!ncredible !ndia

Exams are coming up, and I suppose that’s some sort of a relief for me (hah! roles reversed!)
I still have to revisit my lovely Central Asia trip, but here’s some of my favourites from Amritsar while I’m sieving through my pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CS in Sarajevo

I met Ivana here, in this quaint little place. And her little dog

I was so lucky actually, because the weather in Sarajevo was exceptionally brilliant during my stay. It was so foggy the days before.

I met Ena on New Year’s day. It was 3am as I walked to the bus terminal to meet her. A Polish guy accompanied me in my walk. It was cold. We talked about the refugees crisis, and I remember it was from him that I learnt about this ‘car trading’ business. His family drove second-hand cars all the way to Georgia to sell, and because they’re sought after there, they could earn quite a sum. They would then fly back to Poland. It was an annual trip they made. 
Ena. We woke up at 11+am. On hindsight I could have pushed for some hiking, but I didn’t. Instead, we went to a Turkish coffeehouse and spent the whole day talking. It still amazes me sometimes, when I think back about it, how we spent the entire day talking. Just talking, and talking and talking. It was so fascinating, especially when we drew parallels between Bosnia and Singapore. 
It was smokey, I had a chai, the people beside me unwound on the sofa with the shisha in hand
My incoherent notes:

Finding family
No man’s land 
Ovo Malo Duse
Stanica obicnih vozova
Otac Na sluzbenom putu 
Sjecas Li se Doli bel 
Atom egoyan- Ararat 
Dubioza kolektiv 
Kultur shock

‘The Bosnian nation does not exist’ 

Lawyers as the average – the ones that go partying, not sure what to do with their lives, etc 
Similarity between Bosnia and Singapore – if you covered the name, it could be bosnia’s wikipage, she said 

‘There is no nation,’ she said 
I was confused – what do you mean no nation? Isn’t it Bosnia? Bosnia is just a country, she says 
This brings to mind Anderson’s idea of nations as imagined communities 
I always thought of countries and nations as a single entity of sorts, despite studying Anderson’s definition 
It was my first encounter with a country that almost embraces this idea that they have 3 nations (?) and no single ‘Bosnian’ identity 
The Bosnian-Serbs (orthodox?), Bosnian-Croats (Catholics?) and the Bosniaks (Muslims?) 
Seems like their sense of national identity is very much tied to their religion (?) 
3 presidents? The ‘temporary’ constitution 
All a game to make people focus on nationalism rather than actual circumstances 
90% of people are nationalists 
And you can’t use non-nationalist terms somehow even as you are a journalist; there are no terms that do not contain that element of political connotation 
You can say ‘Bosnian people’ but at some point you have to use the terms Serbs/Croats etc 
A political ploy by Serbia to gain territory? For Croatia? To split Bosnia between the two? 
Even names – Croatia claims those with Slavic names have Croat origins – the importance of names – but what about mixed families? 
Croats can get both Bosnian and Croatian passport (Bosnian passport must be first)
Idea of victimhood (I was telling them about laos and they jokingly said – oh so we’re not the only victims)
Artist and what sells – war and the repeated (stereotypical) story 
You’re so lucky you have a story to tell (?) growing up in war 
Artists and their muse 
Unemployment 
They had to go to Italy to buy jeans = jeans weren’t available here 
Soaking feet in Coca Cola as a way to taunt other nations

I realised there are so many gaps in my knowledge about SG, especially Singapore history 
They had the medieval times, what about us? Where does the history of Singapore begin? I only know the part from Sang Nila Utama. I realised the national language of Singapore is Malay, even though our key administrative lingua franca is English. How can their second or third language be as good as mine? How can I improve my Spanish? 
Do the Malays want to go to Malaysia? Like how the Serbs want to? Were Serbs being attacked during the siege? 
Who was i staying with.. And (why) should that matter? 

It’s interesting because for us, we looked different but we wanted to emphasize that we were the same. For them, they looked practically the same but wanted to emphasize they were different. 
Nevertheless, the country is highly secular and religion is seen as more of a traditional and cultural identity than a set of rituals and rules




Sarajevo is special to me because it brought about multiple insights. It left me many things to contemplate about. Nationhood, war and genocides, repeated histories and international bodies…

Sofia, Bulgaria

 
 
 
 
Ah, the iconic Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia. 
Sofia, such a lovely name for a city, in my view. 
 

