Wednesday, February 24, 2016

It took us 8 years: 1+1 = 3!

 Today it's our wedding anniversary.  This photo was taken on our wedding day on Feb 24, 2008.

You have to say, us hippos are slow-moving creatures.  It took us almost eight years for this to happen--the picture was taken on Feb 12, 2016, when our baby Hippo was 1.5 days old. 

So many things happened in the eight years, I don't know where to start.  But when comparing the two pictures, the most obvious change was how puffy Mummy Hippo's paw had become!  That gives you a hint of how nicely-rounded she is today :).  But, to her justice, that was more due to 2.5 days of IV injections rather than her actual weight gain!

(OK, I digressed a bit).

Eight years down, a new adventure begins, this time with a new member of the family! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sad, sadder, and the saddest: The Holocaust History Museum, Jerusalem

I didn't visit the Holocaust History Museum during my first two trips to Israel.  Being an optimistic and happy-go-lucky creature in general, I chose to see and experience the happy side of the country and the Jewish culture/history first.  But the taste of war during my third trip gave me a sense of what people have to live through today, and a visit to the Museum was a reality check for what people had to suffer in the history, possibly the darkest part of human history. 

The Museum is a sad place to be, even before I started reading and learning anything.  The interior of museum complex, designed by Moshe Safdie, conveys a feeling of struggling to me.  The entire structure is made of concrete, and apart from the ceiling light in the main corridor (picture above), there is no single window in any exhibit room as far as I remember.  Also, both sides of the wall are tilted, pressing against you, even when you trying to bath in the only source of light in the corridor (picture above).  Some of the design is functional, as the exhibit rooms need to be dark for the purpose of multimedia presentations, more likely though, the architect tries to represent the gloomy and breathless feeling for the hundreds and thousands of Jewish people who suffered in the World War II.

There are plenty of sad texts and numbers to learn about the Holocaust, but for me the sadder part was the story-telling.  Almost in each of the exhibit room, there is a TV playing a survivor telling his or her story.  Almost each of the story made me feel like crying or shouting out loud angrily, "What was wrong--How could any human being treat a fellow human being like that?!"  One of the stories, for example, was a 13-year-old boy watching the Torah that he read during his Bar Mitzvah torn apart and burned down in front of him...Being in such a Torah-reading ceremony recently and witnessing how people treasure and worship the Torah, I cannot imagine anything worse happened to that boy. Physical suffering is one thing, but the collapse of belief is a whole different matter. 

The saddest of all though, was the last exhibit room, called Hall of Names.  The ceiling of the room features a gigantic cone displaying hundreds of photos.  Before getting over the fact that all those children, women and men lost their lives in the Holocaust, I saw the wall of the room full of bookshelves, then there were files after files on each shelf.  It turns out each of 2.6 million, and so far ONLY the 2.6 million has got a page of his/her profile on record, and this Hall of Names have room for six million in total...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A taste of war

We visited Mr Hippo's family in Israel recently, in middle of the latest war of the Israel-Gaza conflict. I had never been so close to a war before this trip and experienced the first air-raid siren (and the two following ones in the next two days) in my life.

This was my third time in Israel and everything seemed to be just fine before this trip, even though I learned that security systems in the Tel Aviv airport, where we flew in and out of the country, are much tougher than other parts of the world.  They start to check everybody out even before you enter the airport, and at least two officers will come to talk to you before you reach your airline's ticket counter.  After each round of conversation, they will put some stickers on your suitcase, and as a result, you will have a lot more of those after leaving from Israel.  I  had seven on mine during my first trip there, if I remember correctly.  It wasn't they thought me/my suitcase suspicious or anything.  Nothing personal, it is just their business as usual.  As my brother-in-law said, "Security is a national hobby."

I have a better understanding of this line during this trip.  Every new apartment is required to have a "shelter room," and when the air-raid siren blasted in the air, we dropped everything, rushing into this shelter room and waited until the siren stopped.  The same is for any public space.  The picture above shows a sign in the Tel Aviv airport, directing people to the shelter, and I took the picture in the morning we left Israel.

When it first happened, I was pretty much dragged into the shelter room before I realized what was happening, and then I heard clearly about the siren.  It was like a sudden entry of some surreal movie, and I didn't feel being scared or worried at all before we had our freedom again.  The siren blasted twice in the next two days, and by the third time I reacted quickly without anybody telling me what to do and we also heard loud noise of bombing from Israeli army intercepting Hamas' rockets nearby...Still, children played in and outside the shelter room, during and after the siren periods.  The family were together, and Mr Hippo was beside me, so I didn't feel much either.

