478: Remember 2015

I didn’t write one for the previous year; I’m not sure why. It might have been because I was too caught up in the whirlwind of the beginning of the year, having convinced myself that I was too happy and had so many other, better, things to do; unknowingly, the first week of the year slipped by and writing about the year that just passed seemed less and less relevant.

Strange because so much has happened in these two years. So much has changed. I began the first day of 2015 uncharacteristically not hungover from the festivities the night before (although what I actually did, I can’t for the life of me remember anymore), waking up at the ungodly time of 6am to rush to my cousin’s house to prepare for his wedding, and then the hubbub of the whole affair died down to just a few family members, dozing by the armchairs of the outdoor bar in Capella, talking about our lives over drinks and tea. It was a sunny day; the weather was great.

Chinese New Year came. The predictions for the year promised great things. I spent the months mostly being optimistic and bored, a fact made more glaringly obvious by the fact that I can’t remember what I did at work (besides drink) nor outside work (besides drink). Life was peaceful and painless, and uncharacteristically quiet. I was alone for the first time in ages suddenly, and strangely enough I didn’t know what to do with myself. And then: I turned 28. There were too many questions. What should I be doing with my life? What am I doing with my life? Do I really want to be here? Is life too easy? Am I going mad? I read more books in the first 6 months of 2015 than I have in the past five years, which just shows what life in practice does to you. I’m not really sure why I jumped back in again — but I did, and now I’m back to stealing moments from work to read a book whenever I can. I talked about it to everybody and anybody who would listen, trying to find someone who could explain to me why I felt this strange disquiet in my head. But I savoured the fact that I had a Blackberry but never needed to check it, ever; I read my emails at the end of the week and nobody would say anything. I abandoned my Blackberry and the thought of endless blinking red lights and the multitude of horrors that it implied, not so secretly laughed at those who were still chained to their jobs, and went out to explore the world, as I imagined I should have, many years earlier.

So, I travelled. Burma; the first South East Asian country I’d visited (other than Thailand) ever. It was beautiful, but I’m not sure I’d go back so soon. Watched the sun rise 300 feet off the ground, us hanging in the air like lanterns. Lazy days by the pool because it was too hot to do anything else, drinking cocktails in the water and reading Burmese Days, just because we could. Watched the city crumble around us and rise again from the ashes of a long, drawn out past. Thought for a moment that I was back where Singapore might have been, 50 years ago. Revisited Tokyo for the first time in 5 years, fell in love with it all over again. Ate too much. Drank up a storm. Did stupid things like go to a club with all our shopping and two huge shoeboxes. Saw the cherry blossoms rise and fall, got cheap thrills out of the cold wind and the sakura-related everything that they were selling, had numerous conversations about what we wanted to do with our lives, our loves, and more. Fell down the stairs the day after I came back, cut my foot, remained invalid for a week. Nearly didn’t make it to Bali, but somehow I did, with my crazy bandaged foot and industrial-strength injury tape and a shit load of painkillers, more lazy days around the villa, gingerly testing if my foot would explode with bacteria if I waded into the pool, reliving nights at Bounty just because we could, and having strange and wonderful walks back home to our villa with drunken friends and drunken conversations. Life seemed wonderful.

But wonderful is as wonderful does and life does what it likes. Somewhere along the way we lost ourselves and for me at least, it took a long time to find myself again. It’s still taking a long time. Maybe as we get older the time seems shorter, only because there’s not that much for you to find. What can you know that you don’t already know? Are there still parts of yourself to discover?

“Just because we could” seemed to be a recurring trend, for some reason. But that’s just it, isn’t it? Suddenly I realised I was no longer 21 and I was not standing on the cusp of my fullest potential. This was either my peak or the best was yet to be, but either way I was no longer at the beginning. I could no longer tell myself that there were this many second chances, that life was always going to be awesome and filled with endless joys and surprises (not that I’ve really ever done this), but when you’re 28 the only way to go seems to be forward. And so you do things, just because you can and there is no other way. We’ve come too far now; we’re too old. Either we try this, or we never do. And if not now, when?

