Thursday, December 31, 2009

A year in Sydney

Recently a friend chanced upon my “world-famous” spreadsheet and though he was impressed with it, he asked why there wasn’t an annual summary page for each year. That is a good question but in addressing that, instead of adding an extra page to my spreadsheet, I will use it to extract significant events that have happened in my first full year in Sydney as a recapitulation of how well (or bad) I have lived as a Sydneysider.


January

I attended my first major New Year Day party at Homesexual, a very big gay dance club at Darling Harbour. By itself, the party did not do much for me but it once again made it evidently clear that the clubbing scene no longer speaks to me like it briefly did years back. Age, phase of life and a repugnance towards a boozy and druggy lifestyle all constitute to why bright lights shining on bare bodies gyrating to deafening music are nothing to me but an obstruction to a quiet evening cuddling and spending time with my baby.

This month also saw my last setting-up-a-new-apartment purchases namely a red rug and painting for the living room. People who have completed such a project would attest to the joy and satisfaction it brings, especially when you are doing it together with the one you love. My next big goal would be to buy an apartment of my own. My friend advised me not to see it as something that would drain my savings to zero but an investment that would eventually reap a profit. But this would involve a whole lot of research, something which I am not ready to commit my time to yet. In the meantime, I will continue to save up (you cannot go wrong with saving money) so that when I am ready, finances would not be a stumbling block.

February

My first Valentine’s Day with Ision–nothing special, just a simple dinner somewhere close to home. We agreed not to give each other a gift but I couldn’t help it for I felt that I needed to do at least a little something. Ision’s favourite food is dumplings and I bought and gift-wrapped eight of them and hand-delivered it to his workplace. To me, it is the thought that I have put into a present that makes me feel all nice and warm inside. Of course it would be an added bonus if gifts are genuinely appreciated and in the case of my simple Valentine’s Day present, it was.

March

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is a very significant event in the life of Sydneysiders, gays and straights alike and 2009 was the first year the government contributed financially to the event (it’s about time seeing how much tourist revenue it brings to the state!) . This was also my first Mardi Gras and the first time I marched in a parade of a scale like this. I have blogged about the march before so I will not say anything more here. There is a Chinese New Year parade (called Chingay–no pun involved, that is the actual name!) of a similar scale which I will march in as a gay participant when I get back to Singapore next year. I am not expecting a lot of people to join me but I have to capitalise on this first ever opportunity where citizens are invited to register and march in the parade.

April

As a permanent resident, I am entitled to government-subsidised healthcare and on top of that, people are encouraged to have their own supplementary private health insurance (with the penalty of not taking up private health insurance being a higher level of taxation). April was the first month I made use of both of these by means of a visit to a doctor to get a medical certificate and a dentist to get my regular twice-a-year cleaning done. The clinics here do not dispense medication like those in Singapore. Instead doctors fill out a prescription which would allow patients to buy their own medication. This to me results in more hassle and (likely) higher costs. I remembered when I was back in Singapore, visiting doctors and getting medication was so easy as everything was covered by my employment contract. I got health screenings, blood tests, X-rays and even a colonoscopy at no charge at all. Those were the days…

May

Ision and I have our anniversaries in May (6th of May to be exact) and this was the first time we actually spent it physically together. Although it was again a simple affair, to me it is this simplicity that makes it meaningful. When two people live together, things will inevitably get simplified (especially when we both need very low maintenance and hate drama with a passion) but along with the predictability and routine comes stability, familiarity and security. Sure, elaborate and expensive gifts can be extremely pleasant but if you ask me to choose one, the choice would be as clear as day and it would certainly not be in the form of an object.

As we grow older (and more jaded), real positive surprises get rarer but I got a very nice one in May. I knew my best gal pal would come visit for two weeks but she kept her travelling partner a secret up till the day I met her at her hotel. That partner is also a good friend of mine and it was a really good surprise! They toured Sydney for the first week and I joined them on the Melbourne leg of their tour along with the travelling partner’s boyfriend. I have written about this trip as well so all I want to say is that having seen Melbourne in greater detail, I think I would choose to live in Melbourne if I had a choice.

June

June is the month when I have to renew my army exit permit and I do it with utmost fervour and glee. In retrospect the two-and-a-half years spent in active service in my opinion were really good for my personal development but the couple or more weeks spent almost every year in reserve service were a gigantic waste of time and inconvenience. We used obsolete (and often damaged) equipment, practised old strategies developed during the Vietnam war era, slogged through mud and insects three nights at a sitting whilst spending time away from our loved ones. On the flipside, you get to catch up with old army buddies and get a little breather from work if you are in highly stressful jobs. But with my magical exit permit which I renew online without the need for any supporting documentation and waiting period, all this is but a not-so-distant memory now. I know with absolute certainty that everyone who is still stuck in that farce the government call national service would envy my position to death.

June also saw the biggest fight between Ision and I ever. The reason for that fight was of little importance as it was how it continued and the things I have learnt from it that were important. Everyone knows that quarrels are part and parcel of all relationships, especially those in which partners live together and some might even hazard the assertion that quarrels are essential for love to grow. In this instance, it really helped me understand the boundaries of our relationship better and how the pathways through the heart and brain of the relationship should be traversed for optimal balance. Love and emotions are not totally blind, irrational and uncontrollable concepts like what romantics like to profess. I would like to see it more like a science in which we can observe events governed by standard laws, support our arguments with empirical evidence and conduct experiments aimed at better understanding the relationship.

July

I have scanned my spreadsheet for July a couple of times but I could not find anything worth writing about. This is in agreement with one of the lessons I have learnt in life–when nothing happens, nothing happens but when things happen, they happen all at once. Also, I tend to concur with the adage “no news is good news” so this is all good (as long as it does not happen in consecutive months)!

August

There were several firsts in August. I won my first lucky draw prize in Australia. As a cheapskate, I like to enter those competitions with the submission of your particulars as the only entry requirement. So far, I have won concert tickets, casino buffet and restaurant vouchers. The second first would be my first-ever opera at the Sydney Opera House. I have watched plays and concerts there before but never an opera. I must say if I had to fork out an actual $200 for that opera experience, I would never have done it. I mean it was not awful but just so overrated. If you think that Singapore is a country void of artistic culture, Sydney is not far behind. For instance, you could see people wearing shorts and slippers into the Opera House just like you see them entering the Esplanade. The next first would be filing my first Australian income tax. I did it online and the process was a little more complicated than that of Singapore. As you might already know, taxation in Australia is very much higher and it is much more difficult to evade taxes here than in Singapore. It is not uncommon for migrants living here to start appreciating life back in Singapore all of a sudden come tax season. My last first was also my mother’s–she came to visit me and lived at my place for almost three weeks. Details of her trips in vivid colour can be seen here.

