City of stars, are you shining just for me? 

 

I watched La La Land recently; the boyfriend was very keen since he heard raving reviews about it.

*May include spoilers, should you proceed to read.

A love story, of fragmented dreams. It’s about what it takes to make dreams come true. It’s about how much you want something, and how much you are willing to lose to gain that one thing that you have always wanted. It’s about how your dreams can change – or rather, how you alter your dreams to your situation thinking it is what you want, when in fact, you know it is probably not. Fragmented dreams.

It was a film like no other – it’s not quite Mamma Mia, but here we also established that Ryan Gosling’s singing voice is very strange. In most musical-like films, everything tends to be perfect: the singing, the plot, the choreography. Usually a lot of singing. But in La La Land, there is some singing, some random dancing, & a lot of instrumentals which I did enjoy. I’d recommend y’all to watch it.

A few surprises:

  1. We liked how there was a smooth plot/story line amidst the dancing & singing. That is saying a lot for the boyfriend because he admits the usual cotton candy dancing in the clouds does not appeal to him. He quite enjoyed the film, so that’s the first surprise for me lol. Throughout the movie, I kept looking at him to see if he had fallen asleep/bored enough to throw his popcorn at the screen, but his attention was rapt.
  2. We thought the ending was quite clever – here’s a spoiler!- the leads did not end up together, happily ever after; but apart, happy enough with their own accomplished lives. There were a succession of flashback scenes, alternate realities to show the audience what could’ve been. And sadly, I believe they would’ve lived much happier lives, however ways their individual dreams would have turned out. I must say the “what could have been” bits got to me. Because they happen in real lives, because once too many times I have walked into the woods of what could have been, because once too many times I have been trapped in those realities. That said, I did not cry like a baby, and both the boyfriend & myself are very proud. I would also have rolled my eyes so hard if they did end up together because Hollywood.
  3. Ryan Gosling’s singing voice is really strange, have I already mentioned that? Although I am starting to get hooked into “City of Stars”, sung by Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone. It’s definitely not his voice I am listening to, there is a hopeful but melancholic pull in the tunes. I blame the minor keys. “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” is actually another neat song.

Here’s to the ones who dream
Foolish as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that ache
Here’s to the mess we make

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More often than not, I have thought of myself as the world’s biggest fool. Chasing dreams so sublime. Making such messes of myself at this age, it was almost embarrassing.

But here, here’s to us fools who dream; because no matter how crazy they seem, they are your dreams. You shouldn’t be embarrassed, you shouldn’t be discouraged. In fact, you should be afraid.

“The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

So they say.

Trust me, I was scared plenty. All day, everyday. Freaking out in my head all the time. Thinking, what on earth are you doing with yourself, Alex? Not once did this fear cease. It scared me enough to keep me going. I would rather be scared right now, than to look back at this moment 10 years later & ask myself: “What if?” What if I had been braver? What if I had fought for my dreams/my love/my life? 

And if any chance my answers begin with, “I wished I had…”, they would then be regrets too big for me to carry.

 

So what if I am the world’s biggest fool?

Dreams do come true. And I would do it all over again.

Have you watched the film yet? What do you think about it? Let me know x.

Toodles. ♥

I welcomed 2017 with bittersweet hope, looking down the road full of uncertainties. In my last post, I spoke of never-ending brick walls in my way. I was nearly in despair, only to be reminded of the love & support I am surrounded by. It was the one bubble keeping me hopeful & pushing me on. Continuously whacking at that brick wall with my battered hammer.

And today, I am happy to announce that I have finally broken down that brick wall! Made a huge hole in it, and watched it crumble. Then proceeded to climb over it; now I’m seated on the remnants of that wall, sipping on my iced lemon tea, and staring at yet another brick wall a little further down the road. But that’s ok! Nothing can dampen the triumph I feel right now. The sense of achievement, the appreciation of just how much I have accomplished, & the cognizance of how far I have come.

The most important lesson I’ve learnt in 2016 is perseverance brings progress. One step at a time, things started to work out. There was always something in the way, rocks, boulders, rivers, you name it. All the damned time. I started wishing so hard for things to be over, for everything to come together already but all I experienced was the seconds ticking by like they always have, speed unchanged despite my fervour prayers.

I had to learn, that there is a time and place for everything. And there was. Every action, every decision, every turn led me to where I am right now. It wasn’t always easy. But I always remember believing in the magic.

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“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

 

Like how I’ve wished so hard for snow to come falling and, finally I got to see snow woo-hoo!

