Till Death We Do Part, Work

I had a minor surgery done a little over two weeks back. All is good now since the unpleasant bits are over. Between the short rest post-surgery and stitch removal, I had to go teach with the semi-healed wound.

No one sees that struggle.

Work was merciless. It has no eyes, no ears, no heart. As long as you are still standing, it will hunt you down. If you let it, it engulfs.

So I find time to write because that helps me let off steam…

Freddy keeps growing

The exasperation

To remove or not to

Much contemplation

Growing fears

Of its brisk augmentation

Hardened the resolve

For its excision

A visit to the MD

Caused some trepidation

A date boldly set

To rid the intrusion

Chilling cold struck bone

On the day of the extraction

Putting on a brave front

Grimacing at each injection

Thirty minutes was

All it took for completion

A week’s rest

Followed the operation

Five stitches dictated

Delicate movement

Gingerly walking

Part of the solution

Work still beckons

Life’s orchestrations

Backaches and cramps

Added exhaustion

That work can wait

Is a beautiful illusion

The pressure to finish soonest

Will cause hyperventilation

As long as you are breathing

There is no exemption

Work needs to be done

Clockwork distribution

Though one cannot control

External consternations

But surely one can respond

Through considered actions

Leave no stones unturned

In work completion

Manage, manage, manage

All expectations

Judgement will still come

Shallow conclusions

A shake of the shoulder

Loosens mindless declamations

True colours are often seen

In trials and tribulations

Let the conscience guide

Noble motivations

Shanghai & Books

I’ve heard stories from friends who shifted to China that the upper limit of the number of books one is allowed to ship into the country is a mere 50. I am not sure how much of that is accurate but if it were me, I can’t meet that number.

So naturally, I’d assume that in addition to blocking the giants of US internet, they vet the influx of books to filter access to print media and various literature. I had no idea to what extent.

I visited their largest bookstore and one that purportedly sold foreign books both along Fuzhou Road, one of the four Cultural Streets in Shanghai. I was pleasantly surprised to find Albert Camus, translated into Chinese in the former; admittedly, I need to adjust my perception of what constitutes vetting here – this round, without the rumour mill playing games. All the exaggeration. Pfff. I am glad I saw it for myself.

There is a selection of classics from Jane Eyre to HG Wells as well as more current titles from John Grisham to Kazuo Ishiguro – both in English and Chinese. The bookstore that sells foreign books has mostly English ones with a section dedicated to learners of other languages such as French, German, Korean, Japanese. The 7-storey large store has mostly books in Chinese.

Very mainstream. Just like Barnes and Nobles. And books are very affordable!

RMB 32 ~S$6.20 (US$4.50)

For comparison, I bought one in Paris (in English) for €17.

For further comparison, I can’t find this in Singapore. Yet.

South Korea Hallasan’s Eoseungsaengak Trail

Gentle, for the time being.

I had such ambition.

With laughable trekking experience under my belt, I wanted to climb the Hallasan, South Korea’s highest peak located in the middle of Jeju island.

I am not sure if it was the memorable ice trekking experience in Patagonia where I had to be handheld like a child or raw insanity that propelled me to voluntarily suggest a five-hour hike on a holiday. But the reviews I have read said the Yeongsil and Eorimok trails were not too tough – if the ahjummas in their fifties can do it, I bet I can too with age on my side.

The inclement weather was a deterrent. Thunderstorms and heavy rain thwarted our plans. But I was determined to visit Hallasan so SJ found a shortcut, a Plan B – a trail that would take an hour or so. If it pours, we’ll be out in a jiffy. No worries there.

So we started on the trail called Eoseungsaengak, adjacent to Eorimok. Let me back up a little to say that I am no gym rat and I did not prepare for this in advance. Yoga sessions done irregularly were all I had.

The initial ascend up the well-built wooden trail was gentle. A few more metres up the trail convinced me that I was deluded. Don’t judge a book by its cover – same for trails. The stairs leading up were endless and more kept appearing at each bend. Those dastardly steady stairs! As the incline became steeper, my thighs began to complain – first whimpering, then vehemently protesting together with my traitorous, heaving lungs at midpoint. This was just 15 minutes into the hike.

This was also a very humbling moment when I had to grudgingly conceded that my stamina is a joke. Eorimok and Yeongsil trails … What was I thinking ??

Cool blasts of wind and misty views greeted us when we finally reached the not-too-high top of 1163 metres. From there, we had a pretty good view of the eastern coastline marked by the Seongsan Ilchubong bump. We also hung around and took pictures of the peaks we would have arrived at if we had taken the other trails. Or not. Perhaps not.

The rain had cleared when we got there so the short stay at the top, coupled with long-legged spiders swinging by to celebrate the successful ascend, was rather pleasant.

The hike down took 30 minutes, 10 less than going up but the knees were up in arms. Oy.

Good hike nonetheless.

Year of Travel, 2019

4 months into my sabbatical

Having travelled thus far

Wanderlust still beckons

Still keen on the NATAS bazaar

The 11am train

That I thought would be empty

Turned out quite different

Full of uncles and aunties

All heading to the east

Where good deals are promised

To where their hearts’ desires

May be fulfilled, returning happiness

What of the time

When grounded at home

A barista I became

And a baker, skills honed

Coding I understood more

Python is its name, yay

Deeper knowledge of French and Mandarin

再多一些, s’il vous plait

Yoga and diet plans

Not fads they once were

I found out I may be labelled

A pescatarian, it’s weird

For the last 2 months

With my precious freedom’s wings

Bent on continuing my flight

Till the fat lady sings



NATAS: National Association of Travel Agents in Singapore ; organizer of the biannual travel fair here where avid travellers flock to for travel packages, info and free gifts

再多一些: means ‘a little more’ in Mandarin