. Stuck in it were receipts from travels, stubs from museums, and aspirational pencil sketches conveying the "artistic impressions" of my deluded self. This included a rendering of the Shanghai Pearl Tower, which looks like a skewer of meat balls, and an attempt of the Venus de Milo: if it was drawn by a 5 year old with no digits. Actually, a 5 year old with no digits would be better. My absolute shame remains the "freestyle" smudged sketch of Stonehenge which looks like it was built using twisty marshmallows and "artful" gothic script reminding myself of what it actually was meant to be. 

Note the pensive Snowman and "spirit" giving my younger self the side-eye. Also, I just realised that the dangly eye in the top right is actually supposed to be what Stonehenge would be like if the Chinese we're to hang talismans by it.

Said journal also contained a number of angst ridden entries, which reading through them made me cringe desperately. I want my current self to be able to tell my younger self that the future is much brighter than I had envisioned. I want to tell my younger self that frustration isn't exclusively mine to bear. I want to tell my younger self that my attempt at deep, meaningful poetry is best left to those who can actually write poetry. Most of all, I want to tell my younger self that love, once lost, will be found again. 

At this point, I could no longer shoulder the burden of all this angst anymore. I had to share it with someone. So, naturally I picked up the phone at 5 in the morning and dialed my best friend 12 timezones away on the other side of the world, knowing she'd be the one to understand all the emotions coursing through my veins at that moment (to be honest, it was because I knew she would be awake, and it was probably the whisky coursing through my veins, but that's beside the point).

She picked up, and I ranted. She, in turn, found some of her old journal entries, and together, we read them aloud to each other. We laughed, we sneered at our younger selves, then we made a promise to start blogging again. 

So, while I start combing through experiences to post anew, I leave you with my last entry in the journal. (Disclaimer: I am not responsible for you choking, gagging, or reacting in any way to the following paragraph)

"Dear XXX, sometimes it seems sensible to lay pen to paper and let flow all that is cooped up within. However, at these times things seem most unclear and I am in turmoil. From my work struggles to my relationships, nothing seems clear to be on their way to resolving themselves. [He] is unhappy, yet I cannot find the strength within me to champion what seems to him a lost cause. I am a jinx to those I love, and to those who are dear to me. Stem this flow of unhappiness, and unleash the positive vibes that exist there in the universe. Namaste."

Hasta la vista, Readers.

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Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Beating the (so called) odds in ones life

Initially this post was going to be about bad music, and how it influences the younger, and current generation, by giving the wrong message, in all ways.

This however, is a post about something far worse. 

It is about violence at home.

Before I begin, let me preface the songs I wanted to showcase, all heard over the course of this summer on the radio, and we can all have a collective headshake in despair. This is however, no means a suggestion to ignore the enormity behind the intended message.

First up, a song about the state of the world and the generally perceived adolescent ignorance about responsibility:

There was a diatribe ready to go on the back of this ditty, but, as it turns out, the Google suggestion when I typed in "maxing out my..." (on the back of it being the only lyric I remembered), brought up "maxing out my 401k", which, as it turns out in my limited understanding of American government codes, is far worse than getting absolutely wasted on a joint composed of oregano which you'd just handed over your weeks worth of student loan for (that story may follow in another post).

Secondly, there is Social Media gone way beyond the call of merely "following" someone:

The video itself is hilarious from an anthropological viewpoint. We first heard it driving back from berry picking, and our initial reaction was, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?! After all, which of us hasn't been obsessed with the object of our (then) affections, wanting to be with them day and night, to want to be the one that the object of our affections finds the most satisfaction with? With social media, however, this pastime is now available to be done from the privacy under ones bed covers, while at the same time with the world knowing what one is doing, if indescretion is the weaker part of your valour, on said platform.

Prosteletysing warning: one generally gravitates towards the personality that complements our being, mostly without realising; that which balances us (without our knowledge), and the same one who does not indulge our neurotic behaviour, beyond necessity.

