Sunday, 23 January 2011

Brian Brake exhibition & BBQ at James' (23rd January 2011)

After months of talking about going to the Brian Brake: Lens on the world exhibition at Te Papa, finally Jono and I decided to check it out this afternoon. It was such a wet day having rained since early this morning and it’s still going! Even with our rain jackets, we still got somewhat wet (eew, my socks are all damp!) getting to the museum. Argh, so annoying!

Brian Brake was New Zealand’s best known photographer from 1960s to 1980s, first making his name as an international photojournalist photographing pictures for magazines such as Life and National Geographic. Obviously everyone thought the same as us “rainy day – let’s go to the museum!” so there were quite a lot of people and several “excuse me”s to manoeuvre past other patrons who were in the way. We stopped every so often to admire the photos that were sectioned by countries, including his most famous work Monsoon taken during the monsoon rains in India in 1960. The best photograph from the Monsoon series definitely has to be the shot of a girl holding her face to the first drops of monsoon rain though this photo wasn’t ‘real’ i.e. true reflection of events as it was a set up shoot on a rooftop with actress Aparna Sen dressed up in a red sari and water poured over her using a large watering can.

Many of Brake’s photos were of people living their every day lives, the type of photography that I personally enjoy taking (and quite difficult to photograph too especially if the subject then comes running over to you asking for money as experienced in our travels in India!). The photos tells a story about the person, or a story in a day of their lives, like the photo of Pablo Picasso’s son Claude placing his finger in his father's mouth during moment of high excitement watching the bullfight. Brake was also renowned for his amazing landscape images, mostly taken on board a helicopter. He’s got to have a pretty fast shutter speed camera to capture the mountains as he bobbed in the helicopter! Most of the photos can be easily replicated today by the amateur photographer – all you need is know how to use your SLR, have a good eye for shots and software to process the photos. Brake’s photos, however, were taken on film and processed in a black room. Oh, and he used some really old-fashioned Leica rangefinder cameras, the ones which were heavy (around 500g) and had a wind (I think there’s one in Grandma’s house) – feels like a block of metal and too mechanical!

Located on the 5th level at Te Papa, the exhibition runs from the 23rd of October 2010 – 8th May 2011 featuring over 320 images taken both in New Zealand and around the world spanning 40 years of Brake’s career. Great for anyone with a keen eye for photography and best of all, this exhibition is free :)

An hour and a half later, we left the museum around 4.30pm and headed over to James’ for a BBQ. Yes, the BBQ is still on despite the pouring rain – James just doesn’t give up! Dribs and drabs, familiar faces turned up – Geoff and Nicola, Grace and Dan, and 2 other ladies from the swing dance scene. Jono got to meet Carly for the first time too :) I’m happy for James – he’s just SO in love with Carly and it’s sweet that he has got photos of them placed in his living room, and the two mischievously teasing one another or stealing kisses throughout the evening. Cute :P

It was great to catch up with everyone (it’s been awhile!) and the BBQ was a fantastic spread as everyone brought a bit of food – fish, chicken wings, grilled veggies, sausages and James provided the garlic breads and salad. Thanks James for cooking up the food and of course, to his kitchen assistants Carly and Grace who helped with the preparation!

No BBQ at James is complete without some SingStar to end the night. Jono was into it (oh yeah, he was into it alright, moving to the music as he sang) and duelling others whenever he had the mic in hand. I have a love-hate relationship with karaoke/SingStar – I would be all “No! No!” when offered the mic and then get totally into it when I have the mic in hand and someone to sing with. What the? Jono and I sang Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” just for a laugh! Real cheesy song with a catchy tune but it worked for my high-pitched voice!!

We said our goodbyes around 10.15pm and braved the rain for home. This has been a weekend full of socialising – I’m glad tomorrow’s a public holiday so I can get some time to chill and unwind!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Out and about town with Mum and Dad (11th - 12th January 2011)

Jono and I caught up with my folks for dinner on Tuesday night – the official ‘meet the dad’ dinner. Normally, I would be anxious about the meet but since Jono and Dad had bumped into each other and chatted briefly on Sunday (they got along alright and Dad seemed to like him), the dinner was more an opportunity to get to know each other better.

Mum and Dad popped over to my office around 5.45pm for Dad to check out my workplace. Like Mum when she first came here, Dad too was snapping away on his camera of us at my work desk. “One more,” said Dad and I rolled my eyes then smiled for the camera (we’re like typical Asian tourists!).

Me and Mum (she's part way through opening her Christmas present from the Woolleys)

Me and Dad

Dad - enough photos already!!

About 6pm, we headed over to Monsoon Poon to meet Jono for dinner. The place was bustling with people (on a Tuesday!) but we managed to get a table without prior booking (Monsoon Poon doesn’t take bookings anyway). Hmm, what should I have for dinner tonight…maybe the Nasi Goreng…“I’m getting the Firecracker Chicken,” announced Jono and we explained to Dad that it was the spiciest dish on the menu (chicken rubbed in Malay chilli paste and wok fried) to which he asked “Really? Jono can handle spicy food??!”. Oh yeah, he can handle spicy food alright, way better than I can – I’ve no idea how that tummy of his copes! We each selected a main dish and had a side serving of Asian greens to share. The food at the restaurant has been consistently good every time I’ve been here and tonight was no exception. Even the Malaysians (my folks, that is) agreed that the food was delicious. Great, I’m glad they liked our pick of restaurant!

