having my Cake, eating it – and not counting every last calorie

life, death and eternity September 21, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — c*devotchka @ 10:28 am
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on the day we visited Jerash, we stopped by at Ajlun too. the castle on the steep hilltop in Ajlun is called Qal-at al-Rabad and was built over an old monastery by one of Saladin’s (Salah al-Din) army generals in 1184. it is one of many Islamic forts that the Crusaders fought to take over.

jordan - ajlun 1

jordan - ajlun 2

a ghost in a hallway.

jordan - ajlun 3

as we explored the castle, we felt some sense of wonderment and strangely, kinship to the men who had once served under Saladin in this fort, fighting the Crusaders, many to their deaths.

jordan - ajlun 4

it is obvious why Saladin’s men decided to build a fort here, the 360° view from the summit is amazing.

jordan - ajlun 5
wind shafts in every room, for ventilation, to cool down hot, sinewy, soldiers.

jordan - ajlun 6

jordan - ajlun 7 (rv cannonballs)

thou shalt not trespass me for i have, in my hands, a cannonball! that, i wouldn’t drop on anyone’s foot. they must have had some sexy biceps action going on back then.

jordan - ajlun 8 (rv and me)

ah, look. how nice it is to see what we looked like before we got black and brown (left to right respectively) over the days to come.

jordan - ajlun 9

jordan - ajlun 10

brave men with bulging calves used to run up these stairs.

jordan - amman (rv at barber)

exploring Jerash in the heat and climbing rocks and stairs at Ajlun positively tired us out. i desperately needed a camera bag so we headed down to one of Amman’s malls. the Jordanians we encountered here could understand English but were unable to reply in fluent English (which surprised me) – however, they tried so hard to communicate with us, that we were struck by their sincerity. we love you, Jordan.

Ravi decided he could no longer deal with his squirrel tail hair no more and had the most perfect shave in his life. it was the straightest damn hairline i’d ever seen. he found his dream barber, and 2 days later, i found my dream hairdresser. which makes our next haircuts really expensive!

a little history lesson about Amman: it was once called Rabbath Ammon or “Great City of the Ammonites” and was ruled by different peoples at different times, Assyria, Babylonia, the Ptolemies, the Seleucids, Rome and then the Umayyads. Ptolemy II Philadelphus then renamed Amman “Philadelphia”.

jordan - amman 1

the next day, we rushed to Jabal al-Qala’a, the hill of the Citadel in Amman. the big plan was to finish sites in Amman before heading to Jerusalem. we were so psyched.

jordan - amman 2

the temple of Hercules/Heracles.

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jordan - amman 4

from up here, you get a pretty clear panorama of some parts of Amman. cradled in the middle of this modern day city is the Roman theatre, carved out of the mountain. it rises quite stubbornly, refusing to be forgotten in the smog of modernization.

jordan - amman 5

al-Qasr, part of the Umayyad dynasty. don’t have me notes with me, but i believe this is the dome, within the compound of the mosque. the original dome’s long gone, but restorers have replaced it with a wooden one.

jordan - amman 6

the Umayyad mosque.

jordan - amman 7

i could frolick here all day.

jordan - amman 8

must have been gorgeous back then!

the museum up here, while austere, is full of goodies. housed in a bungalow that feels more like a house, you’d find pieces excavated from the Middle Bronze and Iron ages to Hellenistic, Roman and Islamic ages. wish we had more time. in fact, had we known about how inefficient (and arrogant and rude!) the Israeli customs at the Allenby bridge would be, we’d have spent more time in this museum.

jordan - amman 9
we rushed downhill to the Roman theatre. this time, we passed on climbing the steep steps. i can almost hear Roman robes swishing and hurrying to their seats. despite being by a main road, the theatre was surprisingly quiet.

jordan - amman 10

the trademark of Philadelphia – an eye.

jordan - amman 11

and here’s Hercules/Heracles, or what’s left of him. crouching, broken, in a shaded corner, almost embarrassed to be found at less than half his heyday glory.

