Sunday, December 16, 2007

Home Sweet Home

My Room. So good to sleep on my own bed again! And taste the local seafood, which can only be found in Sabah. Mom and dad still look quite young, which is understandable because mom is a health freak. Going to KL this tuesday with my favourite cousins. Then this saturday, will be flying to Turkey!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Random thought of the day

Time capsule

Was looking through pictures on my external hard drive when I stumbled upon some old pictures taken circa 2004 AD.

Hope Christian Fellowship Church. I was in the dance team, and we danced in front of Woolies at Rundle Mall every saturday. we would flash up this message at the end of the dance. Yeah this dance is sponsored by the one and only Son of God. I left this church at the end of 2004.

My house back in KK! Heavily photoshopped. The house has changed a lot since then due to renovations, though the front still remains the same.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Monday, 29th October 2007. We took the train from Rome to Florence. It was a 3 hour trip. Florence used to be the capital of Italy in the 19th century. The city centre is a World Heritage site, and has a massive church called the Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo:

It took 140 years to build!

At the front and sides of the church were African vendors selling fake leather bags. If a police came one vendor would alert the other and they would only take a few minutes to pack everything and run!

The streets of Florence, like Rome (or any Italian city) are very narrow:

So more people invest in motorbikes, mini lorries and smart cars...

An electric car. Note the power plug at the lower side, it's being charged!

On Halloween's (31st October) I decided to take a walk around the city without looking at the map. Night came and I decided to check the map, feeling excited and worried at the same time because I couldn't find where I was! What if I wandered off the map? It was only when I walked into this piazza...
Did I find myself again! The Basilica di Santa Croce, a Francescan church, sponsored by rich families during the middle ages for its construction. I felt so relieved and quite mad at myself for not checking where I should go first on the map. Then I walked into this narrow street and saw this:

A Halloween party! It was so nicely decorated I was a bit shy to go inside because it might be reserved for guests. But then I stepped in...

There was a lovely bar inside, and the bartenders had witches' hats on! One of the workers told me that the party would start at 7pm and it was free! So I stayed around, waiting for 7pm to come and taking more photos

Pumpkin used for the lighting feature

7pm came and nobody was there! I waited for 20 minutes more but still no one came. A group of kids dressed as witches, mummies and ghosts came in, had a look around and came out with their mouths full of sandwiches. I gave up and started walking back to the Hostel. When I got to the Duomo, I realised I haven't changed my hand phone time to one hour ahead because of daylight savings! D'oh!

Still was a very festive Halloween experience. I love pumpkin lanterns!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ben's Birthday

He is 25 years young!

The Cake

it was getting too hot...
"Eh water restrictions lo..."


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Vatican City

This is the smallest country in the world, as big as 6 football fields. I went there a few times during the trip, the first time I went the pope was speaking:

Pic by Cherry

The pope here is like a celebrity, the people LOVE him. St Peter's square felt like a football match, people were waving flags and banners, cheering for everything Benedict said. The German dudes I met in the Hostel said that when Benedict was elected as pope one German newspaper had a headline saying "We are the pope" (Benedict is German).

On my second visit I went inside the St Peter's Church:

When I looked up...

This sculpture is made of marble. I'm amazed at how they can make the clothing look so real , especially when marble is such a hard material to sculpt.

I wanted to go to the top of St Peter's that day, but it closed while I was in the queue! Doh! So I came back again the day after, took the elevator up and saw this:

and climbed these spiral stairs:

And narrow slanting passageways:

It was getting dark when I reached the top. I stayed there drinking in the awesome view until closing time.

By the time I left Vatican City it looked like this:

My Darling Italy, you are beautiful. Despite all the inefficiency and racism in you I can't help but think of coming back to see you again. Especially your architecture! It makes the Parliament house and Art Gallery look like cheap imitations.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Racism in Rome

I feel proud every time someone thinks I'm Japanese. Even if that someone is racist. I've had a few racist moments in Rome. Was walking to the Hostel one night with Kim and Will when a group of guys started saying "Konichiwa! Konichiwa!" Will tried being friendly towards them by saying "Yo, Konichiwa!" back but they just made rude noises and walked away. Not far away was Graffiti on the wall that said, "Aliens go home!" And then there was this other time I walked into a shop to get some lunch and the man behind the counter started laughing and calling me "Jackie Chan! Bruce Lee!" while his colleague who was serving me put on a very sour face. The most 'kick' story is still the one on the bus where this group of Russian guys said I should be a monkey in a zoo and started going "Woot! Woot!"

It's not limited to Italy alone. In a bus in Barcelona, Spain, some dude was talking to his friend on his mobile about wanting to kill Arabs. One of the lady passengers looked at him in shock. He probably thought she was Arabic, and started kicking her, all the while talking to his friend about killing Arabs. This was caught on security camera in the bus, and it also showed that none of the surrounding passengers helped the poor lady. Nobody cared.

So much negativity in the world. Somehow I am comforted by this song I used to sing in Sunday school, "Black and yellow red and white, they are precious in His sight..."

Indeed we are so precious...

Lost in Translation

Kim and I were checking out this Korean Restaurant near our hostel. As we enter the premises...

Manager and waiter/ waitresses: Anyo Haseyo! (Kim is Korean Australian but she can't speak Korean. So she decides to say...)

Kim: Bonjourno! (Italian for 'Hello!)

Manager (Looking a bit surprised): Nie Sher Zhoungguo ren ma? (Mandarin for "Are you from China?)

Aaron (Without even thinking): No, we're Australian.

Now everyone except Kim and I looks confused. We look at the menu for a little bit, then decide to leave.

Kim: Grazie (Italian for "Thanks!)

