103 | Grazie di Cuore, Italia

It’s coming close to 2.30AM and I can’t sleep, but I wouldn’t call it jetlag, rather, the reinforcement of an already screwed up sleep schedule during the Italy trip. I slept at about 4AM in Singapore prior to the trip and it was about 10PM Italian time – so I followed a most comfortable sleep-wake cycle there. Unfortunately not very conducive for social life back here in SG, but until I can rectify that, am making the best of it by coming by here!

Processed with VSCOcam with s3 preset

Firenze is located in central Florence and is quite honestly a great place to be. When I went there the weather averaged 16-18 deg. celsius, a little cold for me but otherwise perfect, with sunny, clear skies. I heard the summer is hell though, and wouldn’t dream of heading there in that kind of heat (39 deg.)

Processed with VSCOcam with s3 preset

A close friend was telling me how the charm of Florence was not the city itself but its vicinity and after this trip I can’t help but concur. If the nearby places like Regello, Barberino are so tranquil, I would love to see Chianti, which was recommended. Almost guaranteed to have breathtaking scenery and brilliant weather.

Processed with VSCOcam with s3 preset

IMG_6658

Don’t ask me how, but landed in Prato Centrale somehow – godforsaken place, totally not touristy, no cabs no nothing. Quiet suburb, a welcome break from the city but not ideal for staying long. Not even a single restaurant open, probably good for just looking at how people live in suburban Italy.

Processed with VSCOcam with s3 preset

Never fully understood the attraction of sunset/sunrise, but I felt this was a mandatory travel shot, haha.

IMG_6750

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Was immensely blessed to have been able to go for nightly walks/H2H time in Italy. Much of the time my schedule in Singapore doesn’t allow for this – every meal and spare time is planned, and I miss spontaneously spending time with my inner circle. My estate is boring, though I do enjoy nightly drives. Italy was brilliant for walking at night. Quiet streets, awe-inspiring architecture and food available at night just makes for very conducive, lucid rumination. In a sense this was healing for me, with just the right company and right setting to be able to recuperate. This made the entire trip more than worth it. Visited Ponte Vecchio and the Baptistry of St. John at night and they were stunning. Won’t lie, it’s a bit dangerous especially when I headed out alone, but for the healing I got, very worth it.

All in all, Italy is pretty and a place I would want to revisit. Maybe not Milan, but definitely will head back to Florence. Needs extra care when travelling alone but I can deal with that.

Five days worth of healing felt like soothing salve on a wound that had been left to fester for too long. For the longest time since the term started I feel like I’ve been walking on a tightrope, my commitments and obligations stretching me in different directions. I would overpromise and then come to default on my promises, which stresses me out a great deal. I think the question right now would be how to balance out career and personal growth, but academics are getting in the way by taking up so much of my time. Hopefully with the pitiful 2 modules this semester I have a little more time to work on my other ventures (ie. writing, theatre) and not be one foot in, one foot out of everything.

Career will require a good amount more devotion these coming few months as I pick up the ropes. There’s a very pressing need for me to fill the gaps in my skill set, which are not entirely pleasant, and that has me a bit worried. For every unpleasant thing I force myself to go through, I take extra time to recuperate and it just doesn’t add up. Guess as always, it’s a balancing game. At this point in time I can confidently say career comes first, excluding my family and inner circle. Writing has been subordinated for the time being and I flat-out refuse to be ashamed about it. As I said, balancing game, finite resources, make the best of it. Shouldn’t, and don’t want to penalize myself even more emotionally for making choices that look wiser in long-term. Other than finite resources there are also some tough choices to be made, involving my area of specialty given that I won’t be going to university, and how I can buff myself in that area, leveraging on my strengths. I have been procrastinating on this because I haven’t been particularly pulled toward anything, which is unusual – so I think this might be one of those decisions that just take time to make. So be it. I would rather take more time with this than have to backtrack (note: not reiterate, backtrack) somewhere down the road.

