Dec 20, 2009

Fluid Arrangements

I’m currently visiting family and friends over Christmas.

Never, never listen to hearsay that you can bring vacuum-packed bak-kwa into countries which are sticklers for agricultural purity! After dutifully swearing upon arrival that I had goods to declare, I was shown a list that did not name Singapore as a country from which meat could be imported. So the bak-kwa is currently in the hands of a foreign government, waiting for collection for my flight home…

That was a small hiccup, which is more than compensated for by catching up with loved ones and dining while overlooking rows of vines. Here are some pics from my lunch on Sat (pinot gris, with smoked fishcakes on mesclun salad with citrus dressing):

I also came across an interesting concept in wine tasting this trip at a major wine shop here. Instead of deploying manpower to open and pour tasting portions, wine bottles with automated dispensers are grouped by grape. You basically see clusters of bottles of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Merlot etc. Each customer is issued with a charge card. When you decide that you want to taste a particular wine, you insert your card into a slot in that cluster, place your glass under the tap of the relevant bottle and then press the button. This allows you to browse at leisure and have as much or as little as you choose. Your card will be coded with each purchase (like Marche restaurants) and the cumulative cost, which you then pay for when you are finished (no pun intended)!

Although I’m not a big video maker while on travels, I recorded something to share here. Below is just a sample of the breathtaking sights just outside the window of somewhere I stayed. It is also an illustration of how a video which started off promisingly can be ruined because of something which happened to come into frame at the very last minute. Some of you may know the feeling!

Merry Christmas.

Dec 2, 2009


Each year I look forward to December for some downtime. December is about family, and (forgotten) friends, and taking a bit of a break from hectic schedules to regroup and take stock of what's important...

Unexpectedly, the quiet of Dec was disturbed by an "incoming rogue" fired by the Prime Minister from the Caribbean. He was talking about downtime too, but of a different nature, one day before Polling Day -a 24 hour cooling off period where voters are supposed to reflect quietly before they cast that all-important ballot at the General Elections. We (WP) have already made known why we object to this and are deeply suspicious that it will work to the ruling party's advantage, so I shan't bore you here with a repetition. All said, I find disturbing signs of the government's power growing while some of our rights are more curtailed e.g. look at recent legislative changes like the Public Order Act, and now this. Are we being burnt at both ends?

Real downtime comes whenever one is indulging in something enjoyable, for its own sake. Since some of you asked, it's time for an update on the wing chun lessons I mentioned in my last post.

I have attended 2 lessons so far. Lesson 1 consisted of learning the very basics like how to open one’s stance, punching with the vertical fist and the ideas behind elbow energy.

(At this point, let me first ask forgiveness from those of you who know wing chun, in case I describe something inaccurately).

Here is a sketch done by me of what the open stance, or basic training position, looks like.

As you can see, the position ain’t exactly natural. The sifu joked with us that if some people at a bar were about to attack us, once we got into position they might find the stance so hilarious that they could not fight, which was useful as well! Suffice to say that during and after lesson 1, I felt pain in the asterisked areas and was a bit dejected, wondering how many lessons my injured ankles could take.

Lesson 2, however, was a lifesaver. I realized that my discomfort was due to my knees being over-bent – meaning that the imaginary goat’s head was lower than it should have been. More techniques were learned, with practice of the basics of warding off attacks by “taking the centre line” from the opponent. One of the key concepts in wing chun is that the body must be as relaxed as possible, which is really counter-intuitive especially when one is being attacked! However, at the end of the 2 hour lesson, I felt that the tension in me had miraculously melted away… perhaps I'm getting a little closer to understanding what this is all about.

If all goes well, I shall be writing again from a nice place later this month, barring IT problems.