Manager and his workers smile and nod their heads, still looking confused.

The horrible airport experience

November 4th. It was a bright sunny day. At last I'm coming back to Adelaide! I reached the airport at 11.30am, my flight scheduled to depart at 1.45pm.

The departure time read 12.20pm on the display screen. What?! I checked in at the counter. The lady in charge says, "Why are you so late? It's past boarding time." I was melting to the ground as she called her superior to negotiate. When she finished I told her my flight itinerary said the departure time was 1.45pm. She said, "But we had daylight savings. Your travel agent should have told you this". Eh?! This kind of thing never happens in Adelaide. I asked if the plane was still waiting for me, and she said, "Yes". So I ran, thinking that even if DST was accounted for, the departure time would be 12.45pm instead of 12.20pm. But Daylight savings is not a valid reason to begin with! #@*%! There were massive queues at the metal detectors and passport checkpoints. One minute waiting there was like an hour. by the time I cleared those checkpoints, I saw other people running with me. One of them crashed into a lady carrying shopping bags. Then I reached the boarding gate for my flight and saw another queue. I quickly became relaxed. Ha! So I wasn't the only one caught off- guard. When I was finally seated on the plane in the middle seat =( I got news from the pilot that the flight was being delayed because they were still waiting for 6 people.

Here's to the inefficiency of the great Italy. Thank God I made it out alive. phew =p

Italy is NOT a developed country

  • It takes two years just to get a building permit.
  • The government has too many people employed in it. Some government posts are unnecessary, but the people in these posts say, "Ah, but that's how we get paid". So unnecessary posts slow down the system, also costing the taxpayers their precious Euros.
  • The people are generally not civic minded. The drivers park their cars on road corners, on pedestrian crossings and block cars parked in legal parking areas. Most pedestrian crossings in Rome don't have signal lights, so you cross the street and hope that some kind soul of a driver stops for you, which doesn't happen because most Roman drivers are soulless monsters (haha, pls don't take this literally).
  • As a result of the above, people get hit by cars all the time. Even the sidewalk isn't safe, there was an article on the news about someone who got killed by a car that drove up onto the sidewalk. That's why you hear ambulances all the time, and they take ages to reach the hospital because of bad roads.
  • Art is more appreciated than practicality. You get beautiful water taps that don't work.
  • My experience at the airport (Grrr! Will elaborate on the next post)

Florence to Rome: Train Ride

Last thursday I was taking the train from Florence back to Rome and my huge luggage bag occupied 3 seats! The train started filling up with people and suddenly, mom called. While chatting on my mobile, someone asked if they could sit next to me and I nodded. Then I looked up and saw 3 girls stealing my bag! But then I realised they were only trying to lift my massive bag up into the luggage compartment above so they could occupy the seats! At the same time they were giggling and commenting how heavy my bag was! I was about to help them but my bag was already stowed safely away and I could only say "Thank you very much!" They giggled in return and one of them said "That's ok!" And I made 3 new friends that day =D

I couldn't remember all their names so I gave them nicknames: Miss Personality, Lollipop and Sophisticated Lady. Miss Personality was the friendliest of the lot; she wore thick framed glasses and had a big, goofy smile. She's 18 years old, about to enter uni and speaks English, Spanish, Italian, French and Hungarian! Lollipop was the sweetest among the three (hence her nickname), and her name was the only one I could remember out of the three girls' names because it was easy to remember; Maria-Julia. She was studying for a test, reading and highlighting from a textbook about two famous poets in Italy. One of the poets was very poor; when he was little, he had a mother who wished all her kids would die because she reckoned they'd be happier in Heaven. The other poet was a womaniser, flirted with a woman who fell in love with him, then went for another. Maria didn't talk about what happened in the end when the first woman found out, she just told me, "Don't be like this guy. He's horrible!"

Miss Sophisticated Lady was blonde, looked like a supermodel and was from Stuttgart, Germany. She was the quietest of the lot, but she did have cool clothes. In the end, we reached Rome, took photos (Miss Personality wasn't there though, she had gotten off earlier at another stop) and Maria exchanged hugs and told me that by fate, we might meet on the train again someday. Wished I'd gotten her email. D'oh!

Left to right: Me, Maria Julia and German supermodel

Random people in Rome part 1

An odd collection of people I bumped into in Rome:
  • A Spanish student called Mario who is buck toothed, plays rugby and speaks horrible English.
  • A sceptical American who hates George Bush ("That guy's an idiot!"), saying he became president only because he was voted by 'ignorant, religious bigots' whose minds were brainwashed by Fox News.
  • A Filipino woman at the kebab shop who asked if I was American. When I told her I was from Sabah, she said she had lived in KK before (I started feeling homesick).
  • A black American who sees me sketching at the Vatican Museum, walks up and says, "It's the gift of God you have son and you're doing a great job. Have a nice day".
  • A friendly guard at the Vatican. I was walking into St Peter's basilica when he pointed at me at said, "Hey". I thought he wanted me to put my bag in the bagroom because maybe bags weren't allowed inside the building but he pointed at the Roma FC shirt I was wearing and said, "Support Lazio, NOT Roma!" I gave him a high five and walked off, while his friends laughed at me and said, "Australi" (they thought I was an Australian tourist).
  • A rude American who slaps my shoulder while I'm surfing the net at one of the computers at the hostel, saying "Would you mind getting off!" There is a plague of Americans all over Rome, I can see and hear them everywhere from the Vatican to the Hostel at 12 midnight when they're drunk...
  • Two German dudes at the hostel during my last days in Rome, named Dirk and Matthias. They had the most LAME jokes, eg.
"What did the man with one hand do to get another hand?"
"He went to the second hand shop"