Merry Christmas!

Yes! I’m back again! Just before it turn a month again. You know I am always sorry for not updating my blog so I won’t say it again. I’m just glad I remember to be back just in time to wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas!

Well since I’m already on this New Post Page, I might as well write a few of my thoughts and brief updates of what’s up. 

First thing first… just recently, I became really fascinated with Pine cones. Please forgive me for my ignorance, I know many of you would have known a lot about Pine Cones but me, being a city girl all my life… not much. 

Some weeks ago, we were at Jos’ mum home for dinner. While trying to keep the fire place burning, I discover one single pine cone in the basket next to the fire place. Jos’ mum told me, pine cone make good fire starter. So that was that. But I’ve always love pine cones as a Christmas Tree Ornaments, well, not just that, I love them on it’s own too! So imagine burning them seems really wasteful in my opinion. 

Anyway, having said that, below is a picture of Nelly’s cat next to the fire place. He loves the fire place during winter time, he can sit there for hours enjoying the heat. He is clearly a summer cat 🙂 

Image

Just last weekend, we had yet again our weekly nature walk. Well, I’m sorry I don’t remember the name of the place, these nature park have like super long names, I didn’t really take any effort to remember them. They are all nice. This time, something magical happen, I found pine cones! When I picked up the first one, I showed it to Jos and asked if they were pine cones. To my delight, his answer was yes! 

But why does they looked different from the ones at your mum?? Jos said, they would open up when it gets dry and warm. So in other words, pine cones closes up when it’s wet. Without hesitating, When we returned back home, the first thing I did was to place all 3 of them on the heater, hoping it will open up like real soon. And they did! Maybe not really fast but slowly it is getting there. Below is a picture of MY cones at day 3. I’m monitoring their “growth” from far since I’m away from home again! 

Image

 

So that is one thing I’ve wanted to share!! 

On other news, I’ve also visited several Christmas Market this year! One in Valkenburg, one in Dusseldorf and last one in Edinburgh, over a month! Can you imagine? How adventurous!?  I love the feeling of being at a Christmas Market.  Also, Edinburgh trip was lovely! For the first time, I’ve climbed a Hill! For the first time, I set my feet on a royal ship! For the first time we got married by a Machine.  I know right, I have so much to blog about and I know it is about time. Well, all these for the next post! 

Till then, have a Happy Jolly Christmas!! 

 

Noah’s Ark comes alive in Dordrecht

Have you heard about Noah’s Ark? As a child, I’ve learn about Noah and his ark from the church I went every Sunday. I read the story in the bible, I was reminded frequently when the pastor gives his weekly ministry and when I grew into my teens, I was even made to tell this story to the children attending Sunday school. (Yes, I used to be a Sunday School teacher.) Although I don’t attend churches anymore, this christian story has left a very deep impression in me.

After those childhood years, I was reminded once again when EVAN ALMIGHTY was aired. That was like Noah’s Ark in the 20th century. Funny and quite amazing too.   I enjoyed the movie very much. Have you watch it? Anyway, at that point, I thought, the story about Noah’s Ark just elevated from being a bible story into a movie. Cool!

Evans Almight – Noah’s Ark alike story line.

Even though I’ve not forgotten about, I leave the story of Noah’s Ark as that. And then in Feb year 2012, I moved to the Netherlands for the love of my life. To be honest, until today, I’m still in disbelief that I’ve moved to the Netherlands, Netherlands was never in my mind. Not a place I want to visit before but I made my way here anyway. It still feels so surreal, i can only smile in disbelief.

Anyway, long story short, the point I wanna make is …. I’ve not just moved to Netherlands for the love of my life, I’ve also moved next to my childhood memory that came alive – A Solid Massive, life-sized Noah’s Ark; a story, standing right in front of my eyes. I’ve not stopped being fascinated by it each time our car drove past it.

