equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
01 Oct 12

I'm happy to report that my blood does clot

The best time of the year to make the drive to Darren’s house is in the Autumn. It’s about five hours door-to-door — bar­ring any traf­fic or con­struc­tion — so there’s a good chance I’ll catch a sun­rise or sun­set no mat­ter when I leave. It’s par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful when the leaves are chang­ing and the colours are at their rich­est along the stretches of the 401.

Sometimes I’ll turn on a stand-up com­edy sta­tion instead of music, and it helps take my mind off the drea­ri­ness of the less scenic parts1. It’s like hav­ing another per­son to talk to, except the con­ver­sa­tion goes one way, and they tend to be funny when not overly polit­i­cal2 or Andrew Dice Clay.

Chinese dishes

Zhaliang and clas­sic Cantonese noo­dles. #thingsIcouldeateveryday

I still think of mov­ing back to Toronto, where there’s every­thing that isn’t avail­able to me in Ottawa. But I hate all the things that come with such an unwieldy and poorly amal­ga­mated city. At my age, I value com­fort over excite­ment, and Toronto has become a city that’s bet­ter to visit than to stay.

After meet­ing Mike in London, I knew that’s where I was meant to live, with Bloc Party and Monty Python and The Underground and rainy weather and Portishead and a bil­lion accents and Only Fools and Horses and that stoic British men­tal­ity and Paris just a train ride away. But that wasn’t my fate, and the dirty streets of Toronto are the clos­est I’ll ever get to that.

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  1. Usually the small towns with no charm or per­son­al­ity. []
  2. Cause I never get it. []
21 Apr 11

far, far away from my heart

I’ve been feel­ing nos­tal­gic about Toronto ever since I drove down for John’s wed­ding. The other day I stepped out­side and the spring air brought me back to Camp Creative when I used to live there, between semes­ters in grade 5–7. At some point this year I hope to drive home again and take pic­tures of those old schools where I spent the days mak­ing gimp bracelets1 and lip-syncing as Javert in Les Miserables.

Places are only as good as the peo­ple though, and I’m sure I miss Toronto for John and Darren as much as those old child­hood mem­o­ries, when life was so sim­ple that the fact that it was dis­gust­ingly hot never entered my mind, even though I was out­side for most of the day.

Ullapool cafe

Scottish faces in Scottish places. This was lit­er­ally the size of half the cafe. Off-camera is Mike work­ing his magic to con­vince these two baris­tas to let us film inside.

I miss Mike and rainy London nights too. I want to be part of a cre­ative team again, work­ing towards a com­mon vision, with some­one who can com­pli­ment my weak­nesses with their strengths. It’s been too long since I had some­one to bounce ideas off of, some­one to give me hon­est crit­i­cism and inspire me to improve. Mike does all those things, and I’ve yet to find some­one like that here in Ottawa.

Stores in Chartres

Night shop­ping in down­town Chartres.

I miss France, and Misun and Frédéric, and how they could truly appre­ci­ate who I am. I love the cul­ture in that coun­try, and the fact that you can buy a fresh baguette by walk­ing a minute from any­where. And I’m far from being fin­ished with Paris; there was so much I had left to explore, so many things I’d yet to do. I want to go back as the right per­son, not as a per­son try­ing to escape my thoughts and memories.

Kowloon Walled City entrance

Gateway in Kowloon Walled City.

Hong Kong I miss most of all, and my fam­ily there. I want noth­ing more than to walk those streets with Uncle Joe or Uncle Eddie. Sometimes, I sit by my back door with the win­dow open and just lis­ten to cars pass­ing by in the dark­ness, pre­tend­ing it’s the din of those high­ways and the diesel of the trucks. Nothing ever comes close though, and it only leaves me feel­ing like all these places are so far away.

  1. Square, cir­cle, and but­ter­fly were my favourites. []
24 Jan 11

Sketches from Europe

A few moments from my trip that didn’t fit in any­where else, but moments filled with life, con­nec­tions, wit, and joy nonetheless.

Watching this only makes me miss France, Britain, and all the peo­ple there even more. Maybe I’ll get to see them again soon.

27 Dec 10

UK Detour: Day 13, London to Ullapool

Mike ini­tially told me I could stay with him for three days, because he soon had to travel to Scotland to film a doc­u­men­tary. Over the phone before I even arrived to meet him, how­ever, he sug­gested that I come with him to Scotland to make it the trip of a life­time. I couldn’t say no; to see Scotland has always been a dream of mine. And see­ing as how we used the same photo equip­ment, I could give him a hand with his film while cut­ting my teeth on using a lot of gear I’ve yet to afford.

