Recovering with Love, Not with Threats

They were walking along the riverside after an indulgent family lunch, followed swiftly by an afternoon tea of several cakes, and the children were getting restless. First, the Little Boy amused himself with collecting pebbles, and when his sister the Little Girl followed suit, it quickly escalated into stones, and eventually rocks. Pretty soon, their hands were full.

As the adults stopped to chat with some acquaintances who were out for their Sunday walk too, the Ninja Turtle continued with the children, being equally impatient and disinterested in small talk. Occasionally, the kids would stop to throw some stones into the river, with the Turtle charged with the duty of counting “one, two, three, go!” before their launched their ammunition, and the arbiter of who threw the farthest, or made the biggest splash.

It was the Little Boy who posed the question.

“Are you a child, or an adult?”

It caught the Ninja Turtle by surprise, to say the least. She asked him to repeat the question.

“Are you a child, or an adult?”

The Ninja Turtle stopped walking, crouched down to the Little Boy’s level, and faced him. Little Boy was thrilled to have the Turtle’s full attention by this stage.

“Why do you ask? Do you mean I speak like a child, or act like a child, or look like a child?” the Turtle queried. In the back of her mind, she was beginning to feel a wave of fuzzy panic growing. She had no desire to discuss eating disorders with such innocent young minds.

The Little Boy nodded. Vehemently. “Why are you like that?” he demanded with childish simplicity. “Are you a child?”

The Ninja Turtle looked at his sister, the Little Girl, who was older than Little Boy by four years, and possibly had memories of the Turtle from another time. The Turtle hoped she could answer Little Boy’s question without resorting to lies, but without having to go into details of the truth either.

“Well, what do YOU think? Am I a child, or an adult?” asked the Ninja Turtle of the Little Girl.

The Little Girl, precocious for an eight-year-old, highly perceptive but also reserved, didn’t hesitate with her response.

“Of course she’s not a child, it’s obvious,” she admonished her brother. But just as quickly, she looked at the Ninja Turtle for confirmation. In the Little Girl’s eyes the Ninja Turtle saw certainty, but also great confusion.

“Then why are you like that?” persisted the Little Boy.

The Little Girl clearly wanted an answer too, but had been too shy or frightened to ask before. With her younger brother opening the can of worms, she felt emboldened to ask the same question which had been politely silenced in her mind so far.

The Turtle turned to address the Little Girl. “Do you remember when your brother was really little, how I used to be?” Little Girl nodded.

“Well, Little Boy, I’m very sick at the moment so I am the way I am for now. But to answer your question, unfortunately, I’m not a child. Your sister is right, I am an adult, just like your Mommy. And I used to look like your Mommy. When I am no longer sick, when I am healthy and strong again, I will look like Mommy once more, just as your sister remembers. Will that be OK with you?”

The Little Boy and Little Girl seemed satisfied with the answer.

“I hope you get better in two weeks,” Little Boy declared.

The Ninja Turtle smiled at his innocence. “I hope so too.” Turning to the Little Girl, she asked “what do you think?”

The Little Girl looked at the Turtle and broke into a radiant smile.

“Let’s stop over there to throw some rocks into the river. This time, you can throw with us, and you can throw one of mine if you want to.

And with that, they ran ahead excitedly, shouting for the Ninja Turtle to hurry.


Arts and Culture, Running

A Tribute to Vaco

When I first arrived, you jumped upon me
Knocked me over, and licked me with glee
Back then, the French tongue, I could not comprehend
But you showed me with no words that we’re to be friends

Your eyes were huge, your heart was bigger
You always wanted to share my dinner
But never mind if I gave you no food
It never destroyed your joyful mood

You taught yourself to open doors
Despite your only having paws
And knew when bedtime rolled around
You’d nuzzle us, then head underground*

When I first started running years ago
Unfit as I was, the going was slow
As I slogged through valleys resembling canyons
You came along as a faithful companion

Until your joints gave out one fine day
No more runs, but you still loved to play
Sure, age was slowing catching up
But deep down inside, you were still a pup

Who roamed the street we lived on, free
Strutting between number 2 and 3
To check on Grandpa and Grandma Rabbit
Your loyalty was a daily habit^

You were doing fine, but all of a sudden,
We got the news: you went to doggie heaven
I didn’t even get to say “Farewell,
I love you, good doggie, you were swell”

Goodbye dear Vaco, you’re one of a kind
You’re loved by those you’ve left behind
Though you most sadly did depart
You’ll forever live on in our hearts.

