Monday, December 3, 2012

These Are The Last Days

Walking towards my hall building few hours ago, I noticed my room's light was off. I thought my roommate Tinglin was asleep already. However as I got in front of the door, I noticed her shoes were gone. I unlocked the door and instead of seeing her, I saw only plushies neatly tucked under her blanket. OH NO! She left without me having a chance to say good bye. I'm not gonna lie, but I got a little teary when I read her note. The morning when I woke her up with my arrival and the luggage noise that I made seems to be really fresh in my memory, just like yesterday.

So with that being said, this is very likely to be my last post written in Singapore as I'm leaving in 2 days. I've spent the past week just studying while being tourist at the same time: visiting places on my list that I haven't gotten a chance to visit. Among them are the St. Andrew's Cathedral, Peranakan Museum, Asian Civilisation Museum, and the Treetop Walk at MacRitchie Reservoir.

Saying goodbye is never easy, but I've been handling it well so far through some of the goodbye dinners I had this week.

Now that it is all about to come to an end, I can't even imagine how my life would've been if I didn't make the choice to come to Singapore in the first place. I wouldn't met these awesome new friends, nor would I traveled to these amazing places. I would've just been a typical Fransisca: clocking in and out of co-op for the rest of the summer, overworking myself with ambitiously packed schedule, looking for jobs that would pay me well after graduation, and just sticking with the status quo.

This semester has definitely been the highlight of my Drexel career and changed my life. My Singapore experience has changed the way I view my life and the ideas of rest, life calling, and community. I've also been challenged to step out of my comfort zone and complacency in many situations and without God's providence, I would never had the strength to go through it all. In a way, I'm sad to pack all these memories with me as I leave this place. But on the other hand, exciting stuffs are waiting for me in the States. Talking with friends back in Philly as we plan things to do this winter has definitely helped in getting me pumped once again for the  rest half of my senior year.

Good night, Singapore! I will miss you just like a migrated Singaporean does.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from Singapore

I know it's a little bit belated, but happy thanksgiving to you all in the States! I really miss my American thanksgiving: thanksgiving day breakfast with my church family, hosting my best friend Ei for thanksgiving dinner at our home, staying up for black Friday shopping, decorating the house for Christmas, and heading to perform Balinese dances for the annual Bali to Bala opening night. I didn't get to do the traditional thanksgiving meal here since 1) I don't have access to a kitchen, 2) Restaurant thanksgiving meals are pricey, 3) When I found out supermarkets were catering it, it was too late to place the order for thanksgiving day. Believe it or not, turkey dinner here is more of a Christmas fare so this time around they have just started providing the service. Despite of the absence of  thanksgiving meal, my heart was so grateful for all these places, faces, and experiences that God has blessed me with. They were more amazing beyond I previously imagined. I'm also thankful for whatever God has in store for me next.

One and a half week left for me in Singapore. Everyone has been busy preparing for the finals. I only have 2 exams,which are on the 29th and the 5th. So much time to study that I've became kind of scared that I'll forget things I'm reading up now comes the real exams. This is where lecture videos come in handy. I've been putting it on as I do my chores and start on consolidating/throwing my stuffs away. On the brighter note, I'm really looking forward to spending a month in Indonesia and more importantly going back to the States. So here's what my life looks like post-exam:

  • Dec 6th: Flying to Jakarta in the PM
  • Dec 7th-10th: Being tourist in Jakarta with Diana, an exchange friend I've been travelling with
  • Dec 11th-13rd: Bali with my mom
  • Dec 13rd-20th: Mostly Jakarta, but I might drop a visit to Bandung as my sister ends her semester and coming home
  • Dec 21st-29th: North Sumatra to visit grandmother, relatives, and some times of family vaca

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Last Backpacking Trip: Melacca

I might've lied when I called Cambodia as the end of my backpacking series. I actually headed to Melacca, Malaysia which is 4 hour bus ride away from Singapore with some friends last weekend. Leaving around 9 am in the morning, we got there around lunch time and to our surprise, everyone was taking lunch break *sighs*. Despite of the lunch break, we managed to find a cab driver who was still working over the lunch break and drove to the guesthouse in the Jonker Walk area. To our surprise (again), the guesthouse owner who also happened to live there was taking a lunch/nap break as well. We knocked and he welcomed us, giving a spare backdoor key aside from our room key in case he locks the front door (which also happens to be his t-shirt store and his office) when we get back.

Feeling hungry ourselves, we took a lunch break just like the locals did. We decided to have the legendary Famosa chicken rice balls. It was way better than regular Hainanese chicken rice.

