Monthly Archives: July 2008

My First 4 Weeks in Houston

Time flies, I am in Houston for 4 weeks already.  I have settled into the neighbourhood and the routine nicely.  Really thankful for the blessing, the angels I met along the way, and my dear and my family back home in Singapore.

Settling into the Neighbourhood

~my living area~

~my living area~

I have a corner Efficiency apartment unit (a.k.a. studio) at The Gardens along W T C Jester Blvd at Timbergrove Manor.  A 3 minute walk brings me to a pharmarcy, groceries and postal services.  It is a nice environment with lots of greeneries. 

I take a 5 minute walk to catch the bus to the culinary institute every morning.  The bus will come at about 6.58am every morning, which brings me down the road along Ella Blvd to catch a connecting bus @ 34th St.  Some of these areas were identified as “not-so-good” areas, initially I was a little paranoid (in fact, very), now I am more comfortable but still careful.  On 34th St @ Ella, I will wait outside a tire shop for bus 23.  It has been 4 weeks now and I become familiar with a short curly hair guy that opens the gate to the tire shop every morning.  Initially it was a cold exchange, then a reserved acknowledgement, and now a “Good Morning” with a smile.  It is comforting to see a familiar person everyday even though we do not know each other.

“Good Morning, Sweetie”

What is interesting and assuring is that I see almost the same set of people everyday – the  bus drivers, the passengers on the bus (and even a straw handbag this lady carries), a Mexican guy who wait at the same bus stop as me for the same bus 2-3 times a week (got to know he lives at Galleria area, needs 3 changes of buses to work around Memorial Hospital area along Ella Blvd.  He lived in NY for a couple of years till after 911 and he moved to Houston and like it here).

I learn to greet and thank the bus drivers every morning, something which I have never done in Singapore.  It feels so good to thank someone and they in turn wish me Have a Great Day!  Every morning after dropping off bus 40 along Ella @ 34th St, I will wait the the traffic junction to cross the street, the lady driver will wave at me as she drives past.  When I hop onto the next bus, I am greeted with “Hello, Sweetie”, “Good Morning, Sweetheart”.  I will drop off along Crosstimbers @ N Fwy and take a 5min walk to school.  On 2 occasions, I was dreaming (or stoning) in the bus, and the bus driver needed to wave to me via his rear mirror to remind me to get off the bus (familiarity helps, also I am the odd Asian face in the bus and get special treatment!).

Traffic Junction without the Green Man

At the junction of 18th St and W T C Jester as well as Ella with W T C Jester, there was no pedestrain indicator for crossing the street.  Ever law abidding (at least I try to most of the time), I had felt clueless and the question How? actually bothered me (ha!).  Gosh, such a question actually bothers me.  

I had noted in my written journal before I started this blog – 7 July, first day of school ended around 1+pm, back to the same junctions, I jay walked again, the question bothered me again.  I guess it will continue to bother me when I need to cross the streets… Is this another case of U-turn signs in Singapore to indicate where we can U-turn vs in US, unless a NO U-turn sign is in sight, you can U-turn! 

Today, this question no longer bogs me, another good sign I am settling into the neibourhood.

Careful vs Paranoia

Anyone who realise I am living alone in Houston and commute by bus daily to school either felt uneasy, offered assistance, gave me “you are so brave” look or offered words of “Be Careful”. 

My sis wrote to me on 3 Jul  ~ “Dear Sis, i am praying for you everyday that God will send godly and kind people your way and His Holy Spirit will give you wisdom and discernment, to keep you out of harm’s way. Has been praying for safe accommodation and thank God that He has answered our prayers. We prayed for you on our wed family nite and will conrinue to do so till you are back.”  Everyday, I pray to God that his Holy spirits and angels will keep me safe from harm and I am thankful for each day.  And many angels I met indeed.