*For many years the dog’s bed was in the basement, where it was cooler and more comfortable. He’d jump up on his hind legs, open the door and descend the flight of stairs when he decided it was bedtime, but never before wishing us goodnight by licking a hand or nuzzling against us.

^Grandpa and Grandma Rabbit live about 100m down the road from GodzillaPin’s parents’. The dog would once again, open the front door and let himself out, cross the road carefully and trot down the pavement to make sure the old folks are OK. Every single day. That dog had more filial piety than most human beings.


Food, Running, Travel

A Victory Dance from Singapore!

Surprise, world! Apologies for the longish spell of silence, but the Ninja Turtle has been caught up with various obligations that have brought her back to Singapore once again. The last week has been a nightmare of delayed flights, baggages lost in transit, trying to acclimatise to the tropical heat and humidity, meeting insane deadlines and running in not one, but two weekend races.

Last weekend, a mere day and half after arriving back in Singapore (still exhausted from jetlag and sleep deprivation from the sweltering heat) she made up for her humiliating defeat at The Trail Yonne but scoring a new PB in a 5K race at East Coast Park. It was her first time ever racing in Singapore, too, so she nervously took her place in the middle of the pack. Although she started off in a day-dreamy state (to be fair, she had to get up at 5am in the morning) by the 4th kilometre, she’d done enough sightseeing; the groups of tai chi practitioners on one side of the track and the boats out at sea on the other ceased to fascinate her, and she noticed she was overtaking runners by the dozens. She looked at her GPS watch and figured that at 4.2km and 178bpm, she could risk pushing that little bit harder to reach the finish line. Her new 5K PB is sitting at 26m 10s, and a few days later, when the organisers released the results, she learnt that she’d placed 7th out of 301 in her category. (Victory dance #1)

This morning, it was off to another race bright and early, and this time, it was pretty special. To celebrate Singapore’s role as a host of the 28th SEA (South-East Asian) Games, there was a 10K fun run called the Nila Run. The run shared part of the route for the SEA Games Marathon, which was happening concurrently this morning (although good planning ensured that none of us slowpokes were holding up the professional athletes).

What an experience it was. To start at 6am at Kallang, the Turtle had to leave home at an ungodly hour in the morning. Mother Turtle had very kindly offered to drop her off at the venue, despite the Turtle’s insistence that she could take a cab. But when Mother Turtle has her mind made up, she’s a very determined woman, so the two Turtles went for a drive yesterday evening for MT to do a “recon” of getting there. Singapore’s fabulous network of highways and constant development meant wrong turns and missed exits; it took them four attempts to reach the stadium but they did it. (Victory dance #2)

So. At 4.30am, both Turtles were awake and it was pouring with rain on the west side of the country. Mother Turtle voiced some doubts, but the Ninja Turtle had her mind made up to go. After all, she’s resigned herself to the fact that 2015 is the year she’s fated to race in the rain. En route, the skies cleared and the showers stopped. They made zero wrong turns and the NT got to the venue on time. All was good. (Victory dance #3)

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There is something to be said about racing in Singapore. Holy shit the crowds! Unlike in France too, where runners are designated to corrals prior to flag-off, it was a right mess. As soon as they flagged off, the Ninja Turtle found herself frustratingly weaving around “runners” who were simply – and this is no hyperbole – out for a morning stroll. Hundreds of them were simply walking, and had no qualms about standing right up the front! Although she’d decided in advance that given #1 this was a fun run and #2 she’d done a 10-miler yesterday morning so she was going to do an EZ at the event, she nonetheless felt the buzz of being in a hive situation.

The race website stated that water would be provided every 2.5km to 3km, but the first water stop came just after the 4km mark. That was also the first distance marker she saw along the route, although she most likely missed the first three due to her concentration of not running over the walking “runners”. The air was pregnant, alternating between a stifling humidity which threatened to suffocate the runners, and the briefest of cool breezes that brought occasional reprieve. As daylight slowly emerged, the dark clouds loomed overhead and in the horizon, charged with the decree of spurring the runners to pick up their speed.

