Review: Ernest et Célestine

ImageIt shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that I would love this movie. Just one look at the poster — and a little bit of knowledge of who I am and what things I like. I love teddy bears, Ernest is a bear. I was born in the year of the rat and have always had special affection for cute rodents, Célestine is a mouse. Add to that mix dreamy watercolor-y drawings, a great soundtrack, and a story based on a well-loved (apparently) children’s book series, and you have the perfect chill-out, relaxing Friday afternoon (as I don’t work on Friday’s) movie.

I must say I had some reservations about the plot, mainly because Ernest and Célestine both help each other out in committing crimes and becoming great fugitives. On a deeper look, however, both of them committed these crimes because of the pressure of a society that was generally corrupt and against a family that were doing business in a pretty nasty way, though not that obvious. 

In any case the movie was mainly about true friendship against all odds. It also spoke about prejudice and labeling — a common “crime” of society. There were also themes of peer pressure, gender inequality and misuse of authority.

All in all, as I said before, loved the movie!

Review: More Than a Bucket List

I can’t remember when it was that I first came across the term “bucket list” — a list of things you’d like to do before you die (i.e. “kick the bucket”). I do know that I’ve gone through periods of mild obsession over creating my own bucket list ever since. I would spend hours and even days going through websites looking for ideas and tools to make my bucket list as awesome and yet as practical as possible. Believe it or not there are a lot of websites that help you do just that. One of my favorites is dayzeroproject. Another one is 43things.

I have not yet managed to finish my bucket list (in fact, you can find it on my links above, I like to call it life list, because of reasons!), and I don’t think I ever will. There’s just too many awesome things to do in this life. Okay, okay, enough rambling about the bucket list and on to the book. Perhaps somewhat obvious, my obsession on bucket lists is what made me choose this book for review:


And it did not disappoint!

The book isn’t your traditional “here’s a list of things you could put in your bucket list” kind of thing, although it is meant to inspire you to take some ideas and put it in your list too. The ideas come in such a big variety that surely there will be SOMETHING in it that would make you go “I’d love to do that!”

I also loved that the ideas came in different formats, sometimes they are in a list, sometimes the idea is on the title and there’s an explanation along with a “Real Life Challenge” below it, and sometimes there’s an idea followed by a quotation or bible excerpt. Being a Christian publication, most of the ideas are in fact faith related, a feature you don’t generally find when you do a Google search on bucket lists.

The book was fun to read and I’m looking forward to going through it yet again, this time with a notebook in my other hand, adding stuff to my own bucket list!

Review: Postcards from the Zoo

I knew I had to watch at least one movie from the array of movies being offered as part of the Black Movie movie festival here in Geneva, if only to finally experience what it’s like to go to a movie festival. Coincidentally, one of the movies they are screening is a movie from an Indonesian filmmaker, shot at the Ragunan zoo, the zoo that’s so close to my house that I sometimes consider it my backyard!

Despite my reservations about Indonesian movies (they generally lack good plot, good dialog and good acting, and have a tendency to be quite cheesy, although I’ve heard that some of them have gotten better lately), I decided that watching an Indonesian movie while in Switzerland would be well worth it. And so on Saturday night, I ended up at the Spoutnik cinema, sitting on one of their sofas (on a side note, I love the cinema for its quirkiness), watching “Postcards from the Zoo“.


It didn’t take long for me to realize that this movie was going to fulfill my (negative) expectations. Yes, it was a confusing story (read: lacked a good plot), the dialog was rough and annoying (lacked good dialogs), and the acting was, uhm… well, stoic (lacked good acting). Yet the more I think about it, the better this movie seems to be, in its own strange way. If anything, the symbolism, juxtaposition and reflection inter weaved in this 95-minute-but-feels-like-forever movie is so intense that most people just miss it.


