10. Cyprus / End

Route in summary (15 days): 
Athens, Greece –> (AegeanAir) Amman, Jordan –> Madaba, Jordan –> Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan –> Petra (Wadi Musa), Jordan –> Wadi Rum, Jordan –> Aqaba, Jordan –> BORDER CROSSING –> Eilat, Israel –> Rimonim, Israel/West Bank –> Jerusalem, Israel –> Bethlehem, West Bank –> Tel Aviv, Israel

Cyprus. Seaside town. Coastal resort. I am highly unlikely to visit Cyprus again; I say this not only because it is not my thing (hanging out on a beach doing nothing) but also because I’m probably not going to take a direct flight there, with the many coastal resort alternatives around. 

I arrived in Larnaca and had about a 10 hour layover. I chose it on purpose, paying some additional sum, instead of the 2 hours one, because this was my chance to explore. Explore a country (?) I had no geographical imagination about (but now I do, it’s no longer going to bug at my curiosity). It’s basically like… Greece, because I went to Larnaca. A CS-er who sent me a message said he lived on the Turkish side, and I didn’t understand. Only after some Googling and chat with a shopkeeper did I realise the territorial struggle in Cyprus, between the Turks and the Greeks. The wall. Checkpoints and difficulties in accessibility. I think there’s some UN peacekeepers at the border, or maybe that’s in the past. 

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It was raining a little, rainy season explains the off-season. I sat in a shop and read my book, ate some fries. Walked around the beach for awhile, looking at the little seashell souvenirs. Then I packed my bag and went back to the airport.

This December trip has been such a meaningful one. I feel like I’ve gained a deeper insight into the Israel-Palestine conflict, and a glimpse of how it affects the people surrounding this issue. What would you do, how would you feel and respond if you were in their shoes? It’s really hard to say. Such complications. I loved that we met so many wonderful people along the way, who were willing to engage us in conversation, to share their understandings with us, their interests, to expand my mind a little further about history, wars, being in the army, religion, and youtube channels / questions i’ve never wondered about prior.

Thankful, and incredibly blessed! Thank you to the travellers I met (Natalie, Amritsar guy) who sparked my desire to visit Jerusalem / Petra, Papa for Greece. 🙂

9 dec – land at 2am – amman
10 dec – dead sea
11 dec – amman (to petra)
12 dec – petra
13 dec – petra (to aqaba to eilat)
14 dec – wadi rum (?)
15 dec – eilat (skydive?)
16 dec – timna park (OPTIONAL)
17 dec – travel to jerusalem
18 dec – jerusalem
19 dec – jerusalem
20 dec – bethlehem
21 dec – tel aviv (lyn pack for airport)
22 dec – tel aviv (night – lyn reach airport at 620am)
23 dec – me fly to cyprus -> athens -> abu dhabi -> sg 


4. Santorini Sunset


The Santorini Sunset

If this is the crowd of tourists that winter receives, i can hardly picture what summer must be like

Santorini is actually a group of islands in a kind of circle, up until about 1500 BC the area was one island but after a huge volcanic explosion the island took its present form, hence the islands form a circle around the crater.

Santorini is a subduction-zone volcano, and is one of the active volcanoes of the Southern Aegean Volcanic Arc. These volcanoes have formed in response to the continued, slow, sinking of the African plate northwards beneath the Eurasian plate. At the northern end of the caldera is the Santorininian town of Oia; here you can see houses built along the volcanic rim of the caldera.














“Houses built on the edge of the caldera – The ancient civilization of Santorini was completely destroyed by a catastrophic volcanic explosion that occurred sometime between 1620-1640, BC. With every trace of life gone, all that remained was covered with volcanic ash, lava and pumice stone, which eventually lead to the creation of a compact soil, called “aspa”.
Today, houses are dug sideways or downwards into the surrounding pumice (volcanic rock). The main building material is the red or black lava stone. Fear of the volcano and earthquakes forced the locals to minimise the height of the buildings and the use of arches.”