Noah’s ark (Ark van Noach) in Dordrecht officially open in Dec 2012 (The year I Arrived!). This massive full-scale and functioning Ark was built by a Dutchman (obviously), Mr John Huibers, who apparently claimed to have a vision from God that his country would flood. Many think he is crazy but I think it is quite understandable to be paranoid since the dutch are living in a lowlands with most part of the country lying below sea level. Although the dutch are protected from flood by dams, dikes and natural sand dunes, there is still possibility of flood. And for the record, I’m in high danger because I don’t swim; I sink!

The animals in the Ark – in pairs

A cafe in the Ark.

Oh did I mentioned this ark is fully functioning? Yes, this Dutchman is not building a toy boat, he is in this for real. The size has to be on scale 1:1 and it has to be able to move around like any other boats. How amazing is that? I think this guy is brilliant and awesome. But just recently, there was also news that he has the intention to bring his Ark on a world tour! So does that means no more Noah’s Ark in Dordrecht? Maybe it’s only for a world tour and the Ark will be back to home ground? Apparently, not! John Huibers thinks the people has enough of the ark and it should leave and never return! Aww.. that’s so sad! So having said that, what are you waiting for? Hurry rush down to Dordrecht, the beautiful little town in the Netherlands ! 🙂

I shall end this post with a video about the Ark. Check it out ! You should really visit before it leaves forever!

 

A Surprise in A Surprise

The memory I have of Prague is still vivid. I guess I should pen it down now before the memory wipes out from my puny brain.

Prague is well known for being one of the most romantic city in the world. Walking along Charles Bridge; watching the painters working on their art pieces & couples taking their walk across the bridge surely lights up that romantic atmosphere. Besides, I’m also really enchanted by the way they immaculately preserve it’s ancient beautiful architectures.

On the 2nd day of our trip, we chanced upon a small lovers lock bridge. I remember the last I saw these lock bridge was in Amsterdam, a really small one, like only a few locks. And prior to that, I’ve seen them in Paris and Venice. All these time was with Jos and every time I’m fascinated by the way the lock entangles upon one another. I would always takes tons of pictures. It’s just so nice to see! 🙂

Lover Locks.

Lover Locks Bridge – Prague.

Other than knowing these lock bridge are lovers that lock their love. I’ve no other clue how this is suppose to be.

The other amazing thing I really love is their “Escalator of Death”! Because it is so steep and long, It might send shivers to the weak hearted! 🙂

Escalator of Death!

Escalator of Death!

Oh, and I really love their Sugar Roll especially when it’s baked fresh and piping hot, it is delicious! You have to try them because it is oh so good!

Sugar Roll

Sugar Roll.

I know all of those above doesn’t sound convincing enough to be the surprise I was talking about right? Yes, because those aren’t surprising enough!

On the last day of trip. We woke up, have quick breakfast, run back up and started packing. Yes, we are the last minute sort of person. We like to run after time 🙂 After that, we went off to walk around town to grab one last look and then went back in time to checked out of the hotel but leaving our luggage with the concierge because our flights only leaves at 930pm. So that give us another full day to enjoy the city of Prague again.

Since it is the last few hours in Prague, we had to go back to the place we both love most…. which is none other than the PETHRIN HILL! We bought some food and drinks from the mall to bring along and took a tram giving our sore feet a little rest. I don’t know why but for some reason, the tram ride seems to take like forever. And when we arrive, the queue seems to take forever too! Strange indeed….

Anyway, we survived the wait. Jos was exceptionally happy that day. I recalled he was smiling alot. When we found our spot at the hill, I quickly take my seat on the soft grass and when I turn around, I saw Jos face beaming, kneeling with a ring in his hand. He said “I don’t know when, I don’t know how but will you marry me?”

The first reaction from me was : “Are you joking?” And he looked at me smiling and said “Of course not!” And then the rest I remembered was I kept crying & crying.

Now, allow me to rewind to the past, although past are not to be reprimanded but I need to clear your doubts about why I would cry.