In Bulgaria, nodding means “no” and shaking your head means “yes”. Some know that if they’re speaking to a foreigner, they do it the opposite way.
‘Is this the way to the train station?’
‘-shakes head-‘
‘It isn’t?’
‘-shakes head-‘
Bulgaria.
1 euro = 2 lev
My first impression… It was cold, I could smell weed in the air for some reason, and I noticed the peeling walls and worn-out buildings. I was a little taken back at the start, because it seemed too obvious, the crumbling paints. It was rather different from Italy and Switzerland; though I had heard that Eastern europe is different, the rather stark contrast did catch my attention. I would soon grow used to it though.

This is apparently a pumpkin, a useless inedible one. Because mankind always tries to make useful things out of useless things, they decorate it, using it as an art piece. Or, if you cut it into half, you can get a spoon! Wow.


During the Christmas season, some restaurants switch into Christmassy tablecloth, and Christmassy napkins. I haven’t observed that in Singapore before, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there are restaurants or eateries like that, but I also wonder if it’s because of the greater emphasis they place on Christmas and its meaning.

Here I met an Irish girl who’s teaching in the UAE – Ireland recession a couple of years ago, and she said it wasn’t unusual for people to go to the UAE to teach. This idea was planted in my head
During the tour we tried many local dishes, such as banitza, the Bulgarian yogurt drink, the sour yogurt soup with cucumbers that I struggled to finish… Bulgarian yogurt – what’s so special about it? Well apparently, there’s a kind of bacteria that grows only in Bulgaria due to the optimal conditions here that allows it to grow. Other countries that want to imitate this can’t, because of this bacteria that’s the secret to it. Except for some countries such as Japan and Singapore, where there’s some trading agreements / treaties between the countries that allow for the export of such bacteria which grants them the condition to make Bulgarian yogurt.

She also showed us this
Wall to wall poetry project
Poems in EU
Apparently EU is doing this poetry project where different countries and their poets leave their poems on the walls of other countries. For the one above, it’s by a Hungarian poet and speaks of freedom and peace. Interesting project which I’m going to google more about


Initiatives around the city
I thought it was a good idea, then I talked to one of Mira’s friends who was an architect and he said such projects are ‘shallow’ in the sense that they don’t make actual changes, he wanted to do something greater like designing seats that allowed you to sit, and then had an under layer that could emerge to become rain covers. Something like that. Still, it’s interesting to hear about how important he feels his job is, his ability to change people’s life by setting a street this way, or that.
These are interesting ‘basement shops’ found at random parts of the streets. This was because during the Soviet times it was easy to just open your basement window and then you can set up a shop using your basement. Such ways of setting up a business continued through the times.

The night
30 lev for my bus to Macedonia (32 original, 30 because I’m a student; she says) = 15 euros




Russian Orthodox church


another angle, because i like
 

Kratuna

 
Went for the Sofia food tour!! Such a great idea, Singapore (‘food haven’ or so we claim) should do something like that, really.
 

 

 

Painting these boxes to increase vibrancy of the city

this zebra picture illustrates a common matchstick box design used during the Soviet times




 

These are interesting ‘basement shops’ found at random parts of the streets. This was because during the soviet times it was easy to just open your basement window and then you can set up a shop using your basement. Such ways of setting up a business continued through the times.
 
 
the night 

 

I went swing dancing with Mira and her friends – more like I watched; i am a klutz
it was nevertheless really interesting, especially since she picked it up only when she was 25
she carries with her an air of confidence, a never-stop-trying, an unshy, unbothered, air that i would like to emulate. 
reminders to self
 

 

A. Romania – Bucharest

 
Feels like so much happened within these days
 
1. Dropped my wallet (first time abroad! Forgiving myself) and frantically searched for it in the middle of the bus terminal. I looked up and saw the driver walking towards me, holding the familiar black rectangle in his hand. Seriously, luckiest girl ever! As usual, surrounded by amazingly helpful and kind people who guided me to train stations, people who talked to me, chatting about Romania and education (free till high school) and healthcare (‘free – but is it really?’) and quality of medical care (certain operations/diseases sought abroad eg cancer)
 
2. Hanging garlic like hanging dream catcher hmmmmm
 
3. Government – paternal leave 3 weeks (?!) and receiving a sum of money (50 euros for those who haven’t worked consecutively for a year) for 2 years
 
4. No elevators at all metro stations, no ramps, a cause for concern for mothers (services for encouraging motherhood)
 
5. Minimum wage 250 euros a month
 
6. 80-80% Orthodox Christians + abortion is legal + cohabitation / not marrying not as common (vs Netherlands)
 
7. Whole of EU does not have capital punishment
 
8. Landscape of Bran changes into a barren white – higher altitude lower temperatures = snow!
 
9. Dracula – Bram Stoker chose Transylvania, one of the three large regions of Romania. Irish writer Bran Stoker combined the mystery of Transylvania and the historical facts – Vlad the Impaler and his bloodsucking cruelty, folklore about vampires etc to convert Bran Castle into such a popular tourist site today. Shops selling Dracula cups and magnets, haunted houses; everyone’s tapping on this. If he hadn’t set it here, how would things be? This and Laos has got me thinking about how something seemingly small can make significant contributions to shape the economy and livelihoods of a place and for its people.
 