September

I had my first-ever formal week-long work training in September and this came more than a year after I have joined the company. This training was actually not provided by my company (WorleyParsons) but by my client company (Caltex) as I was required to work on a new application used to calculate the refinery’s pressure relief requirements. My company has issued a wage-rise freeze, tighter hiring and unnecessary-spending policies (think company Christmas parties being downsized from already low-budget banquet-type events to squalid drinks-and-finger-food-socials at lawn bowling clubs–disgusting!), redundancies across the board and a discontinuation of all external non-work related training all in an attempt to better weather the global financial crisis. Sometimes I think that big companies like mine consciously use such “crises” as an excuse to unleash the budget-cutting measures that have been in their planning books for some time so that the lowly working-class fools like us would not notice the more-than-subtle changes. It really makes you question what your worth to the company is and where employee-loyalty fits in this whole equation. Well, phrases like cut-throat, rat race and dog-eat-dog don’t get coined for nothing.

October

Continuing its rampage of cost-cutting attacks, my company’s big-picture plans hit close to home in October. Three contractors from a sister-department got laid off as Caltex (led by the over-zealous new CEO) was not only trying to reduce overheads, it was also trying to hire more employees of their own and rely less on contractors so as to keep the skill- and talent-base within the company. This spelt an even worse disaster for contractors as they are always the first to go in money-saving exercises. I am not sure whether WorleyParsons have given the three laid-off project managers good alternative positions elsewhere or have they been released from the company altogether (as part of the redundant mass of sheep being culled). The whole episode left me so worried about job security that I had to schedule a meeting with my Caltex boss to seek affirmation that we have enough projects going on for our department to continue sustaining me as part of the contract team. And it never fails to amaze me that amidst all this, lazy colleagues can still feel all warm and fuzzy sitting on their unproductive arses and remain as indolent (if not more) as ever. I seriously am beginning to think that sloth runs in the genes of some ethnicities.

November

My 31st birthday passed me by in November and aside from (yet another) simple dinner and a gift from Ision, nothing else happened (I cannot even recall what present he gave me–it was not documented in my spreadsheet! Goodness me!). My mother used to ask me in relation to birthday celebrations–why do you need to celebrate your birthday when you should be celebrating the pain and sacrifice put into giving birth to you and raising you by your mother. This really struck a chord deep within me which also partly explains why I am not a fan of birthdays–mine or otherwise. There is also an element of not making people feel obligated to give you birthday gifts when you did the same for them (I know I will feel this way if the tables were turned). On top of it all, I feel that a person’s life should be celebrated based on his or her accomplishments, not age. I heard a friend say recently–birthdays must be good for you because the more birthdays you have, the longer you live. Hilarious!

December

December was an exciting month as I starred in my first-ever MTV. It was Natalie Bassingthwaighte’s “A Love Like This” as part of ACON’s (AIDS Council of New South Wales) “Wear It With Pride” campaign highlighting the 85 pieces of legislation that discriminated against same-sex couples that the Federal Government had amended in July 2009. We all wore T-shirts designed with an assigned number (I guess they ranged from 1 to 85) and I was involved in the part of the shoot where people had to wear a shirt on top of an already-worn shirt whilst dancing and mouthing the words of the song. Totally not on purpose, I stripped in front of the director when changing into my T-shirt and that gave him the idea of allowing people with nice bodies to start the half-a-minute-or-so section of the shoot from a topless state. Of course no one there by far had a body like me and I kind of stole a bit of the limelight. Evil me! But I fumbled when wearing the T-shirt as I did not know about this shirt-wearing concept in advance and thus did not have a chance to practise (unlike some others). Since everyone had only one take, I really think my segment would be axed from the final edit. However even a split second of me topless in that MTV would already be so amazing to me. The video will be released in January 2010 and I will certainly post it on my blog. Watch this space!

In addition to that piece of excitement, I spent my first-ever Christmas physically with Ision and according to him, he has not had a work-free Christmas day for five to six years now (he should not be complaining as he earned so much extra “red packet” money from loaded residents this festive season). We visited Ision’s brother who recently moved into a new place much closer to where we live. It was a totally awkward experience as there along with him were his hillbilly friends, one of which was in such a deep inebriated stupor that he could not even stand and speak properly. That environment was so foreign to me that it put me in a state of constant unease. I told Ision later it could be quite disconcerting after having to mingle and be friends with only our own kind for a long time to see what the rest of the country (or at least a big part of it) is actually like. The day was not all bad as it ended with our first-ever full-length 3D movie “Avatar”. If you have not seen this movie, go see it! I will not spoil it for you here but suffice to say it is probably the best movie that I ever watched in my entire life.


So there you have it, an entire year in retrospect. If I had to grade it from 1 to 10, I would give it a 7. Living in Sydney does present its fair share of problems (what country doesn’t give you the same?) but as long as I am facing them united with my love, I know that everything will turn out fine in the end. On this last day of 2009, I hope you have achieved all that you have set out to achieve for the year. It is now time to make a new to-do list as we move to the next decade of this century.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Passion reignited

As you can see, this blog has been idle for more than a month now and my last post did not even garner any comments other than the one posted by myself (I did that so that the frighteningly sad “0 comments” does not appear). Whenever this blog is attacked by tumbleweed, it is either because I am too busy or life is too boring. But the reason this time round is because (work) life is boringly busy ie. the wrong kind of busyness. Well at least I should count myself lucky that I still have a job in the midst of this lingering economic crisis (even though the Australian currency is doing really well), something that I used to think will never leave me scathed (which was an erroneous thought as it hit close to home about a month ago).

However I am impressed with myself that I could still have the time and energy to reconnect with my temporarily-put-to-rest passion a.k.a. song-writing. In this latest musical project, I worked with two pieces of lyrics penned by my good friend back in Singapore. The endeavour managed to partially quell the reignited fire of creativity inside of me and I am still looking for more pieces to work on. I hope my friend finds my compositions OK (I do not ask for much nowadays) and that I did justice to her works. Here they are (comments are extremely welcomed).