All the interesting attractions are within walking distance from one another. So much Dutch and Portugese influences shown in their landmarks, which are remains from the European conquest of East Indies beginning in the 15th century. The overall highlight to me was definitely Jonker Walk and Baba Nyonya House. Jonker Walk turns to a night market after 6 PM where they sell a lot of souvenirs, antiques, and local delicacies. Baba Nyonya House, on the other hand, used to be a real house where a family of Peranakan merchants lived. Thanks to the Singaporean drama I've been watching titled "The Little Nyonya", I became really interested in the Peranakan cultures and stories.

Another highlight was definitely the food. Thanks to the same drama, I was so wanting to try the pongteh and ayam buah keluak. And of course, authentic nyonya laksa was a must-try.

The local snacks at Jonker Walk was unquestionably good as well. From the Nyonya kuihs to twisted potatoes, from Taiwanese omelettes to satay celup; everything was so delish!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Breaking My Singapore Bubble

America, it is.

This past week I've been thinking of things that are going on back there a lot. It all started with the Hurricane Sandy hitting the Mid-Atlantic. Even though I was spoiled by Singapore's 90 degree days during that disaster, I was with you folks. I kept a close eye on the news while praying for your safety. I missed the historical Drexel closure and worked intensively on term projects and papers instead, boo! (I did celebrate Halloween with my neighbors, though. Eastern State Penitentiary should start hiring them; they did an awesome job scaring people off and turning TV lounges into haunted houses).

Election was another thing. You'd never know how much the international community is watching your election from here, America. Students from all over the world gathered at our Global Lounge nervously watching the votes being counted: many celebrated at the end, while few were disappointed. I had a mixed feeling towards the whole thing. However, a key take away is that no matter who the president is, God is still in His throne and Christ reigns over all. I had never felt such overwhelming gratefulness that my citizenship is not of this world, but is in heaven ruled by my Savior Jesus Christ.

Lastly, I have only one month left in Singapore and two months in Asia. It's time to register for courses to fulfill my degree requirements. I'm already set on staying full-time until graduation since the senior capstone course that I needed was closed for Winter term already; making it 2 courses that I really need for graduation to be postponed to Spring. I've also started  to look through the application for the year-long ministry internship which was quite lengthy. God has definitely been making me realize more than ever of my great insufficiency apart from Him.

This Singapore comfort bubble needs to be broken. Time for some real stuffs  to kick in.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Holiday in Cambodia

This past Friday was a public holiday here in Singapore. Prior to my recess week, I knew about it and had planned to travel somewhere, preferably solo. I finally decided on Cambodia, one of the countries on my to-visit list.

My outbound flight departed from Singapore at 6:30 AM Thursday morning. Since taking the first MRT wouldn't get me to the airport on-time and I didn't wanna pay for a cab ride, I took the last MRT to the airport Wednesday night and camped there until the morning came. First experience camping at Changi Airport wasn't all too bad, considering I finally had my first doze of Dunkin Donuts coffee after 3 months.

I took a tuktuk right away from the Phnom Penh airport to a bus company's office and headed to Siem Reap, which was 6 hours away. Some parts of the ride was quite bumpy, and the villages in between looked more like wastelands; impoverished and very under-developed. Anyhow, I took a tuktuk as I arrived there to go up north of Siem Reap where the Angkor Wat and the other temples are. It was quite breathtaking especially during sunset.

After sunset, I was all set to go to Channa and Thomas' home. This Khmer-Danish couple owns a beautiful villa hidden in the heart of Angkor Archeological Park and often hosts guests to stay with the family. I somehow overlooked what Thomas said in the booking e-mail about the impossibility of me finding their home on my own. After a phone call by the tuktuk driver, Thomas finally came on a motorbike and took me to his family's home. I was welcomed like a family as Channa showed me my room: a peaceful little pavilion in the beautiful yard. I quickly showered, then enjoyed a Khmer home-cooked dinner with the family as we got to know one another better. To end the nice evening, I had a chance to help Amanda, their 8 year-old, with her Math homework as I thought to myself "What a true homestay experience!" I didn't have the chance  to take any picture due to the rush in the morning to get the bus back to Phnom Penh, but I would highly recommend Channa's Homestay to anyone visiting Siem Reap.

