Be Kind to Yourself

This morning I had the opportunity to Skype with one of Having ‘Me’ Time’s readers and we had a good discussion about our journey to better health and weight loss.  A lot about the path to better health means avoiding processed, unhealthy foods, sweets or what seems to be almost all of our favourite foods.  It often feels like we are starving ourselves of what we love, especially if that’s how we’ve been eating our whole lives.

What happens when we mess up our diet and fall for that piece of decadently delicious chocolate fudge cake, or that juicy cheese hamburger?   Nothing. Nada.

Many times we are so strict with ourselves that when we fall for that piece of cupcake or donut, we feel like we’ve failed the diet and end up eating for the world.  We throw all our hard work away and lose hope. We go back to our old ways and eat and eat.

My advice to you is this:  Be kind to yourself.  Don’t lose hope and enjoy the experience.

Remember that it’s okay to treat yourself every now and then.  If you crave a hamburger really badly, go out and eat it.  If you want that cake, eat it.  Sometimes having a bite is enough to satisfy the craving. Enjoy it, savour it and then just make a mental note to yourself to work out extra at the gym the next day.  Add an extra session to the week’s workout.

No big deal right?  Have fun being healthy.  Enjoy the experience!

I’ve lost 5kgs or 12 lbs since the beginning of the year and every night I treat myself to some dark chocolate.  I have ice cream and egg tart.  I do, however, make sure that it’s super delicious and worth my extra workout time.

There’s no failing, no wrong in becoming healthy.  It’s a journey that goes up hill, down hill, turns corners and brings you to wonderful new places.  Just keep working at it! Keep on walking down the path. Don’t stop and turn back.

Five years on and I am still working on it 🙂  Step by step, little by little, we’ll get there. Be kind to yourself and be patient.

Life is life, Death is death

It has been awhile since I’ve last written.  It’s been a long while.  I don’t even remember the date or the last time I sat at my laptop typing away.  It’s been that long. I’ve missed it.  Life as it is, has decided that this year would be the year to teach us about life and death.  This is a year of teaching what it is like to lose loved ones and be near death as it sits on the porch waiting to come in.

Even though the moment we are brought into this world, the one certainty in life is that one day we will all die, it is still a concept that is hard for us to embrace.  We spend our entire lives trying to avoid ‘death’ in one way or another.   We take care of our health, do yearly health checks, drive safely, watch for cars while crossing the road and are constantly aware of things that will hurt us or bring us closer to ‘death.’  We have rules and regulations to minimise deaths.

Yet, the fact remains that one day we will all be gone.

One lesson I’ve learnt from deaths this year is this.  “Enjoy life as much as you can, whilst you can.”  Don’t spend your life trying to be “perfect” or cow away from experiences.   You never know what will happen, what life has planned for you, so just do what you want to do in life and enjoy the experience.  Don’t wait until it is too late.

If there is something you always wanted to do in life, don’t think to yourself that you’ll do it when you are old and retired or at a later date.   Who knows, you might never reach that later date.  Life may decide to leave us without notice.

If here is something you want to do with someone, likewise, don’t wait.  Who knows if you’ll ever get the chance again.  Life may decide to leave them.

Don’t waste time pondering why death decides to choose one and not the other.  There is no logical explanation.  It is all just a part of life.  Just live your life the best you can and make it a happy one.  Walk out and smell the roses, feel the wind in your hair and listen to the birds chirp.  Play ball with your dog and spend time with your children before they are grown. This is life.

Have a great day everyone and remember to enjoy life! You only get one chance at it! 🙂