THE PAST

In year 2011, while we were still dating in a long distance relationship, Jos send me a image like this over whatsapp :

Marry me Jess

Ok, now this is very embarassing but I will say it anyway. When I received it, I was almost in tears and ask if he was joking. And because he was busy at work, he did not reply my message. So I assume it was for real! The first thing I did was I send to my BFF and said Jos sent this to me. To cut the long story short, it was indeed a joke. I was so damn upset with him, I feel like I could slaughter him! Well, I didn’t of course. He apologized and that was that.

Over the years while we were dating, I would always tell him which of my friends are getting married and Jos would never get the hint. So I decide I should be direct. I asked him : SO we are not getting married? His answer was always consistent, “You will know when we will get married”. Okay, now I make myself sound so desperate! Although i am not an advocate for marriage, I do believe that is the only way to proof you want that person in your life for as long as you live. And no, I’m in no rush to marry but it just kills me he isn’t even thinking about it! I’m sure all ladies would agree. It’s just a girl thing.

THE END

Now, let’s fast forward to the day he kneel down. I don’t know how long I cried but seems long enough, with him still kneeling and staring at me in anticipation. He asked again: So is that a yes? How can I say no to a boy this sweet? And to top it off, he was the love of my life! I’m totally touched by what he did. Organizing a surprise trip for a proposal! I can still cry writing this down.  And on that day 30th May 13, I fell in love again with the same man. 🙂

The Ring & The Flowers.

The Ring & The Flowers.

And that was it. No wait, that wasn’t it. Next he took out a padlock which has air flown with us from Holland. I suppose you would all guess, we want our lock on that bridge in Prague! I didn’t know the rules before but now I do. We have to inscribed on with the dates and initials with the keys.There are two keys to the lock, we are suppose to throw each of our key in the water as a public statement of our ‘everlasting love’. And so we did.

Here is our LOCK.

Here is our LOCK.

Picture 463

And these are our keys!

This is like the most romantic thing ever that a guy would do for me! I’ve never had that but I have now.

And there we are, happily engaged to be married !

Thank you for reading! 🙂

Signing off, J

My Surprise Trip

As the title has reveal, it is no surprise that the beloved boyfriend decided to give me a surprise by booking us a trip to Prague! Of which, I am very surprised! Jos had picked Prague because I’ve been asking to visit a few many places and Prague was kinda top in my list. So you can all imagine how much happiness I felt just hearing “we are going to Prague” from him!

He had booked the weekend before Queen’s Day so that we only need to take 2 days off from work and spend a good 4 days in Prague. And coincidentally, Transavia has an early morning departure and a late night return. So that makes it a good 5 days! Check out Transavia.com or download their application on your iPhone so you won’t miss any special offers they might have!

Taking off with Transavia!

The flying time was a mere 1 hour and 5 mins from Rotterdam The Hague Airport to Prague. Because we only carry hand luggage, we could walk in and out of the airport quite fuss free! That must be the beauty of travelling light only until you realise you run out of clothes to wear and need to buy new ones! (Commonly my excuse 🙂 )

We stayed at Best Western Hotel in the central of Prague where every where is within walking distances, that is if you think 10-15km is walking distance. For me and Jos, we travel by feet whenever possible because that is when we see whole lot more than being in a tram or metro. By feet, we walked to and across the Charles Bridge, take a drink, and at some point, we pass by John Lennon Wall and then walk on to the bottom of Pethrin hill, took the tram ride up the hill and walk back down hill and back to the Bridge, walk around the square and back to the hotel and fall flat on our face back at the hotel room. Despite the painful feet… it was fun 🙂

Here are some of the pictures I took of our trip, the pictures definitely doesn’t bring up the actual beauty of the place but this is like the best I can do with an iPhone! 🙂

The first enchanting view of Prague was of course the Charles Bridge. At every corner of the bridge, you will be able to enjoy the breath-taking view of Prague. Jos would always point out to me and say, “oh, and there is the Pethrin Hill” and “Look there is where we were yesterday at the other side of the hill.”  Charles Bridge although really crowded, I have no problem standing there the whole day just enjoying the view and the vibrant within. It was really beautiful.

