We Write to Taste Life Twice

I am feeling stressed cos I deleted my Microsoft Word from my MacBook Air somewhere in India. I ran out of memory space on my laptop, and all the pics I’d taken on my camera were amassing to the thousands and I couldn’t shit them out onto my laptop. So I deleted all the apps on my MacBook Air, including my Microsoft Word…

And so now, I’m kinda stuck.

Since I came home two days ago, all the ideas and experiences I’ve accumulated over the past 9 months are swirling restlessly in my consciousness and making quite a multi-colour mess in there… it’s driving me nuts.

I’ve tried to placate it by posting pics on Instagram, captioning them, but the multi-coloured swirling mass and mess is getting angrier – I can feel it – and I know I need to get my ass down to Peninsula Plaza ASAP to ask my Apple store guy to reinstall my Microsoft Word or I’ll just explode.

I am the sort of person who needs to make sense of experiences through writing. Writing helps me reflect and organize my thoughts. But more so, writing is the vessel that brings my message out there. It’s the link from my internal world to my external world. My most natural form of self-expression.

In the midst of feeling this restlessness, I receive an email from an old friend of mine, Tan Su-Ming. Ning and I call her Su, sometimes Doctor Su. Cos she really is a doctor. As in, a medical one. But she is a singing doctor, as in she has a beautiful fat voice for a skinny girl. And she’s had several concerts at the Esplanade. She bakes the best banoffee pies. And she writes beautifully. Suffice to say, Ning and I respect her deeply.

Well, Ning had gone to see Doctor Su for a runny nose (thanks to blistering-cold Tibet), and had shared about having her laptop stolen in Madagascar. I’m not sure how the flow of conversation led to this, but the long and short of it is that Doctor Su shared this quote with her, and with me.

When I read it, it spoke directly to my soul.

so get this. Let me share these beautiful words Su shared with us. She didn’t write them of course, it’s by the late French-Cuban author Anais Nin, who was born in 1903 and died in 1977. But as they say, truths are timeless.

“… We also write to heighten our own awareness of life.
We write to lure and enchant and console others.
We write to serenade out lovers.
We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.
We write, like Proust, to render all of it eternal, and to persuade ourselves that it is eternal.
We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it.
We write to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into the labyrinth.
We write to expand our world when we feel strangled, or constricted, or lonely.
We write as the birds sing, as the primitives dance their rituals.
If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.
When I don’t write, I feel my world shrinking. I feel I am in prison. I feel I lose my fire and my color.
It should be a necessity, as the sea needs to heave, and I call it breathing.”
Anais Nin

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Time Travelers

Ning & I set up this blog way before we left on our 9-month adventure with lofty plans to blog regularly as we make our way around the world. But for those of you who have travelled continuously for that length of time, living off a backpack, and staying in (often) basic & affordable lodging, you’ll know that is being way, waaay ambitious!

For one, there were weeks we spent in the wild with no electricity, no running water, no proper sanitation (yes, we had to pee & poop in the bush!), let alone phone reception or wifi. Our time in Madagascar, for one… Who could even THINK about blogging or updating Facebook then?

Spending 3 nights in the Tsiribihina River in Madagascar. Back to basics!

And then, there were days we were out in the Sahara Desert in Morocco, living in cloth tents and hiding from sudden sandstorms……. The thought of taking out my MacBook Air and sitting down to blog never even crossed my mind! I was just trying to use whatever energy I had to keep cool in the sweltering heat. Brain. Cannot. Function.

Fooling around on the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi in the Sahara Desert... It was sunset and cool so we had some energy to play!

The point is: We left Singapore in March, and yesterday we came home. And although our Adventures of 2 Girls (A2G) Facebook page is growing healthily — simply because it’s easier and faster to update status & upload captioned photos — I am ashamed to say that our blog is…… well….. er…. you know….. *bashful*

And so, I do feel like what we’re gonna embark on is pretty much like… well, Time Traveling. In penning our experiences down for a book to be published by Marshall Cavendish International, we are going to relive those amazing months traversing the continents and put them down in words. And believe you us, we have a trillion thrilling tales to share!

So don’t give up on us, but keep it right here. You are going to see this website come alive through the months till we finally deliver our “baby” to you… a labour of love birthed from 9 months of travel. 🙂

Braving the snow and high altitude at Potala Palace, home of the 5th to 14th Dalai Lamas, in Lhasa, Tibet.