Paris sardines

There’s something magical about Paris no matter how many times you’ve been here. Coming from Lisbon where locals are still surprised to see asians and kids waved to us as if we were superstars, Paris is a cosmopolitan city where everyone seems to be on the go and people of all races walk the streets. Taking the train into town from the airport we got a little taste of french human cargo. The train was simple enough to take and tickets can be bought from the tourist info. Unbeknowned to us, the trains had not been running for two hours due to suicide. The result? We found new meaning for packed sardines and human cargo. People needed to get into town and could not wait anymore. At the following stops, when you think not a single person more could board, we were mistaken. Three more people pushed and shoved their way on. Doors bounced back and forth before it could close and ladies insisted there was still space. Until she realized there was no space for her neighbour’s feet. A land of tolerance, everyone took all this in style. A squished lady next to me joked about climbing onto my luggage and a man welcomed us to Paris. The same kind man could not exit once he reached his stop. No one dared lose their space on this precious train. The ladies who had squeezed their way started chatting through shoulders and laughed. I love their sense of humour. They even recommended we take the direct train next time. Noted madame. Merci beaucoup. When we got to our stop at St. Lazare, I didn’t have to walk. I literally rolled out with a smile and a thought. On the way back we are taking the airport shuttle. It was an experience like no other and adds flavor to the trip, but is one I need not repeat. Tout meme, j’aime Paris.

The Netherlands: Floriade 2012

When you think of Holland what is the first thing you think of?  For me it is tulips and dykes.  I know it doesn’t really go together but I am fascinated by their dykes and how they have utilized modern technology in its construction it to preserve this flat land country where some parts are below sea level.  BBC had an awesome documentary about this a few years back.  I have been to see the dykes before but not during this trip.  This trip to Amsterdam I was fortunate enough to see the tulips in full bloom.  It’s almost the end of the season, but still it was beautiful.  It was refreshing.  It was nature at its best.  Who would have thought that a flower originating in Turkey would later change Holland’s landscapes to encompass acres of flowering fields?  Being the flower capital what better country than the Netherlands to host this year’s World Horticultural Expo, Floriade 2012. It’s held in Venlo this time and the even only comes to the Netherlands once every ten years.

I had to go see it.  Who would know when I would get to see it again?

Surprisingly, I didn’t see much advertisement for this event at all in Amsterdam and relied on my trusting companion called Google. I’m sure you’ve heard of her. 🙂 

The expo lasts a few months from 5 April until 7 October 2012 and does not only have flowers on show but is in itself an experience.  The organizers call it a “theatre of nature,”  I think so too.  Here on view are displays from all over the world and what I love about it is that you are not only going to see the flowers, but here all your senses get a workout.

Your eyes see the beautiful flowers, you smell the freshness of the air, walking through the forests that divide the five different zones you hear sounds that make you wonder if you are a player in a movie, you can touch the flowers or the wooden log homes that decorate the gardens, and if you are hungry you can taste the amazing waffle with the most amazing strawberry jam I’ve ever had.

Throughout the day there are also performances and shows.  There was an African dance while I was there. If you prefer something more high tech, there are also The Dome and Earthwalk which gives you a modern view of horticulture.  Beautifully done.  

I could go on and on but of course pictures a worth a thousand words.

How to get there?  I went to the Tourist office and asked for options.  The easiest option would be to take an excursion there for 75EUR but then you do not have the flexibility of coming back whenever you wish to.  I think the excursion gets back at around 9pm at night and I had a meeting I had to get to and so that was not an option.

Going by yourself is not significantly cheaper but it gives you the flexibility of going at your own time.  We bought entrance tickets to the Floriade at the Tourist Centre by Central Station to save time there and also got details on which trains to take.  Train tickets cost me 42.70 roundtrip from Central Station to Venlo.  It requires connecting to a different train but it’s all quite simple. Just walk across the station at Eindhoven.  Once at Venlo train station there is a little bookstore that sells tickets for the shuttle bus to the Floriade for around 3.50 EUR.  Oh, the trains we took also had free Wifi so the two hour journey went by in a jiffy. 

I wish I could have spent more time there, but then of course I could not. Of course, you can also get more information and buy entrance tickets online at

Google Doctor: Guilty

It’s been too long since my last post. I missed writing. I missed my blog. I missed my readers. The voices inside me missed being punched onto the screen. With this change in weather and not having enough “me” time of late, I’ve been literally voiceless from a bad flu and I have to say it hasn’t been one of my best weeks. I never had such a good stomach workout(or pain) from a cough before. (They say laughter is good for toning your stomach muscles, but I think coughs must rank somewhere closeby.) Nevertheless, one must be be positive! I think my stomach will be fit and toned by the time the coughing has subsided. Wonderful. I’ve even lost a kg that was excess since the New Years. As having a cold seems to be “in” at the moment with a change in weather and all, I thought today I’d write about why one should NOT be a google doc.

