Tuesday, December 25, 2007

excessive book rant

Forget about the third day's pictures of the KL trip. Nothing exciting. If you wanna see pictures of the same big toy soldier repeated ad infinitum... You're not gonna find it here.

Actually it's because I'm really tired of putting up so many pictures. And also because I have other more fulfilling activities to occupy my time. Such as reading! I have been reading and reading. In fact, I spent the last two days reading novels. I can never understand why people don't like to read, and prefer to play computer games or watch TV. I mean, I do other things too, but my main form of leisure is reading. Reading is the best form of relaxation, ever. I was so pleased when the signs for doubling of loan quota was put up at all the libraries. I have been maxing my loan ever since. Haha.

Anyway, I've been reading lots of Margaret Atwood, a Canadian author/poet. I'm still wary of wading into her novels. I bought one of her novels, cheap - The Blind Assassin. It'll take a while for me to build up the courage to read it. Yep, it takes courage to tackle a book that's probably filled with so many images that it'll take ages to seive through. Her short stories are enough to make one swoon with the rich descriptions.

I've been reading Neil Gaiman (yes, of Stardust and Sandman comics fame) as well. Actually, I was pretty lucky to get hold of a copy of American Gods the last time I was at the National Library. I don't really go there often, so it was quite a decent haul. I feel like rereading Anansi Boys just so I can link some of the back stories. Because of the deluge of Gaiman writing, I am suddenly quite interested in Northic mythology. I have a weakness for myths. It's like, how I like to read alternative versions of fairy tales (think: Gregory Maguire's Wicked, or Donna Jo Napoli if you read YA fiction). I even bought a book on Greek mythology. I just haven't opened it to read yet. It's been about two or three years since I bought it. Oops? But I like the fact that I have a book on Greek mythology on hand, so that I can refer to it when possible. Another nice one on Greek myth that I've read is Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad, which is a very short book on Penelope's side of the story when Odysseus goes on his decade long journey after the Trojan War.

Currently, I'm reading Sergei Lukyanenko's Night Watch. It's good! I mean, it's translated, which means some things were lost in translation. The essence of some things will always be lost when translated, but there's no way in hell I will ever be able to master enough Russian to read the original text. Just like how I'll never master Spanish and read Love in the Time of Cholera. Maybe there's a reason why some books, while widely acclaimed, don't really resonate with us. It's because the original intention and meaning has been lost due to translation. Don't you agree with me that sometimes English is a poor substitute for some words in Chinese? Like, I still don't really know how to translate 幸福 into English. Any suggestions?

So yeah, Night Watch is better than I expected, so tmr I'm going to go to the library and borrow the other two books in the trilogy. Actually, I really shouldn't be reading so much. I still need to prepare lessons. It'll take me probably two or three days? (I'm just being really really optimistic here.) But I think most of my lesson planning will be done during school time. I only can get to work when I'm in school. Which is why I don't really bring work back home. Can't really concentrate at home, actually. But now with a nice new clean table, that might just change. Haha. As though I'm not working from 7 to 7 every day already!

I have waxed lyrical about books for far too long.

What could you possibly want for your birthday? It's in four days.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

KL Trip Dec 2007 - Day 2 (city tour)

Sorry for the extreme lag in updating my KL trip. Blogger refuses to cooperate with my internet connection. What can I do? *shrug*

It's time to continue the next series of pictures. I hope it'll take me less than ten years this time.

We checked into the hotel quite late, about 11 or just slightly earlier. Got the rooms settled, gave the kids their room keys, and then did room checks once they were settled down. Sigh! They couldn't settle down! I guess it was the excitement of being in an unfamiliar place with friends. I get that kind of excitement too, but it's hell when you're a teacher and have to get them to settle in. I bet the kids hated me and my colleague hahaha!

We passed by this mosque, very big and beautiful, the Blue Mosque, I think? The hotel is right next to it, which is why our hotel is called The Grand BlueWave. Or at least I think that's why it's called Grand BlueWave. Sari was lamenting on the lack of view from our window. She said wistfully, "It'd be so nice if we could see the mosque..." Well, certain wishes do come true:

Pic 532: The view from our window as the sun is rising. This is the mosque! It's even more beautiful at night when it's lit up. I don't have a picture of it, though.

We set off pretty early, but the loading up was very slow cos everyone didn't do their P&P (Poo and Pee) before falling in. So after that, the instruments were loaded up, and off we went on a city tour of KL!