10. Roma people / gypsies
 
11. Romanian and Italian linguistic similarity
 
12. Fire broke out in a club and 400 people were stuck, 60+ people died – people were angry, prime minister was forced to step down. The buildings are old, not earthquake-protected, no proper fire evacuation routes, no proper checking. Because this has been a cause for concern for some time, when the fire happened people were really upset about it. Shops located in the old buildings shifted elsewhere, that’s why many of the shops have closed down.
 
13. Conflicting views over how to raise Santa issue
 
14. A girl from Moldova invites me to stay with her. She’s 24 and married, showed me this Mongolian friend she met before (Asians association?), said she’ll drive me around to show me the sights. Really warm, friendly and open. This is the first time I’ve received an open invite, hence noting it down 🙂
 
15. Piazza Romana is the hipster bookshops street
 
To be honest, Bucharest is not quite pretty. (Maybe because it was winter -it was cold, snowing, I wanted to stay indoors). I’m glad I went to Brasov and Bran.
 
I noticed this ‘volunteers’ signboard in the city centre




“The pretzel – in Romanian covrig, is probably one of the most common street foods in Romania. In many large intersections in Bucharest, there has to be at least a pretzel shop on one of the street corners. Pretzels are not just simply pretzels in Romania – recipes have been updated, and now you can have pretzels with fillings, and other products made of pretzel dough, and filled with different ingredients (sausages, cheers, apples, chocolate – well, not all of them mixed). Take the Covridog, for example, Covricheese, or Covriking, all brands and products invented by a company called Petru.
Most of the shops selling pretzels are local brands, no-names, although here are a few ‘chains’ as well, such as Luca and Petru. The name for pretzel shops in Romania is covrigarie, or a more fancy name, simigerie. Whatever you choose, the majority of Romanian covrigarii have very good ‘covrigi’
With RON 10 – or some EUR 2 – you can buy several covrigi which could last you for a few hours until searching for more.”


Ah, I miss these pretzel-like things. They were delicious and incredibly cheap. 1 euro (or less?) for the delicious, hot yummy bread sometimes filled with cheese, oftentimes (the ones i chose) filled with hot chocolate oozing out in this winter breeze. And so filling too, great for backpacker food. Yummmmmmmm












I learnt quite a bit from Alina. Motherhood / strong beliefs / issues in Romania / ‘raising a genderless child’ 
 
It wasn’t easy to find a suitable bus to Sofia, possibly because it’s winter… Or not. After some googling we found a website that had a suitably overnight-ish timing that allowed me to utilize my night more efficiently. Even though I was due to arrive at 2am, I took it. Only the website states the pickup point at ‘BUCHAREST’ – but no specific bus directions, none. 
 
 
I emailed the company and I was pleasantly surprised to actually receive a reply the next morning.
‘Good morning,
           The bus station in Bucharest is Filaret.
Have a nice day.  
Sincerely,
Etap-Adress AD / Grup Plus OOD’
 

 

Hmmm. 
 
At 7.30pm the bus starts driving from the Bucharest Filaret bus station.
At 9pm the lights turn on and a man collects our passports.
 
Reached at 2.13am!
 
 

The bus station in Sofia was really cosy, warm, you had to pay for the toilet, it had (unlimited) free wifi and the money changer was open. It was pretty good.

Here, I had my first encounter with Cyrillic alphabets. I was excited because I could pronounce some, having practised reading some cyrillic alphabet in the month before. I tried to read the signs, to speak them aloud. It was like a game.

 

 

4. Couchsurfing in Vientiane, Laos

remnants of french colonization

Village vs city – “village at least you don’t have to worry about food, you get food the next day you go hunting in forests for birds at night, or you go fishing. Here in city you have to plan for the next day how you can get food.”





There is a part of me that misses frolicking around villages in my elephant pants, spamming mosquito repellant, observing plants and trees in the backyard and watching dogs and cats and chickens roam around nonchalantly. Playing with babies as mothers pluck the feathers off chickens, and maybe catching just a tiny, tiny glimpse of another’s way of life.