In the meantime, join our little Facebook community by clicking here.

You can interact with us there, we promise to respond! Spread the word on your own Facebook pages as well, OK? And tag us! :o)

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BFFs: The good, the bad, the PMS…

When I was a kid, I was painfully slow at everything. I read “filial piety” with all earnest as “final pity” (I remember Dad thoughtfully agreeing that yes, they should call it that). During our very first sex ed class, I believed that when a boy hits puberty, he basically leaves his childhood and enters adultery. Anyway.

It’s a wonder I turned out okay, not too much of an embarrassment to my poor parents (all those years with me as the bumbling first-born… what a science experiment, they deserve a medal) except for a few hundred thousand instances where I nearly tempted them into denying my existence, or at best, the family link (alas resemblance gives it all away).

So thank goodness that I’ve got the BFF (binary file format) here with me while we travel. Sure helps to up the smarts.

Now, I’m so sorry it took us so long to update our blog. Pam aka BFF (Best Friend Forever) has been dutifully updating all our social media stuff like Facebook, Instagram & Twitter (go to our recently updated contact us page to see all the links).

Me? I’ve been slacking off as usual, meeting BFFs (Benevolent Freedom Fighters aka military folks) for some BFF (Bowling For Fun) exercise over lunch of BFFs (Beans For Farting) and avoiding violent BFFs (Big Football Fans). But 2 minutes ago, I did update our Thank You page so do check that out. BeForeFinding out the changes though, do check out all our micro blogging offerings- it’d take you through all our travels through America and the visual diary is pretty darn interesting.

Some memorable things have happened to us, a few hilariously funny, a couple had one of us wanting to murder the other and vice-versa. It was the bff of times, it was the ɟɟq of times. Trust me, travelling with another girl when the both of you are PMS-ing at the same time? Good luck.

I mean. Seriously. Would you want to be around an annoying twat who whines a lot, cries SUPER easily, walks and sulks like an Egyptian during her crampy period? Exactly. Neither did Pam.

We’ve been travelling since 18 March and it’s been a blast. Hawaii (Maui, Molokai, Big Island, Oahu), Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans, Boston, Cape Cod, Vermont… thus far, every moment has been memorable for us two backpacking gals.

So far, we’d managed to totally lock ourselves out of a friend’s house while doing laundry in her yard when no one else was home. All I had on was my bikini and my Puma shoes, and Pam had her undies and Jake Shimabukuro tshirt with flipflops. Everything we had- our money, phones, car keys, house keys, lock picking tools, etc were in the house.

I still blame Pam for her irrational fear of garden lizards for the yard door to be slammed, automatically locking us out. But it’s a lame US$149 lesson that we learnt from, and the incident (aka the most embarrassing event of my life) has also officially made me legendary in Lori’s respectable neighbourhood, also earning me the honourable title of “ah, the bathrobe girl”.

More on that long story in a bit (or you can also buy our book which will be published next Fall by Marshall Cavendish International). But meanwhile, stay tuned for more adventures coming up.

We’re currently in Vermont (home of Ben & Jerry’s!) and will be in New York before flying off to Paris, France. Driving has been a super breeze here in US when you’ve got Hertz’s NeverLost GPS system. In our next blog entry, Pam will be sharing some really handy driving tips and more.

The BFF Pam has been an awesome driver, if I haven’t said before. Now I’m not saying this just because she’s PMSing and coincidentally sharing the same hotel room here with me. Or that she’s miffed at me for accidentally eating the last piece of fudge we got at P Town. Or the fact that I made the acute observation that there’s a small possibility we’ve both put on a little weight.

Heh. À tout à l’heure!

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Why isn’t there travel Insurance coverage for 9 months?

When we decided to embark on this crazy round-the-world adventure, the first thing we did was to look for the right travel insurance policy. For two women travelers, away for 9 months, being covered for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances is so important.

Who would have guessed that travel insurance was the first thing we embarked on and the last to be settled? Believe it or not, we found nothing out there that covers women travelers for such a lengthy period of time.

We’ve checked with numerous insurance companies in Singapore, and none have travel insurance policies that cover travelers going away for 9 months at a stretch. All require us to come back to Singapore after 90 or 180 days. So beware, folks! Insurance agents may sell you one-year travel insurance policies, but ask them about this. All will require you come back to Singapore after a stipulated number of days or you can’t claim at all.

