About nomadsojourn

Musings of a traveller who is as pragmatic as she is offbeat, and who entertains random thoughts and trivialities that tickle her fancy. Also contains occasional outbursts from the avid bargain hunter who loves giving things a good toss for kicks.

La Recoleta and the cemetery within

Entrance to Recoleta Cemetery: Rest In Peace

Nestled in the affluent neighborhood of Recoleta is the Recoleta Cemetery famous for having important and famous people as residents. Argentina’s past Presidents, Nobel Prize Winners, business moguls, warriors and of course, First Lady, Eva Peron form part of their serene community.

According to our fast-speaking guide, the place has about 4700 graves, and at least 150,000 bodies buried. Each grave belonging to a family unit, depending on how large they are, can cost anything from USD70,000 to a quarter of a million; each one contains anything from 1 to 150 bodies. Tunnels are dug below each grave to create more final resting places for family members – apparently no one really keeps track of the situation below but it seems the maximum capacity has been reached and no more tunneling is allowed for fear of corrupting the city’s systems.

The graves are ornate showpieces, some better kept than others but all have their own tales. Our guide told us many stories as she led us through the winding corridors – some factual, some of legends, some quite creepy. She also entertained questions about incorporeal figures hanging around but was quick to establish that she wasn’t the best person to answer that. I was sure I did not want to hear any of it so was quite relieved she didn’t go into the gory details. Ack, I’d be mortified!

Although I am not one too fond of necropolises, I would visit one if it were part of history and/or is of cultural significance. Like the Pyramids in Egypt and shrines, mausoleums or other similar erections in many parts of the world. It is always interesting to hear about how a person lived and died, how others remember them, and the legacy they have left behind. Hearing these makes me think of the kind of life I want to lead: not getting caught up in the transient things, developing strong relationships, helping people and focusing on the positive.

I’ve always believed in having a life manifesto built around what you want to be remembered for. Greatness, Love, Intelligence, Courage, Hope, Sacrifice? I draw inspiration from the stories I hear about lives led … a bit morbid now that I read the words I am typing out … but there are lessons for me to learn, teachings from which I can use to calibrate my course as I work on mine.

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RIP My Mac Air

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After approximately four years of service, my Mac Air breathed its last. Resuscitation efforts were in vain and I had to send it to the Apple specialists to have its SSD removed from its lifeless shell so I could still tap on its brain.

Alas, efforts there prove futile too.

 I knew I didn’t have much knowledge of hardware, systems and compatibility, but for one like that, I had decent conversations with the techs I spoke to. I just never realized how darn complicated the process of data retrieval can be.

I had several options, all varying in cost and effort that, of course, has an inversely proportionate relationship. In descending cost:

a. Buy a new Mac and an SSD sled to retrieve old data and transfer to the new body

b. Go to a specialist to just have the data extracted

c. Get an SSD sled and do the data retrieval/transfer, DIY-style

Cost dictates that I pick Option C.

So with the advice of the Apple specialist, I hunted down online a cheap USD 16, non-enclosed sled to use. It turned out to be the wrong one. I sent it back (thank goodness for the fantastic Amazon return policy) and started the search for the correct one. There was none for cheap because retailers all try to sell the sled as a storage device. So after a long time searching, I grudgingly settled on a USD 90 one because the SSD chip was SSooo special. All was good until it suddenly struck me that the SSD was an Apple-made device and my current laptop was not.

I learnt from a helpful service person that I had to delete and create partitions in the SSD in order to use it in Windows 10. ThAT, by the way, also DeLETEs DaTA! Argghhhhhh. Good thing I had some sense to ask before I ordered again.

So, to retrieve data in my SSD, I not only need the USD 90 sled, I also need a new Mac. Or not, I have to google my way to solve the issue of incompatibility with the high possibility of deleting data that I wanted to retrieve in the first place.

And, my friends, I am back to square one.

Sigh. Apple will be the death of me.

PSLE 2018 Que Sera Sera

The Primary School Leaving Examination results will be released next Wednesday.

The high-stakes national Exams are what 12 year-old kids in Singapore sit for in late-Sep to early Oct every year to help them gain entry into a Secondary School of their choice. The kids go through rather excessive exam preparations that stress them as well as create holes in the pockets of parents who are willing to dole out good cash to ensure their children are over-prepared.

The dialogues generated over the Exams reflect a multitude of viewpoints, most of which have to do with “Why!?”

Some would argue for the system but most against. The heart of the argument lies in this – getting top scores vs. joy of learning. Most would focus on the former. Unless very capable, it is rather idealistic, naive even, to think that doing well in both are possible since societal pressures and expectations would skew the balance very heavily to one side. Afterall, their progression will be judged by their scores. What precious joy dissipates when all you have are piles of assessment books to complete while thinking about the grades needed to get into some prestigious school. For your future they say. But what about now??

