Dearest GodzillaPin,

It’s been a month to the day I left France for good, walking out your life definitively.

I shall not go into details on such a public platform, how ugly things had become towards the end, save to say when I left, we were at a stage in our relationship where every conversation spiralled into an argument within two minutes of beginning.

We had an immense amount of frustration, hurt, distrust, loathing, and a lot of unhappiness between us. You may recall I spent the whole month between my return from Singapore and my re-departure hiding at the library trying to avoid you. You’d called me unrepeatable names. I wasn’t pulling my weight around the house; I’d given up trying.

It’s as if we forgot how our relationship started out as friendship. Remember how we met at my place one summer evening in an Australian December, when my German housemate celebrated her birthday? It was themed a Bad Taste Party and we were all dressed to our absolute WORST, and as the evening wore on, after one drink too many, you found it hilarious how I was recklessly rollerblading through the house while I got so excited finally finding a veritable French person who embodied everything I believed of the French language and culture.

We were young. We were innocent. We were naive. We were daydreamers.

Back then, it was just you and I. Our parents weren’t involved. We didn’t have the stresses that came with adulthood. We were carefree and careless. You were a romantic dreamer who taught me how to savour the pleasures of life.

I walked away for many reasons.

You know that for a relationship to work, it takes two hands to clap. Once upon a time we were high-fiving effortlessly, but after a while we weren’t clapping anymore. At any rate, even if we tried, we were missing.

Between Mother Rabbit and Papa Turtle, you know there was too much parental interference. As an Asian I understand the importance of deference to parents, but where we failed was permitting external voices to overpower our own say in the matter. I failed to shield my mind from Papa Turtle’s harsh criticisms of you, while you failed to shield me from Mother Rabbit’s criticisms, full stop. Like dripping water over time, it wore us both down.

Between your continuous unemployment despite many job offers, and my horrific illness of an eating disorder (and various other health issues – let’s not forget my car accident and multiple C. Difficile infections), things just got too much.

When you can’t deal with your own shit, you can’t be there for someone else. I wasn’t coping with my own problems and neither were you. How then, could we contribute and give 100% to our relationship when we weren’t taking care of our own issues?

The day I left, you drove me to the train station and in tears, you asked me how you were going to live without me.

It’s been a month and you’re still there, aren’t you? I know you are OK.

I’d never seen you crying that way before. I’d never seen such pain and hurt and upset, and a part of me died, knowing I was the cause of your hurt. But I hope you can see that I did it for US. I did what was best for both you and I.

All those years ago you asked me to leave it all behind – my job, my volunteer work, my friends and family in Australia and Singapore – to start a new life with you in France. I did that. I took a chance. I loved you with nothing less than my all. And because I don’t do things by halves, and because I still care, I did what I had to. Before your problems, and my own, completely ruined us. Before it destroyed our lives any further.

You thanked me for all the beautiful memories we shared. I thank you for them too. From backpacking through Europe where we visited castles, nuclear bunkers, wineries and beaches, to exploring various cities around Asia and sharing beers and barbecued seafood at the beaches, lazing around pools in villas… All the way back to when you used to pull me out my shell during my student days by packing homemade gourmet sandwiches for picnic lunches by the Torrens River behind the University of Adelaide.

Even back then when I struggled with my food issues, you taught me to take pleasure in my meals.

I left because I have my demons to fight. It’s a battle I must fight alone. I cannot drag you into this. So understand that after 8 years of shared history, by choosing to walk away, I’m not kicking you to the curb so much as I’m granting you a freedom from a flavour of hell nobody should endure.

Go. There is no time, no room, no chance for regret.

Make something of yourself and your life now that you’re not saddled with someone mentally ill. You’re a BAC+5 who went through prepa – your potential is limitless.

I believe in you. Chase your dreams, whatever they may be.

And when you asked me “how can I just forget everything we had, everything we shared?”, my answer is simply – don’t. Do not forget them, because I won’t.

You came into my life for a reason, and for all the pain and suffering you and I have caused, inflicted upon each other, intentional or not, we also gave each other a lot of happiness. So don’t regret any of it, I try not to.

And when you’re sad, when you’re afraid, when you are in doubt, when things get too much, remember.

Remember the happiness and joy of when we were deliriously in love with each other, without any complications. When we were young and stupid and carefree and truly happy. And find the courage you need to get through all the shit you face with these memories. We had too many to count. Let’s not count them. Let’s just be thankful for them.

So, thank you.

I loved you.

In a way, I still love you.

But just as love unites, it can separate too.

Here are some of my favourite pictures of the times we shared. You know we had many, many more. Camping in the Swiss Alps with Matt Damon. Shared meals in our apartment with Mickey Mouse. Racing up the Dune du Pilat with Sonic the Hedgehog.

All those races you drove me around France to, and your beaming with utter pride as I crossed the finish line each time, when my own parents were not there to celebrate these victories.

Remember them all with a smile. I try to.

