Shopping binge

So remember when I said that I felt a shopping binge coming on? It happened.

I happened to be in Causeway Bay and there was a Gap sale on and I wandered into it because I’ve always loved Gap’s style even though it is a tad on the expensive side for the casualness of the clothing, and for once, the sale prices were actually good. And wham. V found himself standing around for 20 minutes with no end in sight and finally, he decided to just get a seat. One hour later, I still wasn’t done and he suggested I come back on a Monday morning when the lines for the fitting queue weren’t quite so long, not to mention that I should be looking at Mango which was on sale too.

After all that trying, I came away with a pair of jeans for a really good price, one T-shirt, again dirt cheap, and a tank that I ended up returning later. I’m pleased about the jeans because it does thrill me to own Gap jeans but also I’m so in need of jeans to suit my newly trim ass.

So, I decided on a shopping day. I didn’t even need to come into Causeway Bay because the mall in my part of town has all the four shops I targeted – Gap, Zara, Mango and H&M. What I’ve realised is that while there was a time when shopping for me was a whimsical exercise, now with time and money not on my side, I need a strategy.

I need to compare. I need to try on because I have bulges in places that can be hidden but only with the right clothes. I need a good refund policy. All this takes time, and prunes the stores I’m willing to visit. Gap never used to be on my list, but now it is.

Anyway, I first visited H&M. The tragedy is that when my friend was in town we browsed in H&M and I ended up buying a pair of slouchy cotton pants which I noticed are now on sale for half the price. And of course, I’d lost the receipt. Well, I’m actually quite good at keeping receipts, but somehow this one got lost even though the pants were still in the bag with the tag on. Finally, today, I stopped searching for the receipt, ripped the tag off and wore the pants. They are wonderful, but my heart breaks a little to think I could have got them 50% off. The rest of the stuff in H&M was not awesome though. I dumped my pile in a corner and left for Zara.

Zara has beautiful clothes. Just that they are in the 200hkd and above range on sale, which is fine because they are well tailored and can be worn to office, except I don’t need such clothes anymore. Ditto Mango.

So on to Gap. And yeah, lots of things that suit my current aesthetic. Which I realise has returned to blue and denim. I am feeling the desperate desire for a denim skirt, or dress, or shorts. I got myself a dress, a pair for cropped trousers, a couple of tops, and a jersey dress that is way out of my budget but looked so good. I also tried on one of those black jersey sheath dresses and loved it, but I realise that this is not going to get worn a lot. The same problem with the jersey dress, and I’m still thinking I might return it. One month return policy, even on sales items.

I belatedly realised that I had not really bought t-shirts which were the thing I claimed I needed. These days, T-shirts which are the simplest thing really, have become annoyingly expensive, by which I mean they are not to be had for less than 70$. This is 20$ above my preferred price point. Unlike some boys, I do not want to be spending good money on a T-shirt, although just about anything will not do either. I bought a couple of stripey T-shirts but I’m planning on returning them having finally found acceptable options in Baleno.

Oh, and finally, I bought a swimsuit. I have been swimming a fair bit and a trip to Bali is coming up, so I figure two swimsuits in the closet is warranted. I’m pleased that I got one at a decent rate – nice swimsuits are another thing that are insanely expensive for an itty bitty piece of clothing – and its a design that I’ve been coveting for some time. Gave it a whirl in the pool yesterday and it was great.


Except I am so broke. I have two  conference trips with a little leisure tagged on and am literally watching the pennies. In addition my beauty supplies need replenishing.

My Shiseido make-up removing gel got over, and I went and bought this Bioderma micellar water, which is really not working for me. It’s supposed to be the wonder item that French women and models use and I cannot believe I fell for that trick. I am not French nor a model but a mother-of-two with oily skin living in Hong Kong which has 90% humidity at this time. What was I thinking?

On a more positive note, a friend kindly leant me some Moroccanoil to try and I think it’s the thing for my hair. Only I can’t afford it. Dilemmas dilemmas.

India Day

First a public service announcement: I’ve decided to switch Benji’s name on the blog to Nene (pronounced Naynay). It’s what we call him at home, and I keep slipping up on the blog. So the artist-formerly-knowng-as-Benji is now Nene. Okay?

So, kind of by default, I’ve become quite involved in my kids’ kindergarten. Nene is part of a trio of kids whose moms are SAHMs and who are enthu cutlets about any school activity and I get asked to be part of things too, and so I agree. There are some things I would have put my hand up for, and others I wouldn’t have but end up doing thanks to the other two mothers.

Like representing India on International Day. There are quite a few Indian kids in the school and I thought I would take a backseat on this one. But then An’s mum asked me if I’d join her in planning the India activity and I said ok. It turned out as usual noone else was volunteering except the usual suspects (us).