3. Athens, Greece (photo log)

Greek mythologies

The one I most remember:

‘According to Greek mythology, Pandora was given a box or a jar, called “pithos” in Greek. Gods told her that the box contained special gifts from them but she was not allowed to open the box ever. Eventually Pandora could not resist her curiosity and the temptation that was overcoming her, and so she released the jar’s lid. 

All at once all of the evils of humanity were unleashed. This meant that sickness, suffering, diseases, war, hard labour, jealousy, greed and hatred escaped to make their way into the world. Pandora tried desperately to close the lid of the jar, but by that time there was only one thing left in it. 

All that remained in the box was Hope. It fluttered from the box like a beautiful dragonfly. 

Even though Pandora had released pain and suffering upon the world, she had also allowed Hope to follow them. From now on, Hope would live with man forever, to give him succor just when he felt that everything was coming to an end.’













texture of the rocks









2. Santorini, Greece (photo log)

Half a year has now passed since I drafted these. 
I now keep these pictures here as a memory space
how time flies.

crater rim

Shades of Santorini’s blue: Since antiquity, in Greece, the color blue is believed to ward off negative energy and evil spirits. Blue doors, walls, windows and charms are seen at every corner. White is used especially to reflect the harsh sun rays to keep the interior of houses cool; blue and white also represent the colors of the Greek flag 🇬🇷🇬🇷🇬🇷

first time renting a car

love this. apartment decor idea

The iconic Santorini symbol of the Oia view and the blue domed churches. 🇬🇷 Actually, what I find more geographically fascinating are the houses and restaurants built along the steep slopes of the caldera rim. Santorini (subduction zone volcano) owes its existence to the volcanic activities (to be specific, sinking of the African plate beneath the Eurasian plate). The 1600BC eruption of the volcano plunged most of the island under the bottom of the sea, creating myths such as the sinking of Atlantis. 

Here, in the touristy town of Santorini, I found (to my surprise) one of my favourite @bookstoresoftheworld – with its rent-a-cat sign hanging surreptitiously outside the door, the exclamations of Wilde and Whitman on its walls, fervent scrawls of ‘just read it!’s fondly placed upon selected hardcovers. A ceiling patterned with kaleidoscopic spirals of authors’ names, dusky gold-embossed hardcovers gleaming on the wooden shelves. A chandelier of paper sheets, basking in the orange evening glow. 📚📓👓

Athens, Greece

Before everything slips away, let me sit and write about Greece. It is Thursday, and my second day lying on this cosy sofa, cushion behind my back, with my laptop on my lap. Usually, I would be frowning in disapproval – I am overseas! Possibly the last time I’m here! Should I really be spending my day just sitting here, instead of exploring further what Athens holds for me?
But nah. Giving myself a short break, before my next flight. I should take this time to contemplate about the trip.
Various strands of thought:
It’s nice to be in Greece, everyone’s heard of Greece as a country.
The Greek mythologies and Plato and the Olympics and Cartography and the Marathon and alarm clocks and modern philosophies. The Ancient Greeks and their various inventions and tall structures we’ve heard about. Zeus and Gaia and Poseidon and Aphrodite and Apollo and Athena, names embedded even in our modern vocabulary.
There are many stray cats in Greece. Vasiliki tells me there’s a unique breed of cats in Greece – a mixture of breeds. I googled and they suggest the Aegean cats, native to Greece.
Magnets sell the Greek cats / donkeys.
Olive seems to be a significant part of the Mediterranean diet. Olive trees, native to Greece (12.5% of the world’s production, a brief Google search suggests) and countries like Italy / Spain / Turkey. This brings to mind the topic on Geography of Food – why do people eat what they eat in different countries?
Pies stuffed with cheese / spinach / ham / cream cheese. Olives. Potatoes. Fish, steak. Grilled prawns. I ate a lot of these in the last week. In our last nights, we ate at an Indian restaurant – masala potatoes with lots of spicy sauce and i realised the delectable taste of sauces is actually quite essential in my perception of a palatable dish. That, or a plateful of carbohydrates. I love carbs, it’s undenial. I LOVE CARBS.
On my last night I couchsurfed.