It blows my mind because there are so many women travelers. The nature of travel has also evolved. Women are traveling further and wider, and for more varied reasons.  And we are also traveling for more extended periods of time. So why aren’t insurance companies keeping up with trends? I think most of us professional women would be prepared to pay more for peace of mind.

So in a nutshell, I guess you can say Ning & I are firsts in fighting for full 9-month travel insurance coverage.

We managed to get 9-month coverage only because we spoke directly with Great Eastern, and they genuinely listened and empathized with our needs. What they did was to develop an exclusive travel insurance cover for both of us, despite not having that available off the rack.

In many ways, we achieved this breakthrough because Great Eastern says that its mission is to ensure people have sufficient cover and achieve peace of mind. And when challenged, they responded and acted to meet our needs! In fact, we felt brave enough to approach them because we know they have researched extensively on women through the years, and understand our needs.

We were really touched when they agreed to customize something for us. It’s very, very rare for a huge insurance giant to bow down and listen to the needs of two girls, so we are truly indebted to them.

I think in some ways, we have broken the glass ceiling for women here, and we are thankful to GE because they have given us full peace of mind to chase our dream!!!

Join us on FACEBOOK!!!

 

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Happy Monday Bleu!

Hey folks…

As some of you know, yours truly succumbed to the nasty viral bug over the weekend and had to wear a face mask whenever I went out for meetings. Pam actually said I looked like a mugger with my face covered. Grrrr. Thanks BFF…

Anyway, being stuck home most of the time has made me more productive and focused in a way. During moments when I wasn’t feeling woozy, I made time to create two new pages on our website:

The first is our wish list, which many friends have insisted we put together so they know how to pitch in to help. Meeting more people like travel-savvy Hedy Mok who runs Eurotours & Travellers Choice Holidays, the BFF & I both realized we’d reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaally need all the help we can get because our pool of personal funds are limited.

The other webpage I just created is dedicated to all the Adventures of 2 Girls doodles and cartoon strips I draw 🙂 I’m not professionally trained but I’ve always loved doodling cartoons ever since I was a little girl. Do check it out and feel free to comment. Haha 🙂

Meanwhile, what made me smile was something that just came in the mail… My Le Cordon Bleu package from Paris finally arrived! Some good things are just worth waiting for.

I found the above info very interesting (it also helped that it wasn’t in French) and remarkably  insightful. Looking through the official documents, I also found a notice instructing all Le Cordon Bleu students to buy the proper professional chef clogs, so I guess I’ll be needing to do some necessary shopping before school starts in Summer *grin*

Anyway…

Thus far, Pam & I have confirmed our flight out of Singapore on 18 March 2011 (no longer 3/3/11). We’ll be heading out to Honolulu, with a chance that we may catch my uke hero Jake Shimabukuro perform in the island of Maui the evening after we touch down.

We will be in Hawaii for about 3 weeks before we do our Canada/ USA road trip, via driving (we both have our international driver’s license) and using Greyhound. I’ll let Pam share the tentative travel route with you in a bit… the BFF will be blogging soon 🙂

Come Summer, we will be in France where I’ll be in Le Cordon Bleu doing my patisserie course this June till August. That itself will be either be an adventure or disaster. Maybe both. Well, we will see. But Magic Babe is really no Julia Child.

Righty, I’m going to lay down now cos my meds are making me drowsy. A big shout out of thanks to my favorite GP in the whole wide world, Dr Tan Su-Ming of Changi Clinic!

ZZZZZzzzzz…

Ning

Quote of the Day: “An old friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move a dead body.” – Jim Hayes

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To Pee or Not to Pee…

… that is the question.

Shakespeare aside, I remember needing to pee urgently while planting trees in the middle of the Horqin Desert in Inner Mongolia. We’d trekked all the way out to the middle of nowhere, and there were people everywhere, with no portable toilet in sight.

Driving up to Malaysia, I’ve also had to pee while on the highway, shifting on my seat, looking out for the next pee stop, which could be 10km away…

I love being a girl, but it’s a very bad thing… a very bad thing… when you need to pee urgently. So this is for me pee saviour from heaven.

Pee like a man!