Buenos Aires / San Telmo, Argentina

 

William danced tango
His mama showed me his baby pictures
We sang the birthday song in Spanish
I sat there listening in

There’s just something really really sexy about seeing the bookshelves filled with Spanish, the Spanish equivalents of what I knowI miss this a lot just looking through these pictures

My polaroid camera had spoilt, and I had the immense luck of walking past a second-hand camera shop.

I will always remember him when I think about my time in Buenos Aires.

We chatted for awhile, talking about his past years, his younger years, his collection of cameras and how he had to sell them now because, well, he did spend too much of his money away and also because his interest has shifted a little along with the passing years. I wonder if he will remember me. We chatted in Chinese.

As I walked into the market of San telmo it felt magical, the accordion music playing and the bustling of the streets. Soaked in everything, everything – in these moments I am once struck with the element of disbelief that I am here, and I got to be here at least once in my life. Incredibly lucky.

 

 

 

 

‘What is this??? You mean they sell animal brains here????”

‘It’s actually the first time I’ve seen this,’ he says

‘Guillermo was a wonderful host!! He showed me around La Boca and introduced dulce de leche to me (which I really miss and wish I can buy it all back home – suddenly Nutella is so unappealing) I got to try his cooking, which was delicious! He also brought me to try the asado with his family, and I got to sing the birthday song of his mother’s friends in Spanish. I learnt a lot about the Argentinean culture and I loved hearing about his travels 🙂 even though he had to work, he still tried to help me in every way and made it a wonderful experience for me :)’

 

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Amo este lugar!!!!

Mmm, I thought Argentina would be unfamiliar but Buenos Aires is too closely alike to Europe. The buildings and everything – the obelisk – so much of it made me feel like I was in Germany or something again. Of course this city is hardly representative of Argentina, there’s far more places to explore. Someday!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graffiti – Falkland Islands

Train in the subte. It was here I realised that they bought second-hand trains from Japan.

Mafaldaaaaa – they sure look cuter than me though

 

Migration – Bolivian construction and Colombians, nanny and call centers
Korean community
Taiwan

Villas – the favelas of Argentina
Papagallao
Chilean man said: earthquakes are so common, when he saw that china had an earthquake of 5.5 magnitude on the news, he simply shrugged because that was really common / manageable here, the country’s well prepared and used to it.
It does scare me though, it does occur to me that something may happen if I’m on the bus, on the plane, it just takes a minute or less for the turning point of my life, etc etc, so for now everyday I’m happy I breathe

Sao Paulo – Couchsurfing host family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish I could record every moment down with my eye and store it somewhere – the kids shouting ‘g’ morning! G’ morning!’ around the house in the early morning. Tried to get them to reply ‘I’m fine, thank you’ to a ‘how are you’ while we collapsed into giggles.

 

Havaianas and how they cost like 3 reals?? They gaped at the price in Singapore. We should do a business together, she said. Well, I have a business partner in Brazil.
I’m disgusted at how I went for the tour and yet my preconceptions of favelas did not budge that much. Her sister asked if I wanted to visit a favela. I replied apprehensively I think I’d better not, it might be unsafe? No! They shook their heads in surprise. It’s not dangerous at all. I said hmm I’m worried there may be guns or gangs or something, and they said no, her sister lives in the favela. I went to take a look – it was better than Rocinha I think, it was an absolutely normal (ugh hate the words I’m using) house. What’s the difference between a favela and a house? I asked. A favela is a house that is on top of or just beside other houses on all sides. What, I should I have known shouldn’t I after the tour?? It then struck me how deeply set the presumptions were still operating towards other favelas. Favela, the word in general, carried these connotations of danger and drugs and gangs when it’s just the normal home of another person!! How can I be so ignorant, even worse, after my tour? It’s always good to be cautious of course, but I hate that this made me realise how that tour was not successful in penetrating the stereotypes I still hold. No wonder the stigma, really.
Ena luiza drew for me a picture. She wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up. I told her to do something related to singapore and Brazil.
Using google translate we passed the phone between us; times like this it’s so evident how technology bridges gaps – cultural gaps, communication, and how important it is for people like me.
In many ways I hope they get inspired to learn English to communicate with the world
And to trigger the desire to travel to Singapore someday
It’s always lovely to have a dream like that
To come so close to Picasso and Dali – I was thrilled
Lesbian couple
Expensive to get married in Brazil people don’t get merrier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

