December 22, 2010 § 2 Comments
Okay I’m going to blog about this because I’m very excited about it.
The Gakkenflex is a DIY TRL toy camera that comes with Vol.25 of Otona no kagaku (大人の科學), a Japanese DIY magazine. Sis brought to my attention that Kino was carrying the mag, and with it being 20% off at Christmas now I got it for around $43, which is quite a bit cheaper than buying it online or from ThirtySix (retails at $56 I think).
It comes in this exciting styrofoam box. Doesn’t it make you feel excited just looking at it? It has “potential” and “opportunity” written all over. *gleaming eyes*
Bought it on Friday and had to wait out the weekend and be a good girl till my exams were over before I came home and happily started fiddling with it yesterday. (I think I pretty much made a beeline for it when I came home after dinnering with Walter.)
So I was too engrossed fiddling with the screws and springs and getting the shutter to work and all that I didn’t take pictures of the process. Took more than an hour, but this included taking it apart and putting it back together again because the shutter was SO fast I was almost convinced it wasn’t shuttering at all. The shutter speed is 1/125, apparently. Aperture at f/11, but there’s an aperture ring inside you that can take out if it’s really cloudy.. a bit fiddly to do that though.
Here’s the completed baby! Maybe I’ll go out tomorrow and shoot some if the weather is good.
And you have a really nice proper ‘viewfinder’ as well. It was late at night so I couldn’t really point at anything bright except my ceiling lights.
The gears on the front of the camera also all you to pull your focus as and when necessary. It’s a really great little camera that uses regular 35mm film. Have popped in an expired roll that Dad conjured up (It’s not that old, expired in 2000) and hope I’ll get some interesting shots from this. :]
Will blog about those again when I get them!
But in the meantime, here are some of the nicer shots from my first roll on the Diana F+ I borrowed from Marcius (someone I met in German class with whom I seem to have a lot of common friends with and who was from my JC but I’d never seen in my life). Meant to get myself through another roll but this Gakkenflex is definitely going to distract me from that. (Also 35mm is a lot cheaper to develop than 120 film!)
December 13, 2010 § 2 Comments
So, this was the accompanying title for my travelogue about the mini Sri Lanka adventure I had with 11 others from WKWSCI earlier in August.
Back then I had 3 choices – (a) to do a short internship in Amsterdam at a design studio I chanced upon, (b) go to Vietnam under the NTU Global Discovery Programme, (c) or apply for Pac N’ Go (Haven’t got over that they really named it this) and take a trip to Sri Lanka.
Troubled over how to make a choice, I talked through the pros and cons with many friends during the short window I had to make my decision. Eventually, (a) didn’t fall through though I know it looked the most attractive of the above options, I couldn’t return to Singapore in time for (b), and with pohtecktoes’s encouragement, we both signed up for (c).
This module was pretty mad. Juggling 7 mods this sem stretched me to my physical limits. I took 25AUs in a bid to clear enough so that I would only have to do one more semester of studies. (Planning to take Year 4 Sem 2 to do some freelance work, intern or set up a business.) I tried to justify that I was taking 2 non-examinable mods (Film Fest and this Lanka one), so once the insanity (and boy was it insane) died down, I would have ample time to study for my remaining 5 mods, 2 of which I SU-ed. Sounds pretty okay right? Okay lah. I wouldn’t recommend it and I wouldn’t do it again.
Sooooooo… well, here are some of my favourite shots from the Lanka trip.
Many of you have asked with much curiosity about this country that we know so little about. The 12 of us who went definitely didn’t know what to think of the place ourselves before we went. But my lowdown is this: I will go back. Someday. Hopefully soon.
If I could describe Sri Lanka in one word, it would be this: Raw.
In more words: Raw, untouched, unspoiled, truthful, honest, and naturally beautiful.
There’s just something about how very underdeveloped the whole country is. They’re trying very hard to become well, what every 3rd world country wants to be, and may in time to come lose it’s flavour like much of Singapore has in the name of steely cold progress.
But for now, while you have your usual money grabbing tour merchants (like in Italy) who try to suck you of as much money as they can because you’re a foreigner, the natural beauty of the country is a joy to any traveler who wants an experience down a road that others seldom care to travel. The people aspect, unfortunately, did put most of us off quite a fair bit. But as a seasoned traveler, you just try to wisely worm out of what you can, and focus on enjoying what you came to experience – the untouched and unspoiled Sri Lanka.
It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you fancy yourself a bit of a wanderer who doesn’t mind roughing it out a little bit, then yes. I would recommend the Sri Lanka experience.