And then where else? There was a point halfway through the year where I asked myself too many questions. The world changed. If it was at all possible to believe, I grew older (again). And then what was there left for me? I wanted to check myself into an island and never appear again. The days passed, and somehow I couldn’t. When I finally did run away it was the opportunity of a lifetime. And so started the camping, the rain, the fireworks, the dancing, the friends… It was tiring, it was amazing. It’s still tiring as hell, but I don’t think any amount of writing really adequately conveys the highs and lows of this year, and even just thinking about it makes me feel drained. And…

Now I’m here. It’s too far and not far enough from home. Here is a new life I never thought possible, and yet sometimes it seems as if I never left. This is a new city, but all around there are old connections. For all that it’s worth and all that I left behind, it was something I never expected to really do. But now I did it, and I’m finding pride in things that I never really expected to. The work is hard and shitty and I’m chained to my job just like I used to be, there are even more late nights and documents and possibilities of going blind, but part of me now knows that some day all this will pass, and I have options, choices, life decisions, alternatives, to be here or there or nowhere, just so long as it’s somewhere my heart is.

I don’t know where it is now. This year turned out like nothing I expected. It’s raining outside the window of my apartment where I now live alone and the only thing I come home to is the sound of myself. I think in time my heart could be here, but every other week I get the urge to fly home and stay forever. Strange because once again I feel like I’m standing on the verge of something. I wonder if this time it’ll take me three years to realise I should have just done it right at the beginning. I don’t know. I don’t know a lot of things anymore. And I’m still bumbling through life dreading all the hellos and the goodbyes. But I’m here. Just because I can be. And some day I’ll go home. Just because I can.

There won’t be many opportunities to feel this way again, I reckon. Some days I wake up and the air is swirling with uncertainty, and I think to myself that none of this is worth the battle that goes on in my head every morning. Some days I feel as clueless as a twelve year old kid, lying in bed thinking about her first crush. Some days all these words get stuck in my head and they can’t come out. Some days my heart’s a mess. I didn’t think it would still be a mess at 28, but here we are. Here we are in a city of skyscrapers and heartbreakers. But we’ll make it work. We’ve got to make it work somehow.

We’ll see what happens this year, but who knows. Some days I wish there was someone who could tell me where to go and how to get there. But in the meantime I take long drives in my head to nowhere, and hope I don’t get lost along the way. How is it possible to still be scared at this age? But it’s possible, if only because there’s so much less time left and so much more to lose. We’ll see if we find the correct question to the answer this year. How much longer do we have anyway?

The answer bloody well isn’t 42. It’s yes.

 

 

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460

It’s been a very eventful (and long) four months. I feel like I keep getting thrown off-course by some unexpected frustrating event, and each time I try to just, you know, settle down, something else comes along again. In between all the funerals, the holidays, and the sicknesses, it seems as though I will never be able to get down to work, and to be honest I’m not sure if I want to. As it is, everybody knows that my attention span is woefully short. 

It’s not that I hate my work. But I’m just — bored. And while I’m bored, I don’t want it to become any more exciting, either. Really all I want to do is sit around and bum. And be on holiday forever. Sit in front of my computer and blog about what I’m cooking or doing today, finding beautiful stuff on the web, etc. But you know. Reality hits. 

I spent the flight back from Hong Kong sandwiched between two Chinamen. It was a strange experience (and certainly not wonderful). Strange because they were clearly on two ends of a spectrum, both about the same age, and clearly heading to Singapore for the same reasons. But one was dressed in a business suit and tie (tie? On a plane!) and the other, tanned and weary and in a polo shirt and presumably his best pants and shoes. Presumably, because by no other person’s standards they would be considered so. Yet he was flying a fairly expensive airline, which puzzled me. And it continued to puzzle me as he fiddled with the inflight entertainment controls like he had never seen them before, handled the cutlery like he didn’t know what to do, and spooned a bite of the Haagen Dazs icecream before making a face and leaving it by the side. I felt a pang of sympathy when he looked around and everyone seemed to have headphones (but he didn’t) and he could have looked under the tray table to find them (but he didn’t, and didn’t know they were there) and he also could have pressed the button to ask the stewardess for a pair (but he didn’t, and he didn’t know he could). I wondered if I should have helped him. I wonder if he would have appreciated it. But I didn’t, and I felt bad. 