[Stay Away]

/词: 惜妹//曲: 锦泉/ 

今天值得特别怀念
对, 又是老土的从前
是一段快乐的难过的
难忘却又想忘记的

今夜流泪特别有感觉
对, 又是为了某一个谁
是一个喜欢的讨厌的
舍不得又该放弃的

曾以圣诞节的老人都是善良的
曾以万圣节的恶鬼都是假的
从没有想过你是带着面具爱我的
真的没有想过

Stay away
只想你 stay away
别再试图拉近距离
别再波动我的情绪

Stay away
Why don’t you stay away

此刻我只想保持安静
静静的凭吊我们的过去






[不由自主的幸福]

/词: 惜妹//曲: 锦泉/ 


不由自主的等待
绚丽缤纷的色彩
莫名奇妙的期待
不能预知的未来
我就是那么乖
等你填满现在

笔触温柔的绘出
动人无比的曲目
看不懂的音符却
能安抚我的无助
恍然大悟才发现
原来我孤独

总是那么的义无反顾
在皱褶之间觅寻幸福
就算只有一点点, 一点点
什么委屈总能在瞬间瓦解





I am fortunate that at least I have something in my life that I have passion for especially when life is becoming hectic in all the wrong ways. I guess if I have to be bogged down by anything, at least let it be by my passion.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dreams

Unlike Ision and a lot of other people on this planet, I do not usually dream after I have fallen asleep which means that my sleeps are deeper and more restful. I find this a little strange because I am a person with thoughts constantly running in my mind as it weaves in and out of details regardless of their significance. So by right with such charged up neurons where boundless thoughts could easily get lost, you would think that these wandering brainwaves will continue their journey into slumberland but they do not. Insomniacs worldwide must be very jealous of me as it does not take very long for me to begin the first of my nightly forty winks and I often do not wake up till it is time to. I know Ision, the light sleeper is definitely envious of my ability to surrender my consciousness that easily.

However recently I have been dreaming at night. Being the inquisitive engineer with an eye for details as I am, I would naturally want to psycho-analyse my dreams and see what they show or tell me. To be able to do that, I have cultivated this habit to always jot down all the nitty-gritties fresh from waking up so that as much intricacies are captured as possible before they slip away into the crevices and dark alleys in my head never to be found again. Here are my three most recent dreams in chronological order.


The high school reunion

There I was working away in the container in the Caltex Refinery in Kurnell* called my office and all of a sudden my high school (we call it junior college back home) classmates started gathering and crowding around me. Then appeared my physics tutor (who was also our pastoral care counsellor as well–sort of the teacher in charge of the administrative affairs of our class). This person is an eccentric one. A bachelor past his forties with a weird sense of humour who gave me an impression that he was constantly insecure and starved for attention. I remembered he once gave me a birthday card (a high school teacher giving a student a birthday card–this by itself was strange enough in Singapore) a year after graduation with his very honest thoughts about me. Basically he crammed the card with words describing how pompous and obnoxious I was and how I would amount to nothing (something to that effect at least). Talk about being unstable! This came as an ultimate surprise as he did nothing throughout our time together to indicate that he felt this way. I was anti-social and aloof maybe (as a result of being frequently teased for being effeminate) but was never the way he described me in his diatribe. Fortunately I hated the class and never went to all the reunions and thus did not need to face him after that awkward letter.

Well that was the back story. Naturally I was dumbfounded (and uneasy) that all these people from the section of my memory I would like to annihilate would present themselves at such a location and time. This feeling quickly got replaced by frustration and seeing that I could not ignore them any longer, I asked him why was he here and what was he trying to do. I cannot remember his tone or expression on his face at that time when he replied that he was dying (of what I did not ask). A deluge of embarrassing guilt overwhelmed me immediately. All this while I disliked this person so much and in the end he came especially to tell me he was dying. I reached out and held his hand gently. And that was when I woke up.


The lucky draw prize

It began with a lucky draw prize that I have won–a spot in the Australian Idol finals*. I do not know where I got the impression from but I thought that since I have won this prize, I would definitely win the contest. Because I was armed with this pumped-up confidence, I went to the finals dressed in shorts (I do not remember what top I wore). I felt that I could conquer everything. My mum was there at the event as well and finally it was my turn to shine.

As soon as the music started playing I knew something was wrong–the key was not right. I tried to signal to the judges discreetly by making a face that there was a mistake–what a silly thing to do in a live show. The judges looked at one another with a head-scratching expression and did nothing. I then opened my mouth not to sing but to say that the pitch of the song was wrong and to request the track be played again and correctly. The music did stop thankfully but there was an announcement that it was time for a break (not sure if it was a commercial break) and my song would have to wait till after that. And that was when I woke up.


The army camp escape

It was a typical snooze fest of a lecture held in a training shed in the hot and humid Singaporean army camp where I was and it all started with a mealtime break (I have no idea if it was lunch or dinner). Strangely it was a potluck and everyone was allowed into the camp including friends and family. Some woman brought chicken rice* and I was so looking forward to savouring that but we were instructed to first wait for some typically meaningless thing before eating. The woman feared that there might not be enough rice to go around and she said that she could cook more if necessary. It turned out that people did not follow instructions after all and by the time I got to the rice, there was only a scanty amount left. I got so filled with ire at that instant that I decided to break out of camp to find my own food.

The scene then cut to me on the bus as it travelled along Anzac Parade* past the landmarks made familiar to me during my student exchange in Sydney in 2001. The journey ended in Chinatown in Singapore and as I was getting off the bus, the female driver made a comment to my reply to her previous question (which I have forgotten) that my skin would improve*. As I rummaged the streets, I found no food and was faced with a decision to either continue searching where I was or go elsewhere to hunt for grub. I distinctly remember a big grassy hill that made me think twice of venturing out of the region. I got increasingly lost as the minutes passed and began to get very worried–how could I book in at the camp gate if I did not officially book out? At the peak of my distress I made a desperate call to my then best friend back in camp for help. As reliable as I remembered him to be, he took an umbrella* and told me he would see what he could do. At that moment, the memory of seeing a camp mate flip through a bus service guide for the route that led to the camp shot through my brain. The scene then finally cut to my best friend and I back in camp where I told him why I always feared losing out to the rest and rushed to eat first (the perfect adjective here would be kiasu–a Singaporean slang) for all this would not have happened if I simply defied commands and ate that chicken rice before anyone else could. And that was when I woke up


So does every element in a dream pertain to something specific that is happening in our lives at that moment (indicated by * in the earlier paragraphs)? If so, it would be rather easy to sort and tidy our nocturnal reveries by matching every occurrence in the dream to its corresponding real-life representation. This phenomenon certainly rings true with respect to the three dreams above. But this still does not explain why of all the parts that make up your life and memories only a handful gets manifested in dreams.

