¿De Dónde Eres? ¡Singapur! – So I Sotong My Way Through Yet Another Spanish Class

Towards the end of the lesson, as Cynthia was conversing with our teacher Anna in Spanish on the topic of countries and nationalities in a convincing fluency, I was looking at the world map so nicely drawn on my Spanish book and couldn’t help but to imagine a game of RISK with my dwindling troops scattered at four corners of the world.  Soon, in this lost battle of I against me, all I heard was a foreign language that I was clueless about.  As though I was warped into another planet, lost in another reality.

But wait, weren’t Cynthia and I at the same class with supposedly the same progress?

OK.  It was not all hard work.  I like the part about Spanish culture that Anna took some time and shared with us some of the basic demography of España: the ancient Celtric tribes that settled at the north (Galicia), the capital city Barcelona of an autonomous community (Galicia) that borders with France, and the south of Spain (Andalusia) that is just a good swim away from Morocco.  Anna asked us what else we wished to know besides the different peoples in Spain, the Flamenco dance (that is well known as a Spanish dance but in fact only popular in Andalusia at the south), and the 9am to 1pm / 4pm to 8pm working hours (siesta in between), my immediate response was: food.

That got everybody in the classroom feeling hungry, including Anna.  Not my fault!  It was an innocent question!

The hard part was learning the list of countries, nationalities, and the masculino and femenio forms for the males and females.  For example, Spain is España, a Spanish man is Español, and a Spanish woman is Española.  In plural form, we have Españols and Españolas.  The rules that change the nationalities into the two forms are not that hard; the way a nationality is spelled out is.  Some countries are totally unrecognizable.  Who would have thought that the words America and American are Estados Unidos and Estadounidense in Spanish?  I personally wish that the lesson stresses more on the pronunciation of these Spanish words rather than the rigorous exercise of pen-and-paper.

I guess it will take me a long while to memorize and speak what I’ve learned this lesson.  No wonder I spaced out towards the end.  How Cynthia managed to memorize on the spot and speak is totally beyond me.  Perhaps her brain is wired in a different way.


¡Hola! ¿Cómo Te … Erm … What? – Our First Spanish Lesson at Las LiLas School

You didn’t think I was joking when I said Cynthia is going to learn Spanish after Fernando Torres scored the goal that won Spain the UEFA Cup 2008, did you?  So I join her, under one condition.  Stay tuned and you may hear about it in September this year.

To learn Spanish is one of Cynthia’s childhood dreams.  I honestly have no special love for the language, the music, or the food but I do love to fulfill the dreams of others if I can.  Learning a language is absolutely not my strength and it is utterly one of the 10 things I fear most.  I am not exaggerating.

Exactly what I am going to do with this new skill, I have no clue.  However I am a strong believer that whatever you learn today opens up options you may have in the future.  Besides, I have this impression that Spanish is widely spoken in the Americas and I just learned from a Filipino friend of mine that his country was under the Spaniards for 400 years!  If this new experience hasn’t opened up new options for me yet, it has certainly opened up new conversation topics.  Did you know that Spanish is the world’s second most-spoken language by native speakers after Mandarin Chinese?

I told my boss that I have a Wednesday class in town so that any travel plan in the near future can hopefully be scheduled according to my constraint; I told my team that I am learning Spanish so that they know I have a life and won’t expect me to OT on work that never ends.  My boss sounded supportive and he told me that learning a new language is good to give our brain cells a good workout.  Great!  I think my first lesson was more than a workout.  I was exhaustively euphoric.

Anna is an interpreter by day, Spanish teacher by night and she is a fun person full of laughter.  Las LiLas School specializes in teaching Spanish language at various levels and the learning environment is OK.  I wish the classroom could be more colorful.  Having some refreshments inside the room would have been nice.  Next time I shall bring along my bottle of water and some snacks as well.

I guess all good language lessons begin with hi-how-are-you, what’s-your-name, and I’m-so-and-so.  Spanish language seems to have three extra alphabets ll, ch, and ñ, which is pretty funky.  Cynthia’s mother tongue is Bahasa Indonesia – a language with a certain level of Dutch influence – and she didn’t find the i-pronounced-as-e and e-pronounced-as-a confusing.  That alone confuses the heck out of me.  Fortunately, I am trained in pronouncing the tongue rolling ‘R’ sound of the Indonesian and the throat vibrating ‘R’ sound of the French, I am doing OK with the Spanish ‘G’, ‘J’, and ‘R’ that utilize both techniques.  ‘Y’ in Spanish is pronounced as ‘Y Griega’ (literally means letter Y from the Greek).  Some of these alphabets sound almost like a word to me.  When I was asked to spell out my name, I flipped.  The alphabet ‘W’ is pronounced as ‘Uve Doble’.  Although I seem to be able to get the rest of the tough alphabets right, ‘Uve Doble’ is one tough nut for me.  You know the Spanish dance genre Paso Doble?  It is the same ‘Doble’.  Why English calls ‘W’ double-U?  I don’t know.  Spanish calls it double-V.

