Viva La France

We went to Paris for a long awaited family break just a week ago. It was supposed to be my birthday present from my husband last December, but too much was happening then. But I am growing steadily more whale-like as time goes by, and so it was time to do some travelling. And so off we went last Thursday, taking the Eurostar to this beautiful city.

At the Centre Pompidou

Hubby and I have been to Paris several times before in our previous single lives, this was our first together. But no romantic candlelight dinners for us or Before Sunrise-style walks in slo-mo, we were there with our little tornado. No complaints though. At 20-months old, he is now super active and chatty, and we delight in his company. (When he isn’t melting down) We had to confine ourselves to indoor activities on our first two days as the weather was unkind to us, but even then we had fun because the little one was happy to just run in available spaces, and found our hotel room hilarious somehow (‘Hiding Daddy!! Come hiding!’). Who knew a simple Novotel could please a toddler so?

Cy Twombly’s exhibition, where we saw many works that looked like our son’s masterpieces

How was travelling to Paris with a little one?

Well there were some revelations. The French were wonderful with the little tornado. Having experienced more un-smiley French or Parisians in previous visits, I was pleasantly surprised that they were always cooing and smiling and talking to our son. Older folks would say hello, one silver haired man even came to our breakfast table to just to talk to him. Many had a similar question – “Is it a boy or girl?”

Taking in the view from Sacre Couer

Saying a prayer for someone very special


With so much warmth and kindness for the little one, I was surprised then that the public transport facilities however, was not as friendly. We had a challenging time with our pram using the metro. I had forgotten my French friend’s advice to use our lighter travel buggy instead, and I soon saw why. The question is about buggy width. It was just ridiculous as we had to collapse it each time to fit through gates, and there were just so many gates. There were no dedicated ones for those with accessibility issues. It made me really feel for those with disabilities too – how were they supposed to navigate through all this? The Parisian metro has always been very intuitive – as in, if you are used to the London tube, the metro is not a problem at all to figure out. But for ease of accessibility, London’s underground is still heaps better.

Treats and hot chocolate at the lovely Angelina Cafe

I was nervous about restaurants – many have no baby chairs, but in the end we fared quite all right. The little one took a monster evening nap on the first day (quite unusual), and as I knocked out along with him, hubby took it upon himself to book a nice dinner at 9.30pm. When I woke up, that fact just shocked me a little! Bedtime for tornado is usually 7pm in London. But we went to the restaurant anyway, a quaint little restaurant not too far from our hotel. It was completely packed though, and we were the only ones with a child, no surprises there! I thought we would be so judged for bringing a tiny human to this elegant little restaurant, but we just got one or two curious but cheerful looks, and most just continued their dinner and chats. We got back to the hotel near 11.30pm (gasp), and our son just promptly passed out (phew).

We didn’t get to do the Louvre (hubby has never been there), and Jardin du Luxembourg (for son), but all in all it was a short but sweet little holiday. 

When attempting to do a family wefie, have an arsenal of distraction tactics to prevent child from melting down

Yeah, this is the kind of the blogging you do when you’re a parent. It’s all so fucking logistical and practical and with no oooh la la. Ah well, c’est la vie!

 

Right Man for the Right Place

On Jan 1st of this year, I was in Malaysia, and I chose to spend my lunch time with a Datuk in a hotel. I went with my husband’s okay and support.

YOU TRAMP.

Okay, so it was nothing dodgy at all. It was a meeting with a long-time work contact, Prof Zaini. He is now actually Datuk Seri Zaini Ujang, Malaysia’s secretary-general of the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water. But I don’t know, big titles don’t seem to suit him, in my mind he will always be that smiley Prof I first met circa 2003 or 04.

Some background is needed, I suppose.

In the early noughties, I was still a junior reporter at the New Straits Times interested in water management issues in the country, and I had a lot of questions. He was an academic in one of the local universities who could talk about the subject of water until the cows came home. Over the years and many discussions about water and the environment, I would call him whenever I had to understand technicalities or context related to these issues. Over the years I would also watch as his career boomed – he would continue to grow academically and professionally; in research, teaching and advocacy. He eventually became vice-chancellor of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, advised the government on issues, and continued to win awards, work with other universities, and so on and so forth. Many years later when he heard I had left the newspaper business for freelance writing, he hired me to edit material for UTM and teach his staff about social media and the like. When I moved to the UK, we would keep in touch sometimes, but by then he was an even busier man – he had been appointed Ministry of Education’s secretary-general (II) in 2013, later moving to Ministry of Higher Education. Last year, he would finally enter the ministry best suited for him – Energy, Green Technology and Water. I remember smiling big time when I read the news.