Maybe not everything in our dreams matches up to real life and the odd pieces are just there to distract you from something perhaps more foreboding and severe. Or maybe we are supposed to look for a pattern or some kind of running event that threads all the seemingly discrete and incredulous bits into a coherent and sensible big picture.

At the end of the day whatever messages your dreams are trying to tell you, as long as they do not get more frequent causing you to increasingly lose sleep over them, these wondrous insights into our mental state can serve to spice life up a little or at least be used as good small talk fodder as you prepare your morning coffee in the office pantry the next day.

All this dream talk is making me really sleepy and I know I will sleep well tonight for sure, that is if dreams do not come knocking on the door to my subconscious and leave me asking for more.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mummy's in the house

As you know, married life can sometimes get a little routine (and hence the lack of updates on my blog) but September came someone to break the stable monotony. I thought I did not miss her all this time being away from home but when she arrived, the all-too-familiar nagging started and that really felt like home, something that I miss. And yes, I am not ashamed to admit it–I am a mummy’s boy and I miss my mother.

Ision and I slaved two days before over cleaning the apartment and I must say it was at its cleanest when she came. On the day of my mum’s arrival, seeing no sign of her 40 minutes after her plane landed got me a little worried but it was just a crowded airport slowing things down (we all know how efficient Australians are). Seconds into our meeting it was as if we have not been apart at all and the warmth of family and motherly love penetrated me deeply.

I did not plan for a trip back to Singapore originally but seeing that air tickets are so cheap now, I booked a flight back over Chinese New Year 2010 after arranging for my mum to come. I intend to take a month off from work for my trip home so I had to save my vacation leave for that. This meant that I could only show my mum around in the weekends. I felt bad leaving her at home doing nothing other than watching television, cooking, strolling in the neighbourhood and of course stuck with someone whom she was separated from by an almost insurmountable language barrier. However I am sure she would enjoy seeing me very much when I am back home next year so conserving my days off is of utmost importance.

Did I mention cooking? Yes I did and boy did I miss home-cooked food prepared by my mum. When I took my first bite of home-cooked goodness in more than a year, my expression was one of relaxed ecstasy. It was soothing, exhilarating, warm and loving all at the same time. It was a feeling that is hard to describe and Ision thought my reaction to the food was rather amusing. It was a pity I did not take any pictures of the glorious dinners prepared by the number one chef in my heart. Here is a partial list of what my mum cooked for Ision and I.

- Pork ribs in dark soy sauce with tau pok (fried beancurd) and hard-boiled eggs
- Fried wantons stuffed with minced pork and mixed vegetables
- Claypot rice with chicken drumsticks, salted fish, Chinese sausage and carrots
- Fried vermicelli with cabbage, carrots, dried shrimps and onions
- Curry chicken Hokkien noodles with potatoes
- Pumpkin omelette
- Pork siew mais (dumplings)
- Fried fish with chilli, garlic and spring onions in a dark sauce
- Thinly-sliced pork fried with capsicum and onions
- Fried rice with Chinese sausage, crab sticks, prawns, salted fish, omelette and onions
- Minced pork ball soup with cauliflower, mushrooms, baby carrots and konnyaku
- Yang Chun noodles in black bean sauce with pork mince and steamed gai lan (Chinese broccoli) in abalone sauce
- Fried minced pork balls with cooked salted egg yolk centre
- Dry wanton egg noodles with ikan bilis (dried anchovies) soup
- Sweet and sour pork with fresh tomatoes
- Fried celery with prawns, mushrooms and onions
- Fried ngoh hiangs (minced pork and prawns with five-spice powder wrapped in beancurd skin)
- Hainanese chicken rice with steamed chicken garnished with cucumber and tomatoes

Being an avid cooker and eater, Ision naturally wanted to learn how to make some of the dishes that he relished so much and so at my request, mum dictated the ingredients and steps to make those mouth-watering treats with which I quickly filled many notebook pages. Ision told me that he has not tasted Hainanese chicken rice as delicious as the one my mum made from scratch. Well you are in luck for here is the amazingly-simple recipe:

Ingredients:
- 1 whole chicken
- 2 cups of jasmine rice
- 8 – 10 cloves of garlic
- Ginger (half the size of your palm)
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- Lump of rock sugar (1/3 the length of your index finger) (or 1 teaspoon of normal sugar)
- 1 cucumber
- 3 tomatoes

Steps:
1) Mash 7 cloves of garlic and ginger and form a mixture with the salt.
2) Evenly coat the chicken with the mixture and stuff the remaining bits into the chicken.
3) Fill 1/3 of a wok with water and once the it boils steam the chicken with high heat for 10 minutes.
4) Continue steaming the chicken with low heat for 20 minutes. The chicken will now be cooked.
5) Using the water in the wok (now containing juices from the chicken), steam the rice in a rice cooker. Add more water depending on how soft you want the rice to be. Taste-test the water mixture before steaming the rice and fine-tune according to taste. Just before steaming, add sugar, 3 garlic cloves and a slice of ginger into the rice.
6) Steam the rice till the water is dry and serve rice with cut chicken, garnished with cucumber slices and tomatoes.

Although I did not take pictures of the food, I did take a lot of pictures (mainly of mum) when we were out and about in Sydney. We roamed every nook of Chinatown, snaked through every cranny of Paddy’s Market, smelled flowers in the Royal Botanic Gardens, soaked in the sights along the sun-drenched Darling Harbour, posed outside the Opera House, people-watching at the Kings Cross red light district, visited The Australian Museum, strolled in Hyde Park, shopped at Paddington, explored the Sydney Fish Market and dined at a typical Aussie pub. Knowing that Sydney does not have a lot to offer to tourists (the beaches are not my mum’s thing, we did not have time for the Star City casino and I find Blue Mountains far too lame or is it simply just too far?), our visits were restricted to the city but that does not mean we did not have fun. And we have the pictures to prove it.

Frolicking in Chinatown. Mum did not expect Sydney to be so Asianized. I think that made her worry less about me being in this “foreign” country.


Spending an afternoon at Darling Harbour. Mum felt strange that Aussies love the giant gas ball so much that they picnic not in the shade but under direct sun. If they did this in Singapore she said, people will think that they are crazy.


We had to visit the red light district in Kings Cross especially when I live less than five minutes away. Nothing much was happening as we were there too early (it can get unsafe late at night with the gangs, drug addicts, drunkards and homeless people) but we did see some interesting people, if you know what I mean.