I am very lucky in that I have a massively supportive inner circle and family. Though they begrudge the spontaneity and my overly macro modus operandi, they do their best to provide scaffolding or support, whichever is more critical. I am even more blessed in that they are all people who actively learn and share – though we stagnate sometimes most of the times we are progressing, and I think that’s important for growth as a unit. I really appreciate and cherish them, which would justify why I am constantly ready to drop all my shit for them at any given time of the day. They are my biggest priority for now – for some, it’s relationship building, and for others it’s collaboration. Either way the mutual understanding and differences we share make me extra grateful to have found these incredible people, and hopefully I will be able to give them even more before I turn 20 next year.

I have been neglecting my physical/mental health to an extraordinarily large extent this year – find it hard to even recall the number of MCs and medications I’ve taken. Think it’s high time I placed more importance on this since I’ve never truly honoured it as a priority.

Wrapping up the year is never easy, especially not finding dozens of loose threads that you need to fix in the last few months. Just one last final push before the new year comes along. This Italy trip was timely – stay in a place for too long and you stagnate in mindset and perception, and that was what had happened to me. In retrospect it was a humbling learning experience, and I came back refreshed and with a slightly clearer idea of what I need to execute to make this year count. Now I just need to get down to it – that’s an encouragement in itself. 🙂

101 | Full Plates

Processed with VSCOcam with s3 preset

We’re drawing to the close of May, and I just concluded one of the most.. deranged weeks ever. Sometimes I don’t understand why I choose to pack myself like that (although I’d argue that most of these seemingly unimportant tasks are oft the most important) and end up burning myself.

Monday was supposedly my first and last day at work for the week, and after a futile attempt to hack away at a week’s pile of work I headed to the 50 Schools, 50 SMEs event. I don’t exaggerate when I say that I love such events. There is a very real need for youth to learn about all things Singaporean – our music scene, our literature scene, our startup scene – and be proud of them. Also, my favourite minister was at the event! Missed a photo opportunity, but still.

Tuesday to Thursday was spent madly clearing projects – couldn’t do much else with a presentation each day of the week from Wednesday to Friday. I didn’t even have the time to rehearse for Thursday’s presentation, which was my entrepreneurship module, but somehow managed to come through, mainly because I was proposing a product I would love to build anyway.

Thursday night ended late, and began early (three 8AM days in a row are just no joke..) on Friday. Friday was just a mess – I flagged a cab and hightailed it to work the moment I ended my presentation. Simply too eager to be back in the office. Sat myself down and desperately tried to clear work before cohesion began – office cohesions are the highlight of every month! This month I planned the Bingo and I thoroughly enjoyed facilitating it and finding out about everyone else in 2359 Media. Wish we could have a session just sitting down and talking – over food, of course.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With Aankita, one of the loveliest project managers you can ask for.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Facilitating the Bingo game!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With Yuko, our design intern and the intern who came in right after me!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

#internsof2359

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jasmine, angel of Accounts in 2359. So much love!

After cohesion, hung out in office till around 10PM and then flew all the way back to Ten Mile Junction for karaoke at 11pm till 1am with Jean. Madness, I know. Two girls walking into a petrol station to buy drinks at 1.30am must be quite a sight to behold.

Once I got home, I *tried* to pack for my Melaka trip, although it was less of trying to pack then just stuffing everything I needed in and trying to stay awake. The moment I got into the car I all of collapsed and was out cold till we reached Melaka and checked into the new kid on the hotel block. Perhaps more about them after I’ve completed my stay!

When I come back on Tuesday I’ll be bombarded by the first of 3 papers that conclude this term. Can’t wait to be back in the office full-day from Thursday onwards – finally! Clearly I have issues with work-life balance. Actually, I believe it’s a myth. I’ll probably be one of those mothers who leaves work at 5.30PM sharp only to come back to it at 9PM when the kids are asleep. Then again, nothing much fulfils me more than my work now. Creating workplaces that people enjoy working at is just one of my biggest dreams, and that propels me more than ever to create it right here and now. That’s probably the only reason I managed to juggle six weeks of school/work and not come out worse for it.

