The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step

Don’t be so shocked. I know, 2 posts in 2 consecutive days? What has happened to F? But here I am, again with ample time on my hands as I sit right in the middle of Prague Airport waiting for Emirates to open their counter so I can check in and get my boarding pass and head towards the gate to wait some more. You know, I really hate transits. They are a waste of time and energy, but more about that next time.

Anyhow, I left Vienna yesterday by bus at approximately 1830 hours. I was a little sad (being honest here) about leaving my two travel mates because I knew I would be seeing them again. One is from Singapore and the other Hong Konger would be visiting Singapore soon. So not much to cry about there. More than feeling sad though, I was nervous. I did not know how I was going to manage lugging around my 2 pieces of luggage from Bratislava Airport (where the final bus station is) to the Hotel which is, yes, only 600m away. But thankfully, I managed. I bought two 35-cent tickets – one for the short, short journey to the Hotel and one for the return to the Airport the next morning. No major incidents occurred except for the time the bus almost closed its doors on me as I disembarked to carry down one of the 2 pieces of luggage I was heaving around with me. I was about to enter the bus (96) again to take my second luggage when I heard the piston releasing air and the inevitable creaking of the door hinges as it overcomes its inertia and begins to close. So the door hit me a little but it’s no apocalypse. I survived. I am stronger now because I wasn’t killed (they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger).

I walked the even shorter distance to Hotel Aviator Garni and was pleasantly surprised as the receptionist came out to help me heave my bags over the short flight of stairs and helped me check in. He even carried my bigger luggage all the way to my room for me. It was located on the second floor of the hotel, which looks more like a  motel. He spoke English reasonably well which is like music to my ears because I have yet to meet anyone who speaks decent English in Slovakia. Turns out, he was brought up in Canada despite being born in Slovakia (no wonder the gentlemanly demeanor, the helpful nature and the well-spoken English!)

I went in, charged my phone, changed into shorts, used the toilet and laid down on my bed only to realise the wifi had a code and I did not know what it was. So I went down again and the same receptionist helped me out. He was really, really kind.

I came back up to my room and was online reading articles, listening to music (thank God for the Saavan App), and watched videos on YouTube. I also messaged some friends and family on WhatsApp. I wanted to use my laptop but for some reason, it could’t connect to the Internet. Then I slept till 0445 hours the next day. I wanted to sleep some more but couldn’t. So I just lazed around, tossed and turned, closed my eyes, played with my phone again, checking for messages and likes on my instagram, etc. Then I fell asleep for a while – a really really short while – when I heard some noise. I was annoyed because it sounded like someone was either clicking something or moving about touching stuff that was causing the pitter-patter noise. Only then did I realise, IT WAS RAINING! My heart sank because I had to walk a short distance to the bus stop which wasn’t sheltered and I was going to be wet. I couldn’t afford to open my umbrella and hold it above my head because both my hands were going to be occupied with handling the luggage. I quickly downed my thyroid medication and chromium supplement and took a quick shower. The rain was light but not light enough. I wanted to ask if the receptionist could call me a taxi. And I also saw an off chance that the rain may start becoming lighter and I wanted to start walking as soon as that happens. I was ready by seven ish and walked down with my bags. Again the receptionist heard me coming down and helped me with my bags. Though on the way down, my cabin sized luggage fell and slid down the stairs which is a good thing because it meant i did not have to lug it down. He gave me my bill (I had already paid yesterday when I checked in) and..  <<WAIT FOR IT>> HE OFFERED TO DRIVE ME TO THE AIRPORT! HOLY RAVIOLI! I was incredibly touched and eternally grateful for his kindness. In case you haven’t guessed, I am a worrywart and his act of kindness totally lifted a burden off my chest! He picked my heavier luggage and I the lighter cabin one and together we walked to his car to keep them and then I got in and he dropped me off. He told me the hotel was still undergoing completion works and will be fully done in a while more. He explained that they would have vans to pick passengers to and from the airport in future. He also told me here that he was raised in Canada and he said he really liked Singapore because he knew it was clean and beautiful though really crowded.

