•December 6, 2008 • Leave a Comment

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man,
then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you,
for Paris is a movable feast.

-Ernest Hemingway


La vie parisienne.

•October 5, 2008 • 2 Comments

I had spent the first three weeks in Paris adapting to the french pace of life and settling in to our lovely-abode-turned-pig-sty home. The Welcome Programme for International Exchange Students are pretty much a waste of euros except for the 2-hour french classes each day. Initially we did go for our orientation walks and the very first Erasmus boat party but the organization of these activities are rather laissez-faire and it is much better that we do our exploration on our own.

Its not all play though. Allocating time for groceries and laundry is certainly a dread for most Singapore-bred exchange students. But doing groceries can be fun with my housemates and often we have to venture to Place d’Italie’s Tang Freres for our dosage of chili and other nostalgic twangs. Most of the time, we will do it the French way with the Singaporean Kiasuism comparing prices across the various French supermaches in the vincinity. For the freshest products and specific meat parts, we buy at the traditional Marche in our neighbourhood where the display of carcasses of rabbits disgusts me each time.

When it comes to cooking, we each have our own distinct style. For Eu, its CHAPALANG, a pinch of salt, a handful of garlic, pouring in whatever that is rotting in the fridge and throwing in whatever that is cheap. She made me lug 5 kg of onions back from the street market at Place d’Italie as it cost only 3 euros. For Clar, its her secret concoctions flown from Singapore- Bak Ku Teh, Chicken Curry, chinese soups all within little satchets. Her cuisines often won praises but its considered cheating! ha.

Placing cuisine aside, we did try to things the french way. So theres the attempted immersion into the french culture through free entries to Lourve on Friday nights and free concerts in churches on weekends. Well, theres the concert featuring Bach’s pieces which we attended with Yu and Thierry. Admittedly, I think we had a good nap then.

When Pope Benedict XVI came to Paris, we joined 250 000 parisiens in an open-air mass. Its really incredible how the french cheered and waved flags. The religious fervour is akin to nationalistic effervescence in Singapore on National day. And as a typical intellectual Sciences-po student, we attended a tv debate show on politics and religion but en francais! so its hard trying not to fall asleep in when the camera is on especially we are all separated, inserted between the french, to depict a rich ethnically-divided audience. (poor wilvin was chucked in a corner out of sight with the old pple as he was wearing a shirt with an obscene tagline).

Well, school seemed to be the least important to us at this moment. I never felt embedded in Sciences Po uni life as it does not has a proper campus but scattered buildings within the most expensive 6ieme arrondisement. So as we walked from one class to another, its indulgence of the eyes on the biggest fashion brand names like Sonia Rykiel, Emperio Armani and Zadig & Voltaire. Thankfully none of which are affordable and hence not worthy to make a detour to in-between classes.

The only thing praiseworthy of sciences-po is the international classroom which is a little bizarre to me initially as original sciences-po students are a minority in class. The requirements of courses need sometime to get used to too with a lot of oral exposes, disertation and essays. The workload is also a nightmare as I ended with 8 courses and one sports elective- Handball. Handball is fun just that we are all a little disadvantaged physically (a clash with a brazilian almost sent me flying)

One of the highlights of parisien student life is our regular dinner invites at boulevard magenta. Its really cool to have a culturally-diverse group of people cooking and eating at our place and we get to taste different cuisines although the cleaning-up is always an arduous task. With our frequent invites, we had to switch the environmentally-unfriendly, un-french way of using disposibles plates. After several ‘cultural experimentation’, I have to admit that its generally easier to gather with Asians who share the same love for spicy food!

Et voila, c’est la vie parisienne for now- happily sounding as rants about all the admin bullshit are spared from this post…

Être Moi

•September 7, 2008 • 1 Comment

Je me cachais la vérité j’avais si peur
De montrer ce que j’avais enfoui dans mon cœur
Pourtant je rêvais tout au fond de moi
De me laisser aller enfin
Et tout donner

Être vraie, être moi
Être là où l’on ne m’attendais pas
Et ne pas regarder derrière moi
Être une femme qui se bat
Forte et fragile à la fois
Ne plus jamais cesser le combat
Être moi

J’ai rêvé si souvent que se déchire le voile
Que l’enfant innocent se change en une étoile
Même si parfois je veux abandonner
J’ai besoin que tu croies en moi pour avancer

J’ai tellement de choses à découvrir
Oui je sais qu’elles existent
Je dois les chercher
Je dois les trouver
Je voudrais enfin trouver la clé de l’avenir
Je dois la chercher
Je dois la trouver

Je voudrais enfin trouver la clé de l’avenir
J’ai tellement de choses à découvrir
Oui je sais qu’elles existent
Être une femme qui se bat
Forte et fragile à la fois
Ne plus jamais cesser le combat
Être moi


•August 23, 2008 • Leave a Comment

On board the train from Tangier to Fes, we were probably sweating like roasted pigs with 6 pple stuffed in a cabin face-to-face each other. It bewilders me how eunice managed to sleep in the most atrocious conditions. But luckily, this time we were sitting opposite a wonderful moroccan family and thus for the entire train ride, it was a language and cultural exchange- me teaching Radia english and she teaching me french. It was so amusing that the teenage guy in the corner, who was ignoring us in the begining, began sniggering and secretly filming us.