In short, if you don’t feel deeply for what you do, don’t attempt this kind of lifestyle, not even to climb the career ladder. It will wear you down faster than you know it.

99 | Unyielding

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

If there is one thing I am unequivocally proud of, it would be, without doubt, the women in my heritage.

I come from a family of incredibly strong women – women who both held day jobs and ran the household. 女人一手顶天下; the women held up the sky with just one hand. All of them were fiercely independent – even too independent for their own good. They never caved in, never gave out. They always did what they had to for their family, and career came next. (I might be the first to reverse this trend, we’ll never know) They protected the ones they loved with their lives, no matter if it was a dangerous moment or a lifetime of shielding their children from harm. They love deeply, hurt greatly, and are stronger than anyone else I’ve known.

My great-grandmother managed to tame a household of 13 children, and was a staunch Buddhist because my grandfather was well-known to be a really wild boy. My grandmother went out to buy groceries during the Japanese Occupation, and is also very proud of the fact that she once swept her teacher out of her house with a broom. She first brought her sisters up, then my uncle and mother, working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Despite being very poor, she made sure they had the nutrition, education and character they needed to be valuable members of society. She also took care of countless other children and loved them as her own. My mother, once she gave birth to me, gave up her entire youth – all her dreams and promotions – just to bring me up. She loves old folks and children with the same unrelenting love. And if anyone even thinks of trifling with me, they ought to be ready to withstand my mother’s full wrath first. Tried and tested. My grandaunts, one a teacher and the other a nurse, played an integral part in bringing up all the children despite having none of their own. They now keep the family home, and are both expert gardeners and grandmothers.

All of them are such phenomenal, formidable, indestructible women, and I am so proud to be counted in their midst. I only hope I can be half of the women they are.

97 | Mourning Colours

Life has been a whirlwind since 1 Jan 2015 rolled around.

IMG_9456

On 31st Dec 2014, while Cowfu and Fang jie were at my place celebrating New Year, my Great-grandma, whom I call Laoma, was taken to Alexandra Hospital and hospitalized for fever. She was 104 at that time, just a few hours before 105, and at that age, even the smallest malady should be given attention. A fever is out of the ordinary, and she was brought promptly and warded. I didn’t think much of it.

Over the next few days, her fever raged. I didn’t visit her the first few days, thinking it was just a run-of-the-mill flu and fever, made dangerous only by her age. As the days went by, I got worried. She was not coming back. Her fever was getting worse.

I was in class on 5 January 2015, the first day of the school term, when Dad’s message reached me. Laoma condition was deteriorating, and she was still having fever. Doctor had decided not to conduct any more blood tests as it was of no help and it brings pain and bruises, especially when her skin was already so thin. She was also taken off some of her regular medication as these were of no use any more. We were told to prepare for the worst.

I panicked. I went down right after school that day, at 6.30PM – 7PM. I couldn’t afford to lose focus on either school or family. Plus, I had work. I was stretched thin. I tried my best to be on task for the rest of the school day, finished up my lessons, and flew down to Alexandra to be with her. I held her hand for a good three hours that day, watching her sleep, and when she was awake, she gripped my hand tightly, even though I believe she cannot see nor hear me any more.

I went home encouraged by a dip in her temperature that night. I was tired beyond words.

On 6 Jan, I went down again, after I’d completed half my day in school. The update on her condition was that Laoma was terminally ill, and nothing more could be done for her. She had 2-3 weeks left, and had already lost all sense of immunity and hunger. The doctor pre-empted us that she would be sleeping more and more as time progressed. Now the question was whether she would be cared for better at home or in the hospital. We voted hospital and so she stayed.

7 January morning, I was in school when the news came. Laoma was on an oxygen mask as she had trouble breathing. The doctor even called to inform that Laoma wasn’t doing well because her oxygen was low, heartbeat was fast, and blood pressure was dipping. I didn’t even think twice – I hightailed it there, commitments be damned.