I realised I had no need for my second 35-cent ticket that I had purchased the day before. But what’s 35 cents compared to the free, amazing service I was offered by the receptionist. I should have asked for his name!

If you ever have to transit in Bratislava, I highly recommend the Hotel Aviator Garni. Not only was the receptionist incredibly warm and accommodating, the rooms were also beautiful and clean and the service was impeccable. I am a little disappointed that I only spent several hours in the room because it was one of the best hotels I have seen during my time backpacking in Europe these past 6 weeks (talking about reasonably priced accommodations that aren’t 5 or 7 stars).

So I was in the airport really early. I connected to the free wifi and passed my time stalking people on different social platforms and spamming my family. Then it was finally time to take the flight from Bratislava to Prague. I checked in at the Czech Airlines counter at 0810 hours and it was fast. My bag weighed 24.2kg (whoops!) and the lady let me through without so much as commenting that i was technically 1,2kg over the allowed amount. She also said my bag would be through checked-in all the way till Singapore so I do not have to pick it up in Prague or Dubai! The day seemed to be getting better and better (fingers crossed, don’t want to jinx anything).When I was arriving in Bratislava, I had to pick my luggage up at Prague and re-check in because thy couldn’t do a through check-in for me. But thank my lucky stars (and God) that it was possible this time around because, as I have mentioned countless times, my bag really weighs a ton. The lady at the departure gate checking our boarding passes, however, looked like a mighty bitch. She didn’t smile and was checking out her nails while we waited for her to see our passes and allowed us entry. I hated her attitude. I managed to clear customs check and went in with no further incidents. Sat and waited again till it was time to board the plane. And now, here I am. Waiting in the Airport for Emirates.

I have only completed stage 1 of my 3 stages of journey back home to Singapore. I dread the upcoming transits and waiting but on the bright side, this is the longest transit I have. The next one in Dubai, I get to shop! I need to get my 11-year old sister her Chanel Nail Varnishes. I know it is ridiculous that such a young girl is already so luxuriously choosing branded nail polishes to ‘play’ with but I think it is perfectly fine because:
(a) she is really passionate about her nail designing
(b) it is a perfectly healthy hobby
(c) she is incredibly talented
(d) those cheap nail polishes cannot last long, making you buy more over a shorter span of time so in actuality, you’re wasting more money than you’re saving
(e) these nail polishes would mostly be used on us, her sisters, so really she is doing us a favour.

My route for this journey back home goes like this:
Bratislava-Prague (5-hour transit)-Dubai (3-hour transit)-Singapore.

Alright then. I shall stop typing here because I want to check in and also because my back is hurting from sitting in such an awkward position.
Till next time,

Astalavista

F

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An Idle Mind is a Devil’s Workshop

It’s funny how quickly time seems to fly at times and at others, it painfully crawls by. It’s all a matter of perception I guess. I have been away from home for the longest period ever while on this trip to Europe. I am currently on my second last day here and will depart tomorrow morning at 0955 hours from Bratislava to  Prague. And my flights go on and on and on.. No, I’m not kidding. I’ll be boarding three flights to get home to Sunny Singapore tomorrow: Bratislava – Prague – Dubai – Singapore. It will take me  ~24 hours to get home!