As the Ninja Turtle reached the 7th kilometre, she felt the first fat drop of water, and within seconds, the skies opened. Once again, she’d found herself running in the rain, and this time, a tropical downpour no less. Within minutes, the runners were completely soaked by the torrential unleashing, and the Ninja Turtle wondered how her mobile phone and earphones would survive. She could also hardly see, with all that water splashing in her face and eyes. At least there was one thing to be thankful for – the equatorial temperature meant no risk of hypothermia this time. The last couple of kilometres were completed, albeit with less pleasure than hoped for. The Ninja Turtle was just glad to have completed the run, although to her disappointment, the GPS said 9.56km, not 10! She later learnt that many other runners who started behind her had their runs cut short by the event organisers who felt it was unsafe/impractical/pointless to continue. (Victory dance #4)

Best of all, later that day, she learnt that it was Singaporean runner Guillaume Soh who’d taken the SEA Games gold medal for the Marathon! (Victory dance #5) An acquaintance of the Ninja Turtle, Guillaume has promised to catch up with her before they both fly back to France and the USA respectively.

After the long trek home, a shower and a quick breakfast, the Ninja Turtle went out to a buffet lunch with her relatives at the Miramar Hotel. The spread at the restaurant thrilled the NT, but everyone else seemed less than impressed.

It was the first time since she’d come home that she’d properly got a chance to pay attention and spend some valuable time with family, and she’s quickly learning what her top priorities in life are. You can throw your life and being into your work, but at the end of the day, it’s never as important as the people who love you. Cousin Turtle used to spend school holidays with the Ninja Turtle and Baby Turtle, so it was lovely to see her again.

IMG-20150607-WA0001Best of all, Mother Turtle and the Ninja Turtle finally got their chance to “dress up and go out for a meal”, something they’ve been waiting for but wasn’t sure they’d have the time to do so on this trip back. Lesson learnt: you don’t find time for things, you make time for it.


Merry Christmas!

To all our readers and followers, thank you very much for all the support you’ve shown by reading and liking our silly little posts on The  of our L’Art de Vivre. The Ninja Turtle and Mother Turtle (as a proxy for GodzillaPin this year) wish you all a very Merry Christmas with family and friends, filled with peace and joy, love and laughter, and many happy memories.

Arts and Culture, Travel

Scenes from the Southern Ridges

This weekend, the Ninja Turtle got to mix more family and fitness time, with a walk along the Southern Ridges trail with her relatives. The Southern Ridges trail consists of several sections, and is one of the more popular running routes in Singapore.

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Some of the interesting sights captured on the walk included:

The hothouse nursery at Hort Park. Shhhh.... baby plants resting!

The hothouse nursery at Hort Park. Shhhh…. baby plants resting!

Students from local schools contributing to the national body of public art

Students from local schools contributing to the national body of public art.

Beautiful garden-scaping and resting areas through Hort Park

Beautiful garden-scaping and resting areas through Hort Park.

Cousin of the Ninja Turtle, the Power Ranger explores the vegetable gardens.

Cousin of the Ninja Turtle, the Power Ranger explores the vegetable gardens.

Singa the Lion, a childhood memory for the Ninja Turtle from Singapore's National Courtesy Campaign. He used to teach us how to give up seats on the trains to pregnant women, etc etc.

Singa the Lion, a childhood memory for the Ninja Turtle from Singapore’s National Courtesy Campaign. Thanks to him, an entire generation of Singaporeans learnt how to give up seats on the trains to pregnant women, the elderly, etc etc.

Along the trail, you might encounter exotic fauna. No fear - here is your friendly PSA action plan In Case of Monkeys.

Along the trail, you might encounter exotic fauna. No fear – here is your friendly PSA action plan In Case of Monkeys.

A black-and-white house (that's what they are really called), a 19th century remnant from Singapore's colonial past. These government properties can be leased in 2-year blocks (POA).

A black-and-white house (that’s what they are really called), a 19th century remnant from Singapore’s colonial past. These government properties can be leased in 2-year blocks (POA).

Reflections at Keppel Bay, one of the several architectural peculiarities that have popped up on the island in the last several years.

Reflections at Keppel Bay, one of the several architectural peculiarities that have popped up on the island in the last several years.

Finishing the walk at a cafe, where milkshakes and a bite were very much welcome

Finishing the walk at a cafe, where milkshakes and a bite were very much welcome.

Sans doute, in a year or two, the Power Ranger is going to outgrow the Ninja Turtle *sob*

Sans doute, in a year or two, the Power Ranger is going to outgrow the Ninja Turtle *sob*

GodzillaPin, this one's for you.

GodzillaPin, this one’s for you.

After completing the longest walk in her life thus far, the Power Ranger has earned her rights to ring the Bell of Happiness.