Anyway, the kids are pushed to do both well. I watched the kids I teach go through exam prep for PSLE this year. They were numbly revising and robotically practicing sums. I had a hand in what they went through; it isn’t easy to find the sweet spot between ensuring they are well-prepared and having fun when doing so. I try.

With Judgement Day approaching, I am a little anxious.

Que Sera Sera.

Update 22 Nov 2018:

My kids did well! And I hit my targets! Yay!!

They were all so anxious when they arrived at the school hall this morning. Almost everyone went home smiling; those who didn’t, shed happy tears. It was all rather emotional.

I had kids and parents coming up to me to thank me and ask for pictures. Hands were shaken, shoulders were patted and hugs were given. The sense of accomplishment I felt was tremendous. I think the kids felt the same way too.

My first P6 class.

Memories are made of these.

Unicorn Cafe, Bangkok

That itsy bit of magic lies somewhere in Sathon, Bangkok where rainbows, unicorns and my little ponies share a ceiling. And a chandelier.

The cafe feels like a nursery decorated by an over-indulgent parent with a fetish for pastels and one who didn’t mind whether or not unicorns had their magic horns. It is a very inclusive place that welcomes unicorn-wannabes like Rainbow Dash. It’s fluffy fun if you are willing to overlook the glaring inaccuracies.

The desserts were not cloyingly sweet which is a bit of surprise – a good one. Their rainbow spaghetti carbonara was tasty and chicken karaage fried to perfection! I didn’t expect myself to enjoy the food but I did.

There is a corner to purchase unicorn memorabilia including onesies at prices that do not burn a hole in your pocket. You share the cosy space with like-minded people who appreciate the whimsical, instagramming a tad wildly. It is a great place to spend a couple of hours shrouded in pleasing colours before you go on your way again.

Hanoi Old Quarter

First, the streets.

They wind across the entire area in a beautifully haphazard manner, with no real sidewalks nor pedestrian- friendly paths. On certain sections, you share broken pathways with coffee drinkers seated in rows and motorcycles randomly parked. When it rains, grayish water pools in the many potholes along the streets, cleaning out days of accumulated dirt. Even so, Hanoians sun odd herbs and rice at the edge of pavements where the grey puddles once stood, oblivious to the dust and soot settling on their edibles. Honking is part of the charm of Hanoi where lane discipline and traffic lights are blatantly disregarded by the motorcyclists notorious for doing so. Thread around with care, keep your pace steady and don’t make sudden movements they said. I followed suit and crossed the roads just fine.

Then, the lush setting.

The greenery around the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake provided respite from the sun and exuded a certain calmness and tranquility that is juxtaposed against the cacophony of sounds just one lane away. Encapsulated within the lake is a pretty red bridge leading to a temple which lent to the peace of the surroundings. Early morning taichi practitioners, joggers, strollers dot the perimeter of the lake engrossed in their own craft. The vibe is good and much like home.

Last, the fun haggling.

Some love getting lost along intertwining streets. But I like to know where I am going, straying often. Armed with sufficient info, I wandered into the streets. The walk was wonderful, people friendly and bargains fabulous. I did not feel unsafe on my own and did not have to be overly watchful of my surroundings. Coffee was great and cafes most interesting. I spent 6 hours walking the area without feeling the time pass. Once I had the map of the area drawn up in my head, it was easy.

Useful nuggets of info:

A list of street names and what you will find there:

Cau Go (women’s accessories)

Dong Xuan St (market)

Hang Bac St (silver)

Hang Bo (sewing bits)

Hang Buom (candies,wine,weasel coffee)

Hang Can (stationery)

Hang Dau (shoes/night market)

Hang Gai (silk)

Hang Hom (lacquerware and bamboo)

Hang Ruoi (artificial flowers)

Nguyen Huu Huan (coffee street)

Thuoc Bac (tools)

If you’re looking for cute souvenirs, this place (Phuc Loi along Hang Gai) sells wooden stamps that are customizable. Pick a stamp with a picture you like and he can carve out a name in minutes at USD3 or 67 Dongs each. Very popular with Japanese tourists:

Oriberry Cafe (several branches in Hanoi) sources coffee beans from the tribal villages of Vietnam. It functions as a social enterprise that also takes care of the farmers who produce beans for them. I had the egg coffee with cinnamon – smells like pudding with coffee, but is fragrant. It comes with lotus green tea to help wash down the lingering eggy taste.

Vietnamese Escargots!