The story so far…

I cannot believe that it is May 2017 already and I have not posted a single blog since my birthday last year! So much has happened, yet if I really sat down and wrote out the details of the last half a year, I am going to be here typing for the next 6 hours and this post is going to be incredibly long and tedious to read. So here’s what happened in a snapshot…

Life

Baking

So, I have somehow developed a keen interest in baking over the last few months. Since about Christmas time, I have been baking like a mad woman. When I am at home alone, in the quiet of the evening or nighttime, enveloped by the cosy warmth emanating from the oven, pottering around the kitchen and concentrating on making something awesome… I find this process extremely therapeutic. When I am baking, I forget about the stresses of the work day- the missed cannulas, the difficult intubations, the failed regional blocks… all these failures are wiped out of my mind as I get into my “flow.” All I can think of is the math calculations as I adjust my ingredient amounts, all I can hear is the whirring of my mixer, all I can feel is the heat from the oven, and all I can smell is the delicious sweetness of the sugar and butter and flour being whipped together into batter. At the end of each baking experiment, I am also presented with the satisfaction and reward of a dozen stunning cupcakes, or a scrumptious tray of cookies. I have truly fallen in love with baking!

Cooking is an art, but baking is a science. Indeed, the process of baking marries up my love for food and for science. I am so curious to find out what chemical reactions are going on as I add water to flour, or sugar to the batter, or what happens when the air bubbles in my batter expand within and escape out of the cake’s gluten structure under heated conditions. I find all of this fascinating, and have gone so far as to purchase a textbook on “how baking works.” So far, I have read about 4 chapters of it and I am being enlightened with each page I turn. I am reading about heat transfer, and the properties of the different materials used in bakeware. I am learning about which ingredients are tenderisers or tougheners, which ones are moisturisers and driers. I am enlightened about what happens to each of the ingredients at the molecular level as you mix them, or heat them, and cool them. I’ll admit that I have not really done much reading outside of medicine… and this (text)book has been a real pleasure to get back into leisurely reading with.

I think my baking escapades have also been made much more pleasurable and successful since using recipes from youtube celebrity baker cupcakejemma. Her recipes are so unbelievably incredible. It also helps that I have a very willing cake/ sweet-treats eater friend who always welcomes my attempts to feed him cake. I now try and find any and every reason to bake him cake, knowing that he will eat it (and I can just have one or two only instead of getting fat from eating all my own baked goods).

Fitness

So, whilst in one aspect of my life I am baking away with highly calorific butter and sugar and flour, another aspect of my life has been focussed on getting rid of said calories. Oh how life contradicts itself in so many ways! I have been spending a lot of time in the gym with Emma doing squats, deadlifts, chest presses and lunges… all in the hopes of building some muscle that will burn calories even when I rest. I have to say that my progress has been incredibly slow… potentially to the point of being non-existent. I am so frustrated as I have been working so so so hard and yet am hardly seeing any result at all. After all, I have ramped my physical activity up by at least 80% compared to the days before I joined the gym– when all I did was to consume cake, chocolate, cookies and coke… and when the most exercise I ever did was to go shopping for new clothes in the department store.

Perhaps I really do have to work much harder on my diet. Rumour has it that weight loss is 20% exercise and 80% diet, so I may need to rethink my intake! However, this is also part of the reason for my aggravation because my diet has improved by leaps and bounds since my cake and coke days.  Now, I definitely give a lot more thought into what I put into my body. I hardly drink any coke at all these days, and I do not buy chocolate bars anymore. I still eat cake and cookies but I am quite a lot more watchful over how much I do actually have. So, with clean(er) eating and a heck of a lot more exercise, why am I still not shaping up nicely as I would really like? Do I really have to go cold turkey and eat bland food that I do not enjoy for the rest of my life? I am so disappointed because even my clothes do not feel any looser than they did before I started this “healthy living” thing a year ago. I am not giving up though… like I said before, Rome was not built in a day, and I did not get fat overnight. I am going to have to keep working at this body… try different activities, different diets… and hopefully someday I will reap the results that I desire. To me, strong is the new skinny. I want to be lean, toned and strong…

J, go and try out a new workout programme, a new gym class, yoga, dance, swimming… it may be scary to go at first, especially when you are on your own and you fear looking like a real clown amidst the experts. But please, just start.

I have been taking fitness inspiration from a celebrity personal trainer on instagram. Her name is Kayla Itsines. She does not advocate the whole “I wish I have your body” mentality- and I agree…. yet, she is SO stunningly beautiful that I cannot help but look at her and think “goals!” I guess you can say she is my fitspiration? Seeing her so beautiful and strong really motivates me to keep working on my own body.