The first time I came across the John Lennon Wall, there was no one in sight. I wasn’t sure if we were lucky but it was a Friday and we had the wall all to ourselves! I didn’t knew it was John Lennon Wall until later but WOW, it’s such beautiful piece of wall art!

John Lennon Wall

At the bottom of the Pethrin hill stands the statues of the Memorial of the Victims of Communism. I was trying to take a picture of it but there was a group of man crowding around it for a very long time…. so below is a picture from WIKI! You will see the statue starts with a full human body and ends with almost nothing at the back.

I didn’t have a good picture of this so I took this from wiki! 🙂

Pethrin Hill is oh so enchanting. Another place I can stay for a very long time and not feel bored. Even though there is nothing much you can do, but the smell of spring, the serenity of the environment and the soft green grass just makes you stay. Although the tram ride up is always full but when you are up there, you can easily find a quiet spot where you can have some quiet time from the crowd. We lied down on the soft grass like everyone else did for a good hour ! Sun shining but so relaxing and nice!

That’s me on the grass… do you also feel the softness of the grass?

At the top of the Pethrin hill stands a Look-Out Tower resembling the Eiffel Tower in Paris but much smaller. So I call it MINI Eiffel.

Mini Eiffel @ Pethrin Hill, Prague

The Tram coming up the hill.

Full of beautiful White Trees!

View from Pethrin Hill

Charles Bridge @ Sundown…

Old Town Square

Another place not to be missed is the Prague Castle, in czech, they call it Prazsky Hrad. A castle with a Cathedral within. The Cathedral is huge standing right after the entrance of the Castle, beautifully sculptured. Oh and its called St Vitus Cathedral. 🙂

Arriving @ Prague Castle with style! 😀

In Prague, there is no fear of connectivity. Prague must be one of the only European Union Country that has free WIFI at almost every restaurant and shopping mall. I love them for being so generous with their WIFI, although some restaurant protech them with password, but as long as you eat in the restaurant, they will reveal the password without you even asking! Too Cool.

Besides the free wifi, there were tons of food choices. Other than Czech Cuisine, there are also wide range of other choices, Japanese, Chinese, Thai & Indian food are commonly found. We didn’t try the Japanese or Chinese but their Indian food is really good!

The typical Czech Cuisine are the Duck & the Beef Goulash. I’d tried the Duck and Jos tried the Beef  Goulash on our first night there. We both agree, although the meat was okay but the potato dumpling looks and taste weird.

1/4 Dutck with Red Cabbage & Potato Dumpling.

Beef Goulash

We did have so much fun while in Prague and I’m already missing the fun. Now, I don’t want to be abrupt but this post will get too lengthy for reading pleasure. So I will stop here. Please come back and read the next episode title “A SURPRISE IN A SURPRISE!”

Signing off with Love, J

Birthday & Wanted

I find it extremely amusing knowing how the Dutch celebrate their birthday. I heard and witness the Birthday Circles but what really amuses me is walking into a building to be greeted with posters (not one but many) glued to the wall with a woman or a man’s picture (may or may not be a smiling picture) and right beside the pictures was NOT the word – WANTED but the word – HOERA. Then you know, it is not a poster of a missing person but a person who is celebrating their 20th, 30th, 40th, 50th, 60th or even 70th birthday. They don’t just celebrate in private with their families and friends, they announce it! They have this inner rush to scream… IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!

I was taken a back by this practice twice. The first thought I had when I approached the poster wasn’t positive until I read the word Hoera. The first time was in School and another time in my office building and then for the rest of the whole day you will see the same poster in the toilet, at the hall way, in front of the lift lobby, just everywhere. And next, you may even come face to face to this birthday Girl or Guy (whom you don’t speak to before) and you have to Gefeliciteerd (Congratulate) them out of courtesy.