I digress, however. 

The song I wanted to preface this whole post with was a hit of the summer. Having lived in Switzerland for the last 7 years, one is used to the lag in pop culture and chart hits. When OH and I discovered Icona Pop 20 months ago, we were so excited to find we were actually ahead of the curve in our discovered 'coolness', when as we set out for our summer holiday in this summer of 2013, it was blaring across the continents. We were smug in our advanced mutual appreciation and discovery of the song that spoke to girls and women, empowering them to sing along and admit that they'd had enough of folding the socks and playing the docile pawn in the game of male/female relationships. However, while a catchy tune, we cannot vouch for the overall empowerment that the tune conveyed.

(Don't get me wrong, relationships are mirrored in every case, and in every situation.)

So, I come to the point I wanted to get to. More precisely, the song that sparked this all off:

There are a number of synopses out there on the suitability of the lyrics of this song, and the permission it deems to give young men in interacting with womenfolk: the language they use, or the message that is assumed to be conveyed in general. It also doesn't help that shortly after the song's release, it is documented that the singer himself would like to live by his lyrics, much to the the purposefully feigned ignorance of his so-called wife. Not to mention the fallout of Miley Cyrus' twerking to these lyrics, that frankly, make "One Two Buckle My Shoe" seem more instructive. 

Seriously, almost 90 years to the fight for women's liberation, and the spawn of the one having crooned "Achy Breaky Heart" is gyrating energetically to a tune that even her mother would have doubts over the positioning of where the party and business was meant to be. This, however, is not a post on the Junior Cyrus' misdemeanors. 

It is about the nuances of the lyrics to which she so energetically gyrated to.

Take one of the opening lines before the chorus, in mumbled delivery, to set the scene:

OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you
But you're an animal, baby, it's in your nature
Just let me liberate you
Hey, hey, hey
You don't need no papers
Hey, hey, hey
That man is not your maker

I do not need to explain further.

What prompted this post, is more a dissection of the existing, and, after effects of what an approximation of the perception of popular culture should be perpetuating, and that which continues to reinforce and contribute towards the positive aspect of interaction towards the young of humankind, rather than the expected collective overall, and the immediate reaction to the supposed intention of the above said lyrics. 

It is acceptable for men to call women that they are supposed to have conquered, in the universal term of endearment known as 'sluts', and pat each other on the back in congratulatory tones amongst the other members of the same sex, however with a woman's bitchy undertones of submission that is received in far from savoury language. Conversely, from a woman's perspective, the situation would be conveyed in hushed tones of admiration for stature/penis size/general disdain/arrogance that the man would generally be exhibiting in their primal dance in establishing their Alpha status.

Glaringly, the explanation would be that the difference is that men, for the most part, only think for the moment, and women react accordingly. That often-times men think ahead, in a male-centric 'action/reaction' format, rather than a female-centric 'action/reaction/after-action' parallel. 

It is the former which is cyclical and cultivates the ongoing imbalanced accepted culture of men vs. women: where men feel they are entitled to have, and own, women, and at the same time, exhibiting or mimicking the demeaning and backward behaviour that is deemed acceptable to use towards members of the fairer (not opposite, mind you) sex, as suggested by pop culture as highlighted.

Take, for example, the ongoing videos filling the time slots on an otherwise defunct channel called MTV. I'd like to think that the images have run out now, and we are stuck solely with the aural cyclical regurgitation from the graveyard of said songs on the Singaporean radio stations.

Again, I digress. 

The point is worse still: it is because of these multiple perpetuations, that are deemed acceptable by the mainstream media editors, and therefore is perceived as suitable for society overall, and generally unquestioned by women. This, on average, translates to a twice weekly (without a fixed schedule) event. 

I hear the distinct sounds of domestic violence: glass smashing, screaming, crying, black eyes shielded from sight in the common lift.