Closer to home, Jamie Teo (Miss Singapore 2001 and former TV personality) has been a real inspiration and motivation to me too. She posts her home workout videos regularly and you can clearly see that her body has been well sculpted by all that exercise! She is so beautiful!

My final other source of inspiration comes from a man. He is none other than the 22 year old Australian Olympic swimmer Cameron McEvoy! This man is really like a machine. Somehow, he has managed to balance being a swimming champion with academia as he pursues his dream of becoming a physicist. I love seeing how he works out so hard both in the gym and at the pool to be in the best physical shape for the swimming championships. Yet, he alternates his posts from the pool with geeky posts of complex mathematical equations, or how he is reading up on the work of physics greats such as Richard Feynman. I love that someone is actually able to be so dedicated BOTH to sport and to science- something that is so difficult to do when both disciplines demand 100% dedication from 100% of you. To see someone being able to achieve/ or at least work to achieve such a feat is a real inspiration to me. And it helps that he looks really cute too.

Work

Prizes

So, the last time I went to Edinburgh in November, I had actually gone to attend the Patient Safety Conference where I presented a poster on my Ultrasound Screen cover project. I am extremely happy to say that I won the first prize for my poster! When I was there, I was able to explain the ideas behind my project to the other delegates and quite a few consultants from other hospitals around the country were asking me about how they can get hold of one of my screens. I am now desperately trying to get the hospital’s innovation team to help me further develop my product. Hopefully, we will eventually be able to sell the intellectual property to a commercial company so they can manufacture it in bulk in industry (compared to my homemade craft project of a prototype at present). I am excited as to what can possibly become of this little project– after all, the entire idea and concept had come completely from God as an answer to my prayers. I am extremely grateful to what the Lord has blessed me with and I really want to take this forward- to the rest of the UK and even beyond!

Oh by the way, when I was at the conference, I also had a chance to meet and even speak to Princess Anne (daughter of Queen Elizabeth and sister to Prince Charles). She is the patron of our Royal College and was in Scotland for St Andrew’s day anyway. And so, she came to attend our event. It was immensely exciting because I have never ever seen royalty up close and personal before. As trainees with posters to present, we were given the opportunity to speak to the Princess when she came to view our posters. We all had a short briefing before her arrival whereby we were taught to address her as “Your royal highness” at the first instance (and to curtsy as we said it) followed by “mam” (not mOm) thereafter. Frankly, I was so nervous about seeing her and speaking to her. I was worried that I would call her “Your majesty”– which is wrong as it refers to the queen. Also, I had no idea how to curtsy in a pair of trousers and so I just bobbed when I saw her. When I eventually got chatting to her, I actually found that she is very human. And a very nice one too. She was very friendly and seemed to genuinely take interest in what work I had done (though I honestly do not think she really understood what the heck I was doing).

Oh, one interesting thing happened too. After the adrenaline rush of having spoken to the Princess, and after speaking to quite a few other delegates about my work as I stood in front of my poster presenting it, I decided that I was parched. I found an opportune moment when I could leave my poster to get a drink. I had my eyes set on a jug of tea that was on a table about 4 meters away from me. In order for me to get to the tea, I had to walk behind Princess Anne (who was mingling/chatting to some other important people) on one side and a group of female doctors on the other side. I calculated my steps and moved swiftly towards hydration. However, just as I was walking behind the Princess, a female doctor from the other side took a step back towards me, effectively trying to squash me. In my haste to avoid her, I accidentally took a step towards the Princess and basically kicked her heel. Can you imagine the horror on my face as she turned around to find out who her “assailant” was. I was so shocked that all I could manage was “I am so sorry, so so sorry.” Oh man! But what a story for me to tell in the years to come– that I have kicked royalty in the heel in this lifetime!

In February, I took my project to present at the LSA trainee’s prize competition as well. It is something that I have been determined to do for the last few years but never really had anything that was “competition material.” This time, I submitted my entry and was determined to win the beautiful Jackson-Rees medal. I knew that the work was good and that I had worked hard on it. That night was going to be the night for me to present it orally and do it some justice! I practiced my oral presentation over and over again. I needed to sound enthusiastic and convicted by my own work. I needed to to be engaging and charismatic. I needed to keep my words understandable despite the fast pace that I had to go at to get everything I needed to say in. Yet on that night, I was SO nervous. When I walked into the lecture theatre, I saw DG to whom I admitted that I had so many butterflies in my stomach that it felt like I was sitting yet another exam. DG being DG told me not to be silly and to remember the 3Cs! I was 3rd in the line of 4 presenters. I think I eventually did a reasonable job of presenting my project. I was asked a load of questions, some of which I really struggled to piece of coherent answer for. I was desperate for a win. And yet I lost. I was 2nd place- still considered a win to most people especially since there is still an associated cash prize. However, I really really really wanted the shiny medal. I was disappointed. And then I was cross. Why? Because the 1st prize winner (an arrogant junior of mine) came over to me and said “I’m sorry I beat you.” Like, seriously? Anyway, now that the emotions of the night have all settled down, I am ultimately still very grateful to God. 2nd prize is still a prize. God is still good to me. And in the hilarious words of my wise mother “Don’t be disappointed. Sometime 2nd is better than 1st. Like singing competitions, 2nd prize winner always 发展得比冠军还要好 later. Remember it’s just a prize. So be happy that 你榜上有名,还有钱拿。你好强啊。一人之下,万人之上?。恭喜恭喜。”