The story of Postcards from the Zoo centers around the little girl Lana, who we see for the first 10 minutes or so of the movie, wandering around the zoo. She was looking for her father, who apparently has left her behind. My mom did that once to my aunt’s pet monkey that kept messing up our kitchen. She caught the monkey and released it in the zoo. Little Lana thus is like an animal, presumably unwanted, brought to a new habitat. It’s interesting how little Lana doesn’t seem to be sad nor scared about this. She calls out for her father for a while, but then decided that that was enough effort and just went on exploring, somewhat playfully, observing her surroundings. The last scene we see little Lana, she’s watching a little tiger playing with his caretaker. Next scene, Lana walks into the tigers cage and tells a story to get the tiger to eat. Both have grown up, yet both still very much a child at heart: the tiger sulking, not wanting to eat, and later playing with a ball while being bathed. Further into the movie, we will see Lana getting into the children rides, dreaming away, further implying her childish innocence.

Cut to almost the end of the movie, when Lana ends up as a masseuse/prostitute. Here we get strange video cuts of scenes at the club where Lana is serving a customer followed by scenes of the zoo, more importantly scenes of children at the zoo, and Lana looming around the screen in scenes that makes you think of Where’s Waldo. With each repetition, her existence becomes more and more vague. Here, her childhood innocence has been lost and she becomes less and less significant as a person.

Now that I think about it, does the cowboy/magician, this strange character that makes the movie even stranger, also convey the same message of childhood innocence? After all, who didn’t dream of cowboys and who wasn’t fascinated by magicians? And then of course, Lana’s “dark” life began when the cowboy/magician disappeared on her. Or maybe he was never real? However, when you lose your childhood dreams and your eyes of wonder… you become stuck in a bleak world. The movie isn’t depressing though, in the end we see Lana escaping the “bleak world” in the smiling cow car (just another strange thing), going back to the magician’s lair where she finds a magic dress and then finally, in a princess like dress, manages to touch the giraffe’s belly, the one thing she has always wanted to do. So you can escape, you can reach your dreams, you just have to take action and never forget that you had them.

postcards from the zoo 01

Speaking of the giraffe, here’s a creature that shows up A LOT in the movie, either in person or being talked about. The underlying question here is of course: why? Well, let’s see… why don’t we start with what we know about the giraffe, as mentioned in the movie. First of all, this giraffe is the ONLY giraffe in the zoo, in fact the only one in Jakarta. It is alone, just like Lana (who by the way is the only female in the array of people working in the zoo). The giraffe is quite often described as being strong and powerful despite it’s feeble and soft appearance. Just like Lana?

The workers at the zoo say that the giraffe likes to step out of its cage at night and explore the zoo on its own. Adventurous. Wanting to see what else is out there. When Lana finally decides to go out of the zoo (following the magician who might or might not be real), the camera cuts to the giraffe in the zoo, yet in a place that doesn’t really look like its usual place. Hmm… maybe the stories are true? In any case, Lana and the giraffe are both out of their habitat.

It seems to me the more I write about this movie, the more connections I seem to see and realize. Like the fact that little Lana touched the belly of a giraffe statue, and grown up Lana’s dream is to touch a real giraffe’s belly. Childhood dreams vs. reality? And going back to the strange cowboy/magician, what if he was in fact imaginary, simply a fragment of Lana’s imagination as she ponders having to leave the zoo (he shows up out of nowhere after the zoo official announced that people who are not official employees will no longer be allowed to stay in the compounds). This would explain his mysteriousness, as well as the scene where Lana cuts in front of him and repeats a set of dialog the cowboy once had before, just a few moments before the scene where the cowboy disappears. Perhaps this shows that Lana took ownership again, confident with her new life outside of the zoo, thus eliminating the need of the magic protector.

Or maybe the fact is that it was just a bad movie and I’m trying to salvage it by adding all sorts of meaning, connecting dots and reading signs that aren’t actually intended to be. In any case the movie does leave you in a dreamy state of mind, and would make an excellent relaxation video if you decide to just let it run in the background without paying too much attention to it.

Review: Stained Glass Hearts

Here’s a little not-so-secret fact about me. I love stained glass windows. I think they are extremely pretty. The awesome part about them, though, is that they are made of pieces of glass put together. Pieces. Broken pieces. Made into beautiful art. This is the premise of this book:

Stained Glass Hearts

Isn’t that how we are? Broken? Sharp edges? In need of repair? Longing to be, yet frightened of being seen in the light?