Ah well. I feel restless.

341: i’m going to linger till dawn, dear

I’m back! For awhile, after a month on the road. The bus driver looked surprised when he stamped my bus ticket and noted that the last stamp was dated four weeks ago. And strange again, because I came home to an empty house, with a load of mail waiting for me. I’ve unpacked all my things, knowing that I will have to pack them again pretty soon, which is fine by me, except that I have a shitload of laundry to do by Monday. 

This past month has been good. From being with friends to meeting friends of friends, though somewhat randomly and by tenuous connection (one always marvels at how Facebook improves communications by leaps and bounds), we covered London and Paris and then Portugal — which I loved — Lisbon more than Porto, but still lovely all the same.

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319: things will be great when you’re downtown

London was wonderful, even though I arrived with a heavy heart on Wednesday night following a pretty bad weekend. It was Guy Fawkes Day and I had loads of fun watching the fireworks coming up from random houses on the bus from Stansted into downtown London. I spent a lot of money shopping and spent half a day in Topshop alone (no kidding) and picked up something like 20 tops and/or dresses and trying them on endlessly before narrowing it down to just two; saving my money for the Boxing Day sales! I was so tempted to buy so many things because Topshop stuff is lovely and I miss it so much now that I don’t get to shop there regularly anymore. Had to keep restraining myself from getting things (“No, it’s winter now… and you’ll only get to wear that six months later when you get back,” and then a voice goes: “But it’s pretty! And you might not be able to find it again! And it’s summer all year round back home anyway! Cost-per-wear!”) including this grey blazer which cost 60 pounds (I didn’t!).

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314: come again another day

Nobody realises the importance of a bottle of soya sauce till they don’t have it anymore. 

Fortunately for me, I (finally) managed to find light soya sauce at the nearby supermarket, and it sounds gross, I know, but honestly I think I could just survive on porridge with soy sauce and soft-boiled egg.

XD

Updates:

Sorry. It’s not that I’ve been terribly busy or anything. We went to Amsterdam (twice over two weekends) and Munich last week for Oktoberfest, so basically I have a shitload of pictures I haven’t really uploaded, except on Facebook. Funny because my mother wants to see them but I keep saying I haven’t uploaded them and then my cousin goes and tells her I uploaded them on Facebook, so now she wants to be my friend. Not good. 

It’s October. I’m going to Italy in two weeks. Time flies, huh.

313: i swam across, i jumped across for you

So. Last weekend we went to Utrecht, with 5 other people from various countries. We met up with Gary, Zhiming and Crystal, who’d just arrived that week. It was lots and lots of fun. Utrecht is a beautiful old city, and because it was really the first of stereotypical Netherlands that we saw, it was great. There are lots of canals, boats, people cycling… 

I almost didn’t go, though, because I didn’t eat breakfast and we were late, so we cycled hard and fast to the train station. Then I felt really dizzy and couldn’t walk straight, and ended up sitting down on the floor after awhile and eventually missed our scheduled train. We did manage to get on one 20 minutes later, after Val forced chocolate down my throat, but I still felt queasy till we actually got to Utrecht and ate some breakfast. Hmm.

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312: rain rain go away

We went to Amsterdam yesterday. Woke up at the insane time of 6am (unthinkable in this weather) and cycled all the way to school where we took a bus to Amsterdam. It was raining the whole morning and for the better part of lunch, but the weather cleared up marvellously in the afternoon. It would’ve been a great day if I didn’t lose my contact lens at the end of it.