Paediatrics

Now back in the children’s hospital. Loving it most days as the little children are so cute and beautiful. Even with the crying, screaming and protesting, all is forgiven when they are asleep and adorable like little angels. All is forgiven when you can have little cuddles with them in the recovery room. Children are so innocent and beautiful.

Also, who does not love to go to a workplace where there are colourful murals on the walls? Who does not enjoy blowing and popping bubbles as part of the job plan? Who complains about being able to play with toys whilst waiting for their “clients” to arrive?

The children’s hospital has been a really good place to work in… not just because of the children and the toys, but also because of the staff. In my opinion, you have to have a soft and gentle side to be able to work with children. And so paediatric surgeons are really some of the nicest surgeons I have ever worked with. Of course, some of them can still be arrogant and difficult… but compared to the egos and rudeness I have witnessed in adult tertiary centres, they are really quite mild. I love that in this hospital, people value me as part of their teams. I get addressed by surgeons, TCAs, ODPs and scrub nurses by my first name! This is something that does not often happen because people do not usually make an effort to remember the name of a passing anaesthetic registrar, and especially not if you have a name as uncommon as mine!

Nevertheless, I say goodbye to theatres for 6 weeks as I go and join the PICU/transfer team for a bit. I am admittedly very nervous about this as the pathologies in paediatric ICU are very different from that in adult units. The complex cardiac patients terrify me the most as I do not even know how blood is flowing within their congenitally abnormal hearts! Also, I am still unfamiliar with considering infusions in terms of mcg/kg/min… something that we never do in adult practice where everything is usually a standard mixture and adjusted in ml/hr! There is much to see and learn in the coming month and a half. I just want to pray to the Lord for good teaching and learning, and much safety as I go into an environment that I am completely unfamiliar with and uncomfortable in.

Church

A very powerful sermon from Mark 15: 1-15, 25-39. I am completely shaken by this.

You can be the crowd. Jesus is a very compelling figure. People have all sorts of objections to Christianity, yet when it comes to the actual person of Jesus, all sorts of people who hate the church still think that he is the best example of humanity that we have. He has unlimited power, and he uses this to help people– Everytime he does something terribly powerful and scary, we see him next caring for someone, talking to someone, healing someone, forgiving someone. Yet, He is uncompromising in his claims– that everyone who has ever lived should respect his authority, that we have to be fully accountable to Him. He says that we will do nothing more important than deal personally with him. As a result, many feel that “He is awkward for me” and “I do not like him making these claims– I need to get rid of him.”

What crime has he committed? They could not name the crime. Yet they shouted all the louder “crucify him!”


You can’t be Jesus. Barabbas was supposed to be the one crucified. It should have been him- the normal guy, the everyday criminal. However, Jesus died in his place instead. Yet, it was not a straight swap of one peasant for another. Jesus was different. 3 hrs of darkness at noontime on the day of his death– something not normal, and which is a sign of God’s anger. As Jesus hung on the cross, he cried “my God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”– a cry of religious heartbreak not likely to be heard from hardened criminals. On the other side of the city, a large thick curtain rips from top to bottom the moment Jesus dies. THERE IS SOMETHING VERY DIFFERENT ABOUT JESUS. The death He died, only He could die. Jesus has terrifyingly limitless power and authority– heck, he controls evil with just His words! Yet, this king over everything chooses death– the one who committed no crime took the anger and separation from God in our place. “He saved others, but he cannot save himself?” What nonsense. He did not save himself, so that he can save others. And so at that moment, the curtain is ripped– from top to bottom, as if God has reached down, so that all the warning signs that remind us of our uncleanness has been ripped down by Him.


You can be Barabbas. The son of God died for you Barabbas! He took your place. Was Barabbas relieved? Was he thankful? How did he respond/ soul search? Did he live a better life afterwards? We do not know anything else about Barabbas. It was unimportant how bad Barabbas had been. It was unimportant if he went on to do something great. The only important thing about him was that Jesus died for him. And there is just one word to describe him: Released.

For the non-believer: Do you feel held back thinking that you can never be good enough to be a Christian? Do you think “I am too different and too distant?” Remember that Jesus never said “earn this.” Jesus’ offer to Barabbas is the same offer to you. “Release.” YOU CAN BE BARABBAS.  Having witnessed how horrible a price it is to pay for your sins, do you really want to insist on paying for your own uncleanness? Do you really want to say “Put me back in the cell and punish me please?” YOU CAN BE BARABBAS, so why would you not be? Let Jesus pay for you. The curtain is ripped. You can walk in and begin a life of knowing God and being made clean.

For the Christian: do you judge your friends? Do you think that some people are beyond salvation? Do you doubt that you can invite ANYBODY into this relationship? Even when you have witnessed that the first person to believe is the centurion who hammered the very nails into Jesus? Jesus died to rip the curtain in two. Please stop sewing the curtain back up. Stop holding back Jesus’ offer to people who do not fit the “profile.”

In Tenerife

image

I am on holiday!

Now, I am sat by the heated pool at my hotel in Tenerife. I am in my bikini, all SPF-ed out and suntanning (whilst keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that the UV rays don’t wrinkle me up). It is so comfortable to finally be away from the wintry cold of England, being here in a foreign country and sat on a deck chair basking in the gentle embrace of Mr Sunshine. There is something strangely calming about watching kids bobbing around in the pool whilst being kept buoyant by their arm floats, seeing little children get all excited as they splash water at each other, and watching the clear blue water fan out as one ripple chases after another. I love the rhythmic sound of cool water lapping up onto the edges of the pool. I listen to the conversations other holiday-makers are having around me, and cannot help but find my brain completely disengaging as they natter on in the background, in Spanish, or Italian, or German- whatever. They speak words that I do not comprehend, so I sit back and switch off, aloof to whatever they think or say.

This holiday has been much needed. The stresses of work and life have been slowly getting to me in the last couple of weeks. Work has been tough, and I have been feeling very incompetent a lot of the time. There was the issue of the boy who got paralysed by dead-space sux while awake, the mental distress of dealing with his mother & a possible complaint, the problem with starting lists late, being unable to perform regional blocks that I am expected to know at my stage, constantly feeling judged by the people around me… and then there are the struggles with life itself- coping with my singleness, resigning to my loneliness, accepting that Leehom is now married (yes he is, but more about this another time), and generally trying to find purpose and joy in the mundane repetition of a boring adult life. I want to lead a purpose-filled existence, a life of fun and of interesting experiences. I want to go places, meet people, taste culinary delights, experience other cultures. I want to wake up daily with a huge smile on my face, excited to get up and say hello to a day that promises achievement and satisfaction. I want to go to bed every night grinning, knowing that it has been yet another day well-lived.

And so it has been nice to break away for a while. It has been lovely to have breakfast and dinner served up to me daily, to have my room tidied by someone else, to laze by the pool like this and let myself go brain-dead for a couple of days, to soak up sunshine that I have been much starved of, to relax and reflect, and to record my thoughts down like this.

This is the first time I am on a holiday like this- one in which I just could not care less. I am not interested in going to see the sights, to eat certain delicacies, to cram in a thousand million things into my itinerary and try to “make the most of this holiday.” I am not bothered about anything at all. I just want to thoroughly chill. If the thought of going somewhere appears remotely stressful, then screw it. I don’t care enough to stress about it. I am here to rest my soul.

The first day I got here, I was post nights and had had a couple of busy days preparing for this trip. This, together with the fact that it rained all day in Tenerife on day 1, meant that I just hit the sack in my hotel room and slept… and slept and slept. I remember waking up to have dinner, going back to my room for a shower, blogging a little, then heading straight back to dreamland yet again.

On my second day, I woke up to a scrumptious breakfast, then hit the pool where I could finally swim! I had been wanting to go swimming while I was still in the UK, but the busy-ness of work and life meant that it stayed on my to-do list for a month and a half. I swam for a long time that day, enjoying the sensation of cool water softly caressing my weary body, reaching deep into the nooks and crannies to provide a rejuvenation of my body and mind. There was a gym instructor who came to join us at the pool that day, and he took us for a session of aquagym- exercises in the water to get your body moving, your heart pumping and your blood circulating. It was super fun, and I am inspired to go for such in-pool exercise classes when I get back to England. For the rest of the day, I went walking along the beaches on the South-West coast of Tenerife. It was scorching hot, and I walked for an exceptionally long distance. I had wanted to get from Fanabe where I was to the Las Americas. It took me 3 hrs, a nearly burnt nose, and a couple of blisters on my feet to finally arrive there. I did a tiny bit of shopping at the Las Americas before I managed to summon sufficient courage to begin the long trek back (thankfully it was evening by then and the sunset was much more forgiving then the midday burn). When I returned to the hotel, it was dinner and then K.O. into the land of realistic fantasy.

Yesterday was probably the only day when I actually visited a tourist destination. I went to Siam Park, The Water Kingdom. Siam park is a huge water park with a Thai theme. It was really really fun! The last time I went to a water park was when I was maybe of primary school age? (I remember it was to the now defunct Fantasy Island in Sentosa). Too young anyway to go on any rides or remember any of the fun. This time, I was determined to go on most of the rides. I started by hitting “Siam beach,” a man made beach complete with “seawater” (which is really just a very large pool of fairly shallow water on concrete ground, capable of producing waves of different sizes). People were all trying to catch the waves, but most like me ended up just being washed away by the sheer strength of the approaching body of water. I also went on the “Naga Racer,” which is essentially a very long, and fairly vertical slide that you slide belly-down on a mat. It was highly exhilarating, especially when you try and keep your eyes open as you make your very fast and very vertical descent. I loved it though, and ended up going 3 times. There was also the “Dragon”, the “Mekong rapids”, and “Kinnaree”- these were all group rides on a huge float, through slides and tunnels with rushing water, tossing you backwards and forwards sometimes in light and occasionally in pitch blackness, turning you around and around, then allowing you to drop almost vertically downwards. It was terrifying, and there were some times when I thought I might actually be thrown out of the float! There were also a couple of rides when I was riding backwards towards a nearly vertical drop. Do you know the feeling of having your gut thrown into your chest when the aeroplane enters an area of turbulence? Well, I felt that a lot yesterday… BUT it was super fun! There was a lot of water splashed, a tonne of hysterical screaming, and a shedload of adrenaline pumping away in my body. The “Giant” was another such ride, a solo ride though, and I enjoyed it so much that I went back for a second serving. I also got to float along the “Mai Thai river” in a float, but that proved to be mind-numbingly boring. With the water turning me clockwise one minute and anticlockwise the next, I actually thought I might be sick. So I abandoned the ride quickly. One other major attraction in the park is “The Tower of Power”- essentially a very long freaky slide that plunges almost vertically down into a glass tube within an aquarium containing sharks! It looked horrifically scary- I gave that a miss for want of my precious little life. I walked everywhere barefooted that day- up concrete stairs, down gravelly paths, across wooden bridges and along the sandy beaches. My poor little abused feet were screaming out in pain by the end of the day and my gait changed into a pathetic limp! Nevertheless, it was a great day all in all, and I would totally recommend visiting that park again (Says the NEVER-adrenaline junkie who has never/ can never/ will never be on a roller coaster. Hear here, all ye who suffer motion sickness, this might just be alright for you!)!!

As for today, I have literally been sitting by the pool/ swimming for the last 3hrs. I am off to a 2hr long “wine ritual lover” treatment (bath, exfoliation, wrap and massage) in about half an hour. Hopefully, that will be really relaxing and totally worth the hole in my pocket the size of 150euros!

* continued…

It is now 2138hrs at night. I have been to my spa day experience and I find myself struggling to describe just how awesome it was. It started with 10mins in the jacuzzi and steam room. Amazingly, I had these facilities all to myself as no one else had booked in for a treatment at the same time. The jets of water at the jacuzzi served as the perfect way to start soothing my achy muscles. After 3 days of walking & swimming, I have overloaded my lazy muscles with exercise that they have not dealt with in a while. Those cheeky buggers are now protesting against the sudden increase in their workload, and I am punished with aching in parts of my body that I did not even know existed.

After the jacuzzi, I headed into the steam room to get my BMR up, to open up my pores and to start purging said clogged pores through intense perspiration. I was careful not to overdo it though, as I clearly remembered how my last steam room experience left me completely and utterly exhausted for the next day and a half.

Following that, my masseuse led me to a private room where my treatments were to officially begin. We started off with a body scrub. I have never had a body scrub in my life and boy did that feel good! I could literally feel layers of dead skin and all the associated encrusted dirt being lifted off me. When I got in the shower to wash the scrub off, I was pleasantly surprised by just how silky-smooth my skin had become! After the exfoliation, I had some kind of mask slathered all over me. From how it smelled, I suspect it was seaweed. I was then wrapped up in a plastic sheet, and then again with some towels. To be honest, I felt like I was some kind of food being prepared for cooking. Washed, scrubbed clean, then marinaded, wrapped up and left to sit for a while before being put in the cooker. Haha. Anyway, I got a head massage thereafter and that felt good.

Finally, after I had the mask washed off, we settled down to the real business. The massage. The masseuse applied oil all over my body. It smelt heavenly… I think it was grape, or mandarin orange. Very skilfully, she pressed and kneaded and knocked on the aching muscles all over my body. My back, neck, legs, arms, abdomen, and even my breasts! It felt so comforting and relaxing to feel the warmth of her silky smooth fingers and hands pushing against my skin, pressing into where I was tense and sore. My brain switched off completely then, and all I could think of was just how much I enjoyed every movement of her nifty massaging hands on my body.

The massage finally ended with a quick wipe down of my body with a lovely warm towel, and I was then offered a glass of red wine, green tea, and some fruit & biscuits. The whole experience was just out of this world…

As I sat on the round rattan chair by the shop window sipping on my red wine, staring out into the dusk and reliving this whole holiday in my head, I cannot help but feel so blessed. I came to Tenerife for relaxation, and I dare say I definitely got it this week.

Dear Lord, thank you.

Another item ticked off my bucket list

I went to see Michael McIntyre at the Echo arena last night. I have never ever been to see stand-up comedy before, but Mr McIntyre successfully made this very first experience an unforgettable one! I love that he makes such careful observations about mankind and all the strange things we get up to, then presents them so comically back to us that we cannot help but laugh at ourselves. I love the way he tells his stories so animatedly, the way he reinforces his words with fake accents and acting, and the way he picks on members of his audience and mocks them. More importantly, I love the way he doesn’t need to rely on telling crude jokes to be funny- funny doesn’t have to be dirty. I laughed so hard through the 2 and a half hour show that I left with an aching jaw and a stitch in my side. I had a great time last night, and will definitely be up for seeing more of his performances in the future.

Trip out to the Blue Mountains

AUD 99 bought me a trip to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, so named because of the Eucalyptus oil produced by gum trees that line these mountains. The oil, mixed with water droplets and dust, refract sunlight in such a way that it painted the mountaintops a tinge of dreamy blue.

It was a lovely warm day, and it was nice to have my touring looked after by someone else after a long week in a foreign place.

The tour guide/ coach driver was an Australian man named Mark. It was nice to hear his Australian accent come through the speakers of the coach for a whole day. He was funny and friendly, and told us all kinds of random facts throughout the day. His ancestors, his old place of residence, the price of bottled water and petrol, the use of electronic tags to pay toll money in Australia…

It took us approximately 2 hours to arrive at Katoomba by coach. Katoomba is an Aboriginal word for “shining, tumbling waters,” how romantic. Our first stop was the echo point lookout, where we would view “The three sisters,” Mount Solitary and the Jamison Valley. It was quite a breathtaking sight to behold. From the lookout point, all I could see were cliffs, mountains, valleys, rivers, green trees and a vast cloudless blue sky.

The “three sisters” is a rock formation produced by many years of erosion by the elements. To the Australian Aborigines however, it is a sacred place from their Aboriginal dreamtime, where 3 sisters were cursed into becoming these astounding pillars of rock.

We headed off to “Skywalk” thereafter. This is essentially a cable car ride across the valley. From this cable car, we could see more of Mother Nature and her beauty. We could view the three sisters and the eternity waterfall. There was also a platform within the Skywalk ride that changed from being translucent to transparent right beneath our feet, enabling us to view the valley thousands of miles below us. Amazing, but scary at the same time.

After a short lunch, I proceeded to take the railway down to the bottom of the valley. Now, this is the world’s steepest railway, angling up to 52 degrees at its steepest point. I sat on the outside, where there was no barrier to stop me from falling out. In fact, there weren’t even any seatbelts or anything to tie me onto the carriage itself! It was mighty scary. I felt like the train was going almost vertically at some points, and had to hang on to a bar with one hand whilst my other hand grasped onto the wire fencing above our heads. The ride was a quick one thankfully- I don’t think I would have survived anything longer!

When we got into the Valley, I enjoyed a short board walk through it. It was really cool under the canopy of the rainforest trees. I looked around me and all I could see were tree trunks, leaves, vines… nature in all its glory. In fact, I felt like I had walked onto the set of “planet earth.” My geography lessons from secondary school flashed across my mind; sadly, I could not remember much.

The trip into the valley ended with a cable car ride back to the top. It was like any other cable car ride, except that it was going vertically rather than horizontally, and it ended with a (planned) swing.

After we got away from ScenicWorld, we spent some time browsing the shops at Leura mall. Following that, we headed back to Sydney where we were taken on a quick drive around the Olympic Park before being dropped back off at our respective hotels.

It was a lovely day out. Australia can be so beautiful.

Bondi Beach & Attractive Aussies

I went to Bondi beach today.

After 3 days of persistent rain, the cumulonimbus clouds finally relented and let the shy sun peek through. It was sunny and warm, perfect for a nice day out at the beach.