First stop, the national palace. Or at least, that's what I think it's called. I'm so terrible with the names!

Pic 533: Two of these guards on either side of the main gate. That is a Real Horse, k. Everyone was trying to take a picture with the guard and the horse. There was this yellow semi-circle drawn on the ground in front of the guard, probably to demarcate how close you can stand to the horse. But of course, none of the visitors gave the yellow line any respect. Haha.

Pic 534: Right next to the guards on horses, there was a pair of guards wearing a different uniform standing in the little guard houses flanking the main gate. They are closer to the main gate than the guards on horses.

The students took a group photo, and then suddenly we were told to clear the driveway, and the gates were opened. We were wondering what's going on, then the guide told us that probably there were some foreign dignitaries coming out, and that we're really lucky to see the main gate open.

Pic 535: Expectedly, people started crowding the driveway again to take pictures of the view of the palace up the long driveway.

Pic 536: The guards standing on the inside.

Pic 537: The people quickly dispersed as two police motorcycles came out first...

Pic 538: ...Followed by a long black limo containing some country's ambassador.

There was nothing much to see after that, so we went off to the next destination. Some war memorial place. I tell you, I'm really bad at remembering foreign places.

Pic 539: At the entrance of the place, the kids were all taking pictures of it for some reason, so I took also. Haha. I'm such a sheep.

Pic 540: A monument dedicated to the war dead. Was made by an angmoh.

Pic 541: We walked towards this structure to see a sculpture (also done by an angmoh) of seven men.

Pic 542: The back side of the seven men. Apparently each man means something, but I don't quite remember what.

Pic 543: The sculpture of seven men. There's an almost identical structure somewhere in USA, cos they are both sculpted by the same guy. Mahatir (I hope I got the right prime minister) liked it so much when he saw it overseas that he commissioned the sculptor to install one in KL. It arrived on Mahatir's birthday, so
he was very pleased.

Pic 544: Me and Sari in front of the sculpture. The sun was so hot, I got so tanned. Well, as tan as I can get, that is. I'm squinting at the camera actually, and I think I was probably muttering under my breath, "LIONEL CAN YOU QUICKLY TAKE THE PICTURE PLEASE."

After that we took a walk in this garden. I shan't bore you with pictures of flowers. However!

Pic 545: This is a information sheet describing what can be found in the garden. Yep, more sculptures. Wanted to take a picture of all the different ones representing the ASEAN countries, but kinda got bored after the third one cos they all looked the same.

Pic 546: I know, I said no scenery pics, but water lotuses are too pretty!

The next stop was the National Museum. We went to one, but it was closed for renovations, and the exhibits were moved somewhere else. So we hung around the compound for a bit before heading over.

Pic 547: The exterior of the closed musuem.

Pic 548: M'sians love fountains. There are SO MANY.

Pic 549: One of those rare shots. Can you see the aeroplane flying by, and the visible half-moon?

Pic 550: See! Another one of those things with water spouting out. This was seen on the way to the museum.

After the museum, we headed off to the chocolate factory before going for lunch.

Pic 551: An ornamental pineapple. It can fit nicely into the palm of your hand. Even if your hands are quite small. Cos this pineapple is really small. It's not meant for eating, but for display.

Pic 552: I shall end off with a picture of the National Library. For a book-lover like me, a library is always a must-go! But I think I won't be able to read most of the books, cos they would be in Malay. )=

Next up will be the band performance at 1utama and day 3. No pics on day 4 cos camera batt died!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

KL Trip Dec 2007 - Day 1

I'm going to take like, ten years to finish this entry.

Left on the morning of 3rd Dec. Woke up at an ungodly hour of 4.30am cos of last minute packing and travel time. Loading the bus was a nightmare cos the students were slow and barang barang plentiful. But! We managed to load up and head to Second Link.

When we reached the checkpoint, it seemed like half of Singapore decided to go on holiday at the exact same time. Customs at Singapore side was a nightmare to clear. I also found out that I can use the computers to clear customs using my passport. =D Next time at Second Link, I'll use that to clear customs rather than stand in front of an unsmiling customs officer and let him/her scrutinise my really ugly passport photo.