My good friend Shaan Moledina actually got it years ago when we were colleagues at Vanilla magazine (MediaCorp Publishing). Shaan wrote our travel columns and featured this on her product spread. Can’t believe she wrote about it without trying it… Shaan, what sort of journalist are you?! o.O

Well, the long (no pun intended) and short of it is: It’s NEW. According to the instructions we found, this pee thing is made of special material that repels liquid. So after you use it, you can keep it without washing. Or after I use it, I can pass it to Ning to use, without washing. And all our pee will just slide right off.

And wait a minute… the instructions say, “Just lift your skirt or unzip your fly”. Gasp, no need to pull down your pants?!!

I’m thinking US Road Trip.

Where the hell is the next pee stop? Die, I need to pee… I need to pee…. Do you think I should pull down my pants by the side of the highway, and squat down, have my butt be scratched by the tall grass and risk having truckers get a peek of my yellow ass?

This purple pee thing + a mineral water bottle should do the trick. Neat!

Planning our US Road Trip w Shaan, Corrinne & Deb!

Shaan passed the pee thing to us on Friday when we met up with her, Corrinne (yes, Corrinne May the singer-songwriter!) and Deborah Chew from Caelan and Sage to plan for our US Road Trip. All 3 girls have lived or travelled or done road trips in the US, and it was so fun chatting with them!!!

We plonked ourselves at PS Cafe @ Dempsey with maps & guide books from 3pm and left just before 8pm! *LOL*

Ning & I learnt so much, and are excited to announce that we have a rough plan for our US Road Trip now, so USA… here we come!!!

Coming back to the pee thing, I think they sell it at adventure stores like Outdoor Life at Novena Square… This one is manufactured by Astonix Life Science. It’s called Whiz Freedom. Lookin’ forward to the freedom while we whiz around.. Wee whiz!

Here’s the link. Have fun pee-ing, girls!!! *wink*

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Our story so far…

Hey there… Thanks for checking out our Adventures of 2 Girls blog & Facebook page 🙂 Pam has done a fab job in blogging here thus far so now it’s my turn… *flexes fingers*

Most people know me as ‘Magic Babe’ Ning… the award-winning fire-eating sassy female magician & escape artist and FHM cover girl. But truth is, I’m really different off stage, out of character. There are some days (the good ones) when Pam calls me her “dorky BFF”. Why this award-winning journalist picked me as her BFF (best friend forever) escapes me.

But so you know more of me and not my larger-than-life stage character… I’m the kind of girl who firmly believes in shaping your own destiny. A great way would be to print your horoscope and do origami with it. Speaking of which, if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing, I’d be a professional origami artist. But unfortunately, I hate paperwork.

However, I do love writing. In fact just this morning I sent off a letter to my WorldVision sponsored Mongolian boy, Batsaikhan Gunbileg, assuring him that the other 9-year olds in school won’t pick on him because of the endearing English name I quite recently gave him. In my patient letter to him I said, “Don’t be silly, Someoneyourownsize, why would anyone pick on you?” I know. Kids these days.

Anyways. Yes, our story so far.

Just yesterday we finally officially signed with our publisher Marshall Cavendish International, and Pam’s mom was very happy and excited for us. She heartily congratulated the 2 of us girls when she heard the news, and then asked the very important question.

“Is this Marshall fellow from Singapore or where ah?”

Brilliant. I love her sense of humor. Truly. With her inborn talent, the woman gives people like our professional comedienne friend Irene Ang a serious run for her money.

So now Pam & I have signed away our lives for this new book that will be published in fall next year. The Adventures of 2 Girls will be all about our interesting travels (awesome place, great sights, fab restaurants, the best travel service providers, interesting people, fantastic experiences, eye-opening routes, etc) and if you’ve read our own personal past blog entries, you’d know some of the weirdest things & hilarious situations we’ve gotten ourselves into…

To name a few: a 10km/h police car chase; being near sex-trade/ organ-trade/ take-your-pick victims in Vietnam; getting my “fine ass” boiled till my capillaries actually bled in a Takayama onsen because we soaked too long in the Japanese hot spings (read: doing it wrong!); me being rudely startled when I was naked in the hotel bathtub just about to take my shower after the BFF, by an aggressive mutant-looking bug that looked like it had a mean stinger, gross legs and roach-like wings; me being a free all-you-can-eat bug buffet in Cambodia because I liberally sprayed a bug repellent spray that repelled everything except for sandflies that must have been starving for days while the BFF was perfectly OK despite being next to me because she went all natural. I must have received a few hundred bites all over, where the bug spray came into contact with my skin.