After completing the longest walk in her life thus far, the Power Ranger has earned her rights to ring the Bell of Happiness.


The Main Purpose of Your Trip Is…

Although GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle have had a real blast being tourists in Australia, the primary reason they flew halfway across the world was not the sunshine and the beaches, nor the food and the shopping (although these are pretty good reasons too). No, they made this long trek for a much more important reason – to recognise the Ninja Turtle’s baby sister finishing an important stage of her life, and moving on to the next.

Baby Turtle graduating from the Hogwart's...

Baby Turtle graduating from Hogwart’s…

Mother Turtle was here too, and so was the boyfriend. It was a family event to witness a Miss T turning into a Dr T, as she is now officially a veterinarian.

Mother Turtle is super proud of Baby Turtle

Mother Turtle is super proud of Baby Turtle

It is a relief as much for the family and friends who act as pillars of support, as it is for those who undertake many years of hard slog in chasing their dreams. And that’s what it is – dedication and commitment towards realizing what we really, truly want. It takes a lot of effort, and often times, when we stumble and start doubting ourselves, we need people around us to love us and believe in us.

The Baby Turtle had always wanted to play and work with animals, so it was essentially a childhood fantasy we witnessed being fulfilled at her graduation ceremony. We will never forget the late night phone calls with a stressed voice on the other end, just needing a chat to soothe her nerves, or the tone of pride in her voice as she described her first surgery on a dog. We will remember the sacrifices she’s made along the way – spending her birthday one year all alone in rural Australia for farm work, missing the shop’s closing time and having absolutely no birthday cake, nothing but the memory of that one day’s hard work to remind her she was still alive.

As Baby Turtle ran around sorting out her transcripts, Mother Turtle and GodzillaPin followed the Ninja Turtle back to one of her old favourite hangouts when she used to live in Melbourne – the Queen Victoria Markets. Not only an iconic tourist attraction full of touristy souvenirs, the QV markets primarily service the locals by selling the most beautiful array of fresh fruits and vegetables at a far better price than in the supermarkets. The trick is to wait until the end of the day, when the vendors are trying to clear their goods and one can buy produce at a heavily discounted price. As the vendors yell out reduced prices in a competition to clear their wares, one experiences a slightly surreal moment of witnessing a fruit and vegetable auction.

GodzillaPin is in carrot heaven.

GodzillaPin is in carrot heaven.

Later, Baby Turtle caught up with the group once more, and took GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle back to her place, to check out her pad. Another thing that surprised the Ninja Turtle about Baby Turtle was her getting a driver’s license. They all just grow up so fast these days…

GodzillaPin and Ninja Turtle holding on for dear life at the back of the car.

GodzillaPin and Ninja Turtle holding on for dear life at the back of the car.

Although the Ninja Turtle is allergic to cats, she took an antihistamine which kept the symptoms at bay, which was just as well since Baby Turtle not only has a cat at her place, it is literally one of the cutest cats ever.

Newman in his naughty box for a time-out.

Newman in his naughty box for a time-out.

This cat was adopted by Baby Turtle and her three other housemates – all veterinarian students. It is stone deaf, so calling it is useless, and it cannot hear itself, which explains the most ridiculous miaows you hear from it. Between the four students, they managed to rehabilitate what was once a paranoid, anti-social, fearful cat (as it was deaf, it was hard to get along with the other cats) from the shelter, and turned it into a loving, tame and trusting white ball of fur. The Ninja Turtle is not a cat person (really, she’s not), but she could not resist Newman. It was also the first time she had seen a cat on a leash.

The day ended on a high note with the first non-restaurant meal since they left Metz. It was wonderful to have access to a kitchen at Baby Turtle’s, where she put her knowledge of chicken anatomy and surgical skills to carving up the roast chicken in a most equitable division (there were four of us fighting to have various cuts). Mostly, it was just lovely to finally sit down with one’s sister to a quiet meal, and just chat, after having spent a whole year apart.

Roast chicken and peach salad.

Roast chicken and peach salad.

Baby Turtle, we are all so proud of you. Spread your flippers, and may you glide through this world with ease and grace, using your intelligence, skills and compassion to make this world a better place for both animals, and the people who own them. This is only the beginning of your journey, and we hope you know that we will always be there for you.