Had an unpleasant incident at the M'sian customs because of the bus driver. To cut a long story short, he used vulgarities in front of the students, which got me and the conductor very upset. Other than that, the M'sian customs was actually easier and faster to clear, contrary to popular belief. Because it was so late, we stopped over at a small coffee shop for breakfast.

Pic 510: The inside of the coffeeshop.

Pic 511: ...And the outside. I have two more pictures of the surroundings, but if I put up every picture, I'd probably take twenty years to finish this entry.

Then we were off! The bus ride was long, and luckily most of the kids fell asleep. So did I! Woke up along to way to take a few pictures before plonking back into bed.

Pic 512: One of those random road trip pictures. Took this cos the kid sitting in the seat next to aisle next to me (did that make sense?) was called Jasmine. She was quite excited when she saw the sign. She said, "That's my name!" Yes, sweetie, that's your name.

Pic 513: Blurry picture of above-mentioned kid's shoes. Nice, hor? I want a pair like that to walk about in.

Pic 514: Another one of those random road trip pics that you simply have to take cos at that time it seemed vaguely interesting and suitable to be put on your blog.

We stopped over at Malacca to have lunch, cos we were too late to head to KL to eat. It was at a nice golf club called Orna. I think it's called Orna Something-Or-Another Club. The food wasn't too bad, quite nice. I went around to check on the kids' progress, and they ate their veggies! They ate up almost everything, which is good. Don't waste food!

Pic 515: Entering Malacca.

Pic 516: I know this is something interesting, cos the guide said so. But I don't remember exactly what it is.

Pic 517: A view of the golf course from the restaurant's window. I didn't manage to capture the entire view, so you'll just have to be satisfied with a restricted view.


Pic 519: Heading towards KL.

More specifically, we headed towards Putrajaya, which is the administrative capital of Malaysia. See! I do remember some things that the guide said. She also mentioned that different parts of Putrajaya have different street-lamp designs. I took a thousand and one pictures of buildings in Putrajaya. Here are some samples:

Pic 520: First sighting of Putrajaya. The name means Prince something. I forgot already!

Pic 521: The istana.

Pic 522: Another view of the istana, with the flags all in front. Taken from a moving bus!

Pic 523: I'm going to lump them all together as one picture. I don't remember what these buildings are, but I'm sure I can find out in some brochure or whatnot. We were on a moving bus as these pictures were taken, so I don't quite really remember what the guide said.

Pic 524: The Prime Minister's office. It's right at the end of a long road. They sure know how to create suspense. It's like, you can see it, but you gotta travel down the longest, straightest road ever to reach it. What a tease!

Pic 525: Another nice picture of architecture.

Pic 526: I quite like this bridge. I thought it was pretty unique until we passed by another bridge of the same design. Then I realised the same type of design was everywhere in Putrajaya. -_-

Pic 527: Me and Sari!!! It was so freaking hot, we were squinting at the camera and muttering under our breaths, "So hot, hurry up larh, Lionel!"

Pic 528: Okay, I just had to take this picture. I was very amused by the 'nudle', and also the 'nando'. OKAY so I am easily amused, can???

After taking some group pictures with the prime minister's office as the background, in the blazing sun, where I got a tan (I tan really easily), and nearly ruined my eyes cos of the bright sun, we zoomed off to Kuala Selangor to see fireflies! But before that, dinner first. (=

Pic 529: The seafood place we ate at.

Pic 530: Can you believe it? We had crabs! (The crustacean, not the disease.) Only the teachers' table though. Not really a good choice, actually, cos it wasn't a good setting to have crabs in. Crabs should be eaten when you have plenty of time to sit around and get your hands dirty.

After dinner, we took a short drive down to the jetty to see the fireflies. There were some people selling lightsticks for RM1, and our kids, being kids, were suckers for it. I bet these people earn a lot from groups of students visiting and buying lightsticks at a whim. Actually, I got one also, but I didn't buy it. The conductor gave one to me. =D

Pic 531: This is the fireflies place. You can go visit if you want to.

Since no photography nor video was allowed, I have no pictures of the fireflies to show you. But actually, all you need to do is close your eyes, and imagine the Christmas lights along Orchard Road. Those twinkles when the lights catch the sun, that's how the fireflies looked like. Of course, there's no boat ride and absolute quiet to enhance the experience, but that's about it.

Okay I'm going to stop here and continue Day 2 another time. This entry took me a good two days to write, cos blogger died on me last night. (=