All from the apartment below mine.

The reason for these interactions? I will quote verbatim: "You're a nothing whore that came here because I brought you in", "You are here because I brought you here". What, pray, is the independence this woman able to look forward to?

The irony? He's not even of the region. He's 6'2" and white. She's 5' nothing. And Asian. Who hears the screams of the underclass, though?

After a number of incidents, I finally took the courage to ask OH about the right course of action. After procrastinating over yet another couple of incidents, I finally asked my father for the correct legal approach, and how it would affect my ongoing standing and situation if I were to report such an event. 

The message was clear: Such behaviour cannot be ignored.

Dear readers, I was once a victim of such violence (yes, it happens in gay relationships too), and while majority of the cases are generally waved away by virtue of the influence of alcohol/stress/generalities etc., the bottom line is that it is frankly, unacceptable: a travesty, and an affront to the evolution of humankind. I, personally,  was strong enough to call an end to said relationship, (decision taken after a rescue on Waterloo Bridge by David Hasslehoff, to be told in a separate post). Overall, it is documented that around 22.1% of women, and 7.4% of men alone in the US are subject to such treatment on a regular basis. Generally, such events take place at home, and the results are carefully hidden behind suitable coverings: long sleeves, long trousers, hats, sunglasses, and other attire appropriated to shield us from the elements of weather. 

Not those inflicted by fellow humans.

Furthermore, having embarked on (and decided it was too inane, and thus stopped watching) the HBO serialisation of the novel bestseller series of A Game of Thrones, this does not do any more to give women the impression of empowerment, that being on top, sexually, and grinding down on a penis, would ultimately give one control over the overall situation in general. Fucking television.

I do not know how to carry this thread to a suitable conclusion, because, as one knows, there isn't a  suitable conclusion. I am re-opening up a Pandora's box for discussion, but ultimately, that box has been opened millenia ago, without anyone taking charge and trying to wrench the lid shut. 

Nowadays, women may think they have liberation and a platform for voicing out dissent, but at the end of the day, these women only represent a small number of a fraction of the total who are suffering in silence. 

My point is, as well as straight relationships, there are instances where gay men, women, and all under the LGBT rainbow flag have similar problems. However, these minorities are less likely to admit the suffering they face, for fear of the ongoing perpetuation of LGBT negative stereotyping.

I could go on with regards to the situation that other people are subject to, but, in the end, if one can pick up on sounds of adult discontent, what parallels can we draw, even if it were only sounds of a child crying out in anguish of an event which we could not see?

En fin du jour, this is about the general empowerment we owe to ourselves, and to have the strength in saying: enough.

Good Night.

I will go to bed tonight, however, with the knowledge that someone, somewhere, is not going to be able to say "Good Night". 

Please, if you know of someone, or yourself, in a domestic situation, call someone before you, or they, get hurt. 


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Monday, 26 August 2013

When life gives you sour plums...

There comes a time when even the most ardent wordsmith struggles with something to say. I seem to have hit that wall a while back, and although I am not an ardent wordsmith, I am certainly loquacious. So, I wonder why I am finding it so difficult to find a suitable topic to post about? 

The move to shores anew certainly sparks a number of new stories, but most of these have been wildly frustrating in navigating new systems, mindsets, and routines that while understood and taken for normal by locals, frankly baffles the hell out of me. I certainly do not want to relive the Saga of the Wood Effect Bookshelves, or the Tale of The Too Short Shoe Rack. 

Instead, the past few months have been spent away from the new place we call home. That has given us a new sense of appreciation of what we now see as an abode that we have put our mark to, and somewhere we can find solace in after a long day. It also helps that we have stocked up on duty free. 

