Siena. Where one truly feels the simple things in life are best.
(At least when the palio isn’t happening!)
It’s no secret that my memory reel of 2009-2010 has been playing real, real slow. Some of that is busyness, mixed in with a whole lot of laziness—a distracted projectionist, I am—but when it comes to Siena, I think the truth is the film catches.
The story, this story, doesn’t want to be told in words, it wants to be told in feelings.
It wants to be told in silence.
It wants to be told in contented sighs at the pleasure of things that are supposed to be so ordinary: family lunch, back garden, sun above, field of green.
It wants to be told in pause, on a high civic tower, by a music school well, and in motion, climbing steps, passing schools.
It wants to be told in brown roofs and animal fountains, in colourful rooms of jumbo manuscripts in display cases lining the walls, larger-than-life mosaics covering the floors, in flag after flag after flag.
It wants to be informative, include a proper representation of that shell-shaped horse racing space that somehow manages to unbridle a whole city twice a year, uniting and dividing by contrade, forging and destroying relationships.
Yet it wants to be quirky too, include asides to the Mediterranean way with English (“Pisa, it’s so strange! It’s like some aliens came and put those buildings there in the middle of nowhere.”), to the Ape car (italian for “bee,” because it looks like one, and it sounds like one!), and to how up-to-no-goods try to pick up girls moving around in numbers that match their own for no reason but that alone.
It wants to be told in a promising sip of breakfast espresso, the happy sticky feeling of gelato melting down your hand, the comforting bite of home-cooked pasta, unplanned, unpretentious, just to cap off a good day.
And most of all, it wants to be read in three impossibly long shadows, cast by the golden light only found in an April sunset in Italy. Curly hair, blonde hair, dark hair—shadows don’t show things like that. I can’t even tell you who was standing where. But the point is, we were there. And that’s as much about the story as I can really tell you.
Courtesy of Wiktionary.
Learnt this new word tonight, from my best friend. My first reaction, legitimately:
“OMG, there’s a name for me?!”
my friend Iris, over Skype.
I love my friends, because they make me go “?!?!?!” sometimes!
Every once in a while, I take a look at the photographs I have sitting in my hard drive, and overwhelm myself with the amount of photographs I’ve yet to edit and publish and write about. They’re in the thousands! I kid you not! I really need to get on it!
We’ll start with where I left off last: Ipoh. This is the album of photos I took whilst I was there, on a National Day weekend trip with my Mum, aunts, cousin and other church aunties (plus a very precocious 5-year old girl!). I tried to do a little wiki-research before we went, but as usual, I didn’t find it too helpful—despite my year-long Oxford-intensive, I’m still not that great at learning just from text—and went simply knowing that I’d get to see a few pretty colonial buildings, and see a little more of this Southeast Asian region that I call home and yet am still discovering.
I heard the food was delicious, but I wasn’t prepared for just how amazing it was! Our tour guide explained that a major reason for that is the great water quality in the area, Ipoh being a mountain city (well, by Southeast Asian standards, they’re mountains—stop judging, you Nordic folk), so even the bean-sprouts are fat and sweet and quite unlike any other taugeh I’ve had. The local hor fun—flat white noodles—that they make with the same water is also springy and smooth, the main factor behind Ipoh Hor Fun’s fame as a dish abroad. Our pomelos were also delicious, but I wonder if that’s because we were taught how to pick them, and got them at a farm. Then there was the salted/herbal chicken… Oh goodness. This whole post could be about food. But I shall control myself.
I didn’t know how Chinese the city was either, in its culture and population. The migration history of the city revolves around its former stature as a major tin mining area, which drew many Chinese migrants to the area, aside from the usual cohort of British subjects necessary to run a colonial outpost. The Cantonese were especially dominant, it seems, as our tour guide mainly drew parallels between Ipoh’s five-foot way shophouse architecture to that which you would apparently still see in parts of Guangzhou today. It’s hard to tell in Malaysia, really, because most all ethnically Chinese people speak Cantonese, whether they’re Cantonese or not, just because that’s the norm. In any case, Ipoh’s streets were mostly populated by Chinese people while we were there, so much so that it really felt as if we were wandering around in Old Singapore. A qualifier: though Ipoh was historically once an incredibly rich area, because of the tin mining industry, they were somehow passed over for Kuala Lampur when it came to selecting a capital city for Malaysia, so the city now seems less built up and modernized than other parts of the country. The smattering of colonial buildings stand as testament that yes, it once was a darling for development, but that time has passed and faded. From the passionate and disappointed description of our tour guide of not being selected for capital, it seems the Ipoh people never quite got over it.
What better way to readjust to Southeast Asian climate than to be removed from our Singaporean air-conditioned reliance? I haven’t been as sticky and sweaty and dirty in a while, or been in coffee shops as tight and crowded and loud and chaotic, or smushed in vans with the windows pushed wide open to mirror the extent of our heat-driven desperation—but it really all just goes to show that Ipoh still has its riches, since we still had a very enjoyable trip.
Who’s with me on this?
That is all.
My sister’s next Halloween costume, from my closet: a teenage mutant ninja turtle. (Taken with Instagram)
Max takes a cat nap…on Dad. A daily occurrence. (Taken with Instagram)