November 28, 2007

AWC Christmas At Chatsworth

AWC organised a trip to Chatsworth, home to the 12th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The home and grounds were spectacular, even on this somewhat bleak day.

The highlight of visiting Chatsworth House at this time is that it is decorated for Christmas. It is one of the warmest feeling stately homes I have ever visited.

My visit was proceding normally - beautiful chapel with nativity scene.

Gorgeous dining room table set for the holidays with spectacular ceiling.

But a surprise! Decorating ancient Roman statues like this is the kind of prank for which I would have gotten into big trouble (But I swear, this was NOT my doing).

After visiting the home, I took a stroll around the beautiful grounds to admire the statues, out-buildings, fountain, cemetary, and countryside. After tea and scones, it was time for our 3 hour bus / train / tube trip home.

November 20, 2007

Singapore Sling and Zoo

One thing everyone "must" do is drink a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel. Here is a picture of my 20 Singapore Dollar (~$12.50) Singapore Sling at a more comfortable table NEAR the Long Bar. It was a pleasant enough drink but my next order was a white wine. We did consume an incredible number of peanuts.
We were not able to find an evening to go on a "Night Safari" but we did the next best thing - an afternoon at the Singapore Zoo. Our first destination was to see the "white tigers" and this exhibit had 3, one of which was wading back and forth in the water (the other 2 were pacing on land). All white tigers today descend from Mohan, who was captured as a cub in 1951 by Maharaja Shri Martand Singh of Rewa. After siring many cubs, Mohan died in 1970 and was laid to rest with Hindu rites and official mourning. The Maharaja of Rewa eventually turned Mohan's native forest into the Bandhavgarh National Park.

We enjoyed other animals we saw - molting polar bear, pygmy hippo, maned wolf, otter, false gavial, hamadryas baboon, white handed gibbon, cassowary, etc. The marine mammal show (starring a manatee and small penguins - no Shamu) got rained out by a sudden downpour. We ate an Indian lunch that was actually quite good, especially for a theme park.

We spent one business dinner at Il Lido at the Sentosa Golf Club. Sentosa is an island you can reach by car (our entrance fee was waived because we were going for dinner), Sentosa Express (monorail) or cable car. I would like to return someday during the day but instead had to "settle" for a delicious dinner in a top Italian restaurant with ultramodern decor overlooking the Singapore Straits at night.

November 19, 2007

Bintan Lagoon Resort (Indonesia)

The Bintan Resorts area is separated from most of the rest of Bintan (island in Indonesia) and is considered to be almost an extension of Singapore. We took Bintan Resort Ferries from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (Singapore) to Bandar Bentan Telani (Indonesia). As the Bintan side ferry Port Manager (who happened to be sitting next to Kris) explained, the trip used to take 45 minutes but now requires an additional 15 minutes so the ferry does not get too close to the new American base. We got our Indonesia "Visa on Arrival" (fortunately Kris had thought to bring US dollars), were picked up by the Bintan Lagoon Resorts shuttle and taken to our hotel. The whole process was highly efficient.

I was very pleased with our sea-facing suite (2 balconies, 2 TVs, huge bath) and views.

We swam in both the ocean and pool.

We enjoyed a massage in the beach-side massage huts. The kitten hunting on the roof was precious, but we did not want to think too hard about WHAT he was hunting!

We could only admire the villas & golfers from a distance.

November 08, 2007

KCWC Rebecca Stephens MBE

I am glad this talk went well because I had recommended this speaker to Cindy Maceda who is responsible for all monthly programs for KCWC. I met Rebecca's mother Jane when she was leading a hike for the Seven Oaks Ramblers. Others on the hike told me Jane's daughter was the first British woman to climb Mt. Everest. I did some research and learned that Jane's daughter Rebecca was also the first British woman to climb the "Seven Summits" which is a list of the highest peak in each of the seven continents.

There are two lists of Seven Summits and Rebecca climbed the more challenging Messner list which includes the Carstensz Pyramid (Australia / New Guinea). The Bass List included Kosciuszko which Rebecca said could be done in an afternoon after a Sunday Roast.