Iceland is a place of outstanding beauty. Naturally, I got more excited with these amazing works of public art instead of the scenery. (Not pictured, the 2 headed goat)

This summer saw us gallivanting through parts of the UK, Iceland, and Canada. For the most part, it was a break to see new places, experience new things, and generally, kicking back and having a laugh. For me, mainly, it was a time to spend with friends afar, and that after 2 weeks and a bit of being together all the time, and not being totally sick of each other, bodes well for the friendship we talked about for years to come.

 This is Thkipper, Barbie's Galician cousin. This picture is also totally unrelated to the post, apart from the fact that it seemed a good idea that the Spanish themed dinner we planned suddenly went via Mexico.

My friend Hillary has written a much more succinct post on the incredible light that completely discombobulated us. Imagine after almost constant light, stepping off a plane to find yourself in the darkness that is called night. That struck a sense of awe in us, arriving in Halifax, after 4 hours on the flight where I mainly got overexcited with the meal plans we had ahead. In the end, time itself limited our voracious appetites, and while I went a bit mad at the markets and shops, the true thing of wonder was when both Hillary and I stepped into Canadian Tyre. 10 minutes later and our arms laden with various things, we suddenly remembered what we had actually gone in for.

There were lobsters to be dismembered and grilled. There were punnets of berries to be turned into jam, sorbet, pies, tarts and other things. There was meat to be charred on the barbeque. We did all that, and more. 

I may be digressing, but, I have come to the thing I wanted to write about, which mainly, is the experimentation with the various foods that we had. I bought some golden plums, which, when cooked, turned out to be even more tart than sucking on a lemon. A whole upside down tart had been baked, which was essentially inedible. Even after having sprinkled lots of sugar over it and whipped back in the oven to caramelise. So, instead of sending the whole thing to waste, we improvised and turned it into a golden plum and cardamom ice cream instead.

Here is the recipe:

1 inedibly sour Golden Plum Tart
1 handful of more sour Golden Plums
1 measure of sugar
1 portion of prepared custard for ice cream, infused with cardamom instead of cinnamon

  • Scrape off plums from the tart, put in pan with some uncooked plums (stones removed), add an amount of sugar to mask any tartness.
  • Cut up the soggy tart base into small pieces, set aside.
  • Prepare the ice cream base. Chill, and churn, adding the plum mess and soggy tart base.
  • Eat with gusto. It really is more delicious that I have made it sound.

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Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Can or not, lah?

Less than a fortnight fresh off the boat, OH and I have started to notice a number of things in Singapore, some of which are quite amusing, and some which, quite frankly, frustrates the hell out of one. The following are a few first observations:

-       Singapore has a love affair with plastic bags. Every shop, stall, outlet you go to, they seem to delight in double, nay, triple bagging for that 2oz bottle of soy sauce you just bought.  Everything else should be bagged individually. Having for years brought my own bags to the supermarket, the cashiers cannot process not putting things into plastic bags, to the point of them bagging up stuff to put into my canvas bag.

-       “I go check”. This is the stock response to almost everything. “Does this come in a different size?” ‘I go check.’; “Does your mother work here?” ‘I go check’; “Does my bum look big in this?” (giggle) ‘I go check’; “What’s your name?” (PANIC) ‘I go check’.

-       Substitutions in restaurants are unheard of, and can often lead to you and your waiter sobbing and rocking in the corner, both reduced to gibbering wrecks. You, over the simple incomprehension why you cannot have a salad substitution, and the waiter because the binary system does not allow for the“IF” command. Americans, go home right now.

-       Japanese/Korean culture. All the girls seem to want to look like Manga dolls, with pinched faces, large vacant eyes, and a permanent expression like they’ve sat on a cucumber. Also, if you are adverse to Hello Kitty, this is not the country for you.

-       Queuing for free stuff. Admittedly I have been guilty of this trait, queuing to find that I’m being given free tampons, or baby rusks. Here, however, I noticed a long snaking queue for free sugar samples. You might as well hand out free toothpicks for amusement.

So, there it is, the first installation of observations of life in a different country. We will return soon with more quirks, so, stay tuned!

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