When I got there, she was breathing hard. She struggled to draw breath and it was heartbreaking to see. She no longer smiled. She was no longer aware of who we were and what was going on. She was on the brink, and neither my mother, maid nor I could bear to leave her yet. I stayed by her side very long that day, holding her hand, wishing she would grip my hand tightly back. She did, still, but most of the time all she could do was try to catch her breath.

I left the hospital intending to go for an important meeting in school. I boarded the bus, but I couldn’t do it. I walked all the way back to Alexandra, crying the whole way.

I went back and shed buckets of tears at her side. I couldn’t help it. I was losing her and there was nothing I could do about it. I held her hands for a good 2-3 hours that night before being chased home on account of school the next day. As it turns out, I wouldn’t have to attend.

Mum was supposed to stay at her side till daybreak, when she would go to work. She was also chased home slightly past 2AM, encouraged by a temporary improvement in Laoma’s condition. In retrospect, they always say the deceased will have a sudden burst of energy and seem to “recover” a few hours before death. That is almost a sure sign of the inevitable. Dad picked Mum up and drove home. I was asleep by the time they reached home, exhausted by the running around and things I’d juggled for the past week.

Barely 10 minutes later, she was gone.

The news was delivered to me when I was woken by Mum in the morning, who’d obviously been crying. I took it in my stride, as I am prone to do. I simply shelved the emotion and went straight into preparing for the funeral.

All the dams were broken when she was brought into the funeral.

I’d never known her thoroughly or had a good conversation with her. Nor could I have, given her condition in the past 10 years. Instead, she was a constant presence in my house, and I came back to someone whom I knew would be there, rain or shine, smiling at me. As such, her reputation preceded her. I heard about her phenomenal strength and poise as a woman and matriarch of the house. I heard little anecdotes about her life, her discipline, and her habits. I was heartbroken in the end when she left. When I first saw her in the casket, she was more serene than I’d ever seen her, with a slight frown etched on her forehead, a warning that she had a volatile temper, yet she always has a compassionate, nurturing smile in my memory.

By the time I’d grown up enough to appreciate my grandparents, she was already unable to see, hear or speak. She had been afflicted with dementia, late onset but deteriorated quickly. She was prone to flying into fits of rage, kicking doors and searching the entire house just to look for me (the 3 year old me). She would fight with my maid in jest, my maid loving her just as her own grandmother. As for me, she would try to scratch my face when I came near or annoyed her. She would pull my nose, grip my hands hard, and chuckle at me. She used to be amused by children’s toys in her last days. She loved chocolate and lived an austere life. She had many grandchildren, up to five generations, but when she forgot everyone else she remembered my mother and I. Her love for me loomed larger than life.

Following the funeral, without having any time to recover from the grief, I was unceremoniously hurled into the project phase of polytechnic life. They say Year 2, Semester 2 is the hardest semester of your entire polytechnic life, and I’d be a fool to disagree. I’d never been so inundated with work. I slogged for 6 more weeks, never even had breathing time, let alone time to mourn. Right after projects came exams. And once I’d completed that, there was no break either. I was to begin my 1 month internship with 2359 Media, and I began the day I completed my exams.

Talk about crazy.

April 17 will mark the first 100 days since Laoma has gone. She was a staunch Buddhist, and her funeral drew me closer to Buddhism. There were prayers for her every week, and that helped me to get over the crushing loss slightly better. Part of the ritual was to wear plain clothing for 100 days as a mark of remembrance and respect. I’ve not touched my red clothing for close to 3 months, yet I find it makes the loss easier as well. There’s something about doing, even if it may only be for the sake of the living that makes the loss easier to cope with.

Even now, I still see shadows of her. I’ve always had an old folk in my house, my beloved maternal grandfather before her, and the house feels cold and chilly with just my mum, dad and I. I miss having old folks around, having them nag and hearing their laughter. I miss annoying them, prancing around being every bit the irritating, chirpy grandchild. The silence can sometimes be hard to bear. It’s not uncommon for me to hear the ringing of the bells that used to be on her wheelchair, or to hear her chuckle. I sometimes still think I see the shadow of her wheelchair as she slowly moves around the house. I still think I hear her call for her maid sometimes. It will take a long while before I can fully come to terms to the loss.

