Stories

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.

 

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Food

Harvesting Wild Blackberries

One of the better things about returning to the countryside, as the Ninja Turtle has found, is that time slows down enough for one to think differently. Sure, the city life in Lyon offered the duo plenty of exciting activities year-round, and one is constantly engaged, amused, stimulated… but perhaps that was the problem. It was very hard to disconnect, pull back and simply have some time for oneself.

In the quiet and calm of the campagne, far away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds and the commerce, the Ninja Turtle becomes much more pensive. And in her reflections, she begins to feel an immense sense of gratitude, despite her malady. There is, after all, a lot to be grateful for, despite everything.

Grateful for each moment she is alive.
Grateful for each person who’s come into her life.
Grateful for each experience that brings joy, or a lesson.
Grateful for each emotion and every new sensation.
Grateful for the hurt, the sorrow and the pain
Grateful that despite that, she still has much to gain.
Grateful for the kindness from strangers she receives
Grateful for the love friends and family give.
Grateful for existing in this messy world
Where life can sometimes be incomprehensible
Grateful for just being here today
Grateful for tomorrow, come what may.

There is so much richness in life, when one chooses to receive. The Ninja Turtle, in her leisurely strolls along the country road, recently chanced across wild blackberries growing in abundance, free for the picking and ripening at a deliciously alarming pace.

When GodzillaPin returned from his cycling trip a couple of days ago, the Ninja Turtle could not wait to bring him blackberry harvesting. OK, fine, she’ll admit it. After spending 2 hours harvesting blackberries alone the first time, and having the unfortunate experience of falling into the blackberry bramble (an experience which she will never wish upon anyone) when trying to reach for the higher branches, she knew she needed a helping hand from someone less vertically-challenged than herself.

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Enter GodzillaPin, 6’1.

Of course when the Ninja Turtle first proposed blackberry harvesting, GodzillaPin thought it was going to be a breeze. Little did he realise that battling the blackberry bush thorns and the stinging nettles that grow alongside, this was less of a leisurely pastime, and more of an extreme sport.

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After about an hour, the duo decided that they’d had enough (enough of being pricked, and enough blackberries to last a few days), so they hurried home excitedly to taste the fruits of their labour.

The Ninja Turtle had recently made a rich chocolate and beer streusel cake, and the acidity of the blackberries married well with the sweet dessert. They also tried the blackberries in a soy yogurt and fruit salad parfait.

They say that on the road to recovery from eating disorders, there are good days and bad days. That was a good day for the Ninja Turtle, and for that, she is grateful.

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Running

Specificity – Or Something Close to It

Training by specificity is a very fancy and technical way of saying “you get better at something by practising, and the more you do it, the better you get”. It’s the reason why marathon runners need to include some training runs at marathon pace. It’s also the reason why sometimes, you get really well, duh sounding advice like “if you want to run faster, you need to learn to run faster”. Mimicking your race day conditions (to the best of your ability – there is nothing one can do about the weather) and rehearsing as often as possible will make it that much easier, which is why some coaches believe this to be one of the most important principles in performing on race day.

Except.

It’s hard to mimic the conditions of an unfamiliar trail race, in an unfamiliar part of the country/world. So, the next best thing to do is to find the hardest landscape within vicinity, and train on it, keeping your fingers tightly crossed that it’d be enough preparation for the big day. In the best case scenario, it’d be an ass-kicking terrain and you’re well-prepared for the race. In the worst case scenario, you’re simply less ill-prepared. It’s highly unlikely that anyone can be over-prepared for anything.

So this weekend, the Ninja Turtle took to the hills – literally – on her LSD.

Her first goal was Mont Saint Quentin, and this was the view from above. There was a group of runners sadistically punishing themselves with this hill on a sunny Sunday morning, so the Turtle slowed down to have a chat with a few of them. Who said long distance running was lonely?

Her first goal was Mont Saint Quentin, and this was the view from above. There was a group of runners sadistically punishing themselves with this hill on a sunny Sunday morning, so the Turtle slowed down to have a chat with a few of them. Who said long distance running was lonely?

Scy-Chazelle, where the Maison de Robert Schumann (one of the co-founders of post WWII modern Europe) is situated. It's also one of the villages along the Route des Vins (wine route). Moselle produces some lovely white wines.

Scy-Chazelles, where the Maison de Robert Schumann (one of the co-founders of post WWII modern Europe) is situated. It’s also one of the villages along the Route des Vins (wine route). Moselle produces some lovely white wines.

In the forest coming down Mont St Germain. What do you do when faced with obstacles like a giant fallen tree? You hurdle over it of course! (Nah, kidding. The Ninja Turtle's 5 foot 1, so she easily passed under, although other runners may have to do the limbo).

In the forest coming down Mont St Germain. What do you do when faced with obstacles like a giant fallen tree? You hurdle over it of course! (Nah, kidding. The Ninja Turtle’s 5 foot 1, so she easily passed under, although other runners may have to do the limbo).