This is the reason why I picked this book up (a while ago). I felt broken and I was longing to be whole again. I didn’t read through it until recently because the introduction was all that I needed. It made me realize that a broken heart can never be whole again, but God is a stained glass artist and a stained glass heart is in fact so much more beautiful!

This book is full of other people’s experiences, the writers as well as her friends and families. I don’t usually like reading books like that because despite identifying with the feelings, I tend to believe that every person experiences things differently, and sometimes when I these stories and people “miraculously overcome” their struggles I’m like err, yeah, no. Not happening in my life and your sweet life made me puke a little.

But Stained Glass Hearts comes with special features: artworks, poetry, further reading, scripture bits, all there for further contemplation. Your own contemplation. And I love it.

Because just like there’s no two stained glass art that are the same, our stained glass hearts are different as well.

Review: Amour, Jagten and Beasts of the Southern Wild

What do these three movies have in common? I saw them all at independent cinemas over the weekend, and they all make you think and reflect on life, love, and social justice issues.

I started Saturday afternoon with Amour. My main reason was its nomination for the Academy Awards’ Best Motion Picture of the Year despite it being a Foreign movie. I didn’t find out until later that it had already won several awards, including the Palme d’Or of Cannes Film Festival. Truth be told, about twenty minutes into the movie I was shifting around in my seat, despising it. I guess drama isn’t exactly my kind of movie, and the slow-paced silent moments (apparently the director’s signature) were driving me insane. I sat through it though, and it took me quite some time afterwards to shake the solemn bubble away, a bubble that was there because for two and a half hours I had been witnessing the lives of two very strong individuals slowly fading away with age as their world becomes confined to the walls of their apartment. This “love” isn’t a glittery fairy tale, but despite many depressing elements of it (and some rich symbolism), in the end you realize that it was a beautiful story of a very deep commitment.


The movie highlights questions of aging, parent-child relationship especially after the child becomes an adult as well, achieving your dreams versus helping others achieve theirs, what it means to live a fulfilling life and also the question of euthanasia, still relevant albeit not having been discussed as much in the last few years.


The second movie, Jagten or “The Hunt” was recommended to me during a training on preventing child abuse, and rightly so as the movie deals with the life of a man wrongfully accused of child molestation. Yes, welcome to yet another somber movie, and one that lowers your faith in humanity drastically. Issues of social dynamics and social perception dominates, with an undertone of teaching and parenting problems as well as a glimpse into children’s minds. The Guardian talks all about the children issues highlighted by this movie in their review. By the way, I think the little girl who plays Klara should be nominated for some sort of award! She’s so good it’s really scary!

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Speaking of children actresses, the third movie I saw, Beasts of the Southern Wild basically owes all its praises to little Quvenzhané Wallis (who is the youngest nominee for Oscar’s Best Actress ever — and I actually kinda hope she wins, although maybe it would be nice to give it to the oldest nominee ever, Emanuelle Riva, who did quite an awesome job in Amour… considering that Quvenzhané probably has a lifetime of awards ahead of her). Well, her and a story that weaves issues of indigenous people, global warming and its impact on nature, human suffering, parenting against all odds, as well as a wonderful, poetic understanding of the universe and how we all fit into the bigger picture into a movie that makes you cry, smile, dream and think.

Because The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece… the whole universe will get busted. (Quote from Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild).

Thank you God, for… (October 2012)

Here’s something I’m planning to do regularly… every end of the month/beginning of a new month, I look back at the past month and list down the things I am grateful about.

And here’s my list for October 2012:

  • My trip to Paris (16-20 October) — and all the elements that it comprised of, the lovely host and place to stay I found on airbnb, Paris Visite card and Paris Museum Pass, Disneyland with those moments when I didn’t even have to stand in line, magical moments of reflections, and the world’s best macarons (hint: they’re not Ladurée’s!!)
  • My new place to stay — the amazing way things worked out in such a short amount of time, random elements I just adore about it (like the rooftop window and the star I can see from my bed, the picture on the wall and the swing in the backyard), the fact that it’s still close to work and even closer to the bus stop than before, and the wonderful friend who helped me move my stuff 🙂
  • The friend who helped me move my stuff — for other moments shared with him as well, because they’re great moments.
  • Our Halloween party — cause it was my first dressing up for Halloween and it was loads of fun!
  • Friends, old and new — for the smiles and the tears, the hugs and the lessons learned. Got to spend time with friends who’ve been away and/or haven’t seen in a while, and/or had contact with friends not in Geneva, and then there are those who are here and always ready for a hug or spending time together. Also, a special mention for Aggy who keeps me sane by the sometimes insane chats we would have.
  • Babies! — cause I got to meet a friend’s little baby, and also got to play with a cute little baby on the train once.
  • The Chocolate Train — another trip I’ve been wanting to do that finally materialized.
  • Baking — made some of my best cakes ever early this month 😉
  • Serendipity — like the lovely day I spent in Vevey without it being planned!
  • Holy Cow! — the burger restaurant. Because it’s so awesome it deserves an honorable mention.
  • Getting a side job — was lots of fun and a great learning opportunity. Still waiting for the payment though, lol… that would actually be really nice to receive.
  • My new blog <3
  • Some new fashion items — in particular my Naf Naf boots and the striped t-shirt. Oh, and the lovely little white dress!
  • Extra opportunities to serve — like writing minutes for the meeting, finally going to choir rehearsal regularly, singing with the youth group, planning the retreat, and more.
  • Snow! — in October, it’s über special!
  • 8tracks — best music website ever. And all the songs I got to know because of it.
  • Health — because I was sick twice this month! It’s funny how you have to lose something in order to appreciate having it.

for God all things are possible!

One line in today’s lectionary echoes loudly to me: “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27b) — The reason being that I have just witness (again!) how God made things possible in my own life.

The story goes… my contract for the apartment I was staying in is ending on the 15th of October. On the 1st, I e-mailed the person responsible to ask if an extension might be possible. I never heard back from her. On the 8th, I got an appointment set-up for the compulsory checking of the apartment on the 15th. So I panicked and e-mailed again. The reply was “we’ll have to see…” now mind you this is Geneva and it is SUPER hard to find nice affordable accommodation. I started browsing ads that afternoon, just checking out my options, so to say.

Tuesday morning as I woke up, I felt like I had to go on glocals (the website I was checking out), so I did. There was a fairly new ad on the classifieds about a room in a villa in the area where my apartment was. I decided there’s no harm in sending out a message and did so. A few hours later, I got a reply from the girl who put up the ad and got an appointment to see the place on Thursday.

Now mind you, the way these things go if you don’t really know is that even if you had an appointment and you really love the place and are willing to pay, the owner/landlord/landlady/regie/whatever still has the last say of whether you get the place or not. After all, there might be a dozen people lining up for the place. So, usually, you have to have several options and several appointments and hopefully then be lucky/charming enough to get it. Which is why my friends thought I was insane in only having ONE appointment especially given the urgency of my situation.

Thursday afternoon, I finally got a reply that I could actually keep the apartment until the end of the month, so I was in a bit of a dilemma. However, I finally decided to go ahead and visit the place I was going to visit anyway because who knows what might happen and in any case I need to be sure I have a place for the four months extension (more on that later, I hope).

Arriving at the place, the first thing I noticed was a name on the mailbox. A person I know. Talk about coincidences! I went in and met with the lady of the house and she showed me around. I did like the room to begin with based on the photos and while the other conditions are not as cool as having you own apartment I thought it was doable. So, now I just need to convince her to take me.

She asked me to sit down and asked where I work. When I told her, she immediately lightened up. Her husband apparently used to work for the WCC! Now that’s another “coincidence”! As the conversation continues, she basically informed me that the room is mine should I decide to take it and that it’s up to me when I want to move in, etc. and so just like that, I got a new place to stay.

I started moving yesterday with the help of a good friend and spent my first night. Today, I was cleaning my apartment to make it presentable for the checking on Monday, and as I was doing that and got super tired I thought “I want to go home!” — and that should tell you how much I like my new place already.

