June 8, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Done with my first exam in Switzerland. My head hurts so much from the lack of academic stimulation over the past few months… I say academic and not intellectual stimulation, because there is a big chasm between two. Intellectual stimulation is enjoyable. Academic is largely regurgitation, even here. 3 more papers to go, one this Friday and 2 more in the last week of June after I come back from Barcelona (yes I’m off to Barca next Monday, envy me).
Okay… I have to drop the word ‘design’ from this entry because it’s finally about my favourite topic and the main staple of this blog before I came to Switzerland… FOOD glorious FOOD.
I finally caved in to my need to eat REAL Chinese food after 4 months (fried rice and eating instant noodles doesn’t count). So Walts and I scouted out some good Chinese food while we were in Rotterdam.
The Netherlands in general has loads of food of many diverse origins because of it’s colonial history. Loads of Indonesian, Thai, and of course, Chinese food everywhere.
Walts was buying a Crumpler camera bag so we asked the guy where we could get some authentic Chinese food, cause we’d been away from home for months and really wanted The Real Deal. He directed us a couple of streets down to the Chinatown-ish area where there were loads of Asian eateries… and his recommended place, which was famous among the local Dutch and Chinese populations alike: De Lange Muur.
It was really like a Hong Kong 餐厅; very very busy, Canto speaking staff, very loud conversations and a lot of Chinese people… Which I didn’t really mind, for once. We did hesitate quite a bit before going in though, because Asian food in Europe is RIDICULOUSLY expensive even with the good exchange rate at the moment. (When you have to fork out 12 euros for a plate of kang kong, you definitely do a double take.)
But our Chinese taste buds won the argument, and after wandering down the street and realizing prices weren’t going to get any cheaper, we decided that if we were going to blow a lot of money eating Asian food, we were better off spending it on the good stuff.
Walts examining the menu cause Liz can’t read it. They automatically gave us the Chinese text menu because we were Asian. The Dutchies get a picture book version with pictures of the various dishes and descriptions in Dutch. Lol.
Har Gao! Siew Mai! I miss dim sum DEARLY. I already told Jem Oh that when I return to Singapore I demand another dim sum & durian outing to Geylang ASAP. I think one of it was €3.80 and the other €4.20. And the money I had with me was changed at around 1.85, so go figure how much in SGD that cost.
Walt and I going trigger happy and getting weird stares. That stupid boy started nose bleeding as we were queuing up to get a seat. Then when we started eating he started bleeding even more. There was so much blood everywhere I think only the sheer fact of what food was in front of me stopped me from losing my appetite. I don’t know why all these things always happen to him when I’m eating with him. I still vividly remember the day he fainted in front of me after dinner at Plaza Sing sometime in December 2009.
Beef kuay teow. Not the way we do it in Singapore, but this was still omgood. The ‘chup’ was very nice. Plus all the chili (the kind that’s drowning in chili oil). Heaven. This was €10. Ha. Yes. Take that. For beef kuay teow! But it’s not as ridiculous as the €15 laksa we saw in Amsterdam a few days later.
Soooo.. the food was so awesomely satisfying, that even though we were spending an average of SGD$20 on food we could get at a third of the price back home, we went back there again the next evening.
Mixed veggies. This cost €13.50, I kid you not. But the portion was gianormous! In fact the portion of all the food there was gianormous. And this came with a big pot of rice that Walts had to finish most of because we also ordered duck chao mian.
Their portions are HUGE. Only the Chinese can finish this much food. It was funny to observe how all the Chinese patrons really wolfed everything down or at least tar pao-ed their leftovers, and all the Dutchies would be stuck at their tables having eaten less than half of the food, then throw everything else away. Walts and I had to painfully watch copious amounts of glorious Chinese food being swept off the table by waiters.
Second night’s bill was higher than the first. And I was stuffed up to my nostrils. But boy was it a very happy two evenings of indulgences. Much better than the Thai restaurant we ended up in on our first night in Amsterdam, where Walts ordered Thai Green Curry that was 99% coconut milk. And the €5 tom yam soup that I shared with him that was about the size of two Chinese tea cups. Pfft.
And this area is just on the next street from the Red Light District, which wasn’t all that interesting the day we went. (Our hostel, which is a Christian hostel, was funnily in between these two streets.) Someone told me that the prostitutes on display were as hot as models, but that day I only saw a few girls on display and they were either flabby or saggy, so no further comments about the Red Light District if any of you want to ask me ‘So How Was Amsterdam’s Famous RLD??’. And if you want to ask me whether I smoked pot, the obvious answer is: No.