I am guilty of being a google doc. Whenever I come down with something I like to google it up the symptoms, read about it voraciously and quench my thirst for medicinal knowledge. At first I had a cough and an itch. I googled it up and wow, I find it could be a symptom of Lymphoma. What really? Maybe those fat lumps on my bodies were symptoms? (or maybe just cellulite) Upon being hit by the head by Alex who says I think too much, (which he is correct), I realise I do indeed think too much. My itch probably comes from my crackling dry skin exposed to sun and aircondition. After a few hours, I forgot about it and the itch was gone. No Lymphoma. Thank goodness.

Then as the cough became more severe, I started wondering if it could be pneumonia. (Well, I had been coughing up non-stop and the fits were sometimes painful without my being able to stop it.) I took antibiotics but it was slowly recovering. Not fast enough for my liking. I got impatient. I have many many things I need to get done at the moment. Sleepless weekend nights due to coughing had me sitting in the dark in front of my tab googling away. I am now more knowledgeable about flu, colds and pneumonias.

It’s a waste of time really.

A waste of brain power I could have spent doing something else more effective.

Going to the doctor for the third time, he verified that my lungs indeed sounded nice and clear. I just needed to get rid of the phlegm and coughs which are usually the last symptoms to disappear. I do not have pneumonia.

I just had a bad cold. That’s it.

So all my google doc efforts were in vain. I just had a cold. The lesson learnt from this episode is really just go to the doctor if you are ill. Don’t be a google doc like me and waste time googling all sorts of things. Let’s spend the time doing something else more creative or enjoyable. Spend time reading a good book or watching a good movie. Life is short enough.

Do you google doc? What do you do?

A Teacher and A Student

For some things in life you only discover a love, a passion for it later on in life. I suppose it’s better late than never as the old saying goes.   With this blog, I rediscovered my love of writing and with teaching I discovered my love of teaching. Nothing gives more satisfaction than the sight of someone’s eyes sparkle in delight and understanding when something previously unknown is finally understood.   I had been teaching younger kids and have recently moved onto teaching older students getting ready for college entrance exams.

You may wonder what is so good about teaching?  You keep saying what you know to students again and again?  For me it’s more than that. It’s fun and exhilirating.  Teaching for me is not just about going to a classroom and lecturing so that students can jot down notes and memorize.  Teaching is understanding and realizing the potential in each student.  Teaching involves understanding how each and everyone learns and customizing lessons to suit their styles.

Everyone I believe learns differently.  We have different trigger points, different ways of understanding things.  Some like pictures, music and diagrams.  Some prefer numbers, text and plain old reading and writing.  Understanding how one prefers to learn is important for if one learns the way one enjoys, then one will learn more and understand more.  Some are so bright, if taught too slowly, they will fall asleep.  It’s not that they are unmotivated, it’s just too slow sometimes.

I witnessed the importance of teaching with understanding with my first senior level student.  Upon the first encounter, I could see that she did not like English.  It was a mumble jumble of squiggles on a page that looked like a big headache.  (I can relate to the feeling, because that is what I felt like when I first started learning Thai and saw an entire page of squiggly letters.)  It was something she did not want to touch for just reading each word was a painful experience.   She barely touched the exam I had given her.

Since our first encounter, together we have spent a good number of hours going through exams, dissecting texts, learning grammar and vocabularly.  What I love most is the sparkle in her eyes when I explain something and the squiggles suddenly start to make sense.   English starts being fun.  I start getting more questions as her curiousity increases.  What is the difference between this word and that?  When can we use these sentences or phrases?  The lesson continues after hours.  With technology, mini lessons continue.  Readings and sentences are sent online. I love the interaction.

All these questions and the sparkles that light up her face make me smile and my heart feel literally full.  I am happy and content with my life.  I understand now why some choose to be teachers and professors.  The satisfaction of giving knowledge and seeing students learn, understand and enjoy is truly indeed a satisfying feeling.  It’s fulfilling.  It’s good for the soul.