Then, news of Mr Lee’s illness came.

IMG_9405

I never expected it. For such a formidable man, for him to succumb to illness seems almost audacious to imagine. Yet he is human. As I kept close to the news and saw how it got progressively worse, I knew it was coming. Yet on the morning of March 23, when my mother again delivered the news, I was broken yet again.

I dressed in black that day, and went somberly to work.

Over the past week of mourning, many anecdotes, speeches and videos of him have emerged. All of these, I think, bring the formidable man down to earth and lay him to rest.

There is not much I can say about him that has not already been said. I do not revere him as much for the power or success of his governance than I revere him for his character. He often had the guts to face up to hard truths, both to himself and to others. He delivered what he said he would. He was obsessed with Singapore and his family. He had an internal strength that many were attracted to. He spoke with aplomb, and had great oratorical prowess. He held firm to his convictions yet was never too subscribed to a particular idea or school of thought to be stuck there, stubborn. He managed to inspire confidence and hope in a people that had nothing to be confident or hope for. He managed to show people where he would bring them – a place that sometimes stretched beyond people’s greatest imaginations at that time. A metropolis when we were a mudflat? I’m sure he had his fair share of skeptics.

I think there is nothing more befitting I can offer him as a tribute other than my very first published poem, and definitely, my commitment to be a part of loving Singapore, and making sure it is governed by his core tenets of honest government, ownership of the country and constant progress.

He has inspired me in more ways than just politics, and he is a giant, someone to model after. All I can do now is stand a little taller on the shoulders of LKY and the Old Guards, and stretch to make our foundations stronger and aspirations bolder.

So as I joined the eight hour queue, as I thumbed through all the posts on Facebook and joined the outpouring of grief, as I paid my last respects to him by bowing at the head of the coffin, I was shown again the noble but sometimes elusive Singapore spirit. Where else will you see Singaporeans queue in stuffy conditions, stuck for hours, without so much as a single words of complaint or making a scene as we are oft prone to do? We had a common cause again, and I believe he would have been more than glad to see this.

I couldn’t help noticing some similarities in the way they passed. Both passed in the wee hours of the morning, when others were asleep. They say those who pass on before breakfast leave all the meals of the day to their descendants. They do really leave all the good for us. On the day of cremation, it poured for both of them. They say the heavier it rains, the more worries the deceased carries. Although I want them to go without worry, I know it is nigh impossible. It’s just a statement of their deep concern for those they love.

Goodbye, Laoma and Mr Lee. I have been in mourning colours for the good part of the year. I hope you both are in Heaven, enjoying the company of your soulmates and good health. I hope you both are watching over all that goes on here with a broad smile, boasting to your fellow inhabitants, “This is my family.” We will take care of ourselves the way you took care of us, and no less. It will take more than a while for me to grieve and heal from both of your passing, though.

My losses have been greater than I can say this year.

96 | Healing

Processed with VSCOcam with s2 preset

 IMG_8517

Processed with VSCOcam with s3 preset

Briny sea breeze. Chilly winds whipping up your hair. Gentle sound of waves lapping.

More often than not, healing has, for me, come from ocean views and warm sunlight. Truly, I am a sun, sand, sea kind of girl.

Fourth cruise with Royal Caribbean on Mariner of the Seas this Christmas. I think it’s going to take some adjusting to get used to normal life. Especially after you’ve been allowed to sleep until you wake up naturally, wake up to a sumptuous breakfast, settling back in bed for an afternoon siesta, waking up to exercise while enjoying the endless deep blue, then adjourning for a gourmet dinner. This is my idea of a holiday, where I can just kick my legs up and relax. The crowd was madness, though, and I wish we’d gone at off-peak. I shall settle for a smaller ship like one from Royal Caribbean’s Vision fleet – Legends, maybe, since it’s been refurnished – and just enjoy some much needed solitary time.