Okay, back to my meeting with him on Jan 1. The thing you have to remember about government officials or politicians in Malaysia is they are so busy and there is often a huge amount of red tape or dealing with secretaries and calendars if you want to meet them. The thing you have to know about me is I still had many friends I wanted to see in Malaysia before I left for the UK, and I was so tired. And this was the first day of 2017!

But the thing about Prof Zaini is he is still as humble, efficient and cheerful as the first day I met him all those years ago. And to know he wanted to make time to meet me was heartwarming, so I knew I had to make time to head to KL. New Year’s Day in the over-crowded city centre, yikes!  Anyway, we locked the time and venue down in just a few messages, ‘Okay see you there’ and we were done. We met at the breakfast/lunch restaurant of Mandarin Oriental, where he sometimes has meetings.

And here’s why I’m writing this post at all.

With all his status and success, we spent lunch talking about …. water and the environment and sustainability issues. And books and cycling, which he is quite obsessed about. Yes, we caught up – he asked about family and I asked him about life as an office-bearer, but we did not talk much about politics or what have you. When I told him about my no-shopping, low consumption plans this year, he was very interested and shared his thoughts on consumerism. We discussed sustainability issues at length. I even pointed out his super hip bag – it was the Kånken bag! I don’t think he realised how hipster the brand was, he just knew it as a great and durable bag from Sweden. (He is now all over Scandinavian efficiency, development and sustainable living – he keeps sending attachments about Hygge and ‘How to Live Danishly’ and all)

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We also talked about the possibilities of improving the environment and green technology in Malaysia. ‘Prof,’ I told him, ‘This is your time, you can really make a difference.’ There is no better ministry for him. My personal hope is that those around him and in charge of other decisions pertaining to these sectors can move with him, for everyone knows the issues of water management, energy and the environment in the country are numerous and complicated. At the end of the lunch, I remember feeling energised about my own sustainability goals and hopeful for the country. Not thaaaat hopeful, but it was something. It was a good way to start off the first day of the year for me.

 

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Even in the chillest of conversations, he draws charts …

 

I don’t keep in touch with many work contacts at all, and friends would know my current feelings about the administration in Malaysia. There are many things I sigh about when it comes to Malaysia, but obviously it is still so wonderfully raw and rife with possibilities. This is an example right here – someone born for a role now has it.

To Datuk Seri Zaini Ujang, I’m sure those who know you feel ever so grateful that you continue to share articles with us about ‘Responsible Consumption’ and ‘The Odd Beauty of Ice Fishermen’, haha. I just want to say thank you and Happy Birthday. I know I am a day (?) late, but here’s to your continuing passion and dedication to subjects you have always felt strongly about. May you achieve your dreams about book-writing and doing as much as you can for the betterment of the environment in Malaysia.

 

To those in Malaysia who are interested in these issues – especially Malaysian youth with good intentions and plans – you now have a man who is knowledgeable, committed and open to ideas about the topics of sustainability and Energy, Green Technology and Water. He just got in last year, but he won’t be there forever (you know what Malaysian politics is like!) He is interested in innovation. He raised the name of MaGIC (The Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre) before I did.

So move now. Plan nowDo what you can now.

 

Fond Travel Memories

Those who have been to our home know about the seemingly random photograph of a man on a horse displayed on our wall. I had such a laugh when I first saw it because it is a little jarring in the midst of all our other personal photographs. I had come back from Malaysia and he had put some framed photos up. I was like WTF is this guy doing on our walls??! My husband argued that he really liked the photo and it reminded him of such a nice day in Argentina!

I must admit that I love that photograph, and today especially so, when we caught this very gaucho on British TV this afternoon! I really squealed when I saw him and other gauchos we spent time with on TV, it truly was such a joy. Ann was packing in the next room and I actually asked her to come out and look at ‘our’ gaucho. (A gaucho is an Argentinian ‘cowboy’, or horse whisperer, which may be an oversimplification really)

That day we spent on that estancia, or ranch, was the most relaxing day we had in Argentina. It was the beautiful outdoors, la pampas. We chatted with locals. We had the best food and we rode horses, and I played with dogs … it was truly a wonderful day. I have only ever written one proper travel review in my life, unprompted, and it was for this estancia – Camino Pampa – on Tripadvisor. We have since recommended it to other friends who may be going to Argentina.

There he is on the right!

Sorry about my foot, haha. But there he is again!

So yeah, a post that has nothing to do with decluttering or non-consumption. It just made us really happy today remembering that day. Reminded us that this is the kind of travel we like, when we interact with locals. But hey, actually, perhaps it also is about the home – we have something on our wall that truly sparks joy. So this is what it means. When we see it, when we explain it, when we even think about it. It’s just good vibes. And I guess that’s just a lovely thing to have in our home. Thank you for putting this photograph up, Anh, that was a good call 😉

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