jordan - amman 12

and off we then rushed to Jerusalem, or so we thought. and that was the end of our 2nd day.


a sweet wait September 9, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — c*devotchka @ 12:24 pm
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finally settled in far enough to upload some pictures from our holiday in Jordan and Egypt!

jordan - hisham hotel

in Amman, we stayed at a charming little hotel called Hisham Hotel in Jebel Amman where most embassies are located. we highly recommend it. stepping into the room was like blinking ourselves back to the 60s – 80s. different retro elements of the room made us feel strangely familiar. at times, the room also smelled of the 80s.

jordan - streets

driving through the streets of Amman. we love Jordan. King Abdullah, please make us honorary citizens. we promise to open a delicious S-E-Asian restaurant. the drive towards Jerash in the north of Amman was a sight to behold, different shades of browns, blues and greens, hills of olives rolling like waves over historical and archaeological land. i loved it especially when the hill dropped to such staggering heights, you feel like you can just fall over, and in love with the country.

jordan - jerash 1

i don’t have my notes (in the container at Dubai port) so please bear with me. this is Jerash, the most complete, preserved Roman archaeological site in the world, if i remember correctly. i can’t remember if this is the entrance to the city but something tells me it isn’t. i believe this is called Bab Amman, erected in honour of a visiting official.

jordan - jerash 2

jordan - jerash 3

a strong arch, it is.

jordan - jerash 4

this is the forum where the citizens of Decapolis would gather on special occasions. important announcements would be made at the lone column in the middle. the columns of the colonnade were once half buried underground.

jordan - jerash 5

standing tall.

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back then, there would have been bartering and trading at shops behind the columns of the colonnade. look closer and you can still see the brick formations of the shops.

jordan - jerash 7

Roman corridors.

jordan - jerash 8

steps of the South Theatre which gave me an ominous preview of harder, thousands more painful steps over the coming weeks.

jordan - jerash 9

the South Theatre. we were amazed. we were standing on rocks of history.

jordan - jerash 10

topa the world.

jordan - jerash 11

more of the stage. back then, the lead actor would stand on a particular spot in the middle of the semi-circle – the acoustics is amazing. you don’t even have to shout and others can hear everything! genius!

jordan - jerash 12

Greek inscriptions on the lower tiers of the seats, presumed to be reserved for the upper crust of society.

jordan - jerash 13

the colonnade from afar.

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all roads lead to Rome.

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a church, beautiful mosaic.

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ah, stupendous. if i’m not wrong, this was at the Temple of Artemis.

jordan - jerash 17

the amphitheatre where the senate used to gather, i believe. i’d asked how weddings were performed, apparently they don’t know! so sad!

jordan - jerash 18

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the drainage system.

jordan - jerash 20

streets used to be lit up this way, see the carbon deposits from fire in the depressions above?

jordan - jerash 21

looking on, back on time.

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the temple of Zeus. nothing much remains of it, sadly. not everyone was allowed into the actual temple itself, each tier of steps were for different strata of society. only the priests were allowed into the inner sanctuary. hmph, elitists.

jordan - jerash 23 (ravi)

Ravi claims Jordan’s Philadelphia beer is the best beer he has ever had. and mind you, he’s been to Oktoberfest.

jordan - jerash 24 (stables)

where races used to be held.

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jordan - jerash 26

and that’s just Jerash! there’s still Ajloun! the Dead Sea! Madaba! Karnak and Shobak castles! Wadi Mujib! and PETRA!

oh Jordan, we will return.

more here.


ants begone! September 7, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — c*devotchka @ 10:02 am
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dreamt that i brushed the soft underbelly of my right arm on some small green, elongated seeds at the corner of a table and thought nothing of it. except that most of the seeds latched on to my arm and didn’t drop off. and to my horror, they morphed into parasites! they whipped out pincers and drilled into my arms and got into my system. it felt like small pinches when they bored into my skin. i watched, frozen, as the parasites undulated under my skin. literally, my skin was crawling.