Hmmm. I’m beginning to see a pattern.

(Pam, why is it always meeeeeeeee?)

Anyway. I digress. Earlier in the week, the BFF & I got our faces dissed by the all-powerful woman working at the Italian Consulate counter. We didn’t manage to even talk to a consular about getting our long stay EU visas for 9 months. I now realize why they have a safety glass counter separating these officers from the people on the other side of the cramped room.

I’m a realist and my gut feel/ instincts have always served me time and again all these 28 years. But Miss Sunshine Pam was as usual, wide-eyed and busy tailed, truly positive that some nice patient smiling Italian consular would help stamp our visas so we could do our 3 month Italy-3 month France-3 month Greece travel adventure for our book… though the general ruling is that after a max of 90 days you gotta haul your asses out of EU. That’s right, the whole of EU and not just one of the many EU countries. Furthermore, you can only get back into EU after a minimum of 91 days. That’s how strict these Europeans are.

On hindsight, I guess it’s in a way my fault. The BFF had come straight from her work at Mediacorp Radio, where she’s a DJ for 938LIVE. So Pam did dress pretty decent. While I came from home because I didn’t have a gig to prepare for at the studio, so I was dressed in my favorite Supergirl t-shirt. Hey. It was comfy.

We must have seemed to the counter woman like penniless University students, because she wasn’t the least bit helpful and on a scale of 0 to 10 for service, I’d give her about a minus 28.

“But I read on your Italian Embassy website, all you need is to show your passports, indicate your intent for travel, prove that you’re financially secure and speak to a consular. We’ve waited over an hour, can we please talk to someone who can advice us please?” the BFF was still trying to earnestly explain to the stony faced Singaporean makcik (aunty) who must have felt all powerful behind the shatter-proof security glass counter window that didn’t even have speaking holes.

“No,” the fellow Singaporean flatly refused, staying her ground. She was following The Book and probably looking forward to getting off work and not waiting to serve the 30 over people squashed in their petite kitchen sized waiting room. She continued deadpan, unblinking. She showed 2 brown fingers the size of sausages. “Only 2 ways. Study visa from university there. Or work visa from company there.”

“But…” the determined pint-sized BFF still continued. It almost looked like a match between David & Godzilla. Sorry. Goliath. “…there must be some other way!”

The bureaucratic worker sniffed. “Can lah. You have one million dollars?”

Say what? I sighed. This was getting no where and there’s nothing worse than having precious time wasted.

The passionate BFF still didn’t give up. “Really? I didn’t see it on the website.”

“Tell you what,” our all powerful counter makcik was obviously tired of us. Her plump brown hand offered a scrap of paper through the slide door of the counter top. “You send email here and say what you want. But you may not hear from them lah, because what you want is cannot. Not possible.”

With that we were unceremoniously dismissed. Looking at the tiny slip of paper as we left the tiny stale-aired confines that felt quite claustrophobic because there were over thirty individuals waiting their turn at the Counter of Un-Romantic Rejections and Broken Hearts, the BFF & I realized that the email address given was a general one for Italian visa inquiries and not at all to a specific officer with a name. Lovely.

But after a hearty lunch of comforting assam laksa, we felt a lot better. Also the rest of the week was spent meeting some truly amazing people… feisty street-smart folks who have traveled the world, backpacked solo, passionately loved the places they came from or went to… I truly felt very inspired and am thankful for this gift 🙂

I think it’s a blessing actually, that we can’t spend all 9 full months in EU as previously planned. It’s a bit of a tragedy for Pam because Italy is her favorite country in the whole wide world. But in the broader sense of things, we now effectively open ourselves up to traveling the rest of the world!

Our first stop from sunny Singapore will be Hawaii (we plan to leave this 18 March), followed by other states in the USA & Canada… before spending summer in Paris, and the last 3 months elsewhere before coming back home in November.

Also, several fantastic folks have approached us about sponsorship too… this truly lightens the load for us girls, so thank you dear angels!!!

Ta for now, more later…

Ning

Quote of the Day: “Serendipity. Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.” – Lawrence Block

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