Anyway I digress. Going back to food, Walts and I of course also had to try the famous Vlaamse Frites… supposedly the Dutchies eat it with heaps of mayo, but I don’t like mayo. So we tried this one with their definition of ‘curry sauce’.
From another stall in Amsterdam. This one was supposed ‘sambal olek’. The guy warned us when we ordered it that was ‘very spicy’. We gamely grinned and told him we could handle it and asked for more. He originally only gave me a tiny dollop the size of a 50 cent coin. There was nothing I have yet tried in Europe that can compare to the way we Singaporeans eat spice.
Our verdict? Salty. I’m quite convinced the Dutch like everything salty. And it was barely spicy and only very vaguely ‘sambal olek’. But the fries were nice. These are about the cheapest eats you can get off the streets, averaging €2 onwards.
I also had a really good muffin. €2.50 from a sandwich place. One thing I must say about the Dutch is that they make DAMN GOOD sandwiches. Which makes Lizzy happy because Lizzy likes sandwiches. And it also made her very depressed the first day she re-entered Switzerland and tried to buy sandwiches off the supermarket shelf, which were pathetic slices of bread with miserable single slices of cheese or ham for more than 4CHF.
But oh well. Muffins.
And finally, on my last day in Amsterdam I tried something from Burger Meester. I first read about it on GoAmsterdam while researching before my trip but never really thought about making a point to find the place. But it turned out that they had a few branches and there was one on the way to the Dutch Resistance Museum and opposite the Artis Zoo. (I was heading for the Museum, not the Zoo, though I would like to go there if I get to go back to Amsterdam.)
So after my 4 hours in the not-particularly-large museum (which I thoroughly enjoyed. One of the perks of traveling alone is that I can spend as long as I want gazing at museum exhibits.), I decided to try this famed burger. I ordered a mini duck burger for €3.50.
And boy was it made for messy eating! The bun was so soft it was breaking apart because of all the meat juices and sauces. The sauce, cheese and meat was spilling out all over because the fillings were bigger than the bun. But it was a really enjoyable little burger while it lasted. The duck was lightly seared and slightly undercooked, which I liked anyhow since I’m a medium-rare sort. Yums.
And that’s almost the end of this little Dutch holiday series, probably one more entry to wrap up my day spent in the Red Cross Museum in Geneva and to talk about all the stuff I got on this trip. This was really the most ‘holiday’ trip for me so far. No rushing around cheonging museums and trying to get 1000 done in one day like we did in Italy. Very relaxing, very enjoyable, and I spent most of my money enjoying food, museums, buying books and postcards.
Think I’m finally settling into the Ways of Chill as they do it here. Europeans really know how to relax and enjoy life. My first couple of months in Switzerland I was permanently restless and edgy because a workaholic like me really couldn’t understand the concept of having NOTHING to do. But I’m finally starting to learn how to relax. :] Shall enjoy the remaining months of it before it’s back to crazy-can’t-stop-working Singapore again.
Okay. Time to study for one more paper on Friday. Then off to Barcelona on Monday!
June 6, 2010 § Leave a Comment
This entry is (mostly) about the 2010 European Design Conference which was held in Rotterdam from 28 to 30 May. But also a little bit about these
pyjama genie pants that’s all the rage here during summer.
They generally look like this:
I used to think they were funny whenever I saw anyone wearing them in Singapore, because they kinda remind me of pyjamas and were therefore such silly things to be wearing out of the house. But now that the temperature in Lugano is on par with Singapore, everyone everywhere in Europe seems to be donning these flappy pantaloons. (It’s way too hot for jeans and anything with sleeves now.) I bought myself a pair from H&M some weeks back and let me tell you, these things are AMAZINGLY COMFORTABLE. Why don’t people wear them more in Singapore??? (Because they look like pyjama pants, stupid.)
I love wearing them and am so definitely getting a few more pairs for home. They are a nice alternative to berms and shorts (which is all I wear in Singapore, anyway). And also since I never wear jeans in Singapore (unless I’ve been told to). Too hot too hot!
Okay I digress. Back to the conference.
There were 15 speakers in total, so I won’t go through each individually but I’ll talk about the ones that inspired me the most. Then I’ll give my overall thoughts on the conference at the end.
Reza Abedini (Iran/Netherlands)
One of my two favourites from the conference. His work with the study of arabic typography is groundbreaking stuff.
The most memorable quote for me from the conference also came from him. During the Q&A when someone asked him why he didn’t really work with roman typography and whether he would like to work with roman type, his reply was something like this:
‘You Dutch (or Western, something to that effect) people already do it so well, why would I want to compete with you doing something you have already perfected?’