I am still amazed when I look at the timeline how quickly all this happened, and of course having heard stories of so many problems in trying to find a place to stay in Geneva, I can only say that it is indeed God who makes all things possible.

not all those who wander are lost…

they might just be stuck in a city they didn’t plan on visiting! Well, in my case for today, anyway.

Here’s what happened. I had my heart set on doing what one of my friends called “crazy” and another “badass” — I wanted (despite being only half-healthy) to take a 6 hour train ride to Lugano, spend at most 4 hours there and then go back on another 6 hour train ride to Geneva. Why, you ask? Well, 1. I wanted to have set foot in a city that is in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, 2. It is a lot cheaper to get a day ticket with the half-price pass I have than to get a return ticket, and 3. my half-price pass is expiring soon so I might as well do it before it expires, right?

So yesterday, I went to buy myself a day pass and this morning at 7:20ish I was at the train station below the airport, sitting comfortably on a train going to Brig. I figured since I had the day pass anyway it didn’t matter which train I take, I’ll just go and find a connection later. So I got all comfortable and read my book and gazed out the window. And the view was mesmerizing as the train stopped at a city called Vevey. Now, I can’t really say why but I suddenly thought about checking my half-price pass for the expiry date — because of course I was being a smart ass and didn’t check it before — next thing the guy sitting opposite me saw was me throwing my wallet back into my backpack going “Oh, sh*t” and running towards the door, jumping out as the train started to move. My half-price pass expired yesterday.

In the next few deep breaths I had to take in order to make my heart beat normally again, I thought: 1. It was strange but thank God there was no ticket check up til now! 2. Ugh, now I’ll have to pay a full price ticket back to Geneva, and 3. Where am I again? Vevey? Oh well, might as well see what this city has to offer. And that’s when I started to wander around.

First thing first, I grabbed myself a cup of cappuccino and a chaussons aux pommes. Not the best one I’ve ever had, but anyway. Since what caught my attention at the first place (on the train) was the view of the lake, I decided to head towards the lakefront. When I saw this, I was perfectly content that I ended up here:

A few meters further down, I noticed a statue of Charlie Chaplin. Apparently, he came to live here in 1953 and stayed until his death in 1977. Interesting, indeed!

I then turned my back and saw the fork!

Apparently as iconic to the lakeside of Vevey as the Jet d’Eau is to Geneva, the fork was installed to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Alimentarium museum, a museum about food and food processing started by Nestlé. The company was actually started in Vevey, BTW. Another important thing about Vevey in the history of the world that I didn’t know before! I didn’t go to the museum, however, since it was a bit on the expensive side. Instead, I continued to wander. Here are a few of my interesting findings.

A visual art project

(side note: There was this big visual art across the city “exhibition” that lasted until the end of September. Kinda sad I missed it, but glad I got to see some displays that were still left behind!)

From the same project, when I saw this I thought of Isaiah — you know, the misquoted “and the lamb shall lie with the lion…”
A massively blown-up image of the Chinese guy who does “camouflage” — there were a couple of them all around the city
I dare say, I agree!
This was really small, just on top of the mural in the previous photo
An Orthodox church
A flower arrangement in front of someone’s door… I wonder if it was an offering like they do in Bali
Saturday was market day too! ^^

I also went into some shops and got pretty cute postcards and went to the history museum (there was a special exhibition on Madame de Warens, Rousseau’s patron, who was born in Vevey) and the Photography museum (did you know that the first ever photograph is French??) and had a fresh panini at the park, looking out to the lake.

At this point I’ve gotten a bit tired and decided to make a move back to Geneva. Somehow I finally decided to ask at the counter if it was possible for me to renew my half-pass card there. Surprise, surprise, it was! Come to think of it I should’ve asked at the beginning of the day and I could’ve made it to Lugano! DUH. But I guess it was nevertheless worth it.