A panoramic shot with the two most famous Sydney icons taken using the new Sony camera being advertised via free shots uploaded onto the Internet. The perfect weather with the azure sky is one of the things I like most about Sydney.


Another nice shot of the Opera House. Mum loved this picture because of the intimacy between us. It was nice showing her around even if we only visited the tourist spots.


How could we let a yum cha opportunity pass with Ision off work on a Saturday? Being a very good cook, mum felt that this top-notch dim sum restaurant in Chinatown was only average. I think I agree with her to a certain extent but Ision loved it (surprise surprise).


I find mum very cute in this sort-of candid picture. We were at the Royal Botanic Gardens and were looking at all the species of flowers that we have not seen before.


Another city shot that mum liked a lot which I thought was too posed. This was taken after we witnessed a section of the bridge physically turn to one side to let tall ships pass.


The Sydney Fish Market was new to both of us and the time spent exploring it was the most enjoyable in the 16 days we were together. Mum loves to eat octopus a lot. I am not sure if that was reflected in her facial expression.


A fun-loving mum is what she is. The full length of the fish could not be captured from where I was standing (it was packed!) but it could easily be as long as her. My mum loves shopping but not in the conventional sense–she likes to shop for food, especially stuff that is not available in Singapore–what a great housewife.


When at the Fish Market, you eat lobster, plain and simple. My niece back in Singapore yearns for lobsters (having not had it before) and this picture was taken to make her drool.


Many visits to Paddy’s Markets were made to amass the ingredients used to make those yummy dishes. $270 was spent on groceries alone during her trip. In this picture, she was amazed at the size of the chilli.


Sauntering in Hyde Park and a photo op. She walks really slowly because her knees are not strong so it was hard catching up to her slow speed whenever we go out (here or back in Singapore)–she was always more than 3 steps behind me. I guess I must learn to relax more in this country famous for its laid-back lifestyle.


I took a sick day off work on Monday so that I could spend more time with mum and we visited The Australian Museum. Of course this museum was nothing compared to the Smithsonian I was at some years ago but it helped to burn a number of hours in this boring city. This picture was taken at the extinct animals exhibit and she could not help but get a little cheeky with her pose.


A long relaxed shopping trip to Paddington landed us at the Paddington Markets. You would think that a “market” would have cheap things on sale right? Well you now know why we ended up with nothing bought. Mum was impressed by the variety and design of the hand-made fashion accessories though.


This was taken on the last day hours before we went to the airport. I felt really close to her and that I would miss her a lot after she is gone. As for the pose of this picture, I have always wanted to do something like this. My mum is surprisingly light!


On the roof-top of my apartment where we could see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. They did not both appear in the picture because no one was there to take it for us and the timer shot had a very restricted angle. Nevertheless I really like this picture–looking at it instantaneously brings mum to my side again.


Many nights were spent at home watching downloaded horror movies and snacking on the couch as the Sydney night life revolves around drinking which mum doesn’t do. On one night we were watching while downloading and as soon as the movie was downloaded, we started watching it. Ah... I will miss my fellow horror movie buddy.


A snapshot of how my fridge looked like when mum was here. We had 3 major rounds of grocery-shopping which constantly stocked the fridge. Ision liked the sight of the packed fridge, something which the apartment has not seen before. I still have some of the food left untouched–better use them up soon.


The wonder chef at work. As she is quite short, the high stove meant that her arms and shoulders got tired very quickly and the aches were there throughout her trip. A mother’s love knows no bounds... And Ision should know how lucky he was to benefit from her dedication and culinary expertise.


Toiletries belonging to mum, me and Ision. This picture concisely depicts how well the three of us shared the small apartment. From the picture, how smooth do you think things ran?


Having mum living in our apartment which is strictly meant only to house two people, it got a little crowded and inconvenient at times (I did not feel this way though). With people thrown into tight quarters, friction inevitably caused frustration and things I was unhappy with happened. Fortunately it did not get out of hand and my mum’s trip ended on the same happy note it started on. We were both a little sad and misty-eyed when the last day of her trip came as I sent her off at the airport. But we will see each other again in 4 months and in no time, she will be nagging at me again to take a shower, clean up the house or something else that I will ignore.

Home-cooked food, curling up on the couch watching horror movies with the lights off, exploring new places together, my mum’s loving voice and touch. I thought I did not miss all of these–I guess this is not the first time I get myself wrong.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My first demonstration

“Gay, straight, black, white. Marriage is a civil right.”

That was one of the three sets of chants that were repeatedly heard amongst the attendees of the almost-3000-strong demonstration I took part in last Saturday. My first ever demonstration. Perhaps this is one of the “joys” of living in an open society where freedom of speech and the right to protest are respected. But if Australia were truly an open society, why was there a need to hold that particular demonstration in the first place? In case you still do not have a clue what I am fighting for, it is the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Australia.

You might not be aware of this but the definition of “marriage” has been re-written in major dictionaries of the world. Quoting the Merriam-Webster dictionary, here is the definition of the word.

“1a: (1) the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage
1b: the mutual relation of married persons: wedlock
1c: the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage
2: an act of marrying or the rite by which the married status is effected; especially: the wedding ceremony and attendant festivities or formalities
3: an intimate or close union”


So before you formulate any thoughts for or against same-sex marriage, please note that the very meaning of marriage has already been redefined. But what should the proper sequence of events be? Should the acceptance of same-sex marriage in society come before or after the redefining of marriage? This question is really a litmus test that sets the difference between true democracy/the upholding of human rights and political power-play that merely gives the illusion of democracy/the upholding of human rights. The best leader a country can get is one who takes care of his or her entire country even when that very act is against popular opinion. But sadly, the majority of the world’s leaderships is nothing more than a selfish contest for the spot to be at the top. Think Nelson Mandela versus George W. Bush.

“Hey hey, ho ho. Homophobia’s gotta go.”

Before the above chant filled the air, the aforementioned demonstration began with various groups setting up stalls to canvass for the support of same-sex marriage as an immense crowd started to gather at Town Hall Square before the rousing speeches began. Although the issues that were brought up by the speakers were nothing new to the GLBTI (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and intersex) community, it was a chance for still-ignorant passers-by to get a taste of the plight of their fellow mates. At the end of the speeches, the electrifying atmosphere in the air was ready to explode as the chanting got louder and faster. Then commenced the march to Darling Harbour, where the ruling Australian Labour Party was holding its annual conference discussing issues that the country hold dear, including the issue of same-sex marriage. The spectacle of it all was beyond anything I have seen. Placards, banners and flags, policemen stopping traffic to free the entire George Street for the demonstration, the chanting, the indignation. Enough is enough I say and there I was in the thick of it, putting action to words.