So we loaded up the Range Rover with a ridicu­lous amount of gear, and left by 6am just so we could make it there before too late and to record the tran­si­tion from sun­rise to night. swing­ing by to pick up Liverpool Liz as another cam­era oper­a­tor before leav­ing. Mike set up his 20D to take a pic­ture every 10 sec­onds, and we made this stop-motion video.

The jour­ney took 13 hours by car, straight up to the north-west coast of Scotland to small town called Ullapool, where his friend Jean-Marc lived, who was also a sub­ject in Mike’s per­sonal project. We made it as far as Inverness before the bat­ter­ies died, which is about 900km (and another 90km to Ullapool), and took about ten and a half hours. If you watch the GPS in the video, you get a fast-forwarded view of our path through the rain and the Scottish mountains.

M&S egg sandwich

This was a pretty damn good sand­wich, from a Marks and Spencer road stop. They had a huge selec­tion of types too.

Europe 2010 travel diaries

25 Dec 10

UK Detour: Day 12, London

By my third day in London, which was essen­tially my last, I was push­ing myself to the limit of exhaus­tion. We had to pri­or­i­tize each activ­ity, as we there were so many things to do in such a short amount of time.

My impres­sion of London is one of diver­sity, his­tory, and para­noia. CCTV cam­eras are every­where, thanks to Britain’s dubi­ous dis­tinc­tion of being the most CCTV mon­i­tored coun­try in Europe.

London Night

Rainy London nights.

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22 Dec 10

A passenger in London

To get from loca­tion to loca­tion, Mike took us around on his yel­low 500cc Yamaha T-Max, my first time on a motor­cy­cle. It was a sen­sa­tional feel­ing to be mov­ing so freely in the open air, even in a London win­ter (you can see early morn­ing con­den­sa­tion on his wind­shield in some shots and the win­dows of some cars). I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t now con­sid­er­ing a bike for my next vehicle.

I thought I’d have to keep hold­ing onto the side rails to pre­vent myself from falling off, but quickly real­ized it wasn’t nec­es­sary, as I felt sta­ble at every turn and on every bump. The physics still baf­fle me.

One advan­tage of using the bike is that you don’t have to pay a con­ges­tion charge, some­thing used by the admin­is­tra­tion of London to dis­cour­age traf­fic and fund the trans­porta­tion sys­tem. Otherwise, it’s an £8 fee when enter­ing the downtown-ish area on a week­day between 7am and 6pm (and a £150 fine if you drive through with­out pay­ing). Also, you can weave between the gaps in cars and make your way to the head of traf­fic lines.

Europe 2010 travel diaries

19 Dec 10

UK Detour, Day 11: London

Mike was between jobs, so I got to shadow him with­out being too intru­sive. That not only meant I got to check out his favourite haunts, but meet more impor­tant peo­ple in his life.

At one point, I had to with­draw some cash (since Mike had pre­vi­ously lied to me about my credit card not work­ing), and it was strange to sud­denly find three dif­fer­ent kinds of cur­rency in my wallet.

men on benches

So close yet so alone.

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11 Dec 10

UK Detour: Day 10, Chartres to London

On my last day in Rochefort-en-Terre, I receive an e-mail ask­ing for sup­port for my Wu Wei theme. This isn’t uncom­mon; ear­lier this year, Wu Wei was cho­sen to be part of the offi­cial WordPress.com repos­i­tory, and I’ve been flooded with such e-mails since. What stood out about this one, from a Michael Harvey, was the fact that he was in London, read from my blog that I was in France, and offered to show me around if I hap­pened to be stop­ping by.

I told him it’d be lovely if I could go, but I’ve no place to stay, as I’d only planned on going to France. On a whim of his own, he offers to let me stay with him, and tells me I’d feel at home as they have two cats.

For a while I turn this idea over in my head, as there’s most cer­tainly a risk involved in liv­ing with some­one you’ve never met, least of all whether or not you’d even get along. Eventually, I decide that I couldn’t give up on the chance to see more of Europe. Fate opened a door, and I only had to step through. I couldn’t say no.

And so, armed with a ticket for the EuroStar and a box of assorted mac­a­roons (one of the spe­cial­ties in Chartres) for my new host, I set off for London.

Chartres train station

In Chartres, wait­ing for the train to Paris — Gare Montparnasse.

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