An’s mum seemed to have it under control in terms of what we could do, since she had just done a stall at her older daughter’s school. However, all her ideas were activity based and it turned out we just needed to do a show-and-tell. So I decided to step aside. Another reason was that when they announced the presenters, they only put An’s mom’s name up (though to be fair I had not told the principal I’d be participating too) so I took it as a sign to step aside. Anyway, how hard could a 10 minute show-and-tell be.

Apparently quite hard according to some because An’s mum and Jay’s mum were stressing about their presentation. So much to do, it seems. I thought it was a bit ridiculous. But I offered to help.

In the end, I thought up a bunch of ideas we could do. I expected An’s mum to veto some but she accepted all, and even tried to add more. Frankly, there wasn’t that much ‘prep’ since we only had about 10 minutes to set up before the act. Here’s what we did:

An’s mum brought a flag and some large India maps from her stall. We put those up. I brought some assorted scarves that I unnecessarily draped around just because I had them. An’s mum brought a Rajasthani tapestry and I brought some Indian knick knacks from around the house as decor.

I started off by showing the kids the flag and asking them to name the colours, then pointed to India on the map. The map had landmarks like the Taj Mahal and animals marked, and An’s mum insisted we point these out so I did, though I think it didn’t really register with the kids.

Then An’s mum showed the kids how to say Namaste, and told them about how welcoming is important in India, and showed them a rangoli she had made out of coloured rice and lentils. The kids were itching to touch it.

She also showed the kids examples of Indian clothes that I had brought.

Then, I talked to them about transport. I showed them pictures of a train, bus and taxi in India and a toy auto I had was passed around, which the kids loved. I then passed around examples of Indian money, which again they loved but it made the teachers nervous and was frankly quite distracting.

Then, I showed them Gandhi on the Rs500 note and told them about non-violence and how we shouldn’t hit (because Nene and a few boys had been hitting each other in class).

Then we told them a good way to calm down and be peaceful is by doing yoga, and showed them a few yoga moves. The reverberations when we said Om were amazing and the kids really calmed down. Well, at least Nene’s class. The older kids giggled and Mimi’s class could not master the tree pose at all (frankly, that pose is silly to do with two-and-a-half-year-olds).

And that was it. Easy Peasy. Frankly, it was a bit TMI. Next year, I’ll whittle it down to a maximum of three topics, one of which will be a Bollywood dance. And I’ll wear a sari*. I struggled to find Indian clothes in my wardrobe since I’d left my better outfits in India and only have a couple of kurtis which I wear so often I didn’t think were special enough. You see how I’m assuming I’m going to do this next year right?

The kids drove me mad in the morning, by fussing about their clothes. Nene flat out refused to wear the salwar pants and then started complaining about the kurta. I said he could wear jeans, and my helper ended up putting him in bermuda shorts and I ended up yelling at her because I was so stressed. In the end, we compromised with a kurta (with the neck turned down because that was what was itching) and denim shorts.

I shouted at Nene saying, “You’re an Indian kid.” To which he responded: “I’m not.” Ouff.

Mimi was excited to wear her pavadai but the top part of it turned out to be too loose and wanted her to wear a tighter choli on top. She refused, and threw a tantrum. Finally, our helper put it on her at school and she looked very cute and got a lot of compliments.

The hilarious thing was when I was explaining the India map, I showed them China and said, “Who’s from China here?” And Nene put up his hand. The grandparents are not going to be pleased.

Overall, I don’t think this is something worth stressing madly about like the other mums were. Yes, it is easier if two of us are doing it, but even if were just me, I would have managed. It’s 10 minutes of presentation and India is easy because Indian culture is so visible. Nevertheless, I was angsty the day before and was relieved when it was over fairly successfully.

*My goal is to learn how to tie my own sari by next year.

A wee heartbreak


One of things that I am slightly paranoid about is my kids making friends at school. By which I mean them having any friends, not being picky about the friends they have. Maybe it’s a vestige of my time at primary school when I had no friends. Yeah, I literally had no friends, and my sister used to take pity on me and walk around the playground with me. I don’t know why I had no friends because I never had a problem after I hit nine years, though I’m not a font of sociability so maybe that was why.

So yeah, I was anxious about my kids having friends because school is tough enough when you’re a toddler without being achingly lonely on top of it. And I think that in his old school Benji didn’t have any close friends, though later he bonded with another Indian girl even though he didn’t really like her.