I never knew that these 6 weeks would pass as fast as they did but then these last few days seem to go by incredibly slow. It seems all I have been doing is looking at my planner and watch how the days inch by, how the seconds seem to still and time freezes. I just want to be with my family, which is another funny story because I was moody all the time just before leaving for Educate Slovakia, my project which I signed up for on AIESEC where I get to board for free in a student’s dormitory while providing English lessons on my country and culture to Slovak students in elementary and high schools. Can’t say I really enjoyed my time doing that. All I know is that this trip has been eye-opening for one and only one reason: TEACHING IS MOST DEFINITELY NOT MY CUP OF TEA. Or coffee for that matter. I couldn’t wait to get out of all the schools, no matter how nice the staff and students were. Time again betrayed me by going by at a snail’s pace. No, scratch that, even a snail was moving faster. It was torture to have to teach the same contents over and over again to groups of students who couldn’t care less. I died trying to muster up the same high level of enthusiasm and creativity when teaching a new batch of class the same thing I have been teaching the previous 82283249231 batches! It was torture. It was plain torture and my brain cells actually degenerated when I had to slow my pace down and talk as though I was speaking to a bunch of 2-year olds. That just makes me wonder how mothers do it. How are they around their child 24 hours a day and not suffer from the gooey brain sludge oozing out of their ears after it starts degrading? Oh well, they say a mother’s love is unparalleled. I’ll just take it as that.

Currently, I’m sitting in the “lounge” area of Hotel Ibis (Budget) in St Marx, Vienna, passing time as I wait for my bus to depart from the bus station (which is nearby considering but will feel as though it is 3278462349432 miles away as I start lugging my luggage with me because it weighs a ton and oh, I have 2 to lug). My bus will bring me to Bratislava Airport where I’ll be sleeping overnight at a nearby hotel (again I will succumb to my laziness and take a city bus from the Airport to the hotel which is only 600m away because nobody, and I mean nobody, in their right minds would want to carry along a bag that weighs 252430248 kg). So in actuality, I am not being lazy. I am being practical. I do not want to reach home with arms that no longer function properly just because I insisted on WALKING 600m. So there you go.

I have been thinking these past few days just how funny humans actually are. I have been eagerly counting down my days till I get to leave the bloody EU (because it is just gross and dirty and functions as efficiently as a fish trying to breathe on land) to see my family. I miss them the most. But I realised that the past few weeks before leaving for the EU and the project, I have been moody and unreasonable and have even lost my temper countless times. I was impatient with them and didn’t stop to think how much they actually mean to me and that all those times I got mad was unnecessary and trivial. I should have taken a deep breath and just let it go! But this trip has served me well in the sense that I now know a few things about myself:

1. I was unappreciative of my family and the sacrifices they made to accommodate me and my crazy OCD habits. I will not be so petty any longer.
2. While it was hard to leave them and be away for so long, I now know that I can and my time in Australia will be significantly better as this was a preview of my time away. It is going to be for a much longer time but I know that I will be able to cope if I know that at the end of a certain time period, I will be able to meet them.
3. I learnt many new things about the EU, how many different countries use the same currency, how you can cross borders without a passport, the ease with which you can source for and book hotels/hostels and how to effectively plan trips.
4. I made a couple of new friends and I am incredibly proud of myself for not pushing people away (as I tend to do after a while) and that I persevered in maintaining a good relationship with everyone (even though secretly, I wished to murder a few in their sleep). These are the people I believe who will help in the passage of time and make it fly!
5. I really need my alone time and this trip has afforded me NONE. My alone time actually means doing nothing with family in the background. I seem to be always highly strung and too proper when I am around people I consider outsiders, i.e. friends and anyone who are not family per se.
6. While I enjoy cooking & baking at home, I cannot seem to muster enough energy to cook a decent meal here while away from home. I need the convenience of a well-stocked kitchen and I want my mother’s cooking because I realise how healthy and incredible it is.
7. The weather in Europe is incredibly unpredictable. It should be in a class of its own.
8. I CAN’T BLOODY WAIT TO GO BACK TO SINGAPORE BECAUSE IT IS SO CONVENIENT AND I AM A SPOILT BRAT.

I will detail my travelling events in a new post or else this post will turn into a 1000-page novel. And I shall end here for now. I just decided to post because:

(a) I had ample free time on my hands
(b) There is free wi-fi
(c) An idle mind is a devil’s workshop & I can’t have that happening during the first day of the fasting month! As it is, I am not even fasting..