And in case I haven’t said this enough, let me say this once more.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Fondly,

Ninja Turtle

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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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Arts and Culture, Food, Travel

Love and Life: The Great Balancing Act

We’re one month into 2015, people. How’s the year been so far? For the Ninja Turtle, it’s been a whirlwind of travelling, work and training. After two months away in Australia and Singapore, she’s also been bouncing back and forth between Metz and Fromereville, not to say her brief stints in Paris and Frankfurt. Although her new job permits her to work from home, she’s still putting in anywhere between 7 to 9 hours a day, plus the few hours on weekends too, depending on how much needs to get done. As some readers may have also guessed, she’s stepped up her training this year, logging double the distance in her weekly mileage as she did this time last year.

Suddenly, the Turtle’s got to commit an extra ~10 hours a day to things she never did before, and still she’s only got 24 hours in a day. Between running, seeing the world, and doing a job she absolutely loves, her life is full to the eyeballs, and for that, she is grateful. It’s taken three long years to get it all together, which is why this weekend, she’s turning her attention back to someone who’s helped make it possible.

It’s taken time and a few loud and emotional conversations, but GodzillaPin’s finally adjusting to the new dynamics of the relationship (less home-baked cookies, slightly messier apartment, but a less anal-retentive Ninja Turtle who’s too tired to really give a damn about the small stuff anymore). Yes, with every change, no matter how positive and exciting, comes the need to adapt, and when one is in a relationship, these changes affect the other person too.

The run in the snow and ice last week led to a niggle in the Ninja Turtle’s right foot, so after 3 more training runs when the niggle made itself more and more apparent, the Turtle’s decided to take a whole week off training. Yup, ONE WHOLE WEEK of no running. No guilt for it either (hear that, buddy?) Why run a small problem into a big one, when taking a short break can avert a potential stress fracture or something worse? The Ninja Turtle learnt from her first marathon training, that if you insist on training through the pain, you eventually miss more important workouts. It’s a small compromise to make, missing the 28 miles in her cut-back week to run the 58 miles in the following build-up phase. At worst, she’ll lose a bit of fitness and gain a pound or two. At best, she’s not risking burn-out before the race.

Suddenly, with training out of the picture for a few days, she’s got TIME! And this weekend, she turned her gaze back to GodzillaPin, happy man. Saturday was spent shopping, eating, and strolling around town in the freezing cold, but the photo of the boathouse on the Moselle river made it totally worth it. They came home and made ground beef fajitas, guacamole, and a salad of corn, tomato and cucumbers for dinner, watched a really bad film, and fell asleep bitching to each other about how awful the movie was.

Sunday started with the most romantic gesture on GodzillaPin’s part – doing housework. OK to be fair, it was tidying up the basement a.k.a wine cellar, and they did it together, which made mucking in the dust actually kinda fun. Then, since it’s the first Sunday of the month (which means free entry to some museums in France), it was off to Nancy!

The Parc de la Pépinière was almost soulless in the dead of winter...

The Parc de la Pépinière was almost soulless in the dead of winter…

And yet, its emptiness just added a surreal charm to its beauty.

And yet, its emptiness just added a surreal charm to its beauty.

The museum they visited was the Musée des BeauxArts de Nancy, and they both agreed that it was by far their favourite Fine Arts museum among the many they’ve visited around Europe, and in their opinion, even better than the one in Dijon. The Ninja Turtle loved two things about this museum – the tableaux were enormous and added to the grandeur, AND the sequence of display started with the most recent art and moved back in time as one ascends the upper floors. Too often, museums start with antiquity, and by the time you reach the 18th century, you’re tired, need to pee, sit down and have a coffee, and you don’t care about anything that comes after Louis XIV.

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Then, it was off to a late lunch.

GodzillaPin (sporting his new 'stache) found a chic little bar for their "date"...

GodzillaPin (sporting his new ‘stache) found a chic little bar for their “date”…

It was supposed to be all romantic with flowers, candles and red wine...

It was supposed to be all romantic with flowers, candles and red wine…

But of course, a date is only as good as the food. So they ordered burgers. The Ninja Turtle's last burger was in Sydney with Sonic the Hedgehog on Melbourne Cup Day.

But of course, a date is only as good as the food. So they ordered burgers. The Ninja Turtle’s last burger was in Sydney with Sonic the Hedgehog on Melbourne Cup Day. She’s feeling more guilty about this than she is about missing her training, but damn, it was an awesome burger.

So that’s it, a weekend of investing some time and attention in the relationship. It’s a nice change from the routine of “how’s your day”, “we need to do our grocery shopping tomorrow”, “please lock the door behind you”, “don’t leave your clothes in a stinky pile on the floor we have a clothes basket for that” to hold hands and run in the snow, make silly remarks and crack stupid jokes, and indulge in the little pleasures of life like fine art and good (but oh so bad for you) food.

Do you feel guilty for missing a run, even if you’re sick or injured? Why?

Would you consider your partner a good friend too? How do you keep the flame strong in your relationship?

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Arts and Culture, Travel

Driving through Les Pyrénées

There are certain times in a relationship when one looks at the other all starry-eyed, thinking the world of their partner, who could clearly do no wrong. Yesterday was NOT one of those moments. In fact, yesterday was three-point-five-plus-two hours of headbanging why-am-I-here-God? driving through the Pyrenees.

The fact that GodzillaPin’s car comes fully pimped out with a built-in GPS is no barrier to GodzillaPin’s insistence on getting lost. The GPS calculated x hours for y kilometres to destination, and most people would just leave it be. Not GodzillaPin, no. Heaven forbid he doesn’t outsmart this piece of technology.

GodzillaPin: It’s gonna take us about 2 hours to get there.
Turtle: That’s OK, we better hurry then, it’s already past noon.
GodzillaPin: What if I take out the highway?
(fiddles with GPS while driving)
GodzillaPin: Hey it takes 10mins less if we take the small roads!

So off they merrily went, oblivious to what "small roads" meant in this area of the country

So off they merrily went, oblivious to what “small roads” meant in this area of the country

Occasionally, they'd come across a peculiar detail in the landscape

Occasionally, they’d come across a peculiar detail in the landscape

Marvel the signs written in both French and the Basque language (Euskara)

Marvel the signs written in both French and the Basque language (Euskara)

But it was mostly winding roads, less-than-gentle slopes...

But it was mostly winding roads, less-than-gentle slopes…

And breathtaking views

And breathtaking views

After about 45 minutes, they approached a village with signs saying the road ahead was closed, and a deviation was offered. Nobody said a word, and in retrospect, the Ninja Turtle realised that her brain did do a short-circuit at that moment when GodzillaPin decided to continue merrily as the GPS indicated. As if the roadblock would magically evaporate upon their arrival or something. Unsurprisingly, they came upon the roadblock 7km later.

GodzillaPin: Shit. The road’s closed.
Turtle: Yeah, there were a couple of signs two villages ago saying so.
GodzillaPin: What do you think we should do?
Turtle: (sighs) My honest opinion? Just head back and take the deviation.

GodzillaPin proceeds to coolly ignore this piece of advice, and did what he does best – pretend he was mastering the situation.

Turtle: Where are you going?
GodzillaPin: I think if I take this road, it’ll hopefully bring me somewhere on the other side of the roadblock. I hope it won’t make us drive around a mountain though.
Turtle: You don’t know where you’re going. This looks like private property. We should go back.
GodzillaPin: No no, let me see.

They roll on in awkward silence.

Turtle: I really think we should turn back.
GodzillaPin: Just let me see… (continues to drive without a clue, while fiddling with the GPS, that kept instructing to do a U-turn)
Turtle: The GPS says to go back.
GodzillaPin: Babe, I’ve already gone 3km, I can’t go back now.
Turtle: You’re going to ruin your tyres on this gravel… Watch out! Don’t hit those chickens!

At some stage, GodzillaPin decided to cut his losses and head back. The Ninja Turtle may or may not have gloated about being right yet again. Then, on that already-too-narrow gravel path, a giant tractor comes rolling towards them…

The tractor driver stared suspiciously at GodzillaPin. No doubt they don’t get many visitors in the area. GodzillaPin said good day, and informed the tractor driver of the road block. She replied slowly “yes…” GodzillaPin explained that he was trying to find a way around it, and a look of incredulity clouded the tractor driver’s face. A look that said something like “no one takes shortcuts through my backyard, mate”. Instead, she replied “you’ve got to take the deviation.”

So that was 45 minutes lost, as once again, GodzillaPin versus GPS yielded an unsurprising outcome. They managed to get to their destination in one piece, however, so that’s all that matters. The only thing to note about driving through the Pyrenees is to expect the unexpected. The drive back took longer than expected too, mostly because:

It's only normal rush hour traffic, no?

It’s only normal rush hour traffic, no?

And then of course, if your driver decides to jump out the car to start chasing around the sheep on the hillside, what can the passengers do but wait?

And then of course, if your driver decides to jump out the car to start chasing around the sheep on the hillside, what can the passengers do but wait?

There, he caught his sheep. Now they could continue driving.

There, he caught his sheep. Now they could continue driving.

But wait! There's more! You won't believe where we found this Bessy...

But wait! There’s more! You won’t believe where we found this Bessy…

At 1060m above sea level. Having her dinner. It's actually a pretty good argument against vegetarianism, since a lot of the land would be hard to cultivate crops on. Plus, free-range grass-fed cattle that went hiking? It's quite a happy life for these animals.

At 1060m above sea level. Having her dinner. It’s actually a pretty good argument against vegetarianism, since a lot of the land would be hard to cultivate crops on. Plus, free-range grass-fed cattle that went hiking? It’s quite a happy life for these animals.

The final traffic jam

The final traffic jam

With one straggler overtaken, as it was too busy enjoying the grass and got left behind

With one straggler overtaken, as it was too busy enjoying the grass and got left behind

So that was the adventure of getting lost in the Pyrenees...

So that was the adventure of getting lost in the Pyrenees…

If good for nothing else, at least it brought to our readers this crazy story, and all these photos.

If good for nothing else, at least it brought to our readers this crazy story, and all these photos.

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