As one of the very few Chinese Asians (I think the grand total was 3) there, this was a line that struck me deeply and will definitely influence my future work. I never stop asking myself the question why the Southeast Asian design scene is still so unestablished and what we can do to help strengthen and mature design culture in our region. It’s a cumulation of factors, definitely, but part of it could be accrued to the fact that we spend so much time trying to copy what the West has already perfected, and the results are often lackluster and pale imitations of work that already exists. Even a really good copy is still, at the end of the day, a copy. I really hope to see a unique brand of Singaporean design emerge in the next couple of decades as we mature and develop our own sense of style and culture and not always have to imitate the work of others. Integrate and assimilate into something we can call our own, yes. But not copy.
Because I really liked their presentation, vibes and sense of humour.
Because they’re good-looking and Swiss.
Okay. More than that. Because I really like their series of posters for Schauspielhaus Zürich and their awesome cardboard boxes installation at the 2000-Watt-Gesellschaft. Better graphics on their site.
Philippe Apeloig (France)
My other favourite and most admired designer from the conference. His work is just so conceptually strong, tight, clean and poignantly brilliant. And his designed typefaces to suit the personality of each piece he’s executing… admirably awesome work. *kowtows* Snapshots below, but a lot of his work is clearer and well presented on his site, so go look at it…
And there was also the grand-daddy of Dutch design, Gert Dumbar of Studio Dumbar. His work was also really amazing… especially the infographic system for disaster/epidemic relief that he’s working on now that he kindly requested we not publish online.
Most of the speakers were good, but I didn’t manage to catch photos of everything so these are just some of the ones I did.
It’s hard for me to describe all that I’ve learned from my 168 euro investment just to attend this conference.
Of the conference itself, I must say as a first experience I was slightly disappointed by the turn-out. I guess in my mind I had expected more, especially after attending the Design Society’s Forum in Singapore in January.
However, it was a great, GREAT learning experience for me, just sitting there taking it all in, listening to the speakers and to the types of questions being thrown about during Q&A. Just from the questions alone the difference between the design scene back home and here is clearly evident. It enlightened me to just how mature and established the Dutch design scene is. I am envious of how fortunate they are to have a very supportive government and private sector, who trust and often give their designers great autonomy in their work. Many crazy and exciting ideas can be done, the government supports experimental work, and the study of graphic design there is seen more as respectable profession than I have ever known it to be back home.
There, graphic design is not diluted by advertising. The two professions are clearly defined and well separated. Back home we tend to equate one to another, which was a great cause of my growing disillusion with my craft. (I already don’t believe in advertising, but I was starting to despair about design.)
However, after this entire trip, wandering Amsterdam and Rotterdam and laying my eyes upon beautiful works of design, my strength is renewed. I again begin to believe that good design can and will, change the world. It’s difficult to expound on, but some of my closer friends have heard me try to explain, and I hope they see at least a little of how I’ve seen it. Everything I have learned is firmly in my head, the vision burning behind my eyes, and the cause firmly planted in my heart.
I have learned so much about myself and my craft this trip, and not just this trip, but this entire experience in Europe for the past few months. Coming to Europe has definitely been the greatest turning-point in my life yet. It has built the foundations for my future, directions for where I want to go as a person, as a designer and as a believer in how the role of design is to communicate.
Initially I really felt as though I was wasting my time here. I like Lugano, and USI, but doing PR and marketing courses are really not my life’s passion. Here I was in Switzerland, the land of grids and Helvetica with so many good design universities to it’s name, and I was doing PR and marketing courses.
But God always causes all things to work out for my good, and it turned out that the way the courses were structured gave me oodles of free time to pursue personal projects, to work on my own craft and to have time to reflect and grow not just in technical skills, but learn more about what it takes to be a professional designer and not merely someone who can use Adobe software. I’m still growing, ever growing. My motto remains that: the day I think I’m good is the day I stop learning, and is therefore the day I fail.
This is why I often seem to be very harsh on myself, but I want to continue to learn and grow, keep learning, and learning, and keep getting better and better at what I do. I will never be the best. And I will never be ‘good enough’, because the race will never end. But I will be the best Lizzy that I can be, the best designer that Lizzy at whatever point in time of her life can be, and once that moment passes, the next ‘best’ awaits.
Things are moving for me at the moment, I’ll talk more about it if and when it actually happens.
Doors are opening, and God will lead me to the right ones. Now the next pressing task is to find an internship for next year. Self-sourcing will not be easy, but the same way God made all things work out for my good by causing circumstances to allow me to come to Switzerland, the same way God will provide the needed time and chance for me to do an overseas, graphic design internship for Spring 2011. Amen, amen and amen.