About the parcels.  During my first week of stay at the apartment, I saw an African American guy walking past my block when I was on the way back from school, and saw that he looked up the block as I was entering the apartment.  About half hour later, I saw the same person from my blinds walking to my corner unit and knocking on my door.  I opened the door and the person said “Oh I am sorry, I thought someone else lives here.”  I wasn’t amused and didn’t say a word, just a hard, cold stare.  I reported the incident to the leasing office and Heather, one of the 3 ladies there told me, it could be the harmless so & so making a “friendly” call to a new neighbour.  Nope I don’t find it friendly, I told her.  I was advised to call 911 in case anything happens after office hours.  I was on alert.

The following week, on Monday evening 14 Jul, I saw a tall, male shadow walking past my blinds, a hasty knock, and the shadow left.  I remained quiet (rather I was frozen and scared).  I prayed very hard no harm will come my way.  I told BK and he advised me not to open the door and report the incident.  The next morning, I saw a curled up, type-written note at my door step, I did not touch it and left it there and I went to school feeling uneasy.  I prayed that when I returned from school, the note will not be there (I didn’t know why I prayed such, I did not want to know the content of the note).  When I shared with my classmates, Jennie, Chef Lewis, and Elyse, everyone advised me not to open the door … “This is US”, I was told, whatever that means, and I know I just have to be careful.

Tuesday evening came, about 8pm, the knock came again.   I was really scared, I remembered I was having noodles and I didn’t dare to chew on my noodles to make any sound.  I thought the knock sounded frustrated.  The person left, followed by the engine of what sounded like a truck.  This time, I skyped BK again and told him I suspected someone was really looking for me, oh delivery!… citibank online security device? AT&T?  BK told me Never Open the Door.  Next morning, I found an AT&T high speed internet package at the door step. Phew!

Wednesday evening came, I wasn’t expecting any more knocks, around 6+, 2 sets of heavy knockings on my door sounded, I wasn’t frozen this time but still scared, I peeped through the bedroom blinds and saw a guy in uniform, I opened the door and a UPS delivery agent was at the door, he smiled and passed me my parcel from Citibank.  He said he was here on Monday but no one answered the door. Hee.  I am still adamant I should not open the door, but I felt so much better the knocks were from purposed visits.

~ “You looked like you needed a cab!” ~

I was in the Culinary Institute resource centre till about 4.  I would love to spend some time with the books but I don’t usually get to do that.  I met Elyse before I left the school, we had a chat and she gave me Jean-Luc’s mobile number in case I ever need help.  Jean-Luc is her husband and also the school Asst Admission Director.  The bus went by me as I was at the junction.  I ran after the bus and still missed it.  I was across the junction where I would usually take the bus.  It is just outside a gas station.  I checked the bus schedule and the next bus will only come at 4.45pm and by the time I needed to wait for connection along 34th St, it will be after 5.  I am not going to do that.  Instint.  My curfew for myself is to be back in my apartment by 5pm.   I got uneasy as I waited, there was a group behind the bus stop talking loudly, and drinking… there was a man at the bus stop looking thin and hungry … a lady came up to me to ask me about the bus to take to — (I won’t know where) … a man with tatoos walked past me and told me to be careful.  I got so paranoid, I walked into the gas station and asked for yellow cab number.  Then a man on wheelchair wheeled in and gave me a stare.  I decided standing inside the shop is the safest bet, ha.  I noted the service staff was standing in boxed counter.

I waited for the taxi by the road.  A yellow cab honked at me. I was so thankful.  Curious, I asked him how he knew I was his passenger, he said I am definitely not part of the neighbourhood and I Looked in Need of a Cab!  Look!  He then went on to share with me The neighbourhood is alright, he knew some of the people there, they are JUST jobless, homeless, some are on drugs and some are into prostitution.  Errh, alright?  Alright, I decided not to take a bus there after 3.

I found out from Chef Philippe a few days ago just opposite where I was standing, there is a destitute home, he will not cycle there, let alone walk.

My Concluding Thoughts at the End of Week 4

I have settled in nicely.  Safety remained my #1 priority, this will allow me to enjoy and savour each moment of my life in Houston.  The lack of pedestrian crossing doesn’t bother me anymore as I jay-walked across the roads.  I am surrounded by angels – the ladies at the leasing office, Connie – the lady newly moved into XXX, worked at US Energy, and got me a discounted monthly rate for electricity and even sent me to school once early in the morning, the bus drivers, my schoolmates and chefs in school – even knowing that Chef Phlippe lives by the next street helps, my neighbour Brad who assured me I am in a safe neighbourhood the first time we met since 2 cops from Houston Police lived below us.