Also, I think more than half of the shots were taken while on a moving vehicle, primary our mini bus. I must warn you of this if you ever decide to go to Sri Lanka. The distances between the places may seem few in kilometres by our standards, but by the standards of Sri Lankan roads, you’re normally going at 40–60km/h MAX. There isn’t much traffic to speak of, so it’s not because there are loads of vehicles, but because of the road conditions and how you share the road [which is a dirt road, not a tar road] with tuk tuks that will worm their way into every space they can fit their vehicle into, cows, dogs, cows, cows, and the ‘public buses’ that travel at 150km/h and honk like crazy when they’re approaching.
So. Photos! (Lots of them in this post!)
Okay. That’s all for now. Now to find another excuse not to study… hey look, it’s about bed time. Goodnight world.
December 11, 2010 § Leave a Comment
So I’ve been home for almost half a year now.
Some friends have said I’ve changed since I came back, especially those who’ve been attempting to study with me for this semester’s finals. I’m more ‘slack’ (or distracted, in a way), less intense about studying, happier, but definitely slacker.
Is this really a ‘return from Europe’ syndrome? Not sure how the rest are faring, but half a year in Switzerland and traveling across more than 20 cities in Europe has taught me more about life than the close-minded, narrow-sighted tunnel vision rat race that we run, constantly and daily, as a Singaporean youth facing Singaporean pressures.
I have learned to relax. To enjoy time. To enjoy people. To have a clearer understanding of the ‘eternal perspective’.
I have been reminded to treasure the people God has blessed me with, to put people above results. To put human beings before goals. To value a person above perfection in their work. To let go of things I cannot control.
I have learned to treasure the gift of time. The gift of time to spend with family, loved ones and treasured friends. To appreciate the fact that at the end of the day, my grades are not going to save me, they are not going to make me happy, the endless chase for perfection can only satisfy for so long, and that my life would be meaningless and worthless if I had no one to come home to, and no friends I can call to share my happiest and crappiest moments with.
I don’t want to wait till I lose somebody, someone gets a terminal disease, or face a near-death experience to realize that it’s time to say ‘I love you’, ‘Thank you’, and ‘I’m glad to call you my friend’ to the people who matter.
So, don’t forget to tell the people who matter to you that you love them. Love them now, not tomorrow, not when the exams are over, not when you have the time, not when they become perfect or do the right thing, not when you can finally prepare something grandiose. But love them simply, and love them fully, and love them now.
This post is titled Missing Europe. So here are some other photos from my travels, some from later trips than the last Europe photo post which was of us in Spain. If any of the juniors going to Europe are reading this, please, get excited, travel lots and don’t just be caught up in the photos, but be caught up in the experience.
June 23, 2010 § 2 Comments
I know the description on the sidebar says that I’ll try to shoot more and talk less, but I’ve been talking a lot. Well at least I said ‘attempt’ to shoot more and talk less.
Can’t really edit photos proper so these photos are mostly untouched, just resized using GIMP, which really isn’t all too bad and I should be grateful I can even use, though the process of opening and resizing one photo is inefficiently taking more than a minute per shot.
This is the popular and rather famous (by its sheer convenient location on the Ramblas stretch) La Boqueria Market in Barcelona. It was probably our favourite place in Barca because Junhua and I were there every day.
And the last picture is a little gross so I’m sorry if anyone gets nightmares of dead sheep afterwards.
(Chinese readers should be okay since we can’t comment because half the things we eat is also makes it to the gross list of most angmohs.)
Oh yea, if anyone noticed any difference in the photos (ie. you were thinking is it just me or do they look better than usual, they look sharper, the bokeh is nicer, etc), it’s because they were shot with the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. I have officially given up on my kit lens and if anyone wants to buy it from me when I come back do tell me. It has offered me good range for the past 15 months or so but there is far more it cannot offer me, so it’s time to part ways dear friend.
Don’t know if I’m going to expand anymore because Canon is making me lust after the 5D MkII and even the counterpart to the D90, the Canon 550D has way better video quality than the jellied mesh produced by the Nikon D90. But if I do… a 70-200mm and an 85mm prime would be nice… (Just dreaming…)
June 4, 2010 § 2 Comments
So I’m back from my biggest trip of this semester. I hadn’t realized it was so long till I was there. Two days in Amsterdam, three in Rotterdam and another two in Amsterdam to round it off. Plus half a day in Geneva on my way back to Lugano. Boy did it feel long, especially towards the end. I thought I would never get back after camping 12 hours in Schiphol airport, taking a plane and 2 train rides (approx. 5 hours) across the Swiss landscape lugging more than 20kilos on my shoulders.