But oh well. Here are pictures of my room from a very long time ago;
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309: see your shoes and your spirits rise

Before we all know it, I’ve been here for more than a week. Over these few days there have been so many happenings, so many parties, so many exciting things to tell. From the first week of meeting new people and crazy random parties with lots and lots (and lots) of drinking, to cooking totally random food in the kitchen, we’ve also changed our housemate. He used to be an American who smoked weed all day and stayed on the top floor, but he moved out because of the rent and now we have a new Iranian housemate whose wife is coming to stay with him starting sometime this week. He is also Muslim, so we are having to deal with all this at one go. 

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296: japan: kyoto contradictions

Some think Kyoto is all quaint shops and beauty. It is, but there’s so much more than that. Maybe it’s because it’s the old capital. Nowhere else do you feel the contradictions more strongly: time-honored tradition living next to modern amenities; something as mundane as seeing two geisha clad in kimono walking next to a taxi. The men who frequent Gion have changed their clothes as the times pass, yet till now it is the wealthy businessmen who look to entertain and be entertained, in their dapper, dreary business suits, that sing and laugh with geisha in the comfort of the teahouses overlooking the river. Not everything Arthur Golden says is true, but it’s not all false either. As tourists throng to the temples frantically snapping away with their cameras, there remains the crowd of people that stays the same, going back to the temple year after year, month after month, praying for this or that. The wooden plaques always say the same things; human nature changes very little. Many things have changed, but there is still hope. 

Here, young girls still guide their hopeful friends, hands clasped and eyes closed, towards the sunshine and in search of love.

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293: japan: osaka city riots

18- 21 May.

So, finally, here is Osaka. Most of what they say about Osaka is totally true. It’s a merchant town, and it’s filled with people who love food, love being happy, love being loud and funny and living life. It’s kind of like being Hokkien on crack. Being Japanese, they’re naturally polite, and really really willing to help. They’re the sort of people that, when you are standing alone on the train platform surrounded by your luggage, an elderly lady will totter over to you asking, 大丈夫か? (Are you all right?). At this point most of what you can say merely consists of ああ、はい (Ah, yes) which is really rude now that I think about it. Yet the same elderly lady, when getting onto the train, will fight you tooth and nail to get in and give you a not-so-friendly push if you dawdle too long at the entrance. Osaka people are always hurrying everywhere; not in the same way as Tokyo or the big cities, where everyone needs to look like they have something very important to do. Here it is pure unadulterated rush. 

We spent four days in Osaka, and they were a good four days. We visited temples and parks, castles, got lost, did lots of shopping, checked out Kennedy’s wildly expensive t-shirts, gawked at more wildly expensive merchandise, ate and walked, and ate, and ate non-stop. 

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292: go out and get her

I’ve been sick for the past few days… guess the heat has finally gotten to me. I went to Ikea on Sunday with J and felt like shit after eating my meatballs (hmmm, I don’t think it had anything to do with the meatballs, though), so I went home, and I’ve just been sleeping my days away because the medicine knocks me right down again every time I wake up to take it. My mum is now worried sick (ha, ha) that I’m going to fall ill and die by myself over there, but I suppose everyone who goes overseas goes through that. 

In any case, I managed to get a flight to Amsterdam on SQ! Hooray for the nice person who decided to free up his reservation :D 

Also, we are going to Munich for Oktoberfest! I checked the train tickets and it seems pretty reasonable… if I buy a pass. Even though it takes 7-9 hours to get to Munich from Amsterdam. Still, it’s an overnight train, so I can take it at night and arrive in the morning. We are currently looking for one more person to share accommodation with, though. That is, if you don’t mind staying in a caravan (and it’s only 99 euros per night! That works out to… less than 25 euros per person per night.) Current parties involved include me, J and Kenneth. If anyone’s interested (preferably someone all three of us know… but if not, we can work something out), you can leave a comment here and I’ll get back to you! Accommodation is in very very very short supply (as I have found out, the hard way).