I am indeed blessed.  I am thankful for each moments I have experienced.

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Count My Blessings One by One for last 45 days

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Taste, Taste, Taste!

Taste, Taste, Taste

I was reading “The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry” by Kathleen Flinn, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.  In her book, she wrote … Taste, Taste, Taste, said the chef.

In “My Life in France” by Julia Child, she who popularized French Cooking in America, she wrote … Taste, Taste, Taste, said the chef.

Mr Alain LeNotre, President of Culinary Institute Alain & Marie LeNotre, the culinary institute I am currently attending, during orientation with new students on 14 July, shared his 1st advice of 10 Good Advice he wanted the students to remember … Taste, Taste, Taste.  Taste Constantly, he said.  We have to educate the taste buds to new savours and old cuisine, know what the good taste taste like and memorize the taste.

Lunch is served in school everyday, based on what the students prepared in the cuisine and pastry classes.  Apparently this is the only culinary institute that serves lunch to students.  In CIAML, we do not call it lunch, we call the session “food tasting”.  We do not eat like gluttons, but to appreciate the taste of each dish that we prepared.

Mise En Place

~Pressed Uniform & Apron~

~Pressed Uniform & Apron~

Mise En Place – A word that featured greatly in Culinary School.  It means Preparation in French.

Today, after lunch or “food tasting” as they call it in CIAML, Chef Kris Jakob, Chef of Chefs, spoke to all of us during Chef Topic.  He shared his experience as an apprentice, he didn’t get to even start work for a week till he got his appearance fixed – I don’t mean his look, he is a handsome Texan chef of German Origin – refers to his uniform, his apron, his nails etc, then his tool kit was checked and did not clear either – his knives weren’t sharpened, according to the sous chef.  When he finally got to work in the kitchen, he was sweeping for a month.

A Mindframe which determined the Result we Desire!

His point was:  Setting up a Mindframe which determined the Result we Desire!  An organised mind lead to organised preparation and organised performance.  Likewise, a messy mind leads to messy results.  He advocated Getting all things Ready the night before (such as ironing the uniform etc), and being on time mean Being Early to get things ready.

Simple words which resounded in me – Self-Discipline.  Tonight, my student chef uniform and apron hung ironed before I went to bed.

A Photo Frame with a Message

Transferred from a written journal before my blog was set up, dated 7 July 2008.

***

Today was the first day of school and class finished at about 1pm.  I dropped by Walgreen to check out a photo frame for my hubby’s photo.  I had in mind a simple photo frame.

I found one, the message inspires me:

Live  LIVE WELL     

Love  LOVE MUCH 

Laugh  LAUGH OFTEN     

Ever so often, we do things thinking we are living life, and we do it so that we can live better, in the process shortchanging ourselves and our loved ones in time, words, actions or thoughts.

What an irony! 

How often do we recognise and celebrate our daily life successes?  How often do we reward our loved ones with kind words and simple acts to show we love them?  How often do we laugh together over silly mistakes instead of nick-picking?

I bought the frame, put in a picture of BK with a bright cheerful smile, with Grand Canyon behind him.  The picture was taken last December when he brought me to LA & Las Vegas.  It is now sitting next to my laptop, a daily reminder to myself of his unconditional love through his actions and encouraging words so that I can be in Houston alone to earn a Baking & Pastry Arts Diploma while he continues to live and work in Singapore.

He is my buddy and has been my best friend for the last 13 years.  We talk and laugh a lot, many times silly things too embarassing to share with other friends (yes, now we skype about these too!).  We have a common goal of living our lives to the fullest – Live simply, Step out of our comfort zone, Learn to better ourselves – our heart, our mind, our soul & our lives,  Recognise and Celebrate daily successes with ourselves and our loved ones.