It was my first time at Bondi beach today, and I have to say that it was everything I expected it to be. Clear sapphire blue skies, emerald green waters, white waves washing ashore onto the long stretch of cream coloured sand. The sun was shining on my face and the cool sea breeze in my hair. Throngs of sun-worshippers had arrived, each person taking his or her own little spot on the sand to sunbathe, read, picnic, or simply just chill out. Others were building sandcastles, playing beach volleyball, or jogging along the coastline. Surfers rode the waves in the sea, yet others were swimming, or simply thrashing about playfully with their mates in the water.

It was a day for the young and old.

I joined in the fun too, and allowed myself to bake under the sun for about an hour. I then walked along the beach, people watching and getting all trigger-happy. I had a watermelon-flavoured snow cone today, and it was just the thing I needed to bring this hot day to perfection. Before I knew it, I had been out for almost 4 hours, and I was well and truly roasted (yes, my skin is all red and inflamed now, and I am starting to regret not putting any sunscreen on).

As I strolled along the beach, I could not help but notice how HOT Australian men are. There were so many of them out there today, all half naked and showing off their toned, sun-kissed bodies. They all seemed to have the necessary 6 pecs and classic V shaped body. Many have also been blessed with rather handsome, chiselled faces. These, together with tousled blonde or brown hair, a winning smile, and a sexy Aussie accent, made them unbelievably attractive. I found it very hard not to stare.

Aussie women are also not to be outdone. Toned abs and perky bums were seen everywhere- they make it seem as though it was easy and normal to attain a figure like theirs! I was completely and utterly put to shame when I tried to compare myself to their amazing bikini bodies. Many of the women were also a healthy bronze colour, which must have taken hours, days and months of sun-worshipping to attain. These women were quite obviously very confident and proud of their bodies, many of them choosing to display themselves in semi-nudity to the rest of us beach-goers.

All in all, it was a gorgeous day out at the beach. I haven’t been to one in the longest time ever, so it was nice for me to get my pasty looking self out in the sun again. I love people watching, and spending the day at Bondi was certainly a treat for me.

Meeting Wong Fu Productions

Wong Fu Productions swung by Singapore as part of their South East Asian tour two days ago and I got to see them! I feel so fortunate to be in Singapore at the same time they visited and am so happy that I managed to go to their event.

That day, I realised just how bad I am at being a “groupie.” The event was supposed to kick off at 7pm, and so, JX and I decided that we would meet outside the Rock Auditorium at 6.45pm. I mean, that sounds pretty reasonable right? WRONG. Apparently, the “true fans” had all gathered to queue up at 4pm! There was even one fan who had arrived at 12 noon! I truly cannot understand how anyone could willingly forgo such precious hours and minutes of their life to do nothing more than queue up. Also, many of the fans who were at the event were uncontrollably excited. The amount of screaming heard through the night could only be matched by the squealing and shrieking of  passionate school girls from my alma mater during a school sports day. There was cheering for every single joke the Wong Fu guys told, every single pose they struck, and every video they played. As for me and JX? We clapped and cheered when appropriate, but stayed mainly calm throughout all the raucous that was going on around us. I wouldn’t say that we were party poopers; I prefer to think that we were just (more) rational. I mean, at our age, it would be highly inappropriate to behave like 16 year old young punks right? Having said that though, adrenaline did surge and I squealed like said 16 yr old young punk when the music video they shot for Wang Lee Hom was screened. “That’s the man I have loved for the last 10 years!” I told JX.

Anyways. I really enjoyed myself that night. Phil and Wes had come, but Ted could not make it due to commitments back in the USA. Although they were one person down, it was still nice to see these guys in person. They are both so thin! But very well dressed. Wes looked especially attractive and has a skin complexion that would make many girls green with envy! The 2 guys were very eloquent, and funny. They spoke like we had been friends for years (“BFFs” as Phil would put it). And I absolutely adore their American accents. It was a real delight to hear them speak.

I came away feeling quite inspired. It was nice to hear how Wong Fu had met in University- Phil was apparently really impressed with Wes and Ted’s work in class and thus determined to befriend them, whilst the other guys knew him as the semi-famous lip-syncing and dancing guy on campus. They described how they started making their first videos together, and how they scrimped and saved to buy a good camera together. They told of how they struggled to make ends meet post-graduation whilst persisting in their passion for film-work. They spoke of how they used to film for weddings (and may sometimes not be fed) and work at nightclubs interviewing drunkards. And finally, they shared about how they eventually got the recognition that they deserved through Youtube.

Phil and Wes screened a number of their works, and emphasised how important it was for them to dabble in most genres (romantic, comedy, music videos etc), and to ensure that the quality of their work was up to the same standard irregardless of the budget or manpower that they had. The guys were obviously very proud of their achievements as a production company thus far, but also seemed very grounded and appreciative of all the support their fans have rendered them.