I’ve been watching Nodame Cantabile; it’s pretty good! The girl annoys me less than she should, she is very pretty, and her dress sense is kind of cute. I want her boots, but her Japanese accent is very irritating. I guess Tamaki Hiroshi makes up for it…

291: it’s a bright, bright, bright, sunshiney day

I must say; it’s so hot it’s not even funny. I can just sit here and start sweating for no reason. I hate hot weather. And summer. And whatever arghhh.

I haven’t done anything these few days. I met Nurul to do our nails yesterday so now my nails are grey. It looks cooler than it sounds. I think. Other than that, I’ve only been meeting J for dinner and making full use of my Internet’s temporary connection to Megaupload (I have never been able to download anything from there before. Ever. J says it’s where all the porn is stored and MU has probably cleared all its servers so that horny Singaporeans don’t get to access it anymore…) to download 34689475968 episodes of everything. 

I now have on-going series (what is the plural?!) of Osen, Zettai Kareshi, Last Friends, and Nodame Cantabile. Also I found the subtitled version of the Hana Kimi special. GO ME! I now have a drama collection to rival Isaac’s. Who is obsessed with Nakama Yukie. Watching Gokusen for all the wrong reasons. Tsk.

Pictures of the super wonderful bento/don I ate the other day:

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289: japan: yokohama city lights

It’s early in the morning now, and as usual, I can’t sleep. The sky is red and you know what they say about red skies in the morning and red skies at night. Tonight the moon is full, as it was last night, but tonight the moon hung low behind the tree outside my house and I had to look harder to find it. It’s just like most things, which disappear without you noticing in the hope you’ll look ever harder for them. 

#

This post is about Yokohama, with which I think I might have a special love affair. This is not to say that I didn’t love all the other cities I went to, but that they mean different things to me. Tokyo is the place of childhood and dreams, mainly because I went there so many times when I was younger, though as you grow older you discover its ever-increasing adult attractions. Osaka was all about food and relaxation and just generally having fun doing everything and nothing. Kyoto was full of history, but Yokohama…

Yokohama is full of lights and romance. Yokohama is the place you bring girls to when you want to impress them. It doesn’t seem like much because it’s so near Tokyo and it’s so easy to overlook, but it retains that particular, off-centre, sort of feeling. It’s near but not too near. It has its own voice, its own attractions, its own history. Some people say Chinatown wasn’t too interesting; sometimes you just need to know where to look. Stepping into Minato Mirai is fascinating precisely because we’re at an age where we can appreciate it, still: the free theme parks, ferris wheels, lights across the sea, the red brick warehouses and the smoke curling up from beneath the windows. It seriously is the number one place to bring a girl on a date. It is so romantic you can choke. 

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148: i know right now you can’t tell

things that make me happy

– banana crumble
– chwee kueh
– nice fried tang hoon
– steak & guinness pie
– guo tie
– urban outfitters
– shopping in bangkok
– sesame and flaked salt crackers from M&S
– pasta pomodoro
– fish and chips, in newspaper with vinegar
– a filled notebook
– an empty notebook
– a hug
– friends getting together
– people getting attached
– a good sleep

things i want to do
– watch all 4 seasons of the L word
– watch the remainder of the guhuozai series
– watch the entire samurai x anime again
– and slam dunk
– watch meet the robinsons
– eat toad-in-the-hole
– re-read all my enid blyton (st. clare’s! mallory towers!) and roald dahl books (i read the BFG yesterday!)
– go kayaking
– get a tan

you know what, they should really have a magazine for women that’s like vogue + economist + wine&dine – much like monocle, or to a lesser extent lexean, which i think is trying too hard (there are only so many things to gripe about singapore, and even then – i could’ve written that stuff, and they’d even save money paying me less). why is there no such magazine in the world? does everyone still think women are morons who only like to read about 1) the latest trends, 2) how to please their partner in bed, 3) aunt agony columns?

maybe i just want an intellectual fashion-y food-y magazine. i think that would go down very well indeed!!

(well, back to illegality of contract. that’s far too much intellectual stimulation for me…)