Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I always never am speaking English in the proper way any longer.

Salut salut salut!

The above sentence being about half of my French vocabulary at the moment, and this sentence a good representation of how screwy my English grammar has become, I conclude therefore that I have been in Germany for a very very long time. And then I must now admit that I am not, in fact, in Germany at the moment - rather, I'm in Italy, somewhere near the Mediterranean, although I never know exactly where I am when traveling with my family.

My last day of teaching was August 4th, and on the 5th I took a train to Geneve (la Suisse), where I met up with my family, as well as two really cool people named Alan and Laura that y'all might happen to know. There are pictures from this meeting, despite the weather being generally dreary, but they aren't on my camera, so I leave it to one or more of these super cool people to post them. hinthint. As for the weekend, it was spent walking around the streets of Geneve, touring CERN, and eating smuggled roquefort instead of sleeping.

In other news, like I said, my last day of teaching was last week, and I'm now on vacation. The last two weeks of my teaching program went very quickly and very nicely. The kids were the youngest we've had all summer, so I feel like I haven't gotten to know them quite as well, but they have been remarkable as students and pretty fun to teach. I had one particularly memorable student - if you've ever read Anne of Green Gables, this kid is my Paul Irving. He was just the most remarkable boy... and Alan, if you read this, I mean remarkable as in special, not remarkable as in able-to-be-remarked-upon.

I've also brought the llama song over to Germany, where the younger kids have loved it, as you can probably tell by the pictures I have sent out to the group. Here's another one for good measure (President Obama-Llama was their favorite). I have also taught them the PTERODACTYL game, which caught on more with the older kids. The thing with that game is that you have to be bad at it for it to be fun. Ah well. C'est la vie. (The previous sentence being the other half of my French vocabulary).

This summer has been super awesome. I've learned a lot/changed a lot, I think. On the serious side, my German is much much better, I have some clearer ideas of what I might want to do with my life, I've networked a bit, I've done a lot of teaching and a lot of learning, and I've met some really really amazing people. On the less serious side, I am approximately four orders of magnitude less mature than previously (I blame my team) and have embarrassed myself more times than I am able to name/count/whatevs. Ah well.

I return to Geneva in three days, FRA in four, BOS in five, and DTW in five and a half, or something like that. After that I sleep for a day, go counsel at orchestra camp for a week, relax for a week, and return to campus. I'm very excited to see everyone!

Love and mussels,

Monday, August 8, 2011


"Alas, we no longer get to say 'alas' with a straight face, but 'alas' used, according to legend, to be what you said in great stoic sorrow over tragedies ineluctable, over the blackly implacable telos of Nature's flawed unfolding." (Foster, David. Brief interviews with hideous men. Back Bay Books, 2000. 244.)

- As I was reading along in my book, finding the story to be convoluted at best, I found myself thinking: "If I were a mermaid sitting on a rock, I could say 'alas' with a straight face!" Thank you Davie.

Before thou readest on, consider well thy motives. If thou desirest knowledge of the epic adventures of Fair Eireann of Brien, look no further. Many a minstrel might tempt thee with myths and faery songs, but only I speak the truth. If thou hast a pure heart, may these words guide thee in thy quest, but for those who would seek to harm, be warned, thy deeds shall haunt thee...

Our tale begins in magic and mystery. One day our heroine undertook a great journey across the time zone vortex in search of her family. She had been sent to a far away land to find her way in the world (hers was a very progressive Midieval family), but she new that this was a time that she must return and accomplish noble deeds in her own magnificent kingdom. I can see in thy mind's eye that thou hast already been told the story of her treacherous voyage through the skies and some of her other battles, so I shall tell you only of those seemingly little-known things which art held in greatest secrecy...

When Eireann found herself back in her lush homeland, not far outside of the Emerald City, she immersed herself in the doings and culture of her populace.

She went dancing with her mother and wore her enchanted yellow shoes... they even braved the mud and lightning of a thunderstorm to perform.

She discovered that her father, a gifted healer, had been taken as a pottery apprentice and shown himself to be exceedingly gifted. He gave her as a token a bowl and cup that were wondrously beautiful and through some inherent magic of the art seemed to make their contents taste better.

She attended the wedding of her gorgeous cousin and now cousin-in-law... they are very happy and Eireann was glad to admit that the whole thing couldn't have gone any better :)

She and her friends (those who had been inducted into the secret society) braved the ancient annual rite of consuming large quantities of overly-hydrating fruit with a significant amount of pain but a great sense of accomplishment, despite the distractions caused by a noisy squirrel that took her cracker and a family of six deer who probably had no interest at all in crackers.

She lamented her lack of a personal transport, especially as she experienced first hand her younger brother's pseudo-expert handling of said transport for the first time.