At the start of this school year though, Benji very quickly made a friend Jay. And then, another mum latched onto us for playdates and so another friend was made. I learnt a trick then, that you can actually force friendships by throwing kids together often enough. I should have known this considering the phenomenon of “family friends” in India. Although I learnt this trick, I did playdates because I was asked to and don’t think I would have gone through the bother of initiating them. Though I do see how it cements friendships.

So when Mimi started school, I was anxious again. And then she started mentioning names of people. And on her sports day, I realised that these were real people, not someone whose name she made up. And one of them was a little boy Dee who seemed totally into her. Mimi got invited to his birthday party and although she was terribly unwell the previous night, I made it a point to take her because I realised Dee was really fond of her.

When I went in for Mimi’s PTA meeting, her class teacher told me Dee was her friend and they were often seen playing magic together. Dee’s mum told me that she motivates Dee to go to school by saying Mimi will miss him.

Then a couple of days ago when I asked her about Dee she said she wasn’t playing with him. I thought nothing of it, until the next day when I dropped her to kindergarten. Dee saw her and ran towards her. She cut him dead. Just said “no” and turned around. Poor Dee, his face fell and he went back to his mum. Then, when the school bell rang, they ran into class and I watched them from the glass window. Mimi usually sits next to Dee but this time she chose a different seat. I could see Dee sitting opposite her, staring at her plaintively.

And my heart broke a little. Okay a lot.

I thought about Dee the whole day. In evening, I badgered Mimi about him and made her promise she would play with him. V has often told me that I should not interfere too much in the kids’ friendships, and maybe it’s a remnant of my own childhood, but I cannot bear to think of a child being rejected, even if it’s not my child. In the past, Nene has mentioned not playing with certain kids and I always encourage him to include them. He tells me, “Jay said not to play with him” and I say: “Will you do anything Jay tells you to?” and he says: “Yes” though I know it’s not true because he’s a ringleader.

Today Dee’s mum mentioned that Dee said Mimi didn’t want to hold his hand. I said I was so sad that Mimi was like that. She laughed and told me not to worry and Dee also changes his allegience, but that Dee did seem more affected this time. We decided to do a few playdates to help them renew their friendship.

It’s still I know, but Dee is a sweet kid. He has an innocence about him, and though initially I wanted Mimi to have a friend, now I just want her to be his friend.


Nothing significant, just random stuff.

So, remember I mentioned the great haircut that was not going to be great after a hairwash. It wasn’t. I tried to wait it out and tie it up and finally I gave in and after eight years of getting my hair chemically straightened at intervals, I bought a flat iron straightener to use at home. All these years, I’ve maintained that I don’t want the hassle of ironing my hair every day or so, and hence opted for the chemical process, which is easier but the last time I did it, my hair came out rougher (which may be hormonal changes because I’d expect the chemicals to have only gotten better. They’re certainly more expensive than they used to be). So I didn’t intend to straighten again, I only did it the last time as a desperate measure since my “boy”cut seemed to be taking forever to grow out.

My hair is wavy and I want to wear it that way in solidarity with Mimi who has gorgeous curls and who wants to imitate me in everything and is already started talking about how her hair is straight. But then this haircut happened and it’s summer and on top of the haircut not being suited to half-straight, half-curly hair, the humidity makes me look like Raja Ram Mohan Roy. I looked into Brazilian Blowouts, but they were over-budget and I toyed with chemically straightening my hair but that was over my budget too and frankly I was reluctant to subject my hair to that again.

So I bought a straightener. After looking at the top of the range (i.e. GHD) I got a Philips in case you’re interested, because I remember someone I know saying that’s what they had and then I pinged my friends and one of them had a Philips. It’s reasonably priced and I’ve now been using it for a few weeks and it’s fine. I’m uncoordinated as hell but I manage to do my hair in about 15-20 minutes given that it’s neck length. And the result is nice, probably better than chemical straightening because it doesn’t look so chapta in the beginning. I worry about ruining my hair, but I’m going to keep cutting it, and I use a serum. Not the best serum, but I’m on a budget.

Speaking of the budget, it’s a new experience not just swiping a card. Honestly, considering my income got slashed by half, this should have happened sooner, but I took a long time to twig that we just could not afford the DINK lifestyle because we are not Dinks anymore, not to mention that I quit my job. And it’s not all because of V wanting to save and retire at 40, which does impact things, though in principle I’m ok with saving regardless of when one plans to retire. The way I see it right now my budget has shrunk because I chose to take an income cut and it should reflect in my behaviour somewhere.