Arts and Culture

The Wisdom of Grandparents

Finally, a little bit of sunshine in the north-east of France! This weekend, GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle returned to the countryside for a family visit, and had the pleasure of spending the afternoon drinking tea at Grandpa and Grandma Lapin’s. It is very easy for youth to forget that once upon a time, grandparents were young too (probably cooler and better-looking than us too). They had exactly the same hopes and fears, aspirations and challenges as we did. If we only take a little bit of time to listen to what they have to say, we’d be surprised by how much perspective they’d be able to offer.

In fact, the Turtle feels (with no disrespect whatsoever to our parents’ generation, i.e. the Baby Boomers and the Gen X) that grandparents are often better able to relate to the worries of the youth today. GodzillaPin for instance, like the true blue Frenchie that he is, has an aversion to Big Corporations. While the Turtle is slightly more comfortable with globalization and all its evils, it is true she enjoys living in a country where organic foods are easily accessible, even when dining out, and easier on the pocket than in some other countries. Our parents came from les années disco-rock-pop, where eating out at McDonald’s was a status symbol (because you know, it comes from America) and Coca Cola summed up what life should really be (red and effervescent, with a big spike in blood sugar), so it is to our grandparents that we turn, for guidance on which months are the best to plant certain vegetables, and how to gut a fish.

So over steaming hot cups of peppermint tea and gateaux au miel, we listened to stories about how they experienced the economic uncertainties that proceeded the war, how they raised four children, and looked at photos from a family album. Grandpa and Grandma Lapin also have some radical ideas that mark them out as possibly dangerous countryside rabbits to take note of, if only they weren’t 82 and 88 years old respectively.

On politics
Grandma Lapin: Useless, the lot of them (politicians). Our taxes go into supporting them, and two-thirds of them aren’t worth what they earn. We should take to the streets and protest.

Grandpa Lapin: War! War! (He didn’t really elaborate on whom.)

On wartime experience
The Ninja Turtle: Weren’t you afraid during the war?
Grandma Lapin: Oh no, we left in a car and carriage. Every time we stopped to make an enquiry, the Germans were always 30km behind us. They never caught up.
Grandpa Lapin: It was a holiday for her. She had never left the village before in her life at that stage, so it was a grand adventure.

On languages
Grandma Lapin: When we arrived in Auvergne, no one spoke bloody French. They spoke their patois and we couldn’t understand a word, even though we were all French.

On fashion
Grandma Lapin: Oh, it was the coldest winter ever, 1940 in Auvergne. Between the war, the winter and all that snow, we thought everything was conspiring against us. And us women, we wore skirts and socks, so it was bitterly cold.
The Ninja Turtle: Didn’t you have time to pack all your clothes? Pants would have been more practical.
Grandpa Lapin: What? You think women were allowed to wear pants back then?
The Ninja Turtle: But surely by the 30s and 40s women were already wearing pants.
Grandpa Lapin: Coco Chanel, perhaps. But not the women in the countryside of France!

The first remark made when looking at their old wedding photos
Grandma Lapin: Oh look! That pear tree was still standing on the corner of the street then!

On kids
Grandma Lapin: Of course kids are a pain in the ass. But later on, you get grandchildren who come to visit you, so it’s worth it.
Grandpa Lapin: Oh yeah. We had four, and we don’t regret it. They become useful at some stage.

On raising kids on a budget
The Ninja Turtle: Kids are expensive.
Grandpa Lapin: No they’re not. We had a garden. We just left them outside to play.
Grandma Lapin: We didn’t use disposable diapers back then. We would wash and re-use.

On travelling with kids
The Ninja Turtle: How did you manage to travel so frequently with four children?
Grandpa Lapin: Who said we took all four with us? Look in the photos, they are usually only two.
Grandma Lapin: They played cards to determine who’d come on holiday with us.

On life in general
Grandpa Lapin: I’d rather die in good health than to suffer a life of misery and dependence.

Grandma Lapin: You don’t get to choose where or when you die. So, you better do everything you want to, because you may run out of time.

Grandpa Lapin: N’aie pas peur! (Don’t be afraid.)

Wise words, Grandpa and Grandma Rabbits. It’s cool to be able to speak so frankly about life and death with persons so old that the former is mostly nostalgia and gratitude, while the latter doesn’t really scare them anymore. As all four grandparents of the Ninja Turtle are no longer hanging around in this dimension, it was with the greatest pleasure that she profited from the company of  GodzillaPin’s.

So… go hang out with your grandparents. They’re often a lot cooler and funnier than we give them credit for.