some tried to bite their way out, but this time – they weren’t as small as rice grains, they’re fatter and longer. they pushed up against my skin with their ominous fat, green tubular bodies bulging, threatening to burst through. when one finally did, i woke up.

and thought to myself, i gotta do something about the ants at home.

the pinching i felt? probably from the ants that strayed onto our bed. the day after our first night in this home, i realised that the ants were a serious problem when i saw 4 strolling casually across the highway of white bed linen. 4 strolling ants = a giant anthill somewhere.

on any given day, in any other house, i’m usually quite forgiving and let tiny working creatures pass. save for the evil arthropods, cockroaches. i’d throw my slipper at them from a metre away, throw the slipper away, then wait for Ravi to return to pick up the carcass of a smashed roach.

but i can’t let this pass cos i can’t leave anything out unattended. not my goreng pisang, not my chocolates which i savour leisurely over an hour, not even the q-tip which has cleaned out the insides of my ear.

i’m not keen on following the expressway of ants at the top of our wall to find the X which marks the home of gabazillions of ants, then pouring vinegar all over it. i wouldn’t be able to sleep for months (ok, fine, days), hearing the screams of corroded ants, all 6 melted legs shivering in the air, begging for mercy.

that’s right, i’ve double standards when it comes to cockroaches.

i just want the ants to stay away. don’t collect $200 or my chocolates, just pass Go. go the neighbour’s or someone else’s sugar jar. i took a tip from my granduncle whose landed property does not have a single ant. not a single one in the week we stayed there, even with bowls of cat food out.

we’ve put fresh red chillies around the house. including one on our bed frame.

only 12 hours later and the number of ants walking around has reduced from the usual sighting of at least 20/30 to just 2. 2 lone ants! probably the only 2 ants with some kind of recessive gene which doesn’t trigger negative sensations with chillies.

not a big fan of insecticide, so i took a look at what people were suggesting online.

  1. Purchase pipe tobacco from your local store.
  2. Soak it in warm water overnight.
  3. Decant the liquid and throw away the soggy tobacco.
  4. Pour the liquid over the anthill – they overdose on nicotine and die.

that’s right folks, they overdose on nicotine AND DIE! DIE! DIE!

  1. Follow the trail of ants to determine where they come into the house.
  2. Locate the holes, apply the holes with soap or white glue.

starve em of oxygen folks! let em choke to death! or let em bathe themselves to death!

and when you’re really looking for something creative and ingenious, try entrapment!

  1. Get a shot glass, some salt, and some sugar.
  2. Take your middle finger and put it in the bottom of the shot glass, pour the sugar around your middle finger.
  3. Take the salt and quickly remove your middle finger then pour it in the crater left from your middle finger.
  4. Take the shot glass and find the ant hill.
  5. Put the shot glass down so the open drinking end is on the ground and pull it up. This should leave a small pile of sugar with a salt core.
  6. The ants will find the sugar and begin to eat/transport it into their hill. They will keep doing this until they can no longer taste the sugar, then start to get into the salt, which kills them.

how about good ol’ boiled ants?

  • Find the ant mound, and destroy it using boiling water.

and how about the excitement of finding parts of dead ants all over your house?

  • Put out Cream of Wheat. Don’t cook it first. The ants eat it, it expands, boom!

going by the glee of the authors of some of these creative methods, i’d say these people put salt into snail shells when they were kids, just to see the snail froth and melt away to a very painful death.

think i might try these though.

  • If ants enter the house from the windows, use chalk around the window frame. You will be amazed to see how they move away from any chalk lines!
  • You can also mop the floor with about half liter of water mixed with two to three drops of lavender essential oil. That will keep away ants away, too.
  • Try a natural repellent such as ground or powdered chili, or used coffee grounds. Citrus peel (ground) works well too. They hate the smell of vinegar; make a solution with water to spray around.

vinegar, lemon, bicarbonate soda – my favourite cleaning ingredients might well be more than enough! and lavender! how i love thee!


almost settled September 6, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — c*devotchka @ 10:06 am
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i don’t even know where to begin!

i’m slouching on our new paprika-coloured sofa, a metre from the computer, still cloaked (or rather, barely decent) in last night’s green t-shirt which still smells of 8 hours of sleep and a pair of faded green boyshorts topped with a pink ribbon.

sounds like my daily routine in Dubai, except we’re in Singapore!

