Sunday, 27 July 2008

Last 2 festival films! (27th July 2008)

F^%K!!!! The weather is so wet and cold today!! I SO wish I was in some place much warmer :(

Went out to Penthouse Cinema & Cafe to see another Wellington Film Festival movie this afternoon titled CJ7. Given the shitty weather, it really did annoy me when I had to park 3 blocks away from the cinema. I guess that's the problem with this cinema - it's located in the suburbs and with the film festival going on, their carpark just couldn't cater for the number of patrons to the screenings. On the upside, the seats were really nice - huge, comfy chairs. Oh well, just have to run for it!

CJ7 is an interesting film directed (and also acted) by Stephen Chow - a combination of animation, sci-fi and a bunch of kids who acted really well. Fans of his movie will see the type of humour he brings into his movies, occasionally sick (you get a nice view from a very high-rise building, squashing cockroaches with bare hands and getting poo-ed at) but generally a movie with a happy ending. Had a few good laughs and some tears. Worth me getting rained on to see the film :)

Back home for a hot drink to warm up and another movie this evening!

Around 6pm, I headed off to Te Papa to the Soundings Theatre to see the last of the festival films I wanted to see, Brazilian film, Mutum. Honestly, I'm a loss for words what to say about this film. It depicted the life of a country boy living in a growned up world, often pushed around by adults resulting in a much confused life. I don't know - it was to some extent disturbing to see a child live such a life but endearing at the same time, the sort of love and bond between family members. Hmm...The film was followed by a short Peruvian film titled Shikashika and that was quite amazing - how an ice block used for making ice shaving sweet treats in town came from the snowy mountains with much effort (the blocks were dug out of the snow and the carried down by horses and donkeys). Wow!

Well, that's it for me for the film festival - can't wait for the next one next year!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

More film festival movies (21st - 24th July 2008)

Monday, 21st July 2008: Tonight, I went to see another film from the 37th Wellington Film Festival 2008, this time held at The Film Archive located at the corner of Taranaki and Ghuznee streets. The movie, The Elephant and the Sea, was one of the 2 Malaysian films screened in the festival.

I got myself a good seat for the screening - guess going alone helps when it comes to getting good seats in the house :) Though if you're talking about comfort, the seats here aren't very comfortable. Reminded me somewhat of slightly plush university lecture room chairs...Again, I didn't see fellow Malaysians whom I knew at the screening.

Compared to the other Malaysian movie I watched on Saturday, this movie was somewhat thought-provoking and brought out the ugly side of the world the average Malaysian may be living in - pollution, illegal gambling, prostitution, deception, etc. Was to an extent disturbing however a true reflection of life in Malaysia and there were moments where the movie reminded me of my own life when growing up there. Probably those who have not lived in Malaysia may feel disgusted or in shock to see such life beneath the tourist destination but I'm sure it is not just the reality of life in Malaysia but many other countries as well.

I have to say that I'm quite proud of the 2 productions I've seen, showing Malaysia to the world as it is. It would be great to see more budding filmmakers from Malaysia showcase their talent in the next festival :)

Thursday, 24th July 2008: Despite the horrible weather outside, it did not deter the many Wellingtonians to come out of warm homes to the Embassy Theatre tonight to see Brazilian film, Elite Squad. Of course, this time around, I saw several familiar faces - not surprised that more than half the theatre was filled with Brazilians living in Wellington, many of whom I've known over the years. Was nice to catch-up briefly with a few before the movie :)

If you have seen the movie, City of God, Elite Squad comparatively is even more violent and shocking. Gagging gang members with plastic bags so they would tell the truth, burning a man alive - this movie has plenty of shooting, swearing, torture, drug trafficking and corruption in the lives of the police and thugs in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. I cannot imagine what it'll be like living inside the slums. True, you would probably be quite safe inside with the protection of gang leaders though when police forces the likes of State Police Special Operations Battalion aka BOPE comes in and does a sweep, everyone's lives are at risk. Makes me so grateful I'm living in NZ where we have nothing extreme as in Rio.

I would recommend watching the film despite the gruesome brutality - the way the movie was filmed and the storyline is fantastic. Plus, for those who think that Brazil is all about song, dance and party, this movie will stun you and give you a different light of what Brazil is.