Thank you for letting me teach dear student.

Baby, Baby, Come Home

Sometimes your inner voice tells you not to do something, but you do it anyway.  Then later you end up thinking to yourself “Damn, why didn’t I listen to my inner voice?”  This happened to me exactly this past Monday. Here’s a funny story.

This past weekend, Alex and I have been discussing when best it would be to bring my Baby back home.  Yes, my little White Baby Jazz (if you are wondering, it’s my car :))  has been in safekeeping for roughly a month now away from the flood, away from the water that could cause it to choke, suffocate and eventually die.  It has only just reached it’s second birthday.  Too young to die.

Monitoring water levels, canal drainage, potential flooding estimates, we decided that by this week, I should be able to take my Baby out for a spin. It should be safe enough as the chance of her drowning in water seems quite minimal.  She’s restless and needs to get out of her little rectangle high up on the 7th floor.  I’m restless and need a spin around town.  We decide, Wednesday is a good day.

Yes, we will take Baby Jazz out on Wednesday. A few more days and the situation should be clearer

Comes Monday, all seems well and we have a change of heart.  Monday, Monday, will be the day Baby Jazz comes out for a spin!  I’m happy.  Things are becoming more normal and I can go for spins around town!

I was happy, yet deep inside of me I wondered if it was too soon.  Some things were still not too clear.  Was I rushing things too fast?  I pushed those thoughts aside.  What was there to worry about? It will not flood.  I was being overly cautious.  I was overreacting.

I decide to take her out of safekeeping and bring her safely down to flat land.  Once home, she sat happily under the clear cloudless sky enjoying the fresh air and the space around her. Birds flying overhead chirping her welcome.  It was a lovely evening the day Baby came back home.

Things seemed normal until I reached the end of the news.   The presented asked Professor Seri why certain zones were being declared evacuation zones.   What? What zones? They sounded familiar and close by?  The professor said we had to check facts on what was happening at the canal. Bangsue canal.  Yes, the one by my house.

I got on Twitter, FB and checked the news. Only three hours after Baby arrived home, the roads less than a kilometer away from me were being declared evacuation zones.  I wondered what happened to the protocol of having to be declared a “monitoring zone” before evacuation status?  Nevermind, the canal must have overflown.  The pumps must have broken down.  Maybe the water was flowing faster than expected.

My Baby had to go back to safety fast!  I got out of bed once more, dressed and in the midst of the night took Baby back to somewhere I’d know she’d be safe.

I knew this would happen! I knew it was too fast too soon to bring out baby.  My inner voice tells me again.  Why didn’t I listen to it? I didn’t want to.

Upon having completed the task of taking her back to safekeeping and arriving home.  I discover the Evacuation notice has been cancelled.   What??  Data Error.    No Comment.

No matter what, I decide to listen to the original listen voice and wait for Wednesday. Good middle Wednesday.

On  Wednesday I let myself listen to my inner voice.  Yes, it’s okay now to bring out Baby on Wednesday as initially planned. So tonight I brought Baby home.  Let’s hope it’s for keeps this time. 🙂

So listen to your inner voice.  Listen to your hunch.  It may be just what you need to save you some trouble. Or if you want some excitement in your life, just ignore it. 🙂 Who knows what excitement it will bring?  So I had fun driving around.  Better safe than sorry!

Bangkok flooding: Bunker City

I’ve been back for a few days now from my evacuation. I missed home too much and needed to get some things done at work.  Now that I’m back, I once again feel the psychological stress and intensity with which this flooding is affecting Bangkok citizens.  It’s like a race against time.  A race against the
impending flood.  A race against water that seeps in through every crack and nook.

Humans race to be the winner in this losing battle.  Everyone is applying new ways of protection against the flood.  The shops on my road and businesses were busy reinforcing their protection.  As time goes by, the form of flood protection changes and evolves with experience.  Everyone is building a bunker or living in one (like I am).

