Crazy happy times at www.memoirsoftaste.com

To my dearest friends and readers,

Thanks for being part of my journey on .wordpress.com – I’m so amazed each time I hear from one of you, and I’ve never felt more connected!

I started out http://www.memoirsoftaste.wordpress.com as a sort of challenge for the year of 2015. I start each year with a list of things I’d like to accomplished, and to those of you who’d asked, I’d shared that it was my way of documenting the things I love most – Food, travel – and also a way for me to share the things and moments which moved or inspired me.

But now I want to make it a commitment – I want to keep writing, I want to keep sharing, and I want to keep getting to know each one of you. I’m excited about the road ahead, and I hope that you’ll join me at www.memoirsoftaste.com. If you’re already following me, just make sure you click for notifications again so that you’ll get my posts in your feed (because I hear this doesn’t happen automatically although I’ve taken you all (a.k.a. “migrated”) with me already)!

Big smiles and big hugs to everyone, and ttys!

Poetry by Photography: Love Locked Lovers

So many; Love locks hanging in the waning light
Yet none of them are really quite alike
Some are big and some are small,
Some have been weathered; rust and all
For one out of naivety, another perhaps assured,
But neither promise could be insured

For you and I, we are individuals all
Sometimes we just cannot predict a fall
But those who keep strong in the rain,
May find their love holds through the strain
And at the end of a time of trial –
Their love locks fused, never to exile

Some forlornly looking in quiet haste,
Others holding hands in rapid chase
Fingers are traced around an etch
While toes are tipped to peer past the hedge
Love locked lovers in embrace,
Navigating through life’s intricate maze.

April 2015, Sunset at Namsan Peak, Seoul, South Korea

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Intricate.”

Prose by Photography: The Song of the Sea

There we stood- in quiet anticipation, watching as the waves lapped against and over the smoothened boulders leaving trails of white foam, while Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak) rose up with its formidable rock face, basking in the sun. The water was a rich shade of teal, washing over the rocks tauntingly, challenging us to come closer. It looked cold. Really cold. For a moment I imagined falling into the strangely blue water, and shuddered at the thought of sinking into the sea and the things that might greet me beneath. To my right, a rugged-looking american photographer rubbed his hands together and stuffed them into the pockets of his grey windbreaker.

A moment ago, Jeju’s Haenyeo (also known as “women divers”) having suited up in black wet suits, singing with fishing nets slung over their shoulders, vanished into the embrace of the sea. I shifted around on my feet, feeling around the rock with the toe of my boot, careful to stay away from the water spray, and wondered how in the world these women could be so strong, so brave, and why they would choose such a challenging occupation or if it was even a choice at all.

A sharp whistle pierced the air, jolting me from my thoughts. Everyone’s gaze was transfixed upon the waters now. Sure enough, the Haenyeo were resurfacing. They were making some sort of whistling exhalation; a sound of victory as they resurfaced, bringing harvest from the sea. Even before they came close, I could see that they were smiling. It was something about the way they moved, the way they approached the shore, or maybe it was the deep pink flush of their cheeks that showed a surprising youthfulness.

What originally started out due to a need to survive, was no longer just that- and it occurred to me that perhaps these seemingly simple women had a wisdom after all. A wisdom that a large number of people in the world didn’t have – people who I knew were at this moment sitting in office cubicles, staring blankly at computer screens and dying to get out, when they could be doing something else. Something better.

A Haenyeo came by the spot where I stood and she looked up from her basket, at me. She smiled, as if knowing that I now understood that the message was as simple as this. Don’t let fear stop you like it’s stopping others from doing what they love, and you will be the early bird which finds its rewards.

Seongsan Ilchulbong or “Sunrise Peak”, Jeju Island, South Korea, April 2015

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Early Bird.”

Personal: From A Distant Hilltop

A horn sounded. I ran down the hill in an attempt capture a good picture of a passing train. Local Japanese turned their heads to the window, curiously watching as an asian girl in a striped blue shirt with grey jeans tucked into black boots sprinted towards them with a DSLR.

After the scene had passed, I turned back around to re-orientate myself after the sudden, unexpected flurry, and found my family at the spot which I’d left them at – still far away, standing at the top of one of the hills in the garden. I lifted my camera.

My uncle noticed me first and started waving. Then my parents and other aunts and uncles began to look in my direction. They waved enthusiastically and as I adjusted the lens, faces flushed with broad smiles and laughter came into clearer focus.

The itinerary for this trip was left largely to my cousin and I, and I was definitely the more particular of us both. Armed with TripAdvisor, trusty Google, and advice from friends, I’d mapped the routes, booked everything from hotels to restaurants, and read reviews and articles over a period of 2 months prior to the trip – I know that probably sounds crazy to most people, but I just wanted to make sure everything was as perfect as could be, you know?