Till next time, adios amigos!

x o x o
F

10 Things About Me

1. My Love For Cartoons

I love cartoons, even at this age. I grew up watching all sorts of cartoons on all sorts of channel. There was the Eureka! Channel, then Disney channel, cartoon network, our own local channels. But more importantly, there were the cartoon characters that I grew to love. These characters were as much a part of my life as I was theirs. I followed the storylines of so many cartoon shows religiously and steadfastly, growing to love their intricate plots and their invariably one faceted nature. I may not have the time to watch any more cartoons these days but I recognise the importance they have in my life. These characters remain the same (I am speaking for the cartoon shows that still exist) and they haven’t changed one bit. As such, they evoke such a strong sense of nostalgia in me that I sometimes feel overwhelmed. I miss the times when I was so carefree and naive, that my hardest decision-making instances involved having to choose which lollipop to eat first, the red or the blue. Also, watching the re-runs of the cartoons now is incredibly refreshing and enlightening as our minds now perceive the same shows differently. We understand better and maturity changes the way we view things. The same show which made me laugh earlier could actually trigger my thinking and make me reflect deeper. The mind is an amazing tool, really.

Some of my favourite cartoon shows are The Gargoyles, Archie’s Weird Mysteries, Mummies Alive, Scooby Doo & Gang, Little Miss & Men, Popeye’s, Tom & Jerry, Looney Tunes, Phineas & Ferb, Bear in the Big Blue House (not really a cartoon), Arthur & Friends, Power Rangers (not really a cartoon too, but), Little Lulu, The Mask..

2. Books Relax Me

I love books. I love collecting books, pretty much like the Alaska Young protagonist in John Green’s Looking For Alaska. I too have a library of books (My Life Library of unread books) to be read in future where I’d have more time on my hands and can afford to sink into a big comfy armchair, curl my legs underneath me & read nonstop for hours on end, with a cup of tea by my side. I collect books whenever I see them, but even more so when there’s a sale. I have just gone on a mini spring cleaning session to sort out my library. There were too many books and not enough shelves. How my poor heart broke as I fought to choose which books to give away by either selling or as donation to the AWARE association which will be having their annual Book, Bake & Bazaar sale soon to raise money for their foundation. (You can contact AWARE regarding their book donation drive here). Sometimes, when I am feeling extremely stressed or just when the chaos in my head is too loud, I come into my room and simply stand in front of my bookshelf. Just looking at the rows and columns of books gives me peace. It stills my crazy mind, empties it of all thought. I run my fingers over the spines of the books – new & old, read & unread – and I feel so happy. I love books & I will continue to find amazing ones and maybe someday, I’ll even do a review of those I have read on my blog.

3. Swimming Fish is Hypnotising

I love to watch fish swim. Once, we actually decided to rear some fish, thinking that of all pets to have, they would be the easiest to manage. So, my sisters & I went down to a nearby aquarium and purchased a small glass tank. Initially, all we thought we needed were some fishes and a glass tank to hold them in. But the fish-seller told us otherwise. He advised us to get a plant for the tank, so it could photosynthesise and release oxygen into the water, he sold us a light bulb specially made for the plant so that it could manufacture food despite being in the house with no direct access to sunlight, he included the aeration system to ensure well-oxygenated water in the tank and finally some figurines to decorate the tank with. My sisters & I had so much fun finally getting down to choosing the fishes. We chose cheap, colourful ones because the accessories themselves already cost a bomb. When we finally installed everything at home, we were satisfied and I used to come to the living room, sit on the sofa and stare at the fishes swimming. It was really hypnotising, not to mention oddly calming. It was great therapy. That was before the fishes started dying. We had absolutely no clue on how to rear them properly and so, even that project went down the drain. The tank is now used as a storage container in the storeroom. If you’re interested to learn how to set up your own mini aquarium at home, check out this site here & let me know if you’re successful. All the best!

4. I Eat the Crumbs of my Biscuits

As you might have known, I am on a health program where I follow a nutritionist’s advice on what to eat. On my eating plan, my snacks include 100g of fresh fruit and 4 crackers. When I eat these crackers, I make sure to wipe the plate clean by meticulously (and a bit obsessively) eating even the crumbs that fall and get left behind.