Couchsurfing in Athens, Greece

Posting this because I spent my day sitting on the sofa in the hotel lobby. And this has been my most meaningful encounter of the week.

Let me recollect my thoughts about my conversation with Mocca (Vasiliki). She signs while she speaks.

As always, I walk away from each encounter, no matter how short, with a slight shift in perspectives. At this moment, I wonder if I’m wasting my day away, sitting here with my laptop on Cyberworld, instead of talking to more people who can tweak my life in ways.

I believe a year ago I’d probably arrange at least a noon meetup. I feel a slight apprehension or consideration at arranging meetups, and I wonder why. Is it because I’m a little tired from my Greece holiday week with family so I need these days to consolidate my thoughts a little, or is it my growing guardedness with age? I’m not too sure. Actually, I think it’s more fatigue, and perhaps my curiosity about Greece has been eased.

Anyway, digressing.

Meeting Vasiliki is meaningful. I was excited to meet her, I wanted to, mainly because she was a Special Education Teacher. A fellow teacher, and one far more certain and specialized than I was at handling children of Special Needs. I hoped to glean some insights into why she ventured into this, how she handles them, and if I could take away any advice for myself.

I would like to remember her stories (from the very short encounter we had).

Let me try to weave together the various strands of thoughts I have.

We watched The Voice (Greek) in her cousin’s house

Chatted about Greece (700 euros a month for a teacher, hmm. Refugees shifting in. Macedonia. Eurocrisis / EU referendum and their reaction to take a holiday the next day. Summer holidays flocking to Greek islands – how lucky! The church and its… involvement (?) in politics hmm. Stray cats. Greek cats.)
A teacher of Special Education – why? I shared with her my background, and she shared hers with me. She wanted to be a teacher, and as a teacher she wanted to help every child. Every child, regardless of their backgrounds and abilities. She was curious about how she can help children of special needs, took up volunteering and started off there.

Sign language classes. In Greece with only less than 70 Deaf interpreters, and limited deaf schools, it is difficult to cater to this group of children.

She told me about her volunteering at this project that aims to help the Deaf refugees of Syria. There is a boy there, 6 years old, caught in the midst of the war and the turmoil, did not learn any language. No Syrian Sign language, no hearing-aid-assisted English language, Syrian spoken language, nothing. When he came, she had to teach him from nothing. Nothing. At 6 years old and communicating without a language, I wonder how it is.

At first, he kept indicating he wanted to go home. Tried to play games with him but he’d reject, because he didn’t understand how to play. But it’s getting better, today he smiled, she said.

We also talked about the integration of children of special needs in mainstream schools. She agreed it could be helpful to some in inculcating inclusivity and understanding, but it was also debilitating for children, especially Deaf children. A parent had opted for hearing aid for their child, and often the Deaf would learn the Spoken Words (Greek) before the Sign Language. It was wrong, she said, it should be in reverse. Sign should be their First Language, and then when they grow older, they can learn the languages of the Hearing. I loosely quote from memory:

‘Why should a child struggle so hard to fit in a place where he’s placed at an overt disadvantage? He can learn but he’ll be studying and working really really hard all day thinking he has to. But does he? Why shouldn’t he then learn Sign, which is his first language?’

She shares about this boy whose parents eventually opted to let him learn Sign along with his hearing aid. She says he seems happier now, and it builds confidence, you know, being able to communicate with a community which you perhaps, feel you belong. It makes me consider- a Deaf with a Hearing Aid learning the Spoken Language – does he belong to the Deaf community, or the Hearing? It does seem neither here nor there.

She also shared her interest in researching the learning through play. ‘It can also be used for overcoming fears, you know.’ She brings up this incident which I really like.