Everyone knows I’m big on planning – from whom I need to catch up with and when, to places I want to go, etc. By any date, I usually would’ve mapped out my schedule for the next 2 weeks or so, and I typically kickoff each year with a list of projects and things that I want to achieve in the next 365.25 days. Most of my “free time” (to do whatever I might feel like doing) or personal time is planned for – “planned spontaneity” is what I call it, oxymoronic as that sounds.

When I look at this photograph, reward – that’s what it means to me. All that planning, researching, everything- that was all made worth it. My family- smiling, waving, sharing a good laugh, on the hill top of a garden in Abashiri, midway through our roadtrip in Hokkaido.

June 2014, 網走国定公園小清水原生花園 (Garden opposite Lake Tofutsu), Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Reward.”

Prose by Photography: A Stir in the Shrine

I stood on the gravel, staring at the textured bark of one of the tall, lean trees in the middle of the Hokkaido Jingu Shrine – like wrinkles of the wise, and as if possessing a knowledge that the rest of us were still lost in seeking to discover. Just a moment before that, I’d been standing on the steps of the main building, quietly and respectfully watching from the side as the locals went up to what looked like wooden kneelers and knelt, looking straight ahead at the altar through the glass, bowing piously.

Suddenly- there was movement to the right side of the shrine. A door opened, and a man dressed in pine-green-coloured robes wearing a black headpiece tied with a skinny white rope around his face and under his chin stepped out, holding a small bell. Ring, ring, ring.

Two ladies stepped out with him, hair neatly and tightly pulled back into a ponytail around which a cream-coloured cloth was wrapped and bound with red ribbon, both clad in long white blouses with slits and big boxy sleeves, under which they wore full-length bright red skirts. Ring, ring, ring.

They promptly bowed low to each other, and one of the ladies spun on her heel and departed briskly, as if on a mission, her feet shuffling quickly in matching red geta slippers and I watched as she navigated the peripheral pathways of the shrine, rounded a bend and vanished, her red skirt previously trailing with movement, going with her.

June 2014, Hokkaidō Shrine (Hokkaido-Jingu Shrine), Maruyama Park, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Rule of Thirds.”

Photography: The Meaning of 平 (Píng)

平. A simple, symmetrical word. Pronounced píng, it means “balance”.

Today marks the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year calendar, triggering the age-old tradition and flurry of visiting of the Elders, extended family, and sometimes friends. I’d start the day by visiting my grandmother, handing her a pair of oranges and wishing her good health and other blessings, followed by spending the rest of the day with my immediate family and relatives moving from house to house.

Over the years, the list of places to visit has gotten shorter and shorter that now for most people, it’s practically a cheatsheet of one-stop-multiple-hits (i.e. where everyone just agrees to congregate at one place). As the Elders move on, some of the tradition is lost and the generations no longer see value in (and in fact, dread) meeting people they mostly only see once a year. As a kid, it was all fine and dandy receiving hong baos (red packets containing money), but as we moved beyond childhood, we realised that we now have to make small talk with relatives, deal with never-ending questions about non-existent boyfriends and girlfriends, much less marriage, and have to actually appear interested in whatever conversations there are over the span of many hours.

But 平 – this simple, balanced, symmetrical word, has far deeper meaning in the Chinese language when used in conjunction with other words, and which possibly unlocks the secrets of the essence of harmony; if I were to attempt to string its range of meanings together into a mosiac, it is akin to a beautiful 平旦 (dawn) where everything is 平顺 (smooth-sailing), 公平 (fair; there is equality), and where there is 康平 (good health) and the ones you love are 平安 (safe).

This Lunar New Year, I wish you the same balance and harmony in the many aspects of life in which 平 remains relevant and rings true. As conveyed in the clean, simple strokes of the character itself, perhaps we could realise that, indeed, achieving a balance is far simpler than we think. And perhaps, we would also find 喜 (yet another word resonating in symmetry and balance; pronounced , meaning “happiness”) in the process, just as I had a few hours ago tossing yu sheng (an oriental salad) and cheering the full suite of blessings with my family in a team effort to fondly usher in the new year over reunion dinner.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Symmetry.”

Prose by Photography: The Key to the Golden Gate

I stood at the entrance, staring up the structure towering over me, floral motifs written into its white face. It beamed down at me; a mere smallish figure, wearing the hood of a borrowed black abaya, dwarfed in comparison.

From here, I could not yet see clearly what lay beyond, for the view was obstructed by a second archway; a seeming reflection of the first. The gate in itself was huge, but the line of sight- narrow.

And- as if reading my mind, it said I can show you a glimpse, but you would need to journey farther to see it. And before my eyes unveiled dome on dome, in perfect symmetry- echoes of balance and harmony.

With a gentle crinkle of a smile, it gave a gentle nod- and whispered, Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth onto life, and few there be that find it.

March 2014, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Symmetry.”