Exhausted, but feel like I’ve grown and learned so much on this pilgrimage of sorts. Right now it’s still difficult to put into words everything that is imprinted firmly in my head, I’m not sure if I will actually succeed in verbalizing what I’ve experienced, but I will try.
This is the first in a series of self-reflective entries about the trip. Each part of it was a different sort of learning journey for me as an individual and as a creative, so they deserve the attention.
Walter was with me for about 4 days, the 3 in Rotterdam and 1 in Amsterdam. I think he thinks I’m a very sad person, I don’t know why. Contemplative, reflective, more so than usual, but I’m now ready to reconcile with myself and push forward with walking down this path.
I return with a renewed sense of strength to pursue my craft, with an understanding of the maturity of Europe’s design culture that is so gapingly absent back home. Now my thoughts are, how do I bring these things that I have learned and apply them back home? The Dutch are really fortunate in how supportive the private and public sectors are of good design.
I used to think that Swiss design was good, then I went to Holland, and now that I’m back in Swiss things are starting to feel ugly. I know I’m going to encounter even more grief once I return to Singapore. But truly I was hard-pressed to find bad graphic design in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The government really supports the design community, and in turn the design community is allowed to experiment and grow so much as designers that they have reached a comfortable sort of pinnacle in terms of their work.
Of course with some entrenched ‘schools of thought’ in that circle, designs sometime become stifling and predictable, but still very strong and largely, admirably brilliant. I must not despair. (Though I did, in the immediate aftermath of the conference.)
I will bring my work to a higher level, and I will bring it back home with me. I will live to see the day that the Southeast Asian design community is strengthened through collaborations and unique work that is excellent but definitively ours, one that will be distinct from the European schools of thought but still equally brilliant.
Okay! Design stuff later, but since I like chronology, we’ll start with my first evening as an introduction to Amsterdam.
Okay, yes Amsterdam has lots of canals and pretty houses. But those pictures above were more of my general first impression of the place (after the copious presence of bikes, read on to find out. City-wise I felt very comfortable there. Maybe because I was finally somewhere I could speak English and be understood. It took me a while to readjust to saying ‘Hi’ and ‘Thank you’ instead of ‘Bonjourno’ and ‘Grazie’.
And maybe also because Amsterdam has very diverse ethnicity, sort of like Singapore. But whatever it was, it didn’t take me long to feel pretty comfortable there. The whole place is actually pretty small and walkable. By my last day there I didn’t really need a map to navigate around.
On my first evening (was past 7pm by the time I got to my hostel) I went for Art Amsterdam. Now, I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting, but what I did encounter was a little bit of a surprise. It was essentially an exhibit of exhibits, of various galleries exhibiting and trying to sell their 4-digit priced pieces to rich people sipping champagne. It felt somewhat like a display of modern day bourgeoisie. Eager artists and sellers trying to pawn their goods and sidle up into the good books of people with lots of time and money to throw around. (But hey in the context of it I’m just a lowly uneducated peasant, so what do I know. )
On the way to the exhibition hall my bus passed this van, which I just managed to get a snapshot of.
I realize you can’t really read the words but it says ‘Art doesn’t give answers, only questions’. Little did I realize what a premonition this was for my experience at Art Amsterdam (I paid 10 euros to walk around for little over an hour. And that’s student price mind you, it’s 20 euros a pop).
If art asks the questions, then I suppose design hold the answers. I have heard, been told and totally agree with the statement that design isn’t art. Design has a function. Art, well, it’s subjective there. But I guess after going for this exhibition I must say that the converse holds true. Art is definitely NOT design. I’ve always had an issue with post-modern art. Most of the stuff in London’s Tate Museum flies over my head. And most of the stuff at Art Amsterdam I likewise, could not appreciate.
But I did catch some photographs of the things that I did like better, even if I didn’t understand it.
So that was Art Amsterdam for you. No other opinion apart from how out of place I felt at that rather ‘chi-chi’ event.
More about Day 2 later when I get up, where I nearly die every 10 seconds attempting to ride a bike on the streets of Amsterdam (which can also be referred to as the day I got sworn at the most in the life).
Amsterdam is a bike friendly city, which is a nice way of saying that almost everyone here bikes, cars and bikes travel at almost the same speed: fast, and everyone has to share that same little bit of road and you have to look both ways all the time because bikes/pedestrians/tourists come from EVERYWHERE and ANYWHERE. It is shit scary. I have no better way to describe it.
But just to whet your appetite and give you a small sense of how it is, here’s the bike parking space outside the central train station. It was the very, very first thing I saw of Amsterdam and I literally LOL-ed as I walked out of the station and gazed upon this amazing spectacle.
Get ready to be blown away, though the pictures really do it no justice.