2 more films to go this weekend and that would be my 5 festival films done!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Saturday night of fun with Ken (19th July 2008)

Most of my Saturday was spent running around - gym, grocery shopping, got my ticket to a movie tonight, saw my beautician and hair stylist. Crazy, crazy! These days, my life seems to run a million miles a second - sometimes I don't have a recollection of what I did for the day at the end of the day because I did SO MUCH!

Around 5.30pm, I headed to Paramount on Courtenay Place to see a Malaysian film screened in conjunction with the 37th Wellington Film Festival 2008 which runs from 18th July - 3rd August. I had a browse through the list of films and was so surprised to see 2 from Malaysia. It's not everyday that a Malaysian living abroad gets to see what their home country produces. Of course, curious me always looking and trying new things, I decided I would watch both movies and see what Malaysian filmmakers have to offer.

Flowers In The Pocket was a wonderful movie and so real of the typical lives of average-class kids in Malaysia where parents work day and night to keep the family afloat and kids fend for themselves. What really captivated me was how well the 2 young boys in the film acted - it was too real to be a film, as if we have stepped into their real world. A beautiful mix of bittersweet growing pains, culture and language. Speaking of language, I was somewhat skeptical about the film at first because it stated on the website that the film was in 'Czech and German with English subtitles' - Malaysian film in Czech and German??? Weird...I had to see it for myself! Turned out to be the typical 'rojak' aka mix of Malaysian languages - Malay, Malaysian English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien/Teochew. I emailed the organisers to have this amended - didn't want others put off to see such a heartwarming film just because of the error in print.

You know, walking out of the theatre, I am grateful that my childhood was not like that of the two boys despite living in a somewhat single-parent family for a good 10 years (mum and dad lived in different towns; my brother and I grew up with mum and her family). Definitely recommend you watch this film. I'm looking forward to the next one on Monday!

Caught up with Ken after movie for dinner and this time we settled for Kazu Yakitori & Sake Bar on Courtenay Place just a couple shops away from Paramount (last time we came here, we walked out after a glass of water). Yakitori is the Japanese version of grilled chicken on bamboo skewers over a charcoal grill. It is quite interesting to watch your food being cooked right in front of you and there is an array of grilled meat, seafood or veggie option to choose from. I had a combination set which had 5 skewers of the different types of grilled meat and veggies - nice but not filling if you are planning to satisfy your tummy for $15-23.

Ken and I talked and laughed about all sorts over food and sake. It was really funny that the neighbouring patrons were shocked to hear us speak in English to each other - they thought we were speaking in Japanese the whole time!! Haha! There's only 1 half-Japanese here and it ain't me :)

After dinner, we headed over to Hawthorn Lounge on Tory St for a cocktail. Ken has been raving to me about this great cocktail place for some time now but I never got around going there. A very nicely done bar with a 1920's jazz theme - even Johnny the bartender was dressed up to 'blend' into the ambience!

Cocktails here costs around $14 but what I really loved was that Johnny would concoct you a special drink if he's not busy - give him a list of your favourite ingredients and spirits and be surprised. I should have brought my camera along because he made my Illusion-Mojito concoction flame!! How COOL is that! Ken went for a Bloody Mary. Boring, you think? His cocktail had stuff including chopped onion and wasabi - I had a sip and woah, what a kick it had! For a person like me who's not a fan of Bloody Mary's, this one I like :) I've not seen a bar quite like this where they had nice soothing jazz music playing in the background in a room with dimmed lights, a fireplace where you can toast marshmellows and sink into one of the plush lounge seats. It wasn't too packed (I think the bouncer controls the number of patrons going in and out) so people can still hear one another. Pop by to see Johnny sometime - well worth a visit :)

Around 10pm, we headed over to The Temperance (de-ja-vu - was here last week!!) to meet up with Jessica and friends for her farewell get-together. Jessica, a fellow regular salsa dancer, is going back to Canada. Sob, sob, farewells are just never-ending! We'll miss you, Jessica - have a safe flight home and keep in touch!

This time around, Kalwant, her girlfriends and I went to check out Madame Jojo's Club & Bar room - we didn't go in last week because some of the guys weren't dressed appropriately for the club (don't ask me what 'appropriate dressing' meant because I don't know). It had much better dance music compared to The Atrium Bar & Kitchen where we were at that was playing 80s-90s music. Even had a few Cerocs dancers were doing their 'thing' on the dancefloor!