The march


A flavour of how the world stands when it comes to same-sex unions. (Click for an enlarged version)


As you can see, Australia seems to not be performing that poorly in this regard. This is especially so since last month when in the areas of taxation and superannuation (the CPF of Australia), the definition of “spouse” has been extended to include all de-facto partners, same-sex or otherwise. FYI, de-facto relationships in Australia refer to unions outside of the man/woman categorisation of marriage. Ision and I are currently by definition in a de-facto relationship automatically but we still need to keep some proof of our relationship in case it gets contested (eg. joint banking account statements, leases with both names, etc). Some Australian states also have a relationship register that formally documents de-facto partnerships in a certificate so that it becomes much easier when the legitimacy of the relationship is put into question (eg. when visiting your partner at the hospital). The state I am in (New South Wales) is to set up a relationship register soon. Discrimination in all other areas like pension, employment, housing and so on have also been abolished. Indeed, Australia seems to be doing quite OK especially for same-sex couples who do not want to have kids (it is still a very big legal hassle at the moment to make everything legitimate if two homosexuals want to start a family). This then begs the question. If there seems to be equality on almost all planes, what is stopping full equality exactly? Before you know it, more questions ensue. Does it make sense that a “legitimate” relationship can actually be placed in the shadow of doubt? Should we simply accept this unequal equality and forever hold our contented peace? With regards to the concept of equal human rights for all being tainted by politics and religion, is there an essential difference between Australia and Singapore?

“What do we want? Same-sex marriage! When do we want it? Now!”

As the chants reached our extremely touristy destination, we made so much noise and gathered so much attention (from the media and onlookers) that officials from the Labour Party conference had to come out to see what the fuss was all about. We were told that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (a Christian by faith) was having lunch when the demonstration was at its climax when it was announced that despite everything, it was decided that the ban on same-sex marriages enacted in 2004 by the homophobic John Howard government was to stay. But that did not stop 80 or so same-sex couples from getting hitched in a mass illegal wedding with real vows and a real pastor. This was really an eye-opener for me and was certainly one of the high points of my residence in Sydney so far.

At Darling Harbour


As the couples sealed their illegal marriages with kisses, I could not help but feel a little depressed that Ision was not there with me (I would make us one of those couples otherwise). Ision’s stance on marriage put simply is that there is no point in doing it if it is not legal. Of course that logic cannot be refuted but a symbolic wedding would nonetheless still hold a lot of weight in my life. Ision also made it clear that he wants us to live together for 3 years before moving on to marriage (that is understandable especially when some of his past relationships ended with love and fidelity not being issues). In addition since we both dislike children and will never have them, getting legally married is not that an urgent need for us. Again that logic sits well in my brain but my heart still pumps with unsettled fervour created by the unfair laws of the land and the impatience of wanting my love for him to be sealed in some way.

Mass Illegal Wedding


However all that has to wait. At the end of our 3 years of cohabitation (the official date being 21st June 2011), if the laws were still against same-sex marriage, we would still want to go ahead with our marriage in the British embassy (Ision holds a UK passport). And as soon as it gets legal in Australia, we will convert that British document into an Australian one (UK does not have same-sex marriages but civil unions which afford couples exactly the same rights as heterosexual marriages). It is only a matter of time before that happens for I have faith in the country I chose to live in over the one I was born in. Following the signing of that piece of paper, we will also hold a wedding ceremony in both Singapore and Australia. Of course a honeymoon trip (to my dream holiday destination, Japan) will be thrown in as well. You might be wondering why are homosexuals trying to follow a heterosexual's formula of living and going to such great lengths to battle over this concept of marriage, of which more than a third ends in divorce. But don’t all couples want the world to observe and celebrate their love for each other in an ultimate act of commitment as well as its legal recognition? Is that too straight a dream to pursue? The very thought of asking that question sets off pangs of unrest in me. Shouldn’t marriage be sugary sweet instead of something played out in a bitter battlefield?

The demonstration came to an end that weather-perfect winter afternoon three hours after it began and I returned home to be in my partner’s arms where all the angst of the day dissolved in an instant. Perhaps love is the only thing worth fighting for in this world. And it warms my heart to know that that war for us has long been won.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How well do you know me?

I have finally got my arse off the seat and created the “How well do you know me” quiz on Facebook, something that I have always wanted to do. Of all the useless and nonsensical stuff on Facebook, I think this is the most meaningful and that was why I put some effort into coming up with this twenty-question quiz. I will give the “model answers” here along with short write-ups so that all of you can understand me that much more. If you have not taken the quiz on Facebook, you can have a go here before checking out the answers.

1) At what age did I write my first song?
a) 4
b) 13
c) 17
d) 23
e) 30


In the first year of junior college when opposite-sex crushes were high in fashion, writing love notes and poems were very common. I jumped on the bandwagon and started writing songs as well. I don’t remember who I wrote the song for and where that song is right now though. 1995 - 1996 was also the time when the Taiwanese singer/song-writer 熊天平 (Panda Xiong) got famous and he was the person who ignited my love for song-writing.

2) How many long-term relationships (> 1 year) have I had?
a) 2
b) 4
c) 6
d) 8
e) 10

My first long-term relationship lasted for 7 years and many of you would know who that person is. There were a lot of small ones that lasted for several months along the way but all of them did not make the mark and in the process causing much heartaches and tears. My next one was with Ision. So far it is 2 years plus and counting!

3) Which of the following places have I lived in?
a) Queens
b) New York City
c) Brooklyn
d) New Jersey
e) The Bronx


I lived in New Jersey for about one and a half years when I was part of a government-sponsored training attachment programme in the pharmaceutical industry. Some of you answered Brooklyn and you are partly correct. I was dating a guy then who lived there and I stayed with him during the weekends. Those were the days when I would roam Manhattan streets aimlessly soaking in all the sights and sounds the island had to offer. I really miss that place!

4) What was the biggest letdown of my 4 years in university?
a) Not finding a relationship on campus
b) Not staying in a student hostel
c) Not spending more time partying/less time mugging
d) Not getting my 1st-class Honours
e) Not pursuing a music-related degree


I have been whining about this for a long time to some of my friends so they must be quite sick of hearing this. Well I only have myself to blame for I offended my research project supervisor big time and he did not give me a good grade in the end. I just needed a grade level-increase and I would have been there. Even a formal appeal amounted to nothing and I practically wasted four sacrificial years of soul-breaking hard work. The worst thing is that some of the 1st-class Honours recipients that year were quite mediocre compared to me!