As much as they can be really cold, this is also how friendly the Dutch can get when it comes to birthdays. I just find this really amusing! I had on 2 occasions wanted to take a picture of the posters but didn’t want to be caught, so below is a doodle picture I drew on the IPAD so you have a idea how it is like! 🙂

20130313-094726.jpg

And in other news…. I am beginning to believe SPRING is not coming! It is March 14th and still snowing in this part of the world. And yes, I am complaining. I do need some warmth, it’s been cold far too long….

20130313-102050.jpg

The Merlion Safely completed Year 1

Psst! Psst! Hey, I have survived a year in the Netherlands! I don’t know how I did it but I did. Will you now throw some confetti, send me 3 kisses and tell me I did well? 🙂

Yes, it’s been a year and this year surely went fast! Sometimes, I feel like Sheldon in an episode of Big Bang Theory where he was FLASH. For me, It is like in a twinkling of an eye. I’ve traveled back and forth Singapore & Netherlands a few times, Touched the sand on Barcelona Beach, Enjoyed the Sun in Brussels City, Kissed the morning dew in Dusseldorf, Ran after the train in Paris, Smelled the Romantic Air of Ghent, Chilled in Hyde Park in London and walked more than a hundred miles in so many part of the Netherlands! All these in less than a year! And in between all that, I have to work 5 days a week, go for my Dutch Lesson 2 times a week (and skipped many of course), Running to the Gym at least two times a week and think of what to wear to face the amazing weather every single day! *Applause*

Recalling all those moments, Thank GOD, I can only smile. 🙂

Although I cannot say I was happy all the time because there was time I miss home real bad and not being in my comfort zone feels horrible, I must say it has been a terrific one year. The ups makes me happy and the downs just makes me stronger. Both of them together gives me an experience of a lifetime! I guess this is what human relates to being ALIVE & in “LIFE”

I will not bring you through the lengthy details of my ups & downs and surely would not repeat the story of what I did the whole year since most of it are in the blog posts. However, I should be proud enough to point out some little achievements that I’ve achieved during this year… and here we go:

Achievement 1 – Driving

I started driving on my own during the 1st month I live in the Netherlands. With the help of the navigation systems in the car, I go everywhere. And, from constantly driving very close to the right side of any road and at some point having bright head light of another on coming vehicle (of any kind) flashing at me. To Today; I’ve already gotten 2 speeding tickets till date. And yes, speeding ticket in Netherlands is nasty and unkind. Now I set my car to cruise control and pray I don’t fall asleep…

Me shivering on the left hand drive…

Achievement 2 – Language

During the part of my time in Netherlands, all I could clearly say and understand was; NIET GOED (Not Good), WAAROM (Why) & HOE GAAT HET MET JOU (how are you?). Until a point where Jos said, it is time you go back to your Dutch Lesson and start picking up more new words (he said that even though I already have lesson); nasty boyfriend I have.

Today, although I still don’t speak the Dutch Language as much as I like to, I think I grow to like the language (FOR THE RECORD – I HATE IT FROM THE START) and uses it when speaking to Jos and he understood. Just last night, I completed my Dutch homework without much of his help. *Applause* ! The only time I needed help was when I do not understand the meaning of a particular word. But surely, I have and improved by 100 folds (I think). Although there is possibly a thousand folds so mathematically, it’s only 10 percent but all I want to achieve is to first understand this Dutchies so encouragement please?

I remember I blog about speaking to Dutch is like chicken and duck talk. Now… it is no where close. i understand you more now Dutchie.. DO NOT SPEAK BEHIND MY BACK! 🙂

Achievement 3 – Work

When I starting working and had to communicate on email and made phone calls to the Dutch. It was hard. Although they could speak English quite well but at some point, speaking to a foreigner can be really annoying to them (I guess). Our culture are different. The way we put across a message is different. The pace of working are different by a big wide gap.