I’ve been observing the flood protection over the past month and it seems to evolve over time.  Here
is a list of how bunkers have evolved over the past month in Bangkok.

First, sandbags. Lined any old way, we thought they would help. Then proper ways were taught as to how they should be aligned.  In the beginning maybe only a row or two, then weeks later, walls sometimes grew higher.  A bank just by my house increased it’s wall protection from half a meter to two meters.  Imagine a two meter high wall of sandbags.  Tomorrow I will take a picture as I walk past.

Second, wide plastic sheets to cover the sandbags that might deteriorate with long exposure to water.  Silicone was used to seal doors and cracks.  Wall cracks, plugs, everything was sealed with silicone. I had fun with the gun.

Sandbags lost some appeal as if they are improperly aligned they might leak.  Also they are heavy, so if you line it up too long against glass or a wall coupled with the pressure from the water, the wall might just collapse on you.  Such has been the cause of many injuries.  They are also extremely heavy, so if you are a house without much manpower, it is a tough job.

Third, brick cement walls came as the scarcity of sandbags caused everyone to seek alternative forms of protection.  A neighbour at first built a small wall roughly 3 blocks high and has since been adding a block per week the past two weeks.

Fourth, wall boards (not sure what you call those walls made of compressed wood that in construction is sometimes used between rooms) then sealed to fronts.  No cement walls, but instead these synthetic walls were carefully placed and sealed to doors and walls.  Sometimes they were given a large plastic cover to give added protection.

Fifth, metal walls.  Yes, I passed a business building today which had protected itself with
large metal sheets.  I think it was aluminium, but I am not sure.  Lined up beautifully and sealed against the entire base of the business, I think it will work well.

Are there other types of bunkers? If you know of any or have pictures, please share.

In the meanwhile, stay dry!  This may or may not be one of the last few posts from my home before I
have to evacuate for who knows how long.

Bangkok Flooding: Live life

I’m ready to go home.  I miss my home.  I miss my life and yes, I have to admit, I do miss going to work as well.  I miss the certainty of it all.  I like adventures, but this flooding is not an adventure I like nor enjoy.   I suppose this is what people feel like in wars where they are forced to evacuate their homes and seek refuge elsewhere.

Almost four hundred people have already died.

Some die from tripping and drowning, others from electrocution, or some from health problems.  I suspect too that all this stress from watching flood related news in order to find out if our house will be flooded or not is causing significant psychological distress.

Now all I want is to get flooded and get it over with. Dear water, just flood and begone.

This flood has also reinforced something I’ve thought about before and that is to just live your life before it’s too late.  You never know when you are going to get flooded and die.  In fact, you never know what is going to happen.  A few weeks ago, I was still happily going through life not expecting this national crisis we are currently in. I think ten million other people were too.

Now all that has changed.  So if you want to do something, do it.  If you want to say something, say it. If you want to dream something, dream it.  Do it all before it’s too late dear friends.  Who knows. Maybe there will be no tomorrow. Live each day like it were your last.

Bangkok Flooding: Lost in limbo

It’s my second day after evacuation and I feel somewhat lost in limbo. I do not know what lies ahead. I miss my home and I miss normal daily life. Forced evacuations are no fun even if you get to go out of town. Your mind is always wondering about what next. What happens next? No answer. Now the dilemma is deciding when would be the appropriate time to go back? If I go back too early, I may have to end up evacuating again. If I wait, I do not know how long the wait will have to be. Will it be one week, two weeks or more?

I need to go back to go on with my life. Now nothing can be planned and there is no timeframe.

I realize now how important it is to have certain basic certainty in one’s life. A safe home, clean tap water, electricity and a safe environment in which to live. Most importantly though is to be surrounded by family and loved ones. What good is having all the world’s goods if your family is not with you?

I’m glad we are now all together and safe. We don’t have to worry about wading through water and
getting electrocuted, nor do we have to worry about getting ill with no one to help. I still do, however, worry about my country and all who are now suffering. What will the future be like? How long will this nightmare continue ? When and if, will we ever return to normalcy?

Pray for Thailand. Let’s hope we all get past this nightmare. Maybe bruised and battered, but
still alive.