“Oh my god, this is SO spicy!” I cried, after taking a small sample of the Firecracker Chicken. At first taste, you wouldn’t feel the heat but give it 30 seconds or so and a slow burning sensation fills the insides of your mouth. How does one even enjoy the dish when you lose all tongue sensation?! Mum and Dad also tried a little and both agreed it was indeed spicy, even for them (Dad was the king of eating spicy food before he was told by his doctor that it was the cause of his ulcers – no more spicy food for him). Jono didn’t even break a sweat, just topping up his glass of water and the blowing his nose now and again. “Wow Angel, you’re lucky,” said Dad, impressed with Jono’s ability to handle spicy food. Seriously Dad, you should be telling me I’m lucky because I’ve got a boyfriend that is smart, loving, sweet, good-looking, kind etc. (the list goes on and on… :P), not telling me I’m lucky just because he can match your former spice level!

We chatted and laughed throughout dinner, including my parents bringing up embarrassing childhood stories of mine such as my liking for squirrel brain and fish eyes. Hah, fortunately I’ve already told Jono about it so my parents had no chance to see me turn scarlet in front of him. Look, I was young then and I have no idea why I enjoyed such ‘delicacies’ but wouldn’t even think of having them today. Squirrel brain? Fish eyes? Eee…

Cost $112 for dinner tonight and there were still leftovers packed in cute Chinese noodle boxes to take home.

Dad, Jono and Mum outside Monsoon Poon

Monsoon Poon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We continued on our chit-chats over tea and biscuits at our place before I sent the old folks home around 9pm. Personally, I thought the evening went very well and Jono’s definitely scored extra points with Dad after showcasing his spice abilities haha! But most importantly, Dad likes Jono – it means a lot to me that my family likes the man I love :) Did I mention that Jono’s the first bf my Dad’s ever met in person? Surprising that Dad didn’t give Jono a hard time as from memory, he used to do that to my guy friends just to mess with them (jokingly, of course).

On Wednesday afternoon, I picked up my parents and brought them to Porirua as Mum wanted to drop in at Barnados Early Learning Centre in Cannons Creek to make some enquiries to volunteer with them. Dad finally plucked up the courage to drive my car (I gave them the spare key so they could use it while Dad’s visiting but they haven’t driven it since he arrived) and I guided him from Newtown all the way to Porirua. Frankly, I don’t think I was ready for Dad driving on Kiwi roads. Sitting in the front passenger seat, it was as if we’ve switched roles and I was my Dad when I first drove his car, constantly telling the driver what they should and shouldn’t be doing. Dad may be an experienced driver but there were moments where the Malaysian driver was apparent, switching lanes and entering and exiting a roundabout without indicating. Freaks me out because that puts us all at risk! I think I should have the wheel back for now…

We arrived at the centre around 3.30pm and Mum and Dad went in to speak to the staff there while I stayed in the car and waited for them. I was about to check my emails on my phone when someone started rapping at my window and sticking their little hands into the car through the gap I’ve left on the window. “Are you a mother?” asked the Maori girl who was probably 7-8 years of age and a younger boy standing next to her, copying what the girl said and smiling at me. Ah, kids, I thought, and told them no, to which I was taken aback when the next line that came out from the girl’s mouth was “Give me your money”. Excuse me? She went on saying that she needs to count my money and I should give it to her or some guy will come beat me up. I laughed and when I told her I didn’t have any money, she proceeded to reach in to grab me (thank god the gap was only enough for half the length of her arms to go through) and when that didn’t work, went straight for the door handle to attempt to open the door, all the while shouting “Open up! Give me your money! Open up NOW!”. I had to lock the whole car as the little boy copied her moves and tried to open the back door! Can you believe that I’ve locked myself in my car in fear of 2 little threatening thugs? The whole saga lasted about 15 minutes until my folks returned to the car, with the girl flitting between being a nice girl (singing me a pop song, asking me questions about me) and threatening me, asking me for money. Unbelievable!

“Do you want to wait in the car?” asked my folks when we stopped at Whitireia to enquire about courses for Mum. NO WAY! I’m coming down with you guys – I don’t want to be harassed by little s&*ts again! I still can’t believe what happened to me!!

Gee, getting around Porirua is like finding my way out of a forest! Without an exact address, it was hard for me to figure out where to go! As it was still early for dinner, we managed to work out way to North City Shopping Centre where we had coffee and chatted some more.

Me and Mum waiting for our coffees

Just me and Dad :)

Shops started to close and around 5.30pm, we headed back to Wellington. I had planned to take them to Cha but it was closed for renovations so we ended up at Satay Kampong on Allen St for dinner. Dad was saying that he had been eating too much in NZ so we only ordered two mains and a side of steamed vegetables to share. Cost us $37.50 for the Chicken Mee Goreng, Steamed Vegetables and Sambal Squid which were average in taste. Definitely not as nice as what we had yesterday though much cheaper. More “makan-makan” (gathering for feasting) with my folks this weekend when we head over to the Tays for dinner!