I honestly believed in that. It is one of those things that I keep telling myself over the years whenever I come across adversities. It is one way of letting myself discover how much I really want something. Because one can only have so many dreams, and one can only achieve all of them if they really want to. Don’t you think?

 

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

 

I promised myself I wouldn’t let the fear of failure stop me. Even if I think it almost did. My mom never lets me forget that it’s ok to try again (& again & again & again…). It’s not the end of the world.

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 “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”

 

And that, my friends, is how perseverance brings progress. Because by the eighth time, you would’ve set fire to the rain.

I did.

After two long years of paperwork, exams, and bureaucrazy, I am finally a registered nurse in this country I now call home. It was just yesterday that I was reminded that it has been 2 years since I graduated, since I made the decision to make my dreams a reality.

I don’t think I have ever been more proud of myself.

Right. Off to tackle that brick wall down the hall. Beyond that wall lies my new phase in life & I can hardly wait to begin.

To my first success of 2017.

 

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Toodles. ♥

I am absolutely crap at keeping the blog updated in the recent months. I’ll admit, besides complete exhaustion post-work and the need to have a social life during the days off, I was lazy. I was consumed with work and work and more work. I don’t take home work, that’s one good thing. I can lock it all away the minute my shifts end. But the long hours. The mental exhaustion. The worrying I sometimes find myself do. To the point that when I do actually sit down to start a post, I find my fingers resting just very slightly on the keyboard and the air hung still. The only words that I could form in my mind were work related and I couldn’t possibly be sharing things about wounds and deaths on my blog, can I, they do sound quite depressing and a little inappropriate, I would think.

So I’ve been putting off blogging, day after day, week after week. My apologies.

I have wanted to write this post for a while now and here I am, typing away furiously because it’s already New Year. This is going to be a rather personal reflection of my year, just so you know. By the time I post this, I would be completely late but who cares, I still fully intend to recap this past year.

At the start of 2014, I admit I dreaded for the year to end. But now that I’m right at the end looking back, I cannot be more amazed and thankful for the past year’s events. 2014 has ben such an interesting year for me. I daresay it might just be my most memorable year in the last 5 years.

I have had my happiest moments, and my greatest (emotional) downfalls. I have travelled to more places in the year than I can ever imagine. I picked up another sport that I come to really love (DODGEBALL!!!). I allowed myself to let my hair down and really enjoy my youth. I learnt how it really is like to be alone, but not lonely. To enjoy solitude, and making the best of my time out of it. To appreciate cups of coffee and people watching.

I have had my mental breakdowns when my fears and self-doubts ate me up and spat me out – when I believed, at one point, that I was not good enough, and that one thought nearly killed me. It took great strength to disbelieve that of myself. But I survived that phase.

I have also met the most amazing people and made the most wonderful friends in the very short time I was in London. I discovered & believed in fleeting connections with strangers on the street.

I took risks, I took leaps of faith; and I made life-changing decisions. I put myself through a terrible heartbreak, because I believed that sometimes moving on with the rest of your life starts with goodbye. Yes, I was hurt; yes I cried buckets. Because I had to let go of some things that I really love to get to the other side. But because I know I am determined to discover what the other side is, I picked myself up, brushed off the dirt and faced the world one more time. A different person, no doubt. And not without the help of some of my dearest friends. I wouldn’t have been this strong without them. I would’ve been completely broken, if it wasn’t for them.

I challenged myself, and I have unlocked some personal achievements. Took my parents around Paris equipped with only a map and without the need of a tour guide (although eventually I did put them on the daily tour bus because they were complaining too much about having to walk, lol) and we DIDN’T get lost/kidnapped/killed. 😀 Then I threw caution to the winds, booked a one-way ticket to see (part of) the world on my own, and figured out the rest of the trip(s) along the way. Best decision I have ever made. #YOLO. Even if it wasn’t a long journey (because I was getting poorer and time was running out), it was definitely a journey I will never forget. These two last points were important to me because I’m not the greatest kid to handle maps or directions, what more in foreign countries with maybe 1% understanding of their languages.

 

Then just as I thought my adventures were coming to an end, just as I was getting stronger day by day; the one thing I least expect to happen, came along and found me. It just happened and it took me completely by surprise. And life has become a tad bit more interesting that it already was ever since. 🙂 So, hey you. Thank you. ♥

All good things come to an end, so did my year in London. I came back, steeled myself for the real world once again and promised myself that I won’t come back the same girl. And that promise, I still hold. I know I am no longer the same person. 🙂 I also told myself that life is going to be “now, or never”. If I want it, if I really want it, then hell yes I should go ahead and do it.

So I started dancing. Again. When I felt the stirrings in my heart telling me to dance once again, I knew it was a “now, or never” moment. I went for it. It has been amazing. Not that I am all that good in dance, but the fact that I have achieved some rather interesting moves that I never thought I would be able to do i.e. a handstand! 😀 😀 😀 I also started running. Know that I actually dislike running with all my heart because blehhhhh. But run, I did. I did pretty good, I must say, hehe.

About a month into the dancing and the running, I came across this post on Tumblr. I thought it was very apt, like it’s a sign for me to keep going.

I can tell you proudly that so far I have been brave enough to start. 🙂

 

Looking forward now, I simply know more amazing things are about to come and my first good thing for 2015 is just around the corner! 😀 I am uber excited *squeeeeee*! While I definitely miss my life back in London and all my friends there, credit must be given where it’s due. To my lovely family & friends here who have patiently awaited my return and loved me all the same, you guys are my angels, adding the sweet finishing touch to the end of my 2014.

 

So, farewell 2014. You have been a wonderful, magical year but it’s now time to welcome 2015. I cannot turn back time to relive the year no matter how much I want to, but at least I will have the memories. One thing for sure, I have measured my 2014 in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, & in cups of coffee.

 

So here’s to you, 2015. Have a chimney cake and some Bailey’s hot chocolate. You will be a fantastic year, I just know it.

 

2014, I have no regrets. 🙂

 

 

Cheers, all. Have a joyous New Year! Toodles. ♥

Greetings, all! Happy Good Friday, everyone!

I have been so caught up with travelling (yes, I went away to Ireland for a good week), rushing my assignment (which I have just submitted yesterday, yay!), entertaining my best friend who was around for 2 weeks and now…studying for an exam in 2 weeks’ time (I have not quite started yet…).

But all that did not stop me from going out and socialising.

So, a story cut short – I was lucky to have received  some good news from Jesse (from NuffnangUK) – I got press pass to visit the London Coffee Festival at The Old Truman Brewery with 20 other bloggers on the 5th of April! I was super excited!

First of all, let me clarify, I WAS not a coffee person. The first real time I had coffee – I was attempting to pull an all-nighter for my A-Levels and Mom made me some. The whole time I was thinking, I will be productive all night. Within 15 minutes, I was snoring with my face flat on my notes. Utter disappointment, caffeine, and you don’t exactly taste yummy. Or so I thought then. I was young, and foolish…and I continued to live in denial about coffee for a very long time.

Until I went to Italy last December. And got hooked on Italian coffee.

When my best friend found out, she was horrified. “Of ALL the coffee you got yourself hooked onto, you HAD to start with Italian coffee. You do realize that you are going to have much difficulties finding coffee anywhere else which are as good as the Italian’s, right?”

Well, she is right. Much difficulties, indeed. But there are some good coffee out there, even if we’re not in Italy. And I am proud to say that I am now a coffee addict lover. So I was really excited to be making my way to the London Coffee Festival this year! 😀

Now, let me grace you with some photos I took at the event.

 

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It was a beautiful afternoon spent with beautiful people. And coffee. As you can see, there was also lots of non-coffee products as well, which was rather interesting! I had some artisan coffee myself (yummyyy) and I wished I had more!

I enjoyed some Vietnamese iced coffee (tastes like home), and I also enjoyed some Novus tea. One Water amazed me because 100% of the profit goes to The One Foundation. Not to mention, the juiced water tastes YUMMY. 😀 Support!

Also, right now I am so tempted to get myself a coffee to-go cup!

JocoCups vs. KeepCup???

Decisions, decisions!

 

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All thanks to Nuffnang UK for the opportunity. I had a great time, had lots of yummy goodies, and made some lovely friends! Do check out some of their posts/blogs here: Emma, Iris, Honey, Shrim, Sarah! I look forward to more events with the Nuffnang community!

Now that I am free of my essay (but not my written exam in 2 weeks /sobs), you will see more of me in the blogosphere. I hope. 😛

Til then. xx

 

Toodles. ♥

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”

 

 

Venice is beautiful. And I don’t just mean in plain sight.

There was just something about the dark, lonely alleys cutting across Venice like a maze that caught my breath.

The first time I laid eyes upon the canal, the bridges – I was all “Wow”. A water city, indeed. No cars, no motorbikes. I don’t even remember seeing bicycles. I think it’s forbidden, if I’m not wrong.

Lovely Kris booked a lovely room for us on AirBnB and it was a quaint little place in the middle of…uhh…some alley? We met our host upon our arrival and she took us on an interesting path – turn left, turn right, cross a small bridge, turn left again…- man I can’t even remember now. I can see it in my mind, if you take me there again, I’m *almost* certain I’ll find it. But I cannot describe to you the directions right now. Oh, I’m terrible with directions alright. I get lost all the time, if you’ve been following me on my misadventures you’ll know that. 😀 But I always get to my destination, some way or another. Before I rattle on and on about just how lost we were in Venice, allow me to show you just how whimsical our accommodation was.

 

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1240 – I have to say, it was an interesting door.

Enter and ye shall find…

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More flight of stairs which led us to our pretty little flat? Apartment?

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Very princess-y, what with the mosquito net covering and all that. Not that we needed the netting.

After we were done squealing at the quaintness of our room (and the whole place), we set off with high hopes that we would somehow find ourselves back by the end of the day.

Well, it seemed for Kris, those hopes we harboured came crashing down 5 minutes after we left our comfort zone. Because the minute we started venturing along those alleys, we were already lost. We didn’t exactly have a map, and no Wi-Fi so our smartphones were pretty much useless. The road signs weren’t helpful…AT ALL.

 

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Apparently, Kris was having internal breakdown/panic attack because we were completely lost. I, on the other hand, had to hold my jaw up because I was in awe and very excited at the fact that we were wandering the streets of Venice! And I was oblivious to her suffering, how insensitive of me! But she got over it. I am almost certain she was having fun after that. We got the hang of it after awhile, maneuvering ourselves around. Don’t get me wrong, we were still mostly lost. Lol.

Ah, Venice. We can SMELL you. No joke, there IS some odd odour that is rather off-putting but we heard it’s worse in the summer. Good thing we went in the winter.

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Ah, the Grand Canal. Wowed me, it did.

Although here’s a funny story. We somehow, somewhat found ourselves at the Ponte di Rialto. One of the four famous bridges spanning the Grand Canal, and it is the oldest – according to Wikipedia.

 

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So here was what Kris and I were bantering about:

K: This IS the famous bridge right? The Rialto bridge?

Z: I think so?

…Wait, if this is the famous bridge, why is EVERYONE ON it and not snapping crazy photos OF it???

K: LOL.

 

We found out why in a moment.

 

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IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL, I CRY.

My heart skipped a beat and the view left me breathless. You would think I was having some sort of heart attack right there and then. It was simply amazing. For the 2 evenings we were in Venice, we were on that bridge appreciating the beauty of the sunset and of course, doing our usual nonsense that threw us into fits of giggles and probably drawing strange looks from other tourists. This is definitely one sunset view that I will never forget. I almost didn’t want to leave the bridge, if it wasn’t for Kris pulling me away and reminding me about how she had to do this the last time we were at Niagara Falls and I wanted to take root there as a plant.

Reluctantly, we left to discover other secrets Venice has in store for us.

While we managed to navigate ourselves to our intended destinations (the most important being the port where we took a water bus to the island of Burano, and second most important was getting back to our lodgings), we picked up a lesson or two (more, definitely) on the way. Wise words from Kris sprung somewhere along the lines of “All roads lead to home”. Or was it “Rome”. Hehehe, joke indeed, we were in Italy anyway! It was only appropriate. 😛

My take-home message was not being afraid of getting lost. Especially when you are in a foreign land whose people speak a foreign language. Sure, we have to take precautionary measures and be wary at all times, but opening your heart to possibilities would show you new roads, new discoveries. You discover more when you don’t overly focus on getting there, after all it’s about the journey and not the destination – I’m sure you’ve heard/read that a thousand times over. We never know for sure what we’ll find, it’s almost like a treasure hunt. Sometimes, it might just be as unexpected as a pretty little souvenir shop. I have to be honest, I didn’t have time to fully research on Venice before the adventure began so basically I had no idea what to expect. Which I thought was somewhat a brilliant way to start an experience. Well, it could also be the death of me but let’s not get too negative here.

 

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Maybe I wasn’t afraid because I had Kris. Come on, if I was alone, trying to find my way back in the dark what with the maze of narrow, lonely pathways AND with my almost hopeless sense of direction, I might just be scared out of my wits. On another note, if I was thrown into that situation, desperate times call for desperate measures wouldn’t it? Perhaps my survival instincts would kick in and take control. A very interesting experiment for me to consider in this journey of self-discovery, which I am sure I will regale you with, once I’ve gathered my courage and go on a solo trip some time soon. #YOLO, they say.

 

Right, so where were we?

Ah yes, we mustn’t forget Piazza San Marco, Basilica di San Marco and Campanile di San Marco. Venice’s tallest bell tower, the basilica and the square of St. Mark’s.

And then there is Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (Basilica of St. Mary of Health), and Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs).

Much to my dismay, we didn’t have enough time to enter the basilicas. I would have love to take a peek at the interior – I have a thing for cathedrals, basilicas and the likes. And the serene feels I get whenever I enter these sacred places.

 

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Can you hear the sighs?

They say Venice is one of Europe’s most romantic cities. The famous (and expensive) gondola ride that almost everyone would go for and rave about. Now they’ve got all the gondolas dolled up and looking very posh indeed but it is such a shame that the gondoliers don’t sing while you cruise along the Grand Canal (do they even sing to begin with or have I been deceived all this time, can someone please enlighten me). While I am not entirely sure how much it costs to get a ride in the gondolas, friends have mentioned different prices so I am guessing it depends on how many people are taking the ride with you and perhaps some negotiation took place? But I might be wrong. Either way, if you’re into the whole romantic notion, you might consider giving it a go. Personally, I thought it has become rather overrated and the price is ridiculous for a poor student like me. And if the gondolier isn’t even singing, heck! Kris felt that if she was going to pay that sum to go on the ride, she’d make the gondolier sing “Dayuuunngggg sampannnn ♪”. LOL. For those who are not familiar with this, it’s an Indonesian folk song that literally meant “row the boat”.

For some reasons, I cannot appreciate the whim of taking a gondola ride at night. Again, this might have to do with whether or not you think/feel that Venice is a romantic city. But from what I’ve seen, Venice gets really dark once the sun dips below the horizon. Sure, there are some warm lights here and there but I can barely see the canals, much less trying to gaze into my lover’s eyes while on the ride, lol. We took the water bus (Vaporetto) on our second night and I was trying to figure out our location if we were on foot, at the same time attempting to tell these buildings apart. Maybe it is just me. I guess I can say I prefer Venice during the day where I can see everything perfectly. Or maybe I need to return to Venice with a man who has clearly swept me off my feet and everything might just fall into place by then, hehe. Regardless of my thoughts about Venice during the day/night, I must say that I might have somewhat fallen in love with this city. 🙂 Dark & mysterious at night, surprises and spontaneity in the day. Sounds like the perfect man to me. 😛

Food-wise, there are lots of restaurants and eateries around so you won’t starve. While they weren’t the best, they were good enough for both of us, we’re not entirely picky. Our plan right from the beginning was to try the gelato in each and every city we were going to and OH THE COFFEE. Not to mention to eat all the pastas and pizzas there are until we get sick of them. And I did eat all the gelato (in the cold!) and drank way too many cups of coffee than I have EVER drunk in a month.  Oh, and of course, Venice is famous for its carnival masks. You will definitely find masks in almost every souvenir shop you chance upon. Prices vary, so do the designs. Got this beauty for €13. 😀 There were many cats’ masks as well, I would’ve gotten it but this one is so prettyyyyyy!

 

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This post isn’t going to help you much – in terms of real information – if you are looking to travel to Venice anytime soon. You are better off researching the facts and catering that to your needs and preferences. But what I intend to achieve by sharing my travels is the hope that this will inspire you to make that trip happen, for real. 😀 I can’t give you exact locations of all these places because half of it was pure accidental discoveries. The other half are famous landmarks that you would be able to pin on the maps beforehand, however because it is Venice I will wish you all the best in your attempts to find them. It’s not that hard, really. Once you get the hang of it. 😉 Here’s MY advice for you, for Venice:

 

Forget the map. Let your feet take you wherever the labyrinthine paths lead.

Cross those bridges, count the stairs.

Peer into every small canal that you WILL come across; but remember, while they look similar, they are not the same. Appreciate that.

Also appreciate what the daylight can do to Venice, and how the city changes once it gets dark.

Buy yourself a mask (only if you are interested, of course).

Drink good Italian coffee and devour gelato in every gelateria you chance upon!

And most importantly…just get lost. 🙂

You won’t regret it. You might even fall in love, like I did.

 

Unless you are a perfectionist, through and through and you need to have everything planned out in advance…perfectly. Or if you, for some reasons, cannot stand the idea not knowing where exactly you are. But I am sure it is an experience you won’t forget. 😛

 

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Venice, I miss. How you have mystified me.

 

Next on the La Dolce Vita series: Isola di Burano.

 

 

Toodles. ♥