Oh, what a night I've had! By 12am, I was hungry and ready to head home. Ken and I ended up at my favourite kebab shop, Sahara Cafe on Courtenay Place, to grab a late night supper, more chit-chat and off home after. Yawn, way past my bedtime but it was one hell of a night! And thanks for the great company as usual, Ken! We'll have another night out again soon :)

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Kalwant birthday bash (12th July 2008)

Swimming when you have a cold is NOT a good idea - I had to stop so often and was huffing and puffing at each length! Obviously caught the attention of one of the swim intructors who teased me that he would report to Lesleigh (my swim instructor) that I've been taking too long breaks. What the?? I'm sick!

Gee, when will this rubbish weather end? Poured heavily in the afternoon so spent the rest of my day at home, which includes baking a banana-chocolate cake from baking leftovers:

Hmm, melting chocolate...too devillish for the cold weather...:P

It was Kalwant's birthday today and around 5.30pm, I went to pick up the birthday girl plus Sharon (Hey, welcome back! FYI: Sharon had been away travelling South America the past 6 weeks) and Kalwant's cousin sister, Sunita, who recently moved to NZ from USA, and we all headed to Wagamama at Queens Wharf for dinner. De-ja-vu - was just here on Monday with Ken! Wagamama is the new 'it' dining place in town. Recently opened, it's a really busy place but oddly enough, you cannot pre-book your tables. There were 16 of us at Kalwant's dinner and we had to squeeze into 3 tables. A nice, open-plan restaurant that serves American-sized Japanese meals (yep, I mean HUGE serving). Good food in general and if you like the Asian food court type of ambience (mixed noise ranging from humans talking to pot clanking), this is the place to be. You need to try their wasabi chocolate cake - a real kick! Photos taken here:

Girls Karen, Sharon and Kalwant

Me and birthday gal, Kalwant

It was also our friend, Stacey's birthday and she was there with another group of friends - what fun it was when we sang the birthday song across the tables to her!

Oh, and did I mention, Rachel is no longer a red-head but a blonde???? Hmm, do blondes REALLY have more fun? We'll have to see...

After dinner, all 16 of us headed down to Courtenay Place to check out this new hip bar opened on Blair St on Thursday called The Temperance. Apparently the largest bar in New Zealand with 4 separate bars and nightclubs to cater for different crowds. We hung around The Atrium for drinks and a bit of boogie as some of us couldn't get into Madame Jojo's nightclub because we were deemed 'inappropriately' dressed. Right...oh well, long as we can dance and drink, that's all good! Photos taken at The Temperance:

Sharon, Selina, Kalwant, James and Tim

Cousin sisters, Sunita and Kalwant

Dong! 12 midnight and time to go home. Have to up early tomorrow for a walk with Claus and I've got no idea where we will be going! Eeks, hopefully not a tough walk :)

Fun-filled Sunday with Claus (13th July 2008)

Was up at 8am for breakfast and packed up for my walk this morning. Claus was coming by to pick me up at 9.30am for our walk. It was all a last minute thing - he texted me last night and I agreed to go, not even knowing where! Surprise!! It was such a gorgeous day outside and I was glad I took up the offer to tag along :)

I've seen Claus on several occasions - he's Brazilian and we have several friends in common but we were only acquaintances. It wasn't until one fine day, we bumped into each other at the public library and caught up for lunch that we got to know each other a little better. I'm embarrassed to say I actually mistook him for another friend (and I think I haven't mentioned that to him yet - haha!). Ops!

Claus suggested we head up to the Brooklyn Wind Turbine and walk one of the tracks to a radar. Radar??! What radar? I didn't know of a radar here but a walk in the area sounded just perfect. This was one of the places in Wellington I wanted to explore - I've done walks in Somes Island and the Karori Wildlife Santuary so putting another tick to my list of places to explore in my own backyard is a YES for me :)

Ah, so the radar thing is this huge white 'golf ball' on the top of Hawkins Hill, a radar transmission station which is used for communications and surveillance. It is located about 3kms away from the wind turbine - not too far to walk, perhaps due to the good company (Claus is one funny and interesting fella - we talked about so much stuff!) and the clear skies and fine weather. Such a beautiful day to enjoy the outdoors!

Around midday, we stopped at the summit for lunch. Claus made us packed lunch of sandwiches, fruit and coffee - I laughed when he gave me my share (nothing wrong with the sandwiches - they were yum!) because I remembered our friend Rosel telling me before that Claus would make sandwiches for everyone when going for walks (Rosel couldn't join us this time). How very true! We could see the snowy mountains of Kaikoura from where we were though disturbed by keen motorcrossers at a nearby hill. It was as if we were flipping between Discovery and Sports channels!