5. I Suffer A Little From OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

I have an unresisting urge for things to be in order & I get enraged when I lose things. I like to be in control, especially when I know I can. I hate getting lost as I feel that it wastes time. Wastage is another thing I hate and where I can control it, I do. My siblings sometimes find me a bit hard to work with because I need everything in order. When they borrow my stapler, I’d go after them like a dog on a bone to make sure they’ve returned it in its original place. When I know something is not right, like a book on my shelf has been placed wrongly, I’d get out of bed to rectify it before being able to sleep. As such, I sometimes suffer from anxiety attacks, but these are manageable and aren’t crippling. I realise that in times of stress, I get more anal about being in control but there are times where I can let go too. I hate to disrupt the order of my things, like when I have a series of books; I fidget nervously when someone takes a book out and disrupt my collection. I like things to be together, especially similar things. Categorising is another one of the perks of being a little OCD. This is why I find it hard to lend people my things – I feel that they’ve caused me to ‘separate’ them from my little world of orderliness.

6. I Need People, But I Also Need Alone Time

I need to know that I have people around me, surrounding me. I need the security that when I wish, there are people whom I can call or go visit to be around. Because I hate feeling lonely. In year 2010, I re-sat for my A Levels as a private candidate. As such, I was home alone most days (excluding the days I went to the tuition centre for private coaching on certain subjects). I usually woke with a start, heart beating so hard it’s like a bird trying hard to escape the cage that is my rib-cage. I don’t have to feel the bed beside me to know it’s empty. At that time, all of my siblings had school and were gone by the time I woke up to study by myself at home. Even my parents were working and would be out of the house by then. These anxiety attacks usually came on because I hated being alone at home, even when I know that in a few hours, the kids will be back home. I hate how cold and empty the house felt without the people in it. It felt soulless, devoid of any warmth and cheeriness. But at the same time, I also get overwhelmed sometimes when I am bogged down by too many responsibilities. I am always given tasks by my siblings to do because they are younger to me and look to me to help them out. And I love to help them. I do, but sometimes it gets too much and I feel like exploding. I am very meticulous and that doesn’t help sometimes because I like things to be done efficiently and in my way and so, I end up piling myself with loads of to-do lists, just to keep on top of what everyone wants me to do. I end up losing sight of what I want to do. Or I do know what I want to do, but I lack the time or energy because by the time I am done with my ‘duties’ I feel so drained and tired. I am a zombie, both mentally & physically. So, while I love being around people, I also love my down time. This is why I walk home every time I can from the train station to my house (which is only ten minutes away) because that is my time alone. I reflect, and think, and ponder. And most importantly, I am alone but not lonely.

7. I Savour Milky, Sugary Things

I love drinking milk and I love eating anything milky like the local Indian delicacies such as barfees (a sweet confectionery from the Indian subcontinent. Plain barfee is made with condensed milk and sugar cooked until it solidifies), and ras malai (consists of sugary white, cream or yellow coloured (or flattened) balls of paneer – curd cheese – soaked in malai (clotted cream) flavoured with cardamom).

Pista_Burfi RasMalai-Plated

It’s no wonder I also love all sorts of ice cream, though my all-time favourites are Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Chocolate Therapy, Turtle Soup, Fish Food, Everything But The, Triple Caramel Chunk, and Haagen Daaz’s Toffee (no longer produced here), Coffee, Cappuccino Truffle, Midnight Cookies & Cream, Magnum and others! I love all sorts of chocolate (milk and white but I also like some dark chocolate). I just love anything with milk.