And you know what’s the best part? The bike park ain’t enough, seriously. The bikes overflow and spill all over the outside as well.
Truly one heck of an amazing sight!!! (Yes I think it deserves 3 exclamation marks.)
So I’ll update more in a bit. Right now though I realize I have two exams to study for before my next trip to Spain on the 14th. One on Tues and the other on Friday. Let me attempt to remember what this ‘studying’ thing is. It has been so long and under normal circumstances I would be panicking just about now that I haven’t, at all, started studying.
But circumstances here are different.
So catch you guys in a few hours.
May 24, 2010 § Leave a Comment
It was 26 degrees today and I was melting in my room. I have no fans or airconditioning here so it gets kind of stifling.
But that’s the trade off for awesomely lovely weather.
So anyway. Here’s the breakdown of a nice, lazy summerish Saturday here to make everyone back home jealous.
Went to Ponte Tresa (across the border in Italy, a 20 minute train ride away from Lugano) with Jun Hua in the morning. That place brings ‘nua’ to a whole new level.
In the afternoon, pedaling on the lake with USIHome friends.
In the evening, off to the free open-air concert in the city centre with average to poor music [local bands], lots and lots of troublesome teenagers, and people whom you might actually like to be friends with had they been sober (but were unfortunately, not). It wasn’t particularly enjoyable but it seemed like the whole of under 30 Lugano had decided to be there that night.
So now the pictures will do the talking.
May 24, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Jun Hua and I celebrated our last day of school by nua-ing by the lake on the green, green grass in the beautiful park… people watching (seems to be their favourite past time here) and enjoying very good vanilla cream pastry. Mmmmmmmmm.
May 14, 2010 § Leave a Comment
No need for many words, this entry.
The Village of Brè is a teeny little medieval village (population: 300) on the eastern slope of Monte Brè. The architecture is uniquely quaint. The cats are really fat. And I wish I had a house there. For reclusive artistic purposes.
I’ll say it again. I wish I had a house here.
May 9, 2010 § Leave a Comment
More talk in the later entry – though there is so much to Rome that words alone cannot satisfyingly describe the experience of just being there.
April 14, 2010 § 2 Comments
Shall I make an attempt to squeeze 8 days of an italian holiday into a single entry?
Yes, I shall.
So us Lugano folk met up with Eldon and Janie (studying in Hatfield, UK) and Walter (Sweden) and did a crazy whirlwind tour of Milan, Venice, Verona, Florence & Pisa in eight days.
The holiday cost me about 450 euros. I budgeted 400 euros, which I wouldn’t have exceeded but I spent about 70 euros shopping. More than 200 euros went to transport and accommodation. The rest was food and entrance tickets and such. Italy is an amazingly tourist-ed place. You have to pay to get into anywhere. And I was faced with so many tourists over the past one week that I’m not even sure how many people I saw were actually Italian.
Each Italian city had it’s own unique flavour and architecture. Every where we went it felt a little different. (Prices and quality of food too.) These are my general impressions of each city.
Milan: Wet and cold when we got there. Couldn’t walk around without getting harassed by street hustlers. Four girls who looked about 12 tried to pickpocket me on the train. Generally couldn’t move without feeling on my guard all the time and not the most pleasant first impression or experience of Italy. Furthermore we were there on Easter Sunday and all the shops were closed. Will have chances to head back again so I’m sure I’ll find something better to say the next time I’m back.
Not many pictures from Milan because it was cold and wet and the pictures all turned out shitty.
Venice: Walking around the entire island was like being in Chinatown on Chinese New Year’s eve. We even joked that the island was probably sinking because there were simply too many tourists. A pretty place that everyone has to visit at least once in their lives even if you have to fight for elbow space with about a hundred thousand other people. Whoever built Venice never heard of urban planning. Navigating the streets was like moving through a labyrinth. You almost never go down the same street twice, unless by accident. Fun place to get lost in. Obviously a lot more pictures from Venice because it deserves it.
Verona: Amazed that there is actually tourism here because of 1) a rather unimpressive roman amphitheater, 2) Juliet’s house, Romeo’s house, and Juliet’s grave. Tourism at work I tell you. These characters don’t even exist. But yes we did go up Juliet’s underwhelming balcony and marveled at why Verona has tourists.
Roman amphitheater. Heavily under repair/construction/whatever. But they were still charging people 6.5 euros to enter, unbelievable. We bought the Verona Day pass for 10 euro so we could go to all the touristy places at a cheaper price and take the city buses for free.