I'll have to come back again and do the other paths - there are several paths you can walk to, including one leading towards the Red Rocks. Photos taken during the walk this morning:

The MV Doulos had recently arrived at Queens Wharf and I had been planning to visit this world's oldest ocean-going passengership with the largest floating bookshop this afternoon. Claus was keen to join me so after our walk, we headed into town to check the ship out.

The ship was built in 1914, 2 years younger than the Titanic, and had served as a freighter, migrant carrier, cruise liner and now a floating book shop. Doulos, which means "servant" in Greek, has visited more than 100 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and many island nations. There are about 320 volunteers on board representing 50 different nations, some with their partners and families, and they all work together for a common purpose - to bring knowledge, help and hope to the people of the world. The ship is to be decommissioned in 2010 so this was its last visit to NZ. Lucky for us, we got to check out this historical ship before it retires :)

Claus and I went on the daily tour which cost us $10 each. It was a 45-minute tour through the different parts of the ship with one of their volunteers. And you wouldn't believe who the other people were in our tour group - James (a work colleague) and his family! We were given a Passport To Discover Doulos each and as we move from one area of the ship to another, we were given a stamp in the passport. It was funny to see us adults behave like kids, so excited with the stamps!

Our volunteer guide was from Hongkong and she was a fantastic storyteller and very good at answering the many questions we flooded her with. If you can still catch the ship before it departs our shores, make sure you go on the tour. Definitely worth it! Photos taken on board MV Doulos:

What a life it would be being a volunteer on the ship, floating from country to country and working in different roles on board. As a crew, you get to meet people from all over the world while serving your faith in God and the nations you visit. I'm not 100% sure if you must be a Christian to qualify as a volunteer though (you would need to check with the local OM office to find out more). The service can range from 2 months to 2 years and be prepared for challenges and hard work. You don't get on the Doulos for nothing!

Around 3.30pm, we caught up with Claus's friend, Daniella, and the 3 of us went inline skating along the waterfront. Claus and I hired our skates with wrist guards and knee pads from Fergs Kayaks for $10 an hour. Oh my god - how did I managed to get myself roped into skating?? I think the last time I ever strapped on a pair was at the age of 10 or 12. Oh dear, this is going to be a real challenge!

Ow, ow, ow...tomorrow, I'm sure there will be purple patches on my butt! I fell hard on my butt a few times, mainly crossing the bridge. Going down the bridge, my skates were going faster than the rest of my body - the only way to stop is to fall back on my butt. Ouch! And so embarassing! Claus and Daniella were supportive and taught me a few simple moves. I felt bad slowing them down as they watched me try to get my balance and take baby steps. Sorry! Hmm, I've to practise more so my body gets used to this. Just felt so out of control on wheels!

It has been an amazing day out, making the most of the fantastic weather and in company of good friends. Thanks for the wonderful day, Claus! We wrapped up our fun-filled day with a cuppa at Lido Cafe on Victoria Street before we all headed to our respective homes. I'll definitely sleep straight through the night tonight after all the workout from today!

Friday, 11 July 2008

Yeah, it's Friday!! (11th July 2008)

Fridays, always the busiest day of my work week with meetings and reports to produce by the end of the business day BUT because it's also Friday, the office is usually more casual, relaxed and occasionally, crazy. Jokes, funny video clips or out-of-this-world discussions among the team would flood our mailboxes, causing individuals to choke in tears and laughter at their own computer screen (me included). One such video, aired on Australian TV show, The Pitch, showcased 2 advertising agencies challenged to sell the impossible (in this case, invading NZ...): What a cracker!

Usually from about lunchtime, the office 'slows down' and staff start to 'disappear'. Ahem, where are you boys going? Hehehe...Long lunches, extended coffee breaks and 3pm 'meetings' aka 'let's head to the bar to drink' are pretty normal. I'm not saying we are a slack bunch - we work hard and when it's time to play, we play hard too :)

2 weeks back, I was given an award for a good job done for part of a super-urgent project and as a result, the whole department got shouted morning tea and I had $150 worth of shopping vouchers. Honestly, I wasn't expecting this at all. Hmm, why do I think Nicky (my team lead) had something to do with this...Thanks, Nicky! And thank you to everyone for their efforts too - without everyone working together, we wouldn't meet our deadline. Hooray for everyone!

