“The degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed have increased so much that it now means we’re completely unaware of the levels of destruction and suffering embodied in the ‘stuff’ we buy.
Take this for an example: if we grew our own food, we wouldn’t waste a third of it as we do today.
If we made our own tables and chairs, we wouldn’t throw them out the moment we changed the interior décor.”
Good to see a young Singaporean fighting for sustainability. Save the macaques!
Guillem was still sleeping when I called him from the train station. He’d had a late night. We waited outside the train station, two Asians sticking out like a sore thumb, but no one seemed to mind. To kill our time, we wondered: who was the first human who was so smart to realise that you could peel a banana, who realised that you could cut your hair (Samson?), and who cracked open the first durian and decided that it was edible?
When we finally got to Guillem’s place, we were welcomed by his dog, Julio. “Que pasa, Julio?” Guillem would greet him. We took Julio out for a short walk and to grab some kebabs for lunch. As we were buying our lunches, Guillem’s friends called. They were on a roadtrip and were making a stop in Salamanca. We went to the park nearby and waited for them as we ate our kebabs.
The three of them arrived shortly, a girl and two guys. Unfortunately, I can’t recall their names. We said hello, lay on the grass and fiddled with my analog camera. Julio decided it would be a good time to try and escape, and the guys had to run after him. We walked to a cafe for a drink and attempted to soak up the sun in spite of the cold. The two guys didn’t talk much because they couldn’t speak much English, so we let them catch up with Guillem instead.
After they left, Guillem brought us around the city. We only had a day, so we could only admire the Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum from the outside. We saw the Casa de las Conchas, literally the House of the Shells. Guillem made us look for the lucky frog at the University. We also went to Huerto de Calixto y Melibea, a park dedicated to Spain’s very own Romeo and Juliet. It was there I caught a quote from the Little Prince, which was exceptionally meaningful to me then.
I wonder if the stars are lit so that someday, everyone can find theirs.
Guillem works with youths and he has a strong passion for his job. You could tell that he gets along with people very well. As we walked through the city, people often stopped to say hi. At Plaza Mayor, we bumped into a couple of youths he works with, a boy and a girl. He’s sitting on the bench and she’s lying on his lap. Guillem’s like a big brother to them, making sure they’re behaving themselves.
Guillem brought us to meet some of his mates. They have a lad’s lair. They rented a small space and brought in a table football table and some couches. They also had a mini fridge full of beer. A proper lad’s lair. I joined some of them for a game of table football and sucked at the game. One of Guillem’s friend (I’m terrible with Spanish names) was exceptionally enthusiastic about the game. I kept losing, but he kept urging me to go on. His enthusiasm sent the ball flying out of the table several times. “Penalty!” He’d shout as he ran searching for the ball. I thought about how nice it would be if I had a space like that with my mates as well.
We left for dinner while Guillem’s friends went off to catch a football match or something. Guillem was going to bring us tapas bar-hopping! We had the most amazing patatas bravas and all for only 1 Euro. I experienced squeezing with the crowd in a fully packed bar, beer in one hand, plate in the other. No one seemed to mind the elbows and pint glasses. We went to a slightly quieter bar, this time with a much older crowd, but Guillem said they had some tapas we must try, and so we did. The night went on with us filling our stomachs with absolutely delicious tapas and cheap beer. We made our last stop at a two-storey cafe. The rooms were narrow and only a few tables occupied each room. We found a table by the window while Guillem got us more drinks. There were many beautiful paintings on the walls. They were for sale, but we weren’t buying. Guillem wants to stay in Salamanca. He seems happy, despite a failed relationship. He enjoys working with the youths. He DJs on some nights and loves his reggae. He was one of the first few people I knew who have chosen to take the road less travelled and is enjoying what he does. I told myself I wanted to be more like him.
We had such a good time but it was late. We waited at the bus stop but no buses came. Guillem suggested walking to another bus stop, but there were still no buses. We must have missed the last bus. We sat by the road in the cold and moaned for a couple of minutes, then decided we should just get a cab.
Julio was waiting when we got home. “Que pasa, Julio!” I shouted. Too much beer.
We stayed up for a wee bit and caught some Spanish telly then listened to a bit of reggae. Guillem was still awake when we went to bed.
This concludes my Spanish summer in 2010! I had especially vivid memories of Salamanca, because of a new friendship. Thanks to the people I’ve met on the trip, I had a peek into the lives of the locals – and this is what I endeavour in all my travels. Now to move on to more recent travel memories!
If you became vegetarian or vegan later in life, you’d probably miss some of the good food you used to enjoy but can’t anymore. I know I do, especially since most of our local cuisine are not vegetarian-friendly. Thankfully, places like Laksania make our veggie lives a little tastier.
I popped by after a morning of hard work for some Vegetarian Laksa Goreng. I didn’t realise how much I missed laksa until I started eating! Instead of prawns and fish cake, it is served with carrot slices, green beans, cabbage, bean sprouts, enoki mushrooms and mock meat. Personally, I’m not a big fan of mock meat. But if you like some bite in your food, it does the trick. You also have the option of omitting eggs, onions and garlic if you don’t take them. The spiciness of the laksa was just right for me. It’s spicy enough to leave a tingling sensation in your tummy, but not so spicy that it burns your lips.
I dined alone, so I didn’t get to try any other dishes. Other vegetarian dishes include taupok balls, garden salad, vegetarian laksa, vegetarian laksa hotpot and vegetarian fried rice. They also serve gula melaka tea, which I’ve never tasted, so I’ll be sure to try that the next time.
Although Laksania isn’t a veggie eatery, they have done a decent job providing veggie options and I think it’d be a good place to dine at if you’re out with meat-eating friends. They’re also part of the Do Good with Food initiative, where they support the cause by employing their staff from the Institute of Mental Health, Singapore General Hospital and special schools, and I’m all about supporting the needy.
23 Serangoon Central
Singapore 556083 Bugis+
201 Victoria Street
382 East Coast Road
Tel:+65 6346 2026 JEM
50 Jurong Gateway Road
It wasn’t planned, but we ended up in Madrid during Semana Santa. That explained why it was near impossible to secure any accommodation. I ended up speaking broken Spanish (or whatever that was left in my head after 5 years) to 2 policemen in order to find a hostel that still had rooms for us, but not before walking up and down a hilly road twice. I have never seen that many people on the streets. Believers and non-believers of the faith were all walking towards Plaza Mayor for the procession. We were early so we crossed over to Puerta del Sol for a bit and that was where some TV crew caught us for an interview.
We walked back to Plaza Mayor where a large banner was hanging from the windows. The residents were complaining about the music. As night fell and the procession started, everyone fell silent and watched as men with chains on their feet led the way. Handsome men and women followed behind, some in robes with their heads covered and the women all dressed in black, donning beautiful mantillas. We stayed and watched for a few more minutes before walking off to get some food.
Our meal times were all messed up in Spain. We were always hungry at the wrong time, and trying to get food while they’re having their siesta was challenging. We spent many afternoons in bars, staring at their amazing food but not being able to order anything because according to them, it wasn’t time to eat. The good thing about being a tourist/traveller is that they’ll always make exceptions for you. Plenty of tapas to go around!
We also rented bicycles in Madrid, but don’t do it if you’re afraid of cycling next to cars. Some of the roads can be very wide and cycling to Parque del Buen Retiro wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. We made it somehow and it was well worth the traffic nightmare. Madrid was beautiful and cycling beats walking, but it was on to Salamanca next.
I’ve been digging up some old travel photos and journals lately. They brought back a lot of fond memories, and I’m reminded of all the people I’ve met along the way. So here’s some of it…
It was April 2010. England was cold and grey as ever, so we left for Spain instead. We played ping pong at the hostel in Barcelona. Later that evening, we went to the beach on foot. It was dark and there wasn’t anyone else around. We brought a bag of oranges to eat as we did somersaults in the sand.
Valencia was a beautiful experience. In the day we were tourists, taking photos of the Cathedral, eavesdropping on tour guides and eating paella while sipping on sangria. By night we sang at the top of our voices with the three guys who were sharing the room in the hostel. They were on a roadtrip from Barcelona but their car got broken into and everything was stolen, so they had to find a hostel. Take a bow and start singing. Hide the tins and vodka under the bed. We don’t want to get kicked out with fresh poultry in a plastic bag. Halfway around the world, I found someone who listens to Billie the Vision & The Dancers too. If you start playing Radiohead on the guitar, one of us will open that window and jump right out. He only sings the songs he knows. But don’t we all.
Valencia says goodnight, but Barcelona is still awake and we are still the passengers. la la la la lalalala.