So V and I agreed on a personal stuff budget every month, and I’ve been trying to stick to it. Because I’m extreme like that. I work well with targets, though not if they’re too stressful. But although I’m a rebel of sorts, I’m also super disciplined. (hmmm, I’m understanding Mimi better here. She’s such a virago at home but in school her teacher said she’s amazing. Some people need structure, I think, and that might just be Mimi and me. I need to have a dotted line of sorts to follow, even if the picture is of my own making. Is that the hallmark of a control freak? Is this bracket going on too long?)

The interesting thing about being on a budget is that a lot of things just don’t seem worth it. My standards have ironically got higher. So if I spend money on restaurant, I expect it to really deliver. And most fine dining restaurants don’t, given how much they charge. Sure, there are people bowing and scraping but while I don’t appreciate the bang your food down on the table in any order style of cha chaang teng service, I find someone placing your napkin on your lap deeply annoying as well. The food is normally not worth thaaat much money, and the don’t even get me started on alcohol. At least the food, one can justify.

Ok, I have a specific experience in mind with regard to this particular rant. We arranged to meet a friend of V and his very rich girlfriend and we picked Jamie Oliver’s restaurant because we know the food and the price point are decent, but it’s a toss up whether you’ll get a table as you can’t reserve, and unfortunately that day we didn’t. And like a fool, I said okay to another restaurant in the building. I had always been curious about that restaurant but when I took one look at the menu I knew I had made a mistake. It was one of those where everyone orders their own and an appetizer costs 200 bucks and is two small things on a plate. And of course the people we were with went to town, partly because how would it look if they didn’t follow the rigidly defined four course pattern? Plus wine. Of course. I had fish, which was stupid because it was a steak place, and it was a tad dry and this is what I mean by not-worth-it. Pretentiously laid out so-so tasting food for which you pay an arm and a leg. And finally, I came down to V’s point of view which he has been hammering home to me for two years now. Few of these places are worth it really. I felt kind of sorry for the couple we were with, who seem to only go to these kind of restaurants.

The thing I have an itch to do right now is shop. Because my existing clothes are just hanging off me. But I need to pace myself. Which is a strange experience, but not entirely unpleasant. It feels good to have to hold back, and save up for something. Heh. Though the list of things I want  need is growing longer and maybe the whole sparseness thing will get old sooner rather than later. Recently, a friend visited and I went browsing in shops with her, something I never do anymore unless I have a defined purpose, and I identified at least five things I must have and I’ve been dreaming of them ever since. I sense a binge coming on.

My friend’s visit was soooo good. She and I go way back, but she moved to Oz and both of us are not the keep in touch types. Curly and I have had this conversation about how you need to put some effort into friendships to sustain them, and it’s something I’ve realised is true especially when there’s distance involved which in my case there is more often than not. But this friend is one of those with whom no effort is made and still we remain the greatest of friends. And this trip we figured out why. Because – and I’m crediting her with this more than me because she always goes first – when we do meet, even if two years have passed, we let it all hang out. We update each other on the important stuff, the goriest, painfullest details, we do this non-stop for one whole day, and then it’s like the clock has been reset and we’re back to when we were in college. This time, the first day we were to meet, I kept trying to take her somewhere to see something and she refused and said we just had to sit down and had lunch and that’s what we did, because she knew all we would end up doing would be talking non-stop and yeah, that’s what we did. After three days, we both felt like we’d had therapy.

And finally, I’m watching The Tudors. Nope Game of Thrones is not for me. I don’t know why because it’s loosely based on British history, and I have read about those periods but somehow because it’s not ‘real’ I can’t get into it. I wish I could but I can’t. Unfortunately, Wolf Hall was over much too fast, so The Tudors it is. Wolf Hall is better, but the Tudors is longer with all kinds of sub-plots. Like Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon. I’m fixated on that romance, partly because the actor playing Brandon is so hot. Jonathon Rhys Myers is a good Henry because he has a slightly crazed look, but overall I prefer the Wolf Hall casting. Natalie Dormer doesn’t work for me somehow. I think the best Anne Boleyn was Natalie Portman in The Other Boleyn Girl. Since then, I believe that Anne shouldn’t have big boobs. This is of course neither here nor there.

End of ramble. How’ve you been?


So I mentioned earlier how I’m on a Project Runway binge. It’s been a long time since I downloaded anything for myself and it’s been a long time since I consumed something frivolous. For months it’s been philosophy and pondering deep thoughts, and it felt amazing to fall into the bucketful of froth that is fashion as it were.

Project Runway is not what it used to be as diehard fans will tell you. For one, Marc Jacobs has gone, and Zac Posen doesn’t seem to have the same sharpness. It also seems like the producers have instructed the judges to the extent that they seem to say the most random things – gushing over mediocrity and saving someone simply because they’re committed to a certain story. I’m referring to Amanda and Char here in Season 13, which was the one I watched. At least the winner wowed us, even if he overused fringe.