The core project team was shouted lunch by the company today at Monsoon Poon on Blair Street, a restaurant I've always wanted to check out but never been in. Very unique setting of a mix of Asian interior and decorations. And they even do tiffin lunch office delivery! Yes, in those 3-tier stainless steel tiffin carriers!! How COOL is that! The food was great but comes in huge servings - I had to pack half of my beef rendang home, in a cute little Chinese takeaway box. Just look:

Drinks today was back at The Malthouse and this time, I tried the Tuatara Hefe beer, a type of wheat beer. The idea of it sounded odd but it tasted fantastic - sweet and smooth. A must-try if you haven't!
Rushed home quickly to avoid the pouring rain (supposed to be another wet and windy night tonight) and a quick meal, shower and change of clothes later, I met up with Matt at Downstage Theatre on Cambridge Terrace for a drink prior to the show, Elemental by Strike. It was great to catch up with Matt again and he looked much better than the last time I saw him - no more sling and recovering well :)

Strike is a New Zealand percussion group that combines elements such as fire and water, infused with pacific and contemporary musical influences in a high-energy, theatre-based show. Cost us $39 each for a stall seat (downstairs) and we had one of the best views in the theatre - right in the middle! I thought the price was right for a NZ production - I had previously seen STOMP in New York and looking at the adverts for this show, it seemed to be somewhat similar but with more emphasis on percussion rather than making music from all sorts of stuff. And true enough, lots and lots of drumming. I wonder how the 4 guys performing could last 1.5 hours non-stop in their show. Sweat streaming and soaking them through!! Oh, and did I mention they all had super nice arms, those that are perfectly sculpted? Oh yeah, has to be all that drumming...:P

Some parts of the show I really liked was when they used what looked like a clear tube fire gun, making bursts of fire and noise which sounded somewhat like farting noises (hey, it DID sound like that!), the part where 2 of the guys blew threw a tube into a bowl of water competing against each other who lasted the longest (I could never do that without stopping to breathe every 5 seconds), and those psychedelic, out-of-tune like sounds made from striking large gongs and dunking them in water partway. I would recommend you check the show out - what better way to support our Kiwi own :)

Dropped Matt home after the show and had an early night myself. Hopefully with rest, this cold of mine would go away soon. Thanks for the company Matt and we'll have to catch up soon!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Antje's farewell at Havana (8th July 2008)

After gafieira practice, Stacey, Christian and I headed over to Havana to meet up with the rest of the salsa bunch for Antje's farewell. A year has come and gone and it was time for Antje to return home to Germany to continue her studies. Oh, it's so sad another wonderful friend is leaving us! Why is everyone leaving anyway???? This has to be like my, what, 5th or so farewell in the last 8 months??? Well, who am I to say - about a year ago, I did the same. Had my farewell with most of the same faces in Havana (and oddly enough, Havana seems to be the 'farewell drinks' place), only to find myself back again 4 months down the track. Hah! Life has its unexpected twists and turns and one never knows for sure what the future holds. Who knows? Antje will be back before we even realised she left :) Photos taken tonight:

Group photo: (back) Ramnish, Stacey, Scott, Liz, Naz, Clare, John and Ken
(front) me, Christian, Antje, Nicola and Grant

Antje, have a safe trip home and do keep in touch with us! Look forward to see you again soon!!

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Hew's & Jonathan's engagement party (5th July 2008)

I was invited to Hew's and Jonathan's engagement party this evening out in Upper Hutt and boy was it difficult to find the place despite having a map in hand! This is the problem when one lives in Wellington inner city and rarely venture out to the suburbs. Spent about 45 minutes lost in the suburbs in Upper Hutt - the night was getting dark and it was pouring. Good thing I drove there so it wasn't much of an issue though getting lost wasn't fun at all - all the streets looked the same to me!

The party was one celebration long overdue and was held in the home of one of their fellow church friends. Simple and low-key, it was a gathering of their loved ones and friends to celebrate their union. Aww, so sweet!

Guests brought a plate each and I tested a new reciped today, a golden kiwifruit upside down cake, to bring along. Tried a small portion myself at home and it wasn't too bad, just a little sweet for my liking. Would go well with coffee or tea :)

I didn't stay very long but enough to get to know a few new faces, including Jonathan's mum - a bubbly lady with lots of stories to tell of her time in Asia :)

Oh, and I made myself a healthy cake too. Here's a photo of my oatmeal carrot-kiwifruit cake: