January 5th, 2014


:: Cousin Alvin's Wedding ::

New Year Wedding (Alvin)

1st January happened to be my cousin Alvin's wedding. As I was supposed to be one of his brothers, I was roused from my slumber rather early - at 520am to be exact. I did a quick wash up and then rushed over to Hougang, where the brothers were supposed to assemble at 6am. Brenden was there already when I arrived. I helped Alvin prepare the red packets, and at slightly past 7am, we made our way in a convoy over to Espirina at Buangkok, where the bride Michelle was waiting.

It was then a series of games involving white vinegar, balloons, bitter-gourd, and the vilest things that one could imbibe especially on the first day of the new year. We managed to clear the various stations, and then eventually stormed into the bride's house while the sisters lost a few seconds of focus. The rest was up to the bridegroom as he edged his way into the bride's chambers.

The wedding event took up the entire day, and since I was the emcee for the evening, I had to head to the hotel function room early to prepare and rehearse. It turned out to be a nice gathering of sorts -- especially when it has become rare for the relatives to gather, especially after my grandma passed away two decades ago. Hence, I took the opportunity to connect with the various aunties, uncles as well as cousins. In the past, a wedding function was more like a chore; where I had to "show face" and then quickly leave when the last course (desserts) were served. Now that I am already in my thirties, I am more aware of the 'passage of time', that things never really remain in situ, and that time will pass, and people will age, and move beyond this lifetime, the moments that we gather to connect become more significant.

Another deep-seated thing at the back of my mind throughout the day, was the fact that my big aunt (my cousin's mother) moved on last year. I would have imagined that she would have wanted to attend this important event of her son, and hence in her absence, each and every one in the family would chip in to make the wedding event a big success, and thanks to everyone's effort, I would say it was a resounding success. Just before the commencement of the wedding banquet, I rallied everyone to take a big group photo, and perhaps that to me was a symbol of our blood ties - that even we do not meet often enough, we are still one big family.

New life in the balcony

Plants in the balcony

It is not really a balcony, but a backyard, connected to the master bedroom where I live. Because we reversed the positioning of the master bedroom and the kitchen, what used to be the backyard for the kitchen (usually for hanging the washed clothes to dry), is now a tiny balcony for my bedroom. After getting the place, I chose a trio of mimosa trees, for their elegant and fine leaves as well as pink blooms. However, two years of constant direct strong sunshine coupled with persistent aphid attacks have seen the mimosas wither, and after several months of delay, we reckoned that it was time to do something about the situation.

Hence, over the weekend, while visiting friends for housewarming (and to see their beautiful Ragdoll), we decided to stop by a nursery, and as fate would have it, a curious question to the nursery attendant led to a series of deliberations, leading to the purchase of several plants, including a tall and sturdy "buah long long" plant, two pots of very lush plants with green leaves with new shoots that are often reddish orange in colour - I do not know their names, but I know that they are frequently used by NParks to line the streets. There's a stag horn fern, a bird's nest, and as a pot of rosemary for indoors. I would have wanted a tree fern, but I supposed the strong sunlight from noon to four in the evening would have extirpated the fern within weeks.

After several hours of waiting, the delivery guys finally arrived, and after much heaving and panting, the plants got into their positions. I would say that this version is definitely better than the first instance, and let's hope that these sun-loving plants will remain in place for a long time to come.



Learning French via Duolingo

After reading about the acclaimed language learning game, I decided to try out Duolingo during my Taiwan break in December. Duolingo is a free language-learning and crowdsourced text translation platform. The service is designed so that, as users progress through the lessons, they simultaneously help to translate websites and other documents.

Since my company is a French company, I reckoned that French would be the most appropriate language to learn. The first few modules of the lesson revolved around the basic words such as "La", "Le", "Les", "Homme", "Femme", "Fille", "Garcon" - really basic words that would allow me to form a basic sentence. It then slowly progressed to "Je", "Tu", "Nous", "Elles" and others. For some reasons, we had to learn a few fruit words in the beginning, such as "pomme" and "orange". Probably to form the word - The apple is red, translated to "La pomme est rouge".

I found the masculine and feminine distinction rather difficult to remember, as well as the different verbs, such as "mange", "manges", "mangent", "mangeon". The French pronunciation is also audibly different from that of the English language, and I had a hard time trying to decipher words just by listening to them. Since the "s" sound is not distinctively pronounced, it was not easy to distinguish between:

"Elles mangent une pomme" and
"Elle mange une pomme"

I have gone through some food words, some animal words and some colour words, and while I doubt I would be able to get by in France or Quebec with fluent French, it was still nice to have a few "aha" moments where I realised why some words are the way they were. For one, now I realised why the brand Baleno is called thus - the French word for whale is Baleine.