While waiting for the bus, a quite respectable-looking mid-age man approached me and asked where I came from. As I answered, a glimpse of excitement shown on his face and he started to tell stories. Stories about the good old days of his youth spent in a refugee camp in Pulau Galang, Riau, Indonesia, of how well fed and treated he was, and how he came to Christ during those times. He's pretty up-to-date with the Indonesian current news, maybe more than I am. He really wish he could come and visit Indonesia again one day.

Arriving back in Phnom Penh, I walked my way by the river towards National Museum, Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, and the Independence Monument. The late King Norodoum Sihanouk has just passed away 2 weeks ago, and people are still mourning. The Royal Palace was closed to public as crowd still gathered and prayed in front of its gate.

Feeling exhausted, I chose to save Wat Phnom and Central Market for Saturday just before I head to the airport. I tried to visit the night market by the river, yet it was really mediocre since I've had experienced much better night markets before. Chilling out at Mad Monkey, the hostel that I stayed in Phnom Penh, I met another exchange from NTU. I guess it kinda became common by now meeting a fellow exchange everywhere I travel :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Crossing Out 2 Items in 1 Shot

This past weekend has just been crazily amazing! I had never thought I would crossed out 2 items of my Singapore bucket list in one weekend while managing to fit dim sum meals in between. So the first item of business was the Marina Bay Sands infinity pool. Thanks to Mike for initiating the room booking, we managed to get 16 people to come over, chip in for the room, and just chill on a Friday evening by the infinity pool. It was quite an experience sneaking that many people to both the room and the pool, hiding from the security people, and asking for extra key cards "just for the pool". What a night!

I was set the next day for a dim sum brunch over at Si Chuan Dou Hua restaurant with some folks from NTU Deli Aprecio. It was a really good and legit dim sum experience.

At first, I was contemplating whether or not to join Zhinwei and Joey (both are involved with NTU Cru) visiting Universal Studios Singapore. Yet I soon remembered that the student discount of 20% was about to end and in heartbeat, I headed to Sentosa Island to join them. It was such a small park, yet I really enjoyed the rides and of course the awesome fellowship with these bros.

Coming out of the park, we had a dim sum dinner at Din Tai Fung. We were quite hungry, let me just put it that way.

Rain and thunderstorm soon started, and we decided to just stay in and chat over the free-flow hot tea. The topics, mostly about America, were quite wide in variety such as sport teams, politics, outdoor activities, travels, but mostly it all came back to food. I had to say it was just a really great day of fun, bonding, and getting to know them better.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hong Kong Madness

After reading this post's title, please don't be too judgmental. I know I had just came back from Thailand and Vietnam the Sunday before, but I'm not as addicted to travelling as you might think haha :D

So how I ended up going to Hong Kong was quite an interesting story. Right before leaving for Vietnam, I got a text from friends with whom I also did Kuala Lumpur back in August. I booked my flights right in a heart beat, and kaboom! That's where I spent the past weekend; a New York City of the Eastern world, 4 hours away from Singapore. Such a crowded city that even our hostel was located at a residential flat building along with a couple other hostels, and a room for 6 was only about 36 feet-square.

We started off the first night in Hong Kong with a dim sum dinner at a humble stall downstairs from our hostel at Nathan Road. With happy stomach, we were able to plan for the next days. After getting some rough ideas of what we were going to do, it was time for some exploration. Kowloon park and Avenue of the Stars were so gorgeous at night.

The next day was a very packed one. We started the day off busing to Shek-O to hike the Dragon's Back trail. I still can't get over how helpful and friendly the bus driver was. He actually made another passenger go up to the deck where we were sitting to tell us that we've arrived at our stop.

The hike itself was quite easy and quick. In about 1 hour we were able to reach the peak and enjoy this gorgeous view.

Since the day was still early, we walked around the Central area for the Sun Yat Sen memorial and various markets along the waterfront.


And somehow also made it to the Victoria's peak as well as picnicking on the rooftop garden of IFC mall.

The group split on Sunday since some wanted to go to Macau and some wanted to explore the Hong Kong Arts Centre and the Mongkok markets. I went with the second since I wanted to get some souvenirs. I headed back early to the hostel to repack before I flew back only to find that nobody was at the reception desk and our the key to our new room were nowhere to be found. The thing is that they also moved our stuffs to the new rooms. Huge thanks to Heather; we finally found a stack of card keys from the unattended reception desk and tried breaking into each room to look for my backpack. It's Hong Kong after all, gotta do it action-movie style.

By the way, I still owe 80 cents on my Octopus card due to my purchase of gums at the airport. Anyone heading to Hong Kong can use it, just remember it will deduct my debt right away once you top-up