She began the great undertaking of a personal quest to discover the secrets of music. One Sir Ben J. came to teach her the ways of improvisation and the blues scale. That and a trip to her roots with Celtic duets and an entire afternoon flew by. The next phase of her quest is yet incomplete, as she prepares a performance piece for a certain elite group she is a member of back in her far away land.

She was reminded of how much she loves little children.

She survived the grueling experience of having what was left of her wisdom removed from her mouth (though it is to be hoped that it had already dispersed throughout the rest of her body, as she prefers to be not terribly foolish). It was not so grueling after all. She didn't even have to use her prescription anti-pain potion, and only took the ordinary one for 12 hrs. Eireann was absurdly pleased by this fact.

She continues to help attach siding to the exterior of her families unfinished castle... it is beginning to look most pleasingly castle-like... while wild bunnies hop through the dusk and a dratted squirrel takes up roost in the attic, tauntingly poking its head out of ventilation holes from time to time, but so far nigh un-catchable.

It is rumored that soon Eireann and her family will embark on their journey to The Lake and back, and that not long after she will take a visit from one of her friends from far away (who was even farther away this summer), for which she is very excited. Also to come hopefully before she departs back to her alternate home is a viewing of Harry Potter... finally.

So it is here that I leave thee, faithful listener, in this tale of Lady Eireann. Many things thou hast heard, still more things will be left unsaid, but even more things are yet to come, for she plans not on ending her adventures for many a year...


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

homeward bound

I'M COMING HOMEE!! :D to california.. so I still won't get to see you all yet, but at least I'll be closer and in the same country as some of you..

but let's jump back a month-ish and briefly summarize the rest of my adventures:

-Kuala Lumpur: 7hr bus ride (2hrs waiting at sg and malaysian customs) fun times wandering around malls, trying local food (curry laksa soup is delicious), succeeding somewhat in bargaining for clothes in central market, getting lost in the cramped aisles of fake junk in chinatown, swimming in the infinity pool at the hotel, and shopping some more..
Here's a picture of the inverted dome at the Islamic art museum, which was quite gorgeous.

-museum hopping:
From the asian civilisations museum: this is a modern artist's take on the actual terracotta warriors that were on display..

The art and science museum had some exhibitions on Van Gogh and the Tang dynasty shipwreck. The National Museum had an exhibition on watchmaking (so many elaborate pocketwatches..)

Toy museum: soo adorable! Picture walls of teddy bears, shelves of small figures of robots, spaceships, tintin, mickey and the gang, tom and jerry, daleks, and so much more.. (I think I still haven't seen the sword in the stone, so that should be remedied when I get back.)

-Pulau Ubin (sorry I don't have pictures): island off the east side of sg (I stayed near the SW side) so we took the MRT, bus, and then cute little riverboat ferry to the island, and went cycling for a few hours, gotten eaten alive by mosquitos, harvested these random leaves growing along the side of the path, which were apparently edible (I don't know what they are in english, but they're called "la lơt" in vietnamese) and then my cousin proceeded to make dinner for us with the leaves the next day. I can report that we are all alive and well, even after eating these mysterious leaves growing on the side of the path. They did taste good though when you wrap up ground beef with them.

Other miscellaneous-ness include:
-July 4th was uneventful: they didn't sell marshmallows or graham crackers at the grocery store near campus, so I was unable to make microwave s'mores :[
-Meeting with Dean Hastings at NUS
-Kayaking in MacRitchie reservoir=bad tan lines (which have simply just gotten even worse -.-")
-HP7: There was a distinct lack of audience participation (i.e. commentary, obnoxious laughter, etc), but still fun and enjoyable. Also chinese subtitles :P
-sg food festival+black sesame ice cream: tastes kind of weird-not necessarily bad, but not my favorite..
-Chocolate lava cakes, lemon meringue pie, and deliciousness fox cookies: not all in the same day..
(also my cousin's birthday is on friday. She wants me to make some sort of special type of cake that's purple or pink colored for her (and not too sweet!!): any suggestions? Erin, do you mind sending me your pink champagne cake recipe if you still have it?)
-Lunch other international students from Caltech and Imperial College, London.
-Chinatown and little India
-Shopping and eating.. repeated a few more times..and then some more.
-Trekking through many park trails for a few hours..