Messner List by Continent, Summit, Height in Metres
1) Africa: Kilimanjaro 5,895m
2) Antarctica: Vinson Massif 4,892m
3) Australia-New Guinea: Carstensz Pyramid 4,884m
4) Asia: Everest 8,848m
5) Europe: Elbrus (NOT Mt. Blanc) 5,642m
6) North America: Mount McKinley (Denali) 6,194m
7) South America: Aconcagua 6,962m

As someone who really appreciates physical comfort and is a fairweather hiker, I realized soon into Rebecca's talk that climbing the Seven Summits was not for me (although a feisty Junko Tabei from Japan completed her 7th Summit shortly before her 55th birthday). On one of the summits (not Everest), Rebecca took her hands out of her gloves for seconds and watched frostbite start to form immediately. Once her group had to dig a snowcave and stay there for 8 days - imagine the (lack of) hygiene. She said many Everest climbers die because they simply "went too high" - no accident - you can barely breathe and your food doesn't digest at high altitudes. On one of the summits, her (male) partner who was essential because of his technical climbing expertise started to say something about "I don't think this mountain is worth dying for". She told him to put on another fleece jacket, eat a biscuit, and keep going. They got to the summit soon after. This is not me in this life!

Although physical endurance is certainly required, Rebecca said "Drive" is the most important success factor in climbing the Seven Summits or any other pursuit for that matter. Rebecca's current business as a Motivational Speaker and Leadership Coach for Seven Summits Performance Ltd is based on applying the lessons she learned while mountaineering to life.

November 07, 2007

KCWC Coffee Cup Reading by Psychic Sahar Huneidi

Susan and Mona hosted an event for us to learn about and experience a coffee cup reading by the Spiritual Intuitive Sahar Huneidi. I drank a cup of Turkish coffee and turned the cup over onto the saucer. I got help from several women who suggested putting a napkin between the saucer and cup so that the coffee grounds would dry and a pattern would form. I was reading number 26 of 28 - I figured Sahar would either be really warmed up or very tired for my reading! I had lots of time to socialize and consume vast quantities of middle eastern sweets while I waited.

My reading itself did not take long but a lot of information was imparted. Sahar would ask a question but before I really had time to answer, she would be on to the next topic. She started her reading (and I verified this with others) with information that only you would know or certainly no one else at the event would know. She then imparted some very specific predictions and a little bit of guidance.

What surprised me was that I received a recording of our conversation by e-mail the next day. I interpreted this as great self-confidence in her own abilities and very technically advanced! I was impressed and hope everything she told me comes to pass.

November 01, 2007

British Museum Late Night & Terracotta Army

Lucrecia and I went to the British Museum on "Late Night" to enjoy the special activities including green tea tasting, Chinese beer tasting, music, and introduction to Mahjong. Imagine our delight when we learned that two tickets to the amazing Terracotta Army exhibit had been returned and we could buy them!

Both of us have seen the rows and rows of Terracotta Warriors in Xian but this exhibit explained so much more. We learned about the life and accomplishments of the First Emperor (259-210 BC) and why he created this army. I was also fascinated about HOW the soldiers and horses were created. Using traces of pigment collected from the warriors, they were able to paint one of the warriors in the original bright colors. I hope the information from this exhibit will also be placed at the actual site in Xian where it will be much appreciated by visitors.

Tate Britain Millais and Hockney on Turner

One of the great things about living in London is being able to easily visit fabulous special exhibits in great museums. Lucrecia and I spent hours enjoying the Tate Britain special (John Everett) Millais exhibition. Some of my favorite paintings had fabulous fabrics. From the Tate website I chose the painting "Mariana" to remind me of amazing blue fabric of the dress - I marvelled at it for quite some time.

After such an exhibit, I always like to do some internet research, especially with Wikipedia. Sometimes, big exhibits have to be careful about what they write and we can find more interesting information from other sources such as wikipedia (which IS a work in progress, so be forewarned).

As one of the founders of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Millais was a protégé of John Ruskin. But they fell out when Ruskin's wife Effie had their marriage annulled (six years of unconsummated marriage) and married Millais. John Ruskin found Effie too "repulsive" but she was apparently satisfactory enough to Millais, as they went on to have 8 children. Helen Barolini's essay "Effie In Venice and the Roman Spring of Margaret Fuller" provided even more insights into Effie during her marriage to Ruskin. But, I digress.

I am a watercolours enthusiast and truly enjoyed the Hockney on (JMW) Turner exhibit. I could have spent much more time at this exhibit but Lucrecia, who finds Turner too "abstract" for her tastes was getting impatient.

As for the Turner Prize exhibit - we just don't "get it".