Since my day pass is now valid again, I decided to make a pit stop at Montreux, just because… and got this awesome photo that just describes the day very well. Courtesy of Freddie Mercury, of course…


Meditating on Silence

Take some time to be silent…

Quite often it is hard for us to keep silent
as the world around us keeps busy
and noisy

We try, but after a short while we become restless
we wonder what will happen next
when will the silence end?
We feel uncomfortable with the silence

During the day, we go from one conversation to another
sometimes with other people
or with the TV
sometimes we have conversations with ourselves
shouting in our heads
or with the music we blast out our pocket MP3 players

We forget that in surrounding ourselves with so much noise
we fail to listen to voices that can only be heard in the silence

The silent cry of the oppressed
the plea of a friend hurting deep down inside
the small voice inside our hearts
our body’s request to slow down
and even the whisper
of God

Close your eyes as you re-enter the silence

This silence is a time of rest
it is our Sabbath before we go back to all the things we need to do today

In this silence our soul remembers
the graciousness of God
the blessings we have received

This silence is a safe and peaceful place

Give yourself permission to relax
the world and its troubles can wait as you stop to breathe

Let the silence heal you as you stretch your hand
and surrender your cares to the one who has saved you

And as you open your eyes
let the love of God flow through you
that you may share that love with others as you go forth to your day
as you listen
let the God of life lead us in the way of justice and peace

(as delivered at the Ecumenical Center chapel, 04.10.12, some references in the text taken from the readings and songs that were part of the order of worship)

not I, but God

We were having dinner last night and got to talking about teaching the kids at Church School and the various experiences I’ve encountered. At some point, a friend who was sitting next to me said: “wow, it must be really hard… I mean, you need to be able to think on your feet!” and I was like… “true!”

The prime example happened that very morning when one of the kids in class, a little boy barely 3 years old, determinedly informed me that he has found something really interesting that I need to see and returns from the other room with a big globe in his hand, telling me (still with extreme determination while shoving the globe to my hands): “This is what I’ve been telling you about. Take it!” And that is how I had to rebuild my lesson plan for the day in roughly 10 seconds.

Of course I could’ve chosen to ignore him, let his dad (who was standing a few meters behind me anyway) grab the globe off him, or to simply say “that’s wonderful, now let’s get back to our lesson today!” except that if I chose to do that, I would’ve lost this kid’s trust and attention, along with everyone else’s attention as the globe being shoved to me has pretty much captivated everyone. Some little side lesson for people working with children — 1. a big ball always spells f-u-n, and 2. when you have gotten everybody to focus on one thing, use that thing to move forward instead of trying to distract them from it and getting them to focus on something else.

So I had no choice but to take the globe in my hand. “Thank you,” I said to the little boy who happily ran over to his dad. I had seven kids staring at the globe in my hand. It’s make or break. I noticed a boy who was new and went to ask him, “so where do your parents come from?” this worked because at our very international church, everybody was from a different country. I soon got the kids engaged in trying to find the different countries on the globe, and then started singing “He’s got the whole world” (there’s a side story to that with regards to being gender inclusive but let’s keep it at this for the moment) and linked it to how good God is, taking care of all of us little ones… and then I moved into telling them the story of how God took care of the Israelites — the story of Moses that I was supposed to tell them this week according to our actual curriculum book. I am fairly confident that nobody would’ve guessed that I have just made all those connections right then and there, as I was speaking them.

The question is… how did I do THAT? No doubt experience has some parts to play in it — after all, I’ve been doing this since I was 14 — but there was no way I could’ve done it on my own. No, no, no… I don’t care what arguments you give about how the brain when properly stimulated is capable of great creativity etc., there was no way that on my own I could’ve chosen the right words to be able to link one part to the other without pausing. And it’s not just this Sunday morning that this happened. There have been more examples, it happens quite a lot: words flow and making logical sense and connection as I speak them despite it being impromptu. One of my favourite moment was when I was preaching, holding my complete sermon in hand and yet as I spoke new ideas came up and were miraculously woven into my sentences. I had diverted from my notes but it actually made a better sermon!

My answer as to how things like this are possible is this verse from Luke 12:12, taken a little bit out of context (although I could make a good case of how having to teach a bunch of hyperactive kids or to preach to at least 600 congregants on a Sunday morning is almost like being brought to trial in the synagogues and before rulers and authorities — see Luke 12:11) and yet making perfect sense:

For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said (NLT).

When these little “miracles” happen, I am reminded that it is indeed not I who am speaking to these kids or to the congregation, but God.