And now, my time here in Singapore draws to a close, and I begin the traditional exiting ceremony. I had a phone conference with Lilly-NUS regarding the cortisol analyses last Thurs and bid farewell to all the researchers, clinicians, neuropsych raters, coordinators, and all the other kind people I've gotten to know these past weeks. (although I still have some work left to pass to the Lilly-NUS people, but at least I can do it at home.) I wistfully say goodbye to all the delicious food that I won't be able to exactly replicate or find in the states.. (koi bubble tea, mango sago, grass jelly, chili crab, fresh noodles, dragonfruit, guava, papaya, longan, rambutan: I will miss you..but this won't be goodbye forever. I promise. but I will most certainly not miss you: durian smell.)

and I end this chapter of my summer adventures in SE Asia with my trip to Vietnam. :]
It rained much of the time I was there, so the weather was actually fairly cool in comparison to sg, but usually it's just as hot.

First order of business: visiting family- I stayed at my cousin's house: she's actually on my dad's side, so she took me over on her motorbike to see my mom's side, who live in a different part of Saigon, but only a 15min drive away. My grandmother's older brother is 90! and he totally ate way more food than I did, when I had lunch with them on Monday. Yeah, he's that cool- and you'd never know he could eat that much since he's as thin as a stick! but still very healthy. albeit somewhat forgetful, since he didn't really remember who I was for awhile, but by the end, he did remember. :] Unfortunately this may be the first and last time I see him, since I don't know when I'll get the chance to come back.. T.T I was very happy to meet everyone and hear all the funny stories about my mom, aunt, uncle, and grandmother from long ago. I tried my best to talk/answer their questions, but my vietnamese is quite limited, although I think it's gotten a bit better from the past couple days?

A bunch of family on my dad's side drove a car out to the countryside to see the Cao Dai temples, Một Thoáng Việtnam: a new cultural center that has stuff from all the different regions in Vietnam and history of the country, etc., and Cu Chi tunnels from the Vietnam war.

This is the Cao Dai temple: the religion was created in Vietnam, and it might only be found here..not sure.. There were signs that directed men to enter on the right, and women to enter on the left, but it didn't actually matter which entrance you came in. If you wanted to know, we all entered on the right: all 3 guys and 6 girls.

Cu Chi tunnels: It was raining, so everything is slightly muddy, thus we ended up much dirtier than usual. The shooting range they had open for tourists to play around in nearly gave me a heartattack, and I quickly ran away to avoid any of the unpleasant sounds.
This is the much enlarged entrance to the tunnels. They slightly enlarged 100m for tourists to crawl through, with exits every 20m in case the tiny, suffocating, dark, damp enclosure gets too much for you. It's literally about as large/wide as me curled up sort of like a hedgehog. There were a few tiny lights inside, but corners were difficult to navigate. It was fun sliding down/climbing up/down through the tunnels, but I was very relieved to breathe fresh air after those 100m. Then we nommed on some steamed cassava root with a mixture of sesame, brown sugar, and peanuts, as a reward for going through the tunnels and to finish our tour there.

On the left is a mock house at Một Thoáng Việtnam, but I don't remember what region this is from- perhaps Hue?
Also, on the right is
mắm nem: fermented fish (anchovies/fish chunks/pulverized fish) that's been sitting in jars, possibly for more than 10 years. sounds delicious no? ewww, that's one VNmese thing I really can't eat. If you thought fish sauce was bad, don't ever go near this stuff. The smell is not quite as overpowering as durian, (in that the smell doesn't spread as quickly) but definitely fishy-er and perhaps much more unpleasant in some ways.

and of course Saigon, the crazy city itself, with an inordinate amount of motorbikes on the road with cars, of which neither of the drivers seem to follow the traffic lights, or rather the lack of traffic lights in some cases, and crossing roads is like playing frogger, as you slowly maneuver your way through the traffic. The night market at Chợ Bến Thành was fun and has lots of cheap shopping :] since the exchange is something like 20000đòng to 1USD, but they always talk in 10- and 100-thousands..
My cousin and I are sitting on her motorbike in the alley in front of her house.
Sorry the other picture is so dark- it was in a parking lot at night, but if you can see it, there are lots of motorbikes.. so all of them on the road=craziness..

Last but definitely not least: the food. OMG food!! So delicious. unbelievably delicious- okay maybe I'm a bit biased since I grew up on all of this stuff, so if I described it, you might be weirded out or not find it as amazing- I would tell you everything I ate, except I don't know the english translation of most of the food I ate. Except pho obviously, which tasted almost exactly like my mother's <3 Also, this would be so torturous for you to read about it and not taste all the lovely flavors.. ahh, I miss it already.

Unfortunately we only stayed for 3 days, although I'd dearly love to stay longer and explore the country my parents grew up in.

But alas, now I am back in Singapore for 3 more days, wander around a bit more, and figure out how on earth I'm going to fit all of my stuff in my suitcase and have it be under 23kg >.< Friday is my cousin's birthday, and Saturday morning I embark on my journey home.

Sorry, this was very long. Anyway, I hope all your summers have been going well.
I miss you all dearly- and I'll see you soon! <3