There was a child that had a fear of hairdryers. In order to help the child overcome his fear, the teacher designed a series of challenges for the child, with a character/hero and an ultimate task to complete to save him. The hairdryer task is the last challenge before this ‘story’ ends. They dressed up the hairdryer like a dragon, and the task was to retrieve a slip of paper from the hairdryer, in order to rescue the hero. As it is the last task now, the child has ‘bonded’ with the hero, and this creates greater impetus for him to go through with the task. They brought him to ‘practice’ by trying with the hand dryer in the toilet, before his actual mission. He did it, and quickly too.

‘Helping a child overcome his fear should not be waving a hairdryer and telling him ‘look, it’s not scary, it’s okay’. When you create a task like this, you give him the choice, to participate, and the choice to overcome his fear, on his own accord. He makes the decision to overcome his fears in order to save the hero, rather than forced to encounter it. ‘

I thought this was a very inspiring story. A plot / story carefully thought out, creatively enacted, can help a child and touch his life indeed. I really liked this. I am reminded of our powers as adults and our abilities to shape lives if we want.

At this thought, I am also thinking about my own desires. I am not sure I am as driven as passion by they are, I cannot quite seem to dedicate the time and energy to extensively think through my curriculum. I would like to seize all my free time to pursue my other hobbies like reading and Spanish or just to watch youtube and scroll through websites. Is that bad?




She makes for me some tea from the tea leaves her mum has collected from their hometown. Imagine, collecting tea leaves when hiking and placing them in a jar, brewing tea from them in the days to come.
How lovely.
Part of travelling is also travelling into another’s worldview. Someone of my age, in another place, leads a different set of experiences so different from me.


Plitvice Lake

My favorite part is always the conversations – with animators, with artists, with war survivors, with people who are nostalgic about Yugoslavia / Communism / Tito times, with those passionate about their crafts and passionate about life, who grew up in environments different, yet not so different from mine, who gasp at my norms (no chewing gum?!) and challenge the notions of my own. And getting more questions, and obtaining answers to questions I didn’t know I had.

so serene

It’s a little different, you know, trudging through a plain of white in solitude
it’s probably one of the most calmi

frozen in time

 Understanding nature and lakes a little better

Zagreb, Croatia

Ah, the lasts. I have to admit I’m trying to clear these posts. I didn’t draft anything in particular for Zagreb.
I don’t really like it. When I feel like I wrote nothing, I feel like I took nothing away.








Spending time in the museum was interesting. Also, Zagreb was prettier than I envisioned.

Belgrade, Serbia

Always excited at all that awaits.

I love backpacking, or the ideas I associate with it. I love the idea of camping overnight at airports, huddled close to my backpack; the long bus rides that take me from one culture to another; the scrimping I do, carrying my bread or pastries for as long as it lasts me; the walking, the endless walking for hours non-stop till my legs sigh with relief at the end of the day. I love the ache from my shoulders after walking around with my entire luggage to explore the city. The sweat that trickle within my body after a while – there is something alluring about the small-scale rigour I put myself through, something exciting about it.


I missed out on Belgrade’s beauty. This is not the right weather to visit…….
The weather was harsh and I just wanted to stay indoors all day. We went back to play music and watch movies. Nope, I barely saw any of the city. A revisit someday perhaps.

Emir kusturica
Further from macdonalds 
They study princep as a national hero 
Can’t believe they’ve never worn school uniform at all in their lives

Braved the snow and the biting bitter winds (košava) and finally went back, curled up in the warmth watching Mad about Mambo (and dimples ;)) Missing my SG summer ☀️ Belgrade made better with 玛丽亚 😊 can’t believe they’ve never worn school uniforms in their entire lives 🏠

Slovenia is so young and hip and cool

My favourite place in Ljubljana
At this point I was undeniably tired. The weather was turning cold, I wanted to curl up indoors the whole day.
This is a cafe that serves hot tea, coffee, with multiple film screenings throughout the day. You could wait here with a book, chat with a friend while you wait for the film to begin.
Love love love

Snow and leaves:

To hear the droplets coo goodbye as they woke from their frozen slumber, sliding down with a rhythmic patter

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 
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…