My numb feeling finally disappeared when our plane landed in Barcelona, the next stop of our trip.  It was more of a relief than anything else--We successfully escaped the war! 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Istanbul: A condensed journey

Mr Hippo and I went to Istanbul for a conference, and we only had three days to tour around before and after the conference.  It was a intensive and condensed journey in every perspective.  

As a trans-continental city, Istanbul condenses the distance between Asia and Europe. For us (poor) Australians, we have to fly hours to reach other continents.  Yet here in Istanbul, Asian and Europe are pretty much just two neighborhoods separated by the Bosphorus.  The other continent is just a bridge/train ride away, and the first time we took the train, we were in a different continent before I even realized it.  The picture above shows one of the two existing suspension bridges cross the river, the Bosporus Bridge.  I took the picture during our Bosphorus cruise. 

Apart from condensing distance in space, Istanbul also offers a condensed view of history.  Residents with different culture and religion have left their own signatures in all forms.  The picture above shows Christian and Islamic art pieces in Hagia Sophia, which served as a Cathedral and then a mosque in the history.  When Ottoman rulers coverted Hagia Sophia into a mosque in 1400s, they actually plastered over the mosaics of Jesus and Mary.  The art piece only started to come back to life after  1935, when the Republic of Turkey re-opened Hagia Sophia as a museum.

My favorite form of art though is Turkish lamps.  Before coming to Istanbul, I don't remember seeing many lamps with more than three colors, but three becomes a minimum requirement here. 13 is more like an average number. Each lamp is pretty much a shiny and condensed color wheel with different designs and patterns (the picture above shows a collection of them in a specialty store in Grand Bazaar).  I would have bought a couple just for their warmth in cold Canberra winter, if we didn't have to travel to another two countries before heading home.

My least favorite form of condensed thingy encountered in Istanbul was Baklava, a Turkish pastry dessert.  I had tasted it in other parts of the world (the first time was in a kebab shop in the Jewish quarter of Boston?) and never like it, but I thought I should give myself another chance as it is more authentic here.  Luckily I just nibbled.  As I remembered before, it is SO sweet to the point that, if a bee tastes it, he will be shamed about how bland honey is by comparison!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Waking up from my long hibernation

I haven't written a blog for quite a long time, 10 months, almost. Ever since we came back from our exciting safari trip last July (which I haven't blogged about either), I have been in a fairly lazy mood.  Not I am lying in bed doing nothing for all this time, I did go to work, garden, feed Mr Hippo and all that.  But, I was lack of the energy to engage in non-critical but creative activities such as wring a blog post.

Call it a long hibernation or mid-life crisis.  Whatever the name is, it is not a very satisfactory mode.  I did enjoy taking the break, or a mid-life recreation (as termed in the cartoon) but as those who feel tired after a very long night of sleep tells you: Too much rest makes you feel restless.

Many things triggered me into this mode: Some family drama and its ripple effect last year, fatigue from the exciting trip (I need a vacation after the vacation!), too much international traveling (4 last year), and most likely, hectic tasks at work...I span from fire-fighting activity 1 to activity 2, urgency was my first and foremost criterion of investing my time and energy.  In between the activities, I dropped and didn't think much about and act on those things that were important.  I read novels but didn't write much of my diaries.  I consumed but didn't create enough.  I was in a busy-lazy mode, if you know what I meant.

I think I am finally pulling myself out of this mode, at last.  Still yawning, but at least I am stepping out of my cave/burrows (do hippos live in any??) finally...Time to think, act and be creative again!!

Confidence: the stuff that truns thoughts into action

One friend of mine recently talked about how she suddenly realized she had been lack of confidence, after a senior colleague, also female,  pointed it out to her.  In my friend's proposal, she used the words like "I was lucky to..." as if she didn't deserve all her achievements.

I, too, have the same issue, probably even more so because of my cultural background.  In China, we were taught to be modest and contribute to our accomplishment to some collective efforts (集体的荣誉)....  

To some degree it is soothing to know that this issue of lack of confidence is almost universal for women, not only me and my girl friend.  This recent article in the Atlantic claims research after research shows the same result.

What is the solution then? The article doesn't really offer much but it does point out "The natural result of low confidence is inaction.  when women hesitate because we aren't sure, we hold ourselves back..."

So, stop thinking too much and just ACT!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Prepare for the 1st election in life

My 1st election in life is coming up!  I'm a citizen now and Australia has the system of forced compulsory voting, so I will be casting my votes in the coming Federal election on Sept 7

Mr Hippo sent me the link to this Vote Compass on ABC's website, which is a great tool in mapping my position relative to that of the three Party.  Here is my overall result:

The tool also shows my positions on each of election issues (Health and Climate change etc) relative to those of the parties. 

I just practiced voting as well with the help of Mr Hippo, so I am almost ready to go!