5) What is the body part that I am most proud of?
a) My hard 6-pack
b) My logical brain
c) My strong thighs
d) My romantic heart
e) My soft hair


Almost all of you got this wrong and of all the wrong answers, this aggravates me the most. I know I have been obsessing over my abs ever since I got them but if you truly know me, you would know that the thing I pride myself most upon is my logical mind and how I can see things in life clearly as a result of having that. Some got this right and you deserve a pat on your backs!

6) What sort of video games do I like to play the most?
a) Sports
b) Puzzle
c) Strategy
d) Arcade
e) RPG


This is one of those trivial questions that I must throw in to make the quiz not seem so heavy. I only restarted playing computer games after getting the Xbox360 a year ago and so I do not expect many of you to know the correct answer. I used to play PC-based RPG games exclusively when I was a young teenager but found that they were too addictive and decided to stop playing altogether to concentrate on my studies. What a good boy I am!

7) What do I want most in my life currently?
a) Securing a loving relationship that lasts forever
b) Being able to buy whatever I want
c) Becoming a famous singer/songwriter
d) Sharing life with close friends
e) Having a job that I have passion for


This is the first trick question (well, sort of a trick question with the operative word being “currently”). I already have a loving relationship right now that I know will last forever (or at least that is what I will continue to strive for all my life). And since I have buried my dream of becoming a singer, the next thing would somehow have to be related to my career. Chemical Engineering was chosen not out of passion but necessity and as discontented as I am at my profession, I am also reluctant to get out of this practical comfort zone. So I guess the way to go is to make the best out of a worst-case scenario and at least work towards not sucking at my job. Some of the jobs (unrelated to music) that I can see myself doing (but not necessarily doing it)–personal trainer (low-paying unfortunately), soft-porn star (don’t be shocked…) and social escort (…because this is coming). Looking at those choices, I think I should either focus on my current job more or seriously consider branching into music as a song-writer.

8) What is my favourite colour?
a) Purple
b) Pink
c) Orange
d) Red
e) Green


This is yet another one of those trivial questions. Purple has always fascinated me because it is neither red nor blue but something that I can never really put my finger on. My favourite gem stone is amethyst because of its colour. Coincidentally it is also the gay colour.

9) What do I like to do? (arrange in an increasing order of preference)
a) Nude-beaching, karaoke, yumcha, shop, watch movies
b) Yumcha, shop, karaoke, watch movies, nude-beaching
c) Shop, yumcha, watch movies, nude-beaching, karaoke
d) Yumcha, watch movies, nude-beaching, shop, karaoke
e) Karaoke, yumcha, shop, nude-beaching, watch movies


This must be an irritating question to many but a simple way to approach it is to look at the thing you know I like to do the most. In this case it is nude-beaching. Then take note of the wording of question (increasing order of preference) and voila, you have the answer. Yes, I am a nudist (if you don’t already know) and will grab hold of any opportunity to spend some time in my own skin in nature. For the sceptics, you will never know how it feels like until you have tried it!

10) Which of the following do I identify myself with the most?
a) Narcissistic
b) Loving
c) Musically-gifted
d) Honest
e) Gay


This is not an easy question and is quite similar to the “logical brain versus hard six-pack” one. Being honest is one of the character traits that I hold dearest to my heart (I know a lot of my friends like me for that) and I cling on to that even though sometimes it borders on being blunt or tactless. Although being gay is extremely important (see the last question), being honest goes to the very core of my being. Heterosexuals can be humans but I cannot be human if I am not honest. That is how I live my life.

11) When I was a child, what did I want to be when I grew up?
a) Engineer
b) Singer
c) Doctor
d) Policeman
e) I never thought of this question


This is one of those questions that I find strange because it is so over-asked yet something that I have never asked or thought about myself. Perhaps growing up in a poor family has made me such a pragmatic person that dreams got squeezed out of the equation. What could earn the most dough would be the only way to go. This teaching thus left no room for such a question to be asked, let alone answered.

12) Which Singaporean food do I like the most?
a) Po-piah (unfried version of the spring roll)
b) Roti prata (flat bread cooked on a hot plate)
c) Ba ku teh (pork ribs in herbal soup)
d) Indian rojak (deep-fried dough in various forms)
e) Char kway teow (fried noodles in dark soy sauce)


When it comes to my strong discipline in life, food is my Achilles heel. This explains why I am slowly losing my lean abdominal definition (it is still good but not as good as before). And being in a city where authentic Singaporean food is very hard to find, you can imagine how much I miss po-piahs. I saw them being sold for $6 each in a Chinese New Year fair and I thought it was too expensive (I was also too full after having just eaten at that time) and decided not to buy it (big regret for I never saw it being sold ever since. Sigh).

13) Which singer do I think is the most talented?
a) Jay Chou
b) Faye Wong
c) Leehom Wang
d) Tanya Chua
e) David Tao

The operative word in this question is “talented”. Faye is my idol but Jay is by far the most talented of the lot. He created a genre of music that other song-writers emulated and much credit has to be given to him. It is not easy to be a trend-setter nowadays in this increasingly “been there, done that” world. By the way, I heard that Faye is making a comeback. If you have any credible sources to support that, please keep me informed!

14) Which of the following is not what I add to my sentences?
a) Preees-ah
b) F**king hell
c) Alamak
d) Harooo-oh
e) Aiyah

Yes, I do swear but only when I am at home or when no one can hear me (when I am in public). It is usually expressed out of frustration and is not directed at anyone–seeing that I have not really scolded anybody in my life before (is this a normal thing?), I certainly cannot imagine myself swearing at someone in his or her face! The answer to this question is "Alamak".

15) If today is my last day on Earth, what would I do?
a) Party all day long
b) Eat the most sinful food possible
c) Spend all the money in my bank
d) Spend it with Ision
e) Spend it with Ision and my closest friends/family

Is this a trick question? I will leave that up to you. Of course I would want to spend it with my closest friends and family if I have the time. But seeing that it is my last day on Earth (presumably not a scenario of inter-planetary migration), I would want to spend it in Ision’s arms. Just cuddling, till my time is up.