Despite the fact that the show has gone downhill, I enjoyed watching it. V watched me watching it in fascination. I’m into fashion, always have been, but I don’t really look the part. I certainly don’t look the part when I’m consuming these shows clad in an old T-shirt that used to belong to V and ill-fitting boxers, my hair standing up in peaks and horns and my face shiny with oil. But I can’t claim to be on the cutting edge even when I make an effort. And nevertheless, I enjoy watching other people putting together ‘a look’ and carrying it off in style. I love the transformation from cloth to clothes, from plain Jane to glamour. This post encapsulates my relationship with fashion.

Switching from an office job to life in academia proper has marked a shift in how I dress. I had acquired a number of chic formal office dresses over the years but frankly, now I would look too neoliberal in them. When I said this to V, he laughed at me for five minutes. But it’s the truth. You cannot look like the worldview you aim to critique. Or maybe you can. I am not ready to give up my tailored jackets, but I need to combine them with something more casual, a melding of the two mes. Which is part of the point, that fashion is a masquerade.

Moreover, being a student, working in an office where one never really has to meet proper adults, with people whose style is eclectic, comes with freedoms that are hard to resist. Like wearing shorts and flip flops to office. Like tying ones hair up in a turban made from an old t-shirt (a colleague, not me). It means high heels are a no-no, but also weirdly, showing one’s toes is not considered de rigueur in graduate seminars. It means that I need to replenish the T-shirt pile in my closet.

So I rely on my tried and tested go-to site for online shopping ZALORA. It’s interesting in these matters, how I’m a creature of habit. I try something and if it works, I don’t want to look elsewhere. But this time, I’ve skipped the shoes and honed in on the casual wear, though I did detour through the bags section before firmly telling myself this is no time for accessorizing. I have my eye on a couple of T-shirts, and since I’ve lost a bit of weight, they just might work.

The weight loss also means I’m in desperate need of new jeans, but being a student on a budget means, I need to slouch around in my accidental baggies for now. A makeover would be great at this moment, but I just don’t have the funds.

For example, this month I had a haircut so good, it could only be too-good-to-be-true. I tried a new shop down the road because it was cheaper than both the other places I regularly go to. The hairdresser didn’t speak a word of English, but I figured my gesticulations to cut just a little (“siu siu” I said theatrically) would do the trick. Then I panicked as he hacked off a great chunk of hair from the back of my head. I ended up with a sleek bob, one of the best haircuts I’ve had in terms of effect, but alas I knew it would only last a day or two because my hair is not sleek and my patience is not up to the task of a daily blowdry. The only other option is to straighten my hair again, but for the first time, I found my hair not standing up to the damage as well as it used to. And considering the cost of applying for a visa, I don’t think I have can afford the more expensive treatments.

So it’s crazy hair and loose pants for now. But at least I have those T-shirts to look forward to.


A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with MinCat online and then said, “Ok, bye, I’m going to go for a run.” When I came back, there was a message in the chat box: “What? Who is this? And where is my friend?”

I giggled. Yeah, I started running and I forgot to tell MinCat.

It had to do with the weight loss. I lost so much weight after the India trip, and I fell in love with the angles of my face and I wanted to keep them. Initially, I tried starving controlling my diet, which worked because my appetite had taken a dipper after the spate of illness.

But then, I started getting hungrier. So the only alternative was to exercise. So I decided to start with a walk, which is how I usually start. The weather at the time was beautiful, and we have a new seaside promenade near our apartment. And one day, I started running.

See, running has always been my go-to exercise. I trained as an athlete from the age on nine right until I started college. And so, whenever I needed to exercise that’s what I would do. And in retrospect, I realised, that running brings the weight off like nothing else. Not that I’ve tried much else, but it works.

Interestingly, all the time I trained as an athlete I hated it. I did it because my parents insisted. I was a sickly child and they figured it would toughen me up. According to them, it did. I still remember being sick a lot but my mum claims it was less frequent. Also, my sister was a natural athlete, and I always did what she did. So I stuck with it. Also, once I get started on something I’m very bad at quitting. The idea didn’t cross my mind. So I continued, while not exactly loving the whole thing. [This post by Alison struck a chord of recognition with me]

My sister continued to run long after I did. She even ran in the snow in Wisconsin. I think she enjoyed it. Though she also continued going to church long after I stopped so…

For me, running became a functional thing, a way to lose weight when the calories finally started piling on enough to scare me. When people spoke of runner’s high, I rolled my eyes. All the while I had been running, I never felt it. Through my childhood, I went through the motions of training in anticipation of the moment it would be over. Ironically, I was put into the long-distance running camp which meant any bout of running took much longer to get over before you could stop and catch your breath. And I particularly hated competitive racing. I used to pray for my period before races and sometimes it would work or I’d get a fever (probably from stress) and so I believed in a higher being for a long time. After any training session, instead of feeling euphoric, I would feel sleepy. I would have a bath at home and try to catch 10 minutes of sleep before dressing for school.