It’s been a great respite from the madding crowd, nonetheless.

95 | Anthologies

IMG_7561

 

At the time of posting there shall be exactly 10 days to the launch of both of these anthologies – the SingPoWriMo anthology and A Luxury We Cannot Afford.

Two of my writings will be in these books, therefore, another tick off my bucket list.

To the SingPoWriMo anthology I contributed the poem burgeoning. SingPoWriMo was a – should I say movement? – in the SingLit scene in April, where a grand total of 400 writers wrote a poem every day of the month, guided by prompts from Joshua Ip, Alvin Pang and Pooja Nansi. First off, I never even knew there were this many writers in SG! Or maybe a lot of them were also first-time writers like me, eager to step into the budding Lit scene in Singapore. Anyway, an anthology was born from this, with all manner of poetry forms like liwulis and haikus etc. along with a bunch of great poetry from poets known and unknown.

For A Luxury We Cannot Afford, I spotted the open call and just couldn’t resist. The title comes from a quote by a famous statesman in Singapore (one I have ardent admiration for) and was about how poetry was a luxury we couldn’t afford. Well, maybe back then. Now we have a bustling scene, and a rising cacophony (albeit a harmonious one) of voices. The poem I wrote for this, Machiavelli, is titled after one of the most important principles I was introduced to in his book. This anthology contains poems of deep-seated reverence (like mine) and also a good dose of blame/loathing, so whichever viewpoint you stand on with regards to this particular statesman, you’ll probably find a poem you can identify with.

All in all, it’s been a wonderful journey. I never thought I’d have my first works published before I even complete my 18th year, but it’s a good start. As I grow and learn, my poetry locks each mindset in a frame of words so that my growth is archived. Wrong steps, bad decisions, maybe even misguided sentiments, but I still learn and grow. Come and witness these two anthologies launching at The Arts House, 23 November, 4:00 PM! My ambition (and passion) have doubled in size and now I aim to have a book of my own before I turn 21! So.. more to come! Hint hint! 🙂

87 | French Villages

Over the holidays, Mum, Cowfu and I headed to the nearby Berjaya Hills resort for a 3D2N staycation. Sort of staycation, since it’s so near to home! Drove over from Kuantan and I slept all the way up the horrifying, spiralling hill. It’s as though I have a magical alarm clock that wakes me at all the right moments, because I was awake just five minutes before the distinctive silhouette of Colmar Tropicale began to loom over me. 

IMG_5568

Colmar Tropicale is a French-themed villa/resort in Kuala Lumpur, Berjaya Hills. It’s beautiful. The weather up there is cooling, which explains the beanie. It’s not unlike Cameroon Highlands or Genting. I just have a very poor resistance to cold, especially when there are winds blowing. 

Of course, first on our agenda was exploring the villa.

 IMG_5483 IMG_5491  

These swans were spotted at the front of the resort, and the black ones were separated from the white. I suppose this is because the white ones (contrary to expectations) were more hostile. The black ones were friendly, although they tried to peck me. I suppose it could be a show of affection.

We basically lazed our days around. I fully intended to write while I was there but I couldn’t concentrate. Things weren’t as dandy as they seem though. One of their power sockets scorched my laptop’s charger and the lights in the room, other than a few decorative bulbs, were non-existent. Sheesh. The nights there were sure unpleasant for someone so terrified of darkness, especially in a foreign place.

IMG_5587

The lights on the streets at night are pretty beautiful but hard to photograph. I enjoyed dinners both nights there, with the first night at the rotisserie and the second at the fine dining restaurant. Breakfast was decent but not spectacular. We had one lunch at the pizzeria and the lasagna (as with the quarter chicken at the rotisserie) is to DIE for. Food is gorgeous, fine dining’s not worth a try, neither is the coffee. I gorged myself on so much orange juice there!

//

Staycations (or even short getaways) are hard to come by now that I’m in my second year, swamped with numerous projects and even more um, challenges, shall I say? I’m juggling many things at one go and trying not to drop any of them so let’s hope for the best.