8. I Love Before & Afters

I enjoy watching shows like ‘Clean House’ because they show how a house looks before & after it was de-cluttered. I love interior designing shows because they before & after images of houses excite me. I took up a make-up course and worked towards a diploma in it despite being extremely science-oriented because not only did I think the colours were interesting & fun to work with but because I enjoyed transforming clients into works of art. For some people, the transformation is incredible. You can hardly believe she was the same person without any makeup. I also enjoy baking so much because typical everyday ingredients like flour, eggs, milk, butter get turned into a beautiful chocolate frosted cupcake or into a moist red velvet cake. It helps that I also enjoy devouring these desserts!

9. I Get Angry Too Fast

I do. I flare up as hot and bright as a firework. But I also go out just as fast. And sometimes, I say things I don’t mean at all. Most of the time when I get angry it’s actually me just manifesting my hurt and sadness because my default emotion to display is anger, not sadness. So when I’m angry, I’m just really hurt and I want all those around me to feel some of that hurt and so I say things. Things I don’t ever mean. I really don’t. I see myself as a kind, empathetic person. I never wish to harm or hurt anyone, not even a strand on his or her head. So, I do hope people actually know what I am not a bad person. I just say or do bad things sometimes, especially so when I am angry.

10. I Drink Water with Lemon Slices in it

Ever since I started my health program where I adhere strictly to a food plan, I also started taking care of the amount of water I drink daily. I have never drunk more than a litre of water daily but now I take care to drink at least 3 litres. After reading about the benefits of lemon, I have started putting it in my bottle of water. I never liked the taste but slowly, over the days, weeks & months, I have grown accustomed to its taste and now I can hardly drink water with no lemon slices in it.

The things I learnt about lemon water are taken from this site and they are:

1. Gives your immune system a boost.
Vitamin C is like our immune system’s jumper cables, and lemon juice is full of it. The level of vitamin C in your system is one of the first things to plummet when you’re stressed, which is why experts recommended popping extra vitamin C during especially stressful days.

2. Excellent source of potassium.
As already mentioned, lemons are high in potassium, which is good for heart health, as well as brain and nerve function.

3. Aids digestion.
Lemon juice not only encourages healthy digestion by loosening toxins in your digestive tract, it
helps to relieve symptoms of indigestion such as heartburn, burping, and bloating.

4. Cleanses your system.
It helps flush out the toxins in your body by enhancing enzyme function, stimulating your liver.

5. Freshens your breath.
It also helps relieve toothaches and gingivitis (say wha?). Because the citric acid can erode tooth enamel, either hold off on brushing your teeth after drinking lemon water or brush your teeth before drinking it.

6. Keeps your skin blemish-free.
The antioxidants in lemon juice help to not only decrease blemishes, but wrinkles too! It can also be applied to scars and age spots to reduce their appearance, and because it’s detoxifying your blood, it will maintain your skin’s radiance.

7. Helps you lose weight.
Lemons contain pectin fiber, which assists in fighting hunger cravings.

8. Reduces inflammation.
If you drink lemon water on a regular basis, it will decrease the acidity in your body, which is where disease states occur. It removes uric acid in your joints, which is one of the main causes of inflammation.

9. Gives you an energy boost.
Lemon juice provides your body with energy when it enters your digestive tract, and it also helps reduce anxiety and depression. (Even the scent of lemons has a calming effect on your nervous system!)

10. Helps to cut out caffeine.
I didn’t believe this until I tried it, but replacing my morning coffee with a cup of hot lemon water has really done wonders! I feel refreshed, and no longer have to deal with that pesky afternoon crash. Plus, my nerves are thankful.

11. Helps fight viral infections.
Warm lemon water is the most effective way to diminish viral infections and their subsequent sore throats. Plus, with the lemon juice also boosting your immune system, you’ll simultaneously fight off the infection completely.

I hope this wasn’t too boring & was at least a little helpful. It’s not exhaustive. There are many facets to me, my personality and my nature & hopefully I can reveal more of myself over time as I blog. I am still learning & discovering myself too so there are some things I cannot yet reveal while others I do not know yet of what to tell you. So stay tuned & hopefully this entertains you for a while as you sit in a 4 by 4 cubicle, looking dazed, counting down till it’s time to go home.