I didn’t run for a long time in Hong Kong. We used to hike a lot and that took care of the exercise. Then, after Benji, one day I started running. It was night, I had music on my earphones and one of those very peppy songs came on and suddenly, I experienced it – that runner’s high that had always eluded me. It made me laugh out loud. I had been running on and off for 25 years without once experiencing the glory of it, and finally, when I didn’t need to run really, I could see what all the fuss was about.

Since then, I don’t feel so bad about running. I don’t always experience a runner’s high but I do once in a while and that helps things. I would run without the high because my goal is different, it’s to keep my weight down. But it’s nice to have it. There are some ingredients that make it easier to achieve. My body has to be a certain condition, that I’m becoming more and mroe convinced is related to my hormonal cycle. I usually need to be outdoors. A song that puts me in the mood has to come on.

So yeah, I’ve been running. And doing yoga once a week, and more recently swimming. The swimming inspired V to think that he needs to start something too. Which is only a good thing.

Now that we have great places to run outside, I don’t ever want to go to the gym. I suspect this is going to be a problem because the weather has turned rainy. We have a gym right in our building, so it’s not as if getting there is inconvenient. Last week, it was raining so I used to gym and it just felt so ridiculous to be running on a threadmill, not to mention that my arm kept hitting the emergency button and shutting the machine down.

To beat that, I’ve decided to go running in the morning if the sky looks blue. This is also a departure because I risk being tired the whole day. But strangely, I’m ok. One day, I ran in the morning, I even felt more energized than before which has never happened to me in my life.

Today, I went out for a run, even though the sky was overcast and got caught in a downpour. I waited it out under some shade and then continued. I never thought I’d see the day when I didn’t use rain as an excuse not to run. Please note, I hate getting wet in the rain.

My weight loss has plateaued a bit, because I haven’t been as careful about the diet. But I’m in the sweet spot weight wise right now, and as long as I can maintain that, I’m happy.

About the weight loss, it’s fashionable to stress health. But let’s be clear, my aim is that I want to look a certain way. The health benefits – and there are some,  I do feel healthier and my body is lighter to carry – are like a happy side effect but not the main point. If I could be thin without exercising, I would happily do that and find other ways to deal with the health issues (like sleeping, my other favourite thing to do).

On the other hand, while I’m frank about my superficial goals, I find it annoying when people in the fitness industry (or just the whole of frickin’ Hong Kong) seem obsessed with thinness. Like at my yoga class yesterday, the instructor was waffling on about slimming and what to eat and what not, and I just ignored her (which was easy to do because she was waffling on in Cantonese and I only understand the barest bones of it). But honestly, lady, the point of yoga is not slimming. And it is offensive to people who are less than slim (rare as they might be in this city) to go on about weight.

I know it’s contradictory to want to lose weight but to be annoyed when the whole world is obsessed with the same, but I think it’s tolerable as my own little quirk (though obviously influenced by the beauty myth and all that) and not when it’s like a discourse one is subjected to from every corner. I would appreciate if power would function more subtly as Foucault said it should. Hmph.

Kids say the darndest things

Mimi and Benji in the bath. Mimi to Benji: Why do you have a loose peepee?
Clearly penis envy is not a thing in our house.

At dinner time. Benji: Why did that vampire raise his hand?
Me: What? What vampire? [notice cricket on TV]. Oh umpire!

While feeding Mimi my arm kept knocking into a toy Benji was trying to take. He glared at me: ‘you’re wasting my time!” he said officiously stalking off.

Watching people speak French, Mimi asks: “Why are they saying that thing?” (I.e. talking funny). It’s an improvement over her usual complaint when she runs into a Peppa Pig video in any other language on TV: “They’re speaking Chinese”

Benji carrying the hot water bottle I use during my period on his head: “I have a tummy upset on my head.”

Mimi sees a free swing at the park and races towards it. An older girl beats her to it by an inch. Mimi reaches out, grabs the swing and tells the older kid off. The older kid backs down. Mimi gets on the swing. A butterfly flies near her. Mimi shrieks. Thus, terrified of butterflies but not older kids.

Watching a music video with Benji : “Why is that lady in a jail?”
It’s Mariah Carey dancing in a cage. Tried explaining the metaphor of love like a cage but he wasn’t impressed.