Running insanely long distances like that have one huge advantage. Once a runner is able to overcome the scary, horrible idea of “I have to do x km today”, the obligation turns into an opportunity. “I have x km to explore!” See, fundamentally, we’re all explorers, and deep inside, there resides the kernel of curiosity as to what lies beyond the hill, or even just around the corner. The Ninja Turtle didn’t have to worry about sticking to familiar routes and having to turn back; GodzillaPin had offered to pick her up from anywhere in case she’d gone too far. This gave the Ninja Turtle license to go out literally as far as her prescribed training distance, without worrying about making it back, if she didn’t want to. Hence, the hills, the forests, the little villages, etc.

Crazily enough, the green parts of the map on Lessy and Chatel Saint Germain were all forest hills, and the one in Lessy is part of the GR5 route (stretching from the Netherlands to Switzerland). It was hauntingly beautiful to be alone in the woods.

Crazily enough, the green parts of the map on Lessy and Chatel Saint Germain were all forest hills, and the one in Lessy is part of the GR5 route (stretching from the Netherlands to Switzerland). It was hauntingly beautiful to be alone in the woods.

P.S (She made it home on her own two feet, by the way! As she staggered through the door after climbing 3 flights of steps to their apartment, she was greeted with the most amazing smell of food – GodzillaPin had very thoughtfully cooked her  potatoes and homemade bolognaise sauce. If that isn’t true love, not sure what it is. To show her appreciation, she demolished all 2kg of it within half an hour.)

How do you train for a trail race?

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Arts and Culture, Travel

The Reunion of GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle

After spending two long (but incredibly happy) months on the other side of the globe, the Ninja Turtle has finally returned to France, much to the joy of GodzillaPin. There is no way two months worth of catching up can be done in the span of a single week, but that’s not going to stop him from trying.

Top priority: making sure she still remembers how to use the French language.

Top priority: making sure she still remembers how to use the French language.

The Ninja Turtle’s flight came in on a Sunday morning, but instead of hurrying straight home, GodzillaPin thoughtfully booked a hotel room to give her a chance to catch up on sleep and to spend an extra day wandering around Paris. They stayed in a hotel that called itself a chateau, but that was just a fancy term for an old building in need of restoration. It had a pretty library though. They also went to see the exhibition on the Kama Sutra, but no photography was allowed. You will just have to take their word on it that they spent a very hilarious 2.5 hours.

Then, as a lovely surprise, GodzillaPin planned this weekend in Frankfurt! No rest for the wicked.

Of course, not forgetting the most important part of life in GodzillaPin’s opinion… food.

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2015 is clearly going to be an action-packed year for the Ninja Turtle!

It’s good to be back.

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Travel

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.

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Arts and Culture

A brief dedication

Although this post is somewhat belated (given the time difference between Sydney and Metz) the Ninja Turtle simply MUST put this out before she allows herself to go to bed.

Sometimes we spend our lives looking for The One. Sometimes, we have already met them, but have yet to realise it (or perhaps, we realise it only when it’s too late). Sometimes, we never find them at all.

A best friend. A person who has always been there for you, in all your darkest moments, as well as your brightest ones. They’re there to lend a hand each time you move houses, helping you decide which items to keep and what junk to leave behind. They’re there to hold your hair out the way as you bend over, throwing up into a bush, having drank a little bit too much on a Saturday night, not judging you. They’re there “to talk”, even if it’s 2am in the morning, and will even come over if you ask them to pick you up for a night drive along the coast, snacking on chocolate biscuits while complaining about life. They’re there to pick up the pieces of your broken heart each time a relationship fails, with all the right words to say, a spare bed if you need to spend the night, and to stop you from sending messages/emails you will later regret.

They’re there to while away an afternoon with, trawling the internet for pointless garbage to giggle at. They’re there to share a lemon curd pie with so you only have to deal with half the guilt (until they decide to throw in a milkshake when all you really want is to curl up and moan in self-pity for eating so much). They’re there to build fabulous memories with, travelling around various countries.

If there is a God, the Ninja Turtle would thank it/her/him for having put Sonic the Hedgehog in her life. Sonic the Hedgehog has been nothing short of a miracle in biped form. He is witty, charming, considerate, intelligent, conscientious, and above all, he’s been a remarkably good friend to the Ninja Turtle. Even moving half a world away has not stopped him from being a source of support and encouragement to the Ninja Turtle.

Five years ago, the Ninja Turtle and Sonic the Hedgehog celebrated their 21st birthday together. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Thanks to the generosity of Father and Mother Hedgehog, there was an open bar and 10kg of chocolate cake. Sonic the Hedgehog said to the Ninja Turtle that very night “you know, it’s all downhill from here”.

Today, the Ninja Turtle has found her reply: perhaps, but true friendship is greater than the force of gravity, and when you have a real friend in your life who’s always got your back, you can reach heights you never believed was possible. And the view from up here, my friend, is almost as priceless as your friendship.

One day the Ninja Turtle will be rich enough to afford skywriting an actual message to Sonic the Hedgehog. For now this will have to do...

One day the Ninja Turtle will be rich enough to afford skywriting an actual message to Sonic the Hedgehog. For now this will have to do…

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Travel

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.

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