en route to Iguazu
Wow, this was pretty great, I thought as the Pluma bus rode off. Bye Sao Paulo! Caught glimpse of the urban jungle.
Today as I walked past the tall skyscrapers and their interesting shiny architecture I said, wow, Brazil’s pretty developed. See, in that statement lies assumptions about the country, and the homogeneity of a country. Strange how the general impression (or at least my prior impression) of Brazil is less-developed or something. Sao Paulo’s buildings in the city centre and their trees were so similar to Singapore’s. It’s nice to have walked past the more developed parts of a city and the less developed parts, the more central and the outskirts, where Ingrid lives. I could see certain differences in the buildings – the apparent favelas along the outskirts and the dominance of tall buildings in the central business district.
It still, still surprises me to see Japanese people with the Brazilians, speaking in Portuguese, as well as the Japanese words on some buildings. It’s just so different from Rio, I didn’t quite expect this prevalence of Japanese (Asian) epode here. I asked Ingrid if there were class differences amongst the Japanese, the whites, the other colored skins. She said the Japanese were richer in general – why? Don’t know, possibly because of migration I suppose and their presence here for economic pull-factors as expats (??) Don’t know, hmm. Well if you think about it, I doubt you’d see any Japanese living in the favelas. Right? Unsure.
When nearing the central area of Sao Paulo today I thought, this could easily be Singapore, as I snapped a picture. The roads, the planting of trees, the traffic. And then I thought again, well, maybe a paler version. Singapore’s trees were neatly aligned and equally spaced, unlike the ones here where some gaps between the trees were larger than others. I thought about how I once mocked Singapore for their (obsession) with perfection, of even the random details, the roadside trees, Then I realized I appreciated that effort, it did make the roads look neater and pleasant. Also, the evident potholes on some parts of the roads here. Tsk tsk to the things I take for granted.
I guess I should mention that at this point, I have spoilt my camera (digital and polaroid wide), cracked the screen of my phone, and left behind my contact lens solution, c-towner shirt and my spectacles. A little upset at the last (HOW THE * DID I LOSE MY SPECTS LOL WHAT), but I keep telling myself things could be worse, could be much worse. True for sure! Perhaps a greater incentive to hasten my decision to lasik.
I shall think about all that I took away from Brazil –
the tattoo culture it seems. Bianca asked if I wanted to get a tattoo. I have to admit, last night I suddenly felt like I should get one. Here it’s so common, I think within a family at least someone has one. Along the streets on their arms backs, etc. This admittedly matches my geographical imagination. If I did a full -year exchange here, I would probably tattoo something symbolic, Sigh, it’s just been a coulee of days here and my affection for this country has grown quite a bit, I do wonder, at the end, which country I’d feel most acquainted with, and which I’d like best, It wont be a fair comparison of course, because each place is unique, but still I wonder how I’d feel.
2
would like to reflect more but eyelids closing. should sleep, someone snores from behind me.

==

I awoke this morning to the sunrise by my side.
Such a beautiful morning. I’m so in love with the world, I think as the bus rolls by. The man who asked about my hiking stick caught my eye and waved from the seat diagonal to mine. I waved back.
Well, these 18- hour bus rides aren’t that bad. It passed so quickly, I didn’t even have time to read or do all that I want to do. Sigh.
I love the idea of departing cities by wheel though. Moving and moving from one spot to another, a tiny figure on the map.
pao de queiso
630pm – 1030am arrived at iguazu

 

 

Sao Paulo

Driving along stretches and stretches of graffiti art – a public space for showcasing their art. I suppose it’s quite nice to do a large a big one, kind of like claiming ownership over particular spaces – repainting over old ones and layering and conquering spaces. How dynamic.

 

I saw Japanese dolls along the walls as well
So beautiful
As you drive along the streets you can see beauty everywhere
I turn my head and I see stretches of art

 

If I lived in a place like this, would I be more inclined to hone my artistic talent? Perhaps I would. I love the idea of claiming space, painting over it to make my own. Have people walk past my art and appreciate it, even for a split second, in the mundanity of the everyday.
I feel some sort of strange delight seeing Asian people walking down the streets. Asian people! Wow! In Rio I seriously felt like the only Asian.
I saw an Asian man holding the hands of a Brazilian woman. Seeing how uncommon it is (to me), the caucasian-female-asian-male pair, I wonder if it’s the same here, or if they’ve been so integrated they hold no such thoughts when they couple up.
What can I say? What can I say except how immeasurably happy I am, and how I live for such days?

 

 

 

Museum for Japanese
Japanese community
Lanterns that look like Japanese lanterns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japanese + Blacks look like Bolivians (??)
Lesbians can get married but not in a church
Mixed Japanese Brazilian families don’t necessarily celebrate Japanese festivals
Her surprise at buff or big sized or fat Asians
So funny via they don’t believe I can’t speak Portuguese cause I look like I live in libertadad LOL