Public service ad on drug abuse comes on.
Benji: “Why’s that boy crying?”
Me (using it as a teaching moment): “Because he took drugs, don’t ever do that!” Mimi: “Like Alice?”
Me (mumbling): Yeah kinda.
Dunno how she twigged that Alec in Wonderland is trippy.

Moths fly into the house. After running around, trying to catch them with a broom and observing one that fell down closely. Then Mimi takes her notebook and a pen and mimes writing.  “Fly go fly” she says.

Cannes pwetty

There were lots of pretty dresses at Cannes this year, more than the Oscars I think, and since I have a moment to faff, and also my period which legitimizes all manner of timepass, here are my humble opinions:

Our Indian ladiz did quite well. Sonam has become the one to watch. For example:


I did not love the dress, but it is striking. The main thing I dislike is her hair. It’s a weird shade of brown.

But then she did this:

sonam-kapoor_big bird

The big bird look did not impress. She also did a number of overdressed appearances at things. Thankfully she finished with this:

sonam kapoor last day cannes 2

Then there was Aishwarya who has discovered a striking shade of lipstick.


Then there was Katrina Kaif also in red. Some thought it was too much, but I think it worked. Uncle Oscar is always a good choice. Except she might have kept her hair black.


Speaking of desi stars, for once Mindy Kaling did herself justice:


Closer to my neck of the woods, the Chinese actresses always tend to be impeccable but safe. But I loved this one:


I also really liked Charlotte Casiraghi’s dress, though I think someone else might have given it more pizazz. I remember reading this Vogue article rhapsodizing about how gorgeous her lips are and I could only think um, people will fawn over royalty no matter what.


Speaking of royalty of the fashion kind, we can always rely on Queen Cate. Everyone was going gaga about this one:


But I much preferred this:

attends the

Much as I love the glamour of it all, this is not on.

The rigors of Third world passports trying to visit the First world

So like an idiot I applied for and got accepted to a conference in a European country. I won’t mention which due to general paranoia.

In my excitement, I forgot about the visa. Or rather how painful it is to get one from the developed world when you are from the developing world. The humiliating hoops you have to jump through. The bureaucratic loops you have to run through.

Their forms with invasive but pointless-seeming questions, the lack of ALL the information you need until you follow some click trail, where hidden in some corner is information you must put on the letter that you already requested and got printed out without the information.

Did I mention the letter? I had to request changes THREE times from the ever-patient but somewhat scatty conference organizer. The last one I thought was perfect had print-out smudges because their printer bled apparently. Apparently, proper printers are not available in whole first-world university but we of the third world would still want to move there. I don’t know how I’m going to explain the smudges.

Then had lunch with V’s friends last night and was moaning to them, and the lady was like “oh it’s very easy, you just need the letter, an original and a copy” and I’m like “what? my original is a copy.” Because noone posts anything anymore. Everything is soft copy. So now my precious letter is not up to the ‘original’ standard. Plus, in some obscure corner of the website I’m stalking, it says I need to have details like my passport number on the invitation letter which I do not have because conference invitation letters never include this stuff. So I’m paranoid now, because I don’t know if I can do a fourth letter, not to mention how long it would take to get one posted.

And then there’s the question of bank statements which I need to apparently get stamped or attested or some such because apparently it’s possible to doctor the Internet printed stuff. Hilariously, the lady I was dining with is very wealthy and when she went for a UK visa interview, they refused to accept her printed statements, so she called the bank manager and he came down to the consulate with a stamp to do the needful. Obviously, my much more modest savings account will not warrant such service.

It doesn’t help that the cost of applying is a lot, and I’m no longer in a position not to care about these things. And anyway applying for and getting rejected on a visa is not a small thing. It gets stamped on your passport forever.

The whole thing is like the unwanted gift that keeps on giving. The more you do, the more you get sucked into doing more because you already did so much already. It’s exactly like gambling, except you need to know at which point to cut your losses and run, but I haven’t determined what point.

I oscillate between wanting to chuck the whole thing (and frankly, if I get rejected, I’d be more pissed about the loss of time and effort than actually not being able to go) and having flashes of enthusiasm about the thing.

I was asking V if he gets so stressed out about documentation and he said he doesn’t. Me, it’s like a traumatic experience. The last time I went through this was the PhD application. There is always some piece of paper that is not as perfect as it should be. The whole thing is set up to ensure that you fail, I’m convinced.

I am coming to the point where I believe that international travel is not the pain of all this. Either I find a way to acquire a first-world passport, or I just travel only to places that allow visa-free travel on an Indian passport. Luckily, I’ve checked off all the must-sees on my bucket list, and now I’m leaning more towards what the venerable Obama called the ‘bucket’ list.

Edited to add: woke up from nap to find V watching this Makayalsm movie in which the female protagonist is waiting for her visa to Ireland to be ptocessed! And finally she decides not to go and to stay in India and do organic farming instead. Solo creepy! Is it a sign I wonder? 

Mother’s Day wins and fails

Ever since I became a mother, I’ve ironically become cynical about Mother’s Day. There’s something so sacharine about the way the whole thing inevitably pans out, not to mention the inevitable commercialisation whereby a woman cannot actually go out for a meal on that day without paying double the price for some already overpriced confection. But the commercialisation bothers me less than the glorification of motherhood that happens on the day, which always gives me the feeling that although I’ve berthed a child or two, I somehow don’t meet that ideal nor do I want to.

This year, I thought I was thawing a bit. It helped that on Friday Benji came home from school with this adorable necklace – beads on rope – and a Mother’s Day book (with two figures that should have been him and me in it, except he didn’t colour in eyes and mouth. Not an artist that kid) and wished me Happy Mother’s Day is this adorable little lilt and followed it up with “I love you” and a hug. Nothing like a handmade prezzie to melt this jaded heart. Mimi was feeling left out, so I pretended a house she had made in craft was her gift, except later when looking through her art stuff, it turned out there was a cute little cardboard handbag there for me, but it seemed like Mimi kinda wanted to keep it.

Then, on the day itself, V who is even more of a cynic than me, got the kids to wish me, and bought me breakfast. I went for a hike up a mountain that Benji had been wanting to do and seemed surprisingly capable of. Mimi chickened out halfway, creeped out by the spiders, and V had to carrry her down a hundred stairs while I plodded up 400 more with the Benj. All the grandpas doing their morning constitutional – yes, this is what oldies in HK do for exercise, hike up mountains leaving us puffing in their wake – were very impressed with him.

I called my mum and wished her. See, I feel like Mother’s Day is meant for women like my mum who really went out of the way to sacrifice for their kids. And I am just not that mum. And while I agree that the day may be meant for the legions of mothers who are, I feel that the day is deifying a kind of ideal that is actually unfair to women in the long run. My mum loves Mother’s Day and we have always made it special for her, long before it became a Hallmark event. My sister sent her a bouquet of flowers from both of us, and I’ll admit, I was taken by surprise when my mum mentioned it.

Post-lunch though, things took a downturn. I was tired after the morning’s activities but Mimi, who was also tired, seemed in no mood to sleep. I ended up yelling at her and being kind of rough, yanking her arm. I stormed out of her room, then she decided to go get a colouring book, which I refused to let her have, she started wailing. I decided to do a timeout myself, and sat on the couch with my phone ignoring her. Mothers these days get a lot of flak for being on their phones all the time, but I think it’s basically a zone out device during drama. Like a quick and easy fix, a way to switch off and then on. Mothers in the past probably busy themselves with ironing or something, which sounds more productive but probably isn’t because you’d end up getting tired and then more snappish.

But yeah, not my finest moment, and V called me on it in the evening. I got a bit defensive. Yes, I need to curb my impatience. On the other, is it only our generation of mothers that are expected, and I mean in real life not just paintings etc., to be so beatific in the face of meltdowns and drama? I am positive that when I was a kid, there would be one tight slap delivered, whereby the kid would howl and then fall asleep. Now, I’m against the one tight slap approach theoretically, though I’ll admit the odd occasion when I’ve delivered a smack, though not very sharply and never more than one on the arm or something. And when I do that, my kids don’t really get it and think I’m playing because they don’t (so far) identify hitting with us being angry.

But apparently, even shouting is out of bounds these days. One is supposed to be super composed and calmly tell the child off or even better, reason with the child. It does not help that I interviewed a parenting expert and it really does sound lovely if one could achieve this. Except I’m short on patience so not the best candidate though one might argue it’s exactly people like me who need to practice this. On the other hand, does anyone achieve it? I mean people with kids like Mimi? With Benji, yeah, I could pull calm and composed off because it’s not a drama-a-minute.

Anyway, despite my irritation with V at pointing it out, I feel like I need to try and hold it in. Or walk away and zone out and the return to the site of the drama. Mimi is old enough to be left alone, I guess. The problem with me losing it is that not only is it ideal for the kids but it sets a bad example for the helpers. E is exactly the kind of paragon of virtue who manages to calmly correct the child without resorting to evil adult mode (as far as we know). But J might take her cue from me. And that is not something I want.

So yeah, I need to pull back and do better on this front.

On the other hand, I’ve binged on Project Runway and improvised bhel (made by the genius V) and it was exactly the medicine I needed after a very stressful week.


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