Upon entering the medina in Fes, its yet another scene of chaos. Boys started swarming towards us eager to show us the ‘best’ hotels. Apparently the hotels they bring us to will be ten percent more expensive- the difference being their commission. And so, we followed this street lad, no actually it was the street lad who followed us to a hotel. Since neither the hotel owner nor us are willing to pay him any dirhams, an uproar followed suit. Its kinda funny because ever since then, the street lad would come up to us and tell us that the hotel owner is a murderer. This did scare me a little as the next day, there was an ambulance parked outside the hotel and a motionless, all-wrapped up body was wheeled towards it. What astounded me more is that the cafe scence was still played out as per normal..people sipping their coffees.. engaging in their headless banters..

On hindsight, perhaps the entire drama was played out to garner our trust as thereafter we did buy whatever services that the hotel owner recommended to us. This include a male guide to bring us around the city. Although we had probably paid a few dirhams more for a guide, I didnt regret it as its only with the guide that we discovered the narrow alleyways which led to extraordinary craft workshops.

In additional to its rich culture, Fes is probably the land of hustlers and hooters. Street vendors calling out, passerbys greeting us ‘konichiwa’, cars honking, beggars pleading and stealing sympathy .. Its easy to get lost in the winding alleys too and even directions from the streetchildren comes at a cost of a few dirhams. In spite of the historical charm of Fes, it hides a darker side of trickery and bitter sweetness.


•August 21, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The ferry ride across the ocean from Algerciras (Spain) to Tangier (Morocco) was our first indication to brace ourselves for the harsh land ahead. Swallowing motion sickness pills in advance and the drowsiness from our sleep-deprived over-night train journey really did help to ease the rough journey to Morocco.

Its truly anarchic here. Upon stepping onto Morroco, theres really no time to think cause its really chaotic. The immigration controls are done onboard the ferry for a very good reason. Throngs of people and cars converged on the port of Tangier… people brushing against each other… shouting wildly to reunite with their companions…It also dawned upon us at that moment how different our skin colours are. Boys shouting konichiwa! japonais! as we walked through the crowd in search of petite taxi. darn irritating.

Being a port city, Tangier do have cheap and good seafood! We had a feast to replenish our weary bodies and thereafter turkish ice-cream. Enjoying an ice-cream in peace in Morocco is hard- not because of the blazing sun, but the streetkids begging you for the rare treat in your hands. When I gave up and passed my ice-cream to a young girl, it astounded me that she didnt eat it but run off faraway with it and thats moroccan mystery #1.

Monumental Madrid

•August 20, 2008 • 1 Comment

Stately buildings with majesty fit for the political centre of Spain….

Flags- the symbols of nationalistic pride flapping wildly in the wind…

Finely manicured parks showcasing emanating the authority of the ruling power…

Strict policing in good, quaintly historical style…

And us undermining all… transcending sacred space with our nonsensical poses…

Perhaps monuments after monuments made us desensitized after awhile… museums after museums made history merely a long-winded story..

Madrid’s bold character seems to lack a central focus… like Antoni Gaudi’s signature gothic mesh. Its grid-like streets lacks the surprise element in Barcelona’s narrow walkways and hidden plazas. So rather than walking down its footpaths, we have stoned in parks and indulged in sangria on roadside cafes letting the world passes us by on our first day in Madrid…

But if the street life is dead:
‘…society gets increasingly segregated spatially as well as socially, and the trajectories of people with a different background more rarely intersect each other. The result is a loss of real experiences of difference (a growing poverty of real experience), as well as a loss of solidarity. Fear of crime will at the same time grow, and the possibility to counter this fear diminish, creating a vicious circle further reducing ordinary street-life…’

And so we need the our doses of zara, H&M, pull and bear, berksha and mango to pump energy back in us to navigate the streets and reduce anomie.. Zara jeans for 5,90 euros is really incredible but our light-travelling regime prevents us for lugging back as much as we wanted to…

If we were to return to Madrid, it will be for its shopping…

Gaudi’s Grandeur

•August 18, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Barcelona is officially my favourite city with a splash of gothic and religious fervour. It even beats parisien romantic alleys. And cycling in Barcelona is cool… allows us to uncover more of its sights and smells at a faster pace. Having a guide saves us the trouble of navigation with a map which neither eu nor I have a flair for it.

Theres too a Musee del Jamons where all kinds of ham and saussages are hung on walls. The price is kinda steep for the touristy peeps but its still fulfiling for the tastebuds. (:

(and barcelona is where i met garnier at the gare).