16) Approximately how many times do I check my Facebook every day?
a) 10
b) 20
c) 30
d) 40
e) 50


This was written before Facebook got unblocked at work. I am sure the number is greater now (it was 20 times per day). Well there is nothing more to say other than the fact that Facebook in my opinion is an extremely good way to keep in touch with all my friends especially when I am so far away from them (although I must say that using them to play games is a bit silly).

17) At what age did I come out of the closet?
a) 16
b) 18
c) 20
d) 22
e) 24


This is another one of those questions regarding age that most people will get it wrong (in hindsight, I should not have added them). I came out of the closet when I was still in the army (in my second year) and it involves a long story that I have told a lot of my friends. But I only came out to ALL my army platoon mates during one of the last reservists I attended. They took it extremely well (seeing that they are “Hokkien pengs”) and even wanted invitations to my wedding! But I know life would have been hellish for me if I had come out to them at 20. Maturity and sense need time to develop.

18) What is my biggest concern at work right now?
a) Too many projects to handle with too little time
b) Not fitting into the culture and losing out
c) Workplace being so far from where I live
d) Company is not offering good career progression
e) Irritating colleagues that affect my daily mood


This is a follow-up question to question 7 (if you got that one right). All the choices above are things that I am concerned with right now but only one of them is the biggest. Seeing that I have decided to make the best out of the worst-case scenario, I would naturally desire a career with good progression. Right now my company is supposedly going through a tough patch because of the economy and all external training as well as pay increments are cut (the poor economy is a common excuse for cutting cost). Being a contractor seconded so far away from the head office, I constantly feel left out as well. However I see this job only as a stepping stone (since I urgently needed to settle down with some sort of employment right after I arrived in Sydney) and will definitely move on in one to two years’ time. As to what to move to, it is still up in the air at the moment.

19) What genre of movies do I like the least?
a) Thriller
b) Drama
c) Horror
d) Romance
e) Comedy


This is the last of my trick questions (which is not exactly one if you read the question carefully). I find 99% of all comedies slapstick at worst and cliché at best. Maybe I have a more sophisticated or different sense of humour but most Hollywood productions fail to impress me. That is why I will never pay good money to watch one at the cinema. There is one comedy coming up soon that I want to watch though (on my computer of course). Bruno.

20) How important is being gay to me?
a) Extremely important
b) Very important
c) Important
d) Doesn't matter
e) Not important


I feel that one’s sexual orientation impacts on almost every facade of one’s life (possibly only the spiritual aspect is unaffected–even this is debatable). If you were straight, imagine yourself waking up tomorrow and realising that you are gay. How will your life change? If you were married, how would you handle your spouse? If you had kids, what would you tell them? If sexual urges arose, who would you go to? How will the dynamics of all your other relationships change? Basically your whole life turns upside down. So if you ask yourself the same question, being straight would be extremely important to you as well. Gays who say that their sexuality is not of primary importance to them should all go through the above thought process.

So do you now think that you know me much better? By the way, no one passed this quiz on Facebook thus far and the best score is 45% (I must admit it is a tough one). In retrospect, I should have made three versions of the quiz–easy, moderate and hard! Anyway, what you learn at the end of a test is the important thing, not the results and this applies to everything else in life as well. See how wise I am? All credits go to my brain, not my 6-pack!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A traveller’s tale (part 3)

Finally the third installment of my tale. Do you know this is my first official look at Australia from the perspective of a tourist? I thought I was not a fan of travelling but this trip has certainly put new ideas in my mind.


After a few days on the road, we were back in Melbourne city with this customary city shot. The weather was largely nice–people say that it is slightly worse than Sydney’s but I do not agree.



There are plenty of interesting architecture as well as sculptures littered everywhere in the city. Melbourne is so much better a place to live in compared to Sydney (safer, cleaner, less scary, richer in culture and people seemed warmer). That was a dog-pig-like mini statue by the street I was sitting on. Notice the Chanel store? Yingying queued for an hour to buy a $3000+ bag for a friend! I simply cannot fathom why do people need those things? We went for dinner first instead of waiting with her.



We did a lot of walking around in the city.
This is yet another one of our “posed” candid shots.
There's something sexy about the picture that I can't put on my finger on.



Dinner at Singapore Chom Chom before watching "Angels and Demons" (a.k.a a lousy movie). They had the entire Newton Hawker Centre menu in one single restaurant and it was mighty impressive! It was a real gem-of-an-eatery as I really miss Singapore food. The rest were not very impressed though because of the price (especially Yingying). Here in close-up was my yummy dry prawn noodle with pork ribs. The soup (or should I say coloured MSG solution) was bad though.



We watched the musical “Wicked” at the Regent Theatre. It had a contrived plot as it was the prequel to Wizard of Oz and much too kiddy for my taste. Yingying fell asleep many times during the show! The ticket price included a one-course meal at a nearby restaurant with waiters who had no concept of picture-taking and forgot orders!



One of our numerous self-taken pictures (we all suffer the fate of narcissism at times, some more often than others, hehe). This was one of us taking a picture of ourselves–yes, we had a lot of time.



A capture of what I saw during the ghost train-ride that we had to take to enter the Dracula’s dinner cabaret show–a unique experience.
I missed much of the joy of the ride as a result of being too pre-occupied with taking pictures, which is a very common mistake made by tourists.



$16 gone and in exchange was this picture with the cabaret cast and staff. Everyone was in character which made our time there very enjoyable.
The performance was unexpectedly good too, especially that of the guy with the mop-like hair.



At the Queen Victoria Markets–a very small one compared to Paddy’s Market in Sydney (think Bugis Village in Singapore but with plenty of space to breathe). However this place was more interesting because...



...that was where I bought this venus flytrap!
Its growth right now is very stunted because it is winter but I am still giving it a lot of attention as if it were an animal (my new pet).
I hope the plant grows to maturity in time for it to eat up the summer files!



At the beach in St. Kilda–Ision thinks that we look like Hong Kong movie stars in this picture! I wonder who he is referring to...



We visited the Crown Casino where photo-taking inside was prohibited.
As you can see, it was a very cold night but it was a very good one for BK, who won $225 and gave us a dessert treat of cakes and coffee!



The hardworking me–I completed a blog entry (the one before "A traveller's tale") during the spare time I had (while waiting for others to finish shopping at the factory outlet mall).
I must work hard for my faithful blog fans!



So this concludes my tale in which I spent much quality time with my closest friends. It is like yesterday when Yingying was KNN-ing away with Meilian and I busy taking pictures of ourselves. Ah... good memories. With this tale now nicely wrapped up, these memories will forever be stored tidily in my mind, ready to be refreshed whenever I visit this blog.