3 weeks in Jordan and Egypt, 3 in Singapore and KL, another 2 in Dubai, and now we’re back to Singapore. we’ve tied up all thinkable loose ends in Dubai and have moved back here. i’m gonna miss all that airplane food. plastic food in little boxes? how can i resist!

there are two main phases to any inter-country move. settling down and settling in.

settling down. looking at classified ads for rental apartments daily, running around Singapore looking at apartments and meeting agents with dollar-signs in their eyes. all this, in one of the wettest months of the year, August, is hardly a walk in the park.

more like a dash through soggy parks with a pair of flip-flops.

while looking for a more permanent pad, my granduncle and grandauntie were generous enough to put us up. grampies are the best. they have funny stories, they are loving and they repeat everything they say. we even managed to squeeze in an excursion to Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve where we faced off with what looked like a giant monitor lizard. more of that next time.

rentals in Singapore are absolutely insane. we knew from looking at online ads 2 months ago but we couldn’t really believe it, or at least, we were in denial.

HDB (Housing Development Board – government flats for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents) flats going for above 1K, private apartments for above 2.5K. the owner of a crummy 3-room (2 bedrooms + 1 hall) HDB for rent on Zion Road was hoping to bank in 1.7K just on the apartment’s central location! i’d rather pay the same for Redhill or Tiong Bahru apartments which are far newer and only a few MRT stations away.

understand the general rent increases but some landlords are plain greedy (and ridiculous!) and while some agents can barely convince the landlords of how stupid some of the insisted rents are, i believe a good bulk of agents are happily cashing in.

selling prices are even more ridiculous, especially with regards to HDB units. some owners are asking for $100k in cash. young Singaporean couples can only opt for new HDBs if they don’t have ridiculous amounts of spare change lying around.

this needs to be plugged – HDBs are supposed to be affordable housing for Singaporeans, not money-making schemes for greedy owners or for PRs who’ve left Singapore for good but are renting out their HDB units to genuine Singaporeans/PRs who really need a place to stay.

mass hysteria, this is what it is. greedy hysteria on the part of some HDB owners. i’m relieved we purchased our Pinnacle unit 2 years ago, the only headache we have to deal with is the ant problem in this house we’re renting! i am being eaten alive by tiny black ants! can’t leave a mug of soya milk out unattended longer than 15 minutes.

and now, settling in. we moved in on sunday. cable tv up on sunday. Ravi started work on monday. sofa arrived on monday. internet connection finally rectified wednesday. now we’re just waiting for our container to arrive from Dubai. can’t wait to be surrounded by familiar things.

we live in Bukit Batok now and i have to confess i’m absolutely lost, geographically. drop me anywhere in the west or north of Singapore and i’m a lost chicken. although the housing agent arranged for the house to be cleaned before we moved in, it just looks clean and is nowhere near clean. the previous tenants were somehow living in filth and did not really care for the apartment as much as they should.

this is what i don’t get. many tenants barely care for the house they live in for whatever reason they think is fair e.g. “i’m paying what, i can do whatever i want.”, “these aren’t my things, so whatever.”

when we borrow a book from the library, we do not exactly rip its pages out, do we? or maybe some of you do, the same ones who never scrub dishracks or the kitchen stove.

we’re treating the kitchen with Body Shop’s Passionfruit to get rid of the strong curry smell we were initially bowled over by when we viewed the house. it’s working out nicely – save for the ants who’ve been zooming in on the vegetable tealight candles. go pick up some cockroach leg or something! leave me and my candles alone!

now, all that’s left to do is scrub the kitchen grease, sanitize all the cupboards and sparkle the bathrooms! oh, and gotta find me a job.

my extended holiday is over. damn.