Florence: Lovely, lovely city rich and abundant in culture. Food was more expensive here. But I managed a spot of shopping. Visited the 3 David statues and appreciated some lovely early European art. I like Florence more than Milan because at least I don’t feel like I have to guard my bag with my life all the time and that someone was going to try and aggressively con me of my money in a heartbeat.
Pisa: First impression was ‘cui’. And that it was dead boring. There’s the leaning tower. Small, unimpressive and underwhelming. But we still did the tourist thing and took lots of pictures. There’s an old town with a bazaar and lots of shops, but we didn’t spend much time there before taking our 8 hour trip back to Lugano. (More on the experience of traveling in Italy below.)
Food in Europe is generally expensive but we’re getting used to it. After all we pay out of our noses for everything in Switzerland. Every day was gelato day. Almost, at least. Italian gelato is heavenly. If you don’t go for the rip off ones (some of ours were). The best were the ones on Venice and the last gelato we had in Pisa. 2 to 3 scoops of amazing Italian ice-cream every day makes the world a better place.
The other cheap food option were the kebabs for around 3.5 to 4 euros. These were always hearty and satisfying (and most importantly had CHILI). Can’t say much for Italian pasta because I’m sick of pasta (I eat that stuff every day in Switzerland) and never really liked pasta anyway. The only pasta I had was squid ink pasta in Venice and it just tasted like the one from Waraku.
The pizzas I had were just ‘okay’. Nothing that screamed wow. Need to find out where the places are. We’re always in the touristy areas and no matter what I buy (food, icecream, clothes, etc) I feel like I’m being ripped off at least a little (it’s just the degree of rip-off-ness).
Sandwiches were nice, if not a little pricey too. 2.5 to 4.5 euros. Yes budget traveler I am. The rest of the money goes into shopping. I shall gush about how much I love European fashion later on.
Below: Other more expensive yummies in Venice we didn’t buy.
Okay. It’s rather bad to put it this way, but crossing the border from Switzerland to Italy really feels like I’m taking a train from Singapore to Malaysia. Being in Switzerland has spoilt us rotten. The comfort of Swiss trains are indubitable. We rode on a variety of Italian trains. Some were alright. But our final one back to Milan was a bit of an experience. It was a six seater carriage but we were sharing it with 2 huge Italians and their dogs and another guy. And also a father and son who were occupying our seats before we arrived and tried to claim that the seats were his. Had to spent the latter part of the journey having the kid glaring eyeballs at me for having ‘chased’ him and his dad out of the carriage. And oh, smelling like dog and having fur all over my clothes of course.
Fortunately the couple didn’t ride all the way to Milan and got off at Bologna. If not I’ll probably never get the smell of wet dog out of my belongings.
Generally the Italian transport system isn’t very much different from what we’re used to in Switzerland, it’s pretty easy to understand and find your train. It’s just the trains themselves and the people whom you would potentially meet on board that are a little… different.
I congratulate myself after 21 years of existence as a Singaporean for finally understand how IMPORTANT it is to dress according to the season’s fashion after going to Italy. Italy right now has become far warmer, it was about 20 to 21 degrees in all the cities we visited, warm enough to wander around in shorts and tank tops if you so chose. And all the winter clothes have been shed and everyone’s decked out for Spring. Not dressing accordingly in Italy really makes you stick out like a sore thumb!
I wonder how it’ll be in Spain. Spanish people take great pride in their fashion too. (We’ll be heading there this Sunday for 5 days of culture and shopping!) But I really, really, really love European fashion. Gosh the clothes and styles and colors are just absolutely LOVELY. Hence yes, 70 euros spent in Italy on clothes. Just a bit of H&M, Zara and Tezenis. I’m not a big fashion spender or a brand whore. But I do love a good bargain and unique designs.
Can’t wait to shop in Spain. Hope I can find a cheap new pair of Camper (which are, I must say, my favourite snugly comfortable brand of walking shoes). And a new bag.
No pictures of the new clothes.
Okay but here’s one of my new scarf which I got from one of the many street vendors in Florence. Everyone there was wearing such pretty scarves and I couldn’t resist it any longer. 9 euros! A little on the pricey side but I really liked the design.
(And the grey tshirt is a new Zara basic.) Strangely I’ve been buying a lot of GREY since I came to Europe. Which is funny because in Singapore I never buy anything grey and think I look absolutely horrid in grey. (I still look bad in blue and orange though, that hasn’t changed.)
But I’m so happy shopping here because they have ALL the types and shades of colors in the earth range and the bright range that I like and look good in.
Okay I’ll stop gushing. Will probably have more to gush about after shopping in Spain. But in the meantime I’ll just leave you with pictures of us enjoying ourselves.
Till Spain! Or when something more interesting comes up.