I thought the event went really well, and it far exceeded my expectations. I mean, what can you expect from a couple of guys who don’t sing or dance or play any musical instruments? As Phil said, it was one big Youtube video party, but this party was a lot more than I had imagined it would be and I was surprisingly a lot more engaged than I had expected to be. I do hope to see these guys again soon. Hopefully it won’t be too long more before then!

Wong Fu for Lyfe.

p.s. Really not quite sure why they decided to spell “lyfe” with a “y.”

All I want for Christmas, is you

I’ve just spent the last 4hours doing my (last-minute) Christmas shopping on amazon.co.uk.

Internet shopping is totally the way forward! Christmas music in the background, mood lighting turned on, sipping a cup of tea, sitting in the comfort of my lovely warm living room, and most importantly, not having to brave crowds and queue at the tills! Internet shopping has made this potentially stressful experience a lot more tolerable.

I want to share some pretty awesome purchases with you here:

Really cool blood bath mat!
A hilarious toilet bowl mug!
A comforting microwavable wheat toy elephant for the little ones
A book on embroidery to inspire the artistic one
A candle making kit so I can make gift candles
Super cool gloves that keep your hands warm whilst allowing you to touch your iphone screen with precision!

I am very pleased with my purchases! I hope they all arrive in time for Christmas, and that they will put a smile on the faces of their receivers. It’s always so hard for me to buy meaningful gifts for other people… I don’t want to buy things just for the sake of giving them away… I want to give people things that are practical, things that they can use, or things that they can have a laugh about… which is why I am pretty satisfied with my choices this Christmas.

What about me? What do I want for Christmas? A couple of things actually (sorry for being greedy):

1. That my parents, bro and I stay happy and healthy

2. That I start getting really unbelievably good at my job, that I enjoy it more, and that I pass my exams.

3. That my friend will end his sinful relationship and turn back to God.

4. That I will meet the man of my dreams sometime, in God’s own time.

5. Please can I meet Lee Hom too?

Paint me a pretty picture with the music from your soul

I had a great evening at music practice for Vicky’s wedding last night. Since September, Ruth and I have been getting together on a (semi) regular basis to work on our performance for the register signing “segment” of the wedding. Ruth has been ever so patient with me since our practices started… she’s had to teach me everything from scratch- from counting beats to learning the tunes to understanding what “f” or “mf” or “piano” means on the sheet music… I’ve had to learn it all from her. No more jazzing up the music for me (for now), I’ve got to follow the rules and sing it as it is written. We have had a total of 5 rehearsals so far, and I dare say that we are sounding pretty good. We performed for the to-be-newly-weds last night, and they seem pleased with what we have done.

To be honest, I still can’t believe that I will be the soloist at Vicky’s wedding this December. I remember how this all happened… In 5th year (I think it was during one of my sleepovers at her’s and we were watching and singing along to high school musical), Vicky (who was then single) said that she would like me to sing at her wedding in the future because she loved my voice. I agreed to it without much hesitation then, firstly because I genuinely did want to sing for her, and secondly because I didn’t think she would be getting married anytime soon. During our F1 year, Vicky went away to work in Swindon and there started dating Chris. Within a year, they got engaged and she certainly hadn’t forgotten my promise to her from 2 years ago. I was never going to regret my promise, but boy am I nervous about this whole thing! I’ve loved the practices and certainly enjoy the singing, but this is my good friend’s wedding and I don’t want to let her down.

Speaking of love songs… I want to share an awesome 5 minutes of heart-melting love tunes by my favourite Lee Hom:

His version of “Baby can I hold you” is totally mind-blowing! Especially how he started with “Sorry~”  Oh my word, I was speechless and totally in awe. How soulful, how melancholic, how heart wrenching! I want to be able to sing like him!

I am desperate to watch his 火力全開 concert this year as this is the first time in 8 years that I will be back in Asia during the promotional period for his latest album. Unfortunately, as far as I am aware, he only has concerts scheduled in Taiwan so far. I’ve entered myself into a lucky draw for his concert tickets + return flights to Taipei, and I have been hoping against hope that I will be able to win myself the best birthday present this November. I doubt it though, seeing as his concert will be held this time next week and I have yet to receive an email/phonecall to say that I have won myself a chance to go and see the musicman in action! ): I’m keeping my fingers crossed however, as miracles do happen.

Well, whilst I am on the topic of being engaged in nice activities such as singing, I should probably inform you that I have taken my own advice and picked up paintbrushes for the first time in 4 years today! I went to the paint pots ceramic studio and painted myself a bowl! It was so awesome and I was totally lost in my work. I had completely forgotten how lovely it is to immerse myself in creativity and colours, and I felt like I have finally breathed again this afternoon. Adults and little children took it in turns to come and admire my art piece. One lady even called me a “real painter”! Now, I haven’t heard that in a while.

It was so lovely, so, so lovely. The artist in me has awoken today.

J