Ah … all these confusions.  Thanks to the Tower of Babel.

Oops, exceeded 500 word count for this entry.  Stay tuned for more stories on How I Flunk My Spanish Test.

A Proud Owner Of My Curl Bar Set

After acquiring my dumbbell set back in January, I needed something more. There are muscles that cannot be effectively trained by dumbbells. So I consulted my buddy Kwang Fei and he strongly recommended me to get a barbell or a curl bar set. One day he called me up as he was going to get more plates for his curl bar and asked if I was ready to get my own set. On! I said in an impulsive way and simple as that, I got my curl bar set.

Part of the deal was for him to teach me how to utilize this new investment of mine and for me to film him working out in his home. I have made two videos and uploaded them to YouTube for sharing (not director status so I can’t upload anything that is longer than 10 mins). If you are into weightlifting, I hope that these two videos are of value to you.

Weightlifting for Beginners: Part 1 of 2

Weightlifting for Beginners: Part 2 of 2

My 8th Oil Painting – Battle Of The Ancient

One day while I was chatting with one of my favourite friends whom I have worked with a while ago, she suggested to me that I shall paint her. I asked how? And she said however way she has inspired me to paint. She kept referring to the “Dark Side” (in a career sense) and just recently I have talked to one of my buddy who is still happily staying at one of the companies that is definitely not one of my top 10 favorable places to work at. He told me that he is happy inside because he feels that the outside world may not be as nice. All that prompted me to ponder upon how different organizations appeal to different people. At one end, bosses reward people with good performance and on the other end, because bosses rely on how relationship works with the clients and are able to get away with sub-standard performance, they reward those who treasure relationships like themselves too. To me, it is a battle between the two. What better way it is to paint this tension some of us face everyday?

My Canon camera has once again failed me (vowed not to buy another Canon product) and the picture above was taken by my Nokia N80. I have made a video while I was painting and have recorded the process via my camcorder. It is a less than 4 minutes video and I hope you enjoy watching that. Many have asked me how difficult it is to paint oils. And I hope this video says it all. “Battle Of The Ancient” is my first attempt to paint abstract art.

Click here for my oil painting “gallery”.

My 7th Oil Painting – Endless Ironing

Click to view a larger image

Let me show you how my Inspiration Factory works. One fine day I was staring at the big pile of folded clothes awaiting to be ironed. It was more than usual because of our Melbourne trip (note: this blog was written a while back). So I asked Cynthia casually …

Me: (Nodding at the direction of the pile of clothes) How long will it take to iron those?
Cynthia: (Looking at somewhere else doing something else) Usually about 15 minutes.
Me: No, no … I mean those (pointing at the pile)
Cynthia: Oh, that’s a lot. Half an hour I guess.
Me: Just half an hour?!
Cynthia: Ya (continued doing that thing she was doing)
Me: I have an idea …
Cynthia: (Paused what she was doing and thinking) Uh-oh …

And I told Cynthia that I wanted to paint her ironing. Her immediate response was, “Do I need to stand for FOUR HOURS?!” “No, no, no,” I waved my hands in mid-air and reassured her that she just needed to iron the clothes as per normal. All of a sudden, I was bombarded with questions such as “What should I wear?!”, “What if I look fat?!”, “Will it be shown in your blog?”, and etc. I was surprised that she did not ask if she needed to wear make-up (she did ask what to wear). The only person I can think of who does housework wearing make-up is Paris Hilton in her Simple Life. I explained to her that the main focus of the painting is the ironing board. I did not know if she was delighted or disappointed.

To paint this, I have to do all the sketching before the model stepped into the picture. Once the sketching was done, I worked as fast as possible to sketch the model and to start putting colors and shadows. Whenever the model stepped away, I painted the surroundings. Keeping the perspectives of the composition to me was the most challenging part because there were lots of lines. In the end, I think I needed a different kind of brush to draw those straight lines. It was really difficult for me using those that I have.

Click here for my oil painting “gallery”.