As Singaporean, we live and worked in a very fast pace environment. We are expected to stay in the office and work till we get the job done. Here in the Netherlands is different, we work our ass out during the 8 hours in the office but no one else work once the clock strike 5pm. The phone will ring and ring and no one will pick up the call. I was frustrated when I can not get the work done before 5pm since there will be no answer. I was nervous and stressed out. Today I understand, no matter how stress out and unhappy you are about the situation, nothing is gonna change. I will not get my answer and I should just leave the office and enjoy my evening. That is truly … Life. And as I gotten more and more use to the pace, I become happier and happier to work in an environment like this one! Ane being happy also allow me to handle every situation better. As such, working is no longer stressful. I hearts my JOB. 🙂

Besides the little achievements above…cutting the distance and living with Jos is also one big achievement. We have master the art of living together and be still in love. On top of all that, I have learn a great deal about life. Somethings I learn cannot be well described in words but yet it is the best lesson in life. It is meant for every individual to go through it to learn. Not one I can tell or teach.

Well, but because I survived the many ups and downs of living in a foreign country, I was just being qualified (by myself) to write a list of (proven) tips to survive the ups & downs of Life; whether you are living abroad or in your home country, I realize it does not differs.

TIPS ON SURVIVING THE UPS & DOWN

Speaking from a survival point of view …..

To survive THE UPS; one need to :

  • Smile
  • Share
  • Snap Shots

To survive THE DOWNS; it is as easy as ABC:

  • A- Allow People Around You, Do Not SHUT OUT from friends & love ones.
  • B – Breathe (And tell yourself this: “Oh great! I’m still breathing!”
  • C – Cry (Let the tears flow on any willing shoulders. Mine has always been Jos! 🙂 )

After the ABC, memories the below:

  • It isn’t that bad. You must be imagining.
  • Life isn’t fair. But Its still Good.
  • No One is Perfect. As long as you are alive, you can still correct it.
  • Nothing last forever, including sadness.

If all else fails, you know you have me… faithfully me. 🙂

Me enjoying the Winter

To end the 1st year, we celebrate by going to A Villa for dinner! Tell you more about this Villa in my next post! Ciao!

Shovels or Make Snow Angels?

So we have a week of snow.. okay maybe alittle more than a week. And then the rain came and wash the beautiful white snow away. Annoying! Although I really enjoyed the view of white everywhere, I must say these snow causes a lot of inconveniences just as much as the fun we have with it.

Usually, day one of the snow fall… the whole of Netherlands will be in chaos. Just like the war zone… no, I’m exaggerating! 🙂  The highways will be jammed up and you will see on T.V. and hear on the Radio how bad the “File” is. (File in dutch means traffic jams).

Picture from http://www.rnw.nl

And with these “File”, the lazy dutchies (the non-dutch, me included) will be stuck, working at home on the laptop until the “file” is cleared. That could take the whole morning! No, maybe more… hmm.

On the next few days of the snow fall, drivers like me have to be ready with a “Shovel”. The reason is simply because your car might get stuck in the 10 inch snow and no matter how much you step on the accelerator….. the car WILL NOT move. Been there, Done that but without the shovel! Well, because I was never taught I needed one. I have to kick the snow out with my lovely boots! It was a pain! But otherwise…. snow is fun. 🙂

We were enjoying the white a lot and even planned for weekend ice-skating. Until one faithful morning, we woke up and see the white almost gone. The sky was dark, the wind was howling and the rain won’t stop pouring. That was when the snow started melting and the temperature started rising. Before I know it.. the feeling of freezing cold is gone. From -5 degree C, today, we are at +7 degree C! Not that I like the freezing cold weather so much but rain is in my opinion not nice.

Here, I’d share a few of the pictures I’ve captured during the snowy days. After seeing these pictures once again…. I really miss the snowy days! See you soon Snowy! 🙂

Picture 004

Picture 006

Picture 011

Picture 014

Picture 016

Picture 018